Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holidays- Evolving our Traditions into our New Home

I love the holiday season.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years, we have traditions we treasure, new experiences annually and lots to do- some things by choice, some things because I feel that "I have to" and some things because I always want to make it better than the last year.

This year, being in a new home, has given me reason to reevaluate.  Everything is up for assessment in a new home.  Kitchen layout and equipment is different so what shall I cook and bake.  The rooms and furniture layout is new so where should decorations go and which ones. Our outside of our home is not like before so where do we hang lights and wreaths and should we get some new stuff.  Some of our family is nearer than before, and some of it (our daughters) our further, so how to coordinate and see our loved ones.  When are church services and are they the same or similar to what we are used to? How can traditions be kept in a new place and with new participants? AND do we need to spend hours online and in the mall shopping and shipping and lugging from state to state or is there another way to share love via gifting?

Bottomline is that everything that makes it to the "to do" list has been evaluated; nothing is on auto pilot since so much has changed.

First change; our tree went up Thanksgiving weekend.  Lots of people to that on Thanksgiving weekend, but we are not one of them.  Circumstances however deemed it CRITICAL in our mind to do so. :-)  Our youngest daughter, who is 22, visited at Thanksgiving.  We loved having her so much at the holiday and missed our other kids equally so. BUT given that she was here and one of the family traditions was to go and chop down a tree, we went to get the tree while she visited. 

We discovered that Indiana is 11th in the country for their supply of Christmas trees, so we had no problem finding a tree farm where we could go and cut down our tree.  Since we now have a truck living out in the country, hauling it home was also easier than roping it to the top of a Jetta as in years past.  Our family room however is smaller so our fat tree is taking over the room, but we still feel that we found the perfect tree so we overlook that.

Food and gifts are getting more of a handmade and simple touch also.  Gifts are being hand crafted by us this year; so far I find it extremely fun and relaxed.  I will blog on that topic in a couple of weeks and we will see if I still share that sentiment!

We have found enthusiasm in decorating and finding new places to set out our Snowman, Santas and other treasured friends.  It is fun to find a new, just right place for things.

So while we miss much of the "sameness" we are finding new ways to enjoy.  I will share in an upcoming blog how we are getting together with family, just in new ways.

How about you?  Traditions that never change?  Or do your holidays continually evolve?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Fun

I would say that on the Halloween front, I am somewhat in the middle of totally not celebrating and total blood and gore.  I love my scarecrows, my cute little witches and ghosts and my pumpkin (good for eating after decorating).  BUT I have never been one to do anything more scary than a witches hat or my homemade spiders that I hang in various locations around the house.  BUT I do love Halloween, or maybe it is that I love the Fall and so much of the crispness in the air, the squash and pumpkins, the oranges and yellows that I associate with fall I also associate with the coming of Halloween.

So I have my traditions--I have my cute decorations and candles.  I must buy mum plants and lots of squash to decorate with. I have a silly Halloween party CD that I play every year and have for at least 15 years now.  I love to take the night off and wait for the trick or treaters and cook something very fallish.  Now that we are out in the country, we don't get trick or treaters.  BUT my candles still burn and fill the house with pumpkin and spices, my CD still plays and lst night I cooked roasted vegetable jambalaya to meet the requirement of a "fall type" dish.

For those of you who enjoy Halloween and all the decorations and ghoul that comes along with it, we found the perfect street for you to stroll down, take in and photograph.  For those of you who don't go for that these pictures may not be for you.  I will say though it was fun to walk these several blocks, take pictures and see everyone that comes out to do the same.  One homeowner told us that they have 4000 trick or treaters every year here!  That's lot of candy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lentil Quinoa Pilaf Over Wilted Arugula

I made this wonderful recipe from Vegetarian Times a couple of nights ago.  Eating it for leftovers last night was even better!
I love searching the web along with my cookbooks for new recipes.  I rarely cook something twice because there is just so much out there to try!  Make your own vegetable broth with scraps of veggies for even more flavor.
I really like the lentils along with the quinoa in this recipe. It is such a great texture of flavors in the end product along with the great flavors of the added pine nuts, currants and balsamic at the end.

