Vegetable Stock

Some people look at this pile of vegetable scraps and think, "mmmm.... homemade vegetable stock," don't they? I don't, which surprises even me. It's very simple: I don't have much experience making stock. I've made it before but I'm not an expert. For example, can I use onion skins? Can I use the bruised or browned parts? What about the core? How about those woody, sprouting turnip tops?

Certainly Martha Stewart would know how to make stock (she says don't use the blemished parts). The folks at The Kitchn make stock too. I always trust Vegetarian Times to set me on the right path. I see that Eating Well has a recipe for roasted vegetable stock - and if I can get myself to plunge all those carefully diced and roasted vegetables into a pot of hot water without eating them first, I might just make it.

I just need to build up some confidence, find some patience, assemble my ingredients, and do it, right?

Art & Nature


Homeschool art class, where the girls learned about Mayan culture and painted Mayan hieroglyphs in watercolor ('A' painted a book, 'H' chose the butterfly)

Play "Mary and Laura" (that activity is a given... every day, all day)

State Park fun: snowshoeing and fox tracking (we followed the bunny and fox tracks, one on top of the other, then suddenly the tracks got a little wild, and only one set continued on... the fox tracks. That was an interesting find). We followed up the outdoor fun with warming up by the fire at the warming hut.

All of these things were wonderful, but do you know what was most exciting for me? We were all able to get out of the house in a timely fashion today and made it to these activities on time. That hasn't been happening all the time lately. I'll tell the girls to head upstairs and get dressed and brush their hair and teeth. Ten minutes later I'll call up and ask them how they're doing, and they're heavy into playing and haven't been able to get dressed. A few minutes later I ask again, and it's like I'm telling them for the first time. What's a mother to do? Yesterday I decided that I wouldn't get upset, and when it looked like we were going to miss their gymnastics class because they couldn't get moving along, I said cheerfully, "looks like we're going to get to stay home today girls." I'll tell you, that freaked them out. They didn't like the fact that I was sounding happy about missing an activity. Perhaps that's why today they were able to get out the door in good time.

Whatever the reason, I'll take it. I like their new attitudes!

It was a good day!

Salad portions

It has come - that time of year when the food is a bit more sparse. When I portion out the salad to be just enough. Not enough to feel fully satisfied, but enough to feel that we ate some fresh, healthy greens for the day. Salad isn't served every day anymore; we're lucky if our greens last us 4 days - more likely, it's 3. I fill up every Saturday at the farmer's market, and even there, the pickings are becoming more and more slim. Michael doesn't have as much to bring as he did in the warmer months. I've got a basket full of squash, turnips, beets and radishes, ready to roast or braise. The pantry is still full of rice, beans and pasta; we'll be eating plenty of that this winter. It's the greens that are missing most now. It happens every year. It's not something I dread at all, and it's even something I look forward to, a little bit. Paring down at this time of year feels right.

:: rain barrel at the library ::

:: Jeff warmed up today in the sweater his mother knit for him so many years ago ::

Cold here!

It was cold here this morning. I don't have an outdoor thermometer, so I don't know the exact temperature at my home. The folks at The Weather Channel seemed to believe it was -20 degrees when I woke up. I can believe it, but I don't need a thermometer to tell me it's really cold... our cat Grace tells me about it. On the days Grace stays in bed far longer than I do, I know it's cold. Today she was reluctant to get up.

We're staying indoors this morning, skipping the homeschool nature class at the state park (bbbrrr! I wonder if anyone showed up!), enjoying a late breakfast, making pictures on our frosty windows with my thimbles, just like Mary and Laura used to do with Ma's thimble. We'll head out to gymnastics class and the library shortly.

One thing I'm disappointed about is that I had to reschedule 'A's appointment with an allergist at Children's Hospital in Boston. We were supposed to go on Wednesday but there's snow coming our way and I didn't think it was worth the risk. The drive is 3 hours each way, and the snow and freezing rain will hit Boston that afternoon. I rescheduled it for May. I don't expect miracles to occur at the appointment. It would be nice to know what the future holds for her and if there are any treatments on the horizon. In the meantime, we carry on.

Last night we enjoyed Jerusalem Artichoke soup for dinner. Dinner tonight is Sunflower Lentil Loaf with a green salad using Mesculin mix from Kilpatrick Family Farm.

