Friday, August 28, 2009

Why Food?

Photo: Microsoft clipart

It has come to my attention lately that I am a bit of a food fanatic. Some people would call me a "foodie", others call me crazy. I do a few things that might cause the average food enjoyer to shiver.

The normal things I do
Make my own bread, make 3 meals a day from scratch, get an organic CSA (Community Sustained Agriculture) box, mill my own flour

The slightly "excessive":
buy no processed foods (whenever possible), feed my family only RAW dairy, sprout and dry my own grains, make organic jams, buy locally whenever possible...

The "downright crazy":
make my own buttermilk and yogurt, buy only meat and eggs from pastured animals, soak my oats or unsprouted grains before use, refuse to use my microwave and encourage the intake of good animal fats.

I had some serious discussion with my husband after unwittingly offending some people who are very dear to my heart. Here is his analogy:
"This food journey you've been on is kind of like a religious experience or conversion. Once you have studied it and learned all about it and then converted, it is like you are a new believer, totally excited about it and just wanting everyone else to join you in it."

Did I mention that he is brilliant and insightful?

So yeah, apparently in my zeal I have caused others to feel judged. Dang it! This is the LAST thing I want! What I want is for everyone to learn as I have learned! What I want is for people to be able to enjoy food the way it was created to be enjoyed-bringing health instead of sickness.

So why Food? A few reasons actually:
For one, food is the core of our physical existence. Without it, we would literally die. Food can be, and often is, pleasurable in the making AND in the eating. And yet, food can either sustain us, or slowly kill us. Astounding in its complexity...

The more I learn about how real food, (natural food, food that is in its original form), reacts with our bodies to create health and to not just sustain us but also protect us, the more amazed I am at the detail and love the Creator put into it. Before we had refrigerators and freezers people had to come up with other methods of food preservation. Amazingly, most of these methods actually make the nutrients in the food MORE accessible to our bodies and in many cases also make it more easily digestible. How can that be unless food was created FOR us and with our lives in mind?! I love to think about that!

It is also interesting to consider what the industrialized food revolution has wrought, in our country at the very least. Before "food" was accessible to everyone in the supermarket down the street, not only did folks eat seasonally, (in cold areas preserving the heck out of everything to make it through the winter!), but they also ate locally. It is unlikely that they would be buying beef from New Zealand when Farmer John up the hill butchers a cow once a month to sell at the market. The greatest thing about that life, tough as it could sometimes be, was that not only did you KNOW where your food came from (and what it ate or was grown in), but you also developed RELATIONSHIPS with the folks you got the food from. In fact, often you could be trading for goods and services instead of spending cold hard impersonal cash.

Now, not only do most people have no idea where their meat is coming from, it is likely that the ground beef someone just bought at the supermarket, (which was probably fed gut destroying genetically modified grains), came from more than one animal from more than one feedlot! The boxed cereal that many ate for breakfast was processed to the point that all the natural nutrients in the food have been stripped and the artificially added minerals only add to the toxicity of it as a whole. The milk that is now so readily available has been so processed that the good pathogens that are naturally occuring have actually been destroyed allowing all kinds of bad bacteria to grow, making milk generally worthless for the body's systems. And forget about knowing the farmers! The meat in CA could have come from Idaho or Colorado. How does anyone know what the feedlot looks like or how it treats its animals?

Okay, and there I went on my tirade. The point of it all is that there exists a way of eating and buying foods that is not just sustainable-Eating foods that work WITH the body instead of against it, and buying food that BUILDS relationships instead of tearing them down...or just not having them at all.
And I am all about relationships. Some of the most important relationships in my life are the ones with my children. How could I do anything less than feed them the best possible options for food? To build their bodies and their health and let them know that I want only good for them and will not feed them what I know is not beneficial. To teach them that there is a way that is different from the world, that is better for the world...How I wish everyone I love could know and understand real food...

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays hosted by the Food Renegade!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stealing Ideas

I've decided to take my cousin Anna's idea to daily blog and, just like every recipe I find, modify it just a bit. (Check her out, she has some awesome blogs!) Practically, blogging daily is an impossibility because 1. I take way too much time on each blog, 2. I'm not nearly cool enough to have an iPhone from which I could blog anywhere, and 3. with the munchkins starting "school" next week, time will suddenly be at a minimum...

