Friday, July 29, 2011

My 1970’s memories and a retraction of ‘My sweet 1940’s kitchen’

So from the hour I posted ‘my sweet 1940’s kitchen’ I got a gentle reminder after gentle reminder that I don’t have a 1940’s kitchen.  One after another, the images of the 1960’s - 80’s Pyrex brought email after email.  But I just didn’t LIKE the 1960-80’s era as much as I liked the 40’s farmhouse style… or at least I thought I didn’t; until my friend Kim posted in the comments about this book:

It is filled with wood cut stamped images like this one:

Um, yep… alright….  that’s the way I want my kitchen to feel.  The women in aprons but still wearing jeans (usually bell bottoms… yes please!), the cast iron cookware up on the wall, and the bins of healthy flours and dried beans on the counter, the cupboards filled with ball jars of goodness they have put away for winter….  I didn’t think of myself as a 1970’s girl (being born at the tail end of the 70’s and my only feelings about the era being the memories of handmade corduroy clothing and the distinct loathing for everything carob) but through all these various conversations about the style of my kitchen I realize that these books… the ones that talk about keeping the beauty of the domestic role when the whole world had turned upside-down…  that is the feel of my kitchen.

Now my mother cooked from scratch.  She bought food locally and for a long time at a co-op that always smelled of beeswax and hemp.  We had chickens and goats and even a few ducks for a while when I was growing up, right in the middle of the states capital city.  Many of the glass jars I have in my kitchen (esp the big ones at the bottom of my pantry) are older than me and have been holding oatmeal and corn flour for as long as I can remember.  My mother was part of this movement. 

text from inner flap of Laurel's Kitchen

And as I read this bio for Laurel’s Kitchen….  I realize that I am too.

No Californian ktichen is complete without an avocado pit sprouting in a jar


{this moment} - huge smiles


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Farmgirl Phone Conversations

I have fulfilled a lot of my farmgirl dreams right here in the suburbs.  Because after all, city girls don’t have conversations like these:


My friend Heather - “Hi Val.  I was thinking… I am going to be at my family reunion in Montana this week and all my raspberries are ripe.  Do you want to come pick them?”  Um. Yes please! 


Me - “Hey!  So…  just wanted to let you know that one of your roosters is in our back yard.  The kids tried to catch it but it ran across the street into the neighbors yard.  If we can get it, Cyan will bring it to you.”

It’s good to know other city farmers like us.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chore Charts


Our chores have morphed a lot over time.  Mostly with the abilities of our children.  I wrote a little about the chore charts here, but I didn’t say what they were or how we used them.  A friend recently asked me about this and I decided a whole post was in order. 

My chore chart of choice is still Motivated Moms.  It’s just enough for me to do without being super overwhelming and reminds me to do things like clear out the freezer and flip our mattress.  Many of the daily chores have fallen to the kids however.  I have them do that and then I have time to set up their stuff for school that day… or nurse the baby.  Which ever is more pressing at the moment.

Each of the chore charts are on laminated on cardstock and stuck on the fridge for easy access.  They have magnetic clips at the top so that they can be taken down and flipped over to see what the daily chore is.  We have several white board markers so they can check off their chores and if my kids don’t have all their chores done by 9:30am then they do not get to watch TV that day.  That makes me sound like a horrible mean mom, but chores were often not getting done until noon or later.  Only when my children were asked to play with the neighbors did they go running to get their chores done. Chores like make sure the chickens have water.  That’s just not ok.  I am not happy when I am tripping over cats because they feel they are going to never be fed by these smaller humans and need back up to get their breakfast.

So at the risk of seeming more OCD than I already do, I present you with my children’s chore charts (that work beautifully for my OCD kids. ;) ).


First comes the teens chores.  Considering he is 15 and can do nearly everything we can do (with a higher likelyhood of breakage), these are his chores.

Alex’s every day chores


  • Make your bed
  • Get dressed (with shoes)
  • Brush your teeth
  • Do your hair
  • Make breakfast
  • Empty ALL trash cans
  • Empty Dishwasher
  • Do daily chore from list

After Dinner

  • Load/run dishwasher
  • Pick up homeschool room
  • Shower
  • Pajamas (take dirty to wash)
  • Brush your teeth


Change all sheets on recycle week


Mow lawn on non-recycle week


Weed whack around garden beds on recycle week


Babysit for mom and dad to do grocery shopping


Set timer, spend one hour getting your room clean


Clean backyard


Be ready for church


Cyan is my animal girl!  She loves taking care of the animals but it is on here so she gets it done in a timely manner and none of our critters go forgotten.

