She’s gettin’ a tattoo, yeah, she’s gettin’ ink done…

For a very long time I’ve been planning a second tattoo. I got my first one done at 18 1/2 years old. It was my best friends 18th birthday, and it was our random little act of rebellion. That one was very small and inconspicuous. I’ve been planning a more substantial one for almost 10 years. When I met my husband, he wasn’t a big fan of tattoos in general. Since I really wasn’t trying to impress anyone but him, I wasn’t about to go and get a new tattoo without his approval. It comes down to a respect for his opinion, not a bending to his will. This year he decided that honoring my individuality was more important to him than his unease with tattoos, and this was his Christmas present to me:

Here’s the piece by the original artist:

When I first saw this picture, it really moved me. I saw it and I thought to myself “look, that’s me, and that’s my husband, and we love each other, and we’re trees!” The original artist is my friend Vanessa. You can see more of her gorgeous work here and here.

Not only did this piece speak to me about the love I have for my husband, but it spoke to me on an environmental, earthy level too. Although my spiritual beliefs do not center around a god, I do believe that everything is connected, we are all made of the same stuff, energy flows and everything we do affects everything else. And the thought that we are one with the trees really resonates with me.

I’m really happy with how this turned out. Merry Christmas to me!!

Home Management Binder: Schedules and Cleaning

As promised, here is a more in depth look at my schedules and cleaning sections in my HMB. Since my kids are still very small, and not involved in many activities, my schedules is more a rough structure to the day and week than a rigid calender of events. In order for my day to run smoothly certain things need to happen at more or less consistent times, and everything else falls into place nicely. I achieve this state of scheduling bliss an average of once a year. My day is broken up into several different routines that I try to follow, hoping that eventually the become, well, routine. This is an area that I struggle greatly with, so forgive me if this entire post comes across as hypothetical, because most days it is.

Following certain routines each day help to ensure that things are getting done on a daily basis

My morning routine starts as I roll out of bed. Right now I try to remember to pull the covers back up to the pillow. For a while I was beginning my days with a series of yoga Sun Salutations, and would like to get back into that practice. It really is a wonderful way to greet the day and really gets your blood and lymph moving. As the kids wake up, I need to get breakfast made for the family, and a lunch packed for Brad to take to work. Then I need to clean up the breakfast dishes, wipe down counters and table, sweep the kitchen and start the laundry and the morning routine is done.

Nap for the baby starts between 11:00 and 12:00, depending on when he woke up in the morning and how well he slept the night before. On a good day, he’ll be out for 2+ hours. If it’s a run around day, he may be lucky to get 30 minutes in his car seat between errands. I try to start lunch around 11:00, because the baby goes to sleep better after lunch than before. After I feed the kids (and myself) and put the baby down, I clean up the lunch dishes and wipe the counters again. Then I try to enlist the help of my 3 year old in the straightening of the living room, and do a quick sweep in there as well. Flip the laundry, and try to squeeze in some exercise while Connor naps.

The evening routine sets me up for an easy morning. I try to make sure all dinner dishes are washed and the counters and kitchen table are wiped down. I try to pick up the living room one last time, then brush teeth, wash face, and get to bed at a decent hour. I usually aim for 10:30.

If everything in my routines is getting done, then the rest of my day falls into a pretty natural rhythm.


After the morning routine is done, I allow myself time to putz around on the computer, knit, read, or sew. Then lunch and the afternoon routine. If we have any errands to run or play dates scheduled, these usually happen when Connor gets up from his nap. Then comes Daily Duties time. I have the (very small) house divided into 5 zones, one for each week day. In the Daily Duties I include a deeper cleaning of one of the zones per day. So in theory it’s never been more then a week since any part of the house has been scrubbed. I need a little more time to work with this schedule before I decide if it is really working for me, but it makes sense to me. In the evening we have dinner when Brad gets home from work, and then it’s the boys bed time. Brad and I spend some time together playing cards or watching TV, and then the evening routine and bed.

