Monday, December 28, 2009

Homemade gifts for the kids

      This year the kids only asked for 2 things for christmas (light saber and kiru figure), so we decided to have some fun making them gifts.  My Mom crocheted them Star Wars amigurumi.

Aren't they sweet?!

Since the kids are totally into tornadoes, of all things, I made them a tornado play set

and storm chasing uniforms (from 2 sweatshirts and striped men's t-shirt)

To continue honing my applique skills, I made A B C beanbags out of old jeans

Then there was my original foray into applique, the R2D2 hat

And finally, My sweetheart husband made the boys a set of wonderful wood blocks

I also made my sister and sis-in-loves aprons out of vintage pillowcases.  I didn't get good pics before wrapping them, sorry :(
For food, besides cookies, I made smores-on-a-stick and hot chocolate-on-a-stick , which I really enjoyed making and tasting!  It was great fun to get some creativity going and the boys really are enjoying their new toys! 
Hope you had a happy, and hopefully creative holiday too!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cookies are done!

     I sent my husband off to work with my first cookie tray of the season.  My Grandmother got me started on the tradition of essentially baking from Thanksgiving to Christmas!  She had a whole repetoire of cookies, most which I continue to make.  Here is my official cookie menu for 2009:
Kolachkes (very traditional for my family), Linzer cookies (filled with apricot and fruits of the forest), Buckeyes (another staple in my family), Coconut strawberries (no bake cookie molded into little strawberries, another Grandma fave), gingerbread men, cocoa ginger crisps, peanut butter kisses, tollhouse cookies made with holiday m and m's (grandma is rolling over in her grave--"those ARE NOT christmas cookies!!!", but G-ma, christmas is for kids!), almond cutouts shaped as stars with royal icing and a few frosted in white chocolate, jingle jumbles (spicy with cranberries and raisins), potato chip cookies (made with potato chips!) and a new cookie--playdough cookies done in red/white/green and dipped in sugar.  Whew!
     So the first of my cookie babies have left the nest.  If I get time, there is one more recipe I had planned to try!

This is how I roll!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fun with the kids!

     Christmas generally is a D.I.Y. extravaganza here at Hoffman Haus.  Besides the mountains of cookies being baked, there is always an array of artistic projects ranging from photography, papercraft, sewing, woodworking, etc... splayed out all over the house.  In the midst of all this wonderful madness, there must be time made for your regularly scheduled madness!  So, what kinds of things have been occupying the young minds of the house lately?
     Well, the most popular subject is tornadoes.  The kids are besides themselves with a hunger for info on the topic.  They have favorite tornado videos that they love to have pulled of youtube for their edification.  The baby wakes up every morning asking if tornadoes are hot or cold, then reassures me that they are, and I quote, "violent rotating columns of air."  Wolfie tries his best to educate me on the finer points of tornadoes, like the fact that they love cookies, and that they only like to destroy bad things like wicked witches from the east.  So, I made a binder book entitled "The Hoffman Guide To Meteorological Phenomena."  It has a description of what meteorological phenomena are actually, followed by sections on tornadoes (natch), snow, dew, frost, rain, rainbows, lightning and clouds.  Each section has lots of pictures and short descriptions about the phenomena.  They love it and read it over and over.  It has started an interest in reading the weather report in the paper every morning, checking our thermometer at different times of day to compare temperatures and learning lots of new vocabulary, like precipitation and atmosphere.  The nice thing is that you can make books like this for any topic that interests your child.
     Which brings us to another binder book, "Wolfie's Unabridged Guidebook to Signs".  This kid is obsessed with signs!  It started with the sign on the lid of a large storage bin that shows a baby falling in the bin, complete with red circle and line through it.  Then there was a Curious George episode about signs, which fanned the flames.  We used my printshop program to find pictures of many common and not so common signs to put in the book.  We scanned his many, many individual pictures of homemade signs like "No butts on the table!", and "No squirrels allowed to punch alligators!" and included them in the book.  He pays attention everywhere we go, on the lookout for new signs.  On the up side, he is learning a lot about rules and responsibilities.  He saw a man smoking next to a "No Smoking" sign and politely indicated to the man that he was breaking the rules.  The man actually went across the street to finish smoking!
     Vladdie, on the other hand, is our art guy.  Artist, appreciator of art, critic, and discoverer of art in odd locations, he craves "more art please!"  So he has "The Hoffmanhaus Gallery Guide to Art".  I photographed anything in the house that qualifies as art.  There was a surprising amount!  Printed out and put into a book, he now has lots of beautiful art to appreciate when he isn't busy writing on the walls!
     That is the beauty of these D.I.Y. books.  They can be personal and meaningful as well as educational and entertaining.  Plus, they used up a few old binders I scrounged from somewhere and the backsides of paper that only had one side used, so they are even sort of green too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Vegetarian breakfast sausage

My husband really loves the spices/herbs in sausage, but as a vegetarian has been disappointed with the products available at the grocery store.  I set out to re-work the seitan recipe again, this time as a substitute for sausage.  Tonight we had wholewheat pancakes, scrambled eggs and this sausage.  A totally delicious dinner on a really cold, windy, wet night!  Now if only I can find a veggie hotdog recipe, they are up to $4.59 at the local store, Nature's Bin!!!  That is crazy!

