Monday, December 17, 2012

Dearest C

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Nine days ago our daughter was born. For reasons we may never know, she decided that 36 weeks was enough cooking and was born happily and healthy at home. 

Four days old

We are all adjusting to the changes and so very grateful for how smooth the process was. I struggle to find the words to honor these experiences that have shifted our life in such profound ways. 

Thank you so very much to all those who have helped us and continue to help ease our transition. We appreciate your care more than we can express. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we adjust and strive to be the best parents for this incredible person. 

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pebble Magnets

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I have a fondness for small stones as many windowsill in our house can attest. On walks I often find myself with a few choice pebbles in my pocket tracing their edges with my fingers. 

I also love magnets. A couple years ago I combined my love for magnets with a couple other loves and made vintage typewriter magnets. This time, it's pebble magnets.




This particular collection of stones hails from our own yard, New Hampshire, a beach on the island of Santorini in Greece, and the shores of lake Huron in Michigan.


I strive to keep clutter out of our lives and off our fridge and the simplicity and harmony of these stones seems to balance the utilitarian and man-made elements we keep there.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Coconut Oil Kettle Corn

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Some time ago I received a request to do a post on coconut oil kettle corn, so here it finally is.

It's as tasty as you can buy but so much healthier! Coconut oil has countless health benefits and more are still being discovered. Unlike many of the other healthy oils (olive for example), it can be used for high heat cooking, which is perfect for kettle corn. 

After looking up a bunch of recipes, I experimented myself and have found the following to be spectacular!

Coconut Oil Kettle Corn

Ingredients:
1/4 C coconut oil
1/2 C popcorn kernels
2T powdered maple sugar 
Salt to taste



I've gotten powdered maple sugar at a variety of different natural/health stores. You can substitute white sugar but I would recommend using less (start with 1T and then see if you like it sweeter), as maple sugar is less sweet because of the other nutrients it contains.

In a saucepan with a lid (or a stovetop popcorn popper) heat the coconut oil with three popcorn kernels in the oil. When all three kernels have popped you know the oil is ready (hot enough). This trick seemed to be common throughout many of the recipes I looked over and it's worked for me every time. 

When the oil is hot add the kernels and the maple sugar. Shake/jostle the pan with lid in place on the burner(or stir if you've got a stovetop popper) constantly until the majority of kernels have popped.


Remove from heat and sprinkle with salt.


For extra crispness (or if you think you might have any leftover - ha ha ha!) place on a baking sheet in a warm oven for a few minutes.

Enjoy!

While both coconut and maple have distinct flavors, this blend melds pretty well so that neither is particularly strong or identifiable. It just tastes like a rich sweet crunch and a delicious treat.
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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Saying "no" to a baby shower

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While both my husband and I are only in our thirties, we have spent years decluttering, 
purging, and generally downsizing our amount of stuff. I firmly believe that 
the fewer things you keep, the more special they are. 

We are purposefully steering our life toward having fewer but higher quality items as opposed to having an over abundance of cheap, poorly made, disposables. 

This brings us to the decision not to have a baby shower. We want to honor our community and celebrate bringing new life into our family and this world in a way that also celebrates a smaller, less cluttered, more authentic life together. We want time and ability to have adventures together, rather than a cluttered home and time spent managing our stuff.


I have a friend who, for her first child, received over twenty receiving blankets. All but a few never even got unfolded. I've seen registries for baby showers that had three or four diaper bags, and been to showers where the majority of items were for newborns only and so wouldn't be used for more than a couple of months tops. We understand the desire and need for coming together to celebrate a new person, and even for some the need for financial support for items beyond one's own means. If we were ten years younger, we might be in a different situation. As it is, there is nothing we will actually need that we cannot reasonably afford.

 We know and are grateful that those who want to contribute to this new person's life, will do so, regardless of a shower.


I am not comfortable with cultural institutions and expectations that center around large quantities of stuff. I do not want anyone to feel pressure to give, as it is not belongings that make our life so rich.

 We want the things we do own to be ones we use and treasure. We want them to be long-lasting and good for much more than just our convenience.


