Sunday, August 8, 2010

Just a precursor to my whole wheat bread post ...

Check out this article


I had stumbled onto milling my own wheat a while back when I decided I was going to start baking all of our own bread to cut costs.  Over the process of researching mills and where to purchase my wheat berries, I became a little more educated on the subject of eating more "naturally".  My recent viewing of the documentary "Food, Inc" has also fueled my fire and given me a whole different outlook on what my family consumes (I know they just show the most horrific examples of what's out there in these documentaries, but even 10 degrees less horrific is still too much for me!!).   I strongly urge everyone to at least watch it and form their own opinion (because this is just mine)...go get a free trial of Netflix and watch it online for free.

Has it REALLY been FOUR months?!?!!

My only excuse is the pure out insanity that comes with the end of the school year (projects, parties, baking, gift making, recitals, ceremonies, etc, etc, yada, yada), and then, well, school's out.  What I've learned over the past four months though has been very eye opening.  Sometimes, even in the mist of trying so hard to simplify life and stay "uncorrupted" by the demands of the world, one can still so easily get caught up in the turmoil without even seeing it coming.  It's like a flash flood, one minute you're standing on solid ground and feeling very secure, then, in the blink of an eye, your swept off your feet and drug miles down the road from where you started.  All the while, kicking and clawing for your life as it passes before your eyes.  It didn't dawn on me until this moment while I'm writing...this verse has been popping up all over my life the past few weeks

 24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."  Matthew 7:24-27

Jesus says that a wise man will build his house on a firm foundation.  When we base our life and all it's meaning on Him instead of the world and it's pleasantries, the wind, rain and even flash floods can come and sweep us miles away, but when all is said and done, His house will still be standing with open doors and open arms to welcome you back home.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with all of the end of the year activities, but with my track record, I can really get carried away with myself and end up spending time/$$/other precious resources on a house built on sand.  Handled correctly, with the right heart, and lots of prayer, all of those activities can be the walls and roof of a house built on His rock.  But, the exciting news, should I find myself miles down the road, His grace and mercy will bring me right back home!!   And, believe me, He's had to come scrape me off the ground many of times and bring me home to nurse my wounds, but that's what I love about Jesus!!

With that said, really, the summer and end of school is no excuse for keeping you all in the dark about what's going on in our Big Life, Little Garden.

...where to begin???

Here's a little example of the fun baking I got to do...Alexis' school did a "Bakery Day" as part of Teacher Appreciation Week.  One of my hobbies that I've managed to keep up while simplifying is my love for cake decorating.  I've managed to adapt to cupcakes...much more, simple (and inexpensive).  I wish I had taken a better picture, because these really did come out cute and they were a great way to say "Thank You" to the teachers for all their hard work and dedication.

Spring Gardening has come to an end and we're, believe it or not, prepping for Fall. The exciting thing is that I can recap the entire Spring growing season in one post. It'll be like the Reader's Digest version!! For starters, the spring season was a little disappointing. Once the bizarrely cold winter was over, we were finally able to get our seeds out for an actual sun bath on March 20, which gave us a late start.

We planted tomatoes, squash, eggplant, bell peppers, broccoli, okra and cucumbers.

And, this always amazes me...just 2 weeks later on April 4 they nearly tripled in size

And then, August came in May!! Our poor little plants couldn't figure out which way was up and the heat has not let up.  We managed to harvest the majority of broccoli before it got too hot.  I like to just cut the broccoli head from the plant and let it sprout little side shoots which I LOVE in salads, but the heat tends to make the broccoli bitter, so, as soon as that happened, we pulled the plants.

I did manage to get a few sample pictures of the fruits of our labor.  We got a harvest like this at least twice a week all throughout May.

The squash plants did excellent until they got a case of powdery mildew that came VERY fast...too fast to control and we lost the plants.  We've got a second very successful crop going right now with our first fruits coming this week.

The tomato crop was fair.  I wish I had taken pictures of some of the very strange shapes and markings on the harvest though.  I'm assuming this came from the extreme changes in temperature we have been experiencing.  The good news is that we managed to keep the horn and army worms away just by hand picking them.

The bell peppers are still going strong.

