Friday, October 30, 2009

Thrifty, but oh... so cool.

Score!

A few days ago, walking through Value Village while picking up the last of the Halloween stuff we needed... I saw these amazing shoes. These are Born's. They are $60 shoes and I found them, brand new with tags, for $4.99. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Pretty sweet shoes for a pretty sweet girl. Happy fall!


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Starting Over

Starting over is hard. Especially when the job is as big as creating a homestead. But there are fundamental differences that make this time/this space feel right to me.
  1. This is my home. I am not renting anymore. The changes we make here will not have to be changed back when we leave.

  2. We can plan on being here for a very long time. That means that doing things like planting fruit trees, or putting in a huge garden will not feel like a waste or even a compromise.

  3. I know the rules. When I started the homestead in the Red House I felt like I needed to do tons of research just to make sure what I was doing was alright. With landlords, with laws of the city, etc. This time I am outside of the city (by 20 blocks) and I own my own house. It never stopped me before, but it will make the going much easier this time.

I am daunted by this task. I feel like there are so many things to do and research before I even start with the building, digging, moving, and planting.

This week, it is apple tree research. In this catalog above I can get three year old, branched, bareroot fruit trees for $21 each. The man that runs this farm will make an appointment with you, let you try the apples from the trees you are considering, and tell you if your planting location will work. What an AMAZING resource! I am setting up my appointment for next week (our weekends are T/W/Th) and we will go out there and pick our three trees for the spot in the back of the garden. I am looking for semi-dwarfs, native to the Pacific NW. The catalog says that there are quite a few. I can't wait to taste them!

You can't find this type of service at the big box stores. Their products may be cheaper but there is something HUGE that is missing there. Not only are there only three kinds of trees, but the employees refer to the tags for the difference. lol! They rarely know anything about planting, growth, or when they fruit. Not to knock places like Home Depot or Lowes... honestly I am there quite often with requests for specific kinds of boards, hinges, paint, and door knobs. And they do a good job of helping you research while you are there. But for things like fruit trees, it just seems that you would want someone who has tasted the fruit. Doesn't it?

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

New favorite mug

There are many simple things in life that I love, especially during the Autumn; The smell of fresh bread baking, the sound of heavy rain, the smell of woodsmoke, and the feel of a warm mug in my hands.

I have a confession. Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte. Nearly every day since the weather has been cooler I have found myself in someway, sipping a drink that cost as much as... well, I don't like to think about that. My frugal mind disapproves, of course. But I have found a way to lessen my guilt a little bit. I bring my own cup. Now, for the most part, I have always done this. But being a Mug Addict I don't like the plastic things that pass as "reusable mugs". Notice the capitals. Mug Addict. The title was given to me by my husband who has had to curb my mug obsession many times throughout the last 11 years. I filled the cupboard with mugs, and then decluttered, and then filled it again... many times. Almost all were second hand... I wasn't breaking the bank... but the clutter was amazing! Some people laugh when I say that I only buy red and white mugs with a floral motif. But I am not joking. Putting limits on my purchases was the only way I could find to stop buying mugs. (We all have coping mechanisms right?)

However, I made a mug exception. When I saw this mug I thought it was brilliant! Since then I have seen that there are several more that are similar. I doubt Starbucks came up with the idea, but still... I love this thing! This mug has become my newest sidekick.

It helps that it is an actual mug. A mug that is double insulated and has a neat, twist-off plastic lid. I even love the utilitarian look of it. (Although I could do without advertising for Starbucks... but I actually DO support them, and heck, they are local... right? lol!) My favorite part though, is that I can drink it with the lid on (like in the car while dealing with my three children) or off.... because there are none of those plastic ribs to make it uncomfortable to drink from. Not something you can claim from any plastic travel cup I have ever seen.

Since getting this thing three weeks or so ago, I haven't used one single paper cup from Starbucks... not even on Sundays when I have to be up at the crack of dawn to leave for market. Yay me! I have also stopped using my other mugs in the house... I just keep washing and reusing this one.

I somehow need to kick the Starbucks coffee habit. But the mug is staying.

Above is lavender tea with honey. Yum!

Next green purchase: Glass Straws!

(Just before I posted this, Don bought me another one of these mugs. He said it was the last one they had and he couldn't imagine me going all winter with only one of these babies he has seen me use it so much. I am a lucky lady. The Man loves me just the way that I am... mug obsession and all.)

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interview with LaFuji Mama

Last week I was flattered to be interviewed by one of my favorite blog moms, La Fuji Mama. It was a fun chat and I really enjoyed talking with her about my passion for good, local food and how it led me to my work at the Ballard Farmers Market.

