Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The pleasures of purging


Over the years, my husband and I have slowly been moving toward a simpler, calmer, slower, less cluttered life. In the past few months these goals have begun to truly take hold.

As someone who had always had a junk pile in a corner or closet and thrown in tubs and boxes still packed from previous moves, sorting had always been an emotional challenge for me. Each item brings up all of its unfinished business, unmet expectations, and guilt. When my husband deployed the year before last, I found myself overwhelmed in all areas of my life. There's nothing like having a loved one in theater to shine light on what is truly important. I found, after his return, I didn't want to give up that simpler, smaller, slower, more centered life. Even now I find myself digging in my heels when too much tries to make its way back in.

It has been almost two years since we bought our house. We brought with us all the items from our shared life together in apartments and from our separate lives before. Somehow, this two year mark seems to be a statute of limitations. If we have not used an item since we moved here, it's time to let it go. No shoulds, no buts. Its time in our life is through and it is time for it to go.

Yesterday we drove a load to the dump, and an even bigger load to Sally's. Our little house feels bigger and more sacred with each item we move toward its next life.

Another criteria to help us decide whether or not an item has a place in our life is Do we love it? This one, for me, eases the challenge of dealing with the negativity associated with the unfinished business of things. If it brings up more negative emotion than positive, it has no place here. There is little more satisfying than living on purpose, in line with our principles and with integrity. 

While we still have a way to go, we both have space to breathe, to relax, and to connect. It is such a pleasure to know that we are making room in our life for wonderful things to come by purging and simplifying.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Yes! I DID do that all by myself!


As fans of good-tasting and especially of clean water, we've used a pitcher water filter for some time. I know it's time to change the filter when I figure out I'm not drinking water because it tastes bad even after filtering.

After doing some math, we discovered that in the long run, it's actually cheaper (not to mention healthier) to have one of the big-daddy under-sink filters where all you have to do is turn on a faucet and voila! Clean, delicious water! I ordered one from a trusted company and waited patiently. Well... sort of patiently.

The day it arrived my dear husband wasn't due to return until well after I am tucked in to sleep. I figured I'd at least open the box and take a look. One thing led to another and I had the pliers, the vice grips, the scissors, and some rags out and tada! We have an under-sink water filter with its own faucet for drinking water!


Monday, December 13, 2010

My work is in the show!


As many of you know, I've been taking a ceramics course at a local community college.

I am pleased to be able to announce that several of my pieces will be in the student art show.

The opening is this Friday at 6pm and the show will run until mid-January.

I'll be at the opening for a bit and would love to see any and all of you!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Seasonal Treats - (non-dairy) Eggnog


I do love me some 'nog. Even better when I can still breathe after.

After a slightly less amazing test batch last week, I triumphed last night:

Non-dairy Eggnog
1can coconut milk
4 raw egg yolks (we get our eggs from a local farm)
2 whole raw eggs
2Tbsp maple syrup

blend or mix ingredients thoroughly - make sure to pierce yolks otherwise they may happily shake around but not incorporate themselves into the mix.

Add ground nutmeg to taste and enjoy!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy Bunny Home Theater - Peanut Butter Cups


For the second edition of Happy Bunny Home Theater we have peanut butter cups!

While there used to be many more of them, we may or may not have eaten all of them.

 To make your own you will need:
Peanut Butter
Blanched Almond Flour (or crumbled graham cracker)
Powdered Maple Sugar (or any granular sugar really)

Optional: mini baking paper cups and mini muffin tin

 Directions: Start chocolate melting in a double boiler or heat-safe glass jar in a shallow pan of water. Make sure to keep the heat pretty low to keep the chocolate from seizing.

Mix peanut butter filling: add a small amount of sugar and crumbly stuff to the peanut butter until the filling is stiffer and sweetened to your taste.

Roll peanut butter mix into teaspoon size balls. Place them on a plate and flatten slightly. Put the peanut filling nuggets into the fridge to stiffen.

If using paper cups spoon a small layer of chocolate into the bottom of each of the paper cups and put in freezer to set. Once the cups each have a disk of hardened chocolate in the base put a peanut butter nugget into each cup and spoon melted chocolate to cover.

