Thursday, October 27, 2011

Food Storage Planning Gets Easy

My poor little corner of the internet is so neglected! I'm still on my own with the kids, so I get approximately 2 hours to myself each day, but that happens at the end of the day after they're all in bed. And after spending yet another full day solo parenting and homeschooling 3 kids, you know what I want to do? Mindlessly click through the humor section of pinterest while eating cotton candy flavored ice cream, that's what.

I have A LOT of blog post ideas saved in my drafts folder and I'm thinking I might participate in NaBloPoMo this year, so keep an eye out for a lot more posts in the near future.

For now though, FOOD STORAGE! Did you forget my obsession with food storage? I haven't written about it in a while, but it is an obsession. A pantry full of food makes me feel more safe and secure. I know that's partly an illusion, but I control what I can, and I can control food.

101 in 1001 goal #43 is to mindfully accumulate 4 months of food storage and then goal #44 is to live off of food storage for one month. The tricky part is that word mindfully. I don't want to just buy a bunch of whatever and find out I can't make palatable meals out of it. I've had this goal on my mind since the beginning of summer when I knew we'd be moving back and it was going to be feasible to store up a lot of food again. But I got swamped in the details of planning out the food storage. I tried to just keep track of how much of every item I used over a month, but I'd lose track and we'd eat out and it wasn't very accurate at all.

Then I happened to visit Food Storage Made Easy one day. They have added a fabulous tool since the last time I was there. Under the helpful tools section there are now calculators to help you plan out what you need in your food storage and how much of everything you should have.

I used the 3 month calculator. You put in 30 breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks, then you fill in how much of each ingredient you need to make each meal. I won't lie, it's time consuming. I worked on mine in bits and pieces for over a month, looking up recipes and being sure I had it accurate. The spreadsheet totals how much of each ingredient you need to cover the whole month, then multiplies it by 3. There is a column to input how much you already have on hand and it calculates how much you need to buy. To help keep things straight, I put in all my meal ideas, then as I filled in the ingredients needed, I put an asterisk next to the meal name so I could easily see I had finished filling in that column. That was very helpful because there were some things I had on the sheet that are freezer meals. For example, I have pizza on the spreadsheet twice, but in reality, I would make one recipe of frozen pizza (my recipe makes 2 pizzas), so I entered the ingredients one time, but put asterisks next to both pizza titles.

A few notes: for this to really work as longer term storage, you want to stick to less perishable foods. I tried to use shelf stable and frozen foods, and really limit things like fresh milk. There is a bit of cheese in my plan, but vacuum packed cheese stays good for a really long time. Some of the baked items are easy to make ahead of time and freeze (things like cookie and biscuit dough can be made when ingredients are on hand and frozen for later use). I also added drinks to my plan so I could just enter things like apple juice once instead of with multiple meals.

While the spreadsheet plans for 3 months, I think my plan would probably cover more like 4 months. I did that on purpose because I like to err on the side of caution. I didn't count on leftovers or produce from the garden, but chances are good we'll have plenty of both.

Here's a quick peek at part of my spread sheet. I still need to fill in what we have on hand. Once I know what I need, I plan to buy those things over time by adding a few items to the grocery cart on each shopping trip. This will give me time to take advantage of sales and also stock up without breaking my budget. I'm hoping to have my 4 months of food storage built up by the end of the year and make January my "no grocery shopping" month. I figure the end of the year is a good time to do this because there are usually sales on things like turkey and eggs, butter, flour and sugar as everyone ramps up for holiday baking.

Now the only thing I need to do is account for Secora's food, which is tricky since I don't know what she'll be eating next week, much less next month!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where Did The Baby Go?

Secora is on a peak-a-boo kick lately. It's the cutest thing any of us has seen in a long time, which is saying something because there's a whole lotta cute around here.

Check out the video. I dare you not to smile.

You know when sweet babies playing peak-a-boo ISN'T so cute though? At four in the morning. Okay, okay, I admit when I woke up to her leaning over me covering her face with her hands and saying, "ba! ba!" I did smile a little bit. That just egged her on though. I kept laying her down, she kept sitting up, giggling and yelling "ba! ba!"

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, Monday, Monday!!!

I woke up this morning to a 4 year old asking in her best stage whisper, "SISTER!! Can we get up yet?!?" For several years, the rule in this house is you do not get up until 7am (barring nightmares, puke, pee and alien invasion, of course). This "whispering" happened at 6:15am. Not cool.

