Fall Crafting

October 30, 2011

The weather has definitely changed in this little house and I have been busy bringing out the thicker, warmer towels, blankets and (my personal favorite) flannel sheets. Since we are striving to leave the furnace off for as long as possible and just bundle up to save some energy and energy bills, plenty of blankets, sheets and warm comforters are being piled on each bed.

The only problem with this plan is that he munchkin’s room gets super chilly. I mean walk into it and have to call my husband to make him see just how chilly his room can really be chilly. Luckily the kid sleeps in footy fleecy jammies and with plenty of blankets piled on his little toddler bed.  I have been itching to get back to my sewing machine and since a new baby will be occupying the crib in the spring a new flannel sheet for the crib/toddler bed was needed to make the little guy cozy and warm.

I will share that I am quite the cheap-skate when it comes to sewing. If I can avoid buying a pattern and just print something or our wing it I do. While this method might work really well for someone who has, let’s say, experience in sewing and knows what the heck they are doing, for someone like me who has no depth perception, no math skills ( I am not kidding on this one!) and seriously little patience with things once the chain reaction of screwing up starts – this is not a good idea. My very first flannel sheet I made last year was a mess. I added too much elastic making it too small and have add to shove and cram the mattress into the sheet (out of pure stubbornness!) every time it has been used.

This time, I bought the pattern. She can be taught! Let me say that with instructions it is much, much easier. I had to piece the fabric to make it wide enough for the mattress but otherwise it was a piece of cake. Where I had sewn the elastic stretch taut right onto the fabric and on the corners I learned to make a casing for the elastic on the ends and how to miter the corners. It turned out fantastic and the little guy loves it.





October 24, 2011

Fall has been kicking into full swing and with it comes the annual trip (or two!) to the pumpkin patch. While Nonna was in town for the big two year old birthday we took her to the fancy schmancy Pumpkin Patch – the one with the BIG corn maze, the BIG pumpkin patch, the carnival rides, the vendors and the big price tag and crowds. While we did have a good time, it was a bit too much for all of our non crowd loving family. The crowds, the bees (where there is junk food there are bound to be bees and with a toddler who just recently got stung by yellow jackets it was a terrible combination!) and the lack of what I thought would be true fall harvest made it a bit disappointing. That should teach me the lesson that commercial and bigger is not always better – and if there is a Groupon for the activity to avoid at all costs!

A week or so after this outing a dear friend asked us to accompany her and her two daughters to a nearby pumpkin patch on our side of town and boy were we happy to go! I believe the message I sent my husband upon arriving was,” I think I found paradise and it is in Damascus!” A true country pumpkin patch, devoid of all the vendors and face painting, photographers and advertisers, this was a good size family farm with a few fields of pumpkins, a horse drawn carriage, an apple slingshot and just muddy, fall fun.

We wandered through fields of pumpkins after attempting to pick up every small squash we could find, we played in the mud, we ran and inspected out the caterpillars and worms.  The apple slingshot looked like too much fun (and a small boy was obsessed with it after seeing the big boys do it!) so we bought our ticket and tried our luck. The first apple missed by a foot – but the second, oh the second hit the target dead center! Yay! We had one more apple to shoot until the little guy decided it made a better snack than launcher. Our prize was a lovely pumpkin to take home.

While on the trip to the fancy pumpkin patch my Mom asked us what the fun of this activity was. Maybe it is hard to describe to people who’s hearts live in concrete and cities and maybe you need a little bit of country in you to love these kinds of outings but to me there is something magical about visiting the place where our food (or pumpkins!) come from. The experience of the visit to the farmers, to eat the caramel apples, to pick our own pumpkins, to visit the farms (where we hope to someday live!) and touch, feel and smell the earth at one of its most vulnerable times of decay and composting, to actually feel the changing of the seasons and live it even for just a day makes me feel a bit more connected to the world around us. And maybe, just maybe we will start a love of seasons and harvest activities with our little ones too. 



On Food and Menus…

October 16, 2011

It appears that food and menus have been on the brains often lately. Many of my favorite blogs have written about it, and as the seasons change and the garden winds down talk turns to holiday menus, shopping and planning. I began menu planning about ten months ago in a desperate rush of exhaustion of the question of ” what are we having for dinner?” With a baby on my hip, a garden and canning to do and other various activities, the four o’clock question was my albatross every day. I would scour the pantry, fridge and freezer, running to the store to buy whatever my heart desired for that evening, only to run home and fix it as quickly as possible and then wonder where our budget had been blown.  Obviously, this method was not working.

Food is a very sensitive subject for many people and for me this is no different. I find the subject and the need to feed ones’ family an amazing need and a high priority. My need to feed my family wholesome, natural foods – foods my grandparents would have recognized , food that will nourish bodies as well as feed tummies – is important to me. My childhood was filled with food aversions, food was something that was either indulged upon or avoided. My mother, a constant obsessive dieter for all of her life, pushed her fear of weight on me from an early age and followed every fad diet imaginable. Avoid fat, then consume it. Avoid bread, then it was allowed. Avoid fruit, meat, cheese, eggs, oil, or any other item in order to shed a few pounds and reach that goal. Unfortunately, I am not a slender person and was never a slender child. Food was my safety and pleasure as a child and today it is a way I share my love for my friends and family. While my diet has changed considerably since I was in culinary school (where I ate anything and everything I desired!), my desires for healthy, homemade fare has always remained constant.

