Posts Tagged "self-sufficiency"

Bread & Butter

Posted on May 31, 2010 in Food, Simple Living | 12 comments

Bread & Butter

A few months ago, a potter friend of ours made Aaron a baking stone so we could try the artisan no-knead bread recipe from Mother Earth News. This went amazingly well but we’ve waxed and waned in our bread making over the months. We recently started up again. I wanted to try a bread that required kneading because it’s been suggested in the Waldorf school meetings that I have been attending that kids love to knead bread. I’ve tried the French Bread recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook a few times with varying degrees of success. Similarly, I’ve been wanting to try making our own butter. I remember fondly making butter as a kid by shaking it in a jar for, um, forever and I remember how delicious it was. We’ve been trying to make more and more food ourselves and I thought this would be a fun one to add. So last Tuesday (the only day the kids and I are home together the whole day without outside commitments like work, preschool or dance class), we decided to tackle homemade bread and butter. This time we used the Basic White Bread recipe from The Joy of Cooking. As predicted by our Waldorf friends, Rain loved kneading the bread. It was so fun that we forgot to take a picture. But here he is with the dough ready for the first rising: While that was rising, we started on the butter. You have to warm the cream to room temperature and meanwhile, stick the bowl you will be using in the fridge to cool it. Then you pour the cream into the bowl and whip it with your hand mixer. Notice the cloth on the counter. I did an awful lot of counter wiping as the cream sprayed everywhere, including all over the front of my sweater which later that evening, smelled like sour milk. I recommend an apron. The first stage is called the frothy stage: The next stage is meant to be the whipped cream stage, where it should get thick and start forming peaks. After this stage, it should get even thicker and start crumbling. The cream we were using came from a local farm and was unpasteurized. As a result, I do not know it’s exact fat content. It certainly didn’t seem as thick as a store bought whipping cream but resembled a cereal cream or half and half. We I whipped for a long time – Rain got bored and left – but it just wasn’t thickening into whipped cream as it should have. I whipped longer and longer until I noticed that there appeared to be curds floating in the foam. On closer examination, I discovered the curds were yellow. The longer I whipped, the more of these curds appeared so I just went with it. Then I strained off the buttermilk. I didn’t get nearly as much butter as I would have if I had used whipping cream. According to the internets, 1 quart of cream should have delivered up 1 Lb of butter. I used a quart of cream and got about 1.25 cups of butter. The next stage is to wash the butter. If any of the buttermilk remains in the butter, it will go bad quite quickly. To do this, you put the butter in your blender with some cold water. You blend it and then pour off the water. You repeat this process as many times as it takes for the water to be clear when you pour it off. Once you have cleaned the butter, the last thing to do is to squish it all together to form a solid chunk. I used a combination of a rubber spatula and my hands to do that part. It was a bit of a strange process because there was some water drops still in the butter and of course, water and oil don’t mix but the butter was soft so it was hard to squeeze the water out of it. I did manage in the end though....

