Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pumpkins and Friends

Joel really wanted pumpkins this year. I felt like it was a waste of space... All they make are unhealthy sweet things when we could be growing things that we wouldn't add sugar to. Well, maybe that is true, but my husband was right and I have enjoyed them. I think we only got 5, but that is plenty for us!

For this pumpkin pie, we used The Perfect Pie Crust made with freshly ground flour that was posted to Grain Mill Wagon and Suzanne's Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie from Simple Recipes for the filling. I had to keep adding flour until it was the right consistency crust, but it worked out in the end.

We were so excited to have our friends AJ and Rebekah visiting this last weekend. It was their Birthday, Anniversary, and Birthday weekend. They came up on Saturday and stayed over into Sunday. Yes, that means they drove up here even though Sandy was coming. We are so happy they did. Noah immediately started calling AJ, Mark. So funny! And he still sees the picture of Bekah and AJ and says "MART!". He butchered Bekah's name, but he made a very good attempt at at least saying the right name. We had so much fun talking with them and visiting. They had asked for suggestions, so we sent them up to Bishop Farm for their other night. Thankfully, they made it everywhere safely and still got some sight seeing in before Sandy hit.

Sunday morning, we had pumpkin pancakes made with this Mother Thyme recipe, Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes. Our friends like to take pictures of everything too, so they snapped pictures of Joel flipping pancakes. I was bad and didn't take any pictures the whole weekend, so I stole all of these from them.

Waiting for breakfast
Isaac snuggling with Bekah
 Love them! So happy they visited!

Snapshots from the past couple weeks

Video: 321 The Story of God, The World, and You

I just found this video yesterday from John Piper's Facebook. It is a 5 minute Gospel presentation. I was so impressed with how they used simple graphics to help illustrate and how they carried the trinity through the whole thing.

321 from Jeremy Poyner on Vimeo.


Switching Bedrooms

Joel and I switched rooms with Noah. We had originally given Noah the bigger room so that we could fit the bed and crib in his room. We changed our minds and took the bigger room so that we could fit the crib in our room and use it when Isaac outgrows the cradle. We'll put Isaac in Noah's room when he is ready to be in he bottom bunk of a bunk bed. We'll see how that works.

Noah in his new room.
 His room is now the first door down the hallway. I put the gate up right after his door and let him play in his room or the living room whenever he wants to.
a few drawers of toys and his dresser.


We didn't really trick or treat. We dressed them up all cute and visited the grandparents so that Noah could have fun being a lion. Isaac got to hang out with Great Nana too! Mom and Dad scored hot chocolates at Dunkin Donuts and Noah got some sweet goodies from Granny and Papa and Grammie and Grampa.

I like my SIL's post on "To dress up or not to dress up: The Halloween question." and someone's comment on Facebook, "Yes, God can redeem Halloween!" because it would be foolish to think he couldn't. We aren't really sold about how involved we would want to get in Halloween, but we're happy to play dress up with the kids and visit their Grandparents for pictures. I know we want to talk about and celebrate Reformation Day, but we are going to have to figure out how to be creative with that. Anyone seen a kids book about it?

Baking this week: Top Secret Chocolate Cookies

These Top Secret Chocolate Cookies are not healthy. I used fresh ground soft white wheat and organic sugar cane, but that is still sugar. These were another example of finding a recipe that I had all the ingredients for in my cupboard. I wanted a cookie, and I wanted chocolate - but I didn't have chocolate chips.

I have a light in this oven and  thought it was fun to watch the dough balls turn into little puddles! (PS, I followed the video in the link)

Those pictures of the cookies through the window on the oven are the closest I have to pictures of our new stove. Our propane ran out and unfortunately, propane is a lot more expensive than electric. We had agreed a while ago that when the propane ran out, we would buy an electric range. I'm used to cooking on a flat top electric stove from when we lived in Egremont, so we chose one with features that we thought we'd be happy with for the next 20 years. The faithful old propane one we had been using was original to this home 20 years ago.

Old faithful

Why Coffee and Tea are Amazing for You

A friend of mine shared this on facebook and I thought it was pretty cool. I had heard about health benefits of coffee and tea, but this graphic is so pretty and has a lot of cool info.
Get health and fitness articles at

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

No-Bake Coconut-Oat-Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bites

Okay, so I didn't know what to call these. I basically just listed all the ingredients. They are similar to those no-bake energy bites that are viral on pinterest, but they don't have flax seed or chocolate chips and they do have cocoa powder.

