Check these out!

I'm checking out the links on the Dark Days Challenge page and I like what I see!

Check these out:

Looking for vegan slow cooker recipes? (who isn't?) Go here: Healthy Slow Cooking

If you want some delicious recipes alongside mouthwatering photos of food, go here: Morsels of Happiness

Thoughts about a 100-mile diet: Backyard Food

More thoughts about eating locally: Making MY NY Home and EatLocal365

I'll share even more with you when I have another chance to sit down and peruse. Enjoy!

What goes into your dinner?

As if I don't think about food enough, now I have another reason to think about it. I love this "Dark Days Challenge" hosted by Laura of Urban Hennery. It's a great challenge, and had I found out about it earlier, I would have entered. The rules are on Laura's blog. Essentially, you make a local meal 4 times a month until mid-
April. It makes you really think about what goes into your cooking, and where it comes from. I love that! Here's something else to love - look at all the people who have signed up. I can't wait to learn more about them and how they choose to eat locally.

Bon Appetit!


:: Bird watching at the library ::

I've been enjoying these slow winter days. I've had some time to think about things that need thorough consideration. Like an allowance for 'A'. I feel like it's time for her to learn about earning money, and I've been tossing around different ideas for a few months. Finally I've come to the conclusion that if she's going to be paid for work done around the house, I want it to be work that makes a difference to me. She makes her bed every day, which is great, but it doesn't really make a big difference in my daily life. She clears her dishes after breakfast and lunch, which does make a difference, but I don't want to pay her to do it. She lives in this house and she dines at the table, and she should help clean up. It's common courtesy to clean up after yourself.

Hmmm, where does this leave us? There are two jobs that I am willing to pay her to do, and when she does them, I'll appreciate it 100%. One is to wipe up the kitchen floor after I sweep it. She'll put a damp washcloth on the swiffer mop and go! She loves to "swiffer." The other job is to take a damp washcloth and wipe off the bathroom countertops and sinks. I clean the bathrooms regularly, but it doesn't hurt to wipe things down between cleanings. It makes me happy to see a clean sink.

I like these ideas because they only involve water and some elbow grease, and they are fairly simple jobs to complete. The next questions are when to pay her, and how much? Jeff and I have agreed on $.10 per sink washing and $.10 per floor washing. She can do it once a day at most. We have three sinks and one floor to clean, so at most she'll earn $.40 a day. Since we homeschool, there's ample time at home most days for her to clean. If she doesn't want to clean, she doesn't earn money. If she wants to, she will earn some. It's that simple.

The final angle is that she'll add some of her earning each Sunday to her children's offering to the church. We send her with an envelope now, and we'll continue to do so, but she'll have to choose how much of her weekly earnings she wants to give in addition. She can give a penny or the whole purse. It's her choice. I want her to see how it feels to give different amounts. See how it feels to give.

Erma is headed to her biopuncture appointment tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it. It's making her feel better in ways I never knew possible.

Have a great day.

Christmas, Part 2

This is what we woke up to today - fresh snow! Here in upstate New York, we were just on the edge of the blizzard that hit the Northeast. We received perhaps a few inches. Nothing like the 2 feet my sister was due to receive in Massachusetts. Soon I'll bundle up the girls and we'll head outside to play, to shake off the bird feeder, and to look for fresh tracks coming from the woods.

Our home has been visited by all kinds of fairies as of late. 'H' has suddenly grown into a big girl, a big helpful girl! She's been getting ready without dilly-dallying and holding us all up; she's been making her bed; clearing her dishes from the table; cleaning up her toys; and doing it with the most cheerful disposition. Yesterday she even pulled herself out of the room when she felt grumpy, sat alone, and came back a few minutes later with a smile on her face. Who is this child? I can hardly believe she's the same girl we've known all her life.

