Friday, March 30, 2012

7 Day Garden Challenge. Ahead of schedule.

The above photos were taken in our neighborhood today. I do love tulips and grape hyacinth and bleeding heart and all the others, some of which I don't even know the name of. I'm thinking I'd love to have a bush with the red berries because I'm sure it draws lots of birds which I love. I can't get enough of the bird sounds in the morning and evening. I really want to learn to identify them by their sound because they are often so hard to see. 

I've been in the yard every day except yesterday. I got everything that I planned accomplished. Shoveling truck loads of mulch is more exhausting than I remembered. I guess it's like child birth: You love what you get after it's all over so you forget how hard it was to get there! Ok, that is a really bad analogy but I am thrilled with the way a nicely mulched bed looks. It's so good for the soil, too. That was evident when I edged the beds close to the sunroom. The soil there had never been mulched well and it was dried out and dead looking. I'm hoping the leaf compost and mulch will help bring it back around.

Mike and I were fortunate to be invited to a little radio concert this morning at a local Christian station where we know quite a few of the staff. It was a lovely morning. The young performer had some really amazing words of wisdom that I know I needed to hear. I'm sure God is sending her out to plant quite a few seeds. It's always amazing to see how He works. His plans are always so much better than mine!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Edger

is my new favorite tool. Notice the before and after shots.

Now if I can just find the head of St. Francis!

Easter Sewing and the Garden

I've just completed my Easter top. I'm pretty pleased with it. I've never worked with Brocade before. It is a little slippery but not as much as some fabrics. I think the thickness of the fabric helped. My fingers are a little rough from guitar playing, appliqué sewing and gardening so they would catch on the smooth fabric. Just not something I ever thought about before. I feel a little like a peasant (which I don't mind too much)!
 I spent yesterday working on the back yard again. We got a second load of mulch and I finished mulching around the garden. I also filled in the blueberry bed and found, much to my chagrin, a little tuft of bamboo growing in the middle of my lilac bush. I spent about a half hour digging through the roots of the lilac bush with a screwdriver to find the bamboo rhizome only to realize there was no way I could remove it. I covered it all up hoping the lack of sun and my diligence will keep it at bay. I'm planning to work on the beds beside the sunroom today if the rain holds off. It's supposed to be 70 degrees today which is wonderful but they are also calling for thunderstorms which isn't a type of weather I want to work in!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Seven Day Garden Challenge - Day Two

Day two of my garden challenge. Yesterday I mostly thought about my garden and what I was planning to do today. Today was very busy. I had quite a list of things to get done including clean my house and read for school but I was able to get those two things accomplished by 10 am so I could hoof it out to the garden center.

Today I planted my blueberry bushes and my strawberry patch. I went back and forth about which fruits to plant and was actually going to plant raspberries but then I realized the trellis they would need would be one more expense and so I decided against them. I was happy to find out that heather is acid loving like blue berries so I planted some in the same bed. It's such a sad thing to purchase, plant and mulch and to see such a straggly looking bed. I know that blueberry bushes fill out to around 5 feet and the heather will also spread so I did the right thing. It just looks so naked! On a positive note, I did find a bleeding heart growing in that bed so I moved it to a better spot. My bleeding hearts always did wonderfully in that bed so I am glad one survived the great bamboo unearthing.

I also bought my herbs and the above annuals for the bed. I just love those pink flowers. They look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book. I'm planning on planting them along my rear flower garden so we can enjoy them from the sun room.

The last thing I accomplished (with the help of my hubby) was to start mulching around our garden boxes. I want to mulch a circle around them so we don't have to deal with the grass. My boys cut our lawn but they aren't so good at edging. I didn't want to use the weed-wacker near the garden boxes because I was afraid it would start to tear apart the wood over time.

We used one truckload of mulch (good thing we get it for $5) and I think one more truckload will do it. I guess I'll have to add some kind of edge to make it easier to mow around. That's tomorrow's project. Right now I'm bushed but still have a few things to finish. Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Seven Day Garden Challenge

 No, I'm not planning on challenging myself every week! But it is nice to focus on one area for a week so I've given myself another Seven Day Challenge. This week I thought about focusing on exercise since it is an area with which I've never been particularly consistent. My very healthy husband has been using simplefit for a while and can't speak highly enough of it. When I quit my job we had to cut back financially and the gym membership was one of the casualties. Mike bought a chin up bar and has been using the simplefit training plan much to his pleasure. He would like  me to try it and I've really thought about making it this week's challenge. After really mulling it over I have decided not to do it. I still may someday but not now. I would like to increase my exercise but know that the best way for me is to work it into my everyday routine. Since our back yard beds need quite a bit of work and mulching, I'm planning to get some good arm workouts that way. I'm also hoping to get my bike into shape (it's an old 10-speed) and try to bike the places I can instead of hopping into the car.

