Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Solidarity in motherhood

I have always valued my mommy friends.  Ever since I became pregnant with my oldest son way back in the fall of 2000, I sought out like minded women with similar experiences to help me navigate the waters of parenthood.  The simple idea that I was not alone in this journey made all of the challenges much much easier to overcome.

It started with La Leche League meetings and Attachment Parenting International meetings in Austin, TX. There I met moms in all stages of their journeys who believed in very similar ideals such as co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and gentle parenting.  Many of them became close friends of mine, some of whom I am still in contact with 10 years and a cross country move later.  While we were in Texas so many challenges came my way and so many moms stepped up to give me much needed advice, let me cry on their shoulders, or just be present with me in my struggles.  There were midnight calls and rides to the children's ER when my husband was out of town, food brought over after an emergency D&C following the birth of my 2nd son, and so many much needed playdates where my kids could run and be kids while I got to sit and enjoy adult conversation. I truly believe I am a much better mother due to the strong loving guidance and support of those women.

When my husband's job moved us from Texas to Oregon I was really worried about finding other moms to connect with. Having to start all over again really scared me. I really missed having my sister-friends around me.  Then I got pregnant with my daughter and found a couple of resources that led me to a whole new group of amazing moms.  The forums for the web version of Mothering Magazine let me to my "tribe" (def 2) and very soon I was no longer alone in a new town.  Once I decided who would care for me during my prengancy and where I would give birth to my daughter I found yet another amazing group of women and families through the Andaluz Waterbirth Center.  Some of those women have become my best friends.

Now that my children are school age the playdates and park days have slowed down.  We don't gather in groups for support nearly as much as we used to.  My children's activities and school friends have more influence on the adults that I interact with than my own choices of like minded ideals.  This is both a blessing and a challenge.   I have met some amazing people that are now part of my circle of friends who support me in this crazy journey.  Others have been learning moments in tolerance and patience.  But regardless of how well I get on with the other adults in the room there is one thing we all have in common. We are parents and we are all on a journey of the utmost importance. Raising strong, confident, capable kids who will grow up to be successful happy adults.  Knowing we're not alone goes a long way towards helping us all survive the quest.

With how busy all of our lives have become however, getting together in person isn't something that happens outside of the events our children all participate in.  And that's where the internet comes in.  Besides the obvious benefits of Social Media on being able to connect with like minded people, I follow a number of Mom bloggers from all over the country who write posts about all of the things we have in common as moms. While we might be alone physically we are not alone in our struggles thanks to the words of wisdom, commiseration, and joy of folks like Mama Birth and Laura from Our Messy Life.  Following their journeys online has brought humor and tears of joy to my daily life.

I know I don't blog regularly or nearly often enough, but I hope that those that do stumble across my page can find the same support, tips for an easier life, laughter, and hope that I find in the pages I follow.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Santa and believing in the unseen aka Yes, Virginia there is a Santa!

Recently there have been a rash of articles, blogs, and essays written on whether or not we should as parents perpetuate the myth of Santa.  I was dumb and broke the 1st rule of the internet and read the comments on some of the articles.  It was a bit of a "duct tape moment" for me since the vitriol over this topic was out of control!  Seriously I am not a bad parent because I allow my kids to believe in magical things while they are still young.  I am not a liar.  I don't care what you teach your kids about mythical beings, but I tell you one thing, if your kid bullies mine because you failed to also teach them tolerance for what others believe I'll be pretty upset.

In the end I remember my mom reading this letter to me when I was a child and starting to doubt.  It put it all into perspective and I no longer questioned why she so fervently believed in Santa and why she wanted me to as well.  This is what I've read to my kids each time one of them started to doubt.  I don't think you're ever to old for believing in love, magic, and goodwill.

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Halloween 2011

Halloween 2011

So this year we all dressed up as Harry Potter characters! I had a lot of fun making the kids robes in their characters' house colors, shopping for accessories, and going through a few different Goodwill stores for Marc's and my costumes. (total score on my wig btw only $1!!)  You can see a bit about the process of making the robes here.

I'm pretty happy with the finished results!  

Austin was channeling his inner Slytherin
dressed as Draco Malfoy
Colton made the PERFECT Harry!!

Lily had a lot of fun and looked "hauntingly"
like Moaning Myrtle!

My Wizards and Witch at their
schools' Harvest Ball.

Halloween night we all got dressed up and headed out for
Trick or Treating! Marc is Remus Lupin and I was Tonks.

