Monday, February 27, 2012

Things I'm Loving Today

It snowed quite a bit overnight last night.  So much so that the schools should've been closed.  The streets were slick and hazardous.  This morning I safely shuttled the older two to school then came back to get Little.  Little wasn't happy.  She thought her class project, an Archimedes Screw, was too large.  She was mortified to bring it to school.  And what does a mortified eight-year-old do?  Especially when said child's mother refuses to get a hack saw and make her project smaller?

That child cries.  No.  Scratch that.  She screams.  All the way to school on icy roads.  Now granted her  school is only a mile away.  But a screaming mile is oh so much further than a singing mile.  Just sayin'.

There are also two busy intersections on the way to school, one of which a frazzled Mama, skidding across the ice, went straight through without stopping (though a very serious attempt was made).  Thankfully this skid occurred at just the right time and an accident did not occur.  Things could have been much different.

Did a brush with death stop the temper tantrum?  Oh no.  Not in the least.  Little was kicked out of the car at school -- sent off bawling into the snow storm.  Yes.  This morning started off well.

As it turns out there were several Archimedes Screws of nearly the same design and size.  The fuss was all for naught.

The remainder of my day was spent nesting; cleaning, baking and cooking.  Oh yes.  And I shoveled the walk.  'Tis one of the fringe benefits of a snow storm -- an upper arm workout.

Despite our fragile start to the morning I find myself quite grateful.

Here's what I'm loving today:

  • An anonymous neighbor who plowed our sidewalk (thus cutting my shoveling time in half)
  • Fresh baked bread
  • Winter soups and stews
  • Sour beer
  • Edwardian Farm to accompany me on the treadmill
  • The wherewithal to get on the treadmill after shoveling snow
  • Sore muscles borne from hard work
  • Kittens who play in the snow
  • Near (and thankful) misses while navigating icy roads
  • Indoor tulips that hint of spring (even if it's in the 20's tonight)
  • Snow ever so slowly sliding from the chicken coop roof
  • Three eggs (two brown and one green) despite the auspicious weather
  • Hot hot showers
  • Thrifted winter boots

Friday, February 24, 2012

{This Moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Play along with Soulemama.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My First Quilt -- WIP

Many moons ago (more than I'd care to admit) I began sewing a quilt.  A flannel quilt made with fabulous Anna Maria Horner fabric.  I pieced it and made the back in a timely manner.   Then it was sandwiched and pinned.  Then I stalled.  I found other things to do.  

A few weeks ago I quilted a few more rows.  Then I stalled again.   Perhaps our lack of winter is lessening my enthusiasm.  And yet I can't wait to see it draped over the couch.

So today I brought it back out.  I drew a few more quilting lines and am hoping to take it to the machine tomorrow.

This quilt is far from perfect (after all I hardly know what I'm doing) but it will be perfect for our needs.  I can't wait to have it finished.

*** *** ***

I found a new obsession today -- Edwardian Farm.  I watched it while run/walking on the treadmill.  I felt sort of silly.  I mean, really, if I lived there life would be a workout -- no need to make time to exercise.  But my life is a bit different.  Ah well!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


This will be a marking post.  Me talking to myself.  Wondering.

First off I made myself coffee today.  I'm rather proud.  I nearly bought a coffee because I wanted froth and the batteries in my thrifted frother are dead.  But then I remembered our immersion blender.  Yes -- it can froth milk.  And I did so without making a gigantic mess.  $3.50 saved.  Every little bit puts me that much closer to my dreams.

I had another revelation today.  I no longer need to buy sawdust for my chickens.  Honestly I should have figured this out ages ago.  Alas I did not.  Instead I had to find this; a Sunset article from a brilliant person in my hometown.  Pine needles!  I can use pine needles.  And let me tell you we have these in abundant supply.  Doh!

