Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer days

Summer is almost over! Well, maybe not in terms of weather and heat, but in school terms, yes it's almost reaching the end. School will start back up here in the next couple weeks. This means Jonah will be back to work next week. Sigh! It's been wonderful having him here with Oliver and I. We have so enjoyed the days together. But I also look forward to fall days...cooler weather, yes, that will be nice!Oliver is getting close to 14 months already, and I can hardly believe it. This past Friday he took his first solo steps. From my arms to Jonah's. It was exciting to see him venture out. But he hasn't done it again since. Which is okay with me...I know once he's walking there will be no turning back and no slowing down from that point on! He is such a ham these days, talking more in his baby girgle and laughing at us and with us, and sometimes at nothing in particular. Such a happy, and joyful little boy. We are blessed to have a child with such a laid back personality.
We also launched our photo/design business and it's been an exciting start. We are looking forward to growing and marketing it. Our first 'official' clients were a couple of shoots for 3 month olds. I loved doing them. I love shooting with Jonah- he is an amazing photographer with such a creative eye, and he teaches me so much. I'm thankful that he shares this passion with me, I know it's not always the case in a marriage.
I have also been entertaining some other ideas to bring in some income into our home. Not quite ready to share those since I'm not sure they will pan out. I've been praying over them and trying to really plan them out, and I'm not sure yet if I'll continue to pursue them or not.
Meanwhile, we are trusting in the Lord for His provision, and I know He will. Next month will be the true 'stretch' as we step out into a full month without my income. This month we still had some of my last paycheck from my job. But I'm excited to see how God provides. I'm excited to write about it next month! And the month after and the month after....
I love being home with Oliver. One of my friends asked how it feels to be home now, and I said wonderful. Having my hearts desire? What a joy!
I have also delved into the art of sewing. I had a friend over to show me how to use my sewing machine and she was a wonderful help. But once she left I realized how difficult it is to learn a new skill. I have been doing all my sewing by hand, so using a machine is an entirely different skill. Straight lines are nearly impossible to master on that thing! I know it takes practice and I'm learning...it will be a while though before I can trust my projects on it to come out. It took me an hour and a half the other day to make a stretchy headband. Yeah, it probably would have taken 15 minutes by hand. So I'm learning, and I have a long way to go!
My latest project I posted at my shop is a little pig ball. I love how this came out, so soft and cute. This was all by hand, so maybe one day I can make it on my machine (thinking of the hours I will shave off!).
Heres the finished product:

Oliver seems to really love it as he's really into balls right now. He can pick this one up pretty easily since it's stuffed.
I am also working on editing our latest work at The Black Sheep Studio, with some of our last shoots coming soon. I'll have them up at the end of this week.
These have been keeping us pretty busy here at home. Along with spending time with friends, getting ready for school (Jonah), and keeping up the home (me), life is full.
And to leave with a few shots of our big boy...

For now I better run to get started on those photos. They are sitting and waiting to be finished!
Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How to buy and prepare wholefoods on a tiny budget

