Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Peek Into My Kitchen

So, I thought I would show you all a bit of how I organize my kitchen. I always like seeing how other people do things. Now, this is all still a work in progress, as I have a few ideas for how to rearrange our food storage, but this is how I'm doing things right now.

Here is our coffee station. Right below this cabinet is the coffee maker and a large thermos. On the top shelf, I keep the coffee grinder, filters, and a couple extra glass jars. The middle shelf contains the regular and decaf coffee, powdered creamer (which is mostly for guests), and hot cocoa (I fill it with a homemade mix of powdered milk, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar). The teas and sugar shaker are on the bottom shelf.

The next cabinet over is above the stove. I keep mostly hot cereal in there, such as oatmeal, grits, and other host cereals. Sometimes there are crackers, although we don't eat a lot of those. I have a couple of coffee syrups and our wine glasses in there as well, since it's the tallest cabinet, therefore the only place they'll fit.

The corner cabinet is my favorite! I keep most of the baking stuff and all of the spices in this one. I've been slowly switching to glass containers, which has been a slow process, since I'm doing things the frugal way. As we use up foods that come in glass jars (like baby food, pickles, jams, sauerkraut, etc), I wash them out and re-purpose them. All of my spices are in baby food jars. I'm still needing to make official labels for everything, but right now masking tape suffices. Oh, and I'm purchasing all of our spices at Winco in the bulk section, since they're much more affordable that way.

Above the sink is another cabinet that contains the rest of the baking supplies, as well as oils, syrups, molasses, and honey (we're going to be switching to bulk raw honey soon). We use coconut oil and olive oil almost exclusively now.

On the top of the fridge is where I keep our opened cold cereals and chips. The box you see is where I keep all our vitamins, supplements, and daily prescriptions.

And here's the fridge. In the door, I keep our cheese, butter (no more margarine!), opened milk, filtered water, dressings, and condiments.

We almost always have more milk than we need, so we often share our extra. The top drawer there is used for yogurt and other individual items. The bottom two drawers are for fruits and veggies, and the rest of the fridge is normally leftovers and other refrigerated items like sour cream and cottage cheese.
Since we have a small kitchen and no pantry, we've improvised and moved quite a bit of our food in the garage. Here is a bookshelf I'm using right now, which has a bit of everything, mostly canned and dry goods. I'd eventually like to get a couple more bookshelves or some stacked milk crates since they're a bit deeper. Until then, this is what we're working with. My plan is to get some food-grade storage buckets from some local store bakeries for each kind of bean, pasta, rice, etc, so they won't get stale and the pests won't get into them. So far we haven't had any pest, but you never know. I'd also like to get buckets for our powdered milk and grains/flours so they will stay fresh longer. To the right of the bookshelf are some boxes of empty containers I use to freeze or store things. The bag there with the red handles is where I keep all of my reusable grocery bags. In front of that is our recycling box.

Along the wall of the garage is a large shelving unit, which holds a lot of things besides food, but about half of it is used for food/drink storage. The cooler is full of diet and regular soda that we pick up at Gleaner's. We're always ready for a barbecue! Next to that is the bottled water. I've been buying a flat a month to keep in case of emergency. So far I have 3, but I'd love to have quite a bit more just to be on the safe side.

To the right of the water is my favorite part of the shelving unit. This is the left hand side, which has our extra paper towels, napkins, cups, and trash bags. A couple of those cubbies have some small tools, cleaning supplies, and paints. There are also some larger canned goods, extra peanut butter, and bottled drinks.

The right side of the unit is mostly used for baby foods, but there is also some toilet paper and supplies for making laundry soap and stain remover.

Below that is where we keep the rest of the drinks we get from WIC and Gleaner's. On the top is sports drinks, which we use a lot when people are sick. On the bottom shelf is mostly juices, such as vegetable, tomato, grape, apple, etc. There is our jug of extra syrup in the front. We just use that to refill our small bottle inside.

And just to keep it real, here is my pile of dishes ;)

I didn't show you my freezers, but they're full of frozen fruit for smoothies, lots of frozen veggies, frozen apple and orange juice, some meat (both cooked and uncooked), containers of leftovers that have been frozen for lunches, chicken stock, ice cream, and bread sticks. They don't look particularly organized, but I usually know where everything is :).