Next I'm wondering if I should start the process to become a Master Beekeeper.  I'm sure I could learn a lot.  I'm sure it would be good for me and good for my bees.  But I'm not sure I should commit more of my time.  And then there is the cost to consider.  I've already purchased another set of bees and am in need of a second hive.  I'll have to ponder this one for a bit.

My raspberry plants have started to come up.  This seems early to me but we've had quite an odd winter.  Now I'm wondering how to best protect them from deer.  I think I'll try chicken egg spray (20% whole chicken eggs and 80% water).   According to the Colorado State extension this is quite effective.

I'm also thinking about my garden.  I don't think I'm going to plant my raised beds this year.  They are right in front of my hives and my activities last year bothered the bees a bit.  My plan is to simply seed the beds with a wildflower mix.  This will look nice and please the bees to boot.

I'd love to get some troughs like these and turn them into raised beds further over in the yard.  The troughs, of course, would still be susceptible to deer.

Growing is so difficult here and I'm still longing for a greenhouse.  This would solve two problems -- the plants would be kept warm *and* protected from those pesky hoven creatures.

Finally I need to give my yard a good and thorough cleaning.  My poor neighbors have such a neat and tidy yard.  And we have no fence in between.  Despite all their efforts they are forced to see our haphazard area.

Seems I'm thinking a lot about the outdoors.  Looks like I'm ready for Spring!


Monday, February 20, 2012


I'm feel tired today.  And melancholy.  It's cloudy out.  Gray.  This is a tough time of year.  Everything is muted.  Brown.  Dull.  I crave green, abundance and growth.   I want a farm.  This one would do.

Today we went for a drive.  I found a property or two.  Only one thing is stopping me; a lack of financial wherewithal.  Little says it's easy to come up with the money.  Just save.  She volunteered her $170.00.  The Boy anted up $500.00.

Between the three of us (Little, myself and the Boy) we have $671.00.   Only $93, 329.00 to go.  Just save.

If only we had sold our house at its peak.  If only it were worth more now.  If only my education hadn't cost so much.  If only we'd spent less and saved more.  If only.

And really I have no right to complain.  It's not like I have a bad life. In fact it's rather good.  Who am I to shirk what I already have?  The blessings I've been given.

But I can't help it.  I continue to dream.  Continue to hope for the life I will have someday.  Someday.  


Friday, February 17, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you feel inspired play along with Soulemama


DIY Taco Seasoning and an Easy Crock Pot Recipe

Some days I'm smarter than others.  Some days I'm lazier than others.  Some days these two coincide and brillance abounds (well that may be a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point).

Lucky for me a moment of brilliance occurred last week smack in between two night shifts.  I came home knowing a) I really wanted to sleep and b) my family needed to be fed.  I also knew there was NO WAY I was going to haul my tired self to the store.

I found some chicken in the freezer and was thinking mexican.  Perhaps tacos.  Crock pot -- definitely crock pot. But of course I didn't have any taco seasoning.  Then a light bulb went off.  I have spices in my pantry. I can make my own seasoning.  And I did just that.

In another moment of brillance I wrote the recipe down on the back of a tag then laminated it with tape.  That way I don't always have to look up the seasonings and ratios.  Today I made another batch and I quadrupled the recipe so it will last a while.  Three tablespoons of this seasoning is equivalent to that of a standard seasoning pack from the store.

Taco Seasoning: 
2 teaspoons chili powder
1.5 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
Black pepper to taste (I just ground a bit of fresh pepper over the top)

That's it.  I mixed it all in a pretty glass jar.  I'm having fantasies of a pantry such as this.  Baby steps.

Of course my family couldn't eat plain taco seasoning.  They require a bit more sustenance than that.  So I took six chicken breasts straight from the freezer and tossed them in the crock pot.  To that I added a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (including juice) and 3 tablespoons of the taco seasoning.  I put the crock pot on high and went to sleep.

That evening my family was fed and I had delicious tacos to take to work.  Just add tortillas*.  The tacos were a hit with the whole family (including all three kids) and this recipe is a definiate yes for our permanent rotation.

