Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Going for the record

I think this is a record-breaking lack of blogging time for me. Wow, has it really been almost 4 months? Let's just say that I went through the worst blogger fatigue I have ever had. I have no desire whatsoever to talk about anything political, so I am happy to share about our life in 4 months :).

Despite the worst drought I have ever seen, God blessed us with a great garden. We had some crazy zucchini, and lots and lots of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, and beans. Evie had playdates and fun playing outside. She and SiSi went outside a lot together. This is what happens when I am not watching them play...

A little FYI...she sat there with the glasses on, just looking around like this was the most normal thing on earth, for about 15 minutes. I could not stop laughing.

Speaking of Miss Evie, she is getting quite talented at picture taking. I think she did a great self portrait. She looks so grown up!
My sister Julie and brother-in-law Steve flew in from Texas to visit us, and to surprise my parents for my Dad's 70th birthday. I hadn't seen my sister in 4 years, so there were a lot of tears when we first saw each other! My parents came over for what they thought was a dinner with just the 5 of us. They were so surprised when they saw Julie and Steve, that my Dad seemed dazed the rest of the night :).
We had such a nice time with Julie and Steve! They stayed a week with us, and we were so sad when they left. They are coming back into town tonight, and staying with us for 2 more weeks! I can't wait!!

A highlight of these past 4 months was a date weekend that Jeff surprised me with. We have very rarely gone somewhere without Evie, so it felt super foreign to me at first. We stayed at a really nice motel, then the next day we went to see my favorite comedian, Tim Hawkins! Jeff had gotten special tickets, so we were able to sit 3 rows from the stage. When he first came out on stage, he walked in the crowd and laid down in the laps of the people in front of us! It was pretty insane being that close to the stage, and so fun! 
There were 3 comedians total, so it was a night full of lots of laughs. It was awesome, and I laughed so hard that my face hurt afterwards!
Back on the home front. We have a new superhero. Wait! It's a bird! It's a plane! No it's...
He is trying to catch a toy in midair in this picture. My crazy cat has a jumping range of about 5 feet. It is insane how high he can jump! He is a little maniac cat. He runs around the house with his tail foofed, and he will run too fast and slide into the wall. He cracks us up on a daily basis. He and Daisy have become fast friends, and sometimes it is downright comical how they are with each other. One minute, they are fighting like crazy, and the next minute it is a kitty lovefest with them licking each other's faces. We find them laying together all the time. As you can tell, Zeke is far bigger than Daisy already. We think he may have some Norwegian Forest Cat in him. The breed gets to be about 20 pounds or more, so we think he is going to be a big guy!
We had quite a scare about a month ago, as Daisy got out of the house and was gone for 3 days during very cold nights with rain. Evie was crying hard every day, and we all missed Daisy so much. Zeke kept walking around the house yowling for her. We went to the shelter, and Jeff made flyers to pass out. She ended up showing up on our front porch late one night, and we were praising God for bringing her back safely! It ended up being a blessing in disguise. The night she came home, we kept her with us, and didn't put her and Zeke in the basement like we normally do. The following night, we put them both in the basement again, and in the morning Daisy was gone again. I went out back onto our deck and shook a can of food, and I heard Daisy crying under the deck! Daisy loves to go into the rafters of the basement, and she found a way out. Jeff found a huge gap between the basement wall and the house. It had had a flimsy board covering it, and the board had fallen off. We had a chipmunk in the basement a few weeks earlier, and I couldn't figure out how it got there. I'm so glad we found out! If a cat could get through the hole, so could a rat, possum, raccoon, etc. Jeff sealed the gap very securely. I had to laugh a few days later after I had put the cats to bed. Jeff was out of town on business, so I was staying up late (I don't sleep much when he is gone). I heard Daisy whamming her body against the board, trying to get out of the basement again. She quickly figured out that it wasn't going to happen :).
Evie went to one of our neighbors and picked out her pumpkin for Halloween, then carved it on the front porch.
For our church's Trunk or Treat, she went as Queen Esther. I thought she looked super beautiful.
Her new fun thing is tea parties...with SiSi. SiSi will just lay there and wait for her tea and crumpets :).
That is pretty much our 4 months in a nutshell, not counting going to the beach, Evie playing flag football, and canning season. Too much to write in one blog post!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hurricane Zeke

I think my little Zeke is going through the equivalent of the terrible twos in cat years. Oh my word, he is crazy!! Seriously fun, but CRAZY!! He wakes up yowling his little head off. I still haven't figured out what he wants. I will hold him, and he will purr up a storm, then want down. He then will go tearing through the house like a hurricane. Here he is hiding under a pillow, attacking a wadded up kleenex....

