Monthly Archives: October 2014

Pure Purees

baby food

The time has come! Junior is starting to eat real food. He is probably eating a heck of a lot better than his mom and dad. Hubby and I are notorious for eating horrible and of course our bodies show it. We’re still healthy but we’re bigger people and I don’t run… unless it’s to chase after my dog who was running away.

We are starting to live more active lives and waking more with Junior up and down the road. Even house-life has us burning more calories. Stacking wood, installing fences, running up and down stairs and carrying a hefty child has definitely slimmed us down a bit, but we’ve got a far ways to go. Eating healthy is now a family goal and now that Junior is taking big bites of yummy pureed food, it’s time mommy and daddy did the same (perhaps we won’t blend ours up so much though).

But, one step at a time here, let’s start with Junior.  Always looking to save money I was at the grocery store when I saw some discounted veggies and fruit newly packaged for sale. I scooped up pears, avocado, sweet potato, and some bananas. Nearby I found some local grown squash, acorn and butternut.  Junior has been eating his rice cereal for about a week now so I was excited to start introducing new flavours to him, as I really want him to enjoy the healthy choices as well. Plus, have you looked at the salt and sugar content of most baby foods? And yes there are healthy options, but you pay a lot for them!

I really don’t need to give you recipes of all the purees I made… a monkey could make them. Cook, steam, bake, puree with an immersion blender or even a potato masher if you are desperate. Add water until desired consistency and freeze in ice cube trays. Transfer to labelled ziplock bags later.

We now have a month’s supply of the following purees: sweet potato with cinnamon, acorn squash, butternut squash, a combo of the two squashes, berry and pear mix, pear, carrots, and sweet potato. Today I’m whipping up the banana mash (I’m not sure how that will hold up in the freezer, and the thawing process at feeding time).

At meal times Junior gets a bowl with a few table spoons of rice cereal and another bowl of one of the cubes (thawed or nuked until warm). Once in a while I’ll grab two cubes to mix up the flavours for him. When he has accustomed to most of the new fruits and veg, I’ll start mixing and matching and adding new ones in. I’m excited to try chicken and potato, peas and sweet potato, white bean and kale, spinach and chicken, beets and blueberries. Oh the possibilities!

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One

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Why one? One is the loneliest number. Two is better. Three is even more awesome. Awesome for who? Two could be good, but we’re okay with one. Yup. I’m talking about babies. The second I squeezed little Junior out of me we were bombarded by the usual groan-inducing question, “So are you having more?”. I always thought two was a good number, but then again, my sister and I were never close, and still to this day only get together at family functions. Same with Hubby, he has two sisters, and he rarely “hangs out” with them other than the obligatory dinners and events. I don’t dislike the idea of siblings, but I don’t believe a child needs them to become well-rounded. Parents might have to work a little harder to socialize their child, as the idea of sharing anything will become very foreign very quickly, but does one child, need another child, to become a great adult?

Hubby and I want to provide a good steady and strong life for Junior. We want to afford to give him what he needs and teach him to work for what he wants. We will instill great work ethic through chores, and fun with family adventures and vacations. We want to give Junior our 100%. It’s hard already in life.  I can’t say I give Hubby my 100% and nor can he to me. Our dogs have felt the neglect of a busy life and schedule and the last vacation we took alone was our belated honeymoon due to finances.  Times have changed. Back in “the old days” having kids was just a thing you did. Birth control wasn’t really an option and truth be told the extra hands on the farm were good to have and outweighed feeding the little buggers. But as times change, women have careers, shift work becomes almost a norm, everyone seems to be in debt (I hope we’re not the only ones), and everything costs money. Oh, Junior, you want to play hockey? Hmm, well, mommy and daddy can’t afford the $1000 to get you set up for that. Children are now constantly fundraising in schools, bringing home an assortment of chocolate covered nuts or magazines filled with Christmas nic naks to make the school extra money. Playing soccer doesn’t just mean one night after school in the back field, it’s driving to tournaments  three times a week and buying new uniforms and expensive cleats. If Junior wants to learn how to be a ballerina, it means dance lessons, and expensive leotards (we’re open minded parents).

There even seems to be more expenses these days… cost of living…. Umm… we only just bought a second car, we only have one tv, we don’t vacation….ever, and I can’t remember the last time I had my hair done, and my nails painted, but we’re on a strict budget. One has to make over a hundred thousand just to keep up to the “cost of living”.