* You can garnish at will -- cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese -- whatever floats your boat.

Quick, simple, frugal and delicious -- what's not to love?


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oreccchiette with Turkey Sausage and Broccolini

Sunday night I was at a loss for dinner.  As always I turned to Pinterest (whatever did I do without it?).  I found this recipe for Oricchiette with Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.  Sounded good to me!

However my local market (which typically has a great produce selection) did not have broccoli rabe. They did have broccolini.  And, confession time here, I forgot to bring a shopping list with me.  Thus I ended up making a pasta dish inspired by but different from the above recipe.  Despite my lack of preparation it turned out good and I thought I'd share it here.

The key to this recipe is really good sausage -- whether that be turkey or chicken or pork.  I bought a mild turkey sausage made with paprika, basil and sun-dried tomatoes.  This sausage was ground and made at my local market.  Mmmm mmmm!  Your sausage will make or break this dish.

I've not cooked much with broccolini but decided to use the whole vegetable.  The stems gave this dish delectable texture and a bit of crunch.  Broccolini has a mild sweet taste and was a wonderful counter to the sausage (which though mild still had a bit of spice).

This recipe serves 4 to 6 people and takes about 30 minutes to prepare.


1 bunch Broccolini, stems chopped into small pieces and heads free from stems
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Pound Mild Turkey Sausage (or chicken or pork)
16 ounces Orecchiette Pasta
1 Lemon
2 tbsp Corn Starch
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt to taste
Olive Oil

  • In large pot bring salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain. 
  • While pasta is cooking add ~ 2 tbsp olive oil to a large skillet.  
  • Cook sausage on medium high, breaking up as you go, until cooked through.  
  • Add garlic to skillet and cook for approximately 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Add broccolini; stems and heads
  • Add 2 cups pasta water to skillet and deglaze the pan. 
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes until broccolini bright green and stems just beginning to get soft
  • In small bowl mix corn starch with enough water to dissolve, add to skillet, stir until sauce thickens. 
  • Add pasta to skillet and mix well. 
  • Grate zest from lemon over pasta.  Cut lemon and juice over pasta. 
  • Top with cheese to taste.
  • Enjoy!

Happy Valentine's Day!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Things I'm loving today

Things I'm loving today:

  • Valentine's cups from Starbucks (yes I went just for the cup and I *love* that it celebrates all types of love from motherly love to the love of a friend to a sweetheart's love.  This day is for *all* of us, each and every one).
  • Special cookies for special people (dough is made and in the fridge).
  • Felted acorn necklaces completed and ready for the 2/3 Valentine's party.
  • A kitchen that's not *too* dirty after three loads of dishes.
  • Leftovers for dinner (yes, I know, not romantic but I'm working tonight).
  • A great book in progress and another waiting at the library.
  • Boys who ride bikes and fish all morning then play lacrosse all afternoon.
  • A husband who gets up early, makes coffee and gets the big kids off to school while I snuggle and snooze with Little. 
  • Sales in the shop just when an extra little bump is needed (thank you Universe!)
  • Downton Abbey online - perfect entertainment while felting acorns.
  • And, finally, little and not so little girls who spent the weekend cleaning their room (it's about time!!)
Today, on this day of love, I give all of mine to you.  


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Frugal Friday (on Saturday again) - Save Your Green Onion Bottoms

So it's not like this idea is going make the difference between wealth and poverty but every little bit counts, right?  Recently I read that green onions can be regenerated.  Simply take the bottoms with the roots and put them in water.  Last weekend I did just that.  Low and behold the onions grew.

See all that green?  That's a week's growth.  I'd say in another few days they'll be ready for harvesting.

It's ideas like these that I need.  Ideas on how to stretch our budget and make the most of what we've got.

Along that line I've been introduced to a book -- An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.