Here’s how I’ve divided up my Daily Duties:


Monday: Kitchen/Dining Room
~Clear and wipe counters and kitchen table
~Sweep and mop kitchen and dining room
~Clear off computer/sewing desks
~Baking for the week

Tuesday: Living Room
~Sweep under coffee table, couch, and chairs
~Mop living room
~Organize toy box and shelves
~Wipe down coffee table and play table
~Clear shelf under coffee table

Wednesday: Bed Rooms
~Put away clothes
~Pick up books/toys
~Declutter dressers
~Sweep bedrooms, hallway and stairs

Thursday: Bathroom
~Wipe down shower and tub
~Wipe down sink
~Wipe down outside of toilet and around base
~Swish toilet bowl
~Spray mirror
~Sweep and mop floor
~Change out towels

Friday: Focus Clean and Project
~Pick one Focus Clean area
~Pick one project to work on

Focus cleaning is a list of detailed cleaning that doesn’t need done on a weekly basis, but does need to get done. I include things like baseboards, inside the oven, the fridge and freezer, washer and dryer, that kind of thing. I keep a running list, and add to or cross off things as I notice things that need to be done or complete things on my list. Projects are a list of organizing and decluttering projects that need to be done. My craft heap in the basement, decluttering the closets, culling toys the boys have outgrown, sorting the boys clothing.


And there are my Schedules and Cleaning sections of my binder. As I mentioned before, this is an area that I struggle with a lot, but really want to make work. I feel so much more at ease when the house is presentable and my days flow smoothly. Soon I’ll put up my Menus section, because I think it deserves a post of it’s own.

Desiderata

Desiderata

— written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s —

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

My Home Management Binder

Today I’d like to introduce you to my Home Management Binder. It doesn’t have a name yet, but if you have any great ideas, let me know in the comments. My mother has a file on her desk that we always called the “black hole” because if you were missing something, that’s probably where it was and no one but Mom could ever find anything in it. My binder is still a work in progress, and I don’t use it as much as I would like, but I really do like the shape it’s taking so far, and maybe posting about it will encourage me to fill it out a little more. Here is the outside of my binder:


This binder was not bought specifically for this purpose. It has had many lives before it’s current incarnation as a HMB. I believe it was first put to use holding paperwork from my Mary Kay business. It later served as a coupon binder, and now finds itself housing all of my home maintenance information. I like that it zips all the way around, and I love the 5 pocket accordion file in the front. This notebook lives in the front pocket. Right now it is mainly used for brainstorming blog ideas and rough drafting posts. Sometimes it tracks weights and measurements when I’m dieting. Sometimes it catches the random thoughts that jump out of my head. I like my things to be able to multitask.


This is the inside of my binder. I have a small notebook that serves many of the same purposes as the large one, plus it’s my go-to for shopping lists and notes while I’m on the phone. There is also my pencil bag for pens, pencils (duh) and dry erase markers, and behind that (you can’t see it, but trust me, it’s there) is a 3-hole punch. I’d like to give you a quick peek at the different sections I have my binder divided into, and I’ll go more in depth on each section over the next few days.


After you flip the pencil bag, the first page of my binder is the Desiderata, written by Max Ehrmann. It is one of my favorite inspirational works. I also have it hanging by front door. There is a lot of wisdom in this piece, and it never hurts to be reminded. I’ll post the text in a couple of minutes.


After the Desiderata I have my Household Information page. It has our home address, important contact numbers for close relatives, the police, emergency, poison control, and the pediatrician. Pretty much any number a babysitter (or husband) might need if there was an emergency and I was not at home. Also a handy reference for me. **Note to self, tell Brad this is here in case he ever needs it.**


After my household info comes Schedules, Cleaning, and Menus. I’ll go into more detail about these over the next few days.




In the back of my binder are a few folders, a clear plastic envelope that has yet to be assigned a duty, and extra page protectors.


Some sections I have yet to add but that are floating around in my head include: holiday planning, gardening, and budget. Check back tomorrow for a closer look at the different sections in my binder and how they’re set up and how I use them.