Cyan’s every day chores


  • Make your bed
  • Get dressed (with shoes)
  • Brush your teeth
  • Do your hair
  • Feed your pets
  • Start a load of laundry
  • Do daily chore from list

After Dinner

  • Take dishes to sink
  • Put leftovers away (make lunches for daddy)
  • Take scraps to the chickens
  • Get the mail
  • Pick up livingroom
  • Pajamas (take dirty to wash)
  • Brush your teeth


Shake out all the small rugs


Water houseplants


Get the garbage out of the car


Take a shower and wash your hair


Spend one hour getting your room super clean


Clean backyard


Be ready for church

(Now if you just read through ALL of my children’s chores (I would think you were slightly insane but) you would notice  that Saturday and Sunday are the same. They both are in charge of cleaning up the backyard on Saturday morning.)

Logan’s chores are MUCH simpler.  That is because he’s 4.  And none of them require reading.  His chart flips with morning chores on the front and evening chores on the back.  (Alex figured out that if he put two clips on Logan’s chore chart it would flip without needing to remove a clip each time.  It has worked out great!)


I added in Turn on morning music and I think that is his very favorite chore.  He brings me the iPod and asks me to turn on something, and then goes and plugs it into the dock and proceeds to do the rest of his chores with Rockstar style.  It’s really cute!

There is a 5th list that we use as well.  We had a housekeeper come for about 6 months at the end of my pregnancy and I watched her as she did what she did that made SUCH a difference in the way my house worked.  I wrote those things down and then after we stopped using the service, we have begun doing that ourselves every two weeks.  This is that list.

Bi-weekly chores

Deep clean kitchen

· Put clutter in neat piles

· Remove and shake out rug

· Make sure there is no rotten food in pantry shelf

· Put all appliances away in cupboards except mixer

· Put all dishes in the dishwasher or cleaned and put away

· Wipe down all counters

· Spray and deep clean the stove

· Vacuum floor

· Spot mop floor

· Put clean rug back in place

· Put stove back together

· Do a once over and make sure it’s really clean.

Deep clean bathrooms

· Take out rug to hallway and towels to laundry

· Take tooth brushes out of the bathroom

· Tidy up (put hair things away, stuff in drawers, etc)

*Work top to bottom*

· Shelves and mirrors with microfiber cloth (Spray if needed)

· Spray counter top, toilet and shower and let sit

· Spray and wipe down sink.

· Clean tub with sponge ending with facets

· Wipe down toilet top to bottom ending with around the toilet bowl

· Clean floor around toilet with spray and cloth

· Put cloth in laundry

· Vacuum floor

· Put back clean rug

*Laundry Room*

· Put all dirty laundry in the laundry basket

· Put away any art supplies that have been left out

· Vacuum floor and shake out rug

Deep clean livingroom

· Put clutter in neat piles

· Put things back in their places (furniture, toys in baskets, etc.)

· Roll up rug

· Check under couch

· Vacuum couch

· Clean table in dining area

· Vacuum floor

· Straighten up desk area

· Put dining room chairs back in place

· Put rug back in front of couch

Deep cleaning bedrooms

· Strip beds

· Put clutter in neat piles

· Dust shelves and dressers

· Put new sheets on bed and make bed

· Vacuum floor

School room

· Dust shelves

· Clean off white board

· Put away art and school stuff left out

· Put tables back in place

· Pick up cat food and put it back in the bowls

· Vacuum floor

Finishing touches

· Sweep off front porch

· Put all back yard toys away

· Take all garbage out

· Put as many of the things in piles away as you can


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Moments in homeschooling ~ More Montessori Preschool fun


More fun with the scanner.


My friend Heather made these for her kids and then passed them down to Logan.  She put a bunch of neat keys on her scanner, laminated the sheet and then kept all the keys in a little pouch with the sheet so that it was a matching game!  There are many of these types of activities in a Montessori preschool.  The matching shape and direction helps build early reading skills.  It is brilliant! And Logan just loves it.


Monday, July 25, 2011

My sweet 1940’s kitchen


My garden is not the only thing falling together this year.  A new surge of garage sale-ing (sailing?) has brought my kitchen together quite nicely. 


The first find was this set of beautiful milk-glass mugs that I found at Goodwill for $.89 each.


Then came more of my Pyrex collection… which is now rounded out nicely with a few gems like this Daisy 2 1/2 quart casserole and those two adorable butter dishes (first pic).


Just yesterday my vintage dreams came true when I found this incredible old, funky, blue scale at a yard sale where nearly everything else was junk (and I almost passed by). Best of all, it still works perfectly!  ($5!  Whoohoo!)