The kids and their loot!

The making of a Harry Potter Halloween!

This year I stayed true to my "no store bought costumes" mantra and made all 3 of my children robes for their Harry Potter character costumes.

I started off with THIS pattern that I found online.  But rather than lining the whole thing I only did the top (hood, sleeves, yoke/collar area) For the sleeves on the boys' robes I only did the area that is the cuffs, rather than the whole sleeve to save time.

As I was merrily sewing along my needle busted and got stuck in the presser foot! I had never seen this happen before, so of course I had to take a picture of it!

Lily's robe was the first one I worked on, and it was very much a "learn as I go" project for me.  The main body of the robes are polar fleece, and the lining is suiting in the appropriate house colors. Lily's is grey because she is a ghost.  You'll have to see the my next post to find out WHICH ghost!

Here is her robe all finished (I thought I took more in progress pictures, but I guess in the hurry to get them done in time to wear to our cub scout party I forgot!)

My hubby helped with the finishing touch for their costumes and whittled them all wands. (we have lathe turned wands that a friend's hubby made them a few years ago, but they have gone missing) Here's Lily's:

A few other finishing touches like hair color, ties in the right house colors, a couple of temporary tattoo scars and we were looking pretty good!  All in all I am thrilled with how the whole look came out. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

30 Days of Thankfulness-Week One Recap

I think I did pretty good! Only missed one day and repeated myself once. But at least that repetition had a bit more detail AND it just shows you how much I LOVE my children.

Day 1: So hopefully I can remember to do this every day, but I am going to at least start the whole "Thankful for Thirty Days" deal. Today, Nov. 1st, 2011, I am thankful for my amazing husband (Marc)

Day 2: I am thankful for my children and for being a mom.

Day 3: You know it's pretty cool that I am having a hard time deciding what to post today for 30 days of Thankfulness, not because I can't think of anything, but because I have so many to choose from! So, today I am thankful for all of the amazing women in my life who are smart, strong, beautiful people that both support me and inspire me to be a better woman.

Day 4: Today I am grateful for my extended family. Those related by blood and those who we have chosen to be family. I am blessed to be a part of so many amazing people's lives. Remember I am thankful to have the chance to be there for you, as you have been there for me.

Day 5: Thankful today for warm sweats, a comfy bed, and my ipad to keep me company.

Day 6: Today I am thankful for my children. Each of them has taught and continues to teach me something new and beautiful about the world, challenge something in myself, and allow me to be what I've always wanted to be: A mother.

Day 7 & 8: Ok so I missed yesterday's "thankful" post. So today I am thankful for mistakes, failures, and 2nd chances. Without them we'd never learn, grow, or change.

Here is to the next week of gratitude!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Adventures in NRT and diet change

So as many of you know I've been dealing with chronic pain, inflammation, fatigue, and fogginess over the last few years.  I'm starting a new approach in healing my body and hopefully this will fix the problems that I'm facing once and for all.

NRT=Nutrition Response Testing.  It is an alternative medicine approach to finding the root causes of your ailments and using whole food supplements to help your body heal itself.  My assessment with Dr. P showed things that I had suspected but that all previous testing had shown to be "within normal range".   I have low thyroid function, severely compromised adrenal function, a high level of residual mercury, and an intolerance to sugars. All of which combine to create the above symptoms.

So with that I've been given a few supplements to help my thyroid and adrenals begin to function normally again, a detox supplement to rid my body of the mercury, and been told to strictly limit my sugars. To start with I'm cutting out all processed sugar even more than I already have. i.e. no cane sugar at all, no corn syrup  HFCS or otherwise, no sugar processed from anything not whole.  I can still have honey, maple syrup, and whole fruit but not fruit juice. FOR NOW.  After a few weeks of doing this if I don't show improvement I will have to cut back/cut out those as well.

Today is what I'm considering DAY ONE even though I started the supplements last Thursday.  My food intake so far has been egg salad, a sourdough English muffin, some Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries, and my coffee with honey and cream.  Pretty darn good if I do say so myself, especially considering the fact that there are 3 HUGE bags of Easter candy sitting on my dining room table.

I haven't quite decided what I'm making for dinner tonight. Probably pork chops. Cinnimon Apple chops for everyone else, plain salt and pepper for me.

Anyone out there do "low sugar/no sugar" diets? WITHOUT using artificial sweeteners which I will not eat?  I'd love some tips and tricks!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

I am a birth art addict!

