Friday, December 18, 2009

edible and giftable? yum! arugula pesto and toffee

one simply cannot beat homemade toffee, which is incredibly easy to make and tastes a bit like almond roca. the recipe can be found here and can use pecans instead of walnuts, if you prefer. homemade toffee is a seasonal tradition now in our home and makes a perfect stocking stuffer.


another easy, delicious, seasonally perfect, giftable food is arugula pesto. one traditionally makes pesto using basil, but it can be made with any mix of leafy green vegetables and herbs. arugula is abundant in our garden right now and i am making up batches of this tasty green sauce to store in our freezer for the rest of the year and to give as gifts.

pesto alla rucola (arugula)
2 cups arugula
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup almonds, toasted*
1/4 cup olive oil (you may need to add a little more to meet your desired consistency)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

add the garlic to a food processor and chop lightly. add the almonds and chop lightly. add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula in between blending pulses.

* i have left the pine nuts out of basil pesto successfully, but this recipe really needs the toasted almonds to balance the bitterness of the arugula.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

health and beauty from the kitchen (and a giftable recipe)


as i mentioned previously, i was put on a long course of anitbiotics for lyme disease.* i did expect to feel poorly from the lyme. what i didn't anticipate was feeling such intense ill affects of the antibiotics. apparently, this antibiotic is notorious for dehydrating, so despite doses of water, my body reacted as if i had allergies, my sinuses got plugged, my already dry (eczematic) skin was wrung out, leaving my face patchy and dry, and my eyes had such issues, i ended up at the eye doctor twice with what turned out to be displays of "dry eye."

for my eyes, i didn't mess around. i have been using the over-the-counter artificial tears they recommended. (although i have been keeping them in the fridge. cold feels good on tender eyes!) for my nose and skin, i reverted to what i know to work well, right from my kitchen.
  • salt
  • water
  • honey
  • sugar
  • olive oil
  • coffee (this was an addition to my list after a suggestion my friend, liz, made to me. see below)
a light face scrub made of honey and sugar helped exfoliate the flaky skin off my face. i rub very gently and then let it sit, letting the honey settle for a little while, before rinsing.

olive oil applied directly to my skin cleared up the eczema around my eyes to a much more tolerable, comfortable level than anything else. olive oil is not only good to ingest, it has healing properties that are amazing topically. i am allergic to lanolin, as well as other things, so olive oil is my natural favorite for my distressed skin. for those of you with diapered babies, olive oil works well as a diaper ointment, too, and doesn't damage cloth or fleece. it is what we use on finn.

a solution of salt water sprayed nasally helps kill bad bacteria in your nose, restore balance, and unplug mucus. i use an infant bulb syringe to apply it, but some people swear by a neti pot. dissolve 1/2 teaspoon salt into 1 cup of warm water. suction it into the bulb, and spray. i will be honest, the first spray or two is uncomfortable (and one must do it over a sink, because your nose and mouth are connected, so you need to be prepared to spit), but the result is increased nasal comfort.

at my friend liz's suggestion, i tried using used (wet) coffee grounds as a scrub. she suggested it for the backs of the hands, which get dry for most of us, she and i due to diaper changing, and mine crack because of eczema. i tried it on my face. i did it while the kids were in the bath, turned towards the tub, and received a mildly scared look from finn until lala burst with laughter. apparently, i looked funny. but the wet grounds exfoliated and the coffee left oils on my skin that felt so hydrating.

there are so many other excellent home health and beauty remedies one can find in the kitchen. avocado, lemon juice, yogurt, cucumber, and egg all come to mind.

three natural healing books i keep on my shelf to refer to are: the doctor's book of home remedies , smart medicine for a healthier child, and prescription for nutritional healing. do you have others to recommend?

and... a giftable recipe to try at home, a lot like my sugar-honey scrub, above, but less messy, because it uses crystallized honey.