So I'm not officially saying exercise is my challenge but I'm going to try to be more mindful of it. Officially I'm going to be planning my gardens, planting what I can, weeding what I must and mulching, mulching, mulching! 

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Seven Day Challenge Wrap Up

Today is Day Seven of my Seven Day Challenge. What was the purpose of it all? I think overall my purpose in doing something for seven days is to jump start myself into a new way of thinking and acting. So often we think we are incapable of making changes. Change is hard and I find that change involves a slow morphing journey of some sort. I know there have been many things in my life that have slowly changed the way I think about food and nutrition. They didn't happen overnight. In fact, it's probably been almost 42 years (my birthday is coming up) in the making. 

So the challenge of seven days is really a blip in the big scheme. I find that if I can show myself that I am able to refrain from something or consistently do something or change something for only seven days then I am more likely to believe I can continue in the change if I've felt it was worthwhile. Seven days isn't impossibly long but long enough to ponder an issue.

So, what have I learned in my seven days about food? 

  • I need variety
  • It is important to take the time to plan out my meals
  • I can go to a coffee shop and not indulge
  • Cooking at home is vital but also something we enjoy
  • I need to add in more fruit allowances to my daily diet
  • Keeping things simple is the key, especially at first
  • Reading and learning keeps me motivated
  • When making a change, make sure I have time to spend on the issue (ie: researching new recipes, going to market, cooking, etc.)
  • Having support is vital. If I had to fight my husband on the issue it would be almost impossible to make this kind of change. 
So, what now? I plan to continue eating this way as much as possible. Since it is Lent, I can look at staying the course until Easter Sunday when I will probably indulge in some goodies. Mike and I were discussing how to add indulgence to our lives without the indulgence becoming a slippery slop back to unhealthy eating practices. We've not come up with a good solution yet. 

We have a busy weekend coming up so I won't be posting for the next few days. I do have some plans for next week that I want to share with you but I'm not sure when that will be. I hope everyone who challenged themselves this week has made some progress or learned something about themselves. I'd love to hear from you once your seven days are over. Words of Wisdom are always welcome!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Seven Day Challenge...cravings

Today is Day Six of my Seven Day Challenge to stay away from wheat and sugar. I have to admit that yesterday I was feeling a little grey and listless but the weather may have had a little to do with that and also my hormones! I have been tracking my menstrual cycle for the last few months and trying to identify if it had anything to do with my mood swings. I certainly know that the way I eat affects my cycle and how good or poorly I feel when I have my period. Being almost 42 I know that hormonal changes are probably occurring or will occur in the next few years. I'm trying to pay more attention to my body and what I put in it. "Temple of the Holy Spirit" and all.

Ok, enough girl-y talk. To be honest, today I would really love to have something forbidden for breakfast! Toast, bagel, pancakes, etc. I do love my yogurt and I also enjoy eggs in many forms but just don't want to eat anything that is in my pantry at the moment.

Poor me.

At times like these I try to remember that I am so fortunate to have a choice about what I eat. The fact that we have enough income to buy an abundance of food is such a gift. I need to appreciate that gift and Give Thanks for it. I also have to remember that I often learn more from sacrifice and hardship (although I hesitate to call these cravings hardship) than I do from indulgence. I participated in a few sessions of a Catholic program called the Light Weigh a few years ago. While I don't agree with all of her tenents, I did glean quite a few nuggets from the program. The nugget I will follow this morning is to offer up my craving (and the fact that I'm not going to give in to it-the sacrifice part) as a prayer for someone or something. There is no shortage of needs in that area! I still have the prayer beads that were given out during the class for such a time as this! I have them in my pocket today.

I know that God is working on my heart and my mind. I've been pondering His Will for my life this morning. Many of you know that I gave up my good job (with our health benefits) this year to go back to school for my Montessori Certification. I can trace the circuitous path of my life and the crazy wanderings of my education, jobs, children, their education, husband, his gifts and talents, etc. all as a path to something else. I am beginning to have an inkling about what that something else may be but I also know that it is in God's timing, not my own. When I see how multiple philosophies in my life are coming together under one umbrella, so to speak, I know I'm on the correct path. 