Oh and don’t get me started on just how busy life is. We find it hard to find time to visit family and friends, walk the dogs, and run errands. Run Run Run. Rush Rush Rush. Hubby and I hardly have alone time other than sitting in front of the tv when he gets home late at night.

Lately more of our friends are having babies, and then having more. And to each their own. I’ll happily bounce their babies and arrange play dates, but having more children isn’t on our priority list. And don’t get me wrong, don’t label me as a parent snob. It’s because we don’t think we can spread ourselves any thinner, we don’t think it’s fair to Junior to have more kids just for the sake of having more. We watch other parents of multiple children and worship the ground they walk on for having the patience to handle it. But Hubby and I are not so sure we’re that strong. And we’re okay with not stressing out about it.

And yes, we have thought about having more, the maternal draw to crying babies and the instinct to procreate pulls hard at my uterus at times. We’ve had the conversations…. The “should we?”, the “will he be lonely?” and the “more is merrier?” conversations. But we both come to the conclusion. We love our family. We have two insanely stupid and high maintenance dogs, and we have one amazingly fantastic son. We have finally found a great balance in our own relationship (although we could benefit from a few more dates), and we can make it now, pay check to pay check, without needing loan sharks.

But there is no easy way to tell the grandparents of Junior that Junior, might be it. He’s it… the one, the only (at least from us). There is no polite way to stifle the questions, the pressure and the guilt. We take it in stride. We’ll keep smiling. But for now, we’re just practising having more kids. And we’re okay with that, cause we can hardly find time for that!

Just an Update

wood

Nearly a year ago we were walking through this dream house wondering how we could afford it.  A year ago we were only a few months pregnant. A year ago we were boxing up our stuff to start our new lives in the country.

Today, we are house poor, but house happy, our son is 6 months old and our stuff, is mostly out of the boxes.

I’m finishing up my coffee now to write this, after working for an hour shifting around the remnants of wood from last season in our wood room to make way for hopefully 2 or 3 cords of new wood for this season. We were late and didn’t order our wood in the spring so we’ve purchased a few cords from a friend of my sister’s. We had asked my grandparents for a contact for wood that they trusted, and a friend of a friend of a friend gave them some guy’s name. I looked him up but he was sold out for the season, so was his son.  I’ll save that guy’s name for next year since our new wood guy is almost an hour away and we’ve got to go pick it up. With a 6 month old, Hubby’s schedule, and our lack of trailer driving experience, it isn’t something we are looking forward to, but the price is right.

So the wood is piled, the wood furnace is pumping the house full of heat on this damp fall day, and the dogs are fast asleep on the couch.  I’ve always got something to do around the house, and crafting has become top priority to prep for the craft fair in a month. I’ve got burlap pillows, wood signs, clothespin snowflake ornaments, burlap and ribbon Christmas tree bows and plenty of other “stuff” that I’m hoping people will buy for gifts or holiday decor. Today a lady emailed me to see if I would attend another craft sale at the end of November after seeing my ads on Kijiji. I have a feeling I’m booked that day, but if not, this might be quite lucrative. Can I write off table fees at craft sales as an expense when I start claiming my business?

What a Week

signs

What a week. From thawing turkeys to cold snaps and heat waves, this week has been about teething babies, run away dogs and a pile of wood crafts!

Let’s start with turkey weekend. My heart was in it, but my body wasn’t. I’ve been looking forward to hosting my dad’s Thanksgiving dinner here for a while now, and have been menu planning for a while, but when it came down to actually cleaning the entire house by myself (hubby had to work part of the weekend) while juggling a teething 6 month old, and prepping food for a small crowd of 6, I just wanted to throw my hands in the air and go curl up in bed.

But I managed to get the house somewhat sparkling for a whole 2 hours, the turkey into the oven and I even baked my own bread to make into stuffing using my mom’s recipe. (see below for recipe).  We served creamy leek and potato soup, and then the usual feast of turkey and sides. I had purchased my turkey from the states and for some reason it cooked in 3 hours…. Which is very strange. What do they put in their turkeys?  My dad cracked his tooth on my herb and cheddar bread (it had a delicious crust to it and in my defense his tooth was on borrowed time anyways) and my sister made a pecan pumpkin pie concoction for dessert.

We’ve had freezing cold weather this week and then a sudden heat wave that took us up to the mid to high 20s. Junior has been teething, so he’s grumpy, oh and add in his snotty cold (a side effect of finally taking him to play group) and no one has been sleeping!

