Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Abundance

Per our family tradition we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve morning. Despite our small budget I do believe that this year the gifts were the most meaningful. I can remember countless times as a child (even as an adult) where after the gift unwrapping extravaganza, surrounded by wrapping paper and gift chaos, feeling disappointed. It was a difficult feeling to understand because I often would get at least one gift item that I wanted. Thinking back on it now it seemed like coming down from a sugar high of all the excitement and anticipation. Maybe I am growing up, but this year I cared more about seeing the happiness on the faces of those I gave to.

We follow a tradition of only giving four gifts: something you want, something you need, something to share, and something to remind you of Christ. At least one of those items needs to be handmade. With our $15/person budget here is how we did.

Ravenna received a shopping cart and wooden fruit for the want gift (Goodwill), puzzles for the need (Garage sale), and Candyland to share. To remind her of Christ I made a Nativity scene Advent calendar that I will post pictures of later. We were able to stretch the budget in this case because someone kindly gave us a gift card so Ravenna also got a small tea set.

Andrew's gifts seem small but that is because of them never arrived which was his "want" gift (CURSE you USPS!). He received Penzey's grilling spices to share, razors and the knitted hat for the need and the advent calendar was made for him too.

 Andrew's gifts to me were so well thought out and really kind. For the gift to share he got me a spider plant, for my want a used copy of the Encyclopedia of Country Living, steaks for the "need" he he he, and a really cool carved nativity he commissioned from one of his students. We were delighted to see that Andrew bought me steaks and I bought him steak seasoning!

While this isn't the most impressive Christmas gift showing I am so happy with it. I feel so happy that we succeeded at our goal and nobody felt deprived. This season has been so joyful for me as I busily went about imagining and creating gifts for our loved ones. It also has been so nice to not be very concerned about the receiving. I know we won't always need to be in the position to have a small Christmas budget but I have to say, I think I want to do a $15 Christmas again next year!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Handmade Christmas Linky Love!

As promised here is a rather short list of some of my (recent) favorite handmade gift resources. I will happily add more as I find them (or you send them to me). I have others that I am currently making so I don't want to post them lest prying eyes discover their Christmas gifts!

Make your own vanilla extract! I am totally doing this for myself!
Gifts from Nature are always great with kids.
Inspired Ideas, has tons of cute projects and includes all the patterns and directions!
Knitted Monogrammed dishcloths!
14 free patterns at STC Craft.

Just for fun: given that this is the first week of Advent check out Wee Folk Art's Advent celebration.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The $15 Christmas

This year has been a year of many lessons in frugality. While our 2010 family resolution was not intended to be a penny pinching endeavor it has become that and I am very grateful to have had the preparation. In January we never imagined the negative impact that a new teaching contract would have on Andrew's take home pay, nor the sharply rising costs of insurance and food (have you SEEN the price of butter?!) generally.

Like many Americans a single paycheck just isn't cutting it no matter how frugal we try to be. We are blessed to have some savings and I earn a small amount from babysitting which make up for the difference, but savings won't last forever when there is always a deficit. After Christmas I will need to get a part-time job and the necessity frightens me. Going back to work isn't frightening so much as the need to go back to work despite my tireless efforts to reduce our spending. We live very frugally and just within this past year we have let go of a cell phone, new clothes, a car, cable TV, Netflix, eating out, comfortable thermostat settings and taking vacations all in the name of THE BUDGET. The only thing that we haven't cut back on is food but I am not willing to sacrifice the health and happiness of my family and live on beans and rice. Yet...

With these looming financial pressures Christmas appears on the horizon. After figuring out the budget we decided that we would only spend $150 total which is the smallest amount we have ever spent on Christmas in our entire marriage. After the gift giving list was tallied that left only $30 for me and Andrew but we are excited for the challenge and know we can make it work and still have great gifts! How? Nearly all of the gifts we are giving are going to be handmade/secondhand which we have had a lot of practice doing this year! Luckily for Ravenna, I have been collecting her gifts throughout the year at thrift stores and garage sales but her gifts will also not amount to more than $15.

This post is not written to worry anyone (especially our families) about our family, but to honestly state that we understand the financial pressures of a down economy very keenly; we sympathize with the greater struggles that others are going through and we know we are blessed. Despite a small budget we will be able to find ways to still participate in holiday traditions despite. God gave us magnificent brains and a desire to create. If I can harness those two energies I know I can learn how to use them to give joy to others in a frugal, yet still loving, fashion.

Does anyone else have a frugal Christmas plans? Maybe we can share ideas? I already have a growing list of Internet links with great (frugal) gift giving ideas that I am going to post soon. Handmade Christmas gifts take time and planning so getting started ASAP is a necessity!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Pictures!

 Carving Jack-o-Lanterns!
 While Andrew and I carved the pumpkins, Ravenna had a ball playing in the guts.

