Saturday, December 11, 2010

Snowy busy December

This must be the first time in recorded history that I unintentionally woke up before 7am on a weekend AND feel very rested. Have a lot to do today so this is a good way to start. I think this happened because we fell asleep on the couch watching Simpsons around 9pm last night. What a Friday, haha. We were both beat. My work has had mandatory overtime (5 hours per week) for about 6 weeks and it's wearing on me. And our business keeps picking up so it seems anytime we're not at work we've got something that has to be made for what we call "Job 2".

Thursday night we had a break, though. We were scheduled for Chris to give a class on herbs at the store, but they postponed it due to weather. We got about 3 inches of snow Thursday afternoon. Part of why one of our tasks today is to check out an electric snow blower at Home Depot that we saw online. Shoveling 200+ feet of sidewalk and a driveway with a sideload garage isn't fun. Good exercise, sure, but it's a pain. Especially doing that on a Friday morning before leaving for work.

So since we got to play hooky Thursday night we were able to clean up the living room, vacuum and rearrange the couch so we can set up the Christmas tree soon.

On the food front, I can't think of a lot of new exciting stuff we've done for dinner lately. However, to take for lunches at work the last couple weeks I've been making some recipes I've found for bean, lentil, grain, and other hearty salads. E.g. Southwestern Lentil Salad, Mediterranean chickpea & pasta salad, Zesty Adzuki Bean Salad, and Quinoa Pilaf with Almonds and a couple others.

Now to clean up the kitchen and make some Cozy Baking Spice for sale. It's a pumpkin pie spice with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace, and nutmeg. I called it Cozy Baking though so it wouldn't be restricted to pie. I used it for Snickerdoodles a couple weeks ago, it's great on oatmeal or rice pudding, spice cake, etc. Virtually anywhere cinnamon would be used. We can hardly keep it on the shelf this season - we've already sold 22 so I'm making 12 more jars momentarily.

Hoping to get the Christmas decorations up today or tomorrow. If we're feeling ambitious, we might write up a Christmas letter and send some cards! Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Feeling like much of our food lately has been more local and self grown. This morning we jarred 4 jars of sauerkraut that had been fermenting on our counter for (6?) weeks.

Just now I came inside from planting garlic for next year :) We had bought our stock this year from seed savers but they ran out when we went to buy more a couple weeks ago. So we went to our beloved garlic farmers at the farmer's market and bought a few types there and I used some nicer bulbs from our own garden this year. Some of the cloves are smaller than ideal, but it's fun that it all our garlic planting came from West Bend this year.

When Mom & Dad were here a few weeks ago they bought us a Foley Food Mill (yay!) and Mom helped me make my first batch of tomato sauce with my own tomatoes ever. The smell of cooking down tomatoes, the splash of steaming sauce getting run through the mill and all the leftover seeds and skins brought back pleasant memories of many childhood summers. The 4.5 quarts of sauce we yielded was probably 1/10th of what we made back then with the Victorio strainer and Dad's 60 tomato plants. I went on to make sauce twice more (9 quarts one time and about 7 another) this season, and also took a couple dozen pounds of tomatoes for Chris's mom & grandma too. That doesn't count all the tomatoes we ate on their own either. Amazing what 11 tomato plants can yield. I've been quite proud of my garden this year, can you tell? Especially since all my italian tomato plants (4 san marzano, 1 roma) were from seed and did even better than some of the plants I bought. Definitely a success for my first garden at the house. And excited to make some improvements and try new things next year.

We will certainly miss the farmer's market over winter as a resource for all the fantastic produce we didn't grow ourselves. Last week was the market's last day until spring. But we have been stockpiling the red and fingerling potatoes we love, garlic, onions, and some squash in the basement. Going to try to avoid having to buy more from the grocery store for as long as possible. Store bought is just not the same when you get spoiled with talking to the people that grow your food or better yet, growing it yourself. I feel like we're going back to the roots of self sufficiency & food storage before supermarkets where you can buy (flavorless & mealy) strawberries 365 a year. It brings an appreciation for what grows seasonally in your own region and the effort put into cultivating the food we eat.

A few weeks ago I put in some snow peas, lettuce and salad mix, swiss chard, and radishes since I had the seeds lying around. I was curious to see if anything would yield despite the cold. All of it is definitely coming along nicely, though I've never done peas/beans before so I'm not sure if the plants will die before it's too cold. Still fun to watch it all. Thinking about having some of my little salad greens this weekend.

I should get back to clearing out the warm weather stuff with the daylight growing short- still have some dead pepper plants that need to be pulled and it would be good to rake and work in some compost. Thankfully it's not so cold in the sun. 47 right now. High of 56 tomorrow. After tomorrow's time change it'll be dark by 5pm. Yuck.

P.S. Chris used the food mill for mashed potatoes the other day and they turned out incredibly smooth. Think that thing will come in handy. Ooh, we can use it for cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.

Monday, August 23, 2010


The weekend completely flew by but I suppose that's how it works when things are good, right?