Sooo! I've decided to attempt to blog a couple times a week, with no restrictions on which days I put one in.

Blogs coming soon, not necessarily in this order:

Vacation 1- So Cal to Shasta
Vacation 2-Crater Lake to Salem, OR
Vacation 3 (what?! It was a three week long trip!)-Portland, Abundant Life Farm and Tahoe
Why Food?
Cream Cheese Ice Cream
Scheduling unschooling
Seed Storage
The co-op

Whew! I guess I have a lot to say soon...hope you'll hang out with me as I blog.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The accidental meal success

Sometimes it is good not having a menu plan! Well, okay, maybe I won't go that far, but this made up dinner marks a true highlight in my culinary adventures, and it was all because I thawed some meat without a plan!

That morning, I pulled out 1 1/2 pounds of beef (from Organic Pastures) from the freezer, thinking that surely I would be able to make something yummy, (if I could just sit down for a second to figure out what!). Then, for breakfast we had scrambled eggs (pastured, of course), with raw cheese and 1/2 package of bacon. Bacon is just so good!

All day, I just kept thinking about that other 1/2 package of bacon...(it could be because my whole house still smelled like it...), and how I could work it into dinner. OOOOOOOH! Bacon cheeseburgers...yum...

However, 4pm rolled around pretty quickly and we have an old charcoal grill...I just didn't want to go through all the trouble of getting it going! Plus, I was out of bread, completely. can I make something with bacon and beef, that won't take that long, and that the kids will devour...?

Behold, the bacon cheeseburger meatloaf!
(Sorry, I didn't think to take a picture until we had almost finished the whole thing! Even then I had to keep pushing my DS's hand out of the picture cuz he wanted more!)
Can I copywrite a recipe? Cuz this one is somethin special!

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf
1 1/2 lb. pastured ground beef
1/2 lb. uncooked bacon, sliced small
1 onion minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. lacto-fermented ketchup (I haven't made this yet but when the tomatoes are ripe...)
1 1/2 c. shredded raw cheddar cheese (reserve the 1/2 c.)
1 pastured egg
1 c. *soaked oats (soaked with 1/4 c. buttermilk for 12-24 hours), optional: sub. 1 c. sprouted breadcrumbs (remember, I said I was out of bread?)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together in a bowl really well, then throw it into a glass baking dish, (9x13 maybe). Sprinkle the reserved 1/2 c. cheese on the top and bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. Then enjoy!!!

We had these with another made up recipe, Skillet Au Gratin Potatoes made with organic potatoes, raw cream and raw cheese(See picture at the top). I'll have to blog on that one next. Yum yum!
*Disclaimer: Okay, my oats weren't soaked this time since I was on such a time crunch and hadn't planned ahead. However, next time I make this, (and I will!), I will either use leftover bread (sprouted) or soaked oats. I have no doubt that it will still be just as good...

This blog is part of Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Cheeseslave.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Best Chocolate Ice cream I Have ever made

Yesterday, since my folks were coming to visit, I needed to make ice cream. My dad and hubby are both ice cream addicts, so normally, they would go out on a special ice cream foraging trip and bring home lots of natural stuff like B&J's and Breyers. Of course, my dairy sensitive son can't have any so with the recent start of the Organic Pastures co-op here, I was able to get fresh raw milk and cream specifically for making the good stuff.

The foundation of the recipe is the same for every type of ice cream that we make, utilizing all raw materials to make it healthy enough for the kids to fill up on it without any qualms on my part.

Basic Ice Cream
(variations in amounts depend on ice cream maker size. Ours takes about 1 1/2 cups of each and 4 eggs.)
1-2 c. raw cream
1-2 c. raw milk
4-6 pastured egg yolks
1/2 c. raw honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk all together (I use the food processor or blender) and put into the ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.

Chocolate Variation (when using this, omit the honey above)
In a medium saucepan, melt together over the lowest heat, (do NOT boil!):
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. cocoa (raw if you have it)
5 tbsp. raw or pastured butter

Mix until smooth then cool completely.
Once cool, blend together with milk mixture and cool in the fridge for a couple hours.
Freeze in ice cream maker.
Option: At the last possible minute, add 1 c. choc chips (try homemade!)
Option: Even better, to make it with mint, add 1 tsp of mint extract when you add the vanilla.

