Friday, September 17, 2010

A Milestone, The Stork, and other thoughts

Hi! A whole bunch of new things seem to be going on in our household.

Little Elena is suddenly interested in walking, which is wonderful. Still holding on tight to our hands she toddles along proudly...and then will suddenly get distracted or lose interest and scramble to all fours to speed along in her old crawl. All in good time! At nearly 17 months of age she is a slooow starter, but we knew eventually she'd feel like walking. It warms my heart to hear those tiny pitter pats coming down the hallway! And someday soon I'll hear those pitter pats independent of my husband's encouraging words to her (as right now she doesn't walk on her own yet).

As I like to phrase it, the stork is going to pay us a visit next March! I am expecting our next baby to arrive around March 13, yippee! We are so incredibly blessed and thankful to our Creator for this new addition to our family. This is such a wonderful gift and we do not take this blessing for granted.

Honestly this feels like such an embarrassment of riches to me; I am well acquainted with women of many ages who do not yet have the families they long for, or who were unable to have the families for whom they had hoped. So I carry this child and the other child on my hip with a great sense of joy, gratefulness and responsibility.

By the way, I so admire the mothers who find time to keep up with their blogs despite beautifully mothering 1, 2, 3 or 4 or 5 or more children! I am also baffled and intimidated by this, but oh so impressed. How do they do it?

Courtney at Women Living Well has 2 children.

Monica at The Homespun Heart has 3 children.

Kristy at The Homemaker's Cottage has 4 children.

Joy at Graceful Words has 5 children.

Ann at Holy Experience has 6 children.

The above blogs are some of my favorites - I think they are all very different from each other but the spirit in which they are written is similar. The authors are Christian women who are committed to honoring God through their lives and most especially in their homes. Homes are important, as you know, and as the homes go, so the nation goes. Wifehood and homemaking are continually underestimated by most people....but not on those blogs or this one!

A little voice is crying out and reminding me that nap time is over! I must trot and wave farewell for today. Until next time, friends!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grocery list strategies

I truly feel called to be a homemaker, and I do my best to do a good job at it. There are 2 tasks within homemaking, however, that are out to get me.

1. Cleaning the shower

2. Planning meals

Now, I loooove to cook. Really. And I'm pretty good at it. So its a mystery to me why I am stopped in my tracks when it comes time to plan out the next 2 weeks of meals.

The Printed Checklist
Yet, aha! I have found a good, workable solution: I have a template style grocery list to help jog my memory and speed myself along as I write the list. In other words, I have assessed our most-often required grocery items and printed them out in an organized list. It is organized by the sections of our favorite grocery store so that while I'm zooming around the store I have a list that works with me, not against me. (Backtracking in the store uses up a lot of time, trust me, I was a green bride once, way back 3 years ago, ha ha).

A section entitled Meals This Week
And, on the list (see lower right hand corner of photo) I have a space in which I jot down the recipe titles that I have planned on the family menu. So, for example, if we're in produce and my husband asks "Hmm, why are we looking for beets?" instead of drawing a complete blank and having no answer for him, I can simply refer to my notes and tell him. *smile*

It is a helpful guideline for me! It helps me remember things.
The menu is totally not etched in stone - its a guideline for myself as I decide when to cook what, when to defrost what, and how to sort/separate meat into the freezer, and how to align meals so as to put leftovers to good use. And, it helps me remember why on earth those beets are in the vegetable drawer.

Further help with meal planning: clippings, envelope, bulletin board!
I have such a hard time planning meals that I have invented a little system for myself. After the groceries are put away, I take the grocery list and clip off the Meals This Week section. I pin it up on the kitchen bulletin board. When I'm finished with that list, I file it in an envelope which is pinned to the bulletin board in my kitchen. Then, when it is inevitably time to sit down and plan out the upcoming 2 week menu, I refer to the old "Meals This Week" clippings from that envelope to get ideas. That way I'm not reinventing the wheel each time I write a grocery list.

As a new bride I slaved over recipe books, wondering what we'd both like to eat, writing out grocery lists containing very little order (or ordered by each recipe, which was a disaster of a system!), and then sometimes I'd come home and forget which recipe book a planned dish came from, anyway. And why did I buy Swiss chard?