I don't normally go in for blog giveaways, but one of the blogs I follow just put up one of the coolest pieces as a give away that I've ever seen!!  It speaks to me in so many ways, and feeds my addiction to birth art of all kinds.

Nicole over at Bellies and Babies is giving away a scuplutre similar to this one:

I would soooo love to have this or many of her other awesome pieces!!  So in order to get another entry in the giveaway here I am blogging about this beautiful piece of art! 

Crossing my fingers! Oh and since you made it this far, follow the links above and enjoy both of these lady's works for yourself.

Monday, March 21, 2011

38 years now what?

So last year I wrote a pretty good post on my birthday thinking about where I've come from and where I plan on going.  Looking back at this last year I have managed to meet some of the goals I've set for myself and I feel pretty good about it!

The most important of them for me was finishing my Labor Doula training and beginning to attend births.  I have had such amazing experiences so far on this journey.  It has been a true honor to be a part of the miracle of birth in all it's forms.  I've been witness to a baby born drug free while mom used hypnosis, twins born virtually unassisted at home, and a baby born via a cesarean! I've expanded my knowledge and my network tenfold it seems in the last year.  Each and every family that invited me into their lives has been a blessing to me. I can only hope that I've been able to give back to them as much as they have given to me.

While I LOVE being a doula I am feeling more and more called to midwifery as a profession.  The last few months I've been reading like crazy trying to "know" as much as I can about birth in order to be better informed and prepared to support my doula clients.  All of this reading keeps reinforcing the feeling in my heart that I am meant to do more than I am to help women have the births they want.  So to that end I'm working slowly on obtaining the text books I need, getting in on as many teaching moments as are offered locally, and looking for ways to expand my knowledge in preparation for taking classes to become a midwife sometime in the near future.  That timing is still up in the air a bit though.

With Marc actually having finished his Bachelors Degree this past fall he is actively looking for work back East. (East of the Rockies and South of the Mason/Dixon line if you please)  Where we land will have a lot to do with how I go ahead with my schooling, and if I go to nursing school or midwifery school. The midwifery laws very so much from state to state that it really does make a HUGE difference.  This factor has also ruled out a few places that we could have looked for work, but due to the fact that home births are illegal I won't live in those locations. (I.E. Illinois, Kentucky, and North Carolina to name a few)

So the next step for me is to work hard on getting my writing/blogging etc in order. I've applied to be a content writer to a couple of websites, and I hope to get some writing gigs to help finance my doula practice!  And to that end I also need to finish my website and continue networking in order to bring in clients consistently for my practice. So IF you know of anyone expecting a baby in August or beyond have them surf on over to my availability calender and doula profile on Doula Match and contact me for an interview!

In August I hope to go to instructor training for Dancing For Birth up in Seattle in order to expand my offerings and bring in a bit more revenue.  I truly think I'd enjoy teaching this type of childbirth prep class, and it is very very hard to work as a doula full time financially.  So many people have no idea what I do still, AND don't realize the value of hiring me.  So until those things change I won't be able to make a living at just doing births.  I've got some other ideas of how to add value to my practice without adding a lot more time consuming work. We shall see if they pan out or not.

This year has other exciting ventures ahead as well. A trip home with the whole family, training for a 5k, Marc training to do the Portland Triathlon, lot's of camps and hopeful enjoying the Oregon countryside as much as possible.

Tri-tip Steak Soup

It's no secret to my friends that I LOVE Tri-tip. It's an amazing cut of beef that is a luscious steak dinner one night and transforms into so many different things the next that it is really a frugal cooks' dream.  Here's what I did with our left over tri-tip last night!

 I made soup. It was really good and even the kids raved. What I love about soup is that you can pretty much use any veggies you have on hand.  I just try to "cook a rainbow" of veggies, so an orange, a green, a white, a red, etc. Other options would be asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet potato, parsnip, turnips, beets. . .The choices are endless!  If you don't have potatoes throw in some rice for the starch instead.