I made the chocolate mint ice cream. When it was finished I had a friend try it. She said she thought about it all the way home! It is that flavor that you just want to leave in your mouth for a long long time! Yum.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pump the Jam

We get all of our produce from a co-op of organic farms called Abundant Harvest. We love them, wish they were just slightly more local, but haven't been able to find what we need from local farms. Our area is JUST getting on the organic band wagon and we still deal with a lot of spraying and GMO crops.

Anyway, they have just started their summer fruits and have an optional add-on of 15lbs of cosmetically challenged stone fruit for $9. I don't know about you, but a deal that good is hard to pass up. The first week, my kids ate so much I barely had enough to make a couple peach crisps!

Additionally, my friends and I started a small garden co-op this year and see that we might run into a slight abundance of things like tomatoes and cucumbers. I had never canned anything before but have always wanted to. My friend Erin however, is a seasoned jammer.

Soooooo, yesterday, with some of her materials, I took all those peaches and made some jam.
Now, we are all into that Nourishing Traditions, slow food, traditional cooking thing, so I couldn't just use any jam recipe or any pectin. I wanted to make my jams with honey, so I could feel good about my kids slathering it on their biscuits. Apparently, jams are delicate, though a pretty simple process. I don't know that much about jamming but I do know that you pretty much need pectin and that you have to get special pectin to make no sugared jams. It is nearly impossible to find organic pectin (if anyone has a resource please let me know!), so we get our natural stuff from Pomona.
These are Erin's supplies!

So here is what you need:
Fresh fruit in season
Some smallish canning jars and lids
sweetener, honey, rapadura, coconut sugar, etc.
lemon or lime juice
a few pans for heating
a very large stock pot or roasting pan for boiling the jars

I followed the recipe on this page. So I started by peeling and mashing a bunch of peaches. I set those aside to deal with in a minute. Then I measured out just less than a cup of honey. Put it in a bowl with 1 tbsp. of pectin. Those have to be mixed together until the pectin is completely incorporated.

Next, I took all those organic lemons and made some lemon juice. I needed 1/4 cup to add to the 4 cups of peaches. Then I added 4 tsp. of calcium water (see instructions on the recipe sheet) and mixed that all together. In the meantime, I was also preparing the jars.
First, I washed all of the jars in warm soapy water, then let them sit in hot water until I needed them.
Then took all the lids and rings and boiled them. After boiling, I just turned down the heat and let them sit in hot water til I needed them.

Once that stuff was ready, I took the peaches and boiled them in a medium sauce pan. As soon as it boiled I added the honey mix and stirred vigorously for 1-2 minutes until it was well mixed. Then I let it come to a boil and turned off the heat.

Filling the jars is a no-brainer, except there has to be about 1/4 inch left from the top of the rim. Wiping the rims with a clean towel is essential for sterilization purposes, then the lids and rings go on.
I started with just my roasting pan but by the second batch I realized that I had a couple jars that would not be completely covered when I put them in, so I had to bring out the big soup pot. I used tongs, though it would be really nice to have those specialty tools for placing and removing jars from boiling water.
The jars have to boil for about 10 minutes before they are removed and allowed to cool without being touched. Apparently it can take up to 2 weeks for them to set!

I am trying really hard not to touch all those beautiful jars right now, but I am very excited for my next venture in food preservation. I would love to get to a point where all of our canned foods come straight from our own garden or local farms.

This post is part of fight Back Fridays hosted by Food Renegade!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pain is good?

Last week, all my expectations came crashing down around my feet.

Since February of 2008, I have been in a state of constant pain. With each movement, sharp shooting pains spike down the back of my leg. The rest of the time, it tingles like it is "asleep". Walking hurts. Sitting hurts. Playing with the kids, when it is possible, hurts. Sleeping hurts. I don't even remember what it is like to be able to live without pain.