A few weeks ago, 'A' was given colorful little tent cards at a Daisy meeting that say "A Daisy was here. She was friendly and helpful without being asked." 'A' leaves them around the house when she does something helpful. Well you know, the girls spend so much time together and they share everything so eagerly... 'A' was excited to share her cards with 'H', and 'H' was excited to learn about being friendly and helpful. But 'H' is not a Daisy, and the cards weren't entirely appropriate for her, so I made her some of her own. She decorated some of them and was so pleased to use them to mark her own friendly and helpful deeds. What angels they are!

Although life couldn't get any better than this, it did. Jeff contacted Erin to purchase one of her wonderfully handmade gifts and for Christmas I received the most beautiful camera strap. I love it!


This week I'm looking forward to:

Checking out snowshoe prices so we can take advantage of some wonderful activities at Moreau State Park (and elsewhere) this winter.

Buying a 2011 calendar so I can keep myself organized (I would love to use my Outlook calendar exclusively, but without a fancy phone, I can't make plans and stay organized when I leave my home!). The paper calendar is back.

Planning our trip to Disney World (more to come!)

Working on some special crafting for the girls and with the girls

Taking Erma to the acupuncturist for a treatment (she's doing great, by the way)

Seeing Jennifer and Emily, my sisters; my niece and nephew; and my dad and Marilyn for a late Christmas celebration in Connecticut, and stopping to pick up some Wild Hive Farm flour on the way.

Saying goodbye to 2010 and hello to 2011!

What are you looking forward to?

These last four photos are of some of the goodies I received in my fabulous gift bag from the From Scratch Club. Missing are the treats we had to rip open and try right away, such as the peppermint bark, the fudge, and the cookies. You know, I had to make sure it was fit to serve at my Christmas dinner. And it was.

The day after Christmas

December has just about come and gone. It's such a fast month for me, and for many, many other people I'm sure. So much happens in December, and before I know it, it's over.

A lot of fun things happened here, including:

Trips to our town nursing home to sing for the residents (with 'A's Daisy and 4-H troops)

Christmas cookie-making galore!

Trips to the library where we left with our bags full of books, including Almanzo's story, Farmer Boy

I won the most wonderful gift bag giveaway! The From Scratch Club women (Alexis, Amanda, Christina, Leslie & Sarah) spent the month of December making a collection of edible gifts, and I was lucky enough to win them. Yum! Check out the FSC blog - it's chock full of good info.

Relaxing and laying low, which explains why I haven't been posting

Fighting off a fast-moving chest cold

Gathering gear for ski and snowboard lessons, starting in January

Feeling the Christmas excitement!

Looking forward to January. Definitely.

Moving forward

I cannot say it enough - the love and support we've received about 'A's allergies has been wonderful. Now I just need some advice about how to help her process the ER visit. She's so tough and stoic, but it's time for her to be vulnerable. She has woken up with bad dreams every night since we left the hospital. She never has bad dreams. She barely talks about it, and when she does it's only because I ask about how she's feeling. It was a scary experience, even for me and Jeff, and we're responsible adults! I can't imagine how scary it was from her perspective.

I did a little internet research and found out that the doctors at Johns Hopkins are doing some pretty amazing things to treat food allergies. That gave me the idea to take 'A' to Children's Hospital in Boston for a consultation (a closer drive for us, and I have relatives who live nearby). Who knows what kind of research they've been doing and what help they can offer us. I'll find out in January, when we go.

Here are some other things we've been up to:

Knitting fingerless mittens! I've got a deadline - Saturday morning - and these HAVE to be done and ready to wear. Michael has got us outside at the Farmer's Market on Saturday and it's going to be quite chilly that morning. I'll need the mittens so that I can help people pick out vegetables and make change and still keep the circulation in my hands going. I used a super-easy pattern and they knitted up fast.

I entered Christina's giveaway and am crossing my fingers that I'm the lucky winner. I would love a new cookbook bible! And check it out, she blogs about life with a food-allergic child.

Speaking of cookbooks, today I received my copy of A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen: Easy Seasonal Dishes for Family and Friends by Jack Bishop. I love this cookbook! When I first checked it out of the library, I thought it was too heavy with the cheese and egg recipes but overall I love it. Jeff and I have started eating small amounts of dairy and eggs and I don't mind making a delicious, separate dinner for us once in a while. And so many of his recipes are vegan or can be veganized easily.