Here is what's in the bowl above:

Tri-tip Steak Soup

  • 1 pound of Grilled Tri-tip cut into bite sized cubes.
  • 4 med. potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 3 large carrots peeled and cubed
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of green beans (or a cup of fresh or frozen green beans)
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 med onion diced
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 14 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 4 cups of veg. stock (or 2c veg and 2c beef broth)
  • 2 T butter or olive oil
  • 2T red wine (or if you don't use alcohol just use some of the broth or stock) for deglazing
  • 2 T prime rib seasoning (rosemary, black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic)
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 1T Steak Sauce -- THIS is what I think makes it taste like "steak soup"
  • 2T brown gravy mix (to help thicken up the broth)
  • Fresh ground black pepper


  • Heat butter or oil in a stock pot over medium heat. 
  • Saute Onion until translucent then add the garlic to caramelize. 
  • Deglaze the pan with the wine or some of the stock.
  • Pour in the tomato sauce, stocks, seasonings, and steak sauce. Bring to a boil
  • Add in the carrots and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the potatoes.
  • Cook at a slow boil for 15 minutes and then add the soft veggies (tomatoes, green beans, mushrooms etc).
  • Ladle out 1/4 cup of the broth and whisk it with the gravy mix, then stir back into the pot.
  • Cook until the potatoes and carrots are fork tender.
  • IF you want to use rice instead of potatoes I recommend cooking the rice first and adding it in the last 5 minutes of cooking or you will loose all of your broth to the rice!
Serve with a big slice of buttered crusty bread and enjoy!!

Easy Tri Tip Fajitas with Cilantro-Lime Rice


1 onion
1 bell pepper (I like red or orange better than green!)
Grilled Tri-tip sliced into thin strips
1 pkg Fajitas seasoning
2 T olive oil

In a large frying pan heat the oil over medium heat.
Slice the onion and pepper into strips

Sauté the onion and pepper stirring occasionally, but letting them caramelize slightly before each time you stir.
Remove to a dish and cover with foil.
Add the meat and heat through. Add seasoning mixed per package directions. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and return veggies to the pan and toss to cover.

Serve over rice or in warm flour tortillas. 

Cilantro-Lime Rice

1 cup rice 
1/4 cup chopped fresh Cilantro
zest and juice of 2 small limes
2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup of water

Cook the rice with the lime zest, juice, broth, and water using your normal method for rice.
Add the cilantro and stir and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Top with lettuce, cheese, pico, sour cream, guac, what ever you like!

Grilled Tri-Tip


1/4 cup veg oil (I use Canola for it's high smoke point since I'm grilling)
2 T Worchester Sauce
1T lemon juice
1t ground black pepper
1t kosher salt
1/2t red pepper flakes
3-4 cloves of garlic minced
4-5 green onion chopped fine

Whisk all ingredients together.

Marinade meat for at least 30 minutes, over night is even better.

Tri-tip is a cut that likes to be cooked hot and fast and on the rare side.
So temp it at 155 and let it rest to 160.
6-7 minutes per side at 500 degrees under the broiler if you aren't grilling outside should do it.

Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Slice thin across the grain of the meat on a bias for the best tenderness.

I recommend making more than one at a time since there are many wonderful ways to use the left overs!

Friday, March 11, 2011

What I wrote for my grandpa's funeral

When trying to think of something to say that would capture my feelings and what it was like to have Carl Pittman as a grandfather, so many thoughts swirled in my mind that I was quite overwhelmed. I was advised to pick a single memory, something that would bring joy to others, and to quote, keep it short.

The trouble is that there are too many memories to choose from, too many moments that brought me joy, and that in the retelling would share some of that joy with all of you. Moments full of laughter like the game of “stealing Papaw's chair”, moments of wisdom passed down like being told to “always get the name of everyone you do business with”, or moments of learning shared like teaching me how to whistle the “red bird's song”. I struggled over the last couple of days with which one to choose.

I finally settled upon the sunflowers. Which isn't surprising really since they will always be the flowers I associate with my Grandpa.

You see when I was little, I would sneak out to the bird feeder near the garden and take some of the sunflower seeds, then plant them in the corner of the garden by the fence. Every year a few would sprout and grow. I'd laugh, thrilled to see them tall and bright in the sunshine, and Grandpa would pretend to be surprised at them being there at all and in a mock scolding “tsk tsk” at me wondering what “little birdie” planted those flowers in his garden. Even when I went away to college and then later moved out of state, every year a sunflower would still grow. I'm not sure to this day if the birds did the planting or if Grandpa did it just to be able to tease me about them despite swearing he never planted them there to take up precious space for his peppers!

