Tuesday, February 3, 2015

back at it in 2015

Just a month in and 2015 is off to a rollicking good start.  We rang in the new year with family-reunion-a-polooza!
It was pretty awesome to get about 2/3 of the family together under one roof for a wee stretch of time.  Awesome, and crazy, and kid fabulous!  9 cousins! Thankfully the weather was mild so nobody froze too bad and the kids were able to range outside for most of the time, where they soldiered on sledding until the very last of the snow melted.  Army-sized meals were prepared, and the decibel level in the house was equivalent to a rock concert at any given time. 

About a month before this insanity all went down I broke down in my own little moment of crazy and brought this home:
Actually, that's about three times the amount of dog I brought home in December.  Puppies grow at an even more exponential rate than children. Artemis "Aurora-Rapunzel-Cinderella."  She has pretty much won us all over heart and soul.  Every time we turn around she is just sitting there with those eyes full of unconditional love seeming to say, "I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me, or feed me scraps of moose meat."

As things slowed down & got very chilly outside towards the end of January and our house seemed strangely quiet (for the first time ever maybe) the kids and I have  been reading lots of books.  We have a cook & book theme going on and they are totally diggin' it.  This week we read
The kids baked the apple pie recipe from it (they did the majority of mixing and chopping themselves) and were quite delighted with the result.

Other than that we are just crafting, and garden dreaming and doing some nesting in this last little stretch of winter time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ten Things...

I have been doing some thinking lately about this blog space.  It is one I'd like to keep up, because it is sort of the only catch-all that I have left for thoughts and photographs and documenting the kids hallmarks and milestones, etc... It also serves as a portfolio for the handwork & art projects I do manage to finish, believe me, they are few and far between these days. And apparently, the free crochet headband pattern I posted WAY back is still a hoppin' source of pinterest traffic, which is funny, because I'd never before written a crochet pattern and haven't since.  It is also a nice way to relay pictures and life-going on to far away family (or close by family when busy schedules don't allow time for visiting).  So, in short, I don't want to quit on bloggin' but something has been troubling me about it lately.  I don't want this space to make other moms or DIYers or human beings in general to feel inadequate, or like their own life doesn't somehow measure up.  In the last couple of months I've had two different mom friends ask me how I do it all.  The truth is I don't.  Nobody does.  This blog is a place where I like to post picturesque snapshots of our life, or moments that make me feel proud and joyful, but in no way does it represent our WHOLE lives.  So in the spirit of blog transparency, and using social media to promote an honest picture of things, here are ten things about my life that I bet you would never guess from reading this blog.

1.  I totally slacked off at gardening this year.  There were many reasons, the main one being chicken containment issues.  Did you know chickens will eat your entire garden?  They will.  Pshaw... here in Southcentral Alaska it is usually a moose that terminates your cole crops, but for us it was the cluckers.  We did what we could, and we were able to eat out of the garden all summer but the only thing I put up in the freezer were raspberries.  It was my goal to have a ton of frozen and canned veggies for this winter, but alas, it was never meant to be. 

2. Speaking of chickens, we decided to take on a flock of 30 meat chickens in addition to our 13 laying hens and one two roosters.  I'm not gonna lie, I'm not feeling the love for the meat chickens. They are smelly, destructive, agressive, and not growing nearly fast enough to make them financially worth while.  We decided to raise Red Rangers because they are good foragers and don't have the leg problems that Cornish Cross breeds do.  Those two things have proven to be true, but at 12 weeks they are barely big enough to be a decent sized meal, so we keep having to put off butchering till they are bigger, and now we are fighting the cold temperatures.  I think it's a good thing to be able to raise your own food, but we are going to have to rethink this whole process before we try chickens again.  Maybe for now it's better to stick with moose and salmon and fresh eggs. 

3. Another reason my homesteading skills have been seriously sucking it up this summer is that I have been recovering from an exhaustion related hormonal imbalance (something akin to adrenal fatigue) that started this winter.  Actually, it probably had been fomenting for quite a while.  Four straight years of pregnancy and nursing and not sleeping (neither one of my kids became a good sleeper until they quit nursing) doesn't exactly do wonders for the body.  The kids caught a couple bad tummy bugs last winter and the total misery and exhaustion from dealing with the last week of that while single parenting was the straw that broke the camel's back. I seriously thought I was dying or suffering from an auto-immune disorder.  It seemed to get better in early spring, but then it got bad again in May-June when I stopped breastfeeding Eli.  I sort of had the equivalent of really bad post-partum depression two years after having a baby complete with panic attacks, heart irregularities and vertigo.  Thanks to some strict medical orders to take some personal time and do things that are restorative, a vitamin and herb regimen and two months of regular acupuncture treatments I am almost feeling like a human again.  I'm putting this out there in case another panicked, exhausted mom stumbles across this.  I want you to feel hopeful, and encourage you to seek some alternative health support.  I can't even say enough good things about acupuncture.  I was a skeptic, but now I'm a believer.  Sleep helps too.  I'm so thankful that both my kids are now sleeping through the night.  That alone feels like a small miracle.

