Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cheers

6:44 p.m. The countdown to the New Year is at hand. As always, we're doing nothing as it's well past our bedtime. The kids will be heading off soon to slumber. They'll awaken in tomorrow just like they did in today. Life is simple like that for kids. They get my mind rolling with the complexities of adulthood.

When did my life change that at 11:59 p.m. tonight something will be different sixty teeny seconds later? I talk of resolutions and changes that need to be made here. Why is it so important it start at that time? What reason is there for us to thrust these sometimes drastic ideals upon ourselves at that precise moment? Usually, in an all or nothing commitment. Is it because with the ringing in of the new year our mortality is realized? Like bells vibrating in our souls telling us we have only a finite time. Kids don't have that problem.

I don't tell my kids they should be nicer to each other next year. I tell them to do it now. I have never said "Wait. Make that change on the first, that's when it'll count." Be a pain, gorge yourself, laze about, put that or this off. They change now. I need to, too.

I think the New Year and it's resolutions is a farce. People don't change because a year goes by, they change because they want to. They need to. They've grown up enough to be responsible to make any differences necessary when the time comes.  A dedication is needed and the date is irrelevant.

Come February, those resolution making people that aren't ready for it start reaching for the TV remote or bag of chips instead of packing up the gym bag. The newly founded penny pinchers are shelling out insane sums for V-day. The hoarders put off that yard sale when the first amicable day arrives. Recycling reformists say "What does this one can really matter?"

This farm business is a commitment, a resolution in the making. Little by little its getting done, we're getting there. I might have a resolution to make certain changes in the new year but I'm ready for them. They've already started in a hundred tiny ways.

Make a resoultion tonight. But do me a favor, make ones you're ready for and bunker down and do it. Don't allow the things in life that you want to pass by year by year as resolutions are tossed aside. Remember, you only get so many tries.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Um...yeah.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Popeye Pockets



Mmmmmm. A dinner Popeye would be proud of. Here's a little recipe for a night you need a quick meal. They're really scrumptious, full of vites and very hearty. And guess what? I got the kids to eat them. I think that's all the recommendation I need to give. It makes a ton. Potluck here I come.

Ingredients
2 packages crescent rolls
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1 4oz package of Feta
1tsp teeny diced garlic (or more if you prefer)
1 frozen box of spinach, thawed and drained throughly
1 can of sliced black olives
1 can of quartered non-marinated artichoke hearts
some chopped tomato
a bit of shredded parmesean

Mix the spinach, cream cheese and feta in a mixer till it's all well mushed together. Lay out the crescent rolls as they come in the little triangles. Spoon about 1 -2 Tbs of the spinach mix into the center of the fat end of the roll. Put a quarter of 'choke on top and a few slices of black olive and some totatoes, not too many because the more liquid the harder it'll be to cook the inside roll. Fold in the sides then roll it together to make a little round "pocket". Sprinkle the tops with the parmesean. Cook on 325 for about 15-20 min. or until you're satisfied with the brownness and the inside is done (best way is to cut one open to check). Enjoy!

Monday, December 28, 2009

To The Colors

I've opened up an Etsy store to help par down some of the extras we have and to start padding the Farm Fund. To The Colors is open and ready for business. Right now I can only ship to the 48 contiguous US states, sorry everyone else.

I have listed pretty much my entire collection of crafting/sewing magazines and books. Some, embarrasingly, are brand spankin' new. I tried to list some good prices and fair shipping charges. Check it out if you're in need of some new inspiration, patterns or gifts.

Remember, your purchase is helping to support Urban Homesteading and our dream of farm life.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It has begun.


Yesterday, I went to a feed store for the first time. For some of you reading, you'll get the entire gist of this post just from that sentence. For all you others...well, it was just quite a thing. You'll have to read to understand. We're hunting for rabbits. Angora ones to be exact. It seems the Sunshine State doesn't attract the breeders of this magnificent lot so its quite a task. We found a woman a few towns over, not too far, that has some. It seems our homesteading has taken a step forward. We're going to breed fiber rabbits for wool and sale. Wow.

You see, this whole time we've been planning to live off the land, to have our farm and homestead has been just that. Planning. Lots of reading, note taking, internet searching and forum posting. Yes, we have the land but thats not physical homesteading right now. That's a vision that will come to pass. Hopefully soon. Rabbits are now. We can't have chickens or bees or any other live stock in our city home. But bunnies are okay. And they're okay with me.

So, we've landed in the "need to buy rabbit cages" phase. The internet is alright for that but you can't actually see the products. I don't know the people giving it five gold stars. I can't rattle it to see how sturdy it really is. The cages at PetSmart are overpriced and meant for indoor bunnies. With the five kids running like lunatics around, outside is bunnies best bet for a quiet life. Enter in: Feed Depot*.

I've lived in this city for a couple decades and never stepped foot in the place. It's a little quirky. There is a glass tile display on the curb next to the store. The long (what I now know is the back) side has a horse statue, probably life sized and missing one leg. I'm not sure if it's on purpose. Pulling into the lot my face pulled a wide grin. Hay bales had left a messy pile on the asphalt. Rain barrels were three deep stacked against the fence. A worn old sign advertised "low costs vaccines sold here". I walked up the cement steps each notching up my grin to mega-watt size. Horseshoes held down the horse printed t-shirts. Feed bags made a knee high maze I navigated as I tried to wipe the stupid grin off my face. I wanted to blend in but I know I looked green.

I found the rabbit and small animal section and again smiled wide as I found the price tags scrawled in permanent marker over the boxes. At least the ones that had them. I liked that. It told me "We don't stand on ceremony here". If I had the same problem at Target I'd probably be livid. Out here though, there's a different kind of something in the air. Unmarked boxes are okay with us.