Interview with La Fuji Mama.

This mama is a wonder... let me tell you. I have a hard time getting things done with my one toddler, and she has two kiddos under three yrs. Amazing! And she can bake. That in and of itself is awe-inspiring to me. My house is the place where bread comes to die. I hope that you can take the time to check out the interview and her other amazing posts. Enjoy!

BTW This is the cartoon I was refering to in the interview:

Plug for Farmers Market

I think it shows the choices quite nicely. ;)

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hurts

Logan fell on the side of his foot last night. He has been really cranky ever since and favoring that foot. He is walking on it... in fact, this afternoon he chased a ball and ran on it. But he is hurting. I took off his socks tonight to get him ready for bed and the whole foot is bruised. All up the inside of his foot, and across his instep. His instep is swollen flat and his toe is so swollen it is pointing down slightly.

I am glad to know that he is walking on it. Because honestly, if he wasn't I would have rushed him in for a cast. As it is, I don't think it is broken, but it takes a lot to damage the foot of a 2 yr old that badly... so I wrapped it in an Ace bandage and I asked The Man to bring home some Arnica cream after work.

I am trying not to feel guilty for taking him out today. He said it didn't hurt... but it is much worse than it was this morning. I think a quiet day is in order tomorrow.

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Sweet Potato Stew

I think this may be the simplest whole foods recipe I make. It is so good on a cold winter day. I reduced the cayenne pepper for this post. The original recipe I made up had 1 tea of cayenne. You may try this... but unless your kids are super human, the heat may be a bit much for them. It is one of those things that you want to try with a group of adults. Of course, all of these recipes you can easily adjust and make them perfect for your family.

Sweet Potato Stew

4 large sweet potatoes
Water to cover
2 Tbs sliced (or 1 Tbs grated) fresh ginger
1/4 tea cayenne pepper
1/2 tea cinnamon
1/2 c peanut butter (crunchy or creamy, really doesn't matter... just don't get the kind with added sugar)

Peel and slice sweet potatoes into small chunks. Put in a large pan and cover with water. Boil (with lid on so it doesn't reduce much) until potato pieces are falling apart into tiny chunks. Mash the sweet potatoes (without draining the water, leave the water in the pot) until you have a thick sauce like consistency. Add in all other ingredients, and salt to taste.

Serve topped with sour cream or whole milk yogurt (not flavored), with salted peanut pieces and chopped cilantro.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Vacation... Check.

I have to be pretty close to the luckiest lady on earth. I have this wonderful community of friends and like minded educators around me that just so happen to also be blessed. We have come together often to share our blessings and last year started a tradition of retreats. I have to say I feel more grounded right this second than I have in weeks, maybe months. No lighting of divine intervention hit me, no moment of profound inspiration... just two lazy days with my girlfriends, hanging out on the water in a house where this is a big sign above the fireplace:

When we first got there, it was a cold and blustery morning. We had to walk about three blocks with our bags and baskets of crafts.

As we walked down the little beach lane that runs next to the railroad tracks, an older gentleman smiled and said "Ladies night out, huh?" I replied with "Felt crafts and hot tea! Wooohooo!" We all laughed.

About two hours after we got there and tucked in, the sun came out:

What a BEAUTIFUL place! The water hits the deck at high tide, smashing against the bulkhead beneath the house with wonderful calming ocean sounds. We couldn't see the beach at all... you walked out the back door and all you saw was water.


I only left the house once to get lunch with two other friends. The rest of the time we hung out and talked, we watched movies and chatted about homeschooling, scheduling conflicts, things that work well, and things that don't. We found comfort, encouragement, and laughter. So much laughter. My sides ache just thinking about how much we all laughed this weekend. It was wonderful.

A huge highlight for me were these babies:

Now, we live minutes from the Pudget Sound. And although we have tons of wild life, we don't have a lot of the larger critters that live in the waters around us. I have seen quite a few seals, and more seabirds than I can count... but I have never seen a whale or dolphin in the wild. My friend Jessica and I were having a conversation and out of the corner of my eye I see these dorsal fins pop up out of the water behind her. I yelled "Whales!" and jumped up and ran outside. Everyone was right behind me. We watched them for about 20 minutes while taking pictures and trying to get a better look. We all thought that they were Orca at first.... but after a while Sarah and I were confused. They were so small... their fins don't stick up enough. "Oh my goodness! I just saw a face... it's a dolphin!!" Since then I have identified them as the Harbor Porpoise, a shy creature that lives close to the shorelines of both the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans. What a wonderful sighting!

