Saturday, December 29, 2012

live each season as it passes

that's a quote from thoreau that i first came across last winter. as a reminder to embrace this time and to stop my incessant wishing for spring, i put the quote in my journal last year. i cannot help but to dream about the 2013 growing season. with my garden, i come alive in the spring.

but for now i will be grateful for the rest i am getting away from garden work. i will sip my hot tea and soak in the coziness of crocheting on a cold day. last week i finally started joining my granny squares to make a big ol' blanket. almost a year in the making, but i'm starting to see the light.

the blanket is uneven and i'm not crazy about all the colors together, but i still love it. it's my 2012 blanket. some of the squares were made while i was sitting with my grandmom. others were made with the kids i watch - they would dictate the colors and play with the finished squares. they'd even pretend to crochet with me. one day alaina and john laid all the squares out and chose their favorites. when kati first moved in, she loved to knead and sleep on the softness.

the yarn that started me off was donated by my aunt patti and john's mom. some skeins my mom bought me. it's a warm blanket in so many ways.=)

 (why does this picture remind me of the shining?)

homemade holiday recap:

i'm happy to report my homemade holiday crusade kept me from being cranky this christmas. in 2008, i stopped celebrating holidays after learning some things. i've decided to still participate in family gatherings and gift-giving, but a battle ensues inside me. a moral dilemma. i feel better making the gifts (though every year i do buy some stuff, though each year less and less).

so a month of crafting my ass off and some cute dolls/purses/potpourri jars got me through. whatever works, right? my homemade holiday inspired my blog-friend aimee to get crafty, too. (and my brother l-o-v-e-d his crochet beard!=)

pop-pop don and grandmom also got crafty and made alaina the art desk she's been asking for. isn't it amazing? they really poured their hearts into it. remember the sandboat?

john's dad made his granddaughter mia a desk/shelving unit/window bench. it's awesome, just like other things he's made.

my dad has made us things too, like a beautiful bassinet and a porch swing. my grandpop made a living creating pretty iron railings. my mom, mom-mom, aunts, sister and friend missy were always making cute stuff. all these creative people around me - no wonder i'm this way!

after the blanket, i'm going to start working on baby things - john's sister jena is expecting her fourth this summer! i'm looking forward to crocheting something small and sweet - maybe a little granny square blanket or these delicious sandals.

wishing you lots of love and creativity in the new year! xoxoxo

Saturday, December 15, 2012

homemade gift ideas: for the young lads

crochet bearded hat :: hysterical and functional. this tutorial helped me make one. 

candles :: a guy's room could always use a little freshening. (for the responsible boys, of course.)

vintage record album journal :: can't believe REM is considered vintage now. 

pajama pants or boxers :: i wouldn't know what to do, but i imagine anyone with a little sewing experience can easily whip these up. (vintage teen boys pajamas pattern here)

popsicle stick cd rack :: do kids buy cd's anymore?

that's all i could come up with. good thing i don't have a teenage boy to gift this year!

my thoughts and prayers go to the victims of the horrific tragedy at sandy hook elementary school. what can we do in the face of unthinkable tragedy? cultivate love. read julia's beautiful words here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

homemade holiday progress

it seems i've gotten in over my head with this year's homemade gifts, as usual. it was fun to start, but now it's getting a bit tedious. my least favorite part of crafting is adding the finishing touches.

making to-do types of lists is fun, and so is blogging, so i thought i'd take a little coffee break and share my progress with you. this is one of my ways of finding joy in the labor.=)

crochet dolls: sew sonic together, figure out what to do with lambie's frills, add arms and face to hello kitty.

granny square purses: hand-sew liners into the bags. (the sewing machine doesn't work. boohoo.)

bearded hat: beard and 'stache are done. need to get a hat - no way am i crocheting one now.

potpourri jars: need to buy and dehydrate oranges. maybe add tags.

coupon gifts: good for free babysitting and housework. just need to write them out.

finished: notebooks for the purses

pending: raw chocolates, car caddy (wishful thinking), crochet headbands

i don't have anything to show you of my progress, but i do have a shot of a jolly old man behind me in line. he was buying a paper cutter! even santa's getting crafty this year!=)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

homemade gift ideas: for the young ladies

crochet headband :: so cute. mine is worn over my ears to keep them toasty.