I actually was able to take this picture without it being a blur. He is usually moving, so it has been hard to get a picture of him lately!
Evie has been having fun with him. She decided he looked cold, so she put one of her doll jackets on him. He looks so thrilled, doesn't he? Lol. Super cool cat!
He was moving when I took this picture below. You can see how big he is getting! He is already almost as big as Daisy, and he has been quite a little brut lately. He keeps wrestling with her so much that she is getting annoyed. The mommy/baby loving phase has ended. He just wants to wrestle!
Here is one of my ginormous Zucchini Rampacante from my garden. Jeff said it looked like one of those horns the men blow out on the Ricola cough drop commercials!
Unfortunately, that might be the ONLY one I get out of my garden. The squash borers are in full destroy mode. After getting only 5 or 6 zucchini from my Black Beauty plants, they now look like this....
Yep, almost flattened to the ground, with wilted leaves. They also found my Sweet Dumpling squash. You can tell in the picture below by the yellowing leaves. I am hoping I can still salvage that plant, as there are several small squashes on them that aren't ripe yet. I HATE SQUASH VINE BORERS!!
From what I have heard, this year has been a challenging gardening season for many. My mother-in-law lost all of her squash this year to the squash borer too. I think the drought made them worse than normal. So far, my cucumbers are still doing well. I have a whole separate hill that I planted later in the season that is just now flowering. I also have my other 2 hills that are producing well. I have been making lots of fermented cucumbers. I have about 10 jars so far that I have made. I love that I don't have to process them! They are so easy, and are really crispy and good. Here are two jars that are still in the fermenting phase...
I haven't canned much this year. The peaches in our area did terrible, so I didn't do any this year. It is the first year in many that I haven't done any. I still have a few canned, and a few in the freezer. We don't tend to eat as many peaches as we do berries. I still got my usual strawberries and blueberries. I'm not sure if I will do apples or pears this year either. Our area was hit so hard with frost that I'm not sure there will be any. Also, I don't want to buy the non-organic ones anymore unless I have to. They are so heavily sprayed with pesticides, and Evie doesn't do well with that. I'm hoping I can find some organic sources, even if they are a bit more expensive.

Evie has been having a pretty good summer. It has been so hot that we haven't spent much time outside. It has been cooler this past week (in the high 80's instead of the 100's), so she has been able to go out in the hot tub more. When it was in the 100's, the hot tub got to over 100 degrees, even though the heat was turned off. It didn't feel refreshing at all! She loves to take all of her Barbies in the hot tub with her and play :).

We start homeschooling in 2 weeks. Evie will be in 5th grade this year. The summer is going by way too fast!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Normal, everyday life

I just read a blog post recently from my friend Jules that talked about joy. It got me to thinking a lot. It is hard to be joyful when things are hard. Lately here, things have been hard. Sometimes I feel like it has been about 17 years of nonstop hard, but I try not to look at it that way. After a lot of prayer, and after circumstances beyond our control, Jeff and I have decided not to continue with the adoption process. I hate the decision, but didn't see any other door. It is a long story, with lots of different things involved. We found out a lot since starting the adoption process. One thing we found out was that birthmoms are wanting only open adoptions. It is a rare thing for them to decide semi-open. Jeff and I aren't comfortable at all with open adoption. We also are finding out that birthmoms placing their babies is becoming a rare event. One adoption agency I contacted said that they stopped doing domestic adoptions because they were only doing 1 every year and a half. Our agency never would tell us how many adoptions they had done last year. They also would not answer my questions each month when I asked if birthmoms were coming in. They also kept changing our wait times. When we started out, they said the wait was about a year. It is now over 2 years. With almost 10 families on the list, and I'm assuming no birthmoms coming in, I would imagine that the wait time is way over 2 years. Add that to the fact that we won't do open adoption, and we are looking at years and years. Many adoption agencies have decided not to do domestic adoptions anymore, and are only doing international adoption. We would love to do international adoption, but we had a hard enough time trying to come up with even half of the $17,000 needed this time. How could we come up with $40,000?? Adoption has become a money making, sell the baby to the highest bidder market. Sad, but true. Birthmoms are keeping their babies or aborting them, not placing them for adoption. I wish it weren't the case, but it is. I wish I had other options, but I don't. I have to be okay with things. I have to be okay with Evie being an only, even though it tears me up inside. I have to know that God has a plan, even though I may not understand any of what is happening.

