Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Folks, This Ain't Normal...

Before leaving for vacation, I put in a book request at the library and soon after coming home, the email arrived...Your requested book has arrived at your local library, please come pick it up.  So I did. And I am glad I did.

My request was for Folks, This Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin...of Polyface Farm...You know, the guy from Food, Inc.  At my house he's known as in when I giggle at a line from the book and my husband asks..."What did Joel say this time?"  Eventually leading to his, "If I wanted to read the book, I would read it myself...not have it read to me one line at a time..."

Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

Yes, this is one of those rare books that have a message, but it's written in a way that makes you feel like you are sitting in the kitchen, cup of tea in hand, talking to the author.  He tells stories, lets you know about the local food battles he's fought both the wins and losses, and gives you real dollar numbers on the craziness that is a farmer just trying to get his product out there with corporate America attacking from all sides.

We're fortunate to live in Western PA, because in a few short weeks, I get to go see him talk at the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, PA...just a short drive from our home.  We went to the first one a few years back, but for one reason or another couldn't go last year.  This time we are just going for the day and without kids.  This way we can actually stop, look, listen and enjoy the day without hearing "This is boring!" and "I'm hungry." or "The bees are going to sting me!" every time they come across the bees in a ant farm-esque habitat (sealed in so they couldn't attack if they wanted to.)

I am also a lucky girl because I am going to see Temple Grandin speak not once, but twice in the month of September.  Once at an Autism conference and once at the Fair...okay I'm just a lucky girl.  I'll stop rubbing it in.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

DIY foaming hand soap

Once the kids could wash their own hands, I made the choice to use foaming hand soap.  They just don't get all the soap off their hands with the gel or glycerine kind.  Aside from that, it seems like the foaming kind lasts longer in our house.  

Until now, my favorite kind to buy was Method because they had refills you could purchase and it was a more environmentally friendly way of buying vs. buying a new bottle every time.  Each refill would last one dispenser for a good month or two, depending on the location of the soap (the downstairs bathroom has the most traffic, so we refill that one the most).  


Not because I found out it was laced with lead, or because they changed packaging and was therefore less environmentally friendly.  It's because I can make it more economically at home by using what you see in this picture.  (Note: I added the essential oil because the soap I had on hand was unscented.  I like hand soap to smell nice.  It is not necessary.)
  • Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap
  • Foam soap dispenser (I used empty Method dispensers... they still work)
  • Water
The formula is 1 part Dr. Bronner's Soap to 4 parts hot water.  Shake it around to mix, and voila!  You have made your own foaming hand soap.   
Dr. Bronner's Soap:  $15 for a 32oz bottle, which would make 128oz of soap when you add water (.12c/oz)
 Method:  $4 for an 8oz new bottle (.50c/oz, and all that plastic... ugh)
Method Refill: $6 for 28oz (.21/oz)
So, I can make an 8oz soap dispenser worth of soap for  .96c vs buying it in the store for $4.00.  Sign me up! **This is assuming you already have the soap dispenser and you are not using expensive bottled water to mix with the soap**

Dr. Bronner's has all kinds of scents as well.  Hemp, lavender, peppermint, almond, organic rose, tea tree, etc.  Check it out! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Being Supportive via Paleo Cookies

Every so often when on a diet one needs a special treat.  Often that treat is something completely off the diet...but with the Paleo diet, it seems as though one can alter things to make a diet friendly treat...such as my newest creation...a Paleo cookie...And let me tell you they are soft and chewy and oh so chocolaty...just what a girl needs some days.  I think they taste like a mix between a macaroon and a chocolate crinkle cookie.  It took a few batches to make them come out just right...poor me and my test subjects...but these are kiddo begged for so I think I'm on the right track.

1 1/4 cups ground nuts (I used almonds and sunflower seeds.  Almond flour works too but gives a different texture)
2 TBS olive oil
4 TBS honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds

Finely grind the very careful not to make a nut butter...almond grinds leftover from making almond milk are great for this.  Add in all the ingredients and mix well. A little trick...use the same measuring spoon for the oil first then the honey, that way the honey doesn't stick to the spoon.  Drop by the teaspoon full onto a lined baking sheet and flatten (I made balls and then flattened them to make nice little circles)  If you do not smash them, they will remain in the shape they were when they went into the oven.  Bake at 300 degrees for about 5-8 minutes.  Enjoy! Makes about 15 cookies, although the dough is pretty good too (without egg to worry about.)

