in the kitchen

As always, there’s been lots of cooking. We don’t go out a lot, so there’s 3 meals a day having to be had. Breakfast is not my forte, so it’s simple.  Lunch sometimes the kids prepare it for the three of us at home during the day, but we’ve been busy and trying new routines, so that’s on trial.

But there’s dinners.  That’s a must of course, the meal we spent together around our table, no one misses.  Some times we have friends over, and that is great too.  But it is our time together, to catch our breathes, to check in, to see what the week will bring us, and how our day was.  It is a very special time I am so glad we can spend it together, each day.

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And a menu has been so helpful, that I dread when I’m not on top of it, because it saves so much time, knowing what we are having at least during the week, when we are all more tired.

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But it requires some planning, and organizing.  Something I am trying to do.  All those magazine cutouts, with recipes I’d love to try.  but the pile keeps growing, and meals are happening… and not from this pile.  I need to go through them and then pick what to cook for the week.  it gives us 5 new meals to try, and thank goodness my family doesn’t mind new foods, because who knows!  There might be a keeper from all those clipped recipes!  but the menu is set for the week and I can breathe at ease again.

I’ve enjoyed chai daily.  Few times a day actually.  I make it with decaf tea, so it’s good for any time of the day. It is Heather’s recipe that I tweak here and there a bit, but follow it for the most part.

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And of course it tastes even better in my new birthday mug!

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I made our favorite apple cinnamon muffins.  They are so good!

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For my birthday I got two bread proofing baskets.  Not sure which bread recipe I can use them with, but I gave it a try with the bread I make every week.

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It grew some, but I think it didn’t get the whole effect it’s suppose to get from these baskets.DSC_0547 copy DSC_0548 copy (Before baking)

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But there’s nothing wrong about getting a cute looking homemade warm bread at dinner time, right?

We’ve had lots of other foods baked and cooked, and served, I just haven’t taken pictures. What have you’ve been cooking lately?  Please do share, I’d love to try new recipes.

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spring cleaning

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Every spring, the first few sunny days, brings me the energy for cleaning and de-cluttering, and fixing and getting rid of what we don’t use or need anymore.

DSC_0151-smallBy then, we’ve been inside for many months, cleaning and using every little corner of our home inside.  Finally, in those fresh spring days, I get to breathe a little longer, breathe new air.  Spring air.  I feel the need to bring that air inside too.  Making room for new things, but mostly, taking out what we don’t need anymore.

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Though this shelf might look still a little cluttered… you should have seen it before this photo!

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And this shelf, looks like I can actually find what I am looking for, now. 

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We cleaned books throughout the house.  Returned those we are not reading anymore to the library.  Made a pile of those we don’t want anymore.  Changed some of the blankets for those a little lighter and less hot.  Cleaned the floors.  Took the Christmas cards down from the wall and left the space for new ones.  We like looking at our friends’ photos and reading their greetings, even though it is not Christmas anymore… But oh… it feels so good to be cleaned up a little more.  Like a new beginning.

I know some of our cleaning won’t last very long.  We will have piles of new books on the floor.  Our new interests, our new plans, our new intentions, takes us to the library once more.  We’ll also have new games and more cards and new drawings to hang.  But this is what life is all about.  This is what our home is all about.  Living and learning.

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Outside was cleaned too. Old toys were given away.  Broken chairs and non-working anything were taken away too.  Oh… it feels good.  Here and there, a little at a time.

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We put new bark chips in our paths, and it makes it look so beautiful.  I know it smells good, it’s cedar.  This is one of the smells I wish I could smell, but I can almost imagine it. I think I’d like it.

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We are looking for a new wooden table and chairs to put out here.  Ours is broken and can barely last few more gatherings.  They’ve done their job being part of our days for over 8 years.  I’ll keep looking.  

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Now, with these new bark chips, some weeding and trimming done, we are ready for the next months ahead of us, where we mostly spend our days out here.  Sometimes by ourselves, sometimes two, three or the four of us.  Many times with friends.

Playing, talking, sharing, learning, gardening, napping, camping, knitting, reading, sitting by the fire, watching movies, hanging out with friends, resting, creating, planning, or having breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Spring, summer and fall.  We are here together.  It’s home. 

Convenience

I’ve been trying to have a weekly menu of meals posted on our little kitchen board.  I’ve done it for few months now, and it’s not that hard, really.  I don’t remember exactly when I started, but I think sometime last spring. When I do have the menu, everything goes so much smoother.  From the beginning of the day, knowing what we’ll eat for dinner, knowing if I should prep anything, or get the crock pot ready, defrost any foods… so much easier.