So today I will remember that it is all a journey and that the journey is not always paved and level. But, like the hikes we take, the most beautiful overlooks are arrived at by some arduous climbs. I hope that you can take some time today to ponder your own journey, to see God's hand in it and to give yourself over to the wonder of it all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Edible Back Yard

Last Year we joined a CSA for the first time. We challenged ourselves to eat what we were provided and to never miss a week. We succeeded in that goal. It was quite expensive to shell out the money in one lump sum but over the course of the growing season I think I figured the amount out to around $14 a week. Not bad at all. There were lots of benefits to driving out to the farm each week, especially in the spring time when the boys could pick strawberries and blueberries. Once they were over, the boys were less interested in the farm. We were also happy to be helping pay for job training for individuals with disabilities since the CSA we joined was partially run by Goodwill. All in all we have no regrets. That being said, this year we decided to take the money and start our own garden. I have grown tomatoes and herbs for several years but always in a sort of haphazard way with mixed results. This year we went to work doing some research.
 The first thing I learned is that it is much less expensive to grow from seed. Since we are blessed with a large sunroom, we set up a growing table. We purchased a greenhouse kit that included a heated mat (since our sunroom is unheated) and little containers and a lid. I let the boys pick out the seed. Nathan wasn't too interested but Nolan loves his tomatoes and went crazy! I think we have around 40-50 tomato plants growing. I didn't limit him because he was so enthusiastic. The boys helped me plant and then thin the seedlings and transplant some of the larger tomato plants. We also have a few cucumbers, hot peppers and sweet red peppers as well as some sunflowers growing. The light above the plants is just a florescent shop light we got at Home Depot for under $20. It isn't the most beautiful set up but it works wonderfully!

 The above photos speak for themselves. The plants are beautiful and we enjoy looking at them every day. Nolan says they feel like family to him.
 On to the back yard. We don't have a ton of land as you can see from the photo. Our house sits in the middle of our property and the front yard has three large trees and is very shady. The back yard gets lots of sun in most places. We decided to do square foot gardening because it seemed fairly easy and was somewhat contained. We started with one box last year and had a small fall harvest of bok choy, lettuce and broccoli. You may remember our fight with the green caterpillars! Those things love broccoli! Apparently if you plant spring broccoli there isn't as much problem with the bugs but I've seen a lot of those cabbage white butterflies around so we're going to buy our broccoli at market.
 Above is the spot that we had to decimate due to the bamboo invasion. We had to eliminate all of the flowers and plants that were in this bed (as well as totally cut back the lilac bush) so that we could dig out all of the bamboo roots. We left it bare last summer to insure the bamboo would not return before planting. Now I'm really glad. Instead of planting flowers we've decided to plant raspberries here. We will also plant some blueberries in another bed. I'd like to have strawberries but they take up so much room that we may do a hanging basket of them for Nathan. The black container you see is for our compost.
 At the beginning of March I planted some seeds in our garden. Here you see the first little lettuce peeking out! We also have spinach, carrots, potatoes, garlic,and...
onions! I was talking to my friend Marshall last night about horticulture (what doesn't that man know!) and he assured me that plants thrive in a positive environment. Well, I'm so excited about my little plants and take time every day to swoon over them that I should have a bumper crop!

Finally....I was given an easy and nutritious recipe from my favorite market standholder (I call him the lettuce man but his real name is Earl lettuce you'll ever eat. I keep asking if I can come live with them....). He called it Jiffy Soup. He said you just put a little water in a pot with all your cut up vegetables, cook until just tender, put them in a blender and then add spices and you have a quick, easy and nutritious meal. Sounds like a perfect plan for a busy day!

(**Day 4 of the 7 Day Challenge..doing well although Nathan made 3 loaves of the most beautiful whole wheat bread last night. I think it's actually easier to eat none than for me to eat only one slice. Fortunately, we went to market this morning and came home with a bounty that feels like the garden of Eden. I plan to make myself some salads for the fridge again.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

7 Day Challenge, Day 3 and some sewing

Well, it's day three of my 7 Day Challenge not to eat wheat or sugar. So far it's been pretty uneventful. I've been busy with lots of projects and we have a fairly wheat free house except for a few items we put in the boys' lunch (like cheese its and bread). I find when I am busy I don't think about food quite as much. Maybe spring is the best time to do such a challenge!