Or you can change things up a bit and have an equally delicious snack-a-roo.  These ones taste more like a chocolate peanut butter fudge...especially if you only bake them for 5 min at 300 degrees!

1 cup almond butter
4 TBS honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds

Follow the same directions except use almond butter (as peanuts are actually legumes which are forbidden on the paleo diet) and omitting the oil (as almond butter has lots of oil in it.)  These ones are more like a drop cookie dough texture but still don't quite pool out like a chocolate chip cookie give it a little pat and they will come out great!

Linked to the Barnhop...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Paleo recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Walnuts

This recipe was pulled from Cooking Lite

Even before I started Paleo, this was one of my favorite recipes for when Brussels Sprouts are in season.  The flavors are so wonderful, and it's easy enough to make because almost all of the ingredients in the recipe are things I keep on hand. 

I remember my dad telling us all that brussels sprouts were his favorite vegetable and always being grossed out by it.  Now that I've tried fresh ones, we eat them quite a bit.  Frozen doesn't come anywhere close to the way fresh ones taste when they are prepared.  So, if you haven't tried fresh ones, you should. 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Walnuts
  • 24 oz brussels sprouts (about 8 cups), halved or quartered if large
  • 24 oz grapes (red adds an extra sweetness to it)
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp fresh thyme (I use dried... about 1 tsp)
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (I don't usually toast them, and it's still yummy)
  1. Heat oven to 450.  On two rimmed baking sheets, toss brussels sprouts and grapes with oil and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast, until caramelized and tender, about 20 minutes.  
  2. Drizzle each tray with 1 tsp vinegar and scrape up any caramelized bits with a wooden spoon.  Toss in walnuts. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Personal assistant at your service!

This picture can pretty much summarize my day. 
It feels like I spend most of the day in the kitchen, by the stove, prepping things or cleaning things up.  Today, I got to add potty training #3 to the mix.  
The bag of vegetable scraps:  We are going to our friends house for dinner tomorrow night and are bringing veggies and hummus.  I saved the celery and carrot scraps and threw them into a freezer ziplock.  They could have gone to the chickens, but I am saving it for fall/winter chicken soup.  We will be having a lot of it starting in September.  Buying meat in bulk is pretty popular where we are, and our next purchase is going to be 12 whole chickens.
The knife:  My most used tool in the kitchen!  It is used and washed at least 8 times a day.  I used it a lot on carrots today.  It is our go-to snack served with hummus.  
The carrots:  These two are going to be used for muffins tomorrow morning.  I am planning on filling the house with the wonderful aroma of spiced carrot muffins.  Yankee Candle can't top the real thing!!  They sound amazing, and while I can't have them (Paleo... grrrr), the kids will devour a dozen in no time.  That's where the grater comes in.  The recipe calls for 2 shredded carrots.  I did that tonight, put them in a glass pyrex with a lid and shoved them in the fridge.  The recipe is propped up and ready for me to start. 

The jar of M&M's?  Well, that's the potty training incentive!  #3 gets one every time he goes.  1 for pee and 2 for poop.  He's such a smarty pants and has figured out a way to manipulate the system.  He sits on the potty, does the tiniest bit of pee, gets up and gets his M&M.  After I give it to him, he goes right back to his potty and does it again.  He gets another M&M.  It took me a bit to figure out he what he was doing... the other two were fighting ALL DAY (they don't stop... I am SO ready for school to start), but I'm on to him now.  Game on little buddy! 
So, cooking, cleaning up, prepping for tomorrow and potty training.  My life in a nutshell.  Someday I will be more than just a personal assistant to 3 little people.  Someday!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Under the Stars...

In a way it is wonderful to live near a city...
It is wonderful to be able to go to a field with a blanket at sunset and watch professional ballet.

We arrive early in order to have a chance to see the behind the scenes things that were advertised to occur before the pictures.  They study toe shoes, they study hair and makeup, they survey the field to see the best place to set up our blankies...Then she sees them...two fully dressed ballerinas wearing toe in buns...and taking pictures with kiddos...She wants to wait in line.  We go...and when it's our turn, she is scared to death.  She hides behind me.  W. makes flirtatious looks at the girls and giggles...he is clearly enjoying the girl's attentions.  I ask if he wants a picture with the ballerinas and he turns scarlet...We leave the line and let other girls get pictures taken, then C. rejoins the line, gets her picture taken, and the ballerinas remembered her.  They dote upon her and she is in ballerina heaven.