We hope to have a non-gift-centered celebration at some point this fall - so if you're local (and we actually know you) we hope you'll join us then!

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Garlic Harvest - 2012

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With everything going on, this year's garlic harvest kind of snuck up on us. We had a couple meals of scapes, but having three different varieties of garlic meant scapes of different sizes maturing at different times. (for last year's scapes go here) My dear husband rescued some slightly woody scapes and made an amazing garlic scape pesto (yum!) and a couple weeks ago, pulled in all the garlic.


Here they are curing (gettin' their skins on) in the kitchen. We should have a good amount for planting and plenty for eating. We'll see what is our favorite and in a couple months make sure to plant plenty for next year. 

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Buff's girls - introducing day old chicks to a broody hen

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We have wanted to expand our flock of chickens for some time and were planning on getting a new batch of chicks in the fall or next spring. In our flock we have two Buff Orpingtons that are known for going broody (trying to hatch eggs) but as we have no rooster, they will never be successful here.

We had one of our Buffys go broody this spring and after a few nights locked in the pen but out of the hen-house, she got over the feeling. When we found one trying again a month ago, we decided to order day old chicks again and see if she would raise them for us. 

Broody hens will sit on eggs for a few weeks to allow them all time to hatch, so we put in our order. A couple weeks later we got the call that our chicks had arrived. (Here's the video from our first batch)

After giving them five or six hours under the heat lamp with food and water to recover from their journey, I carefully traded one chick for one egg under a kind of befuzzled mama chicken. She seemed a little surprised to all of a sudden have four moving things underneath instead of four warm eggs, but other than that everything went off without a hitch. 

Normally a clutch of eggs will take up to 48 hours to all finish hatching and for the chicks to dry off. This is why it's so important to give day old chicks that have been through the mail time to warm up, eat, and drink before putting them under their adoptive mama. The hen will think that her eggs have just hatched and wait up to 48 hours before moving off the nest. 


Here they are a couple days old, outside for the first time. 


We lost one of the chicks (it was smaller than the rest on arrival, had some problems and after a week had had enough) and are thrilled with an 11 out of 12 track record with mypetchicken, - the company through which we have gotten all of our girls.

Their pen (which they have almost outgrown!) is too heavy for me to move, so here they are in there, at 2.5 weeks old.


 They happily follow their mother's lead and are learning everything much faster than our first batch was able to figure things out on their own.


Joe is in the process of building a new coop that will be big enough for all the girls, and even a few more. Expect a post on that soon once the coop is complete. We will move mama and her girls out near the old hens and have them live side by side for a couple of weeks, only mixing when everyone is free ranging so that they all get used to the idea of each other. Mama hen will also teach her chicks the pecking order in the flock and all the nuances of life as chickens. They may have tiny brains but they certainly have a complex social structure. 

Even though it's a month later than we got our original batch last year, we're hoping that with mama's help and without a freak October snowstorm (fingers crossed!) they may start laying before winter. The new coop will allow us to put a light in their coop to simulate longer daylight hours and hopefully keep egg production up during the winter. 

We are so happy to have one of our hens raise this batch of chicks for us and I look forward to using this method in the future. 

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Recovering our Diningroom Chairs

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For my birthday (almost two months ago) my mother and I recovered the chairs to the dining set that came to us almost a year ago. Thanks mum!

The set originally belonged to my great-grandparents (Agnes and Nelson Johnson) and made their way through several lives to our home. My grandmother had recovered them years before they arrived here, and while I have a fondness for anything so "her" the stuffing was showing through and it was time for their next life.


While my mum and I talked about going to Osgood's in Springfield (great place for upholstery and large quantities of fabric), she ended up having enough fabric leftover from another project - refinishing another set of chairs from the same great-grandparents! Those chairs had originally been covered in a red silk velvet which lasted well over fifty years! Current prices of silk velvet being cost prohibitive, my mum chose a beautiful rusty-raisin colored mohair velvet. Mohair is also known for durability.


