Thursday, April 29, 2010

Basic H

I make HUGE messes in my kitchen more often than I'm prone to admit. Truthfully, there's a lot of good that comes from those messes (does 400+ oz of jam ring a bell? Anyone?) But amidst the good also lies the bad and yes, the ugly.

I strongly dislike cleaning up said messes. But who doesn't?
I'd like to meet the person who likes cleaning up as much as they like mess making - and then I'd like to promptly bless them with a boatload of their favorite task

Anyway as I'm sure you can imagine I've had the messiest stovetop in the WORLD lately due to all this jam making (and consequently, also some bread baking. Bread is a vehicle for jam just like carrots are a vehicle for ranch don't you know) Without much desire to spray a bunch of chemicals all over my kitchen I decided to take a page out of my mom's book and try a product by Shaklee called "Basic H". She's used it as long as I can remember.

Basic H does a million and a half things. No, seriously. It will clean your floor, your fruits & vegetables, your windows, and even nourish your plants! Don't ask me how it works, I'm no expert. All I know is that it's perfectly harmless to injest, inhale & touch, and leaves no carbon footprint. And I like that.

But the real question is - Did it remove all the dough/jam/grease from my grungy stovetop (a mess the likes of which the camera cannot properly show)? See for yourself.

Now that's a stovetop worth talking about.
- Melissa

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I thought I wanted wood floors

...and wood floors are what we have, so naturally I should be pleased.
And I am.


Except I have this tiny little problem. Everybody's got to be neurotic about something, right? Well, my issue is with all the crumbs and other miscellaneous crud I pick up on the bottoms of my feet - and, more importantly, said crud found on the bottoms of my son's feet. Yuck.

And you know what happens, right? I mean, think about it. What do YOU do when you've got bits of guck (my word) stuck to your bare feet? I'll tell you what you do. You head right for a piece of carpet or rug to (sometimes unintentionally) brush it all off.

Which would be all fine and dandy IF IT DIDN'T MAKE THE RUG LOOK BEIGE INSTEAD OF WHITE.

This wasn't a problem before we had a kiddo. I sweep religiously. I also mop religiously. But, you see, I have a small crumb-making-machine that travels from room to room depositing said crumbs everywhere he goes. I honestly don't know how he does it, he only eats in his high-chair. Would you believe I find crumbs INSIDE his diaper? I've come to decide he sticks food down his onesie to save for later, but that's another story entirely.

So what's a mom to do? Sweep, Mop, and sweep again?

Maybe I should just give up and keep my socks on.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ALL boy

Umm... son...

Young son, what are you doing?

Is there something under there that you're trying to reach?

I see, well, you'll have to reach in there a little further I think.

Really? THAT'S what you were after?A PVC pipe?
Wow - This boy truly is ALL boy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"NOT Me" Monday

Another Monday - Here I go again, confessing the ugly, the embarrassing, and yet the true...

This past week I did NOT make enough strawberry jam to paint a house. While making said jam I also did NOT run out of jars to fill - twice. I know what I'm doing after all.

I did NOT purchase yet another sippy cup in an attempt to get my child to drink without any help. What a waste of money! After realizing that said sippy cup (which, mind you, I did NOT buy) might actually be a winner I did NOT successfully modify it, cutting out the no-spill valve, to make it easier to suck from. It is, of course, NOT our favorite cup in the house now.

I certainly did NOT offer to make my husband cowboy cookies last night (his birthday) with a secret desire for them myself. That would have been secretly selfish. While making said cookies I also didn't remember double everything but except oatmeal, requiring me to return all the dough from the cookie sheet to the bowl to add more oats. Nope, not me.

I did NOT suggest that my mom get the shirt below for my husband for his birthday. It's way too nerdy and I'm sure he would NOT be caught dead wearing it. (click to enlarge) He also did NOT wear said shirt to work today.

I did NOT eat this out of its jar with my finger. But if perchance I did, it would all be Kim Lepper's fault. She told me to buy it after all. I remain blameless.

Last but not least, I am NOT sitting here, blogging at my kitchen table while also making pancakes on the stove. I canNOT multitask like that and even if I could I wouldn't risk burning any pancakes. In fact, I have NOT overcooked any yet this morning. Nope. Not a one.