I used this recipe for these cookies and tomorrow they'll be frosted and brought to a local nursing home for 'A's Daisy meeting. Mmmm.... cookies!

Finally, I took Erma back for some more acupuncture today and she started her biopuncture treatment. She's such a good cat.

My food allergy rant

On our way home from our Thanksgiving trip on Cape Cod, we stopped at Kemp Pottery to see if there was anything beautiful for sale. And there was. A serving bowl, which I'll receive as a Christmas gift in a few weeks, and two new mugs, perfect for a big cup of tea. We gave them to each other tonight.

Jeff and I talked about 'A's food allergies at church today and were overwhelmed by the love and compassion that so many people showed to us. Best of all (well, it's not actually a good thing in the grand scheme of things), we found out about a few people who have been dealing with life-threatening allergies for years and have successfully navigated the waters. Those are the people I want to connect with. They can show me the way.

I've been growing increasingly frustrated with life as a mother of a child with food allergies. This feeling isn't something I think about a lot, but sometimes it creeps up on me and catches me off guard. To put it most simply, the allergies 'A' deals with seem to be invisible to the rest of the world, but for our family, they define much of our life. Sometimes I feel like I live in a house of mirrors. My reality doesn't match up with how it looks from the outside. The things that many people take for granted aren't options for us. The way I spend each day - cooking from scratch, homeschooling my girls, socializing in non-food situations - is set up to work around 'A's allergies. As I write this, I feel like I'm whining. I don't need everyone in the world to be thinking about 'A's allergies every time she ventures out, but I do want a little more understanding and compassion.

Enough of the whining. After Thursday's trip to the emergency room, Jeff and I understand that we need to be more proactive in protecting our daughter. I wrote up a list of some of our new ground rules.

Rules for Dealing with Food Allergies

* No more snacks and meals at a table with other children who are eating dairy. Young children are energetic eaters and food ends up on or near other children's plates. Even that one tiny shred of cheese that ends up on her plate is enough to send her to into anaphylactic shock. Sitting at the same table is not an option.

* Speaking of eating at the table where cheese and milk are served, we're starting to wonder if there is a connection between 'A' irritated eyes and the presence of dairy. We're going to start documenting it to see if the connection is real.

* No more playing with children who have just eaten cheese, eggs or peanut butter if they haven't washed their hands and faces after eating.

* No more eating trusted foods without carefully reading the label each time.

* No more eating at restaurants and trusting their dishes, even when they say something doesn't have dairy, eggs or peanuts in it.

Those are enough rules for now. They are not negotiable. They're here to keep our daughter alive and safe.

too much for one day

:: After sitting by the stove for 2 months, too fragile to move, Erma picked today, a downright chilly day, to venture outside. Go figure. ::

Today was a slow, easy day... wake up late, watch the girls eat a leisurely breakfast, exercise my rear end off, make gingerbread houses, cook dinner, watch The Polar Express for the first time ever, and tuck the girls into bed.

I needed an easy day after last night's saga. We went to the Victorian Streetwalk in downtown Saratoga Springs to see the sights (including 'A's gingerbread house that was on display with all the 4-H gingerbread houses). I bought 'A' and 'H' some chocolate candies that I have been buying for a few years now and assumed they were still dairy-free. As it turns out, they've changed the recipe. But I didn't know that. A few seconds after eating it, 'A' had an anaphylactic reaction to the chocolate. Hives, throat closing, breathing troubles... the whole thing. I had never administered the epi-pen before and was too scared to do so on Broadway last night. I had no idea what to expect! We were minutes from the hospital, so we drove there. I pulled out her epi-pen at the ER and the doctor suggested I give it to her "for practice." It went exactly as I thought it would. I held her arms back, to keep her from fighting me off, and injected it into her thigh. Her oxygen level shot right back up to normal and she was fine after that. Now I know.

