Friday, March 30, 2012

Comfort Foods For Busy Days

My newly organized home pharmacy

This week I have been making some great progress in the house. I have organized a few troublesome areas, I think the one I am most pleased with is my medicine cabinet. I finally made the investment in a few organizational tools to help me get control over all the tiny homeopathic tubes and endless boxes. I decided to sort them into groups by illness, for Husband's sake. I always worry that I'm going to die and he will have no idea where to find anything. So I try to label and date everything that goes into the freezer or pantry and all of the cleaners. Is that morbid? Does anyone else think that way? 

I enjoyed falling into a rhythm of homemaking this week, and I began to reap the benefits today. Wednesday I often have plans with friends on that day, either with the church playgroup that I help organize, or with a few like-minded friends. To save gasoline I often combine these outings with other errands like the milk co-op, library, thrift shops, or the ethnic grocery. Between all that my Wednesdays are busy and I do not get much done except laundry, dinner and the bedtime routine. 

An apron I'm sewing for the swap on Down To Earth

Thursdays are typically very tame, and I like to make up for the previous day's busy-ness (and resulting messes) with a nice routine day. Unfortunately today Andy had one of those fevers that children get, and most of my day was spend holding him and providing him with his favorite comfort food - mama's milk. He was too uncomfortable to sleep anywhere but my arms (and papa's when he came home), but his fever did peak this evening and he perked up enough to enjoy a bedtime bath. A little Belladonna (dissolved in water in a sippy cup) helped him slip into a comfortable sleep. I have more of the remedy ready if he should need it tonight. By day's end I was pleased to notice that although the house was messy, thanks to the few routine things I had started to do, it was not as bad as it could have been.

Both of them sleeping so mama can have a shower and make supper

After a day of baby holding and little else, I felt like I too needed some comfort food. I made a childhood favorite of mine, homemade macaroni and cheese (leftover from lunch) with breaded and fried chicken livers (we call them chicken nuggets around here) and steamed broccoli. Of course I did not photograph because by the time it was done Andy was awake and wailing for me again. Let me assure you that there was nothing OFFAL about that meal. (snicker) 
I have been struggling with anemia for a couple of years now and since we have been trying to eat up all that chicken in our freezer, I have been craving liver like a mad woman. Did your family eat any offal when you were growing up? Do you eat it now?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Best-Laid Plans Are No Match for Life

This week I decided to establish three new habits, with the hope that some self-discipline would bring some order to our daily routine. I have a routine, but what I don't have is a pleasing rhythm. I do not know if that makes sense to anyone else, but I have a certain bare-bones list of musts that I follow routinely. But rhythm, to me, is more thoughtful and deliberate. I want my day to reflect a certain thoughtfulness and purpose.

Homemade cultured raw butter in vintage Pyrex refrigerator dishes

I tried this week to do the following: make the beds (and teach Jack to do the same), follow my laundry schedule, and start my Motivated Moms chore charts again.

I tried. I really did. Monday went well, as usual. I like Mondays, I always feel productive and energetic, and I'm eager to begin the week. Tuesday also went well. My laundry schedule is just what I have been needing, and it felt good to get the laundry folded and put away. Wednesday started bright and early for me, when Andy decided to wake up at 1am (about 20 minutes after Husband and I settled into bed), and he didn't go back to sleep til 3:30. Then both of the boys had me up at 7:30am. I was pretty useless that day and I had quite a lot of coffee. But the bed still got made! Thursday again, 1:30am, baby wakes. This time I'd had an hours sleep which actually made things worse. I finally got him back to bed at 4am. I had a doctor's appointment in the morning, errands to run and I visited my dad who is leaving for business for several months. Today I had more sleep with no early morning chaos. But I am still quite exhausted and behind in the house. I did laundry today but completely forgot about making the bed. 

Sausage gravy on biscuits (homemade). Mmm Mmm!

Overall I would count this week a success, even though I did not make my goals.  Even though I did not do anything perfectly, I did enough. Even though I was exhausted and dragging, I kept the house from falling completely apart. No one is out of underwear. The baby has diapers. We did run out of dishes but I remedied that today. Also, I finally bought a printer cartridge and my chore charts are printed and ready to use next week. 

And I am going to get a nap tomorrow AND Sunday if I have to duct tape my family to the highway outside to get the peace and quiet.

Sorry about that. I get a bit grumpy when I'm completely sleep deprived.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Finding a Daily Rhythm

I don't mind dishes when they are vintage Pyrex!

As you have seen before on this blog, I am not a great housekeeper. Don't get me wrong, I really like having a tidy home. But I have trouble juggling all of my responsibilities. I feel like I have to choose between the kids, cooking, and cleaning. I have mastered being able to get two of the three things done on a daily basis (normally the first two), but I know with a little discipline I could build the third piece into my daily routine. 

