Monday, August 30, 2010

Listeners On the Road

Living on the mountain is beautiful.  Living on the mountain is peaceful.  Living on the mountain means we have to drive a lot to get anywhere.  Calculating the amount of time we spend in the car was making me uneasy.  Although the drive is a gorgeous one, it still adds up to a lot of minutes my kids are just sitting.  Then I remembered a new habit (more like addiction) we picked up last summer.  Why it was dropped, I can't remember, but it's back in full swing.  Books on CD.  Brilliant concept, I tell you!  We do lots of reading at home already, but boy are we mowing through some great books now.  We rent about five books on CD from the library every week, depending on how long they are.

This week, we listened to Heaven for Kids.  Do you ever read a book and think, this book is changing my life.  This book could change the world.  Everyone needs to read this book?  I stumbled upon it quite unintentionally.  Outside of barely recognizing his name, I was unfamiliar with Randy Alcorn's works, much less his theology.  Let me tell you, it was a happy surprise.  This is one we will most definitely rent on an annual basis.  Here's my bullet-point book review:

  • For ages 6-130 (in my humble opinion).  My six-year-old son surprised me with how much he absorbed and enjoyed this book.
  • It's a great point of reference.  When my children ask questions about important topics from salvation, to why we do what we do, to those hard-to-answer questions on eternity, this is an extremely helpful book to talk through.
  • Salvation 101.  I remember being a child and having so many questions, lots of which I never asked, I just observed life and let my observations define my world view.  This book hits the most commonly asked questions children have on salvation and eternity and explains them in a very understandable way.
  • Not just for kids.  I'm telling you, listening to the fundamentals again was rocking my world.  I was beginning to give up on wearing eye make up before getting into the car because most of it ran down  my cheeks with happy tears.  Ah, to step out of the push-and-pull, just-get-it-done mentality of everyday and into the reality of eternity and of what really matters everyday: relationship with my Father and His people.  Here come the waterworks again!
  • Narnia in real life.  He references the Chronicles of Narnia all throughout the book to help the children visualize and understand more about salvation, Jesus, and heaven.  I highly recommend reading through the Chronicles first before (or right after) reading (or listening to) this book.
Books on CD have definitely changed my attitude toward our longer car drives; we all kind of look forward to them now, like a good round of storytime.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sourdough Whole Grain Flatbread ~ A Recipe

It might be the end of summertime, but it's definitely still summer here in the Northwest, and I am still giving my oven a summer sabbatical until the cooler weather greets us once again. That means, my family enjoys breads made on the stovetop. Tortillas, English muffins, pancakes, and now, flatbread. Soured and soaked, if you please. This was largely adapted from Gnowfglin's English muffin recipe. Like most breads, they are simply the best when they are freshly made. To reheat them, simply turn on your stovetop and place them right on the burner for about 5 seconds per side.

Sourdough Flatbread (makes about 15)
2/3 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups cultured dairy or coconut milk (I prefer kefir, but yogurt or buttermilk may be used)
3 cups whole grain flour (I prefer spelt)
2 Tablespoons honey, preferably raw
1 1/2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Mix cultured dairy or coconut milk with sourdough starter. Add flour. Kneed for about 3-5 minutes. Cover and let it sit out overnight or up to 24 hours. Mine looked like this after soaking overnight on a hot, summer night (it can take longer in cooler weather):

Kneed the honey, salt, and soda into the dough for about three minutes. Divide into ball shapes; however big or small you want your flatbread to be. We made about 15 of them. Cover with a damp towel.

It's time to set up your flatbread station. You will be rolling them out (or pressing them if you have a tortilla press) and placing them onto a hot griddle or pan. Grease rolling space, rolling pin, and pans. Heat up pans. This is how we set up our station (please excuse the jars of lacto-fermenting kefir and creme fraiche, they are a permanent fixture on my tiny trailer countertop:

It's important to keep your rolling space greased. We needed to do it about three times. If you wait too long before re-greaseing, you get hole-y flatbread like this:

Cook on medium-high heat for about three minutes per side. Serve warm. My children like them with raw butter, or with raw nut butter and raw honey, or with raw cheese (rawrawraw. Raw.), or just plain by themselves when they snatch one off the just-cooked stack while I'm still finishing them. I used what I had around the kitchen and made quite a tasty meal out of it by coating the insides with creme fraiche (probiotic point number one) and filling it with fresh garden lettuce, tomatoes, avocado slices, raw cheese (probiotic point number two!), and sprinkled it all with some Celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gooey Blackberry Peach (or Nectarine) Cobbler ~ A Recipe

Have you ever ended up with a bunch of lip-puckering fruit or berries? On a recent blackberry-picking trek, my four-year-old didn't learn until half way through our day how to decipher that the big, dark, juicy berries were the sweetest and the ones with pink still in them are tart. So we ended up with a few sour, pinkish blackberries. Blinkberries? Either way, this is the perfect recipe for tart fruit and berries. It definitely enhances this dish. An added bonus, the oats are soaked to release the very helpful phytase enzyme to encourage nutrient absorption and digestion. I can't tell you the feel of a-job-well-done it gave me when all four children agreed that this cobbler was their favorite over any other cobblers or crisps I've made in the past. They have no problem giving me their honest opinion, especially when it comes to food, so this was a big deal for my nourishing-food-loving mother-heart.