Unscrewing the seat from the frame, I had an adventure with pliers ripping out all the staples holding the fabric and padding in place.


Using the previous cover as a pattern, we traced on the back of the fabric and cut four new pieces. Using a dense foam and batting to round the edges and hold it in place, we stapled the new fabric in place and screwed the seats back in place.


These wonderful old chairs have a new look and a new life. We are so thankful to have items from our family's past, and grateful to get to give them a new round of memories. It's wonderful to combine our appreciation for the old-fashioned, our love of history, and putting old things to new uses.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Heavy duty cleaning cloths

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A little over a year ago, I made a holder for un-paper towels. While I love them and use them daily, I found I need a sturdier cloth for some jobs. The un-paper towels are perfect for any job where paper towels would do the trick but even though they're cloth instead of paper, something a little heartier is called for when it comes to more significant cleaning jobs.

Inspired by this post, I decided to make my own.


Basic tutorial: Illustrated from left to right above.

I used half a yard of terry cloth and half a yard of plaid flannel cut into pieces for twelve cleaning cloths. I have small hands and the finished cloths are approximately 6"x8" but could be made any size. 

1.) Cut your pieces, lay them together, and stitch around the edge making sure to leave a gap of at least a couple inches in the center of one side. Leaving the gap in the center makes it easier to fold the edges under before top stitching.

2.) Trim edges close to stitching. I used pinking shears but trimming 1/8" to 1/4" from edge would work just as well. It's easier to see the gap in the seam.

3.) Flip inside out. Using your finger on the inside, push the corners taught. Fold the loose edges in at the gap. It helps to pull outward on the side seams and the gap edges will want to follow the rest of the seam.

4.) Top stitch all the way around, including over the open gap. 

5.) Repeat and enjoy! 

These are sturdy, machine washable, and feel good in my hands. 

In many areas of life I find that I enjoy the work I do to a much greater degree if I enjoy the tools and materials with which I am working. In a culture of disposables, things need not be wonderful. If they get the job done we then throw them out. 

At our house, we strive to have fewer things with more purposes. If something is going to be used countless times over the years, I want it to be beautiful, to feel good, and to add to our lives by ease and breadth of use. I think these will do just fine!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Latest Painting - finished at long last

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Sometimes things take a while.

24"x36" Acrylic on Canvas

I began this painting in the old apartment, about 4 years ago. 
A month ago inspiration for how to finish it appeared. After a few weeks of adding the lacework and finishing the background I put the final touches on it last night.

It is moments like these when I fully realize how important it is to believe that things will happen well in their own time, if we will only be patient.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lemon Drop Chia Pudding

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I've been experimenting  with different types of chia puddings for a bit and this was too delicious not to share. Another plus is that just about everyone I know could it eat! It's vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free, chocolate-free, has no refined sugars, and is nutrient dense to boot! Perhaps I'll try a grapefruit flavor next and see how it does.

Lemon Drop Chia Pudding 


Mix together:

  • 1 can of coconut milk (I used full fat)
  • Juice and zest of 1 organic lemon (if you're using the peel it's best to get organic)
  • 1/3c chia seeds 
  • Sweeten to taste (I used about 1/4 cup of maple syrup)
  • 1t Vanilla extract. 

It'll take about an hour to fully soak up the liquid and won't solidify until it's been chilled for a bit longer. It's delicious for days - although I can't honestly attest to longer than a couple as it's never lasted longer in our house.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

200th Post! - Rhubarb and Raspberries

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Between traveling and all the various events and possible events, almost another month has gone by. I'm still running and hope to do a 10k race next month. 

Spring is most definitely here with leaves on the trees an flowers everywhere. A recent trip to visit my family up in New Hampshire sent me home with rhubarb and raspberry plants. They've had quite a patch up there since I lived there and it was starting to take over the lawn. I was happy to take some off their hands and start patches of our own. 



For the rhubarb, I was delighted when a small piece I'd planted last year made it through the winter, even in a tough spot. In the photo above you can see where I added a foot of height to the red rock wall at the back of the mulch to expanded the length of the bed to the corner. In a couple of years this bed will hopefully provide a bountiful rhubarb crop. 


