The Start of a Long Project and Manly Peeps

Where we live we aren’t able to put most plants in the ground until April 1st, and because I’m excited and impatient I’ve begun our garden in the kitchen window:

These are our tomatoes and cucumbers.  There are two trays of ten seedling spots; 16 of them are tomatoes, and only four are cucumbers.  Why yes, I am Italian. 🙂

If you can’t see what these are the left packet is long, thin, cayenne peppers (hot) and the right packet is sweet banana peppers.  Boy do I hope we don’t mix these up!

And these are my pretty plants.  🙂  The back packet is dahlias, and the front one is lavender.

In addition to these I’ve also got carrots, spinach, kale, rhubarb, and strawberries in the ground already (planted around March 1), since they can tolerate a frost.  I’ve got seeds to start pumpkins, zucchini, beans, cilantro, oregano, fennel, hollyhock, poppy, and chamomile (to be planted around April 1).  I may be mildly ambitious with this gardening business, but it’s for a good reason!

We grow this garden so that we can have some homegrown, organic vegetables.  I’m a firm believer that no tomato tastes better than the one you pulled off the vine just a few minutes before, and no herb flavors a dish better than the one harvested just before use.  Plus, growing some of our own food saves us some moola.  I’m a vegetable fanatic, and buying different kinds of veggies at the grocery store can get expensive.  I’m hoping we’ll save a bit of cash by growing our own.

I’ll be posting photos of our garden this week and I’ll post about progress we make along the way, and of course, I’ll post useful information I find out along the way.  Feel free to post comments and questions.

And now for our Silly Beard Moment of the Week:

Since it’s near Easter, I had to buy Beard his favorite Easter-time treat:  Peeps.  The store had a variety of colors, and I selected the two manliest colors I could find:  blue and yellow.  Upon informing Beard of this, he grabbed his beloved treats and gave me this pose:


“Now I just need a beer can.”

Miscellany on a Thursday

(This type of post comes from posts I’ve read on The Frugal Girl.)

I finally made it to Sam’s today to buy dog food for Bruno (which was a good thing since he finished his last bag at breakfast today).  While I was there I noticed one of my favorite household items at a great bulk price.

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Why, yes.  This is Rid-X.  For those of you who own a home with a septic system you may already be familiar with this product, and if not, you may need to become familiar with it.  When we moved into our home in May several veteran homeowners suggested we use this product once a month by flushing it down the toilet.  We have.  And we haven’t had an issue with our tank yet.  🙂

ImageI’m still wondering how this teeny little Bitsy Girl became this big girl

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I can’t believe that in only 8 months a tiny little squeaker became a sitting, crawling, talking, feeding herself baby!  I’m amazed at how quickly Bitsy Girl grows and gets ever so slightly more independent from us everyday.

I’ve been reading a book called A Year in the Village of Eternity which is about the foods and lifestyle of the people in the small Tuscan village of Capidomele.  Not only has reading this book reminded me of all the homemade, homegrown, and delicious things I grew up on in an immigrant Italian family, but it has inspired me to try to jar my own tomato sauce this year.  I’ve started seeds. 🙂

Well, off to enjoy some ice cream and hang with the Beard.

Keeping Abreast

My husband gave me the idea for this post, and I thought it was an excellent one.  A year and a half ago we began this crazy journey of parenthood with a pregnancy.  Of course this pregnancy led to the birth of our Bitsy Girl, and her subsequent growth, development, and breastfeeding.  Lots and lots of breastfeeding.  Although I am not an expert on this topic at all, I have learned some things about breastfeeding and a woman’s body that I would like to share in hopes that it helps to inform other nursing moms.

**(Before I continue, I would like to state for the record that breastfeeding was right for our family, but it isn’t right for everyone’s family.  I make no judgments on those women who do not breastfeed because they cannot or do not want to.)

I’ll basically just walk through some of my experiences with breastfeeding, but if there is anything that you have a question on that I haven’t touched upon, please comment, and I’ll try to answer it the best I can or direct you to someone who can.