 Cowgirl Ravenna

Cowgirl Ravenna in action!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Is this not the coolest bike you have ever seen? Right now Madsen Cycles is having a contest to win one of these sweet, sweet bikes and I am officially entering. Why? Because having a bike like this would mean never driving again! Yes, I hate driving that much. Ok, realistically I do realize that riding one of these on the highway is illegal and dangerous BUT think of all the places I could go!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pondering Helping Hands on October 15th

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, and the 15th is set aside as a day of remembrance. A friend of mine who helped me through my miscarriage started a non-profit called The Amethyst Network to provide physical and emotional support for women and families during and after a miscarriage. I asked her if there was anything that I could write about that would help the cause and she said to write about what people said or did that was helpful for me during my miscarriage experience.

When I start to think about it I don't remember things that people said so much as things that people did, or didn't do. Pregnancy loss is a difficult thing for many people who haven't experienced it which, in my experience, led people to say or do nothing rather than risk offending. I think a loss like this really shows you who your real friends are. A father writing about his wife's pregnancy loss and the emotional turmoil he went through with that experience made a very true statement: "Compassion breeds an amazing amount of tolerance." If you truly care for someone experiencing a loss, seek to find compassion in your heart and it will mold you into what that person needs you to be.

Here are some guidelines based on my experience that might help others:
  • Validate the loss: A man in my church who had lost his one year-old son last year approached me and with tears in his eyes he told me how sorry he was. I will forever be grateful to that man for crying with me and letting me know that my pain was as valid as his own.
  • Make your words tangible: I received many emails, but only two sympathy cards and one letter containing an article on miscarriage.While the emails were kind, the mail was so comforting. Being able to hold someones kind thoughts in my hands was so gratifying.
  • Be physical: I am not a hugger but I cannot tell you how grateful I was to have someone genuinely embrace me when I could barely speak. One evening I had four women, whom I barely knew, embrace me one after the other because they were so sorry for my loss and wanted to comfort me in some small way. I could feel that in their hugs.
  • Feed them: Don't make a family who has suffered a loss ask first. Food is SO very comforting. After I lost the baby I struggled so much just trying to read a recipe and everything I made tasted bad. I have since learned that this is normal when grieving but at the time not being able to cook made me feel like a failure. Having people bring my family meals eased a burden.
  • Judge Not: Need I even say this? Everyone grieves on their own time line and just because someone doesn't look like they are grieving does not mean that they are totally fine. The best way to tell if someone needs help is to ask them, in person, how they are healing.
  • Be Peaceful: When you are around someone whose life is in turmoil I don't recommend you dish to them about how horrible your life is or discuss the injustices heaped on you by mankind. #1 The person you are venting to probably won't be able to validate you and #2 All your doom and gloom is probably going to make them feel worse.
  • Keep In Touch: When something awful happens people are often blessed by an outpouring of support from their community but after a few weeks pass by there is an assumption that it is time to move on. As I said before grieving can be a long and drawn out process and knowing you are still thought of even months after the event, is very comforting. I have a friend who contacted me every few days or at least once a week to see how I was doing, and I love her for that.
The following is an excerpt from a card that was written to me and Andrew that I read often for comfort:
 May you gain wisdom as you pass through this difficult time. You already had that baby visualized in your arms. I am so sorry. Let the waves pass over you. Sometimes it may hit you when you least expect it. Always know that there are those who are aware and who will listen to your sorrow and try to bear you up.
The Lord loves you and is mindful of your grief. May you be comforted by His love. May the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ help you to see His hand in your lives.
 The woman who gave this card to me didn't know me extremely well, but knowing the pain of pregnancy loss herself, she was inspired to write these words to me. Every time I see her she has asked me about my healing in such a kind and gentle way. She is a perfect example of that compassion that breeds tolerance. I pray that we can all learn to be so.

The Amethyst Network is "a nationwide network of doulas working together to support parents during and after miscarriages." If you would like to support them in this worthy cause please donate on their web page.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happy Blogs

Do you ever go blog hopping when you are feeling down? SouleMama is my dose of blog-happy. Her photographs are beautiful and her blog, in general, is just peaceful and lovely. Reading her blog makes me feel that there is good in the world and encourages me to get up and do something productive and possibly crafty. She was the one who made me want to learn how to knit and inspired me to only bring things into my home that I love.

What blogs do you read that give you that extra special feeling?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Carrot Emergency!

I realized today that I used the last of the carrots in making dinner last night. What to do? I just went grocery shopping yesterday and REALLY don't want to go two days in a row, plus I buy organic carrots and the Country Store doesn't carry organic carrots which means I will have to trek to the Giant grocery store. I hate Giant they are always out of buttermilk (and pretty much everything else I need). But then I realized that I do have carrots! Garden to the rescue! 

Is there anything as lovely as carrot tops? I think they are gorgeous and I really don't want to cut them off. These are Tom Thumb carrots which seemed to do quite well in the shallow beds.

My garden at the end of September is looking much better than it did all summer. The intense heat wasn't good for the seedlings so many died despite my diligent attempts at watering. The sweet pepper plants are also now producing since I discovered their secret and the cherry tomatoes are producing in full force!

This is what I am getting every other day, and doesn't count all the tomatoes that were split because of yesterdays and today's rain. They are so sweet and delicious!