I felt like I was being initiated. If the lack of central heat or air bothered me I was out. If I skittered at the hundred and twenty pound mastif/St. Bernard mix that loped in and was greeted by hugs from all the workers, I probably didn't need to be there. There were no name tags or uniforms. Somehow you could tell who was whom. I was greeted with smiles even if I stuck out and asked silly questions or had her check half a dozen prices. I think they thought I was okay. I picked out a 30x30 cage with drop pan and wire pilers. I'll be going back for more.

Today, I went to another. We travelled about forty minutes north west to Tractor Supply. I hadn't been there before either. It seems it has begun with me. I'm hooked. This wanna be farm girl is finding out where she needs to be. We strolled through the asiles and found the bunny things. Food dish, water bottle, metal frame and some shavings and pellets. I'm sure a lot of people I know would be grossed out at the need for a urine guard but I was plum pleased I found it. We walked through the store making a verbal wish list of everything we'd someday buy. It was great. It only got better.

We checked out and headed out and that's when I got cold cocked by serenity. You see, outside most stores is usually just...more stores. More people. More cars. More traffic. More controlled chaos. Outside Tractor Supply was a near empty lot and across the street was...nothing. Well, nothing is a bit vague. There was something. It was that something that struck me speechless. There was a huge golden yellow field pecked with tall still green trees. A red barn and a yellow sister barn were nestled in the sea of gold. Just sitting, quiet. Life was changed for me even though that scene stayed the same. I talk about The Change but this is it, folks. This is where it happens. It does happen! I took my time walking to the car as my eyes imprinted that scene in on my brain. It was perfect. Some people may see that empty field as truly nothing. Just a space waiting, no begging to be filled with more, more, more. With some thing. I just wished it was mine so I could run though those thick grasses and cross the thinly trafficked road to Tractor Supply. I wonder if whoever does own it knows just what a gem they've got, and not for the development potential. If they're anything like the folks in the store, I'm sure they do. I'm glad for it.

As we left a white pickup had the quote "Well behaived women rarely make history" in graphics across the entire back window. Yeah, these are my kinda people and my kinda place to be. There is no turning back now.

*Photo of feed depot is from google maps.

Happy Happy Birthday Baby


For all my issues with Christmas, the one back in 2008 gave me the best present ever. A baby. Not just any baby either, no I got a happy, healthy boy baby. After a string of girls that has my brain exploding in glittery princessery every other day, I relish cowboys, trucks and dinosaurs (sometimes all at the same time!).  You can read a bit about it here it was also the same time Alex lost those first teeth I talked about in the tooth fairy pillow post. Wow, has it really been a year?

 2009's gift was right up there though when that wee bairn turned one. The poor lad is going to have it tough getting people to separate his birthday with a more famous persons alleged birth but if that's all he has to contend with in life, I'll be happy for his strife.

Our boy Maximilian Robert is now a walking fool. Has 6 extremely sharp chompers which he likes to remind you of on those delicate pieces of flesh left in his reach. Throughly enjoys blowing raspberries. Loves to watch Signing Time. Tries his darndest to keep up with the big kids and thinks it's funny to splash you in the tub. I can already tell he's a smart one. All in all he's a delightful baby, rarely cries even now, when he's battling a bit of a sinus/chest cold. He's got a great smile and is the best present ever. I hope all of you that decide to breed get one just like him.

Happy Birthday, my boy.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I can snap

Hot damn, that's one beautiful baby bean. About two months ago I tried my hand at growing some snap peas from seeds. I planted some inside and some out. The outside beans fared far better than the inside ones though they took much longer to sprout. Though they were dug up by the cats and replanted they still sprouted strong healthy shoots. Now they're some three feet tall gorgeous green vines sporting some nice heavy white blooms.

Those blooms are shedding and these long delicious looking beans are replacing them. Snap peas like a nice cold snap. The cooler air spurs them on. I'm hoping by Januray I'll have my first stir fry.

I wasn't sure about growing these at first considering my terrible garden luck so far this year. These beans proved me happily wrong. I did have to run out and buy a trellis though. They grew taller than the stakes and hemp rope support system I rigged. I should have listened when the package said they get about six feet tall. Again, one of those little tidbits of garden education I'm picking up on this journey. (Listen to the package people, it knows what it's talking about).

Inside I should have used a grow light. The poor peas shot up quickly in the window but the limited afternoon sun they got produced thing shoots and small leaves. Nothing like the robust outside vines. I also have a hard time with replanting things if I start them in smaller sprouting containers. I must stop doing that. Just throw them in the ground Crystal and leave them be.

Next year I won't be content with just one package. I forsee snap pea trellises lining the privacy fence come next December with yards of snap peas hanging fat on the vine.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Holiday Card to You.

I know I complain a lot and I probably rarely have much to say. Most of the time I feel like I'm tumbling through the world without a steering wheel. Or seat belt for that matter. Apparently, I want to take you for a ride.

We might not see eye to eye on a lot of things. We might envy each other for things we didn't even know were enviable. We probably don't understand much of what make the other person tick. I think that's why I like you.

You inspire me. You make me laugh or give me something to ponder. You pique my interest and light bulbs of ideas over my head. I learn from your mistakes, honestly offered up. You help me choose or not to. You let me know I'm not alone.

 I hope I can return even a little of that gift to you.

I read your blogs and web articles. Your product reviews help me. I regularly turn to your freely given recipies and instructions. I try and support you when you sell something I need or want. I pass on the recommendation of you to others.

We're a faceless community. An anonomous voice. If I passed you on the street I wouldn't know it but you're a part of my world none the less.

Sometimes when I read your words I want to respond, post a funny or insightful comment because you touched my life in some way. Though, like the awkward kid I was in school -and even on playdates now-  on the web I have hard times making friends. I don't know what to say so mostly I don't. Maybe that's how you are on here too?

It's a pretty amazing and facinating thing to be a part of, this whole blogging universe, and I want to give you a big THANKS for letting me in.

