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Foraging for Stinging Nettles

Moshe helps gather nettles

I took this little guy out to the back yard last week. It was a beautiful sunny day, just barely warm enough to go swearshirt-free. Sweatshirt-free is never a guarantee here, even in the middle of summer. We enjoy it whenever it happens, though!

We brought gloves and a grocery bag. What were we after?

Stinging nettles

Weeds! Actually, stinging nettles. The woodsy area behind our house grew some big tall nettles last year and I kept knocking them over so they wouldn't fall into our yard. I vowed that next year I'd be ready and pick them young so we could try eating them.

I have never been so happy about weeding before! I picked the fresh young green nettles and Moshe held the bag for me. He loved helping!

Stinging nettles

The nettles were washed (in a strainer with the sprayer) and then put in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Afterwards, their sting was gone and we all eagerly sampled the cooked greens for our first time.

Delicious! I thought the taste was mild and reminded me of green beans. I chopped up the cooked nettles and added them to beef vegetable soup, and no one could even taste them.

I used stems as well as leaves, even though my research indicated the stems were too tough to eat. I imagine the freshest youngest stinging nettles are the most tender and tasty, and ours sure were!

I can't believe I grew up on a farm overrun with nettles and never ate any of them! (We did eat gobs of dandelions though.) I think foraged food is my favorite... just pick and enjoy!

Now, I'm brainstorming how I'm going to get the kids all down the road to the woodsy park and go nettle-hunting. There just aren't enough nettles in my own backyard!

Tip: Cook stinging nettles and use them as you would spinach. Quiche, lasagna, soups, and more are all wonderful made with stinging nettles!

Have you eaten stinging nettles? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts and more tips for gathering or using them! :)

Channah

Sweet Channah slept while we all played at the park last weekend. She sleeps best on/by/with me, which is part of my lack of blogging. (I am typing one-handed right now, but the slow pace is frustrating!) :)

Boys playing

We all soaked up the sunshine. Joshua played catch and t-ball with the older boys. There was bike riding, goat-feeding, and plenty of running around.

The Birth of Channah Shalom

Channah's foot

I woke up at 5:30am, and felt the dampness on my skirt. I could feel water leaking and as I headed to the bathroom, I mentally calculated... just barely 36 weeks.

I knew it wasn't time for my baby to come.

I don't feel unbearably huge yet. My babies don't come early. Joshua had brain surgery last week and can't lift or drive. And the house is a mess.

Despite my hopes that the "little leak" would just go away, it didn't. A visit with my midwife confirmed that it was really leaking (not that I had any doubts!) and also that...

"Your baby isn't head-down. And I can't change that for you."

Channah

Read the rest of Channah's birth story...

Baby Stuff: Channah Shalom

Sisters
Ruth (4) holding Channah (2 weeks)

It's nap time / quiet time at our house right now... we'll see how much typing I get done before Channah wakes! :) At 2 1/2 weeks old, Channah is probably my most content baby ever. She's nursing great and sleeps a lot, mostly with me. I figure since I'm supposed to rest and take it easy for a few weeks, I may as well rest with the baby in my arms! :)

So let's see... where to start. With a little about her name, I guess! :)

Channah is the Hebrew name of Hannah in the Bible. The "ch" is a soft "ch" sound like in the word "Chanukkah" or "challah" or "loch", and the "a" sounds are like the "a" in "father". Channah means grace, or compassion.

Shalom is (of course) the Hebrew word meaning "peace". When we were expecting our first baby, we decided we wanted to use Fruits of the Spirit (from Galatians 5) for girls' middle names. Ruth's middle name is Patience, and for Channah we decided to use Peace -- but liked the sound of the Hebrew word Shalom better with Channah. :)

Yehoshua and Channah

During rest time one day, when both Ruth (4) and Moshe (2) were asleep in their beds, I put Channah by the window for some sunshine. I came back to find Yehoshua (7) had gotten his camera out and was taking pictures of her as she slept. So sweet!

The girls' room, and more...

Our little surprise...

Channah

Just when I thought life couldn't get any crazier!

Channah Shalom was born this weekend, weighing 6 lbs. 5 oz., our smallest (and by far, earliest!) baby and with the longest labor (but thankfully not the hardest labor).

Our planned home birth ended up a hospital birth when my water broke and the baby wasn't head down. Several hours later, she did turn head down, but labor was very, very slow.

After almost 24 hours I used pitocin to (gently!) get labor going, and she was born 15 hours later. Phew! I had a really great hospital experience. While I would much rather labor at home (especially with a long, slow labor!!), I chose to be there and was blessed with nurses who left me alone as much as possible, and my midwife who provided moral support and coaching at the very end.


