Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ode To Tank Tops

Once upon a time, I had an overprotective father who saw no good reason for his little girl to be traipsing around with little straps as the only thing to cover her shoulders. As a mother of two small girls myself, I now say "Go Dad!" When I was 12, my sentiments were far less encouraging.

I spent most of my seventh grade year sitting in classes and coveting the strappy tank tops that were (and have been, since the seventies) all the rage. Stripes and flowers and pretty colors all held neatly in place by two skinny little shoulder straps.

And then it happened: At 13, I won the school and regional spelling bees and we had to make the pilgrimage to Denver to compete in State (where I failed miserably.) While in Denver (The Big City) we went shopping. And my Daddy let me pick out a spaghetti strap tank top. Oh, the joy. It was olive green with three Oriental-ish koi fish screen-printed near the bottom. I loved it. I cherished it. I wore it every time it came out of the drier.

This desperate desire for Spaghetti Straps has shaped my fashion style all the way into adulthood. At some point a few years after the First Tank Top I began buying my own clothes - and tank tops.

I've discovered a few things over the years: you can wear a tank top all year round. All you need is a sweater in the winter. Tank tops are slimming... well, at least for my body type. They generally look pretty good on me. Tank tops are comfortable, they come in many shapes and colors. They are a breastfeeding mother's dream come true (can we say "Shelf Bra"?) There are tank tops for every need - casual, dressy, working out.

Tank top shopping is like a sport to me. Have you ever noticed you can almost always buy tank tops for less than five dollars? Especially this time of year, since most people haven't figured out the aforementioned Sweater Trick and thing tank tops aren't winter wear. Of course, the abundance of clearanced tank top means I keep buying them. But lo! It is now In Style to layer tank tops - I can wear two at a time, which means I need twice as many.

I was cleaning out my own drawers the other day in preparation for winter. This means I was switching out the short sleeved shirts with sweaters, to cover those tank tops. I was neatly folding and rolling the tank tops in the Tank Top Drawer (yes, I have an entire drawer devoted to these wondrous little things) and tossing a few here and there that I had to admit that I just won't wear. I managed to cull three tank tops from the collection. Tank tops that I just don't wear, that don't look good on me, that are too old or have holes, whatever. I counted the tank tops I was keeping. There were 47 of them. Because really, every woman ought to have nearly fifty tank tops in her dresser at one time.

One of the tops I culled? It was the olive green Koi. Yes, from back when I was thirteen. It is stretched out so that it no longer resembles the female body, it has little holes and snags and tears in it, the koi are crackled and faded. But I've always kept it - you can't beat that for sentimental value. I won't be donating this one, it's gone into the craft room to try and turn it into Something Useful.

Lesson to all parents: be careful what you forbid. You just may be cultivating a life-long obsession with The One Thing They Can't Have.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Changing seasons

The earth made clear that yesterday was the first day of fall: it was 53 degrees at 10 o'clock in the morning yesterday. How did this happen?! Summer has flown by - it seems to do that more quickly with every year. I'm ready for fall - I love fall. But I'm not ready to admit we're that much closer to another year coming to an end.

Since it's a requirement of motherhood to dress one's children properly for the weather, I figured it was time to drag out all of the big Rubbermaid storage tubs holding their fall and winter apparel in the basement. It's like shopping - only you get to stay home and you don't spend any money. Really, it's lots of fun to go through everything I bought last year and forgot about, finding outfits from when Chloe was a toddler that I adored, making lists of what sewing needs to be done, and folding it all and hanging it all neatly. We have a mini fashion show in the living room as they try on sweaters and long pants to determine whether they'll fit this year or not.

And then comes the part where we have to pack away the summer clothes. Now, when I do this in my own closet, I know I'm going to be pulling those tank tops and shorts right back out come April or May. But putting away the sun suits and the sundresses and the summer hats and that really cute Old Navy swim suit... there will be no pulling them back out next year. They won't fit. Children grow - usually at an alarming rate. As I hang the winter things and toss the fantastic handmade sundresses into the big plastic tub I sigh, because I realize...

