Monday, April 07, 2014

This week:

Keeping busy as usual.  We have had some nice warm days lately!  I say warm and I mean in the 50's but I'll take it.  It is great to get outside and move our bodies!  Eliot is practicing for his upcoming baseball season. He has moved up from T-Ball this year.  

I have been doing a lot of photography on the weekends.  An old friend of mine is starting a caramel business so I did a series of product shots for her.  Next up will be some editorial style shots and hopefully a fun family portrait mixed in.  


I'm following along with a photography blog taking photos thinking about particular themes.  'Form and Repitition' are the subjects this month.   It's been a nice way to take more photographs that perhaps have a connection to each other.


Another trip to the dentist for my boy.  Poor kid does not have good luck when it comes to teeth.  He is awesome about brushing, we are working on a floss routine but still winds up needing work.  He got a tooth infection and had to get a root canal!  I'm scared to think what the bill is going to be - hopefully insurance covers it.  He is so good at the dentist - just Novocain.  He didn't need sedation and was told he was better than the adults that have it done!


Another arty photo.


Here is a to-do project I have been thinking about for at least a year now.  My dad and I found this old chair.  I am meaning to recover it and refinish it.  I think it will be a nice addition to Willows room once I get it organized.  It is a very low chair, a Victorian corner chair, if I am not mistaken.  Right now it makes for a good rest for whoever is over playing darts in the 'man cave' with Kevin in the middle of the night!



And finally enjoying the twilight hours.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Puddles

When you live in Maine and the snow starts melting what do you find?  Mostly mud but a buoy struck me as funny.  We keep getting glimpses of spring and then snow and cold. 


This was a warmish day at 40 something.  Puddles and umbrellas.




We ended up cutting down a tree in our backyard in the fall.  It was the tree that had the wooden swing on it.  Unfortunately it had been dying and loosing branches for quite a while.  It is now firewood in the 'man cave' and we are trying to decide what to plant.  I am thinking a willow or a flowering tree.


Here's hoping we don't get too much more snow from the storm that is headed our way.  But - we will manage.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This Spring

We are watching the amaryllis bloom in hopes of the outside flowers coming up.


Watching the birds (or booya's as Willow calls them).


Cataloging, folding and sorting the cloth diapers to sell / give away.  A chapter closes.  She is still in diapers I just don't have the energy for cloth this time.


Howling at the full moon.

 Drinking hot chocolate


Trying to decide what to do with scraps.


Teething.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Light

Ahh light.  Although the time change has been wreaking some havoc on our sleeping and eating schedule at least it is light out in the evening again and we can start going on our night walks again!  Next hope is for the snow to be totally gone and green things to start growing.

Serious business with the typewriter I dug out.  It is so nice when such a simple thing can be so entertaining for everyone.



Our first 'night walk' in ages!  It was fairly warm at 45 and the twilight was beautiful.  We found this little nest with birch bark woven in.  I wish I knew what type of bird it was!


Taking in the scene.  She didn't stay in the stroller long.  I don't think I'll be using it much longer on these little walks.


Eliot lives for climbing giant snow piles.  Thankfully they are dwindling.






The handsome hubs putting up with me taking lots of photos.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why Hello!

Hello there!  It has been a while... This winter has been packed full of cabin fever and chasing a very busy toddler.  Not too much crafting going on, a lot more cooking than crafting in fact.  I have some more crock pot meals to share as soon as I get some links straitened out.  Here are some recent photos to get my feet wet a bit:

A rare date night, or afternoon technically, to a Vietnamese noodle bar.  The Pho is amazing and really huge.


A trip with the kiddos and their cousins to Joker's.  Willow just wants to be just like her brother, it is SO cute.  Willow got stuck in the giant fun house so I had to go in and get her.  That was a challenge!  I was actually sore the next day - I guess I need to start working out.



Very serious about the video games.


Willow is an insane climber.  It is a constant battle to keep her off the tables, chair arms, back of the couch, etc.  She has a book that she loves called Pete's a Pizza about a boy who's Dad puts him on a table and pretends to make him into a pizza.  It took me a while to figure out that's what she was trying to do here.  I can't wait until spring where she can go climb everything outside!