If you're not using papers, you can simply dip each cooled peanut butter nugget into the melted chocolate. A good method for this is to lay the nugget on a fork and submerge it in the chocolate. Place the peanut butter cup on parchment paper and carefully slide the fork out from underneath.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Transition To Winter - Tucking Ourselves In


Fall is a busy season for me - I always find myself more productive than ever and often get the bug to continue my formal education. This year is no exception. From canning to batch cooking, painting walls to classes at the local community college, this has been a busy fall.

As the weather cools and we spend more time indoors, I find my thoughts turning inward as well. Winter is a season of reflection and inward renewal and I am thankful for it.

While I have always made many of the holiday gifts we give, this year I am making more of them than ever before. It is such a blessing to align our life with our values in this way. While busily knitting, sewing, gluing, or cooking, I find my thoughts turning to gratitude.

I am so fortunate to have such wonderful families, such amazing friends, and most of all, my husband.

Even though I am no less busy or industrious than earlier in the year, I find more quiet places. Sitting under the blanket on the couch, leisurely preparing a meal, or even folding warm laundry straight from the dryer.

Perhaps it is merely growing up, but I marvel at the comfort I find in routine activities - our rituals and traditions as well as the pleasure of work and a job well done. It is a blessing to watch as my roots stretch down in ways they never have before and a delight to test my wings and daydream about the seasons to come.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We got a BIG turkey.


We've been enjoying our meat share from Chestnut Farms and leaped at the chance to get one of their heirloom turkeys. As we will have many Thanksgiving celebrations that are NOT at our house, we just got turkey. A LOT of turkey.

There is a GALLON jug of maple syrup for size reference. :) Tonight we will cut and freeze this baby in piece and I expect it to meet our turkey needs for quite some time.

In other news, we've been busy Building an amazing cabinet (and been busy priming and painting it since) keeping up with schoolwork (as best we can) and getting ready for the upcoming festivities.

I'm looking forward to catching up with you all the next time I have a moment to breathe.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Fun with Coping Saws :D


 There's a lot to be said for coping saws. :) They have been a favorite of mine for ages because of their versatility and lightness.

From trimming dowels for mitten holders, to cutting notches and shaping boards, here are a few of the projects I've done in the past six months using only a coping saw and some wood glue. 


Monday, November 8, 2010

Our own Pot of Gold


It has been almost two years since we bought our home. It has been such a pleasure to turn it into our own oasis, our own refuge. We truly have found our own pot of gold.

There are many exciting things in the works and even more in the plan - built in cabinets, storage benches, reworking cupboards, adding shelves and cubbies, and so much more! 

It is so satisfying to put our hands to work making the best use of this space and daydreaming of how our family will put it to use someday.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cosmetic Circles - Organic, reusable, machine washable


Phew. It's good to be back in the blog-o-sphere. After some trouble with our card reader for the big-daddy camera, I've switched back to using my little point-and-click. There are some pretty delicious posts stored up in that big card, but for those you will have to wait.

In the mean time, I give you: Circles! lots and lots of them!

I'm not a fan of disposable items.  We have cloth shopping bags, napkins, lunch cooler bags, and use glass jars for most food storage. It felt a little disingenuous to use a fresh bleached cotton circle or ball every time I went to clean my face at night. The solution?

Reusable, machine-washable, organic cotton cosmetic circles and a lovely wash bag to keep them on their best behavior in the washer and dryer. 

The edges are hand stitched with cotton floss and the wash bag is knitted with a drawstring.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Bunny Home Theater - Peppermint Patties


Popcorn with all kinds of fixings is one of our favorite treats. About once a week we put in a movie, make a big bowl of popcorn and snuggle 'til it's all done and gone.

We also have a standing tradition of date-nights, and to make this past Friday evening special, we had the first edition of the Happy Bunny Home Theater.

Our living room is complete with two wired-in wall lights to which I added red paper complete with bunny-shaped cutouts.

I pulled out the couch and rounded up all the pillows in the house for a family-style lounge home theater experience.

To recreate the movie theater consumables, I made peppermint patties to go with our popcorn, lamb-kielbasa, spiced pecans and punch.

I mixed creamed honey with coconut oil and added peppermint oil. Once the mix had cooled I spooned it into little portions.

