Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The countdown to moving day has begun. Eighteen days are all that remain. When you're a child eighteen is huge, a monument you could never imagine attaining. When you're a grown-up and your eyes drift over the copious amounts of things that need to be cleaned, packed up or thrown out, eighteen is frighteningly small. Minisule. Minute.

And on top of it all the holidays are coming.

I've been trying very hard to be good this season. To override my impuslive, dread-filled heart that somtimes -yes, I'll admit it- gets a little green around the edges when I hear of other parent's and their holiday spending plans. The things they have on a list for their couple of kids that is feet longer than the one comprised for my five.

We're not rich, I never pretend to be. There are things that I just can't give my kids and yes, sometimes it tears me up inside. But it's ME that is hurting, bothered, angry. The kids don't seem to care a lick to be honest. There's just some soul deep fear inside me that screams my kids are going to grow up without. Lacking. Unwhole just because of some stuff I fail to gift them.

They have enough now, I know that. I look around the room and while it seems daunting to have so much, it's really not when you divide it by five. If you look inside the toy box it would seen the girls have lots of stuffed toys dolls but if you count them, they only have three a piece. That's more than some singletons have. But that's where things get tricky. One child's posessions aren't much but times-ing anything by three or five makes it seem mountanious.

They have things to create, books to inspire, toys to imagine and games to entertain. They have friends in each other, something I couldn't have brought home from the store. So, this year I'm trying to be practical filling the stockings with socks and undies, school supplies and fun workbooks, fiction reading and snacks. I found some dresses at the thrift store for the girls and a few kids will get new shoes. There are some small fun things included, the girls have been asking for Pillow Pets for over a year and I'm finally capitulating. Cordelia and Amelia will have new handmade twin quilts if I can get them completed in time. I'm trying hard to stay away from electronic toys, things that need batteries or keep us away from each other.

I got them all matching jammies and a movie to watch as a family on the Eve. Special paper popcorn boxes ($1 for 4 from Joanns) and some treats to make it special. It might only take us fifteen minutes for us all to open gifts but I think that's enough. I have to keep reminding myself while I pass shopping carts heaping with presents and adults pushing and pulling them in tandem like pack mules down Target's asiles, that my kids have what they need; a loving family and parents that are trying to create a childhood of wonder and delight without the hinderance of so much Stuff.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Conquering fear with copious cuteness

After my successful canning of a few jars of cranberry sauce I decided to gung-ho it and just can up a bunch of stuff. I went to the grocery store Wednesday which was an enormous mistake. The asiles were packed with cart weilding maniacs hunting down the last minute trimmings on their lists. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised that my kids weren't the gawd awfulest behaived in the store. Nope, that award went to the middle-aged moron wearing safety headphones hooked up to his MP3 as he yelled at people to "Move please" as he shoved his cart around the tightly packed lanes, tailgaiting and cutting people off as they reached for the cumin as if he were driving his mid-life-crisis convertable down the highway.

I wanted to trip him but I refrained. It was a pre-holiday after all.

Wednesday was also the final day of the buy one get one free bags of fresh cranberries. I bought nine bags. And forgot the sugar. So, the wild canning frenzy didn't start until today when I not only picked up the much needed sugar, I also snagged 10lbs of organic pears.

After adding too much water to the cranberries and having to boil them down for over an hour, I finally got 12 half pint jars (plus another half pint that I put in the already opened last batch pint jar). I minimized the sugar to just enough to knock down the tart of the berries but not enough to make it at all sweet. The berries have plenty of natural pectin as to not need additional through sugar. Then I wasted the 15 minute hot bath processing time by making cutesy labels for the tops.

The image is courtesy of The Lily Pad, a company I've purchased clip art from before when I made the Lacing Cards. Don't ask what a hedgehog has to do with cranberries and/or canning. It's cute and that's enough reason for me.

The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving is a plethora of wonderous canning information and I took the time to really read the proper way to process the pears. I ended up using Florida grown honey and water to make the syrup instead of white sugar. While the jars could have been packed a bit tighter (there is a gap at the bottom where they've floated to the top) I think I did a smashing job on them and their labels. I wish I had gotten more out of the 10lbs but the chickens and rabbits loved the peels and leftovers.

