Carrot Spiced Soup

Growing up in a rural area of New Hampshire (our town had no stoplights) we were not exactly a culinary destination. However, tucked away near my town was a little restaurant and shop called Pickety Place. With a five course menu that changed on a monthly basis,  we would all sit around the table looking through their newsletter and try to decide which months looked the most delicious. Reservations were made in advance, with 3 timed lunch seatings you didn't just show up. We'd get there early and check out the little shops, picking up dip mixes, candies, and Christmas ornaments. Then we'd go see the Little Red Riding Hood room (Pickety was used as the illustration inspiration for an original edition of the book). At our designated time a dinner bell would ring and we would all be seated in the dining room which felt like another world. It was warm and cozy and smelled like the inside of an apple pie. Food has always been a passion of mine and my taste runs right in line with Pickety's farm fresh herb infused cooking. Sipping spice tea and oohing and ahhing over the courses as they came out and picking out the different herb flavors made me feel very grown up and is a happy childhood memory.

Around twelve I started cooking more and more at home I was given some Pickety cookbooks. Every Christmas or birthday I would proudly present my grandmother with a certificate for a 5 course Pickety meal. I would menu plan and go down and stay with her and spend all day in the kitchen.

The farm was abundant with carrots this year and I decided carrot soup was the perfect vehicle for them. This recipe is inspired by a Pickety carrot soup I had. It was creamy and delicious but still light tasting and I was surprised that it was due to the use of nonfat dried milk as the cream element. I bought dried milk for the first time ever years ago to make their soup and it has been a staple in my kitchen ever since. I use it almost exclusively in my cooking and baking because it is far cheaper than regular milk and takes up much less space.

The spice I use in this is Teeny Tiny Spice Company's Persian Adwiya. It's a local Vermont made product and we started carrying it at the roasters on our Vermont products wall. My boss gave it to me as a gift and when I opened it and smelled it I knew it had to go in this soup. One of my other major culinary influences was my father. He would cook Persian stews when we were little that would simmer all day and make the house smell amazing. If this spice mixture isn't for you substitute in a little bit of ginger, cinnamon, or nutmeg. It makes the soup a rainy day treat.

Carrot Spiced Soup
(serves 6-8)

2 TBS olive oil
2 lbs of carrots, peeled and sliced thin
2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 can of ginger ale (Vernor's is highly recommended- it's important that it's spicy and strong)
2 TBS of Teeny Tiny Spice Co's Persian Adwiya (it contains rose petals, cinnamon, lemon zest, coriander, cumin, orange zest, nutmeg, cardamon, peppercorn and Himalayan pink salt)
3 cups of broth (I used Vegetarian Powdered broth mix because that's what I had on hand)
1 cup nonfat dried milk

1. In a saucepan, saute the carrots and onions in the olive oil. Stir occasionally and let them cook for about 10-15 minutes until the carrots are soft. Add the salt & pepper to the carrot onion mixture.

2. In a food processor or blender puree the carrots and onions. I prefer a creamy soup so I puree all of the carrots and onions but you can reserve some to add back into the soup whole if you prefer more texture.

3. Pour the puree back into your pan and add a can of ginger ale. The bite from the ginger ale adds a nice dimension to the soup and takes it into "meal" territory. Add the broth and spices and stir until mixed. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes.

4. After 10 minutes add in the 1 cup of nonfat dried milk and stir. Continue to simmer. After about 3-5 minutes you'll notice the that milk is "foaming" up through the top of the soup as it combines with the soda. Stir it gently and simmer for 10 additional minutes.

5. Serve with bread or croutons if desired and enjoy it!

Note: I frequently freeze this soup. I do snack sized Ziplocs frozen flat for quick meals for myself and gallon sized Ziplocs frozen flat for quick dinners. You can either take out the bag and transfer it to the fridge the night before to thaw or you can warm it in a bowl of hot water until it's soft enough to pour into a pan to heat.


Felted Dryer Balls out of A Wool Skirt

I roll with the "hip" Vermont-y crowd. We cloth diaper, we pickle, we can, we use felted dryer balls bought locally with our amber teething necklaces on Etsy. Ok, maybe a little tongue in cheek there. I feel like I'm trying to live this green homesteading lifestyle and somehow I'm at the forefront of random trends. Wool dryer balls being one of them. There are dozens of tutorials out there. I wouldn't be a good green blogger if I didn't post my own (plus I'm cheap and this cost me $1).

First question, "Why balls?". (Balls :) ) Well, calling them wool dryer spheres just wouldn't return as many hilarious google results. Seriously though, they fluff your laundry and there are no chemicals involved and no dryer sheets to buy. The wool balls toss around with your laundry, the balls get moist (the teenage  can me is giggling), and create this lovely humid happy drying environment for your clothes. It also cuts down on drying time. I'm a sucker for scent so I put a little lavender oil on mine so that my laundry smells pretty.