lavender honey salt scrub
1 C light weight olive oil
1/3 C crystallized honey
60-80 drops lavender essential oil
1 C fine grain sea salt

mix the oil, honey, and oil together in a mixing bowl. slowly stir in the salt until the texture takes shape. continue mixing until all of the excess oil is absorbed into the ball.
immediately spoon into jars, wipe the jar rims, and screw on the lids. makes 2 8-oz jars

recipe from jessica ress of angelfacebotanicals.com, courtesy of readymade magazine

*for those wondering, the antibiotics regimen was a month long course, intended to kill the lyme and the recurrent staph infections i was having. it succeeded with the staph (yay!), but for the lyme, the doctor can only assume my issues are resolved. i completed the recommended course, but my body's antibodies to lyme have changed, so any subsequent tests (at least in the near future) will result as positive, regardless of whether i still have it or not. i feel fine, so that is my best gauge.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

corner view: books

rhythm of the home is a lovely new quarterly ezine. they have just launched a new blog and are offering a give-away. good stuff, please take a look!

also, my mom, who had surgery for cancer last year has a scan this morning, to check to see if she is still cancer-free. please keep her/us in your thoughts.


corner view is a weekly photographic perspective on a shared theme, by bloggers around the globe, hosted by jane of spain daily.

this week's corner view theme is: books

you know, these corner view topics continue to hit home for me. my mom is a retired librarian (among other things) and i grew up surrounded by books. my parents shared their love of the library with us, but that didn't stop them from surrounding themselves with a library of their own. when my brother and i moved out of our childhood home, my parents expanded into the space. mostly with books.

this love was shared with mike and me when we were pregnant with our first child, in the form of the book quilt. but we, too, struggle with a growing family in a small space and the quandary of what to purge. so far? books sit two deep on our shelves while other items hit the donation box.

"look, finnian!" isabella showing her little brother a book about photography, while snuggled in our bed with a sleeping dada.

old classics handed down to me, mostly from my great aunt. a couple are newer, like the one resting horizontally on the top right. see the title?! my mom found it nestled among hundreds of books at our library's discard sale when i was a kid. (my name is uncommon where we live.)

our book corner, december 2009. i had taken this photo already, when i went searching for a completely different photo from last year and found the photo below. same corner at this time last year! i love this corner, can you tell?

december 2008


for book love around the world:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the two topic post - money and liz

20 frugal stocking stuffers is now posted on the examiner page, and francesca of fuoriborgo also writes for the simple green frugal co-op and she posted a lovely article on decorations, in which the bark vase i made was included!

the other day, lala wanted her "money bank" (a little metal tin, shaped like a london bus, which once held tea, but has a slit in the top) to play with. as she was pulling change out of the tin, i realized more fully that my math loving girl still didn't know the difference between pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters.


while she had a little quiet time that day, i made up a little card for her, with each of the coins, their quanities, and their names below them. after her quiet time, lala and i played a little math game with coins. she had a blast doing it and in the end, i let her keep the pennies we had used to play the game. she sorted and counted, 47 cents, which she was super excited to add to her bank.


i realized she didn't understand fully the concept of the value of money, despite our being frugal and it coming up in conversation somewhat regularly. mike and i had been talking on and off for awhile about starting an allowance, but it wasn't until our friends, the Hs, jumped ship and started allowance with their daughter julia, that we decided it was time. so how to do it?

when in doubt, follow the leader. the Hs decided to give julia a certain amount, once per month, split in half, with half going into a bank account belonging to julia and half going into a wallet, belonging to julia, which lives in liz's purse for those "i want this" occasions at the store.

mike and i wondered about adding a charity component to lala's allowance. actually, i wondered and mike felt like it was one part too many for a 5 year old, and as liz pointed out, we are charitable as a family, which is the start of the lesson. mike added that he thinks we should add a charity component to her allowance when she is a little older and we are increasing the amount of her allowance.