The Miracle Cure

I apologise for my few and infrequent posts this week. When we got back from vacation, I came down with a cold. Not just any cold though. The type you can only get from the stale recycled air of airplanes where your lymph nodes swell to the size of golf balls, your head throbs, your body aches and all you want is a nice rock to crawl under until it’s all over. So my blog (not to mention my children) suffered from more than a little neglect over this past week. Which brings me to my post for today. I happen to know of a wonderful miracle cure that has been accredited with nothing less then resurrecting the dead. What is this wonderful stuff? And why did I not have any on hand last week? Well this miracle cure is home made bone broth, and unfortunately I had finished off the last of ours just before we went on vacation.

Bone broth is one of the most nourishing foods available. It is full of minerals in a for that the body can easily utilize, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and many trace minerals . It also contains all of the broken down material from the bones connective tissue and cartilage. Things like glucosamine and condroiton, which you’d pay an arm and a leg for as pills at the drug store. It also contains gelatin, which aids digestion and is high in protein.

I roast a lot of whole chickens at home, and I always make broth after picking all of the meat off the bird, so I almost always have home made bone broth on hand. I had turkey bones in the freezer from the turkey I roasted for Thanksgiving (only half the bones would fit in my crock pot at a time, so I threw the rest in the freezer for a second batch of broth) but bone broth is a 2-3 day process, and I just really didn’t feel up to it last week. So here is my bone broth process. It’s very easy, and is very worth the time.

I start with my crock pot. It can be done in a pot on the stove, but I like to cook mine for about 36 hrs, and I feel more comfortable leaving the crock pot on over night. Some people simmer all day on the stove, cover and turn the stove off at night, and then return to a simmer in the morning and simmer the rest of the day. Do what ever works for your situation. Into my crock pot goes 1 whole chicken carcass (or half a turkey carcass), veggie scraps, a splash of vinegar, a stick of kombu, a small handful of whole pepper corns, and one or two bay leaves. I put the lid on and set it to low, and let ‘er go. I usually start the broth in the evening after I’ve roasted a chicken for dinner, let it cook all night, all day, all the next night, and then strain and bottle it the next morning.

I keep a Ziploc baggie in my freezer for veggie scraps. As I’m cooking during the week, I throw all onion skins, carrot peels, celery tops, and sometimes potato peelings into the bag in the freezer to wait for when I’m ready to make stock. This way I get all the vegetable goodness into the stock with out having to use up “new” vegetables, and much less goes to waste. The vinegar helps to draw the minerals out of the bones and into the broth. Kombu is a kind of kelp seaweed, and is high in minerals including iodine. When I switched from iodised commercial salt to sea salt, which does not contain added iodine, I worried a little bit about my family getting enough of this important mineral so I started including the kombu in my bone broth to give it an iodine boost. After some more research I am no longer concerned about our iodine intake, but there is so much good stuff in the kombu that I still use it. I’ll do another post soon about iodised salt and our need for iodine. I do not salt my broth until I’m cooking with it. I find it easier to control the amount of salt this way. So here’s my broth after it’s been merrily simmering for about 18 hours:

Once it’s been simmering for about 36 hours, I strain it into a pot on the stove, and then boil it down to reduce the volume by about half. I do this mostly for space reasons. I reconstitute it when I’m ready to cook. Then I put it into canning jars, and into the fridge. Occasionally I can it, but usually not. It gets used pretty fast in my house. One crock pot full of bones usually yields about three quarts of stock for me. Here’s my stock after it’s been in the fridge for a few hours:

I remove the layer of fat on top right before I’m ready to use a new jar. It makes a nice seal over the broth and keeps it fresh longer. I stir all the sediment back into the broth. I figure it’s just the good stuff from the bones and connective tissue, and after a quick stir you can’t even tell it’s there. Notice how rich and brown this broth is. In comparison, the canned broth from the grocery store looks remarkably similar to pee. So don’t waste those precious bones from roasted chickens. You can even use the bones from the rotisserie chickens you get at the grocery if you’re not up to roasting your own. Grandma knew what she was talking about when she said chicken soup can cure anything that ails you.