You will need:
A wool skirt from a thrift store
Wool Yarn
The leg off a pair of pantyhose or a knee high
A washer and dryer

Now the different tutorials out there involve everything from unraveling old sweaters to wool batting to yarn. I am a fan of the yarn method. I got some beautiful hand-dyed Vermont wool yarn in a food swap this past winter and I was happy to put it to work. By far though my favorite dryer balls are made from wool fabric. You can pick up some hideous wool knee length skirt monstrosity from Goodwill for less than $4. Mine was $1. Just make sure it's 100% wool (mine was virgin wool- good to know my wool is virtuous). The skirt I bought yielded enough fabric to make 10 dryer balls.

Snazzy knee length wool skirt. It had a few tiny holes which is probably how I scored it for $1.

It's a Pendleton, great brand!

I cut a laptop (open) sized rectangle from the front panel of the skirt.

Not the greatest picture but basically if you continuously cut around the rectangle you end up with wool fabric thread.

Wind the "thread" around your fingers to start the ball and just keep winding trying to keep the wool as smooth and flat as possible.

You'll end up with a rolled ball the size of a small fist/large lemon. I tucked the end of the wool "thread" under some of the other layers gently using the end of my scissors.

I then wrapped one of the balls in a pattern with this beautiful wool yarn. I made another ball in the same method using just yarn (this takes MUCH longer than using wool fabric), and I left one plain. I like the three similar but different set.

My three of a kind pre-wash.

You want to take a knee-high or cut the leg off a pair of pantyhose and tie the balls of in them.

It is very important to put your hand all the way down the pantyhose with the ball, otherwise it will rub against the side of the pantyhose and unravel.

Three of them tied off in the pantyhose.

 At this point you need to run them through the washer and dryer. Run the washer on hot. I didn't want to waste the load so I washed them with about 10 other wool sweaters that I'm planning on felting and using for a blanket/quilt. Then dry them on high. Repeat this step at least twice.

Bingo! You're done. Arent't they pretty? I'm a fan of the plain gray wool skirt one. There's something very industrial and useful about it's look.

They shrink up a tiny bit and end up a little smaller than a fist. I like this size best because they move around in the dryer without being so loud that the dog barks whenever I do laundry!
Happy Felting! Enjoy :)


20 Chore Tuesday: The Delegating Edition

Long story short my husband is currently home with me after expressing ethical concerns with the way his work (medical facility) was reporting. I'm proud of him and the moral man that he is and am trying not to think about bills. This is why I'm happy we didn't blow off our savings account.

20 chore tuesday

This means though, that I get to delegate some of 20 Chore Tuesday! Woo-hoo.... so when you see "Mow the lawn" it doesn't mean me, which is a good thing considering the size of our lawn and my relative ratio to the lawn mower. I thought I'd get a full nights sleep last night since my husband took the baby and I was going to slumber peacefully on the couch to kick this cold but the toddler had other plans and woke up from a nightmare. She was so cute and clingy that I let her sleep on the couch with me but my kidneys got tenderized by her chubby little feet in the process. I'm running an over/under on my bruise count. I'm guessing 12.  Don't forget to link up and play along!

1. Hours at roasters.
2. Pick up chainsaw chain.
3. Drop off breast pump to swap person.
4. Buy more potty treats.
5. Run load of laundry.
6. Fold laundry.
7. Remake the toddler's bed.
8. Cut down trees in the triangle area between the road to the pond and our yard. A work in progress. The wind kicked up so we abandoned this task for today. My husband went out and did this Wed morning. I told him he had to while we still have health insurance in the event of a chainsaw mishap.
9. Wash diapers.
10. Fold diapers.
11. Clean out fridge.
12. Open up new box of snapware and divvy up some of the dry goods from Costco. My brilliant husband put this all in the dishwasher and ran it for me.
13. Fill out new pantry inventory sheet.
14. Fill out new freezer inventory sheet.
15. Fill out downstairs freezer inventory sheet.
16. Mow lawn.
17. Stack wood onto front porch.
18. Wash our sheets.
19. Frontline the dog.
20. Make a list of home canned goods that need to be eaten in the next month (1 yr USDA recommended shelf life) and find homes for them through Facebook.
21. Put away dishes.
22. Wash dinner dishes.
23. Order amber teething necklace for baby. 

Ended up running to the roasters for a 30 person tour and having my cup of coffee there! On my 2nd cup and boy is the Ethiopian Sidamo hitting the spot today.