I attempt to make food with only the ingredients I keep stocked in the house, so I usually end up adjusting recipes after comparing two or three similar ones. I had no idea how much cocoa powder would make it chocolatey enough without overdoing it, so I compared ratios of sweetness, dry ingredients, and cocoa powder to No-bake chocolate coconut macaroons at Red and Honey. I was originally going for macaroons, but then I wanted some peanut butter and oats as well.

These are awesome and Noah had fun licking a little peanut butter and honey in the process. He excitedly said the honey was "Good!".

No-Bake Coconut-Oat-Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bites

1 cup dry oats
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter*
1/3 cup raw honey*
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the first three ingredients in medium bowl. Add the last three ingredients and mash them together against the side of the bowl. Start mashing the dry ingredients into the wet goop. Use your hands at any point and just keep squeezing it all together like play dough. Squeeze and form that lumpy play dough into balls and store in air tight container. Yields this many:

That's it! Super easy and yummy! I prefer to soak grains, but this was one of those things that just had to happen.

*Notes on ingredients:
I haven't been able to find unsweetened shredded coconut in regular supermarkets around here. I have found it in natural food stores, but I ended up buying mine in bulk online for my granola recipe. My peanut butter was unsalted organic arrowhead mills - nothing but organic dry roasted peanuts. If you use conventional PB, your bites might be slightly sweeter than mine because they add sweetener to many brands. It also might have a great salty sweet combo if you don't buy unsalted. I used raw honey which is really thick like peanut butter, so if you use liquid/filtered and pasteurized honey, you might need extra dry ingredients, or you might want to hold back some honey to see if it needs it all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Our favorite soaps - Apple Valley Natural Soap

I wanted to do this post today because Apple Valley Natural Soap is having a giveaway. They want to get to 2000 likes on facebook and are going to giveaway 3 of their new shampoo bars: Italian Garden, White China Silk, Jajoba Silk Conditioning. Here is the blog post with the giveaway:

They didn't ask me to do a review, and I don't get extra entries into the giveaway by doing this, but I really like their product and I've had people ask me about what we use. Some people know we make a lot of things from scratch and were wondering if we make our soap from scratch too. We won't make soap because we LOVE these bars and honesty don't want to go through the work of learning to make soap like this. These bars are beautiful and work great.

Apple Valley Natural Soap is a Christian family who started making their own soap to help some of their kids that had skin issues. From there it developed into a family business. You can read more about them on their About page, but here is a quote: 
"We do not give credit to "nature" and praise to "mother earth" ...beautiful and treasured things that the Creator created...rather than giving honor and thanks to the Creator Himself. Our desire is to honor the Ultimate Source...the Creator God who lovingly designed all these wonderful, natural oils and botanicals specifically for the use of mankind. His love and mercy toward the human race is truly an amazing thing. HE "naturally" deserves the credit, the thanks, and the glory!"

If you are interested in why we switched to shampoo bars, read on. :-)

The way the soap comes out of the padded envelope. Looks so nice! And a free sample.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

(Yogurt) Biscuits from a homemade mix

We have a new favorite "side" for dinners: biscuits! I have two little ebooks that I purchased last year that have recipes for mixes you can use or give away as gifts. I've been using the cornbread mix for a while and decided I wanted buttermilk biscuits the other day. I adjusted it a little for what I have:

(adapted from recipes in Little Cottage Mama's Wholesome Mixes and Holiday Mixes and Gifts in a Jar)

Mix the following ingredients together and store in an air tight container until ready to use:

8 C fresh ground soft white winter wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
8 tsp sugar (or leave this out)
8 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt

per batch:
2 rounded cups mix
1/3 C coconut oil (or butter)
2/3 cup or less of yogurt water (or buttermilk or milk+vinegar mix)

When ready for biscuits, preheat the oven to 450. Put 2 rounded cups mix and 1/3 C coconut oil in food processor and process until you have little crumbles. Dump that and 2/3 cup yogurt water into another bowl and mix just until combined. Put a handful of flour on the table, knead the dough a little and add flour until it doesn't stick to everything (lol). Then pat it down flat to a 3/4 inch thickness and cut with anything round like a tumbler cup (or free form like I did with Noah). Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 10.