Your turn. What did you NOT do this week?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Getting out of my jam - closure

A lot of things are better when they come in twos:

Then there are things which are more cumbersome in twos:
yards full of dandelions (front and back)
sinks full of sticky pink dishes
flats of strawberries
So to back up a bit, I should first tell you that the flat of strawberries I made into jam last Wednesday (was it wednesday? my days are running together, maybe it was Thursday) made roughly 200 ounces of jam; 25 cups. Can you visualize 25 cups? If not, then I dare not go on to remind you that I had yet a second flat of strawberries with which to make jam. As math would have it, I processed an additional 200 ounces of jam on Saturday and re-stikiefied (yes, my own word) all those dishes Jonathan had lovingly washed two days prior.
Sitting on my kitchen counter yesterday were 12 glass pints and 3 plastic half-pints of sweet sticky joy. Later they were taken downstairs to accompany the 6 glass pints and 11 plastic half-pints already in the chest freezer. As I took them down I wondered aloud: "after the cost of raw ingredients, what is the cost of goods produced?" Well, here it is folks.

Cost of jam ingredients, including all cups/jars not previously owned: $50.00 (rounded up 9 cents)
Total jam ounces produced: 400
Cost per ounce: $0.125
Cost per 8oz: $1.00

And how much does an 8oz jar of low-sugar jam cost at the store? I haven't a clue, but I'm willing to guess it's over a dollar, and even if it isn't, the quality of my homemade jam far outweighs that of anything a factory could produce. Beat that, Smuckers.

As for the two yards of dandelions and the two sinks of dishes, TODAY'S BIRTHDAY BOY took care of them both yesterday, bless his heart.

Anyone have any good ideas for what to do with all this jam?

Friday, April 23, 2010

In a bit of a jam

I was honest.
I admitted I'd never done this before.
So, it should come as no surprise that I asked for some advice along the way.
But first, let me tell you how my jam experience went.

With all my ingredients at hand, I began hulling and quartering my first flat of strawberries. It took longer than I expected, but no matter. Then, into the food processor they went. Once finely pureed I paused to read my instructions.

Did I mention I'm not very good at following instructions?

Let me rephrase that - I'm very good at following instructions when I want to, but usually I modify them intentionally. This was one of those times.

I don't have a canning set so I knew from the start I would be making freezer jam. The instructions said I didn't need to cook the strawberries.
I've never heard of such a thing. So, because I MUST be smarter than the instructions, I decided to follow the "cooked jam" recipe instead of the "freezer jam" recipe, and then follow that up with freezing my jars instead of canning them. I had another motivation also: the strawberries, while beautiful, were not totally ripe, so they weren't as soft as they needed to be for jam. I figured the only way to soften them was to cook them. So, cook them I did.

On I went, adding the required juice, whisking in my pectin, and heating to a rolling boil. So far, so good. Now to add the sugar. Did I mention I used the largest pot we had? Did I also mention it was 3/4 full before I added the sugar? Oh dear, I had no idea jam had a foaming problem. Before long I was frantically reading instructions about how to deal with the foam which was nearly overflowing all over my stove top. To my pleasant surprise there was an asterisk noting that a bit of butter would deal with all that foam nicely - an asterisk I'd ignored thinking "surely I would never add butter to my jam recipe, that would be silly"

"GET ME SOME BUTTER!" Jonathan heard me yell from across the room, followed by a "QUICKLY PLEASE!" as I burned my finger yet again with boiling-fruity-sugar-foam.

Butter added. Jam explosion averted.

After three minutes of a hard boil I began ladling my jam into what I thought would be plenty of clean containers. In all I had four large glass jars, and ten smaller plastic freezer jam containers. So back to the very beginning of my post: While I was at the grocery store perusing berries I was careful to ask the more experienced women around me, how much jam will a flat of strawberries make? "one flat will make oh, about 6-8 small jars" I was told.

Well, let me tell you, after filling ALL of my containers I was RUSHING to find, empty, and wash other miscellaneous jars. In the end, with over 200 ounces of fresh, hot jam, (which, I'm happy to report, all set-up beautifully ) I would consider this project a success. That said, I still have a SECOND FLAT of strawberries to make jam from (you all know what you're getting for Christmas now) and I was left with a kitchen FULL of sticky pink dishes...