4. This coming October marks a year of me being gluten free.  Just in the last month or two I feel like I have finally gotten over the grieving process.  That sounds so melodramatic, I know... but gluten was pretty much the base of so many of the comfort foods I grew up with.  So while my taste buds had happily settled into a gluten free diet many months ago, my emotions still had to give up the ghost.  One thing that was the hardest was the ritual of baking bread.  I have so many happy memories of doing that with my mom, so I have decided to continue that tradition with my own kids, I just can't eat the results.  And finally, I feel at peace with that. 

5. Along the same line of thought, I got into a serious food funk earlier this summer.  I think the combination of never sitting down to a family dinner (Loren has to work late and long hours in the summer) and Sadie going through this super fussy complain about everything on her plate phase, while Eli just managed to constantly spill or dump his food out just left me totally fried, no pun intended.  I really have to thank our friends Jeff & Laura, who stayed with us while waiting for their baby to be born,  for re-inspiring me to get back into cooking with joy. It was really a pleasure to sit down and enjoy meals with other adults and also to have a break from cooking some of the time & try food prepared with a fresh perspective. I feel like now I can tackle the cooking part of my home-maker duties with more purpose and peace.  And lo-and-behold the kids are eating the food I cook again. Just goes to show, love really is the secret ingredient.

6. After two years of living in this amazing house here in Palmer I am beginning to understand the curse of too much space.  Can I just #firstworldproblems myself here?  But seriously, I feel like one or two more families should be living in our house.  All three of us still sleep in one of the downstairs bedrooms, in spite of my attempts to create a big-girl room for Sadie.  She does hang out in there during the day, but at night she still sleeps in toddler bed next to us.  People told us when we began this journey of co-sleeping that the kids would never leave our bed.  People were right. That said, some nights snuggling up to the sweetest little sleeping angels in the world is the only thing that redeems the utter chaos of the day.  It is a fleeting part of small children that will never come back.  I have no regrets at all.  I just think we should have bought a one room cabin on 40 acres.  Maybe we need to find some awesome room mates, or rent out our basement to an amazing non-profit, or something. 

7.  Secretly, I keep hoping someone(s) from my family will move up here.  One of the hardest things about having a hobby farm/ dogs/ tight budget/ small children is that it makes traveling really, really challenging.  Also, being a homebody doesn't help.  I pretty much never go anywhere now.  I'm totally okay with that except that I know it bugs my husband, and I miss the heck out of my big crazy family--especially now that my siblings and besties also have kids of their own.  I wish we could let all our wild bebbies run nekked together in the yard, with the chickens and dog and just drink a margarita and chill--in between the mandatory conversation punctuation marks like, "Don't put that in your mouth!" and "Stop tying string around your cousin!" and so forth.

8. My to do list is so long.  As I write this I have two sheetrock repair jobs, one leaking toilet, one that wont stop running, a laundry room sink that Eli ripped out of the wall (holy crap! Can I just say it is impossible to child-proof a house from a kid like Eli?) Rooms that need painted, furniture that needs built to store and sort and streamline our daily activities and the list goes on. The thing is I LIKE doing house repair projects like this, but they are so, so hard to do with small people in tow.  Someday, someday.... maybe when the kids start school.  I hope the floor under the leaking toilet doesn't rot out and fall into the basement in the meanwhile.

9. I sometimes flirt with the idea of going back to work.  Then I realize I'd still have to do all THIS^ with a full time job.  But working and getting an actual paycheck?!  I miss that.  I miss having reasonably priced health insurance,  adult conversations and a feeling of purposefulness, an organized schedule... a moment to drink a cup of coffee and complete a thought without....wait a minute.... my career is teaching, so never  mind.  Sometimes I really wish motherhood came with a prep period though. 