Perhaps I have caught the spring cleaning bug. Truly, I do not mind (and even sometimes enjoy), cleaning. My big problem is daily maintenance. I would much rather pick one day a week and do a top-to-bottom house cleaning. But with two little kids, this system has really backfired on me. I posted about the housework seesaw effect before - when it is me against them, I can't win. Their genius for mess-making never ceases to surprise me. Just a moment ago I had to retrieve little Andy, who decided to try planking in one of my houseplants.

It surprised me how much making the bed made the whole house seem tidier.

I enjoy routine, and I know how comforting a steady routine and rhythm can be to children. I am going to make an effort this spring and summer, to build a daily rhythm that will help structure our days. I want to begin a little more scheduled preschool with Jack this fall, and starting a daily rhythm now will make incorporating school easier and more natural.

To that end, there are three things I am going to start doing. One: Make the bed (and teach Jack to do the same). Two: Make and follow a laundry schedule. Three: Start using the Motivated Moms chore chart again. These chore charts are a great way to break housework into manageable pieces each day. They remind you to change the sheets and towels, dust, clean your fridge (one shelf at a time), change your furnace filter, and everything else you can think of. It is all organized and scheduled so that if you begin now, and do no more than what is on the list for each day, your house ought to have been deep-cleaned from top-to-bottom in 3 months. Plus you will be doing daily maintenance, so it will be staying clean.

A fellow blogger, Melissa at Dyno-mom gave me the laundry schedule idea

Disclaimer: I am blogging for the joy of it. I link to websites and products that I enjoy or find helpful. I receive no compensation from any of them.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Losing the Baby [Weight]

[There are no photographs with this post because I simply hate having my photo taken. My camera smile is awkward, the lighting is always poor and I am too self conscious.]

Today I bought a dress for Easter. I was so excited to buy a pretty dress because 1) I had the cash to do so, 2) my mom bought me a second dress which was really nice of her, 3) I haven't had a new dress in several years, and 4) I was able to wear a smaller size!

I have officially lost all the weight I gained during my pregnancy with Andy (born April 29 2011). I am so happy, because this week I actually weighed in LESS than I did before Andy was conceived. All told, I have lost about 17 pounds in 8 months. Today I tried on dresses that were two sizes smaller than I was wearing last summer. If it weren't for the milk factory, I probably could have gone down one more, because I was able to wear skirts in the smaller size. 

The best part of this is that I lost my weight while eating fat (and plenty of it), carbs (like bread and white potatoes), and sweets (in moderation). I did not count calories and although I have been making strides towards working out regularly, I would not say it has been habitual. I am trying to be more active every day.I think nursing could have made a difference, but since Husband has also lost 10 pounds, I think it has more to do with diet. I have been more consistent with following the dietary principles of the Weston A. Price Foundation. For those unfamiliar with these principles, I thought I would share them here. 

Dietary Guidelines
  1. Eat whole, natural foods.
  2. Eat only foods that will spoil, but eat them before they do.
  3. Eat naturally-raised meat including fish, seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, game, organ meats and eggs.
  4. Eat whole, naturally-produced milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as whole yogurt, cultured butter, whole cheeses and fresh and sour cream.
  5. Use only traditional fats and oils including butter and other animal fats, extra virgin olive oil, expeller expressed sesame and flax oil and the tropical oils—coconut and palm.
  6. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, in salads and soups, or lightly steamed.
  7. Use whole grains and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting or sour leavening to neutralize phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.
  8. Include enzyme-enhanced lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.
  9. Prepare homemade meat stocks from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb or fish and use liberally in soups and sauces.
  10. Use herb teas and coffee substitutes in moderation.
  11. Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
  12. Use unrefined Celtic sea salt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.
  13. Make your own salad dressing using raw vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and expeller expressed flax oil.
  14. Use natural sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, dehydrated cane sugar juice and stevia powder.
  15. Use only unpasteurized wine or beer in strict moderation with meals.
  16. Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.
  17. Use only natural supplements.
  18. Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.
  19. Think positive thoughts and minimize stress.
  20. Practice forgiveness.

#20 is where I seem to make the most mistakes. I tend to get caught up in what I don't get right, and focus on my own imperfections. When I let go and focus on the important things; God, family, friends, charity, wow. What a difference I notice. I feel 100 pounds lighter immediately.

This post is shared with the following blog carnivals: Monday Mania 3/19/12 , Traditional Tuesdays 3/20/12 ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A New Home

I don't have any pictures on the subject to share, so I thought I would post a few from the picnic we had the other day.