We stayed at the hospital for a number of hours last night. I was thankful that we were all there together, that Jeff had seen the whole situation unfold and was there with us. It's a family issue, and we faced it as a family. It was just as it should have been. Except it shouldn't have been.

Today she's fine, physically and emotionally. Well, for most of the day she's been fine. As I was putting her to bed tonight she let a little vulnerability show. She's a tough cookie. What I fear most is that one more layer of trust and comfort has been pulled away from her. What she experienced - the physical feelings of not being able to catch her breath, and the emotional trauma of watching a number of medical professionals poke her with needles and work on her body in the ER - is too much for a little girl to process. It's too much for me to process too.

This is not the food allergy rant I alluded to yesterday, although it certainly fits into that category. That rant is coming soon.

I needed this slow day, this day to stop and enjoy my children. Tomorrow I'll be working at the farmer's market and I'll have some time to think about other things (vegetables!). It'll be Jeff's turn to hold them close.

:: The gingerbread houses the girls made today ::

:: art in Saratoga... ::

:: ...and music ::

I've been visiting this space infrequently lately. I can't even say it's because I'm busy, because I'm not. I'm just enjoying life. Enjoying my children, my new workout, the chilly weather, my cats, and my husband. 'A' is learning to read and learning to tell time. 'H' is learning how to be cuter every day.

On a separate note, I feel a food allergy rant coming on, so stay tuned (or don't) for that.

Something is brewing here in our house, and it's not a happy thing. Erma, my lovely cat, faithful companion and trusty friend, is nearing the end of her life. She's 17 and a half years old and it's all happening at once: her arthritis is worsening, her eyesight is fading, her hearing is gone. Her kidneys are starting to fail, and as her acupuncturist reminds me, the kidneys hold the essence of life. When they go, the end of life is near. It's painful for me to think about it. Erma and I have been together since the beginning of my adult life. She's so much a part of me, and when she's gone, I am going to have a very big hole to patch. I get lonely just thinking about it.

In the meantime, she's going for acupuncture treatments to lessen her pain. I want her to live with some sense of dignity as long as she can. Her first treatment (this time around - she did go over a year ago) was a little over a week ago and within days she was walking more comfortably. She goes again next week.

I asked Jeff last night to please help me get through this. I can't do it alone, and I don't even think I can do it with help. It's hard to love an animal for this many years and then watch them die. I've done this before, once when Erma's older "sister" Agnes died when she was 4 years old (she was born with a disease and had to be put to sleep), and when my family cat, Lulu, died at 21. I was a teenager at the time and I watched my mother fall apart over it. I didn't understand it at the time, and was a bit threatened by it, but now I understand.

What's for dinner? I have a lot of root vegetables. This recipe looks delicious.

Hanukkah and Christmas already, eh?

Didn't we just have Thanksgiving? Now it's Hanukkah and Christmas season?

It takes me a while to transition. This year I'm on the ball though, and I think it has to do with the ages of my girls. 3 and 5 are wonderful ages for completely immersing ourselves in the holiday of the month. Here it is, still November and less than a week after Thanksgiving, and our Christmas tree is up (not decorated, but up - a big deal!). Our non-dairy Hanukkah gelt is in the cabinet, waiting to make an appearance Wednesday evening. Holiday music is playing. It doesn't feel like my house, but I'll take it!

Thanksgiving was a treat - relaxing and fun. We all met at my mother's home on the Cape. We spilled out into two houses next door to each other - the "grown-ups" in one house (the Gen X grown ups), and the grandparents and grandchildren in the other house. It worked out so well! Everyone had a great time.

My older sister made me suggested I try the Insanity workout with her. It was TOUGH but it got my blood moving and it just might be the thing for me. When I got home I checked it out online and saw that it costs about $150 (ouch!). I found someone on Craigslist who is selling it for significantly less and I'm picking it up tomorrow. This should be interesting! It might be just what I need to push through some of my lack of exercise/love of food issues. Sometimes I just need to stop thinking and whining and start moving. You know?

All in all, life is good. Very good.

