Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oh My Goodness!

I had no idea there was such a publication!  How many copies should we request?

I wonder if it has a chapter about how to decide what possessions to part with when downsizing from 2800 sq feet to 1500. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Bit of a Break


How ya been? As you can see, blogging has moved a little further down on the priority list. The pay off? We are having our first week off of school--and we are all on track with the outline of work to be done at this point of school.

The reason why it couldn't be better timing?

This could be our new bathroom.

This could be our new "media" room.This could be our new office/sewing/school room.
And, this could be ours too....
It's a super risky deal with timing and all....and lots of elbow grease to put this baby back in shape, but we think it will be worth it to get our little farm girl out of the city and raised with some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet.
A listing appointment is in our future. The near, near future. Eeek! Better get back to packing! I'll be back as i can...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wish You Were Here

Greetings from Half Dome!

This is my best loaf yet! I can't believe the largess of it! It's like a begula!! After reading The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens, it became apparent that my bread making could use a lot of help. So i started incorporating a few ideas i gleaned from the book: like adding gluten flour to the bread for better structure (i sub out 1/3 of the "white flour" with gluten flour), looking for the perfect knead, forming the roll a certain way so that most of the loaf isn't one big bubble of crust attached to a densely packed bottom, and most importantly making it more like the commercial breads in texture (which just requires that you bake your bread in a steamy oven.)

The last two loaves i tried in this way have been amazing. Best, i've merely stored them in the oven, uncovered, and they've lasted at least 3 days!! However, you see, i can't attest that they might last more than 3 days, as we devoured this entire loaf this large in 3 days!! Shhhh! Don't tell my Weight Watcher leader. :)

This is only the half of it!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Livin' the Slow Life: A Day in the Life of Moi

Annette at the fabulously inspiring Sustainable Eats participated in "A Day in the Slow Life" posting from one of the blogs she reads. You can follow the trail there. :) She invited her readers to post their goings on for their submissions to Simple Lives Thursday.

I'm game, but i have to admit, i feel a little homely compared to some of what these amazing people do! I don't grind my grains or make fabulously healthy dinners every night of the week. But i thought i would contribute since even the littlest changes and successes count, right? I have become more scheduled this year, consequently overcoming my need to make extra trips to the grocery during the week or consisently feeling behind (in some areas anyway, i'm still a work in progress, don'tcha know?)

So, here it is "Livin' the Slow Life: a not so typical Wednesday" by me, Whit
Now yesterday's kinda Wednesday doesn't happen every week. We have religious ed class once a month during the school year. It makes our life a little crazy, as you will see, however it is totally worth it because Cookie Monster is getting a great education (so are we)...and to boot she gets to see her uncle, who is our priest, more often!! Good Guys Win! Woot!

0545 Moose's alarm wakes me up. I dispise getting up this early. Especially because most nights i'm wide awake from somewhere around 2 am to 4 am. So, as i watch hubbie have a rendezvous with the snooze button over the next half hour, i tuck the covers back around me and grab the phonebot to catch up on the news that happened overnight--you know, mainly just what some crazy Tea Party candidate says on the Really Late Late Shows or something.

0700 Cookie Monster wakes. This is usually the time we snuggle in bed and read, awaiting Moose's departure. This day, we finished our first American Girl mystery.

0730 Moose is currently in a heated battle with some hornets that decided to build there nest just under our bedroom window in the wood pile. He pours 3 gallons of hot tap water on them to try to evict them. This is the third day in his war against the hornets, and thankfully it's not as expensive as another current war going on in our world. :)

0745 Moose says good bye and head's off on his bike for his 3 mile commute to work. C.m. and i get up and get ready for the day.

0800 Made granola. A few months ago, i purchased large quantities of flour, oats, and the like) and spent a few hours over the course of a few days making homemade "pre-mixes" of things that we use frequently (cookie mixes, granola, granola bars, meatloaf mix, and such.) As you can imagine, this really cuts down your "baking" time.