And I actually enjoy going through my notebook of recipes, recipes torn from magazines, or looking through the many cookbooks we own, and the many others we have from the library. I do really enjoy planning our meals.  It’s just a matter of sitting down and doing it. I should do it more often, so it turns into our routine.

And one more thing.  I never thought of doing this.

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We’ve had this preserving book for almost 20 years and never saw this last page until few days ago when I wrote about canning.

To keep a record of the frozen foods you have in the freezer.  Wow!  What a great idea, isn’t it?

Well, Mark as he was preparing a bunch of foods the other day, to keep in the freezer for later use, he first organized our freezer.  Oh my!  How cool is all that!  Bringing up the idea of “meal planning”, planning the actual meals, getting the meat cuts we needed, making the recipes, packaging them, labeling them, putting them away in the freezer… I love this husband of mine.  He is so awesome.  Not only in having this great idea and coming through with it awesome, but in so many other ways.  Oh… I’m so lucky.

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I don’t think we’ve ever done this much organizing in that freezer in the 15 years or so, we’ve had it.  Today, is looking good.  We did clean it and defrost it and kept it unplugged while we were in India, but not organized like this while using it. What a great idea.  So far, I’ve been able to find everything we’ve needed, and it looks good.  I like that.

Mark said that day, as he’s packaging the meats with the marinades, he was writing also what we have in the freezer.  He was writing a list to put in the door, so we can check what we have, and check off when we took something out.  I thought he was so smart!  And even smarter by actually doing it!  Oh man.

Even though the days have passed too fast since this original plan was mentioned, and we’ve used already foods from the freezer, we’ll have to count the foods again to make this list accurate again.  We’ll work on it.  I think it might make our meal planning a whole lot easier.  I like it.  And I think we should do it.

What do you do to make your meal planning easier?

:: right now ::

July.  It is summer here in Oregon.  Yes it is. And right now, I am:

:: laughing and enjoying all the lines Siena and Lucas repeat from Despicable Me 2 we went to see last weekend.   We have been waiting for it to come out for months.  And it was so much fun to go see it at our small theater here in the neighborhood.  Loved it as much as the first one.

:: seeing Minions drawn everywhere around the house.  On paper on the sidewalk. Fun!

:: enjoying the summer days, with the cooler evenings. Love it!

:: thinking it is definitely summer.  Watermelons. Cherries.  Park concerts. Ice cream truck music in the background.  Sprinkler. Weeding the garden. Cucumbers. Breeze.  Barefeet. Kids running and chasing each other in some kind of game.  Yup! It is summer.

:: loving having Mark at home with us, every day.  So nice.

:: of course, also, enjoying Mark’s baking.  We all are!

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:: thinking it will be interesting to see the pictures of the Earth from Saturn.

:: recuperating from a week with friends.  The kids (and us adults too!) seemed to have had a whole week of sleep over and camp.  It was fun to play, catch up, cook and hang out.  It had been far too long since we last saw them.

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:: thankful for our friends’ help in picking berries last weekend, and making the first jams of the season.

:: trying to ride my bike more often.

:: thankful of our friend Mac‘s help back in early spring for all the gardening and preparing the garden for the summer.  We’ve been eating peas like crazy.  Beans are almost ready.  We ate lettuce and spinach. More to come and more planting.

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:: happy to see Siena and Lucas enjoying their summer camp week.  So many stories to share once they step into the car or on our bike ride home.  So many new things we’ve all learned.  A fun week for everyone.

:: also excited Mark and I got to spend few hours to ourselves this week, while the kids were having fun at camp.  We went to Powell’s and browsed what we wanted.  We had lunch downtown in the food carts.  Mark gardened and had all the time he wanted to water.  I sewed some.  We sat down.  We read. We went to the library and browsed what we wanted and took all the time we needed, too!  We played tetris uninterrupted! (the game of the summer for us…. I know, exciting technology here!) It felt like a small vacation, where it felt light on responsibilities.  A fun break for everyone.

:: enjoying all the energy Siena and Lucas have now at the end of a very different week they experienced. 

:: excited we have a cleaner basement, and sheds, and closets and drawers from our spring cleaning and yard sale we did with friends.  It is fun to do it with friends, to catch up, hang out together, and at the same time, get cleaned up in the house.  Ah! And also another great perk of course, was to put a little more money to our travel fund. 

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:: smiling at our summer marks.  T-shirts and swimsuits marked, with faces happy and tired most evenings.  Filled with fruit and ice cream stains.

:: thankful we live in Portland, where the heat is bearable, and can get away most of the time, in the evenings or by standing in the shade.