Pouty little tired face.  


Another rare Mama alone moment  Cup of tea and knitting.  I am almost done with this shawl, another 2 inches to go!  I have been knitting it for nearly a year now.  Thankfully I still like it and it is easy to tote around.


Whew that is the last two weeks or so in recap.  I hope to get on here more often now that I am finding my photography groove again.  Here's to a rapid onset of warm weather and snow melt, perhaps a few moments of creative pause as well.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Pictures!

Hello again!  An update in picture format:

 Willow and Daddy enjoying a read.


 Eliot's new favorite crafty activity: Loom Bands.


E and his favorite cousin at Thanksgiving during their rousing croquet tournament.



The little cousins enjoying a ride in the wagon.  They are only 2 days apart!  I can't wait to watch them grow up together.


 Eliot trying to get a picture with his little sis.  Classic.







Willow enjoying her favorite activity, food!  She is such an awesome eater.  She never complains about anything food related.  If she could have spinach at every meal she would.  The only thing she doesn't like is tuna.  She is talking so much now and mimicking all of our actions and words.  She wants to be just like her big brother.  Eliot is thriving in the 1st grade and is starting to read chapter books!  I am so proud of his progress and his transition.  

We are starting to get ready for Christmas by slooowly putting out decorations.  I have been doing a little crafting and a lot of craft planning.  I will work on getting photos of everything soon.  Ease in...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Organic Crockpot Freezer Meal Project Part 1



I posted on Facebook that I had made a month’s worth of food for the crock pot and a few people asked me how I did that.  So here it is broken down step by step.  

My main goals for the organic crockpot project:
  1. Save time especially since school is about to start and I have a clingy toddler that doesn’t let me do much with both hands at dinner time.
  2. Freeze enough Crockpot friendly recipes to last a month with a few easy dinners tossed in along the way accounting for leftovers.
  3. Feed my family yummy, healthy organic food on a budget.
A side note:  I tweaked these meals to be dairy free as my daughter has a sensitivity. 
  
First I started with Pinterest and the general internet looking for recipes that were either crockpot friendly or could be easily tweaked to work for the crockpot.  I tried to stick with food that is in season right now (New England) and buy local.  Here is a link to my board as it stands so far.  I am sure I will be adding to it, too!  I picked a few old favorites that I knew will be a hit and added a few new ones and one that I like and no one else does that I can refreeze into jars for my work lunches (Eggplant Stew, yum).

I also am totally tired of making purred food for my little girl so I wanted to make meals that would result in soft enough food for me to give her to feed to herself while introducing her to new flavors along the way.  The crockpot is perfect for that!  I also know that my family of 3 big eaters and one little eater will get one meal plus leftovers for one and sometimes two days out of these meals.  They are also easy to double if you want to do that!  I usually add a salad to all meals and sometimes rice, bread or whatever is in season for roasted veggies.  I also skipped browning the meats.  In my experience it doesn’t make enough of a difference for the time. Herbs like Basil and Cilantro don't always hold up in the crockpot but I added them to the freezer bags anyway.  I will add more to those meals that call for them the day of for more flavor but that is optional.

These are the recipes I used for this month and the sources where I found them.  They are all in one place on the Pinterest board, too.  I added my notes about what to add the day of and changes I made:

Recipe list:

                Left the chicken breasts whole.  Froze the cider I needed in a mason jar for the day of.

                Will add the Guinness the day of.  Skipped the oil and tossed the meat in the bag with the flour to coat.

                Used cumin, coriander and turmeric for taco seasoning.

                Used 2 bags frozen corn.  I’ll add soy milk and water the day of.

                Add PB the day of.

                Broth the day of and I'll skip the sour cream.

                Broth day of.

                Broth and quinoa day of.

                Broth day of.  I’ll cook the noodles or use rice that day, too. I skipped the lemon grass and added some lemon juice instead.


Stuff you will need (and some you don’t):

Gallon zip lock bags.  I’d really like to find another way to store food of this size inexpensively, neatly and without plastic but for now this will do.  Any ideas let me know!

Sharpie markers to write on your bags.

