Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Organization: Creating A Baking Station

OK, I'm usually pretty organized with my home. OK, take that back. I know how to be organized in my home, and generally most things in my home are organized. I also may have mentioned a time or two how tiny my kitchen is. (In case I didn't, it is really small. 8' wide and 12' long. Not including the cabinets and appliances. And it is L shaped. And closed off from the rest of the house. And also serves as our main entrance.)

Anyway, when we moved, I set up my cupboards, and for the most part, that is how things have stayed. But now, I'm baking bread every other day, and making yogurt a couple times a week, and just baking more in general, and it was starting to drive me crazy that I had all the flour on one side of the kitchen, and then all of the other baking ingredients (baking powder, chocolate chips, molasses, etc.) on the other side of the kitchen.

So I decided to create a baking station. And then in the "old" cabinet, I moved the beans to a lower shelf and put the candles, etc. on the top shelf.

I do have a couple pictures to show you what the two areas look like now. I should have taken "before" pictures so you could really understand how silly I had things set up before, but I didn't think of taking pictures until after I had already moved things.


Here is a picture from the back door as you enter the kitchen (If the angle of the picture makes it look like the kitchen is really tiny, it is NOT an illusion. The kitchen opens into the dining room just past the refrigerator.) The cabinet that I moved things from isn't in the picture, but it is the upper cabinet on the right hand side of the stove. The cabinet I moved things to is an upper cabinet to the right of the sink.

The new baking station

On the counter - the bread slicing thing, the bread machine, baking utensils and yogurt maker.

First level (left and right) - Bigger cannisters hold things such as white flour, brown and white sugar, cornmeal, oatmeal, and salt. The mason jars hold different kinds of flour like oat flour, spelt flour, rice flour, buckwheat flour, etc. There is also gluten and dried milk in a couple of the smaller containers.

Second level (left side) - Baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, cocoa, etc. Second level (right side) - cookbooks.

Third level (left side) - canned milk, pickling salt, lard, vanilla extract, peppermint extract, almond extract, etc. Third level (right side) - cookbooks.

This is the cabinet that used to have the baking soda, cornstarch, cocoa, canned milk, lard, etc. that I moved over to the other cabinet.

First shelf - peanut butter, honey, pasta.
Second shelf - dried beans, popcorn, barley, millet.
Top shelf - candles, lighter, votive holders.


I do have another small cabinet that holds olive oil, grapeseed oil, and vinegar on one side, and herbal teas and hot chocolate on the other side. My last "food" cabinet has oatmeal, muesli on the bottom shelf, and spices on the top shelf. (I know it is an odd combination, but it was the way the shelving worked out.) I have a spice rack on the counter that contains the spices that I use the most, so it doesn't bother me too much to have to stretch a bit to get the more "uncommon" spices.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Daybook: November 29th, 2010

Outside My Window... Mid 40s. Not as warm as it was in Florida, but I'll take it in late November.

I am thinking... about Advent. This year, we are going to focus on activities and stories. And mostly free activities too.

I am thankful for... for families and friends. I've been bountifully blessed with much of both.

From the learning rooms... Back to schooling after a week off. The preschoolers will be studying about leaves, the letter J, and finishing up November activities. Jelly Bean and Super will be finishing up Marsupials and Japan in the Middle Ages.

From the kitchen... I'm going to finally can the tomato sauce this week. I pureed it way back in August/September and put it in the freezer, so now I'll just defrost it, boil it down by 50%, and then can it. I'll end up with about 12 quarts. I wish I had about twice that, but oh well.

I am going... nowhere today. It is nice to have nowhere to go. Vacation was great, but I'm ready to be back to calm, unscheduled days.

I am reading... A Year In Provence. I started it on the plane. I sat next to Super on the plane rides, and so I didn't get much reading in. (As Super said to the passenger that sat on his other side "I like to talk a lot." Uh, that's an understatement, dude.) But I am enjoying it so far, and now that I'm back to real life, I should be able to find time in the evenings for reading. Well, there is holiday gifts I have to do too, so maybe not as much reading time as I'd like.

I am hoping... that I make a lot of progress this week on holiday gifts.

I am hearing... Super reading out loud. He is making so much progress with reading lately. (Sorry about that little proud mama gush!)

Around the house... Getting back in the routine of cooking dinner for a couple of meals every day, and making yogurt and baking bread.