...Which somebody washed for me - each and every one.

Thursday, April 22, 2010



Today, I will make Jam. Lots of Jam. Probably more jam than we'll be able to eat. But hey, with strawberries this cheap (under $9/12lb flat) I'm goin' for it.

"have you ever done this before?" you ask. Admittedly, no.
But how hard can it be, right? Clean glass jars, freezer jam pectin, strawberries, sugar, and a large pot... I can't imagine it's all that difficult. Besides, we have a HUGE chest freezer begging to be filled with money-saving goodies to be used throughout the year.

Any advice?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Toys and non-toys

So, with Levi's first birthday quickly approaching (May 28th) I'm looking around the internet trying to figure out what he'll be "into" next. Toy-wise that is. Throughout the next year he'll pass so many milestones that it's difficult to decide how best to stimulate his quickly growing little mind. At first I thought stand-and-play toys would be great, but now that he's nearly walking, I wonder if those would be bypassed.

So, that leaves me wondering about things like flash cards, books, letters, shapes, and colors - you know, "learning toys". Do kids even like those? Levi doesn't seem to pay attention to anything for longer than a half a second - even food, which he LOVES - so I'm unsure.

Anyhow, I created this list of what I *think* he may be interested in/need over the next year, but (especially you moms out there) I need some advice. Will he move beyond sit & play toys soon? If so, is it still to early for him to enjoy playing with one of those kitchen or workbench sets? He sure seems to like the one at the play group we go to.
Of course, we could forgo toys and leave him to play with non-toys (which he seems to LOVE). You know, things like laundry baskets, salad spinners, shoes, and clothespins.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No green thumb, and yet...

I sill managed to get a visit from these beauties:

Of course, they're bulbs, so they bloom every spring without me lifting a finger. I know I shouldn't take the credit when quite obviously it was some hard-working homeowner before me who did all the work.

I will, however, take credit for this:

Her name is violet - fittingly enough. I've managed to keep her alive for 2 years. Yes, two. And then this past fall something peculiar happened. She spawned 4 more separate plants right there in that tiny pot. I was flabbergasted.

Ok, I lie.

I didn't even know there was more than one plant in that pot until a visiting neighbor pointed it out. With now five African Violets taking up residence in a pot that was certainly too small, she and I delicately pulled them apart and re-planted them into five larger pots. I kept three, she took two.

And now I have not one, not five, but three thriving African Violets sitting in my bay window. Lovely. The center one and also the one to the right (She's the mother plant) already have tiny buds sprouting up. I'm so proud.

After such a success I decided to be bold. I planted these:

The pot on the top step holds a beautiful pot of basil - two separate plants. The pot on the bottom step is growing dill and cilantro. Last years basil thrived - but alas, it thrived the week we had Levi and then the grand majority of it went to waste as I neglected it in the hot summer sun, trading that gorgeous basil for hours upon hours of caring for a new babe. Here's hoping this year will be different.

Any suggestions?

Monday, April 19, 2010

NOT me Monday

"Not Me Monday" is a blog carnival started by a blogger named McMama. Because I'm a fan of self-deprecating humor, I've decided to join in unabashedly.
This weekend I certainly did NOT hear my 11 month old fully awaken at 5:30am and then ask my dear husband to bring him into our bed so I could try (somewhat successfully) to nurse him back to sleep and get a few more minutes of shut-eye for myself. That would be silly because I know too well that I can't really rest when he's in bed with us.

Last week I did NOT find a ladybug, nay a ladybug and a spider, mixed in with the clean diapers I pulled off the line in the back yard. I also did NOT lose track of said insects while putting diapers together.

After making bread dough yesterday, I did NOT leave my stand-mixer looking like this
I always take good care of my kitchenaid and would not say to my husband that "a good flour dusting makes it look well loved". That would simply be an excuse for my overall laziness

Lastly, I did NOT borrow a good mama diaper from a friend to see how I liked it on Levi, then (almost immediately) proceed to watch him poop in said borrowed cloth diaper. Thank you, Levi. That wasn't ours.

