Friday, August 21, 2015

Garden Evaluation

I am not a gardener.  O don't do well weeding.  I don't want to process/freeze/can tons of produce for use through the winter...we wouldn't use most of it anyway!  So my goal with a garden is to have some to eat fresh without spending too much time at it.

This year we put some time and little bit of money into making sub-irrigated planters out of 5 gallon buckets:

This has made watering and weeding so much easier!  Things are finally doing well...and I hope it stays warm enough for long enough to fully ripen!
A couple more zucchini coming...already got one!
 A few tiny tomatoes...these were really stunted by transplanting.
Watermelon...had to prop them up so they weren't too heavy for the vines.
Spaghetti squash, I hope they ripen!
Beans did well; need to plant a couple more buckets next year.
Broccoli and!
Cucumbers...lots of flowers, only one cucumber so far.
Notes for next year:
1. Don't bother starting things indoors early...they just seemed stunted for a while once they were transplanted.
2. Plant two more buckets of beans...and none of broccoli and cauliflower.
3. Spread thing out a bit is getting hard to water without stepping on all the vines trailing all over the ground!
4. Don't put the bucket planters inside the wooden boxes...they look nice, but it is hard to tell when the reservoirs are full when watering.

How did your garden do this year?  What will you do differently next year?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Whisper of Patriotic Style

Red, white and blue...a beautiful color combination anytime but especially for 4th of July celebrations.   

You could just run out to the local discount store and buy everyone in your family a flag t-shirt so they can celebrate in style...but even though the shirts are cheap, would you ever wear it again? Is it really worth the price?  Why add to the clutter?  

Just create a whisper of patriotic style that is appropriate for any day of the year...and you can do it with things you already own!

First look through your closet for anything in any shade of red or blue...jeans, denim skirt, chambray shirt, striped shirt, tank top, shoes...

Add some white...t-shirt/tank, shoes, shorts, skirt...

And you've got classic style with a patriotic flair!

Here are some outfit ideas to get you started:

Classic striped shirt, denim skirt, comfy shoes, long simple necklace

Boyfriend jeans, feminine white tank, striped cardigan, cute sandals

Plaid shirt, navy tan, boyfriend jeans, comfy shoes, delicate necklace
I have a similar version of all these outfits in my closet already!  I bet you can come up with one too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Kids Say the Funniest Things

It was this past Sunday.  We were just sitting down to an after church lunch of scrambled eggs, toast, cucumbers and strawberries.  Tony made a comment about needing to wash his hands.  Asher looked at his hands and said,

"I don't need to wash my hands.  
They look clean, except for maybe germs...
but you can't taste germs!"

Yep, you're right Asher, you can't taste germs...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Minimalism Vs. Simplicity...6 month Update

It's been six months since we started our New Year's resolution of "having a house fire". It has been slow going but we feel we are making progress.  We donated boxes of stuff to our church garage sale this spring.  We put some things on Craigs List and dropped others off at thrift stores.  We've taken truck beds full of stuff to the dump and the scrap metal place (outside stuff from Tony's "resource piles").  There is still a lot to do, but progress is being made!

Some things we have learned so far through this process:

1. It is a constant and continual process.  You will never be done.  I keep noticing things to get rid of that I had passed over on the first (or second) go-through.  Stuff keeps coming in!  So stuff has to  keep going out.

2. I'm notice clutter more now...actual and visual.  And it is driving me crazy!  But I have to remember that there are other people who live here too...relationships are more important...and some of the mess still belongs to me!

3. Life gets in the way.  Homeschooling, church activities, play dates, yard work...

4. I need renewed motivation every so often. Life gets in the way (#3!) and momentum gets lost.
Some places I get motivation:
The Art of Simple and podcast
Becoming Minimalist
A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home
Dirty Little Secrets of Tidy Families

5. There is a difference between simplicity and minimalism...but the line between the two is grey and very blurry!  It would be "minimal" to have only one set of sheets per bed, but that is not "simple" for me...two sets per bed plus one set for the guest bed.  I'm going to go with what makes life easier, even if it means keeping a few more things around.

6. Simplifying doesn't just have to do with "stuff" but also processes and systems.  I love my monthly menu plan. and I use the Easy Peasy Chore System for myself for household cleaning (the kids do some of these chores now and will be getting more and more of these chores as they get older).  We have a daily schedule that we follow for Monday - Friday (this schedule gets more free-flow during the summer).

So, here is one room that is (mostly) done...see #1 above!

Before: the post-Christmas disaster!
After: So much better!

This was a realtivly easy room to "minimal-ize".  So, start with an easy room...the success will motivate you to move onto harder areas!

What is one "easy" area you can minimal-ize right now?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Project Run and Play: Flutter Sleeve Dress

Once again, it is time for another Project Run and Play challenge!  This month it was a cute flutter sleeve top pattern.