Talking that was loud enough to wake me up was also loud enough to wake up a certain 11 month old. Really, really not cool.

When you have a baby, the first task in the morning is often to change the diaper. In my groggy state, I took off the old diaper and got her all cleaned up before I realized there were no more clean diapers. No worries, I had more put away in the closet, I just hadn't gotten them out. I put the (now diaperless) baby in the crib and got the new pack of diapers. I came back, a whole 10 seconds later, to find a happy baby who had peed all over herself, the crib, and the floor.

I'm glad it wasn't worse than that, but still.......Hello Monday!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

11 Months

I just can't believe Secora's going to be one year old in just one month. I guess I'm gonna have to stop saying things like, "where's the baby?" And yes, "where's the baby?" is a somewhat common phrase around here, because she is extremely mobile now. Still crawling, but that works just fine to get her everywhere she wants to go. Most often, she wants to escape the living room and go hang out in the girl's room where all the cool toys are. Only slightly less often, she crawls into the pantry and checks out our food storage.

She's 17#13oz. She hasn't gained any weight in the last month. I think that's partly because she's gotten so mobile and partly because of the eating thing.

She's still not eating, but we are making a little progress. We went to the occupational therapist a couple of weeks ago for an evaluation. She definitely has "oral defensiveness", which pretty much means she just can't handle food. The OT described it as her brain's desire to protect her from choking is just in hyper drive, so as soon as something even touches her lips, her brain over reacts to keep the food out of her mouth or get it out of her mouth if it's already there. The treatment is to desensitize her, so we have some exercises we've been working on for that. We started out just playing with a toothbrush and then an electric toothbrush that's turned on. We worked up to "finger swipes", which means I use my finger to touch and tap on certain parts of her hard palate and gums. That needs to be done just before meals and once between meals. The OT also had some ideas to try for just getting food in her, things like just letting her play with food instead of focusing on eating, and putting food at the side of her mouth instead of in the middle. All of this has helped, but slowly. She WANTS to eat now, which is a little pitiful. She still gags, but she will keep coming back for more tastes. A while back, she licked a spoon dipped in chocolate pudding, gagged, then licked it again and gagged again. She kept this up until, 10 or 15 tastes later, she finally got a baby sized bite of it. She eventually worked herself up to taking bites without gagging. The next day when I tried again though, it was starting back at square one. If we're really persistent and sit down and try for half an hour or so, she might eat 1/4 tsp of food. Just today, after about 45 minutes in her high chair, she ate some puffs, which was HUGE. So we're a long way from having a full meal of solid food, but I think we'll get there. I'm hoping we can find something she'll at least play in and taste to give her at her 1st birthday, not sure there's much point in doing a traditional smash cake. Also looking forward to one day sleeping through the night again. She wakes up at least twice a night, usually more, to nurse. Since she's not eating anything else and not gaining, I don't think it's wise to push her to give up the night nursings. It's nice to snuggle with her at night when the whole house is quiet, but 7am comes awfully early.

She only had 2 teeth for three months, but she's finally adding to the count. She's cut four teeth in the last week. Two on the top and two on the bottom. She's not cutting them in the regular order, so she looks a little lopsided, but there are 2 more teeth that are very close to coming in and I'm thinking she'll have all 8 front teeth by her first birthday. She's a really good teether so far. She drools and sucks on one of her fingers, but isn't fussy during the day. She gets crankier at night and it was hard to deal with that at first because it wasn't any easier to get tylenol in her than it was to get her take food, I had to really force the medicine on her. I think she realized it helped though, because the last few times, she at least took it willingly. It was slow going and she made lots of faces, but she didn't fight me over it.

She's starting to work on talking. Sometimes if she's fussy, I'll ask if she wants milk and she'll nod her head "yes" and be quiet and wait for me. She occasionally makes the sign for "milk" and "dog". She says "mama" and "dada" and "guh" (for dog).

She will cruise if she really wants to, but more often, she sits down and crawls. She lets go while standing up, but hasn't shown any interest in actually taking a step yet.

Before long, I'll be writing up her first birthday post!! Time flies when you're snugglin' a baby!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sewing Gathers

My sister-in-law had the idea to use the fabric from her wedding dress to make my niece's baptism dress. I love the symbolism there, so when she asked if I could make the dress, I said, "Sure! Umm...probably. I think so."

