Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hands: A Study In Shadows

After a long dry spell, Eliza (age 13) is glad she's got her groove back.

~inspired by The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Friday, July 29, 2011

sprouting fun

Sprouting has always seemed so intimidating to me. I've always known the health benefits to sprouting, but felt like it all was too complicated. After attending that sprouting class last week, tasting some great recipes, (and being surprised at how delicious they were) and craving them ever since, I've become motivated to try my hand at it.

Did you know that you can even sprout nuts like almonds? It's really easy, friends.

In a large bowl, I placed 8 cups of almonds and covered them, 2-3 times the amount, with water. I left them on my counter top overnight.

Sprouted almonds don't produce a "tail" or noticeable sprout after soaking. They do swell up, though. See?

I took my almost overflowing bowl over to the sink and dumped them into a colander. I gave them a good rinse, too.

The sprouted almonds are now:

1. Alive at the peak of nutrition, just like a germinated seed is.
2. Activated with enzymes to help them digest even better, making the protein, fat, and minerals easier for the body to assimilate.
3. Allows an increase of the available vitamins, especially the B complex.
4. Some say it lowers the fat content. (But this fat is a good fat.)
5. Ups the pH of the almond, making them even more alkaline for the body. (Almonds are already very alkalizing to the body) And that's a good state for the body to be in.

After soaking and rinsing, I could just put my almonds in the fridge to keep them fresh. (They could mold if I don't.) To crisp them up, but still keep them with all the properties that sprouting provided, I placed them in my dehydrator, set it to 105 degrees F. and let them gently dry out for 12 hours or until fairly crunchy. It's best to store them in the refrigerator at this point (again the mold possibility.)

How to use them? Well, I plan on using them just like I do when they aren't sprouted. I can whiz them up in my blender with water to make almond milk. I can grab a handful for a snack. I can chop them up and add them to just about anything that calls for almonds.

A couple of days ago, I purchased some mini Sprout Master trays, along with some whole oat grouts, ProVita Mix, (a  blend of lentils, peas, adzuki, fenugreek, triticale, mung, and wheat) and also some alfalfa seeds. These trays make it really easy. I let the seeds soak in a bowl of water, (specific time for each seed) rinsed them, placed them in the tray, covering and rinsing two times a day (completed sprout stage, again, as indicated with each seed.)

It's been so fun to check on my little babies. To see the progress beginning with the little "tail" sprouts emerging. These will be a great addition to my salad repertoire. The oats will taste good blended into my smoothies or chopped up in a bowl for breakfast. Lots of possibilities abounding here.

I'm excited to implement this practice. Also glad to find a  source of fresh, enzyme/vitamin rich food for my family's long term food storage needs.

More experimenting to come! 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

a handy trick for staking tomatoes

Supporting and training tomatoes is an issue for the serious gardener. Over the years, I became so frustrated with those flimsy, easily broken and bendable cages that are widely available, cheap to purchase, and good if you are only doing one or two plants.

I was so impressed one year when Keith's brother Curt led us into his beautiful garden in Denver and showed us his towering, over 6 foot tall tomato plants. I'd never seen anything like it and didn't know it was possible to grow such huge, super-producing plants. He accomplished this with the help of wooden trellises that he built. (Soil enrichment/conditioning and organic fertilizer really are the key to successful gardening, I've found.)  A few years later, I was in the backyard of the Cox family here in our neighborhood and saw this idea:

I knew I'd found the answer.

Again, the same tall, excellently supported and staked plants. Not so complicated as the permanent towers, but just as effective. And less expensive.

Each year, I plant a variety of tomato plants that are set into two rows with a path in between. At Home Depot (hardware store), Keith picked up some metal fence posts, heavy gauge wire, and metal "mesh" paneling that is used in concrete work, around 4 feet high.

