It seems only natural to sit back today to reflect on this year of my life... today is my birthday, and boy has it been one amazing year!
First - having my daughter, learning to nurse and care for an infant, has been life-changing (I guess everyone was right :) I think the whole experience has made me a bit softer, a bit calmer, and a bit more ready to love in general.
Second - continuing my education, going back to college to learn something new, has given me great respect for people who are constantly trying to better themselves, trying something new, or willing to accept change in their lives.
Third (or maybe First) - recognizing (again and again) what a wonderful husband I have... one who is ever-ready to try to make my life easier and more pleasant... always ready to help... always ready to work harder for our family... always ready to give of himself...
This new year I want to:
Make more of the time I have in my pursuits and my career - remembering why I pursue what I do.
Make more of the time I have to myself - doing things I love - crafting, cooking....
Make more of the time I have with my family - showing them love.... just having fun with my dear sweetie and darling daughter.
This is a personal variation of the "Soup Rice" recipe in The Healthy Family Cookbookby Hope Ricciotti, M.D. and Vincent Connelly. It is a simple warm soup - Refreshing after a big weekend of eating.
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 large yellow onions, diced
1 cup brown rice
1 quart box of chicken broth
1 quart (refill empty box) water
1 1/2 oz dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, ends removed cut into 1 inch pieces
Heat oil in soup pot, medium heat. Cook garlic, 30 sec, then add onion, salt moderately and cook for about 3 minutes. Stir in brown rice. Add broth and water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer covered for 30 minutes or until rice is close to done. Add mushrooms and asparagus, continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes. Pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with parmesan.
Tonight I tried my first batch of homemade baby food. The recipe: Winter Squash Puree from Williams-Sonoma's "Cooking for Baby".
We already had about 1 1/2 lbs of pre-cut butternut squash is the fridge, so I just spread it out on a baking sheet and popped it in the oven.
Afterwards, I pureed it in my handy-dandy food processor.
And then, filled the cups of my special baby food ice trays (with very handy covers) - a gift from my dear sister. I am freezing the puree in these approximately one ounce servings to save for my sweet babe to eat in a month or two.
I whipped up this sauce last night to eat with a nice crusty loaf of garlic bread:
1 Large Onion, diced 1 Bunch Asperagus, end removed and cut into 1 inch pieces 8 Large Mushrooms, sliced 1 Red bell pepper , diced OR 5 small sweet peppers, diced 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Cans Crushed Tomatoes 1 Can tomato paste 2 TBSP Italian seasoning Salt and Pepper to Taste or 1 Large Jar of Favorite Traditional Sauce
Saute the first 5 ingredients in a little olive oil until cooked and tender (about 10 minutes). Mix in the rest and let simmer as long as you can stand it or until heated throughout. Serve with your favorite crusty bread... or over pasta if desired.
4:30 am – Sweet Babe wake up call, nurse, and return to dreamland 5:30 am – Alarm 6:00 am – Roll out of bed and prepare for the day 6:30 am – Breakfast with Sweetie 6:45 am – Prayers with Sweetie 7:00 am – Nurse Sweet Babe and prepare her for the day 7:45 am – Leave for work 8:30 am – Arrive at Sweet Babe’s daycare kiss her a lot and update her teacher 8:45 am – Arrive at work, do work stuff 1:00 pm – Visit Sweet Babe to nurse and play 2:00 pm – Back at work 5:30 pm – Pick up Sweet Babe and head home, phone calls to Sweetie and Dear Sister 6:10 pm – Arrive home, Nurse Sweet Babe 6:30 pm – Work on Supper 7:00 pm – Eat with Sweetie 7:30 pm – Prayers with Sweetie 7:45 pm – Watch a Netflix, work on projects, play with Sweet Babe, etc. 9:00 pm – Nurse Sweet Babe and put her to bed 9:30 pm - Clean and prepare bottles for the next day, continue evening activities, prepare for bed… start over again….