My husband and I departed for our honeymoon trip 1 day after our wedding. He peered into my suitcase with surprise, and noticed several cookbooks that I was taking with me. Always the gentleman, he paused and told me gently:

"Heather? Where we are going, you won't have to cook."

To which I replied: "Oh, I know. I'm just getting ready to do some recipe planning on the plane so that I'll have our first week's menu all planned and the grocery list ready to go when we get home." *smile*

Silently, he nodded and thought this over. And that was all he said about that.

Find a system that floats your boat!
All that being said, this isn't the only way to do things. I like it and it works for me, but I am always on the lookout for other methods that work for other homemakers. I hope you have a great system that serves you well, and I would love to hear all about it.

Anyone have any fabulous plans they'd like to share? Happy homemaking!

Note: Take a little trip over to Raising Homemakers to view a great link-up with lots of other homemaking blogs - you'll find plenty of great homemaking tips and encouragement in this noble calling. :o)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Drying Herbs

On the far left, notice how a charming toddler has had a grand time helping Mommy by sorting herbs under the dining room table. Sweet girl!

This is just fine with me - one of my hopes for our children is that they will be at home with plants and gardening. I've been gardening since I could walk - and I remember how proud I was at age 5, watering my very own plot of flowers next to my playhouse.

All summer I've been tending basil, parsely, thyme and rosemary, clipping sprigs and stringing them up to dry. The picture below shows our basement stairwell, which I've made into a drying emporium!

Our gardening is all in containers this year, as we are in an apartment. We got the idea to use horse troughs for our gardening containers, and my husband installed the self-irrigating water system which was explained in a Mary Jane's Farm magazine from fall 2009. It is working extremely well and we're glad we've done it.

I don't have a ton of experience with drying herbs - last year I dried thyme and oregano, but not with great results. How do I know when the herb is completely dry and really safe to store? Does anyone have advice on this? Part of the problem I ran into with the oregano was mold growing in the leaves after I had (unbeknownst to myself at the time) stored it prematurely. I thought it was dry, but I was wrong.

Practice makes better, so I'm giving it another go this harvest season. Happy gardening!

Friday, September 3, 2010

"Oh, honey!" Sweet domestic views.

My eyes are tearing up over the sheer cuteness of this little domestic scene.

There can be such beauty in the ordinary things!

I am such a blessed wife and mother, this sight is a dream come true for me.

My husband's ancient golf shoes next to our daughter's teeny little mary janes are so darling. In all the hubbub of daily chores and to-do lists, I am really trying to enjoy the sweet domestic views all around.

Does this happen to you? It seems that when our family is in public, often older folks will come up and talk to us and say things like: "Don't blink! Enjoy these days because soon they'll be over."

Because I am a stay at home wife and mother by choice and am with our child absolutely every waking moment, these commands from strangers can be hard to handle sometimes. However, it really isn't bad advice, its just that it is advice I'm already taking. Mothers, unite! Let's all take this advice until so many of us are doing it that nobody will have to dole out such advice ever again! :o)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Painting my Childhood Dollhouse, Part 1

Welcome to the Special Projects Department of our hearth side! Today during the quiet time of my daughter's afternoon nap I worked on my old dollhouse.

In 1981 my paternal grandfather made this for me in Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA. During my childhood I played with this 3 room townhouse often, and it seems I was also a bit rough on it! While cleaning it and priming it I found some toddler graffiti and lots of fingerprints! At some point in time, as you can see in the photos, the tip-top piece of the house front actually fell off and became missing, and some window frame pieces are missing as well.

I would like to paint this house a nice pale cheerful yellow, with either pale blue or maybe forest green shutters. Today I taped off the windows and the wooden roof and chimney, then took it outside and primed it with white paint to prepare it for the color.

The house is far more brittle than I had thought it would be and after working with it today I've decided that I can't pass this dollhouse along to our Elena until she is maybe 4 or 5, depending on whether she is a careful sort of girl or not. Although I was given the house when I was 2, it was stronger and in better shape then.

Do any of you have dollhouse memories? What is a good age for giving a little girl a dollhouse?

I'll keep you posted on my progress!