I have been busy in our kitchen this summer. Busy at the store and occasional farmers market too.
My ongoing journey into wholefoods, cooking from scratch, has taken a good turn. My focus has been able to be on it even more.
One reason being that I am now at home with our sweet son. I ended my full time job, left the workplace and really I am not even looking back. It's been a WONDERFUL experience so far. I love being at home with my husband and son, and I love being able to plan our eating a little more.
In this food journey it's very easy to quickly become overwhelmed with what you should and shouldn't eat, how you should cook something, what you should soak, what should be sprouted, and above all else, how in the world you can stay in/under budget- or my biggest one- shop and prepare whole food meals in a very small budget.
Is this even possible? I found myself wondering that so frequently it almost made me want to quit.
But my knowledge of the benefits and my knowledge of what many 'food' products on the shelves contain is enough to make me press on. It IS worth it to have nutritious homeade meals on your table when all is said and done.
I thought I would share some of my latest attempts at a few different foods.
One is tortillas.
These are usually a little pricey in the store, and the list of ingredients on the package is a little unnerving. I'm eating what exactly??
I was determined to find a way to at least try to make them at home, and if it failed or was impossibly hard, well, back to storebought I suppose.
I came across a fabulous little recipe for some whole wheat tortillas. The ingredient list? four. That's it, and one is water. Okay sounds simple....
It was. And guess what? They are also delicious. My one batch made roughly 12 medium to small sized tortillas and I popped them in a ziplock and put them in the fridge to use for the week. So handy and healthy to make wraps with meat and veggies, or peanut butter and banana, or quesadillas for us.  One of my favorite recipes is: fresh garden tomatoes, cheese, and basil (picked out of my garden) on a tortilla folded and half and toasted to melt the cheese. Oliver loves these and they are so easy!
Here is the link for this simple recipe: wheat tortillas
I used King Arthur's whole wheat flour (being sure it was made with red hard winter wheat- nutritious). And you can freeze these for later use.
I also dived into breadmaking. I thought I'd try it out to see if it really was worth the time to make it. Bread is another product on the shelf that has a long list of ingredients, many being preservatives of some sort.
I had purchased my whole wheat flour, so I actually just used the recipe right on the back of the flour bag. Pretty easy- the longest part is waiting for it to rise. If you have ever made breads of any kind, you are familiar with this process. So if you are running and doing other errands, you have to stay at home so that you don't miss the times to punch down and transfer, then later bake. But if you make more than one loaf at a time I would say it's worth it and cheaper than buying bread. At least for us it is since we spend over $3 a loaf at the store. We try to buy bread that is better quality and nutrition- never white bread. Not anymore! I remember eating some white bread after being without it for so long and my stomach was so upset...not sure what the relation could have been. Maybe it wasn't the bread at all! I do know white flour is bleached and processed, much of it having vitamins added back into it- or 'enriched'.
The only negative about bread making is that it doesn't stay fresh too long and gets dry after a few days. I am going to try freezing the second loaf to see if this helps.
I have also been storing up our freezer with fresh produce. When something is in season at the store I'll buy a bunch and freeze it. I did this with sweet corn, summer squash, blackberries, blueberries, mango, some peppers (I have many growing in our garden- so exciting watching them get bigger!), peaches, eggplant, cauliflower, and broccoli. I also bought some green beans in an attempt to freeze some but never got around to it. I'll be on the lookout for more things that are low price. Seasonal is definitely the way to shop- whether at the store or at a farmers market. Farmers markets offer fresh from the garden and often the sweetest, most flavorful foods if you have a good local one. I found our tomatoes there and my goodness what a delicious difference. I'd love to go and pick some produce too as we have several places near us. I love stocking up our freezer with produce at it's peak flavor.
This is as far as I have gotten in our kitchen/freezer.
I did read a great article about freezing things- even cooked beans! (this is great for me who likes to soak a bunch, cook them only to have them sit in our fridge because we can't possibly finish the huge pot of them I made!) I found that here.
I have found that shopping seasonally and using a minimum amount of coupons has saved us money. Well, at least we are able to buy more and stay in our budget.
Some things I did this past grocery week: purchased a double Sunday paper (to keep coupons). I actually looked through the local grocery store flyers (even though you can find them on southernsavers.com) and I found some off the wall sales for different things like mangos for .50 at Aldi's. Big discount there, considering I have only seen them on sale for around .85 elsewhere. I also found some great deals for back to school items, even though I don't have school age kids, there were sales on computer paper for sooo low. Yes, .25 for a ream, cheap.
I also glance through the grocery flyers, but mostly just look at the deals listed online for those.
I am not giving up entirely on couponing- I know it's really tough to do when you are trying to be wholefoods conscientious. So I'm giving myself at least 6 weeks or so of really trying it to see if it's worth the effort.
I usually search for sales at two different grocery stores that are actually 2 minutes from each other for me. This is helpful since I really wouldn't choose to shop at 2 places if they were farther apart. I also keep an eye on Aldi sales. I've found that they have some great items for low prices- items that have only a few ingredients and that are still healthful.
My stores of choice are Kroger and Publix- welcome to the south.
I also found a great resource for coupons: recyclebank.com
You sign up for an account and to earn points you take little quizzes that are so easy- even if you get the answers wrong they still reward you points. You can use these points for different organic coupons or for coupons to get money off your order at Publix. Pretty easy and useful.
I have to admit that it will take some time to find a system that works- an efficient one. I am not one that loves to sit and plan grocery shopping for hours on end. I have found that I'm getting a little faster as I know what I will look at.  For example when I'm comparing store sales I go immediately to produce and fresh foods and keep an eye out for wipes and diapers or some toiletries we use. Those are really the basic things I focus on and it helps narrow it down. I don't stock up on crackers, cookies, processed foods and sugary cereals as you can imagine. (those seem to be big items that couponers find to be good deals)
I'm not perfect at this in anyway. I only hope to encourage others that are on this similar journey. I'll try to update as I go along....
It is definitely worth it to buy quality items and stay in budget isn't it?
For now I think thats about it. I have a nice long row of peaches sitting on my kitchen window ready to be sliced and frozen. Nice and ripe now!
And my final thought in all of this, don't forget to pray over each decision. I have found that I was trying to hard to do everything right. You can only do your best, and God knows that and will bless your efforts!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