I have read books and prayed. I have tried resting, icing, heating, exercise, stretching, and wine. After a full year of alternative treatments, last week my doctor told me that he thought surgery might be the only way to go for me. Coming from him, whom I not only trust but also is as "granola" as I am, this was quite a blow.

And yet...maybe it is not as bad as I have convinced myself that it is. In the last few weeks, I have felt like God is calling me to a state of peace in the midst of suffering. It is just so hard to give up the hope of healing! Can I live like this for the rest of my life? Can I praise him in the center of the worst of it, when I haven't slept much for days in a row, when I can't find a position that will give me enough of a release to let me rest. Sleep is a beautiful beautiful thing. As a mother, I know this truth inside and out, but is more precious than gold. How can I have peace in the midst of this?!

And I really believe that God is a God of love? Do I really believe that this suffering, (compared to some it is really nothing!), is in my life for a purpose? If I believe He wants the best for me, than there is peace to be found.

And now this. Surgery on my spinal column! Sure, it is a quick surgery, but it is still ridiculously high risk! Is this how I get to heal? Or is this the way to the worst? I honestly have no idea. I have no insight into God's voice right now.

There is only one thing I know for a fact. If I do have this surgery, there is no way I am eating hospital food!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sprouted grains (Updated)

Since discovering the advantages of sprouted grains, I have been a grain sprouting, drying, milling, experimenting fool! I'll post some recipes soon, but I wanted to let folks know that this too is attainable for YOU!

Making seeds grow is something that my kids do on a regular basis. They find a seed, grab a ziploc and a moist paper towel, throw it all in together and tape it to a window. (Usually all before I have a say in the matter. I have tape marks all over my dining room window, since currently we only have a lemon seed growing...) Within a few days, we have plant life to watch!

Sprouting grains for cooking is just as simple and takes about as much time! Of course, it is much easier to make all the recipes I have if you have a grain mill...(which I HIGHLY recommend for healthy cooking! Check out info about anti-caking agents added to store bought flour!)

The Sprouting Steps:
1. I usually select a grain, fill my gallon jar about 1/2 full, fill it to the top with water and put the mesh screen lid on. Then I leave it overnight, or for the whole day, up to 24 hours.

2. Dumping the water takes 2 minutes, (a couple more if you dump it in your garden like I do), then the jar goes on it's side on the counter.
3. The seeds/grains get rinsed once or twice a day, (depending on how anal you are...sometimes I get so busy they don't get rinsed at all! gulp!)
4. Within a couple days, you'll see all those little seeds growing little tiny sprouts. When they are about 1/16 inch long, they are ready to be used. Be careful though, if you let them go longer they will keep growing until they are no longer a grain, but now plant life. (Makes for a much greener flavor...)

Drying Sprouts:
This part takes about as much time as sprouting.
1. Dump your jar of sprouted grains onto a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) or on a pizza pan with holes in the bottom (I just discovered that the grains don't fall through the bottom and it gives it great air circulation!) and place in a warm oven. It is very important that the oven not go over about 105 degrees. If they dry at a higher heat, you kill all those good enzymes you just let out by sprouting!)
2. Every so often, 2 or so hours, reach in and mix em up. The oven is only warm so if it is too hot for your hand, then it is too hot for the grain.
3 After about 5-18 hours, depending on your oven's convection features and how thinly your grain is spread on the trays, you have dried grains that can now go right into the flour mill! (They should feel just like the dried grains do when they are ready to go through the mill.)

Cooking with Sprouted flour:
One thing I have found so far is that most of the time sprouted flour can be substituted straight across for any other flour in a recipe. However, every once in a while it needs just a bit less liquid...not exactly sure why.

Yeh! Found my camera cord. This last picture is of the scones that my 7 year old made all by herself!

Later, I am making sprouted hummus! We'll see how it turns out!

This post is a part of Fight Back Fridays hosted by Food Renegade!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Raw Milk at Organic Pastures

Our spring break was so exciting! In between family visits, sister weekends and driving all over the state, we got to go visit Organic Pastures raw milk dairy in Fresno, CA. Since we already buy milk from them, I thought it would be the perfect supplement to the kids' education to see where our milk comes from, literally. I made an appointment the week before our trip to get a tour and when we arrived, another family tour was just finishing up.
Kaleigh, Marc McAfee's daughter, was our tour guide. (Of course the pix I took of her are nowhere to be found!!!) She was bubbly and sweet and very informative. She is basically in charge of marketing for the company and you can completely tell that her heart is all the way in it! It will be cool to watch what happens as she becomes more and more involved.