Sunflowers for the funeral from Marc, the kids, and I

In then end it doesn't matter. In the end when it comes right down to it, the sunflowers brought us both joy and helped us feel together over the miles that separated us. Just like each of the many memories and stories that are shared today, will bring each of us a bit of joy on a day of sadness and remind us that in our grief we are not alone.

Having Carl Pittman as a grandpa blessed my life. I have been blessed by his humor, wisdom, patience, and knowledge, and blessed by the presence of man who never failed to show his love for me. I love him deeply and will miss him always. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why yes, I AM a Doula!

I haven't talked much about being a doula on this blog since I try to keep my personal blogging stuff separate from my professional web presence, BUT I came across this video embedded on another doula's website and just had to share it here.  Enjoy!

If you are curious about what I do, now that you've watch the video please check out my business website where you can find information about what services I offer, links to my availability calendar, and my fee structure.

Encircling Hands Doula Support and Education

Friday, January 28, 2011

When being "green" is just "mean"

Disclaimer: This post is meant as sarcasm and humor any offense generated is purely coincidental and the responsibility of the reader.

I am all for being a good steward of the resources you are given. Be they natural resources like coal, timber, water, or more ephemeral resources like money, time, and opportunity.   I like reusing things and getting the most out of something.  Of course that is mostly because I am cheap and not from some deeper altruistic need to save the planet.  I like creative solutions to everyday problems and finding ways to use what I have rather than buying something new.  Again mostly because I'm cheap and making the most of my money resource is a pretty big priority to me.  BUT, spending my 2nd most important resource, time, to figure out a way to replace something that is perfectly good and someone else already makes just because it isn't "green" is the definition of insanity to me.  And in some cases I think it's down right mean.

My first case in point is using fabric as reusable gift wrap.  While the idea has merit and can look really pretty, it takes ALL THE JOY our of RIPPING and TEARING open ones gifts!!  Because let's admit it, that is a HUGE part of the fun right?  Especially for kids!  Now I'm not saying you have to use brand new gift wrap paper for every single gift you give, even I'm too cheap for that.  But what you can do is get new tissue paper (it's pretty darn cheap if you stock up after Christmas on just the plain white!!) and reuse the gift bags you've received! You get to save on wrapping and still give the pleasure of ripping into the gift to your friends and loved ones! Of course this means you actually have to wrap the gift inside the bag in the tissue paper rather than just shoving tissue in on top of it, but I think this is a good compromise between brand new and that silly fabric idea!  And if you have a cat like my you are depriving her of her most treasured possession:

Mah paypers!!

Recently I've found another fantastic wonderful "green" idea that has taken a lot of joy out of my daily life.  Reusable lunch boxes.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE these amazing lunch box sets that my mom got the kids back in August.  What I HATE HATE HATE is that my 2nd grader CANNOT remember to bring his home.  I send it to school with him on Monday and I'm lucky if he remembers to bring it back by the following Friday.  So because it is the ONLY one we have and I don't have any brown paper bags he's back to eating that awful crap they serve in his elementary school cafeteria Tuesday through Friday.  I was seriously so stoked to start making lunch for the kids and get them eating better (especially after counting how many days in a month their main choice for lunch is CHICKEN! UGH! Another post completely!), but now all it has done is create a big source of stress for me and my son. So I'm pretty much sold on the idea of buying paper bags and zip top baggies for his lunch from now on. This way he can just throw it away and not be all worried about bringing home his lunch box. And I will get to see this smiling face rather than the sad disappointed in himself look he gives me when he's forgotten the box yet again:


And last but not least, all natural shampoo.  This one gets TWO GIANT THUMBS DOWN from me.  Most of my friends know that I fight a daily loosing battle with my hair. It is both fine and curly. Which makes for a wonderful frizzy mess in humid weather.  Oh and I live in a temperate rain-forest, so yeah humidity is pretty much par for the course here.  So trying to be more "healthy" and more "green" I switched to some hoity-toity all plant based, cruelty-free, organic such and such that was supposed to be better for the planet and nice to animals or some crap like that.  And my hair looked HORRIBLE! Talk about stealing my joy!!  I'm not a very vain person. Really I'm not, but the one thing I've learned in my nearly 38 years is that my hair is picky and if I don't treat it right I'll look like Gilda Radner from her Roseanne Roseannadanna days.  And trust me that is just mean, both to myself and those unfortunate souls who have to view such madness.