Keith pounded in the posts about 1 and 1/2 feet apart, with the plants centered down the middle. Then, the paneling was attached  with the wire mesh in front of the posts. As the plants get taller, I'll use some thick jute twine to tie some of the larger stems to the paneling for extra support. At the end of the summer, the plants totally fill in the space and reach the height of the paneling or even higher. I like the fact that I can reach in between the "squares" to pick the tomatoes as they ripen. Totally accessible all the way around.

I've got some Romas, Early Girl, Big Boy, cherry tomato, tomatillo, and what I thought were yellow slicing tomatoes ended up being yellow cherry tomatoes. Surprised and kind of disappointed with that one. These little guys are starting to come on now and I love it when I can pop a few, sun warmed, into my mouth.

There's nothing like homegrown tomatoes, is there? With the late start and wet weather we've had, it seems like things are a little behind. We'll see how it goes.

Hope this idea is helpful to you.
Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

a rainy summer afternoon

They gathered around the kitchen table after lunch.
Monopoly was the game of choice.
Isaac begged.
Sam was eager.
Eliza complied gracefully, albeit reluctantly.
Then the rain started.
Thunder, even.
Six hours, never leaving the table once,
the game was finished.
Sam triumphant.
They are raring to have a go at it again today.
Isaac says he wants to have a Monopoly tournament on his birthday with every person in the family playing. 
("It's fun, Mom!")
Mom is gearing up. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

season for roasting marshmallows

A picnic was planned.
A quick drive up in those mountain canyons we love.
Almost in our backyard.
"Why don't we do this more often?" we tell ourselves.
Last night it happened.
(It was Family Night, after all.)
Except I stayed home in bed.
Hurting too much.
They all had fun, though.
Campfire always fascinates.
Roasting marshmallows is the favorite part.
Hallmark of summer.
There's a technique. 
Nice when you get it just right.
Golden crispy shell, oozy inside.
S'mores are the best.

Monday, July 25, 2011

a "I Need To Do Something With All These Veggies" chopped salad

Do you sometimes feel like your fridge is filled with so many vegetables and you want to use them up before they go bad?

Or, maybe your garden is producing more than you can keep up with?

Well, I've got an idea for you. A tasty, addictive idea. I'm finding myself bringing in armloads of yellow and zucchini squash from the garden these days, as well as wanting to utilize all the other store bought produce that I had hanging out in the refrigerator.  

This isn't really a recipe, folks. It's more of an idea or concept. I decided to chop up everything that sounded good, or needed to be used up. Flexibility is what we're talking about. Here's what I used this time:

napa cabbage
red bell pepper
grated carrot
green onion
yellow summer squash
a handful of sunflower seeds

I tossed it with this simple dressing:

1 cup olive oil (I used half extra virgin and half light olive oil)
1/2 cup vinegar (I used 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar and 1/4 freshly squeezed lemon juice)
1/4 cup honey
salt and pepper to taste

(This made a lot of dressing. I think I only used half the amount and the rest was saved for another salad(s).)

The amount of veggies can vary. I ended up making a huge bowl that I knew would be devoured over the weekend. And it was. I loved it so much that I ate a big bowl for breakfast on Saturday morning. For lunch yesterday, I stirred in some black beans for a little protein boost. Oh, another tip: I find this seems to like being eaten with a spoon instead of a fork.

I can't tell you how delicious this simple salad was to me. It just seemed to work. I think it tasted even better a day later. Kind of nice to get out of the "lettuce rut" salads I sometimes find myself in. And, a good way to bring in more raw, vibrant, fiber-rich veggies into my diet.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

from the studio: a "going away to college" quilt for Jane

Just wanted to do a show and tell with this here quilt top I put together today. (Yes, I cut out most of the pieces yesterday and got it all sewed up in one day. An intensive all day-er. I do things like this best when I can have big chunks of time to attack it all at once.) The cracked rib deal has me wanting to take things pretty low key. I thought sitting in the sewing chair would be the best thing to do with my time, especially as I'm getting kind of panicky that Jane will be packing up before I know it. With that huge transition comes a lot I have to do to get her ready. But that's another story for another day.