The cucumbers suffered from the same problems as the tomatoes...check out the one in the front.  We did a second round of those as well, and they seem to be fairing.

The okra, surprisingly, couldn't stand the heat.  We lost 90% of the plants.  We've started some new seedlings and are hoping they do better!

The eggplant did incredible!!   I need to get some pictures up of the cute miniatures we planted.   I LOVE them!!  Mostly because I am the main eater of eggplant in the house and a full size eggplant is always too much.  Plus, it takes care of the whole bitter female fruit problem...all the fruit was perfect!!!

Well, off to get some YUMMY whole wheat bread out of the oven.  Stay tuned for that recipe...finally :) !

Monday, March 29, 2010

Technical Difficulties

There's been a problem lately with my images..I may have fixed the problem...woohoo!!  Thanks for being patient!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shop WHERE?!?!?!

It's a rare thing that I actually get out shopping EVER anymore.  I used to just blame it on the hassle of having three kids to bathe, clothe, pack bags for, fasten/unfasten seat beats at every stop and drag from cart to cart (boy, just thinking about it makes me tired).  It's like those old country folk that would rather go out and milk the cow instead of "going into town" to buy milk.  Which is lately becoming less funny to me, because just last week, I made marshmallows from scratch, because I didn't want to drag three kids ACROSS THE STREET to Publix to buy a bag of marshmallows.  Pitiful....

Anyways, as time goes on and the kids become easier to deal with (I only have to buckle and unbuckle one seat belt now), I find myself still not wanting to shop.  The less I have, the less there is to clean and take care of.  Then, there's the whole environmental factor--everything new you buy somehow wastes natural resources.  And, can't forget about the economy factor.  This past year and a half has put me in a perpetual state of fear of going broke.  Plus, there are so many better things to be doing with my God's money.

Well...last weekend, I took the girls "into town" to run some errands.  Along the way, we passed by the giant warehouse they call Goodwill.  Alexis has a school project coming up that requires her to come up with a costume for a historical figure that she was assigned.  Light bulb...let's see what we can find in Goodwill, so into the parking lot I pulled.

Honestly, I had driven by this place a million times and always wondered what it was like inside, but there was always this part of me that, to put it bluntly, thought I was too good to walk through those doors.  Funny, as silly as it sounds when I say it out loud, I still hesitated to get out of the car.

Deep breath and in we went.  Let me just tell you, I was AMAZED!!  Alexis had $5 (and a coupon) in her pocket that she was planning on spending at our next stop-- the bookstore.  For the price of one book, she could have gotten TEN in this place!!  It was only .50 for a paperback book!!  As I starting digging through the racks and racks of clothes looking for something that might be able to pass as 18th century garb, I found my attitude towards the place changing.  Some of these clothes still had TAGS!!  Seriously, a $34 extremely cute kid's dress for $3.50!!  Well to make a long story short-- one dress with tags, one shirt with tags, two books, $8, and a VERY excited kid later...I am hooked!!  


I've been reflecting lately.  It has been over three years since my "moment" in three year old Sunday school, and it never ceases to amaze me that changes in life seem so hard until you come out the other side and have a chance to look back on the experience.   In the moment, it always feels bigger than the Empire State Building on steroids, and looking back, its just barely a blip in time.

I remember digging our recycling bins out of the garage and thinking why am I adding ANOTHER plate to what seems like the four million that I already have spinning in mid air that could fall with a faint gust of wind?  I'm not going to lie, the first couple of weeks were tough (sounds funny saying that now, considering that it's just second nature these days).  We had no idea what was recyclable, what wasn't or how to sort it.  Then, there was the serious inconvenience of having to walk ten more steps to the garage to throw something in the recycling bin instead of the trash can.  Seriously, I complained about that!!!  

Recycling looked like a drop in the bucket compared to the clothesline ordeal.  I am still pinch myself every once in a while to make sure I am still for real when it comes to this subject.  I do have to admit though, a neighbor of ours recently gave us her old dryer.  The line drying subject came up in casual conversation and she genuinely felt "bad" for us even after I tried consoling her numerous times with the fact that we CHOSE (imagine that) to line dry.  The dryer sat in the garage for months until a lovely streak of gloomy, rainy weather hit so bad that even hanging the clothes in the house took three days to dry.   With a mountain of dirty laundry and no clean diapers, I caved.  The dryer made its way into the house and has been used only a few times in emergency cases.  The lesson...sometimes, it's ok.

