Wednesday, September 19, 2012


So kind of a while ago, I promised that we would talk about sauerkraut.  Then I got distracted, blogged about some other things, then had a long blogging silence.  But I never forgot!  Last week, I made a new batch of sauerkraut, so I figured that now was as good a time as any to talk about it FOR REAL this time.

I am fascinated by fermentation and culturing.  I have, at different times, cultivated cycles of kombucha tea, water kefer, and yogurt, and I love being able to have live, active probiotics in my diet.  It's good for the digestion and yeast balances in the body, as well as countless other health benefits.  When I first read about making raw, fermented sauerkraut in Ani's Raw Food Essentials by Ani Phyo, I knew that I had to try it.

First I shredded one rather large head of cabbage very thinly and evenly with my mandoline slicer (saving the very outer leaves to use as the "covers" for fermenting).  Then I massaged a tablespoon of sea salt into the cabbage until it started to look a little bit "cooked" or pickled, and it became a bit wet.  Next, I mixed in a tablespoon of white Miso paste, because introducing a live, active culture to the kraut helps speed the fermentation process, and I get a little impatient (this step is not strictly necessary -- the cabbage has enough natural cultures on it to ferment itself with no help, but I just wanted results more quickly.  I've also used a big splash of kombucha, and another time I used some water kefir).  I packed the cabbage tightly into three mason jars, tucked them in firmly with pieces of the outer cabbage leaves, and topped them up a bit with salt water to cover (1 tablespoon of salt to 1 cup water).

Making fermented sauerkraut

I weighed down the kraut with smaller mason jars half-filled with water and placed them into a large casserole dish (to catch any drips in case of bubble-over later on), and covered with a kitchen towel.

Making fermented sauerkraut

Finally, I tucked the whole thing into a dark corner of my pantry and let it do it's thing.  I checked on it occasionally to make sure that it didn't need to be fed any more salt water, and also checked for mold or white scum, but this batch was super well-behaved and needed no extra attention.  Today when I tasted it, it was done!!  Perfectly tangy and delicious, and perfectly healthy.  Love it!  (You can let it go for much longer, but it's all according to your taste preference and if you innoculated it with extra fermenting power, like miso paste, etc. -- this one tasted exactly right to me at 6 days.)

Sandwiched between "pumpernickel rye" raw flatbread (recipe also in Ani's Raw Food Essentials by Ani Phyo) along with thick tomato slices, ripe avocado and crispy eggplant bacon, I had a satisfyingly thick Raw Reuben Sandwich.

Raw Reuben Sandwich

I'm not giving up real Reuben sandwiches forever, but I'm so excited to know that I can create an acceptable substitute that makes me feel great afterwards, instead of feeling like I need a serious nap.  Raw foods are just fabulous like that.

Here's a blog post with a few more step-by-step photos if you need to see the whole process before you take the plunge into kraut making.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunflower Seed-Pine Nut Basil Pesto

Last week, my neighbor, Fireman Josh, gave me the gift of the basil that had grown into a shrubbery in his garden.  The 5 grocery-bags-full that I harvested took me 3 days to power through, and I actually ended up giving some of the basil away to two different friends....and still managed to make 26 batches of pesto.  (!!!!)

Fresh basil from my neighbor's garden

Some of the batches I've given away to friends, and the rest is now in my freezer.  I don't imagine that I will have the need to make pesto again for at least another year.  I froze most of it in double batches in sandwich-sized Ziploc bags, but I also utilized my 3 ice cube trays to make some cubes of pesto for simple single-servings.

22 batches of pesto (!!)

22 batches of pesto (!!)

To make it more affordable, I used half pine-nuts/pignolis, and half sunflower seeds.  I tried a batch made with cashews (which I really like in spinach or arugula pesto), but the flavor wasn't strong enough to balance the assertive basil.  Want to make some pesto too?  Here's my recipe, modified from the one that my mom always makes (feel free to substitute the greens and/or nuts or seeds -- pumpkin seed is good too!).