1 big fry pan

A couple of big bowls and several small bowls.  I stuck with bowls I could put in the dishwasher for the small stuff because I didn’t want to have to clean up all day afterward.

Big knife and big cutting board. 

Note: I have a TINY kitchen with very minimal counter space.  As long as you are semi -organized this is no big deal.

A place to put all of the ingredients nearby.  I used my kitchen table as the staging area and a counter within reach for spices, can opener etc.

Food processor is really helpful but not necessary.

A big bottle of water for yourself.  You will need it after standing, cutting, and zooming around.
A cup of tea doesn’t hurt either.

After I compiled the recipes I made a spreadsheet with all of the ingredients I needed to buy along with amounts of each.  I then read through the recipes and made a list of what I needed to physically prep (other than just tossing into the bag – chopping carrots for example) and then what I needed to add the day I decided to toss it in the crockpot.

I made the mistake of shopping at 6pm on a Friday night with two hungry kids and had to go back again the next day to pick up what I forgot.  Shopping the day before is helpful.   Getting a babysitter is also helpful. (Thanks Kevin).

The night before I laid out the freezer bags and wrote the name of the meal and what I needed to add the day I cook it.  I left out additional salt in all of these recipes because I find the chicken stock to be pretty salty and I like to add it at the end so I don’t overdo it.  I put everything in a folder so I had it all in one location.  A big deal in my house.

Day of:

Kick everyone out of the house.  Clear the freezer for space.  Put on NPR or some tunes.  Make my tea and have a slug of water. 

I set up one bowl specifically for putting the freezer bag in so the bag wouldn’t fall over or spill (or leak) when adding ingredients.  I debated about double bagging but I think they are safe.  I will update if I have issues.  

I then set up the food processor.  I also set up a bowl for veggie ends to make soup stock with later (also freezable).

All of these recipes call for onions and most of them for carrots so I started with those.  I quartered all of the onions and processed in batches.  Once the first batch was done I started browning them in the big fry pan.  It took about 3 rounds to brown all of the onions.  Some of the recipes didn’t call for browning first but for the sake of time and I like browned onions, I browned them all.  I put them all in a big bowl with a measuring cup on top.   I estimated about a cup of browned onions equaled about 1 large onion.  That proved about right.

I then processed a big bunch of carrots while the onions were cooking.  Next I peeled and chopped potatoes while the next batch of onions was cooking.  Several of these meals call for cilantro so make a bowl for that, too.  

One big time saver would have been to buy a jar of pre-minced garlic in oil.  I forgot it in the hungry haze at the store so I ended up peeling and using the garlic press.  I don’t suggest that – my hands were sore!

The corn chowder calls for bacon so I ended up cooking that later but could have easily done it in the oven.  It would have been easier and less in the way than on the stove top like I did.  The leftovers certainly didn’t go to waste, either!

After the produce was ready I started filling the bags.  I chopped veggies when I needed them, like the bok choy and celery.   I went one by one through the recipes so that I wouldn’t get things mixed up.  I had set up all of my spices and can opener etc. so I wouldn’t have to go searching for things.  

Another time saver/contamination saver I would do next time will be to have all of the meat packages open.  I started with all of the chicken recipes (I used all breasts no matter what the recipe called for to make it easier) and so on.  If I had all of the chicken breasts in a big bowl I could have used tongs instead of having to wash my hands so many times in between.   Live and learn. 

I made some minor substitutions to recipes.   For example: instead of lemon grass for the Thai chicken I just squeezed some lemon juice in there because I had it for another recipe.  I didn’t add any rice or quinoa to those bags – I will do that on the day off.  I also left out the peanut butter from the eggplant stew to put in once it has been cooked. 

The last and only non-crockpot meal (other than a quick batch of pesto with the leftover basil and garlic – also easy to freeze in mason jars) was the turkey meatloaf.  I love that recipe so I doubled it.  I find that is a doubled recipe the way it is written anyway.  It was perfect to do last because it is very forgiving and I just dumped the rest of the onions and herbs that I had left into the mix.  I lined my loaf pan with plastic wrap, formed the loaf then popped it out and stuck it in the freezer in the wrap so I still have use of my pan.  I’ll pop it out of the plastic and back in the pan when I cook it.