They will never fit into these things again. They will never, ever be this little again.

The seasons change, the babies grow. It's life... and it's exciting, but it's bittersweet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nature Study by Accident

We walked to the park near our house yesterday, enjoying the crisp new autumn air.

I parked the dog and myself on a bench and settled in to watch the children play on the playground while I sat and contemplated some of the deeper subjects in life. (Not really. I was just too lazy to get up and go down the slide with them.) Chloe went down a slide, swung on the monkey bars a time or two, and then gave up on the pointlessness of a playground and went off in search of something more interesting.

She found it in a puddle. We've had some rain lately, a novelty when you live in the desert as we do. So puddles are a rarity and can provide splendid entertainment for a child like Chloe.

I love that she's like that - she'd rather be poking and prodding in a puddle than playing on a playground. It's one of my favorite aspects of her personality.

There were some sort of living organisms in the puddle that twitched and turned and wiggled when she poked them with sticks. I tried to explain to her that they were mosquito larvae, but she didn't seem grossed out by that like I was. Like any normal person would be.

She sat there, squatted down with her hair almost dipping into the puddle, picking out bits of grass and bark, measuring the depth of the puddle with a stick, stirring the water just to see what happened.

That's homeschool. Charlotte Mason called it a "Nature Study". This is great proof that you don't need woods nearby for a hike to study nature - it can be found next to the playground at a city park.

When we came home I handed her a notebooking page and asked her to draw the puddle and write a few sentences about what she saw. She drew the picture... and then tried to weasel her way out of the writing. I insisted that she do it though, and she did. But it made me think - what am I doing to her genuine and honest and simple love of nature by forcing a writing project and notebooking page out of her choice to sit and study that puddle? Being the overzealous new-to-homeschooling mom that I am, I jump on every single opportunity for learning and try to turn it into "school". Writing those sentences in her notebook didn't teach her a darn thing, except that maybe if she keeps showing an interest in things like that, Mom's gonna keep making her write about it, so maybe she should stop picking random bits of nature to study.

There comes a point when a homeschooling mother needs to learn how to just let something educational be that way on it's own. That puddle didn't need my help to teach her anything, it did just fine on it's own.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Whenever I have a super-productive, really busy day where I don't stop moving and working and accomplish dozens of tasks, my body retaliates by making me feel like I have a cold the next day.

I swear, my body is saying to me, "Well, if you aren't gonna slow down once in awhile, I guess I'll have to do it for you."

And so here I am, wadded up tissue in hand, hugging my tea mug and sniffling.

Yes, body. I promise you can have some rest... just let me finish the laundry, vacuum the computer room, can the tomatoes and chop the peppers and make an apple pie. And then I'll take a break.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Ultimate in DIY

Isn't this the most fantastically Better Crocker-esque photo?

DIY: Shoot an elk. Cut up the meat. Process and grind the meat. Make pepperoni. It doesn't get any more From Scratch than that.
The recipe I used called for half a cup of dry red wine. I love when recipes require wine. I get to go traipsing off to the wine cabinet, fondling each bottle as I determine which one will best suit my need. (Yes, we have a wine cabinet. It makes me feel Pretty Darn Cool to have a wine cabinet.) The best part about a recipe calling for wine is that I get to sample it. Whee fun! Except that with smoked sausage, you have to start early in the morning to be sure it has ample time to smoke. So I started drinking... err, cooking at 8:30 this morning

Once you have a glass of wine in you, it's hard not to notice exactly how phallic sausages really are. I had a splendid time cracking dirty jokes to myself and giggling. (And of course I did not send naughty pictures of the sausages to my husband via cell phone. No proper woman would do that.)

So anyway, I learned that, while not difficult, making sausages takes a long time not even including the smoking time. I spent a full two hours stuffing sausage casings.

And then I smoked them. And then I tasted them. And I realized it was so worth it.


Since I feel like it, I'm including two fantastic recipes I use when making homemade pizza. Just in case you're as obsessed with From Scratch as I currently am and have a need to use up five pounds of pepperoni sausages and fresh garden produce.