When the portions have solidified even more (I put them in the fridge to speed the process) they can be formed into patty shapes.

Using a fork I carefully dipped them in melted chocolate (mix of bittersweet and unsweetened to balance the honey) and slipped them onto parchment.

Not a single one survived the evening.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Belated deliciousness


Between my class and Joe's new commute there seems to be ever less time for things like taking and editing photos, never mind actually actually doing the things to photograph.

Here is a belated nectarine tart.



And After:

It didn't last long. 


Thursday, October 7, 2010

A bit of seriousness - an update


On Tuesday I had my appointment to go over the results of my blood work.

Thank you all for your concern and support. I'm still figuring out what the results actually mean but will try to give you the big picture.

The interesting news:

My allergy profile came out clean - makes me wonder if some of my negative reactions to certain foods have more to do with the rest of what's going on and may clear up once my system recovers.

The mediocre news:

I'm slightly hypoglycemic - this was my assumption so there's no surprise there.

I have a sub-clinical hypothyroid disorder - my thyroid isn't doing well but also isn't doing horribly.

My progesterone levels are still too low, even with the cream I've been using for the last decade or so, although some of this should clear up when my iodine levels return to normal.

The scary news:

My Vitamin D and B12 levels are dangerously low, and I have a severe adrenal deficiency. My levels are well below the levels known to cause "neuropsychiatric and hematologic abnormalities", severe depression, memory loss, etc.

In the Doctor's own words "I don't even know how you're functioning."   

What's next?

I'm on a regimen of supplements, vitamins, and other things. Some of these help support my organs, some give some of them a break so they can recover, and some replace what my body isn't making or absorbing.

We have an appointment in six weeks to check in and will do blood work again in three months.

I am trying to stay positive and look on the bright side - that there is much we can do to get my system back in order and running smoothly on it's own. All of what we're doing is temporary and will only be part of my regimen until I'm back to full strength.

I'm having a hard time with the possibility of not feeling well for some time and trying to focus on what I can do now. At the moment I've got all of the same things I've been dealing with as well as my stomach adjusting to all the new things it has to process and taking its frustrations out on me.

I'm doing my best and that is enough. Joe has been a superhero throughout all of this and I cannot even imagine what this would be like without his support and strength. I'll continue to take things slowly, do what I can and remain hopeful.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Two years! (and two weeks)


Two years (and two weeks ago) my husband and I got married.

I could not have asked for a better day, or a more incredible man.

To my dearest Joe, you are my life and my love. 

Thank you for all that you do and all that you are.   

"All that I am I give to you. I offer you my strength and my weaknesses. I promise to love you and cherish you. To honor and respect you. I promise to listen deeply when you speak. And whatever the future may hold, I commit myself to loving you, as long as we both shall live."

September 20th, 2008


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Extract: Day 30


 Thank goodness for calendars. Had I not written the thirty day mark on the calendar, I would not have had the delightful experience of discovering that yesterday was 30 days from the beginning of our homemade vanilla extract!

It is a beautiful deep amber in color and definitely has a strong vanilla aroma.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

A bit of seriousness with lots of hope


I've been avoiding writing this post as I have very little actual information.

My health has been slowly but steadily declining over the past seven or eight years. There were always "reasons" for it, and as long as I took things slowly, I never had TOO much of a problem. Over the course of my husband's deployment things steadily got worse but were easily overlooked because of the stress of deployment.

With Joe's return and encouragement, we finally found a doctor that we like and made an appointment. That appointment finally came this past week. It was both scary and exciting to start on a journey to figure out what's going on and have the possibility of feeling well and healthy soon.

What he was able to tell us at the appointment is that I have LOW blood pressure. The scary thing is that when I get up (from sitting or laying) instead of my blood pressure going up, it plummets. It is a relief to know that there's something going on and it's not just lake of personal conviction or strength of character.

He's pretty sure I have an adrenal deficiency, vitamin a deficiency, a definite iodine deficiency, and quite possibly am hypothyroid. Many of these things are easily correctable over time through tweaking my diet and adding some supplements.

I was rather surprised at the basic diet handout that he sent with me and how little was different from how I already eat. We'll find out what we need to change when the blood work comes back in a couple of weeks.