 Look at these beauties! Strawberries in September?! Yes, ma'am! I am pretty sure everbearing strawberries are the best thing in the whole world. How are your gardens doing?

P.S. Infested with tomato horn worms? Check out this post on my other blog.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Full Freezer!

What you can see: Stock, peaches, and dehydrated milk.

Finally! After a year of waiting we got our 1/4 of a pasture-fed steer! Huzzah! I was unreasonably excited as we pulled into the farm to pick up our meat. How much would we get? What cuts? Even though it sounds silly, it felt like getting a huge frozen Christmas present in all these little vacuum packed bags. Now our freezer is nearly full! In the next few weeks I will be buying five more whole chickens to cut up and divide into parts.

For $430 we got a 1/4 of a steer. You pay by the hanging weight, so before it was dry aged it weighed 130lbs and we paid $3.30/lb. After cutting and packaging we got about 79 lbs. of meat which is 61% of the hanging weight. After all is said and done we paid $5.44/lb.

46 lbs. of Ground Beef

Out of that we got 44 lbs. of ground beef, 2 boneless should roasts (5.5 lbs), 2 sirloin steaks (3lbs.), 2 shin bones with meat attached (4 lb), 1 eye of round roast (1.7 lbs), 3 chuck roasts (8.7 lbs.), 3 Delmonico steaks (3 lbs), 2 boneless rump roasts (4 lbs), 6 t-bone steaks (3.2 lbs), and 1 porterhouse steak (1.6 lbs). We have 6 lbs. of ground beef left from last year as well as one 2.5 lb. beef top round roast. I bought that last roast retail for I believe $7/lb. so I am quite happy with all we were able to get.  I think I will do a price comparison based on the average retail price for these cuts of meat vs. pasture fed and see if we got a good deal. 

Our freezer also contains 7 whole chickens, 1.5 lb. boneless pork chops, 1 lb. nitrate free bacon, 6 lbs. of boneless skinless chicken breasts, 6 jars of veggie stock, 2 jars of frozen soup, 2 gallon bags of frozen peaches, 2 loaves of bread, 1 3lb. bag of almond flour, and 1 can of powdered milk. Looking at that inventory I think I need to buy more bacon, don't you?

Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 Resolution Update: 4 months left!

The Gigantic Beet!

Here is our update on our resolutions to let you know that we have not forgotten!
  • 1) No longer shop at Big Box retailers unless absolutely necessary: We have done pretty well on this. Andrew has needed to buy clothes at JC Penney because he has not been able to find clothing that fit his needs at thrift and consignment stores. We went into a K-Mart to buy some mattress pads because I feel weird about buying someone's soiled mattress pads.
  • 2) Strive to buy only US made goods and if we cannot, buy fair-trade items: Buying locally really helps and we are lucky to have many farmer's markets, local tradesmen around here. Unfortunately, aside from food, we haven't really had the opportunity to buy anything new.
  • 3) Buy as many used/handmade items as possible: We are doing awesome at this. It has become a habit to look first at thrift/consignment stores before we even think about buying something new. We often go "treasure hunting" as a family once a week.
  • 4) Support our borough by attending borough events: We haven't attended any events for a few months because of my pregnancy sickness and later miscarriage putting me out of commission for most of the summer but with Fall quickly approaching I am gearing up to get involved again.
  • 5) Grow a small garden and frequent local farmer's markets: Small garden did just O.K. this year but with the weird weather I am not surprised. I learned a lot and next year I will plant VERY differently. We haven't been going to farmer's markets as frequently as I like, but I go to an Amish farm and a locally owned and operated grocery store for most of my produce. Our meat comes from local farmers in bulk so we don't spend much time/money in larger grocery stores.
  • 6) Eat-out only at locally owned restaurants: Uhhhh, we haven't done great at this one, mainly because I hate Amish food and had weird cravings all summer.
  • 7) Become involved in a community group: No luck on this one either due to my summer being indisposed. I am still looking for something to be involved in.
For the next four months we have the challenge of preparing for Christmas which will focus on handmade/thrifted items and I am anticipating that will be rather difficult. Ravenna's gifts this year are covered as I collected things gradually while thrifting. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Blog!

I am pleased to announce that I have finally decided to create a personal blog for all my hippie-ness so as not to offend or irritate those of you who only come to this blog to see updates on our family. I will try to keep my crunchy ramblings on this blog to a minimum so that you can greater enjoy the drewcarrie-ness.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Some Inspiration

For the past few months I have been following the blog So You Think You're Crafty like a ravenous reality TV fan and have been really impressed/inspired to do a lot of the crafts. Only today I discovered the links to all the crafters participating on the right side. Duh! I thought I might share some of my favorites. I would love to post pictures, but I am pretty sure that isn't cool (does anyone know the rules?), so I will just post the links to the tutorials:

  • Mint-Ginger Preggo Pills:  Obviously this was more on my mind when I was pregnant but I still think it is an awesome idea and I would have really loved to have had these in my first trimester. 
  • Market Produce Bags: I already have reusable grocery bags but I have never been able to find good produce bags. These are great because they are mesh and this crafter used easy to find dollar store laundry bags.
  • Dinosaur Play Mat: Felt and Dinosaurs? Need I say more?