so, we are following the leader. beginning january 1, lala will receive an allowance, presently not tied to any chores, just to begin teaching her about saving money and the cost of the things she wants.


as with so very many pieces of my mamma-ing, i have gotten where i am with the input, support, and love of so many people, but this was just one more example of a gentle shove of encouragement from liz. liz doesn't have a blog, so i can't link to her, but i can shout out a hello and share how much she inspires me and gives feedback and input on, well, my whole life. she's a kid-crafty baker and elementary school teacher turned mom who is behind many of the recipes, projects, and mammaness i share here. i should have posted this last week for her birthday! thanks for always shoving me forward with kind words and encouragement, liz!

Monday, December 14, 2009

growing up

these past few weeks have been ones of such mamma-change around here. mike has probably stayed on his steady, patient, even path, but lala, finn, and i are all a little bit different than a month or so ago.

someone got a haircut this weekend

two really is two. it is as though these little people pass some invisible gateway and poof, the twos (oh, you know what i mean) have begun. the twos on finn seem so much more prominent than they were on lala, probably a result of being a second child. he is so much more determined and so less put off from anything and everything than i remember lala being at this age. why should he be if big sister is doing it all? and as finn passed that gateway, his finnalect (finnian toddler dialect) exploded. he has so many more words, now in two and three word combinations, and sigh, he is even already losing some of his finnalect in favor of real words. "a nee" actually came out as "park" the other day.


our little performer, dressed in uniform for her first concert

and that big sister of his? oh she is surprising me in so many proud mamma ways. i finally feel like we are moving forward. i really do mean we. i needed to hit that bottom rung of frustration and worry to get smacked on the head hard enough to realize it was me that needed to do that shifting. a few minor changes in my mamma-ing (and perhaps, as mike suspects, the end of a major growth spurt by lala) have revealed a much more even-keeled, dare i say it, mature, lala.

recently, at a playdate (one that happens twice a week), lala got really frustrated ("stinky" would have been my choice word on my grouchy days). it seemed my attempt at helping solve the problem wasn't working and i gave a two-minute warning to wrap up and leave. it had been heading that direction anyway. in a grump, lala said "i need to take a break." she took herself off to our friend's laundry room and took a break. (this is HUGE.) when she came back, she was relaxed, smiling, and the playdate went on successfully for another 45 minutes.

on another recent day, one during which lala had had school, had been the big sister to finn and his buddy lily, had a successful playdate at our house with lily's sister julia, and was still being a star, she did something to push my buttons (intentionally) right after i had asked her twice not to do it, and i lost it. i had to come back and say "i am sorry. i am just so grouchy! everything i am saying sounds mad." you want to know what lala's reply was?

"okay mamma. take a deep breath."
i obeyed.
"take another one."
again, i complied.
"now take another one."
ok.
"now talk."

smart girl.


not liking the hair buns i gave her. she's yanking them out.

don't get me wrong. we have had our down days, too, but i can see so much more clearly how those fall right back to me and my approach to what is going on. nothing can prepare you for how difficult being a parent can be. it brings joy and love you never imagined, yes, but it brings challenges you can never anticipate. there is so much pressure to handle it right, all the time! right is so hard to figure out and there is nothing like a child to see right through you and set you straight.

a recent conversation i overheard lala and mike having...
lala: (said something to mike in a demanding, whiny, rude tone)
dada: could you ask me again nicely? it hurts my feelings when you talk to me like that.
lala: (repeats herself, not much improved.)
dada: lala, i don't think i taught you to talk to me like that.
lala: well, mamma talks to me in a mean way like that.

ouch.

so often, i feel like i am walking this thin tight rope. trying to balance setting limits with having give and take is incredibly difficult for me. clearly, i am falling to the wrong side if the way i think i am getting my message across only sends the message that seems mean to lala.

so, pause, here i go again....by the time i have grown up, by the time i get this right, they will have grown up and moved away.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

inspired internet:: december 2009 -first half!