Vegetarian Breakfast Sausage

1 ½ cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Basil
2 tsp. thyme
½ tsp Marjoram 
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp. Sage
1/2 Tbsp. Carroway seeds (toast lightly, if you like)

1 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
3 cloves of diced garlic

Pre-heat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and garlic.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix them together (if you have a mixer with a bread hook, use that and skip the hand kneading. Just mix until no longer sticky then continue mixing about 2-3 minutes longer), the dough will become stiff; at that point, work with your hands until all the ingredients are mixed, then start kneading.

The seitan will become very elastic, and will not stick to your hands when it's finished.

Roll it into 8-inch log and close in foil.

Close foil tightly, place on baking sheet and bake for approximately 70 minutes. Remove; it is fully cooked and ready to eat. Also freezes well. Enjoy!

Monday, November 30, 2009

I am a born again biscuiteer!

OH MY GOODNESS!    I have achieved biscuit enlightenment.  I never liked biscuits. Probably because I spent half a year making biscuits 40 hrs. a week for the local Bob Evans.  I decided that I should try to make the world's most awesome biscuits to see if that changed.!!!!!! 
   Last night, as I dozed off, I began to think about the tub of tofu I needed to use up.  Then I remembered that I had some potatoes that I cooked and froze.  Voila!  I would make hash!  In honor of the Grinch, I would call it 'fu-hash, an homage to the green one stealing the last can of who-hash.  I cut the tofu up into tiny pieces and browned it well in a little olive oil and soy sauce.  I also cooked up the potatoes with some onion and garlic and herbs de provence, then combined it all at the sensationally golden brown end.  Of course, I thought, I must try THE biscuit recipe again.  The first time I tried it, It was good.  I knew it could be even better.

     'Fu-hash, crispy, salty, golden brown.  Impossibly good.

My lovely, fluffy (3" + high), crunchy on the bottom (thank god for parchment paper!) biscuits!

The biscuit recipe is from a good book I have been reading, "Family feasts for $75 a week" by Mary Ostyn.  I'm not sure if it is ok to post this recipe its entirety.  I was able to get this book from the public library.  I must sincerely thank the author for this recipe, for changing my life, for growing my butt to bold new proportions.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful and Appreciative.

     Some reflections.....
     I am so thankful I have a husband that respects and nurtures my feelings.  I appreciate all the times he builds me up (complimenting me for cooking or creating something, telling me he thinks I'm cute or smart or funny) or breaks my butt down (When I'm too wrapped up in my own problem at hand and don't notice his feelings).  I'm thankful I can always count on him and appreciate him treating me like his partner and team mate.
    I am thankful I can spend so much time with my kids and appreciate that Matt doesn't ask me to work more than weekends, even though it means cutting our budget and has seriously changed his toy collecting hobby.
     I am thankful I have 3 awesome children.  I appreciate their unique personalities which force me to stay on my toes!  I appreciate the love they have for each other and their parents. I even appreciate all my new gray hairs that I am sure are caused by them!
     I am thankful I have a good relationship with my Mom even though we are many states apart.  I appreciate her trips to see us and the cost of that travel, and the fact that she stays long enough for a good visit.
     I am thankful for brothers and sisters that stay close together despite crazy lives that pull us apart physically.  I appreciate that they visit and call me and that they allow me to get to know the special people in their lives.  I really appreciate that my Stepmother had a photographer at her wedding so I finally have a family picture!
    I am thankful for great in-laws.  I appreciate that my "in-loves" are close to my family and we can all get together for special occasions.  I appreciate all the wonderful things my mother-in-love does, but ESPECIALLY all the babysitting she does!  It's nice to have someone that loves your children help take care of them.
    I am thankful my bro-in-love picked an awesome wife.  I appreciate that she shares pictures and stories so we can be a part of their lives, even though we are far apart.  I look forward to hearing from her every day!
     I am thankful I had the time to spend with my Grandmother before she passed away this year.  I appreciate my husband soooo much for letting her live with us for the past few years and for letting her live her last days in her own bed, surrounded by loved ones.  I appreciate all my family members that helped me take care of her, sent her cards and called or visited her.  It cheered her and me up.
     I am thankful for my home.  I appreciate all the hard work my husband has put into it physically and by working to pay for it.  I appreciate the sacrifices he makes so we can have things like a new roof and furnace.
    I am thankful for a wonderful group of women on-line.  I appreciate your messages and comments even though you have busy lives.  Spending most of my time with toddlers, I look forward to seeing what you are all up to each day.  Your intelligent opinions, caring comments and hilarious writing (yes, that's Lori! She should write professionally!) keep me sane.
     I am thankful my family has seriously reduced our consumption.  I appreciate that everyone managed to handle a Thanksgiving without any paper plates, paper towels, paper napkins, water bottles or pop bottles/cans.  Everyone recycled, composted and saved their plastic silverware for the dishwasher so they can be reused.  I appreciate that this is not the usual order of business for most of them, but that they respect my desire to do so, without comments and with a smile!  You all rock!
     I have so many things to be thankful for, I could go on and on!  Life is good.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What would you do/not do this Christmas?