One of my favorite things... Seeing my kids faces when we told them that we were going to Disney World. We had told them that we were visiting their grandparents in Arizona, but in reality, the grandparents had paid for us to go to Disney World and Universal, plus they were meeting us there! We had a wonderful, wonderful time.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... I'm applying for a very part-time position as a GED instructor at our local community college this week, and I'm hopeful that I get it. Otherwise, we have some Christmas activities planned for this week including watching the Nutcracker and Christmas at the Courthouse.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Halloween 2010

Here it is the middle of November, and I still haven't posted pictures of Halloween. I was a total slacker this year, and just got a picture of each child and a group shot on Halloween. I didn't take any pictures at Farmer's Market Halloween or at Trunk or Treat.

I went out with Jelly Bean and Super (Flower went with her friends. Sigh. How can she be old enough to do that? One of the mom's did go to "chaperone" but there was about 10 of them who went together, and by all reports, had a great time.) Anyway, I had a fantastic time with the two younger kids. It was still very light when we went out at 5 pm, and while there was a crispness to the air, I wouldn't call the weather "cold." It really was perfect Halloween weather. And then there was just a ton of people out trick-or-treating, and everyone was being so nice and friendly. It was great.

So here are the pictures:

Flower as a gypsy

Jelly Bean as Frankengirl - she came up with the idea so that it would match her cast!

Super as Batman

Happy Halloween!

I know that you are curious about how much everything cost LOL Flower's outfit was all from her closet/dress up basket. I did buy light blue eyeshadow for $1 and red lipstick for 59 cents. Super's outfit was from the dress up basket PLUS it was gifted to us by their cousins, so the outfit and cape was free. I did buy the mask for $3. Jelly Bean's outfit was all from her closet, although I bought black and silver hairspray, and green face makeup for $6. Total for all three outfits: $10.59. Not free, but not bad.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Daybook: Monday, November 15

Outside my window... It was a cool, grey morning although it did warm up some and the sun peeked out this afternoon. The kids' are calling the pear tree the "fire" tree this year because it is a mix of yellow, orange, and red this year instead of all red. Most of the other trees around have lost all their leaves. Must mean winter is not too far off!

I am thinking... about Vacation!!! We leave on Saturday. I really need a vacation from regular life, and I'm looking forward to spending loads of time with the children. But I'm also thinking about Advent too and excited to get started on it soon after we get back.

I am thankful for... my children. It is hard to be a mom, but I am so grateful for these three souls that I've been blessed to have in my life.

From the learning rooms... We are talking about Turkeys and Thanksgiving with the preschoolers. The schoolagers are finishing up their unit on marsupials and learning about Japan in the Middle ages for history.

From the kitchen ... I'm trying out some of my recipes for the Solstice Party next month. Also, as usual, making bread, yogurt, muffins, and waffles. (I make up a bunch and throw them in the freezer. Much cheaper than Eggo waffles!) I also rearranged a couple of my kitchen cabinets and now I have all my baking items in the same place. It is like heaven!

I am wearing ... a black skirt, a white cotton long sleeve t-shirt, a grey/black wool cardigan, black knee socks, and of course, my black clogs. I kind of feel like my friend Mary in this outfit. Definitely reminds me of something that she would wear. Her clothes are groovier than mine though.

I am creating .... packing lists. I don't want to over pack, but I don't want to forget anything important either.

I am hoping... that we have fun on vacation without spending ALL of our money. I'd love to have some left over to start buying things for Christmas gifts.

I am hearing... two out of three children are playing a board game. We've had a huge resurgence in interest of board games these days. They even play nicely together most of the time.

Around the house... doing some final touches on the guestroom/studio. I probably won't finish it completely until January. I don't feel spending money on the room until after the holidays. Maybe I'll use some tax return money to get a few things for the studio.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
  • swimming lessons
  • Montgomery Academy Thanksgiving Feast on Thursday
  • cleaning the house. I hate coming home from vacation to a messy home.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Starting to think about Holiday Gifts . . .

This year, I have really tried to cut down on the amount of "stuff" that we have around the house and to make sure that the things we do have here are useful. I have also recently been diagnosed with severe dust mite allergy (among other allergies SIGH) and so I really don't want to have little extra things around just to look "cute" (and collect dust.)

And in my own little Simple family, my children, while, still not even teenagers, are growing up WAY too fast (they are 11, almost 9, and 6.) They don't play with "toys" per se much, and the ones that they do are treasures that have been with us for many years, and I don't feel like I need to add to them.