The cinnamon and nutmeg give my taste buds a happy reminder that Autumn is approaching. The weather outside give a hot reminder that it is definitely still summer... I wait in patience for you, Fall. :)

Gooey Blackberry Peach (or Nectarine) Cobbler
2 cups oats
2 cups water
3 Tablespoons cultured dairy (buttermilk, kefir, yogurt)
6-8 peaches or nectarines (or a mixture), cored and sliced (and peeled if you have time. I prefer the nectarines with their skins on, and if you don't have time to peel the peaches, your family and friends will be blessed with extra fiber. :) )
1 1/2 cups blackberries
1 1/2 cups rapadura (the second-best choice would be turbinado, and if you only have brown sugar, that's what you use)
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup butter or coconut oil (or a mixture)

Soak oats in water and cultured dairy for 8-12 hours (I started soaking them in the morning so they'd be ready to use tonight for dessert.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 9 x 13-inch pan. Place peaches, then berries in pan (as you can see, I stored our gathered blackberries in the freezer. No need to thaw if you're using frozen berries, too)

Combine soaked oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter (softened or cut in slices). It will resemble oatmeal. Pour over fruit.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Getting Outside

Inside is comfy, cozy, safe.
Books are read, hair is brushed and put up in "pretties," breakfast is enjoyed.  
But oh, to step outside this trailer door...

(I just had to make that capture look as backwoods as possible.  We live in a trailer on a mountain, after all.)
{Find out why here.}
Right outside the door are happy sunflowers, some thinking about opening up for the world to enjoy,

others in full bloom.

And there are squeals of delight and shouts of triumph when someone gets "jumped" and lands on his feet.

And yes, we live in a trailer and have a giant trampoline set up next to it.  If you're looking for words to describe us, just call us originals.  Or The Redneck Riddles.  It's been said before.  We don't mind.  Really.  Because I hang the wash on the line right behind our trailer home.  I love my clothesline.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Where It Leaves Us: Our Homeschool Journey, Part 3

Today is the day.  The day we take a leap into schooling our way.  I am the navigator, and at times, it makes me a little uneasy (what a huge honor and responsibility!), but mostly the feelings experienced are peace and excitement, if that makes sense.

Today, we begin the process of healing the love of learning in our children.
Today, we see that life is learning; to separate the two is just confusing.
Today, we begin to find our rhythm.
Today, we take our time, go at our own pace, and enjoy the new flow of weekdays.
Today is exciting.

Several readers have been guessing the curriculum and methods we'll be experimenting with.  I'd say, you're probably all correct.  We are most definitely going eclectic this year.  There is a strong Charlotte Mason emphasis, and Ambleside is one of my favorite resources.  I also love unit studies, and delight-directed learning won my heart.  As far as an actual curriculum, math is the only structured one we will use this year.  I was graciously given all the non-consumables for Miquon Math from my dear friend and mentor, Karen Bennett.  The cost for the consumables for all three grades came to about $30 including shipping.

It's time to start now.  The amount of anticipation I'm currently experiencing could be laughable.  The feeling I get from finally stepping out and doing what I've desired to do for the past three years is just amazing.  This forth home schooling year feels like... adventure.  It's time to ring the bell (if I had one).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In the Kitchen, Just the Way It Is

If you have ever been inside a 5th Wheel, you know what my kitchen is like.
 You know it is tiny.  That's just the way it is.
But inside this tiny kitchen comes many creations.
 And there's just enough room for hacking into young coconuts
 And of course there is room for sourdough bread to soak
 and for kefir and creme fraiche to lacto-ferment.
To top it off, my husband fancied up this tiny kitchen by installing a lovely piece of hardware.
 My kitchen might be in a trailer (find out why here), and it might be small, but we make it work, and that's just the way it is.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Roasted Poblano Salad Dressing ~ A Recipe

Making dressings shouldn't be difficult, and fresh ones can be so power-packed with nutrients, but it has been one of those things I haven't incorporated into the "homemade" category yet.  Until now.  It is time, says I.  Utilizing some fresh, in-season produce, I created this summery salad dressing for those south-of-the-border flavor cravings.  The dressing might be prettier prepared in a food processor (bigger chunks), but I used a blender for a smoother texture.  Not only is this dressing tasty, it provides some serious immune support using raw garlic, apple cider vinegar, and cilantro.  This is a very mild dressing, so for those who are sensitive to spice (my kids), this is the dressing for you.

