Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pink Pancakes

So I know Valentine's Day has come and gone but I just had to share these pink pancakes. Aaron made them into little heart shapes for our first Valentine's breakfast as an old married couple. We got the recipe out of a cookbook (a gift from our wedding) called Deceptively Delicious. Jerry Seinfeld's wife has created many ways to 'hide' fruits and veggies in our everyday meals. I think we are pretty good about eating our veggies but her recipes offer unique ways to enjoy them. Her style is to cook the produce, puree it and then store it in the freezer in convenient measurements. Then you can take out the produce and sneak it into your meal later on. I have found this a great asset to CSA. Sometimes, we get more produce than we can handle in a given week due to being out of town, eating out, etc. and this allows me to answer the question, "Just what am I going to do with all these beets?" How else did you think we made our pancakes pink? ;) I know it sounds crazy but they really are de-lish! They are high in protein and give me sustaining energy long into the day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture

Aaron and I joined our local community supported agriculture (CSA) a couple of months ago. What is a CSA, you ask? Well, it is basically getting your produce (and sometimes meats, cheeses, eggs, and grains are options) straight from the farm, rather than a grocery store. If you are not a gardener or just don't have room for a garden right now, a CSA is a great choice. We are enjoying the farm-fresh vegetables, fruits and grains so tremendously! Our diet is more diverse and well-balanced. It is more nutritous because we are eating produce that has been allowed to ripen, not just on the vine, but on the fully-intact plant and is free of any pesticides, waxes, etc. that is found in the store.

This past weekend, we had the opportunity to visit Crooked Sky Farms, where our produce is grown. It was amazing to see such a lush, beautiful garden-like farm in the middle of the city. In the picture, you can see that the farm is directly next to I-17 (the tan block wall) with downtown Phoenix just on the other side. I must say, Phoenix has never looked so beautiful! At the farm, we were treated to a crop tour, lunch made from the bountiful harvests and unlimited pickings of whatever we wanted! Such a scrumptious surprise!

Benefits of joining a CSA:
Less Pollution - Since the produce is grown locally, it doesn't have to travel as far to get to you.
More Nutrition & Flavor - You will immediately notice increased flavor & aroma when food is allowed to ripen completely before being harvested. We could smell our green onions the second they were removed from the ground! Your food also has more nutrients when it is harvested only once it's ripe.
Less Chemicals & other Additives - Our farms do not use pesiticides or other chemicals (i.e., waxes) to unnaturally enhance the way produce appears. This makes it healthier for you, the environment, and the workers of the farm. Besides, that two-legged carrot still has the same nutrients and flavor as that 'normal' one-legged dude over there! Makes me think of Misfit Toyland..."Nobody wants a Charlie-in-the-box!" And, how is a shiny, waxed apple better than one that goes straight from the tree limb to your mouth? I can tell you, it's not.
Less Expensive - Traditionally, CSAs are cheaper than buying organically at the store. We didn't buy organic before, so it was a little bit of a jump for us at first. Or so we thought. I am now noticing that it is easier to stay within our grocery budget. I think this is due to learning that many parts of the produce that we don't think to eat (or that isn't even available in the store) is actually edible and quite good. For example, beet greens (tops) are a vegetable for dinner one night while the beet roots are used at another meal.
Support Local Farms - Who doesn't want to support family farms? CSAs give them guaranteed business as opposed to selling at farmer's markets each weekend where the unsold produce will basically become compost because it doesn't keep fresh for long after harvesting.
Urban Green - Like I showed above, this farm is located smack-dab in the middle of a city that many people call "The Concrete Jungle." It is surrounded by downtown and warehouses. If the farm wasn't still here, you guessed it, it would probably be concrete.
Learning Experience - Learn what foods can be grown in your area and at what time during the may be surprised. You will also inevitably eat foods you may have never seen or heard of, let alone, eaten. This forces you to try new things. Getting stuck in a rut with your diet is not good for you! Aaron and I have had fun trying out new recipes on foods that we have forgotten the name of by the time we get home from picking them up!
Know Your Farmers - Knowing the person who is growing and handling your food before you get it is such a nice feeling! Here is our Farmer Frank. He is so full of garden & farm wisdom and eager to share that Aaron and I were sponges, soaking up all his knowledge and experience.
To find out more about CSAs in your area, check out Local Harvest.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Wedding Signature Quilt

So my signature quilt from the wedding is still in pieces. I hear this is a common trend caused by post-wedding bliss (...or something). In an attempt to prevent this, I made sure to have the quilt in block form prior to the wedding. I think this helped a lot with the issue of guests signing beyond the sewing line, which causes you to then have to get them to resign later (so unromantic) or secretly forge their name (feeling dangerous?). The quilt will remain in blocks until all our loved ones have added their signatures and blessings. Gathering all the family that were unable to travel for our wedding is a task that probably won't be completed until this July, and one that will probably require me to make more blocks. Definitely worth it!

I must say that I am so happy to have chosen this keepsake over a guest book. I love its uniqueness and how guests eagerly shared their blessings and comments right on the quilt. I may take out their cards and read them from time to time but I will see this much more often. My uncle has always drawn a self-portrait when signing my birthday cards and I absolutely adore that he chose to sign my quilt the same way!