Yehoshua took a picture of me waking up this morning :)

I'm so glad I started early on my freezer meals, and just last week I washed a load of baby clothes and got a car seat (to replace our expired one).

Pretty much everything else on my "want to do" list didn't get done, I missed my kids like crazy during the 2 days at the hospital, and I had a very emotional labor (I just wasn't mentally prepared for an early baby with a labor that needed augmentation, etc.).

We're getting lots of family time and pulling together to share new responsibilities. Joshua is only 2 weeks post-op from his second craniotomy, so now we're both on 10-lb. lifting restrictions and our boys are getting to exercise their strong muscles! ;) Everyone is in love with little Channah and now, life really does need to slow down for a little bit!! :)

I will eventually write Channah's birth story and share it here! Until then, here are the announcements from Ruth and Moshe's births:

Ruth Patience (2008) (birth story here)

Moshe Paul (2010) (birth story here)

Update: Here is Channah's birth story (with lots of baby pictures!)

Your questions answered: TV, coupons, gardening, FoodSaver bags... plus a family update!

I've got a bunch of questions to answer, plus it's been way too long since I've done a real family update-type of post! So, here is all of that... plus the first pregnancy picture of myself with #5 (thanks to my cameraman Yehoshua)! :)

Having fun in an indoor tent...
Moshe (2), Ruth (4), Yehoshua (7) and Eliyahu (6)

I was wondering if you could tell us what you do for entertainment without TV and netflix. I know its possible but just curious.

As far as "screen" entertainment, we have an Xbox360. We use it to watch DVDs, and we have a small selection of our own DVDs. Some are educational (like Planet Earth or Matthew) and some are just for fun (like Up). :) We do let the boys play video games on the weekends (usually not on school days).

Pretty much any day of the week they are allowed to play games that use the Xbox Kinect (camera) because those are indoor exercise games (Fruit Ninja, Kinect Sports, etc.). With the weather being rainy so often, it's really nice to have an indoor exercise option for the kids (and me...) that is FUN! :)

And aside from that, we do things like board or card games, puzzles, books, drawing, play dough, building blocks, Legos, coloring books, Duplos, making tents with blankets, all that good stuff. :)

Tammy, do you ever use coupons? You can really save money on personal items like deodorant, shampoo, any vitamins or medicines.

I do coupons occasionally. We honestly don't purchase a lot of personal care items, but when we do (like for toothpaste -- since I'm partial to Crest Original) I usually have a $0.50 coupon which does help. And I try my best to wait for the Costco coupons to help lower our grocery budget for things we'd be purchasing anyway! :)

One thing I found for us personally was that since we don't use most of the items, even if it was free-after-rebate or coupon, we still pay 9.5% tax on the pre-coupon pre-rebate prices here in Washington and it just wasn't worth my time and gas to make a stop for items that we might end up needing (or might not use at all before they expired!).

I used to regularly do Rite Aid's single check rebate program and get some good deals on toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. but they've changed that program and I wasn't finding good enough deals to warrant going often enough to use the "rewards" before they would expire.

I'm also a homebody, we just have 1 vehicle (so any errands have to be done at the busiest traffic times of the day/week -- and take away from our family time), I have 4 young children, and we eat a lot of plain "ingredients" like milk, butter, cheese, veggies, beans, etc... The store sales here usually are within pennies of what I can pay at Costco, and I admit I really like Costco. ;)

So... that's what has shaped my grocery shopping method for this season of our lives. :)

Have you considered teaching beginning music to a few outside kids for some extra spending money?

Yes, I have! I haven't advertised for any music students in recent years, though. I love teaching but don't feel that it's a good time for me to pursue it as a business.

Also, do you garden? Even a small vegetable garden can make a huge difference in your grocery bill.

I had some herbs in pots last summer, and hope to grow more herbs and some lettuce this year! We don't get a lot of direct sunlight at our house/yard due to all the trees nearby, and our summers can stay on the cool side (highs of 65-70 degrees) so that can make it tricky if you live in a shaded area. ;)

I also have a food saver and I LOVE it, but I find the bags to be pricey and felt guilty about throwing them away.... I now wash and re-use them repeatedly!! I write on the edge just like you do so when I cut them open to use nothing is written on the useful part of the bag. I have been doing this for more then a year now and find the bags work fine used repeatedly. I was wondering if you did the same thing?

Yes! I definitely re-use my FoodSaver bags, because they are really expensive. I bought my last box at Costco with a coupon, but it was still expensive! It's worth it to me that we *love* our freezer meals/food, though, and don't have to "endure" them. ;)

Even better than washing the Food Saver bags: if I've just frozen a casserole and then vacuum-sealed it, the FoodSaver bag doesn't get very dirty at all (since the food is already frozen when it goes in). When I take the food out, still frozen, and put it into a baking dish, I put the empty nearly-clean FoodSaver bag back in the freezer without washing it, to save it for later use.