Per Amazon: "Reviving the inspiring message of M. F. K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf— written in 1942 during wartime shortages—An Everlasting Meal shows that cooking is the path to better eating."

This is perfect.  We cook at home.  We eat leftovers.  But I want to be creative with what remains; use to whole animal (or plant) as it were.  This book has great reviews and I can't wait until my copy arrives on the library hold shelf.

In the meantime I may just start in indoor herb garden.  I found several old pie tins at an estate sale this weekend.  I'd *love* to do this.   So now the question is -- what herbs to grow?

Any suggestions?


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Owl Softie

Inspired by my friend over at the Frabjous Versipel I set out to make a monster.  Specifically a monster for my nieces to whom I owe a Christmas present.   Yes.  I'm a bit behind.  Though with a little luck we might celebrate Christmas at Valentine's.  

Anyway my monster has morphed into an owl.  These creatures have a mind of their own.  I'm rather enamored and may not be able to give this one away.  If that's the case I'm likely to spend the weekend sewing softies.  I can think of worse ways to spend my time.  

The colors are a bit hard to see but it is a lovely chartreuse with an orange head, yellow feet and red heart.  I'll take a better picture once it's complete.  

The materials are fleece and felt.  All fabric I bought for other projects and never completed.  This project is therefore a stash buster.  Another good thing.  

I have a feeling softies are going to be part of my permanent gifting rotation.  Homemade gifts are best (even if they are two months late).  


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday and Teriyaki Meatballs

We had a mellow Sunday.  Working, napping, knitting and watching the Super Bowl.  Our family was not particularly invested in the outcome of the game and thus it was enjoyable.  Truth-be-told I watched mostly for the commercials.  The remainder of my time was spent knitting (well knitting and frogging and knitting again).

And though it was just our family I wanted to cook something special.  Something Super Bowlish.  During half time I tried out a new recipe -- Teriyaki Meatballs.  And let me tell you they were a hit.  The Boy, after biting into his first meatball, suggested that Mama become a contestant on Chopped.  Middle facebooked that dinner was delicious.  Everyone ate their fair share and then some.

I made a few small changes to the recipe -- first I doubled it.  This made enough to feed our family of five and have a few meatballs leftover.

I used only half the recommended amount of ginger; this mostly due to laziness.  Grating fresh ginger can be a bit of a chore.  But oh how good it smells!  Actually I had the boys grate the ginger for me.  It's nice to have prep cooks by my side.

Additionally I left out the sesame seeds.  I simply didn't feel like buying an additional ingredient.

And finally I used regular sesame oil instead of toasted sesame oil.  It was what we had on hand.

Yes -this recipe will be added to our regular repertoire.  It was great over rice and made a nice meal but it would also make a great party appetizer (just add toothpicks).

Thank you Budget Bytes for your ingenuity!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Things I'm Loving Today

Mug from the fabulous Illuminary

It's been a weekend of night shifts.  One more night to go then I'll have some precious time off.  I've taken to drinking tea at work.  Too much coffee makes me nauseous.  My mug was made by the fabulous Illuminary.  It contains a quote from Salvador Dali "Take me. I am the drug."  Seems fitting as I'm drinking my nightly elixer.

Things I'm loving today:

Okay now off to bed.  Have a wonderful day!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Frugal Friday: A Paper Bag Floor Update and Tutorial

Well we've ripped out the carpet in two rooms and replaced them with paper bag floors.  And I have to tell you I couldn't be happier.

  • They are durable (thus far they've stood up to two dogs, three cats and three children).  
  • They are easy to repair.  Under the piano bench I just noticed a few small nicks.  Someone must have been particularly rough there. It'll be a quick fix to lay down another layer of paper and polyurethane over it. 
  • They are easy to clean -- a simple swipe with the vacuum or a quick wipe down if something has spilled.  
  • They are attractive (so much more than our smelly old carpet)
We like these floors so much we will be replacing the remaining carpeted areas in our house (our bedrooms and the stairs).  I might get creative on the stair risers and use some sort of decorative paper.  I really like the flooring pattern here.  I wonder if I could find a similar paper pattern to use on the risers?