Say "cheese" - this is his camera face
There are some big changes coming down the road for the Nerdy family. Husband has been reassigned, and we are preparing to move this summer! Though we did not get the assignment we wanted, we are happy to leave the DC area. And the best part is that we will still be in the state of Virginia, close to our families and support networks. Oh, did I mention we will be living about 20 minutes away (by bicycle) from the beach?!

Mama needs a tan!

We have agreed to lease a house, a real, honest-to-goodness, single family home in a quiet neighborhood near Husband's new duty station. It is quite small, only about 200sq feet larger than our apartment. However, there is a single-car garage that we plan to make a playroom for the boys, and the amount of outdoor space doubles our overall living space. There is no HOA, so I am looking forward to buying The Best Umbrella Clothesline for the fenced-in backyard. And the front flower beds are sunny but empty! Can you say tomatoes? Oh man. I am geeking out about tomato plants and clotheslines and bicycles. 

This toy is most intriguing mama!

The neighborhood is so quiet. Not a volunteer fire station, major highway, or train station in sight. (Yes, right now we live near one of each of those. The fire station is just one block up and one block over.) We are working out the details now, but we are trying to move June 1st. The sooner the better, to my mind. So we will be eating down the freezer for the next few months. The logistics of moving 80lbs of frozen chicken are just too much for me. By the time we get down there we'll be growing pinfeathers!

If anyone has any information on where I can get grassfed beef and raw dairy in the Virginia Beach area, please email me. nerdymomma at gmail dot com

No-spill bubble bucket - worth the price

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How To Pack a Low-Sugar Easter Basket

The branches on our nature table are blooming!
 Spring is here, and when I smell that fresh clean air, my mind begins to wander. I remember all those things that made this season special as a child. I remember muddy toes in the creek out back, saying goodbye to that horrible pink puffy hand-me-down coat, new dresses for Easter, and trying on my white Sunday shoes to see if they fit (if I liked them, they were too small; if I hated them, they fit perfectly).

Easter was always fun because my mom used to decorate the house and make the holiday extra special with crafts like dyeing eggs and decorating cookies and our Easter baskets. Our Easter baskets were always loaded with candy. Chocolate, Peeps, mini candy bars, robin's eggs, and more! I remember it fondly, and I want to give similarly joyful memories to my children. We try to eat whole, God-made foods and limit our intake of refined sugar, so this makes the holidays a little bit trickier. 

I try to follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time we eat really well, and 20% of the time it's ok to indulge or compromise. Last year that meant having all the processed sugar in the Easter basket, just in smaller quantities. But Husband and I have found that sugar is tough on little Jack's system and he doesn't handle it well. If he has  too much then we deal with the effects for several days. I want him to be able to enjoy the special treats that his grandparents will give him without pushing him off the edge. With that in mind I have been thinking and planning his Easter basket and I thought I would share what I've come up with.

Each holiday is more fun for kids when the atmosphere in the home reflects the joy and anticipation of the day. See my post about decorating on a budget.

How to Pack a Low-Sugar Easter Basket

Make the Sweets at Home - Make cookies together using ingredients you are comfortable with. Bring them with you to share if you are going to someone's house for dinner. Jack is going to be so pleased to share "his" cookies.

Choose One Special Treat - I haven't decided what ours will be yet, but I want to have one pure white sugar treat in the basket. Probably a chocolate cross if I can find a nice one.

Chocolate-dipped fruit - This will be a first for me. I am going to try to dip some strawberries in chocolate to include in the basket. Strawberries are Jack's favorite fruit. I may do some banana as well, as banana is Andy's favorite.

The gift box. The books I got from trade at the used book store, the toys all cost me less than $5
Compensate with Toys and Books - I have a box in my closet where I collect toys and books as I come across them in thrift stores. Many times I have found toys and books in nearly-new condition for very little money. I'll be putting a couple of books and few small toys in the baskets. I found a whole set of nesting cups for Andy in the discount bin! $0.50 plus an additional 30% off for customer appreciation day.

What are your ideas? What are you planning on doing for Easter this year?

Bonus Tip - If you want to get your hands on some great whole-foods dessert recipes, one of my favorite bloggers, Laura at Heavenly Homemakers, has teamed up  with two other bloggers (Katie from Kitchen Stewardship, a new favorite of mine, and Kate from Modern Alternative Mama, who is new to me) to offer a sweet [hee hee] deal on their ebooks. You can get 4 ebooks with over 100 recipes and little overlap for less than $20. I have tried recipes from bother Laura and Katie, and I have purchased ebooks from both of them (in fact I'll be buying these soon) and I highly recommend them.