When I saw a sample of this quilt hanging in the quilting store, I fell in love. The color combination and carefree block arrangement were perfect, inspiring.  I had it in my heart for as long as I've been a mother to make each of the children a quilt when they leave home. I didn't do that with Gary, but I think there's still time.

I come from a heritage of quilters. My maternal grandmother, Grandma Fay, always had a quilt set up in her "carport" during the summer months. I remember lying in bed when I'd stay at her house and feel that comfortable security and home-love feeling, knowing she was out there. My mom was a quilter. I loved the quilts that were resourcefully made from scraps from the outfits she sewed for us (All 5 girls). They became tied to memories. I especially remember  the one we took camping or on picnics, as well the one I "borrowed" for my first time away from home bed.

There's the image of both Grandma Fay and Momo (my paternal Cajun grandmother) with my mom stitching away on my bridal bed quilt, fabric pulled tight on the old quilting frame filling the family room downstairs. I'll never forget when I meandered in, foot loose and fancy free, just a few days before my wedding day. Normal voice talk silenced when seeing me enter, and them all getting those serious looks on their faces, asking me if I had any questions about "marital relations". All I can say is, many interesting and eye opening conversations happen when you get a group of females together this way.  

This quilt is a bit smaller than a traditional twin size. It measures 57x75 inches and is meant to be a "coverlet" for the bedspread underneath. Jane and I think this would be perfect over a store bought solid chocolate quilt. My plan is to take this quilt top, batting, and backing to someone that does machine quilting and have them do some "stippling" over all to give it texture and that look I like. Then I'll bind it all and it will be ready. I'll make sure to show you when it's all done.

Completing this project leaves me satisfied, knowing that Jane can take a bit of home, a bit of me, my thoughts of her, her future life, and love, my love, made visible in each and every stitch.

Passing of tradition.

Friday, July 22, 2011

cracked rib? oh, geez.

Happy Friday, y'all!

I can't believe how much I've gotten done this week. Yesterday, especially. I was on fire. Not sure where all this energy and get-up-and-go is coming from.

~Ran 5 miles
~Weeded the garden
~Visited with two neighborhood friends in my living room and took them on a tour of my garden (they begged. me embarrassed. good thing I weeded.)
~Did two loads of laundry
~Picked up Sam from basketball camp
~Organized (still lots more to do) some in my storage room
~Laughed at the conversation between Isaac and Eliza about medieval people's not having belly buttons (I begged him to let me tell you guys, but he refused. I respect that. Sort of.)
~Made granola
~Cleaned my bathroom
~Read an Ebook
~Made a good dinner (chunky salsa with corn, two beans, avocado, peppers, over quinoa and romaine.)
~Talked to Jane about her college credits and schedule. (Lots to do before she heads off.)
~More computer time
~Bagged a load of outgrown clothes for the thrift store

Then, after all that, I happily (and gratefully) sat down in my bedroom reading nook with my new stack of library goodies. Bent over to the side sharp against the chair, ribs pressed tight.

Then I heard (and felt) a pop.

Cracked rib? Probably.

Dull ache that seemed to get worse as the night went on. Not really bad, but just there. Can feel it when I take in a deep breath. Bending over to the side. Called my mom who has an unbelievable history of the same thing happening to her since the onset of middle age. Like when she's bent over cleaning the tub, bending over to pick up something from her sewing chair, bending over to get something in the center aisle of an airplane, tripping into the garbage bin, etc. etc. She'd know what to tell me.

I guess I'll know for sure tomorrow. She says that's when the pain really starts.

It sure is a wake up call. I'm not invincible. Osteoporosis is huge in my family. When I was 29, all my sisters, cousins, and aunts were involved with a University study to determine the roll osteoporosis plays in family genetics. It showed, at that time, that I was in the early stages of the disease. Enough to start taking Fosamax. I did, and then did another bone scan a few years later. Same results. Over the years, I've rebelled (that's an old lady disease), had two more babies, wanted to nurse them, and subsequently stopped taking the medicine, hoping now that the running and diet changes will strengthen my bones and reverse the diagnosis.

