Monday, August 22, 2011

Canning the moment

Here's our lives at a glance right now at 4pm Monday, August 22, 2011:

  • Juju is wearing size 9/10 mud boots now
  • She potty trained herself in three days a couple of weeks ago.  I'd asked her every day for months if she'd prefer big girl undies or a diaper.  She was finally ready.  

  • Z is size 13, but can wear his first pair of men's size 1 that I never thought he'd grow into...

  • Both are in bed napping, probably growing their feet more...
  • Ben is at a church checking to make sure the air conditioners are working, he split wood all morning as today is his day off.  Here he is cooking pizzas at the Farmer's Market:

  • I am listening to "Yesterday" by the Beatles on Pandora while I sit here updating you.  I spent all morning making pancakes and canning tomatoes.  I am surrounded by little messes that I want very badly to disappear, but they wait for me, sleeping, and probably growing too.  
  • We had a family lunch together before naptime...I asked Juju what she wanted for her birthday, she said "stars".  She continued, "I like stars, toys and flowers."  I misheard, "You like boys?" I asked.  She quickly responded, "I don't like boys, they're wild...I like you."  I like you too, Juju.  
  • Baby #3 wiggles more than her siblings ever did, but right now tries to sleep through her hiccups.  
  • Yesterday, Ben canned his third batch of pickles.  
  • Last week, I had the best day ever canning peaches with my little ones.  Z loved peeling the skins off.  They told me stories for an hour as I cut the peaches open and they removed the pits.  I told Ben I wished I could can our day today.  He said, "You did."  
Here's hard worker #1 canning peaches last week

This is all that remained and I found this awesome peach jelly recipe to make using the pits and peels.  Ours turned out great and we didn't even have to water bath them!

Here's hard worker #2 this morning using a big girl knife for the first time!!!

Our dining room table hasn't been this happy since it had authentic Indonesian food served on banana leaves on it!  

We have lots of work yet to do, but it's all very rewarding.  Time to wake the sleepy hard workers.  I need to make dinner too.  Stir fry again (so many veggies this time of year!!!)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Birthdays!!!

A special Happy Birthday today, to my Dad who is serving our country in Afghanistan for six months.  Last weekend he crossed his halfway mark, so he's on the downhill now.  We're excited for him to come to Ohio to meet the baby just a few weeks after she is born.  Thankfully, we can Skype and it won't be that long before he sees her.  I sent him a package and it got to him in less than a week, so he's been waiting for over a week to open it today.  I hope the rice krispy treats are still good!!  Happy Birthday, Dad!

Well, it's August, dare I share August birthdays for Ben's family in August!?!  I think I dare!!  This past week we had yet another very special birthday.  Grandpa H. turned the big 8-0!  Yay, Grandpa!!  This is quite an achievement!  Grandpa H. used to work as a mechanic at a Chrysler/Honda service center and also taught auto shop at the local high school until he retired.  Now he works part time driving cars for a dealer who buys cars at auction and full time as the family mechanic/handy man.  
Here he is doing driving his boat at the cabin in WV with a wee little Z.  He and Grandma are the primary caretakers of the cabin.  We know he loves to be in WV as much as his father-in-law, who built the cabin, did.  Happy birthday, Grandpa!!  We love you!!

Finally, Grandma H. (aka Gramma) has a birthday just a week after Grandpa!  Grandma also serves a very important bonus role in the family (besides Queen Mum), she was an OB nurse and supervisor until she retired and now fields many of the family's medical questions on a daily basis!  Here she is holding a brand new Juju.  Happy Birthday, Gramma!

We are so thankful for all the ways Grandpa and Grandma bless our family - I'm especially thankful they adopted me 14 years ago when I married their grandson.  

Here's a birthday present for you all that I can't give you any other way, it's a photo and videos of Z's Christmas pageant last year.  I never got around to posting them!

I know it cuts off the right side, but Z is on the left anyways.  He's below the most left cow.  Happy holidays! I mean, Happy Birthday!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

good food, locally

Our church has grown and is planting a church in Strasburg, which is the town just North of us.  The new pastor and his wife, Heather, are just lovely and only moved here last week.  I talked to Heather this week about where to get food and told her I'd write up where we've learned to get food after 13 years of living in the area.  This is what I wrote for her and I share publicly in hopes that it will benefit someone else locally too.