Roasted Poblano Salad Dressing
2 small or 1 large roasted poblano peppers (learn how to roast the peppers at the bottom of this post)
3 Tablespoons cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 tomato
1/3 cup queso fresco or your favorite Mexican cheese
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 of an avocado (optional)
juice of 1 lime (optional)
1/2 cup water (or, if you have it on hand, chicken stock would provide a richer flavor)
sea salt to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)

Blend all ingredients in a blender for a smoother texture (as seen in the picture above) or mince in the food processor for a chunkier dressing.  NOTE: The flavor matures if you let it sit for at least a half hour before serving. 

Over an open flame, char chilies until black (or broil for about 10 minutes). Seal in an air-proof container for 10 minutes, then peel off skin and de-seed. The end.
Find more real food recipes at Monday Mania, Meatless Mondays, Another Meatless Monday, Two for Tuesdays, Tuesday Twister, Fight Back Friday, and Vegetarian Foodie Friday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Everyday Today

Sometimes, no most of the time, everyday things delight my simple little heart.  Like today.

When I opened the trailer door for some fresh morning air, I was greeted by the first sunflower in bloom.  It is orange-ish brown.  I have never had an orange-ish brown sunflower.  It is my favorite ever.

I walked up to the garden to find the pole beans really are growing up the stalks of corn, just as I hoped they would when I planted the Three Sisters.
Then we drove to the dairy to fill our gallon jar with fresh raw milk because we live in California where raw milk is legal which makes California the best state in the world.  Or Country.  And the cost?  $5

Did I mention I paid $5 for one gallon of raw milk?

And the cows are grass-fed and not treated with hormones or antibiotics.  Glory.

Today, everyday was quite special to my garden-and-raw-loving self.
Thanks for the fun assignment, You Capture.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Vegetable Skillet Pizza ~ A Recipe

Abundance is the word of the season.  Oh, the variety of in-season vegetables during summertime!  Then, there is the squash.  So.  Many. Squashes.  And tomatoes.  The glorious onslaught of 'maters.  But when you get about 50 pounds of organic produce in your CSA box each week and you still have ten pounds left the day before the next box arrives and your storage space is laughable... Ya gotta find a way to use up a lot of veggies all at once.  Well here you go, then.  And, because I am philosophically opposed to using the oven when it's 100+ degrees outside, this is a stovetop only recipe.

Yields 6-8 hearty servings.  From preparation to most of the clean up and hot on the table, this takes about 40 minutes when grating and slicing with a food processor, and about an hour when grating and chopping manually.

Summer Vegetable Skillet Pizza
5 links Italian sausage (sweet or spicy, your choice), cooked and crumbled (or sliced)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 summer squashes (yellow, zucchini, patty pan, whatever you have), grated or sliced (my kids had an easier time eating it grated.)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 potatoes, grated
1 smallish onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour (I used kamut because that's what was on hand)
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)
1 cup pizza or spaghetti sauce (see recipe below as an option)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup feta, crumbled (optional)

1.  Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil.  Add sausage, squashes, bell pepper, onion, and garlic.  Saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and reserve in a bowl.

  1. 2.  Now it's time for the crust, which is basically potato pancakes.  Mix grated potatoes and onions, eggs, flour, salt and pepper in a bowl.    Because less dirty pans is more, in the same pan you sauteed the squash mixture, (your biggest cast iron skillet is the best choice), heat some more olive oil, about a tablespoon or two, and press potato mixture into the bottom.  Cook on med/high heat for 4-5 minutes.  Cut in four sections and flip.

      1. 3.  Turn heat to medium.  Spread pizza sauce (see below for a recipe) over potatoes.  Sprinkle squash mixture, then sliced tomatoes and optional basil, then cheese.  Cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.  Or, if you don't mind turning on the broiler, place covered pan in broiler for 5 minutes.
    Here's a simple pizza sauce recipe my mom taught me (you'll probably only use half of this recipe; it can cover up to two normal pizzas):
    Pizza Sauce
    15 oz. tomato sauce
    1 Tablespoon each: minced garlic (1 clove), crushed basil and oregano
    2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese

    Mix all ingredients and use.