As the music begins and the sun goes down, the girl twirls, leaps, and strikes crazy ballet inspired poses every moment the music is going.  She never watches except out of the corner of her eye.  In awe, she imitates what she sees on the stage.  A lady near us watches her and smiles.  Some people march right up in front of us with chairs and park in our line of vision never looking back.  W. starts asking why people are so rude.

The boy on the other hand watches as he sits on my lap.  He claims that he is only there to make his sister happy, but I know he is watching carefully.  Every time one of the male dancers does a leap or crazy footwork, he gasps.  When the danseur (a debated term for male dancer...also ballerino is used in some articles...maybe I should just say "the guy"...) lifts the ballerina, my boy starts spontaneously clapping wildly.  "Look at that mommy...he's so strong!" he looks at me and knows that his aloof attitude has been undermined...he really enjoys such things.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My own odyssey...a knit along

It seems as though I am always getting myself into "those" knitting projects...the ones that take forever much like the Odyssey...which we happen to be reading.

It all started out well.  A simple Oaklet Shawl...I started knitting...first 4 stitches...every other row adding 4 more...until you get to 233.  Doesn't sound like much until you get into doing it...and each row gets longer and longer.

More stitches...hands cramping to finish... interruptions that take forever...and then you get there the magic 233 stitches.  And then you stop.  You are on vacation and the pattern you need is at get home and distracted by putting things away and life in general...

And so we began working on the ancient Greeks.  And Mary Pope Osborne (of Magic Treehouse fame) wrote a whole series Tales From the Odyssey...and right now we are reading Book One: The One Eyed Giant.  And the wonderful thing about is written at a second-third grade level but has LARGE PRINT with lots of space between the lines which is very helpful for a reluctant reader who needs strong glasses...It is also written in a very engaging style that draws the kiddos in.  I highly recommend it.

Joining Ginny and her Yarn along...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Indian Fish Curry

Paleo is not a hopeless mission after all!

It was delicious, prepared in 20 minutes AND **BONUS** the kids ate it! 

Onion, garlic, ginger, unsweetened coconut milk, plum tomato, cod, curry and tumeric.  It would have tasted much better if I had used whole milk or cream, but the recipe didn't even call for that.  This is how it was supposed to be made.  No improvising for little old me!
I have to take a moment and rave about a cookbook series that has been around for a while but is very new to me.  Williams-Sonoma puts it out and it's called "Food Made Fast."  A lot of my favorite meals come from this series and they are healthy too.  The recipes in it take no more than 30 minutes (start to finish), and there are even "make ahead" meals where you make a large portion of something  for one meal (meat sauce, polenta, stock, etc.) with the intention of using it for a few more meals the rest of the week.  It's wonderful!!!  It will come in handy once school starts!  The slow cooker book is amazing as well!  This recipe came from the Seafood book.

HUGE thank you to the dear friend that introduced this series to me.  My life hasn't been the same. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A day on the Paleo Diet

So, for some crazy reason, I have decided to try out the Paleo Diet!  Have you heard of it?  A friend recommended it to me a year ago, so I got the book and it landed on my bookshelf.  With an ulcer that won't fully heal, I decided to give my body the natural recharge Paleo is supposed to provide.  I am following the original Paleo Diet (this book).  Not the 2.0 version, or the one created after that (that will come in a few weeks).  In a nutshell, this means no dairy, grains, starchy tubers (think potatoes), legumes, added sugar or added salt.  That pretty much leaves you with meat, nuts (limited to 4 oz if you want to lose weight), fruit and vegetables that are not tubers! 

Breakfast is by far the hardest meal for me.  Coffee with out milk/cream or sugar?  No yogurt?  No muffins, pancakes, bagels or toast?   No waffles with cottage cheese?  NOOOOOOO!!!!

Here is an example of what I eat in a day.


 Coffee with unsweetened coconut milk, chicken breast, sliced apple and a handful of grapes.  Having meat for breakfast (other than bacon) is still kind of weird, but it keeps me satisfied a lot longer than my breakfast of choice before Paleo.  I used to make a smoothie with yogurt, milk and fruit. 