So how do you have joy, in the midst of all of this? I am realizing that we can find joy in many things if we look at things with different eyes. I can find joy in the fact that I have a beautiful daughter, and a wonderful husband. I can find joy in the fact that I know Christ as my Savior. I can find joy in the beauty that God created. As I have sat here typing this, I had a hummingbird almost land on top of my head. He sat about a foot away and stared at me, completely still (he even had landed with his wings stopped). He sat like that for a good 2 minutes. I was in awe. Also, as I sat here, 2 Orioles came and stood about 3 feet away from me on the deck. We have had 3 of them come at a time. Here is a picture of them (it is a bit hard to see 2 of them...they are on the top of the shepherd's hook). They are the babies that had been in the nest.

I can find joy in our newest little furry family member, Zeke, who is so much fun. He does a lot of sleeping...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tigger Louie Gizmo Gumdrop

The names in my title post are ones we are trying to decide between to name this little guy.....
We adopted him yesterday from the shelter. Isn't he sweet??? He is a little puff ball, and has been lots of fun. He is quite scared still, and spent his first several hours under our bed in the room where we confined him. Then he started warming up to me last night. Here he is this morning, snuggling with one of Evie's bears.
This picture below was taken last night when he was still pretty scared. He is tiny. He is about 8 weeks old. I love how his eyes look like someone painted them around them with black eyeliner :). Jeff said last night that the kitty had old man ears. He pointed out all the crazy hair sticking out of the kitty's ears! lol!
Evie has absolutely fallen in love with him, and is constantly playing with him or holding him. Daisy on the other hand is not so thrilled. She has been seriously honked off at us. She even swatted Si Si in the face when she came up to sniff her! Daisy comes to the gate we put in front of our room, and she growls and hisses at the kitty. Si Si is super curious and wants to play with him, but the kitten is pretty freaked of the 70 pound collie so far. We are trying to take things slow.
I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night because the kitten kept me up, but he should settle in better in the next few days. He sure is adorable though. Now if we could only decide what to name him!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How does your garden grow

I have that little poem in my mind. You know, the one that goes "Mary Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow. With silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maidens all in a row." Evie learned the poem, but didn't realize it was "cockle shells". I laughed so hard when she walked through the kitchen saying, "With silver bells and taco shells...." :). My garden is growing nicely. We have had such goofy weather, that some of my plants don't know what to do. One day it will be 90 degrees, and the next day it will be 75 degrees. My tomatoes are doing well. Here is a view from one end of the garden....
And here is a side view of my peas and beans growing up the fence. You can also see my celery, and part of my broccoli...
The broccoli and cabbage plants. My cucumbers are beside the broccoli, but you can't see them in the pictures very well.
The plant closest to the left is the Sweet Dumpling squash, surrounded by radishes. Next in line is the zucchini (Black Beauty), the next is Butternut Squash, then a variety of zucchini called Zucchini Rampicante. The only one that won't grow vertically is the Black Beauty. The rest we are going to grow up an 8 foot fence contraption that Jeff is putting together :).
Aside from the garden, our crazy Daisy has started to become an acrobat. I first noticed it when I walked in the living room, and she was in the window sill of our half moon window. I thought it was a toy Evie threw up there at first! It is about 7 feet up there, and that has become one of her new perches. I wish I had a picture of it! Last week, we walked into the dining room, and saw her sitting up on top of our plant shelf! I have to stand on a ladder just to get to it! This is her coming down from it...
Now she is just walking the tightrope of our super thin metal curtain rod. We still haven't totally figured out how she is getting up there. She is either climbing the curtains, or the screens. I trimmed her claws again, so we will see if she decides to do any more acrobatics!
Jeff's birthday was last week :). He didn't get to take the day off of work, which I was sad about. Evie and I decorated the house, and made him a cake. We went out to his favorite Mexican restaurant. I'm so thankful for my wonderful hubby!
April, I wanted to post this for you, since you are I are eating about the same way right now! It is a recipe for pita bread, and it is really good! Super easy too! I doubled the recipe, and it worked out well. I didn't use a big enough pan, and the dough overlapped a bit, but they still turned out. Here is the recipe:

