Saturday, February 6, 2010


for the locals: my latest examiner article has a list of fun, frugal activities to do this weekend
this week, we celebrated my birthday. the sweetest thing about writing that sentence is that i really do mean we and i really do mean celebrated. my entire week was full of so much love and spoiling by family and friends. everything was touching. two special mamma friends taking me out, making fudgies with my kids, best friends singing happy birthday (in italian!) long distance on the telephone, dozens of facebook and email greetings, mystery flowers on the doorstep (anyone want to step up?). the actual day was packed with fabulous food, lemon cake and coffee with liz, lunch and mani/pedicures with my mom, a poignant radio program about pregnancy on npr, a birthday show put on by two of my favorite 5 year old girls, birthday bedtime books with my kids, a dinner date with my sweetie. although i didn't touch my sewing machine all week, i enjoyed using my creative energy in the kitchen and my first steps toward balance were successful ones.

i feel so very loved and so very lucky. thank you, everyone!

waiting for my mom. enjoying a latte (first week with this one small change and already forgot my cup from home, let alone making it at home!) and my purse (rather than diaper bag).

my toes match my new clearance priced shoes

japanese lunch with my mom

two beautiful girls put on a show and sang happy birthday for me

bedtime birthday books with my babes. favorite for special days? happy birthday to you by dr. seuss and on the day you were born by debra frasier

dinner out with my sweet husband. everything was delicious and such a treat!

Friday, February 5, 2010

recycled crayons

happy birthday, aunt katie!

this week, we gathered all of our broken crayons together to make recycled crayon chunks. now done, they will be paired with homemade valentines for each of bella's classmates.

instead of reinventing the wheel, we used this lovely tutorial from make and take.

i would add the following to the instructions, however:
  • you really do need to use a microwavable or oven safe muffin pan, so while i wanted to do heart-shaped crayon chunks, i wasn't willing to buy the pan to make that happen. i had round muffin pans, so that is what we used. the muffin pans we used were mini muffin sized.
  • the idea to use cookie cutters resting on foil did not work. the melted crayon spilled right out from under the cookie cutter. perhaps if each cookie cutter were snugly wrapped with foil at the bottom, it might work, but fluid crayon wax is slippery, messy stuff, so i am sticking with the first bullet point, above.
  • fill the muffin tins half way, with no crayons sticking up, let them melt a bit, then add more. this way you get the thick chunk of crayon without crayon overflow to deal with later.
happy recycling, happy crafting, happy week's end!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

one small change + resumption = a change of outlook

my latest examiner article is about the frugal home, fourth in a series re-posted from my blog with edits.

here we are, at the beginning of february (okay, i am a few days late) and time to choose our one small change for the new month. our one small change for january was buried at the bottom of my post about our learnings from our year's challenge of buying nothing new. our goal for january was to use reusable produce bags (or reuse produce bags we already had.) we succeeded!

we have used cloth (almost) everything for years. i have never known anything other than cloth napkins (my parents have always used them), ditto for cloth shopping bags, hankies, and rags. i have used cloth pads since college and cloth diapers since isabella was born. but cloth produce bags hadn't occurred to me until i read about them part way through last year, so it seemed a logical choice.

so at this point in my eco-thinking, i was thinking of all the changes we have not yet made and should have made already, but more so, about all the things we used to do and have slipped from.

i could list them all out, but honestly, that would be counter-productive. instead, let's just say my train of thought ended in the (LED or fluorescent, solar powered) light bulb moment that i need to not only begin, but resume practicing all that i believe to be right when it comes to the environment, to extent that we can afford.

so, for february, my goal is to resume doing activities we used to do regularly, but let slip in recent months, for one reason or another. among them: make most of our bread, make yogurt (the problem i posted about last week was bad starter), and bring homemade snacks/coffee/tea from home when heading out to wander.

so now, with my goal to simply resume activities, my outlook has improved. i am not feeling so down on myself for having lost them in the first place.

what is your one small change for february?

(it isn't too late to join the community of people committed to making one small change. look to my sidebar and you will see a glorious flower to click on, where you can read more.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

corner view: sweets

corner view is a weekly photographic take on a theme, shared by bloggers around the world, hosted by jane of spain daily.

this week's corner view is: sweets

oh well now, corner view has my number this week, doesn't it? i won't bore you all with the toffee recipe again and i won't pretend i don't love ice cream, but i love cookies and bar sweets far more than cake, and right now...

right now, the kids and i are baking birthday treats. yum. one of my favorites? fudgies.

and right now our little lemon tree is producing sweet, yet tart, luscious lemons. this means lemon bars!

i've posted both the fudgie and lemon bar recipes before, but here they are again, because really, who could resist? (and seriously, the fudgie recipe, like that toffee recipe, is not to be missed.)