Add to that, I want (well, and let's be honest, kind of need) to make the children gifts. Out in the blogosphere and the web, it seems like many homemade gifts for children are for the younger set. I keep thinking, but I can't seem to come up with any great ideas. Well, I am sewing each of them something, but so far, that is the extent of my ideas. I am also limited by the time I have left until Christmas. I am very busy right now and then I'll be on vacation from November 20th - 28th, so realistically, I only have from November 29th - December 23rd.

There is one good thing - I've cleared out most of the "schoolroom." We have a bedroom in this house that just can't seem to stay the same for longer than a year. It is a really small bedroom - 10' x 9'. Maybe. When we moved in, it was uh, a storage room, I think. Then it was an office, then it was Youngest and my bedroom when he was a baby, then it was an office, then it was a guest room, then it was the school room, and now, I'm making it into a guest room/studio. There will still be some bookcases with school materials because I just don't have another place to store them, but you don't walk in the room and think "schoolroom" anymore. Why is this a good thing? Well, I finally will be able to have a place to set up my sewing machine so that it can be out all the time. I picked up a small desk and a comfy chair on wheels during my "curb shopping" adventures. I need to pick up and install some shelving like this to put my fabric, thread, patterns, etc. above the desk. And now that I have a dedicated space for sewing, I can go in there and lock the door and create things instead of having to do it in the wee hours of the morning on the dining room table.

So do any of you have any great homemade gift ideas for olderish children? FYI, I crochet and sew. I have basic woodworking tools like hammer, saw, screwdriver, etc. and I have basic woodworking skills. I wouldn't say that I can draw or paint, etc., at least not well.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Preserving - My Plan for 2011

Now, with my plan, you have to keep in mind that the only freezer I have is the freezer over my fridge. I'd love to get a deep freeze, and it is tentatively in the budget for next Spring, but right now, I'm going to go ahead and plan on NOT having a separate freezer. So most of my preserving will be canned, although I will do a little dehydrating too.

6 quarts of apple pie filling
12 half pints apple butter
52 quarts of applesauce
4 #10 cans of dried apples

24 half pints of strawberry jam
6 pints of strawberry syrup
6 gallon bags of strawberries

24 quarts of tomato sauce
12 pints of salsa
12 pints of diced tomatoes

24 half pints of peach jam
6 pints of peach syrup
1 #10 of dried peaches

12 pints of pickles
12 pints of pickle relish

52 pints of green beans
52 pints of sweet corn
12 pints of peas

12 pints of chick peas
12 pints of kidney beans
12 pints of black beans
12 pints of navy beans

Also dehydrating oregano, basil, parsley, onion.

And on a related note, I will be storing for food storage wheat, sugar, honey, oats, and pasta.

There are only a few of problems with my plan - finding the time to do all of that preserving, finding the money to buy all those jars, and finding room to store all of it. Minor problems, really.

But seriously, this is my best case scenario for preserving. Chances are good that this will be an overambitious plan, but it gives me something to shoot for.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Daybook: November 12th

Outside My Window... Cooler than it has been this week, but still nice. It was in the 70s on Wednesday and Thursday. Have to love that in mid November.

I am thinking... about Vacation. We are going for vacation from November 20th through the 28th. To some place warm. Well, it is pretty warm here right now, but this place is usually warm all the time.

I am thankful for... Veterans and the fact that we have a house to live in, enough clothes to wear, and enough food to eat. I put the flag out yesterday for Veterans' Day and we took clothes to the thrift store and food to the food pantry to celebrate Martinmas. It made me feel blessed.

From the learning rooms... The preschoolers worked on the color brown, the number 3, the triangle shape, the letter H, and squirrels. Jelly Bean is learning about 9s in times tables, the Tang dynasty, Montana, and reading a book called Word after Word after Word.

From the kitchen... I made more apple sauce and apple butter, and I'm making apple pie filling and dried apples this weekend. And then I'm done with apples for the year.

I am going... nowhere today. Between myself and the three kids, I feel like lately all we ever do is go to the dentist or the doctor, but nobody has any appointments today.

I am reading... Annie's Garden Journal. I don't love it, but it has been a quick read so far. It is about a woman who lives in California who works in Film, and gardens mostly unsuccessfully, but it is also about her relationship with her dysfunctional family and her relationship with her boyfriend/fiance. She wrote a book after this about gardening and motherhood that I think I would enjoy more. Maybe I'll read that next.

I am hoping... that my children will miraculously start listening and obeying me All The Time. Hey, I didn't say that I was hoping for anything realistic.

