Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - An Overview

  • We started practicing natural family planning
  • We worked hard to eat more sustainably
  • I had serious depression following hormonal contraceptive withdrawl
  • I started plants for the garden
  • We remodeled our bedroom after discovering our walls were full of mold
  • *B* worked at my school for six weeks
  • We saw Prairie Home Companion live for the second time
  • We traveled to Oklahoma/Texas
  • *B* performed my best friend's wedding
  • We kayaked on the Shenandoah River
  • I went to a conference in Tennessee
  • I started the couch to 5k running program
  • We got rid of television
  • *B* and I started paying off debt
  • The garden was just about a bust, other than tomatoes and peas
  • We experienced a magnitude 5.8 earthquake while teaching
  • I officially lost 35 pounds
  • *B* and I paid $5000 off of our debts
  • I got pregnant!
  • I ran my first 5k ever in good time
  • I slept - a lot
  • I slept - a lot more
  • I turned 26
  • I got my energy back when I hit the second trimester
  • I restarted my blog :o)

This list is a little more sparse than last year, but it's been a good year.  Have a happy and safe new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cloth Diapering - Not My Mother's Diapers

Ever since I was little, I knew I would cloth diaper my children. My brother and I were both cloth diapered before it was popular again.  My mom hand made them, and they were fastened by safety pins.
My brother's girlfriend gave me a gorgeous diaper bag for Christmas.  This gift got me thinking of diapering.

I had NO IDEA diapers had changed so much since I was little.  Now, there are pocket diapers, all-in-one diapers, all-in-two diapers, hybrids, wahm diapers, prefolds, and I'm sure more than that.  *B* and I bought a set of gdiapers just to play with and see how they work.

They have cloth or flushable inserts depending on your preferences.  They come in small, medium, and large.  It seemed pretty straightforward, and I was set.  But then I started reading more.

I found that there are other diapers (like BumGenius) who fit babies that are 7-40 lbs.  That seemed like it would do the trick, but I was hesitant now.  I asked other moms on a message board what I should get, and the answers were widely varied.  Most of them had a variety of diapers they like.  I want to be able to register for diapers.  How do they know what will work??

What diapers do you use and how did you know you'd like them?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 

Luke 2:4-20

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Productive Days

On Monday, I started out week one of two weeks of Christmas break well. I soaked and cooked three pounds of kidney beans in a giant pot, and I soaked peas and lentils for *B*'s favorite soup (more on that in a bit).  I made and froze 8 quarts of vegetable stock with the scraps that have been in the freezer forever.  I also FINALLY used the San Marzano tomatoes that I froze from our garden this summer and made tomato paste, though it looks more like pizza sauce.

Apparently, that was way too much work.  I got a sharp reprimand from my body. So yesterday I took it easy all day and only went grocery shopping.

Today, I was feeling better, so I picked up where I left off but a little slower.  I got all of the laundry put away (a big feat in this house), washed all bedding, and finished up in the kitchen.
*B*'s favorite soup comes from Nourished Kitchen: Curried Lentil Soup.  It's a little rustic and very tasty.  It's so good that it could be served over rice as Indian food.  I doubled the recipe and freeze the leftovers in muffin tins.  When the soup is frozen, I pop the soup-popsicles into ziplocs and *B* can swipe a few cubes for his lunches.  It works so well. 

The kidney beans had melded into the perfect bean and bean liquid mess in the day's rest.  When I make lots of beans, I vacuum seal them and freeze them in one cup pouches.  That way, if I need to make chili, I just grab four pouches and throw them in.

I've found that if I cut the vacuum rolls in half, my canner funnel just fits perfectly in the neck.  The beans don't get stuck in the funnel, the bags stay clean, and all I have to do is rinse the funnel in the end.

When I packed and sealed all 20 cups that the 3 lbs of dried beans makes, I laid them flat on a cookie sheet.  Once they're mostly frozen, I dumped them in the basket in our stand up freezer.

Whew!  That was a ton of work.  But all my little food projects are done for now.  Aside from cookies, there are no things hanging over my head that I meant to do - just in time for Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Long Few Months with a Number of Changes

It's been a long few months with a number of changes.  Since my last post in June, I took up running, lost about 35 pounds, started my fourth year of teaching, took two very intense master's courses, was in a wedding, and, most importantly, found out I'm going to be a mother in June!

The first three months were rough, though I'm thankful that I was better off than others I know.  As of Wednesday, I'll be fifteen weeks.