     I was reading a post over at frugal upstate, where 2 questions were posed:
  1. What one thing you would eliminate from your holiday schedule if you could?
  2. What tradition or event would you add if you could?
     Interesting questions.  Years ago I eliminated quite a bit of decorating and switched to a small tree.  I didn't enjoy getting it all out, having hopes that somehow everyone would gather like a who down in whoville to joyously help me put it up, much less take it down.  I decided to only put up what made me feel happy.  No one complained or cared, so I continued with the lessened decorations, but filled my home with great holiday music and delicious smells of cookies baking.  That was easy!
      If I had to pick a new thing to change, it would probably be less gift giving to adults.  Doing less of that would allow me the money to give gifts to more of the children in my extended family.  Overall, we give less gifts than we used to.  We set up a budget and try to stick to it.  We only give our kids a few presents, plus a few hand-made presents.  They don't care.  They seem satisfied.  It will be interesting to see if that changes when they go to school and find out what other kids get.
     If I was to add another tradition, it would be to get a bunch of fun, cool fam/friends to hang out and bake or package previously baked cookies and take them to the nursing home I work at to pass out together, maybe host a game (like bingo, or a wii bowling contest) for the residents with awesome prizes.  The home I work at is an inner city home with a large number of young (20-60 yrs old) patients, many with mental illness or severe addictions that have brought on catastrophic medical situations.  Many have limited access to family.  They could use some fun and homemade goodies.  I adopt a resident and give them presents from Santa each year.  Some family members have chipped in during the past few years, which has allowed me to adopt extra residents and give better gifts. That has been a highlight for me personally, as I see them enjoy some of the gifts all year, like one lady that would sit out in the sunshine listening to the transistor radio she got.  Or the man that wears size5XL and loved getting a warm jacket he could actually zip up and a purple (his fave color) shirt to wear to the facility church service on Sunday, so he feels good about himself.
     I love all the traditions we have, and all the new traditions that are evolving as people are starting new careers, families, etc...  This year my brother is hosting Christmas Eve for my family get-together.  It will be exciting to celebrate in his new place.  My husband's side will celebrate faux-Christmas, meaning it will occur a few days after Christmas when everyone can be in town together, which will make it even more relaxed and fun.  This will be my first Christmas without my Grandmother, which is hard because we were very close (even lived together), but her cookie tradition will continue as I bake her favorite recipes.  I will shed a tear as I sing along with Star Wars' Christmas in the Stars, remembering my Dad doing so when I was young.
     Although I had answers for the 2 questions posed, I am quite content with the way things are.  It was interesting taking a look at what we do as a family.  I am glad we keep it to a minimum and don't get stressed out over the holidays.  But what I am truly thankful for is that my huge family is so loving and welcoming to all the amazing new additions to our family. I love that my family, my husband's family, my sisters' fiancees families, my brothers' sweetie's families all can get together, anytime of the year, without drama or ill-will, but with acceptance and friendship.  What a great gift that is to me!
     So, do you have any answers to the 2 questions? 

Friday, November 20, 2009

mustard green soup, yummmm.

     Last night, a rainy, autumn day, I whipped up a delicious bowl of mustard green and tofu soup.  Maybe a tablespoon of oil for the entire dutch oven of soup, including frying the tofu golden brown.  MMMmmmm, comfort food.  I will need to write this recipe up, as I enjoyed it so much.

     I am all about the comfort food right now.  Things that make me feel warm and cozy, like oven baked french fries the other night.  Anyone else preparing for hibernation?

repurposing shirts into pants for long-legged kids!

     My son has grown into a wonderful long-legged 4 year old.  Where as his brother is still small enough to easily fashion a pair of pants from an old shirt, I find it's difficult for the big guy.  Plus, I like to make matching pants for them, just because they look so darn cute together.  I have found two things that help:
          Making a yoke:  If the sleeve is almost long enough, strategic cutting leaving the shoulder seam intact  can yield a cute little yoke detail.

kind of hard to see with this fabric, sorry.

     Adding a panel:  When using the body of the shirt, You can cut out as much as you can, still lining up with the hem of the shirt, or elastic waistband if using a sweater or waistband.  Then cut off an inch or two above the hem (or go all the way up to the knee for a "knee pad" look).  Cut a piece to equal the missing amount plus extra for your seam allowance.  Sew your pants up the side seam/seams.  Do the same with your hem piece and extra piece, carefully using the same seam allowance.  Then add the extra pieces by sewing with right sides together, matching up side seams.  Finish with topstitiching to make it lay flat and look decorative.

I'm sure there are lots more ideas out there floating around.  Anyone else have a technique they use?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gearing up for Thanksgiving.

