Saturday, December 31, 2011

out with the old and in with the two.

By two I mean twelve. Because twelve doesn't rhyme with new.

I'm sitting on the sofa watching a movie with Tyler. We just finished eating Vegetarian Moroccan Stew and Olive is in bed. It just started snowing.

This December has been unbelievably mild here in Minnesota and we've only seen a bit of snow twice, excluding this evening. In fact today is was 41 degrees outside. I would gladly take a 41 degree winter. Gladly.

In a completely unprepared and somewhat distracted manner I will now share with you some of the highlights of 2011. I'm sure I will leave many things out. To save myself from trying to gauge the level of meaning or importance of each thing I'll try for chronological order.

2011 began with my being less than two months away from having my first baby and working as a Mental Health Practitioner at Fraser Child and Family Center. We risked a drive home to Illinois in late January for my family baby shower.

One day after my dad's birthday, five days before my estimated due date, on February 20th, our first baby, Olive Ann was born. She was born in a birthing tub at St Joseph's hospital in St Paul after being at the hospital for only two hours. If you're interested in the story you can read it here.

I soon grew very passionate about natural and unmediated birth as well as the use of midwives and doulas and even home and unassisted birth.

Over the next few months I learned so many things. I was relatively uneducated about most baby related things prior to having Olive. I think my parenting style can be referred to as Intuitive. We go with the flow and do what feels right and it has been so rewarding. We do things like Elimination Communication and Baby Led Weaning. I am very passionate now about so many of our choices.

When I had Olive I left my job as a Mental Health Practitioner. The time I spent at Fraser was the longest time that I had ever spent at one job.

I celebrated my first mothers day and finally got a Kitchen Aide stand mixer.

I officially became a photographer. You can see my work here. Being a WAHM allows me to stay home with Olive. I hope this continues as long as possible. We're very interested in homeschooling in the future.

We bought a new (used) car. This was somewhat significant to me as my two previous cars were both white Ford Tarsus' and the choosing and buying process was mostly done by my dad. So our 02 VW Golf is pretty exciting.

Olive and I packed shares together at an urban CSA in north Minneapolis. We ate so much very fresh and very local produce over the summer.

After years and years of wanting them we finally have iPhones.

Over the year we have begun buying an increasing amount of organic, local, and fresh food. Food is a other thing that I have become passionate about.

I have met many new friends online. That may sound silly but it's a wonderful source of support and companionship for a SAHM. I hope someday that I can meet them all in person.

So why are my resolutions for 2012?

I don't usually do the resolution thing. I never follow through. But I have noticed hat today seems to feel different that most New Years Eves have in the past. I think having a child makes the passing of time pretty different. So I brainstormed some goals and ideas. I hope they all happen but I won't be crushed if they don't. I wouldn't mind some accountability though. :)

We want to move. Far from Minnesota. The current short list is Chicago or the Pacific Northwest. Due to scenery, winter, and food I'm currently leaning PNW.

I would love for Tyler to find work that is more fulfilling and to have more time and motivation to work on music. A music related career would be ideal. I think we should check out some online universities offering music related degrees.

I hope that my photography endeavors continue to be fruitful. It would be wonderful if I could schedule at least one wedding per month. Maybe that would allow Tyler more flexibility in his work.

I would like to continue to utilize Motivated Moms.

I would like to read the Bible daily and finish it in a year. I've tried this before and I always fail.

I want to continue helping Olive grow and explore the world.

I want to get back to the creative Emma that got buried inside of me. I want to make more food and material things (like butter and sour cream and scarves and clothes).

I want to continue to make healthy choices for our family and to learn more about additional things we could be doing.

I want to read more books and watch less television.

I want to go on adventures.

I want to take at least one photo with my DSLR each day.

That sounds like a good start.

What are your plans for 2012?

(I wrote this on my iPhone.. Please excuse any autocorrect issues)

a tiny december baby.

Here are some of my favorites from a newborn session two weeks ago. I bet she looks much different by now!












I had the pleasure of photographing this mama in the fall.

As always feel free to leave me feedback here or over at my photography website, frost on flower.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

how to make sour cream.

Last week I made my own sour cream. Yet another thing that is unbelievably easy and inexpensive to make. :)

All you need is heavy cream, buttermilk, and a container.

Since I already make my own butter I usually have heavy cream and buttermilk on hand. And as I've said in my making butter tutorial.. For me making butter is cheaper so making sour cream is no added cost.