Coffee Buttercream Frosting

This frosting was lick the mixer bowl good. I did a favor for a friend last night and baked a little over a hundred carrot cupcakes to bring to a function. They were going to be served at the coffee roaster's table so we wanted a coffee component to them. This frosting was a huge hit and will be made again and again! I used it as a decorative swirl on top (not covering the entire top) and it frosted roughly 90 cupcakes.

Coffee Buttercream Frosting

1 stick plus 2 TBS butter (total of 10 TBS)
24 oz confectioners sugar
4 TBS coffee (I used Brown & Jenkins Guatemala that I had helped roast!)
hot boiling water, a coffee mug, and a coffee filter (clothespins also help)

1. Set up the coffee filter in a mug. You want to brew an extra strong coffee extract. You're only going to use 1/8-1/4 of a cup so I use 4 TBS of coffee to ensure that it comes out with a super coffee-y taste. I recommend using a single origin coffee. Blends can have just a bit too much complexity for the frosting. I used Guatemala Antigua and the result was phenomenal. Pour some hot boiling water over the coffee and set it aside to "stew".

2. In a mixing bowl fitted with a whisk beat the butter until fluffy. I don't worry about softening it. I just put the whisk on full speed and let it whip itself into a frenzy.

3. Add the confectioners sugar a little at a time. If you don't use your sugar very often and it's lumpy sift it first. The frosting will get really smooth and silky.

4. Take the filter out of the coffee cup gently squeezing it to extract all the coffee. Measure out 1/4 cup of the brewed coffee. Add it slowly to frosting a little at a time. I used the full 1/4 cup but you want to make sure you add it a little at a time so your frosting doesn't get watery. The coffee has oils in it and it gives the frosting a really pretty shine.

5. Frost your cupcakes (and lick the whisk). I used this for an event and put the batch of frosting into a gallon ziploc. When I got there I cut the corner off and frosted the cupcakes. Just be careful with buttercream frostings they can "break" if they get too cold so make it when you need it and don't put it in the fridge.


Carrot Cupcakes for A Crowd (or a few)

Today I am making Carrot Cupcakes. For 100 (if you're in VT and at Boyden's for a Harvest Dinner taste one!). With no advance notice and no planning I went to my cupboard to see what I had and this recipe was expanded on from a muffin. I mean a carrot cupcake is just a muffin with frosting right? These are super light and fluffy so they are the perfect dessert. So often parents end up making large scale recipes for bake sales, parties, and practices and this recipe is affordable and easy to do. It can be halved or quartered for smaller groups. I don't use nuts because they're expensive and most kids aren't fans. This recipe is already egg free so just switching milk to soy milk will make them vegan. They taste delicious and you may as well please everyone! The best way to make these cupcakes? Invite another mom over with a bottle of wine. Put in minimal work to make these, drink wine while each batch is baking and bring them to school talking about how you spent "all night in the kitchen" (drinking). We frosted these with a Coffee Buttercream Frosting (it was an adult event & they were being served at a coffee roaster's table) and they were a huge hit! A plain buttercream would also be great on these.

Carrot Cupcakes for A Crowd
(makes 120- a few extra for your family & to "quality test")

I mix this in 5 separate batches to ensure that everything is mixed well & because my bowl isn't big enough for all of it!

Make sure you have this on hand:

5 lbs of carrots, peeled
5 cups of vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups of buttermilk (If making them vegan, substitute soy milk.)
5 cups of sugar
5 cups of raisins
5 cups of drained canned pineapple, chunked or shredded- your choice (I was casual about measuring this and I snuck a few pieces for myself. I ended up using 3 20oz cans)
15 TBS of apple cider vinegar
20 tsp of baking soda
10 tsp of baking powder
5 tsp of kosher salt (reduce if using table salt)
10 tsp cinnamon
5 tsp cardamom (I use this a lot in Persian cooking and love it- it gives a very subtle flavor. You could substitute ginger or a bit of nutmeg and cloves instead.)
15 cups of flour

(Each of the 5 batches that make up this larger ingredient list uses: 1 pound of carrots, 1 cup of vegetable oil, 1/2 cup of buttermilk, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of raisins, 1 cup of pineapple, 3 TBS apple cider vinegar, 4 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cardamom, and 3 cups of flour.)

1. Peel all the carrots. Gather your other ingredients and prepare your battle station. Set up a cooling rack for the cupcakes. Make sure you have a container on hand to pack them into once cool. (Hint: A toy storage sterilite container w/ posterboard between the layers works amazingly!) Preheat the oven to 350. Make sure you have 2 12 muffin tins. You can bake 24 at a time with this recipe.

My battle station.