I've thought about restarting this blog a number of times, but life has always gotten in the way.  Between having more class until I'm finished my master's degree in January, and the impending birth of the baby, I think that now is a perfect time to refocus my blogging efforts.

*B* and I decided that I need to stay home at all costs for at least the first year.  We both feel very strongly that we shouldn't be paying someone to raise our children.  I'm going to try to find a part time job in the evenings to cover the expenses that he can't make.  While I still have an income over the next few months, I'll be restocking our pantry, which had become depressingly depleted, making freezer meals for the future, saving like mad, and preparing everything for the little one. 

I hope you all decide to come back and visit :o)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I've been quite the bookworm this summer.  I've read a bunch of good books, both fiction and non-fiction.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This was a fabulous book.  Set in Mississippi in the mid-60s, The Help looks at life for African-American maids and their relationships with the people they serve.  It is told from multiple points of view, which can only serve to help the story along.

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
This non-fiction book is about a man in New York who decides to follow as many of the biblical rules as possible.  He is very open-minded and respectful of every aspect of Judeo-Christian religion that he details.  I read it after *B* swore I'd like it.  I loved it.

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg
Elizabeth Berg has been a recent obsession of mine.  I've never been one to read authors who are very prolific.  But I read Home Safe, then I read Open House, and now I look for Berg's books wherever I can.  This one is based off of a true story of a woman who had polio while 9 months pregnant.  She and her nurse raise the girl up despite the mother's near-total paralysis.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Mrs. Mordecai recommended Dave Ramsey and I am SO thankful I read this book.  His "baby steps" are common sense, but brilliant.  I'll be going in to this in depth in the future.

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich
I had read Love Medicine by Erdrich in the past, so I was intrigued by this book.  Its Native American themes are much more subtle than in Love Medicine.  I read it on the plane to Oklahoma.  It was fantastic.  A woman discovers that her husband is reading her diary, so she manipulates him through her entries and chronicles the incidents in a second diary.

 Gap Creek by Robert Morgan
This book makes me think of Laura Ingalls Wilder books, but for grown ups.  After dealing with tragedy in her family life, a young woman enters into marriage and faces struggle after struggle.  It was a very satisfying book.
The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure
Since I was on a kick, and because my hold request came through, I've started reading a non-fiction book about the real Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I'm not far in because homework got in the way, but I'm hoping to finish very soon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Around the US in 15 Days

Since school let out at the beginning of June, I have been running non-stop.  First, I flew to Oklahoma and spent a week in the southern Oklahoma/northern Texas region.  Being the genius I am, I left my camera at home for that whole week, so *B* has my pictures on his camera.  They'll go up when I get a hold of that card.

A day and a half after flying home from Oklahoma, *B*, my mom, and I went with my in-laws and family friends to Shenandoah.  We go kayaking there the same weekend every year, and I love it.

My mom and I rafted up to get a good picture of the two of us before starting out.

 We couldn't believe that we saw a great blue heron on the river.

 Cows are a common sight near the banks.

 *B* loves investigating the fallen trees on the sides of the river.

 I saw this huge painted turtle on a downed tree.  He (she?) was about the size of a dinner plate.

These ducklings were in the middle of the river with no momma in sight.

 *B* is taking a breather while enjoying the view.

Just like last year, I went straight from Shenandoah to a conference in Tennessee.  I'm learning to use the TI-Nspire, which is an awesome calculator that can do some serious data manipulation and calculation.

AND it's in color!  We're hoping to be able to use them in our school perhaps as soon as this upcoming school year.  Very cool.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Water Kefir Review

I've been researching a ton of water kefir recipes trying to make something we like.  I finally found a good one at Nourished Kitchen.  But there were still a bunch of variables that I couldn't nail down.  I made a batch I'm happy with, so I'm getting it written down for myself, as well as possibly helping you out. 

Water kefir grains
1/2 cup Demerara sugar
Organic raisins
1/2 organic lemon
Ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced

Boil 2 quarts of water and add the sugar.  Stir until dissolved.  When the mixture cools, pour it into a 2 quart mason jar.  Add the kefir grains, the lemon, a slice of ginger, and 3 tablespoons of raisins.  Cover with an airtight lid.  Let sit for three days (72 hours).  I know that it's getting close to ready when it's not too sweet and the raisins have started to float.