Pizza Dough

This recipe came from a wonderful lady from the AOL Penny Pinching message board several years back.

1 Tbsp yeast
1 C. warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups whole wheat flour (or a mixture of whole wheat and white, if you prefer.)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water until foamy. In mixing bowl, other ingredients. When yeast is foamy, add to flour mixture to make a nice dough. knead 4-5 minutes till smooth. Let dough rest 5 minutes. Roll out onto pizza pan or cookie sheet. You can pre-bake this for 10 minutes or so if you want to a crispier crust, but it's not necessary.

Top as desired and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.


Pizza Sauce

This recipe is from the Colorado Farmer's Market Cookbook, one of my favorites.

1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 cups peeled and chopped Roma tomatoes
1/4 cup sugar (I do about 2/3 of a 1/4 cup full... if that makes any sense.)
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (I skip this. I never have fresh parsley.)
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp fennel seed (I've skipped this too without trouble.)

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are soft. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Add to the onion mixture with the rest of the ingredients. Return mixture to the stove and simmer over medium heat until sauce reaches the desired thickness. It takes mine about 2 hours.

I make as much sauce as I can based on the amount of tomatoes that come out of my garden. Then I freeze it in zipper bags in 1 cup portions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

But she didn't have time...

I DO a lot of things.

People often tell me they don't know where I find the time to do all of the things that I do. Obviously, there aren't any more hours in my day than there are in others'... we just all choose to use our time in different ways based on what's important to us, I suppose.

Things I DON'T have time for:

Watching television. It requires one to sit still, a skill I have never mastered.

Talking on the phone at length. If you're going to call me there's a good chance I'm busy right now and will have to call you back later, if I remember to. If you want to chit chat, let's get together and let the kids play while we talk - love killing two birds with one stone.

Ironing. This peeves my husband. I do my best to be a respectable housewife, but ironing just isn't in the cards for me. I tried it once. It didn't work out. A relationship with my iron is not one I have the time to pursue.

Sleeping late. Well, or sleeping in general. I place no value on sleep. I understand that it's a requirement to survival, but I prefer to keep it to a minimum. I see no good reason to sleep past 6 am. I make my husband crazy with this fact, because by 7 am I am bored and lonely and usually end up waking him up if he's home (and trying to -ugh!- sleep in.)

Walking the dog. Yes, we have a lab. Yes, she's a big black hairy ball of energy. Yes, a good owner would take her for a long walk (or run) every day. I love my dog. I brought her into a family that has two children. Those kids run me ragged most days - I figure she can share the burden and get some exercise while they're at it.

Girly things. I paint my toenails occasionally, and once in awhile I take a bath or use some fancy goop to wash my face. Aside from that it's soap and water. I've never had a manicure or a pedicure, and I don't feel like I'm missing out. I'm a stay at home mother. I spend my days washing dishes, creating miscellaneous items with papier mache' and grinding elk meat. I hope no one actually expects my nails to look good because they never will.

My priorities, interests and hobbies change frequently. I don't stop DOING from the moment I open my eyes until I fall into bed at night. Other people enjoy some moments of "down time" but I've never been that way - that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it, either. You don't have time to knit a sweater, I don't have time to watch The Bachelor. :-) It's all in what we choose to make the time to do!

I'm not dissing anyone who likes to watch TV. If you possess the ability to sit still, more power to ya. And if you really do spend a lot of time ironing your husband's shirts, tell him to go buy you some flowers. You deserve it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Helpful Toddler: at Bath time

Every once in a blue moon (usually when it's been long enough to forget all the trouble it was last time) I decide to designate half an hour of Mommy Bath Time. You know, that time when Mommy fills the tub up with water too warm for little bodies, smears on some face cream, closes her eyes and relaxes for half an hour while well-behaved little children stay downstairs and watch some television?

Heh. Yeah.

The first thing to consider is exactly what to do with the bathroom door. Do I lock it? If I lock it and there's an emergency, no one will be able to get to me. Inevitably someone will scream as though the house is on fire (though really it'll be because one heisted the other's snack) and I'll have to spring from the tub, sopping wet and naked, and streak through the house to locate the source of the scream.