Sunflower Lentil Loaf (from The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook by Cybele Pascal)

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. toasted sunflower seeds (unsalted)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
5 fresh sage leaves, mined fine (or 2 tsp. dried)
3 cups well-drained, cooked lentils
3 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 cup bread crumbs (gluten-free: brown-rice bread crumbs or corn-flake crumbs)
2 Tbsp. flour (gluten-free: spelt or oat flour)
3 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 Tbsp. rice or oat milk)
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Toast sunflower seeds in a 375-degree oven on a cookie sheet for a few minutes, shaking once or twice until they've turned golden.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Saute onion, garlic, and celery in olive oil over medium heat until soft and onion is translucent. Add sage and cook another minute or so. Remove pan from heat. Combine onion mixture with rest of ingredients, saving 2 Tbsp. of sunflower seeds to top the loaf. Put into large oiled loaf pan. Top with remaining sunflower seeds and cover with aluminum foil. Cook 20 minutes covered. Remove foil and cook 30 minutes more. When done, allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

A good day!

Snowboarding: A+

Scenery we viewed while driving to the mountain: A+

Time spent with my husband and children: A+

All in all, it was a good day!

Little House on the Prairie studies, Part 1 of many to come

After having fun with the map theme yesterday, I decided to apply it to 'A's favorite subject, Little House on the Prairie. It wasn't hard to find resources online - many educators and homeschoolers use the stories at some point or another, and there is so much information available. 'A' and I started with blank maps of the United States and a timeline of Laura's life. We added the towns where the Ingalls family lived and drew the route they would have taken to get from one homestead to the next. We talked about crossing the river and about moving to a place where so few towns were established. We talked briefly about moving into Indian Territory and the Homestead Act of 1862. It's hard to explain it to a 5 year old just yet.

Right now we're in the middle of reading The Long Winter. The winter is just starting to get really hard - food is running out and the snow is piling up. All of the books touch upon such topics as hardship, self-reliance, and the importance of working together as a family for survival, and this book is no exception.

Now that I'm older and rereading the series, I find myself wondering a lot about Pa and Ma. What was life like for them, moving so often? How did they get along? What kept them moving?

Little House on the Prairie educational resources:

Author Study of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House links

I'll come back to this site when 'A' is a little older and is reading the series the 2nd time around: Little House on the Prairie: An Adventure

This Little House Classroom Activity Guide is filled with discussion questions that can be tailored for any age

From the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum, a Laura Ingalls Wilder teaching unit

National Geographic Xpeditions Lesson Plans: There's No Place Like Home


New recipes

I've been waiting for a little mealtime inspiration to head my way, and somehow I got lucky this week. I've tried a few new recipes that use the ingredients I have on hand, the same ingredients I'm just about to get tired of, but these recipes present them in a new light. Just the thing I've been looking for!

It's not as if these meals blindly fell into my lap... I checked out a few cookbooks from the library and spent some time turning each and every page until I found a solid handful I wanted to try. This week we've enjoyed Healing Soup from Vegan Family Favorites; "Fronch" Toast, which is essentially french toast with chickpea flour instead of eggs (and rice milk instead of cow's milk); and right now I've got crock pot cannellini bean pot pie with a biscuit topping cooking. All were so easy to make and have warmed our bellies during this cold winter season.

Healing Soup, by Kathy Flake, found in Vegan Family Favorites
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 qt vegetable stock, or enough to cover vegetables
1 cup green or brown lentils
1 bunch kale, chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used the tomatoes I canned this summer)
1 to 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar (we try to use cider vinegar containing the "mother")
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon miso

Heat oil and add onion, plus carrots, celery and garlic, as they are prepared. Sauté a few minutes, then add stock, kale, and lentils. Cook over medium heat until kale begins to lose its color, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and rest of ingredients, except miso. Cook 20 minutes or until lentils and carrots are soft. Turn off heat and add miso, mixed with a little liquid from the soup or with warm water. Serve warm.

"Fronch" Toast from Vegan With a Vengeance
1 loaf whole wheat bread (I used homemade, cut into thick slices)
1 cup rice milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup chickpea flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients except the bread. Heat a skillet on medium heat and add a drop of oil to coat the pan. Soak the bread in the liquid mixture, and lay each piece in the hot pan. Cook for 2 minutes on each side. Serve warm.