Pita Bread
•1 egg
•1/4 cup of water
•1 tablespoon oil or melted butter – I used coconut oil
•1 tablespoon coconut flour, firmly packed – firmly packed is very important
•1/4 cup almond flour, firmly packed
•1/8 teaspoon baking soda
•1/8 teaspoon salt – use a good quality salt

1.Preheat oven to 350.
2.Whisk together egg, water and oil.
3.Add dry ingredients, whisk well to combine.
4.Pour into 2 equal portions onto a well greased sheet tray or even better lined with parchment
5.Spread each portion to a 5-6 inch round. – Don't spread out too thin or they can break when filling it, so make your first batch max 5 inches and go from there.
6.Bake for 18-20 minutes, it will be darker in color, and slightly crisp around the edges. – The person I got the recipe from cooked his for 25 min and they came out perfect.

Mine turned out great. A little funky shaped, but tasted great. Here they are stuffed with tuna and veggies:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alpaca farm

We had a fun playdate/field trip this week. My friend Joyce and her family live across the street from an alpaca farm. Joyce has 5 kids, and homeschools, so we are able to get together in the morning for playdates. Her kids help over at the alpaca farm, so we got to go over there and see the alpacas and the goats. There was one baby alpaca, and two baby goats. They were so adorable! Here is the baby alpaca...
And the mama and baby...
Here are two adorable kids holding two adorable kids :).
I seriously wanted to take one of the baby goats home. They kept nibbling on my sweatshirt. Aren't they so sweet???
Two super sweet babies :).
We had so much fun!!
Jeff did a lot of work today, clearing out the old flower bed that was against the old fence. It really opened up the back yard. You can see by the dirt patches where the old fence line was. Jeff planted grass seed there, so it should look really nice in a few weeks. The old fence next to our new one it is our neighbors fence. Jeff put up a tire swing for Evie today, and the rope is about 40 feet up in our Sycamore tree. The tire swings super far, and Evie absolutely loves it!
I have been making a lot of fermented foods lately. I am trying new things to see what I like before the garden starts producing. I made sauerkraut today. We love it! I start with this...
Then I chop it up in a large bowl. I should have chopped it smaller. I had to do a lot more work because the pieces were bigger. I added celtic salt to the bowl. It is about 2 Tblsp. of salt to a head of cabbage. It does make the sauerkraut salty, but you eat it more like a condiment and not a side dish. Just a tablespoon or two is loaded with way more probiotics than the kind you can get in pill form! According to Dr. Mercola (who is a very popular natural doctor online), he says that fermented foods have 100 times more probiotics than the pill form!!!
After I chop the cabbage up in a bowl, I take my big wooden rolling pin and start smashing the cabbage. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes to get it to look like this....
Once that is done, I put the sauerkraut in a jar. If there isn't enough juice from the cabbage to cover it, I add a little water. Then I sit it on my counter for about 3 days to ferment. After that I refrigerate it. We love it on salads, and on sandwiches. Evie loves it plain, and will eat lots of it.

I have been making kefir for awhile now, and I want to try some other fermented foods. I have a recipe for gingered carrots that sounds interesting. I also want to try radishes, green beans and turnips, since I will have so many in my garden. It is fun trying new things!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Urban gardening/homesteading

It is that time of year that I love, when everything starts to grow! I love all the seasons, but spring and early summer are fun because of all the things that start to come up. I think I truly am becoming an urban homesteader. I would love to be able to move to the country, but that isn't an option for us right now, so I am bringing the country to me. I'm trying to cram as many edible things as I can into my 1/2 acre of property.

We planted these strawberries last year, and they are doing well so far. They were a mix of June-bearing and Ever-bearing. We have been picking a handful a day. I hope they start producing more, but it looks like I will definitely have to buy some this year instead of relying on my patch. Maybe next year though :).

We planted 6 blueberry bushes two years ago, and they are small, but are loaded down with blueberries. You can see tiny berries on this bush below. I can't wait until they get huge and produce a lot of fruit!!
We expanded our garden this year. Thankfully we haven't gotten so many weird looks this year like we did last year. It cracked me up how people stared. They looked at us like we were digging a bomb shelter! It seems like people in subdivisions have forgotten what gardens are. Of the 50 or so houses in our little subdivision, we are the only ones with a garden. There is one woman who has a garden, but it is not in the subdivision, but on acreage next to the subdivision.