Had a busy Saturday- going to the farmers market, working on business stuff for a few hours, running errands, cleaning the house, and other things I can't remember right now. Sunday we drove 1/2 hour to find out the garage we were taking both cars to work on was closed. Grr. So we came back and Chris got to work in the driveway on my car while I got part of the garage cleaned up which was in desperate need of de-cluttering. Still have stuff we need to pitch.... like what seems like 10,000 plastic pots from plants, cardboard of varying size that never seems to go away no matter how much we recycle... 2 lawnmowers that don't work (the third one we were sent has been working and fantastic since we got it, yay), a busted vacuum cleaner, and some tools/devices we borrowed for projects here or there... blah. It's coming along, but it's shocking the amount of accumulation that can happen, especially with a house and all those things we now own or temporarily need that we never did before. Didn't realize a house was this much work! Especially establishing a new yard & landscaping. We have spent many a sweaty humid day and mosquito-ridden night working on something outside. Hoping there comes a day when we have more grass than weeds. :(

The garden is happy though, and I need more tomato towers since a few of the plants are so huge and top heavy with lots of green tomatoes :D. Our landscaper didn't put in our raised garden until the end of June so I was a bit behind in getting everything planted. Everything looks plentiful though. The 6 types of garlic I harvested a couple weeks ago are dried and just need to be cleaned! I accidentally pulled an onion out when I was weeding tonight but it looks great too and there are many more still out there. It's fun growing vegetables I haven't grown before! Dill weed is finally coming in, the 3 mint plants are ridiculously huge, and basil, as expected, is enormous too. I finally chopped down the bolting romaine lettuce tonight... I could go on and on even more, haha. Also tonight I mixed my second batch of compost from our kitchen composter into the soil around the herbs and onions.

Anyway, yesterday Mom & Jean showed up around 3 and we had a blast shopping and they bought me some fun new clothes, shoes, a hat, and necklace, yay. I was amused by Jean's observation that Dad had kept track this was their third time going on an out-of-state trip together without him. :/ In 40 years of being best friends. What better excuse for a girl's day out? Chris was being the wonderful car mechanic that he is, so we went and played while he fixed my horrible oil leak AND air conditioning! Wow! I'm so grateful. <3

It was a great visit! They brought tomatoes and eggplant for us, and I sent them home with some spices and teas. Looking forward to having both Mom & Dad for a whole weekend in 5 weeks, but we'll probably need to do something other than just shopping.. :P

Til next time loyal reader(s?)...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

We started on a new path this past Saturday. A couple months ago Chris got his routine newsletter from Herbal Legacy forum and something about this article clicked. We knew we both needed to try it soon to cleanse and rebuild. We made a lot of excuses to not start, but finally took the plunge last weekend. Definitely was a good idea to start on the weekend, since we had some intense cleansing feelings the first couple days. But boy, has there been a dramatic difference this week. More energy! For example, one morning before work I got up at 6, cleaned the kitchen, and went for a run. It was most difficult the first few days to come up with meal ideas that involve no grain, fruit, tubers, or sweeteners of any kind, but we've ended up being more creative this week than we have in a long time. Also realized how much we eat potatoes and other things when we gave them up. Necessity is the mother or invention.

Planning to promote this cleanse in our herb classes and create a cookbook to go with it. What to eat for 2 1/2 weeks was our biggest stall in us getting started, and knowing many people don't eat a diet like ours, I know that would be the biggest fear for most people. The salad dressing I made for lunch today was a creamy italian made with almonds as the base!

Looking forward to hosting Mom & Jean Sunday evening!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mosquitos Are The Devil But Summer Is Worth It

Had a great extended weekend, but as usual, it wasn't long enough. Friday we took care of some of those errands that you can only do during business hours. Bryce and Shannon stayed over on their way home to Iowa from a 5 week Adventure with Lincoln. We played Mario Kart & Super Mario Bros, conversed about herbs, food, communes, natural birth, and other hippie stuff. Enjoyed Lincoln's cuteness, sweet demeanor, and strawberry curls I couldn't stop touching.

Midday Saturday I made a breakfast tofu scramble with spinach and onions, and my stand by casserole of hashbrowns, mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, and a crumbled breakfast patty. They had seconds so it must have gone over well. Kind of cliche to do tofu as we don't even eat it very often, but it was nice to hear Shannon's first and only experience with bad tofu was turned around. Bryce took a picture of his plate of food so it passed the photogenic test too. They watched as we worked on some business stuff in the afternoon, and we showed them the health store we work with. I'm glad to know I have a way to text Bryce now and also another online Mario Kart competitor. :)

I think Shannon really wants the composter we recently got. Chris really didn't want a big bulky tumbler outside, and despite the price, I was thrilled that he found an indoor and extremely easy and accessible solution. I had been cringing at throwing away food lo these last few years since living on my own. It's incredible how much less trash we throw out now. Going to use our first batch of compost this week on some plants outside!