All of the following is info we got from her. (Any error in information is my mistaken memory!)

When Marc and his family first moved out to their farm he wanted to have goats. His wife didn't like goat's milk, cheese or meat so she wanted cows. Obviously, happiness of the wife is happiness in the home so cows it was! They had never been farmers so they kind of let the cows do their thing, their way. Pretty soon, folks were coming with buckets, asking for raw milk. Initially, they just gave it away for free! Then the demand became great and they realized that to meet the demand they would have to actually venture into some bottling processes. So they started with a couple trailers, thinking it would be a temporary fix and ended up using more to make their current creamery.

For sanitation purposes they can't let people actually go IN to the creamery, but we got to look in the window to see how they bottle the milk.

Amazingly, everything that can be done by hand is done by hand! We can see now why the milk has to cost what it does! (I wish I had been able to get the picture of the guy with the mountain of butter and the scooper. He was scooping butter into the containers, one at a time!!!)

They are hoping that when they get the new creamery built (within a couple years!) they can actually streamline things, meet a little more of the outstanding demand, and perhaps even get the prices down quite a bit!

Next we got to see the cows!

Our first stop was the mama pasture, full of pregnant cows ready to give birth.
Cows are pregnant for about 9ish months, close to the same as humans. They get to be in this pasture away from milking and daily cow busy-ness for about the last month. Sounds like a dream! There were holsteins and jerseys and some mixes, mamas who were on their first baby and some who were old hats at this. At Organic Pastures they let the cows go through the labor and delivery process as naturally as possible without any human intervention unless there is some problem or the labor takes more than an hour.

(An hour!!!! Can you imagine if we lived organically in a natural environment and with little medical intervention? Would our babies come out as quickly and with such ease? I think so!!!)

Typically, the delivering cow will take herself about 200 yards or so out away from the herd and lumber around, swaying and loosening up. The calf will then come out, plop down on the ground, followed by all the afterbirth. She will eat up all the yucky stuff, clean her baby and he will wobble himself up to his feet.
See how close we were?

Then how far away from the rest?

Next we walked/ran, (this was lovely for wearing out the 3, 5, 7 and 9 year olds!), to see where they take the babies once they have their legs under them. There are coyotes in the area that will come and take the calves if they are not protected a bit.
There were little pens that they stay in for a couple weeks until they get moved to the big kids playpen

and then on to the big kid area out in the pasture. While they are here, we can pet them and let them "nurse" off of our fingers. (This is a feeling much like a human baby, just with a much deeper mouth.) They were very sweet!

Organic Pastures does not do any branding of their animals, which I love. It does, however, have its drawbacks. Just recently, they had about a hundred calves stolen. Yes, stolen. Can you believe people still do things like that? I'm not sure if they are going to change their practice on that end but I hope not. I love that these cows are so free to be truly natural.

A cow can typically live anywhere from 15- 25 years. At nearby dairies, the cows live an average of 3-4 years. This could be because the farmers give them things like gummy bears and molasses chips to make them produce more milk. (!!!!!!! Did you catch that???????? Talk about natural!!! UGH!) These cows are also kept in small pens and given no opportunities for normal life. From those cows I can understand the pasteurization practice!!!

Lately, with the pasteurized milk industry not doing as well, some of the organic dairies are coming to the McAfee family and asking them to buy their cows. When the non-pastured cows are unloaded from the truck they are a bit skittish about this prickly green substance under their feet. It takes them a couple of nervous hours before the joy takes them over. At that point they begin to literally dance across the pastures, kicking up their heels, bounding through to the boundaries of their newfound freedom. Kaleigh said she wished she had a video so she could put it on YouTube. (Get it, please!!! I want to see!!!)

After the tour, we came back to the offices where the kids ate all of the raw almond samples and had some raw milk and chocolate "colostrum" samples.
I love this dairy. I love how much they care about their products and their animals. I am so happy to be supporting them!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cookies for Breakfast?