The only thing I don't premeasure out is the flour (because I have a giant bag of it at my feet). I measure the oil, buttermilk & vinegar into one Pyrex, the raisins and pineapple into another, the sugar into a 1 cup (that I then use for flour), and the remaining dry spices & ingredients into another cup. Carrots stay shredded in the processor until I'm ready for them. 

Yup, I am the person who buys the 50 lb bag of flour.

2. Weigh out a pound of carrots. If you don't have a scale just divide the carrots up into 5 piles that look similar and grab one of the piles. Shred the carrots.

3. In the bowl of the mixer mix the carrots, oil, sugar, buttermilk, cider vinegar, raisins, and pineapples. When the ingredients are integrated add in all remaining ingredients. Mix until incorporated.

4. Dose out the batter into muffin tins (using liners if you'd like, or spraying if you don't). I find that a 1/4 cup scoop is the perfect size for filling muffin tins. Go over the tops of the batter with a spoon looking for and pressing down any random carrot strands that are sticking up. This keeps them from looking like tentacles and makes the cakes easier to frost. (Sidenote: I call these muffins and feed them to my family. I mean they're only cupcakes if they're frosted right?)

5. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Repeat the process. It takes about 3 minutes to grate the carrots in a food processor and mix the batter so you have 17 minutes left to hang out between batches.

Eat some, bring the rest to the team, party, school, your belly.... whatever makes you happy!


20 Chore Tuesday- 45 Minutes of Insane Productivity

It's 20 Chore Tuesday again and while I had this ideal vision of my house finally being put in order this week since the baby starts daycare Tuesdays and Wednesdays I have kissed that idea goodbye. It took me 45 minutes to drop off- including setting up her cloth diaper items and feeding her. This means I have a roughly 45 minute window now while I'm typing this to get as much done as possible before leaving the house for work. Luckily, I have my mental list done so here goes:

Ok I tried to insert the link up here and it did not work, so go to Joyful Abode to see other 20 Chore Tuesday participants!

1. Pack baby's daycare bag for her 1st day.
2. Bring baby to daycare, set her up, hand in immunization record, leave carseats for husband.

3. Wash laundry in mesh hamper.
4. Fold the two baskets of clothes that are already dry.
5. Put the clothes away.
6. Fold and put away cloth diapers.
7. Start bread dough to rise while I'm at work.
8. Pack up swap items for folks I'm meeting later today and put in trunk.
9. Send in timesheet.
10. Post 20 Chore Tuesday blog.
11. Post a recipe blog later tonight.
12. Pick up living room.
13. Vacuum living room. Changed this one to wipe down kitchen counters, so I'd have somewhere sanitary to put my sanitized pump parts.
14. Vacuum kitchen perimeter under cabinets.
15. Vacuum stairs. Not happening but I did clean my stove!
16. Sweep front hallway. Hahahaha. Too much crap in the hallway to do this and we decided to go to $2 pizza slice night instead.
17. Pack pump up and put in car.
18. Tonight- sanitize all pump parts.Fun added task, Hygeia battery isn't charging. Yup on baby's 1st day of day care I was pumpless. This was incredibly uncomfortable so I called the company. They can repair it but I have to ship it to them, wait 2-3 weeks and have a loaner pump in the meantime. A little disappointed since the pump is less than 2 months old and has seen minimal use.
19. Clean out fridge to make room for farm share.

Errands/Outside of House
20. Do hours at roaster.
21. Pick up check.
22. Pick up farm share.
23. Meet folks for swap items.

24. Send out mass press release reminding folks of Rockin Ron the Friendly Pirate's DVD release tomorrow on Talk Like a Pirate Day.
25. Gather items for event as I'll be in an Acidified Food Preservation class tomorrow morning. (Put salon gift certificate in car!)
26. Review links on site to ensure that all fixed properly.
27. Make sure other built site transferred to domain and is up and running.

28. Call and schedule oil change. I decided that I was crazy to try to fit this in tomorrow. It will have to wait until another day.

Crap, I forgot empty compost, soak counter bin in bleach and rinse out poopy diapers. Grr.

I need a nap. And more coffee. 36 minutes till I need to leave the house.


You Know You're Potty Training When...

10. Your tweets all end in #pottytraining (and you know who will respond first and commiserate).

9. You do laundry everyday and because you've quit diapers & pullups cold turkey (to avoid "confusion") there is a small stash of tiny underpants soaking in a bucket somewhere in your house.

8. Every 10 minutes someone in your house uses the word potty.

7. There is a chart with stickers on it on your fridge. Whichever spouse wasn't home during the day immediately checks it and praises the child for how many stickers they "earned".