For the raspberries, I cut the sod and put them in rows parallel to my drive. At the moment it looks like a dirt strip so when there is more than baby leaves on tiny stumps, I'll post a picture of their placement. 

I'm excited to add more perennial foods to our homestead and look to add a couple more this growing season. 


The bronze fennel I added last year came up with great gusto and I look forward to little candy-like snacks as they grow larger.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Functional Decor - picking a project back up

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A couple years ago, I decided to make a copper wire tree. I have seen similar wire trees in window shops for years and decided to try my hand. Instead of using thin wire, I used a thicker gauge, hoping to make it a functional piece to hold jewelry.

The tree tipped over too easily without a strong base and so it was shelved until the muse felt like visiting again. 

She visited last week. I've been searching for inspiration for a piece of art for the bedroom and it struck me that I could not only create a base for the tree, but could incorporate it into a larger piece of work. 

A quick trip to the basement to see if we had any suitable materials quickly evolved into this:




A functional piece of art that incorporates two abandoned projects, scraps from the basement, and parts of a long unused household item.
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Vanilla Extract - Take 2

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As promised, here is a post from a pre-holiday project that has waited until now so as not to spoil any surprises.

You may remember that a couple of years ago I tried making vanilla extract. I posted on day 1 and day 30, but no final results. After the allotted couple months from the recipes I had found, it hadn't intensified and was basically vanilla infused vodka.

Original batch at 30days
 
This time I wanted more! So I did way more! I  used almost half a pound (buy in bulk online) instead of the few for the original batch and steeped them for six months! 


The result was an intensely aromatic and delicious vanilla extract.


The deep color and aroma of the extract is solely from the vanilla beans without any added colors, sweeteners or dilutes. It is absolutely divine and cost a fraction of store-bought bottles of similar size and quality. 


Most was given away as gifts and I still have more than I'll use in the next year.  I'll fill up the jar again and by the time I run out I'll have a whole 'nother batch.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

We did it! I ran 5k!

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We did it! We ran my first 5k race and ran every step of the way.

Since announcing the run a month before the race, my continued absence from this space has been very well occupied. I've spent at least one night in five different states and and traveled through five more several times each as well as continuing to train for the run.

Joe stayed with me the whole time and we clocked in at 42:10 which makes it a 13:35 minute mile. Based on how my runs had been going, I was aiming for around 45 minutes and am so pleased! 


 We're at the back right here. I'm carrying my coat. I brought a windbreaker to Joe's place on base but forgot it when we left to visit my aunt a few days before the race. Race morning it was 23 degrees when we arrived, so I started the run in my regular jacket and took it off when I warmed up.

It was so inspiring to run with such a vastly diverse group of people. There were people who walked every incline, people who sprinted and walked, the runners who did 5 minute miles and were done before we reached the half way point and so many like me - people challenging themselves to get off their butts (and buts) and do this.

Thanks so much for all the love and support, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next challenge.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taking the New Year and running with it.

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Phew! Since the last post (almost a month ago) we survived the holidays, prepared for a 2.5 month school for my husband, had an amazing singing party, and generally had a grand ol' time.

I have a backlog of posts to write and share (now that they won't spoil any holiday surprises) and intend to post a little more regularly now that there's time to breathe.

My big news (one that I'm a little nervous to share) is that I'm going to run a 5k!

My husband's military career requires him to pass their fitness test, which always includes a run. As he has never found pleasure in running, it has often turned into a chore. In an attempt to be a more supportive partner, I decided that I would surprise him by doing the Couch to 5k program (C25k) and registered us for a 5k race close to his course for Valentines day.



A couple of days after the New Year, I sprung the news. Not only had I been
running for 5 weeks without him knowing, we were going to do a race together!

Having told myself and anyone else that "I don't run" since puberty, this is
a giant scary step for me - well tons and tons of little ones at least.

I'm pleased to say that I've stuck with it long enough that
I've not only noticed a difference but I might actually
possibly be starting to enjoy it. Maybe :D  
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