0825 While the granola is baking, it's time to make bread. I am currently working my way through a bread book by the River Cottage owner and his instructions are wonderfully easy! And while my stand mixer does the work for me, i jump online to check out a couple blogs. Obsess some more over a really cool quilt i discovered on one of my favourite blogs. But how to make it bigger???

0900 We have breakfast: we have cereal and some of our homemade applesauce we made at the beginning of the week. We tend to read during this time too, making breakfast extremely longer than it actually needs to be.

0945 We clear the table and get down to business: Homeschool! And remember to take the granola out of the oven before it burns. :)

Since we are a homeschooling family, we need to make the most of our weekdays. So i discovered creating a weekly plan that considers our work load, our appointments, and our dinners really helps us out. I usually sneak out of the house at an ungodly hour on Saturday morning and because the local library isn't awake that early, i head to our local coffeehouse (my only trip to a coffeehouse for the week) for a couple hours, taking with me cookbooks, school books, and our trusty calendar to plan the week and make the grocery list. After a sufficient amount of caffeine, i head from there to do the weekly shopping. We've made significant changes in the way we shop: we visit the butcher once a month on our way to church and we order staples from a food co-op monthly. I can't believe how much those two things will add up in time savings at the brick and mortar grocer!

1000 Math lesson.

1050 Break. During our 15-20 minute breaks inbetween subjects is when i bake or clean. Now i can add the extra task of packing up the house to the list too. On this day though, the bread was overdue for shaping and it's second rise. Also swept floors.

1105 Writing and spelling. Clear the table.

1200 Stick bread in the oven and make lunch. We keep it simple for lunch most days. Today it's ham, cheese, and apple quesadillas.

1250 Clear the table (again) and prepare some grapes to freeze to sustain Cookie Monster's appetite for them through the winter.

1310 Retrieve bread from oven and start Art History: read about Toulouse-Lautrec and Matisse for 30 minutes. Also cover our memory work that involves trying to commit the Egyptian dynasties to memory.

1400-ish Read for 30 minutes more. Cookie Monster tackles this while i discuss the latest object of my obsession over the phone with my mom. After serious debate, we're satisfied we've solved my problem. Unfortunately, we were both quite chatty and ate up a huge amount of our day. Arrgh...times two.

1515 Grammar lesson. STAT!

1530 Take leftover grapes, lunch, and snacks out to the Ladies of Laying, take care of their water and food, and collect eggs. Look over the garden quickly to see if there are any treats for the girls. Since the ruthless killing of one of our hens by our neighbours off leash beast, we haven't been able to let our girls free-range as they should, so gathering treats each day is a MUST!!

1550 Return inside to help dress Cookie Monster for her dance lesson. Reminded again why i love these crazy Wednesday night because she doesn't need to wear tights to class. I *loathe* tights!

1555 Make 2 tuna sandwiches and one PB with homemade raspberry jam on homemade bread. Pack water and cookies.

1615 Head to dance in the Kent Valley. While dance class is on, i obsess some more over the quilt while i eat dinner and work a bit on my first pair of socks i am knitting for C.m.

1745 Meet Moose at the car, dispense dinner items and beat cheeks to Lakewood.

1834 Arrive 4 minutes late to religious ed class, however it is okay, because the Deacon George still has have of his announcements to go since he has to make them in English and Spanish.

2030 Drive back home. Play "Whoever Yawns the Most on the Way Home Wins" game with family.

2105 Arrive home. Indulge in a dalliance on the computer for 10 minutes while C.m. gets herself ready for bed.

2115 Head to bed myself, reading a Curious George story to C.m. and giving the feline a pat before hitting the pillow. Having a brief thought about Mad Men before my eyes couldn't stand it any longer. We went through Hell this entire season with Mr. Draper, and now, in just a few hours in California with his secretary, he's proposed marriage to her? Really?

Anyway, that's a day in the life around here. A little extreme i guess because truly it's only one day of the month that looks like that, but subtract out the trip to Lakewood and it all pretty much looks the same otherwise! :)

What's your day look like?