There's Jenna over at Cold Antler Farm who is like an icon in this house though we've never met. Amanda at Kitschy Coo that always makes me laugh or wish I had more time to sew. I oogle her wares with fascination and awe. Supermom Jess who Homeschools in Heels was amazing even years ago before we blogged. Mrs. Humble at Not So Humble Pie constantly triggers my salvatory glands and makes me want to search for odd science themed cookie cutters. And probably a hundred or more others that I stumble upon while I search for information, integrating your bit of self into our world over here at Solidity though you might never know it.
 
So, while I might not have a red coat (mines blue) or a big sack filled with presents I want you to know you're appreciated and I'll try and make the next year worth of blog posts the best gift I can give.
 
Happy Holidays. Be Safe. I hope to see you in the new year.
 
Sincerely,
 
Crystal

Teeth lost. Pillows made.


Alex lost his third tooth. It's just the third in a long procession of teeth that will be lost in this house. His first one was a milestone that freaked us both out. It fell out while he was eating and he thought it was a bone so he spit it out and threw it across the floor in a very freaked out manner. We all spent the next twenty minutes searching for the thing on hands and knees. I think I'll remember that forever if not just because it was his first tooth. The gaping raw hole left behind was what freaked me out. The second quickly followed suit in a less memorable manner.


This last took a good half a month to wiggle it's way out. My next in line, Olivia, hasn't had any loose yet (though she is throughly convinced they're all falling out) but she's getting up there in years where it's an inevitablity. I'm sure when that happens I'll cry like I did over my first's first tooth, hopefully with less grossness and searching. Apparently, now that the top left tooth is gone Alex can whistle. A skill that has elluded him and caused much frustration, especially when his sister has been flaunting her whistle-ness at him since she was three.


The first two teeth were a surprise when they jumped ship from his mouth so we were poorly prepared. The toothfairy got a plastic ziplock with a tooth in it. It was crazy noisy when I, the embodiment of the tooth fairy, went to replace it with a dollar. Since this next tooth loosing episode happened during the day and right before nap time, I cleared the table and we all sat down to our first sewing project: making tooth fairy pillows.


I pulled out my stash of 100% wool felt imported from Austrailia. Normally, this would be used for other things - handsewn pin cushions or maraca balls - but I haven't had the chance to make anything like that for awhile so this was just sitting, collecting dust in the closet. We cut them into a long rectangle and folded them in half. Mainly, so the kids wouldn't have to sew so much. I threaded needles and set them each to work after a brief tutorial. It went fairly well. I helped sew on the pockets because it was hard for them to stab blindly through the fabric. No one's flesh got poked or stabbed. I call that a good day.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Craft book blog give away!!!

To boost readership (I guess until they get the free thing then who knows) I've decided to do a craft book blog giveaway.

To enter you have to post a reply to just one of my previous posts (with something relavent not just "hi" I'm trying to reward readership, you'll only cheat yourselves)  and then report back here with the post name and your name! You have until January 15th, 2010 to post and the book will be mailed out by the end of the month.

Here are the books currently up for grabs. Note: you will recieve ONE book of your choosing not the whole pile, don't be greedy.



These are all brand new books that might have shelf wear because they've been sitting on my shelf for god knows how long. Depending on the number of entrants I might give away the whole stack or do multiple drawings. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We have worms

We've had them for about six months. They're contageous, too. At least to a certain type of person.

Homesteading in the city can be a hard thing. Especially when you're working with the few square feet of dirt we have. Our entire lot is about 30 wide by 100 long and it's got a house, shed, and parking on it. That leaves little for the myriad of outdoor activities we try to persue; playing, hanging laundry, water collecting, hammock swinging, gardening and last but not in the most least, composting. It's not feasible with the large collection of wild animals in the city and the limited ground resources to have a large multi-tiered compost area. That's where the worms come in folks.

While I'm still learning the quirks of tending natures composters, we've successfully raised hearty fat red worms in our front yard. We've had to pluck out grubs that infiltrated and clean out the bins when ants invaded. Finding that right mix of greens and browns can be tricky. So far, I've found that my mistakes haven't seemed to harm my wormies. Though I worry about the upcoming cold. The weather's finally turned chill. The photos were taken today.

It started out with a black tiered bin specially made for our purpose and two pounds of worms, shipped to me live off ebay (you really can get anything online) in coconut coir for under $20.  I feed them about once a week or whenever I have scraps. Worms can eat half their body weight in organic matter in a day. Doesn't sound like much? What if you have three to five pounds of worms wriggling in your bins? See, that's a lot of table scraps, people.  Usually, the days I process fruits or veggies for freezing or dehydrating is feeding day. I don't have a large enough outfit to compost everything we dispose of...yet.

These quiet garden helpers hang out inconspicuosly in the front yard on what is supposed to be a dining table that gets mostly gardening use. There is no smell and they really need very little attentions. Every couple weeks I empty out the bottom drain and feed my plants safe, natural liquid fertlizer.

It can be fairly inexpensive depending on the set up you choose -and there are many and varied to pick from - but be sure to remember the make and model if you need to expand your set up. I found our set up on sale with free shipping, I think it was somewhere around $70. I added a few more bins later on (that's why it's helpful to remember the brand/type you bought!). The worms proliferate all on their own after your first batch. If you end up with too many you can help a neighbor set up their own wormery or use them for bait. It's a great way to make your own organic fertilizer, dispose of scraps and maybe even throw in a homeschooling lesson.

If I've piqued your interest in starting your own worm farm here are some helpful links:
http://www.redwigglerworms.com/
http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/worm-composting.aspx
http://www.amazon.com/Tray-Compost-System-Factory-Terracotta/dp/B000S6LZCS
http://www.savvygardener.com/Features/worm_composting.html

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice

We're still figuring out our traditions for this time of the year. The kids are completely confused. As am I. It's Solstice, let's party! Or not. I'm not sure.