Sunday Afternoon

Where did the week go? Where did yours go? I spent mine:

* Slowing down and reevaluating

* Cleaning out the closets - ALL the closets, and making a lot of trips to the thrift store to donate many of my unwanted items.

* Spending time with Erika, a friend and fantastic blogger. We cooked a gourmet dinner, drank the Beaujolais Nouveau, and talked about simplicity (one of our conclusions: Living Simply doesn't mean Easy Living)

* Decorating gingerbread houses with the 4-H kids (to be displayed during the Victorian Streetwalk in December, then placed at our local nursing home for the residents to enjoy)

* Keeping a close eye on Erma, who is having a lot of trouble getting around on her old, creaky legs. I'm going to call the feline acupuncturist tomorrow morning. It breaks my heart to watch her suffer.

* Watching 'A' count, add and subtract

* Getting close to my food source: I harvested Swiss Chard and Brussels Sprouts from our garden and worked at the farmer's market on Saturday morning.

* Starting a knitting project: a pair of fingerless gloves to wear during the cold and frosty hours at the market. I'm using the pattern from this book.

See you back here soon!


After a week, I'm back. My time away was well spent. The cleaning crew was at my home every day, washing every lightbulb, every plant leaf, every can of chickpeas in my cabinet. I made myself scarce. Jeff's parents were visiting last week and we spent a lot of time outside the home. It was all good. This week the cleaning crew is gone (and the house smells NORMAL again), Neal and Shelly are at home in Florida, and I am settling back in.

In the meantime, I have a new stove (I opted for a convection oven this time around, something I've never cooked with but am eager to learn about). I have professionally-cleaned, dust-free drapes hanging in my home this week. I have a reorganized craft closet and cookbook shelf - thank you cleaning women! I have a new perspective on things.

Every so often, I do this... this whole "thing." I extend myself too far, then I snap and recoil. I've come to understand that I'm like a rubberband - not content to live a life of consistency, but instead a life where I extend too far and then reach a limit and contract, going back into my shell until I'm ready to come out. When I look back upon my life, I see a series of extentions and contractions, and lots of time in-between where I am simply "who I am."

What does this mean for me? For starters, it means I'm cleaning out my closets. Every few years I clean out every closet and give away some of what I own. And boy, does that feel good. There is nothing I love more than downsizing. Contracting also means spending more time with my family. I'll teach more, do more crafting, and pay more attention to my home, my children and husband, my plants and my cats.

Before I know it, I'll be stretching out again.

Today the girls had swimming lessons and we went to the State Park for a Preschool Naturalists class. They came home with the cutest leaf-tail turkeys. It was a good day.

First snow of the season

We had the first snow of the season today. Good thing I finally acknowledged that Summer is over and Autumn is here, right? Because otherwise it would have been hard for me to see those big white flakes coming down.

The "overcooked dinner" incident has be rephrased by professionals as a "protein fire" and tomorrow morning I will greet a team of recovery professionals at my door. They'll be here the rest of the week. Jeff's parents arrive tomorrow as well. I'm looking forward to waking up next week with my house back to normal.

Erma is looking forward to getting back to normal too. She's so arthritic. These past few days with the windows open has been hard on her body. (It's been cold!) Last night she dragged herself to the front door and waited for me to come home from my Small Group meeting. She meowed a big "meow" when I entered and proceeded to tell me (with her eyes) that the cold weather has been hard on her and she can't live like this anymore. Then she collapsed - all of her limbs gave out and she fell down. I brought food and water to where she was, then bundled her up in a down blanket and put her to bed in front of the raging hot pellet stove. I knew that I had to do something else too, something I didn't want to do. I have a bottle of Metacam (Meloxicam) that I keep for emergencies such as this. Metacam is deadly for cats. It works - it'll get her moving around again, but it kills her kidneys. I've spent 17 years buying the expensive cat food without animal by-products, with the intention of keeping her as healthy as possible. I get so angry when I think about throwing all of that away by giving her a week's supply of Metacam. But I do it when she really needs it. And now she does. I'll be watching her.

Tomorrow is a new day. For all of us.

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!