So, there you have it! I'm always trying to rearrange or make things better, but that's my system for now. What ideas do you use in your kitchen? Do you have a favorite way to organize? Tell me about it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Project Overload!

The past few days have been ultra-busy with all sorts of projects and outings.

Thursday we headed out for a play-date with a good friend. And Charlotte drew on the table with a sharpie... what an artist!

Friday we went to OMSI (our local science museum) with my dad. We had a picnic on the grass and then the girls enjoyed playing in the children's area. They have a big sand box with lots of toys, a woodland animal dress-up area with logs, trees, tunnels, and costumes, a wooden block play area, buckets with pulleys that are filled with beanbags... and more. They had a blast.

Saturday we did some work around the house, some grocery shopping, and in the evening we fired up our new charcoal grill and made burgers for ourselves, my parents, and David's brother.

Sunday we had church, then Dorothy went to a Mary Kay party and then to Home Depot to scope out some wood for our planter boxes. We had a nice mommy-daughter date :).

Yesterday I made some cookies and took them over to my friend who is about to have a baby. We've been friends for as long as I can remember, and she'll be my first client as a Doula-in-training! My doula bag is all packed and ready to go.

We also made some puppets yesterday morning! Are you ever frustrated with all the kids' stuffed animals and how much space they take up? Well, simply cut a hole in the behind of the animal and pull out the stuffing (the kids LOVE helping with that part).

The animal will look rather flat...

But it will be perfect for little imaginations and some really fun puppet shows. We made about 8 puppets yesterday and the kids were thrilled.

When we got home yesterday, David ran over to Home Depot to get our raised garden bed supplies. We're in a rental, so we didn't drop the money for the cedar, which would have been about 3 times the cost. We just got some untreated 2 x 8's cut up... enough to make 6 beds that are about 3 ft. by 5 ft. Along with the screws, it was maybe $60 tops, which I think is pretty good for 6 large beds! We put them together last night after the kids were asleep. Today I'll be digging out the area where they'll be resting as well as transplanting most of the veggies that are currently in pots. I'll get pics as soon as it's all set up! We're also going to be planting pumpkin, corn, strawberries, basil, and mint in addition to what we've got already.

As for this morning, I'm working on cleaning the house and getting our roast in the crockpot for tonight.

If I'm lucky, I'll sneak in a 5-minute shower. Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Garden is Growing!

As promised, I spent part of the afternoon taking pictures of my garden yesterday. So, here's the scoop on how things are growing.

In the garage I still have one tomato plant, two green peppers, and three jalapenos.

Out front is the bulk of the garden. I've lined everything up along the side of the driveway in various pots, buckets, and boxes.

First I have two tomato plants. Although I am sad to say that shortly after I took this picture, the poor tomatoes wilted! I don't know what happened, as the transplant was so gentle, but I think I may have to re-plant these outside if they don't perk up. A lot of my other veggies took second tries outside, too.

Next is the herb box, which currently has parsley and rosemary (purchased at church). I'm also planning on planting some basil and cilantro in there. Beside that is a green pepper, which was also a starter I bought at church.

After that I have 4 broccoli plants (from church)...

and 4 cauliflower plants (from church).

In pots next to that are spinach and cabbage...

lettuce and kohlrabi...

brussel sprouts and green onions...

and torpedo onions and chard.

I also planted some carrots and cucumbers at the end, but those still need to germinate.

In the back yard I planted pole beans along one portion of the fence...

snap peas in two smaller sections...

and the fava beans are sprouting quite nicely along the fence, too!

Finally, I have planted some things in the corner of the yard where the grass isn't growing. Here are the beets...

and the kale.

To the left of the kale will be my zucchini and winter squash. And here is my little helper!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

First Harvest of 2011

Yesterday afternoon was bright and sunny, so I decided to check on my garden and work on some things. I transplanted my tomatoes and pepper plants, as well as planting some carrots and cucumbers in pots. The gardening is going well so far for my first time.

I was also able to harvest my first bunch of spinach!

Which we used in our green smoothies (to go with our buttermilk whole wheat pancakes-yeah, we like breakfast for dinner).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Did you notice the new blog title?

(Photo Credit)
I've decided to change my blog title from Bedrest and Beyond to Natural Mom on a Shoestring. I feel like this new title really fits where I'm at now. I'll still have my same blogger web address, but the pregnancy and bed rest is now behind me. Therefore, I wanted to go with something that encompasses what I'm all about, as well as what I'm aspiring to be. I'm striving to be as natural as I can be within our budget. Although I still have a long way to go, I've started the journey of becoming more mindful of how we treat our bodies and the world around us. As far as we're able, I've been making small changes. After all, I believe that many small changes equal big change.

One of my recent experiments was making my own laundry detergent. Several of my friends have had success doing so, so I decided to take the plunge as well.

You will need:
5-gallon bucket (I used one from our powdered Kirkland laundry soap)
1 bar Fels Naptha soap
1 C Washing Soda (not baking soda- found in laundry aisle)
1 C Borax
fragrance or essential oil, if desired

Grate the bar of soap into a large saucepan. Add 4 C water. Heat and stir with a wisk until soap is dissolved. Add washing soda and borax, stirring until dissolved. Pour mixture into bucket and fill with warm/hot tap water. I filled it until about the 4 gallon level, maybe a bit higher. Stir well and cover with lid. Let sit overnight. The mixture will become slightly jelly-like. Once gelled, you can add some of your favorite essential oil or fragrance oil. I added some cinnamon & nutmeg fragrance oil and it smells oh-so-good. Detergent should be shaken or stirred before each use, so putting it into an old fabric softener bottle or laundry soap bottle is a good idea. Use around 1/4 C for each load. You may need a bit more or less depending on your water or how soiled your load is.

Here is my first batch:
I just finished using up my previous laundry soap today, so I'll let you know how well this cleans our clothes. If it cleans well, it's quite the bargain at around $2 per batch. Now, that's frugal!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Oh, May.... Oh, My!

(Photo Credit)
Spring seems to be our rough time of year for illness, that's for sure. We haven't been healthy since a few days before Easter. I suppose I should be thankful since our last rough patch with illness was way back in November. We've had sniffles, coughs, teething (even our 4-year-old is getting her 6-year molars), cold/flu bugs, and on Friday night I came down with a stomach bug that knocked me down all weekend. I'm still recovering, so I don't feel too guilty for the lack of blogging, piles of laundry, and all-day movie marathons. I'm definitely in mommy survival mode. Luckily for me, I don't get bugs like that very often and so far nobody else has gotten it. I'm sure hoping it stays that way!

I was planning on taking pictures of my garden, which is doing really well, but I think I'll wait a couple of days until my energy has fully returned. In the meantime, we'll be taking it easy. So, here's hoping that the second half of May is much happier and healthier than the first half.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Busy Day in the Kitchen!

(Photo Credit)
I went grocery shopping the other day, mostly for cleaning supplies, canned goods, and meat. I got 5 lbs of ground beef and a large pack of chicken thighs. Yesterday I simmered the chicken and made some broth for the freezer. Today I de-boned and shredded the chicken, separating it into meal-sized portions. At the same time I did that, I was browning the ground beef on the stove. I put most of it in the fridge to cool off for packaging later, but I reserved the fat and about 1/2 lb of browned beef to make some hamburger gravy. We'll put that over our mashed potatoes for dinner. We're having some tasty green smoothies on the side. I picked up 3 decent papayas at Gleaner's last week, which I peeled, chopped, and froze overnight on a cookie sheet. This afternoon, I filled a quart sized freezer bag with the fruit for smoothies.

So, what's going in our smoothies tonight?
2 lg handfuls fresh spinach
2 C. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp honey
1 med banana
2 C. frozen fruit, such as papaya, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, etc.
Echinacea/goldenseal tincture
Vitamin D drops


Monday, May 09, 2011

The "Blitz Clean"

(Photo Credit)
With all the sickness over the past couple of weeks, along with me being gone all day Friday and Saturday, the house needs a bit of attention. Days like this are blitz cleaning days. I'm trying to recover the house and prepare for another possible round of yuckies (since Dorothy had picked up something else last week and everyone at David's work has been sick recently). I always like having a clean home in times like this.

My blitz-cleaning regime:
*Catch up on laundry and dishes. At the very least get everything washed. Laundry gets folded in the evening if there is still time, then put away the next morning.
*Go through the house with a bottle of cleaner and some rags and surface clean everything. If a surface is cluttered, I remove the clutter and put things back in their place.
*All shoes, jackets, and toys in the living room and kids' rooms get put away.
*Wash/dry/put away diapers.
*Make our bed.
*Wipe down kitchen counters and sweep/spot mop the floor.
*Clean the bathroom.
*Empty trash if needed.