This crossroads I've been sitting at this past year has started to slowly pass me by. I think we've just passed the turn juncture though. And I'm pretty sure there's no U-turns allowed. I don't think I could go back to who I was if I tried. I'm just not exactly certain what road we ended up on. I feel like we're blundering down the path, however slowly, with no real clear goal in mind.

I'm going to be picking up some books to help us define our beliefs and the traditions we want to incorporate into our festivities. We want to celebrate I know that much. After experiencing the miracle of five healthy happy babies joining us in this world, how could we not have anything to celebrate? I do know that the way it's been isn't how I want to continue. We don't have the same beliefs as others. Being a Unitarian Universalist can be a tricky thing. There is no real guide to tell you how, what and when to celebrate. There are no UU holidays. Hell, our religious preferences and beliefs vary widely over the seven people that share this little house!

Part of our UU principles is honoring the inherent dignity and respect of individuals, which means that if our kids want to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster we encourage them to do so. Finding appropriate worship and celebration techniques will evolve as we all search for our inner truths. We grow as a family spirtually just as we did ushering each new born babe into our home.

 Piggy-backing on their religious holidays feels false, wrong and it's what we've been doing because we just didn't know any other way. It's scary to turn from what's accepted and comfortable. Each year, since giving birth to my very first child those almost eight long years ago, I've struggled with performing rituals that are incongruent to my personal beliefs. Though each year -nay each holiday- the feeling has grown and bubbled becoming an amorphous beast looming darkly overhead as whichever celebrated day approaches.

Our goals have changed. We had entertained the dream of being farmers for years before it morphed from a idyllic notion to having purchased a very real piece of land. The feelings and beliefs with what is important to us has so drastically changed that daily tasks such as shopping, cooking and even throwing the trash away are done with more conciousness than we'd had before. It's hard to look at TV as just a harmless tool to keep the kids occupied. A very real threat looms in our livingroom. Food we'd have just tossed away before gets made into left overs, cat food or nourishment for the worms. Getting the mail has moved from a simple chore to at least a twenty minute endeavor as I take the time to baby my wee garden. How can my day change so much yet the holidays become unaffected? It can't. What I expose my children to (as well as myself) is an outward approval of whatever it is I grant access to me and mine. From the shows we watch, the end result of our food, the care of nature and the celebrations of the year, I have to pick and choose what is showcased in our lives. What I decide will effect generations of people that will someday share a bit of my DNA.

The small changes made in our daily lives open our minds to issues and problems in the world. I ask myself; Where does that food come from? What is that show teaching my child? How are these toys or books benefiting our lives? Are these holidays reflecting our heart's beliefs? The fact is that none of us are Christian. Celebrating Christian holidays looks nice, as does eight days of presents, but it's not ours to celebrate.

This year we just winged it. Presents got wrapped and laid on the couch or in their stockings. The tree stayed boxed in the shed. Santa didn't get cookies or milk -much to my dismay. Holiday cards still haven't got sent but that's more my personal procrastination problem. The gifts were sparce and most purposeful; sippy cups, school supplies, a chess set and the like with a few fun things for each. The small magic set with a bio of Houdini, an MP3 player loaded with read along books, art supplies that came in a container to store them. I'll be making a dinner with all the trimmings to enjoy later after Rob gets back from work. Next year I hope we will have some set festivities that showcase our individual inner truths as well as our overall belief as a family. But I feel good with the progress we made this year. We're trying and I think that counts for a lot. For now folks, Happy (enter your personal belief holiday here) everyone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

My dance card is full

It took me two hours, not including the actual shopping. We inventoried all our goods, figured out what days we would or wouldn't be home, checked out cookbooks for recipes, and wrote out the list. We've got a solid plan for food now until February. Man, it feels good.

Going back to the money post, this is part of that plan. Strapping down the budget and using what we have, what's on sale and avoiding impulse spending. Much money goes to impulsively buying food because we didn't have a plan.

We're meat eaters so you see that a few times on the list. I try and keep it down though for cost purposes and because we just don't feel the need to red meat it all the time. Much of our meals are vegetarian. We've been on this new schedule for three days. By the Gods, the freedom! I don't have to pace nervously at 4 p.m. between the fridge, chest freezer and pantry because I'm not sure what's for dinner. So far, I've mostly come up with dinner plans because breakfast is usually just cereal and milk or oatmeal. Both of which we have plenty of and regularly buy.

The grocery list changed to more staples than convienience foods. Flour, sugar, coco powder, eggs, frozen veggies and the like. I took time to peruse the grocery flyers for Super Target and Publix adjusting the list as I found something to substitute for another. Used Excel to make a chart with quantity and estimated prices (if the sales flyer didn't list it). I did good, folks. I could have only done better if I had coupons, which I didn't since I just started this up but I will from now on.

I'm working on the entire month of January plus the remainder of December. Obviously, fresh produce and other perishables won't last that long and there will always be a few things -like milk- that we have to replenish but for the most part Groceries are done. We spent about $350 for the next six weeks. My usual budget per week averaged about $150. I'm thinking maybe another $100-150 for the perishables, buying produce in season plus the milk, to complete us until February. Still, if I can keep it to what I estimated we've shaved approximately $400 off the grocery spending. Not chump change, that's for sure. Another thing that will help is utilizing the cloth diapers we have already on hand and Max getting off formula in the next few weeks.

So far so good. I can alreadysee how we were so terribly loose with our spending. We got a little holiday bonus and our first thoughts were "how are we going to spend it?" We're really trying not to, though. I see buying that little voice's megaphone would be a good idea right about now.

Seeds have been bought

Yesterday night I got a reprieve from tugging along 5 kids while shopping. It's amazing how quickly things can get done sometimes. I dashed through Borders looking for some Solstice books (If you're looking let me save you time, they have NONE in the store), popped into Whole Foods for Emmy's Kwee-wee (kiwi) and wadermewen (watermellon), strolled through the turmultous Target for a couple odds and ends and then headed over to Home Depot to check out tomato stakes. The ones I have are getting quickly swamped by those luxurious vines.