Speaking of diapers, this is the change that amazes me the most.  If someone would have told me that I would have made it a year and a half with cloth diapers, I would have laughed so hard my face hurt for days!!   I will never forget the insane feeling I had when I bought the first set of diaper covers, washed them, and hung them on the line to dry.  I felt like a cavewoman in 21st century garb!!  The buying process was an experience in itself.  They don't sell those things in stores!!!   I had to find a company online that had a local distributor (some other crazy mom who was WAY more insane than me when it came to being "natural").   I will say I learned a lot from her (more than I needed to know), but what really inspired me was her "store".  She had a whole corner of her family room converted into a a display area for her wares.  There were rows and rows of bright, colorful diaper covers.  Some with designs and some just plain, but all soft, fuzzy and tapped in my artsy side and I was hooked like a fish on a minnow!!!   You can even buy them online with cute designs embroidered onto them all for less than the cost of a box of diapers!!  To this day, I have spent under $180 on diapers, and might (my frugal side says "no", but my need to do less laundry says "yes") need to buy another cover or two before potty training in the a few more months.  I am not going to lie, as easy as it really has been (I'm serious!!), I'm looking forward to (I can't believe I'm saying this) potty training :)

There are so many other changes--the gardening, the cars, the couponing, the list goes on...and I wouldn't change a single experience.  What I have learned is that there is a freedom in living a simpler life.  Some things do take more of my time, but they always take less of my money and cause me to spend more time home.  Even though we still have to work, the stress from the pressure of making more and wanting more is lessened.  Not saying that we don't still have those moments of wanting more, but we quickly remember how much easier it is with less.  With more time (not really time because I'm still busy, but more like brain space less occupied by stress) to just breathe, it's easier to see God's provision and realize that no matter how much we work or do , God is still in control of the outcome.

Clothesline Fun

I love the smell of clothes right off the clothesline...I'm hoping it's going to be a fun memory for the kids too!!


We have been dealing with an infestation of aphids for months now.  At first, we thought the cold would kill them off, but those things could out-stand a nuclear bomb!  So, after many sleepless nights staring at the computer screen trying to find one little ounce of information that would end my aphid nightmares (I was seriously having nightmares about getting swarmed by the darn things) ...enter stage left, ladybugs...

Apparently, aphids are like Double Chocolate Chip Fudge Cake to ladybugs.  They can eat up to 1000 aphids in a day (wonder what that much chocolate cake would do to me, ladybugs must have one heck of a metabolism)!!!!!  So, off I went on my search to find where to buy ladybugs.  Amazing, you can buy those little aphid eating boogers on will they think of next!!

My precious little bag of predators arrived yesterday.  It was a little creepy holding a bag of 1500 crawling insects, but the kids sure did get a kick out of it!!

The instructions said to rinse the bag in cold tap water and refrigerate until they could be released at dusk...weird, but ok.  I don't care how weird it sounded, it worked!!!!! The little buggies slowed down so we could just pour them right over the most infected area of the garden.

I'm not sure if they like their new home, or they just ate too much cake and couldn't move, but they were still here this morning...I'll let you know if it works...


Friday, February 19, 2010

Prepping for Spring

The weather is still cool, but I am so getting the itch to start planting!!  Here's the plan for Spring...


We still have some fall planted tomatoes that made it through this horrible winter (with some tender loving care).  Seems like the Roma's and cherries we planted were pretty cold resistant.  Believe it or not, they are actually flowering in 40 degree weather!!  We have also started some seedlings.  We'll be doing all potted tomatoes this spring, so to feed a family of five tomato eating freaks and have still have a few left for sauces,  we are planning on 10-15 plants.

Bell Peppers, Black-Eyed Peas, Eggplant:
These will also be potted and we have started their seedlings.  It'll have to warm up a hair to transplant these...hopefully in a few weeks.  The plan is 3-4 eggplant plants, 3-4 bell pepper plants and 2 large pots of peas (5-6 plants per pot).

