Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Baby is coming...

Feeling compelled to write this evening after finding a cool blog by a fellow Orthodox homeschool mama and mother-of-seven. Lovely blog she has.

I have snapped just a few photos recently and wanted to share.

Here's my fridge. I know it's a little barren, but LOOK at how much is homegrown or homeade!!! I'm just really proud of myself. Even the lemonade is organic...hehe.

This building is my midwives birth center. I literally could have my baby in a barn...but we're going to have it at home like the last 3. :) I just love this old Colony barn, it's such a beautiful birth center too.

My precious girls the other night with their papa at Home Depot. Trying to find the playground section. Our 14-yr-old playground died, it's time to replace her. I love how colorful my girls are.


Our sweet mama kitty had another batch of kittens. Kittens are soooooo fun for the kids (and adults too). Their big sister cat I think wants to eat them, we'll try to keep them safe. That's their mama in the background, she's such a good mama.

Our neighbor's Scottish Highland cow had a cute little calf! It's so fun to be next door to them. The white one is supposed to calf soon too. This was taken around 10:30 in the evening next to our driveway, they were visiting us. Love Alaska summers.

Pooped after church on Sunday, so the kittens insisted that I sit down with some coffee and let them nap on me. My sister came over to keep us company for a bit. Rainy afternoons can be so refreshing.

I snapped some of the garden the other day, but haven't uploaded them yet. It's looking lovely and tucked in under a nice layer of mulch.

I doubt I'll blog again 'till after I have this baby. This month is packed. My little brother flew up for his friend's wedding, so tomorrow we get to see him and sister for a little bbq. This will be our first family gathering since my parents moved to Hawaii, that will be strange for them not to be there.  Our two older kids fly to Seattle to attend St. Mary's camp in two days and visit friends in Ellensburg and hopefully squeeze a short trip to the monastery at Goldendale, they will be gone for 10 days. I have to call in for jury duty this whole month. My 20th high school class reunion is literally on my due date. The "fish guy" should call us on Thursday with our fish (salmon) order of the year, so we'll be gutting/cleaning them late into the night. Three of the kids have swimming lessons for the next two weeks, so that means driving to town every day. While daughter is gone I have to get the 10 & 12 year olds to milk the goats, not a fun task. While son is gone I have to get the 10 & 12 year olds to care for the chickens, walk the neighbor's dog and get the neighbor boy to do his church lawn mowing job for him. Our LaMancha goat is due with her baby a week before I am. I still have not "nested" either, so I really need to go through the old baby stuff and pitch half of it and keep just some. I bought 4 flowering trees that I still need to plant, teens are leaving... so I may hire the neighbor boy to help me. Farmers are cutting hay in Palmer, so I have to get hopefully 40-50 bales to last us 'till next summer, since there was a hay shortage last year, I have to get on this quickly before it's gone. I still have to run my business, always very busy during the summer. Thank goodness school is mostly over and what we are still doing is minimal and always excused if we went to town that day or if there was just the need to play instead. Those are just the things I'm remembering about.

I know we can do this, it'll just be crazy busy...Alaska doesn't allow one to sit still during the summer. However, I do plan on doing a lot of sitting, snuggling, resting during August. I'm looking forward to the down time.

Baby is coming. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Eye Candy

Every year for the past 4 years we have had a Country Fair at our parish as a fund raiser for all of our crazy building projects we have to work on... This year I asked my friend, who's a professional photographer, to take some pictures for us. It was a horribly wet day, the temp was around 42 degrees, and the wind kept kicking up....so it was COLD! But we still had a great turn out. She showed up with her sweet boy and took some great pics, I couldn't be happier. Some are definitely Pinterest worthy, especially the cake picture, so I wanted to post some on here.

Our sweet Nubians in the petting zoo.

My daughter ran the petting zoo, this is one of our doelings.

The star in Stephanie's Sweet Shoppe.

My adorable nephew.