there is such an incredible wealth of crafty, frugal, food, and earthy inspiration right now, especially abundant as we creep further into the holidays. as a result, i am sharing two inspired internet lists this month. here is the first one!


needle crafts:
food and garden:
frugality, simple living, holiday:
holiday:
mamma/family:
  • renee of FIMBY does it again. she has a lovely post on getting outdoors more. it links to a more comprehensive guest post on the topic at zen family habits. it also links to a past guest post on reducing kid clutter at small notebook. renee, you inspire me often!
  • erin of exhale. return to center. posted about herself. and it is all i wish i had been expressing all this time. i could have written it. i have tried, she just did it better. what she said? yeah, that.
  • kate of the blankie chronicles has a series on monthly mindfulness. some of her posts, a couple from september, especially, just have me nodding, excessively, as i read. her writing is enticing and so easy for me to identify with!
  • seeking our children's forgiveness - i began doing this sometime back and i think we have both benefited
and because i can't share too many gifts we are making for this year, here is a link to our show and tell from last year. more gift ideas! i apologize for the poor photos.

and to add...heather of shivaya naturals just posted a list and none of her link love duplicates mine. she found some wonderful inspiration, too!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

happy st. finnian's day

i've posted a new examiner article, 10 frugal holiday gifts, relevant to all.

since our little guy was born 2 years ago, we can't help but acknowledge st. finnian's day (which we discovered in the week between his birth 2 years ago and it's celebration)!

this evening, we will be celebrating lala as she performs in her first real concert with her classmates in support of her music charter school. and tomorrow we'll attend my parents' annual holiday party, seeing people with whom there will be much catching up to do!

wishing you a joyous weekend and a happy hanukkah for all those who celebrate it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

works (of all sorts) in progress and completed

i am so excited to share that my 2010 nature calendars are both now available on amazon.com! yes, i realize amazon.com is not local or independent, but it is a huge retailer and i am excited that they picked up my calendars from lulu. small and large.

the weather has turned quite cold here. we live by the coast and, while it does get crisp here, we don't get snow. the weather has been so chilly, that while driving through one of our regional parks (up an over a low coastal mountain), i saw snow. a decent amount of it! (global warming is so scary!)

so with the chill, we have brought our activities indoors. i need to better set up an indoor climbing space, because my little guy is quite active, but, for now, he runs around a lot, climbs on the furniture, and we all play and dance.


new batch of play dough and more play with our hands...

this weeks works in progress and works completed...

happy birthday, oscar! today marks the first birthday of one of my best friends' son. i know this next year will be one of so many changes for him and i can't wait to see his personality emerge. below are the goodies i made for him. a birthday crown (with finn's help. my sewing isn't quite straight because he was on my lap, curiously exploring the machine, as i sewed) and a pair of lanolized wool pants, made from felted wool sweater arms.





an ornament for kelly. see garden mama's site, the wellness tree, for more information and to participate. lala made this simple wooden heart with mike's help. i chose pink and yellow ribbons to represent breast and liver cancers.

works in progress:

practice. i used to play first flute. now, i am not even certain i can read music. but with my parents' request for a duet with my clarinet and guitar-playing dad, and with lala in a music conservatory, i am being urged to practice.


presents in the making...



what creativity keeps you busy these days?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

beet juice and other natural dyes

i love beets, so i cooked some up recently and created yet another pot of gorgeous burgandy beet "broth." i've eyed the last few pots, thinking i should have another go at homemade plant dyes. it has been a long time since i have played with plant dyes, but several bloggers have recently spurred memories of my mom dyeing, spinning, and weaving. (she used to own her own weaving business.) this combined with lala's love of the book charlie needs a new cloak, by tomie depaola, had me inspired this time around.