There are lots of great crafts on there but these three are ones that I think I might actually get around to day.  Also, go check out one of this week's three finalists to SYTYC, Emilie (I know her in real life. It is like hanging around a crafting celebrity!).

Monday, August 23, 2010

After a Miscarriage

Everyone keeps asking how I am doing and I never answer honestly because I don't think most people really want to know, but here it goes.

Right now I hate being around many people. I have been putting off going back to Church so as to avoid the awkwardness that I have felt every time I have been around fellow Church members since the miscarriage. Everyone keeps asking how I am feeling, like I am sick. I am not sick, my baby died. I am depressed, hormonal, lonelier than I have ever been but I am not sick and I do not have a disease.

Most people stay away. They don't ask me about my miscarriage or how I am handling the loss. They just avoid it. I want to talk about it and I need to talk about it instead of pretending it didn't happen. Nobody tells you what to do after a pregnancy loss. Most people wonder if you are going to try to get pregnant again soon, but few people are bold enough to ask, and really, it is an inappropriate question.

For three whole months up until my miscarriage, and probably even before that, all my future plans had been focused on a baby, but now there is no baby and the emptiness is overwhelming. A lot of women I talked to start trying to get pregnant again right away. I guess that is a way to try to fill the emptiness, but what about people for whom that is not an option? The medical profession says that a woman should wait anywhere between 2-6 months to attempt to get pregnant again. Then you throw in people with infertility and who knows when they will be able to have another child or even IF they will get a chance at another pregnancy. So, the "experts" tell women who have recently miscarried "Don't think about getting pregnant again until you have healed." What does that even mean?

I want to know what to do NOW. I need a way to focus my energy into something that isn't baby centered or even family centered. I am not looking for more responsibilities because I can't currently seem to fulfill the ones that already have; I am looking for something for me to escape that is productive and helpful so that I can focus on something other than the emptiness. I haven't even been able to make a real meal for my family since my brain doesn't seem to work correctly, which I suppose is part of the postpartum hormonal madness. Even small, simple tasks feel incredibly difficult.

So to sum up, I am trying to get back to normal but finding that to be an overwhelming task.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Today my kind father-in-law brought us a tree; a weeping fig. It has shiny, abundant, beautiful leaves and it now sits in a corner of our living room only a few feet from where, at 2:00 this afternoon with the support of my husband and midwife, I gave birth to a baby that I will never know.

We purposely didn't tell many people of our pregnancy because for us these experiences are private and sacred. I had just passed the first trimester mark and we were beginning to get excited about the prospect of all the joys the next months would bring. Now we are struggling to come to grips with this loss and understand how this fits into God's plan for us.

Despite the pain, physical and emotional, I am grateful that I was able to give birth in the privacy of my home, naturally. I am grateful that God loves us enough to have given me and Andrew spiritual insight about this pregnancy so that we could be prepared when it did not turn out as we had wished. I am grateful for Christie and Derek who rushed over in the middle of the night to give me a priesthood blessing and be with our daughter while we went to the emergency room. I am grateful for Jenni for being so honest about her experiences and helping me to know what to expect with a missed miscarriage. I am so very grateful for Jillynn for calling me as soon as she found out and crying with me. I am so very grateful for a husband who stayed up with me as I labored in the early morning hours and supported me when the pain became too great and I became discouraged. I am grateful for my kind and sensitive midwife, Mary, who came to be with us and help us through the final stages. Lastly, I am grateful for the many prayers prayed on our behalf.

If this is hard for you to understand or you don't know what you could do or say that could possibly help, Jenni blogged about this based on her own experiences. Perhaps reading her post might help you in the future if you are ever in the position to help someone who has miscarried.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Happy Anniversary to US!

August 12, 2004

Six years, three states, five LDS wards, three apartments, one house, zero pets, assorted crunchiness and one child later we are still in love and enjoying life together as DrewCarrie! Happy Anniversary to US!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Birthday Banner!

A few weeks ago my friend Hannah asked me to test a pattern that she was going to be selling in her Etsy shop...and I just finished today. It wasn't that I didn't WANT to do it in a timely manner, it was just that I had to do it a certain way. First I wanted to spend very little money making it requiring me to scour thrift shops for suitable fabric which was a success. Secondly, I couldn't find bias binding so I had to make my own. Did you know that 1 yard of fabric makes 72 feet of bias binding? I didn't know that and it took me 2 days of painstaking measuring, cutting, sewing, folding and ironing strips of fabric. Then Hannah's pattern called for machine applique and I prefer to do that by hand which meant it was even more delayed but now it is complete!

Here is a detail of the applique that I did. This is a blanket stitch and it is the first time I used this. Learning is fun! I used three different applique stitches on the letters. Be sure to check out Hannah's Etsy shop and this awesome pattern! Seriously, this was a great pattern to work with; I highly recommend it!