The icing on the cake was this set of beautiful blue jars! 


I have collected blue glass forever. I have always thought about of a find like this (‘dreamed of’ is a little dramatic, but it may just fit). I haven’t been lucky with the thrift stores like some other areas with the older canning stuff, but I do have my few and I love them.


Well yesterday I found these beauties and as soon as I got them home and clean I knew just where to put them:


My pantry is so happy now!  Eventually I want my kitchen to be my happy place.  Right now it is a dark hole with a floor that looks a lot like it was made from Jenga blocks with water stains and a sink that really likes to break… a lot.  But all of that will come together in time.  On our first sunny morning in weeks, this kitchen feels wonderful and bringing beautiful things into it feels really good.

Happy thrifting!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

How many ways can one eat a bowl of rice?


(Yes, there is a bowl of rice under there…  somewhere.)

I have this issue.  This issue with not being able to eat much.  Very sensitive tummy, very sensitive baby.  It cuts out a lot.  Like all dairy, all soy, all green leafies and the whole brassica family, all cucs and that whole family (which BTW includes watermelon which I didn’t know at first.  :(  ),  and most fruit (I can’t have it cooked, but he can’t have it raw).  I have started to find things I can eat regularly, but it isn’t varied much.  In the morning I have a bowl of homemade granola with almond milk.  Homemade, more so I know exactly what is in it than by any actual dedication to make this food issue more complicated.  This is about 6 days a week.  On the other day I have eggs and toast.  That’s breakfast. I know half of you are saying “YUM!” and it’s true, it is a tasty dish.  But with no variety it gets old.

Lunch is the hardest one for me.  I never know what to eat and half the time we are out.  I can’t have sodium nitrate so that cuts out about 4/5ths of the lunch meat on the planet (also 1/2 of all the fast food)…  so when we do make normal things like sandwiches it ends up being very expensive… often I do a BLT with nitrate free bacon, or a veggie sandwich, heavy on the avocado.  This too, gets old.

The other thing I have turned to is rice.  LOTS of rice.  My mix is 3 cups long grain brown rice to one cup mixed wild rice in the rice cooker.  When the family is eating something I can’t have, I turn to rice.  I add anything on top from a fried egg over rice with salsa mixed in to cilantro and tomatoes with a hard boiled egg (pictured above) to whatever leftovers we have in the fridge (with all the stuff I can’t eat picked out) put on top and heated.  I have a huge Pyrex of rice in my fridge at all times.  It’s my ‘go to’ meal. 

I have been thinking a lot lately about all the people who are coming up with food issues (or live with them daily).  What is going on with that?  I wonder what started the allergy epidemic happening.  Did we saturate our food chain so much that we as a race are becoming sensitive to the very core of what we are made of (food)?  And then there are the other food issues.  IBS, and Ulcerative Colitis, Chron’s and Celiac.  They are common place terms now.  Are we just more aware of them or are they really as newly prevalent as they seem?

And this concludes ‘Deep thoughts… with Val’.

Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cold Summer Button Art

This summer has been cold.  Like REALLY cold.  And so we have been spending more time inside than any other summer I can remember.  I have been trying to keep perspective, but a lot of time it’s hard to not be depressed with such a cold wet season that is supposed to be the warmest we have all year.  We have all enjoyed crafts… but the joy to post about them here has just been gone.  I decided that I needed to get over that. 


This morning we were playing with buttons and the scanner. And it turned out to be tons of fun that started my kids on a drawing-fest that has lasted all morning long.  We put buttons on the copier in the fashion of Bloesum Kids… but without the color matching…. we used far too many buttons!  We just had fun!


Logan, age 4 1/2


Cyan, age 10 and 8 days


and Me!  :)

I think we will pop these in the mail for our family down in the sunny southern CA.  Perhaps they will have time to get out of the sun and play with buttons too!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy 15th Birthday Alex!


This beautiful young man turns 15 years old today.   I watch each day as he gets closer to manhood and I am just in awe of the transformation.  He seems so young and so mature all at the same time to me. 

I often wonder if it will always be this way.  Seeing Alex as “one of the babies” is nearly impossible now.  He is as tall as I am (soon to be taller, I am sure) and becoming a wonderful friend.  This year I get to teach him the finer arts of cooking (he already knows most of the basics) and I get to teach him to drive a car.  We will start to put together his kitchen and book collection for when he moves out of my house, the timing of which is already seeming too close for comfort.