Then I was done.  And I was tired.  But I think it will be worth it!  Today I put some chicken I saved and vegetable trimmings in the crockpot to make a chicken soup – very little waste! 

Clean up didn’t take much time.  I used one cutting board, one knife, one big fry pan and lots of bowls that fit in my dishwasher.  I love big stainless steel bowls because they are light, cheap and easy to clean.

What I will do next time:

I will talk to my local farmers at the market to see if they are willing to sell to me meat in bulk.  If they can’t do that I will wait for a sale at Whole Foods to save a little $.  Meat was the bulk of $ spent. 

I will shop, preferably alone, in the morning when I am fully awake and not hungry! 

I am going to start looking for more recipes for next time and add them to my pinterest board.  I will also update and rate the recipes as we go along.  I hope this is helpful to anyone who wants to save a little time and eat in a healthy way.  Cheers! 

Comment with your favorite crockpot recipies!  I'd love to hear what your family loves! 





Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Some Catch Up

It has been a while since I have been here!  My camera has been tucked away for a while but we certainly haven't been still ourselves.  The biggest news was Willow's birthday.  It is hard to believe she is 1 now.  We had thought about planning a big gathering but it ended up being a mellow affair with some family trickling in and out over the course of a week.  It was about the speed we were all ready to handle.  

We had a fun fourth of July up in Harpswell by the ocean and have been trying to keep cool ever since.  The garden has flourished in the heat.  Here is a picture from this morning.  The huge tangle of snap peas are just about done and will get yanked in a few days.  I'd like to try for some fall greens.  Lot's of my tomatoes from last year self seeded so they are mixed in here and there.  I'm curious what type we will end up with.  The plants I started from seed are doing great.  They really caught up.  I'll have a better plan for next year.  The only things that didn't grow for me this year were the broccoli and kale.  I don't know if they got eaten or what.

My biggest efforts lately have been to launch my photography website finally:  www.jessicaverry.com  

I have a couple of family portrait sessions planned for the summer.  So fun!


I tried a few new greens.  This one is amaranth.  It is so pretty and tastes a lot like spinach.  Much better when the leaves are small.  I'm letting a few of them grow to see if I can get any flowers.


The blackberries are really going strong!  I can't wait for the abundant harvest.


Eliot's hydrangea is doing fantastic despite being knocked every time someone opens his 'club house'.  It's growing fast enough that I think it will withstand the abuse.  The flowers don't even look real to me. 


I tucked in some flowers into the vegetable garden this year too.  It is nice to have little cheery faces among the green.  I like the bees they bring, too.  More to plan next year!


A little last minute photo session last night.  Mostly outtakes because no one really wanted to have their picture taken and Eliot kept trying to use my reflector as a frisbee.  I was working out a different lighting scenario.  I have some ideas and tweaks and next time I will wait until Kevin is around so I don't lose my patience.  This one is the best of the lot.


This is post shoot - so nice when they play together nicely.  Eliot is still learning how to help her vs try to move her body for her.


This was also post shoot.  The night walks continue.  I really like getting the bit of exercise and it is a good routine for us.  We also get to chat with the neighbors and hear the neighborhood news, pet peoples dogs and do some foraging.  The kids have been pretty sick the past week so he got to ride a couple of times.  Last night he just milked it - better exercise for me though!  She doesn't like that stroller very much because she can't sit up.  But she does like to be next to E.


Back to the outtakes:


Eating the greenery. Too much back light in this one.  And the rug is just a silly prop.  It looked a lot better in my imagination!


Walking away. (Oh I love those cheeks)


Blowing raspberries in the props.


Walking away again.   I like the light, the sun was still a little too bright coming from the back but it created a nice rim light when I had the angle correct.  


One last yard picture.  We were given a sandbox (back upper left) that has been super fun for both kids.  I thought Eliot would ignore it but he really likes it.  They can play together in it when he is feeling patient and W just can't get enough of dirt.  At least she doesn't eat it anymore!  The hosta are flowering like crazy.  Summer in Maine is so beautiful and fleeting.



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