Saturday, January 24, 2009

Our Favorite Carrot Cake

Whatever else you say about Martha Stewart, she has someone on staff at the Empire who knows how to make an AMAZING carrot cake. No pineapple, no coconut, no applesauce instead of oil or eggs, no raisins, no whole wheat hippie earth granola goodness. Just yummy, orangey, moist carrot cake, which always comes out perfectly and is super easy and delicious. Though we don't put the walnuts in. Here's the link:

Baby Names for #3

What do you think? We're having an awfully hard time narrowing the list down- it just keeps getting longer and longer. I really don't want to have the baby and end up drawing a name out of a hat because our list of potentials is too huge to wrap our heads and hearts around. Help!



Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Calm Before The Storm

I am an optimist. I have, in general, faith that everything will work out the way it is supposed to, and that with with a little (or a lot) of effort we can make our selves, our lives, our communities better before we leave.
Except for pregnancy. I pretty much enter every pregnancy expecting it not to work out, not to take, not to be easy, and not to end happily. This is pretty counter to my basic personality, and doesn't quite explain why I enter every pregnancy excited and happy and... thankful. As well as fearful. This pregnancy, which was a bit of a surprise, a sort of earlier than planned kind of surprise (not the sort of Oh My Goodness! How did that happen?! surprise) I've never had any real feelings of worry. I've felt confident and excited from the beginning, as if everything would be just fine, and we would indeed have a healthy, happy baby in our arms come February. I've felt sick, I've been exhausted, I've had moments of clarity in which I see many years of stepping on little toys in the night and making the trip up and down the hall in the night and not sleeping during the night, but I've always seen three little people at the end of the hall.
I am what they call high-risk. My OB introduced herself to me several months ago by reading my chart and saying that I'm one of those women OB's ward off with crossed fingers and secret prayers. And then she said she thought she could help. And she has. I've seen her nearly every single week of this pregnancy, and she has kept me from preterm labor, kept me from being so sick and everything seeming so scary and tenuous.
And here we are. Almost 36 weeks. Almost baby-time.
I seem to have gotten rid of ALL of the baby stuff when we moved, the house is still in uproar from the flood last week, and the money we spent fixing it was the money we were going to spend buying an Arm's Reach Mini Bed-side Sleeper, the only piece of baby furniture that will fit beside the bed in our tiny bedroom. We don't have a double stroller yet. My doctor will be out of town the week before the due date. I haven't gotten nearly as much food cooked and in the freezer as I wanted to. We haven't gotten quite as much school work done as I hoped we would have to be able to take a really great baby-cation and all just nest in and be cozy, but the thing is, I really don't care that much. Or at least, I'm not all that worried about it.
I mean, anyone who comes over to visit after the baby is born will be coming to see the baby, not the house, right? The baby's not going to roll off the bed in the first few weeks if it doesn't have a place of it's own to rest, right? I'll carry the baby in a sling for walks at first anyway- I don't need a double stroller this instant. That can wait til tax return time. We can always eat cereal and scrambled eggs, mac and cheese and Top Ramen- foods ABCD can cook. If the doctor's gone, well, she's gone. There's nothing I can do about that. And besides, EVERYTHING will be just fine. It just will. I am imperturbable. I am calm.
Now, let's see if I feel this calm AFTER the baby's born.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Laundry Detergent is super easy to make. Really. It may be the thing that puts us over the top as weirdo homespun-homeschool-backwoods folks, removing us permanently from the ranks of the urban sophisticates, but what can I say? Making stuff is fun, making really useful things is empowering, and making things that actually save money is just smart. Besides, in these days of financial insecurity and economic woes, doesn't it just make sense to at least know how to be as self-sufficient as possible?

So... here's the recipe I use for liquid laundry detergent.
I have a 2.5 gallon stockpot which is the perfect size for this recipe, but you could also do the stove part in a regular saucepan, and dump it into a bucket.
In a stockpot over medium heat whisk together until completely melted and incorporated:
2 quarts water
1/2 bar Fels Naptha laundry soap, grated
(or 1 whole bar of bath soap, like Ivory)
Remove from heat and whisk in until completely incorporated and slightly thickened:
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda (not baking soda!)
Fill to 2.5 gallons total with hot tap water, stir to mix. If desired add:
1/2 -1 oz. essential oil
Let sit overnight undisturbed. In the morning your detergent will be cool, thick, and slimy. Hooray!
Use 1/4 cup per load.
Really- that's all you need. It's super concentrated.
This is not foaming detergent, so it's good for both top and front loader machines.
It's really thick, and we keep it in a big plastic bin with a 1/4 cup measure, but if you were to keep it in a pump or pouring type of container you might want to loosen it up with the stick blender. It doesn't seem to thicken up again if you do that.
And if you're in a hurry or just like powder better:
In a food processor (or by hand) grate:
1/2 bar Fels Naptha
(or a whole bar of Ivory)
Pour into a container and add:
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda (not baking soda)
Cover and shake to mix.
Use 2 Tablespoons per load.
add 1/2 cup white vinegar to your rinse cycle.
It really does work, it's super cheap, helps your clothes rinse really clean, and the smell leaves as the clothes dry.

