Abode {W}

Saturday, February 26, 2011

much, much too busy!

If you are a Veggie Tales fan, you will probably know that song where someone is singing "I'm busy,busy, shockingly busy! You've no idea what I've got to do." Well, that is my reality right now. I want to join Stuart in this little cupboard and hide until..oh, I don't know when. I have a fundraiser this afternoon (making punch and coffee0, a major fund raiser at Graham and Ella's school (setting up, serving dinner, the farmer is singing, finding auction items, selling tickets, and helping plan), and then March 12th is Ella's Shakespeare play. Also selling tickets, selling advertising, soliciting donations for the cast party, trying to find her costume, and selling tickets on the day of the performances! Add trying to cook, clean , do laundry, home school, and trying to drum up baked good business to keep us afloat, and my poor little head is spinning. I have not been out to see my mother in a few weeks now, and my house really needs some attention. So! If I am silent on Face book or my blog, it is because I am dashing around selling things or begging for donations (or business) and trying to keep it all going. Or maybe I am sulking in the cupboard with Stuart!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On reducing the food budget

  1. Make a pantry! make a list of the foods you use on a regular basis, and stock up on them when they are on sale or you have extra money. I did that this summer, and it has saved us from eating nothing but beans this winter. I made a list of food I consider to be staples, and stocked up. This winter I have only had to replenish things I was low on and buy produce and milk.
  2. Buy a deep freeze! I have three, and I buy beef (organic, grass fed, cut and wrapped. Averages out to about 2.50 a pound!) grains, frozen veggies, and meat on sale. I love being able to really stock up, and I like knowing that I have plenty of food on hand. Honestly, this has also saved us from a winter of beans!
  3. Consider the food you actually eat! I was given a coupon for some cereal that was on sale, and by using the coupon, the price was brought down to .75 cents a box. Great! Except, my kids hated the cereal! We don't actually eat sugar sweetened cereal (nothing wrong with it, my kids just don't like it), and so it was really just a waste of money. Coupons are great, but if the savings are not for something you would buy anyways, it is not saving you money. What is the use of having 10 bottles of barbeque sauce that you don't use because it was cheap?
  4. Learn to cook from scratch! Now, I know this one takes a lot of time and effort. Sometimes our lives seem so busy and complicated, and cooking is the last thing we want to do. I have found though that taking the time to cook a really good meal once a day is actually simple, and so good for us. It is good to slow down, good to spend the time making something that everyone will enjoy. It is also cheaper to make your own food. I am making bread for about 30 cents a loaf, and my family loves it. My granola costs about two dollars to make, and it is a huge jar. Soup is so cheap to make, and served with a pan of cornbread or freshly baked bread, it makes a great winter time meal. 
  5. Plan. This one is so important! If you don't know what you are making, you are more likely to eat out or buy some pre-packaged food in a panic.
  6. To be continued! Stuart is trying to go outside to survey his snowy world. I need to get him outside for a while!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

yarn along 4

My fourth yarn along, hosted by Ginny at small things. This is the very beginnings of a baby hat for a neighbor, who is due in a few weeks. Since they do not know the gender, I am using a neutral colored yarn, but if baby is a girl, I will add a little ribbon or something. The currents reads are Unplanned by Abby Johnson and Knitting Around by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Unplanned was difficult to read, yet it was also riveting, and I finished the book in one day, as is evidenced by the pile of laundry in my laundry room! Knitting Around is charming, and I wish I could just pick up the phone and ask Elizabeth Zimmerman for advice-she sounds so warm and kind! I also learned how to do a yarn over (which I have done on accident whilst learning to knit) and am trying to do some more decorative stitches. That is all for this week!