Knowing there's nothing you can do for broken ribs but rest, I  think taking some bone strengthening herbs will help. I started that first thing last night. Feeling about the same with the pain not really being noticeable this morning. Anxious to see how I'll fare in the next few days. Hoping I can go on with all I'm trying to do without too much of a glitch.

Maybe I just need to slow down.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

season for homemade ice cream

 Hot summer days call for cold creamy treats, don't you think? 

Last month, while browsing the aisles of Costco, I spied this Cuisinart countertop ice cream/frozen yogurt maker. It wouldn't leave my mind. It was calling my name.

It's not like I don't already have your standard, large ice cream maker that seems to make the whole process somewhat of a production with all that ice and rock salt and constant watching. Making homemade ice cream a handful of times throughout the summer has always been something we look forward to. A tradition, if you will. I also like the fact that there aren't any questionable ingredients when you make your own ice cream. Everything pure, simple, and wholesome. 

Anyway, this counter top model was a temptation for me. I got sucked into the "available for a limited time only" pressure that I usually ignore while doing my Costco runs, but I knew this little appliance would really make the whole process a lot more convenient. Kind of justified it also with the fact that our traditional model was getting a little beat up and almost on its last leg. (bent can, cracked paddle).

I find myself occasionally picking up a little carton of dairy-free ice cream at the health food store when I know the rest of the family will eat theirs; like on birthdays, holidays, or Sunday nights. I'm amazed at what I pay and I always tell myself, "You know you could make this if you wanted to." It's hard being the only one who doesn't do dairy when rest of the family does and you still want a little dish of ice cream. (Can you tell that I'm talking myself into this, big time?)

Well, I forked out the $39.99, and I don't regret it.  

In my blender, I mixed up some almond milk, coconut milk, agave, a capful of vanilla, and some cinnamon. Oh, and a little salt. I poured it all into the freezer bowl, ( liquid filled, double insulated, stuck in the freezer until frozen solid. Makes 1 and 1/2 quarts) put the lid on, and pushed the "on" button. After 20-30 minutes, Isaac, who never left his bar stool perch, announced that it was good and thick. What a breeze! So easy! Almost instantaneous satisfaction! I poured it into a lidded container and set it in the deep freeze until it was time to dig in. (After dinner, of course!) 

Without the cinnamon, this could be a good base for other flavors. Maybe fruit, maybe chocolate, maybe nuts. Lots of possibilities.

I think we have a new toy around here. Sam announced that he wants to be the ice cream man come Sunday.    

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

sweet days... and my own homegrown sweetener

What a beautiful morning it is. A late afternoon downpour of rain yesterday made things all fresh and glistening. Today, the skies are clear and blue.

I'm happy, getting back in the groove of home life. Laundry is getting done, the fridge is re-stocked with lots of wonderful, vibrant produce, and I'm welcoming the return to regular running and weight lifting. (I did simple hand weightlifting when I lost all the weight 3 years ago and haven't done any since. I think it will be a good idea to incorporate some sessions in the week to help me get a little more toned.) It was nice to go over to my trainer/friend's house early this morning and have a workout with her.

 Yesterday's trip to the library yesterday has us satisfied. Jane and I attended a 3 hour class at The Herb Shop last night entitled "Living Foods From Your Food Storage". Lots of great info on lacto-fermenting veggies and dairy products, sourdough baking, and sprouting. Lots of good food to taste. I can't believe how much the presenter made for us to try. I'm really excited and motivated to do more here.

My garden is getting there, as far as the weeding goes. I can honestly say that weeding is so relaxing to me, especially in the quiet, early morning hours. (I wanted some time out there this morning, but things are still too wet. Maybe tonight.) One nice thing about letting the weeds grow big is that they're much easier to pull out! I can't believe how much growth and filling-in happened while we were away. I've already harvested a lot of summer squashes, and every morning Jane and I go out to pick as much kale, collard greens, and chard as we want for our green smoothies. I'm so glad I planted these this year- a first.