when i was in second grade (or was it third?), my science project for the year was a presentation of a sampling of plant dyes. i distinctly remember using onions, coffee, tea, turmeric, and mustard. i know i did a few others, as well. i do not remember using alum or any other standard fixative, though, so i wanted to keep my process super simple this time, also, particularly as i wanted this to be a project lala and i did together. i suppose i could have started with tea or coffee, neither of which truly need a fixative, but i had the beet broth and lala loves pink and red, so...

i wondered about salt versus vinegar as fixatives, both of which i remembered reading at one time were natural ways to get color to stay in fabric. one quick google search netted me this interesting forum discussion, which made me question fixatives enough to set us up to try both. the google search also brought back around this crafting a green world post on the topic of natural dyes. i also referred to our copy of back to basics.

we started with an old, white cotton crib sheet, which we cut into pieces. we marked one with an S for salt and one with a V for vinegar. we followed the fixative ratios given in the crafting a green world link (above). the results? after a 30 minute soaking, the vinegar cloth was clearly slightly darker, and after rinsing, it retained a very slight pink, whereas the salt cloth looked only off-white. both were unevenly dyed, but that could have been our lack of care for this during the process.


what a fun experient to do with kids. next, i think we'll try coffee or tea, both of which we have plenty of around here!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

corner view: evening

happy birthday, liz!

corner view is a photographic take on a theme by bloggers around the world, hosted by jane of spain daily. for more corner views, see the links below.

this week's corner view theme is: evening

yesterday, i posted some of the sunsets i have captured recently, so today, i am bringing it inside. in order: a shot my 5 year old took; the "real" old, messy, post-dinner kitchen; my husband, taking a break; a peek at our christmas tree






Tuesday, December 8, 2009

sunrise::sunset

i have just posted an examiner article on urban food foraging. i hope you will take a peek.

this time of year, the changes in the light, the colors, the temperatures. they are all so noticeable. the sky has been incredible and my little canon point and shoot has caught it well enough a few times to share.

sunrise:



sunset:



Monday, December 7, 2009

celebration and a six word memoir

thank you for all the lovely feedback, inquiries, and purchases in response to my which name? etsy shop announcement! what a lovely start to an amazing weekend of celebration.


we did much celebrating of finnian's birthday. we had family over, made and ate cupcakes (the sneaky chef recipe, made by lala!), enjoyed family time, and i read him the book i read on his birthday last year, creating a new tradition for him.
we were grateful grannie annie was able to join us, as she had come directly from a 2 day hospital stay. (she had a bad fainting episode, suspiciously like a heart attack, but is okay now.)

each year, st. nicholas day (which my parents celebrated when i was growing up, perhaps because of my name) kicks off the winter holiday season for me. with finn's birthday coming the day before st. nicholas' day, this feels especially important. there is something about birthdays needing to remain special. i need for his birthday to be a unique celebration of finn, not mingled in with christmas.

lala has been asking for christmas books, so with finn's birthday on saturday, we left shoes out for st. nicholas on saturday night and let the holidays begin on sunday!


all the gifts the kids received from st. nicholas (aka mamma nicola and grandma) were a hit. in the end, i found and bought faber-castell eco pencils for the art caddies. at nearly $8/packet of 12, they were expensive for my budget, but i decided they were worth it, because they are thick, safe, eco-friendly, and finn-teeth friendly. and the leg warmers? lala preferred elastic, so i replaced the ribbon with elastic. once i did that, she wore them all day long.

recently, in a magazine, i read a brief article in which readers contributed their holiday memoir in six words. i took a twist on that and thought of what came most to mind, special to my life, when i think of this season. my memoir doubles as a list of traditions i want to continue with my own kids (with some new ones thrown in). what a fabulous way of keeping it simple and sticking to what is most important. i had trouble limiting it to six words, so after trying and failing, i figured who cared if i needed more?

in six (plus) words, what is your holiday memoir?
for me: family. vafler. gjetost. stockings. tree. lights. yankee swap. music.

