Monday, May 12, 2014

Moving on.

I've switched gears and I'm trying out a new blog host. If you want to see what we're up to, head over the new (and we'll pretend it's improved): The Mother Load.

Monday, April 28, 2014

On going granola.

We live on the North Shore, in the woods (well, not in the woods...we actually live in town, but the woods are like 5 steps away. And so is the lake.).  Up here it feels very self-sufficient...wood-burning stoves and laundry on the lines and home-schooling and a teeny-tiny community farmer's market in the summer. We have a community composting site that we take advantage of in all the months that don't have snow. We also have our own composting bin in the back yard (it came with the house, we didn't have to build it, I just benefit from the soil it produces), and we recycle what we can. If we could have chickens in town, I'd probably convince Uriah to let me raise a few of those, too.  I try to repurpose things as much as I can and my insides (and wallet) get happy when I'm thrifting or junking or antiquing.

For awhile now I've wanted to try making home-made laundry soap. Over the weekend, I took that to the next level, making fabric softener, oxy-clean, and dishwasher detergent, as well.  It was as if one of the Kilcher's came and homesteaded right in my very own kitchen (except my kitchen is not in the Alaskan wilderness and I don't have to kill a bear, a moose, a deer and catch a couple hundred pounds of salmon to make it through the winter - I just head on over to the Super One when I run out of meat). I spent an afternoon grating and boiling and mixing and stirring and was amazed at how much got done in a relatively short amount of time.

I utilized my Home-Wifery Bible (aka: Pinterest) for the best and most sought after cleaning recipes.  I used this recipe for the laundry detergent - I am not a fan of powdered laundry detergent, so I went with a liquid form.  I found that I have to shake it up really well before I use it because it kind of congeals and settles a bit, but I cannot even tell you how soft our towels felt when I pulled them out of the dryer today.  I also used this recipe for the fabric softener, I just used some conditioner that I had on hand to try it out, but I think I'll try to find a more natural (read: less stuff in it) conditioner next time I make fabric softener. I also didn't add any essential oils to my softener because I like my laundry to be mostly un-scented.  I like soft stuff and this fabric softener will mostly be used when I hang things outside to dry in a few months weeks.  I think line drying can make jeans and towels stiff and scratchy without a little softening boost, but I am loath to use the dryer in the summer time and sheets smell so much better after hanging outside in the sunshine all day long, anyway. 

I usually buy Cascade in bulk at Sam's Club, and actually just ran out over the weekend, so...perfect timing! Everything I read about home made dishwasher detergent touted how it made clear glasses sparkle and shine, and it is true. Sometimes when I used Cascade I felt that my glasses came out feeling a little filmy - clean, but not quite clear.  Well, consider me converted.  Everything came out extra clean and sparkly and non-filmy.  This is the recipe I used.  I think it's the vinegar in the rinse cycle that made everything so clean, but nothing smelled vinegary after it had cycled through.  

Speaking of vinegar, I also used it to clean my dishwasher this weekend, because the last time we did that was never.  (Truthfully, I was a little disgusted by how much crust I wiped out of there.)  And I used vinegar to clean out the microwave and I ran it through my coffee maker to clean that out, too.  I feel like this is a public service announcement for vinegar, but seriously.  No random cleaning chemicals, just plain, old vinegar.  My Grandma would be so proud (she swore by vinegar for everything. Everything.  Sore muscles?  Rub some vinegar on it.  Hard to clean pot?  Use some vinegar.  Mosquito bite?  You guessed it...vinegar.)

After I had everything done and cleaned up in the kitchen yesterday, I left for the gym for an hour of alone time (yes, I go the gym for quiet time) and my husband took care of feeding the small humans (nitrate-filled hot dogs, biscuits from a can, sodium laced potato chips and apple sauce that I didn't make.  Baby steps to a granola lifestyle, I guess).  Turns out Uriah had a bit of an adverse reaction to all of the cleaning fumes in the kitchen and took to his bed shortly after I got home.  For 12 hours straight.  So...keep this in mind if you're going to make your own soaps and stuff: making your own crap is thrifty and awesome, but crack a window or two.