Sunday & Monday Chris and I were amazed at how much more yard work we got done (and realizing there is still quite a bit left to do). We've now made it all the way around the house with our hand built stone edging, weeding, and mulching. Just a few more yards of mulch to finish around the patio. We're also going to pull up some of the mulch we first installed and put down landscape fabric since we already have some weeds poking through the mulch we put down 2 weeks ago. Once we're done with the landscaping, we'll hopefully get rid of the crab grass once and for all so the grass can fill in the rest of the way. And maybe the yard will be done for the summer except mowing and fun things like harvesting crops? Crossing my fingers.

Can't believe how huge the tomato plants are - especially the ones I planted from seed which makes me proud. :D I got a few smaller tomato towers but I need bigger ones for most of them.

We noticed the landscaper must have snuck in over the weekend. They were 2 firebricks short of completing the fire pit last week, and Sunday we saw that it was done and ready for use! So last night we treated ourselves to a job well done with a long overdue burn-in of the fire pit. The mosquitoes were horrendous as they have been many evenings we've been working outside, so it was great when dusk passed to night and they weren't so rampant. And once we got the fire going they were virtually inconsequential. Chris brought out the thurible so we had incense to go along with our christening of the firepit which uplifted the mood even more. It was so peaceful, quiet, and calm that at nearly 10pm we decided to just cook dinner over the fire and stayed out until midnight.

On the horizon.... Wisconsin State Fair with Chris's family this weekend. Looking forward to the Perseid meteor shower coming up next week. Last night I found out my mom will be stopping for a visit in 2 1/2 weeks after a wedding in LaCrosse. We're hosting friends for Labor Day. Mom & Dad are visiting at the end of September, Chris and I are participating in a big Health Expo at the State Fairgrounds in October, followed by family Halloween in KY. Then it's practically winter! Lots of fun stuff coming up. Wonder why I feel like there's never enough time? Loving this long hot summer since I felt cheated last year, but looking forward to the changing seasons (but not the days growing shorter).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Food Successes!

Had a fun weekend of wonderful concoctions in the kitchen. Everything just seemed to turn out perfectly!

First I made a new fava bean salad with lemon, parsley, garlic, and olive oil. It was very good. Then I topped it with chopped cucumber, tomato, and sliced red onion and it truly made it wonderful and made it my own recipe.

For dinner I made broccoli mac which I had made many times before, but just changing one ingredient made it pop. Didn't know macaroni and cheese could blow your mind. But it did, wow. We topped it with hemp seeds and crushed red pepper. Yum. It's hard to describe the scents and flavors of food with words- so much about food is truly more of an experience than words can explain.

Then late last night we had deep dish pizza. Chris had made the whole wheat dough to ferment the night before, and made his amazing pizza sauce. We also used Daiya cheese for the first time on our own pizza. I topped it with fresh mushrooms, onion, cubanelle peppers, and a little Upton's Italian Sausage. For the first time we also tried our new pizza seasoning on top. It was incredible!! Makes me want the leftovers now.... drool..

Today I made guacamole. Again, a tried and true recipe. I was so disappointed after getting home from the store when I realized that I didn't have a lime. So I used lemon instead. It was amazing! So I might just skip the lime and use lemon instead from now on. Chris hardly wanted to use chips with it, he was eating it with a spoon. :)

I love food, haha. I want to write a cookbook.

Chris has been playing in the kitchen today with new spice blends like taco seasoning. He's making the second batch of vanilla extract - woo hoo!

Sucks that it's almost Monday and back to the 9-5. Feels like we're working for the weekend at times...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Never ceases to amaze me

I have taken so many pictures of the amazing food we've made over the past couple months. But I just never get to the point of uploading and editing them. Blah.

Somehow this evening I was preparing some veggies for dinner and slipped and slashed the top of my pinky toe on the bar stool. So there's a bit of a cut, and I could see the skin going white... I put a drop of cayenne tincture on it and watched the color return due to the circulation provided when the cayenne made contact with the discolored skin. I put on a couple more drops a few minutes later, and the rest of the skin returned to its normal color. And it also stopped the slight pain I had. It sounds very simple, because in actuality it was, but it was just one of many times that I've been amazed by the power of herbs. When I start to doubt or feel lost, I do something stupid to hurt myself (haha) to learn again how healing these simple foods can be. Its very humbling to know what the body is capable of when given the nutrients it needs.

I'm nearing the completion of my online Family Herbalist course with The School of Natural Healing. Last night, we watched and I filled out my study guide on a lecture about the Vitalist philosophy (in contrast to atomist/allopathic). It's refreshing to learn and just have that Ah Ha! feeling, that this is truly what makes sense to the core. The body tends toward wellness, fighting til the bitter end despite the hell we put it through. We can help it along by providing what it needs to thrive. Health is not merely the absence of disease.

Both with the classes Chris has taught at the health center, and my own studies, I'm absorbing so much, yet realizing how much I already know. It's given me a lot of confidence in owning my own health and I notice how many more questions I'm able to answer for other people who have the thirst to learn about herbs and vitalism. I love the journey we're taking together, and can't wait to see where it will lead us!