Sunday, July 31, 2011

One More Word on Cherries


I saved enough cherries out of the canning project to make one lovely pie to eat now. 

Perfectly summer. Delightfully tasty. The quintessence of Pie.

It was so very good.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Necklace from a Friend

I got this gorgeous hand carved necklace today at Saturday Market . It is carved from a piece of reclaimed wood that will become more burnished and glowing as I wear it and it takes on my skin's oils.

I was browsing around my friend Taryn's Etsy Shop - Mystic Orb - where she and her husband Jeff display their creations. I had looked at their market booth a couple of times, but I am usually so busy working that I don't do a lot of real shopping. Anyway. I saw this pendant on their shop. Today I helped take their order from the farm booth to their craft booth and I saw this one again. It really grabbed me, and happily it became mine!! I'm so happy.

Wooly Moss Roots is Taryn's blog, and I have enjoyed reading about their life up in the woods. It makes me a little jealous. I would love to have goats.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Morning is Hard

On Friday we run errands. Our errands are relatively small - library, groceries, sometimes other side errands like picking up dry-cleaning or similar. I try to break it up with a trip to a park or Bounce for open gym if it is raining. 

We shop at a food co-op where most food is bulk, so I have to remember my own bags and containers. I have to gather the due library books. Also purse, snacks, diaper bag, and anything necessary for any other errands.

No matter how I try, getting us in the car is hard. And I hate it. And I often end up yelling in frustration, which is not the way I want to parent.


It is obvious to me that I need to change the way we do errands, but the question then becomes how exactly do they need to change? What can I do to ease the process? I don't need the errands to take less time - I need getting ready for them to have better flow.

I wonder what other people do - when they shop, do they bring their kids, how they balance the errands that must be done with the adventures they want to have...

I need to contemplate and do some brainstorming. Several ideas have come up... If anyone else has any inspiration I would be happy to explore ideas.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cherries in the Canning Pot

Two weeks ago my dad and his sweetie picked pie cherries. Their season is so very short that it is important to get them at once, or else there will be no cherry pie in the winter. Or, more accuarately, we would have to buy pre-made cherry pie filling. Anyway, the cherries were picked and pitted, then frozen until there was time to deal with them. We got them right as we were getting home from Faire and dealing with head colds and laundry mountian. Not a good time for canning.

We also added a flat of bing cherries to the freezer - some frozen for eating and smoothies and whatnot, some dried, and some saved for cherry jam.

I looked at the calendar and realized that today was cherry canning day. So we defrosted the cherries and  got to work.
Pot o' Cherries

There were too many cherries for the usual pot. We had to get out the five-gallon brewing kettle.

Brother-Bug stirring in the sugar. 
I reduced the amount of sugar reccommended by 1/2 cup per quart of cherries. I figure that you can always add more sugar later, but it's really hard to take sugar out.

Cherry pie filling going into jars. 

We ended up with 7 quarts of pie filling. One I saved out to make into pie immediately. The rest went into the water bath canner. Then it was time to move onto the jam!

Jam in the jam pot.
The jam is approximately 1/2 pie cherries, 1/2 bing cherries, sugar to taste, a dash of lemon, and some pectin. I whizzed the cherries up in the food processor before I put them in the pot.

Sister-Bug eating the skimmed foam from the jam. She approves.
The jam went into jars and into the water bath as well. I saved some cherries out for making some fruit leather, but that is a project for another day.

The day's bounty
At the end I have 7 quarts of pie cherries and 10 1/2-pints of cherry jam. And a dream of cherry pie on a dull day in mid-winter.

And one of my favorite things about a can of cherries? I think they look like I've been pickling the hearts of evil gnomes. Macabre, but true. And so tasty.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Computer Update

My laptop came back from MicroDoc today. It's toast. Far too much water damage and corrosion to be fixed. Hopefully I can craigslist it as parts.

The good news is that we found a desktop Mac G5 for a deal. So now I have this lovely desktop.

I'm hopeful that a desktop computer here makes me less inclined to pile stuff on the desk and more intentional with my computer use.

I'll miss my laptop, but on the whole I think this is a good move for our family. And as soon as the stuff from my old hard drive is on the new hard drive, I will be up and computing again. I'm thankful for my phone and its talents... But I am really looking forward to getting my fingers on an actual keyboard!

Wordless Wednesday: Too Hip for Vegas

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Recipe: Cucumber Soup

The perfect foil for hot eather - and excellent leftovers too! We grilled some sausages and made biscuits to go with. It's so easy to make also that I didn't spend very much sunny time stuck in the kitchen.

At the outset I was using an official recipe for this, but then I didn't have all the required spices and had to create my own blend with what I had on hand. The result was tastier than the recipe I had set out to make.

Summer Cucumber Soup

2 cups buttermilk
2 cups yogurt
1 cucumber
2 green onions
1 clove garlic
2-3 tbl. Fresh basil leaves
1 tbl. Caraway seeds
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop and toast the almonds. 

In a food processer mince the garlic, green onions, fresh basil and caraway seeds. Coarsely chop the cucumber and add it to the mix. You might want to peel it. I didn't. Throw the cucumber chunks in the food processer and run it till you have a coarse or large mince. Set this aside for the moment.

In a large bowl whisk the butter milk and yogurt till smooth. Add half the almonds and all the cucumber mix. Stir to incorporate and chill for at least an hour. The longer you chill the soup the better the flavors will mingle.

Serve with the remaining toasted almonds sprinkled on top.

Mindful Monday: Money Matters

I missed this yesterday. We took an awesome trip to Wildlife Safari yesterday with some grandparents. For twenty bucks (plus the entry fee) you can have an elephant wash your car! It was so very fun.

Anyway. I was busy looking at tigers and lions and giraffes, being mindful in the moment and not thinking about this blog project. Now back to mindful Monday (on Tuesday!).

With the iPhone I can update my bank account and balance our checking account fast and daily. And that is what this week's Monday intention is all about.

Who: Me
What: Daily financial tracking
Why: We run so close to the wire and save little. I believe that daily tracking can help me change some of our spending patterns.
How: I use Mint to track spending and I have the app on my phone. My intention is to update it daily. This is a first step toward looking at how and where and when we spend.

And I want to start walking again. I really miss it.

There! Mindful.


On a side note: I really, really love the bookkeeping program. They aren't paying me to say this. I find it efficient, accurate, and super user friendly. It has taken all the logistical stress out of money management (logging into the bank, hand written tallys, etc.) and leaves me free to process all kinds of non-logistical money stress.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate-Chocolate-Cherry Cake

Most chocolate cakes I have made have been less than satisfactory. Too dry or light. I like chocolate cake that is rich, rich, rich. If you're going to go there, you might as well go all the way.

With my mother's birthday recently on the calendar, it fell to me to make the requisite cake. She said she wanted chocolate. Very chocolate

So I dipped into old recipes and made her the chocolate-cherry cake my dear friend and midwife has made for me in the past. I have never had this recipe fail. Always a keeper of a cake. Hats off to my midwife!

Zuchinni Chocolate Cake

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups zuchinni (if using frozen zuchinni, thaw well and press out some of the excess liquid)

1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Beat the first four ingredients together. Mix the final four dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture. At this time you can fix it up a little. Brother-Bug likes to add some chocolate chips for an extra chocolaty treat. I think some chilies might be fun. Or nuts. Or ??? Add those in now.

This should make 2-3 nine-inch cake pans, depending on what additions (like chocolate chips) you were inspired to mix in.

Put the batter into greased cake pans. Bake at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and decorate.


The classic that I love best with this is shown above. Simple and elegant. Cherries (a mixture of frozen cherries and cherry jam, heated with a little cornstarch to thicken it) and whipped cream. Real whip for my mom, no sugar.

You can decorate and stack it how you like. Toffee? Raspberry? Espresso? Frosting? Gnache? It's just the basic of basic fine chocolate cakes.

And you can feel good about eating it... because after all it has zuchinni in it, so it's like a vegetable, right?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In the Pantry

These are some of my jars.

I love to can. There's an art to it, a rythem, and when I stack shelves of broth and jams I feel good. I know what is in those jars, I usually know who grew it.

I like knowing that the food I feed my family is made by me. I like knowing that we have food stored away. I like the alchemy of jellies and pickles, and the way jars of tomatoes and pears look on the shelf. I love the taste of home canned peaches.

Today I organized my shelves of canned goods - jams on one shelf, pickles on another, broths on another. Empty jars kept together, organized more or less by size and neck width.

I discovered that we are set for pickles, probably for several years. We need peaches, possibly some apple sauce, certainly more apple and grape juice. We are completely out of beef broth and fish broth, fine for chicken, and have lots of veggie broth.

So now we can strike into canning season, with its sticky jam pots, jewel colored jars, rich smells, and long days of hard work. Maybe some cherry jam and cherry pie filling this weekend. We will have to see. Maybe some strawberry jam. And I noticed I have only one jar of blueberry jam left...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Helping With the Dishes

Remembering the Now

Mama and kids piled up, as seen by my phone.
I am more of a morning person than anything else. The occasional day I like to sleep in, lounge, and cuddle until later hours, but usually I am easily restless, curious to see what the day will bring. With a nursling in bed, this can sometimes be a challenge.

Sister-Bug loves to snack and snuggle from about 5:30 on. Sometimes she gets up at 7 or so, sometimes not til 8 or later. Somedays she is deep enough that I can get up and grab a few moments with Papa-Bug, or to myself. Most mornings we cuddle and nurse.

Some mornings Brother-Bug cuddles up to me, effectively pinning me between two sleeping kidlets. Then I am truly stuck, even if Sister-Bug is deep enough for me to detach and persue my own aims. 

Some days I lay there fuming, impatient to get going.

This is a waste of time and energy, as well as precious moments.

In what will feel like minutes, these precious children of mine will leave the family bed and I will be able to get in and out as my whimsy dictates. In the blink of an eye I will kiss them as they leave for sleep-overs, travels, college... Papa-Bug and I will have our bed back to ourselves again.

As Gretchen Rubin so aptly states: "The days are long, but the years are short." I lose so much if I wish away these long morning cuddles. 

Right now, in these moments, my kids want only that I cuddle them. They still fit snug next to me. They aren't so big yet. These are not moments to wish away, so that I might do dishes, or check email, or other mundane dailies. These are precious moments to savor, each and every one.

To get some extra rest.

To dream or daydream.

To read a little while they snooze.

To enjoy the curves and lines of these two beautiful little people, and to marvel at how fast they are growing.

These are the moments I will miss someday.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Crisp and Tasty

Our new house is blessed with a bank of Day Lillies out front - both orange and a deep red.

I considered this quite a blessing because flowers are lovely and Day Lillies need little special attention.

A friend, visiting from elsewhere, enlightened my to the delightful prospect of eating Day Lilly petals! They are incredibly crisp and bitable, with a melon flavor. Melon might not be the best descriptor, but it is the best I can think of.

A google search has found lots of pages with recipes galore, like this page.

For now, I think I will add them to salads. It's amazing how a few flowers or petals make a salad so much more delightful, as well as appetizing to the Little-Bugs. Thanks to my friend for the new edible flower!

Mindful Monday: Sorting It Out and Re-Configuing

With the craziness of summer, the arrival of backyard-grandparents, the trip to Breitenbush, and Country Faire, my Mindful Monday posts and plans have taken a back seat. This is fine. Absolutely perfect in fact. Some times are just more busy than others, and we adjust accordingly. And with the fine weather (as well as broken computer) I have been lounging in the sun more, reading, playing, and dreaming of the someday-garden here at the new house. This is good.

But today is rainy and so I return to the blog and contemplate. This is also good.

Past Mindful Monday intentions have been:

*Three Good Things at Bedtime - This has been really great and I want to keep doing it. It has lost consistency and I want to go back to making it an every night thing. I also want to think about how we get in bed (the routine), what time we go to bed, and other minor bedtime details.

*4 Walks a Week - This was awesome. And then I ran out of audio book. I just need to get a new one on my iPod and re-commit. But this really seemed to make me a MUCH better person all around.

*Making the Bed - Got the habit and then lost the habit. Loved it while I did it and don't like that I dropped it. So back on the horse here.

*Washing Hands - We never really caught on to this one, though I have noticed less whining when I do make a point to get hands washed... and I remember more often too. We'll keep working here.

*Getting the Glasses on Brother-Bug & Picking Up Library Books - These two started right as the crazy times also started, so they never really got off the ground. We will re-try them until we get them.

*Playing the Yes! Game - I'm still sorting out the details. It's easy to say Yes at Faire. It's hard to say Yes when struck down by a horrid head cold. That's where I am at for now. Further updates as I figure out more details and how to persue this goal in a more trackable way.

I also want a good way to track these. I want to check them off, but the system I have (a paper inside the cupboard door) doens't really do it for me. I love Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project Toolbox, but with minimal computer access, what I really want is an iPhone App for Happiness Project Resolutions. Really. That would be so cool!


It's been a bit since I shouted out. I got the idea for Mindful Monday from Meagan Francis over at The Happiest Mom. It's a good blog and a fun book. Check it out.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just a Thing I Do

I made spanikopita for dinner. This is something I do a couple of times each year. This evening I was thinking about when I learned the recipe.

As far as I can remember it was probably about twenty years ago, while I was studying Greece and its culture. As a homeschooled kid I undertook a full Greek banquet as part of the project, along with other components. Homeschooling rocks.

But back to this evening's dinner.

Spanikopita is one of those recipes that I can't give out because I know it in my hands and heart, and I wouldn't know how to write it down. I can tell you that I usually add other greens to the spinach - kale, nettles, whatever. I can tell you that it bakes at about 350 until it's done. It should certainly have lots of garlic.

Recipes like this, recipes that live in my bones, delight me. I cook them and it feels like a dance. I eat them and I am sated to my core. My spanikopita recipe is twenty years a part of who I am.

Does anyone else have recipes like this? What is a core piece of you?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Come to Laundry Mountain...

This is the mountain of laundry - now clean - from our weekend of dressing up. There are still three loads, maybe four loads, to do.

But it was fun. And totally worth it.

How long will it take to fold it all, I wonder? We'll find out later this evening!


Back from the Country Fair with 12 loads of laundry to do, unpacking galore, storing the Fair supplies for next year, thinking about ways to improve our 2012 Fair (we have only 362 days to plan, you know), and trying to decompress from the craziness with the kids... And of course I get an awful head cold.

A head cold in the Summer is just cruel. In the fall and winter it is expected. It makes sense. It's time to snuggle inside and drink hot tea anyway. I still hate every snuffy minute, but at least it is seasonally appropriate.

This all leads me to the grander question: how does one lovingly and effectively parent with a head cold? These are the days when I am at my worst. I look back on the day as I wheeze in bed, and I hate the parent I was all day. Cranky. Crabby. Impatient. Irrational.

I know that I can only do so much, but it almost seems like some other part of my brain wants the kids to be as miserable as I am. Or something like that.

What doesn't help is that I really don't like to be touched at all when my nose is stuffy. And I have a one-year old co-sleeping snuggle-bug.

I'll repeat my question: how does one lovingly and effectively parent with a head cold? If you give me useful and/or inspirational advice, I might just give you a prize.

Back to the trenches now.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mindful Monday: Playing the "YES" game

Sometimes it seems so much easier to say NO. No, you can't have that for dinner. No, we can't play that right now. If you have young ones, I'll bet you are just as good at the No Game as I am. But, truth to tell, I don't really like playing it. This week we leave for Fair, where my only responsibility is to have fun and enjoy my family (and keep us warm, dry, fed, and hydrated of course). This is a good time to practice saying "YES" when I otherwise might be compelled to say No.

Who: Me, possibly Papa-Bug, as we interact with the kids.

What: Embracing YES as our favorite word to use with the kids.

Why: Positive attitudes are catching and I want all of us to catch this one.

How: This is harder because I don't have my sights on a concrete action to take. This is more esoteric than I usually work with. My goal for the week is to identify the events and times I give a knee-jerk NO, and analyze why that time and place. What is going on for me? What are the potential outcomes of yes versus no? My further plan is to refine this and update this intention the week after Fair. Expect a report back.


Because of the computer issue I wrote about and the learning of the new phone, I am having a hard time getting pictures and formatting just the way I want it. Bear with me and I am sure I will figure it out.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Keep your fingers crossed for me. Apparently a sippy cup of water was behind my laptop last night. Apparently it also tipped over, leaking a puddle of water under and (hopefully not too far) into my computer.

All personal conflicts aside, I am very glad that I got this iPhone. At least I can keep up with the things I must do online, like banking and emails while we figure out what to do with the computer. Buying a new one, in the possibility that this one has visited Davy Jones' Locker is not financially feasible right now.

It's been one of those weeks. Sister-Bug has been dissatisfied for days - sweet and charming to everyone except me, but I am the only one she wants. We are gearing up for Faire as I have already noted. My Dad and his wife parked their RV in our yard for the summer - which is so great - but comes with more yard rearranging than I had planned. Plus I haven't seen them since winter solstice and I want to be hanging out, not doing chores.

But FINALLY it is sunny out. It is warm enough to put on a sundress without a sweater first thing in the morning. Strawberries are ripe all over the place. And I am bound for a couple of delightful hours working at the Eugene Farmers Market.

So I think it will be a good day and a full, rich weekend. And I hope my computer survives. Say a prayer to the gods of technical things and circuits, won't you?