Thursday, March 28, 2013

Waxing Nostalgic

I've been planning to post today about a sewing project I just completed.  But I read this post at Thrifty D├ęcor Chick and it really got me thinking.  I'm not going to lie, mince words, or apologize for what I believe, I'm just going to say it.  My childhood was better than yours.  Ha!  Seriously though, I had an idyllic childhood.  And here's why I think that.  It involved horses and haymows and kittens. 

It involved inner tubes and rope swings and tree houses.  It included gardening and haying and making maple syrup.

 It involved skating on a frozen pond and swimming in rivers.  It involved frog races and gathering eggs.  It was a close relationship with my rain-bonnet-and-house-coat- wearing-grandmother.  It was mountain climbing in the Adirondacks and donning swimsuits to play in a summer rainstorm.  It was searching for kittens in the haymow and playing hide and seek on a warm summer night.  It was tree climbing and sour wild apples and wild spearmint.

 It was catching crayfish in the Big Brook and cousins who were more like siblings.

 It was milking cows and scratching pig backs.  It was jumping in huge leaf piles and playing in the pasture until Dad's whistle called us home.  It was picking berries, cutting green beans, and wrapping meat.  It was fields of daisies, sledding the pasture hill, and catching bullfrogs.  It was scrimping to take a family vacation, sharing bedrooms and eating casseroles.  It was campfire sing-alongs, fishing for bullhead in the pond, and going to school with the same kids for 13 years.  It was having parents who taught me about faith, moral uprightness, and integrity.  I am infinitely grateful for the experiences of my youth, for the day to day simplicity of my childhood, made magical by the combination of freedom to be a child and the expectation to make a contribution to the family effort.
And so I got to thinking, I am brimming with nostalgia, memories, stories that I love sharing.  So I'm going to be self-indulgent and start sharing them here.  Flashback Fridays perhaps?  Come along if you want, but either way I'll be here. ;)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pinterest Review- Healthy Granola

This is it! The granola recipe I've been using. I am so excited to have found this. Go on over to A Small Snippet to check it out. That is her photo up there. Looks great right? It totally is. After you're done browsing at A Small Snippet, print the recipe and c'mon back here. I'll tell you what changes I've made.

So here we go.

The recipe calls for almond extract, which I'm sure will give this a greater depth. However, I didn't have any on hand so I just doubled up the vanilla. I'm definitely going to add the almond extract back in at some point, but my point is, don't worry if you don't have it on hand.

I also didn't have flax seed, ground or otherwise. I used wheat germ.

I knew some of my kids would not like the almonds, so I added pumpkin seeds instead. Any sort of nut or seed would be delicious. Or just leave them out entirely. It will still be great.

And lastly, the recipe calls for a sprinkle of cinnamon. I added more like 2 tsp of cinnamon. In the next batch I decided to also add about 1/4 tsp of nutmeg and 1/8 tsp of cloves. Basically, pumpkin pie spice, except I didn't have ginger. Or pumpkin pie spice. Again, tweak it to your own taste. I think this is an absolutely fantastic basic recipe to individualize for your family. I love that there are no refined sugars. Just honey as a sweetener.

So yeah, my vote is definitely Pinterest success!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thoughts on Homesteading

In my last post, I mentioned that I have been trying to make more and more of our foods from scratch, using as much clean, unprocessed, whole food ingredients as possible.  It is amazing how difficult this can be initially.  Old habits die hard and time is of the essence and all that jazz.  One of the things I keep telling myself is this: If you can't make it at home with basic, whole ingredients, you probably shouldn't be eating it. 

So where did this come from?  Why the sudden interest in cooking this way?  It has nothing to do with weight (which is what my nutritional concerns were always based on in the past), and everything to do with keeping our bodies healthy for the long run.  I am thoroughly convinced that all those chemicals and preservatives in processed foods are slowly and silently killing us.  Our bodies are simply not meant to consume those products.  It's one of those things.  You know when someone who has been overweight their entire life suddenly makes lifestyle changes and gets to a healthy weight and you ask them what spurred the change and they tell you they were just ready?  They had finally had enough?  They were finally ready to take care of their health and their future?  I kind of feel like that.  I've had these inklings and desires for a long time, but suddenly I feel ready.  Suddenly I feel spurred to action.  I'm just finally ready to make the change.

Going along with this is the longing I have been harboring for many years now, to be able to grow, cultivate, raise, process my own food.  Desires, that have been simmering under the surface, to be self-sufficient.  Most of my blog readers know that I grew up in a very rural area on a hobby farm.  My father was a teacher, so the farm was not income producing, but provided our large family with basic food needs.  We always had our own milk, eggs, butter, beef, pork, and vegetables that we produced on our own land.  While it takes a lot of work, even on a small scale, to run a farm, there is a freedom in knowing you have what it takes to support your family's basic needs.  There is something pure and satisfying about looking around you at what God has provided, and cultivating it into something your family can use.  When we moved to Wisconsin, it was the first time that I had usable space to really plant a garden.  I started small and then each year expanded a bit more.  Every time I pull a jar out of my canner to be placed on my food storage shelves, I am filled with satisfaction and purpose.  If I can look in my freezer and see it brimming with produce rather than frozen pizzas, I am content. 

