The Slow Rhythm of Now

I am up and writing because lately at night I have been laying in bed for at least a half an hour with my mind wandering and not able to fall asleep. It probably has something to do with the baby not waking around 11pm anymore. I really liked that nursing session that gave me just enough of a hormone boost to get sleepy and drop off. It meant that I woke up a few more times at night than I do now, but there was not that struggle to fall asleep at the beginning of the night. Alas, I have resigned myself to less sleep than I think I might need since I don’t seem to be getting it no matter what schedule I try.

I am finding myself wanting to hold onto this time of life forever, or at least a bit longer. I don’t really mind the bitter cold days, as long as we have nowhere to go. I think about Ma Ingalls in her house by Plum Creek and her three little girls cooped up all Winter with blizzard after blizzard outside. They did not go crazy; they just did their lessons and chores and were together.

I feel like life is not going to be the same after this school year. We are doing about 40 minutes of school a day, and it is preschool work. There is no set curriculum, and things do not have to be that serious. I have an easy one year old, and a three and five year old that will happily spend the whole day playing with each other. I have so much time to do housework that I am continually checking Facebook. I know my time can be put to better use, but the leisure is nice.

I think my favorite time of babyhood is when the baby stops the morning nap. Since M started his new semester I have been doing grocery shopping on Saturdays, which totally frees up my weekdays. We have a nice rhythm at home with the girls, and the hardest part of a normal day is keeping the baby from climbing into chairs to chew on her sisters’ preschool work. I get her to sleep for a long afternoon nap before her sisters take their nap/quiet time, and have two quiet hours to myself. If M is home I run on my treadmill, if he is not, I try to read or write. Then dinner, and then bedtime for the kids. And after bedtime is more leisure time until I can’t fall asleep. But I probably should turn in now and try to sleep.

Life is good.

A Monday Resolution

I can’t believe this month is flying by so quickly. We are almost to Thanksgiving, and then Advent begins. I had thoughts about doing Christmas gift preparation before Thanksgiving to make Advent more prayerful, but I am still planning what meals to cook this week and trying to keep up on keeping house. I just feel like I am way behind on everything, but honestly almosy 10 minutes of every waking hour I am spending on the internet. That is over two hours a day I could be spending on something else. I need to figure out how to balance using the internet in a healthy, good way, as opposed to having it hinder my daily life.

I need to start with some major cutting back. I think social media and email need to be off-limits for me between 8:30am and 8pm. These are the hours I get the most done and spend the most time with the kids. I will make one exception to that, and that will be for blogging and blog sharing. So there’s that…

From Market to Purée: How to Prepare Pumpkin

I purchased this pumpkin back in October, and the poor neglected squash sat on the back console table for nearly a month. Fortunately for me, winter squash have a great shelf life. I finally got to roasting it.

How to Roast a Winter Squash:
-Preheat oven to 400°F

-Cut squash into quarters and remove all strings, seeds, and hard stems

-Prick fleshy side all over with a fork
-Brush with olive oil

-Sprinkle with a little salt

-Place fleshy side down on rimmed cookie sheets 
-Roast in oven for 50 minutes or until fork pricks through easily (for me it got so soft that the squash lost all structural integrity)
-Set aside until cool
Making the Purée:
-Skin the cooled squash pieces and cut into small chunks
Chunks O Squash

-Purée in food processor (or blender if you are holding out to buy a food processor until you can splurge on the Kitchen Aid Brand)

The pureeing in this 5 year old blender took me an hour.

-Measure into 15 oz. portions and put into a freezer bag

15 oz is the amount you can buy canned to make one pumpkin pie.

 -Stack and freeze:

I spent $4.00 and 3 hours of labor on my pumpkin squash for 7 cans worth of potential pumpkin.

When a Place Becomes Home

Late October evenings and afternoons (the times I normally write) are always taken up with costume sewing (my only sewing in two years) and playoff baseball. That is why I have been fairly silent on my blog these days. But we have been going full steam ahead with life and discovering that we are fairly busy. I have a lot of random things I am thinking about writing, but I a hoping to come up with something that is not random. 