6. Liquids are monitored and rationed like IV fluid in an HMO hospital.

5. When an adult in the family successfully goes pee, clapping and "Yay, Daddy went pee in the potty" ensues.

4. At 4am a crying child wakes you up. You are thrilled because it is screams of "Potty, potty!" which at least means they get it.

3. There is candy in your bathroom, for the elusive "poop in the potty".

2. "What are you doing?" "Why are you squatting?" "No, stop peeing let's go to the potty." "Honey, I think she's pooping!"

1. You have been peed on in the post office while carrying your toddler in an Ergo and as pee dripped across the floor you calmly toweled it up (of course you had a towel with you) and continued your transaction like it was totally normal. (Yes, this happened to me this morning.)

Heading to get a donut after 12 successful potty trips. Big thank you to the Dunkin Donuts clerk who didn't look at me like I was crazy when I handed her this chart with a dollar clipped to it.

Victory chocolate donut!


Country Living & DeSkunking a Dog

There are several things that come with the country lifestyle that I could live without and one of them is skunks. Growing up in New Hampshire, I remember pulling into the driveway late at night and watching those fat little suckers waddle off like they owned the place. Now when it's my house it's not quite as "cute", but the last straw? My dog being sprayed in the face the night before we left for BlogHer. Yup, while everyone else was packing cute shoes or going to sponsored parties they had arrived early for, I was googling "What to do if your dog is sprayed by a skunk?", "Deskunk your pet" and "How to get the skunk smell off my dog?" while my husband was furiously scrubbing our stinky beast. We are just lucky that I had been working on our 72 hour kit and we had enough hydrogen peroxide on hand. Otherwise it would have been a long lonely drive to the 24 hour supermarket and hours would have passed while the stench sunk into his fur.
So whether you have a dog and live in the country or you have a friend who just moved my genuine Skunk Solution kit will be your best friend should your canine companion be sprayed by Pepe. It works by neutralizing the odor rather than just covering it up. Don't believe me? Well, Discovery's Mythbusters proved it works. Ha-ha, one point me.

Remember the best time to learn how to deal with skunk spray is before it happens!

A soapy cautionary tale to other dogs.

Items Needed:
A bucket
2 pint containers of 3% hydrogen peroxide (Costco sells two bottle packs.)
1/4 cup of baking soda (I keep this in a sandwich bag.)
1-2 tsp dish soap/liquid Ivory soap (Make sure it is a gentle cleaner and not a super dishwashing grease cutting chemical laden concoction. I keep a few sample sized packets of Seventh Generation on hand for this.)
Candy of some type
A washcloth
An old towel or two
A dog treat
A cheap leash & collar that you don't care about (We have a piece of rope with a carabiner on it to hook the rope through, it's just to get the dog from the skunk spray location to the bathtub.)

First get the dog inside. It is usually night when dogs get sprayed and you don't need the rest of the skunks family showing up to check out what you're doing if you try to hose him off outside. They can spray up to 13 feet (hence why I'm scared to go to my car at night).

Take your clothes off, if you're nervous to be in undergarments in front of your dog then I suppose you should add a tshirt to the bucket of supplies.

Mix the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda & dish soap. It will fizz a little bit (don't store it in a closed container unless you want to wash your dog and your entire bathroom after it explodes). It's like the second grade science experiment where you make the volcano. Except your house stinks and the dog is whining and you can swear now if you want. Swear a little. It may help.

If your dog got sprayed in the face rinse out his eyes, nose area and mouth with plain water before scrubbing him. Try not to get the rest of him too wet. We found that the solution works best when used directly on the skunk spray. As someone who just had her 2nd baby in less than two years we had an abundance of those little squirt bottles they send you home from the hospital with. These work great.

The washcloth is to scrub the dog with. Burn it when you're done. You want to scrub some of the mix into his/her fur. Then let it sit for 4-5 minutes. Be careful around their face. Unfortunately, this is exactly where the dog got sprayed so we did have to wash him there. I have a cheap pair of swim goggles in our bucket now. If it happens again it will help avoid his eyes. Plus it's a great opportunity to get a picture of the dog in swim googles. Rinse the dog and repeat the process. As a word of warning our dog's black boxer/mastiff jowls were bleached a lovely shade of pink after this "special" bath from the peroxide. I'm sure that it was a great step in the war on gingivitis but he did look pretty goofy for a few weeks.

Dry the dog off with the old towels (put them in the bonfire pile when you're done- or you could be cheap like us, wash them and put them back in the skunk bucket).

Give him the treat. He's been through enough.

Eat the candy bar and congratulate yourself on being so awesome in the face of a stinky emergency. Side note: Does your house smell too? Try putting little bowls of vinegar OR ground up coffee around. Both will absorb odor.