I got up at 5:30am on Sunday for work, and as I stood on the deck for my last few minutes there I saw the waves of low tide quietly splashing on the beach that had been hidden all our waking hours the whole weekend. I saw the sky turning a deep purple of predawn, and the mist of fall hitting me on the face as I walked to my car. I could have lived in that moment forever.

I can't express how nature calms me. It grounds me... makes me feel whole. Taking good photos of it feeds my soul somehow. Between that, good food, and laughter with wonderful friends I feel blissfully recharged.

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Market Days

It is the time of year for pumpkins and sage, apples and kale. Fall is fully here and I have been making soups nonstop for about three weeks. The house is chilly in the mornings and the markets days are long and cold... not to mention heavy! Boxes of lettuce average between 20 and 25 lbs... then zucchini gets up to about 45lbs... winter squash? Yeah... a box of those babies weighs 65lbs or more sometimes and we have TONS right now. The market day is heavy... but good.

This weeks list:


Spinach, Sugar Pie pumpkin, Delicata, Carnival, and Acorn squash, Choggia beets, storage onions, cilantro, brussel sprouts, artichokes, broccoli, fresh Edemame, curly kale, Red Oak lettuce, chives, cauliflower, late crop basil(!), and romanesco. Traded for: Apples, plums, eggs, bell peppers, and a couple of the seasons last tomatoes.


The menu this week was all inspired by this weeks market. I LOVE fall foods... warm soups, pasta packed with sauted veggies, baked squash, and of course, pumpkin pie. Yum!



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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Christmas Crafting

Felt crowns for little friends.


Sweet banners out of recycled materials.

And magic wands out of sticks.

With Autumn food preservation coming to a close and lots of rainy days ahead, the kids and I have started on our Christmas crafting. We are looking for a place to sell our wares, but for now, we are just enjoying the process and learning. I will have some tutorials up soon.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Leek and Potato Soup with Italian Sausage

This is the best new recipe I have discovered in a long time.


Meet my friend Terry Whetham. This is the man that owns the stand next to ours at market. He is a meat vendor and owner of Quilceda Farms. He has cruelty free goat and veal products and eggs to sell. This week I traded for both eggs and some of his veal Italian Sausage. Normally I am completely opposed to veal... but in Terry's case it means 'young cow' and does not mean 'stuck in a box for it's entire life'. Terry's 'veal' cows hang out on grassy pastures and get their ears scratched by caring owners occasionally. They have a comfortable life.

It seems I have been having the 'animal product cruelty' conversation with my children a lot lately. My daughter especially is very invested in the animals we get our products from to have a good life. She has been asking; "Mama, do these eggs come from happy chickens? Like chickens that get to eat bugs? Chickens that have a happy life?" Just the fact that my 8 year old knows the questions to ask makes my heart sing. I am not a vegetarian. I was for the first 23 years of my life. But after a couple of scary health issues relating to iron deprivation, I decided to adjust my view. I may change back, I may not... but this food evolution has turned into a cruelty free obsession. One that I am happy to say is obviously rubbing off on the next generation.

Leek and Potato Soup with Italian Sausage

1 Tbs butter

1 Tbs olive oil

2 leeks (sliced into 1/2 inch rounds)

2 teaspoons Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute or a mixed herb mix like Mrs Dash

1 lb mild Italian Sausage

3 cups chicken stock

3 cups milk

1 lb baby potatoes (I used Ozettes) cut into quarters

salt and pepper to taste

fresh chives for a tasty garnish

Parboil the potatoes. Slice the Italian Sausage into rounds and fry until cooked through.

Saute the leeks in the butter and oil until tender (about 5 minutes). Add in the seasoning. When potatoes are fork tender, drain and add in the milk and stock. Turn to med heat and add leeks. Cook for 7 - 10 minutes while stirring frequently... try not to boil the soup. When the soup is very hot, add in Italian Sausage and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Serves 6.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Market Days

We are having the strangest weather. First it freezes and we all go out in heavy jackets and scarves, then, all of a sudden it is pouring for days and 60*... the heat stays, but the rain doesn't and we have two balmy 65* days that are all clouded over... and then the last two days have been COLD. Like high of 50 or lower.