I am hearing... the clock tick and noticing that there are still clocks that I haven't changed.

Around the house... I've been doing dishes by hand for a couple weeks because our dishwasher died. I'm finding that I actually enjoy it. It is relaxing, and the dishes are clean, almost all time, instead of piled up in the sink or on the counter.

One of my favorite things... Sleeping. I used to hate to sleep when I was in my 20s. And then I had kids and never got any. And now, everybody sleeps through the night and I can generally get at least 6 hours. Heaven.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... Well, it is a pretty light weekend. We are going to the Festival of Trees and then probably to my friends' farm. We've had a bunch of busy ones, so I'm looking forward to having some time to just hang out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gardening - My Plan for 2011, Part 1

Now that the 2010 garden is officially put to bed, I feel like posting about the 2011 garden. This post is going to be more of an overview. I'll post more specifics/pics, etc. as it gets closer to next Spring.

(Oh, and I just have to mention, while I love Spring and planting the garden, and things beginning again, isn't Fall wonderful too? )

I've been gardening, seriously, for 3 years now. Well, as an adult anyway. My parents had a garden when I was a child/teenager, and I helped with that (and ate lots of food from it too LOL)

My first year, the garden was very small. It was just two small beds - one with herbs, and one with zucchini squash. My second year, last year, I had the two beds at home, and then I shared a 15' x 20' plot with my sister. We grew tomatoes, onions, beans, broccoli, and cauliflower. But I didn't know much about gardening, for better or for worse. Basically, I just planted things, and they grew. Well, there were the peas that got washed out last year, but that was it.

This year, I did a lot of reading about gardening. TONS. All the reading, of course, for better or worse, was after I planted the garden this year. I still had the two beds at home for herbs and zucchini. When I planted the garden at the plot in early Spring, I still planned on gardening with my sister. Then, she went and MOVED, LOL, but I was still planning on sharing with someone. The woman came out once, and we planned on what we were going to plant, and I bought everything that we had decided on, and then I never saw her again. So I ended up planting things a little differently than if I had been doing it on my own, but still, I didn't really have a real "plan." I grew tomatoes, beans, eggplant, peppers, and broccoli. I planted, but failed at actually growing, sweet potatoes, zucchini, corn, and peas (they are conspiring against me, I think). Oh, I also failed to get any beans after the first planting. I planned to plant spinach as a fall crop, but I didn't do that either.

I have a pretty ambitious plan for 2011- I'll be expanding at home from 2 beds to 6 beds. I would have 7, but one of the original beds has now become the compost pile. (I'm so proud of myself for having a compost pile. I was all worried that it was going to be complicated, and it is, uh, NOT. LOL) There will be a bed for cooking herbs, and two beds in the front for medicinal herbs (these are already dug, but they have perennials & shrubs right now), a bed for strawberries, and two beds for salad stuff - spinach, chard, carrots, lettuce, greens, etc.) In addition to the beds, I will also be planting two dwarf pear trees and if I can figure out how to do it, grapes. I won't see strawberries this in 2011, and I won't see pears or grapes for at least a few years, but I feel like I want to plant anyway.

For the garden plot, I'm planning tomatoes (of course), beans, cucumbers, peas, broccoli, summer and winter squash, potatoes, and cantaloupe and honeydew melon. I think that is it. Seems like there is something else. But those are the major crops anyway.

Oh, and I'm planning on paying attention to you know, frost dates, and when plants should be planted in my zone, and such this year.

I still plan on buying apples and peaches at farmers market/local orchards, as well as strawberries next year (and I will probably still go after that for one big picking. My goal next year is to can at least 24 half pints of jam, 6 pints of syrup, as well as have a bunch to freeze, and enough to make at least one or two strawberry pies. ).

How about you? What are your garden plans for next year??

Friday, November 5, 2010

October 2010 in Pictures: Autumn is Everywhere

I took a bunch of pictures in the first part of October, and then I thought the camera was broken. I recently discovered that the camera might not be ALL the way dead. But I took pictures in the last part of the month on my phone and the pictures were of mixed quality.

We started the month of October with going to an Autumnal Celebration at the Horticultural Center. This is our third year of attending. The weather was sunny but windy.

Super running on top of hay bales.

They always have a bunch of scarecrows on display. We won these scarecrows. The name was "Preschoolers" Perfect for this preschool teacher!

A picture of all three kids on the hay rack ride. This is one of my favorite all time pictures of the children.