The ingredients are:
  • 2 ½Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 6 green onions, sliced (1 cup), divided
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 ¼ cups green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tbs. pine nuts
  • 8 cups baby arugula
  • ¼ cup dried currants, divided
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
The full recipe can be found on Vegetarian Times.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Love, Love, Love to COOK!

I really, really love to cook.  I was gone most of September and then just hit the grocery on the way back in and  bought "whatever."  That is not my "normal."  I like to plan my menus then shop to that.  The result is that I never wonder what is for dinner and I don't waste stuff that I buy impulsively. AND after working at a computer for the day I love to play some music, pour a glass of wine and cook.  It relaxes me to look out the window towards the pond and bird feeders, and to see the vastness and calmness of our property. Cooking yummy veggies and grains makes it all feel "good for me."
With that being said, I was so excited to make my menus last night and for the first time in two weeks, head to the grocery today.  So, you may be curious about what's for dinner during the next several nights---
Here's what's cooking:
  • Rustic Farro Soup
  • Shrimp and Zucchini with Brown Rice
  • Baked Penne
  • Roasted Squash with Kale
  • Carrot Soup with Roasted Pistachios
  • Lentil Quinoa Pilaf over Arugula
  • Vegetarian Brats with Warm Potato Salad
  • Southwest Quinoa with Black Beans
With great recipes like these at hand with the ingredients to match I cannot wait to pick and choose nightly what is on the menu.  I am planning to add a page on the site for recipes and pictures, so stay tuned!

How about you?  Planner, Impulsive? Like to cook or not?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Canning for the First Time

I have never myself canned before.  Living out here has me wanting to do all kinds of things for the first time and canning was no exception!  Being the instruction obsessive person that I am I watched webinars, read books and articles, got the Ball book, and read blogs and forums on lots of websites.  After I felt somewhat educated about the process, it was time to shop. I bought jars, lids, tongs, funnel, a pressure cooker, etc.  Then it was time to "do it" and have another 1st time farmgirl experience!

In our little area we have a neighbor that does a garden for all of us to share.  It is beautiful and it was so fun to go over and pick Roma tomatoes and peppers of many varieties.

Here is my stash:

Next it was time to peel the tomatoes.  It was so simple to do.  Just wash the tomatoes, score them with a little "cross" on their end, put into boiling water for a couple of minutes, then into ice water.  Like magic the skins just peel off!

I skinned a bunch of tomatoes for stewed tomatoes, salsa and Italian herb tomatoes.  I followed recipes that I had found on the web and in my cookbook. I found out in my reading that it is important to follow a recipe that is specific for canning so that the acid level is correct and cooking time is correct for that specific recipe.

After the recipes were complete it was time for the jars.  After washing them I began to fill them according to the directions.  A little space needs to be left at the top and the recipe will tell you how much.  You also need to stir out the air bubbles.

Once filled into the pressure cooker they went.  It is really important for you to read your directions that go with your particular pressure cooker so I won't go into instructions on that. I will say though that I was so excited to see the steam and the gauge at work!

My first day of canning yielded me some yummy tomato products and I cannot wait to do more of this.  It was so satisfying and I would highly recommend taking a Saturday to try this if you have not already done so!


Have you canned?  What is your favorite thing to can?