Friday, May 28, 2010

More Thrift Store Treasures!

No, just because I haven't posted any of my thrift store finds lately doesn't mean I stopped thrifting, I have just had very little time for blogging!

I got two of each of these a few weeks ago. I have decided that colored pressed glass is my favorite thing to buy. It just seems so beautiful, especially the lighter colors.

 Do you see what I mean about the colored glass? These were such fabulous deals that I couldn't pass them up! The glasses were 4 for a $1! The blue candy dish stole my heart and I couldn't leave without it.
These are some nice plate shelves I found that I thought I might be able to use to display some of my pressed glass plates but I think they might be too country for my style, even if I did paint them black. What do you think?
And this cute little trivet had to come home with me but not for long. As soon as I saw him I knew he was destined to go to a friend. Isn't he adorable? If it still had him I think I might name him Albert.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Garden in May

Do you remember what my garden looked like a month ago? Isn't it amazing what one month can do? My broccoli is gigantic, though sadly, one of them died of some kind of wilt. We have been enjoying lettuce and peas and soon we will have beet greens! The summer crops have all gone in, though I definitely want to add a few more peppers, but I will buy those already grown and plant them in the next week or so.

Look in the foreground of the pictures and you can see what look like weeds but are actually strawberry plants! I planted 18 Everbearing strawberry plants and if I am lucky I will get a small harvest in September.

I have two tomato plants in the front garden beds, two in pots in the back and three still under the lights in the basement! Canning tomatoes this year will be a stupendous endeavor!

I decided to plant some marigolds because they are pretty AND they deter pests. So far so good. Here are some things that I have learned recently:
  •  Plant WAY more peas! I only planted 3 seeds to begin with and this variety really likes to be close with other pea plants and produces better when it is; plus I didn't plant enough for our enjoyment. These peas are very sweet and wonderful tasting right out of the shell.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch! Right after I plant seeds I really need to mulch next time. The sun just baked my carrot, spinach and scallion seedlings despite diligent watering. I only have 4 carrots, 3 scallions and 5 spinach plants from the initial 20 or so seeds I sowed for each variety!
  • Plan on planting garlic rather than planting it as an after-thought after some cloves sprouted in my pantry. They need to be planted earlier. I have two that are going strong, though, so I should at least make up for that.
I love my garden and so does Andrew. Despite the work that it entails Andrew and I really enjoy working in the garden together. Oh! I checked on my composting worms today and they are doing great! I found tons of cocoons and they seem quite happy. I am glad that they are so easy to take care of!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Changing The Way We Eat

A moment of Ravenna for those who read this blog only to see her
Now, for everyone else...

Everyone has their own ideas of what is "healthy" eating or on the other side of the spectrum don't really care what they eat; whatever is cheapest and easiest. Some people follow the fad diets, others are religiously low fat, or high protein. Over the years since my diagnosis with insulin resistance/pre-diabetes DrewCarrie tried many a different diet plan in an effort to stay healthy and feel great.

The first post-diagnosis diet was the diabetes recommended "low fat/sugar; high fiber/protein" diet which meant that I was basically allowed to eat beans and vegetables. I felt miserable and that diet lasted only about a month. When I got pregnant we went on the "fast food/cereal/ice cream diet. This was probably not the best food for a fetus, but I am sure many pregnant women will understand. After Ravenna was born and I found myself as a stay-at-home mom in the lonely state of Wyoming we began the "Mormon Mommy" diet which was based around low-cost meals and jello salads. This was a good learning time for me as I learned to plan menu's and make meals from scratch. I also developed the skill of making bread from a starter culture which was a precursor to my life-changing discovery, but more on that later.

After we moved to Pennsylvania I started experimenting a bit with vegetarian cooking, unfortunately for my Father-in-law. No offense to vegetarians, but most vegetarian meals lack a satisfying flavor and texture and my cooking self-esteem took a huge hit. Then at 15 months Ravenna developed some nasty digestive issues and so began the "elimination diet" saga. We went dairy-free, soy-free, and any other free you can think of until we found gluten-free. While I am not sure being gluten-free made a big difference for Ravenna, it sure did for me and that discovery is what led me to our final destination:  Traditional Foods.

Through the blogosphere I discovered that many gluten-free bloggers also followed a diet based around a cookbook called Nourishing Traditions which lays the foundation for a Traditional Foods diet. Most simply this book says that the way your ancestors ate is the way you should eat and that diet will enable our bodies to function best. That idea really struck a chord with me and given my recent readings of In Defense of Food and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I embraced the idea wholeheartedly. I felt that in all my culinary wanderings, I had finally found my home. With Andrew's blessing, DrewCarrie once again radically changed our diet.