My daughter's partner in the egg toss...daughter got the better end of this deal...hehe.

Potato sack race, hard core.

Three legged race.
Manly girls tugging.

What's a country fair with out a tug-of-war?
My awesome husband running the chicken fling game, one of the most popular games every year.
Here's Juliana's photography page on facebook, thank you again! Juliana Adele Photography

Friday, May 23, 2014

Early Summer

Well, it may be another scorcher this year. The unusual thing is that May in 2013 we had snow and that darn snow did a lot of damage to trees...not good!

This whole winter has been ultra mild, hardly any snow, and a very early spring. We even had thaw and perennials start growing back in January. Crazy!!! So spring is basically over now and summer is coming along nicely. The birch tree allergies that I normally have in June have almost gone away now and June is still more than a week away. I'm thrilled.

I just wanted to post a few pics. I know I have not written much. I still have been very tired during this pregnancy. 2 more months to go!

Today my front porch got a makeover.

Teenager eye selfie. She hates that word. Selfie. She's almost 16 *gasp*!!!

Springtime tulips I got me for mothers day.

Sweet Sus enjoying the drive out to the goat farm. That day the new babies were getting de-horned.

Mama swallow guarding her nest at 11pm the other night.

Papa and son fixing our door at 11pm the other night. Love that man.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Where I have been...

In October 2013 I found out that we were having another baby.

I miscarried three years ago and have not talked about it much. It was hard. This pregancy was much quieter because I learned with my one miscarrage how terrible it is to have someone six months into a supposed pregancy ask you when you are due...then you must tell them you had miscarried. That well-intentioned person will then feel horrible and want to change the subject by talking about how they had a friend who miscarried thinking that that will lighten the mood. It doesn't. After this happens a few times you vow to yourself that you will not tell a single soul that you're pregnant the next go-around.

So, since October I have been gestating a new life...and that's about it. Other than trying to keep myself alive by eating when I don't want to...and trying to keep my business afloat. Basically hubby and the kids have done a lot of fending for themselves and the house has all but gone to pot.

With my first six kids I was full of all sorts of piss and vinegar in my second and third trimesters. I have had amazing pregnancies, thus have six amazing children to show for it and never have felt the need to stop. I had serious motivation, serious creativity, serious crazy ideas (that were good). With this one, I'm older (my youngest daughter will be turning six when this baby's born) and this baby is sucking my brains out of my head and the life out of my body...not that I'm complaining, I know it's all worth it. My second trimester has been very tiring and I have done a lot of resting (thanks to my awesome hubby and kids).

Today something happened. I was standing in church this morning and I wanted to write a blog post. I have thought of a few during the past few months, but the idea of actually concentrating on something for that long seemed very daunting and never actually happened. I thought about what I wanted to write about, I have it all planned out in my head, sort of. It will be titled, "Small children, small problems; Big children, big problems." Based on some great advice I got from a friend about 5 years ago now. Being in church is great, I really should be praying, but the reality is that I don't usually do much of that, but I do think about stuff.

When I got home, guess what happened? I turned into super Nazi mom and started making the kids pick up the nasty house. And vaccum, and CLEAN the stuff that should have been done already. I inspected their rooms, had one clean the school room, I even took a giant pile of paper that was to be burned and shredded the whole thing 'cause I'm tired of it getting scattered around the living room. I moved all the jars and junk that have been collecting dust in the dining room the past 6 months and put stuff away and dusted and made my dining room look nice again. Hubby, who took this week off (Holy Week) asked me if I'd suddnely entered into my third trimester because I was going crazy (the good kind). I realized that if July 27th is my due date, the 3rd trimester is only about a week away.

The house is now clean, and here I sit, writing a blog post. Crazy for sure. Perhaps I'm not destined to be unmotivated for this whole pregnancy after all...

Even if I am, that's ok. At least we got a lot done today and I'm happy about that. I can actually have company on Saturday with a bit more confidence in my ability at being a homemaker.