mason jar sewing kit :: a little sewing kit always comes in handy.
dangly earring display :: there are many different ways to make these with materials on hand.

when i sat and thought about what i would have wanted when i was a teen, i realized i'd pretty much like the same thing now! so the post was changed from 'for teens' to 'young ladies'. here are a few more ideas. please leave any other ideas you may have in the comments!

handmade journal :: every lady needs a space to journal or doodle. 

craft-making kit :: introduce her to a new hobby, or replenish the stock of her existing one.

embellished picture frame :: a girl could always use another picture frame.

homemade candle :: use her favorite scent, or lavender oil for calming aromatic therapy. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

hearty mac and cheeze

angela from oh she glows posted a wonderful recipe for butternut squash mac 'n cheeze last year, and john and i have enjoyed it a few times since. this time i didn't have dijon mustard or almond milk, so minor adjustments were made, highlighted in green. click here for the original recipe.

hearty mac and cheeze sauce
(adapted from angela's butternut squash mac 'n cheeze)

1 C mashed butternut squash
2 T earth balance vegan butter
3/4 C filtered water
1 T arrowroot powder
1 T fresh lemon juice 
6 T nutritional yeast (or more to taste)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper, to taste
extra virgin olive oil

1. preheat oven to 425F. peel, seed and cube butternut squash. in a glass casserole dish, lightly coat squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 40 minutes.

2. meanwhile, prepare sauce in a pot over the stove. add butter over low-medium heat. in a bowl, whisk water and arrowroot. pour into saucepan, then stir in lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and seasonings to taste. whisk sauce until thickened (about 5 to 7 minutes).

3. add to cooked pasta of choice. optional: to make the dish extra hearty, add vegetables like green beans, peas or kale, or top with my personal favorite, stewed tomatoes.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

healing on a budget

it's been slim pickins in the produce department. fortunately, there's a local health food store with a decent selection of reasonably priced organic vegetables. conveniently, it's just two minutes down the road from a chiropractor i've been visiting once a week, eiseman family chiropractic.

dr. eiseman is helping to alleviate the discomfort in my dominant arm as well as some pain in my neck and back, and for only $21 a visit! after just three adjustments, i'm able to crochet and type like i used to. the wiggling and cracking seems to be working. i've also been doing the dead lift exercises he suggested and consuming turmeric and celery to reduce inflammation.

it's funny, i've already been eating a lot of celery, and i've been reading about turmeric almost everyday! according to the american cancer society, "turmeric may prevent and slow the growth of a number of types of cancer. one researcher reported that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, inhibited the formation of cancer-causing enzymes in rodents." wow!

the challenge for me has been getting the turmeric in. natural health sells loose organic turmeric at a very fair price. i've been mixing it in soups, hot tea, an immunity tonic with raw apple cider vinegar, and as shown below, sprinkling it on salads.

mixed baby greens, cauliflower, carrot, homegrown fennel sprouts, raw sunflower seeds

these aren't our favorite salad components, but we've got to make do. i've come up with a quick dressing delicious enough to make any salad shine. there are no measurements; just mix olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice (i like balsamic vinegar for its sweetness) italian herbs and spices, salt, pepper and some nutritional yeast. add a splash of water or two to stretch it for your next salad. 

baby greens, button mushroom, mandolin-sliced carrot and celery and raw sunflower seeds

there are also store-bought broccoli sprouts in there. they were only $1.99 at natural health (though it's much cheaper to grow our own). while conventional stores are generally less expensive, it's possible to shop at the health food stores without breaking the budget. we are living proof of that!

the key is to be flexible and work with what is affordable. prices change with the season. if you're set on sticking to a list, expect to pay more. i had to forgo the avocado last week because it was too much. same with bananas ($1.99 a pound!), but later i found a sale on organic ($.69/pound) at our local grocery store. we also buy conventional produce if we need to.

it's been a while since i made a list for produce, but it's also been a while since i made something using a recipe. our meals have been sort of thrown together last minute. stir-fries are great for that, especially when we've got frozen bell pepper and yellow squash in the freezer.

brown rice, bell pepper, yellow squash, carrot, celery and toasted nuts

the rice was cooked in a pressure cooker for 25 minutes in a 2 to 1 ratio of water to rice. the sauce was a simple mix of tamari (wheat-free soy sauce) minced garlic, ginger, and a splash of agave. the nuts were lightly toasted with maple syrup, olive oil, chinese five spice powder, cayenne and black pepper. they would make a nice jar of mixed nuts for a holiday gift!