It has been just recently that he and I have connected on a level that I wasn’t sure possible during the last few tumultuous years.  It has been wonderful!  I have always been able to see what an amazing father and husband he would be, but now I am starting to see what an amazing adult friend he will be too.  He is kind, considerate, and easy to say sorry when he knows he messed up.  He is a hard worker, but not overly obsessed.  And he is a compassionate young man who understands the beauty of a good gift or a thoughtful gesture. 

His getting older is bittersweet to me on so many levels, but watching him grow into a man is such a blessing and a privilege!


Happy birthday my beautiful boy!  I love you, very much!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Feeding a crowd


This last week has been crazy.  Three birthday parties, VBS every morning all week, Cyan’s birthday and now Alex’s birthday, a family reunion, a kitty with some serious health issues (which I will not describe because that would take away from these pictures of food quite a bit) and a couple other dramatic things have all gone down in the last 8 days. 

Last night I had 3 extra kids and I decided to do something smart.  A make your own meal.  We started with big baked potatoes cooked to perfection, and then I added this:


A Lazy Susan filled with tons of toppings so the kids could make their own favorite creations.  On this is sour cream, MSG free ranch, salsa, bacon crumbles, chives (from the garden!), grated parmesan cheese, butter… and not pictured was the boiled eggs, and the shredded carrots (which no one used but me).

It was a HUGE hit… and the Lazy Susan made it extra special!  The kids loved being able to get their own toppings and I loved that the mess was completely contained.  I already have many other meals that the Lazy Susan will be a help with!  I can just picture tons of tiny bowls filled with things to go on top of bowls of brown rice, tacos, etc.  It’s just so much fun!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Garden Fairy Party!


I tried to come up with the best mix of tiny fairy party and big girl party all at the same time.  I went with the colors that Cyan chose blue and blue… ie: aqua and teal, I set about to make something beautiful for a party in my garden.  Because after all, it was going to be an evening party in mid-July…. so I could trust that we could have it out in the garden right?

Two days before the party I checked the weather.  Nothing but rain for as far as they would predict.  The morning of the party it was pouring… and only broke for a few minutes at a time all day long.  Now I was in a spot.  I had to move the whole party under cover, make it still cute, and because the tents that I had available to me were 12 by 12, I had to move it out of the garden (the garden paths are 3ft or 5 ft across, and honestly wet grass would have soaked fairy costumes anyhow.).


Out came my antique lace curtains and white folding wall for a back drop instead of the garden beds.  Two tables were borrowed and 10 folding chairs were rented to replace the benches that were soaked from the rain.


I bought 18 roses for decoration and filled in with flowers from my garden and then ferns from a friends yard, which I added to the backdrop. I also brought in the nature elements through wooden bowls, burlap fabric, wooden rounds, poppy seed pods, and lots of glass mason jars filled with candles or flowers. The whole effect was rather charming!


_MG_0825-1   _MG_0819-1


The birthday girl seemed happy with it (which is really all that matters!)


The food:


I made lots of tiny things for this party.  Sandwiches wrapped in natural wax paper along with teal scrapbook paper and jute tie were the first course. 


Side dishes were all kinds of fresh berries, brownie bites with cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries, twice baked potato bites, and melon wands.




For the place settings I used white small plates on top of large plates with large teal napkins tucked between.    


I also got a set of 12 glass milk bottles (idea from here) with aqua striped paper straws (from here) that made the whole setting tie-in and added a touch of whimsy to the table.


The cake!


My friend Cori made the cake from a sketch I drew her. It was perfect! She has such a talent! How I LOVE this cake!


Each of the girls got a ‘key to the secret garden’ on a necklace as they came into the party.


As the rain came and went, so did the rainbows. You can see one below behind the girls (although this picture doesn’t really show how bright it was).


During the rain breaks we went out and did the craft that I had planned for them… making their own fairy gardens!


I had painted each of them a tiny bird house and given them a small piece of ‘Mother of Thyme’… after we had filled the fairy gardens with soil I gave them to the girls to decorate with rocks, shells, and glass beads.


I just loved seeing their imaginations take off as they braved the downpours to collect sticks, flowers, and leaves from around my yard. Some of them even got to venture into the gardens! :)


The end of the party was watching the movie “Fairy Tale: A True Story” which was supposed to be with a projector outside under the cherry tree…. but ended up in my living room instead (and none of the girls were the wiser). The girls giggled the evening away and watched as a couple of sweet little girls discovered fairies in their a garden of their own.

All in all it was a beautiful party! It took a lot of redoing because of the rain, but I think a lot of those last minute touches made for a pretty wonderful party!


I had a very happy, and a very tired, birthday girl by the end.

Happy birthday to my beautiful 10 year old! I love you so very much!

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