This is such an easy project.  There are tutorials all over the web.   But the process hardly needs a full tutorial.  Here's what we did:
  1. Rip up the carpet and remove any staples or nails (our subfloor is OSB board).
  2. Fill in any cracks with wood filler, sand even as needed.
  3. Rip up brown paper into various sizes and crinkle it. 
  4. Dip paper in polyurethane and lay it down on the subfloor.  Smooth to the best of your ability.  There will be wrinkles and bubbles.  The bubbles will eventually get squished into wrinkles.  This is part of the charm of the floor.  Relax and go with it.  The more you dip the paper the darker the color will be.  To add light and dark contrasts lay some paper down without dipping it.  Instead paint a layer of urethane on the subfloor, lay down the paper and paint over the top.  As you are laying the paper be sure to overlap the edges so no subfloor shows through.  
  5. Allow to dry.
  6. Coat with five additional layers of polyurethane allowing to dry for 2-4 hours in between layers (read the label on your urethane container)
In Progress

And a hint -- splurge on low odor polyurethane.  It's a bit more expensive but well worth it.  Trust me. 

Total cost:  $200.00 per room (~ 13 x 14 feet); this includes the polyurethane (3.5 gallons per room) @ $50.00 per gallon and bulk brown paper from the hardware store.  One roll was plenty for each room.  This could also be done with actual brown paper bags thus saving additional money.  

What do you think?  Are you willing to give it a go?  


Thursday, February 2, 2012

On Defeat

My son is taking ceramics in school.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this.  He has an opportunity to be creative and play with an unfamiliar medium (why is it that mama always gets most excited about the arts -- cooking, sewing, ceramics, creative writing?).

His final project was a tea pot.  A gorgeous tea pot.  There was only one eensy problem.  The handle broke.  He thought he could glue it but then another student came by and broke it even further.  Beyond repair.

He brought the pot home today and I have to admit -- I'm enamored.  I especially love the lid with its brown patina and hint of green where it meets the yellow knob (I'm struggling to get a good photo here in my winter dark kitchen but trust me -- it's charming).

This broken tea pot is a thing of beauty and it will have a forever home on my windowsill.  What makes me sad is that this pot must receive a grade.   Grading this creative effort seems so silly.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  But there is no shame in making mistakes.  There is no shame in failure.  How else is one to learn?  And who are we to place judgment?  And to what end?

Certainly I understand a grade for participation.  Did you show up?  Did you try?  Did you learn?  A resounding yes?  Then A++.   

And this makes me wonder.  What is the point of grading at all.  Why are we labeling our children and shaming them for the very thing from which they learn?   Mistakes are a glorious teaching tool.  The point is to recognize them, rethink and try again.  There is no disgrace in error.  And, at least in my mind,  all defeat is temporary.  The shame lies in not dusting off your hands to try and try again.

"There is no such thing as failure. There are only results".

Of course we need to know where the errors lie.  Sometimes they are obvious like a broken tea pot handle.  Other mistakes are more covert like a missed decimal point.  So perhaps I'm not so much against the grading as the labeling.

Mistakes are simply an opportunity to learn.  To be bigger and better than before.

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

So to all of you who have tried something, reached for that star and met defeat -- know this:  I am proud of you.  So proud and happy that you were willing to put yourself out there.  Proud that you were willing to try.  Take a moment.  Soak in the experience.  Process it and learn.  Then get up and try again. 



The kids are at school.  The laundry is humming.  Dishes are washed and the kitchen is clean.  The dogs and cats are contentedly napping.  I am still in my pjs and contemplating what's for dinner.  Perhaps eggs on toast now that the chickens are laying.  I might, even, retrieve my sewing machine from the closet.  So much for a *relatively* clean table.

I hope you, too, are having a contented day.