First, I was fortunate enough to nurse the Bitsy Girl within half an hour of her birth, and that first time she nursed she was a natural!  She was able to find “the source” and latch correctly.  This little miracle can only happen within an hour of birth, I’m told.  Although the next time Bitsy Girl nursed she didn’t do as well as that first time, she had a head start.  Many nurses told me that babies unable to nurse within the first hour of life have a more difficult time getting used to latching on and nursing.

My milk took a few days to come in.  What I mean is that for the first few days, Bitsy Girl was feasting on colostrum, the first milk-like substance produced by a mother.  It is high in fat and nutrients, so the baby doesn’t need much of it.  When my milk came in, oh boy did I know it.  For anyone who hasn’t breastfed, I can only equate this feeling to having to use the bathroom, but in your chest rather than your abdomen.  My breasts felt very full and at times hard in some spots.  I noticed that when I felt hard spots I had much more milk to give, sometimes too much for Bitsy Girl.  In order to prevent mastitis (a very painful infection of mammary glands that results from incomplete emptying of the breasts) I would expel whatever milk my daughter didn’t want into the sink and rinse it down.  In hindsight I probably could have used a breast pump, but I wasn’t thinking ahead.  😉

In order to expel the milk I simply pressed or squeezed the hard spots on my breasts.  Yes, sometimes it was uncomfortable and a little painful, but I found a lot of relief in emptying my breasts once my daughter had finished eating.

The next major milestone I hit was the point when breastfeeding no longer hurt.  There are plenty of women out there who tell you that if your baby is breastfeeding correctly it won’t hurt at all.  This is simply not true.  A woman’s nipples are not accustomed to the type and amount of stimulation they receive from a nursing infant, and so they often become sore, red, chapped, or even bleed.

That being said, the pain was not unbearable for me.  It was uncomfortable at times, yes.  I found that lanolin helped me to lessen the pain and to heal quickly.  Within about five weeks I felt no pain at all while nursing.  It was wonderful.  From then on I have not had any discomfort while breastfeeding.

I enjoyed an abundant supply of milk for the first 6 months or so of my daughter’s life.  I was working full-time, and I was pumping milk to bring home to my daughter.  Each day I would bring home much more than she needed.  Around her 6 month birthday, though, I noticed my supply begin to diminish.  This correlated with two things:  first, it was around that time that we began to supplement with some “solid” foods, and second, it was around this time that I noticed my fertility return.  I track my fertility using the Fertility Awareness Method, and am usually able to determine when I ovulate.  I noticed the dip in my milk supply just after I ovulated for the first time after having my daughter, and my supply didn’t return to normal until after I had my period.  This made sense to me:  when my body was housing the eggs it wasn’t able to use as many resources on milk production, but once the egg was out of my body, milk production resumed as normal.

Bitsy Girl is now just over 8 months old, and I’ve noticed a steady, albeit slow, decline of my milk volume.  As my daughter added more solid foods to her repertoire there was little nutritional need for as much breastmilk, so my body produced less.   I hope to breastfeed until Bitsy Girl is 12 months old because it is at that age that she will be able to drink cow’s milk.  Of course if she wants to continue nursing her I don’t intend to stop her (within reason of course; Beard says breastfeeding a 12 year old might be awkward).

I have tried to include all that I have learned so far about my body and it’s journey through breastfeeding.  I will, of course, add new posts or update this post as I learn more things, and if you have any questions for me that I haven’t answered or some different information about breastfeeding, please leave me a comment.  I’d love to keep teaching and learning about this wonderful stage in a mother’s relationship with her baby.

Wait! You Made This???

I literally hear that every time someone tastes my bread.  Apparently bread is one of those foods that people are terrified to make themselves because they think it will either 1.  be too difficult or 2. take too much time.  I’m going to tell you that, honestly, it’s not that difficult to make a tasty sandwich bread and it doesn’t take too much active time*.