This is the way we prefer it, but you can substitute many of the ingredients as I've noted above. Since I make my own yogurt (plain yogurt), the cool thing about using yogurt water instead of the milk+vinegar mixture is that I only use a couple tablespoons worth of yogurt, which translates to only a couple tablespoons of raw milk. It saves money because I would use a lot of milk if I made the milk+vinegar mix every time I wanted cornbread or biscuits. (and I'll mention again that making your own yogurt saves money too! It costs us $1.50 for a quart of raw milk - which makes a quart of yogurt - instead of $3.50 for a quart of plain stoneyfield yogurt!)

I had Noah help me make the biscuits the other day to go with lunch - but mostly because I thought he would have fun. Last week we had biscuits with a few chicken meals and then had biscuits with homemade gravy for lunch - so yummy!

adding his contribution to the middle

I love this stone that was a wedding gift from my Grammie. I only started using it a month ago.

showing me his messy hands

spreading flour

Eating his creation

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Favorite things - blueberries, crockpot meals and dishwashers

I figure as long as I feel like posting, I might as well. I've had a long lists of things to do for the past two days, and today seems to be a little more relaxed. I was excited to take our yogurt out of the oven yesterday morning, and to see new canned items going on the shelves. I'm realizing that I'm going to hit mid winter and morn over the lack of canned tomatoes, and frozen blueberries. I made a smoothy with blueberries, bananas and yogurt and realized that there just weren't enough blueberries - and those are expensive when you buy them from a store. Oh well, I'm thankful for what we managed to freeze.

Our house has been a lot more peaceful and productive in the past couple weeks. Part of that is because I felt a marked increase in energy and motivation. I had a rough recovery from Isaac's birth and I lost a lot of strength and stamina (mostly from low iron due to blood loss). Well, maybe a week after I notice I had more energy, our refrigerator defrosted for the second time and wouldn't cool off for several days - not a big deal, just meant a change in routine. My parents insisted that the landlords should purchase the refrigerator (even though we thought we were going to buy it - thanks Mom and Dad), and my husband decided we could purchase a dishwasher too! I was having a hard time standing to do the dishes after Isaac was born and I wasn't even generating as many dishes as I would in the near future. Well, standing is pretty easy now (yay!) but now my maid helps me get the dishes done. Dishwashers are such a nice tool! And probably my favorite tool because it can motivate me to do more in all areas of the kitchen, not just one.



Now, I don't hesitate too much when I want to make more food stuff! The only thing keeping me from experimenting with more bread recipes is that that I had to order more red wheat berries.

I've also been loving the crock pot and dutch oven. I don't know why I didn't think I could layer an entire meal before (other than soups and stews), but I was missing out. I've made crock pot chicken and sweet potatoes with peaches on top a couple times now with chicken breasts and a whole chicken and we love it. One time we made it in a cast iron dutch oven on the grill and the next time I put it in our crock pot. If we don't have to have dinner on the table at a certain time, I like the "cook it till it's done" method since I switch things up quite often. We even used frozen peaches from my Dad's trees for the chicken and sweet potato recipe.

Well, there was a lot more that went on in the past couple weeks with organizing my parents basement (we keep a few things in there), cleaning out the brown shed down back so that our things fit better (looks great!) and considering a miniature cow (I joke... but not really). Isaac is letting me know it is almost Noah's nap time and Noah is not liking my correction that books do not qualify as paper he can color on. Ug. Well, I'm going to go help my cute kids.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Random update while I can tomato sauce and listen to Bob the Builder

So, I'm sitting here while my brown "tomato sauce" is in a water bath canning, and I figured I'd write my post. Yeah, before we go any further, it's brown. If you want to tell me it is no longer safe, just leave a comment. I'm thinking I more likely made tomato paste and browned it. I did some trusty old google searches and found that browning tomato past before you use it (store bought) is pretty common, and I think my method (crock pot) allowed it to turn brown instead of keeping that fresh red color. It is probably too thick too. Yadda yadda.

While I'm typing, Noah is watching his favorite show - Bob the Builder. He even has a "Fix It Shop" thanks to Granny and Papa. He discovered the radio by climbing on the fix it table and pressing buttons. That was actually kind of a nice surprise since I had forgotten about the built in speakers. I found a classical station and sounded all fancy when I answered the phone that day.

blurry, but I wanted to show it. It is well used!
And here is the big boy!