Just helping mama with the laundry. Thanks for visiting!
This post is shared with the Pennywise Platter, Monday Mania 3/19/12 ,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Budget-Friendly Easter Ideas

UPDATE 3/9/12: When you're done here, check out How to Pack a Low-Sugar Easter Basket!

I wrote about our switch to a cash based budget last month, and it surprises me how my spending habits have changed after just one month. I thought I was thrifty and frugal before, but now that I am forking over actual cash money for each purchase, I have really started thinking hard about each purchase.I know I am not alone in this. Many of us are feeling the pinch of higher gas prices and higher food costs. So here are a few budget-friendly tips for enjoying the Easter holiday.

$3.40 DIY Easter Wreath
Be a Planner - One of the things I like to do for any holiday is starting thinking, planning, and scoping out the thrift stores about a month in advance. Last minute preparations always cost me more. If you are on a small budget, planning can make 50 cents do a dollar's worth of work!

Budget and  Set Boundaries- this is especially important if you tend to go overboard. I buy in early in the season and then end up going overboard right at the end when I get caught up in the flurry of sale signs. My biggest ground rule this year: If you wouldn't pay full price, don't buy it. I tend to get sucked in by the red clearance stickers the week after a holiday so I might have this tattooed on my wallet. 

Homemade flower decorations for the nature table
Read - Look at your bookshelves and set any Spring or Easter themed books in a special place. I set ours next to the nature display. Books that we have had for a year or more are starting to get looked at over and over. Yay! I am planning to visit the library and pick out a few books about Spring and planting. We will also be talking about Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection quite a bit. I prefer to emphasize the changing seasons and the Resurrection over the Easter bunny.

Use and Reuse - Make a box to store all your holiday things in, so that they are protected and easy to find in the future. If you don't have much to reuse from previous holidays, visit the thrift shop and the dollar store. Look for thing that are durable enough to last you 5 years or more. That means avoid the 3-D tissue paper bunny at the dollar store. They are flimsy and even with exceptional care, he would start to look shabby after only a season or two. Now, if you found an older one from the 50s or 60s at the thrift shop, that would probably be a really great piece to have. The old ones are durable and will last a long time with proper care.

Re-purpose - Re-purposing can be as simple as saving your spaghetti sauce jar and arranging a few flowers or tree branches in it. Have your kids paint some stones and arrange them around the jar, or make ornaments to hang on the branches. Next I want to dig out some fabric scraps and make some faeries like these

Spring has come to our nature table!
DIY - Decorate thrift shop baskets with fake flowers (or real ones), ribbon or paints. Choose sturdy baskets and use them every year. Blow up some small balloons and make paper mache eggs to fill a small basket or homemade nest of twigs and woven grass. Last night I made a wreath for our door with some thrift shop plastic eggs ($1.40), a wreath frame ($1), some ribbon ($1) and hot glue. When Jack saw it today he sucked in a huge breath of air and was silent for a whole minute, he loved it so much.

Let God Decorate - Cut some branches and decorate with the DIY ornaments described in this post. Go on a nature walk and let your kids bring home whatever they find - rocks, sticks, moss, flowers, dig up a dandylion and plant it in a decorated tin can. Let the kids wash the rocks and display them in a basket or bowl (might I suggest wooden or metal enamel for this). Choose a place to make a nature display. Try not to sigh if your son wants to include chunks of asphalt and pieces of someone's tail light (yes, both are in the blue tray right now).

I hope those tips were helpful to you. Later this week (tomorrow if I get the laundry done) I will be writing about how to pack a low-sugar Easter basket. Please subscribe so you can get my updates! UPDATE: Here's the link!

 Thanks for stopping by! Sorry about the mess!
This post is shared with: The Pennywise Platter hosted by the Nourishing Gourmet.; Simple Lives Thursday #86 at GNOWFGLINS ;

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Seasonal Discomforts and Good Kitchens Gone Bad

I have fallen behind with my blogging, thanks to the beginning of allergy season here. The baby is sick for the first time, and he's 10 months old! Because of the mild winter, the allergy season in the DC area is supposed to be especially bad. Hooray.

I've been very sleep deprived, since Andy has been having a tough time at night. Today I am feeling better, so I'm going to try to tackle all the things I have let go (so, everything). Just look at that kitchen. Tsk tsk. I did clean it up right after taking that photo but yikes. The rest of my house sort of looks like that. But not with dishes.

Last night I came across a great blog, This Lovely Place I read many of her posts and felt inspired. I have also been reading up a little on Waldorf principles and introducing them to our home. I just purchased the Seasons of Joy Spring ebook. I am hoping that this book will help inspire me this spring, to get me doing more interesting and creative things with the boys. I could use the help right now.