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Make a Laptop

Posted on Jan 29, 2010 in Parenting | 2 comments

Make a Laptop

I’m not much of a kids crafter kind of person. My son usually likes to just do whatever he wants with the materials and takes over completely if there is any kind of agenda. For the most part we just let him do what he wants with the art materials which is usually to cut great wads of paper into tiny pieces, spread them around, declare the craft finished and refuse to put anything in the recycling. We find tiny squares of paper spread through the house for weeks afterwards and there is usually a sizable stash stored in Rain’s nightstand because they are too precious for him to part with. (My family is laughing hysterically right now about how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree or some other dumb thing about how I used to do that, but whatever. I don’t let him have the tape anyways so I don’t even know what they’re talking about.) I got the idea to make a laptop with him out of an egg carton. Of course, a power struggle ensued about how it was to be done. I won because I’m bigger but that meant that I made the craft and Rain mostly watched so now we have no In-Process pictures for the tutorial. The laptop turned out pretty darn cool. I’ll tell you how it’s done and I won’t even be there to boss you around if you want to do it your way. But really, you can’t make a laptop out of a bunch of cut-up pieces of paper so it would be best if you listened to me. Just sayin. You’ll Need: 1 Egg Carton (empty) Scissors Glue Tape Paper 1 Piece of cardstock or thin cardboard I had just received a labeller as a gift from my husband for doing the books and marketing all year for our business. I have a secret stationary/office suply habit so the labeller was like giving me crack. Pretty sweet of him. The laptop would be the first labeller project. Rain also adores the labeller because of all the tiny buttons and portability. It’s like a kid sized computer. Heck, it’s like a laptop. That’s where the power struggle started. He likes to do everything himself. He drops things a lot. I don’t like broken electronics. If broken electronics were a publicly traded commodity, we’d be one of the top shareholders. Enough is enough. You’ll need a labeller or you could just use your computer/printer combo. Or I guess you could write letters with your hand and a pen but that seems kind of old-fashioned now doesn’t it? I mean if you could use a labeller or your own hand, what would you choose? First step, open the egg carton and using your scissors or an exacto (if you’re doing this craft while the kids are in bed, which let’s face it, is a better time to do crafts), cut off the 4-5 points that protrude up towards the lid. Cut them so that they are level with the edges. Next, cut the cardstock into a long rectangle the same size as the lower portion of the egg carton. Fit it in place to check if you have the surface flat enough. Some of the edges may need to be trimmed again. Glue in place. Now the fun part!! Copying the pattern on the keyboard, print off large bold letters and numbers. You can even do the arrows and other keys if you are so inclined. I was planning to do all the SHIFT, CTRL, ALT etc keys but started to get stingy when I saw how much label tape we were going through. I did start to relax though and let Rain press the keys, the print button and use the tape cutter. The labeller was great because we could just cut them and stick them on. If you are printing them on paper, you’ll need to use glue. I hope you don’t get carpel tunnel from not having a labeller for this craft. Especially if you are...

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On Meadowview Street

Posted on Jan 17, 2010 in Food, Reading, Simple Living | 1 comment

On Meadowview Street

I’m usually the one who takes Rain to the library but one week I sent Aaron. He came back with this treasure of a book. On Meadowview Street is the story of a girl who moves to a house in the suburbs and decides with her parents to sell the lawn mower, let the grass grow long and turn their yard into a nature preserve. They plant some trees and build some ponds. One of the latter pages in the book also has lovely drawings of the type of natural plants and creatures she might find in her yard after the makeover. And her idea starts to spread down the street. I love it that Caroline gets her parents on board. Too often, the reality in this story is that the parents would put an end to her nature preserve. This is a story about respecting the earth and about going outside the norm, not being afraid to be different. It’s a story about how one person following her heart can start a trend. I am not a fan of lawns, especially those square lawns in subdivisions and in front of patio homes where all the houses look the same, and the only embellishment to the yard are a few low maintenance shrubs and some tiny poorly pruned city trees. I love this book for inspiring children to think about the changes that could be made to return their lawns to a natural state. I love this book for daring to say that an un-mown lawn in its natural state is more beautiful than a manicured city lot. I love it for suggesting that living in the city doesn’t have to mean you can’t commune with nature. Imagine if the book went a step further and suggested only planting local native species? I’m even dreaming about a second book where the front yard is turned into an edible garden, where Caroline grows lettuce, tomatoes, beans, peas, herbs. Imagine if everyone really did this? There is an organization that is trying to encourage people to do just that. You can check out the book Food Not Lawns and also find them on the internet. There may even be a chapter near you. These are local grass-roots organizers who encourage people in their communities to convert their yards into gardens and grow their own food. They organize seed exchanges and put on workshops for people who want to learn how to garden but don’t know how to start. Until then, you can read this book with your children and inspire them to think differently about what they can do about their own environment and about the food they eat. Book Description: Caroline lives on Meadowview Street. But where’s the meadow? Where’s the view? There’s nothing growing in her front yard except grass. Then she spots a flower and a butterfly and a bird and Caroline realizes that with her help, maybe Meadowview Street can have a meadow after all. On Meadowview Street Henry Cole Harper...

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Just Renting

Posted on Jan 11, 2010 in Eliza Brownhome, Featured, Simple Living | 5 comments

Just Renting

Bear with me for a moment while I do something taboo and talk about finances – you know, how much money we make (or don’t make). My husband and I are the last people we know who are still renting. Seriously. I don’t just mean the last in our group of friends. I mean all of our friends and acquaintances and the new people we meet all seem to own a house, a townhouse, a condo, something. It’s like we’re the last people in our demographic who are still renting. Although, what demographic do we really fit in anyway? If it’s age, that’s easy. But income? Class? That’s a little trickier. I have started to notice the subtle ways we apologize for things we think society finds objectionable, like renting. When we moved to our small town in 2008, everyone assumed we were escaping the Big City real estate prices and were surely buying a place. When we moved from our 1 year lease last summer into our current house, everyone assumed we’d bought our cute too small war time bungalow. Our answer is always this kind of bashful “No, we’re just renting.” Sure, some of it is by choice, but really, honestly, truthfully, we can’t afford to buy. It’s hard not to feel apologetic when you’re revealing a semi-embarrassing class barrier. Especially when all of your friends are on the other side of it. The people our age who own a house, have done so because: 1) they are professionals 2) their parents have helped them out SIGNIFICANTLY 3) they were the recipients of an inheritance We are not professionals. I am a stay-at-home mom and former administrator. When I went on maternity leave, I had been working my way up at the company I worked and was getting to the place where my salary was not too shabby. But I’d be back at the bottom if I returned to work now, after all the time off. My husband is in the trades. The non-unionized trades. So no big bucks there. Most of our married life we were paying off my student loans for my General BA in the humanities – you know, the degree that gets you tons of high paying job offers? There was no chance to pull together a down payment for anything. Our parents will not be helping us out. Our parents are working class. My in-laws are farmers in Saskatchewan. My parents are former Nazarene ministers who lost a house in the early 80’s. (Oh, yeah and those student loans I was paying off? Also because I wasn’t getting help from my parents. I’m ok with that. I do think it builds character. But it definitely changes things when you leave school with massive loans. That’s a totally different blog post though.) Our extended families are also working class. There will be no surprise inheritance from a great-aunt or aged grandparent. Even if there was, we’d be splitting it 36 ways with cousins. And for the few friends I have that were able to buy a place because they’ve already lost a parent? I can’t think of anyone who envies them their houses…they came at a price far far greater than any mortgage. I stay home with our kids – with two, I’d have to earn a lot to cover the childcare anyway. Aaron just started his own business so the banks won’t be looking at us seriously for a few years. For some reason, I feel apologetic about that. Every time someone asks me if we own our house, I forget the choices we made and I toss in that little just, “just renting”. So after all this whining about class and income, why am I saying choices? Because there was a time, before we had kids, when we lived in the Big City and were both working when we probably could have bought a place. But we consistently made choices not to buy real estate. Aaron’s parents did give us a bit of money. At the time, it would actually have...

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Vision

Posted on Jan 4, 2010 in Featured | 3 comments

Vision

2010 is our time to turn our eyes to the future, to look ahead and figure out where the road might be leading. The word for 2010 is VISION. This is the year to find our feet, develop our vision and begin the task of building. We are in a unique position to carry forward the lessons in being present and being mindful from 2009 and place them in the context of what do we need to do today to make tomorrow a reality? This is going to be an exciting year, not because a lot of things will happen but because we will be able to see what is coming. The big rocks for 2010 are: Rain starts Kindergarten – where and what that looks like TBA Continue with self-sufficiency and creativity projects Continue to grow our business Reduce/eliminate debt load Mindful parenting & positive discipline Self-care (reading, writing and figuring out how my hopes and dreams intersect with my hopes and dreams for my family) I have quite a few specific goals that I won’t list here. Maybe I’ll do a monthly goal post just to keep me accountable. At the very least, expect more news about the future vision and the direction of those calls with my sister as the vision gets clearer. How about you? What’s on the table for...

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