Therapy Smerapy. I can conquer my own fears.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sleep, Interrupted.

In the mile long list of Things That Have Changed Since Motherhood - which is comprised of such delights as "my shirt is now a tissue" and "weekly showers" and my personal favorite "is that poop?" something that I would never have questioned in my pre-baby days- I think the very worst thing that has changed is my sleep.

Meaning, I rarely get a good night of it.

I say rarely, but I really mean never. Ever.

I am so sleep deprived it's literally a joke amongst my mom friends. We have to joke about it lest we go crazy and run away to a hotel to take a three day nap. I've even looked up Sleep which is a facinating subject I'd be interested in learning more about if even just reading about it didn't make me so tired.

This morning has been rough, like making out with 80 grit sandpaper kind of rough. The past few weeks the kids have been at a nighttime high the ups and downs circulating between children every 45 to 90 minutes. This one needs to go potty, that one can't find her water, the other had a nightmare -then another- and a fourth peed on the bed. Round and round I go jumping out of dreaming at the smallest sound of padding feet on hardwood floors trying to catch whomever is up incase their banging around in the darkness wakes up additional kids or they fall down the stairs.

Then, after whatever task is done (one night it was crawling on my hands and knees with a flashlight for fifteen minutes in the girls room to see where the cat crapped at 3am) I throw myself back into bed -which is occupied by at least Max and sometimes a couple others- and try to force sleep to claim me once again. Sometimes I'm back up before I even fall asleep.

Out of all the things Motherhood has brought with her this is the toughest to overcome. It stays with me All. The. Time. Poop can be cleaned, kids washed, dishes done, laundry cycling, boo boos mended, there is a finality to those tasks. Yes, at the time it's not fun to clean vomit from hair or poop off curtains or moldy juice from under the car seat, or rehanging the molding around the window after it gets ripped out of the wall, or plungering entire rolls of toilet paper and a couple matchbox cars from the toilet but after it's done, it's done. Period. You move on to the next crisis.*

It's not like that with sleep. Day after Day, night after night I fall farther and farther into Sleep Debt with no way to pay the Sandman. When I "wake up" in the morning, which my kid's circadian rhythms put at about 6:30, I feel more haggared and tired than I did before I laid down the night before. My limbs are lead. My mind stuffed with cotton. My eyes a painful grit in the light. Coherency won't take place until I devour at least half a cup of coffee. Most of the morning I am awake and alert but don't ask me what actually takes place. My body moves like a robot fufilling tasks with mechanical abandon.

There are so many things I can blame on sleep deprivation. My irratic moods, ask hubby about that one. My lack of getting below a size twelve could be sleep related. Lack of higher congnitive functions, no wonder I failed my semester exam the first time. My inability to remember peoples names -I'm not bad with names, I'm just sleepy. And apparently, I am at a higher mortality rate and greater risk of cardiac failure because of this sleep issue. Fun stuff!

But what to be done? Nothing. Not until the kids are older and able to function at night without me or are completely gone from the house. Neither of which I am truly looking forward to. But it's there, it is what it is. I just wish all those parenting books I read before my first came along came with a section on dealing with sleep deprivation. Even just a side note along the lines of "and don't worry about sleep after the baby comes, you're not going to get any for at least the next 18 years. Mental breakdowns may occour from lack of sleep, it's okay."

At least then I'd have been better prepared.

*all of the examples listed in the above post are actual things that have actually happened. To me. In my life. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

I am scared of my pantry.

One of the quintessential homemaker ideals that stretches across doily covered borders to encompass a myriad of topics like budgeting, shopping, gardening, nutrition, and apocolyptic meltdowns is canning. Taking food (preferably homegrown, organic and the like) and recreating it so that it lasts without the modern conveniences of space-aged vaccuum sealing and electrically cold storage devices.

I can't tell you how in love I am with those little embossed jelly jars. I look at them with stars in my eyes as I imagine myself in a sparkling white apron and June Cleaver skirt humming a tune whilst filling them with fabulous concoctions as I flitter around my checker board floored kitchen -which is also sparkling clean. And no, there is no word to describe my imaginative super self other than flitter.