For now, I remain hopeful.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gigantic Green Caterpillars on my tomatoes- Tobacco Hornworms


When going out to pick the latest batch of golden cherry tomatoes and water my thirsty plants, I discovered some HUGE caterpillars!

After some research we discovered that they are Tobacco Hornworms. If we left them there, they would continue eating all of the leaves off the tomato plants.


One particularly interesting fact about them - they only eat the unripened fruits (they like the nightshade family) and will not touch fruits once they start to ripen. You can see it happily chomping away at what was left of a green tomato in the photo above.

 In general, I figure that a certain amount of what I grow should be intended for the other living beings around us - the bugs and chipmunks and bunnies etc. This seemed a little excessive though as each caterpillar had eaten ALL of the leaves above them on the plants down to stubs. There were plenty of poop piles on the newspaper below.

Thanks Tobacco Hornworms for being interesting and teaching me something new. And thanks to Joe for taking care of them.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nectarine Heaven!



Oh what a pleasure it has been to "have" to deal with an entire grocery bag of nectarines.

I am in nectarine heaven. 

Over the past five days we have (left to right below) canned nectarine butter, canned nectarine slices, dried five dehydrator trays of slices (seen dried in the jar) and froze two full cookie sheet trays of slices to use in smoothies (still in bowl below). 


It has been such a delight to get to make such wonderful food for us to enjoy throughout the winter season, as well as wonderful things for now. 

I must say that roast chicken with roasted onions and nectarines was amazing both for dinner and reheated for lunches the following day. 

One of the 1/2 pints of canned peaches didn't seal, so we had to taste them. I must say I didn't mind having to try them. While canned peaches have long been a personal favorite, these are even better!

Even after a weeks worth of preserving, we still have about ten nectarines and half again as many peaches. I'm dreaming of canning peach salsa and brandied nectarines. But first we'll have to get some brandy.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Yes! That IS a grocery bag of nectarines.

If a girl who loves canning could have a guy who was AMAZING at finding large quantities of great produce, she would have nothing on me. 

In addition to the two large boxes of canner tomatoes for $5 a few weeks ago, my husband managed to score us half a grocery bag of bosc pears for $6 and 7/8ths of a grocery bag of nectarines for $8, in addition to peaches, concord grapes, and cider and cider donuts. I love fall!

It turns out, to our delight, nectarines are merely a cultivar of peaches and not a separate fruit altogether.  The smooth-skin gene merely is recessive and so they're treated as special because they're more rare.

Turning to my favorite canning book at home, the index merely says "see peaches." One minor difference is that because the skin is smooth and so much thinner (which does make them bruise more easily) they don't have to be removed before canning! I discovered this delightful tidbit and am so very excited to get canning. After class.

Makes going to class kind of annoying this morning. ;)



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Spanish Cauliflower "Rice"


On my list of things to try has been cauliflower "rice." It's been on my list for a while. I do like cooked cauliflower, and rarely ate rice when I did eat rice.

I have made an amazing discovery: cauliflower "rice" is more amazing than rice rice.

I kid you not.

Spanish Cauliflower "Rice" is incredible!

In the words of my husband, "I like it even better than real rice." It's more flavorful, more betterer for you, and easy! Instead of cooking rice at the beginning (or happening to have leftover rice) you merely grate up a head of cauliflower.

For this recipe, I chopped up farmer's market onion and garlic and sauteed them. I used clarified bacon grease although any frying oil would work.

Once the onions started to clear I added approximately two large tomatoes worth of chopped tomato left from the bruisers of our tomato sauce project (a post on that once I get good pictures) and left them to simmahdown.

I then grated the cauliflower and chopped up a farmers market green/red bell pepper.

To the pan I added cumin, coriander, basil, oregano, cayenne, and a teeny bit of turmeric.

As cauliflower does not absorb as much liquid as rice, I waited for the tomato to cook mostly to a sauce before adding in the grated cauliflower. I'm not much of one for mushy peppers so I added the chopped peppers near the end.

This is sure to return soon to our dinner rotation and I can't wait to try asian-inspired fried cauliflower "rice"!

Friday, September 10, 2010

New England Views - Grist Mill


In our adventures last week we came across this grist mill in Vermont. I wasn't fully able to capture the intense red of the wheel in the broad shots but the closeup gives a better idea.