A nice thing about Sundays is that while sweetie watches his football, I like to drop the baby off nearby for him to keep an eye on, and I sneak off to my little sewing corner to whip something up. This the second time this fall I have had the chance and the desire so here is the product of the afternoon:
This little toy bag was intended to be much larger, though I am not very good yet at visualizing dimensions when it comes to sewing so it turned out much smaller than I thought it would. It is based on the tutorial here. I hoped to make a nice soft basket to toss Helen's toys into in our living room and actually, I think the small size works well considering that most of her toys right now are small themselves. I think I will attempt a larger and sturdier version for her bedroom... and if they continue to whip up so quickly... who knows! every toy may end up in its own little bag!!
Sunday - Kitchen, Mopping, Laundry, and one last vacuum for good measure!
This is it, the last day of my cleaning extravaganza! Today we went to our bright and early Mass, Hubby made a fabulous breakfast (pancakes, sausage, eggs, and delicious coffee), and while he cooked, I swept and mopped the the kitchen and entryway floors. I just love a clean floor!
Afterwards, I got the laundry running, took to dusting, and then vacuumed the house for a fresh start to the week. Now that that is all complete... I think I will knit something!
Saturday - Attack the pile of recycling that is taking over the garage.
Luckily, for day three, hubby was around to help. We tore down all the boxes and stuffed all the paper and cardboard that would fit into his car to transport to the recycling bins. That stuff sure does accumulate... especially when you shop at Costco!
Other than that, we took it pretty easy, made our weekly shopping trip, and met with our fellowship group at church. Oh yes, we also dressed the baby up for Halloween pictures... cutest papoose ever!
Happily, dear baby decided to nap this evening and I was able to complete day two. Tonight I attacked the bathrooms... sorted through the huge pile of reading materials in each, scrubbed the toilets and sinks, and even whipped up a new bottle of "Merlin's Magic" from Karen Logan's book Clean House Clean Planetto use for scrubbing the showers and floors. Now the whole house smells like tea tree oil and Dr. Bronner's Peppermint liquid castile soap. mmmm mmm!
This latest knitting project was inspired by the "log cabin knitting" of the Mason-Dixon ladies. This will hopefully turn into a cozy little welcome blanket for a baby boy who will be joining our little circle of friends in March. Knowing his mommy, he will definitely be man enough to sport violet in his baby blanket! I love that this is a connect the pieces as you knit type of style, but the loose ends on the back are going to be a terror when I am finished... it will be difficult to not just pull out my scissors and snip them off!
Thursday Night - Tidy and Toss Thursday's goal was to sort through all the mail that has been collecting on the counter tops, on the piano, on the coffee table, in my purse, and in various other locations. I mainly wanted to make as big an impact in as short a time as possible, so I walked around with a paper bag to toss the recycling in and another for shredding. It is amazing how quickly this stuff accumulates - especially when sweet baby's daycare sends home a sheet or two of "how was my day" on top of all the regular mail and paper we get constantly.
I really thought this would be a fairly quick and easy process until sweet baby herself wanted to eat and be talked to, so she ended up being carried from pile to pile with me.
Then, I discovered the best way ever to inspire yourself to vacuum the whole house... let a couple of muddy dogs inside without wiping their paws. Janeway and Dax barrelled into the house and did their normal "run around" to check everything out and left a trail of footprints through every room of the house. Oops. Luckily our vacuum is awesome so you can barely tell it even happened.
So, tidy and toss turned into tidy, feed, toss, talk, carry, and vacuum. All in all a good day one I think :)
Cleaning out my craft room to make space for Helen's nursery was definitely an undertaking. Luckily sweetie is now letting me share his cello practice space, and I have begun organizing all of my wares to be both efficient and accessible.
The biggest challenge has been trying to go from a huge space with lots of storage to very limited space and nonexistent storage. I set up this shelf today which will soon have a small sewing table in front of it. On it I am trying to organize my most basic tools that I access regularly.