     Well, I have started preparing for the holidays.  I made 5 "Cheat"loaf seitan rolls for Thanksgiving (I gave 2 away) as my family is vegetarian.  We also make a Turkey for the people that want that--don't get nervous meat-eaters! :p This recipe is so yummy!  It freezes perfectly.  It is mild so it can work with many ways of serving it.  You can handle it like a meatloaf, or slice it into sandwiches or into other entrees like casseroles.  I sauteed some onions, added some BBQ sauce thinned with apple cider and then threw some of this cut thinly into the frying pan.  I warmed it slowly and we had BBQ sandwiches that were delicious! I like to either make a bunch of these and freeze them or roast some squashes or baked potatoes while this is cooking to take advantage of the oven running for 75 minutes.  This is the same recipe as my "cheat"balls if it looks familiar:

Seitan “Cheat” Loaf

1 ½ cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Basil
½ Tbsp oregano
½ tsp Marjoram
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of diced garlic
Squirt of Ketchup

Pre-heat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and garlic.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix them together (if you have a mixer with a bread hook, use that and skip the hand kneading.  Just mix until no longer sticky then continue mixing about 2-3 minutes longer), the dough will become stiff; at that point, work with your hands until all the ingredients are mixed, then start kneading. The seitan will become very elastic, and will not stick to your hands when it's finished.

Roll it into 8-inch log and place in foil.  Decorate top with a squiggle of ketchup on top.

Close foil tightly, place on baking sheet and bake for approximately 75 minutes. Remove; it is fully cooked and ready to eat. Also freezes well.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Opposum or Meerkat?

     I am sleep deprivation exhibit A.    Between personal crises, the time change and some dastardly, ill-timed, inconsistent, lengthy naps taken individually by my sweet boys, I have been getting anywhere from 2-5 hours of sleep a night for far too long now.  The time change alone tends to hijack my kids for at least 3 weeks.  Strange.  At any rate, last night was particularily bad.  When I came downstairs this morning and looked out of the window, I was shocked by the sight of an animal I could not identify in the twilight.  It was small, but not a chipmunk.  It had a long dark tail, but it had too skinny of a head for anything else I could imagine.  I flashed back to one night when I opened the garage door, only to stare in the beady eyes of an opposum.  Was it an opposum?  No, it was so still and upright, like a meerkat.  Nooooo, why would a meerkat be in the yard.  "Quick kids, get my camera!"  but no sooner did the words leave my mouth than I realized to my horror, it was a T-Rex.  Yep, I need to get some sleep tonight.

Ssssshhhhh, there it is, in the flower bed!

The elusive meerkatoppossumasaurus

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The bearded Lady!

Here is the newest crazy crocheted concoction sent to me from my Mom!  I am officially the bearded lady!  Think I should wear this when I am shoveling snow?

Monday, November 2, 2009

El Día de los Muertos

This year I made an ofrenda to honor my Dad and Grandmother for El Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.  It was nice to do something special with them in mind.  I have many wonderful pieces of D.O.T.D. art brought to me from Texas by my Mom and Dad-in-loves.  I also had a skull I made years ago and dolled up another one I had with some flowers.  Luckily, I had marigolds in my garden still, which are traditional flowers for an ofrenda.  If you've never made one before, I recommend you try one next year!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some quotes from the boys

     The boys have been very funny lately and I have been bad about writing down what they have said or done, so I have forgotten some stuff I really wanted to remember.  Therefore, I will jot some things down now.
**Wolf has started writing some words and finding words he knows on signs.  He is really into signs and asks us to draw ones upon request.  These have included "no butts on the table", "No smoking dogs allowed", "no tornadoes", and "no babies messing up the room"
**Wolfie is mad that we are getting our roof replaced.  He argues with me to not have it done because "our roof is a classic!  They don't make them like they used to!"
**Wolf also got upset with me for not giving him candy in the grocery store and announced rather loudly that he "only needs ONE parent."  He suggested that I sit out on the front porch where I might get struck by lightning or perhaps float away.  A little flair for the dramatic.  One can only wonder what he will come up with when in the throes of teen aged angst.
**Wolfie was having fun playing on the Steggie statue before going into the Natural History Museum.  When we came out, some older children were playing on it and he was mad!  "They are breaking up my Steggie fun," he shouted over and over.  "Steggie is my own personal retreat!"  I believe I was abducted by aliens and returned to this planet pregnant with this child!

**Vladdie knows his colors now, but always refers to white as "coconut" and brown as "chocowet".  A boy after my own heart!
**Vladdie walked up to me, handing me at least 6 plugs for childproofing the outlets, then opened the childproofed cupboard.  Houdini?  Possibly.
**Vladdie absolutely loves coloring and cutting paper.  He is equally fond of art in general.  He loves to spot public art while we are out and has pointed out some I didn't know existed.  He especially enjoys his Grandpa's art.

I know I have forgotten so many more cuter things, but I confess to being old and having cerebral atrophy.  It is very tiring trying to stay one step ahead of these two!

Monday, October 26, 2009

a few new costumes

I loved the dragon cape that I made so much, I decided to make a bat cape too!  I also repurposed some muslin curtains into a Luke Skywlker costume by cutting down a robe pattern and pj pants pattern.  It's almost trick-or-treat time!

Unfortunately, little Vladdie would not model for me, so Wolfie gets all the glory!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mom sent a care package, right in time for swine flu

My Mom is a crocheter extraordinaire!  We got this package in the mail and it contained these...

Pirate Piggy masks!!!!!!!  My 4 year old, Wolfie, asked  me "why do we have swine in our house?"  The answer?  Because Grandma loves us!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Guess who cut my hair? My husband!