Maybe I better not lock the door. Only then I face the inevitable fact that one or the other of the children will ignore the closed door, march right in, and start chattering about whatever might be going on in their happy little lives.

I don't lock the door.

Before I'm even in the tub, standing there wrapped in only a towel and smearing European clay all over my face, there's a little blonde toddler standing on the toilet seat narrating for me (in case I didn't know what I was doing.)

"Mom-mom! Mud! Face! Scaryyyyyyyy."

I enter the tub now and lie back, attempting to ignore the Helpful Toddler that is sharing my sacred Mommy Time.

"Mom-mom! Bath! Wash. Wash boobies?" she offers, holding up a wash cloth. Helpful Toddler, always ready to help wash Mom-mom's boobies for her. "Boobies! More! Two boobies! Looooook! Boobies too!"As she lifts her dress to her chin and informs me that she, in fact, has her own boobies.

Now that's homeschool - a great anatomy lesson.

"Why don't you go watch TV with your sister?"
"Noooooo!!!!!!" she screams cheerfully. "Help. Mom-mom. Bath."

I sigh, close my eyes, and resign myself to pretending I'm back in Mexico lying in a hammock in the sunshine.

It doesn't work.

"Shish. Parkle shish. Preeeetty. Shish parkle more. More shish! Look, Mom-mom! More, more, more shish!"

I realize now that she's reading me her bath book. (10 points to anyone who can guess the book. Really, it should be obvious... if you understand Twoyearoldese.)

The chatter continues until I reach for the razor.

A look of terror spreads itself across her face. "Mom-mom! No touch! Owie!!! No touch!"

I put my leg in the air and lather it up with shaving cream. I bring the razor to my leg and slide it along my skin...

"MOM-MOM!!! NOOOOO!!! Owie! Owie! Owie! No touch!" She runs to the hallway. "Sissy! Mom-mom OWIE!"

Her sister is being the well-behaved child she ought to and is so sucked into Bindi the Jungle Girl that she's completely unaware of her sister's frantic screaming, informing her that Mommy is likely about to kill herself with The-Forbidden-Thing-That-Causes-Owies.

She rushes back into the bathroom to check on me. "Owie?" she asks nervously. "Mom-mom bleed?"

I do my best to reassure her that Mom-mom is just fine and what I'm doing is completely normal. She looks doubtful but finally relaxes when she sees that I'm not bleeding and have apparently survived the self-inflicted attack from The-Forbidden-Thing.

I gave up at about this point, deciding that Mommies are definitely not meant to have long, quiet soaks in the bath.

Maybe I'll try again when she moves out.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Crafty Goodness

I'm a big fan of creative homeschool. I'm sure there's something educational in building a scarecrow, right?
Meet Rosemary, the scarecrow. :o) Her purpose in our garden is purely decorative, Chloe insists, because she looks too nice to scare birds away.

How-to: Let your kid go shopping at Goodwill for scarecrow clothes. They're cheap and they don't have to fit anyone, and picking out a special outfit makes it that much more fun. We stuffed ours with dried out grass clippings. The head is burlap we bought at Michael's for a dollar and I picked up the bamboo stakes at Lowe's in the garden section. I can use the bamboo next year in the garden for staking peppers and tomatoes. Just get yourself lots of thin rope, tie everything together as best you can and fill 'er up!

Fun project #2: Corn Husk Dolls

Seriously, for a free activity these little guys and gals have provided hours of enjoyment. Chloe's favorite part is tying bits of fabric to them to make "clothes". Cora likes to make them jump around and fly. Once I told Chloe that pioneer and indian kids made dolls this way because they had no other dolls to play with, she took it all much more seriously.

The website tells you it takes about an hour to make a doll. It took me about 10 minutes. If you're anything like me, you'll realize how fun and easy they are and will be tempted to make an entire horde of little corn-husk people just 'cuz they're cute.


I found this really cute centerpiece on my kitchen table yesterday evening... isn't it adorable? :o)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The highest compliment.