Another plant that is new for me this year (and loving) is this herb called stevia. Here it is: (It's next to my lemon balm, 3 rhubarb plants, and the many greens already mentioned.).

A native plant of Central and South America, this herb is 30-45 times sweeter than table sugar.  Very popular in Japan, it was first commercially grown there as an alternative to artificial sweeteners. It gradually has become more available and grown in popularity in the U.S.  

Like some of you, I started using little packets of this (processed, refined, and commerical- names like Truvia, SweetLeaf, etc. A white powder instead of the green that it truly is.) sweetener in my plain yogurt, peppermint tea, sprinkled on top of oatmeal, and in green smoothies. I was attracted to it because it wasn't artificial, no calorie, low carb (maybe no carb?), and doesn't spike blood sugar levels like other sweeteners do. A little bit goes a long way, and some brands have more pronounced of an aftertaste (a little like licorice) than others.

This spring, when I was at my favorite nursery, I was so pleased to see that they were offering stevia plants to home gardeners like me. Again, public interest and demand. In my research, this plant seems to like loamy, well drained soil and frequent summer watering, with a capacity to grow up to 30 inches and two feet wide.

During the summer, I plan on using it in smoothies (just a couple of leaves will do it for a blender full) and also to sweeten tea. When fall comes (harvest as late as you can before frost; it gets sweeter as it matures.), I'll pick the leaves and will either air dry or dehydrate. Then, in my blender, I'll pulverize the leaves into powder form and store this in a glass jar to put on my pantry shelves. Maybe I'll even try my hand at making a liquid extract.

Never thought I'd have a homegrown source of SWEET.

Now, that's what I call sweet self-reliance!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Monument to Women

While in Nauvoo, Illinois, I took some time to wander through a special sculpture garden, A Monument to Women:

"In an age of heightened interest in the role of women, the Nauvoo garden of sculptures is dedicated to women of the past, present, and future. The statues, which were dedicated in 1976, identify some of the significant dimensions of a woman’s life. The memorial consists of a heroic central sculpture of a woman, enhanced by twelve life-sized figures expressing the widely varied nature of women’s vital roles in society. The display may well be the largest commissioned display of sculpture in the world dedicated to women."
What a sweet and touching experience for me.

I'm so glad, so proud I'm a woman.


Woman in Prayer
Compassionate Woman
Woman Learning
Woman and Her Talents

Courtship For Eternity

In The Family Circle

Joyful Moment

Preparing Her Son

In Her Mother's Footsteps

Teaching With Love


Sunday, July 17, 2011

This Week's Planner Page

click to enlarge
I just didn't like how blurry the images turned out from the (previous) today's planner post. Those old, different camera images just didn't transfer well here. Here's a picture of this week's plan I wrote up today. This one's clearer, I think.

Hope this helps.

A Peak At My Planner: The Inner Workings

I'm trying to get my feet under me, as we're home now from our vacation and back to the real world. The garden is a jungle of weeds, there's no fresh food in the house, and I've got laundry up the wazoo. I'm doing a lot of planning today. Seems like Sundays are best for this, as I head into a fresh, new week. I wrote this piece a year and a half ago on my other private blog and I thought you'd like to see some of the tools that help "keep me on task". Tomorrow, I get to work!

Having a planner or some other type of organizational tool such as this is so helpful to me. I find that I can't function or think clearly without it. It's easy to get overwhelmed with everything just hanging around in your head. I've used lots of variations throughout the years~I've tried Franklin Covey, Daytimer, have just used a calender on the fridge and have relied on all kinds of lists. As the manager of our home and family, these have all helped to organize my life and keep things running smoothly.

I have found that for me personally, nothing commercially available has been able to meet all my needs. I've had to make up my own personal system that works for me. Along with my planner, I also love to use blank books. Used as a sort of journal, I like to have one constantly around me, whether at home or tucked in a bag wherever I go, to jot down thoughts or ideas I find in my reading, things I'm thinking about, recipes, poems, lists, you name it. I save these and love to go back to refer to, or even just to have as a reminder and record of that year of my life.