I like my menus to include whole grains, fresh veggies and as much homemade items as possible. We bake bread (because it is less expensive and tastes amazing!), make cookies and snacks and (if you have read this blog before) love to share our cooking with friends. However, in my baking the portions are small and the ingredients are wholesome. To quote a good friend of mine, ” No one ever got obese eating Mom’s cookies.”

A dear friend came to visit today to ask about menu planning, budgeting, groceries and coupons.  I began couponing about ten months ago and do it sporadically. It is difficult to find coupons for items that are natural and wholesome, for products that are minimally processed and versatile. I like most of the things I stock my kitchen with to be able to work in multiple recipes as opposed to just buying one item for one recipe. Another problem I run into is that I have some serious meat eaters in my house. The little guy is obsessed with anything in  sausage shape and my husband requires some sort of protein daily. This makes my shopping and menu planning a bit more complicated. If left to my own devices, I’d be happy eating beans, rice and eggs.

As I explained coupons to my friend it came to light that budgeting is a rough subject for many families. I know that it took Rudie and I being married for almost five years before a real budget came to light – before we owned up to our spending habits and agreed to pare down where needed and be true to the budget. There are days where the budget feels like a shackle around my neck and I wish to throw it away – to shop with abandon and just fill my cart with fabulous produce, meats and fancy imported cheeses. I would love to just shop and not spend the my whole trip judging prices and deals, wants versus desires and make amazing, fancy, convenient meals.  Then I remember and realize that it would be foolish and dangerous to my family to do that – that my budgeting and menu planning, careful shopping and lists make it possible for my family to have what they need, to have me stay home with them and be the mother I have always wished to be.

It is a personal thing to throw out and share your food budget, some people think it is too much, so people think it too little. But in the spirit of frugality, I have given myself a challenge for the rest of this month. Today is the 16th of October and I have $100 dollars to spend for the rest of the month. This budget includes all food items, gas, pet foods, and toiletries. This does not include items that already stock our pantry and freezers, or anything already in the house. While it seems like a small amount to some, to others it is generous for 15 days – bringing each days’ max sum to a whooping $6.60! Can it be done?

I would love to hear about your food budget and anything you do to make it stretch in your household. Please share!!


Outside – In

October 13, 2011

As fall gets into full swing and Halloween knocking on our door the weather has graced  us with a few lovely days. Around here as the weather changes and we head indoors for all things warm and comforting and (ahem) DRY,  when the sun shines we head outdoors as much as we can.

Ouside, where sunny days spent in our garden exploring and harvesting are fleeting. We wandered and looked, picking what was fresh and ready to be processed, admiring the work of our friends the spiders, the squirrels and the ending of the summer growth as it changes to the colors of fall.

Outside, where there is always the garden to inspect – the garden with overgrown tomato plants, green and purple beans and the last of the season’s corn. The garden where mud boots are shed, socks are thrown off and bare toes squish into soft, supple earth. The garden, where Momma’s boots are demanded off to share in the feel of the earth, where foraging has become a sport of sensory and tasty delights and sharing with the Pooch is a game well loved. The garden.

Then we headed indoors as the weather clouded over and rain storms approached. Inside to preserve, to protect, to warm up. Inside to create and see what our bounty could become. Inside to explore some interesting ideas, to snack and drink and see what could be.


Tea Time

October 12, 2011

We have been busy, busy beavers around these parts in the last few weeks. I hope you can forgive my absence, I meant to sit down and write but as the days became busier and busier my attention span was called elsewhere. In the spirit of catching up, a list of things that have caught my heart the last couple of weeks.

~ Morning tea time with a tea loving little boy.

~ Running out of canning jars for the first time in almost six years.

~ More canning than I could ever dream of.

~ A visit from my Momma filled with love, laughter, shopping, playtime and knitting!

~ A birthday party for an amazing little two year old filled with friends and family

~ Even more canning than ever before

~ Full larders!

~ A first grape harvest and our first time making grape jelly ( 15 pints!)

~ A rainy beginning to October bringing in a surprise, full swing fall.

~ New growing babies who capture our attention and imagination constantly

Hope your weeks have gone well and I look forward to sharing more with you on this space!




sewing for baby…

October 3, 2011

Last week was spent dreaming up and making these sweet baby wrap shirts for a friend’s baby shower. There is something about sewing for a new baby that brings out such hope and joy in the task itself, even when that task is occasionally followed by the frustration of mistakes.

Frustration and fallibility have been coming up often around this little house.  Creating is a special thing in our family, allowing our imaginations and inner most thoughts come out in a physical or tangible way. Whether it is knitting, drawing, sculpting, playing or exploring, creating gives our souls back the joy of making, of being able to share ourselves in a unique way with the world.

There are a few road blocks in creating though, and often these come in the wake of mistakes. As mistakes are made I tend to get frustrated, wanting to finish quickly and within a time constraint. Unfortunately, I am a fairly novice crafter and things take a long time to make and when things go wrong because of hurrying or curious toddlers exploring, tempers arise.

Remembering to give myself a break, that I am a busy pregnant Momma who tries her best and sometimes may fail at what she attempts and remembering to include the littlest members of our household in the crafting were my goals this week. Remembering that no baby gift should be made in anger ( I firmly believe in what love you put into an item is the love the recipient will receive!) and that it is the making  of the item that needs to be the joy not the finishing that is important lessons in creating. And attempting to remain present in the process  and moment  of creation, to send the love in our hands and hearts into the gifts for those we love.



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