I ran into an acquaintance at the library today, a girl I knew from the gym whose husband works with mine.

We were chatting, talking about our men and the struggles they must face in dealing with the vast multitude of personalities at their job and the frustrations of working in an environment with such dynamics.

And somewhere in the midst of our conversation, while we were discussing the personalities of our own husbands, I called my husband a dork.

Yep, I did. And then I was thinking... what if she tells her husband that I think my husband is a dork? And what if her husband tells my husband I think he's a dork? Egads! We can't have that!

I spent the whole bike ride home feeling really bad that I called my husband a dork.

And then I came to this conclusion:

Think about the stereo-typical "dork" - probably someone you went to high school with and quite possibly even made fun of in your younger, crueler teenage years. Now consider the qualities of a dork:

They are smart. They study hard, they understand concepts the rest of us have no idea about, and they take pride in their superior intelligence.

They are good and kind.

They always try to do what's right (even if it means being teased or made fun of.)

They are respectful and thoughtful of others.

They work hard at any task and do a good job of completing it.

They know how to have good, honest fun.

They aren't obsessed with things that are "cool", materialistic things that the rest of us waste our time on. And really, that makes them even cooler.

They are confident in who they are and don't let others coerce them into being someone they are not, or doing something they don't believe in.

They make the very best friends.

My husband fully embodies each of those characteristics, so that means he definitely must be a dork. And the way I see it, that's a pretty good compliment.

I can only hope that I'm just half as dorky as he is. :o)


I should point out, for the record, that my husband is way cuter and way cooler than any of the dorks I knew in high school.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A cause for celebration

I take pride in being a pretty decent housewife. But there is one area where I have always been a complete failure: I cannot, and do not make pies.

I have horrid memories of trying to make an apple pie for my husband's birthday two years ago, throwing away two batches of less-than-perfect pie crust before finally succeeding in producing something that, if it didn't look like one, at least tasted like an apple pie.

But today, I have overcome my failure.

I made a pie.

Not just any ol' regular pie either, but a real pumpkin pie, made from Chloe's prized first pumpkin. ("Oh dear God, please don't let me screw this up! Not her pumpkin!"... but I had a can of pumpkin pie filling in the cupboard just in case.)

But I didn't need it! It turned out beautifully. So beautifully, in fact, that I felt the need to photograph it.


Overcoming a personal shortcoming is a pretty good reason to celebrate, don'tcha think?

It's just a darn shame I don't like pumpkin pie. And after seeing firsthand the ingredients that go into it, there's no chance in heck I'm ever gonna taste it!

BTW: the crust is made with whole wheat flour - it's not burnt!


There's one other cause for celebration today... my hubby and I have been married for two years now. But that's not nearly as cool as the pie. ;o)

I'm kidding. Of course my anniversary is exciting. Happy Anniversary, honey. Love you!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gardeny Bits

My in-laws let us take home their un-used compost bin to borrow on a long-term basis. We decided to get going on it this evening, piling in leaves that we'd saved from last fall and a couple days' worth of kitchen veggie scraps. If all goes well, we should have a barrel full of compost to use on next year's garden!

It makes a good homeschooling project too:

She didn't think it was so fun until I told her she should pretend she was a witch cooking up a magic brew. :o)


We dragged up the tubs of fall decorations. Yes, it's a couple weeks early. I thought maybe if we let fall know we're ready for it maybe it would come sooner.

There's all kinds of fun stuff stored away in the Fall boxes - things like pumpkin hats, and vampire teeth!


Fall signals the garden year coming to an end and I'm ready for it. I LOVE my garden, but it's enough work that when the end is near I'm alright with it.

I'm still waiting for the beans to come on in full force, so far we're just getting a few here and there. If we still have another month or so until frost I'm betting I can feed us green beans a few times a week and have enough to freeze 6 or 8 pounds.