Last year, we committed to eating locally as much as possible within reason.  Along with that went our use of the big chain food stores.  We have one local chain grocery store that, when we couldn't get something locally, we could rationalize that at least we were supporting a truly local business.  The following is a list for locals of where we get our food in Tuscarawas County.  I told Heather that we don't go to Aldi's anymore because we can't get all our groceries there and it's too hard with kids to make multiple stops, but as you will see, it's not about that at all (because we go a lot of different places).  The prices may be cheap, but how far did the food travel to get there?  Who is my money supporting?  What were the animals fed who's meat or dairy products I'm eating?  How were the workers treated at the factories that packaged the food?  How much packaging am I paying for and having to figure out how to dispose of?

We're not perfect, our eating habits and purchasing habits are a work in progress.  I'd love to eat less sugar, but currently we are not on any special diet, we only try to eat locally and naturally.  This is where we're at right now:

Eggs: Our chickens in our backyard.  Farmer's Market for above and beyond needs.

 Our solar-paneled chicken coop and garden

Produce: We try our best to eat what's only in season and therefore can get most of this from one of the three farmer's markets in our area during the Summer months.  We have one early Tuesday mornings at Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia, one on Wednesday afternoons at the fairgrounds (there's a cute guy cooking pizzas there most every week too!!  He says he's Scottish-Italian, like "Wigtonio" or something) from 3-7pm and one at Dover park on Thursday mornings till about 10am.  This year we have three primary ways we're getting produce: our CSA through Shepherd's Market (a vendor on Wednesdays), our community garden through church and our backyard.  We're usually pretty set between them all.  The Shepherd's Market delivers through the Winter and kept us stocked with purple carrots almost all Winter long.  It was wonderful!

Our first CSA basket with lavendar jam  

Meat: We bought a half beef from Shepherd's Market last Fall which was so big we'll only need to buy a quarter beef this Fall.  We bought 25 chickens from the Geiser farm in Kidron, Ohio.  Both farms treat their animals well and do not give them any hormones or steroids.  Before last Fall, we bought our meats from Sugar Valley Meats in Sugarcreek.  I believe all their meat is steroid and hormone free, but I can't vouch for how happy the chickens were at Gerber's or wherever the beef comes from locally.  We still buy pork from them, we just try not to eat much of it since it's not "kosher".
Where we get our seafood.  :-)

Milk: The Shepherd's Market people hooked us up with their neighbor who is Amish.  After personally inspecting his farm, we bought into his herd (called a herd share) and pay a monthly fee of $24 for boarding of the cows.  He sends a gallon of raw milk to the farmer's market every week with the Shepherd's market people.  As I mentioned before, the Shepherd's Market still make deliveries to our area through the Winter, they go to the Daily Grind Cafe in New Philadelphia every other Wednesday, so we can get deliveries of milk year round.  Before we started this we were paying more for milk per month buying Hartzler's pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from Buehler's.

Bread: About 40% of the time I make my own.  My best recipes are this one and this one.  In the school year I bake a little more, but this Summer I've been relying heavily on store bought bread.  I am a fan of the Brownberry whole grains line.  I mainly check for cellulose which we began to avoid after reading this article. I always knew Frosties were too good to be true.

Beans and Rice: These are staples at our house.  I buy hard beans from the grocery store and use my pressure cooker to make them.  I buy Jasmin or other short grain white or brown rice from the Oriental Food Store in Canton.  I buy Basmati and lentils, Indian spices, pureed garlic and ginger from the Indo-Asian Grocer in Canton.

Spices: I love to go to Sugar Valley Bulk Foods in Sugarcreek for these since they're so cheap.  I try not to go crazy there because it's mostly mystery food (and spices).  I have no idea why the King Arthur flour there is less than half the price of King Arthur flour at the grocery store.  It bothers me a bit.  Not enough to begin a full fledged investigation, but I wonder still...

Flour, Sugar and other baking stuff: I usually buy flour in bulk from one of the Amish bulk food stores around here.   The closest one to me is next door to KFC at the Dover exit by the highway, but they have a better selection at SV Bulk Foods in Sugarcreek.  I have been hearing lots from nurse, Joel Lehman at church about different local mills.  I think Baltic Mills is one of them.  I've checked out Magnolia's Mill myself and they only grind wheat flour these days.

Lunch Meat: This is a luxury for us as we're a bit picky.  We only eat turkey and only nitrate free, unprocessed meat.  So, we pay $8 a pound at Buehler's or Giant Eagle (yes, we do go there too) or we drive all the way to Walnut Creek Cheese and pay $4.25 a pound.  Usually, we don't have lunch meat, we eat leftovers or peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  If I do go to WC Cheese, I buy a bunch in half pound bags (nitrate free goes bad quickly) and freeze them.