Monday, February 21, 2011

more random, unconnected thoughts

  1. I have a lovely, talented friend who helped me take this dress apart (found at Goodwill for two dollars, loved the fabric, know I will never be a size two!) and refashion it in to a skirt. The skirt is adorable, and I am so happy to finally have this project done.
  2. The older children have a day off from school, so every one is still asleep. Had my latte in total peace and quiet this morning, an unusual turn of events.
  3. Snow is in the forecast for us, and as much as I love snow and always want a good snowstorm, I am so ready to be warm again! I am really ready for flowers, morning coffee in the gazebo, and fresh vegetables from the garden.
  4. Estelle came up to me yesterday as I was getting ready for mass. "I am so excited to go to Mass! have been looking forward to this all week!" she said. "I am so happy to hear that", I replied. "Well," she said, "I really just want to show off my purse and dress." 
  5. And now, my most talkative child is awake, and I can't string together any more unconnected thoughts while I am being asked a gagillion questions!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

yarn-along 3

Joining Ginny at small things for a yarn along again. This week, I have just been teaching myself to do things I haven't yet mastered. The creme colored yarn is my attempt to learn how to increase. It took watching a you tube clip for me to get it, but get it I did. I am making a coin purse for my daughter. The second swatch, hanging from my statue, is my first attempt at switching from one color to the next. It worked really well, and I know I will like being able to knit multi-colored items. The book is another cook book. I really do read something other than cook books, but I am trying to pull together a good menu rotation so that menu planning will be a more streamlined effort. I am re-reading Nourishing Traditions. Especially paying attention to the section on lacto-fermented products and making broths. I would like to make several batches of meat broth to keep on hand. I still haven't started unpicking my scarf, I just haven't had any time to really concentrate on it. Someday!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


This is Estelle. She is seven, and she calls Ella Fitzgerald Elephants Gerald. Makes me smile every time! Love, love, love this little gap toothed girl!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Just for fun, here is a list of my favorite ingredients. Things I am likely to keep on hand to make a favorite recipe, and things I just can't imagine not having in my pantry. So, with out further ado, here is my list of things that bring me happiness in the culinary realm.
Hazelnuts, whole unroasted. they go rancid quickly once roasted, so I roast as needed.
vermouth- makes any sauce better
sea salt
pepper in a grinder
butter, never margarine. Going to try making ghee this week.
Homemade kefir
tomato paste
coffee-brings me happiness in general, not just culinary!
brown rice syrup-makes the best granola bars
maple syrup
fresh lemons
fresh herbs-I usually keep thyme and basil, and have a rosemary bush in the yard.
smoked paprika
butternut squash-squash fries, curried squash soup, etc.
This is making me hungry! Time to go find a snack!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I will miss winter

Even though I get desperate for warm weather, sunshine, and blue skies by February, (when we still have another,oh say, 4 ,months of gloom and rain), there is always a part of me that misses winter when it has passed. I miss the garden in winter, the leafless trees revealing secret nests, and the rose hips laden bushes. I miss Christmas lights, and long, cold evenings drinking coffee and playing pinochle with my children. I miss family Christmas parties, where these four boy cousins polish off all of the mint oreos before I even catch whiff of them. I miss hot soup, warm freshly baked bread, and the smell of a pot of beef bourgignon (totally mis-spelled, I know) simmering for hours on the stove. Summer may be the fairest of seasons, but winter will always be my favorite!

Friday, February 11, 2011


I have had the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for  about 9 months now. Love, love, love the book. I had been making the master recipe and shaping it in to rounds, and this had become our daily bread. So easy, everyone loves it. Just in the last month, I read through the rest of the book, and decided to branch out a bit. I started making the whole wheat bread, then the whole wheat sandwich loaf, then the white sandwich loaf. All excellent, and even my non-whole wheat eating children loved the whole wheat bread. The farmer also prefers it to white bread. Then, the farmer saw the recipe for challah bread. Turns out, he loves challah bread. Usually bread with instructions like "divide the dough in to even portions and roll into ropes and braid" break me out in to a nervous sweat. I end up with a sticky mass of grey worm like ropes, and it all turns into a foul lump when I try to braid it. This? Nothing like that at all. The dough was so easy to work with, and the finished result not only looks good, but tatses delicious as well! Every recipe from this book has been like that. I am now making all of our bread, and challah will be part of my weekly rotation.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

