Friday, March 29, 2013

2013 Goals: Progress Report #1

Since a quarter of the year has already passed us by, I thought I would take a look at my goals for 2013 and see how I'm doing with them so far. I want to be sure to accomplish as many of them as I can and in order to do this, I have to stay on top of them.

So here is what I have done so far towards my 13 Goals for 2013!

1. Make my own cleaning supplies I'm working on this one. I have found recipes for most of the cleaning supplies I would like to make and will be actually making some shortly.

2. Buy more locally grown food This is definitely an ongoing one throughout the year but so far I have been doing pretty decent. We have ordered a 1/4 cow from a local farmer, we're going to grow our own meat birds and we've been buying more fruits and veggies from the Farmer's Market.

3. Take a yoga class I haven't done this one yet but am in the process of searching for classes.

4. Read 10 books I've read 5 which I think is a decent accomplishment for only being 3 months into the year.

5. Quit my job Not yet.

6. Gain 10 pounds I've gained 5!

7. Reupholster couch cushions No progress here.

8. Have an herb garden It's still too early for this but I have purchased some supplies for it, just waiting for warmer weather!

9. Learn to parallel park No progress.

10. Plant a hedge and build a fence No progress, waiting for spring.

11. Learn to live on one income We're working on this one. February we did really well, March not quite as well. I'm hoping to really buckle down in April again though.

12. Raise and sell meat birds The meat birds are ordered, we have 20 "sold" and the chicken coop is in the process of being built.

13. Try 10 new recipes I've tried three so far. So if I keep doing one a month, I'll be golden!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Frozen Food Month

According to my sister Cora, not only is March Nutrition Month, it is also Frozen Food Month! So in honour of that, I will share some pictures of my freezers and talk about some of the foods that I freeze. Sound good?

Let's start with the stand up freezer. We also have a chest freezer (you can read more about that here) but it's currently empty and unplugged while it waits for our 1/4 cow that will hopefully be ready for pick up next week. Our stand up freezer holds most of our fruits and vegetables, along with containers of spaghetti sauce and chicken broth.

Corn (NOT chicken & pork)
During the summer and fall, I get fresh veggies and spend time prepping them to be frozen. Like the corn in the above picture, I spent a day freezing five dozen in perfectly portioned bags. You can read more about how I did that in this post.

90% of the green beans I froze were from our garden but the rest I bought at the farmer's market. I don't usually take a chunk of time to do this, since I have to freeze them as they are ready. So usually every week I would take all the beans I had in my fridge and prep them for freezing.

Green (and yellow) Beans
Last fall, I also froze pumpkin puree since I didn't want to waste my pumpkin I had carved for Halloween. I may have gone a little overboard though, 30 cups of pumpkin is a little much.

Pumpkin Puree
I also made my own pesto last year, using my basil from the garden and purchasing a few other ingredients. I love that I know what's in it and that it's dairy-free.

My freezer is starting to look a little bare but in the fall, it's full of the summer produce. I also like to go strawberry, raspberry and blueberry picking during the summer months and freeze that for the winter months but I didn't get around to that last summer. I plan on it this summer though.

In my fridge freezer, I keep muffins, bread, treats, meals, veggie broth, chicken broth, etc.

Pumpkin Muffins
Bread for Dan's lunches
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies
Lazy Cabbage Rolls
 So there you have it, a small glimpse into my freezers. Although I basically freeze everything. We have eggnog, bananas, pancakes, rhubarb, zucchini, lamb, etc in our freezers too.
What about you? Do you freeze a lot of stuff? How many freezers do you have? Do you freeze fruits and vegetables too?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More Gluten-Free Baking

When I first went gluten-free, I assumed that I would just have to give up all forms of baking because no matter how hard I tried, there was no way I'd be able to make anything as good as gluten filled baking. Boy was I wrong! I've made some awesome stuff over the past 3 months.

Now before I get all carried away, I will say that I've also had my fair share of baking flops. Nothing that I couldn't eat, but definitely less tasty than expected. I think an important part of gluten-free baking is to keep persevering. You probably won't be wildly successful your first attempt. Heck, even at your 12th attempt you may still suck. But as long as you're having fun and are enjoying your creations, keep at it!

This past weekend I spent some time in the kitchen baking. I made pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bars and peanut butter chocolate chip blondies.

Let's start with the muffins. I made these Pumpkin Muffins that I found on Pinterest and this is actually the third time I've made them. The first time I added chocolate chips (yum) but I've since eliminated them to make them a little healthier. I also put less sugar since I found the first batch to be way too sweet. But, I am proud to say that third time was the charm in regards to appearance. They actually look like muffins! The first time, they barely rose. The second time, they fell. But this time, perfection.

Oh, and I also used mostly coconut sugar this time as a trial. They're still tasty and not at all coconut flavoured. So overall, these muffins were a success.