After a bout with the flu (H1N1????)  and months of no haircuts, I flipped my wig and begged my honey to try and cut my hair.  Since he is a saint, he gave it a try!  I am so pleased with it!  He had Jassy help eyeball it in the beginning, but then just went wild!  Dang, I love this guy.  By the way, he knows nothing about hair other than it grows on heads and various other parts.  He is brave.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yet another reason why my husband is so great...

     I have been under the weather, as have the boys, but only minimally so.  At any rate, between that and getting the furnace fixed and 40-ish degree weather, there has been almost no outside play this week.  The little guys were itchin' for some outside fun.  I grumbled off to work and Dad went into gear, bundling and escorting children out of doors. 

     Somehow, this ended up with them walking around town, including out to eat and then the library.  I stopped and picked them up on my way home, impressed as hell that he did all this with 2 wild, cooped up boys sans naps.  Then I looked at 4 year old Wolfie, or better yet, his pants.  He had on his 2 year old brother's pants!  They looked like culottes!  Plus, he had on brightly colored lightning mcqueen socks, orange crocs, mittens and a plaid jacket!  I felt like Captain Von Trapp when he realized that his children were traipsing all over Vienna dressed in old drapes (although I did just make them pants from some muslin curtains! )

     Then I felt the baby's diaper.  At least 5 pounds!  This man was brave enough to head out for more than 4 hrs., including lunch, without so much as an extra diaper!  I would have had one poopy kid and another wearing a milkshake for a hat.  Not this guy.  Seemingly bullet-proof from the power of ridiculous pants, he completed his trip unscathed.  My Hero!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Things I am loving right now...

1.  My electric knifeMy carnivorous brother mocks my need for an electric knife.  Same brother generously gifts me delicious loaves of home-made bread.  First loaf cut by hand, hmmm, lets just say that one slice = 24 servings.  Then I cranked up the knife. Ha!  The slices were thin and beautiful, as they should be.  Also great for cutting home-made Seitan, or quorn roast or Tofurkey!

2.  My garlic rock:  Yes, it is a rock.  A large/ flat /smooth one.  I soaked, scrubbed, boiled and dishwashered it many, many times.  Now I use it to crush and peel my garlic, instead of using the edge of my good knife.  It crushes like no other.  Throw it in the dishwasher to clean it.  Voila!

3. :   A fun, free website for children learning to read.  Lots of fun stuff!

4.  Castille soap:  We got a bottle as a gift from my awesome Mom during her visit at the start of July.  It has replaced shampoo, soap, bodywash and shaving cream for my 2 boys, husband and myself.  One bottle needed, and it still hasn't run out, although it is getting close.  Amazing Almond scent too.  Reminds me of old Jergen's lotion.  Love that smell.

     So, what are you loving lately????

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Time to stop and smell the roses...

Making : more and more messes!

Cooking : cowboy beans, rice and mean greens

Drinking : hot coffee

Reading: A great repurposing craft book recommended by Aurora, so good!

Wanting: another month of summer

Looking: not my best.  Been growing my hair out.  Not looking too good.

Playing: Ring-around-the-rosey with the boys, they love it!

Wasting: precious sleeping time.

Sewing: a luke skywalker outfit

Wishing: for a windfall of moolah (but not at the expense of any deaths or accidents please)

Enjoying: body heat in a very cold house

Waiting: for my furnace, roof and jassy's tonsils to come out

Liking: teaching Jas to cook tonight

Wondering: if I will have any work this weekend at the job

Loving: my sweet and considerate husband

Hoping: for a real positive change in healthcare

Marveling: over vladdie's unusually consistent manners

Needing: to clean my basement

Smelling: nothing, I am stuffy

Wearing: thermals


Noticing: how dark it is in the mornings and evenings now

Knowing: this too shall pass

Thinking: about my doorbell, When ya gonna ring it, when ya gonna ring it
Yeah, I'm thinkin' about my doorbell (white stripes)

Bookmarking: too many blogs by talented women!

Opening: jar of jalapenos

Giggling: over all the funny things wolfie and vladdie say.

Feeling: Thankful for all I have.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kicking the disposable habit

     For a couple of years I have been trying to kick the habit of disposable everything.  It scares me to see how much of what people buy ends up thrown away after one use.  I have made a lot of progress, or I should say my family has, as we are all living with the changes we have made.  We aren't perfect, as you will see, but we are always striving to increase our commitment to lessening our impact on the Earth in places where we can.
   Here is a short list of some of the things we have done:

1. Cloth diapers:  I have used cloth diapers on all 3 of my kids.  I use old fashioned pre-folds with pins and nylon pants.  My oldest child is 16 years older than the next child, so I did not keep her diapering supplies, but the diapers and the pants I bought for the boys have been going strong after 4 years of constant use.  Do I use them at all times?  No, I usually use disposables when going out and at night.  Also, if someone is going to be babysitting.  Still, every diaper saved from a landfill is a good thing.  Every diaper reused is a great thing financially.