We also went to Starved Rock Park and did a bunch of hiking.

A picture of Super in one of the canyons.

The next weekend, we went to an Apple Orchard and got a BUNCH of apples. I made applesauce and dried apples.

The night before we went to the Apple Orchard, Jelly Bean fell off her bunk bed ladder and broke her wrist. We thought then that she would only have a cast on for three weeks, but we found out today that she will be in a cast for another 4 weeks. At least. :(

Flower is on Student Council this year, and they were on a float for the local high school's homecoming parade. The theme, if you can't guess, is the 70s. Pictures from the 70s of me had much less tie-dye and much more plaid than they show on this float. Flower is in the middle with Peace Sign glasses.

We also went to the University's Homecoming Parade and Football game. We had a great time. The weather was beautiful that weekend - in the lower 80s!

The following weekend, we went to the other Autumnal celebration that we usually go to - this one was at the local Nature Center. It was, if you can't tell from the picture, a little wet that day. Unfortunately for us, it rained the whole time we were there, but it cleared later in the day. We love decorating pumpkins from natural materials instead of carving. This dude is still out on our front porch (as well as the Preschooler scarecrows. And MANY gourds. My kids are all about decorating with gourds this year.)

We finished out the month with Halloween (Halloween pictures will be in a separate post) and a visit down to Springfield. We went to the Illinois Capital and then the Dana-Thomas House. It was cold AND windy that day, but we still had a great time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls Day

We don't formally recognize this day in our church, but ever since Christopher, I try and recognize the day and talk to the children about some of the people that have died and what impact they had on our lives.

We talked about how Great Grandma Davis died last year, and how she was the last of their great grandparents that died, and how lucky they were to have had a relationship with one of their great grandparents. We also talked about their other great grandparents.

And we talked a little about Christoper, but we had just done the Walk To Remember on October 30th, so we didn't spend much time talking about him today.

And I spent a moment or two thinking of The Boy, who died 26 years ago this September.

And another moment or two thinking of the other little ones that I lost to miscarriage.

Speaking of the Walk, I have a couple pictures from the day. The Pregnancy/Infant Loss group from the hospital were I delivered Christopher organizes the Walk, and we walk from the hospital to the town amphitheater, and then we let balloons go, and then walk back to the hospital and have a service where people can read poems or thoughts, etc. This year, 169 people attended. It is the highest number of people that have attended the walk. Which made me mostly sad. :(

All 3 children with their balloons

Their signs on their backs

Flower with her balloon

Jelly Bean blowing a kiss to Christopher

Super with his balloon - that is a heart with lots of
little hearts inside it.

As the balloons were flying up to the sky

Monday, November 1, 2010

Daybook: November 1st, 2010

Outside My Window... it is bright and sunny, but cool. And windy. I wore my "new to me" windbreaker today when I went out.

I am thinking... about how it is already halfway through fall. And how we had a busy but fun weekend.

I am thankful for... health insurance. My last post told of how much I've had to go to the doctor and the hospital and it has been a huge blessing to not have to stress about paying for all of those visits.

From the learning rooms... The preschoolers will be learning about scarecrows, squirrels, Thanksgiving and leaves. Jelly Bean is working on learning about the rise of Islam, marsupials, multiplication, how to write a letter, Missouri, and finishing up The Little Princess.

From the kitchen... I've prepared a few Make-Ahead meals. Not a whole months worth or even two weeks worth, but a few so that I don't have to scramble every night. Which is important now that we have swimming lessons twice a week.

I am going... to the garden tonight to pull the tomato cages. They are going to plow all the gardens under this week. Another gardening season comes to a close.

I am reading... I just finished Hamlet's Blackberry. It was an interesting look at technology over the years.

I am hoping... that my health will improve soon and that I will exercise six days a week this month.

I am hearing... nothing. My computer time is always done during nap/quiet time. Apparently, the dog is taking quiet time seriously too.

Around the house... I cleaned up all the Halloween decorations. I actually don't decorate for Halloween until the day before Halloween because I like to enjoy more fall-type decorations instead.

One of my favorite things... Apples, chocolate, and seeing an old friend. And I got to enjoy all of these things this weekend :)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... I have an appointment with the allergist and Jelly Bean gets her cast off on Friday. Saturday is a busy day with a 5K in the morning, a baby shower in the evening, and a party that evening.

A Picture Thought I'm Sharing ...

Roses from my backyard. The rosebud was a gift about 4 years ago,and truly is the gift that keeps giving. And I love the color.