I know in years past I couldn't imagine eating without wheat. Life without pasta you say? No way! And, to be honest, I'm glad it's not something I have to give up for life. I do hope to relegate those tasty beasts like homemade pizza to special days shared with our family. I have started a menu page at the top of the blog for anyone interested in what it looks like to eat without wheat and sugar. 

One of the necessities for me that surround healthy eating is variety. Fortunately, God provided us with these lovely things called seasons and if we remember to eat by them the variety is already provided for us! It is also necessary for me to have some tasty but simple recipes handy. Mike has been on the Paleo diet for about a year and so we do have a Paleo cookbook. I also love the website the Nourished Kitchen. There is LOTS of good information about food there and simple recipes, too. I've also poured over lots of cookbooks at the library and on my own bookshelf. I have a great Weight Watchers cookbook. I just always modify the ingredients. For instance, if it says vegetable oil, I use olive oil, if it calls for chicken broth, I use my homemade chicken stock, if it says low-fat (fill in the blank) I use the real deal. Don't even get me started on margarine! So, the result is that I'm learning new things and trying out new foods which feeds my brain and my body. It helps keep me on the path.

A great book that I recommend is Food Rules by Michael Pollan. I checked it out of our local library. It's a very small and simple book. In fact, I read it to the boys one night over dinner. Some of the rules:

  • If your grandmother (or greatgrandmother if you are a young person) wouldn't know what it is, don't eat it. Think: yogurt in a tube.
  • If a second grader can't pronounce the ingredients, don't eat it.
  • Never eat the same place as your car. Wawa?
The list goes on and is very interesting. A good though provoking read. I also wanted to point you in the direction of my friend Michele's blog. She's joining me in the Challenge and is posting about it all week. Click here to find today's post.

Thanks to all the people who are joining me on the challenge. I can't wait to here how you are doing! One tip: if you 'fall off the wagon' before day seven just get back on! Don't give up!! If you are having a really hard time, plan your indulgence for day 7 and look forward to it!

Ok, here's a little sewing for you. I bought an Amy Butler pattern at the quilt show for more than 1/2 price and set about making this little shoulder bag. I used the hand bag pattern with the shoulder bag straps. I just don't carry that much in my purse so the large bag seemed ridiculously large to me. I also didn't have interfacing and just used a piece of quality cotton instead. It probably didn't make much difference but the top of the bag was a little floppy so I sewed the straps to it. The bag had two pockets that are almost as large as the inside of the bag. I wish I would have sewn up the center of both to attach them to the lining. They tend to flop over and are useless otherwise. Since I didn't realize this until after the bag was finished I just hand stitched them to the lining. Better, but not perfect. All in all it was a fun project for an evening. It kept my mind off food, that's for sure!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Seven Day Challenge

From Last Year's Garden
Recently my facebook ID was hacked by a weight loss company selling some kind of drops that are supposed to help you lose weight. It got me thinking about why people resort to products like that to lose weight. I think what happens is that many people want to lose weight but don't want to change their eating habits. I know I have struggled with that for a long time. I've always known that losing weight is pretty simple but I've not wanted to put forth the effort to modify my diet and physical activity. Certainly there are also psychological reasons that people eat and I know I've got those too! Over the next week I may ponder those issues.

For the last year my husband has changed his diet in a drastic fashion at first due to some health issues and now for more general health purposes. Thus, we've changed the kind of foods we have around the house and the way we eat our main meals. I've found that when I eliminate wheat and sugar from my diet I feel more energy. Wheat and sugar laden foods are triggers for me to overeat. I know this but they taste so good! I also really enjoy baking. Alas, my weight has gone up since I've stopped being vigilant. 

So here's the plan: The Seven Day Challenge. I'm challenging myself to stay off wheat and sugar for seven days. Ultimately I'd like to stay off longer but I know myself. I have to start small. Small goals are more attainable. Once I meet a small goal, I can add another and feel more prepared to achieve the goal. 

Is there something you'd like to stay away from or learn or do? Maybe there's a book you've been meaning to read, perhaps you want to stop drinking so much soda? Maybe you keep intending to start running. Whatever it is, make a commitment to refrain or to partake (depending on your goal) for seven days! Let me know if you're joining me. I'd love to have some company!