(for this recipe: C= cup, t = teaspoon, T = tablespoon)

1 C + 2 T butter, softened, divided
2 C brown sugar
2 eggs
4 t vanilla, divided
3 C oats
2.5 C flour
1.5 t salt, divided
1 t baking soda
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk*
2 C semisweet chocolate chips
1 C chopped walnuts

in a mixing bowl, cream 1 C butter and brown sugar. beat in eggs and 2 t vanilla. combine flour, oats, 1 t salt, and baking soda. stir into butter mixture. press 2/3 of this mixture into a greased 15x10x1 inch pan.

in a sauce pan, combine condensed milk, chocolate chips, remaining butter, and salt. cook and stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. remove from heat, stir in walnuts and remaining vanilla. spread over oat crust. sprinkle remaining oat crust over this.

bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. cool and cut into squares.

*i use the recipe on this site for a homemade version of sweetened condensed milk

lemon bars
1 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup melted butter
mix and press flat into 8x8 inch pan. bake at 350 F for 20 minutes before adding top layer

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons lemon juice
grate rind from 1 lemon

mix well and pour over pre baked crust. bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. cool and dust with powdered sugar.

for more cavities around the globe:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

homemade nut butter

thanks for all your thoughtful comments to my post yesterday about my steps toward balance. it looks as though kyndale (earthy crunchy), ginny (small things), lily (appointment by chance), and julia (adirondack mama) would all like to take their own steps toward balance, too. let me know if i missed anyone. glad to have some friends to keep me honest!

one of the things we used to do, but let slip in recent months and years was to make our own nut butters. so recently, we picked it back up again.

making your own nut butters is incredibly simple. here is a recipe that works for peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc. i used it this week to make almond butter.

nut butter
2 cups nuts
2+ ounces oil (i ended up using ~1/4 cup oil)
1 teaspoon or less of salt

blend in a food processor or blender until a smooth paste is formed.

first, toast raw nuts on the stove

chop nuts in a food processor. the nuts will slowly transform from whole nuts to ground powder, then on to a pasty butter. it is done when the paste forms a ball.

transfer your delicious nut butter to a jar (in my case, a glass jar that once held store bought almond butter). it will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge

buon appetito!

a step toward balance - a group with goals

thanks for all your thoughtful comments to my post yesterday about my steps toward balance.

if you are on path towards better balance and want to set a balancing goal each month, then share those goals and join me! i appreciate anyone that wants to challenge themselves along with me. i always do well having to be held accountable and a learning what others are doing is motivating for me!

each month, choose a task (by adding a task or taking away a task) that allows you to strive for balance in your life and then stick to it for the month. the following month choose another task. and so on. it can be whatever feels right for you. (you don't have to match what i am doing!)

then, at the end/beginning of the month, report on how you have done and what your task is for the upcoming month.

for february, i have chosen to take away some of my computer time. i am closing the computer when it used to be open, so i don't get sucked into checking email, blogs, facebook. you might see me less, but a couple days in, i already feel more harmony here at home.

i am thrilled to have the following friends join me with steps of their own:
kyndale (earthy crunchy)
ginny (small things)
lily (appointment by chance)
julia (adirondack mama)
melynda (mom's sunday cafe)
annie (once upon a parent)
laureen (my chinese shamrock)
barbara (indiana blue)
sara (mommy honesty)
sandee (we are family...)
adrie (fields and fire)
lisa (earth mama)
mary beth (salt and chocolate)
georgiann (the garden gate)
stephinie (gypsy forest)
amy (elemental)
emilie (scattered narrative)
amanda (urban almanac)
missy (all i really need)
imene (a journey to a simple happy life)
elizabeth (horn photography)
nicole (the habit of being)

if you would like to join us, please leave a comment and i will add you to the list and link back to you when i post with progress!
please grab a button and link back here!

Monday, February 1, 2010

a step toward balance

edited to add: there was enough interest, that i created a step toward balance group posting, so anyone is welcome to join!

those of you who have been reading my posts for the past few weeks know i have been blogging a bit about my need for better balance and self-satisfaction.

i've decided that february is not too late to begin this year to challenge myself monthly, with a step toward balance.

each month, i will set a goal for myself, to help myself work towards accomplishing all that i feel needs to get done, all that i want to get done, within the time and budget i have available, without sacrificing sleep, all while slowly working more diligently towards the more peaceful lifestyle mike and i want for our family.

care to join me with your own steps toward balance? if so, please post in the comments (and leave your URL, so i can link back to you).

my unintentional step toward balance for january was to create a schedule. the rhythm so beautifully spoken about all over the internet really needed to be mapped into a schedule for me to wrap my brain around how to manage it all a little better. now, i am finding my way to filling in the gaps on the daily schedule i created in ways that feel right for me/us.

my step toward balance for february is to close the computer. our computer laptop sits open on my computer desk in the middle of the dining room. it is too much of a temptation (and really does take more time than it should) to click and check email or read some of my favorite blogs when i really should be focusing my attention elsewhere. my goal is to use computer time well and close it the rest of the time.

wish me luck and please join me with your steps toward balance!

the images in this post are from our family outing (with grannie annie this time), yesterday, something we have been making specific time for on the weekends. there was much time spent (by all of us) looking at the small pebbles and sea glass that made the beach sand. and much pleasure for finnian in being soaked by waves, while holding my hand to prevent being swept away. "mo pease" (more please).