last year, i made jars of spiced mixed nuts as gifts for the the gentlemen. it was the day before madji passed. she was sick, but i was so sure she'd get better. i've been thinking about her a lot. sometimes i feel her when kati and i sit together. kati has helped heal our broken hearts, but i think i'll always have a little ache for my biggles. she was so sweet!

but so's this one. kati really wanted to go out but it was way too cold, so she figured she'd do the next best thing - lay in the plumeria pot! she cracks us up! the warm fuzzies i get from her are most conducive to my healing on all levels. just look at that face!=)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

homemade gift ideas: for the little ones

with the way things are today, conscious consumers like myself are a) buying local or handmade b) making their own gifts or c) opting out altogether.

john and i have been blessed with many little sweetie pies in our lives who are too young to understand why we'd rather not buy them plastic junk made with slave labor overseas. so we'll purchase them books, buy them handmade, or try to make them something we think they'll love. here are some cute gifts that are inspiring me this homemade holiday season.

(click the image for a tutorial or etsy listing.)

also, some felt ideas from homemade holiday 2010:

i'm working on gift ideas for the big kids, which is a little more challenging for me. i'd love to know what you're making this homemade holiday!

Friday, November 23, 2012

homemade holiday preview

now that it's time to really get to work on the christmas gifts, i'm feeling overwhelmed. while my original plan to make 10 granny square purses with personalized journals was exciting, it's now daunting. i need to learn how to use a sewing machine to make liners for the bags, i'm not sure what to do for the straps, and embroidering the journals is taking much longer than i anticipated.

john keeps reminding me to enjoy it. i'm really trying. i also need to stop being so critical and so afraid that my projects won't turn out as cute as they can. why am i my own worst enemy?! you may notice the lavender blooms are incomplete in the first photo. i nearly cried and gave up on it all when the paper started to tear. but now i'll stop my whining and see if i can finish what i started.

homemade holiday tip #1: if a project gets too frustrating, take a break! go back with a refreshed attitude, and chalk your mistakes up to learning experiences.

homemade holiday tip #2: try not to wait until the last minute. if you can, find a crafting area where you can leave your work or easily push it aside, and get started! doing a little each day lessens the workload, and creating at a leisurely pace can be a great way to relieve stress during the holidays.

stay tuned for the finished purses and journals, unless of course i decide to throw them out the window, and in that case, expect a very nice rant post on this whole holiday in the first place!=)

Monday, November 19, 2012

reader input request

hello blogland! i've got many thoughts floating around for new posts. i've even started a few, but i'd really like to know what you're interested in reading. here are some ideas:

*healing with herbs: plantain and interstitial cystitis
*natural remedies for cold season
*animal-friendly eating on a budget
*what is agenda 21?
*the truth about aspartame
*what are gmo's?
*homemade holidays: handmade gift ideas
*meditation for beginners
*nobody asked me, but... (some rant-like posts, with a positive spin=)
*homeschooling ideas/kid related posts
*gardening 101

anything else? if you'd kindly leave a comment with what you'd like to read here, i'd really appreciate it.

i've participated in a second pay it forward and received a beautiful handmade necklace from melissa at sky minded and ever growing. if you'd like to participate, please leave a comment and i'll make a note of it. formal 'pay it forward' post to come after the holidays.

happy monday!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

local hurricane sandy relief effort

Would you like to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy directly? The local Notre Dame Club of New Jersey is working with the Coast Guard to bring food and clothing to 200 Staten Island families who lost their homes and are being relocated to Fort Wadsworth.

they are in need of:
  • clothes
  • winter wear
  • baby items
  • cleaning supplies
  • hospital masks and gloves

The immediate plan of action is to collect as much as possible in the next two weeks, consolidating the items on a weekly basis and delivering them to Staten Island each weekend.

