Monday, January 14, 2013

My Day

I had a really terrible no good very bad day today and decided to vent it out in a little poem. Hope you all enjoy...

Today I am a failure. Dinner was not on the table by 5:00.

Today I am a failure. The house has mud tracked from one end to the other and up and down the stairs.

Today I am a failure. There is laundry all over the living room floor because my two year old dumped out the hamper and has been running around with it on his head.

The bed is not made, the kitchen sink is full, and the bathrooms are hardly spotless.

Today I am a failure. My 11 year old missed his very expensive hockey practice because he chose to not help get ready to leave and I decided that if he wasn't going to do his part, I wasn't going to do mine.

Today I am a failure. I didn't make it to the grocery store.

Today I am a failure. I had to finish cooking and the baby started crying before I was ready to tend him.

My bread didn't rise, I ran out of mayo, and the dog pooped in the basement.

What else can go wrong in a day?

So I'll remember...I have a baby! I am not supposed to be able to do it all!

Then I'll kiss the baby, hug the toddler and tell them all I love them. Then go to bed and rest my head and try again, tomorrow.

This post was included in the Homestead Barnhop

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Menu Planner-Free Printable

Hi all! One of my biggest goals this year, as you know already if you read my last post, is to provide healthier meals for my family. I am convinced the key to this is menu planning! I have always had trouble consistently creating weekly plans. It's kind of like working out. I do great for awhile but once I fall off the wagon I forget about it for a period until I resolve to do better and try again. Sound familiar?

Anyway, perfectionist that I am, I was looking for a pretty template that I could download (for free) and print to plan my meals on, but nothing I found seemed to quite fit the bill, so I made my own, of course. Below you will find both a simple weekly meal plan grid and shopping list page. I'm cheap and don't like to use a lot of ink, so they aren't fancy, but I think they will be exactly what I need. The problems I was having with most of the printables I found were that they started on Sunday instead of Monday, (Yes, I know this is America. I just prefer to do my planing Monday-Sunday. Plus that's how my weekly planner is laid out and this way I can lay them side by side, see who's going to be where what night and plan accordingly.), only one included a place to write in prep reminders, (Take the chicken out of the freezer, soak the beans, that sort of thing...), and none had a place to include other items that you would like to make throughout the week; things like fresh baked bread, snacks, or fermented or home canned goodies. This gives you a place to list those things you'd like to accomplish in your real food kitchen. I use my weekly calendar as a sort of to do/did it list and that is where I plan what to make what day. It seams repetitive but I like to have those items listed on my meal planner when preparing my grocery list because otherwise they can get a bit jumbled up in the other daily activities that are listed on my calendar. This way I'm sure I won't miss anything.

Instructions: There are a couple of ways you can put this together...

1. Print off just the meal planner as needed, and stick it on a clip board. Or put it in a page protector and use dry erase marker. Then you can use the same page over and over.
2. Print off 52 of the meal planner page and either put them in a three ring binder or have your local copy shop spiral bind them for you. (It's super cheap.)
3. (What I'm going to do.) Print off 52 of each, with the grocery list on the front and the menu planner on the back of a page then get them spiral bound. That way, when it's laying flat you can see everything you need to see at once. 

As a side note, I'm trying to source more of my produce organically from the local health food store or markets. I thought it would be beneficial to start a price journal so I can compare and keep track of just how much I'm spending. The plan is to jot down the prices of things straight on the grocery list while I'm at the store so that I can go back, compare sales, and know when I'm getting a great deal or when something is just too much to be worth the extra cost. 

This is my first time sharing files here so if you have any trouble please let me know so I can fix it. Or if you have any suggestions for improvements you'd like to see, let me know! Now, go fix yourself a nice warm cup of something and get to work. Happy planning!

This post was shared at the homestead barn hop

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Goals for 2013...Wherein I Review What Little I Accomplished Last Year and Step Onto My Soap Box Momentarily

Here are my annual "homesteading" goals for this year along with last years list and what I did and didn't accomplish from said list. 