I must say, reading through some of these entries has given me a plethora of great ideas!

To see more ideas on how to make your life simpler, visit the Simple Lives Thursday link at the top of this post.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Say Buh-Bye To Canned Beans

I just discovered a simple method to cook dried beans, making over salted, lackluster tasting, BPA containing canned beans obsolete! As an added plus, in buying dried beans, namely pintos, you'll be helping family farmers like my friend in Colorado.

As long as you have a crock pot, it will be completely easy for you too, to have wholesome, flavourful beans ready anytime and no further than your freezer! However, it does take some planning.

And since it is such a simple process, i am going to keep this post simple. No pictures. No fluff. Just facts.

Steps for cooking dried beans:

1. The Soak: Place 1 pound of beans in the crock, covered about an inch or two above top with water.
  • Large, thick skinned beans (e.g. runner, lima, or fava) soak 12 hours
  • Garbanzos or whole peas soak 10 hours
  • Medium beans (black, kidney, pinto) soak 6 - 8 hours
  • Small, thick skinned beans (azuki, mung) soak 8 hours
  • Small, thin skinned beans soak 4 hours.

Take precautions during hot, humid weather, either changing the water once or twice during soak times or place crock in fridge overnight.

2. Pull The Plug: Drain and Rinse Beans

( More special precautions: if cooking red beans, boil for ten minutes in fresh water on the stove top for at least 10 minutes to dissipate toxins contained within the bean. It's something regarding a natural occuring chemical in the bean that makes a human sick. Even NASA has funded research on the subject.)

3. Repeat. Place soaked beans back in the crock, cover with fresh water and cook on low for 8 hours* (* or till bite tender.)

At this point is where i diverged from the beaten path. Add fresh or dried herbs. Add garlic or ginger. Add anything your little heart desires to make these beans palatable and sought after!

4. Salt. Add this at toward the end of the cooking time. Or not.

5. Drain and Chill!

After they are done, it's time to drain the cooking liquid and cool your beans. Once cooled, they can be packaged in containers and frozen for up to 6 MONTHS!! Yippee! I find packing them in a pint glass jar provides the closest quanity to a canned equivalent.

Should you come from a family that consumes beans in *large* quantities (bless your heart), then the pot of these in the fridge will last 2 weeks.

To see more ideas regarding making your life simpler, visit Simple Lives Thursday. Every Thursday.

Rockin' the Irish Dancing

Back in July, Cookie Monster not only competed in her first feis, but she sat for her first grades as well.

She qualified for Grade 1: the reel and the jig.

The judge happened to be a childhood friend of Cookie Monster's teacher, so her teacher told her that her friend is a really strong critic, a very good judge. But students can think she is very strict. First, she doesn't hand out A's. Very few B+'s either. Cookie Monster's grade? B!!

Also, unique to the certificate was that the judge strayed from her usual habit of writing only criticism for improvement, and noting the practices she does really well! Things thrown around like "great smile", "lovely style", and the most impressive "promising dancer"!

And so she receives her first grade certificate of completion. 19 more passing grades and she could be an Irish dancing instructor!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Finally, A Current Events Story We Can Teach!!

Isn't it amazing the live feed from Chile? Truly a miracle for our entire human race!

And what was pretty good about it (the best being that everything is running smoothly, by the grace of God, and the men are coming up reasonably healthy and reuniting with their families) is that it is a current events story i feel comfortable teaching my soon to be 8 year old about! Hooray!

Up until now, i've been pretty mum about the whole business. I remember the day in '86 when someone at our school had the great idea to have us all watch the Challenger lift off because it carried the first teacher in space. And there us 5th graders sat with a group of 2nd graders to watch the horrifying events of the morning, while our teachers and principal shuttled in and out of the room dealing with their own shock, and having to contain ours, while coming up with a game plan. So you can say i've been a little antsy to say anything about the Chilean miners...until today!