Use a plastic spoon to scoop the raisins and lemon off the top of the jar.  I put these in the compost - it's got to be good for them.  Then, strain the liquid through a mesh cloth into Grolsch-style bottles so that the cloth catches the grains.  Leave room in the top of the bottle to keep from exploding.  Let the bottles sit out for two days (48 hours).  This will give the kefir water carbonation.

Put the bottles in the fridge to chill and enjoy :o)

I have been reading about using an eggshell in the kefir to give the grains minerals to work with, but I have not yet tried it.  This will be my next project.  *B* has taught me through his beer brewing experiments that the best way to find out what you like is by writing down all the details of each brew and adjusting as necessary.  As I find new and interesting soda recipes and methods, I'll post them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Toxic Debt

I'm having a really hard time paying down debt.  Whether it be good things (my best friend's wedding) or bad things (mold in our walls), things seem to crop up and get in the way.  Last New Year's, the only debt we had was my car, our school loans, and *B*'s small credit card.  Now, we've added my card, our joint card, and a mortgage.  It's really getting out of hand.

I've heard a lot about Dave Ramsey lately.  In his plan, you snowball the amounts you can pay off by getting rid of the smallest amount of debt first, then putting that payment toward the next smallest amount.  Conventional wisdom (and mathematical sense) tells us that we should pay largest interest rate to smallest.  I think that we're going to go half way between the two - if the amounts are within a few hundred dollars, the higher interest rate goes first.

I'm doing my best to find ways to be frugal and put away money.  We have a bad habit of going out for food when neither of us feel like cooking.  My job this summer will be to cook every day and use the food we do have to the best of our ability.  That means no produce going to waste and always finishing off the leftovers.

Any other tips for frugality, savings, and debt repayment are more than welcome.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Taking Charge

I have three days of work left for the school year.  If I don't get a running start to the summer, nothing gets done.  So for the last few weeks, I've been super busy so that I keep up steam when I have nothing else to do.

In what appears to be an annual tradition, *B* and I went to see Prairie Home Companion at Wolf Trap.  We took an adult picnic complete with wine, crudites, and cheese.  The show was great, the day was beautiful, and we had a great time. 

 The garden has been a point of stress for me.  For about a month, I threw my hands up and left it alone.  Now, it's coming along well.

 My mom made us a hanging strawberry planter.  It's not enough to feed anyone person at a sitting, but it's nice to be able to pick berries every day.

 Our potatoes may or may not make it through the season.  They seem to by dying off now, and they haven't even flowered yet.

 Indian false strawberries have taken over our yard.  Despite the name, they taste like nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

 Our raspberries are doing SO well that we even have a few berries on them!

 We planted snow peas everywhere.  They are doing so well.

 These snow peas had been eaten to the ground by the rabbits.  We put up more fencing, and they popped right up.

 We'll have more peas than we know what to do with!

 Even our lettuce is doing well.

 We were taught this trick at a gardening seminar this spring.  We fill up a holy milk jug rather than watering the plants directly.  It seems to help a bit.  We'll see at the end of the summer how well it works.

 This is one of only two rhubarb plants that made it through germination.  I'm excited for this new experiment!

We planted San Marzano tomatoes to make sauce this year.  We'll see what comes of it.  Last year, I got 2/3 cup of tomato sauce out of all of our plants.

Apparently our compost was not very hot when we tossed things in there.  We have tomato plants in one side.

In the other side of the compost, we have melons (I think).  We're going to try transplanting when they get a little stronger.

The plants even made it into our new herb bed.  We have thyme, basil, cumin, German chamomile, melons and tomatoes.  Go figure.

 Our asparagus came back and we planted two more beds.  The ferns are about 4 feet tall.  My only lament is that we won't be able to take it with us when we move in a few years.

*B* had to have his nasturtiums this year.  That boy loves his nasturtiums!  We also planted some purple ones, but they're tiny still.

  We had a small harvest of peas for the day, but it's enough for the two of us to split.

In our front yard, we have a huge bed of strawberries that I neglected to photograph.  I had a record harvest this year.  I'm estimating about two pounds of strawberries, and they're only about half picked!


Recently, *B* has moved from winemaking to cider and beer brewing.  At the moment, we have a gallon of mead, two gallons of apple cider, and three gallons of red ale fermenting in our basement.  It's truly been an interesting experience.

Not to be outdone, I have been doing some fermenting of my own.  I discovered water kefir a few months ago and became hooked.  Our organic market only has a limited supply, so I broke down and bought the grains online.  I soaked them the past few days to rehydrate them, and am now working on our first batch!