I picked up this fabric from a thrift store three years ago; I got 4+ yards for less than $5!  I have no idea what it is made out is super soft and drapey (is that a word?), light weight but not at all see-through.  When I got it I was pregnant with Hannah and made myself a peasant-style maxi dress out of it.  I decided it was time to up-cycle the fabric into a dress for Ruthie.  I used a bit of loosely  woven cotton left over from shortening some curtains for the yoke.  

My original plan was to make this dress with puffy elbow length sleeves so she could use it year round, but I didn't have enough fabric.  I'm glad it didn't, because I really like how the flutter sleeves turned out!  I made them wider and pleated them as I attached them instead of just gathering them.

I added an A-line skirt with box pleats in the front and back.  Perfect for dancing!

This dress has a super fun vintage feel to it because of the fabric pattern and contrast yoke but still easy and modern...but my favorite part are the sleeves!

Check out more fun flutter sleeve tops and dresses from Project Run and Play!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Simple Tip for Feeding the Family: Make a Plan, Then Repeat It!

I'm sure you hear all over blog-land about how meal planning makes cooking for a family easier and how it can keep your grocery budget in check and how you will eat healthier if you meal plan...but there is one problem with meal planning -- you have to do it!  Over and over and over again!

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I like meal planning.  I think it is necessary to keep your family well-fed and to reduce stress for you (and your grocery budget).  But I didn't like doing it every week.  Here is what I did:

1. Make a list of all meals that your family likes (and that you like to cook).  For this list, think just about your family's main meal (supper for us).

Don't think too hard about this, you can add to the list later.  Don't add meals to this list that your family likes but that take a long time to prepare or that are complicated.  If you are following Trim Healthy Mama make a notation of what each meal is (S or E).  Are there any meals you want to repeat each week?  Put a star by them.  We have pizza each well as a couple other things!

2. Organize your list into categories that make sense to you.

Beef, chicken, fish, breakfast for supper, beans, Italian, Mexican, etc

3. How many meals do you have in each category? 

Is there a common number between the groups?  I had four meals in most of my categories...some only two.  This will be how many weeks of menus you are going to make.

4. Choose a theme for each day from the categories you selected.

My categories are: Monday=beef, Tuesday=beans, Wednesday=breakfast for supper, Thursday=chicken, Friday=fish, Saturday=pizza, and Sunday=eggs.

5. Place each meal on the menu plan according to the categories you selected.

How many complete weeks do you have?  I had two complete weeks.  How many mostly complete weeks do you have?  I had two more mostly complete weeks.

6. Congratulations!  You now have (hopefully) a month (or more) of menus planned!

Now just start following your menu plan and when you get to the end, repeat!  Every three or four weeks is not too often to repeat a won't even notice!  If you have any gaps in you menu, leave the space blank; you will probably think of a meal you forgot to list or you can repeat one in the same category.  If you have extra meals for some categories list them after your menu.  Then you can switch them out with another when you desire.

We are in the middle of our third month of using this menu plan and I'm loving it!  It is all planned for me.  Most of the ingredients repeat so I always have things on hand or a shopping list ready.  We are a nightshade-free family, so our menu options are probably a bit more limited than yours:

Meat Loaf (S)
Black Bean Tacos (E)
Oven Puff Pancake (S)
Chicken Wild Rice Soup (E)
Salmon Patties (S)
Pizza (S)
Eggs (S)
Cheeseburger Soup (S)
Black Beans & Rice (E)
Oven Puff Pancake (S)
Chicken Alfredo (S)
Tuna Melts (S)
Pizza (S)
Eggs (S)
Meat Loaf (S)
Black Bean Tacos (E)
Oven Puff Pancake (S)
Coconut Curry Chicken (S or E)
Mac & Cheese with Tuna (S)
Pizza (S)
Eggs (S)
Beef Stroganoff or Biscuits & Gravy (S)
Nightshade-Free Chili (E)
Oven Puff Pancake (S)
Chicken & Rice (E)
Salmon Scampi (S)
Pizza (S)
Eggs (S)
More Options
Turkey Gyros (E)
Quinoa & Black Beans (E)
Waffles & Pancakes (E)
Coconut Fried Chicken (S)
Tuna Salad (S)
Egg Salad (S)
Waffles & Pancakes (E)

Chicken & Gravy with Millet (S)

Chicken Ranch Wraps (S)

You can use the same steps to make a plan for breakfast, lunch and snacks too if that would be helpful for you.  Most people repeat breakfast and lunch meals much more frequently so you might only plan a week or two to put on repeat.  We are quite boring!  We each some form of oatmeal or toast (the kids) every morning for breakfast.  Tony takes the exact same lunch to work each day.  The kids choose between the same few options for lunch each day (cheesy bread/grilled cheese, pb&j, eggs, leftovers).  I usually have eggs for leftovers for lunch.  If there is a day that your whole family will be home for more than one meal, choose a meal from your "more options" to make (this happens for us on Saturdays and Sundays).

