22 November 2011

get ready, get set...

It's go time around here.  After my early November birthday I always feel like I am on one of those moving sidewalks at the airport.  I can walk or run and go faster than ever, or...I can stop moving but still be carried along by forces beyond my control.  The holiday season is a busy time of making, traveling, cooking and celebrating (birthdays and holidays).  I want to remind myself to focus on what is important for our long term goals and to not get caught up in trying to get "everything" done perfectly.  
All of these heavy thoughts surely came about while crafting some new work to put in my etsy shop.  Sneak peak:

10 October 2011

grocery challenge

To jump right back into things...

Heather, from Beauty That Moves, has inspired me to take stock, take note and see if we are up to the October Grocery Challenge.  Considering that October is already 1/3 over, and that we have been out of town the past 4 days, I may take the challenge into November.

October is always a time of abundance from the garden.  The last tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and the first of the fall crops like turnips, beets and greens.  In Champaign we are lucky that the first hard frost usually occurs around the end of the month.  I love the longer growing season here and remember our Ames, IA garden always being done by now.  
Although my tomatoes didn't do as well as last year (squirrels, stink bugs, drought), they are still producing several ripe Cherokee Purple tomatoes per day.  The 80 degree weather is helping with this, I think.  And although I didn't get as many tomatoes canned as I would like, I have done a lot more than last year!  

The butternut squash are from the Market and from a friends garden.  We have made canned tomatoes, green beans (Abby's favorite), cornichons from Mexican Sour Gherkin cukes, regular pickles made by Ian, hot salsa, dilly beans, Sunshine Chutney (my own creation), jam: raspberry, cherry, pear apple, and peach, and cinnamon rings (I just canned them and Jason's mom did the hard work!). Last years applesauce in on the top left.  We also have garlic from our garden and herbs that will be cut and dried when we get back from Minneapolis: lavender, rosemary, sage, parsley, oregano and thyme.

There is also the fun side of stocking up, which is the making of fermented or steeped alcoholic beverages.  Jason brews beer, some with hops from our back yard!  And I have made cordials the past couple of years.  Here is pear cordial steeping down in our basement laundry area:
While these aren't the prettiest pictures of our "stocking up", they document our work and help me remember for next year.

Back to the grocery challenge.  Feed our family on $400 a month.  If you read the comments on Heather's original grocery challenge post you will see a range of opinions on how much it takes to feed a family of a certain size in a certain part of the country with certain foods.  For us, we live where food prices are relatively low and have 2 adults and one almost 3yo.  The only health concern is Jason's cholesterol, which means less meat, cheese, salt and high fat food in general.  While we can certainly do $400 a month, it means more planning for grocery shopping and extra food prep time for whoever is cooking dinner.  We eat mostly organic food and very little convenience food in our house: no canned beans, soup, prepared sauces, etc.  Eggs and chicken are from a friend's farm and are healthier, and cheaper, than from the store.  I make our own yogurt about every 2 weeks from local milk.  We don't eat dessert very often and I eat bread about once or twice a week (I'm not a bread person!).

Challenges for us: snacks for our 3yo Abby, lunch meals (I don't like lunch!  can't we just skip from breakfast to dinner???) and menu planning.  Sometimes the menu planning goes well, sometimes not.  We aren't rigorous enough and often something gets in the way like we need another ingredient or we have another errand to do.  

So I will keep you posted on the grocery challenge every Monday, along with Heather at her blog.  I encourage you to join the challenge too!  It doesn't have to be $400 per month but can be anything related to groceries that you think needs improvement: more fruits and veggies per day, less processed food, no dessert, whatever you want.  Come on, everyone needs a challenge once in a while!

14 February 2011

emerging from hibernation

It has been a particularly brutal winter.  Peoria set a total winter snow-fall record and I'm sure Champaign came close.  The garden has been covered under several inches of snow for most of the past 2 and a half months, which is great for the strawberries, garlic and perennials that rely on the insulation.  Not so great for a 2 year old and her mama who just want to go OUTSIDE!

So, let me show you what we have been doing the past couple of months.

A little baking, building, cooking, knitting, sewing, playing in the snow and reading.  Hopefully by the end of the week we will be outside enjoying warmer weather and cleaning up the garden.  This fall did not leave much time for cleaning and storing the garden hardware so it has to be done now.  

Seeds will also be started tomorrow and pictures of the tiny green shoots are soon to come!