Lack of sleep must have gotten the best of hubby since he was out cleaning up the yard and left one of the gates open. Long story short…one of our dogs escaped and went running through the fields leaving me sobbing at the kitchen window watching my furrbaby run off, and Junior crying in his exersaucer after being scared from me screaming after my dog. I finally grabbed Junior and we ran half a field to catch my dog. Hubby had left for work and all the neighbours were at out, leaving me feeling quite helpless.

On a fun note, I’ve rented a table at a Christmas craft fair in November and have been busy making burlap items and rustic wooden signs. Hopefully it will help with the cost of Christmas or even pay off a bill or two.

Well, time is short these days, and Junior has begun to scream after a very short nap. Poor baby. Time for cuddles.

Stuffing Recipe

Disclaimer: all amounts are approximate, all ingredients are debatable, each time I make it I add new things and I actually have never tried to write it down before.

Cut or tear some bread into a big bowl (make enough that you think to yourself…”holy that’s a lot of bread”) Set bowl on top of fridge overnight to allow bread to dry out. I use the bottom of the turkey pan so that the little bits left over from making the stuffing help add flavour to the drippings.

Add a dollop of butter or margarine

Mix in 2 cups of finely chopped onions

Throw in a handful of “poultry spice” (no clue what it’s made of… but the package is actually called “poultry spice”)

Salt and pepper until you cough

Chop up a cup and a half of cooked bacon

½ cup of warm water

Remove all rings and watches and get elbow deep in that bowl and mix thoroughly. Taste as you go to make sure it’s seasoned enough (this is also why you want to make lots, because if you are like me you will eat a lot of it before it’s even cooked). The mixture should ball up when you grab a handful, ie the margarine should be the glue that binds it.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours in a slow cooker, stirring often to prevent over-crustiness.

Spicy Cabbage Rolls

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Last week I decided to cook something easy so I grabbed a frozen cabbage roll casserole that I purchased on sale at the grocery store.  (you can stop reading right here and see what my issue was… “something easy” is never easy in my house, “frozen cabbage roll casserole” does not sound appealing, and “on sale” is not always good). Well, that casserole smelled like a dogs fart on a hot sweaty day, and one whiff of it and I turned my nose up at its mushy messiness.  It sat in the fridge for a few days begging for someone to eat it, but I soon put it out of its misery come garbage day.

So I’m on a mission to make and freeze items that normally would taste horrid when store bought, ie. the above mentioned cabbage rolls.  And since I can’t seem to follow a recipe for the life of me, here’s what I came up with.

Spicy Cabbage Rolls

1 cup chopped white onion

1 cup red cabbage diced (I had some left over, and it’s a great way to sneak in some more veg)

1 large clove of garlic minced

Combine in pan with oil and sauté until onions are transparent.  Remove to a large bowl.

2 cups cooked rice

2 cups diced mushrooms

Cook in pan until heated through and well combined. Remove to the same large bowl.

1 lbs of ground beef

6 Italian sausages removed from their casings.

Brown together and try to break up the meat as much as possible.

Add salt and pepper

1 tsp of chili flakes

1 tsp of chili powder

Stir and remove to the large bowl.

While meat is cooking, roast 6 tomatillos, ½ of a white onion and 3 jalapenos in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 mins (drizzled with oil, and salt and pepper).

For the sauce, combine 1 can of spaghetti sauce, 1 can of crushed tomatoes and the chopped roasted tomatillos and onion into a large bowl. Add chopped roasted jalapenos one at a time until desired spice is achieved.

The bowl of filler should be pretty cool by now, so add 3 eggs and mix together.

I have no patience for the traditional boiling of the cabbage, so I placed the head in my sink and ran steaming hot tap water over it and peeled the leaves away. Soak the leaves in the hot water in the sink until ready to stuff.  If the leaves are still not pliable, shove them into the microwave for 1 min (the water on the leaves will steam them).  Now stuff them, burrito style and place in a casserole dish.

Pour sauce over top and cook 30 mins at 350 degrees (adding cheese if desired) or cover in tinfoil and freeze for a cold winter day (thaw partially and cook for I’m guessing 1 hour)!  Serve with garlic bread and chef’s salad.

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Take that disgusting grocery store cabbage rolls!!!