Yes, yes, that's right. I did. I gave my kids gigantic cookies for breakfast. Two of them each, in fact. Even saved two for dad. It seemed like a good idea at the time...still does, except when I hear them talking to someone about the cookies they had for breakfast. *Ahem*
But wait! They were good cookies! They had flour and oats and eggs and cinnamon and honey and homemade buttermilk! (And of course I didn't take ONE picture!- I thought about it...then wondered what people would think...) And the kids loved it so much. They sat there, eating those cookies that were bigger than their hands, with smiles that can only come with dessert. I'm mom of the year now and it was food that was actually GOOD for them. I love it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pizza will never be the same

For a few years now, I have been making homemade pizza, partially to save money and partially to prove that I could be THAT good. But lately...I think I may have achieved star status. Ramiah, my pickiest eater, not only loves to help MAKE the pizza, but has proclaimed that pizza is her FAVORITE. (I suppose it is of no consequence that she wants to put all the stuff on it but even as she is grinning about eating "piiiiiizzzzzaaaaaa" she is picking all of that stuff off!)
Until last week, Asher, my allergy boy, has always had to have a separate pizza that was only his. It was always made with less sauce, (tomatoes give him a rash), and some other kind of cheese, (soy-before I knew better, almond-just gross, goat-only kinda gross). His dairy allergy always made his pizza just different enough that nobody wanted to share...
Until this week.

I now buy only raw cheeses, obviously made from raw milk. So this week, we made pizza with a raw cheddar. It smelled divine, looked even better and the taste...ah well...let's just say that dear hubby proclaimed this one to be one of the best yet. And the best part? Asher ate from the same pizza as all of us! Not only that, he ate 4 slices before I cut him off! Oh, dawn has risen and the family is whole! (Okay, slightly melodramatic, but it was a good day, a very good day.)

Asher isn't pictured, but his twin sure enjoyed it too! By the way, this is also a great way to get the kids to eat their veggies. This pizza had peppers, tomatoes, onions, and spinach on it. Apart from Miah, nobody took anything off the top! If you want my recipe, leave me a comment. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Operation Organization

After the twins were born, many things in our household slowed to a crawl. Everything from making dinner to going to the store became a task of monumental effort. There was not a moment of regret, just the instinct of survival. In that time, we had many amazing and generous people involved in our lives. Some gave of their time, some gave financial support, and others gave stuff. Cool stuff, fun stuff, stuff for the kids, stuff for the grownups, stuff to feed us, stuff to entertain, loads and loads of stuff. Then there was all that stuff that comes naturally from having children in the house...lots of kids, lots of stuff.

Ordinarily, I would have been able to process the stuff and clear and edit as we used it up. However, with four very young kids, it was all I could do to keep the house looking decent, (just don't check for dust!), get food on the table and make sure they are healthy and happy. As a result, we ended up with a lot more stuff than we had space for and much of our space was a bit overwhelmed.

The garage was in serious trouble. Every time poor Tony had a fun woodworking project to do, it took him about an hour to clear the work space so he could use his saws. My sewing area, used somewhat sporadically during those first two years, was filled to the brim with fabrics, projects and mending.

By the time the twins were two and able to play independently for more than a couple minutes,

my major project, aside from homeschooling, became somehow getting control of the clutter. It was a goal, a frustration and a constant task. Each time I cleared one area, the sense of relief was overshadowed by the renewed awareness of how much it would take to get the next area done. Yet still, I struggled on, plugging away whenever a free hour came about. About 6 months into this process, I realized it would take me many many many months to really get everything done that needed to be done and the garage...well, let's just say that the enormity of the task gave me pause.

Fast forward to the aftermath of the amazing gift from my amazing family and friends. While Vanessa quietly coordinated monitary collections, Tony and I interviewed and discussed the merits of several organization companies. The first one we interviewed was my favorite by far, and of course, the most expensive. They listened to me, recognized my need and were willing to go the extra mile to accommodate our own brand of quirkiness. :) When they called back a couple weeks after submitting their estimate, we had already decided to go with free family garage organizers. However, they were totally willing to come back and submit another estimate for just the sewing and computer areas, and work with me on the time so we could actually afford it.