This seems to put even less wear on the bags than washing them... and makes me a lot more comfortable with the amount of bag it takes to FoodSave a casserole. ;)

Family updates! (read more...)

Snow, candlelight, leftovers, and grocery shopping

Yehoshua with the snow man

We're having an exciting week at our house. It's been snowing off-and-on since Saturday morning!!! Snow is exciting when it's a maybe-once-a-year event, and the kids have been playing in it for hours every day.

The very first day, the boys built two snow men (one shown above) and had fun rolling huge snowballs. The next day, they started on a snow fort in the back yard. The following few days were too cold to pack any snow, so they just tramped around in it and searched for icicles. :)

Sandwich by candlelight

Joshua stayed home from work yesterday and we had a fun "snow day" together at home (we still did school though), topped off by losing our power about 5pm for a couple hours.

I had made a big lunch (macaroni and cheese and veggies) and dinner was just going to be a cold-cut sandwich. So, we ate our sandwiches by candlelight and then sent the kids to bed with their flashlights. :)

Leftover chili and baked potatoes

For lunch, I found leftover baked potatoes and leftover chili in the fridge from earlier this week, and combined them for a yummy, filling meal. I need to plan to have these together more often! :)

Tonight was scheduled to be our bi-weekly shopping trip, but instead of the snow melting today as predicted, it's just piling higher! (I think we're up to 10+ inches at our house now, with a frozen layer of slush at the bottom.)

So, I'll adjust the week's end of my menu plan and hold off for a bit on shopping -- probably at least until Sunday or Monday. I pulled the milk I froze out of the freezer, and we're still good on eggs, cheese, and most everything else. I have fresh carrots and celery, and we're eating frozen veggies and canned fruit.

I'm so thankful to not have to go out when the weather is bad -- OR in the crowds that were out getting groceries last week when the weather was predicted to get snowy and icy! :)

I have some projects to work on while Moshe's still napping, but my plan is to get back online tonight to share a new recipe/pantry meal when the kids head to bed. Barring power outages or exhaustion. ;)

Summertime Pantry Challenge: Fridge picture, new mattress, and bedrooms re-arranged!

Today (July 31) is supposed to be the last day of the Summertime Pantry Challenge, but I'm not nearly ready to be finished yet! (I'm moving at a turtle's pace compared to Jessica and the others!) I don't have my freezers organized yet, so I'll share pictures in a few days when I do.

Here's what my fridge looks like right now:

We made beans and rice (a really yummy pantry meal in my opinion!) for today, and this week for dinners we'll be grilling chicken and fish from the freezer, mostly served with rice, salad greens, and vegetables.

See my lovely fresh parsley on the top shelf?! A friend started some herbs from seed this year and shared some with me. My pot of parsley is doing great and I just clipped all the biggest stems. I'm planning to make some Tabbouleh this week.

No, I don't have most of the vegetables for Tabbouleh... so I'm debating asking Joshua to pick up 1 tomato and 1 cucumber when he goes to the store today for bananas. (Joshua takes 2 bananas in his lunch every day so a weekly banana trip on Sunday evenings is routine for us.) :)

See, that's my trouble... I have fresh parsley to use and I am craving my Tabbouleh with ALL the "right" ingredients. Substitute canned tomatoes or leave out the cucumber? That just doesn't seem right! This is why I kinda stink at doing a "real" pantry challenge. :P :)

I also got a little side-tracked this week when my pantry challenge included getting a new mattress and re-arranging the kids bedrooms! With reducing my grocery shopping this month, we spent some of the savings on a new twin-size mattress for Ruth (3).

Read more for before-and-after bedroom photos...

Quick and cool summer snack: Fresh veggies and dill dip (Plus: more about my family in Ohio)

One of my school friends gave me this recipe for Dill Dip in third grade. My mom never bought veggie dips, so I was excited about being able to make my own! :) (As a side note, I went to public school until 5th grade, when my parents started homeschooling me.)

My mom grows fresh dill in her garden, and while we were visiting this year Yehoshua got to pick some dill and, with a little help, make some fresh dill dip! If you don't have fresh dill, you can use dried dill weed, making this a pantry-staples recipe for me.

Dill dip is quick and easy to make, and we all love dipping veggie sticks in it! Carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, or bell peppers with dill dip makes a great snack or side dish, especially if you're serving lunch to guests. :)

Tracy wrote,

I would love to hear more about your family in Ohio.

I don't have any recent family pictures, but this post has one from a couple years ago when we were there. :)

My two sisters still live at home with my parents. Bonnie is 20 and Amy is 18. Both have been studying piano and are very talented (and practice tons). :) When we visited this year, we got to go to several concerts (orchestra, band, etc.) that they performed in and it was so fun to hear live music. Not to mention being privy to their practice time at home! ;) I have a video of them uploaded at Facebook, from one of their recitals (I think it was Amy's senior recital, but I'm not sure... I wasn't there.).

