Monday, November 29, 2010

Something to Think About

I thought I had made a similar post in the last couple of months, but checking my archives I find nothing on this topic.  So here goes.

I've been feeling the need for a big shake up lately.  You know-totally change the way my days flow, what's important vs what's not, what takes up more time than it's worth and what I'd like to spend more time doing.  That kind of shake up.  My brain is full of things I'd like to do "when I have time" but if I don't just make an effort to do it, that time isn't likely to come.

There have been a number of times in my life where I realized I could live anywhere I wanted, the first time being after my divorce.  With no husband and his job tying us to a location, and no children that would feel uprooted by simply taking off and going somewhere, I gave it serious thought.  What kind of environment is important to me?  What am I looking for in a community?  Weather would be the biggest issue for me, right after cost of living.  Having been raised in sunny, warm, AZ I knew I wouldn't like dreary, cold winters, and that's why I turned down a job offer in PA.  It was good pay doing something I would have enjoyed, but I need sunshine to operate.  The man offering the job tried to get me to believe that there was plenty of sunshine in PA.  Apparently he'd never been to AZ where we have more days of sunshine than any state in the nation.  Every picture I found for apartments there was taken on a cloudy day.  No thanks.

While I was single I met a man from Albuquerque and wondered what it'd be like living there.  That fizzled quickly though and I never gave it another thought.  After meeting & marrying Tony we talked about various places we might live.  Until recently though, we were a bit tied to the area we're in.  We're now able to do what we do from any location, so the topic is open for discussion again.  Together we've ruled out any place that has long winters-neither of us is crazy about cold weather.  California is out for political reasons, as is Colorado.  New Mexico might be alright, though just not quite what we're after.  High humidity places are also not given a second thought, although I wouldn't mind a bit more humidity than the dry southwest has! 

That doesn't leave very many options, does it?  Oh wait, we only considered places within the USA!  If we can truly do what we do from anywhere, are we limited to the USA?  Not really.  But would we really just sell everything and go somewhere that they may not even speak English?  Maybe.  I'd at least consider it.  And that's what this post is supposed to be about.  Considering the why behind a move to say, Tuscany.

First off, could I really do it?  What would be left behind vs what to look forward to?  Next, is the why.  Why leave the state I've lived in for 37 years?  Maybe because I've lived here for 37 years.  The where is important of course.  I don't think I'd be typing this if the option was Moscow.  I've never been to Europe.  Heck, I've only been to Central American countries on my few travels.

The why for me right now has to do with that need for shaking things up.  For making my days different than what they are now.  Do I really need to consider moving to another continent for that to happen?  Can I just make it happen right here?  What would it take?  Above all else though, what's God's will in all this?  Is this just some crazy idea that popped into my head or is there more to it?  Do I feel like I need shaken up because some shaking is about to take place?  It's odd, but all of our local connections are dwindling and drying up.  Am I making that happen with some level of discontent, or is it being orchestrated by a Mind far greater than mine?

I shared with Tony a month or so back that I felt our days needed a new focus.  More purpose.  Living life more intentionally.  This past weekend I shared my crazy idea to move to Italy for a couple of months.  While talking about it, we realized if we were going at all it should be for a year.  I think I like it because it feels like I'd have less responsibility.  We could act like tourists for a while.  We could spend a day at the beach without making a big deal out of it.  We could simply sit outside enjoying the countryside.  But would it really be like that?  If so, do we have to go there (or wherever) to get that ability?

What are your thoughts?  What would you change in your life with the right opportunity?  Would you pack up and move if you could?  Where would you go?  Why did you choose that place?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Friend Karrie

We've never had the pleasure of meeting in person, but we do keep in touch online.  She's an amazing photographer and has been toying with the idea of turning her work into a marketable product.  She recently took the leap of faith and has posted her work in her artfire store.  Take a look and let her know what you think-she'd be grateful to read your encouraging words.  It probably wouldn't hurt if you wanted to buy something too.  ;-) 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Experience with Pumpkin Cake Bars

When I read this recipe, my mouth started watering!  We had a pumpkin waiting to be made into something wonderful, so this went on the list.  Maybe I built it up too much in my mind, but it just didn't satisfy the way I anticipated.  We cut up and cooked the pumpkin Friday night, and I started in on these bars Saturday.