2.  Diaper wipes:  There are a lot of recipes out there for making your own wipes.  I have a philosophy of KISS (keep it simple sucka!).  If I can get away without using a lot of things in a recipe or project, I will.  So I start with trying the least involved approach and complicate it as needed!  For diaper wipes, I purchased several bundles of cheap white washcloths at Target.  When I do a diaper change, I simply use warm water on it.  The cloths get the kids really clean, even after a poopy blowout.  The kids are clean smelling and almost never have had diaper rash.  When they have, it has cleared up in a day with only a little vaseline, no fancy ointment or paste needed.  I think this is because their skin is clean, nothing left on them after wiping, as far as soaps or lotions go.  I throw these in the diaper pail and not a stain is on them after 4 years.  Plus, they are warm, which feels so good and eliminates the need for a wipe warmer.

3.  Coffee filters:  My sis-in-love encouraged me to try a reusable filter.  It took a couple of tries to find one that fit my coffee maker.  I also had to get used to the idea that it leaves a darker color at the bottom of the pot and an oily sheen on top of the coffee.  However, this is minimal and I think the flavor is enhanced.  Coffee grounds still go into the compost.

4.  Dog training pads:  We have a tiny toy poodle.  We live in a snowy part of the country.  I would have to shovel part of the yard for him and dress him to go out.  I can't do this!  So I pad trained him (no different than a cat being litter box trained really.)  Instead of the dog pads, I sewed 2 old diapers together.  I lay them on an old plastic storage bin's lid so nothing can leak through.  Nothing ever does leak through, but, better safe than sorry!  He has a bucket in the basement for used pads and once a week I wash a load of them.  I dry them on a laundry rack.  Easy-peasy!

5Cotton balls:  I don't wear nail polish so I don't have to worry about removing it.  This hack won't work for that.  We use cotton pads for witch hazel/alcohol as an astringent and for removing make up.  I had some odd fleece scraps from a project.  We started using them as pads and they work great!  Just let em dry, throw in the hamper and wash with the clothes. I have a front loader, so I don't have to worry about them getting stuck, if you have a top loader, you might want to throw them in a mesh bag.

6.  Paper napkins and paper towels:  We use cloth napkins and have lots of them!  I used a sheet from  a garage sale to make a ton of them and keep them in a basket for easy reaching.  We have an awesome rag collection as well.  I started my last roll of paper towels 8 months ago and still have at least 1/3 left!  I don't keep them out, so it isn't an easy grab for people, which helped the transition.

7.  Sponges:  I use kitchen dishcloths for clean stuff and rags for things that would ruin my dish cloths.  I buy dark colored ones so they don't get dingy looking!  I use mesh onion bags for scouring. They work great and don't scratch, but be sure to cut off the tags on the ends, because they may scratch!  I just put it over my dishcloth when I use it.  For tough crusty stuff, a little baking soda usually is all the extra help that's needed.

8.  Microwave popcorn, juice boxes, individually wrapped snacksKettle corn made on the stove is so much better than microwave anyway!  Packing a drink from home in a drink bottle or kept in a mason jar in a cooler is really just as easy as having drink boxes and capri suns that squirt everywhere!  It is also easy to throw a handful of pretzels into a baggie or tupperware.

9.  Saran wrap, baggies, tupperware:  I haven't eliminated these, but I have changed my approach to them.  I am a baggie/wrap washer first of all.  It is not gross or hard, you wash them just like a dish and drape it to dry.  Pot handles and my utensil crock work well for drying.  I try not to use baggies or wrap if a glass jar or tupperware will work.  I am trying to increase my stash of glass containers (mostly just pickle jars and the like) to replace the need for tupperware.  Reusing carry-out plastic containers until they wear out works well too.  I use my large yogurt containers for freezing and they hold a great amount.

These are some of the ways that we are reducing our waste and consumerism.  It didn't happen over night.  I advise anyone wanting to change their habits to start with one that seems easiest to do.  If you live with other people, explain why you are doing it, even to children.  Be a cheerleader and compliment them on their achievements in changing their habits.  Let me know if you have kicked any of your disposable habits too!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Name's not Dairy Godmother for nuthin'

    My superpower is making milk.  On my third child now, I most surely have traded in my amateur status and gone pro in my breastfeeding career. How do I know?  My son just finished nursing on one side, sat up, looked me in the eye and said, "mission complete," flipped over and started on the other side.  Perhaps it's time to wean him.

Experiment in laundry

Well, the weather has been so cold and wet, it seems that my opportunity to hang laundry out on the line has passed.  It was wonderful while it lasted.  I got really used to how the clothes came out, with less wrinkles, more easily folded, etc...  I kept hoping for an Indian summer, but It seems like Autumn came down in one fell swoop this year.  Yesterday, the temp in my house was 54 degrees!  Today the house is a balmy 60 degrees!  :) I am trying to resist the urge to put on the heat until Halloween, but I suspect I will lose that fight over the next few days, as highs will be in the 40's.
     So I decided to try a one week experiment in hanging laundry inside.  It seemed like an impossible pain in the butt.  However, after one week, I can tell you that I love it!  I have been hanging in a doorway with a tension shower rod that I found in our basement.  I hope to get a clothing rack from our basement emptied (currently used to hold out of season clothes), and start drying in the basement. I have to tell you, it really isn't hard.  I am excited to use less energy and prolong the life of my clothes.  Yes, I need to get out more!