I do not flitter. At all.

The dream dissolves like sugar in boiling water as I carry the cases of jars into the house. My heart sinks, literally. I know its true because I can feel it rest on my stomach -which at this point is churning madly threating to topple over in a very un-June way- as I put them away, wiping the dust off the top of the canning pot and push my love of a stacked pantry overflowing of gorgeous little jars in between my gut and heart so I don't throw up.

 The fact is, I'm terrified of canning. Those pretty rainbow filled jars scare the crap out of me.

Yuck it up, laugh all you want, I can't hear you and I'm grateful for that. It is a completely irrational fear. Rationally, I realize that but it doesn't really change it. Why, you ask am I scared beyond reason of canning? Two words.

Food. Poisioning.

I also realize that if you follow proper canning instructions, work in a clean environment with sanitized equiptment and check freshness seals before ingesting that the percentage of actually obtaining a food-borne illness is relatively slim to none. Dying from it, again high on my list of irrational canning failures is even less emminent. But it still freaks me out.

Which is why I have a cabinet filled with what was supposed to be strawberry jam but is now renamed "Strawberry Cheesecake Topping" (remember to follow fruit to sugar ratios and pectin is your friend). The pretty little brass ringed jars have been shoved to the top most cabinet above the stove out of sight and mind, the contents of which will probably never see the light of day again until we move and I empty the vials of death and diarreah down the drain.

Ridiculous, I know.

But if I can ever redeem myself of this absurd fear I have to contiuously try my hand at canning. I want to master my fear and my incompetence in this vital homesteading area.

Today, I made cranberry relish. And I canned it.

ooohh, aaahhhhh

Please tape your cheers and post congratulatory videos on YouTube for all to see. Though two jars didn't seal those will go in the fridge to eliminate any misgivings about their viral content. The other that did will only be canned until next week when I go to the in-laws for T-day but it's a step, people. A big one.

Now pray no one gets sick, it would be the end of my canning career.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Free Play

One of Olivia's favorite things is to make elaborate LEGO playscapes.

Here we have a barbeque with squids, lightsabers (or light savers as she calls them) acting as bbq cooking devices,

a refrigerator, R2-D2, a man lifting weights and a man properly holding something at gunpoint on the back patio,

a front door in the middle of nowhere and windows sans walls, little LEGO heads on single blocks to make kids because LEGO people don't come in different sizes,

a patio table with umbrella, a lined sidewalk and shrubbery. Can't be without shrubbery.

One of my favorite things is to listen to her explain what all the little details are after she works for hours on her creations. And everything is detailed. Everything is placed with purpose Nothing is without cause in Livi's free play.

Have I mentioned how much I love this girl and her imagination?

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Cold Toddy

I don't review things that frequently here at SOR. The reason being that it's hard to get a good idea of something just because someone else said so. I'm a very tactile person, I think that's why I do so much crafting and farming. It's all got to do with my hands and senses being engrossed in the experience.

But I digress from the point of this post. I have something I want to show you. It's called a Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker. (see left)

I had a fall out with my hot electric coffee maker and since my engines run on copious amounts of caffeine, well, that just wouldn't do. I bought a stove top percolator but to be honest haven't been able to figure it out and it's now just a kettle for other hot water needs.

I also don't like hot coffee. In a state that averages 325 days of HOT I just can't cope with hot coffee early in the morning. So, I'd have to hot brew and refridgerate it anyway.  

I don't get that burned taste with the Toddy because you literally can't burn it. I can make coffee with no electricity which is fabulous. I can make a weeks worth at once which is genius. The flavor is smooth, less acidic and the longer you soak the beans the richer and blacker your brew. I have been using it exclusively for months thanks to Jess at Homeschooling in Heels recommendation.

It takes more prep time than traditional hot machine brewing but I think it's completely worth it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We're Veterans too.

Every month I send my soldier away. For two to four days he works and trains for eventualities and possibilities that others go to sleep at night never worrying about. I've been doing this for close to eight years now.