Quilt Show

 On Wednesday I walked downtown to the AQS quilt show. It was a beautiful day so I decided to walk instead of drive. It was a real treat to take the whole day for myself and to be able to be in no hurry whatsoever. I feel very blessed to have these few months to do some of this self-preservation. I don't even feel guilty about it. 

It was a wonderful way to spend a day. I had only been to one other similar quilt show many years ago. I'm very glad I went alone. I was able to walk past those quilts and vendors in which I had no interest without wondering if my companion wanted to stop and I could stand and look at something for as long as I wanted without feeling I was imposing on anyone. 

Although I do have photographs of some of the exhibited quilts, they prohibit the uploading of those photos onto the web. The above photo is from a vendor. I asked permission to photograph this tiny quilt and put it on my blog. They happily agreed. The company, Paper Pieces, sells paper piecing supplies. They will send you a free sample if you ask. 

If I am to be completely honest, I enjoyed the quilts at the vendor booths much more than the exhibit quilts. Everyone has their own opinion, of course, but I like quilts to be used. I appreciate the skill and time it must take to make the quilts on display but most are more appropriately called art quilts. Art quilts just aren't my "thing". 

I was inspired to keep sewing and quilting by the show. I also was able to purchase a few things and I hope to share those with you in the near future. Some are just fun purchases, some for inspiration and a few are really useful items that I'm looking forward to using.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Quilt Week

Here are some more photos of the amazing quilts that I was able to view yesterday. There was one room full of Grandmother's Flower Garden and Dresden Plate quilts. I do so love those! I also have an affinity for quilts showcasing one color, like the pink quilt you saw yesterday and the blue quilts above. I've never made one myself but always love them when I see them. The photo just above this text is a quilt pattern I recently ran across and have never seen before. I saw it on a blog somewhere and didn't take note of where but was intrigued by it when I saw it there and then was surprised to see it again so soon. I'm not exactly sure how it's made but it is lovely.

It appears it is quilt week here in Lancaster County. There is the big quilt show at the Convention Center and also a showing of the Esprit quilt collection at our defunct quilt and textile museum. I haven't been to either so I'm thinking of splurging and seeing it all this week. I won't have another opportunity and I probably should take this one up. It's a gorgeous day so I can walk downtown. My neck and arm are still bothering me so I won't be able to garden (darn!) but will feel this is making good use of my time. If I do go, I'll be sure to share the photos with you!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Antique Quilt Love

Several months ago when I went to the Goodville Fabric Outlet, I picked up a flyer for an antique quilt show at Historic Poole Forge. I've had it hanging in my sewing room ever since. Today was such a gorgeous day that I should have been out in our yard but I pulled a muscle or something in my neck and have been in pain all day. I figured since I wasn't going to be productive I might as well go to the quilt show. I am so glad I did. It was amazing!

These are just a few of the photos. I'll put more up tomorrow. I have all the photos on my facebook page if you are interested. Each quilt had a little tag with some information about it. To be honest, most of the quilts did not have that much known information. They were from the 30's and 40's mostly. I drooled over all the feed sack fabric. The top photo is the house where the quilts were exhibited. The entire grounds were beautiful with several stone buildings. I don't know much about the place but I know they have lots of information on the web site. It would be a great place to have a picnic as there is a lovely stream and covered bridge on the property.

Most of the quilts were probably hand sewn. The details on some of them were just amazing. The quilting was so perfect. All those little, tiny, exact stitches. It makes me think I should be getting more accomplished every day. I guess they didn't have facebook or blogs or pinterest or netflix back then!

Take a look at the 7th photo from the top. The quilt that is pink with lots of applique. The little card said that a woman made this quilt for her son who was a conscientious objector in one of the wars (WWII, probably). He had to go work in a government camp of some sort and couldn't come home or have much contact with his family. This mother sewed the quilt to quiet her anxiety, often stitching at night when she couldn't sleep. After the war he returned home and she presented him with the quilt for his wedding. Isn't that a lovely story. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who stitches at night when I can't sleep!

I also adore the double wedding ring quilt (last two photos). The fabric is divine and I'm sure the whole thing was sewn by hand. I can't imagine the amount of time it took. The quilter probably didn't have a cutting board and rotary cutter, either!

Well, this little jaunt has renewed me in a quilting sense. I actually worked quite a bit this morning on my most current quilt and got a lot accomplished. I still have a lot of hand applique to complete before I can put the whole thing together. I should be stitching every day. I guess that's the only way it will get done on time! Happy stitching and more quilts to come tomorrow.
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