I have been thinking a lot about my mother and the things she teaches me by her example.  Right now it is sugaring season in northern New York.  My mother has tapped her trees and has begun collecting and boiling the sap that will become pure maple syrup.  My mother has done this for as long as I can remember.  Not in a sugar house, but right in her kitchen, using a process she has refined over the years into a smoothly flowing cycle.  She begins the process on the old wood-burning cookstove in a large container, moving the sap along as it boils it down, until it is finished off on her gas cook top.  How fondly I remember sugaring time when I was a kid.  As soon as I would get off the bus from school, I would run to the trees to look in the sap buckets to see how well the sap was running.  I loved a nice sunny day when the sap would be running like crazy.  And nothing is finer than opening the front door to be greeted by a warm, steamy kitchen, the air heavy with the sweet aroma of maple syrup. The kitchen windows were always steamed up to the point of dripping condensation, from all the vigorous boiling going on inside.   If you have never drunk a small cup of maple syrup fresh from the vat at a sugar house, put it on your bucket list.  Absolute, pure delight. 

To me, this is the perfect example of what I am talking about.  Heavenly Father gave us maple trees, and Mom uses what she was given to provide something for her family.  For free.  Aside from the sweat of her brow.  This, THIS is why God teaches us the importance of work.  So we can take what we've been given and be good and responsible stewards over it. 

My parents have taught me this by their examples every. day. of. their. lives. 

Lincoln and I are trying to really explore how we can apply these principles of self-sufficiency to our lives right now.  We are renting our current home.  For us, that means we cannot have a large garden or get chickens or a cow.  So I am trying to do what I can.  Making bread, granola, and as many other foods as I can from scratch.  Making my own household cleaners and detergents.  Researching where I can purchase local grass-fed beef.  Exploring the possibility of keeping my own bees.  Learning to sew for more practical purposes, repurposing clothing and other fabrics.  Planning container gardens so I can grow at least some produce this year, and really exploring my options for growing as much as possible in small, creative spaces.  I have learned, and accepted, that this is not something that happens all at once, overnight.  It's a process of learning and practicing.  Having one aspect of it become habit before biting off the next chunk.  And that is where we are.  Seeking simplicity in our lives.  And I hope to take you all along on the journey, sharing what we learn as we go. 

In my next post I'll share our granola recipe we've been using and the little tweaks I've made to it.  'Til then...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Old Stuff, New Stuff

I know a post containing photos of my Christmas decor is weird in March.  But I neglected to post in December and I like to be able to look back here to see it.  I won't include commentary to go along with it, but here are some key parts of it. 

 This kind of sneaked into the middle of these.  This is a gingerbread house on display at the Seattle Sheraton.  We attended this annual event for the first time this year.


I also neglected to take any good pictures of my Valentine's Day decor.  Here are a couple photos that give a glimpse of it.  I made the tablecloth and absolutely love how it turned out.  You would think I would have taken a better picture. 

I snapped this in the middle of our Valentine's party.  Behind our friends you can see the fabric scrap garland I made this year. 
Thanks for humoring me.  Now for the new stuff.
So much to say...
Most of the new stuff will (hopefully) get posts all of their own.  But I want to mention a few things now.  Since I last posted I have made my own laundry detergent.  Our rental house is on a septic system.  In the interest of minimizing the amount of chemicals in our septic and on/in our bodies, I decided it was time to take action.  So not only am I making my own laundry soap, but I have completely switched over to homemade, chemical free cleaning supplies.  Actually, not completely.  I am in the process of completely switching over.  I will post soon about how that is going.
I have also begun making some changes in the food we eat.  I definitely have plans to write a post about making as much as possible from scratch using whole, unprocessed foods.  I have a lot to say on the matter, but for now, I am now making all of our bread and have begun making granola in the hopes that eventually I can wean my kids off the packaged, sugar and preservative-laden breakfast cereals they are addicted to.  The basic recipe I am using is made with honey and no refined sugars.  I have been tweaking the seasonings to get it just how we like. So far, the kids love it, and it only gets better each time!
And one last thing that, again, I will post more about later, is our family reunion.  I am, by choice, quite heavily involved in the planning of our family reunion this year.  This year would have been my grandmother's 100th birthday, so our reunion will be a celebration of her life.  I am busily creating bunting decorations and working closely with my Dad to organize lots of fun activities and make this an extra special event.
So c'mon back for more details on all this stuff.  I'm ready to be more present here again, now that we are feeling more settled in our new home.