:: enjoying my newly won treasures at Amanda’s giveaway at SouleMama.  A bunch of beautiful fabrics from Alewives. I am dreaming, still wondering what I’ll use my little bundle in.  Any suggestions?

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:: loving just picked fruits and vegetables.  And our first vegetables from our garden!  Summer is here and so far it’s been a great one.

Making + Doing

These are some of the types of things we’ve been working on.

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Yes, lots and lots of drawings and new techniques.  I guess I should say, what Siena and Lucas have been working on.  Drawings.

And don’t want to forget to share this beautiful gift.  Siena made me this present, all by herself! for Christmas.

DSC_0182-smallShe’s so creative and resourceful.  I love it.

And really, it’s been mostly Lucas and Siena making lots of drawings and coloring and creating games and cards and letters.

I, on the other hand, have been in cleaning mode.

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To some this might be the Before Picture.  But I should have taken a picture from our before.  This my friends, is a complete organization for this area.

DSC_0014-smallBoxes are labeled.  Things got rearranged and put in their better place and container. DSC_0015-smallThere’s spaces in between things.  Things are not falling.  Card stock paper is handy as it needs to be in times like these.  I’m telling you… there’s lots of drawing going on.

DSC_0016-smallSupplies we don’t use anymore were donated.DSC_0017-smallThat pile of paper you see on top of the shelf… let’s just say that it’s a lot less than we I had before, and right now it’s not falling on top of you.  Total improvement and not life threatening.

DSC_0018-smallHaaa… yes.  I feel like I can find things at the same time than breathe. Life is good here.

And let me just say one more thing.  It took me many days to clean this area up.  I thought I was going to rearrange few things to make those stacks of loose paper stay and not injure anybody, but one thing led to another.  You know, a New Year means clean up the house, rearrange, sew and make new things… at least in my books!  So I did.  But it took me longer than I thought it would.

But even better was that few days later, as I was finally done with my cleaning in the art studio, and I thought we had plans for something fun to do as a family (like relaxing maybe?) I come out to the Art Studio and find this.

DSC_0021-smallSiena had convinced Mark to help her clean up and organize my (very cluttered and dusty) sewing table and wall.

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She grouped all those threads of the similar color and stacked them neatly.  She cut the long pieces tangled and rearranged them so they wouldn’t be falling off the shelves every time you looked at them.

DSC_0022-small DSC_0023-smallWe are talking about a couple of hours of cleaning and beautiful organization my daughter gave me.  (I should have had a before photo.)

But as a way to show you a little…

DSC_0025-smallThere were lots of spaces like this… just piles of unfinished projects and supplies that never got put away, let’s say for the past 6 months?  They are just there… waiting for something to happen to them.  Who knows!

DSC_0024-smallWaiting to be cleaned up, refolded, and organized.  (And yes, this is the next task.  The fabric shelf.)

DSC_0026-smallIt really needs help.  I should do it before the rest gets cluttered up again…

DSC_0019-smallBut for now… breathe…. we’ve done lots of work and it looks and feels so good.  I love it.  We all do, really. Now it’s easy to find things we need. It’s not dangerous. It’s mostly exciting to get right into what we want to create instead of maze around unwanted piles.  Haaa… so, so much better.  Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to white again

We painted our bedroom when I was pregnant with Siena, over 10 years ago.  Back then we switched from our bedroom to our art and hanging out room.  It was white, and me being the one who cares the most about the colors and looks of things, I felt I needed color, so we painted it yellow with blue trims.

We’ve turned it into our bedroom again, since Lucas was born over 6 years ago.  And it needs a new paint.

This time, I’m needing white again.  Mark is pretty easy in these types of decisions, so it was all up to me.  And that’s what I did.

I painted it all white.  And added a ceiling fan.

And I love it!

And of course, I moved the furniture around while we had everything outside. I enjoy changing things around in my house, and this time was the perfect time to do it, while we cleaned everything and had to bring things back inside.  Perfect time to re-arrange.

Our bedroom being right next to the kitchen made the kitchen look even darker.  We’ve had these colors for 15 years, and we’ve talked about wanting more light and changing colors for a long time.  But it’s the energy and enthusiasm I didn’t have.

Until last week!  I was ready.  And because the kitchen has the hallway to the backyard, I had to do that too! I also painted the basement stairs… you know, they are right next to the kitchen…. And the bathroom is right there too but I got too tired to continue.  Maybe that’s next year.