Friday, January 16, 2009

frugality for the future

Last year we had a good garden, but still I wasted a lot of space on things that don't quite work, or take up too much space for their yield. I'm circling items in seed catalogs right now with my garden goals in mind.
This year I want the garden to be chock full of (1)things the kids like to just pick and eat- tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, peas, green beans (2) things we eat a lot of- tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, turnips (3) things that are expensive to buy organic- broccoli, salad greens, carrots, cabbage, peas (4) things to easily put up for winter- tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, green beans. I like growing sweet and hot peppers, but they're abundant, cheap, and organic around here. Peanuts would be fun, but frivolous. Melons I always waste space on, I'm going to resist this year, if I can. They're cheap and all over the place all summer.
I also want to put in a strawberry bed, an asparagus bed, and plant some high bush cranberries or currants. I think a cutting bed of flowers would be nice, too, and a bed of annual herbs. With the new baby and wanting to paint the house I think taking out the awful rose bushes may happen, but not planting perennial herbs and kiwis til next year.

This year I finally started making yogurt- so easy, so cheap, so yummy I can't believe I haven't been doing it for years. Thank you Jennifer for encouraging me to tr it. Can you believe I make a gallon of whole milk organic yogurt every week, and when I strain it we end up with 3 quarts of Greek yogurt for $5, when Fred Meyer sells one pint for $6?! It's amazing.
This year I want to learn cheese making- ricotta and chevre are easy I think, but it'd be nice to learn to make mozzarella and some other cheeses that are hard to squeeze into the budget regularly. The kids also like kefir, as do I, and I'd like to get started making that, too. $4.69 for a quart is too steep for us to buy except for a treat. We plan to buy a bigger freezer, and stick it in the garage, thus clearing up space for bookshelves in the office and making sure we have enough room for lots of blueberries, asparagus, fruit, a side of beef, plus the other animals I want to get- a lamb, pig, lots of fish, chickens, and some venison. Having the freezer full of food is wonderful, and knowing we have healthy pasture fed organic protein without having to carve it out of the weekly budget is great, but it would be nice to have something other than beef in there!
I'd also like to find someone to sell us fresh eggs and raw milk on a regular basis, but I doubt that we'll save any money, just get more nutrition for the dollars we do spend.

I also learned how to make laundry detergent. Again, a huge savings, and easy to do. This spring we're putting up laundry lines outside- I envision two T-posts with a hammock between and a shade cloth, and either a multi-line retractable clothesline from one post to the house/garage or a couple of clotheslines attached to the post with clips, so they can easily come down for the raucous playing that sometimes happens in the yard, maybe with cleats on the house to wind the line out of the way.
Getting Mymy out of diapers will be a savings, since he's been in 7th generation disposables for the last year+. The new baby will start in cloth, and hopefully not have the same skin and uncontrollable rash issues Mymy's had. I hope drying diapers in the hot desert sun will help that problem, as well as take care of the $10 a week for diapers we now spend.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Just for background, tattle-telling is NOT allowed in my house. It's just not, unless it involves blood or permanent damage, then it's not tattling, it's helping someone in trouble (as opposed to helping someone get into trouble).

But last night as I was making supper I had no choice but to practically pee my pants trying not to laugh (okay, I'm 34 weeks pregnant with my third child, being alive means I'm practically peeing my pants, but that's another story) when ABCD screeched from the other room :

"MO-O-O-O-O-O-M!!! Mymy's eating a WHOLE head of broccoli!"

wait, wait for it....



So, did I punish him for tattling, or just rush to my room to change pants?