But that's just what we soon as our feet hit the floor this morning!

We talked of the geography and methods of mining. We talked of the science of living underground--trapped a mile below for 17 days with little food or light. We covered math in conversions from days to months and metres to feet to miles. We touched on everything else from plate techonics to modern technology. We talked about life vs. time: miners celebrating birthdays, babies being born, men who had just started working a few months ago with a man who was going to retire in a few months. We discussed the strength these men have to possess to stay alive for 69 days underground. We discussed world relations of Chile and Bolivia having to put aside differences now because the miners include a Bolivian citizen; and how a number of US companies and NASA helped with donations of materials so that the Chilean government could design a plan that would be so successful! We delighted in their superstitious belief about the number 33: there were 33 of them, it took 33 days for the rescue shaft to be completed, and they were rescued on 10/13/10 (add them up, you get 33)--they marvel at the fact that their 33's match up to the number of years that Jesus was alive on this earth. We talked of the power of hope. Of faith. Of determination. And of courage.

And then, we went downstairs for an hour and watched 2 rescues. Cookie monster's hooked now. I can't get her to come back up and eat breakfast so we can start school. And once she heard the chanting "Chi chi chi, le le le. Los Mineros de Chile," she couldn't stop singing it.

We've found a great live feed website to share called It is filtered to receive only the news on the miners, and MSNBC links video of important developments very quickly. They even have a video of the ride up the rescue shaft with the rescue of Edison Pena. The BBC has a great website that is updated as well with international feed. I find their feed for mobile devices is in if you are in a place that you can't watch video feed but you will be able to read updates.

I know we'll be glued all day!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fries a la Jeanette

A quick recipe shared by an adorable friend of mine, over a lunch that was way too short, while our children pretended to be robots.

Place potatoes (russet, Yukon, sweet, etc.) in the microwave, covered.  Steam 3 to 5 minutes to remove the excess water from them.  Pat dry, then hand toss to coat in 1 tbsp oil mixed with 1 tbsp organic, non gmo corn starch and 1 tsp salt.  Meanwhile, in oven, have a large cookie sheet with 5 tbsp veggie oil heating until it smokes.  Carefully place fries in the oil.  Cook for .... then turn and cook for ..... 

Crispy fries.  Is there anything better?

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Last Straw

What a week! We were feeling good, coming home from our trip to Portland, and then....

Monday afternoon we let our chickens out for the first time in 3 days to scratch at the grass, eat bugs, bathe in the know, do all those chicken-y things that makes them healthy and happy. We've sealed the holes in our yard that they used to access the neighbour's yards so they couldn't wander off. All was well until i heard a blood curdling squawk coming from the side yard. I looked out and couldn't find a single chicken. Blast it!

Wondering if the cooper's hawk we saw land on our bird feeder the week before had returned for a entree rather than appetizers, i put on my shoes and headed out the door (in my jammies, mind you, because we are a homeschool family and that is how we roll most days.) :) Once i headed out the deck door, i see the neighbour from two doors down coming up our driveway. She's got a look of shame on her face. She also has a *huge*, menacing dog named Otis (who incidentally has been a frequent visitor to our yard for the past 10 years and has tried to attack us on two occasions while we were working in the yard.)

The reason for her second visit within a month? To inform me that this time Otis was successful in killing one of our chickens. Last time, he just mouthed it and took it home. That time, she thought the chicken had walked two houses down the street and appeared in her yard for the dog to play with. Since then, i've seen that daft beast in our yard at least once. Now we know twice.