Mark, Siena and Lucas went camping for a couple of nights and I stayed to paint.  I had to take everything out.  E V E R Y T H I N G! You know, all the dishes, and cups and containers and ‘kitchen stuff’ we’ve accumulated in the 17 years of living in this house. All those dishes in the way back that we haven’t used in years.  What a chore! Perfect time to donate some of them.

And I sanded.  So much paint.  So many layers.  The orange, green, yellow and red I had painted 15 years ago, on top of the white it was when we bought our house.  And under that first white?  Almost the same exact green I had painted years later!

So white it turned, slowly.

Not easy, but it finally did turn white.  Three coats in most places.  It was that dark.

Never mind the ceiling light falling…

Or the unfinished (for 11 years) back splash…

It is white.

And bright.  And I love it!  Worth every sore muscle and shoulders and hands. Everything worth it.

I haven’t out anything on the walls yet.  We have so many things we would like to see up there, and we’ve always have put them on the walls.  So now, I am enjoying a little wall empty-ness while I think what to put up first.

It just looks beautiful! Well, you know… I painted it so I might be a little skew on my opinion.

Earth Day Birthday : the making and decorating

I love organizing things.  And I do love getting ready and planning my kids’ birthday parties. I love birthdays, and I love making their celebrating with their friends special.

Remember our friends?

We moved the bunting and the pictures of Siena growing up outside for the party for everyone to enjoy and see our little peanut grow.

I thought the yard looked so pretty and festive!

Mark and Siena made the fruit monster as we do every year for her birthday (and try to make it for Lucas’s winter birthday, when we are in Portland).

I made sun tea (black tea and chamomile mint tea from our garden.)

Rhubarb lemonade.

Siena made a little table with (some) of her pandas.

Got our games and activity table done.  This one is for the Dirt Baby.  Everyone got to make one as they arrived and got to decorate it and take it home to see grow.  We made these at the Ag Fest last spring and Siena has been wanting to make them for her party since then.  they are lots of fun.

Spring cleaning

We decided to clean up our boxes.  You know, those boxes from the basement and the attic or the back in the closet.  Those boxes we’ve had around for a long time.  They’ve been moved from the basement to the attic. Back to the basement, to the back of the closet, and up again.

Those boxes filled with stuff.  Stuff we don’t know what to do with. Stuff we don’t want to get rid of, but nobody really uses anything from them. Those things that bring us memories.  Those we kept.  But those things that we didn’t really need, those we put out for a new home, for someone to finally use again.  And it was fun.

And so did 6 other family friends.

We had so much.  We found each other’s treasures.

And Siena and Lucas brought all their goods too to sell and save the money for their donation to the pandas and penguins.

Oh… and look at these buttons…

They’ve been making them in preparation for the garage sale for weeks. They found the branches, cut them, used a drill, sanded them, one by one. They’ve done so much work. With blisters in their hands, their faces red from hard work many days, but with two happy kids, working together, for their cause.

They were so excited to have this basket filled with these beautiful recycled buttons.  I love them all.  We have an idea.  We’ll share it soon.

Am I ready for a change?

These past few weeks we’ve been remodeling Siena and Lucas’s playhouse.  No longer called such, now it’s a ClubHouse.

With sadness I saw their play kitchen go (which was OK to hand over to someone else to enjoy), but seeing them grow up from that very special piece of furniture that stayed in our kitchen for many years, and then moved to the playhouse for more cooking, was hard to let go.

We saw many soups and pancakes, teas, and coffee, and more foods being prepared in this tiny kitchen.  Siena especially, would cook right next to us for so many hours.  It seems that she was always playing with it.  Then moved to the playhouse for more cooking, mud soups and bark chips snacks and flower coffee or tea.  Lots more playing.

As they were cleaning up the playhouse, they said they don’t use it anymore.  Siena much too tall for it.  Lucas a little bit too.

I realized it was me who didn’t want to let it go.  Siena and Lucas were ready for a new place.  They want this new space to be something they can use, right now.   Most of the larger cooking utensils and equipment have moved out, and now the floor is filled with pillows, cards, quilts, and some crafting supplies.

Not bad at all, just different.  And I wonder if I am ready for this change.  It’s a very visual sign that two of my most precious people are growing.  Growing up right in front of me.  I don’t really see this in our day-to-day things (except in the shortening of their pants.)

I do try to really pay attention, and notice how they are changing, learning new things, and just how big they’ve gotten.  But this change, from playhouse to clubhouse is a visual, clear sign that they are growing up into what they are right now.  Sigh.  A very beautiful sigh!

It reminds me to hug them just one more time, a little tighter, a little longer.  Give them one more kiss.  Say I love you one more time.