On the left are the soaked grains.  The demerrara sugar makes the mixture brown.  On the right is sugar water.
I added a slice of ginger, some raisins, and a half of a lemon.
It'll stay sealed for two more days, then I can bottle it.  Supposedly, it'll become carbonated at that point.

In a future post, I'll show the results from my water kefir as well as *B*'s projects.


The left side of our sink has been squirting water everywhere.  We couldn't understand what was going on, so we put a bucket under the sink and stopped using that side.  Today, I got fed up and explored further.

 If you look hard, it looks like someone went at it with a saws-all.  There's a huge gash in the locknut.

For the immediate time being, I fixed it up nicely with plumber's tape and a layer of duct tape.  I'm hoping to brush up my plumbing skills so that I can replace the locknut all by myself soon.


And that's been my last few weeks.  We've had a ton of parties - baby introductions, Memorial Day, and end of school year get-togethers.  We have a wedding this weekend, and my best friend's wedding in two weeks.  We'll be traveling to Oklahoma the second week of June, so I'm very excited.  I've been before, but *B* hasn't.  It'll be a new adventure all around.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Such a Relief

Today, I signed my contract for school!  I'm under continuation of service status now, which is life tenure-lite.  Basically, they need to give me a reason if they fire me, and they need to give me a month's notice. 

I have a hard time believing that I've been teaching for three years now.  This is the longest period of time that I've ever held a job.  Usually by now, I'm itching to leave.  But really, I'm doing alright.  I have big plans for the kids next year, and I'll be teaching a new class for the first time since my first year.  It'll be busier, but more fulfilling overall.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Becoming a Godmother

*B* and I have been asked to be godparents for a very close friend whose son was born in January.  She will be baptizing him Catholic, so we can actually fulfill the roles if I am the godmother and *B* is a witness.  I've been doing a fair bit of research on my duties in the church in this manner, and I'm very excited.

The mother of this child is not herself particularly religious.  She was baptized Catholic, but I'm pretty sure she never had communion, and I know she wasn't confirmed.  I take it as my job to instruct my future godson in the faith in a way I was not nurtured as a child.   Though we live a country apart right now, I envision sending him his own Bible and letters (emails) about how to pray and lead a good life.  When together, I look forward to taking him to Mass and explaining the liturgy.

One thing I've realized as I've done my research on being a good godmother is that our children will have no one to be godparents to them.  This cuts me deeply.  My brother would have been a choice, but he was not confirmed and has no real religious belief.  We have one other friend who is Catholic.  We've known each other 20+ years, but I'm not sure she'd be a good choice as she's religiously sound, but not domestically stable.  *B*'s family is not religious in any manner, so there are no options there.

For now,  I'm going to invest my energy into praying for my future godson.  I think the only thing I can do is to ask God to send me someone in the future that could show the same devotion one day to my future children.

Friday, May 13, 2011

What Family Means

When I was younger, my cousin and I were very close.  She had some "attitude issues" and could be hard to get along with, but overall we were friends.  Sometime about five years ago, she was effectively disowned and moved far away.  My family hasn't seen her since then.  She will call sometimes, and I found her on Facebook, so we keep in touch a little bit.

When I was in grad school, she'd call me occasionally, asking for money or trying to sell me stereos at a good price that I was pretty sure were stolen.  She didn't stop asking until I explained to her that I couldn't make my own rent (which was 100% true at that time).  She hasn't asked me since then, but she asks the rest of the family at least a couple of times a year.

A few months ago, she had a baby.  I knew about it before she had it, but no one else did.  She told her mother about him when he was a week old.  The father was deported, so she's raising him on her own, living on welfare. 

I'm having a hard time balancing how my family treats her with how I should treat her.  I know that she's manipulative and has deeply hurt her parents in the past.  On the other hand, I feel so bad that her son will grow up without ANY family other than his mother.

I also feel like this is a warning sign that any false move on my part will put me in the same boat.  Rather than family meaning unconditional love, I walk on eggshells all the time.  Did I forget a thank you note or haven't called in a couple of weeks?  Ticks go in the negative column.  I have to pull something big to get back into good graces.

One of my biggest fears is incorporating the negative characteristics and habits of my existing family into my newly formed family.  I never want to put my kids - or anyone else for that matter - in the position of having to choose between who they are, their dreams, and their family.