Isaac is cuddling with a sweet blanket/stuffy from Ms. Nancy. I can't believe he is already so social. I usually get lots of smiles and conversation out of him right before nap time. He really is turning into a cuddle bug. I've been having to cuddle up to him on the bed to get him to fall asleep. And he loves to be held. I think the cuddly stuffy from Ms. Nancy will be helpful. When I put it up to his cheek this morning, he smiled and started falling asleep.

he loves it!

yup, at nap time.

he has even bigger smiles, but I missed them.
Well, Bob the builder is over, and I need to take the tomato paste/sauce out of the water. I'll leave other updates for another time. Now onto laundry - or something like that.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Introducing Isaac Elliott Brown

I've been putting this post off. I would start to write it, and get interrupted (I wonder why) and then decide that what I started wasn't how I wanted to do it. Birth Story? Short birth story? About life with 4 people? Isaac's birth has been the most important thing to happen in our small family recently - so until I got it right, I didn't want to post at all. Well, after getting some motivation today, I realized I would introduce him with pictures.

Introducing: Isaac Elliott Brown

Born July 31, 2012 at 2:23am. 8lb 15oz, 21 inches long and 15 inch head circumference. He was born VBAC after pitocin induction at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center at 42weeks and one day gestation. He is beautiful, happy and healthy with a thick head of hair and a sweet demeanor.

coming home!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Normal days at nearly 41 weeks pregnant

Life seems a little too normal these days. Tomorrow, I'll be 41 weeks prego and going in for an ultrasound, non-stress test, and midwife appointment. At this time this year, I thought I would be holding a newborn baby, or at least feeling like his arrival was imminent. It all seemed like it was so close 3 or 4 weeks ago when I had lots of pre-labor signs, but those all pretty much disappeared, and now I just feel like a normal, tired, pregnant lady who must have another month or so to go. Here is a strange list of things that, as of a few weeks ago, I never thought would happen BEFORE Isaac was born:
  • Joel mowed the lawn again.
  • We cleaned some more clutter out of our house.
  • Joel did some major weeding and tilling in the garden. still needs more work.
  • I redid our budget through the end of this year.... AND did a tentative budget for 2013. Say what?
  • We opened a savings account after I finished said budget - this is just too normal. I felt ridiculous walking into the bank pretending like I shouldn't be in labor at 40w5days. 
  • We have been using fine china for the past week - paper plates. The strange thing is, we have still accumulated another back up of dishes
  • I went to the dump with Noah! I don't think I was comfortably driving at 40 weeks pregnant with Noah.
  • We bought Noah training pants and underpants because he decided that he wants to go on the potty more often than not. He is far from potty trained, but he made it through a couple nights without wetting his diaper. What timing he has!
  • AND - I'm sick. bummer. I was trying to stay healthy, but quite a few nights last week with very little sleep did me in. I'm exhausted, have a sore throat, and a terrible urge to cough even when it seems totally unproductive. Most of the symptoms only occur at night, but the exhaustion and wanting to fall asleep while sitting up is constant.

Most of these unexpected things end up being great (even though I would rather be holding Isaac) because it will mean that I have less to keep track of after Isaac is born. This time has also made me think about how different the first week with Isaac will be from the way the first week was with Noah. I'm not taking an 8 week reprieve from my job - being a SAHM is my job! Those 6-8 weeks off from a job after having a baby really make the process seem so set apart from the normal grind of things, but I'll be going back to normal (WONDERFUL) mom stuff as soon as Joel goes back to work a couple days after Isaac is born. I know I will have to recover, but Noah will still need the same kind of attention that he needed before. I still want to have that sense of a set apart time to celebrate the new life, so I'm still brainstorming about how we can do something special as a new family of 4.

And, thankfully, strangers don't think I should pop at any moment, so they don't bother making the comments. I don't feel like I'm going to pop at any moment, so that makes sense. I took the below picture at 39 weeks 5 days after we went blueberry picking and I don't look much different other than tired from being sick.

I stayed home today and sent the guys to church because I didn't want this cold to get worse and I could use some quiet rest in the house. I think after I post this, I'll be heading back to bed. I hope some more sleep will give me more energy and I can do something active this afternoon. Maybe I'll go for a run...



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