Quick Reference:
Laundry Soap
Fabric Softener
Dishwasher detergent

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On winter & spring.

Last fall, for a hundred reasons, I didn't plant a single bulb, in fact I barely touched the gardens around our house; I'm not entirely certain I winterized anything out there.

I let the gardens fall under the weight of frost and then snow. All winter long, I ignored them, buried deep just beyond my window panes.  I watched the snowflakes pile one on top of the other until I could no longer see the markers at the end of the garden path or the tip top of the peony bushes that still stood tall in their metal cages because I didn't cut any of the dead branches back at the end of the season.  I sat by as the wind whipped snow into first ankle deep, then knee deep then, in spots, hip deep drifts.  Our back yard was a blanket of fluffy white, mostly quiet and tranquil except when the sun deigned to make an appearance.  Then it hurt my eyes to look outside, the glare bouncing on the razor sharp edges of snowflakes.

Slowly, though, as the winter wore on, I began to think about what was buried deep beneath the frigid mounds.  I began to plan for them again. A thought here, a note of something new to plant there. Sporadic, at best, but thoughts nonetheless.  

By Easter, I was ready to rake and pull and cut and make room for something new and lovely out of the fallow and silent.  I had my rain boots on and my rake and clippers in hand, the sun was warm on the top of my head and my expectations of this early forage into the gardens were low - very low. 

So you can imagine my surprise at the small shoots all over the place, carrying on as if I hadn't neglected them at all. Green leaves curling into the sun, reaching up. From the darkness of winter comes forth abundant spring.

The truth is, we all need that rest, the cold cover of a winter season.  And I found in those moments, as I stared in wonder at my garden's ability to persevere and press on, that I appreciated those fledgling green curls of leaf so much more than I ever have before.  In spite of all of that darkness - or perhaps because of it -  we still have the ability to bloom.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

On my mind...It's still winter.

  • I don't even really have the energy to write because we are bracing for more snow and I feel as though I should be under my covers hibernating.
  • It's still winter here, even though the calendar says spring. 
  • Our computer is about ready to die.
  • No one is surprised; it is a dinosaur and we got it used at least 7 years ago.
  • Someone is annoyed.  And feeling cheap and not wanting to expend the finances that it will take to get a new one.
  • I have dumped everything onto our external hard drive, but it's not hooked up to Uriah's computer, so I don't have access to pictures.
  • I've been using Uriah's but by the time he gets home in the evening, I'd rather hang out with him than write. 
  • My feet are cold.
  • I have been reading like a crazy person, so many good books are out right now or are about to come out.
  • My Amazon wish list is giant.
  • I'm still navigating e-readers through our library.  It is an asinine system to search for books and I find myself annoyed and frustrated when I do it.  There has to be an easier way.
  • I've been watching some questionable Netflix shows lately.  The kind that do not stimulate the mind but hook you anyway? 
  • We are only a few episodes into the new season of House of Cards (also on Netflix, not questionable at all).  We are trying to spread the season out as we watched the first season in about 2 weeks. 
  • I'm ready to start going to antique stores and flea markets and junk shows. 
  • I have an absurd amount of furniture in the cottage just waiting to be painted this spring.
  • I've also been sifting and sorting through some of the boxes that we haven't looked at since we moved.
  • I realize that we moved almost two years ago.  Boxes just full of surprises, I tell you!
  • Finn's favorite game to play is hide and seek. 
  • I jumped out and scared him one time when I was hiding and he was seeking and it was so funny.  Seriously, he did this little dance jump and some jazz hands and he might have almost tinkled a little. Now he has to remind me every day not to scare him. I feel kind of bad about that, actually.
  • But it hasn't stopped him from wanting to play hide and seek one trillion times a day.
  • And just so you know, there are only so many places to hide in this house.
  • Abby's play is almost ready to perform.
  • To hear her talk about it the whole thing is a master flop and no one knows their cues and someone will have to stand off stage and feed everyone their lines for the entirety of the performance.
  • She is such a drama queen.
  • We have a baby sitter for Finn for 2 nights (extravagant) and I think Uriah and I are going to go out on a dinner date before we go to the show (also extravagant).
  • Family galore is coming into town to see her big theater debut.  I can't wait.  I miss my mom. And my Dad.  And my sister.  And my brother.  And my aunties.  And Ady. 
  • I'm trying to adjust my diet because I'm caught in a rut.  It is not good.  Not good at all.
  • I've been webMD-ing myself and I can assure you, I have a multitude of ailments.
  • Do not diagnose yourself using webMD unless you want to entertain the though that you might be susceptible to the Ebola virus, mad-cow disease, H1N1 and the Bird Flu, malfunctioning organs and acne.
  • It's time to make dinner and I've already put Finn in his jammies so this night can just roll right along in a smooth manner.
  • You know...the faster to bed, the quicker we can wake up and shovel another foot of snow.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On granola and spring.