It's been a good week, all told. What about you? What have you NOT done this week?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Locks are for more than front doors

When Levi learned to crawl, Jonathan installed these locks on the cabinets under the sink.
I thought, as a matter of safety, we'd better hide all the gross nasty chemicals behind locked doors. Right? Well, turns out there are more things in the kitchen that need hiding these days

Levi has learned how to not only open, but also enter all my other lower kitchen cabinets. His favorite is the cabinet I keep my wok and stockpot in. Now why would that be a problem? well, glass lids aside, these pots are HEAVY, and when clumsily (I think I just made that word up) lifted by one shaky little baby hand they are prone to land on one chubby little baby foot and cause one giant tearful wailing experience.

Yes. We will be locking up the rest of the cabinets tomorrow. Sad, but true.

Friday, April 16, 2010

pinching my pennies

We pinch pennies around here. BIG TIME.
Especially when it comes to the grocery budget. Why you ask? well, quite honestly, this is where I tend to overspend the most. So, a little over a year ago we instituted a new plan

Each week, on Friday morning typically, I withdraw $100 in cash from our checking account. That cash has to cover all the food and consumables we need to purchase (consumables = toilet paper, dish soap, furnace filters, trash bags, etc.) sounds easy right? Wrong. You'd be amazed to see how fast that $100 gets spent. It's tough but, if I want to continue staying home with Levi we have to hit a zero balance or better each month so, here are my tricks of the trade (aside from cloth diapering, breastfeeding, and babyfood making of course - although those three are HUGE penny savers).

Ad Matching:
Our local discount-grocer will honor other grocery stores' advertised prices IF (and that's a big if) you bring the paper ad with you. So each Wednesday I go through those ads, find the super low prices, and circle them so I can see if the ad gives me a better deal than our grocery store does.

Coupons: I don't use many coupons. We don't get the newspaper anymore (I get the grocery ads from our neighbor when she's done with them) but every once in a while I'll get some coupons in the mail.

Buying in large quantities: When something is on sale for a STEAL, I buy a TON of it. Of course, only if it's something I use a lot of. Examples: we have currently 16 boxes of cereal, 20lb of jasmine rice, and a whole lot of cans of tomatoes. Why? because they were the cheapest I'd ever seen them. I keep a record of these "cheapest prices" and when they go lower, I snag the deal. We never buy a box of cereal for more than $1.99, and I won't buy tomatoes that are over $.48 a can.

Paying attention to "price per unit": Not all cereal boxes or cans or bags of shredded cheese were created equal. I bring a calculator with me to the store and divide the item price by the number of ounces in the package to determine whether it would be cheaper to buy the small container or the larger one on a per-unit basis. You may be surprised to know that it's cheaper for us to buy small yogurts than it is to buy the large container (which is easier for Jonathan's lunch making anyhow) and occasionally this is true for applesauce cups/applesauce jugs also.

Serving sizes/Left overs management: So basically, I tend put too much on our plates. Typically we don't finish everything and something gets wasted. Bad form, I know. So I started dishing us up smaller portion sizes. THEN, before bed, I divy the rest up into one quart freezer ziplocks (genius invention). These bags fit enough in them for two servings of just about anything. Lentil soup, pasta sauce, enchiladas, meatloaf, you name it. Into the freezer they go for another night and now I don't have to wonder if we'll ever get around to actually finishing that left-over before it goes bad. Oh, and our fridge doesn't become a mess. Double bonus!

Last but not least, I read THIS blog written by friends of Jonathan and I from Washington. They have twelve children, eight of which are still at home. They are doing an experiment called 10-for-10-for-10. You should really check it out. (in case you need a hint, they're trying to feed 10 family members, for 10 dollars perday, for 10 weeks. Fascinating!)

So, what are your penny pinching strategies?
- Melissa

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dance of the diapers

Do you cloth-diaper?
well, I'm no expert. That's for sure. But I've definitely learned my fair share over the past nearly 11 months. Our "stash" as some would call it includes some prefolds, and some all-in-twos, but mostly one-size pockets. If you didn't understand any of that then this may be a post you'd prefer to skip :)
So anyway, over the past few months my diapers began to smell more and more of ammonia. That's normal. Babies pee in diapers, pee is FULL of ammonia. Eventually, diapers will smell. The trick is getting the smell out, or altering your wash/dry system such that smells don't linger in the first place.