Baby bump as of now.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chick Pea Love

Advent is another vegan season for us. And as I get older the more I fall in love with "ethnic" foods. Such as Arabic, Indian and Mexican. There are many varieties in the spices that we don't have in American food and the more I eat it, the more it becomes comfort food. These are some staples with the traditional Chick Pea that are our favorites.

The hummus and the falafel recipe both require a food processor. I was 37 years old before I bought my first processor (just last year). I really thought I didn't need one...and I didn't. But there were more and more things that I just couldn't make like the recipe stated...so I cleaned out space in my cupboard and bought a used one. I'm so glad I did!

I canned 14 pints of chick peas on Saturday and made a giant batch of hummus for coffee hr on Sunday. We're ready for Advent!

This recipe was given to me by a special friend. This is almost exactly as she wrote it for me.

3 cans garbanzo beans - one with juice and two drained. Coarsely grind in a food processor. Save some juice in case you need more liquid later.
2 1/2 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 c tahini
1/2 Tbs cumin
1-2 tsp salt (depending on the beans you use, if they were salted or not, start with less)
-while processor is running, drizzle in about 10 seconds worth of olive oil in-
 2-4 cloves minced garlic
Season variation of the day:
thyme, sage, oregano
smoked paprika (cayenne optional) we like this one
zatar seasoning (contains salt!) we love zatar, need to find an Alaskan source!
roasted red pepper (top with pinenuts)
feta cheese

Add more seasonings 'till it tastes right. Try extra salt first, then tahini, lemon, olive oil. Flavors will blend if you let it refrigerate overnight.

Before serving drizzle over with sumac, paprika or cayenne. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita or chips.

Pita Bread
This recipe was given to us by the same friend. It is our go-to pita recipe now, I have made it twice this week already.

2 c warm water
2 Tbl dry yeast
-let yeast proof-
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbl olive or veg oil
5 cups flour
extra flour

Mix the 5 cups of flour into the wet ingredients. You want an almost sticky dough.

Let rise 'till doubled. Preheat oven and baking sheets at 450-500 degrees F. Punch down. Pull apart into 2" balls, form balls, place on a well floured surface. Starting with first formed balls (they have risen some by now) roll them out (remember extra flour) and place how ever many will fit on a baking sheet. They should take about 8-10 minutes to puff up and bake. Best to store in a bag right away to keep them soft and pliable. If you used too much flour they will be much more crispy and not as soft.

A bowl of hummus and fresh pita.

For this recipe I give full credit to The Shiksa in the Kitchen. Her recipe is fantastic. It is the first and only one I have tried making from scratch (I used to buy boxes of falafel mix, a great alternate!) But after I bought the 25lb bag of dried chick peas I was committed to finding ways to use them. This recipe is so good and easy, it's worth trying. I think the reason I like it so much is it works perfectly (for me) and I never changed it (I normally change a lot in recipes before I post them here).

1 lb (2 cups) dry chick peas/garbanzo beans
-cover with 3" of water and let them soak overnight-
1 small onion, rough chopped
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley (I have used dried)
3-5 cloves garlic (she likes roasted)
1 1/2 Tbl flour
1 3/4 tsp salt 
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I almost always skip the hot stuff)
Pinch of ground cardamom
Veggie oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, or peanut)

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom. Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that... but don't overprocess, you don't want it turning into hummus! I prefer mine more fine than coarse. Pour out into a bowl, mix with a fork, fish out large chunks, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one or two hours.

This is the part where she lists all sorts of suggestions if it's not behaving itslef and variations on the recipe. I'll skip to the frying...

Fill a skillet with oil to 1-1 1/2 inches. Heat slowly over medium heat. Form some falafels into round balls or small patties...I prefer small egg shapes I make with my table spoons. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side to brown. Turn down heat if it goes much faster, heat up if it's too slow.

Drain on paper towels. Serve them traditionally with hummus and tahini sauce...or our favorite way is in a pita with lettuce, onion and tomato with some tzatziki sauce.