Put a few of these together and give them to your country friends. They make great gifts and I guarantee you one fateful night they will worship your genius and love you forever. As for us? We have several kits on hand. I am just happy to be prepared for next time. 

Good luck my skunked friends!


20 Chore Tuesday- Prepare for Winter

Two fun facts for today; it's definitely fall in Vermont and phone calls are my kryptonite. I have a fear of the baby shrieking halfway through and it's the one chore I constantly put off. The air is chilly in Vermont today and I think there may even be (shudder) frost on my car so I need to prepare. At baby group recently I heard that my 20 Chore Tuesday's were depressing because I usually advocate just getting one thing done to feel good about your day as a new mom. I still feel that way! Just nursing a baby during the day is a huge accomplishment. I make a big list on Tuesday. I try to get as much done as I can but it sometimes spills over. The toddler is in daycare on Tuesday and because I normally go work a few hours on Tuesday for some reason the baby sleeps more? I don't know why.... plus when she falls asleep at the shop I can sneak out for a few minutes and make calls and the errands are easier to do on the way home when she's asleep. My husband also knows to take both kids upon arriving home because it has always been a busy day as far as putting away farm stuff and cleaning the kitchen. Feel free to play along on 20 Chore Tuesday and link up with Joyful Abode (like I do).

Major distraction, leisurely eater.

1. Call the chimney sweep and schedule a stove/chimney cleaning for sometime in the next two weeks. Score- the chimney sweep and water guy are coming on the same day which means only one day where I can't walk around in my bra with a nursing baby.
2. Call the water system guy. We keep changing our filter but the water is coming out smelling iron-y and it's a little yellow. That needs to be fixed.
3. Schedule hair appointment for next Wednesday since I'll be in Burlington for a class anyways.
4. Call daycare and see what paperwork I need to fill out for the baby's first day next week. Luckily, I know I already like them since my older daughter goes a few days a week.
4a. Fill out paperwork they're putting in my daughter's bag and put it back in bag to go in tomorrow.

5. Pick up check.
5a. Send in timesheet.
6. Pick up farm share.
7. Go to Big Lots & buy some more clear plastic boxes for cleaning efforts.
8. Meet folks with swap items.

Laundry (seriously, I don't think the laundry ever ends)
9. Put away giant stack of laundry covering loveseat.
10. Run small load of laundry that includes the car seat cover the baby peed on.
11. Put car seat cover back on car seat.
12. Fold and put away laundry.
13. Fold and put away basket of clean cloth diapers.
14. Sew ribbons onto mesh bags that will sort dirty underwear socks. Why are all my needles sticky? This one will have to wait.
15. Remake toddler's crib so that we don't have to do it at bedtime. (I have a bad habit of washing sheets and then realizing the beds have to be remade as we try to get in them.) Kind of failed this one. Husband brought daughter up to put to bad and I hear "Daddy, no sheet." Oops, well it's made now :)

16. Clean out the fridge. I wouldn't use the word "clean" but I neatened the fridge. There's nothing growing in there.
17. Put away dishes in strainer.
18. Make no crumb banana muffins. This way maybe I'll stop eating chocolate chips plain by the handful. Baked one batch & I'm running out the door. I'll bake batch two tonight. The oven will help heat up the frigid house.
19. Bake the gluten-free bread dough tester recipe that is sitting on the counter. Accept that it is not really going to rise.recipe fail :(

20. Make a detailed list of what I need to do food storage/processing wise for Friday. I've got produce that I need to process for winter and my husband will be home that day for me to do it. List below, but I may be working on Friday so this may slide to Sunday. I started some of it today.
             - roast half of tomatoes (in the oven overnight tonight)
             - puree half of tomatoes and cook down into sauce to freeze (in food    processor and ready to go tomorrow am) 
             - chop onions & make onion jam (do at night so it can crockpot overnight & can in the am before day is too hot)
             - crockpot carrots, puree, & freeze
             - crockpot half beets, puree, & freeze (currently in the pot)
             - roast half of beets, peel, & freeze
             - peel & dice potatoes, toss w/ paprika & salt and freeze for hashbrowns
             - make potato & leek soup and freeze
             - bag up braising greens & freeze
             - chop & freeze scallions
             - blend up sauteed onions & freeze for marinade
21. Go through the giant tote of fabric. Pick some to get rid of that I've had for years that I clearly am not going to use. This way maybe I can figure out where I'm putting my craft stuff. The hallway is just not working anymore. Fabric is in the bedroom, husband went to bed. This one is on hold for now.
22. Hours at roasters.
23. Figure out how to more clearly ask for help. I know I need it. I know I've said things about folks possibly coming over to watch the kids while I organize the house so I don't lose it. I know I told my mother I was close to losing it every time I walked upstairs and looked at the stacks of stuff that needed to be put away but apparently I need to be more clear because help has not materialized. And the fact that I haven't gotten a full night of sleep in nearly 4 months is not helping either. This one is going to be an ongoing effort. I'm not sure how I could be any more clear but I need to find my "village" because this lone cavewoman in a cave with a spear method is not working for me right now.