Group 1
Drop point:  Westhampton
Before 8 pm   (driveway or front door bench)
Carlos and Maria Garcia
1 Greenbrier Drive
Westhampton NJ ,08060

Cell 732-991-5913. Maria
Cell 609-668-2896 Carlos

Drop point: Moorestown
Before 8 pm
Cathy O’Dea
237 St. Anthony’s Dr.
Moorestown NJ 08057
Cell (609) 670-8086
Drop point: Palmyra
Anytime between 3-9 pm weekdays
Anytime on weekend before 9 pm
Bernadette and Mark Russell
736 Parry Ave
Palmyra, NJ 08065
Cell: 856-630-3506
Home: 856-786-2755
Group 2
Drop Point:  Marlton, NJ
Can be drop off at anytime through 8 pm.  Everyday
Barbara McCloskey 
148 Preamble Dr
Marlton, NJ
Cell 609-980-3555
Home 856-596-3319
Drop Point:  Marlton, NJ
Before 7 p.m.  (please let me know in advance)
Marianne Rullo
Five Greentree Center (behind Bertucci's)
525 Route 73 North
Marlton NJ  08053
CELL: (610) 585-8893
Drop Point:  Mount Laurel, NJ
Leave on Porch, or Between 4:00-8:00 p.m.
John Glowacki
809 Charleston Road
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
609-923-5309 (cell)

Drop Point: Mount Laurel
Before 8pm
Michael Sofield
2402 Gramercy Way
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
Drop Point:  Medford Lakes, NJ
Before 8PM
Evelyn Warpus
40 Cochise Cir (off Dixontown Rd.)
Medford Lakes, NJ 08055
609-714-2322 (H)
609-238-49-48 (M)
Group 3
Drop Point: Blackwood, NJ
Drop off hours would be 930am to 7pm Mon-Sunday.
Kevin Dougherty
1271 Little Gloucester Rd,
Blackwood, NJ 08012.
Drop Point: Somerdale
between 4:00pm - 8:00 pm
George Badey,
708 Mildred Ave,
Somerdale, NJ 08083
609-820-4577 - Cell
(My police vehicle is parked across
 from home)
Drop Point: Cherry Hill, NJ
Drop off hours would be 930am to 7pm Mon-Sunday.
Kevin Dougherty
1205 Warren Ave,
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
Drop Point: Cherry Hill, NJ
Anytime before 10pm
Sarah Daly
126 Society Hill
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
856-266-4638 cell

Detail: Leave on back steps near the back door
Drop Point: Turnersville, NJ
Anytime before 8pm. Leave on front step
Steve Klug
100 Georgetown Rd
Turnersville, NJ 08012
856-371-5275 cell
Group 4
Drop Point: Voorhees, NJ
Anytime before 10pm (please leave donations at front door)
Nicole & Greg Bergamesco
57 Holly Oak Drive
Voorhees, NJ 08043
856-305-3454 cell

Drop Point: Audubon, NJ
Drop off point -any time
Tracy Krug
103 S. Logan Avenue (at Merchant St.)
Audubon, NJ 08106
828-467-8010 or 828-467-2986 (cell)
Drop Point: Haddonfield, NJ
Anytime before 8pm
Lisa and Tom Keeley-Cain
314 Walnut Street

Haddonfield, NJ 08033
856-308-6156 Lisa's cell
Drop Point: Haddonfield, NJ
Anytime before 8pm
Dave Stavetski
309 Homestead Ave
Haddonfield, NJ 08033

856-261-3975 cell
Drop Point: Collingswood, NJ
8:30 AM to 8:30 PM
Mike and Margie Lamberto
120 East Linden Avenue
Collingswood, NJ 08108

Group 5
Drop Point:  Hammonton, NJ
Please take into our office area from 8AM-5PM
Losco Motors
425 S. White Horse Pike
Hammonton, NJ 08037
609-561-7775 or Chris Losco/Owner cell 609-517-3717

Monetary donations can be sent to:

Notre Dame Club of Staten Island
c/o Joe Delaney
64 Bloomingdale Rd
Staten Island, NY 10309                               
Ref: Hurricane Relief

Friday, November 9, 2012

echinacea propagation

the 2012 growing season may be over, but there's still work to be done. today i finished planting the echinacea rootings from our lone plant, with intentions to spread echinacea throughout the garden for years to come.

not only are the plants so pretty, echinacea roots can be used herbally for immune support. to prevent nasty winter illnesses, i like to take echinacea pills and drink echinacea tea daily. it only makes sense to try and harvest my own, organic and gmo-free.