lala surrounded by seasonal books

this year, instead of going to the nearest tree lot, we visited a nearby tree farm and cut our own tree. this was a much more expensive way to go, but such an amazing family outing, it felt ecologically right, and perhaps it was the start of a new tradition. we came home and decorated the tree, this year with lala directing the show. i can see that this year will be one in which we establish some new family traditions, as she voices desires and opinions of her own.

don't let mike's shorts fool you. as we loaded the tree onto the car, the rain started, and it very quickly turned to hail, it was so cold.

christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. we are not at all materialistic and the strain that some people feel over gift-giving has never been something i have experienced fully. this year, regardless of how well received our gifts turn out to be (or not be), everything we are giving is handmade, with the recipient in mind, and has been made with great pleasure and joy.

i love this holiday season, because it is a time for festivity, family, food, celebration, and traditions. we come inside for warmth, light our fire, bake, enjoy the glow of fairy lights, and spend time together. this season is one that embraces all of my senses and is a time focused so much on togetherness and awareness of others.

simmering in water, the scent of orange peel, clove, and cinnamon is one of my favorites

let the winter holidays begin!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

two


my sweet finnian luca,

didn't you just turn one? weren't you just born? it is hard for me to believe that you are two years old today. you have such personality, strength, will, silly sense of humor, and you have had all of these things for a long time now. much earlier than i remember these traits beginning in little people.

you adore your sister, love to make her laugh, but know how to show her the way, too. you will hold your own if pushed, but if asked kindly, you happily hand over just about anything and love to make lala happy.

taking a bath, with green water in honor of upcoming christmas, of course.


i love how mamma kisses and dada's shoulder still soothe the oh-so-frequent finger pinches and head bumps you seem to acquire.


pointing at a big "bo! bo!" from a big boat!

what is it i want to remember most about this goofy age of two? your dimpled grin, wide, excited eyes, your outstretched arm and arched finger as you point. your delighted squeals of "airmay!" (airplane), "bo!" (boat), and "nay!" (train) when you see them. your love for and happy play with "wiwy" (lily) and that she, in turn, sweetly calls you "bin luca."

leaf jumping and flinging. he was so exuberant, one of the women in the shop he was in front of, came out and joined him!

you have no fear. you throw and jump and fling. you think stop, wait, and no are synonomous with go, run, and yes. and you delight yourself in the game of "mamma chases finnian in a bit of a scared panic."

at birth, you seemed so little. you were littler than lala. that lasted about 2 days. since then, you've always been my big little guy. at 2 years old today, dr. K clocked you in at just over 3 ft tall, predicting you'll tower me at 6'2" someday. for now, i am going to soak in all your littleness as you travel this span of toddlerhood.

finnian luca this morning. he and "didda" (sister) were enjoying almonds and dried blueberries

i love that, for awhile now, you've blown kisses and hugs, and said "ya you." (i love you).

ya you too, my little brown mouse.

t'amo, mamma

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
waiting for him this morning. a recycled bag (i dislike wrapping!) holds all his gifts below. his crown now has a boat on it. and the bunting banner in the background? i got a bee in my bonnet late last night to make that with dull pinking shears. and it looks like it, at least up close!

two is still little and finn doesn't need much, so he's getting his annual mamma-made calendar, some mamma-made pants, and a sister and dada-made wooden "airmay!" (the airplane isn't quite done, so no photo. shop time with a 5 year old is slow going.)

every year on their birthday, each child gets a calendar that starts the month of their birthday, and into which i add photos of something very relevant that month (or late the month before). the front will have a birthday shot. then i write in it as the year goes along, adding photos along the way. it is the easiest, cutest version of a baby book that i have been able to maintain for both kids. (you can click the collage to enlarge and read it)

a pair of sleeve-pants for finn (from the shirt i made into a dress for lala)

wool pants made from a wool tube knit scarf. already lanolized.

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