I start with these ingredients:

*(Please take note of my giant bottle of honey and 1 lb bag of dry yeast.  Clearly we are members at Sam’s Club :-D)

First, I put 2 1/2 cups warm water in my mixing bowl and add 1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast.

While the yeast is yeasting, I put 1/2 stick or 4 tbsp of butter in a small pan over medium heat to melt it.

Next I’ll put in the sweeteners.  You’ll notice that I use some blackstrap molasses in my bread.  This ingredient has two purposes:  first, it tastes nice in small quantities, and second, it adds iron to the bread.  I would not suggest using only molasses to sweeten your bread, though; it can have a strong flavor in large amounts.  The recipe I use calls for 1/4 cup honey, so instead I use 1tbsp blackstrap molasses and 3 tbsp honey:

Then I’ll add 2 cups of flour.  Normally I use about half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, but I had used up all of my whole wheat flour before today’s adventure.  So both cups were all-purpose flour.  I also throw in 2 tsp of salt, just for good measure. 🙂

When the butter looks like this:

Then I pour the butter into the mixer bowl and mix with the dough paddle attachment on low until the ingredients come together.  (There may be a few lumps, but that’s ok.  They’ll work themselves out later.)  Your dough will look like this:

Then I add another 2 cups of flour.  Typically I use 1 cup of whole wheat and 1 cup of all-purpose, but again, we’re only using all-purpose in these pictures.  I mixed on low/medium low until that was incorporated:

then add enough flour to make a dough.  This is usually between another 2-3 cups of flour (so total count so far is 6-7 cups of flour.  Your dough will look pretty much like this:

Please notice that the dough is clinging to the mixer blade.  That is the sign that you have enough flour.

I sprinkle about 1/4 cup of flour on the counter and knead the dough on it for 5-10 minutes, then return the dough to the bowl.  I cover it with a damp kitchen towel for 1 hour.

After it has risen, I punch the dough down (yes, that’s literally what it sounds like):

and split the dough in half.  I grease two regular size loaf pans with butter.  I find butter greases the pans better than oil, and once the bread is done baking I am able to turn the pan and have the loaf slide right out.

Working with one half of the dough at a time, I flatten (or you could roll) the dough into a rectangle about the size of a regular sheet of notebook paper:

Than I roll the dough into a cylinder, starting with the shorter edge.

I pinch the edge of this roll closed, and then fold the ends of it underneath the dough itself and pinch that.  (The pinch helps the dough to form a solid loaf and not have random appendages.)

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(Dough rolled up)

(Ends pinched to center)

I repeat this process with the other half of the dough.

I then cover my loaves back up with the damp kitchen towel and leave them for half an hour.

My risen loaves looked like this:

I bake my bread for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  And it comes out looking like this:

This bread is really tasty!  It’s soft, sliceable and great for sandwiches or toast.  Here’s the full recipe:

Sandwich Bread

6-7 cups of flour

2 1/2 cups warm water

1 1/2 tbsp yeast

2 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 honey/sweetener

1/2 stick/4 tbsp butter

Mix water and yeast in mixer bowl.  Melt butter.  Add honey/sweetener, salt, butter, and 2 cups of flour to mixer bowl.  Mix on low until combined.  Add 2 cups of flour and mix until combined.  Add the rest of flour and mix until dough comes together.  Turn dough out onto counter and knead for 5-10 minutes.  Put dough back in bowl and cover with a moist kitchen towel for 1 hour.  Punch down dough and separate into two pieces.  Grease two loaf pans.  Form a loaf out of each half of the dough by flattening out rectangles and rolling them up and pinching the edges and folding in the ends.  Cover loaves again with moist towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Enjoy!

Tomorrow’s adventure:  Some talk about things I’ve learned that breastfeeding does to your body.

Ever Have This Happen to You?