the two smallest rootings weren't expected to survive, but after sitting on the kitchen counter in a bowl of water a few weeks, they put forth some healthy-looking leaves. in a flower pot they went where they will be babied all winter by our south-facing window. the stronger rootings were planted in the ground and in some outdoor pots sometime mid-october. more on that later; please excuse me as i now reminisce on how it all began.=)

three years ago and just a very novice gardener, i somehow managed to start two echinacea plants from seed under a grow light. no flowers were produced the first season - just plenty of leaves grown closely to the soil. that fall i kept one plant indoors and planted the other in the ground.

in 2011, several flowers blossomed from the outdoor plant. there were at least six plants clustered together in one delicious clump. i loved watching those plants grow, in awe of what came from the single echinacea that grew so measly the previous year, thinking how i'd almost given up on them!

the echinacea that stayed indoors produced only one bloom, though it was a beautiful one - one you may remember i liked to often photograph. unfortunately that plant died before it saw another season - i should have planted her in the ground with the other.

this past summer, the outdoor echinacea showed up in all its four to five feet of coneflower glory. my photos just don't do them justice. i want these all over my garden!

online gardeners say that echinacea plants benefit from a splitting every few years. this means the plants can be divided at the roots and then replanted elsewhere - no need to start the process all over from seed, saving a whole year of growing time and energy.

so a few weeks ago i uprooted the plant and began splitting. unfortunately, i can't tell you how to do it because i'm not even sure i did it right myself. in fact, it felt like i was harming the plant, ripping the outer plants away at the root. but the mother plant seems healthy back in the ground, and she's even putting out new growth, in spite of near-freezing nighttime temperatures.

we'll just have to wait for the spring to see if the rootings took. i planted so many all over the garden that i lost track of them. some are in pots, but most are in the ground. they were covered in straw because it felt like the right thing to do. fortunately they like water, i read, because hurricane sandy came to south jersey just a few weeks later and nearly washed them all out.

hurricane sandy update:

my family and i were so thankfully spared sandy's wrath, despite being at the heart of the storm on the radar. what a strange feeling to watch a hurricane projection headed straight for your area! we had all our provisions ready after stocking up for hurricane irene, so all i could do was keep the faith and pray. we're so grateful the storm didn't hit us hard. our power stayed on and the only damage done was to our amaranth and cosmos, which were on their way out anyway.

my thoughts and prayers are with those whose world was changed by the storm. lives were lost, and i'm reading horror stories of the prison-like fema tent cities the homeless victims are being placed in. each day i give thanks for my family and my warm home. we can't take our blessings for granted, seeing how easily they can be taken away. if anything good can come from such a tragedy, it's a change in perspective - to slowing down and appreciating what we have right now.

Monday, October 1, 2012

end of september garden

despite the cooler temperatures, the garden is still thriving. we're harvesting tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, green beans, yellow squash and some herbs. i didn't take as many home garden as community garden photos this year, but i do have some to show you from last month. 

on the last day of summer, i added sunflowers to an autumn wreath. it's my farewell summer, hello fall wreath. it hung just a few hours until the flowers wilted, so i'm glad i took a picture.

this dark outside by 7 pm business is for the birds, but i'm doing my best to embrace the change. oh what would i do without you, winter squash?=)

some of my favorite ways to enjoy winter squash:

sweet sage acorn squash (or with walnuts - walnuts and sage mimic a sausage flavor.)
kabocha squash (simple is best - i like mine roasted with just a sprinkle of salt.)
pumpkin seeds (most winter squash seeds can be prepared this way!)
squash and greens
stuffed butternut squash
spaghetti squash
sweet fall slaw

Saturday, September 29, 2012

my dream wedding

the idea of planning a wedding horrifies me. i've co-hosted three parties and that was enough stress for one lifetime thankyou.

truth be told, john and i live on a very modest budget. we don't give in to societal pressures and with what we understand about the marriage license, we'd never allow one in our relationship. 

but last night in my dreams, we were united in a beautiful ceremony by the lake. everyone i knew was there, even the boys from the bus stop. celine dion was there too, singing the bridal chorus! ha, who knew i was such a fan!

it wasn't the details that made it my dream wedding - it was the way i felt. there was so much love. everyone was dancing and laughing. i don't remember my dress or my hair, but i do remember an immense feeling of joy. i remember picking flowers for the bouquets and delighting in a coral-blue sunset. it felt like heaven.

so if john and i never have a real ceremony, know that you were at my dream wedding. you danced the night away, you looked great, and we thank you for being there.=)

photo source
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