I didn't find the stakes I wanted, they must have come from Lowes, but I did oogle their seed displays and, quite alarming for mid-December, potted veggies and herbs for over twenty minutes. It was a plesant surprise to see the three racks of seeds including a very nice Organic section. I had been buying my seeds through Peaceful Valley and have had good success with a fair number of them. The snap peas that are going nuts are from there as is the hearty cherry tomato vine. These seeds are either Burpee or Ferry Morse and besides not being able to resist purchasing those colorful packets of wonder, I get a military discount to boot.

I had to tear myself away from the robust 6-8" potted plants. They called to me "Crystal, you know you want to expand! We're already hearty and a good bit grown!" I envisioned heading out today and giving them homes in the empty container I have sitting all composted and ready for tenants. Somehow I resisted their lure. Which is good because we aren't out of the impending cold weather yet. I'm waiting to see how my garden does after that first hard frost rolls through. I'm assuming we'll get at least one this season. They'd also have been sitting on the porch for goodness knows how long since it's raining today and we're going to be busy this weekend.

I do realize you can plant in the rain. The issue is that I have lots of "helpers" that would want to join me and we're already fighting colds.

There is something about a packet of seeds that does something to that certain type of person. Perhaps its the anticipation of getting dirty while you work in the sun. Maybe it's something much deeper than that. A soul knowledge that roots us in the Earth, telling our bones that these little things can grow to sustain us. It's humbling really, to think at a point in time, before grocery stores and frozen foods, people relied wholly on their care of these wee beans. Amazing, really.

I picked up some old standbys; dill, summer squash, zucchini, bell peppers, butternut, canteloupe and lavender. Adding in some new friends to the mix; lettuces, carrots, watermellon and broccoli.Some I have grown before but some sort of garden plague had distroyed. We'll be starting much much earlier this season to hopefully pull in a crop before the summer comes. Next will be plotting and making new "earth" boxes (homemade ones) to house the upcoming harvest. We'll see how a year under my belt will benefit the coming crops.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maybe it's not so bad.

Yesterday I posted about my prolific tomatoes. At the time I had guestimated two dozen. I hadn't actually counted them. To be honest, I thought I was exaggerating a little. So, today I went out, armed with camera, to take a photo of these quickly ripening gems Total count, folks? Thirty seven. And that's including three Beefsteaks. Holy cow. This past year I collected about that much though the entire season. I counted myself lucky to have gotten those wee cherry 'matos to fill a pint box my very first year on my singular vine. At some point that vine is going to get it's very own post with me being all existential.

After the summer of fighting those damnable shield bugs -whom I still have nightmares about chasing me- then getting hit with the stink bugs, nearly drowning and then scortching in the drought I had pretty much thrown in the towel for the year. I still tend the garden but it doesn't take near as long and there's not much happening. At least until recently.

Lo and behold, Florida has a winter growing season. With all my loudly vocalized annoyance with the heat, I bite my tounge when I lay eyes on those container gardens. So far we've had fair rain and sunny days. Sometimes the wind gets a bite in it. But the thing I relish most is the lack of those bastard bugs. Yeah, it's hot here. Yeah, everything is still green and probably always will be, but hell, maybe I'll just have to swallow down the bitching avid complaining with my iced tea because heck if I'm not over the moon about it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's not winter here

When the temperature here gets in the 80's a mere week before the myriad of winter celebrations begins, I get this odd feeling. Something's not right. Yesterday my daughters went to the grocery store sporting tanktop dresses and sockless shoes. It was that hot.

I don't want to argue the pros and cons or tout scientific research proving the harmful effects of global warming, but all you have to do is visit Florida this December to see something's going on. Something's off kilter down here. It's winter, it should be cold and it's not.

I remember about ten years ago, doing holiday shopping the morning after Thanksgiving and freezing my ass off. Donning hat, scarf, jacket, tall socks and hot coffee. I haven't worn any of those yet this year.

Something inside me screams for cold winters huddled around a fire.  Certain things are supposed to be done according to the time of year. Taking out the sewing box to work on that quilt or gathering up the unspun wool from the season listening to my son read and smelling the rich scent of burning wood we gathered and chopped while I spin yarn into something useable. Working on those projects the summer months won't allow. Not saying that I couldn't do that here in the Sunshine State, but the cooler days (the 80's is considered cool here) are calling us out and my "winterized" garden is bursting with crops. I have probably two dozen tomatoes on the vine, the garlic, shallots and onions that were supposed to wait out until spring are proliferating. I just found two blooms on the snap peas.

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era. So many people I know just look for the easier way to do things. I dream of work. Farm work. Why spend countless hours making a single hat when you can go buy one in only a few minutes? They say. Because it's just not the same, I reply. I would love to sit and plan out the kids wardrobes, purchase fabrics specifically for it, take a month to sew it all out in between the other chores a household of seven requires. Raise a sheep, shear it, spin the wool and make a hat. There's some strange tingling feeling I get when I see how the world is made to work together.

That sheep will graze, it'll shit, that shit will fertilize my garden, it'll have babies to sell or add to the flock, I give to it; care, food, shelter, companionship and it gives back to me. A symbiotic relationship that makes the world turn. It's the way it's supposed to be. It's supposed to be winter though, too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another day, Another dollar

With the impending arrival of the New Year just a few short weeks away and the onslaught of grotesquely bright and colorful ads shouting the merits of spending my money I thought it would be a good idea (before everyone redlines the credit cards) to talk about that horrific topic of Money.

We want a farm. That's no secret and it's no small order. We've wanted one for years. Sometimes the wanting is so bad I can taste hay on my tongue. That's it over there in the right. Gorgeous, isn't it? I can see the animals mulling around, hear the kids freely racing about, feel the hot Florida sun beating down on me as I kneel in a garden, smell the tang of fat ripe tomatoes so red they look surreal. I feel like a crack addict for something I haven't even had yet, just jonesing for a hit of that virgin land sitting three hours away. If we're going to get it, changes have to be made.