We got our sweet puppy Bruno from friends/coworkers, and they had purchased a non-transferable immunization package for him before we decided to adopt the little woofer.  Whenever he needs his shots, these friends have to take him to the vet, otherwise we would have to pay for the same immunization package again (thus, non-transferable).  They didn’t do this purposefully, of course, but it is a bit of a hassle.

Bruno can tolerate a short car ride fairly well, but he has his limit.  I’m not sure exactly what that limit is, but I know it is definitely less than the time it takes to drive from the nearest city to our home, which is about 30 minutes.  I picked up Bruno in town this week after his latest round of shots and brought him home.  He usually sits up front with me, but this time he hung out in the back seat.  I didn’t hear him whimper or cry at all, so I thought he had been asleep.  I was very wrong.

Apparently he had gotten into the bag of dog food that I had put in the back seat (it was opened, but folded closed) and had gotten car sick.  And I didn’t hear anything.  No gagging, no heaving.  Nothing.  Needless to say I was surprised by the dog vomit that had managed to cover not only a third of my backseat but my work bag as well.  Being the wimpy girl I am, I quickly ran inside to grab Beard (affectionate term for my husband) and ask him to clean the chunky stuff out.  I really don’t have the stomach for that.

For those of you that have ever had a child or animal vomit in your car or on any upholstered piece of furniture, you know that the smell is very difficult to get rid of.  I searched “get vomit smell out of car” on Google and found some pretty interesting ideas.  I found very simple ideas like opening your windows to air the smell out (which I personally don’t think would do much for lingering stenches) and some complicated and strange ones like cutting a dozen onions in half and laying them on paper towels in your car while leaving the heat running for an hour.  I decided to a go a more moderate (and easily homemade) route.

Here are my tools of attack for the bit of remaining stain and stench:

I’ve got distilled white vinegar, Woolite Urine Eliminator, club soda, orange cleaner (more for dust on the dashboard) and, of course, a roll of paper towels.  I set to work by spraying the affected areas with LOTS of Woolite first.  The directions say to let it sit for 5-10 minutes, so I sprayed each seat before returning to the first to blot.  I wadded paper towels and blotted up the Woolite, which picked up most, if not all of the stains, including some stains that were probably left from the previous owner.  (This particular vehicle has quite a history to it, and I’ll write a post about it in the future, but for the meantime, please just glaze over the fact that we purchased a car with stained seat upholstery.  Your non-judgmentalism is appreciated.)  I did this particular sequence twice.  Then I took the time to wipe down the dashboard, doors, and center console with the orange cleaner; that is a basic degreasing cleaner, and works well on everything except for glass.

My final step in the de-vomiting of our car was to make a mixture of the vinegar and club soda and pour it on the affected seats.  When I had read this online, it made the most sense to me.  Vinegar can be used to kill bacteria, molds, etc., and it’s strong smell can overpower and eliminate other odors.   Club soda is a housewife’s best friend; it can remove almost any stain as long as it’s fairly fresh.  And fortunately, this one was.

I mixed my vinegar and club soda in a kitchen glass and poured about half to 3/4 of a glass on each seat (I also cleaned the front seats just to see what I’d get up).  If you clicked on the link to these instructions, you’ll notice that it instructs you to leave the mixture for 1-3 hours.  Honestly, this made me nervous, but this is what the inside of our car looks like:

So I’m not totally concerned with messing up the upholstery here.

I dutifully returned 3 hours later (assuming the longer you leave the mixture the better it removes stains and odors).  I blotted this up with some ratty towels, and, to my surprise, some more stain came up, leaving almost nothing behind.  This method really worked!  And best of all, my car didn’t smell of vomit at all.  It did, of course smell a bit like vinegar, but thanks to the fact that vinegar is more volatile than water (meaning it evaporates more quickly) I should be able to leave my windows open to simply let the vinegar dry up.  (I honestly forgot to take my after picture, but I promise to follow up with one tomorrow.)  Speaking of tomorrow…

Tomorrow’s adventure:  A Grocery Staple that I Bet You Didn’t Think You Could Easily Make at Home.