She also reccomends other "add ons" such as:
Israeli salad
dill pickles
french fries
cucumbler slices
roaste peppers
roasted eggplant
sunflower seeds
feta cheese

Tzatziki Sauce
This is my "vegan version" of it. It's not as great as the sauce made with the yogurt, but it's a great sub-in if you don't eat dairy. Some people also prefer it with sour cream.

1 cucumber -peel, de-seed, and grate or chop very finely, put to drain in a sieve or cloth-
1 cup vegeniase (you could try soy yogurt, but I always have vegenaise on hand) 
1 Tbl lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl chopped fresh dill (I use dry if it's winter)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine and let refrigerate 1-2 hours. 

Slather it on everything and enjoy!

Here is Shiksa's beautiful photo of her falafel.
And just for fun...every time I make hummus or falafels we must watch GoRemy's "Falafel Song" and the "Hummus Rap". They are a hoot.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I reject your Monday and substitute it with my own.

What am I doing today? I am rejecting your Monday and substitute it with my own snow day. We will add in a sprinkling of chores, work and school. It will also be accompanied by a warm fire, fresh baked sugar/nutmeg cookies, Play-Doh, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Polly Pockets (the original ones you can swallow, of course!), Wartime Farm on youtube, a kid's movie production with friends and lots of hot chocolate and coffee.

My 3 littles enjoying the snow. Our last snow was in September!

Older 13-yr-old son cutting kindling in the garage.

Our Esse wood cookstove looking as handsome as ever.
11-yr-old son offered to bake cookies today rather than shoveling manure.

Mama's happy feet.

Checking on the cookies. Not sure why, but they seem to taste better when baked in the wood oven. I have learned that when the temperature gauge is pointing directly down at "hot" your oven is at a just right 350*. If it's hotter you can bake cookies in half the time. I have baked them perfectly before for only 2 minutes.

Cookies are done. Oldest daughter looking way too grown up and beautiful with out her braces.

My sweet "F" having frosting fun.
And just in case you can smell the cookies from here...you will definitely want the recipe. I think the magic to my grandmother's sugar cookies is the NUTMEG! They are so wonderful, soft, moist and delicious with or with out frosting.

Grandma Johnson's Sugar Cookies
2c sugar
1c shortening (you can use part butter, but shortening is nice in here)
2 eggs
-cream together these three first, then gradually add:
1 c buttermilk (I never have buttermilk so I always add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk)
Dry ingredients, sift these and add slowly while mixing:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
5 c flour (this can vary)

Refrigerate overnight or for 2-3 hours. This dough is very soft, you will want plenty of flour to roll them out and if there's not enough, you can always kneed in a bit more flour before rolling...best not to add extra if you can help it.

Bake @ 375* for 10 minutes. You want them just barely turning brown on the edges.They have a perfect crunchy bottom and moist middle and a nice top for decorating. My favorite is when they just come out of the oven with no frosting.

Both of my grandmothers raised their families on farms. I lived in Alaska growing up and they stayed on their farms in MI and VT and came to visit from time-to-time. When I make their recipes it makes me feel closer to them. The nutmeg smell always reminds me of these cookies and of her Long Johns; her famous doughnuts that were rectangle shaped and also contained nutmeg. She must have really loved nutmeg.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How to get a job. If I could do it, you can too.

Yesterday Matt Walsh wrote a post called, "Some people don't deserve a living wage." What I got out of that post was how I'd like to tell my stories about how I learned the value of money, how I got my first job and jobs there after. Then after becoming a business owner, what I now look for in employees. If this post can help give someone the confidence they need, then it was worth telling.