From my Goals for 2012:

1. Plant a garden: Last year I finally managed to get in some berries. I planted 2 blueberries, 3 raspberries, 3 grapes, 1 blackberry, 3 hardy kiwi, and 3 rhubarb. Of those, 1 raspberry, 2 grapes, the blackberry, kiwis, and 1 rhubarb took. I also got in some lilac that I had wanted for a long time. I have an existing herb garden with sage, oregano, thyme, chocolate mint and lemon balm. (I plant basil and rosemary in pots each spring since I've never had luck with them indoors and they aren't hardy here.) Right now, with our house on the market and wanting to buy some land I'm not planning on replacing any of the lost plants, but I do want to make sure to put in a vegetable garden. I finally installed some stepped beds along the side of the house last fall and now that the holidays are over, I am anxiously awaiting weather that is warm enough to fill them up, using the square foot gardening method, with tomatoes, peppers, onion, peas, carrots, lettuce, and more. I also plan to use the easement along the back of our property to plant Seminole squash, regular and sweet potatoes in straw or loose mulch, and maybe some corn and pole beans.

I spent most of last year pregnant with our fourth boy and the last couple of months with a new born and all of the fatigue that comes along with all of that. I was ambitious with my gardening goals last year and most of it was unsuccessful. I planted 9 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and although they grew profusely, the extreme heat and drought of last summer kept them from producing much until I was at the end of my pregnancy and not much inclined to go digging through the mass of plants to find the fruit. I neglected to pinch the sucker shoots early like I should have and the plants got way out of control, falling over on top of all the gorgeous basil I had planted around them. As for the potatoes...they died back unexpectedly and I never got around to attempting any sort of harvest. And cucumbers...beetles got 'em. Squash, melons and zucchini? I did manage a few nice big zucchinis before my nemesis, the squash bugs took over. The sweet potato slips went in to late to do much of anything. Carrots and onions didn't grow, but I did have some beautiful lettuce early in the season.

2.  Bread: I've got my honey wheat sandwich bread to a place I'm happy with. Same goes for pretzels, biscuits, and sugar cookies, blueberry muffins and pancakes. I want to try sour dough and maybe some other artisan loaves. A good Italian Rosemary bread is on the list and I need to continue working on the original list of baking goals: croutons, pita/flat bread, bagels, quick breads, and carrot cake. Scones, baked donuts and cinnamon rolls are also on the list.

I've been on again off again with my bread making this year. I did make a pretty awesome Italian Rosemary bread a couple of times.

3. Cheese: Learn how to make it. I've made my own sour cream. Next is a whole milk Ricotta, and on from there. Hopefully by the end of the year, I can be on to some hard cheeses.

I made queso fresco, once, but it was really good!

4. Yogurt and Kefir: Obtain cultures to make these myself.

I almost bought these water kefir grains but wasn't sure I wanted to start that project with the house on the market and the possibility of moving, so I didn't.

5. Keep updating my cook book and trying new recipes. Work on consistently completing weekly menu plans and finding more healthy dishes that the kiddos will gobble up.

This is my number one goal for this year...

6. Obtain the necessary supplies and learn how to can all that fresh stuff that my garden WILL be producing. :)

I did attempt a little canning with some borrowed supplies. I managed two quarts of peaches and 4 pints of some really nasty pickles. 

7. Find a local orchard and go pick peaches and apples.

I did pick some peaches, many of which went bad before I managed to can what was left and freeze a few because my internet went down right when I had the last of them peeled and ready to process into a salsa, the recipe for which I was viewing on my iPad and had not printed. It was a very frustrating day... 

8. Get some mini citrus and banana plants that can be raised in pots and brought indoors during our Midwest winters. A Meyer lemon, dwarf guava, super dwarf Cavendish banana, and some sort of orange top this wish list. In conjunction with this I will have to pare down on my other house plants to make room.

I have managed to get rid of some of my assorted house plants and clippings but with the house STILL on the market, I have made no attempt to obtain more. 

9. In addition to paring down my inedible tropical plants, I desperately need to purge my craft room and finish several projects.

This I've done really well with, with a BIT of prompting from muscle man. We moved my June Bug into what was my craft room so the new baby could have the nursery and I have since proceeded to drive the man nuts with various projects strewn around the living room at various times. I have managed to finish a few things. Check out my Pinterest Board to see tutorials for much of what I made over the last year.

10. We purchased our first 1/2 hog this year and I am loving shopping in my freezer for delicious pork cuts. Next, I'd like to find a source for grass fed beef and purchase a portion for the freezer. Same goes for free-range chicken and eggs.

My muscle man actually has been helping with this one. We chose to wait on a cow since, again, the living arrangements are a bit up in the air with the house on the market, but he has a co-worker who has sourced eggs and chickens for herself and brings them to the office for us as often as we need. Can't ask for a better arrangement than that! The prices are extremely reasonable too at $10 per free range chicken and $1.75 for a dozen pastured eggs.