 The "Fermentation Station"
Fermenting Sauerkraut and Water Kefir

To give you a basic idea,  this is what eating a Traditional Foods diet entails for us: 
  • Sprouting, fermenting, and soaking foods to make them more nutrient dense and digestible.
  • Very liberally using good, natural fats in our diets such as butter, EVOO, palm shortening, extra-virgin coconut oil and even lard (read this enjoyable article if you don't believe me).
  • No processed or artificial ingredients especially MSG, high-fructose corn syrup and sugar substitutes
  • Buy as many locally sourced, pasture-raised animal products as possible. I learned in my four years in the FFA that the way that you treat animals raised for meat/dairy/eggs does matter very much in the quality of the product. It makes sense to me that it is safer and more nutritious to eat products produced by animals that eat a natural diet and that are cared for in a humane fashion. Food safety is a HUGE problem in the US, mainly because of the way factory farms raise their animals/crops. Yes, I pay more for what we eat but I do so with the assurance that if I have a concern, I can go straight to the source.
  • No refined sugar and using natural sugars sparingly. We use Sucanat/Rapadura, honey, maple and date sugars.
This is a very general picture of what we do. If you were to classify this diet into a group I would call this a "whole foods" diet. After gradually easing into this diet for a number of months I am finding my stride. There is a lot to learn (hello! Eating like a Pioneer, people!) but there have been so many rewards so far. I have found that eating a TF diet helps me to feel the best, Andrew loves it and Ravenna's digestive issues have gone away. This is the diet that works best for OUR family. While I believe that most, if not all, people could benefit from aspects of eating a traditional foods diet, I don't believe that it is right for everyone. This works for us and we are very happy!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ravenna had a Birthday!

 Apparently she also can't believe she is two years-old.

Ravenna is 2 years old! I cannot believe it. We had a little family party to celebrate with grandparents, great-grandparents and even a crazy uncle. In our family we try to make sure that the gifts we give are meaningful and/or useful and everyone was very helpful in keeping up with that tradition as well as respecting our 2010 family resolution.

This year I made Ravenna a felt birthday crown that she can wear every birthday. She loves hats so the crown was a BIG hit. Andrew even got in on the handmade action and helped me to dye some play silks using Kool-Aid and this somewhat ambiguous tutorial. We also got her some fun crayon rocks.

The Birthday Crown

Dressing-up in the hand-dyed play silks.

I love this little girl so much it takes my breath away. How could I not love such a spunky, friendly, genuinely happy person? She is such a fabulous human being; I feel baffled as to how I was chosen to be her mother. Just so I will remember, here are some of my favorite things a:bout Ravenna at age 2:
  • When she wants to sing, she pretends she is conducting music
  • She figured out how to use my iPod Touch and appropriated it for her own use. Whenever she see's it she says "Pod? Pod!"
  • She loves to do songs with motions especially "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" and "Once there was a snowman"
  • She copies the things I say when I am frustrated like "Oh, dear" and "Okay...okay" 
  • When I am upstairs and she wants me to come help her with something she says "Carrie! Carrie!"
  • She talks to herself when she is playing and sounds strangely like me...
  • She loves to roughhouse with her daddy 
  • She loves to be outside and garden with me; she is very gentle with the seedlings
  • She is obsessed with animals as long as they don't get too close
  • She is not afraid of bugs
  • She makes friends wherever she goes, especially elderly ladies
I guess I could go on forever listing things I love about Ravenna, but I think I will go tell her myself.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The First Harvest!

The garden is doing very well so far! We had a problem with a cat using it as a litter box but I think it finally realized that the garden bed was not conducive to clean paws, either that or the animal repellent we put out finally did its job. In the front row you can see my lettuce patch. I just planted six more lettuce seeds. One of my varieties did not germinate at all (grrr...) so there should be more here but c'est la vie. The spinach is doing lovely. We have 4 plants right now but only one is ready to harvest. In the very back we have some bush peas and the big ones in the middle are the broccoli. The second spring planting is finished and there will probably be one more planting in a few more weeks to keep things going.

 Our First Harvest

Indoors we have zucchini and sweet peppers germinating and a bunch of beautiful tomato seedlings basking in the artificial light. Oh and great news! we might be able to get a small raised bed in the backyard! There is one spot in the back that gets sun most of the day. I will probably plant my tomatoes in pots and put them back there to see how they do and then next year, if they do well, we can put in another raised bed and have lots of stuff growing back there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Thrift Store Finds

These finds are not from this last week, they are from all the way back in January but I forgot to post them.

Last week I found an awesome deal on canning jars and bought 44 of them plus a mismatched set of stainless steel eating utensils, so there wasn't much to see there.

In January I found this super cool vintage fabric and some darning thread. Ever since I saw this tutorial I have wanted to learn how to darn socks. I am not very handy with the fiber arts, but I am very practical and if I can save another sock from being turned into a duster or a sock monkey, so help me I will!

I don't really have plans for the fabric yet. I thought about reupholstering a chair with it since it is a heavier weight cotton, but I am afraid 2 yards won't be enough. I do love the colors though, don't you?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


While this may gross some people out, this is our worm bin. We made it ourselves and it cost us less than $10 using this tutorial. I would have taken a picture of the inside but I didn't think anyone would truly appreciate it, especially the worms since they do not like to be disturbed. Worm composting or Vermiculture is a very simple, economical and fast solution to composting if you: 1) Do not have much space and 2) Do not want to have to deal with the sometimes complex nature of traditional composting.