Salad, homemade salad dressing, walnuts, grapes and red pepper
Everything in the salad but the red pepper came from our farm share.  Lettuce, radish, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, purple cabbage and carrot.  A rainbow of flavor!  I made the dressing with the juice of one lemon, 1 Tbsp olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic crushed.  I put it in a mason jar to let the flavors blend and put it on top when the salad was made.  Mmmmm!!!  The walnuts did a good job making the meal stick with me for a while.


Coconut milk smoothie
 One cup of unsweetened coconut milk, 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries and one banana!  Believe it or not, my sweet tooth is satisfied with this afternoon smoothie.  I will mix it up from time to time and use different frozen fruit, but we recently purchased 60lbs of frozen blueberries for $99, so we are stocked up!  A great way to add antioxidants to my day. 


Crockpot Chicken Cacciatorie


1 lb chicken pieces (I used boneless thighs)
1 onion sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (they didn't have any, so I improvised)
1 lg celery stock chopped
1 lb chopped or pureed tomato
3 garlic cloves - one whole, two minced

That's it!  I used the onion as my base layer, then put the chicken on top.  I mixed up the celery, red and green peppers and garlic and placed them on top of the chicken.  Then I poured the tomato puree on top, set it on low for 8 hours and forgot about it until 6!  I made noodles

It was so delicious!!!  Nothing added.  Just vegetables and meat.  Who'd a thought it would turn out so good?
Believe it or not, the whole thing is growing on me.  I can deal with no ice cream, bread, or added sugar/salt.  As a general rule, we should limit that kind of stuff anyway.  The yogurt, milk and grains (quinoa, barley, steel cut oats) have proven to be difficult, but the funny thing is... I don't crave sweet stuff as much as I thought I would.  The great thing about this plan is that, generally speaking, you can have as much meat, fruit or vegetable as you want.  So, when I want something sweet, I'm not deprived of sugar all together like some other diets.  

The health benefits will be worth it in the end.  That's the opinion today, anyway!
Stay tuned.

Linked to Homestead Revival

Friday, August 17, 2012

Meet my ladies

 This is where our ladies live.

We got the coop used and J painted it.  J also built the run!  The only other thing we have to do is put a roof on top to "winterize" it, so to speak.  Once this bad boy was put together and the chickens were big enough to go outside... That's when I started enjoying chicken ownership. 

They are growing on me! 
We have 8 chickens, but this one is my favorite.  She has such a personality, and has since she was a baby chick.  She has always been a jumper, bouncing off the heads of her "sisters".  Even now, I look out in the coop and hear a little "HONK", and see Ms. Thang running into the others, or trying to fly out of the run.  She has a TON of energy, and so we have decided to name her after my extremely wonderful, but energetic brother.  Nothing can happen to this one.  We are very attached to her.   

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Breakfast and a book...

It's that time of the year again...
Where school begins and with it the schedule...
Up early, let the kids sleep a bit...
Get my alone time over breakfast and a book.

On today's menu...

The Well Trained Mind
A guide to classical education at home
Susan Wise Bauer 
Jessie Wise


A freshly layed scrambled egg
topped with
grilled, fresh from the garden,
summer squash, onion, garlic, green peppers, and tomato
leftover from last night's dinner
a blend of fresh herbs and black pepper.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The fruit fly

Whenever we come home from annual summer vacation, we are welcomed by these annoying things flying around our kitchen! 
The fruit fly

No matter how thoroughly I clean before we leave, they always find their way!  We never leave any food out, we wash counters down, vacuum everywhere, and even wipe down the vinegar bottles just in case (overkill, I know... but I don't want to come home to them, so I'll do what it takes). 

Since we are in the middle of our battle with them, I have decided to share our elimination method!  It always starts with trying to smack them with our hands.  I imagine it would make for a great SNL skit.  Two grown adults clapping high, clapping low, smacking cabinets, grabbing air... all over the kitchen.   Like some kind of new dance you'd see at prom.  The kids take part too!  It doesn't take long for us to surrender and turn to vinegar and a vacuum. 