Pine-nut and Sunflower seed Basil Pesto

4 cups fresh basil (swirl and soak in a large bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes, then scoop the leaves out without disturbing the dirt and sediment that has sunk to the bottom)
2 cloves fresh garlic (slice off the root end, then whack the clove with the side of a butcher knife.  The papery skin will come right off.)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh-squeezed juice and zest of half a lemon
1 large pinch of chicken bullion or chicken soup base (optional -- if you want this to be vegan, leave that out)
1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons pine nuts (also called pignoli nuts)
Freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese to serve (do not add this to the sauce if you are going to freeze it)

Combine all except the nuts and seeds in a blender (if you have a high-powered blender like a vita-mix, this will result in an extremely smooth pesto), or a food processor (for a little bit of chunk -- this is what our family prefers).  Process until it is as smooth as you'd like, then add the nuts and seeds and pulse until they are slightly chopped and it is all combined.

Serve (with cheese, if desired) over 1 lb of pasta, or spoon it over fish, chicken, steaks.  A cool spoonful added at the last moment to a bowl of hot soup is delicious.  You can also use it as a sandwich spread.  I love to make zucchini pasta (with my vegetable spiralizer) and toss that with the pesto.  Nearly instant raw dinner, and so delicious!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

red and grey daisy tote

Do you ever procrastinate on something for absolutely no reason at all?  Do you ever window-shop for things and then refuse to buy, because "I will make that for myself"....but then you never make it? Yeah, all of that pretty much sums up what I do.  My children have been the only ones at school with no mittens in the winter because "My mommy hasn't made them for me yet".  Lame.  And of course, I simply REFUSE to buy them.  I'm a case.  Whatevs.

About a year ago (or maybe longer?) I bought two colorways of some sturdy fabric at Ikea, planning on turning it into a small shoulder bag, and then reversing the color scheme and making a tote.  Well I made the bag, but then....kind of just never got around to the tote.  This week, it finally hit me that, while our family is fully past the Diaper Bag Stage, I still do end up always packing up a re-usable shopping bag to tote around lunchboxes, snacks, library books, water bottles, etc.  So I did a quick search through my crafty board on Pinterest, and used my Day Without Children yesterday to make this satisfyingly sturdy, perfectly-sized tote.

Pleated Tote Bag
For Pleat's Sake Tote

This morning when Billy and I went out to run our errands, I was delighted to find that everything we needed easily fit in my brand new bag, and I may or may not have walked around feeling extra smug about this fact.

Pleated Tote Bag

A few notes:  The pattern is For Pleat's Sake Tote, tutorial/pattern/DIY by U*Handbag.  I used a thick, sturdy twill for the outer shell, and a pure linen for the inner lining.  I do not think that linen should generally be used as a liner because of wrinkles and fraying, but the color was perfect, and I wasn't about to go out shopping when I have a giant fabric stash just sitting in my studio.  I reinforced all of the pieces (inner and outer) with medium-weight iron-on interfacing, which adds greatly to the durability factor overall, and lessens the wrinkling of the linen.  I did not use fusible fleece to reinforce the outer shell, although that may have given it a pleasantly plumper shape.  Maybe next time.  To finish the edges, I top-stitched everything all the way around for a more sturdy, professional feel.  The bow detail is fixed to an alligator clip so that I can wear it as a hairbow when I don't feel like adorning my bag with it.

Pleated Tote Bag


On either side of the liner, I added patch-pockets to help me organize, and also installed a magnetic snap to keep the bag closed when I am not over-stuffing it (i.e. almost never).

Pleated Tote Bag

I also sewed in a key-clip, because I seriously hate digging around for my keys (even in a small purse).

Pleated Tote Bag

Overall, I'm pretty in love with this bag.  Now I'm rummaging around in my stash to make one of these in sensible black.  Hmmm, I'd better start shopping for purse handles...