Raise your hand if you'd be more than a bit freaked out by cutting apart someone's wedding dress **waves hand wildly in the air** I decided it would be wise to make a practice dress first just to be sure I could make the dress and it would look good and it would actually fit. I also decided it would be wise to brush up on my gathering technique since I haven't made gathers in about 6 years.

Being the age of the internet and all, I hit up my trusty friend google to find a tutorial on sewing gathers. Oh my goodness, did I find the perfect one. THIS VIDEO is priceless. Follow her technique and gathers are easy peasy and nearly painless. So much so that I might just be sewing up a bunch of dresses for my girls to wear next summer. Bonus, her accent is the sweetest thing I've ever heard. I want her sitting next to my sewing machine at 2am chastising me over my technique and insisting I never refer to threads as mere strings (watch the video, you'll get it).

Fall Garden Update

We got rain! A slow, soaking rain. Three quarters of an inch of rain. And now I sound like my grandparents, I never would've known the rain totals 5 years ago. We really needed it and I'm sure the garden will be growing by leaps and bounds this week.

Everything is going really well. There wasn't much work to do out there this weekend, I just pulled weeds here and there as I was walking by. We still have issues with blight out there, so I did end up pulling off and throwing away some tomato plant leaves. You don't want to leave those in the garden because it just spreads the blight. It also tends to flare up after rain because the falling water makes the soil splash up on the lower leaves, which infects them. Normally, I'm watering with drip line, so it's not a constant problem, but with the rain, I imagine I'll need to be pulling off more leaves soon. I took a picture of one spot of it in case anyone needs to know what it looks like It starts with the yellow along the edge of the leaves, then they turn brown and there are usually spots of brown if you let it go longer. It starts when the soil splashes up on the lower leaves, but it works its way up the plant. Some people try to prevent it by stripping the lower leaves off the plant before it starts. You also get blight on potato plants and if you let it go, it ends up infecting the tomatoes and potatoes.

Overall, the tomatoes are growing rather well though I am even seeing some flower buds on them I have been keeping milk jugs full of water in the sun and on nights when the temperature is going to be below 60, I go out in the evening and put one of the warm milk jugs next to each plant. I imagine these will have a growth spurt this week from the rain and need to be staked up next weekend.

The broccoli really took off last week I'm collecting broccoli recipes, but if things continue growing like they are, I'll need to blanch and freeze some too.

The peas have started wrapping their little tendrils around their fencing and will be climbing real soon The second bed of peas I planted never really took off though. There were more weeds in that bed to contend with and I didn't prep it very well, so I think there is just more competition there. I'll still get some peas out of it, just not as much The cabbage grew a lot last week too It is starting to be attacked by caterpillars. This is always an issue, I'll need to get out there and pick off and squish caterpillars soon (the holes are where the leaf's been eaten) The brussels sprouts are holding their own though The cauliflower is also doing well And the beans are growing by leaps and bounds, but not climbing. These are labeled as bush beans, but in the past when we've given them supports, they've still climbed and produced better, so I'm kinda curious why they're not taking off yet. Overall, there's been some great progress!!

It's only been 2 weeks since I put in transplants and 4 weeks since I planted peas and beans. It's really amazing to look back at when I planted everything and see how much it's grown already!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Has it really been 7 years??

It has been 7 years since Sierra made me a mother. I can't believe it. I know everyone says that, but really, it's hard to believe it's been so long.

Sierra loves to act and dance and put on little shows at the house. The little girls are very lucky to have her as a big sister. She gets a little bossy at times (what oldest child doesn't?) but she is great at helping them out and also keeping them safe. She is in 2nd grade now and has decided math is one of her favorite subjects. Geography and science still take the top honors though and she is really excited that she is getting to learn about the human body this year. We have had five visits from the tooth fairy in the last year (and more are soon to come). She is breezing through "big kid" territory and threatening to slide right on in to the tweens, but we're trying to slow her down just a little ;-)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Do Not Stab Your Sister

As expected, homeschooling with small children at home is, umm......challenging.

"Put those scissors up so the baby doesn't get them!"

"The abacus is not a toy"

"Okay, how many counters are there now that your sister has taken one away?"

"Pencils do not go up your nose!!!!!"

Thankfully, a homeschool day is much shorter than a typical school day. Working one on one at our own pace means we finish up all of Sierra's work in about 2-3 hours. Sedona only does about half an hour of seat work each day. That means the time I'm really sitting and actively teaching them something can almost exclusively happen during Secora's nap times.