I think I needed to cook them just a bit longer.  The top had browned and it seemed firm, but I failed to do the "insert toothpick" test.  The frosting called for coconut oil and coconut butter, so I had set them in the oven with the light on to liquefy.  I think that caused the icing to not mix properly.  I never did put it on the bars.  Tomorrow when the house is a bit warmer, I'm going to try mixing it again and see what we get.  If that doesn't work I'll figure out a way to use the mixture in another recipe.

The Cake Batter

Icing Ingredients

Cooled and Cut
One plus-the almond butter was purchased at Costco for $5.99 for a 26oz jar.  I had to go to New Frontiers for the coconut butter and saw this brand of almond butter for $12 something, for a smaller jar!  Sure glad I found it at Costco, but now I'm convinced I spent too much on the coconut butter!

Have you got a favorite pumpkin recipe to share?  I still have a full crock pot of puree to use!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I won, I won! Again!

Some of you might remember when I won the Chico Produce Bags, and then the very next day I won a book, The Town That Food Saved.  I've entered plenty more give aways since then, and just won again!  I won the Herbal Nurturing eBook from Michele at Frugal Granola.  You can see the post here.

Here's the table of contents.

I can't wait to get my link to download my free copy and try the Mama's Passion Bath Salts!  I've been wanting to learn more about natural care remedies and now I'll have this handy little book!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin Chips

Today we made pumpkin chips.  We had purchased a bag of Sweets & Beets after cutting a truckload of wood today...and on the way home talked about getting our gigantic pumpkin made into puree so we can make pumpkin pie and pumpkin cake.  That's when Tony thought it might be fun to try making pumpkin chips.  He was talking about making a puree and drying it, I suggested he just use the vegetable peeler and slice it raw.  We tried some on the oven, with salt and garlic powder on them and they're pretty good!  Now we've got the dehydrator full to test that method.

This post is part of the Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Did It!

I made butter!  I've been wanting to try all year, and just never made it a priority.  I'm glad I waited until we were getting the higher fat Nubian milk though.  It separates better than Alpine milk, and I was able to collect 44oz of rich cream to start with.  I don't have photos because my hands were covered with butter.  Here's how I did it:
  1. Scoop cream out of jars.
  2. Mix with whip at highest speed of mixer that still keeps the cream in the bowl.
  3. The cream will expand just like whipping cream, and then start to break down-I turned the speed up at this point.
  4. When it gets watery and looks like it's going to fail, turn off the mixer and notice all the clumps of butterfat in the water!
  5. Here's where I could have used an experienced butter maker...I read the section on butter making in the Encyclopedia of Country Living, but still would have liked to have someone here.  I washed my hands, got out a fine mesh strainer, some parchment paper (so the counter wouldn't get all smeary) and a bowl of ice water.
  6. I poured the whole thing into the strainer (over yet another bowl), then scraped the butter out and tried working it on the parchment paper.  Don't do this if you're using my instructions for butter making!
  7. I ended up forming the butter into a ball and placing it back in the mixer bowl to rinse it.  The ice water didn't seem to be a good idea either.
  8. I just kept putting in enough water to cover it well, squeezed the butter thru it and poured off the milky water.  Next time I will do this with a bamboo spoon.  My hands were covered and I was kinda stuck doing what I was doing.
  9. After 6 or 8 washings I decided it was clean enough. [The rinsing keeps it from going rancid too quickly, but I don't think it will last past our first loaf of homemade bread!]  In reality you should rinse until the water is clear, and then do it again.  I thought it was clear, and then the next rinse would be just as milky.  Not sure if I just wasn't squeezing the butter enough or what.
  10. I put it in a small glass bowl and worked some salt into it with the bamboo spoon.  I rinsed it one more time too.  I think I've got about 3/4 cup of butter from the 44oz of milk.
That's it!  I have tiny pieces of butter stuck to the strainer, thinking that next time I will plan on cooking some fresh veggies that should be topped with butter and let the strainer sit over the pot while they cook-letting those particles melt onto the veggies.

If you've made butter, got any tips for a newbie?