Squash, Broccolli, Cauliflower, Cucumbers:

We've made some space for these to fill in to the landscaping in the front yard so they can be planted in the ground.  We usually do cucumbers in pots, but I'm curious to see what they will do in the ground.  3-4 summer squash plants will be more than enough if we hand pollinate, 6-7 cucumber plants (they blend so well in the landscape that we can have quite few).  There are a few broccoli and cauliflower that made it through the winter also.  We'll keep starting seeds and try to stagger the planting of broccoli/cauliflower so we have them maturing for harvest at different times.  I found a seed that is supposedly heat resistant, so we will see how long into the summer they last.

Lettuce, Spinach, Greens:

We'll spread another round of lettuce seeds in the raised bed this weekend to fill in the plants we lose over the winter.  Same goes for the spinach, even though it didn't do too well in the fall...we'll see.  Greens are still thriving from the fall.  We have a minor problem with aphids though.  I'm going to try the ladybug trick and see how that works...keep you posted on the outcome.

I have some pumpkin seeds that a friend gave me that supposedly like to vine up, so I'm hoping I can train just one plant up the lamp post...this is a big "we'll see".   I think I'll plant those seeds directly in the ground this weekend also. much to do...can't wait!!!  If you are wanting to plant any of these vegetables in the spring its not too late to start seedlings now.

SUPER Simple


I just got done catching up on my only tv related indulgence --"Smallville".  This is one of those things that I get such beef for that I sometimes even omit it from the Top 20 Things You Didn't Know About Danielle List.  So I might as well just seal my fate... I was a band geek in high school, I have a degree in biomedical engineering, I am a total knowledge freak, I hate the dark and I am obsessed with superheros!!!  There you go, all I'm missing is the Clark Kent glasses although I do wear contacts :).  When all the cool 4-year-old girls on my block were sporting their supergirly, pink Barbie skates, I was the spaz that had to have my mean, green Incredible Hulk skates.  Not much different these days...when all my friends are obsessing over the next episode of Sex in the City (I know that show is so yesterday, but I am that out of touch with the tv world that I don't even know what the must-see, girly show is now), I'm watching Smallville.

Anyways, now that I got that out of my system, and you either feel so much better about your top 20 list or just plain ol' chalked that up to TMI ...on with my revelation of the day!  The whole point of superheroes is that they give people hope.   You hear it all the time when someone asks a superhero why they do the whole superhero thing, they always answer "to give people hope".   So, in hopes that I'm not the only closet Superman fan, I'll say this...people just need hope.  We seek it out like it's the next Fountain of Youth .  At least I know I did.   In my former life, I was looking for hope in all the wrong places...material possessions,  my so important image, my kids' image, my friends and the list goes on and on.   We think somehow that if we have all these things, life will be less stressful.  Talk about twisted!!!  Chasing after all that junk made my head spin faster than that chick on Exorcist, which, by the way, was the only scene I mustered up the guts to look out from underneath the blanket that barricaded my eyes from the tv screen, and I'm scarred for life (another one for my top 20)!!  Not saying all those things are bad, but they are what I finally came to find hopeless. 

Well, I found my Fountain of Youth (or should I say, He found me) and it sure ain't all that junk that did nothing but give me gray hair.  He's my superhero and He makes my life so SUPER simple.  I don't have to chase after all that stuff anymore.  It's OK if I'm not perfect.  It's OK if my kids aren't perfect, if my house isn't perfcet (if I can't spell :) ).  My Superhero has already saved my life and, then, as if that wasn't enough, He showed me how to let go of all that stress.  I can relax and put my hope in the fact that none of those things matter because He is saving me a spot in the most perfect place of all (Jhn 14:2) .  Thank you, Jesus, for being my Superhero!!!!     

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Going Green in Real LIfe

Just got an awesome email with a link to a list of great websites and articles about going green and simplifying in today's world.  Highly recommended reading!!

"We’re always looking for great ways to make living naturally practical. In today’s world, it can be exhausting to go against the mainstream and live a green lifestyle. Sometimes it just feels impossible! But it isn’t impossible, and it doesn’t always have to be difficult. Check out these six great websites that help everyday people take better care of themselves, the planet and their families. Read more"