So folks in summary, I've learned that my life is by necessity one that I have to live in balance. Not going over board with the "green at all costs" mentality so many get caught up in and keeping in mind the real benefits to myself and my family of each choice we make. Yes it's important to be good stewards, and yes I believe that making healthier choices for ourselves and our world is a good idea. But I won't give up joy, no matter what new fangled idea the enviro-crazies come up with to make our world "greener". 

How about you? What "green" ideas do you find just silly?  What about ones that you were reluctant about in the beginning, but that over time have embraced?  Inquiring minds (well okay just me) want to know!

Friday, January 21, 2011

My first homemade cheese....

So I decided I would make manicotti for dinner tonight (easy, not super cheap, but totally yummy) and then decided what the heck I'll make the ricotta myself!

So I searched the interwebs and found a great little "how to" for whole milk ricotta post. I did have amazing success with this, but I was a tiny bit unsure of the "lemony" flavor, so I went looking and found this post that suggested regular white vinegar instead for a more neutral flavor.

The procedure is of course the same. Ratio of milk to acid is also the same:

1cup of whole milk (I have an awesome source for unpasteurized milk so that is what I used.)
1T acid (lemon juice or distilled white vinegar)
1/4t salt (I prefer kosher)

Mix salt and milk in a heavy bottom sauce pan and bring to just below a boil. I think about 180 is perfect as any hotter and you risk scorching the milk. And having been a barista I know just how nasty scorch milk tastes and smells.

When the milk is at temp, at the acid and gently mix it in then STOP STIRRING! I made the mistake of stirring too hard the first batch and my curds never formed.  Set the pan off the heat and walk away for about 5-10 minutes to let the curds form.

Pour the whole thing into a strainer lined with a double layer of cheese cloth and let it drain over a bowl.
The longer you drain the more dense and dry the curds will be. (if you have a shallow ladle you can spoon out the majority of the curds and reduce the amount of draining necessary.)

Here's a picture of the curds draining:

The batch I made with lemon juice I mixed with some dill, salt, pepper, and garlic and put in an omelet for breakfast!

I have to say I was amazed at how well it melted and how yummy this was! Super creamy a bit tart/tangy from the lemon and just cheesy enough to complement the eggs perfectly. Of course I had to add couple of shots of hot sauce for "garnish".

The 2nd batch (made with the vinegar) I mixed with an egg, some cream, Italian seasoning, and sausage and stuffed in the manicotti.  Hopefully the kids will enjoy it for dinner tonight!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Frugal cooking--Request for recipe submissions!!!

Hello dear readers!! I have a HUGE favor to ask of you.  I'm trying to get out of a cooking rut AND save money. Both things are hard but possible, doing them together are causing me to pull out hair.

So in an effort to not go bald and accomplish the above goals I'm turning to you! Please please please send me your "meals on the cheap" recipe ideas.  My hope is to try to get our food bill for all our meals for 5 people to under $400 a month.  And I'm trying to stay with WHOLE FOODS. The parameters of the recipes are simple:

  • Limited pre-made food as ingredients. I'd like to stay away from boxed/canned/jarred stuff.
  • No BEANS. I don't eat them or like fixing them.
  • Limited casseroles. The kids are NOT big fans. 
  • If your recipe has an unusual ingredient PLEASE give me an idea of where to find it.

Don't limit yourself to main dishes!! I'd love to see some side dish ideas and ways of preparing traditional sides that are original but cheap!

My plan is to try out EVERYTHING you guys send me that fits the parameters and then post both the recipe (giving you credit of course and linking to where ever on the net you want me to in that credit) and the family's reactions to it here on my blog.

You can email me here, post on my Facebook page here if we are friends, "tweet" me a link to your own recipe blog here, or post the recipe or link in the comments below.

Please include:
  • The recipe!!! (duh!)
  • An estimate on how many people it feeds and how long it takes to prep.
  • Your name or the name you want to go by in my blog.
  • Where you found the recipe if it isn't your own personal creation or one you have significantly modified from the original. (have to give credit where credit is due!)
  • A link to your own blog if you wish me to link back to you in my review post.
  • Any other information your little heart desires me to know!

I'll make a button soon for you to put on your blog if you want.

Thank you!!!!!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Looking forward!

So its 2011. A new year, and some how that is supposed to mean a new start.  For my kids it really will be a new start.  Starting a new school tomorrow is a big deal. Probably an even bigger deal in my own mind, so I'm trying to keep own anxiety to myself. 