10.  Sometimes It is hard for me to relate to my kids.  I love them so very much, but there are times, when Eli is throwing the umpteenth tantrum because Sadie did something kind of mean to him, that I just feel like checking out.  Sometimes I yell--but I'm trying really hard not to do that.  It doesn't really serve a purpose, and it makes us all feel stressed out, but still.  No parents are perfect.  Spending all day with small children is hard.  It is actually a wonder that my head doesn't explode nearly every single day.  But it doesn't.  And each day I get up and do it all again, and that is a gift... a funny gift that I don't always understand the magnitude of until after the fact. 

Life is messy, life is beautiful, life is perfect with is rough edges and spills and flaws.  Please don't mind me if I still post pictures of my awesome home-made sriracha sauce, or rave on about my amazing kids. Of course, those things are real and wonderful parts of life, but just know that in the time it took me to write that blog post one of my amazing kids has probably fed said sriracha to my dog and I will be dealing with the aftermath for the next little while.  Please be in peace about your own journey of motherhood, or person-hood or whatever it is you got going on.  Comparisons are the bane of our social-media generation.  Any time you feel like keeping it real--feel free to show up at my place and get a healthy dose of the bigger picture.  
Blessings, Tara

Saturday, September 20, 2014

two and four

I haven't written anything here in a long while.  It isn't for lack of things going on.  Life has been busy, and full--sowing and reaping, sewing sawing and sanding, enjoying visiting company from far and near, filling flats of canning jars with goodness for the winter...oh! and somewhere along the journey my babies turned two and four.
These two.  It's kind of hard to put into words exactly how they are these days.  Most of the time they amaze me with their ingenuity and spark.   They are industrious and insatiably curious--full of quirks and contradictions.  Thick as thieves one moment, fighting like cats and dogs the next.  But through it all, in the rhythm of our days they have developed a genuine solidarity and love for one another and I am truly thankful that there are two of them.
Sadie is so grown.  And stubborn, and independent and amazing.  She is loving going to preschool this year, and really thriving there.   She is all about fancy these days, and has been for a while.  She never goes anywhere without a dress or crown or some other accessory or five.  She has this thing about putting treasures & toys in the seemingly endless collection of bags, purses and baskets she has acquired (where do they all come from?) Eventually she cant find anything and we have to go through the entire house and car and find all her treasure bags, empty them out and return her things to their rightful places.   I won't lie, sometimes it drives me bonkers.  She is so into creating things (cutting paper, gluing, glittering, putting things into envelopes tying said envelopes up with string, putting them in aforementioned treasure bags). She will be the first to say, cleaning up is not her BEST.  It is hard to get her to put things away.  It is nearly impossible to locate a coat and a complete set of shoes for her these days.  All these props are simply cast aside as the next great feat of imagination sweeps over her.  It is really a reminder how it is the process of creativity and imagination that is valuable so much more so than the end result. 
She has been loving reading books with strong female characters.  Her recent favorites are  Lucia and the Light, Rosie Revere Engineer, and  The Paper Bag Princess. Ive been getting ideas from the Mighty Girl reading list.  I feel like it is so important when girls this age go through their princess-loving stage that they get genuine, well-rounded female characters to balance out the weak, underdeveloped stereotypical princess characters that are so ubiquitous in children's literature and film.
It is just such a joy, plain and simple, watching Sadie grow and turn into the strong little being she is becoming.  

And then there's this guy.  Two.  Where did he even come from. (Some days my suspicions lean toward Krypton).  We have affectionately nicknamed him the honey badger. He is a non stop goer.  A doer of great and sometimes not so great things. A seeker of sensory input and thrills.  A thrower of show-stopping tantrums. An insatiable eater of meat, wholenanas (bananas), tewops (lollypops) and chompang (ice cream). He is a lover of grandmas.  He goes up to random older ladies wherever we go and yells, "Grandma!" and gives out free hugs.  He also points to the picture of Dolly Parton in  the books we get from the Imagination Library and says "Grandma Caroline!"  In general, this guy makes all of us laugh on a daily basis.  His affirmative answer to everything is, "Rup."  As in, "Eli, would you like this banana?" "Rup. Wholenana!"
In the funny way that two-year-olds manage to pull off he is both incredibly messy and impeccably organized.  It is pretty much the end of the world when food falls off his dinner plate or gets on his clothes (but of course it does, because, well...he's two.) He ALWAYS knows where his favorite moon-star shoes and coat are.  He puts toys away--and then immediately throws them all back off the shelves.  He is constantly tiptoeing the line between chaos and order.  Eli has a remarkable amount of co-ordination and bounce back.  It never ceases to amaze me. He also loves books, but is starting to get really in-tune with the characters' emotions.  Now he refuses to read ALL the Llama Llama books and Going on a Bear Hunt because they are too scary.  He will, however, invite you to read Mike Mulligan & his Steam Shovel, and a handful of other select favorites for hours on end as long as he can sit in your lap.  For all his busy he has such a sweet and snugly side.  We are treasuring this priceless age he is in.
So yeah.  Two and Four. 
 Pretty awesome.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