I have labeled the bins with the following categories:
Needles and Hooks
Threads and Floss
Quilting and Embroidery
Buttons (small jar on first shelf)
My current works in process are stashed in the rust basket, and other miscellaneous supplies (chalk, scissors, pins, etc) are in the floral sewing box on top. I still amazingly have one empty bin which will be designated at a later date.
What has happened to my huge yarn and fabric collection? It is now living under the bed in our master bedroom in large under-bed boxes. So far, so good.
Friday I found myself the happy acceptor of a huge bag of giant homegrown zucchini. This was wonderful considering that our own small garden not only did not produce any this year... but it wasn't planted at all! What fun it was to have such a gift and get to play "what to do with all the zucchini" even though we didn't grow it ourselves.
First I made two loaves of loaded zucchini bread. A mix of white and wheat flour, cornmeal, and several spices made these loaves just fabulous... and as you can tell we had to taste test even before taking the photo!
Second, I whipped up some squash stuffed pasta shells with shredded zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and orange bell pepper. That paired with the mozzarella cheese and fire-roasted tomato sauce made for a really fresh supper... even though by this time the oven had definitely over heated the kitchen.We still have about four large zucchini and one large yellow squash left, so we shall see what other cooking I can come up with!
Helen's Rabbit began it's life as a baby outfit... a baby outfit gone wrong when I cut it out incorrectly! Oh well, so since this beautiful fabric could no longer be an outfit, I had to find something else to turn it into.The rabbit pattern had small enough parts to cut out of the outfit pieces, so Helen gets her first stuffed bunny!The cutting and machine sewing bits took only an afternoon, but all of the stuffing and hand sewing dragged out over a couple of weeks. Luckily, this little toy is finished - except for needing a tail and eyes (forgot those) - and just about ready to grace the nursery.
Inspired by my sister's tales of delicious squash tacos, I decided to try some of my own. I found the recipe in Everyday Food Magazine.
Instead of the frozen winter squash suggested by the recipe, I used 2 small yellow squash and a medium zucchini as well as half of a delicious looking orange bell pepper.
After cooking down the veggies, I mixed in a couple handfuls of baby spinach and some blackbeans. These we piled on top of our whole wheat tortillas, fresh goat cheese, and salsa.Paired with sweet potato fries this turned out to be a definitely make again meal. yum.
Our plans for Helen's nursery have evolved several times over the past few months. We started out with plans for frogs, then gardens, then birds... now it is a garden/bird theme... though any little creatures are welcome.I have cut out the pattern for a little stuffed rabbit and a turtle to go in Helen's room. And, sweetie and I have been looking at all the garden art in the stores for ideas and things we think would look nice decorating her room. We also have big plans to recover the old yellow rocker with fabric that is a bit less goldenrod.
I have really enjoyed pulling out all of my favorite books, and thinking about when I will be reading them to little Helen.
Sweetie helped me hang the curtains, and pick a spot for the vanity that we hope will serve as our changing table. Now we just need to purchase a crib and dresser, then finish hanging the pictures. I am happy with how cozy and cheerful it is starting to be.
How could I pass up a day of lama shearing and spinning with my Wednesday knitting group? We all met today at the Berry's lama farm just outside of town. The Berry's host a yearly shearing open house where families from all around bring their lama's for haircuts.
Lamas arrive and wait patiently to be sheared.
Before and After.
Amazingly, some owners do not want to keep or sell the wool, so the local fiber arts maniacs come out to collect the unwanted to card and spin to their hearts content.
I even got to try my hand at spinning, though it was very temporary... about the length of time to snap the photo!
All of the lama's were just beautiful, and many were for sale.
The spinning and carding definitely drew a lot of attention, and many owners tried their had at carding, though most just wanted to watch in awe as their lama's wool became yarn.
Overall, Lama's and people alike had a great day of socializing, cooking out, shearing, and spinning. I even made some good progress on one of my sweaters for little Helen. Next year, I might just have to bring home some wool for myself.
I have now realized the utter misspelling of Llama. oops.