She was still postulating like last time that my chickens are visiting her of their own will; a fact which i highly doubt. She said that her dog had the bird in it's mouth when a parent was arriving to pick up their child from her daycare. (poetic justice?? having to explain why your dog is allowed attacks animals in front of small children. for a second time in a month.) I found a dirty shirt in the car, and sent Cookie monster in the house to call her grandparents. I walked with the lady down to her driveway to find Macaroon lying in near their front steps like a trophy. I insisted that our chickens don't leave our yard, but that i had seen her dog in our yard recently. She said she didn't know how he would get there as they have an enclosed backyard for him. Later (mistakenly, maybe) she admitted that he ran out the front door into the unfenced front yard while she reunited the parent and child, and he returned in minutes with my chicken in his mouth. She wanted to know what she could do, because this was my pet. I was ready to scream blood murder at her, but i could feel something keeping me from being rude to her. I calmly pointed out that these birds are mainly kept for our food, first and foremost, and the pet part is secondary. Now we were going to be down 5 eggs a week. And truly, what can you do to "replace" one chicken as the dynamics of chickens are a little more complicated than that?

Walking with Mac motionless in my arms, life seemed so surreal. I was sad, yet appauled at this woman's naiviety. She didn't even know the chicken was a hen...she thought it was a rooster, when the poor thing was about the size of a loaf of bread!! She suggested we fence off our yard completely, so i reminded her that i keep a fence....for what i need for my chickens. I don't need to keep a fence for dogs, because i don't have one. Her dog is the one that is breaking the law by accessing our yard through another neighbour's yard. She came back to our house trying to show me how we could fence our yard and then realised that we can't really easily. Promises of constantly keeping her easily 90 lb dog inside her home "from now on" started flying. Yeah, right.

I was determined to find the spot where that dumb dog got my chicken. It didn't take long, but unfortunately, she didn't stick around to see it. It's right near my daughter's playset.

So here we are, left with the options of fencing off our property (of which will be highly costly as there are a few things from the yard that must be removed first since restricted access may make their removal more expensive later), not letting our chickens out for recess, or moving. We'd fancy the latter. But how will we do that in this market? We'll have to see.

I suppose there is one other option, as postulated to me by a family member..."I'd make sure you bury that dog!" Don't want to look too obvious, though, you know? I think i'll keep my camera handy with the date stamp at the ready to snap a picture of that dog in our yard should he return before i call 911 to report an off-leash beast.

Maybe a slingshot would be in order?

One thing is sure, we are sure going to miss Macaroon!

RIP my little roadrunner...

Meep Meep!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

7 Bean and Grain Soup

In wondering what to make for dinner the other night, i was in a conundrum: i wanted to make something using up our last half pound of ground beef and something that could be consumed within a couple days so we wouldn't have leftovers in the fridge when we headed to Portland.
It also had to meet the all important criteria: no shopping any further than the pantry. :)

I had some 7 Bean & Grain soup mix, in which are pinto, black, kidney, and navy beans, split peas, lentils, barley, etc. There's a cabinet full of spices.

So it sounded like to me, soup was going to be the ticket. However, i didn't want any tomatoes added.

Here's what i came up with--more gruel than a soup, i'd say, but pretty yummy:

1/2 lb lean ground beef
half large onion
2 cubes garlic (this fabulous new invention i found--frozen packets of garlic by Dorot, frozen in perfectly beautiful cubes equivalent to a clove)
1-2 cups soup mix
8 cups water
2 tbsp organic beef boullion

2 tsp parsley
2 cubes of frozen basil (see garlic)
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary

Precook the beef. Add beans, etc and simmer for a few hours.
Best the next day!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Homeschooling Helpers :: Art History

Are you a perfectionistic homeschooling mom like me? If you are, and you are teaching the Classical method, i have a few lists i am planning to post here (for my sake, and possibly yours.)

The first list i made regards the great artist covered in Art History curriculum. In the Well Trained Mind book they seem to be in random order to me. I wanted the list to tell me who arrived in what order, since i remembered studying these artists in an actual order as they tend to build off each other somehow. I also added a few i thought weren't worth missing.

I've arranged them in order of accepted year of birth. That way, when we are studying the Renaissance, we'll be able to pull all the artist from that time and review them.

Art History Reference: Who Came First, What's on Second, Picasso's on Third, and Warhol's in the outfield.