My stink issues were BAD. I won't lie.
Thinking there might be an *easy* solution, I tried the frequently suggested "calgon" - a product designed to remove sediment from clothing which has been washed over and over in hard water. We have hard water, I figured this might be our issue. Sorry, that wasn't it.
So my second course of action was to bleach them. "BLEACH??" (I can hear the screams from across the country) yes, bleach. It's ok to bleach your diapers once in a very great while. Do it too much and not only will you break down your diapers, but you'll burn your baby's sweet little tush. But once in a while it's ok. Well - lo and behold - bleach didn't do the trick.

Then I turned to my favorite bio-safe cleaner and yours: Bac-out. I had high hopes for it's lime peel and bacteria-eating enzymes - but alas, no dice.
Then it was time to pull out the big guns: Stripping. Stripping diapers. (Get your mind out of the gutter) Like bleach, I've been warned that this is a "once-in-a-blue-moon" procedure. So I proceeded with caution. Diaper stripping is done with Dawn unscented dish soap. The theory is that some diapers stink because there is left-over detergent and other crud built up in the diaper's fibers. Add a squirt of dish soap to the laundry, do about a million hot rinses until all of the bubbles disappear and viola! your diapers should be stink free. - unless of course they're mine, in which case they will mysteriously still have a faint odor. Maybe I'm the only one who can smell it, but DUDE, it drives me NUTS!I was lost for words.

Then, as I was perusing reviews on The Pin I came across this stuff: Rockin' Green Soap. Ok, Ok, I'd heard about it before, but I wasn't a believer until I watched their two videos. Still skeptical, I ordered two samples of "Hard Rock" (made for folks like me with extra hard water, and, consequently, a non-functional water-softener) in lavender-vanilla, and fresh linen scents. ("woah woah woah - you mean to tell me you used scented detergent on your diapers" yes. yes I did. but it's safe for diapers. I promise. Keep reading)It arrived, I kid you not, just as I was getting diapers started for the morning. Following the directions I rinsed my dipes in cold, then let them hot-soak with 3TBS of Hard Rock for one hour. I continued with a wash cycle, then a cold rinse (no second rinse needed!) and PRESTO CHANGO! no more stink!

Sold. I'm SO sold.
If I could post a scratch-and-sniff picture I totally would.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When I'm not looking

I watch my son a lot
In fact, I'd say, even when I'm NOT watching him (i.e. leaving him to play in a safe place while I - say - unload the dishwasher) I check on him every minute or less. Even in a safe place, it's amazing the trouble my nearly 11 month old can get himself into. Currently his favorite place to be is, by far, the laundry basket. I was standing in the kitchen, behind the baby gate when I witnessed this string of events:What a monkey you are, son. What a monkey you are. Maybe one day you'll be a laundry FOLDING monkey instead of just a laundry-throwing-about monkey. Then again, that could be wishful thinking.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Levi, Cristoph, and Daisy Mae

So last Saturday the three of us got up early - who am I kidding we get up at 6:00 every morning, not by desire mind you, but because the "alarm clock" in the room next to ours reminds us that it's time to nurse and play. Anyhow, we spent the day digging up our green-hippie-northwest-recycling-composting-clothdiapering-organicbuying-roots. We started by heading to a consignment sale at one of our our local cloth-diaper retail stores.


I left without any diapers. Quite honestly, I left before I even made it up to the table with the cloth diapers on it - I couldn't shove my way through with a baby in a sling on my hip. It was crazy. I bought a lovely "nursing necklace" and we made our way out.