The girls and I spent the afternoon reading about maps and making maps of their rooms. It all started when 'A' said, "Cape Cod looks curved on the map, but when I'm there, it just looks like regular land." Off to the library we went, returning home with many books, including this one, and this one too. 'A' and 'H' first drew maps of their rooms freehand, then we measured out the dimensions of the room in feet (actual feet - their feet), and added the furniture, also measured in feet. It's wonderful to watch 'A's a-ha! moments, when suddenly understands something so much better than before, and she had one of those today when she compared her first map with the second one. Yes, the purpose of a map is to show things as they actually are.

A renewed commitment

:: 'A' playing Mary Ingalls, getting ready for the dance at grandpa's in the Big Woods of Wisconsin ::

I had a dream last night that the world ended. Actually, everything we take for granted about the stars ended too. In a blink, the universe, including our planet, was sucked up into a tiny little vacuum. It all disappeared, and before I went with it, I saw empty blackness all around.

I woke up and understood at once that it's time for me to reaffirm my commitment to our planet. As much as any of us do, there's always more to be done. I wonder what this world will look like for my grandchildren. And their grandchildren. What will be left?

I continue to believe that our food choices are a very big part of the equation. We all eat, and choosing sustainable foods is an easy way to make a big difference in the environment. Local, sustainably-grown food is the key. Limiting consumption of factory-farmed meat and dairy products (as well as eggs) goes a long way. Saying "no" to genetically modified foods is good for all of us. What else aside from food? I try to limit my plastic consumption and think twice about taking the car out if I don't need to. But there's so much more to be done. I want to discover what further conservation means for me.

My mother just installed a windspire at her house. She'll generate her electricity via wind power, and whatever she doesn't use will be fed back to the grid. Good for her. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all do that too?

On a completely unrelated note, 'A' is learning how to read in spite of herself. I say it like this because she has resisted any hint of learning for a while now. All of a sudden though, she's starting to understand how sounds come together to form words, and how words meet up to make meaningful sentences. It's a magical thing to watch. She's entering a new place. And is it a coincidence that it's happening just after her first tooth fell out? Or was Rudolf Steiner on to something?

It snowed this morning

It snowed this morning.

Art class was cancelled.

The birds came and filled their bellies at our feeders.

The morning saw us painting and reading.

I cleaned my desk. Found a lot of things to follow up on, and I did.

Now the cats are sleeping.

The girls are playing.

Dinner is ginger bok choy. The big questions are: tofu or shrimp? Noodles or rice?

I love days like today.

Getting out of a rut!

I hate falling into ruts, and if there's one thing I dislike more than falling in, it's not seeing how to get out. Sometimes my ruts are deep and cavernous (food issues, anyone?) and other times, they're easy to see into and see out of. Take my mail issues, for example. For a few months now, we've all had our own return address labels, and the stamps are always handy, waiting for the pen-pal urge to strike. Did I say "handy?" What I meant to say is that the return address labels and the stamps are always on the top of my desk... kind of placed toward the front of the pile of papers. Not always together, and never easily accessible when I need them. When I'm teaching children about letter-writing, I invariably need them right now!!! Finally I got smart and put them all together in this nice basket (Erika might recognize it - she filled it with delicious treats for Christmas. I hope I get to keep it, because I want to!). What a difference it makes. I love having everything together, just where I need it. How is that for getting myself out of a rut?

Next up: our winter hats and mittens "rut." Some people might call it a disorganized, confusing mess. I call it a rut. I can get out of it, and I will.

New ideas for a new year

January is such a wonderful time for reflection. The busy-ness of the holidays is over and I find myself thinking more about the meaning of our days and our routines. Am I happy? Does my life have purpose? Am I raising my children the way I want to?

Out of those big questions come some random answers and, as always, new projects for me. This is my random list of what I want to focus on for the rest of the winter (in addition to the multitude of other things I already focus on):

* My photography. I've been in a rut for a while. I need a new challenge! I'm going to start by playing around with my camera settings, and I'm going to take new notice of photos I see on the web that captivate my imagination. I'll share them all with you too.

* That plastic bag stash of mine. My problem remains the same as it was last March and April. I never did find a solution for it. I've GOT to find a solution.

* Recipe ideas! I seriously need to refresh my menu plans. Stay tuned for new ideas!

* Getting to know the birds in our backyard better. I've got three feeders up now and we all love watching the birds visit every day. Now I want to know more: do they have certain times of day that they like to come? What food do they prefer? How many kinds of birds visit us?