When I wrote about traveling a lot the other week, I did not mention the idea that my husband and I have about “home places”. A home place is a place that feels like home for some significant reason; most of my home places are places I have close family that I visit frequently or places I have lived. My first home place was St. Louis, which was followed closely by my grandparents town on the West side of Cleveland. Every time I drive into there neighborhood, I am flooded with the familiar feelings of being somewhere that I know and love. We have a lot of home places. In college, Steubenville became a home place. I did not plan on spending two summers there when I first arrived, but because I did I spent the bulk of four years living there. While I was in college my husband’s (then boy friend and then fiance) home town in Michigan became a home place. Then together Buffalo, NY became our first married home place; going back again was like going home. But when we came back to St. Paul, approaching the city, and coming into our driveway, we found home again.

As a kid I never thought I would want to live anywhere, but St. Louis. When friends moved away, I always thought that I would never want to. Then I decided to go away to college, and now I live in Siberia Minnesota. Sometimes I get my life confused with the second sister in Fiddler on the Roof.

“And he asks you join him in that frozen wasteland?” 
“No, Papa, I want to go! I want to help him in his work.”
I wonder what makes a place home? Is is being with the people there, or is it the actual place? Maybe it is both. The places that I think of as home are places where I have spent meaningful time. The places are only great places in my mind and meaningful to me, because they have been made meaningful. Buffalo is meaningful because it is where my first two children were born, where I was a newlywed, and where I made my first friends as an adult. We are body and soul, and when we live in places our whole person lives there. I love St. Louis, because of the physical place, but also because it is where I was formed as young girl. 
Sometimes when I think about Heaven, I have a hard time imagining being there, especially as a separated soul. We are meant to be both body and soul, and I think that our Earthly homes must prefigure our Heavenly Home to some extent. And then today is the Feast of All Saints, and at Mass there was a description of Heaven:

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.” -From Revelations 7

 Heaven is being united in love to God and others, so places that are our homes are where we have experienced love. Does that sound right? I cannot exactly grasp what Heaven will be like, but if I God in His great mercy takes me to Heaven, it will be the best home place I have ever experienced.

Seven Quick Takes, October 4

1. It has been a busy, busy week for us, beginning with our 12 hours in the car on Sunday and ending, who knows how? In between, we watched kids for friends and then had dinner with them, went to the ER for the first time, canned 19 quarts of applesauce, hosted play group, and then went to the doctor again for L. She was having more symptoms of her head being bumped, which leads me to believe that she really did have a mild concussion. Poor sweetie. Though I now know that it is normal to have headaches and sleepiness and even vomiting for 10 days after a concussion.

2. I have discovered that my two oldest behave better in public if they are not with each other. When I took L to the doctor today I dropped G off with an awesome homeschooling family. She has a blast with their only daughter and L was mild mannered and sweet while at the doctor. The same thing happened with L when I took her to the store with me two weeks ago. If G is there, L spends the whole shopping trip running away or trying to escape the cart. When I have her alone, she sits still and talks to me. I wonder if there is a trick to getting them to behave together. 

3. Saga of the Leaky Pipe Update: Last week we were told there would be drywall installed while we were gone. When we arrived home, nothing had been done. Tuesday and Thursday we were told to expect the crew; they arrived this morning and the drywall is going up! We picked out flooring for the bathroom and laundry room. And now I was told today that we need to pick out paint for both rooms as well! Now I really have to get thinking again. Maybe I will do a yellow room after all. I backed out of it for the main family room (I am going to use the color we have in the upstairs living room since I love it so much). The spare room is getting a nice seafoam like green. Maybe I should continue my pastel look…

4. I sat behind homeplate with my iPad for the Cards game this afternoon. I am really loving my MLB At Bat app this year. They should give me a free subscription for the .TV next year and I will review it on my blog. It includes all the camera angles for the playoffs through the NLCS, but not the actual edited broadcast. It is kind of weird, but I guess it is the only way they can provide video without violating their contract with TBS. If we get to the World Series then I will just have to use the radio feature. Or I could find a TV to borrow from a friend or something.

5. We had a sad day in our home this week. M and I finished all eight seasons of Monk. I always feel at a loss when we finish a great series. Eight seasons is a big commitment. On top of that, Netflix took it down while we were in Buffalo so we had pay Amazon for the last two episodes. What would we do without the internet? We might cave and buy a TV, or rely on the library for our viewing pleasures.