Austin seems to be the most nervous and actually said he was. But he's also so very excited and hoping some of his soccer buddies are in his class or that he at least gets to see them at lunch. Colton actually thrilled since his 'best friend" who moved out of their school last year goes to the school we've moved into. Lily is still so new at the school deal that she doesn't have any real attachment to where we've been, and is excited to make new friends where we are going.

I, however, have a litteny of concerns floating around in my head. Both the practical and logistical concerns like:
  • What kind of supplies am I going to have to buy, AGAIN.
  • Who are their teachers!!
  • Will I be allowed to walk them to class tomorrow?
  • How timely is the bus they will be riding (our previous bus was notoriously late in the afternoon)
  • Can I manage to make homemade lunches every day like I really want to (okay this doesn't have to do with the new school, but it is a concern)
  • Can we manage to get everyone up and ready by 7:45 with out tears and frustration?? (this is earlier by about 20 minutes over the previous "have to leave the house NOW!" time)
  • How long will it take us to all adjust to the new routines, new homework rules, new teachers level of communication to home, etc. etc.
And the more emotional concerns of my mama bear side:

  • Will the kids like there teachers?
  • How scarey will it be for them to find their way around a new place alone?
  • Will they have someone to sit with at lunch?
  • Can they make it back to their bus okay?
  • Will Colton make it through the day without crying and if he doesn't will there be a kind person there to help him through the tears?
  • Will Lily find the "new girl" roll fun and exciting or scarey and nerve wracking?
  • Will Austin be able to internalize the new rules he will surely have quickly and without too much frustration over such a big transition?
  • Will I be able to find a home with their PTC and be accepted with the same amount of warmth and community as I was at the previous school during my volunteering?
And I'm sure there are more floating around in my brain, just waiting to rear their ugly little heads just as I lay down to go to sleep tonight. 

I don't have any answers to the logistical issues, and won't until we see how things go and I get to talk to their teachers over this next week. The emotinal ones are even more of a "wait and see" sort of situation. I'm not very good at "wait and see", except when I'm labor sitting for a client! I wish I could somehow manage to use the patience I have towards birth with other parts of my life.

Besides the nerves over the kids starting their new school there are other things this year brings for me.

I have decided to finally do something serious about my back and shoulder pain.  For years now most Chiropractors, MDs, and Orthopedic folk have been telling me that the weight of my breasts is the primary cause of my pain. So to that end I will be having reduction surgery this year.  Not exactly sure how soon, but I'm really hoping it will be this spring sometime.  In order to be in the best possible health for that surgery I have set a goal for myself of walking at least a mile or riding 2 miles each and every day.  I hope with that and watching my food choices I can cut some weight and be in better shape, so that I recover well after surgery.

We are also going to be planning a major road trip for when the kids get out of school.  It has been years since much of my family has seen the children and many of them have never met Lily.  The kids are finally old enough to be helpful on a trip such as this and to really enjoy themselves and gain good memories from our adventures.  Right now the tentative plan is to head out in June, going north across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Down through Wyoming to Yellowstone, onto South Dakota to Mt. Rushmore. Down through Iowa to my Dad's in Missouri and spend a few days there. Then on to Chicago to show the kids one of my favorite cities and meet with friends. From there we'll go down through Illinois, stopping to visit family and friends through out the state, and finally getting to my Mom's in Kentucky.  From here I'm hoping my mom will go with us to Branson, MO. Then we'll head back west, though Oklahoma, Texas (just the panhandle most likely, sorry friends in Austin, we'll have to catch you next time!), New Mexico possibly stopping to see a friend in Albuquerque, then up to Las Vegas and home by way of Crater Lake.  Taking 3-4 weeks and our time to see what we wish, enjoy the drive, and learn as much as we can about our great country! All said and done will travel close to 6K miles! I am hoping it all works out the way I have it planned in my head! Oh and did I mention we will be camping the whole way?  Yep NO hotels for this industrious, outdoorsy family! (We will however make full use of the shower facilities at the state parks! LOL)

Big plans that's for sure! To make those happen, getting our finances under control, and keeping to a savings plan will be essential!  And part of that is by reducing our consumption and our food bill! I am hoping to make a lot more from scratch, bread included, this year.

As my planning goes forward I will be looking to you dear readers for help with menu planning, frugal living tips, recipies, traveling with kids tips, and ideas of what to see on our route! 

Happy 2011 Everyone!! Thanks for joining me for yet another year!