I'm looking forward to some new things to learn this year!


It snowed here today, all day. I made sure my schedule was clear so we could stay home and enjoy it. We've had a very good day today. Jeff isn't here to enjoy it with us, which is too bad. Luckily our wonderful neighbor came by with his snowblower and cleared the driveway. I should be able to get out tomorrow to take Erma to the acupuncturist with no trouble! Priorities, you know.

Speaking of Erma, here's a little info about her treatment in case you ever have an old, arthritic cat to care for and would like to know. She's halfway through a biopuncture treatment which is definitely helping her body to heal. Her fur is so soft and fluffy now, her muscles are relaxed, she doesn't seem to be in pain as much. She's had one chiropractic treament to straighten out her spine and hips (she was walking almost sideways before and it was obvious that something was out of alignment). She's had a few acupuncture treatments and perhaps she'll receive another one tomorrow with her biopuncture treatment. She may not even need it. I added one more thing to the mix this week: she's back on Duralactin, a milk protein powder that I add to her food. It seems to make a huge difference. The limping has decreased considerably.

So there you have it. Natural treatment for an old cat.

The schools might be closed in town, but my girls still have school as usual, as much as I "do" school with them. Here are our snowy science experiments of the day:

:: We went outside and brought black construction paper along to catch snowflakes and look at the differences in the snowflake shapes. Individual star shaped flakes are so beautiful!

:: Then we filled two containers with snow. I packed down the snow in one container and refilled it to the brim. Both containers are now sitting on the kitchen counter and the girls pop over once in a while to check on them. 'A' has an idea about what will happen - that they will melt - and she's learning today that the one that was packed down is melting at a slower rate. Tomorrow, when they're fully melted, I'll ask her if she thinks we can make them back into snow.

We also made maple syrup candy today using this recipe. It was part educational and all fun! And messy, it was also very, very messy, at least while 'H' was eating it. It's pretty neat to watch a liquid turn into a solid in no time flat.

:: Can you see the chickadee at the feeder? ::


Thumbs up if you like skiing lessons! If I had been in that photo, instead of sitting behind the camera, my thumb would have been raised up as well. I took snowboarding lessons while the girls were learning to feel comfortable on skis. I haven't touched a snowboard in several years. I wasn't a very good snowboarder back in the day. I fell a lot, cried, and then, when I finally started to get the hang of it, I saw how much fun it can be. On Sunday, when I met up wtih my snowboarding class, there were again a lot of falls, but no tears, and I'm happy to say that the feeling of success came back strong and fast. What a great feeling it is to slide down the hill! I was nervous before the lesson started. Would I be able to keep my balance on the board? What if I couldn't do it? Would it hurt if I fell? It turns out I had nothing to worry about.

I was also wondering how 'A' and 'H' would like skiing lessons. Would they be too cold? Would they cry? Would the lesson be too long for them? They loved it, and they can't wait to go back. Every Sunday afternoon for 5 more weeks. This is family fun, and it's wonderful!


So... eight months later, her tooth fell out!

It happened just after I finished this adorable little pouch to keep her tooth safe under her pillow. The thought of the tooth fairy searching for that little tooth under her big pillow made my head spin, so I whipped this up today. Now she can keep it safe and the tooth fairy can find it with no trouble at all.

It snowed today, and we're enjoying a cozy evening while the snow continues to fall. This mama isn't looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning and hauling boxes of vegetables into the farmer's market in the snow, but it is fun to watch it come down.


If you were to ask me about my homeschooling approach, I would tell you that I try to follow my children's lead and let them learn what they want to learn, at the pace they want to learn it. I introduce them to new concepts and topics all the time, and I wait to see which ones pique their interest. I pay attention to the way they interpret the world around them, and step in to teach and guide along the way.

There is one concept that is critical to the success of this philosophy, and it's not easy to always remember and respect it:


It's important to have trust in the learning process, trust that my children will be open to learning, trust that I'll know how to help them learn what they want & need to learn. There are times when I lose sight of that sense of trust and I wonder if I'm teaching them the right things, and enough of those things. Too much? Too little? Wrong topics? I start feeling lost and out of touch with the process. I doubt my abilities to teach them. And then something happens that puts it all back in perspective for me. I learn how to trust again.