Friday, September 21, 2012


I reconnected tonight with a dear, dear friend that I have not seen in several years.  It was incredibly awesome.  Our lives have taken us on different paths--- I have quit corporate, she has is still there, I have moved to the country and she still fights traffic. BUT at the core, our experiences joys and challenges have been so similar.  Kids, school, families, money, work, play, etc.  -- all of these things do not know location.  We felt like sisters to one another years ago and I left tonight still feeling that same way.  The core joys and sorrows of life know no boundaries and they do not pick and choose us based on location or life style. No matter where one lives it is the human element that brings us together and gives us commonality with one another.  I am so grateful for our past friendship; I am so exhilarated with excitement on connecting again and I am so looking forward to seeing how our paths will continue to intertwine with each other, thus allowing us to grow together and experience more of life.

How about you?  Have you reconnected with someone lately?  If not, I highly recommend it!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

City Pace

I have been back in the city for two weeks due to a family medical incident.  All is well on that front and my daughter is recovering nicely, but the pace of a city grabs back onto you quickly and before you know it you are back in a rush.  Visiting my daughters has been supreme; I miss them alot! But the city... I do not miss that!

For many months now in the country I have been practicing things like running errands once a week instead of every day running an errand, single tasking vs. multitasking, eating a more wholesome and pure diet, slowing down and showering in the evening, taking vitamins, drinking a slow cup of tea, working in my garden and sewing.

Two weeks back in city life and I have ran some sort of errand everyday--I mean there is everything so close and it makes you think of things you "need.".  I find myself munching on bagged popcorn this morning (honestly I did not even know this existed).  I keep skipping my vitamins- I just don't take the time.  Tea is made but left to sit while I hustle doing other "necessary" things.You get the picture. I think in a nutshell I just feel hurried again.  Traffic is fast and folks are short with you while servicing you as they have many other things to do and I am just caught up in life in the fast lane again.  It is amazing how quickly this happens-- we are not talking days or weeks here but hours!

Today I drive my daughter back home to south Georgia where the pace is slower.  Saturday I head back to my home out in the country. It makes me wonder why it feels so different.  I have heard it said that you can change location but not the way you react.  I am not so sure about that any more.  I think location has much to do with how you feel and react.  Slow begets slow and fast begets fast.  Polite begets politeness and rudeness begets rudeness.  Maybe the key is to be the instigator or slow, polite, calm and deliberate no matter where you are. Some of the most grounded people I know live in the midst of a big city.  Maybe my changing with the location has more to do with my lack of commitment to my values than to the surroundings.    Am I that easily swayed?  Apparently so. It has been a real eye opener being back.  Next time maybe I can bring the "country" here rather than absorbing the "city" while here.

What do you think?  Similar experiences and lessons?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lessons Learned from Hauling Your Trash In

One of the big differences between the sub division life and life in the country is trash!  And I am not talking about quantity or pollution or waste (that is another blog), but how you get rid of it!

In the subdivision we had a trash truck that came around every Tuesday a.m. at 7:30 a.m. and would empty our trash, recycle bin and take our bags of leaves and yard stuff.  On Monday night we would scurry, get all the trash and recyclables in their cans and roll them to the end of the drive and be so happy that someone was getting it the next day.  Never mind that we were limited to how much (if we had a big project going on we would get one of those construction dumpsters on the drive) and we just didn't bat an eye at the $100 bill every quarter that we got for this service.  On Tuesday evening we would scurry again, but to the end of the driveway to pull up our cans and put them out of site so that we would not get evil looks from neighbors or receive the ever dreaded letter from the ACC reminding us that we needed to pull up the cans on the same day that they were emptied. Oh and by the way, don't roll them down the night before--if you happen to be working in your yard on Sunday it was a "no no" to leave the bags down there for Tuesday; they needed to come up the drive and then venture back down for the trash crew.

When we moved and swapped utilities I noticed that we did not get info on our trash service.  At the closing table I asked "where do we take our trash?"  The answer was "you take it all to Chelsea"  and I thought "who is Chelsea and why does she want my trash????"  In further questioning we were told that several places had trash drop off and Chelsea was one of those.  We were in town for the weekend of the closing and had done work in the house.  Before heading back to Atlanta, we loaded up trash and headed to the town of Chelsea.  We had no idea what we were looking for, but thought that we would figure it out.  Sure enough, we got to Chelsea and pulled into the little market.  We looked across the street and there was a trash truck and a man sitting in a lawn chair.  We drove over.

Conversation went like this:
"Hi, we are here to bring you our trash."
"You gotta card?"  (we must have looked like newbies I guess)
"Card? What card? We closed on our house and they told us to bring trash to Chelsea and here we are (big smile)"
"Need a card"
"Where do we get a card?"
"At the county but this is a holiday, they are closed"
"Oh, what county and where do we go?"
"OK... I will take your trash this time but you figure it out before next time, ok???"
"Oh thank you, thank you. We are heading back to Atlanta and we really don't want to take the trash!  Thank you, thank you"
"No problem"-- sympathy smile as I am sure he was thinking, "you city folks have a lot to learn!"

So we got the card which by the way was $24 for an entire year (jump for joy). AND have been dropping trash off ever since.

What I have learned from the paradigm shift of becoming my own trash hauler:

  • You are much more conscience about what you are tossing out!  Trash is heavy and less is, well more manageable.
  • It is a social event; you get to know your trash collector and others who drop off with you.  You look forward to saying "hi" to others. They become part of your weekly routine.
  • You help others unload and don't mind asking others for assistance to help you unload.
  • If stuff isn't really trash you save it to the side in your truck.  There are all kinds of people looking for stuff; there is the metal collector guy for instance that fills his trailer daily with stuff, sells it and feeds his household with his income from that.
  • You hear GREAT stories about stuff that people bring. Like the women cleaning out a deceased relatives house and brought everything in bags.  Our trash collector rummaged through and got an entire set of cast iron skillets in perfect condition. Or the couple who brought stuff they had "forever" and one of the items was an altar stone with a relic in it (for you that are Catholic you understand the significance and rarity of this event!)
  • I think of others as I sort through my boxes that I am unpacking.  There is a woman with children that now has some of the precious toys that my children played with.  It makes me so happy knowing where they are at and having a picture of her and her kids in my head with them.
  • No one cares what you look like!  Like I said this is a social event, but not one you primp for.  It is a true "come as you are" event.  
  • No matter your income, everyone is totally the same when unloading your own trash and tossing it in!
  • I have to take a break from work to do this; it is a great thing to have on the calendar.  Every week for 1 hour I must be away from my laptop and work and thinking of only the basics!
I never thought that I would LOVE this change so much, but I do.  I think even if I ever find myself in a situation again where I can get pick up, I will still seek out where the real folks are, taking there own stuff, saying hello, helping out and giving to one another. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tractor Pull

I have never been to a tractor pull, nor have I ever pulled a tractor.  As a matter of fact, until moving to the country in January, we had a push lawnmower and I had never even ridden a riding mower.  I also never had a pick up truck- Jetta was more like it, so much has changed in the way of vehicles on our drive (which of course is gravel, not paved concrete). 
A couple of months ago, after a not so good experience buying a used tractor (we do not really know enough about tractors to know a good deal or bad deal when we see it), we bought a Kabota.  Honestly I was a little intimidated at first. BUT then I got on and it was LOVE.  There is something about putting tunes on the iPod, and just riding the Kabota for hours on end and seeing all that grass cut and bushhogged.
Last weekend, while I was sewing upstairs, Mike ran up and said "Come here! You need to pull the tractor out of a ditch".  Oh my goodness, I had no idea what I was going to see or do upon going outside.  I hopped in the truck and drove out to where Big Orange had gotten stuck.  The belly of the mower was jammed in a ditch out front. We hooked up (very fancy like), the tractor to the truck and I got in and I was pulling a tractor!  I got the silliest thrill out of the whole thing!  I felt like I had a REAL farmgirl experience!  It was really such a thrill and I guess a mark in the sand-- I am not in the city anymore!  YEAH ME!