Pleated Tote Bag

Pleated Tote Bag

Thursday, September 06, 2012

My first day to myself -- OH, um, I mean: Billy's first day of school

Yesterday Billy had his first day of mother's-day-out/preschool, where he will be spending two days every week.  I went out to breakfast with friends after dropping him off, then went home and worked on some projects in my studio, made myself a smoothie for lunch, surfed the internet in peaceful was a beautiful thing.  By the time I picked him and his little friend M.G. up at the end of the day, I was so excited to see his adorable little face again.  I LOVE it when that happens!

Billy's first day of school 2012
Billy, getting right to work with some playdough in his new classroom

Billy's first day of school 2012

Billy's first day of school 2012

Billy's first day of school 2012
At the end of a good, long day of play and learning

Billy's first day of school 2012

Billy's first day of school 2012

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

To have, but not to hold (right now)

This past weekend, Greg came home for a visit, and we made the most of it, as always.  I make it a point to try to appreciate every moment we have together, although the experience is double-edged: it's wonderful to be all together, and at the same time, I find myself trying not to resent the fact that we can't ALWAYS be together.


Waiting at the airport for Greg to land

It makes me feel so safe and anchored when I stand in the strong circle of his arms...and feels so horribly unfair that I only get to have that privilege once every month or two.  It's a beautiful thing to watch him put our children to bed...and yet I feel greif choking up in my throat as I count down to the last night before he'll have to go back to his tiny apartment alone.


Picking wildflowers in the yard

Every kiss, every time I see one of the children take his hand, every time he pulls the boys into a wild wrestling match -- every special moment from the first to the last of the weekend is beautiful and so achingly bittersweet, tearing at my heart as I prepare to send him back, away from us, away to where the words are all we have to connect us across the miles.

Setting up trains with Daddy
Building a train set with ALL of the track pieces

Setting up trains with Daddy

Skype, sweet text messages through the days, phone calls while running errands, crazy cell phone photos to share the moments -- all of this allows us to span the distance, but there's no way it can ever be enough.  No way that it can ever replace the gift of a simple touch, a hug, a physical presence in our household.

Setting up trains with Daddy

Setting up trains with Daddy

But this won't last forever, and we are stronger as a family because of the effort it takes to even be a family.  Despite the pain and the challenges, this is a stage, a season in our lives.  I wouldn't trade what we have for anything in the world.

 Billy and Daisy

Skyping with Greg

Monday, September 03, 2012

Happy birthday Sparky

Dear Sparky,

Today you turned nine years old. Wow.  You're getting kind of old.  Seriously.  Because I remember being nine, and I knew that I was pretty big stuff at that age.  I knew almost everything there was to know about everything.  And I knew that I was RIGHT.

Sparky's 9th Birthday

It really isn't easy to be nine.  You are stuck right there in the in-between of Little Kid and Teenager, and everyone expects something different from you.

Sparky's 9th Birthday

You are expected to be reasonable and responsible like a Big Kid, yet you are mostly only given the privileges of a Little Kid.

Sparky's 9th Birthday

I know that it can be confusing and overwhelming.  I know that sometimes it's all just a little bit too much.  But please know that I'm learning too.  I might remember what it feels like to be nine, but I certainly have no experience being a Mommy to a nine-year-old.

Sparky's 9th Birthday

So let's figure this out together.  Let's learn how to train you up into a man.  Because you're already a pretty great guy, and your Daddy and I are so excited have a part in helping you become who you are someday going to be.  We like you a lot.  In fact, we're pretty crazy about you.  We are so glad that God chose to give us you when we decided to start our family.

Sparky's 9th Birthday

I love you forever,

(All of the photos are from our family outing to celebrate Sparky's birthday today at Blora lake and waterslide.)

Sparky's 9th Birthday

Sparky's 9th Birthday

Sparky's 9th Birthday

Sparky's 9th Birthday

The rest of the pictures from our day are in the Flickr set here.

Lastly, I leave you with this gif image that's making me laugh -- the little guys loved the "little kid carwash" next to the waterslide, and so I shot this sequence of them climbing through the tunnel at the end:

(Created using


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