Here is a load of whites hanging. Takes about 24 hours to dry. It will probably dry more quickly when the heat is turned on.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reason number 1,000,001 why I love my husband

My boys woke up to this today, courtesy of Daddy...

and yes, he did pose those R2 units on the counter.  Oh how he loves to pose dolls action figures.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My little boys

Wolfie is into loving lately. He calls it "making pink sparkles". When I came from work today, both boys hugged and kissed me over and over, in a way they usually don't do. Wolfie told me, "Mom, you make pink hearts in my eyes." What a sweetie!

Vladdie is a coffee lover!  He always wants to sit and have a cup with me.  He loves it and would drink a whole cup, but I usually give him milk with a spoonful of coffee.  He takes the cup in both hands, sips deeply, sighs and then says, with feeling, "mmmmm, good coffee Ma."  I have visions of coffee dates with my now teenage son, sharing secrets over a cuppa joe.  Then I realize I am a nutter!  It is so easy to take any hint of skill, interest or preference for something in your child and load it into your future magnifying projector.  For example, your child loves books, load, pop, he grows up to be a writer, for sure.  He likes to make crazy faces, load, pop, he is thanking the academy, and his mother, for his Oscar.

Ah,but you ask, what about Jas?  She's my dolly, even still at this late age.  I still like to dress her up, natch!  But now, I get to feel proud of her and happy when I see how sweet she can be with her brothers,after 16 years as an only child.  They adore her!  Vladdie has a thing for Nate though.  I swear,he must keep lollipops in his pockets!  Speaking of which, he just got promoted to asst. manager!

Oh, another funny thing from today. We were out on a walk and a bird pooped on wolf's sleeve.  He was unhappy and shocked.  Then he said, very calmly, "Maybe I should poop on a bird."

Ah, I can't decide if they keep me young or make me get old more quickly!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Seitan meat "cheat" balls and Marinara sauce

I just made a video tutorial for a new recipe, Seitan meat "cheat" balls and Marinara sauce.  It is a great meat substitute,and economical if you buy the vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast in bulk.  You could use this in a ton of recipes, like meatball sandwiches, "boy scout surprise" (meatballs in a crock pot with a jar of chili sauce and a jar of grape jelly.  Do not scoff, it is yummy!), maybe even a swedish-y meatballs dish.  Here's the link and a written version of the recipes.  I didn't get a pic of it all together, and we ate all of it except a portion for my husband, Matt, to take to work for lunch... Guess that means everyone liked it?!  At the end of the video is an out take where Vladdie sneaks up behind me and smacks me in the head with his toy sword!  The boys are busy being wild while I am cooking in the video.  You should have seen what the house looked like after I finished making this!!!!

Seitan “Cheat” Balls

1 ½ cups vital wheat gluten

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp Basil

½ Tbsp oregano

½ tsp Marjoram
1 tsp salt

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

2 tbsp olive oil

About 3 cloves of chopped garlic

Pre-heat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and garlic.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix them together, the dough will become stiff; at that point, work with your hands until all the ingredients are mixed, then start kneading.
The seitan will become very elastic, and will not stick to your hands when it's finished.
Roll it into 1-inch balls and place in baking dish (oil lightly or use “Pam”).
Cover pan with foil and bake for approximately 55 minutes. Remove; it is fully cooked and ready to eat. Enjoy!

Marinara Sauce
1 onion
4-6 cloves garlic, diced
2 cans (28 oz. Each) diced tomatoes
2 cans (6 oz.0 tomato paste
1 Tbsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 ½ Tbsp Basil
1 tsp sugar
½ Tbsp oregano
*Sauté onion and garlic in small amount of olive oil until soft.
*add tomatoes, paste and 2 paste cans full of water. Add dry ingredients.
*Bring to boil and then reduce heat to allow it to simmer 1-2 hours. Enjoy!

Here is a link to my Sister-in-love's recipe for garlicky, sweet, spicy seitan which started a  renewed interest in seitan in our house.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Psssst... Don't tell Wolfie!

I did it!  I made Wolfie an R2-D2 hat for Christmas!  I found a fleece hat tutorial 
and then Lovingly made patterns, cut out, basted and sewed on the R2 components.  This is a boy that utterly LOVES R2-D2!  He sleeps with him, faced his fear of hair washing with him and takes him with him where ever he goes.
   !!!!~Today I caught Wolfie playing with the Asoka (girl Jedi) and Anakin (boy Jedi) action figures.  He was making them kiss and they were telling each other that they loved each other !  His Dad, a historically accurate Star Wars fan tried to explain that Anakin was married to Senator Amidala.  He didn't seem to care.  You can't stop love.

A new toy for Vladdie

Vladdie just loves to press buttons, flip switches, and generally mess with stuff.  Tonight, My husband, Matt whipped up a little toy for him.  Outside of the 2 light switches, everything else was leftover from other projects.  This is sure to be a favorite of his, for a grand total of less than 2 bucks!  Nice job Matty!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Yet another repurposing clothing project!