This is love

At this time of year, with Valentine's Day fast approaching, we hear a lot about love. What it is, how to find it, how to cultivate it, how to keep it. In my mind, this is love-a farmer, having worked a 16 hour day, sinking to the floor to read to his son. Sitting down to pull him close as soon as the boy makes his request. We are urged to show someone we care by buying flowers, chocolates, dinners out, jewelry. But nothing you can purchase shows love, speaks greater volumes, or is as long lasting as laying down your life, your wants, your needs to give someone else what they truly need. The flowers will fade, the jewels become hopelessly unfashionable, the chocolates will be only a distant memory, the meal forgotten until the Visa bill arrives. Holding your small son close, even though you are weary, hot, and dirty, and looking at his favorite book with him, will reassure him that he is loved and cherished. And that is a good that will last a lifetime!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

yarn along

I still haven't gotten around to unpicking my scarf, and honestly have not had the desire to deal with it this week. So, I decided to continue my education and learn some knitting techniques I have not yet mastered. Things like increasing, decreasing, slipping one stitch, and yarn overs. This will allow me to move beyond the ubiquitous hat and scarf! I cast on a few stitches, and now will dig out my Vogue Guide to Knitting and practice! The book is an awesome baking book I found at the library and want to buy as soon as I can . It is full of delicious baked goods (I made the chocolate hazelnut buns for breakfast, they are excellent!), and the pictures are beautiful. The book is Warm Bread and Honey Cake, and the author os Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. I have a whole sheet of paper listing all of the recipes I want to try from this book. Thanks to Ginny at small things for hosting the yarn along! Hopefully, in the near future, I will have some completed projects to share!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Most days, gratitude is a hard won battle for me. It is often crowded out by the daily stresses of life, and I do not always see clearly that it should be as natural as breathing for me. But when you see the little truck your son was driving and your daughter was riding in upside down in a ditch, leaning drunkenly against a power pole, with a live wire resting next to it, and you hear that they walked away from the scene, you are grateful. When your daughter tells you that your son almost stepped on the wire, your weep tears of gratitude. You feel surprised that you were ever ungrateful, in fact. Why was I ever anything but thankful, you wonder. Then, you see your children. They are in the office of the school they attend part time, surrounded by friends and teachers who came outside and started praying for the people involved in the accident before they realized who it was. They are warm, talking, sore, shaken, and healthy. You teeth are chattering and you begin to shake when your friend tells you of the giant arc of sparks thrown from the wires, of the squealing of brakes and screaming of daughter. the next afternoon, as you wash your son's stainless steel water bottle, recovered from the (very much totaled) truck, you cry again as you see the enormous dent in it, the mud smeared all over its surface. My son is fine, you remember. And you promise your self that you will not wait until your children are almost killed to be grateful-grateful for every day, each moment, each thing that happens. Even the stress is a symbol of a life full and lived with joy. Thanks be to God for sparing the life of my children!

Monday, February 7, 2011

This will always make me happy

Written by Evangeline, dictated by Estelle. It has been hanging on my door for months, and it makes me happy every time I see it!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


For some reason, I have felt sad and restless today. I found an old picture of me with a friend, a very good friend who suddenly stopped being my friend-I still don't know what happened. It was hard, this being confronted with what I had lost, especially in the face of also losing my father, two brother in laws, and the farmers grandma in the last eighteen months. I have been struggling with the feeling of losing so much and gaining so little. This restlesness, this sense of regret and sorrow and wanting to regain all I have lost is very hard for me to deal with, because the only way for me to work it out is to have a good weep. To go off by my self and cry and pray and walk until I am exhausted, and can fall into bed and sleep. I have not been able to do this today, and so I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of things for which I am grateful, because I know that in amidst the confusion and sorrow and stress, there is joy to be had. There is beauty and truth and goodness. If I spend the last half hour of my day in gratitude, hopefully I will be able to banish these other thoughts from my mind! So! I am grateful for the early morning sunlight flooding my dining room with golden light. Grateful that I have two oatmeal scones to eat with my morning coffee, grateful for the handsome farmer who made the scones! Grateful for my dear friend who bought my little girls each three dresses from Lands End, just because. Grateful I found my i-pod before my morning walk. I always go further and walk fatser with some good music playing. Grateful that God holds my heart, turns my mourning into joy, and has given me the hope of heaven, which I cling to with all my might on these dark days.
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Saturday, February 5, 2011