Next up, Grain-Free Pumpkin Bars. Once again, I found the recipe on Pinterest and since I have an overwhelming supply of pumpkin (thanks to our cute little Jack-O-Lantern), I was immediately drawn to it. Plus, it looked extremely simple.

While they turned out really well and have a perfect consistency, I'm not 100% in love with the flavour. But that is completely a personal thing, so don't let that stop you from trying them yourself.

Last but not least, I made some awesome Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies. The name alone just makes you drool a little bit, doesn't it? Peanut butter and chocolate together, yes please! This recipe is from the same blog as the Pumpkin Bars and I love the simplicity of them both. I've been happily browsing through this blog, The Detoxinista, for a while now and plan on trying many of her recipes.

These are good! They're moist and chewy and just plain delicious. My only complaint with the bars I made was that the edges got a little too cooked. But that is entirely my fault since I had too many pans in the oven at once. But other than the darker edges, these blondies are pretty near perfect. You should totally give them a try.

All in all, I had a successful Sunday in the kitchen and am pleased with the end results. I love having some yummy treats in the freezer ready to eat whenever I need them. So what do you think? Do any of these recipes look good enough to try? Even if you're not gluten-free, do you ever bake gluten-free goodies? Any recipes you want to share?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mini Gallery Wall

I've been working on this project for a few weeks now but it wasn't until this past weekend that I actually finished it. And when I say "I", I actually mean "we" since Dan helped significantly. That's the way it always seems to be with my house projects.

I picked up a couple second-hand frames a little over a month ago, with the intention of brightening them up. With just a few coats of paint, I transformed two of them from dull to happy!

And the next frame...

I was pretty pleased with the end results and really liked the new pop of colour I was adding to my wall. I still kept some more mellow frames in my new collection though so as not to overwhelm.

I chose the wall by the stairs and side door since that area was looking kind of dull. I already had the welcome sign there so I just left it and incorporated in my new frames. I also moved my I Love Everything About You picture to this area, since I have other plans for where I had it hanging originally.

Sorry about the not awesome lighting in these pictures. During the day I had the reflection from the windows and in the evening the light fixture kind of made a weird glow over them. But you get the idea of the general display.

As promised, here is what I ended up doing with my poor chewed up Young House Love book. I didn't want to just throw it away and since this signed page actually represents me meeting them and having them sign my original book, I decided to frame it.

I printed off this hilarious Somecard that I found on Pinterest (thanks Jen for originally pinning it) because it really made me laugh and is oh so true right now.

In case you can't read that tiny invisible writing, it says Everyone keeps popping out kids and I'm all like "My dog is awesome." Can anyone else relate?

And lastly, my beautiful I Love Everything About You printable.

So what do you think? Do you like my new gallery wall? Do you like what I did with my ruined book?

I may still add more frames to it as time progresses but for now I like how it looks. And it's a definite improvement over the bare wall before.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chicken Coop: Part 2

Are you ready for Part 2/Day 2 of the chicken coop building? Sorry to have made you wait a whole weekend but I figured you could probably handle it. Plus, I didn't want to bore anyone with multiple posts in a row on a chicken coop.

Day 2 was even nicer weather-wise than day 1 and we totally enjoyed soaking up some sun while putting up walls. Don't let these pictures deceive you, it was nicer than it looked out.

First things first, marking on the top and bottom plates where the studs would go. This was my job and I felt quite "handy" with my measuring tape and square.

While I was busy working on the top and bottom plates, Dan was busy measuring how long to cut each stud. Yes, he had to measure each one separately since we weren't working with an even space. It kind of sucked and added more work but oh well, it needed to be done.

Once the studs were cut, we laid everything down on the ground and then Dan nailed them into place using his nail gun. I stood back out of the way with Mia so as to avoid any stray nails (there weren't any by the way).

Once it was all nailed together, we worked as a team to get it up into place. Dan then nailed it there while I took pictures. I'm so helpful, aren't I?

And in case you were wondering what the other helpful girl was up to, she was busy stealing scrap pieces of wood and shredding them into bits at a safe distance away from us. At least I was more useful than her.

Once the first stud wall was in place, we repeated the same process for the next one.

Once we got the second one into place, we were starting to feel more accomplished and impressed with our work so far. Looking good isn't it?

Next step, plywood. We just put full 4x8 sheets of plywood on the bottom portion of the walls and screwed them into place. This was my job while Dan measured and cut the pieces to fill in the gaps.

Can you say Canadian Housewife?

Yes, I am wearing an awesome pink tool belt. Because I'm cool like that.

Like I said, Dan was in charge of using the saws and more dangerous things while I just used the drill. It's safer that way.

We were making progress and man did it feel good!

This step went by quickly, thanks to my expertise at using a drill. Or not. But before we knew it all the plywood was up in place!

At this point, we decided to take a small break for a snack.