One other thing I've managed to do pretty well with this year is to convert most of my personal care items to more natural alternatives. My favorite change has been to eliminate both body wash and shaving cream in exchange for goat milk soap. I usually use ZUM brand's almond since I love the scent and it's available at my regular grocery store up the street. But this family has some neat product and I've ordered from these folks who produce a wonderful soap although it does seem to dissolve fairly quickly. I have found after switching that I don't have nearly the trouble with dry itchy skin that I did. I am using this organic raw shea butter lotion for both me and the babies and I love it's light vanilla scent but during the summer I can actually get away without using anything. Speaking of scents I picked up some Kuumba Made essential oil scent recently in persian garden. What a great alternative to traditional perfume! I won't mention my current hair care routine because after trying a couple of natural shampoos and even the no-poo method using baking soda and vinegar I am still having major issues with itchy dry flaky scalp. More experimentation will be required to settle on a hair routine that works for me. I have noticed that I can now go 2-3 days between hair washings whereas I used to have to wash daily because it was so oily so there has been some improvement. 

The next time I run out of foundation I plan to try some of the natural mineral stuff that my local health food store carries. I'm still considering natural deodorant alternatives too. I tried Toms and didn't like it at all so I've been nervous about purchasing other natural brands. Wonder what muscle man would say if I tried making my own hehe.

I've also done really well this year with eliminating chemical cleaners. I primarily use some combination of vinegar, baking soda and rubbing alcohol. I found that vinegar and baking soda down the drain to eliminate clogs works better than the chemical stuff and I'm totally digging both this homemade cleaner and one made by soaking orange peels in plain white vinegar for 6-8 weeks. Both work well as all purpose cleaners and the orange vinegar shines up my glass top stove beautifully after I've scrubbed it with baking soda. Vinegar also makes a great fabric softener but be careful with synthetics since they might hold the smell. I've found that most of the synthetic stuff we have doesn't really need softener at all. I have not tried making my own laundry soap, dish soap, (though I do use seventh gen.) or carpet shampoo. We have switched all of our cookware to either steel or cast iron with the exception of one little omelet pan.

Now for this years goals: A variation on a theme...

1. Resist the urge to plant any kind of cucurbit melons, squash, zucchini, or cucumbers and let those squash bugs move on out of my garden. I'm going to concentrate this year on my tomatoes, peppers and greens. Maybe try some beans again, and some sweet peas. The really good news is that my berries, kiwi and rhubarb have all been in long enough that I should get some production from them this year. 

2. I'm planning on making some sourdough starter tonight and really making an effort to produce more of our baked goods from scratch to avoid all the processed junk. I'd also like to do more canning, maybe try some condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce, and definitely make some more cheese. I could eat queso fresco and homemade corn tortillas every day!

3. My number one goal this year is to work on converting the whole family to a real, whole foods, organic diet. In addition to baking (and cooking...) more, I plan to start sourcing my produce primarily from the local health food store and local organic growers. I haven't convinced muscle man to do a CSA yet but there are an abundant number of farmers markets on different days and different locations throughout the city. Ooh, that might make a good future blog post...

4. Which leads me to my next goal which is to update this blog a bit more often. I've also started working on a page listing local businesses, restaurants and farm sources that we've found and love.

5. My last goal is to make sure I'm showing my family daily how much I love and care for them. I'm hoping I can infuse some love into the food I prepare but like many children my boys are pretty picky so other little things like notes in the lunch box, and some one-on-one time spent with each of them I think would go a long way toward making them feel important. I've been very focused on the babies lately and I think the older boys, especially my nine year old who was the baby for seven years have had a tough time adjusting to all the changes. I also want to make sure to get my June Bug out of the house at least a couple times a week so he can be active and have others to play with. Trips to the local community center, park, library, and indoor play centers are all on the agenda now that the baby is a couple of months old.

That's it. I'm (trying) to keep it simple this year with a new baby in the house. He's our last so I really want to savor his babyhood. At the same time I am becoming more and more passionate about what we put into and on our bodies. I want my boys to be healthy and I want to be healthy so that I can always be here for them in the fullest capacity possible. I want to have energy to run after my grand kids some day and I really believe that we, humans, can make a huge positive impact on our health both in terms of preventing major disease and boosting our immune systems to prevent every day stuff like colds by eating the correct diet. Which diet that is happens to be a very controversial subject but I think it makes sense to start by eating whole, natural foods the way nature intended, that are prepared in traditional ways as they were during times when many of today's common diseases were much more rare.