He speaks to me

"We are using xyz curriculum this year," my friend said. "We have prayed about it, and this is what God told us to use." "I prayed about selling our house, and heard God telling me that we should stay where we are for a while longer" another friend said. "We are thinking of moving to Arizona. We really feel God is telling us to move there" said another friend. I could not contribute anything to the conversation, and on the way home that night, I was struck by the realization that God does not speak to me. I had just heard my friends talking about all the ways in which God spoke to them. These were all questions I had had in the last few years, and when I had prayed about them, I heard nothing. In fact, I had never had God speak to me when I prayed for something, never heard him telling me to do anything. When I realized this, it led me to a crisis in my faith. Was I not praying correctly? Did God not care about me? Was I simply unable to hear his voice, my mind too crowded with the jangling thoughts that daily living produce? Have I just been too busy (or apathetic) to slow down and really listen to his voice? These questions plagued me for months, and I entered in to a period of spiritual darkness. If God cared so little about me, then I did not care either. Then, one evening, I talked with the farmer about this. I told him what was bothering me, and how upset I was that God did not tell me what curriculum to use, what diet to try, how to raise my children, and how to handle some tricky relationships. God simply did not speak to me, and it left me feeling cold. My dear husband is exactly what I need. He is the sane voice of reason, the philosopher who helps me look at the circumstances in my life in a calm and objective manner. He listened to my unhappy ramblings, and then pointed out to me that there had been times when God had spoken to me. He listed them for me-the time I was sitting in Mass, pregnant with what would have been our sixth child. I heard God tell me that something would go wrong but that I would be fine. Two days later, that baby died. I was devastated, but God truly consoled me and I WAS fine. The day I received horrible news and needed to know how to respond, how to proceed. God told me "forgive." And, so I forgave, and it WAS the correct way to respond. There are many more examples, but the point is that when I truly needed to hear his voice, I did. All of those other prayers? I was free to decide for myself. God had already made his will known to me- I am to know him, love him, and serve him. It does not matter what curriculum I use, as long as I am being faithful to him. Now! Does this mean that God was not really speaking to my friends, that they were hearing something else? Of course not. God speaks to us in different ways. He finds us where we are, and gives us what we need. Some people may hear him speak every day, and I still think it is important to continually pray and ask for his wisdom. But, if I don't hear his voice every time I pray, if I ask the questions and hear no answer, I can still know that my father loves me and cares for me. I can rest assured that he hears me, and that I can make up my mind and proceed with joy, knowing that when I TRULY NEED him, I will hear his voice.

Friday, February 4, 2011

wit's end and back

So! I have been at my wit's end with this little boy! He has been on a particularly naughty streak lately, doing things like flushing his lunch down the toilet, dumping things out of boxes and then running away, coloring on his sister's school books, and so on. Oh! And he has started shouting no at me, and his other favorite word is "EEEEWWW" which he says when ever he is kissed or does not like his food. And yes, this little boy is disciplined, he is just in a phase of testing the limits and seeing if we are good for our word. We are. Anyway, this morning I was just about to put him in his coat and have Robert take him for a stroller ride because I needed 10 minutes of peace to get the girls ready to go. I was brushing Estelle's hair, and she was crying because it hurt. Stuart came running over to her with a Kleenex and started trying to wipe her tears away. He also gave her a hug. It was so sweet, and I am no longer at my wit's end!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

First yarn along

I am joining Ginny at gsheller.com for my first yarn along. A yarn along is a post showing what you are reading and what you are knitting. So! The books first! The top book is I Loved Jesus in the Night by Paul .Murray, in which he talks about Mother Theresa's spiritual dryness, and how she loved Jesus in spite of it. Next book is A Pet for the Orphelines, and I am reading it aloud to my little girls. We love these books! This is the third in the series. And, lastly, I am reading through Julia Child's cook book. My mother bought it for me for my birthday, and I am reading it like a book! My knitting is a scarf in a basket weave pattern. I started it while my Dad was in the hospital, and after his death, I couldn't bring my self to pick it up again. I just decided to finish it, and just realized that I have somehow added three stitches. So, now I will have to unpick three rows to fix my mistake! I am the world's most bumbling knitter, but I enjoy it and want to learn to do it well. Hopefully I will be able to show a finished scarf next week!