I especially enjoyed learning how to quilt with my mom. This is the first quilt for both of us and we both want to do it again. We'll see how we feel when it is actually complete! An avid quilter friend of mine tutored me along the way and she is also going to quilt the whole piece when we are finished. In the center of the quilt will be an embroidered block of my husband's and my name with our wedding date.

For this signature quilt, I used archival-quality, permanent markers. I did toy with the idea of using washable markers so that I could hand-stitch over the signatures, making them more permanent. I think that would be absolutely beautiful! It is a much bigger undertaking, though and this being my first quilt, I thought it better that I not overwhelm myself and then never want to quilt again! It is probably a better match for a smaller signature quilt like a baby shower. We shall see. I wanted the wedding quilt to be a wall hanging but, realistically I think it will cover a bed when it is all finished. Of course, size depends on your guest list and the pattern you choose.

I chose the pattern Misselthwaite for several reasons. First, you can fit 4 signatures on a single block. I also love the story of The Secret Garden and gardening in general. I also considered Don't Fence Me In because it screamed signature quilt to me, but I thought a pattern name like that would be bad ju-ju and not appropriate for a wedding.

This pattern uses paper-piecing which I was really intimidated by since I have heard it to be tediuos and hard to wrap your mind around. But, it was so easy! If you can trace, then you can do this! It really is just tracing with a sewing machine instead of a pencil. It was an added bonus to have the paper backing on the blocks during signing - it added extra stability so the fabric did not bunch. Speaking of fabric - all of my fabric came from Hancock's of Paducah where I found Deb Strain's beautiful peices. I was very impressed with the quality.

I will be sure to post the completed version of our signature wedding quilt....stay tuned!

What is a treasured keepsake from your wedding? How did you capture who was in attendance?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Home Control Journal

Rather quickly after getting married, I realized I needed to create some sort of home maintenance/cleaning schedule. I am accustomed to caring for a 500 square foot apartment with an even smaller balcony. So when I moved into Aaron's 1600 square foot home with both front and (gasp!) back yards, needless to say I was a bit overwhelmed as to where to begin. Not to mention moving in all of my worldly goods made for piles of homeless items all over the house. I didn't know where anything was and I knew two things were in order:
1. Simplification
2. Organization

Now, I LOVE to organize. Call me a freak but I get such a sense of accomplishment from organizing and I enjoy the mental challenge. Though I am a pack-rat by nature (I WILL need this someday...), being surrounded by simplicity offers such a breath of fresh air for me. Not to mention my internal control-freak beast is satisfied much quicker when there are only a few things to manage. Given all this, you would think I would need absolutely no help in getting a home in order. I am impatient. It drove me totally bonkers seeing our home still in c.h.a.o.s. (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) a whole month after the wedding. (In hindsight, I see how ridiculous I was being.) Basically, I needed some sort of rule of thumb to gauge my progress so I would FEEL like I was getting somewhere. That is when I found FlyLady.

Now, I don't feel that I need to be reminded to put on my shoes everyday, but her simple steps to creating a schedule sent me shooting off into the right direction. Besides, it is such a little ego-compliment when she is trying to instill the habit of getting dressed everyday and yahoo, me! I already have that one down pat! Creating a weekly schedule is my first step to a Home Control Journal. I'd love to hear about other schedules that you have found to work for you and your family. I am able to get each day's "chores" completed before I begin work each morning around 9am (or I save some of it for a break in the afternoon if I have an early meeting, etc.). I will explain my daily schedule at a later time.

Spend one hour 'blessing' my home (Wash bedsheets, empty all trash, gather recycling, vacuum upstairs and stairs, clean vacuum, clean mirrors/doorknobs/light switches, dust)
Spend 15 mins. decluttering
Spend 15 mins. performing a Spring Cleaning-like chore

Clean fridge
Menu & Shopping List planning (coupons, etc.)
Put trash and recycling out at the curb
One load of laundry
CSA pickup
15 mins. each on Spring Cleaning and decluttering

One load of laundry
Calendar sync with husband
Errand day
Clean out purse & car
15 mins. each of Spring Cleaning and decluttering

Clean toilets & tubs
Sweep patios
One load of laundry
15 mins. each of Spring Cleaning and decluttering

Date Night!
Sweep and mop tile (which is most of our house!)
Clean birdcage & catbox
Water & fertilize plants
One load of laundry
15 mins. each of Spring Cleaning and decluttering

play, play, play!
Farmer's Market

Rejoice & Relax!
Calendar Sync

How does home management work in your household? What are your tricks of the trade to keep on top of it all?

Welcome to Natural Homemaking!

Greetings and welcome to my homemaking journal. My name is Vicki and have been married to my husband, Aaron, for a little over 3 months. We are an eHarmony success couple! I am very interested in all things homemaking...and the more natural the approach, the better. You are invited to share in these experiences with me as I meander through my new roles as wife, homeowner and (later!) motherhood. I encourage you to share your experiences with me as well (I am new at this, you know!) as I encounter the challenges and blessings down this new road in my life. Happy Homemaking!