It's Tuesday so that means one cup of coffee at home and 2 more at the roasters. I'm looking forward to adult interaction..... and hopefully a baby that sleeps for longer than 40 minutes once a day.


The Nursery is Done... Two Years Later

Our second child/first daughter turned two in August. Her (and her sister's) room was finally put together today. Yup, I'm totally on top of that. I blame the tardiness on several factors.

1. Found out we were pregnant New Years Eve 2009. Sold condo May 2010. Moved into temporary rental June 2010. Had baby August 2010 (after one month bedrest). Bought house November 2010. Went back to work the next week and was on the road 4 days a week until August 2011. Started to finish up room, found out we were pregnant again September 2011. This of course threw off all planning and necessitated us switching the master so we could fit a pack n' play and the realization that the girls would be sharing a room. Fast forward to May 2012, our second daughter was born and between nursing and two other kids I finally captured the free time to finish the room.

2. Pinterest. Too many ideas, too much jealousy for folks who didn't have funny shaped post & beam rooms with slanty ceilings.

3. Perfection complex. If I couldn't finish it perfectly down to every piece of decor- I didn't want to do it. I got over this.

I plan to add wall items to the room and I'm deliberating painting the bookcases but they're from my room when I was younger and I kind of like them plain.

Because of the post & beam construction of our house I didn't have much choice on where to put the crib. It was in this nook or it would overlap the window on the other wall. I think it feels cozy in here. The roller box under the crib gives us storage for all of the extra blankets and sheets.
There is some extra space between the beam wall and the crib that I think will end up with a tote of next season clothes. We'll see, it makes me feel good to have extra space.

Yup, that is an office chair. We bought a beautiful Newport rocker (made in Vermont) and it is downstairs. We're working on a quicker night time routine with our two year old and have eliminated rocking. We do still sit with her for a few minutes and chat so we have an office chair in there right now. What can I say? It does the trick. Our all important white noise fan lives in this corner as does our awesome jellyfish lamp that my father in law bought as a gift for the baby. Long story short my husband and I own a lot of jellyfish themed items, it's part of a joke from our first date on the waterfront in Boston. There's also room between this chair and the crib to set up the pack and play in case Sohayla starts sleeping in this room before Yasmina is out of her crib. We also measured and can fit a toddler bed in this area.

The changing table is actually in the closet of this room. In order to maintain a decent play space decided to repurpose the closet as part of the room. I took the bifold doors off and the changing table fits in there perfectly. The white lights are always a good distraction while we're changing the girls.

The pack and play sits next to the changing table ready to go. Also hidden from view is a trash can and the in front we have our diaper pail.

 A $2 hanging shelf holds all of our cloth diapering supplies. We use Flip pocket diapers so the girls can use the same items. This saves space. Yasmina is also in the final stages of potty training so she wears big girl underwear (actually boys briefs- read about it here) most days. The top shelf holds covers and doublers. I make my own doublers (tutorial here). We also stock large organic thick prefolds which we folded into thirds and used for nighttime soaking power. Smaller organic prefolds are for the baby and standard cotton prefolds are for everyday use.
 On the shelf a $3 pink locker shelf from Big Lots separates wipes from other items. Plastic bins ($2.50-$4 from Big Lots) hold soon to fit clothes, toys the baby will be "growing into" soon, and some dress up clothes I'm saving. Liners for cloth diapering sit on this shelf as well. The aqua basket ($1, Family Dollar) holds a thermometer, suction bulb, lotion and other little needs.

The play area is anchored on a brown carpet. I set up my office in a nook right outside of the girls' room so I wanted to make sure they had a great play space since I would be able to work at my desk and keep an eye on them at the same time. The little rocking chair is a favorite reading spot and the purple hippo pillow pet is a favorite bed for dolls. Technically mine, the purple hippo was bought for me for Christmas by my husband because I would not stop singing "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas." Lesson learned, my husband is extremely literal.
I made the bull head on the wall using the head off of a recalled toy rocker. I punched holes and then used ribbon to "sew" the head to a painted canvas that I had handy. It may happen to other unsuspecting stuffed animals as well.

 Toys are split up into cubbies by activity type. A few of the baskets are from IKEA (I think they were $2 each) and the other 2 were from Big Lots 2/$1. My biggest goal with the room was to use items we already had and to do this cheap and in a way that could be changed without having to buy new items.