Take one cup of heavy cream and 1/4 cup of buttermilk.


Pour it into a sealable container.




And let it sit for at least 24 hours until it thickens and then let it sit another 24 hours in the refrigerator.

I had to let mine sit out for almost an entire second day. This may be more common in the winter as its cooler inside, especially at night.



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

where i'm from. (a photo series)

I took these photos at my dad's house in Downers Grove, IL while we were home for Christmas. They were taken with an iPhone 4s and a filter was applied with Instagram.

I lived at this house from birth until 18 months exclusively, every other weekend and Wednesday's until I was 15, and exclusively again from 15 until I went to college at 18.














Saturday, December 17, 2011

homemade christmas, installment #2.

Today I made sugar scrub! Brown Sugar Vanilla Sugar Scrub! Big thanks to my friend Melanie for making sugar scrub herself and saying something that intrigued me on twitter. :)

Melanie gave me her recipe and I also read a bunch online and settled on one of my own and headed to the store.

Yesterday Olive and I went to Costco for most of the ingredients since everything comes in such large packages there and I was planning to make a bunch of sugar scrub! Midday on a Friday Costco was absurdly packed... I couldn't even parking the parking lot. Olive and I found a spot by Home Depot, I got her situated in our Ergo carrier and we made the cold trek to Costco. Inside we knew exactly what we needed and exactly where we were going but got stuck behind globs of people too many times to count. We grabbed a few needed items (organic heavy cream for butter making and organic eggs!) and the ingredients for the sugar scrub.

You'll need:
Brown Sugar
Regular Granulated Sugar
Oil (I used Olive but you can use whatever you like.. Other oils may not smell as strong as Olive)
(Wait, I just capitalized olive when I shouldn't have.)
Vanilla Extract

Chances are you already have each of these things in your cupboard! I did.. But like I said I was planning to make a lot so I didn't want to run out of anything.

One "serving" of Brown Sugar Vanilla Sugar Scrub is:
2 Cups Brown Sugar
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Oil
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

I reused all of my jars (which I suggest you do, too)! So I started by soaking them well to get the labels off.

Mix the sugars in a bowl until combined and try to get out as many lumps as possible.

Once combined add both the oil and the vanilla extract and mix until completely combined.

Put it into jars that seal tightly and.. there you go!

I'll decorate the jars a little bit... like this?

This is all of the sugar scrub I made - hooray! (This was a total of four "servings")

The granulated sugar and the olive oil that I used are both organic. Coscto doesn't offer organic brown sugar or vanilla extract but if they did I would have used it. Of course organic isn't necessary in this situation but when putting something all over my skin I would rather it be as pure and simple as possible. So more than 50% of this is pesticide free.. so that's nice. :)

Use the sugar scrub to exfoliate your skin, especially your knees and elbows! :)

This is a great, quick, and inexpensive gift. It's also a great gift to have on hand "just in case" when someone gets you a gift and you didn't get something for them!

Enjoy! And let me know how it turned out if you tried it yourself!

Friday, December 16, 2011

handmade christmas, installment #1.

I didn't get to work on the idea of handmade Christmas quickly enough this year but I've had a few successful projects. Some of these projects I should not share with you until after Christmas though.

But I can tell you about the wonders of toilet paper rolls and also of brown paper.

Cut the toilet paper and paper towel rolls and use the rings for all kinds of projects! I cut slits and poked holes to string them on yard and make garland!

If you know me in real life or on twitter you may know that I chose not to decorate this Christmas due to a lead dust issue in our house. A complicated story but just no that there were no Christmas decorations in our house until this toilet paper roll thing happened. Free, thrifty, fun! :)

I also used toilet paper rolls to aid in decorating Christmas gifts along with brown paper filler that was included in some boxes from Amazon.

A bit THANK YOU to Amazon and to toilet paper for making this Christmas possible... affordable... fun... and a little handmade. :)

learning how to knit.

Quite a few years ago I bought some knitting needles and some yarn and then I immediately failed to learn how to knit. But the funny thing is.. I didn't even try. That's like ultimate failure. Then a few years ago I thought I'd try and after about 5 minutes of effort I got some yarn on a needle and stopped there. I referred to it as a caterpillar. Failure again. But not really failure either time because I couldn't figure out.. just because I wasn't even close to trying. I don't even think it should count as trying.

I've always wanted to knit. I've always been envious of knitters. So... I finally learned!