When I was a kid, my parents didn't have a large income. We lived in an unfinished house (was a small cabin when they bought it). Little by little they finished off parts of the house. My dad is a jack-of-all-trades and he, with other contractor buddies, would add on sections at a time to make the house larger and more beautiful. They let the three of us kids know early on that they would not just hand us money when we wanted it. They would not be able to afford to put us through college. And they would not buy us a car. They were kind enough to give us a weekly allowance of $5 per week, I always thought that was a lot when I was younger and just made me more careful with it as I got older. My dad taught me the now famous "Dave Ramsey's Cash Budget" system before it was popular. I had: tithe, travel, spending, saving, and clothing envelopes. Those would change names and dollar amounts from time to time. He encouraged me to never get credit cards as they can suck you into their evil lair and clean you out in no time. I thank my father for this basic training and it has provided me with a good foundation for my lifetime.

When I turned 11 or 12 I got a lot of babysitting jobs and added those monies to my envelope system. (For boys out there, lawn mowers are needed! Undercut the fancy lawn service that is currently mowing your neighbor's lawn, and get to work!)

When I was 14 my aunt and uncle moved to Australia and they were going to adopt another baby...then she found out she was pregnant. This would be the only pregnancy of hers she would be able to carry full term. She basically had twins and wanted me to come stay with them for the summer. I could not pull off paying for the trip that year, so I got a regular babysitting job that summer at a neighbor's house and saved up enough to fly to Australia the following summer. My parents paid for my passport and many other expenses related to the trip, but I distinctly remember handing the travel agent $1500 in cash to pay for my tickets. That's a lot of money for a 15-yr-old kid.

When I came home I only had my drivers permit at the time, but my mother was willing to drive with me to the nearby town only 3 miles away. She told me it was time to get a job.

I was 15. There are laws about hiring a 15-yr-old. I was also the most bashful teenager I'd ever met. My mother had me choose from a store that had higher turnover, I chose Safeway. She told me that I would brush my hair, put on good clothes, go in there, ask to speak to the manager, introduce myself and ask if they were hiring bag-boys (girls). If the answer was no, I would ask again in 4 days and not give up until I got a job.

The first time I went in I found the assistant manager. He gave me an application and sent me on my way. I returned with the application the next day and gave it to him, so he'd see my pretty little face. I came back in 4 days and asked again if they were hiring, he said no. I returned in 4 more days and asked him again. This time he remembered me, he twisted his face and said, "I wish I was... but I don't have anything right now." I went back the next week and he said, "There you are! I couldn't find your application so I could call you. I want to hire you today!" We headed upstairs and he did a quick interview, he had me re-fill out an application and I was informed of my new schedule.

Why was I hired? Because I did not give up. I showed determination, even if it was my mother providing the backbone and push to get me there...I am the one who found him while she waited in the car for me. I am the one who got that job and I worked there for two years. I was even able to use my work towards my high school credits, it was great! Did I love being a baggar? Hell no. It's hard work. I hurt my back, it snowed a lot, pushing carts in the snow is really terrible, I had to wear a skirt, I had to carry 2 dinky bags to cars outside with a smile on my face, I had to load bags of dog food into the back of giant pick-up trucks. I built muscles, integrity and confidence. And most of all, I had to put aside my bashfulness for the sake of good customer service.

After I turned 16 I started helping in the bakery when the store was slow. They were teaching me the ropes and soon realized that I could be a valuable member of the bakery team. I was transferred back there and given a raise and trained on our small cash register. I was moving up.

Later they wanted me to be a checker and I went through checker training. It was fun. I was not as fast as I wanted to be, I have never been a fast paced person. I really wasn't a good checker, I didn't move my rear. I started getting longer hours up in the check stand and one Sunday they assigned me to 8 hours in the Express line out in an Anchorage store in a not-nice part of town. That was one of the most miserable days ever. Cranky customers with a new checker who could move quickly in an EXPRESS line...not a good combo.