Worm composting produces the best kind of compost you can get: worm castings. You can't compost with just ANY worms though, you need Redworms, or Eisenia foetida. These little guys eat half their body weight every day and with one pound of Redworms you will have about 5 gallons of worms castings in around two months.

Redworms, as you might imagine, eat organic material. Their bedding is made up of strips of newspaper that have been moistened so that they can breathe. They eat the newspaper. They also like to eat kitchen scraps. They just LOVE rotting organic material. The only things that they do not eat are meat and dairy. As far as pet's go they are very easy and prefer to be left alone to reproduce and eat.

So, does anyone have any questions?

This Week's Flea Market Finds

Ravenna and I took a trip to Roots again this week and despite getting the stroller stuck in the new laid gravel, we made some lovely acquisitions. Two things were different on this trip from the last one: 1) It was SUPER hot; and 2) I didn't think it was possible but it was even MORE crowded. While I am not a huge fan of crowds especially with a stroller in tow I braved my way into the flea market area in search of the ever elusive butter dish and came out wanting. There was nary a butter dish to be seen, or that I could see hidden among the vast tables of junk and treasures.

In any case, I did not come out empty handed as you can see above. The best thing is, I only spent $11.50! I discovered that if I wanted to get rock bottom prices, seek out the elderly gentlemen with the less pristine items. All the items I bought were in need of some TLC but cleaned up beautifully.

The end table was a steal at $10. It was tagged at $15 and the guy selling it says "I can give you a really good deal on that table $12" and I was thinking "yeah, I could use a table like that but would it work...?" and then the guys says "Ok! I will go down to $10 but no lower." I was perplexed because I didn't actually do any haggling. I accepted the price since I am not much of a haggler in the first place and it fit really well right on top of the stroller.

The juicer was selling for $6 at another vendor's table but I was able to get this one for $1. Woot! Amber and I had been checking out a similar one the last time we went but neither of us wanted to pay $6 for it. $1 though? I could do that.

The cup was a gift for Andrew. He grew up in and around Strasburg so I thought it would be fun to have. It was made in Japan. Didn't you know China is the new Japan? Once upon a time all the cheap souvenirs in the US were made in Japan, not China. Fun stuff.

I need to find a babysitter and go thrifting with other like-minded women. Not that I don't love my constant nearly 2 year-old shopping companion but it is so much more fun with people who are enjoying the hunt as much as I am.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Garden is IN!

While I realize that having a vegetable garden at the front of your house is not looked highly upon, I persisted and the bed is finally in (per HOA regulations). It was a lot of work to dig out all that dirt and put a raised bed into the ground to please the HOA. Don't you think it would look better raised and painted white to match the siding like I had originally planned? Yeah, I know I need to get over it but it certainly smarts. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to spruce up the yard to make it look more acceptable?

Here are my babies basking in the sunlight. I had weird germination rates among my seedlings and ended up with a bunch of broccoli, almost no spinach and one type of lettuce didn't germinate at all. Today I am going to start my tomatoes and I already direct seeded spinach, vit mache, peas, and scallions.

We also bought supplies to make our worm composter and I bought our worms off of Ebay. I am hoping they will arrive this week so that I can start composting ASAP.

As far as the budget is concerned, we budgeted $200 for this project

  • $45 went to seeds and starting supplies (these should last 2+ years)
  • $42.31 for general gardening supplies
  • $110 to build the bed and fill it with "Mel's Mix"
  • $11 for supplies for the worm composter
  • $30 for worms
Needess to say we went over budget because of the vermiculite and we had a hard time locating compost. Vermiculite is $24 for 4 cu. ft. and we only needed 6 so we have a bunch left over. Does anyone want to buy some discounted vermiculite? It makes a lovely soil mix when combined with equal parts peat moss and compost. ;)

Money, or the Lack Thereof

As you have probably noticed, I have been struggling with budgeting issues as of late. For some reason I cannot get my budget to balance and it always seems to be because of food. I am a sucker for food so trying to stay within the food budget is KILLING me.  Actually, it isn't killing me, but it is killing the idea of a budget.

When Andrew and I were in college and it was just the two of us, we spent $200/month on food and that was back in the days before my endocrine disorder diagnosis and we were eating a lot of processed foods. Now that I actually cook and make many of the things we eat from scratch, I struggle with not being able to keep my grocery bill to that level.

While grocery prices have gone up, I do wonder if it is possible to still eat well and spend less. I have had a lot of people say that we are already on a very small food budget but I recently ran into a number of bloggers who, for various reasons, were eating on a budget of $1 per person/day. In case you struggle with math that is only $21/week for a family of 3! Here is the thing though, the bloggers that I linked to are vegan, another blogger was a vegetarian. It seems like if you want to live on a budget THAT small you need to be vegetarian and in my opinion, being a vegetarian is no way to live a healthy life (no offense to the vegetarians out there). Other people with families are doing it for $50 dollars a week, which I think would be more doable for our family, but I still wonder what things we would have to give up.