butterfly magic

We've been in for a bit of a treat this summer with the two caterpillar friends we took in.  The first one (sorry I didn't take a picture of the caterpillar) created this magnificent chrysalis:
I didn't know treasures like this even existed in nature! After a couple of weeks (sorry, not a very rigorous scientific method around here--it's lucky I happened to check the jar on the kitchen windowsill one day and see a butterfly because it probably would have starved to death otherwise)
The butterfly that hatched out of this looked like this:
 The kids were amazed.  Eli didn't even try to smack it--which is his go-to for pretty much all members of the insect class these days.

I think we caught it so newly hatched that it was drying its wings still.  We put it on a tree by our porch so it could safely undergo child supervision and still have a chance at survival.  It flew away in about 30 minutes.
Next up: We caught this spiky fellow at the kids' grandparents' house.  Within a couple of days he dropped off a part of his caterpillar body and made this chrysalis:
Not quite as brilliant as the first one, but not to shabby nonetheless. Fast forward a couple more weeks and Loren discovered that this butterfly had emerged:

I didn't get a very good picture of it, because as soon as the kids took it outside...
it flew!  How amazing.  I could probably do a quick google search and find out what kind of butterflies these were, and also why they drip pink liquid when they hatch, but for now I'm pretty content with the whole not-so-scientific side of butterfly magic.  Thank you butterflies for letting us observe your amazing metamorphosis!

Monday, June 23, 2014

a peck of pickled peppers

Summer is in full swing.  The days are full of various ramblings outside.  The to-do list is ever-lengthening, just as the days are (or have been up until Saturday). Growing season wise, this summer has been kind of ideal--lots of of sunshine with a few good rainy days here and there.  The gardens are loving it. So are the weeds.
We have been harvesting our first few eats from the gardens.  Fresh greens mostly.  The kids are fondest of the butter lettuce so far, but we will have many more good things soon.
I picked my first round of peppers from in the sun room.  I can't believe how crazy the pepper plants are going in there.  These sweet and slightly spicy ones looked like they wanted to become pickled peppers.  So they are in the process of lacto-fermenting on the kitchen counter.  If they turn out any good I will report back with a recipe.
Another funny, and random note from the garden--I do believe the children have been doing a little guerrilla planting in my raised beds.  I found many a good-looking poppy seedling amongst the cabbages this week.  They have all been re-homed to more suitable locations.  Gardens, like children, are so full of delightful surprises.  You just never know what you are going to get!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

sunshine tea

We have an overabundance of fresh eggs right now.  That is kind of the nature of chicken keeping I'm learning.  All winter long--no eggs, no eggs...then spring and summer hit and it's OMG EGGS!  I've been trying to come up with ways to use eggs other than the old stand-byes and I came across this old-school recipe that with some minor tweaks has become one of the kids' favorites over the last few weeks.  This is a really great way to get some healthy calories into little ones who aren't big into breakfast.  It is also an awesome before-bed snack. You don't need fresh eggs to make this--of course, they will taste the best, but the hot water does technically "cook" the eggs in this drink if you are worried about food-borne pathogens.

Sunshine Tea
serves 3

Boil 2 cups of water
 In a blender combine:
2 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon butter
1 heaping teaspoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon of honey (or to taste)
pinch of tumeric
dash of nutmeg
shake of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

While the blender is running
slowly (carefully!) pour the boiling water into the egg mixture 
increase speed of blender and mix until frothy 
pour into cups

* This recipe is generally fine for those who are lactose-sensitive as butter doesn't contain the milk protein that many people are unable to digest.  That said, if you don't do butter you can substitute a different healthy fat or oil in the recipe, you could also just add a bit more coconut oil.

* for a more hot-chocolate like drink try adding a heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

father's day

There are many reasons to love this guy.  He mans the BBQ in a princess tiara with no shame, he tells the very BEST bedtime stories, and gives the highest pushes on the swing.  He is the keeper of the keys to all the 'chines (Eli's word for machines), he keeps the fire going, the dishes washed, and the freezer full.  He works hard everyday, and then comes home and puts in a second shift.  I can't imagine a more wonderful human to raise children with, and I know the kids couldn't ask for a better dad.  We are thankful for him every day, but on this day especially we like to say it again.  
Happy Father's Day!