I started many of my plants from seed, and they did so/so. My tomatoes did great, and I planted 12 of them. The broccoli and cabbage also did great. My peppers and celery did really bad, as did my herbs. Next year I am just going to buy them. We found a guy who grows his own heirloom veggies, and he has a small greenhouse. I bought my celery and pepper plants there, and last year I bought tomatoes from him. They are always super healthy plants, and so much easier than trying to get mine to grow. I would love to have a greenhouse, but we don't have the room or the money. In the garden, along with my tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and broccoli, there are carrots, turnips, beets, peas (they are the ones near the middle growing up the fence), cucumbers and celery. We are doing a lot of things vertically this year. In the back yard, I went a little squash crazy. I planted 4 different kinds, all are going to be grown vertically. Here is a picture of my big garden.

Jeff is talking about making a root cellar to store our veggies for winter, so I won't have to can or freeze everything. I am also learning about how the pioneers used to preserve things, before canning. They did what was called lacto-fermentation. The lacto doesn't refer to dairy, but refers to the lactic acid that results from the fermentation process. The pioneers didn't have pressure canners or regular canners, so they fermented a lot of foods. It actually is really easy and very healthy. I fermented pickles and sauerkraut last year (I did a few jars), and kept them in my fridge. They can be stored in a root cellar too (most root cellars stay at around 50 degrees). They are supposed to be loaded with probiotics, and the salt in them preserves them. I was amazed at how crisp and fresh they tasted, even after 8 months!

We have had lots of fun animals and critters around. Our Orioles came back and made another nest in our Sycamore tree. I keep trying to take a picture of them at our Oriole feeder, but haven't been able to get one :(. Both the male and female have come to the feeder at the same time, and they are so beautiful! Our ducks are also back, but haven't been swimming in our pond as of yet. The tree frogs are everywhere, and we can hear them chirping. They love hanging out under the cover of our hot tub. Evie found this one :)....
Our school year is almost done. We have one month left. We were going to be done the first week of June, but we took a week off. We will only have 6 weeks off in the summer, but I have a plan for next year. I want to start the first week of August, then take a week off each month and 2 weeks off at Christmas. I figured that we will have our 180 days in by the 30th of May if we do that. I love the idea of being able to have a week off every month! I think it will avoid burnout for me.

Evie started soccer, and is having so much fun. They did soccer pictures a week ago, and we were able to take some great pictures instead with our camera. I didn't want to spend $30 for 6 wallets and a 5x7, which is what the package prices were. I thought this picture turned out great. There were several other really good ones.
My birthday was on the 9th. It was the big 4-0. It feels strange just typing that. When I was a kid, 40 seemed so old and decripit. Now here I am! Not that I am old and decripit :). I actually had a wonderful birthday. I didn't want a party. Jeff took the day off of work, and he and Evie showered me with lots of love. The night before, they made me go to my room and relax (oooohhhh the torture!) while they secretly decorated the house and made me a cake. I figured out what they were doing when Evie came in to ask me how I was doing, and her face was covered with chocolate :). lol! They decorated with purple balloons and streamers. Purple is my favorite color :). On my birthday, I opened my presents. Jeff got me a really sweet book with pictures of our family. I cried when I saw it because it was so sweet. It was an actually book he had printed out. He also got me this.....

I LOVE my swing! I am out there several times a day, swinging whenever I can. It folds out into a bed too, but I haven't done that yet. It is so relaxing, and a wonderful place to go out and read. Evie and I have homeschooled out on it too, which is great.

We are making changes to the backyard. Jeff privacy fenced in a larger section of the yard. It looks so nice, and really makes our back yard look bigger! We have a chain link fence across the other side of the back yard, and we want to fence that in with a privacy fence too. Then it will seem like our own little oasis back there. Jeff said he was completely fine with me getting a few chickens (Yay!), so I can do that once we fence in the rest of the back yard with privacy fence.

I wanted to post this picture because it is SO funny. I use a hot water bottle every day on sore spots, and put essential oils on beforehand. The hot water bottle helps the oils sink in better. I had heated up the bottle with hot water, then stuck it on my bed. Then I went to go get something. When I came back, I found Sierra laying like this....
And no, I didn't put it like that, she did! I guess her legs or paws were sore, or she just liked how warm it felt. I love the guilty look on her face :)!

Okay, this blog post is ginormous. I will end it with a picture of my beautiful irises. Oh how I wish they lasted longer, and that I could bottle their scent. The scent of them reminds me of fresh grapes cut from the vine. During iris season, I definitely take time to stop and smell the irises!