Then where to? Why, the local co-op of course! As we pulled into the Open Harvest parking lot we knew something was up. Right there, in the middle of everything, was a cow. Yes, a dairy cow. and - wait for it - her calf. Prairieland Dairy was busily handing out samples of their delightful milk (not like I would know it's delightful, I haven't been able to drink fluid milk since last July - a story to fill you in on another day). So Levi met a new friend. Enter: Christoph. Although Christoph is quite a bit younger than Levi (just 6 weeks old I believe) they're both milk-lovers. I can't decide who's cuter in these pictures. Maybe you can?Well, we couldn't leave without a picture of the two mommies. Sometimes Levi makes me feel like one of these:
And with our visit winding to a close we were off to buy an electric car, build an Earthship, plant a forest, and sustainably raise goats in our back yard - or maybe just to go home and eat lunch.
- Melissa


You know, it's rare that I take a picture of anything other than my adorable baby these days. True, these photos may also include other individuals, but they are rarely devoid of Levi. I maintain that my camera has a Levi addiction - but that's just my claim. Believe whatever you want.
However, a few days back, something caught my eye. Not long ago - ok, January - we hung a lovely bird feeder off the corner of our garage. It was a Christmas gift from my parents. Lo and behold it attracted some beautiful "customers" right off the bat. Now, as spring approaches, I can't wait to see if these two will bring us some of their offspring for us to feast our eyes upon. What beauties they are, don't you think?Mr. Cardinal is bright red, while Mrs. Cardinal is beige with a bright red beak. Would you believe he actually cracks seeds and feeds them to her one-by-one. What a gentleman! These two are frequent customers and I hope to continue greeting them each morning. Now if only I could do something about those pesky blackbirds...

Friday, April 9, 2010

All about pot - a pot named Ruby.

I try not to be a worldly person - that is to say, someone who spends too much time dwelling on what this world has to offer. This world is not my home after all... but there's just one little thing I have a problem with...

Kitchen gear. I have a serious kitchen gear problem.

It started with fancy schmancy can openers and garlic presses. Soon I was into blenders and stand mixers. Before I knew it my problem had escalated - into cookware. Not just any cookware though, Le Creuset cookware.
"What is Le Creuset" you ask? take a look, see for yourself. Hand forged, cast-iron perfection, coated in life-time guaranteed enamel, and that's only the beginning. So, may I please have the pleasure of introducing you to (da da da daaaaaaaaaa) Ruby:

3.5 quarts and 12" x 3" of braising beauty. A stovetop/ovenproof/dishwasher safe/freezer-refrigerator compatible marvel of mankind. The impliment with which I will hatch my plan for mastery of all things seared-then-slow-cooked.

So, what I'm saying is, I have a weak point. Is that so wrong?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Yes, Yes... I know

It's been WAY too long.You needn't remind me, I'm well aware.who - might I ask - knew that having a baby - one tiny little baby - could change your world so much?
Seriously people.

Anyway. Things in the Hnosko household are largely, well, wonderful to put it lightly. After a VERY rough first five months (oh yes, I did just say five) we emerged from Levi's colicky newborn phase victorious, and with just a few bits of knowlege we hadn't had before. First: Breastfed babies need to be fed "on demand". This means that, no matter how much you like having a schedule, no matter how linear, and no matter how desiring of control you are, if you want to bring in an ample milk supply, and you want a moderately peaceful household you should probably just feed your baby when he requests food. Whew. Took me a while to get that.
: Babies Cry. Sometimes they cry for a reason. Other times they just cry. Some cry more than others. Mothers who cannot soothe their babies can, at times, feel worthless (my case in point). but rest assured, all babies are inconsolable at some point and, really, it isn't your fault.

: (personal opinion alert!) "colic" is a word that's thrown around a lot. MANY well meaning people told us our baby was probably "colicky". I used the phrase myself from time to time. What we came to learn was that our baby had an intolerance to boy dairy and soy proteins... soooo, when mommy ate wonderful goodies like cheese, and sour cream, and tofu, and milk chocolate, etc etc. baby would get the world's worst tummy ache. We ironed this out somewhere around 4 months and never looked back. Think your baby has "colic"? e-mail me, we'll chat.

And now, without further adeau, some recent photos of my nearly 10 1/2 month old trouble maker - the child who has now been banned from the kitchen for eating things I SWORE I swept up, and for tearing through the trash can one-too-many times; The sweet babe who I found recently reaching into the toilet and snacking on some dripping toilet paper; and yes, the same little one who sleeps peacefully in my arms at night before bed. This child:Could that child steal your heart? He sure has stolen mine!
- Melissa