Last year, one of Matt's favorite sweaters got inexplicably mangled in the dryer.  Something tore it up beyond repair.  I held on to it for a year, knowing that I would use it for something.  Well, I finally turned it into somethings!  I made Wolf and Vlad adorable knit pants.  They are so very Scandinavian!  The sleeves make up Vlad's pants, the torso becomes Wolf's pair.

I admit, I did screw up a little, I didn't remember to add extra to the length at the wist band for wolf, so they are almost too short. These will be great for lounging in and for layering during the winter.  They LOVE them, despite Vladdie's tears.  I bribed him with 2 candy corns to pose, and apparently the fee for posing has escalated to 3 candy corns.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

She looks so normal...

This is my Mom.

She looks very nice.  Like a normal person, n'est-ce pas?
Yet, madness lurks just around the corner, as she has just crocheted this....

A Piggy pirate mask!
A-hoink, you scurvy swine!  Sweetness!



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some sewing projects---dragon Cape and repurposed pants

     I have always admired my Mom, Grandmothers and friend, Reva for sewing so well, and being able to sew without a pattern.  I have finally attempted 2 projects without patterns, with decent results!!!!
     I made  costume for Vladdie for Halloween.  It was based off of a costume I saw on someone's blog, but modified to my meager talent level.  It fits my criteria for costumes... must be able to fit over a winter coat!  It is a sweet little dragon cape.  I will probably make some dragon mittens to go with it.  It is much cuter than the pics look.  It is very hard to get kids to pose in ways that show off what they are wearing, or at least it is for my kids!

The next project was a repurposing project.  I wanted to make the kids some pants out of old fabric.  I wasn't sure of the pattern I made for Vlad, so I used an old sweatshirt that had bleach stains.  The sleeves were just long enough to make the pants.  It only required sewing the crotch seam and the waist band because I left the sleeve seams in place and I used the cuffs for the hem.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Merry Mabon!

It's Mabon! This is a pagan festival celebrating the harvest/ autumnal equinox.  Darkness now overtakes light and as we appreciate a bountiful harvest, we know that things are beginning to grow colder and die.  Now is a good time to "count your blessings" and find balance in your life.  Enjoy the last gifts from your garden.  Send someone a note just to let them know they are appreciated.  Start a new stress-relieving habit (meditation, getting up 10 minutes earlier, eliminating some junk from your diet). 
     Here are a few things I am thankful for:
1.  A truly wonderful, huge family filled with talented, loving people.
2. That I am able to be at home during the week, making things run more smoothly in our house.
3.A house filled with laughter and love, with a yard filled with plants, trees and so many critters.
4. That Grandma was with us to the end, teaching us some very important lessons and not in an institution, alone and scared like so many people have to be.
5. That my husband treats me kindly and lovingly, even when things aren't so great for him in other areas of his life (like work).  I am so grateful to have a partner.

   I used to do a quick 5 minute meditation/ creative visualization every morning.  After the boys were born, that didn't go too well any more!  I think I will try to work it back into my day some place else, as it was a great stress reliever.
     This is a great time to reread the myth of Demeter and Persephone.
Also, I think it is a good time to reflect on the saying "you reap what you sow".  Are there things in your life making you unhappy?  What part do you play in "sowing" its seeds? 

Friday, September 11, 2009

A fine day

     Today was heavenly!  We went to Asia plaza for a little grocery shopping and whatnot.  I found vegetarian fish sauce (I know, how is it fish sauce without fish, use your imagination) which I haven't found in awhile, plus some wooden flip-flops and a cool glow-in-the-dark crab bracelet.  Pink pocky and chocoboy for the kids, sugar rush!  There is a waterfall outside the plaza so my fountain-loving Wolfie was in heaven.  He did raise a fuss in the market when he got to the meat/fish section, yelling, "I don't like this smell!  Why does it have to smell like this!"  over and over, with feeling.  Vladdie ate some chocoboy, little mushrooms with cookie stems and chocolate caps.  Then he became choco boy!  He covered himself in it, ala Robyn style (when she was little, she is much neater now!)

     We then headed out to Rosby's berry farm and picked red raspberries, a couple of quarts.  The weather was gorgeous!  The kid played with some other kids and gorged themselves on berries.  Wolfie really liked using the map to find the field where we were directed to do our picking.  he also put himself in charge of making sure no bees stung Vladdie.
   Once we got home, Mom came over and we put the first coat of latex paint up in the dining room.  I love it!  The tinted primer was so ugly, I was very nervous.  I have never picked a color and had to repaint it because it was wrong.  I really thought this might happen.  We can't get the last coat up until tomorrow, then it is trim time.  We have to prime the trim, because I fear it is also oil paint.  That will make it take longer, but oh well.
     The day ended with a nice walk up to Joann fabric, which was fruitless except I got huge red rick-rack, how the heck do you spell that any way?  I made tie backs for my new vintage curtains, so sweet!  Matt finshed his latest sculpture, named Grunt.  He is part of his robot sanitation crew.  He is very cute and dirty.

     Now, a little Bertie and Jeeves with Matt!  Snuggle time, British humor, excellent!

Friday, September 4, 2009

New crazy sewing project

I bought a different cat food and it came in a plastic bag that was so amazingly durable it was a shame to throw away.  I cut it open and ran it through the clothes washer.  Then I made it into a waterproof tote bag