Taking Stock

I've been in the kitchen this morning taking inventory of what food I have.  At the same time, I'm eliminating anything with artificial color or preservatives.  We think our son is affected by them, so we're trying a couple of weeks of focused effort on not letting him have any to verify the suspicion.

It's a testament to our almost two year old journey towards real food.  There's not much to toss or give away, and what's there just might be two years old or more.  [sigh]  Some chocolate graham crackers, old cereal bars, rancid macadamia nuts (the travesty!) and an assortment of cookie/cupckake sprinkles. 

Our original goal in this journey was real milk, healthy fats and homegrown eggs.  Then came the removal of all HFCS and any hydrogenated oils.  Seems that taking those out took out a lot of the dyes and chemicals too.  We're also trying to follow EWG's list of the most pesticide laden produce.  Living in a small town whose population doesn't care too much about that (or simply can't afford it) the options are very limited. 

Since the list has 49 items on it, we determined that the top 25 cleanest we would buy conventional and the rest had to be pesticide free.  Potatoes are in the lower 24, so now that the farmers markets are closed, we don't have access to organic potatoes.  I feel very restricted by this one alone, and there are 23 other items on that list!  It makes me question-do we go without fresh produce or do we eat the pesticides?

I'm almost done with the inventory.  I still need to go thru the fridge and freezer (mostly to list what we have for meal planning purposes) and one cabinet in my son's room that holds bulk items.  Then it'll be time to create healthy meals using these items.  Oh, and I want to plan carefully so that Monday's leftovers get used in Wednesday's soup (or whatever, you get the idea).

What's your feeling on chemicals in our food?  Whether they be pesticide residues on produce or added to boxed items-how do you handle it?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The First Freeze

I can't find an accurate official low for last night, but my guess was mid 20's.  Tony got home around 11:30 and the car thermometer was reading 32*, and that car is infamous for reading high.  While walking with a friend I mentioned the temperature and she said it was 26* at 8AM in the shade.  I believe it!

I didn't take pictures, but the trees were dropping their leaves rapidly as the sun came up over the mountains.  At one point they were coming down so quickly it sounded like rain falling.  Now the ground is covered in a carpet of yellow and green leaves!  I'm trying to scoop them up to feed the goats-too bad our perimeter isn't fenced so I could just let them out to clean the ground.

I don't remember looking at the temp while I was out early this afternoon.  It got warm enough to be out in short sleeves though.  I love that!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Autumn in AZ

This is my main view while I milk goats.  As much as I tried, I couldn't capture the brilliant yellow with my camera.  I think the sun is so bright that it gets washed out.

These are the trees over me while milking.  Again, the contrast of the bright yellow with the glorious green on a blue sky background just can't be captured with this camera.

I took this with the camera on my phone while hiking today.  I love the orange leaves!  I think this is a sycamore tree, but I'm not a tree buff to know these things.

So we do get fall colors here, perhaps not as vivid and glorious as New England, but seeing it here is cheaper than flying across the country to view them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Procrastination vs Just Too Much To Do

Goodness!  I know I don't like to open mail or deal with the tedious tasks that go along with paperwork.  I try to set aside a certain time each week to sit down and make the calls, reply to the letters, pay the bills, whatever needs done in the paperwork/desk work category.  I tend to avoid that day though, or simply update my checking accounts and call it good.

Today I pulled out the stack of papers (at least 4 inches tall) and just started at it.  Plugging along, one piece of paper after another.  Here's what I'm finding:
  • FamilyLife Resource offers from March and April that I wanted-but didn't take the few moments required to fill out the form and put it back in the mail.
  • A stack of UNOPENED mail from early August.  One letter is date Aug 3rd.
  • A letter from an online friend from May 2009.  I think I kept it to remind me to send one back.  Oops.
  • Letters from WorldVision and Food for the Hungry regarding the children we sponsor.  Cards that we're supposed to sign and send back.  From June.
Does it really take me THAT long to just do these things a few moments at a time on a regular basis??  Part of my S.H.E. program will include handling the mail DAILY every afternoon.  I sure hope I can overcome this issue!  But I never addressed the title of the post-is it simply procrastination or too much to do?  I don't know.  I'll have to get back to you.  It's time to take books back to the library, go to the post office and make a deposit at the bank.  How do YOU handle these things?