Weeping Willow

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As a little girl, I would love to play under the great sweeping giant willow trees at the local botanical gardens. I would pretend the drooping branches that swept the ground were sheltered walls to a secret hideaway and the large twisted branches were stairs to another world. I’m a bit old now for having a fantasy garden, and a giant willow takes many, many years to get to its full potential, but I knew that our yard should be home to one. Hubby and I packed Junior into his car seat mid August and drove into the city to a popular nursery, eager to pick out a willow. We searched the aisles and green houses but found nary a one. We were very disappointed to find that apparently inside city limits, willows can’t be sold.  I knew that they had a very invasive root system, but I assumed it would only be a “planter-beware” warning when buying.  We left empty handed and sulked back to the country to our small nursery that couldn’t possibly have anything larger than decorative twisted willows in pots. I should slap myself on the back of the hand for judging the little nursery from sight alone.  I had passed by it several times before and as a tiny building I hadn’t thought twice at stopping in.  Now, a very humbled family strolled the acres of trees, a lumbering old lab dog following us for free pats.  Ducks, geese, chickens and cats roamed freely and rows upon rows of very low priced trees could be found.  I loaded an 8 foot tall willow onto my cart and thought nothing more of how we would get it home and proudly dragged my find to the cashier.

Between Hubby and I, we were able to stick the large pot in the back seat and the willow stuck out the back window of our SUV.  I drove slowly home, hazards on, waving to neighbours as we drove the few kilometers.  As mentioned before, willows have a huge root system and are well known for crushing septic pipes and wreaking havoc on foundations, so I was well aware the willow would need to be shunned to a far corner of the lot (all the better to view it from the house). We decided on a spot close to where the future garden would be, and the far back fence gate would eventually be sheltered under the great willow branches. Compared to older generations, my willow looks very sad and pathetic, a single tall trunk and a spattering of branches, but its potential was there.  I’ll be too old to be able to play on it’s twisted trunk, and maybe not even Junior, but perhaps I might have grand kids that will visit and I can watch them playing under the magical shelter of the willow branches.

What Have I Done?

cat

So, apparently if you feed one cat, it means you are feeding ALL the cats. Note to self, no more feeding the cats.

Garage Cat

cat

With all this talk about getting ducks, and chickens, and having two dogs and a baby, one would think that the addition of a cat would be a natural next step. I mean, we have a few mice that sneak into the house, seems like a great idea. Well, that’s what most country folk would think… but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’m a self-proclaimed dog lover.  I grew up with cats in the house and they had the most horrible habits of urinating where they wanted (more than one year my mom would pull out the cardboard boxes filled with Christmas ornaments only to find the cats had fouled them), and our cats were notorious for waiting until we had company for dinner before climbing up onto the china cabinet and projectile vomiting their dinner down the side of it, the whole time making a great dramatic scene of coughing, and gagging, leaving us and our guests with not much of an appetite.

We have a habit of leaving our garage door open for many reasons, extensive yard work, airing out or to unload groceries, but this has brought me to a great conundrum. We became the not-so-proud owners of a “garage cat”.  A little kitten, maybe a few months old, a dark tabby had scurried in and made our garage into a comfortable place to live. Of course each time we would peer into the garage, it would run away and hide, which meant it had not been handled much, or at all. It probably came from next door, the dairy farm with an abundance of cats with no names and an ever present litter of new kittens. I’m torn, since I’m an animal lover, but with fall here and winter fast approaching, a cat would need more space and love than a garage could offer, and the smell of a cat box, confined in our garage is not an appetizing thought….add in the cost of feeding the darn thing and I’m ready to chase the little thing out now.

My greatest mistake was leaving a bowl of dog kibble, a bowl of milk and a box with a towel in it.  A hungry lonely animal pulls at my heart strings to be sure, but this all meant that the kitten was less likely to leave.  For a week I left the garage door open hoping it would wander away, but each day I would refresh the water, add more food and search for the garage cat in hopes of catching a glimpse.

Today, with the garage door open, I went out to get something from the freezer and saw the tip of the kitten’s tail head out the door. I quickly leapt back into the house and hit the auto close button on the garage door. I felt triumphant and then a sudden wave of guilt. I went back inside and made a mash of cat food (yes I broke down and bought a few jars) and dog food kibble and placed it on my front porch.

Reality is this… our dogs want to kill the thing, and even when it sits on our front porch, our dogs go absolutely crazy, pacing the house, huffing and running out in the yard to find a way to get to the front yard to dispatch the intruder. We also have no extra money, for spay/neuter, for food, for flea meds etc. And memories of vomiting cats and poop treasures under the couch reminds me that it’s better we don’t have a cat.  It can live on my front porch, or wander back to the farm, but it won’t be welcome in my house (says me and the dogs).  Hubby is a bit sad with my decision but I am certain than in the dead of winter, the smell of a cat in the garage would make him regret having a soft heart.