The Good China

Two years ago, my mother-in-law gave me her china. I belive it belonged to her mother, although the style suggests probably not her grandmother before that. It really is a beautiful set. Simple and elegant, and not at all gaudy. The spear of wheat speaks to my love of the earth and the things that grow in it.

The china had been living in my mother-in-law’s basement, wrapped in newspaper and stored in a RubberMaid tote. When she brought it to me, I unwrapped a few pieces, exclaimed over how lovely it was, then wrapped it back up and put it in my own basement. I then proptly forgot about it. In recent months, everytime I’m in the basement doing laundry I look around at all of the stuff we have stored there. Most of it is used rarely, if ever. I find myself thinking about where things came from and why we kept them, and if they were truly necessary.

After passing over this container several times and trying torecall what was in there, I finally opened it up and rediscovered my beautiful dishes. It seemed such a shame for something so lovely to be packed away out of sight and out of mind, especially when the dishes in the cubbard held no sentimental value at all and I didn’t even particularly like them. My recent quest has been to cull the house of everything that we do not truly love and enjoy or use. I truly love this china, but it was not being used and enjoyed. The dishes in my cubbard were being used, but not loved and enjoyed. So I decided it was time to get out the good china.

We now eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks on our good china. It makes me happy to look at it and use it. It’s not so obscure a pattern that pieces wouldn’t be replaceable if broken, although I am careful with it and have kids plates that the children use for lunches and snacks. I donated my current dishes set to Good Will, and assigned the now empty tote to hold wool sweaters for my longies business, which had been overflowing their container and threatining to take over the entire basement. To me, simplifying doesn’t always mean using the plainest, simplest things. It means keeping and using what you find beautiful and brings you joy, and passing on the rest.

Tomato Day Dreams

I see everyone posting about their plans for their gardens. Their seed catalogues, their winterized garden plots, and what they’re planning to plant next spring. And then from our southern hemisphere friends, I see posts like this one from Rhonda Jean at Down to Earth, and I am inspired. So I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon, and talk about my plans for spring, however absurd and grandiose they may be.

Now I am not only urban, but urban-I-have-no-yard-of-my-own-the-only-place-to-put-containers-where-they’d-get-any-sun-is-in-the-landscaping-by-my-front-door. So my garden is going to be very limited, and I need to be picky about what I want to plant. I will do most of my preserving from foods I buy bulk at the farm (peaches/apples) and the farmers market. But after last summers dismal failure, I am determined to raise a few successful plants and eat something that I grew myself.

Pairing down to just a few containers is going to be difficult, as I have no lack of dreams and ideas. When my husband graduates (and he will eventually, you can’t be a student forever) and we buy a home, I have a huge garden all laid out in my mind with all sorts of fun things in it. I’d love to have a garden that produced enough to preserve to last all winter. I have plans for the usual suspects: potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, kale, spinach, romaine, peas, carrots, celery, zucchini, pumpkins, sweetcorn, cucumbers, cantaloupe. I also dream about some fun unusual things after reading about them on various blogs. Farm Mom from Children in the Corn posted about these beautiful gourd bowls, and I’ve been looking at different gourds for drying. I also read about growing your own luffas over at the GroovyGreen. Can you tell I’m envisioning Christmas gifts of homemade soap and luffas packaged in gourd bowls? I also want apple trees: Gold Rush and maybe Jonathan, peach and pecan trees, and definitely strawberries. And would an herb garden too be asking too much? Rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, oregano, lavender, I could go on.

Well, this year I think I’m going to try two containers of tomatoes (Roma or Amish Paste tomatoes, I want to make sauce), two containers of sugar snap peas, and maybe a mixed pot of herbs. And after reading over at the Crunchy Chicken about growing potatoes in containers, I may have to try that as well. I don’t think I’ll start my own tomatoes or herbs, I’ll probably pick up starts from the farmers market. I have to start my own peas, so we’ll see how that goes, and lets just say the potatoes will be an adventure.