Those changes have to start being made or we're never going to get there. It's all well and good to talk about change but if it's not implemented it's just hot air in an already humid wind. I think impulsiveness is the detriment to any plan. With Money you have to have a plan. The economy is so upsidown right now I don't think anyone really knows what's going on. Debt is the harbinger of failure.

While we’ve been slowly modifying life to attain our goal, I’m happy with the progress we’ve made but we backslide. Too much. This last vacation we did well, kept the spending to a minimum and cut corners where we could but that necessary budget breaking food kept getting in the way. But there’s this little voice that says all that money would have made a great down payment on the skoolie. Even now, as we shuffle into the Starbucks line that little voice in the back of my mind that says we need to stop. I know we need to. This year we will.

This coming year is going to be rough. I know it is going to be hard, especially for the kids but looking at that land and knowing what we’re going to do is heady stuff. Makes a person not care so much about those skipped overpriced lattes. Makes you think twice about a lot of things.

Even if you're tasty dream isn't a farm but some other want you long for just as bad, I think you know what I'm saying. I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said a million times over by a hundred different people. I’m not an expert. Merely a girl with a dream she wants to see fulfilled.

I’m sending that photo over to Target today. It’s getting blown up to ridiculousness and printed out on high quality glossy paper. We’re going to post it in the house somewhere we’ll see it every day. Probably the bathroom. We’re going to bolt down a budget later this week and Gorilla Glue that sumabitch in place. I can hear the little voice cheering for us. We’re not buying groceries anymore but provisions and staples. No more spur of the moment travels or trips. If we don’t have it on hand I’m sure we can make due. We have plenty around here to keep us busy. The seed catalog is coming out and expansion for next year is underway.

Maybe one exception to the budget will be a megaphone for that little voice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Family photos

Got our photos done at the Picture People last Friday. Wow. What a pain in the ass that was. Emmy, as usual, had been the chaotic catalyst, running thither and hither while she screamed at the photographer "That not nice!!!" about a dozen times throwing herself on the floor and throwing things at the poor guy just trying to do his job. 


Parenting Tip #459 Don't schedule photos and forget to tell the other people that will be in the photos until the night before.

Parenting Tip #459.5 Don't schedule photos for the morning after a six day vacation. Just don't.


It was a mad dash to drop off the Uhaul and get all the way to the mall by 10am. We made it about 3 minutes too late. I had them start on Max's birthday photos while I ran off to find Alex some black pants and Emmy white tights.

Then, I took off to get coffee because I needed it. More photos when I got back, walked around aimlessly but thankfully didn't spend any money and then came back to look at, pay for and wait more time for the photos to get printed.


All in all, they came out relatively well. No one was picking their noses at least. After they were done I realized, looking despondently at the finished shoot photos, Alex really, really needed a haircut. Oh well.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why are their no Starbucks at/near Disney?

Or, Why does Disney have crappy coffee?

Yes, it's true. For you parents that can't sum up the mental capabilities to settle squabbles over who gets the last remaining pink bowl or why on Earth you two year old is screaming incoherantly about something in or around the television  before you ingest a good half cup of that black gold nectar of the Gods, be forewared; Disney and Coffee are NOT synonomous.

In fact, much of our mornings were spent procuring the life imbibing juice. Or trying to. Keeping us in a less than magical mood for our Disney excursions.

The photo of Max consuming Mickey's head is just a spot of cuteness for you to look at while I bitch.

The four star hotel had Starbucks. Listen closely. They had Starbucks as in they hired some daft girl and paid her minimum wage to pour hot water over the beans of Starbucks until lunch time. It was not A Starbucks. As a matter of fact, there was not a single Starbucks in the entire Disney area. The capitalization opportunities Disney would incur by placing some Starbucks inside their golden gates would be down right phenomenal. Even with my meager accounting abilities I can see the ginormous potential. All those bleary eyed parents overwhelmed with glittery sing-songy hyped up kids, usually in multiples, would suck up the 'Bucks like nobody's business, gleefully handing out the Disney Dollars. Oh, if only Walt were alive he'd see the vision.* Perhaps they could borrow some of the Starbucks from Toronto.

The coffee in Epcot was a joke. It came from a soda dispenser for Christ sakes. I won't even bother to comment more on that atrocity.

The $1.99 plain black coffee served at The Land (our first attempt at Epcot coffee getting) was hot (I dislike hot coffee in steamy humid Florida) and had to be so severely doctored to be drinkable that I should have sent Disney a bill for medical services rendered.

You'd think Coffee in a restaraunt/pick up food line/kiosk would be a mandatory serving menu item. It was not. So very, very few places actually serve anything even remotely coffee-esque. And the "frozen latte"'s don't count. Again, machine dispensed.

I'm spolied I suppose. With six total days of non stop vacationing, coffee is a mandatory thing. It just is. I'm not going to apologize and I really, truly tried to take my fix any which way I could but a girl's just gotta have a handcrafted beverage with her specified number of shots (five to be precise, one for each kid) or things will get nasty. Case in point:


Me. Day three.


*If they merge Starbucks with Disney at ANY point in time I expect full credit for the idea.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Skee Ball is our thing


Werks in progress

My NaNo novel is finished but I'm taking a break from it before delving into the editing process. Possibly, even until February. I know it has huge gaping plot holes and wild inconsistencies. I'm not really ready to explore them yet. I will though. I promise. As added incentive a company will publish one softcover of my novel free as a NaNoWriMo winner if I get it to them by June. That's some incentive.

I'm considering finalizing it and sending it out to a friend to read and having them pass it along to others where people can possibly send a note along with it, adding to the note for everyone to read with their thoughts and finally, at some point getting it back to me with all the feedback and the crazy path of it's passing.

That would be some chain letter. Though the anticipation might kill me.