Market this week started out warmer than usual and soon was balmy. Because it froze two days before I came 'prepared' and was wearing 5 layers. I ended up sweating all day long. lol... so much for 'October' weather. It has since cooled down again. But it was sort of nice to be on the warm side instead of jumping up and down to keep warm. ;)

My list this week is similar to last week but with a couple of additions (very heavy additions):

Ozette Potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Chiogga beets, leeks, parsley, cilantro, chives, thyme, rosemary, Anaheim peppers, celery, Chipollini onions, red onions, bok choy, carrots, celeriac, Jana Gold apples, fennel, Jalapeno peppers, and my heavy new additions... Kabocha, Acorn, and Delicata squash. Traded for: Chicken legs and wings, 1 lb of fresh Italian Sausage, a dozen eggs, bell peppers, Asian pears, and a really wonderful apricot cobbler we ate at work.


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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pumpkins, Apples, and Corn... oh my!

This week has been one of the wettest weeks I can remember. It has been pouring almost nonstop for 5 days and they are predicting another week of the deluge. Strange. Extreme weather seems to be our new normal around here.

After days of being stuck inside, you have to get out, pouring rain or not.

I have been sick for about two weeks... and these last couple days I finally feel like myself again. We have gone on field trips galore. Today it was the pumpkin patch and apple squeeze at Terry's Berries farm! We came ready for the weather with our umbrellas and the kid's rain boots, and ready for everything else armed with our very best friends.

We went to the orchard side of the farm first, to pick apples for our cider. (Can you see the bites out of the apples in the bucket? Logan thought that 'toddler chewed' apples were a good addition to the cider. Little monster! He took a bite out of every 5th one or so.)

On the way back to the barn we stopped at the pumpkin patch to grab a few pumpkins for our porch. As you can see, The Man had the camera... and the umbrella. ;) By the time we got back to the car I was soaked to the skin. Luckily, it wasn't a very cold day. About 60*. Pouring... but still puddle jumping weather.

(We do live in Washington after all. We didn't even own umbrellas until this year.)

Then, blissfully, we got to sit under a tent and wash, crush, and press the apples we picked into cider.

Here is Alex putting the cap on our jug of yummy fresh cider:

After all this we went to the corn maze at another farm down the street. It was a crazy wet and crazy fun time. We all took baths and rested when we got home. I had a grass-fed beef roast in the slow cooker, and we had movies from Netflix... all in all, a wet, but wonderful Autumn day!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ecolovies ~ Recycled Sheet Napkins

Thrifted sheets really are the best fabric yardage value out there. With minor sewing skills and an iron you can turn a gently used cotton sheet into a beautiful table cloth and napkin set.

In my experience, a twin sheet makes one table cloth (for a smaller table like mine) and four 17" X 17" napkins. Here is how I do it:

1. Picking a sheet: Picking 100% cotton wovens is your best bet. No stretch!

2. Now that you have it, you need to wash it. Really well. On hot if you can... and heated dry. You want anything that will happen to this puppy to happen BEFORE you put a bunch of time turning it into your masterpiece. This has been an issue for me before, so don't try to skip this step. Sometimes you find sheets that look brand new! How exciting! Except that they ARE brand new, and when you wash them for the first time they will shrink unevenly and make your napkins look like crap. Nothing stinks more than spending a bunch of time on a cute project just to have it ruined the first time through the wash.

3. Iron your clean fabrics.

4. The measuring. Measure your table and your current 'favorite' cloth napkin. I like my table clothes to hang down about 8 inches on either side of the table, so I use my table measurements and add 16 inches to the width and length. My favorite napkins are all 17 by 17 inches.

5. Then I cut. I cut the table cloth first, then the napkins. I usually cut a 18inch long strip, and then fold the napkin over, making a perfect square with my fabric and cutting it off on that edge. This leaves a nice seam allowance and makes cutting easy. Think of the way you used to fold an 8X11 piece of paper to make a square. That is the same concept.

6. Then comes the hemming. Iron down a 1/2 inch of fabric all the way around your tablecloth. Then go around and iron it down again, making a double hem.

7. Hemming the napkins is the same, except you use a 1/4 inch double hem if you can. This takes a lot of starch. Starch is your friend. Don't be afraid to use it.

8. Then stitch the hem down. If these are starched and pinned, they should go easy and smoothly. Keep your needle down on the corners and turn that way, making a folded square corner.

A couple of notes:

I tend to be picky about brands when it comes to shopping for thrifted linens. Name brand linens are usually better made than the off brands. They are also usually better fabrics as well... being mostly cotton or all cotton of good quality. I avoid the sheets with any sort of Lycra for this project. The stretch makes it harder to get square corners and strait seams... even with an iron and starch. However, if you find a print you LOVE and you can't find the tag saying what it is made of, give it your best guess. Worst case, you have a bunch of fabric that you like for another project that you paid next to nothing for. You really can't go wrong


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