Here is the video. Enjoy! :)

Also in Ohio, I have two brothers. (The other brother lives in Eastern Washington.)

Phillip is 26 and got married last year. He has a blog here. He's very inventive and is an electrician at a robotics company in Toledo, Ohio. (Not that I really know anything about it aside from that!) His wife is a violinist. :)

Boys with Reuben
Yehoshua and Eliyahu with my brother Reuben

My brother Reuben (23) is married and he and his wife are expecting their first baby next year! They live just a few blocks from where we lived in Ohio. :)

So that's the basics... if you have more questions, just ask! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Peanut butter and honey sandwiches made easier

With the advent of nicer weather, we've been spending every morning possible outside! While the kids ride their bikes, chase balls, or play in their "clubhouse" (a big bush in the yard!), I mow the grass (we have a reel mower), pull weeds, or hang laundry -- in between breaking up quarrels and capturing escapee Moshe!

When it's time to come inside, we're HUNGRY. I mean, who wouldn't get hungry driving a car on foot:

...or playing with a snail:

...or improving soccer skills?!

If I don't have beans cooked, PB & Honey is our go-to lunch sandwich (except for the baby). The only problem with PB & Honey is that it's sticky and gooey and I don't have a honey bear so it's just plain hard to do, especially in a hurry.

Peanut butter and honey sandwich shortcut

My solution? Mix the peanut butter and honey together in a bowl before spreading onto bread. It thickens up nicely, no longer being greasy from the natural peanut butter that I just haven't stirred well enough OR drippy-sticky with gobs of honey. Perfect! :)

Peanut butter and honey sandwich shortcut
So much less messy! :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, we need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. How to de-gas beans (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
2. How to season an iron skillet (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
3. How to tell if an egg is bad (Living So Abundantly)
4. No-touch bread making method (Georgia at Georgia's Cookie Jar)
5. Stir-fry is faster than drive-thru (The Local Cook)
6. How to make a butterfly cake (Purposely Frugal)
7. Tips for homemade bread (Laura at The Frugal Kitchen)
8. Tip for making multiple batches (Cheryl at The Bz House That Love Built)
9. Freeze raw ground beef in meal-size portions (Nony at A Slob Comes Clean)
10. Mass-produce sandwiches for a crowd (Jessi at Quirky Cookery)
11. Canning and pickling beets (Jodi at LG Family Farm)
12. Lacto-fermentation tips (Kara from Taste is Trump)

The Piggy: A cutting board of memories (and then some!)

Piggy cutting board

Sixty years ago, my grandma was given a hand-made piggy cutting board. (Hers is still in use but quite worn and not pictured here.)

Thirty years ago, my parents were given a copy of the piggy cutting board as a wedding gift, hand-made by two of my dad's younger brothers. (Pictured at top)

When we were in Ohio last month, my dad made a new one and gave it to me to bring home with us! (Pictured at bottom) This may be the only pig that ever enters my kitchen! ;)

A thick, solid maple cutting board, hand-cut by my dad with the help of my boys. What a lovely surprise! And such a fun legacy to see continued! :) And for a pig... it's pretty cute. ;)

Making the cutting board...

Now the hard decision... to use The Piggy, or just keep it on display? I think I'll start using it. Apparently it's built to last... and replaceable! :)

Here's another thing from my childhood: Oatmeal Apple Raisin Muffins. What could be a better breakfast than warm-from-the-oven whole grain muffins?! My mom makes these, and everyone loves them. My children devour them whenever I make them. I can't believe it took me this long to finally put up the recipe! :)

Yehoshua frosting cupcakes with my mom
My mom, frosting cupcakes with Yehoshua :)

One person said they would like to know:

"...what you do to spend time with your mom when you are there? Cooking? Games?"

Mostly we just did normal everyday stuff while we were visiting. My mom helped Yehoshua with his math school work, which was a fun change of pace for him. :) We all pitched in with dishes, cooking, and laundry. My mom took the kids for wagon rides or walks. There were a few things I wanted to do with my mom (like making her homemade egg noodles!) but we didn't get to due to being sick for about 2 weeks of our visit! :)

Whatever my mom was doing, she tried to involve at least one of the kids! :) My dad did the same, in the evenings and on the weekends, when he was home. The boys got to help with lots of projects and work around the farm! Taking 4-wheeler rides on the property was a favorite activity, as was ground hog hunting. :)

Yehoshua, helping on the farm
Yehoshua, pushing the wheel barrow. Outside activities that involved the wheelbarrow were extra fun!