It's going to be a busy day!!

Friday, May 06, 2011

On the Road Again...

(Photo Credit)
William and I are getting away again! This time, we're heading up to the Seattle area to visit with some dear friends of mine that helped me through a rough patch in my life. About a year before I met David, I spent 6 months at The Father's Ranch. It was an amazing experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything. This weekend, they'll be in Seattle filming a promo DVD in which they're interviewing previous students. I'll be giving a brief testimony of how my life has changed and what God has done for me. I'm praying that I'll have the right words!

Speaking of William, the boy is crawling now. It's more of a scoot, but he's definitely getting around the house these days. *sniff* My baby is growing up so fast! He'll be 9 months on the 11th. I love my "Bubba" so much.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Natural Cold Care

(Photo Credit)
The kids and I have been battling these awful colds/flu for the past couple of weeks. After a relatively healthy Winter, it's frustrating to have everyone feeling so poorly when the weather is finally getting nicer. I am determined to find some natural ways to rid us of these colds more quickly. Especially since this morning Dorothy started coming down with another cold/fever. I'm pretty sure she got it at the park the other day. It was a nice day, so everyone was out enjoying the weather, including all the kids that were hacking up a lung. We don't need another round of illness for everyone just when we're trying to recover from the first bout. So, here's my plan:

*Regular multivitamin supplements.
*Additional vitamin D supplements.
*Liquid drops with echinacea and goldenseal to put in the girls' apple juice in the morning.
*Hot and/or iced green tea with a bit of honey.
*Sinus rinses with a neti pot and saline rinse.
*Green smoothies (smoothies with fresh spinach, OJ, plain yogurt, honey, and a variety of frozen fruits & berries).
*Cooking with lots of veggies and garlic, including my Kickin' Chicken Soup.
*Garlic drops for clogged and painful ears.
*Honey/herbal cough syrup for the kids at night.
*Lots of water.
*Lots of rest.
*Time outside when it's sunny.
*Extra cuddles any time, including our bed in the middle of the night. The comfort of knowing Mommy is right there helps them sleep so much better.

What's your favorite cold remedy for children or adults?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Playing the Catch-Up Game

(Photo Credit)
You know, the one where you've been sick for a week and the laundry and dishes (and kids) are out of control? Yeah. That one. I spent the better part of last week in bed or on the couch. I've still got a terrible cough and somewhat of a sore throat/congestion, but the body aches, headache, and lightheaded feeling are gone. Phew. And aren't those things supposed to go around in the winter?! So far all the kids have gotten it as well. Dorothy first, then William and I, now Charlotte. The kids have all been well enough to play and run around like normal, which is always nice. They didn't seem to get hit as hard. I'm just hoping Daddy stays well so that William and I can go to Seattle this weekend. I'll be driving up to see some friends I haven't seen in a long time, so I'm really looking forward to the trip. Just me and my boy!

So today is catching up on things around the house... I literally have a mountain of laundry in my bedroom to fold. There's also a load waiting to go into the dryer with our bed sheets. I always like to wash all the bedding as we start to get better, so the kids' sheets and blankets will get washed, too. Add to that 2 loads of diapers to fold and I'll probably be folding laundry all night.

This morning I got the kitchen under control. It still needs to be swept, but the counters are cleaned and all the dishes are washed, put away, or in the dishwasher. I'll be grocery shopping this afternoon and throwing together a quick dinner when I get home from Gleaner's and the store. Lately I've been working on our food storage, which is mostly in the garage. I'll post some photos pretty soon to show you what I've done.

In spite of still feeling a bit under the weather, we did make it to church yesterday. I'm really glad we did because they were having a plant sale in the parking lot. I ended up with 4 broccoli plants, 4 cauliflower plants, some rosemary, a green pepper (one of mine had a mishap off of the windowsill), and some parsley. Since it was sunny outside, I thought the vitamin D would do me some good. I went out and got my hands dirty and soaked in some rays! I also transplanted a small potted rose plant my mom brought over for Easter. It was starting to wilt, so I'm hoping it does better in the ground outdoors.