Three years ago we started the dance of deployment. For National Guardsmen the steps are more brutal on homelife than other military branches because for us the training days that make up a full time soldier's work are only once a month. Which means when deployment stretches it's fingers over our units, pulling them into its grasp, training becomes a long event of multiple MUTA's shoved into weeks, tossed across a year. The soldiers are thrown between home and readiness and back again. We never knew when he'd be home. We never knew what he would miss when he wasn't.

Then the four hundred day deployment was upon us and those sporatic, handfulls of days we had the previous year seemed much too few and far between. During that training time we got pregnant and knew he'd miss the birth. The only one out of five that he wouldn't be right by my side for.

Some of that time the minutes were all I could get through, just one at a time. Counting each tearfall as just one less until he was home. The struggles and bittersweetness of parenting was shared alone. Other times the weeks slipped by into months. Seasons changed and celebrations came and went. Though there was a void in our lives, a space someone should have been. He was away doing things larger than ourselves and we comforted each other with that thought even while we prayed he would quickly come back to us. I never thought, at twenty-nine, I'd be the wife of a war veteran.

Deployment is more that one soldier leaving to do a job. It's everything that person leaves behind as well. While they are fighting and struggling and working to repair and replace, they have offered up to everyone that benefits from it a part of their lives they will never get back. Their families give this to the world as well.

My children gave you their father. They gave you every missed hug and kiss, every bedtime story that never got read. Every birthday when all they wished for was their daddy to walk through the door. All the tears they shed because part of who they were was missing. They selflessly put aside their wants and needs for a dad to come home every night, to cuddle and share and gave that to you instead. They gave theirs so yours wouldn't have to. Every memory they could have shared with their father and couldn't because of his absence was their gift to the world.

This Veteran's Day I'd like for you to add a few more people to your thoughts and prayers, I'd like you to take a moment to remember the silent supporters that wept alone, that birthed alone, that grew and experinced life missing that special person, that woke up every day hoping to hear from their loved ones. Praying to any and every God that it wouldn't be the last time they did.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Holiday Sale for my Blog Friends!

I'm running a sale in my Etsy store. Trying to gather up a little holiday gift money. All purchases done in the store by Friday November 12th with the words BLOG FRIEND will get 30% off their purchase OR free shipping. Please specify which you prefer and I'll send a revised invoice through paypal.

I have some great stocking stuffers! I'll also continue to list the PDF apron patterns as they are sold so anyone that has been wanting to try it out can.

Thanks for everyone's support this year!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cold Night

I complained a lot last year that Florida doesn't give me what I need as a homesteader. How the extended summers tend to make me want to pack in more non-winter activities, like starting new crops or continuing to harvest ones that should be past their prime, when others are storing potatoes in cold closets, collecting gem colored leaves and stacking up fire wood. That the rhythm of the seasons is lacking down South, giving less time for chores regulated to winter months. I need to hear the music of the Earth as she travels through her stages. The world just doesn't seem to turn properly without experiencing the changing guides of nature, like a broken record Florida skips the beat of fall.

The sad part is that Autumn and all her majestic glory are lost to me in this never ending sea of green. Considering it is literally my favorite time of year doesn't help. It's the only time I love. I do miss the color changes, the signals of nature that scream summer is at an end. I miss the fall spices that linger in the air, the treats that can only be called Autumn and are created from her bounty. The crisp smell of a new fall day as the air snaps against chapping lips. The need for scarves and hats, gloves and boots. I want the comfort of thick socks and the crackle of a strong fire.

But I'm stuck here in the Sunshine State and I'm learning, if ever so slowly, to live with it.

We got our first cold night a few days ago. And while the weatherman calls for rising temperatures later this week, I snatched up the opportunity to feed Autumn to my soul. A smattering of cold fronts is all I get and I need them like I need oxygen to live. I gobbled up the cold armed with Mexican hot chocolate and seven layer bars. Smiling as the heat from the dehydrator is now a blessing instead of the curse it is in summer when it heats up the kitchen and dissuades me from cooking.