But soon after we were back to work, this time cutting chicken wire to fit over the windows. This job sucked because the wire is hard to work with and the edges are sharp, but we worked together and it went by okay.

Then we got to use Dan's pretty new staple gun to staple the wire to the windows!

Once both windows were covered with chicken wire, we framed them in.

And then we were done! Well, done that wall and done for the day. Here are some semi-finished project shots.

Not bad for two days work, eh? Stay tuned for day three coming soon! And when I say soon, I mean sometime next week.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I Love Lists

I LOVE lists. I know I'm not the only one out there who loves to make up lists for everything and then happily check or cross things off when they're accomplished. I just love how having a list lets me see what my goals are and reminds me to do them.

I actually have a binder full of random lists. Some of them are to-do lists, some are lists of life goals, others are lists of financial goals or things to buy. Today though, I'm going to share with you my list of outdoor things we would like to accomplish over the next few years.

Outdoor To Do List 2013-2014 (and maybe even 2015?)
  • Build split rail fence along property line in front yard
  • Plant hedge along property line in backyard
  • Prune apple trees
  • Revamp flower gardens
  • Rebury white siding in front flower garden
  • Paint gable end
  • Wash front porch
  • Sand & repaint front porch railings
  • Wash siding on East side of house
  • Rebuild stone entryway on East side of house
  • Expand back deck
  • Plant new shade tree
  • Expand garden (in progress)
  • Build chicken coop in lean-to on back of garage (in progress)
  • Rebuild chicken coop for hens
  • Plant blueberries
  • Plant raspberries
  • Level backyard
  • Make gutter herb garden
  • Make rain barrel
  • Buy or make front porch swing
That's it for now. Do you think it's long enough? Some of the bullets could be combined but I like to leave them separate so that I will be able to cross more things off. I know that some of the items for sure won't be happening this summer, since we don't have the time or money to complete them but I'm hoping to get a fair chunk crossed off by the time the cold weather hits in the fall.

So what do you think? Are we nuts? Or just the right level of crazy and ambitious? Do you like to make lists? Do you separate them into categories, like outdoors, upstairs, downstairs, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, cleaning, painting, etc? Do tell!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Knitted Dishcloths

Part of my quest to become a full-time housewife is to learn to do more and make more things myself. I want to learn to be more sustainable and less reliant on buying "stuff". I've already shared some of my goals in this area, such as having a vegetable and herb garden, canning and freezing foods, making my own cleaning supplies and cooking from scratch. I'm always open to trying new things and learning as I go as to what works and what doesn't.

A few weeks back, I decided I wanted to knit myself some dishcloths. I found a pattern for them on this blog called DIY Natural and they looked easy enough. Can I just take a moment to say that this blog is awesome? If you've got some time, check it out, it's worth it.

A few days ago I picked up some 100% cotton yarn from Walmart and set to work on my very first dishcloth. It was so easy and fast! I spent two hours the first evening and finished most of my first one. The second evening I had finished it off and whipped up another one.

The other bonus to this pattern is that since it's so simple, you can multitask while knitting. I got caught up on some TV shows while putting together these two dishcloths.

I had fun choosing some pretty colours and I'm really pleased with the choices I made. I love how these dishcloths turned out and I will probably be whipping up some more soon!

Have you ever tried knitting a dishcloth before? If not, do you think you'll give it a try now? (I'm looking at you Cora). Are there any other things you make yourself instead of buying? I want to hear about it!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chicken Coop: Part 1

Back in my exercise post last week, I gave you a little sneak peak of what Dan and I have been working on lately. We have been building walls to close in the lean-to at the back of our garage, in order to house our 25 meat birds we have coming mid-April. We needed a bigger space to house them and figured why not use something that we already have, hence the lean-to turning into a chicken coop palace.

Here are a few before pics of what we started with.

Although there was some old plywood slapped up on that outer wall, I just forgot to take a picture before Dan took it down. You can kind of see it in the background of this old picture of Mia from the fall.

Anyways, back to the chicken coop. We took down the old plywood and all the random pieces of wood that were screwed in random places. The people who originally built this thing (not us) didn't really know what they were doing. But once we removed all the crap, we had a decent base to work from.

As you can see in the above picture, we had a nice frame already there to work with. After measuring that wall and making a shopping list, we headed off to Home Depot to purchase some supplies.

Once we had what we needed, we headed back home to get to work. It was a beautiful weekend and we wanted to take full advantage of the warm weather.

First, we needed to finish off the concrete base to build our wall on. There was a gap between the blocks that needed to be filled so that no predators could sneak in and kill our birds. Plus, it's easier to build a wall on a full foundation.

So I got to work digging away some of the dirt in order to fit some plywood around it to make a frame. While I worked on this, Dan mixed the concrete.

Then we framed it in and filled it up!

Once that was done, we cut and measured a few 2x4's before heading inside to eat and warm up.

And that concludes the first day. Stay tuned to find out what we accomplished on day two!