Last night I spent a little bit of time looking around for a knitting video that made sense to me. After finding one and watching it with yarn and needles in hand I had myself a littler caterpillar again.

And then it turned into a line.

And from a line it turned into a stripe.

And now it looks something like this...

It's still not anything. But it's a knitted not anything. And it's blue. And I made it. And I'm proud.

I encourage you to learn how to knit because:
- It's so easy.
- You can make things for yourself.
- You can make things for others.
- You will never waste another minute of your life.

Let me elaborate for a minute about that last one. Sometimes when I learn or do something new I get a little (or a lot) bummed about how my life would have been so much better and/or different had I had this skill or knowledge previously. So think with me for a bit, if you will, about all of the times that I have had to sit and wait for something over the course of my life. Time spent on public transportion, being bored in class, in a doctor's office, waiting for someone to get off of work, etc. I HAVE WASTED SO MUCH OF MY LIFE. If I would have known how to knit I could have been knitting. I could have been accomplishing something.

So. Let me recover from being upset about wasting my life...

Okay. Now I will look forward to all of the neat things I will be able to knit, especially while waiting for things. Like today while I waited for Olive to wake from a car nap while running errands. I worked on my stripe until it no longer resembled a strip. Progress!

Click here to see the video that helped me a bunch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

homemade almond milk.

We've been drinking a lot of almond milk lately. Out of a desire to lessen on dairy intake, out of pleasure, and just because. A few weeks ago I purchase Silk brand almond milk as it was on sale at a local chain grocery store. Unfortunately I didn't pay any attention to the ingredient list until I got home - there were a lot more than I was expecting and some pretty weird and probably unnecessary things. Other than that one time I have been buying Blue Diamond brand almond milk from one of the local co-ops (they don't carry Silk almond milk). Blue Diamond has a lot less ingredients than Silk but still more than simply almonds and water. I saw a photo of fresh almond milk on Instagram last week and decided I would give it a try. Depending on the ease of making it, the cost effectiveness, and the quality I was prepared to make it a regular occurrence in our home, much like making butter.

So here is what I did...

For all of the steps you will need:
1 cup of raw almonds (organic if possible!)
Around 10 cups of water
Some sort of sweetener (I used a tablespoon of maple syrup)
A towel
A fine strainer and/or cheesecloth
A blender
A few containers

This makes approximately one half gallon of almond milk.

** Update ** Due to my container size and finding our desired strength of almond milk I now use 3/4 cup of almonds and 6-7 cups of water.

First being by taking 1 cup of almonds and putting them in a bowl. Cover the almonds with water and then cover the bowl with a towel and place it somewhere cool. Let the almonds soak in the water for 24-48 hours. If you soak them for more than 24 hours empty the water once, rinse the almonds, and cover them with water again. The almonds will absorb water and become quite plump.

After the 24-48 hours rinse the almonds and discard the soaking water.

Put the almonds into your blender or into a large container if you're using an immersion blender. Add 7 cups of water and then blend. The water will quickly turn white and frothy so blend until you think there are no large almonds left. This is a bit more challenging with an immersion blender so move it around and do your best to find all of the almonds. Add your sweetener and blend again.

After everything is blended pour it through a strainer and/or cheesecloth and into the container you wish to store the almond milk in.

You will be left with almond milk and almond meal. The almond meal is the ground up almond pieces. This can later be used to make grain free pancakes, be added to baked goods, and more.

In my experience the immersion blender missed a few almonds so I was left with almond milk that tasted a little watered down. It will take a few tries to completely get the hang of it and to hone in on my preferred consistency and flavor. You can play around with the ratio of almonds to water and sweetener as well until you get exactly what you're looking for.

If desired you can remove the peels of the almonds after soaking but before blending. This will change the flavor slightly and you will be left with almond flour after blending rather than almond meal.

Here is a photo comparison of my almond milk (on the left) and Blue Diamond almond milk (on the right).

The cost of a half gallon of Blue Diamond almond milk is $4.19 and the cost of approximately two cups of almonds is $2.47. Two cups of almonds yields one gallon of almond milk so cut that cost in half and you see that $4.19 vs less than $1.25 is a wonderful deal. Of course there is more time involved in making almond milk yourself and a few additional costs including the energy to blend it, water, sweetener, and cheesecloth, if used. But you gain a fresh homemade beverage without any added ingredients. So... give it a try and let me know what you think! :)