Feel free to make changes to this menu plan as the needs arise: need to a meal to another day for this week?  Do it!  Need to make a permanent category change?  Do it!  Don't like soup in the summer?  Change it!  Tony's work schedule changes in the summer, so we plan to take him supper one or two days a week, so I will need to arrange my menu plan so the days we take him meals they are meals that transport easily.

Do you think this way of menu planning will work for you?

Linking to the Modest Mom blog.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

An Introduction to Trim Healthy Mama

Spring has finally come to Minnesota!  It always seems to take so long, but is actually a bit early this year (ice was off the lakes about four weeks earlier than last year!).  We are enjoying spending lots of time outside.
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 Trim Healthy Mama (THM)...either you hear about it everywhere or you've never heard of it...that seems to be my experience with most people.  I had read a tiny bit about it online last summer as I was reading about Whole 30 and trying to figure out my awful eczema rash and what to do about it.  I didn't think too much about it but thought it might be interesting.  It sounded kind of "faddy" and probably not conducive to real food and real life for the long haul.  But something caused me to see if my library system carried the book.  The library had the book but I was number thirty-seven in line to read I requested the book and then forgot about it!

At the end of the summer (August/September) I did the Whole 30, mostly to see if my eczema was a food related issue but also hoping to loose a bit of weight.  I had suspected, but discovered for sure, that my eczema would flare with any sugar consumption.  I also only lost about 3 pounds.  I felt good.  My body seemed more stable...less craving and blood sugar spikes.  But for me it wasn't something I wanted to stick grains and my body seems to want grains for dairy, I like milk in my coffee and cheese!  No sugar...sometime you just have to have some chocolate!

I felt like I was quite healthy...all blood work was great, I could be active with my kids, I exercise, but still was carrying extra weight, mostly around my middle.  It seemed like nothing was going to work: I exercised, was strong and healthy, but still carried extra weight.  I ate a healthy diet, real food, whole grains, healthy fats, low sugar, lots of fruits and veggies, but still carried extra weight. 

So life went on.  September came and we started homeschooling again, church activities started, potty training, cooking, cleaning, etc.  At the end of October I received an email notice from the library that a book I had requested was ready to pick up...enter Trim Healthy Mama.

First of all, this book is HUGE, 600 pages!  Thankfully, you don't need to read it all at once and a large chunk of the book is recipes, but still overwhelming at first glance!  Some people may find this book hard/annoying to read because it is written by two sisters (Serene and Pearl) and they spend to entire book talking to each other (so you can "listen" in).  It is very conversational and sometimes a bit rambling but it actually does feel like you are chatting with them in your living room!  

If you are interested in trying a Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle, please get the is full of great information and recipes.  But you don't need to read the whole thing before you is a quick (and oversimplified) summary:

There are three main components to the food we eat: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates.

Protein is mainly used to build and repair muscles and body systems.  Your body can use protein as energy but it isn't your body's first choice.  A high protein and very low carbohydrate or "no" carbohydrate diet can cause weight loss but many people find this id of diet does not something they can maintain long term.  Using protein as your main fuel can also sends you body into ketosis, which for some people with certain medical issues is a good thing...but not beneficial for most people for the long haul.

Fat is used by your body to support and repair your nervous system and endocrine system.  Your body needs healthy fats for hormone production.  Fat also tastes good and keeps you feeling satisfied.

Carbohydrates are most easily used by your body as fuel.  Carbohydrates can be complex (whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes) or simple (sugar, refined flours, white rice). The THM book has a great explanation of how insulin works and how insulin and blood sugar swings cause weight gain.  THM does not see carbs as evil and is not a "no" carb diet or even a "low" carb diet.  It is a "lower" (than the standard American Diet) carb diet and a "complex carb" diet.

So, after all that explanation, here is the basic premise of THM:
Giving your body only one main fuel source (fat or carbs) at a time causes your body to much more completely use each fuel source and therefore not to store it as fat.  Switching between fuel sources (fat and carbs) keeps your metabolism guessing and actually increases your metabolism which causes your body to reach into your fat stores for fuel thus causing you to loose weight!

I got the THM book from the library at the end of October 2014 and started implementing the "plan" n early November.  By January 2015 I had lost 15 pounds!  And that was without following the plan perfectly (hello holiday season!).  my weight loss slowed greatly (this is common) and now it is May 2015 and I have lost another five pounds.  I have been living my version of the THM lifestyle for six months now and have found it to be easy to maintain (and yummy too!).  

Many people I talk to who have tried it have experienced weight loss but find it hard to keep up the plan while also cooking for a family and living life.  I think they just need some tools and systems to help them.

So, stay tuned for how I live a THM lifestyle as well as tools and systems to help you simplify your life in the kitchen -- even if you don't follow THM!

Linking to the Modest Mom