Cheese and Butter: We like cheese and butter that Minerva Dairy makes and Shepherd's Market sells.  I've driven to the dairy myself to save money and found that with the drive, I didn't save any money after all.  I buy the roll butter in bulk and just freeze it, same with the cheese.  I'll get a 10-12 lb. hunk of cheese, cut it up, freeze it.  A fun local place to go is Yaggi's Cheese in Stonecreek, just South of New Phila.
Krantz Berries

Pretty much we go to Buehler's or Giant Eagle for everything else (tea, chips, etc.).  I'm being challenged to can more and try my hand at making more.  I've started making my own yogurt, croutons, laundry soap, softener, shampoo and I canned peaches for the first time this year.   Every year we add something new to our canning repertoire.  We will or have already canned sour kraut, pickles (Ben did both of those this year), diced tomatoes, and salsa.  We freeze jam, corn and apple sauce every year.  We also have started storing potatoes, apples and onions in our garage during the Winter months.  I bought 100 pounds of seconds potatoes from Shepherd's Market for $20 last year and they were organic and five different colors.  We get apples for sauce and storing from Hillcrest Orchard in Walnut Creek.  Oooh, I just noticed on their site, they have peaches too!  I just bought my first peck of peaches from the farmer's market, but maybe I'll go there for the next two.   One peck didn't can very much (10 pints).  We pick strawberries during their season at Krantz Berry Farm in Dover.  I got my other berries at the Goodings Market stand on your way to Sugarcreek near the Dover exit. The corn I package for freezing en mass with several family members in Mansfield and Grandma gets good sweet corn from a road side stand for us to do that.  Last year I froze 7 dozen, this year I'm upping it to 10.

Making Apple Sauce in the Victorio Strainer

 We found Discount Drug Mart met our requirements for local business more than CVS, so we try to mostly go there for drug store stuff.  For dining out, that's a real luxury with kids!  We have to go all the way to Canton for good Indian food that I don't have to make myself (The Bombay Sitar) or a Chipotle (not a local but happy meat).  We have several good Mexican restaurants in our area.  El Campesino's in Strasburg is one of the best.  I think that about covers it!  Sorry if this was boring for any one out of town.  This post was written for people new to the area.  Happy Eating!!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

June Birthdays...really!

Yes, it's really August and I'm just getting to June Birthdays! Despite my delinquency, these are very very important people that I love very much. They just have birthdays in the middle of Summer when we're so very busy! In order, we have Jenna, our niece who just turned 9! Wow!! Happy Birthday, Jenna!

The very next day is her Daddy's birthday, my brother-in-law, Andy. He's a construction builder and can make just about anything. He and his wife make such a cute couple, he at 6'7" and she just a few inches over 5'. They definitely make wonderful kids, maybe we're a little biased! Below is a rough picture of their whole family and those three kids are my kids' favorite people in the world. I wished we lived closer, but alas, we're a whole hour and a half away. At least we get to see each other every other month or so.

The day after Uncle Andy's birthday is my little guy's! Z turned 5 this year! We love this age. He is so much fun, and such a sweetie heart.

Yes, the day after Buddy's b-day is his Aunt Biz's b-day! Happy birthday, Biz! This is her holding baby Juju when she was one month old. Biz is currently an apartment manager, but is also a licensed massage therapist. She is getting married to this guy in the Spring. We're so excited for you, Biz!

While I'm at it, here's the rest of the pictures of June this year. Sorry for the lateness, but it's been nothing less than wild here at the WigHouse.

I'll put July's pictures in the sidebar for a while until we get some August pictures taken. Last night I canned peaches and tonight we're canning our second batch of pickles. Turns out Ben makes AWESOME pickles!! He also made sour kraut which is still fermenting. I had fun talking to my Dad today on Skype. He had sent goodies from Afghanistan and we opened the box together. Oh the wonders of technology! Can't wait till he's safe and sound at our house just after the baby's born. That'll be a fun reunion since my mom will be here already. I think they talk almost every day on Skype! She's busy helping her parents find a house to buy in TN near her and her brothers. So funny that for my whole life my parents and two sets of grandparents lived thousands of miles apart (England or MD, TN, IL or IA) and soon all of them will have houses in the same area of TN! It's practically a miracle! Well, it will be when my parents retire and really live there and not in Germany.

Last month, Marcella returned to Indonesia. We miss her terribly, but know she's happy to be home and ready for the next adventure. Kami cinta kau, Cella Bella!