There is still plenty of time Sierra needs to be working and Sedona's underfoot though. I've found a couple of tactics to help deal with this.

The first is busy bags. If you google, you can find busy bag ideas all over the internet. I got the idea from pinterest (where else?!) where I've started a busy bag board. I found these pencil boxes on sale at the office supply store for $0.40 each: After making sure Sedona could open them herself, I bought 12 of them. When I was looking for activities, I stuck with things that would be useful for her, but also easy enough that she can do them without my input. My goal is to keep her entertained while I do Sierra's math or history lesson, so having Sedona interrupting for help wouldn't be very useful. All of the busy bags will be in one basket and she will be allowed to choose one activity at a time with the rule that she has to clean up and put away one activity before moving on to the next.

The other idea I've implemented helps me minimize the amount of time I'm getting out supplies and looking for the next lesson to do. I picked up several vinyl folders when the school supplies went on sale. This is what they look like: I like that they have velcro to close and can hold more things than a regular folder (we sometimes need things like a deck of cards for math), but they still fit in a binder.

Over the weekend, I pull out all of the work for the coming week and put each day's work in one folder. For the subjects that aren't worksheet based, I write down what we will be doing for them each day. So when Tuesday gets crazy, all I have to do is pull out the Tuesday folder, and hand Sierra the worksheets to do. I can also see at a glance what other lessons we will be doing that day without having to pull out the math book and the science book and the history book. This is also helpful if we have somewhere to be for one of the little girls that day. I can just pull the folder out of my binder, put a pencil in, and Sierra can take it with her to work on everything. And on those days when life gets in the way and we don't finish all of the day's work (yes, it happens), we just move those sheets into the next folder to work on the next day.

I know some of my readers are homeschoolers. Do you have babies and toddlers around? How do you balance the little kids' needs with the schoolwork?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dirt n' Bugs

I plan on doing the bulk of the gardening work each Saturday morning and taking pictures every week to see the progress things are making. This is week 3. Last week, things were just starting to sprout and I also transplanted a lot of plants I bought at the local co-op. I got all of the drip line back in working order and the valves all sorted out so the beds that are planted get watered and the beds that I'm leaving empty don't get water. Things have really taken off!!

Here are all the broccoli plants: They've settled in well and seem to be growing. The tomatoes are pretty happy too: The brussles sprouts are growing well: The cabbages have had a little drought stress because it took me an extra 2 days before I got their water line set up well enough to keep everyone happy, but they're still doing pretty good: The cauliflower doesn't look like it's grown much to me, but it doesn't look bad either, so maybe that's normal? When we made a trip to Lowe's one day, the girls talked me into buying a blueberry bush. We tried these once before and the dogs tore them up. They are little labor intensive because they need acidic soil and ours is too alkaline by itself. This is a tifblue, which is one of the best varieties to grow here though, and I put it out by a fence we have in the back, so it's not in the way of any dogs who have an undeniable urge to take off running after whatever little critter they've spotted in the trees: Right next to the blueberries, they had blackberries. We've grown those before (at a different house, but in this town) and they did extremely well, so I'm pretty sure this one will do okay. This is an arapaho blackberry bush, which is what we had success with in the past: But the big story is the beans and peas! Those little beans I showed last week have gotten huge already! Quite a few have fallen victim to grasshopper attack (that green stick in the middle is what you're left with after a grasshopper enjoys 5 leaf dining in your garden): A lot of the plants managed to get out their true leaves anyway though and I've gone along and planted 2-3 extra beans for each plant that's been eaten. I'm just hoping I grow enough to feed us and the grasshoppers because there's not much I can do about the grasshoppers until next spring.

The peas are very impressive too. I put up a zig zag of netting for them to climb and since I took these pictures, they've already reached out their little tendrils and started grabbing on to it.

Are you growing a fall garden? How are things going? Some blogs I read are in such northern zones they have already harvested their cabbages and pulled up all their plants to let the beds overwinter!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Workin' for the Weekend

Turns out single parenting 3 kids doesn't leave much time for blogging, who'da thunk it? We are all very anxiously looking forward to Josh's next visit (less than a week away!) and now that the funding for his new job has been worked out, we're just counting down the days until he's back down here permanently.

The girls and I are getting along well, it's just tiring for momma! I do have updates I need to write about the garden and some homeschool things, just a soon as I get a break from actually gardening and homeschooling (and birthday planning, and unpacking, and the regular daily household and childcare chores). Look for those coming up next week!


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