As far as planners go, I find that I like the 8x10 size the best of all. It is a little bulky, but most of the papers that come my way are that size. When I used smaller planners, I just didn't have a way to keep these important papers or documents visible and workable. My dad taught me that. He is a huge user and believer of planners.

I guess you might call my planner a "Homemaking Binder". Since managing my home is my primary job, I have adapted my system to suite this role. I have it divided into sections, with homemade divider tabs to access things at a glance. First, I have a lined piece of paper right in the front, where I record sisters in the ward I visit and call during that month. I like this handy to jot down so I don't forget. I give a copy to the Bishop every month during our interview together.~ let me explain. When I wrote this a year and a half ago, I was the president of our "ward" (local neighborhood branch of church members) women's organization, the Relief Society. (Over 100 women.) I held this office for two and a half years. It took a huge amount of my time and energy. A real need to be organized here.

Now, my daily plan page. This is my work horse. I take time at the beginning of the week to map things out. I made this up to suite me and it has been so effective. As things change, this might look different. On the left hand column you'll see a place for breakfast and dinner menus for the day. Recently, I've added treat/salads/side dish possiblities at the bottom of the page. Then, the big space in the center for the major to-do's or events of the day. Then on the right are spaces for people to call or visit or just to jot down random notes or things I need to do or get. I've now deleted the visit section and made a bigger column for to call/write, to do/get.

this is blurry, I know. sorry.
  I have a clear pocket protector that comes next to place papers that need attention, checks needing to be cashed, etc.

Then comes the monthly 2 page calender spread. Love to refer to this. I sometimes list on the left side column things I need to remember about the month or goals I have.

Next, is a my directory section. Also in clear plastic sheet covers are a pages of important frequently called phone numbers (family members, friends, doctors, schools, poison control, etc.), ward directories and maps (also last former ward), kid's school directory, and my Christmas card list and addresses.

Meal Planning, Master Shopping List, and Home Storage Inventory sheets follow. I have a list of possible and well liked breakfast, lunch, quick meals, snacks, and dinner ideas to refer to when I'm planning the week. Then, the page below is generally what I use to take with me when I go shopping. Things are grouped together, which make it nice. The home storage inventory (long term food storage basics) is my newest tool that will be so useful, as well.

 Homeschool section is next. (Below) I do keep many huge binders I've made for each subject that I keep in our library.(Specific lesson plans, unit studies, ideas, books, activities) This just has my general daily lesson plan for quick referral. Also, a place to list book idea, videos, and Practical Life activities I can use for Isaac.

The rest of my planner is as followed:
Children's Activities: schedules for extra-curricular stuff like sports, lessons, school calendars, etc. I toss stuff regularly that I don't need to refer to anymore. I also have our vacation plan here.
Outside Obligations: everything (besides Relief Society~ I have another binder just for that!) else I'm involved with, like when I taught cooking classes at Macey's. Just a home for these papers.
Home Matters: instructions I want close by, repairs, projects, stuff I need for the kids or home, etc. If I was in charge of paying bills, this is where it would go.
Medical and Health: health treatment and care referrals for me to glance at when I'm treating sickness or injury in the family, herbs, essential oil info., immunization records.
Coupons: another clear pocket to place coupons I clip. I don't use a lot of coupons, so this isn't filled very much.

*I hope you've liked taking a peek of the "inner workings" of my life, home, and world. It's so important, for sanity's sake and also for the order of our lives, to have a way to make everything we want and need to accomplish doable. I hope you can find a method to your madness like I have. The important thing to remember is that we can change and adapt these organizational methods when our lives change or circumstances dictate. Since I've implemented planning into my life and have found a way to store paperwork, I've found more peace and things are really getting done more than ever before. Especially, as I've learned to incorporate routine and rhythm in every aspect of my life.

If you have a great method of organizing your life, I'd love you to share it with me!*