Botticelli 1444
Da Vinci 1452
Michelangelo 1475
Raphael 1483
Bruegel 1527
Rembrandt 1606
Francisco Goya 1746
Edgar Degas 1834
Cezanne 1839
Monet 1840
Renoir 1841
Mary Cassatt 1844
Gauguin 1848
Van Gogh 1853
Seurat 1859
Toulouse-Lautrec 1864
Matisse 1869
Klee 1879
Picasso 1881
Edward Hopper 1882
Diego Rivera 1886
O'Keeffe 1887
Marc Chagall 1887
Grant Wood 1891
Norman Rockwell 1894
Dali 1904
Pollack 1912
Warhol 1928

Sunday Stills::Green and Red

This week's challenge was kinda tricky. Especially since we were travelling to Portland so Cookie monster could attend another feis... where she made them all green with envy as she won 2nd and 3rd place medals
for her performances in the Single and Light jigs.
I think i pulled it off though.
This time of year, around the Pacific Northwest, there's a changing of the colour guard, if you will. Not just the leaves on the trees though...

but with our fish too.
The mature Chinook salmon start swimming upstream in the Fall to spawn. It is when they spawn that they change colours and the males get their funny looking jaws.
(the salmon above and below are exhibits at the Oregon Zoo, in Portland.)

I thought that'd be it for the extent of red and green at the zoo, but it turns out they had one more animal to submit for this challenge:
The Western Pond Turtle
For more Sunday Stills that will put you in the mood for Saint Nick's arrival,

State of the Homeschool Address

Still trucking right along with school. Cookie monster is doing well in her studies and our only trouble so far seems to be the dreaded return of the tantrum. I haven't seen a tantrum like that since she was 3! Apparently, it's because she wishes she could go back to Kindergarten. To hear her tell it, she would like to grow up and be dumb. Huh. Interesting. I am not below threatening to stick her back in public school, although i am not sure i could physically do that.

Here's the stats:

Math: 32 lessons down, 108 to go.

Grammar: 26 lessons down, 74 to go.

Spelling: 4 sections down, and i think i am actually starting to understand it now.

Earth Science: 9 lessons of the 18 are done for the semester. 2 experiments involving volcanoes have been conducted.

History: only 9 more chapters in the ancient times, then we move on to Middle Age history.

Art History: we've worked our way through Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Seurat. Up next: Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Klee and Picasso (which i am very excited about because a beautiful Picasso exhibit is coming to the Seattle Art Museum from Paris!)

Music: we've exhausted Mozart and are moving on to Beethoven.

Piano is going well...she just love playing on her own and moving ahead at her own intention, so it's a really easy part of school so far!

Irish dance: she is learning her half steps she will need for her next set of grades and has competed in another feis. They are practicing and learning new steps for the recital.

Tap/Jazz: they are reviewing steps for the new students.

Religious Ed starts next week! I can't wait to see what 1st communion class is like this year! Deacon George has giving Cm the head's up that Fr. Uncle Pete wrote some really tough questions this year, but Deacon George thinks she'll ace them! :)

We've had 2 field trips for the month of September. One was to a local organic farm. The other was to inspect some local creeks and rivers for her watershed unit in science.

We also finished the month with a trip to Portland, OR. We visited the zoo with a dear friend of mine and her adorable chidlren, who also helped make clear to me the act of knitting gussets in a sock because she is thee knitting guru, and also an excellent child wrangler to boot! :) Cookie monster also participated in The Portland Feis, where she competed in the U9 catagory which meant she was dancing with children young and older than her. She did great, considering it was extremely chaotic, and won the 2nd and 3rd place medals for Single Jig and Light Jig. Hooray! We also spent a few hours in the mesmerising Powell's Books, where i didn't even make it out of the children's section. Note: this place warrents a post all it's own. And we finished the visit with a trip on the MAX and lunch at Kell's Pub. C.m. fell completely head over heels for Portland and is telling everyone that she can't wait to go back--she thinks this winter would be a good time to go and visit her new friends in her new favourite city!