The day was gorgeous, the clouds spectacular and finding such beautiful building perched on the hill was a definite treasure.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fantastic week and a promise of catching up


Phew! It's great to go away and it's great to come back home.

Joe and I went away for a few days and had many great adventures - three out of four of my favorite coops between here and Canada, the Vermont Country Store (including the kissing bridge), great walks, fantastic swimming, amazing food, lots of naps and so much more!

We came back Sunday and hit the ground running.

Yesterday was a busy day of making and putting food by. We made fifteen pints of homemade tomato sauce (almost two gallons!) froze two gallon bags of delicata squash quarters, made potato leek soup for lunch and leftovers, grilled chicken from our meat share, have the tomato water/juice in the crock pot (reducing the almost two gallons of liquid skimmed from the tomato sauce tomatoes for tomato paste) and the squash seeds are in the dehydrator after soaking in salt and spice water over night.

Many of these deserve their own post so I hopefully have whet your appetite and you'll want to hear more soon.



Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Raspberry Peach Jam


Canning Adventures Continue!

Our latest tremendous success was a batch of Raspberry Peach Jam.

This is the first year that I've really ventured out into the world of canning without the watchful eye of my mum. It's such a pleasure to have a house and gardens and have the space and time to put food by.

These are a peach jam with raspberries and sweetened with honey. I don't like jam real sweet so they're on the tart side. As we have already discovered, they are perfect on toast, crepes, or just a little on a spoon!

One of these days (when we finish the coconut-milk mocha icecream or the homemade orange-creamsicle push-pops in the freezer) I'll have to try making some really great vanilla icecream and spoon a bit of this jam on top!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Boston Cream Pie Cake


Before you pie-advocates (in the cake vs. pie debate) get all uppity, let me explain:

This is a CAKE.

Now that we have that settled... On with the story!

One of Joe's favorite desserts is Chocolate Cream Pie. Last year I saved his birthday by express shipping him homemade vanilla cupcakes, snakpaks of vanilla pudding, and a jar of chocolate sauce for him to be able to have his birthday treat at his pre-deployment mob station.

This year, I decided to do even better. Instead of only one layer of delicious homemade pudding, I decided to make a boston cream pie layer cake and do three layers of pudding between four layers of cake with a dark chocolate ganache topping. And NO, this was not "safe" for me to eat in ANY way. But it was not for my birthday.

It came out brilliantly, and tastes even better than it looks!

Several days later there is still a very little piece left as it is so rich and delicious that it must be eaten in small portions! Not sure how I'll top it next year, but you better believe I'll find a way.

Happy Birthday my Dearest Husband!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Almond Crusted Poached Eggs


Let me introduce you to something amazing:

Almond Crusted Poached Eggs.

They are AMAZING.

Especially if you can't just fall back on a piece of toast to catch all the goodness from your poached eggs.

Recipe taken from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook (a fantastic cookbook with nothing in it I can't eat!) and pictured here in the back of the photo.

The basic process: poach an egg, sprinkle one side with an almond flour and herb mix, brush with raw egg and add another layer of almond flour mix.

Flop over onto a well greased pan and cook until crispy and brown.

Turn over onto pan and then do your best to not die from how delicious it is.

(Pictured here in a photo by Joe with yellow zukenoodles and homemade tomato sauce)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Extract: Day 1

There's "vanilla" that means boring, average or normal.

Then there's "vanilla" that means oh-my-goodness-this-is-one-of-the-best-most-comforting-homelike-things-EVER.

I'm making the second kind.

Turns out it's pretty simple too... Mainly involves waiting.

A lot of waiting.

But it'll be worth it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Perfect Cuppa


One of my favorite hot beverages is a combination of Mayan Cocoa Spice tea from Yogi and Roastaroma from Celestial Seasonings. It makes a delicious non-dairy, sugar free and wonderfully full of flavor mocha-like concoction.

I found a way to make it even better.

Inspired by a coconut-milk chocolate pudding recipe, I decided to make some cocoa "syrup" to have on hand. In a saucepan I combined coconut milk, cocoa powder and maple syrup.

Mixed all together, I have found my perfect hot drink for chilly mornings.