Monday, August 9, 2010

For the Love of Berries

Why do we love gathering wild blackberries so much?
Because we get to watch train tracks being repaired.
Because she was happy just playing with rocks and eating one third of the berries I picked.
Because the boys catapulted old train track parts with sicks and rocks,
stole my phone,
and took berry-stained pictures of each other.
Because the hike was magical.
Because we were reminded we live in gold country, and that is just plain rad.
Because getting as many fresh, organic, locally grown berries as we want  for free is exhilarating.
And because helping my oldest and her friends make blackberry pie, crust and all (they did most of the work) makes my heart happy.
That's why.
This is a contributing post on Simple Lives Thursday

Friday, August 6, 2010


There's no denying it.  Paying off substantial amounts of money owed is just an amazing feeling.  I can literally feel the weight lifting.  But I must admit, there are days when my eyes are not on the ball and our extended camping trip feels... hard.  Especially after living at my parents' house for the last five weeks.  There's no mistaking.  Houses are amazing.  They're one of the main reasons we're living in a 5th wheel.  Wells, spring houses, root cellars, fruit trees, garden beds, animals, tree houses, studios, places for guests to stay, bedrooms, a bathroom that doesn't resemble a porta-potty in a closet...  Dreaming up our future property has become a favorite pastime around here.  And to be perfectly honest, well, living in a 5th wheel as a family of six isn't always easy.

It's time for instead.

Instead of having to hush four lively kids because we might be disturbing the neighbors we'd share walls with had we decided to live in an apartment, we have four walls (no matter how thin) all to ourselves.

Instead of only having a tiny, fenced-in balcony or patio, we share 70 gorgeous acres with one of the most amazing families we've ever known.

Instead having the grace that comes with more space, keeping a tiny home clean is a matter of do or die, and lots of bad habits are dying, because there is no grace for them in small spaces.

Instead of enjoying the efficiency of a dishwasher, my children get to learn how to wash dishes.  Get to might not be the words they'd use to describe the experience, but they do like the fact that it counts as school (home ec. what?), and they agree that dishes are funner than worksheets.

Instead of having a refrigerator/freezer that can hold a week's plus worth of food, we get to enjoy the beauty of produce that can keep on the countertop, and we eat a whole lot more produce just because it's more accessible.

Instead of having good internet and cell phone signal, there is less media time and more time to enjoy other things like reading books, building stick structures in the dirt, keeping on top of messes, and learning how to knit and crochet.

Instead of living in town where popping over to a store for one item wasn't a big deal, we have become very intentional with every trip that requires a car.

Instead of having enough space to grow all our own produce, we are blessed to be able to afford weekly boxes of in-season, locally-grown, organic produce.  We even get to try new veggies and herbs that I'd never thought of planting.  Stevia!  This week, we got stevia!  When it's fresh, I love it!  And making raw stevia syrup is as easy as 1/2 cup crushed leaves, 2 cups warm water, 24 hours, and then strain!  And now my kefir and creme fraiche have a new friend on the counter.

To top it all off, there are things I don't have to "instead."  They're just plain wonderful.  Like:
Coffee roasted on a mountain is exquisitely darker and shinier than the beans I roasted in the valley.  It is just too delicious to dilute with milk and sugar.  I'll take it black, thank you.
Mountain air and water pulled from deep wells are noticeably purer and we have become addicted.

Wild blackberries are in season and we could (and will) pick pounds and pounds without even having to drive anywhere.

Living within our means is quite peaceful and comfortable.  Even if it means living in a trailer for a while.

It is five to ten degrees cooler on the mountain than it is in the valley.

Our two-year-old actually takes better naps in the trailer because she is more peaceful while hearing and being around whatever the rest of the family is doing.

Ah, this post was so needed.  For me.  My attitude has officially been adjusted and I am just plain thankful for instead.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You Capture ~ Summer

This summer was filled with Nana & Papa cuddles,
raiding their bountiful garden,
discovering wild matilija poppies on the lakebed my husband and I rode horses and mountain bikes on as children,
 keeping warm at the Pacific ocean, 
sharing shakes on the pier,
sleepy endings,
and then, driving home.

Staying at my folks' for the summer was indescribably wonderful.  Five weeks of Nana and Papa and all the love that comes with being together.  Everyone soaked it up like a sponge.  Yesterday was an interesting homecoming.  While we are smiling ear-to-ear to be back where we belong, we're not really going back home, we're going back... camping (read why here).  Camping with a sweet little garden that was watered by the world's best neighbors (my sunflowers and tomatoes waited for me!).
  Although, I've got to say, once we all stepped inside our tiny temporary dwelling, we all felt pretty content.  So much peace happens just by being together.  So I guess we can call it home for now.  Our little camping home.
~Read the archives of this journey here.~


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