The tomatoes and peppers are in full swing, pulling down their cages and falling flat on the ground because they're so heavy with fruit. Fall spinach is on it's way up, probably should be harvesting that soon. Need to make another quadruple batch of pesto for the freezer with the basil bush that's growing out there. Beets and another patch of radishes should be done in a couple weeks, more radishes after that and some lettuce, too. Kohlrabi and broccoli were sown last night, not sure if they'll have time to produce a harvest before hard frost sets in in early November but figured I'd give it a try. Zukes and pumpkins have a pretty hefty case of powdery mildew, hopefully we can harvest the last few pumpkins before the plants die off altogether. Only managed to harvest a couple of pounds of carrots with maybe another pound still growing - definitely need to plant more carrots next year, yum! Sunflowers and marigolds are blooming and beautiful, we need more of those next year too.

That's about it for the garden update...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Our first school year!

I made a skirt out of one of my grandma's old bedsheets. You can't beat free vintage fabric. :-)


School plans are in order. We officially start tomorrow!

Math: A Beka Arithmetic 1 is on it's way, should arrive on Thursday.

Language/Grammar: we're keeping it simple with just some worksheets to reinforce the rules of capitalization and punctuation. We'll work on sentence structure and spelling in our nature study notebooks.

Copywork: I'll use the stuff off of Simply Charlotte Mason first. After that we'll switch to rhymes and song lyrics and proverbs and such as I come across them and like them.

Science: nature studies with journals. We'll continue the garden book until first frost, then move on to just regular nature studies. Lots of opportunities for collecting, pressing and drying, drawing and painting, etc.

History: Ancient Egypt by way of the booklists found at Simply Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online. Lots of extra activities and crafts planned along the way including a papier mache' pharaoh's mask that I'm excited about.

Literature: Finish up The Little Princess, also the Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Stuart Little.

Artist Study: Claude Monet
Composer Study: Mozart

And that's about it. We're gonna start slow and keep it simple but with constant progression... at least, that's the plan. I'll update a few weeks in after we see how it goes!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Meat .

See, all I had to do was whine a little on my blog and he went right out and shot an elk.

He had quite the adventure with it, having shot it late in the evening on Wednesday night. He had to gut it and skin it and quarter it and then hang it in game bags in a tree and go back for it the next morning. Thankfully nothing had gotten to it overnight. My dad helped him carry it all back to the truck.

By 10 am we had enormous hunks of meat to deal with in the barn at my parents' house:

My dad and Andrew set to cutting it all up, deboning it and turning it to cook-able portions of meat. I spent the day wrapping and weighing and labelling. My mom helped with the girls, kept us fed and ran around getting stuff we needed. With the four of us working it took about 6 hours to get it all packaged.

Elk steaks - yum!

Then we had to buy a chest freezer to put all the meat in. As I packed it all into the freezer I tallied it up and here are the totals:

10 roasts, 31 packages of steaks (packages! Not steaks! Each package has 3 steaks or enough to feed our family.) 6 lbs of jerky meat to be smoked, 30 pounds of meat to grind into burger, 13 packages of backstrap steaks (the best steaks.)

Total weight of edible meat: 106.36 pounds. Sweet.

Now on the to-do list:
Grind burger meat
Learn to make sausage and pepperoni
Dehydrate or smoke the jerky

He's still got a bull tag and a buck tag. How cool would that be? We wouldn't have to buy meat till next year. And right now he's out shooting doves with my dad...


Couple quick garden shots, 'cuz I can:

Yes, they're sideways. Photobucket didn't turn them. A pound and a half of carrots and a few radishes.

Life is good. Busy, but good. :-)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Uh, Mom?

She's reading a book about a French family.

"Uh, Mom? This guy's name is Jackass."

"What?! Lemme see that.....
No, honey, that doesn't say Jackass. It says 'Jacques.'"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

If you give a kid a pumpkin seed...

If you give a kid a pumpkin seed, she's going to put it in some soil....

And when she puts it in the soil, it's going to ask for some water. When she gives it some water, it's going to grow, and ask for a bigger place to live. When it has a bigger place to live, it's going to take over that place, and plenty of space it was never told it was allowed to have.

And then, some day, it will produce a cute little orange pumpkin and put a big smile on the kid's face.

And if you give a kid a pumpkin, she's going to ask to make a pumpkin pie....