What would you have done?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Money Lesson Block

ABCD is loving 3rd grade, with Waldorf's emphasis on practical skills and most importantly practical math. With the start of the new year and the start of school again after the winter holidays we're starting the Money Lesson Block.
We have Betsy Maestro's "The Story of Money" and Eyewitness Books "Money" as spines, "Family Math" for some game-skill inspiration. ABCD talked Papa into buying him an adding machine from Value Village some time ago, and of course we have a toy cash register.
I'm planning four weeks-
1) History of money
barter/trade society to modern forms of money
Alphabet Dollars Code
2) Denominations
coins, $ place value
Coin chart, lots of practice adding, subtracting & making change
3) Value/Use of money
budget, interest, inflation
Pretend shopping with budget and catalogs, grocery fliers, etc.
4) Money around the world
forms of $, changing money
Locating countries on map/globe, drawing flags, matching $
"Amazing Race" type challenge game, with money changing and paying for services, trip

I found somewhere an idea for a school classroom of "paying" the students for coming to school, doing their work, etc., where they would lose money for not completing their assignments or getting in trouble. While the idea kind of has been stuck in my head I don't like the idea of buying school work, plus a big reward at the end of the month isn't really workable, what with 5 birthdays coming up (including some little one's actual birthday). But in the interest of preparing the family for the new baby, reinvigorating our chore charts, studying geography without allocating more school time for it, and helping ABCD to get into the habit of following the lesson schedule on his own, I came up with a variation of this idea. So... new chore charts, schoolwork schedules, winning $ and losing $ based on performance, with a chart for him to keep the tallies for everyone. At the end of the month the $ earned is what have when we start the around the world game.
Which means I just have to create a board game, rules, a game board, and gather information and pictures of all the countries we'll visit on our "Amazing Race". Easy peasy. Almost as easy as just taking the poor kid to a movie if he does his chores reasonably well for a month.
Crikey. Some people's homeschool Moms.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

ABCD 2008

ABCD is 8, almost, almost 9. "You might as well call me 9, since I ALMOST am." He can ride a bike, swim like a fish (learning butterfly stroke), and do so many, many things all by himself. ALMOST like he doesn't need a Mom hovering around every second of his waking hours. Hmmm. He makes oatmeal better than his Dad, and scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes, sandwiches (though he likes spreads to be even and neat and doesn't like to do those by himself). Coffee he can do all by himself, whether in the automatic pot we only rarely have hooked up or in the stovetop espresso maker we usually use. He loves helping with interesting chores, like loose doorknobs and handles, changing lightbulbs, watering plants, starting loads of laundry and vacuuming. Not so much unloading the dishwasher (except at church, where he is the universally recognized capital "D" Dishwasher, much to the delight of everyone, including ABCD himself) or putting clothes away, making beds or emptying the hamper. He's started learning to play the guitar, and played Jingle Bells in a duet at Christmas with this Grandma Betsy. His grownup teeth are coming in and baby teeth finally coming out, slowly but surely. He's a great reader and devours books at a phenomonal pace. His humor, when it veers away from the usual 8 year old boy potty humor is sly and subtle, and his sensitivity is deep and lovely. He is independent, curious, sometimes too teenagerish, well endowed with his parents' stubborness and a gift of reason, logic, and the intense desire to never let anything go until it is resolved, preferably in his favor.
Posted by Picasa

Mymy 2008

Counts to 12, helps himself to snacks, climbs onto counters, into cabinets, and all over everything. Blows out candles, sneaks candy, goes potty in the toilet when and only when he feels like it. Yells at the neighborhood cats to "Poop in your own yard!" Puts on boots, hats, and gloves by himself. Loves his "ear goggles". Loads the grinder, grinds coffee beans, fills the stovetop espresso maker, and helps himself to coffee when it's done. Loves pickles, cheese, bread and butter, pasta, cucumbers, turnips, carrots, apples, mandarin oranges, and nutella. Tells knock, knock jokes by knocking on his head and repeating "Knock, Knock" over and over and over until someone answers the door. "Knock, Knock." Who's there? "Pie." Pie Who? "Pie bye bye eat it up!" Or, you know, something else as silly and, apparently, funny. Loves, loves, loves all his Plan City little wooden cars and people, the hand-me-down treehouse from brother, the new fire station and gas station from Christmas. Loves puppets and stuffed animals in a way ABCD never did. Absolutely certain he can swim, even though he absolutely can not. Sleeps in his own bed, finally... at least until 4 or 5 in the morning. Irrepressible and hilarious and sensitive and bold.
Posted by Picasa

Christmas 2008

Christmas photos 2008:
Mymy, ice lantern, ABCD, our tree at night with real candles. ABCD as a pilot in the church play, Grandpa teaching ABCD and Uncle Trevor about the microscope, Christmas morning "Santa came in the night and brought TOO MANY PRESENTS, Mama!", Grandpa, Mama, ABCD at the Zoo Lights in Portland. Ice Lantern, Santa and ABCD on the electric trolley, Uncle Trevs, Santa and Mymy on the trolley (very, very exciting). Uncle Trevs, Grandma Bopsy and Grandpa Randy, Papa at work, ABCD and his brand new really nice steel string guitar "I can't believe you would get me something this amazing!"
Posted by Picasa