In the meantime, my brother Aaron and his lovely wife, Nadine, who have had a bit of experience in the garage organization process, agreed to come and spend a weekend with us to clear and reorganize the biggest task. They were phenomenal!

We spent two days, from morning to night, purging, cleaning and grouping. By the time we were done, we had "gotten rid of" several hundreds of dollars worth of school supplies that I no longer needed, as well as much baby stuff, games, etc. Most of it ended up being donated to a preschool that had just lost it's funding. That made me happy!

Admittedly, it took another week to actually get everything out of the driveway, but once the purging had happened, it was just a matter of time.

Inside the garage it was like a whole new world had opened up! Suddenly, there was so much space! There is a removable curtain for Tony’s shop, (to keep the sawdust off of everything else in the room!).

We could park all the kids’ bike type vehicles within their reach and still have room to set up paints and do projects!

While this took an amazing amount of time and effort, (and lots of familial support for kids and food!) financially, this was the smallest part of the process. The next step came with the professionals.

We decided, after much deliberation, to hire the first people we interviewed, Operation Organization. They have a stellar reputation in LA and agreed to work within our budget to get as much done as they could.

The areas they attacked were almost as bad as the garage, certainly in terms of neglect-the sewing area, which I wanted out of our bedroom, and the computer area which was underutilized and way over stuffed. (See following for embarrassing before pix)

I know, scary. Because these doors would close, this was the drop site for anything that

looked like paper or crafty stuff. The computer, old and full of viruses, was almost never used. We have laptops that are the daily work zones and they wouldn’t fit in here anyway.

The sewing area was just as bad. Though there were no doors, it was hidden away in the corner of our bedroom and so was allowed to be last on the list of priorities, even though it was an area I needed to use on more than one occasion. (Much like Tony’s work space in the garage, it took so much time to clear an area to work, much of the motivation was gone before I had a chance to begin.)

Katrina, the owner of the company, came in with a small work crew and lots of energy. They worked for 4 hours the first day and 4 hours the next.

She shopped for everything we needed to make the space usable. We donated several piles of things and threw out 4 bags of papers, shredding (burning) an additional 3 boxes. It was glorious! Here come the afters!

I LOVE the drawer! So much fits and it is all easily accessible!

This was where the sewing area was in my bedroom. Now that it is where the computer used to be, I have room for an elliptical machine with a built in shelf so I can watch shows on the computer while I work out!

The piano used to be here, but is now moved to near the front door where the shoes used to collect. (They now go into the kids' rooms; well, they are supposed to anyway.)

The computer and sewing table ended up in Adriel and Ramiah’s room, (with no internet), so they could learn how to use a computer without close supervision. Of course, this also is a great motivator to keep their room clean!

They even set up a new filing system that can go easily from the house to the garage and holds all the important and immediate paper needs.

All of the fabric is now hidden in the living room boxes and cabinets and all of the toys that once lived in those places are relegated to the appropriate bedrooms, hopefully rarely seen by us grownups!

So family and friends, I hope that you can see that your gift was well spent and has literally changed our lives. There is something of a peace that comes when the mess, even hidden, is gone from your life. I’m sure this is a great metaphor but for now, I’ll just leave it, knowing that whatever your motivation, you have been a part of a revitalizing and joyful renovation that would have otherwise taken me months to achieve. And we are so so grateful.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Real Food Wednesday Part 2 :donuts, (the good kind)

This blog is part of Real Food Wednesday.

Mmmmmmm! Those donuts were good! The recipe is on heavenly homemaker's blog. I used honey instead of rapadura and added a little flour at the end to make them rollable. I also used raw milk and 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice instead of the cinn. and nutmeg. Delicious!

I firmly believe that kids should be part of the process...they enjoy it more that way.

Ramiah was fabulous at the egg cracking process! No shells or anything!

Adriel really got into the shaping process.

Asher is always explaining to everyone exactly what he is doing. He actually only shaped 2 donuts. His talking slowed him down.

He couldn't wait for the frosting. He wanted one right now!

Finally eating! They all loved em. Had to con them into saving one for Dad. He never gets the good stuff.
I'd say this counts as math today, right?