Today I rediscovered that sense. 'A' was counting up to one hundred... past one hundred... and she stopped at "one hundred forty nine!" Then she ran to her paper and pencil and wrote out the number one hundred forty nine: 10049. I heard her thinking it out as she wrote. "One hundred has two zeros..." Then she proudly showed me her work. It was then that I had my "Aha!" moment and knew that it was time to teach her how to write 149. She let me know that she was ready and interested in learning about it.

She made sets of ten with the colored tiles; counted them by tens; wrote out equations showing how she added 10 to each set; and finally she practiced writing numbers higher than 100. And when she felt she was done, she scampered off to play "Laura and Mary" and exercise her brain in a completely different way.

'H' is almost 4 now and is ready for some informal instruction as well. She loves to scribble "words" and she's even starting to write the names of all of her family members. 'H' has a special issue: we don't know yet if she's right handed or left handed. She scribbles with both hands (equal amounts too), and when I look at her scribbles, it appears that her right handed scribbles are neater and more uniform than her left handed scribbles. I started to think she was right handed.

Today I sat her down to practice writing a few letters, and every time I asked her to trace my sample letter and be neat, taking care to make straight lines, she chose to use her left hand. She just couldn't do it with her right hand.

Maybe she's left handed?

One thing is for sure: we don't know yet. She isn't comfortable writing letters with either hand yet. Trusting that this process will unfold on its own when the time is right, I put away the handwriting paper and I'll pull it out when she's ready.

A new year!

It's a new year! I'm not really one for New Year's Resolutions. It's always seemed so strange that people wake up one day and decide to change so many things which, up to that point, have been really hard to change. Doesn't it seem like a recipe for failure?

This year I'm celebrating the fact that the new year has begun and I've got a few positive changes already in the works. I'm also celebrating the fact that the busy-ness of the seasons has come to an end (by that I mean summer (garden), fall (garden) and the Thanksgiving/Christmas celebrations), and now I can look forward to a few months of focusing on new things.

One thing that's *new* for me is the return of the paper calendar. I've had it less than a week and already I find I use it so much more than I used my Outlook calendar. I keep track of my time better and it's already become an information-hub for me. In four days. I wonder how long I'll keep up this level of enthusiasm? I say this as if I've never organized my time before, as if it's all new to me. It kind of is. I used to have an organized life, back before I had children, and come to think of it, I did keep a fairly detailed calendar when they were younger, but that was all part of a different life. We entered a whole new world this past year and it was a calendar-less, time-less world. It's a world everyone should have a chance to enter and explore at some point in their lives. It was a world in which it was okay to not have plans set in stone, to dilly-dally half the time, to not look at the clock at all during the day, instead relying on the hunger in our bellies and the sounds from the birds to tell us the time. It coincided with an overall move toward "opting out" on our part: opting out of school; opting out of the Standard American Diet; opting out of consuming. Instead we opted into other things: staying at the library until we all felt the urge to leave; watching the birds come and go at our backyard feeder, waiting for the elusive white-breasted nuthatch to return; admiring every inch of our tomato and squash plants; and creating new works of art whenever the urge struck, "just because."

I still have one foot firmly planted in that world, but the time has come to get a bit more organized. It's the grown-up thing to do, I guess. And it feels right.

The other things I feel good about are... yes, the same thing that's on everyone's list: I'm feeling better about my eating and exercise choices. Well, let's be honest, after spending November and December eating holiday junk and not exercising much at all, wouldn't any amount of healthy food or exercise make me feel better? Yes. I'm enjoying (again!) my workout and enjoying the feeling of eating to feel satisfied but not over-satisfied. It's been a while since I felt that way, and it's a welcome treat.

Lastly, I'm looking forward to picking up the Dave Ramsey book on CD from the library this week and listening to it. My sisters are also looking forward to a report from me and want to know if they should listen too.

The girls are back at art class (they love it and so do I); 'A' is earning her allowance and learning about the value of pennies, nickles and dimes; and we are all waiting with excitement for 'A's first tooth to fall out. It's been loose for months now... months. Finally it's wiggly and moving front and back with ease. She's completely freaked out about the fact that it's going to fall out. This is the same girl who freaks out about getting a new coat or a new pair of sneakers each season, so I'm not surprised. What does surprise me is how excited I am to have the Tooth Fairy visit our home! I haven't given much thought to her in about 30 years. Big stuff!

We're off to a good start this year. I can't ask for much more. Happy New Year to you!

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!