Winter is groaning on and on and on.  I am certainly envious of the pictures of spring break and spring I see on Facebook and Instagram.  I want spring.  I want tulips and the start of grass and pretty purple crocuses easing their way out of the ground, and in lieu of all of that in my own back yard, I'd take a vacation someplace warm and tropical.

My yard is still covered with feet and feet of snow, and probably will be for some time...long past the start of spring in a few weeks, maybe even right up until the first day of summer.  And so I'm breathing deeply this week, reminding myself that there is beauty in the snow sparkling in the sunshine.  There is something primitive about the icicles hanging sharply from the roof.  We can still snuggle up in the afternoon, under a blanket and with some hot cocoa and be content to hibernate a little bit longer.  Summer brings busyness and gardening and the lake and vacations.  Right now, we can move a little bit slower, simmer soup a little bit longer, enjoy the days with nothing to running, no errands, no appointments...and instead we can read books and play games and build train tracks that use every ounce of our imagination and ingenuity.  We can spend an afternoon covered in flour, making cookies and singing and stopping for the occasional dance party.

I pulled out my granola recipe last week; actually, I pulled out two granola recipes and kind of married them into one beautiful, easy granola.  I feel sort of hippie when I make granola, and last week was no exception. Finn helped me mix it together using the bits and pieces that I found in our drawers and I had a little Minnesota honey left, so it smelled like spring as it was baking.  I kept it on the counter to cool and crisp up and I couldn't stop snacking on it.  It's delicious on yogurt and even more amazing in these cookies.  I've made these cookies before just the way the recipe reads, but this time I omitted the apricots and blueberries (because I didn't have any) and used the dried cherries and pomegranates that I also used in the granola instead.  I also added a half cup of chocolate chips (because I did have those!) and I used the granola we'd just made.  Finn helped me roll the cookies into balls, but next time I will flatten them a little bit.  These are seriously so good.  I might have given them the blessing to be breakfast cookies - because granola and dried fruit is totally breakfast food, right?

Spring is coming. The windows will open and the fresh air - cool, but not cold - will clean out the stale smell of winter.  Our days will be full of gardening and walking and just being outside.  Until then I've been motivated to dive into closets and cupboards and drawers; cleaning and organizing and purging.  We can't be outside right now, not really when the temperatures still plummet below zero, but when the ground thaws and the green peeks and the tulips reach up out of the dark, we will be there waiting and watching and sighing with relief.

Cherry Granola
  • 2 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried pomegranates
  • 1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix the oats, nuts and fruit in a large bowl.  On the stove top, bring the butter, honey and oil just to a boil; pour over the oat mixture and stir to coat completely.
Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven for 15 minutes.  Stir and bake another 5-10 minutes longer, just until brown.  Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack stirring occasionally and breaking up larger chunks.  Store in sealed container for up to 2 weeks. 

*Use whatever dried fruit you have/like: raisins, craisins, apricots, dried blueberries.  Same with the nuts: you can substitute walnuts or almonds, I've even done a mixture of nuts if I have some random quantities to use up.