The pink basket holds stacking blocks, the bottom left green one has dress up clothes, the aqua one holds books that Yasmina can look at and "read" to herself (there are more books downstairs and a bin full that I swap out so we don't go crazy reading the same ones over and over!), the right bottom green bin has doll clothes and blankets. I try to keep minimal toys and have everything visible and categorized. It seems to help her pick up her own stuff.

So far so good. The dog was dressed up, toys were played with, and all was picked up and put back into it's appropriate basket by the toddler.

Over the next few weeks I'll add some more wall decor but I am breathing a sigh of relief that the room is finally complete!


20 Chore Tuesday, Sanity Returns

Last Tuesday found me a little verklempt. Between packing the boy up for his cross country flight, hours of driving, midnight departures for 7 am flights, and a nursing baby on a growth spurt I lost some hair. Literally, I think it was falling out clumps at a time. This week we are back to our version of normal and I even have been weeding through our stuff and simplifying. Now, if I can figure out how to work a yard sale with our driveway we'd be all set.

Post Office Stuff- I have a lot of things having to do with mail and sending items so I thought I'd put them all together
1. Thank you notes for birthday gifts for the toddler.
2. Send out CD & DVD for reviews.
3. Send Kindle charger and shorts to my son. (The Kindle charger he couldn't find? It was in a tupperware container inside a Lego ship. Yup, that's a good place for it.)
3a. Forgot- must send letter to Omni. 

Client/Work Stuff
4. Email in time card.
5. Go to roasters and do my hours.
6. Go by the recovery center for a meeting and to pick up check. Get website login info.
7. Put finishing touches on new recovery center website.
8. Register for Master Composter class. Yup, this is Vermont after all.
9. Make notes for canning demo I'm teaching on Friday.
10. Contact college about vendor fair.

11. Load and run dishwasher.
12. Wash pots & pans.
13. Put away dishes in strainer and dishwasher.
14. Scrub down sink, run drain plugs thru dishwasher along w/ sponge.
15. Pick up farm share.
16. Get extra box of beans for canning demo.
17. Puree carrots from crock pot & freeze.
18. Bake 2 loaves bread.

19. Returns to Big Lots.
19a. Return husband's Redbox movie.
20. Drop off soccer completed paperwork.

21. Rerun laundry that strangely came out smelling like trash?
22. Wash cloth diapers. Potty training is going well so I think we can make it a few more days!
23. Fold laundry in dryer and put it away.
24. Fold and put away diapers. Not for a few days :)
25. Wash sheets. Put back on bed before 11pm. :)

Ok, so once again more than 20 but I'm feeling positive about it. Coffee time.


When Potty Training Gets You Down, Make Oven S'mores

Ahh, potty training. It's happening in our house and it's actually been going well. The toddler announces "Potty" and we stop whatever we're doing to hustle her off to the bathroom. With any luck she goes pee-pee on the potty (occasionally we catch her squatting in the hall on the way) and we clap (no, my 15 year old self did not see this coming). Then I walked into Target to buy "big girl" underwear and realized that all the "panties" have ruffles and glitter and decor on them. My mind started .... I want to say going in circles but it was more like an elf on a pogo stick eating cotton candy. Craziness. I don't want to get my daughter underwear that she wants to show to people because it's pretty! She turned two a week ago- this is not the age to start teaching her that underwear needs to be covered in glitter, lace, and Tinkerbell. And I certainly don't need her thinking it's to show off. So I stood there and deliberated and in the end against my usual thrifty behavior I bought her a pack of boys briefs. It came with half the amount of underwear and cost twice as much but at least I know that if she shows it it's because of her pride in the accomplishment of potty training and not because she has a fairy princess plastered on her behind.

Thinking about her wanting to show off her behind got me a little stressed out so I went home and made oven s'mores. We always have the supplies on hand and after some experimentation I've found that the inside ones taste pretty darn good in a pinch. They soothe a mother's frazzled soul :)

Oven S'mores
(makes 6- don't share....)

6 graham crackers
6 marshmallows
1 bar of chocolate (Hershey's)
a few teaspoons of Nutella
parchment paper

1. Heat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Break the graham crackers in half (set aside half) and put them on the parchment paper. Take a marshmallow and put a little schmear of Nutella on it (it helps the marshmallow stay on the cracker and it tastes yummy). Repeat.

2. Bake for 4-7 minutes. Watch closely for the marshmallows to poof up. If you let them cook for too long the graham cracker can burn.

3. Pull out of the oven and top each with 3 squares of chocolate.

4. Eat while researching convents you can send your daughter to. Enjoy.