our new pursuit

Our business.
The little thing I've been talking about for months is here. It's now.
Today we launched our 'site'.
The Black Sheep Studio.
You can also find us on facebook!
I'm so excited to start this, although it's been officially started for a few years. We were shooting sessions years ago, perhaps with hope that it would someday become a business. Now here we are, with more experience behind us, and a passion to continue on with it.
I pray over this new start as it's exciting but also a little scary to step out and be in the public eye. It's a very competitive world, and well area. There are so many starting up their own photography businesses that it's a little overwhelming.
I'm not the cheesy marketer that tries to promote special buys and great specials for things. Especially for photography. It feel so much more personal to me. I take it as a life experience. Being a part of someones life is well, personal.  It can't help but be that.
And I know that it's probably not a good thing to not want to market as much as you can...
But I know it's exciting to do this now, to see where we go with it. Who we meet, who we tell the world about.
Won't you pray for us as we embark on this start?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Home with my men

It's been a lovely week. This past week was my first full week of being an official stay at home mom. There was a little fear in doing this. Fear of no longer relying on my income to get us through the months, fear of getting restless at being at home. However I can tell you I am not afraid. Having been home now for a bit, I know it's right. I know that I didn't make the wrong decision, or feel led that way.
I know it's where I am supposed to be.
This past week I had moments when I would allow my mind to look ahead to the future, and I would worry for a moment....but then I would see my sweet boy. Holding him in my arms as I carried him upstairs to bed brought in a wave of peace at this simple moment. How right it felt. Me being at home with him is almost more glorious than I thought! I love knowing I will be able to train him daily, that he will be with me to learn everyday things. This little man that we are training up will learn from us- and what we allow into his life. It's a great and awesome responsibility.
I was able to stop my mind from racing each night as I went into auto mode thinking about all the things I would have to prepare for my day at work the next day.  I realized again and again I wasn't going into work, and again there was that peace.
I never realized how all consuming it was even working 3 days a week. The juggling of my time, and the prep work it took to keep our home flowing as I was home every other day was tough. I take so much pleasure in keeping our home orderly, keeping it clean, keeping the pantry and fridge stocked, and our meals planned.
I'm excited to work harder at all of these tasks, as I haven't had the time to do so for years. I have a list of things that I am looking forward to checking off such as going through my closet and our rooms to get rid of things we can sell- every little bit helps!- and I know we have so much STUFF just sitting and being unused. Why keep it?
I am also looking forward to pursuing our business. It is photography and design and something we are passionate about. The design focus being my shop the itsybitsy store, and the photography part for now focusing on children, maternity and newborn. I'm soo excited to launch this!
Jonah's support in all of this has been absolutely amazing. I thank God for him, but also for the unity He has provided for us as we walk daily seeking His will.
I have already been able to see God providing for us in ways that I would have never dreamed of. Little things here and there assuring us of His provision. His love, His care.
My heart is so peaceful where I am right now. I am so very grateful for this, and truly there is no other place I'd be.
Above all I am so honored that God chose me to be Oliver's mom. Knowing that he will grow up with me there at home with him, knowing that I am there with him daily is such a blessing.
my men!

sweet happy boy

Being a wife and being a mom are roles that I take so much joy in. Thank you God for how GOOD you are!!

happy independence day! (a little late)

Happy 4th of July! I am late at posting this as it's already nearly a week after, but I thought I'd share some photos from our 2nd Independence day with Oliver. My how did a year go by so quickly??
Oliver watching daddy water our garden, and our door!

praying for breakfast. Oliver has learned how to fold his hands for prayer, so cute.

whole wheat oat pancakes with fresh berries, yummo.

sweet friends we hung out with that night.

sweet friends who opened their home to us for the fourth!

first time with sparklers!

sparkler fun!

this was how Oliver was playing with the trucks, walking along behind them, such a  big boy!