Sunday, January 31, 2010

january, in review

i am going to try to continue recording our used versus new acquisitions, our groceries, and will now also use this monthly posting to report on our one small change commitments and my steps toward balance.

one small change:
our commitment was to use cloth produce bags or reuse plastic produce bags we already had. we succeeded 100%. i had made some cloth sacks from unbleached cotton muslin, and these worked well for produce and grains. our february goal is to simply resume the bulk of activities we had unintentionally let slide in recent months.

steps toward balance:
technically, i began this challenge on february 1, but i had unknowingly begun with a schedule. i really needed to map out our days to realize where my time was going, why i am getting so little sleep and feeling unable to get everything done. i did. my february goal is to close the computer for much of the day.

bought new:

  • turbo tax software
  • 2 cell phone head sets
  • other ??? i am certain there was, i am just not sure what!
$627.54 (does that make everyone who thought $475 or so was low? we have higher months too. it is going up as we are buying more sustainably, but i hope with a summer garden, our average will come down.)

acquired used:
honestly, i cannot remember, although we bought very little this month. we did acquire some items used as hand-me-arounds, but i apologize, having hit the end of our technical challenge, i haven't been recording as religiously!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

inspired internet:: january 2010

locals, i posted to the examiner about free zoo admission this weekend

happy saturday! for those that liked the ironing/movie night idea, the first was a success. we watched julie & julia, which was so enjoyable and entertaining. i laughed at all the funny ways julie obsessed over her blog (umm, i relate a little too much) and the part at which she had a meltdown on her kitchen floor over not getting something done right? mike was laughing loudly exclaiming "that's you! that is so you." eesh. anyway... a great movie pick and chores done.

it is time to share january's inspired internet list. the list is incredibly long this month. for those of you who are new to my blog, i don't share a blog roll. i have a constant fear of unintentionally excluding someone. (my blog reader is overloaded, though!) instead, i share a monthly list of links to postings i have been inspired by and personally want to bookmark. i have tried to roughly sort the list by loose category, because i know this is a long list to peruse!

needle crafts:
other crafts:

parenting & home:

frugality, and eco-living:other inspired links:
  • sunnydaytodaymama, a fellow corner view participant, has an incredible list: 50 inspiring links
  • whip-up's best of lists. a list of lists. i am overwhelmed at the possibilities!
  • michelle stumbled on my blog and linked through to hers. she is working her way around the internet letting each blog lead her to the next. very cool project.
  • i am just deeply moved by ginny's blog, small things

are there any links i missed that you want to share in the comments?

Friday, January 29, 2010

at week's end...

i am not feeling so chatty as we wind down the week. (that's a new one, eh?)
perhaps you are, though?

what moments from the week still have you smiling today?
what project has captured your attention at the moment?
what are your plans for the weekend?

i'll leave you with some photos from our romp last weekend. these are bringing me a peaceful transition from busy week to weekend. i hope they do the same for you.

"in all of nature, this is something of the wonderful." ~artistotle

Thursday, January 28, 2010

right now

right now...

homemade bread (among many other homemade food goodies. the change this week? trying some new recipes and using my crockpot more again.) this is the anadama bread from healthy bread in five minutes a day*. a hit for all the adults that tried it, except me....until i tried it slathered in goat cheese. yum doesn't describe it.

enjoying: the first stretch of sun we've seen in a long while and the camellia flower collecting that happened right outside our door. the kids made this beautiful arrangement, which has since been embellished with lots more greenery (i.e. sourgrass).

relieved: that months worth of mike's shirts i mentioned? all ironed. and ironing/movie night is added to my weekly schedule.

coming closer, still, to the right parenting groove for my little girl. loving the portable CD player, a snack, and a little quiet time right after school.

reading: manuals to try and fix my sewing machine myself (success!), cookbooks (yum!), and books on nutrition and natural healing (hopeful progress!)

what does your right now look like?

*the bread recipes i have been trying are taken from healthy bread in five minutes a day, although i have not yet read the book. there was an extensive article with several recipes featured in mother earth news, and that is what i am working from. as someone who has baked a lot of bread over the years, one of the tricks these recipes use is a substantial amount of yeast. what makes the bread healthy are the choices of ingredients (whole wheat flour, for example), but what makes the bread quick is the amount of yeast used. if you are waiting to get your hands on the book and want to try a healthy and quick bread in the meantime, try cuban bread.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

corner view: my favorite hang out

my latest examiner article talks about frugal books. head on over to read a few of mine and leave a comment sharing yours!

corner view is a weekly photographic take on a theme, shared by bloggers around the world, hosted by jane of spain daily.

this week's corner view is: my favorite hang out

my favorite hang out is at home or out in nature. but you have all seen enough of those places for corner view, so here is one of our favorite urban hangouts. a little surprising given my down-to-earth self, but we like to wander a local shi-shi (how do you spell that and is it actually a word?) local shopping areas. we rarely buy anything other than a cup of coffee, but below you'll see our favorite book, handmade craft, and toy shops. they are all local, independent shops, leaning towards the expensive-but-often-worth-it side of our new purchases.

for hang outs around the world:


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