So, here is my challenge (you can remain anonymous). Tell me: How much do you spend on groceries per month for your family? With that amount, how well do you feel you are eating? How little do you think you could spend? What sacrifices would that require you to make? I would love to get some ideas of what others are doing so even if you eat totally different than my family, tell me how you eat. Are you a family that eats out a lot, cooks most meals from scratch etc.?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This Weeks Flea Market Finds

On Tuesday of this week my friend Amber invited me to join her at Roots which is a farmers market/flea market/auction in nearby Manheim. I had been hearing about "Ruts" for a long time so I was very eager to go and see what all the fuss was about. While the super crowded food market area was not really my cup o'tea the flea market was a blast! My finds this week consist of a fruit bowl ($1), a neat vintage flower pin ($1) and a Pfaltzgraff soup tureen ($10). How awesome are these?! My favorite is the soup tureen as I have been looking for one for some time now. We like soup at the Whitlock Manor and serving it in a stock pot was just not cutting it for my June Cleaver sensibilities.

Speaking of June Cleaver, here is a lovely quote that I thought fit me to a "T":

Eddie Haskell: Gee, your kitchen always looks so clean.
June Cleaver: Why, thank you, Eddie.
Eddie Haskell: My mother says it looks as though you never do any work in here.

I imagine that her reply would be something like this: "Why of course I don't do any work in here, Eddie. What I do is magic!" Ahhhh, magic. That is what I call my new food processor.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March Madness

No, I do not mean the March Madness that involves basketball, I mean the March Madness that has enveloped the Whitlock estate. First, I have been working on a project for my church that has literally taken hours upon hours of measuring, cutting, pinning, sewing, cursing, more cutting, sewing and even more cursing and it is yet to be finished. The best part: I am teaching six, 8-11 year old girls how to applique. They are wonderful girls but I think that some of them have attention spans shorter than fish. In any case the project should be done soon and I can post pictures of the crafty-craftiness and forget all the hours (and the cursing) that it took to get there.

Now, for the biggest madness of them all, THE GARDEN. First of all PA has the worst soil in the universe. It is mostly slate and shale mixed with a little tiny bit of dirt. It took me an hour to dig one hole. So today Andrew and I worked to move the three "rhododendrons" to the back of the house which is shady and which they will like better. When I was moving them I noticed a plant tag buried underneath the root ball and I thought "oh cool, after we move these I can see which variety we have." La de dah, we relocated the "rhododendrons" and all was swell. Andrew built the frame for the garden box and I sat down to check out the plant tag. The builder told us that they were rhododendrons; everyone thought they looked like rhododendrons which prefer shade; the plant tag, however says this: Otto Luyken Laurel which is not a rhododendron. Not only that but laurels prefer sun. And so, all of that work probably for nothing. They might die back there, but maybe I will be able to give them to one of my neighbors provided that he moves them himself.

Then, when I thought the madness was over I had to fix my leggy seedlings. Back on that later. I just thought I would post about the craziness and share the love.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Dish: March Budget Part 1

Hurray for Spring!!! There is still a lot of snow on the ground but the sun is shining and the high today is 58*F! I am looking forward to the day the temperature climbs past 60*F because, in my mind, it isn't really spring until it does.

Here is how we have done thus far with groceries this month and instead of telling you EVERYTHING we buy I am just going to put it into categories.

GIANT 3/2:
Produce: $22.50
Dairy: $3.58
Grains: $19.89 (I stocked up on rice BIG time)
Baking Goods: $10.88
Canned/Dried: $3.17
Snacks/Cereal: $8.08
Condiments: $27.35 (I know this seems big but I was stocking up on Extra Virgin Coconut oil)
Personal Care: $5.82
Home: $11.09
Total w/tax= $113.58

Weis 3/3:
Produce: $4.62
Grains: $5
Personal Care: $8.39
Total =$26.50

Costco 3/4:
Dairy: $11.88
Meat/Fish: $15.99
Baking Goods: $26.73
Snacks: $4.59
House: $2.59
Total w/tax= $61.78

 Budget totals thus far:
Groceries = $172.95-$240= $67.05
Personal Care: $14.21-$20= $5.79
Home = $14.70-$20= $5.30
Dining Local = $17.41-30= $12.59

The beginning of the month always tends to be my big shopping time so I am not appalled by the amount spent on groceries so far. The second shopping trip of the month is usually between $50-75.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Old is This Coat?

Today's thrift store find was this gorgeous coat. The collar is REAL rabbit fur and I am guessing the coat is wool or a blend, though I don't know how to tell the difference (how can I tell?). The lining is synthetic. There is a lot of hand stitching on this coat and maybe the lining was replaced at some point. Weird, I just noticed that the lining left a powder on my hands. Ick. Instead of buttons it has 3 toggles which might be made of some kind of plastic, possibly bakelite?

This coat was made right here in Lancaster county. I contacted my friend Richard, who has lived in Lancaster since the 1960's and he said that he remembers there being an upscale woman's clothing store called Logan's but he can't remember when it disappeared.

So what do you think? I am debating between either 1950's or 70's.