Meet the dream team! 
We start with Mr. Vacuum.  We take off the attachment and use the hose to attack!  He does a pretty good job at getting the clusters.  Once his job is done, we turn to Mrs. Vinegar. 
I suppose you could use any kind of vinegar, but we always have balsamic on hand, so she gets the job!  We fill a small container about 1/3 of the way, put press and seal on top (or saran wrap), poke some holes with a toothpick and voila! 
Fruit fly trap made out with a small hummus container
Our fruit fly trap!  They fly in the little holes and can't find their way out.  I usually leave it out for a day or two, depending on the infestation.  Once you find they have disappeared, take the press and seal off and you'll find a pool of drowned fruit flies to dump down the kitchen sink.  Kind of gross.  Beware:  There may be some stragglers flying around in there, so keep Mr. Vacuum handy. 

We set our trap last night and this morning they seem to have dwindled down to a few here or there.  I'm hoping that by tonight, we can be done with these pesky bugs. 

Now - to go figure out why they are still breeding...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mermaid Nails and Puppy Dog Tails...

All too often  they are just a blur.

Photo credit: City Husband

A mermaid nail...or mussel shell...your choice

This sign always cracks me up...I often think of printing this picture and then putting it on my bedroom door.

We spent the last two weeks on vacation.  Time well spent at a family cottage with family.

I don't know why but I am constantly amazed by how my kids are growing.  Some mornings he looks taller...his feet bigger if that is humanly possible. My little guy is now big enough to walk "around the point" all by himself...and when with an adult, can be in charge of the dog.  He is on the verge of greatness.  He is grown up in many ways, but still is little enough to curl up in a lap.  

Or when I see my girl with the long legs and arms "teaching the little girls" ballet (aka the cousins that are a year older and 6 months younger than her.)  My little girl is full of princess tales and an imaginary world where mussel shells are "mermaid nails."  She believes with her whole heart that she will be a ballerina princess who marries Link (from the video game Legend of Zelda...yuppers she does...)

So in a way my vacation was full of just that...the time to see life for what it is full of...Mermaid Nails and Puppy Dog Tails...Wonder and Growth.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I am pleased to introduce...

As you may have noticed, my sister, the Country Sister, has become very busy.  She has two girls to cart around and is working hard at home and in town...She doesn't have very much spare time, and she likes to spend that with her family doing fun stuff...She said she'll peep in from time to time to say hi...

I am busy, but have gotten lazy with the posting.  I think it's just from having lots to do outside this time of year...but I'll try to get into the habit of posting more frequently because...

You may or may not know that the Country Sister and I have two brothers...and one of them is married (has been for almost 8 years actually.)  They just got chickens and have had a bit of a garden for a number of years.

And so we are pleased to introduce...

BusyMommyPants!  Stay at home mother of 3 and sister in law to City and Country Sister's.  :o)

Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in the suburbs of a big city, got married, moved around and decided to settle down in the country!  So you could say I'm city gone country!  We have been together for 14 years, and married for 8 of those years.  We have three kids.  #1 possesses all the typical qualities of a first born.  She is a perfectionist and a professional bossy boots!!!  #2 is your typical middle child.  She's a go with the flow type of kid with a kind heart and sweet soul.  #3 is a spunky, energetic little guy that will keep me on my toes until the day he moves out (but I am not rushing it)! 

You just got's that going?
**HUGE CONFESSION**  I was not on board with this decision at all.  It's the hard core city in me that wouldn't die.  Animals used for non-pet purposes... such a foreign idea!  It had been the topic of many conversations with Country and City sister, but when it came down to it, we always backed out.  The main reason being that I didn't want any more responsibility than I already had.  J (my husband) really wanted to share the experience with the girls and have it be their thing, so how could I say no to that? 
The experience has been great so far.  We have 8 ladies in our hen house now and the kids love it.  After about a week outside, we made the executive decision to forbid #3 from the coop.  He would go in and come out with chicken poop everywhere.  In his hair, his ears, all over his clothes, between his toes... probably in his mouth.  He is just a gross little boy!  

As of right now, it's primarily J's responsibility.  He makes sure there is food and water, and he is in charge of cleaning out the coop.  Once they start laying, the egg collecting will be #1 and #2's job.  #3 will just watch out the window. 

Right now, what do you plan on sharing?
The chicken experience, my attempt at becoming a gardener of sorts, supporting our local community, my day to day life with the kids, and healthful cooking. 

What do you find inspiring?
Honestly, I find City Sister and Country Sister quite inspiring.  The DIY home remedies, creative menu planning, gardening and animal knowledge, etc.  I read the blog and find myself thinking "I want to try that."  Creative, environmentally conscious people inspire me.