I love this season so much even this morning when my fingertips were near frozen while changing out the chicken water I just couldn't be annoyed about it. I gather up these cold nights and hug them close. I use them to battle the relentless heat and tide me through the lack of true seasons, doling them out one by one to see me through till the next dash of cold nights.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Pie French Toast -Recipe

I love squash. I love that it can be savory or sweet. I love that it can be a dessert, a side, a main course or breakfast. I love growing it and visiting local pumpkin patches. I can't wait to have yards of vines weighed down with heavy gourds.

Pumpkin is one of those foods that calls out Autumn which just happens to be my favorite time of year. I recently brought home some regular and pie pumpkins to roast and can (in the fridge or freezer if you're doing purees). The yield was amazing and the flavor so sweet in those little pies that I could eat the puree without a dash of anything else.

I woke up one Friday with the gnawing need in my stomach to make pumpkin pie french toast. I'd never done it before and was too bleary eyed to look up a recipe so if this is similar to another it wasn't intentional. I broke out the family sized electric griddle (have I mentioned how much I LOVE this thing?) and set to work.

Here is the recipe.

Pumpkin Pie French Toast.


2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup milk
2 tbs cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp all spice
8 large slices of bread (I used dark whole wheat which I think too a bit away from the pumpkin flavor)

Whisk everything except the bread in a bowl while you preheat the griddle. Pour into a shallow pan or plate. Soak each side of the bread in the mixture to coat and throw on the griddle. Cook until golden brown.

You can play around with the spices and pumpkin, omitting the milk makes it harder for the bread to absorb the mix but can be done. With my griddle as long as the side is cooked completely, I don't have to use oil or butter to cook. Drizzle with real maple syrup or eat smeared with pumpkin butter.

What is your favorite pumpkin or squash recipe?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Handmade Holidays- Felt Ornaments

With less than two months until Solstice (or Christmas, if you prefer) I'm running down to the wire on the Handmade Holiday things I wanted to get accomplished. I've gotten pretty much zero done.

The socks I wanted to knit are not going to happen. Don't even ask about them.

In my effort to do more handmade, involve the kids in stuff that affects our lives, include "school" in everyday and use up the plethora of supplies I have on hand, I decided the kids and I would make holiday ornaments for the tree (yes, we have a Solstice tree.) I looked up some free directions online and found some cute handsewn felt ones.

Though a lot of the prep work -the cutting out the pattern, tracing it on the felt and then cutting it out of the felt- fell to me, the kids did a great job hand stitching their selected fabrics together. They're getting much better at weilding a needle.

Olivia's pattern is adapted from The Purlbee

Cordelia's baby Partridge is from RetroMama, there is a mama Partridge on it's way, too.

Alex's anxiety-ridden owl is a pattern by JuicyBits

My only downside to this endeavor -which is usually an upside- is that they don't use very much material at all. But these are going to look awesome on the tree, be treasured for decades to come and be passed down to my kid's kids. I think this needs to be a new holiday tradition.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I haven't been chatting lately because my brain is on super-automatic-overload which should be a setting on my washing machine. My hundred billion mile a minute brain hasn't been functioning well enough to give you a decent blog post. Heck, it probably still isn't at top notch but I wanted to let everyone know that yes, I am still alive. I haven't actually dipped past crazy. And I am probably likely on my way out of last weeks depressive slump. Thanks for all the encouraging words, they are truly appreciated.

So, while my brain has been super active, so has the rest of me and us.

I made pumpkin pie french toast (recipe may be forthcoming later this week).

I finished the girls halloween costumes (I might have a real tutorial for that later as well).

 I made a reversable halloween/harvest banner (instructions are already up here).

We celebrated Halloween by Trick or Treating with a friend.

Yesterday and today I've been feverously typing away for NaNoWriMo. Alex has joined me with a 1k word count he's 10% completed.

I've proceesed pumpkins and squash and dehydrated a zillion organic red delicious apples into chips. I'm going to try the dried apple sauce from the Little House Cookbook. I'll let you know how that comes out.

We're doing good. We're at least doing. We'll get to where we need to be, I just need to remember to enjoy where I am.