6. Speaking of viewing pleasures, we watched the movie Fargo by the Coen brothers for the first time yesterday. It gave me a greater understanding of Minnesotans, their accent, and “Minnesota Nice”. However, it would not have made as much sense to me a year ago. A years experience in the state then watching the movie, have helped me understand why the contractor for our basement has made so many promises about our basement being done and only kept about 10% of them.

7. Today is the Feast of St. Francis, which always reminds me of Franciscan University’s homecoming weekend. They have a pretty neat renaissance fest, good food, and a big gathering of students, families, and alumni. We went the first Fall after graduation, but have not been back since. If we really do go to Buffalo again in the Autumn we should include Steubenville’s homecoming in the trip.

That’s all this time. Head on over to Jen’s Conversion Diary to read her anniversary quick takes!

Apple-icious! Yes, We Canned!

Last week we were in Buffalo, NY. M had been invited back to his alma mater for some philosophy activities and the whole family tagged along. We stayed with friends who lived across the street from the North Tonawanda Farmer’s Market. I could not resist apples for $8 per half bushel, so we bought 1.5 bushels and hauled them back to Minnesota. Tuesday we made 22 quarts of apple sauce. We were only able to can 19 quarts because we ran out of lids.

 I have decided that Western New York apples are some of my favorite apples. Maybe it is because they were the first apples we canned in our marriage, or maybe they were the perfect consistency for making into sauce. Maybe we will just have to head out to Buffalo every apple season for apples… 😉

In order: canner, blanching apples, pot of sauce, food strainer for separating good stuff from bad, bowl of blanched apples.

The goods.

My Dream Garden

Our current garden (framed and fenced by previous house owner) of two pine trees (planted by previous owner), weeds, a basil plant, six tomato plants and a mean old creeping thistle with lots of shoots.

A few years ago I posted about my dream kitchen, and some of the things are realized (or not needed) in our current kitchen. (Hooray!) And not that we have a yard, I have been thinking about the type of food I would love to grow in it. 

Here are some of the things we have in mind for our future garden:

1. A garden along the length of the back fence.

We would probably go all the way to the gate, though not the depth of the original garden. We are thinking of taking out the shed for more garden space.

2. Lots of vegetables: tomatoes, lettuces, spinach, peppers, summer squash, cabbages, and more!

3. Berry bushes: I am thinking raspberry and blueberry. We spent way more than I would have liked on fresh local berries at the farmer’s market yesterday, so why not grow our own.

4. Apple tree and/or peach tree: My parents had a peach tree in their first houses yard. I love peaches, and especially love home-canned peaches. If I have my own tree, then I would have lots and lot to can! M loves apples, so that is why apple would be good. 🙂

5. A grape vine: There seem to be a number of grape vines on peoples fences in the area. I would love this so that I could have grape leaves for making stuffed grape leaves without spending $7 on a jar of 50 leaves.

6. Learning the art of Japanese gardening with the two pine trees:

This photo is by Quinn Dombrowski posted to flickr.

We are thinking of keeping them small and gnarly. M once had a bonsai plant, but died. Maybe we would have better luck with a tree outdoors?

That is it so far. Any recommendations on books or websites that give really good advice/instructions on vegetable and fruit gardening? I am a total novice here, so I want something really informative.

Seven Quick Takes-Friday, July 5

1. I bet you are all just dying to know how much jam I made:

8 quarts, or if you want to talk about it in a different way you can say 8 pints and 8 half pints. Or you could say 2 gallons. That is a lot of jam. It only used 7.5 lbs of my 20 pounds of strawberries. We have been eating them a lot. 🙂 The plan for the rest of the berries is freezing and eating. I am going to freeze enough crushed berries to make a triple berry jam when raspberries and blackberries are in. Yum!

Half berries, half sugar, pectin, an lemon juice makes super red jam!

2. I have a small vegetable garden for the first time this year, and by small I mean six tomato plants leftover from a friend’s gardening and a wicked creeping thistle plant that I have to dig up constantly or it will surround my tomato plants and kill them. I am hoping for delicious tomatoes and a dead thistle by the end of the summer. I would really love to can some tomatoes this year, but it might be more cost effective to continue to buy the huge can of crushed tomatoes whenever I need sauce until I can grow a larger garden. I am going to research gardening at some point in my life, like maybe when the basement stops flooding.