I'm working on another story, it is currently actually TWO stories centered around the same group of people...er, vampires. Katrina and Davis in one, Cooper and Cassidy in another. There are a few other story lines tumbling around in my head to go with this. So far they only make up about 9k words between the two but it's a start. This was a story that my muse threw my way in the middle of NaNo and now that I know I can finish a novel, I'm excited to see where this leads.

I have two short stories up on Scribd. Both have a combined read of almost 200 which both scares and excites me. I also have 2 subscribers which is humbling. Someone (actually sometwo) want to know when I write something new. Wow. There is another story centering around an elevator, hiding away in the corner of my mind which will probably get up there on Scribd as soon as it introduces itself to me. It's a love affair story so they must just be being discrete. I might poke them later to see what they have to say.

I'm considering trying out Script Frenzy in 190 days but I have a feeling it might be out of my range. Learning how to novel write is still on the front burner. So, there you have it. Lots of new stuff churning in my brain, slowly making its way through my hands to tap on the keys and get delivered to you.

My greatest wish for writing is to create a product others can enjoy. I hope I can do that for you. And I hope I don't disappoint.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Time, why you punish me?

Time.
I feel it running by me. Like a tipped glass spilling the nectar of life. Dripping lazily, yet quick as rapids, plunking in the river of forever, never to be seen again.

When did I get so Old?

Wasn't it just yesterday I was breathlessly riding my bike, careening down hills, pigtails blowing in the wind? Or hiding behind those old oak trees, you know the ones, panting anxiously, waiting to be tagged?

Where did that time go?

It seemed like just last year I brought that first new baby home. Nervous and scared as I prayed to whatever God would beseech me I not fuck up. Five babies later the last is turning one in a scant few weeks.
I can see them, as if I am a mere spectator, as they fight their way from my womb, throwing themselves into life. They barrel through childhood wanting to be "older", "bigger", "taller", "grown up".
"Slow down" I say, as my elders once said to me. But something inside them can't.

I worry now.
I fear now.

My breath gets caught in my throat and I could choke on it. I am scared to be older. I fight -as many do- to not  get bigger. I still wish I was taller. I sometimes loathe being grown up.

There were things when I was a child, I wanted so bad I could practically taste them. Silly things. Fanciful things. But dreams I let billow in my mind unimpeded. Dreams had no ceiling. They soared so high they touched space. I wanted to be an astronaut. Truly.

I wanted to be an artist, a ballerina, an actress, a singer, a lawyer, a doctor, a physicist, a marine biologist, a fashion designer, an architect, a model, a photographer, a chef, a mother.

I'm a mother always now. That is one job you don't need a degree, you never get paid and you can't ever quit. If you're not careful you might get fired, though. Sometimes, while being a mother, I get to do those other things too.

I write much about fear. I have seen that trend. Even in my fiction writing, my heroines live out my fears (apologies to my literary characters). They lose things that wake me up at night in cold sweats, heart pounding, thanking Gods it was only a dream, reassuring myself everything is alright by kissing my babies as they slumber. Then kissing them again.

I've let a lot of my life be dictated by fear. I've let the actions of others, those that have abused my trust and my love, perverting it for their gain, mar my life. I don't much care for it. It's hard to work through but I'm trying. I helplessly watch those drops plop away from me as the days go by hoping maybe this day my fear will subside enough that I would dream again without limit. Maybe I'd break through that ceiling of fear I constructed when I finally reached growing up. Maybe it'll be today. Hopefully, it'll be tomorrow.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not so magical beginning

We've been in Orlando for two hours. We've been in our hotel room even less time than that. If you assume a well organized vacation would get off without much hitch, you're wrong. Two hours in and let's just say it's beginning to feel like a National Lampoon vacation.

First we started at the Uhaul station. After making reservations online, then calling to confirm when Rob got there they lost the reservation. Thankfully, they had one 4x8 trailer left. It also happened to be the dirtiest on the lot. Yum. Bringing it home and loading it up wasn't too bad. We did have to put a jack and a concrete pillow* on the back to weigh it down enough.

Then we went to Macaroni Grill for a late lunch to kick off the vacation. On the way in I held Emmy's hand, she tripped and now is sporting a nice ace bandage from elbow to fingers. Great.

The entire trip Olivia asked if we were there yet on average every four miles. On a 80 mile trip.

Finally, we get to the Comfort Inn just after 4pm. The kids are cranky and tired. I hop out to check us in. The clerk had our reservation, which I made months ago and called this week to confirm. We had two adjoining (remember this word it's important) rooms. In the system? Yep! Credit card on file? Got cha! Adjoining rooms? Not a chance. They have adjacent rooms. Well, it's a hotel I'd expect that much but that's not what adjoining means now is it? Hello, Mr. Manager please.

After twenty minutes of waiting for him while he explained to me that they recently converted, looked at the notes in the reservation and it indeed said adjoining, spent a ton of time on the phone with corporate reservation to see if they could fit us in a room within a ten mile radius, we got new reservations at the same price with rooms that have a door in the middle at the Rosen Center. A 4 star hotel.

Pack it up. Drive for 15 minutes. Cha-ching Rosen Center plaza we arrive. Now this is a pretty fancy hotel across from the Convention Center in Orlando. BUT wi-fi isn't free, there is no kitchenette with microwave, fridge and sink and we have a lovely view of the roof. Comfort Inn it might not be but the CI was better equipped. According to Rob, our car isn't the shittiest one in the lot but it is the only one toting a Uhaul.

We're getting nickle and dimed like you wouldn't believe. This 4 star hotel is too fancy for my 2 star taste. More to come soon.

*A concrete pillow is made when you purchase a bag of concrete that is too heavy for you to carry. So, you kinda let it drop out of the car then forget about it sitting on the grass next to the drive way for approximately six months and let the weather solidify it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

And we're off

Rob's picking up the trailer and we're headed for five (presumably raining according to the weather) days at Disney World. If you want to know how we can afford a five day, five night trip to WDW it's really a once in a lifetime opportunity. First you or someone you love has to go to war for like a year, which I really don't recommend. Then  you have to scour the internet for months to find the most killer deal on adjoining rooms, because, let's face it, seven people in one room in the Comfort Inn for five days will probably kill us. Two nights in a two double bed room had us pulling our hair out last month. Please don't push me anymore.

Why is Rob picking up a trailer you ask? Well, you see, seven people need a lot of stuff for a full work week away from home. We have 2 strollers, a play pen, 4 sleeping bags, 2 pillows, 3 fairly large toiletry bags, a case of diapers and half a case of wipes, 6 bottles, sippy cups, bowls and utensils, formula, a couple slings, a camcorder, a camera, a portable DVD player and movies, three bags of groceries, 30 juice boxes, a laptop, a cooler with frozen food, 7 jackets, rain coats, and probably a bunch of other stuff I've forgotten. All that won't fit in an Astro filled with five car seats and 2 additional adults. It just won't.

We're trying to do this on a budget with the food. The rooms both have a microwave, sink and minifridge. We've packed enough PB&J, microwave burgers, fajitas and bagel dogs to make a few meals. Lots of apples and trail mix from the fruit I've been dehydrating over the last six months. The Crystal bars, as Rob calls them (you can find the recipe for Raw Treats on here) and other snacks like pretzels. We want to have a good time, we don't want to come home broke. We also don't want to get sick eating out. It's amazing how your body will reject foods high in salt, sugar and fat when you stop eating them.

Today we're driving out, getting a meal at Macaroni Grill with a gift card I scored from earning points on http://www.mypoints.com/ by buying other stuff. I have another for Rainforest cafe which is in Downtown Disney. We'll check into the hotel and try and turn in early so we have a good start for the next day. Planning to go to MK at least twice to see everything the kids want as many times as we want. We're going to throw in some learnin' too by taking the behind the scenes tour of the enormous greenhouse at Epcot. I really hope it's packed with great info and not just "Hey look we grow big friggin' fruit". I imagine there's nothing like getting veggie growing tips from that amazing place. Hey, we're still farmers at heart even in the most magical place on Earth.

So, until I have time and energy to blog again, we're off.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Why my house is never clean.

We're getting ready for a vay-cay so I will probably not be blogging until we return late next week. Today is spent wrapping up overdue homeschool assignments, packing for said trip and cleaning the house so my neighbors won't be grossed out when they check on the cats.

The past 20 minutes were spent in the laundry room. The tiny space on the back of the house that easily gets overrun with crap we don't want anyone to see. I decided to start there and work my way to the front of the house. I really don't want to come back to a mess with five days worth of laundry to catch up on.

This is the laundry room.




Look at that superior organizing and what's that? you can actually see the floor. Hell, I even made a couple batches of laundry soap. When I turned around from vaccuming it, preparing to mop, this is what greeted me.


An entire breakfast thrown over the floor. Fabulous.

This is why my house is never clean. It's not from lack of trying, believe me. I'm not complaining about having a tribe to clean up after or making excuses. Just letting you know the "why". And so, if you ever drop by unannounced and find peaunt butter smeared on the window or half an apple on the floor, it's not because I don't clean, it's because I was cleaning something else.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

To be free.

I snapped this of my son, Max, as I pushed him in the baby swing. We were taking advantage of the fabulously nice days we've been given here in mucky hot Central Florida. Plus, the kid just likes to swing.

It's blurry, crooked, and he's kinda chopped off at the chin. His hair is all mussed from the wind blowing through it. Professional quality, not ever. But it's my favorite photo of him so far.

Other that the hint of teeth that look like grains of rice in his mouth, the reason this photo is my favorite is because he looks so free.

Swinging is one of those things that makes you feel like pure trust and freedom all at the same time. Your body is hurtled forward faster than feels possible and then you free fall backwards just to do it all again. Something a bit like life. If you haven't tried it since you were a kid, do it. Find some secluded playground or hop on your neighbors when they're at work and have a go. It's nothing at all like you remembered.

When you're a kid you rarely think of falling only pushing yourself to go higher. Wondering if, really, you can swing all the way around the bar. A little scared to find out but curious none the less. I think being scared makes it even more fun. We don't know if we'll fall, if the chain will break or if we'll be able to get it to stop, feeling like it could go on forever. We scream or laugh in wild abandon and let the momentum take us for a ride. Sometimes we help push it along, adding fuel to the fire. Sometimes there's a neighbor. We get caught up in our own movement but are enormously delighted when their swinging is in perfect sync with ours.

Sometime during our lives we get scared of the movement. We put down childish things and strap on responsibilities.Oh, to be free. To feel the wind in our hair and just let everything go. Trusting completely the ropes won't break, that we won't fall. Experiencing that free fall feeling as our stomachs get sucked out of our gut. It might be scary, sometimes it doesn't have to be. Have faith the momentum will thrust you forward once again.

And don't let the kids have all the fun.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Code Name: Hiro



Real Name Hiro Nakamura Cipriani
Aliases Hiro, Kitty
Identity Secret
Occupation Butterfly Exterminator
Citizenship U.S.A.
Known Relatives Molly Cipriani
Education Unrevealed
Eyes Yellowish
Hair Gray and White
Powers None (he's been fixed)
Weapons Fully clawed, teeth
First Appearance Under our porch about three years ago.

Hiro Nakamura has the uncanny ability to take down the Butterfly, a diverting menace to his otherwise peaceful world. He then deposits them as sacrifice to the god-like humans that repay him with food, water, a warm house and a place to shit. He will utilize the pink box of scented sand or poop directly next to it to show his displeasure and stink up the house. He is the only known cat to have the mutated ability of flatulence, silently clearing a room in seconds. Sidekick to Molly, the bi-polar bitch spectacular, he spends his days chasing the feral cats from his domain (or humping them depending on his mood).