So from a kitchen centered playhouse, it’s changed to a playing and hanging out clubhouse.

It makes me happy to see them hanging out there.  Magazines on hand.  Craft supplies or playing cards.  It makes me happy that the decorations are mostly hand made by them and their friends.  That they’ve asked to put a mason bee hive on the outside of their clubhouse.  And that their Clubhouse House Warming Party was focused on being ecological and Earth-caring.

Here are some pictures of Siena’s first planned and organized, all by herself, party.  With Lucas’s help when needed, of course.

There was the getting ready for the party.

Siena invented a new game called Pick the Trash.

Very similar to Pin the Tail, but with a different theme.

There were decorations hung.

There was waiting.

Until friends were coming around the corner.

They were welcomed with a shower of flower petals confetti.

Visited the new Clubhouse (sorry, but I can’t disclose the location.)

Had snacks.

Played games.

Picked Up Trash’.

Blind folded.

By placing a piece of grass as close as you could to any of the trash drawn on the paper.  (I know she’s my daughter (and well, it’s also my blog, so I’ll go ahead and say it) I love the creativity and the fun game she came up with!

And then the club members drew on pieces of (recycled) cotton fabrics (old sheet cut and sewn with a loop) to hang for prayer flags for the new Clubhouse.

It was a super fun party and we all had fun.

To a life full of changes. I think I am ready for this one!  Have a fun day.

A new start

Seems that we have two times in a year, when we adjust and we reconsider what we are doing at the moment.  It’s right after school breaks, for summer and for winter.  It’s both times when Mark stays at home for longer periods of time and we need to get used to a new routine after he goes back to work.

I like it.  I like it that we have these periodical times when we do this, though many times, it’s not easy on everyone.  Sometimes it’s not easy to look at yourselves and evaluate.  We look back at what we’ve done.  We decide what worked, what didn’t, what we liked and what we didn’t.  Then comes the hard part.  What do we want to change and how to do it.

This year, after returning from India, we decided to try something new.  Siena felt like she needed more structure on her days.  I felt the same way with my days and also needed more help in the day-to-day things.  So we came up with a calendar inspired by Heather from Beauty that Moves.

This is Lucas’s calendar.  It has more clip art than the rest of us, because it helps him remember what things need to happen when.  But I tried to keep some color in all of ours.  Because who doesn’t like to have a drawing of someone singing in the shower to remind you to take one, right?

We’ve been trying it for about over a month now, and it’s been great.  It’s been fun actually.  Lucas and Siena can’t wait to check things off their list.  I thought we’d use these lists again and again, but they like marking them off.  It’s fun to see them so excited to do all the work we decided to put in our lists.  And makes it really fun to talk about Mark’s list.  He doesn’t check his lists off, so Lucas every day laughs so hard saying “Papá didn’t go to work today!” or “Papá didn’t eat lunch!” It is funny, every time he says it.

It has made our days smoother.  We don’t have to keep asking for their help.  They just know what they said they’d do each day and they want to check them off too.  It’s more like a game, and that’s all I wanted, really.  I didn’t want to stress over who did what when.

We are far from being a neat and decluttered house, but it works for us right now.  Our house is kept much cleaner and organized during the week than it was before, and especially from being gone, it seems that we had “travel items” laying around for a long time.  This way, we are not spending lots of hours on the weekend tidying up the house when we could be sleeping (right!), playing or riding our bikes outside.

Thanks Heather for your great help and inspiration! It has made this transition to our new days here back at home, coming from 4 months in India, a lot easier.

We also did a deep cleaning and organizing of our books.  Siena loves doing this.  She wanted to make little signs to help us know which types of books we already have handy.

These cute little tabs, have made our searching, already much easier and much more fun.  I love them!  Having everything cleaned, organized and re-organized to what works for us now, makes our days much smoother.  It is a complete new start.

I was having a hard time coming back.  I knew, from having traveled a little before, that we would have a return culture shock, but I wasn’t really prepared for it.  I wasn’t ready for all four of us having this at different times, dealing with it in different ways.

I’m slowly getting used to our new lives here.  It’s all pretty much the same, I know.  It was only four months.  It’s mostly all the same.  Same house, same place of work for Mark, same friends, same street, same neighbors, but it seems that everything is really different.  I think it’s because we are different.  We’ve grown, we’ve seen things we had never seen before.  We lived things we had never lived before.  We experienced things that made us change forever.  Things, people, places we will never forget. I hope we don’t.   It was an experience I am still trying to understand, trying to grow from and trying to keep close to our hearts.  It is, and I think it will always be a very dear and full of memories to us all.