3. The basement, yeah, I guess water mitigation teams and contractors don’t really like to do things in a timely manner. We are waiting, waiting, waiting for them to do something besides rip things out and stick a monster dehumidifier in the basement which probably will double our electricity bill for the month. My only hopes for the project to be finished are that it is done for my sister and her family to visit either the last weekend of July or the second weekend of August. Do you think insurance will cover a super nice guest suite?

4. I am just going to say that the nearly 8 month old baby of mine just ate roasted red pepper slices and roasted broccoli for dinner. She could not get enough of the red peppers. M is doing the dishes and she is still eating dinner. This was the baby who would not let me eat vegetables all pregnancy without gagging.

5. We did our first book on tape audiobook road trip for G this last trip. I wanted to do a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and the first one that came into the library was Farmer Boy. She absolutely loved listening to it and I am fairly certain she followed the story, except for the words she did not understand. The best part for parents about the book is how well behaved the Wilder children were; I have been using Almanzo as an example of good behavior to G ever since we started the book. And another positive thing about the book is that L actually napped in the car (which she never does), whenever we turned on the book she took a nap!

6. One of the fun things about buying a house in April is the surprise of the first Spring and Summer flowers. These are the latest ones:

I love lilies. There are at least 20 more buds of these.

These are on three flowering bushes in front. 

7. This was the theme song for M all week, which he shared with me about halfway through the week. We listened to it for the first time (since a few years ago when we listened to Switchfoot every roadtrip) while we were on the road. We related to the line , “Everything is broken.”

For more Quick Takes head on over to Jen.

What 20 lbs of Strawberries looks like…

I took G and L strawberry picking today. These are the best strawberries I have had in a long time. Fresh out of the field in rural Minnesota. We drove out 30 minutes to find these. I did the bulk of the picking, but the girls limited themselves (by listening to me for once) to about half a pound in the field. I have some jam canning to do… I guess this is one way to cope with a soggy basement. Now I have to brave it to get the canner out and see if I have any pectin.

Seven Quick Takes Friday–May 10

1. Things have been pretty busy in Spencer-land these days. Hence, why I have been absent from the blogging world. My mind has been filled with the mundane things of cleaning the new house, painting, maintaining the order in the current house, actually doing home school preschool most days (!!), and figuring out what needs to be done before we move into the new house. Hopefully my brain will be able to think of something more interesting than house stuff soon so I can blog. Or I could post house pictures for you all to help me decorate…

2. The new house has daffodils and tulips blooming in the yard! I would post a picture, but I have not had the camera there yet. We also have rabbits living under the shed who are scared to death and hiding whenever we are at the house of two little girls.

3. We have the painting DONE! We did a stairwell, a bathroom, the living room, and two bedrooms. It took two days of just M and I working and a day with help from three friends. It looks pretty good for an amateur paint job and I am happy with the colors.

4. Current project: curtains, blinds, and rods. Ugh…I wish I were a better seamstress. I would make my own except I am worried I will not be able to sew a straight seam (this is fine for children’s dresses where you don’t see the stitching, but curtains seams are definitely visible). I might just be looking for sales on curtains.

5. I can’t decide if I like this table for the kitchen/nook/back door entrance:

 The walls in the kitchen and breakfast nook are gray and I am planning on yellow (and white?) curtains. The cupboards are a light wood and so is the breakfast area furniture. Would a yellow piece “go” with the wooden table and bench? Or would wood look better? I am not sure I want to buy a yellow piece of furniture that we all wonder why I bought it in ten years.

6. L just came up to my computer, opened it and said: “I am going to work on my blog!” The funny thing is L and G both do not know how to use a computer because (when they use screens) it is with the iPad and they go to touch the screen. The keyboard and mouse pad mean nothing to them.

7. I just realized yesterday that G is old enough for Vacation Bible School at out parish. Normally I am not big on them, because they are usually programs made by non-Catholic Christians with an awful music soundtrack. The one they are using is made by Catholics, but it still has the awful music accompaniment (I scouted it out). She also has never been left anywhere (besides a friends house) with people she does not know. Since we are home schooling, I have not dropped her at a preschool.  I think we will try it out and see how she does. Hopefully she won’t absolutely flip out. And it will give L and I some good bonding time during the baby’s morning nap.

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary.