Starting Our Garden

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This has been a cool, overcast and sometimes rainy week for us. It’s been so cool, in fact, that I was glad I hadn’t planted my garden yet. However, today seemed like a good day to get started. We didn’t plant anything today, but we cleared out our garden box and the plants that were overtaking it. I couldn’t believe how many weeds had started to take over. My oldest son chopped out numerous branches of a bush that was trying to take over that particular corner of our yard. We tossed weeds out of our garden box, and two of our middle children took our wagon around to the other side of the fence to gather up all the weeds and toss them in the deep bush in the ravine behind our house.

Then we set up our fence. Every summer we unroll a length of snow fence and attach it to stakes with tie wraps. We initially did this to protect our garden from the labrador we had. If any of you have ever owned a lab you know why our garden needed protecting. 🙂 We no longer have our dog, but we do have toddlers and little ones who don’t understand that plants grow best when you don’t dig around them.

Every year I struggle to come up with some way to create a simple “door” in the fence so I can get to the garden and my clothesline. I think I have something workable this year as you will see in the picture. I’ll let you know how it holds up over the summer.

Tomorrow my husband and oldest son are going to build another garden box for me. We’re also hoping to set up a compost pile. I really want to stop giving my compost scraps to the city and use them myself for my garden.

Sometime in the next few days we’ll be putting in our plants – tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, mint, carrots, pumpkin and I really want to try a watermelon again. I love square foot gardening, and I love the excitement our children have in planting, watering, watching and harvesting. Gardening really doesn’t feel like a chore, but that could be because space constraints keep our garden fairly small. We buy from local farmers to get the bulk of the vegetables we need for preserving in the fall.

I hope you had a good week and that if you have a garden it is going well.

a very sad "before" picture

a very sad “before” picture

my hockey stick "gate"

my hockey stick “gate”

a close-up of the "latch"

a close-up of the “latch”

a much improved "after" picture

a much improved “after” picture

Check One Off

summer sewingToday I sewed a skirt for my youngest daughter which was one of my goals for this summer. A skirt for Rebekah was not one of my explicit goals. However, my husband recently decided one of his shirts was no longer wearable. I really struggle with throwing clothes away even when they are no longer any good to the person who owned them. So I started thinking, and I thought I could make a skirt out of this shirt.  When my girls were smaller I made summer nighties and dresses for them from my husband’s shirts. The fact that he is 6′ 7″ and has larger shirts helps. 🙂

It would work better if Rebekah was a little younger/smaller, but as you will see I made it work.

First, I cut off the sleeves.

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Then I trimmed the shirt off  at just below the underarms and trimmed the bottom. I liked the idea of the buttons on the shirt running down the front of the skirt. As it turns out I was right – it’s cute.

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Since I needed more length I made a casing for the elastic which I sewed to the top. Then I sewed a piece of fabric to the bottom to add length and to make it prettier.

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This project cost me nothing because I had all of the materials. The fabric was something I had had in my stash for years. I always buy big spools of black and white thread so I have lots of that. The elastic was also something in my things.

My daughter is thrilled with her new skirt. I had a lot of fun with this one.

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Victoria Day

On the Monday before May 25th Canadians celebrate “Victoria Day”. It is the unofficial beginning of summer; the day a lot of us plant our gardens (We didn’t today – hopefully this weekend). We set off fireworks, have barbecues and enjoy family. Check out this article for a history of Victoria Day – a uniquely Canadian holiday.

Who was Queen Victoria? She is the queen for whom the Victorian Era is named for her. During her long reign of over sixty-three and a half years the world changed a lot and became much smaller. Industry grew expotentially with so many new inventions that made life easier. People were on the move. Education and living standards were improved. Amazing scientific discoveries were made.England reached its zenith as a Christian nation. Scores of missionaries left England for all parts of the world.

It is said that Queen Victoria once said that “m”  was her favourite letter in the alphabet. Without the letter “m” the Bible would say that not any rich are saved. With the letter “m” it says that not many rich are saved. I have hopes that we will one day see Queen Victoria in heaven.

Pictures of Queen Victoria show her as a small woman but she certainly had a large influence on her country and the world. I am a “small” woman in this world, but through my children I can have a large influence on the world. A sobering thought. I pray often for wisdom and strength as I try to teach our children how to be a light in this dark world.

enjoying Victoria Day as a family

enjoying Victoria Day as a family

…We All Scream for Ice Cream

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This has been a momentous week for our family. Our second oldest child became a teenager. He’s a wonderful boy. I love to watch him playing with his toddler and baby brothers…makes my heart melt. It has also been a wonderful week weather-wise. We’ve been enjoying hanging the laundry out, having our windows open, lots of walks and playing outside. The Vitamin D is great, right? We’re all sleeping better with all the fresh air.

Last year I started making homemade ice cream for our children’s birthdays. I was constantly searching for a way to do this without eggs and without an ice cream maker. Then several months ago we found an old-fashioned hand-crank ice cream maker at our local flea market. It’s a bit beat up but it does the job. I’ve finally found a recipe for ice cream that doesn’t use eggs. You can see the recipe here.  This is not a cheap recipe, but we only have ice cream on birthdays so we don’t mind spending a little more for these special occasions.

Noah has discovered that leftover homemade ice cream is much better than fresh so tonight he and his brother made the ice cream for his birthday party tomorrow night. It takes a good thirty minutes of cranking to get ice cream. It is soft serve style but after “curing” in the freezer for several hours it becomes harder. I didn’t think of it soon enough, but next time I will use unflavoured gelatin to try and thicken it a little more. One tweak I did make to the recipe was changing the sugar to honey. In order to make the honey mix properly we had to heat the honey with the cream and then cool it before we started cranking.

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We’ve had a little taste of the ice cream tonight – you know, just to make sure it was okay. 😉 I’ll let you know next Friday how it tasted. Making our own ice cream is a lot of work but very satisfying. It’s great to know all the ingredients that are in our ice cream – all readable and all edible.

How was your week?

Healthy, Frugal AND Tasty!

You probably already know that beans are a frugal way to extend your grocery budget. Many people also know that they are healthy – they provide protein and fiber, are low on the glycemic index, improve disgestion to list just a few of their benefits. However, many people – especially children do not enjoy them.

We have been eating more beans lately for all of the above reasons. I was fairly skeptical at first but I am quickly becoming a believer in the tastiness and versatility of beans. I have found one way to make them more palatable to my children is if they are mashed. Recently I made white beans and mashed them up like potatoes, and they were a big hit. My children enjoy refried beans in tortillas. Of course, the cheese and sour cream probably doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

Tonight we had one of our new favourites – Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers. Basically you use cooked black beans and then mix them with whatever you would normally mix with meat for making burgers. We also add quinoa – about a quarter to half a cup for every two cups of beans. You can use canned beans, but I prefer to cook ours.

Cooking beans used to scare me. I thought I had to soak them overnight which is a bit too much pre-planning for me. I have learned that I can measure out what I need cover them with at least one to two inches of water and boil them. After they simmer for a couple of minutes I turn them off for an hour. Then I drain the water, add more and cook them until soft. I used to do it in my slow cooker, but it recently broke so I’ve found that I can cook them almost as easily on the stove.

These burgers are so delicious. My children love them especially when I pair them with homemade baked fries. We don’t often use hamburger buns. I consider them extra carbs we don’t necessarily need, but we have eaten them buns. They are every bit as good as their meaty cousins.

a yummy, child-approved suppe

a yummy, child-approved suppe

As I try new bean recipes I’ll let you know how they go down with our children. What is your favourite way of fixing beans?

Reading Again

We love reading in our family.

We love reading in our family.

So, I told you I was addicted to reading. Being a busy mom (what mom isn’t busy?), I look for ways to work reading into my day. My oldest daughter introduced me to a way I have used off and on over the last few months.

There is a website called DailyLit. They have taken thousands of books of every genre and broken them down into bite-size pieces. You set up an account and pick a book(s). They then email you a segment every day. You can have a short, medium or long selection.

So far I have read two books this way. Well, truthfully, I started Bleak House, but when I reached about the 80% mark I kept pushing the button to get the next segment right away. Then I started “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell. I only made it about 20% before I gave up and borrowed the book from the library. As an aside, Elizabeth Gaskell is becoming one of my favourite authors. I have quite a few of her books on my Kindle (that I got for free). She writes about all different social stratas in the Victorian era.

Anyway, I have enjoyed using this system. It helped me take a book – “Bleak House” – which seemed daunting and make it readable. I’m thinking about going for “War and Peace” next. I could never read this in time borrowing it from the library, but a portion a day even if it takes more than a year is doable. I just signed up. It will take me almost two years. The good news is is that if I want to read it faster I can ask for longer segments or keep clicking the “send next segment” button. I know that process well.

The shortest segment they send only takes about five minutes to read. Anyone can spare five minutes – even a busy mom. Check it out. I’m sure they will have something that would interest you.

A Hard Week

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This has not been an exactly healthy week for our family. There has been some nasty stomach running the circuit of most of our children. It really hit two of our younger ones quite hard. It is so hard to see your children sad and sick and not be able to do much more than offer them comfort. We do have a “Sore Tummy Tea” that I made but it didn’t seem to help much. Thankfully everyone is better now and eating lots to make up for lost time. 🙂

On another note, I recently started studying about why we should have more gelatin in our diets. I have started to add it to my smoothies. Maybe someday soon I’ll write a post on this subject.

We’ve had much warmer weather recently so I’ve started taking walks again. Let me assure you that taking a walk with a twenty-pound baby in the sling is quite the workout! When my husband isn’t available to walk with me the children enjoy taking turns. It’s some nice one-on-one time with whoever comes with me. And let me just say that none of our children are ever at a loss for words. 🙂 We have some great conversations along the way. I always come home feeling refreshed emotionally and physically. Walking is one form of exercise that I really love.

How was your week?