I started looking elsewhere. Three of my girlfriends had cool jobs at our local "Copy Center". I wanted to work there with them so badly. It was low key, not many customers, using computers to lay out brochures/fliers/business cards, etc. But the owner already had more workers than he really needed. That did not stop me. I looked at my schedule at Safeway and told the owner at the Copy Center what days I could work. For free. My home-girls could train me for two weeks, then he could decide if he wanted to hire me or not. It worked! He hired me after two weeks of volunteer training,

When I graduated I wanted to go visit my grandpa and uncle on their farm in MI. My uncle had told me anytime I wanted to come visit I could have a job alongside the other teenagers in the town planting or harvesting strawberry plants for him. I adored my cousins and had a glorious 3 week visit working HARD every day, passing out on their recliner, eating giant cucumbers from their garden, driving three wheelers around their farm, playing with the barn kittens, swimming in their river, visiting my grandpa, indulging in my aunt's mid-western cooking, and getting the best farmers tan of my life. It was the most amazing working vacation.

I returned to barely having a job at the Copy Center, my hours had been drastically cut. My dad was a manager at the glass shop in Anchorage and offered me a job. I was their "go-for" girl, basically their servant. I would sneak up to the front and get trained on the computer when I had time and soon enough I was transferred to another store to be their "CSR" (customer service rep) and work the front counter for them.

I got married. I got a new boss and he was a jerk. My husband encouraged me to quit and not work for an ass who accused me of stealing from the 'till and who enjoyed checking out my front-side instead of looking me in the eyes. So I quit. But then I was bored.

So I walked into the cutest little deli restaurant and convinced the owner that he needed me, I had a flexible schedule, didn't have kids and could pay me what ever he liked 'cause I was bored and my husband now paid the bills. I worked there for the summer and had a blast.

I know how to work hard. I also know how to play hard. I can be lazy or choose to hustle. It's all a choice, a decision I make every day. Thanks to having kids most of my slowness has disappeared and I passed it on to one of my kids. My mother giggles about that.

I can never thank my mother enough for giving me the pep talks that I needed and really pushing me to get that job at Safeway. What an invaluable lesson I learned. I know that no matter what, I can always get a job if I ever were to need one. Will I make as much as I want? Maybe not, but it's hard to bosses not to notice good workers and if they are smart they pay them well to keep them around.

Now as a business owner of 10 years, I am disappointed in the work force of today. I want someone to waltz in and ask me for a job every 4 days so that I can see that if they are that determined. Because if they are that determined to get a job, they will be a fantastic worker. I have poached one employee from Sears after seeing her confidence and professionalism. My bashful self tried rearing it's ugly head and I almost didn't ask her. It was like I was asking someone on a date...I feel sorry for guys. But I did it, I turned around, handed her my business card and said, "If you are interested in working for me, please give me a call." She called me and worked diligently for me for two years until she moved out of state. I have had a couple amazing employees and a couple real doozies, that is really difficult to deal with.

Since I have turned into a confident, capable adult I have been offered two different jobs out of the blue. And I had to turn them down. What an honor to have someone recognize your strengths and ask you to work for them!

I am all for poaching. Why should I post a job opening, wade through applications, listen to people maybe tell the truth about themselves in an interview...no thanks. If you are a good hard working employee at your grocery store or local McDonald's it will show! Keep your head up, shoulders back, speak clearly, work hard, move fast. It makes a difference, I promise you! You will stand out from the crowd. You may get offered a job or if nothing else a better position in your company!

If you have a bright idea and think you can start a company. By all means, try! Being a business owner is fulfilling and rewarding. Hustling is a must. There is nobody there to keep it afloat besides you. If you are young and can live off of ramen and tuna then try it. Even if it is not a "success" you will learn a ton. If you put "owned a business" on your resume, that will get you big brownie points.

I truly believe everyone is capable of getting a job; be confident, respect yourself, put in clean clothes, speak up and keep going back and talking to the same person until they can't tell you no anymore. Be willing to take little money and work hard. Volunteer at a smaller business if you would die to work there, your time will pay off. You have to stand out from the crowd, this is a huge start.

I nabbed this adorable picture from here. Of course, this advise is for men or women. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.