family · living local · motherhood

What I’ve Been Doing Instead of #write31days

I didn’t do it. I stayed off the bandwagon. And for a person who a) adores The Nester and b) hates to be left out, staying out of #write31days was HARD.

I did it last year. Amidst three conferences, one week of single parenthood, and long rehearsals for what became A Christmas Carol at the community theater, I did it. 31 posts on Living Local. You can read them all right here if you want. I was really proud of myself.

But then I was done. I didn’t turn it into an ebook. I didn’t keep up the momentum. I was done. I was tired. But I was glad I had accomplished that goal.

So I decided that I wasn’t going to participate this year unless I really, really wanted to. Unless I really had something to say that was worth 31 posts. Because let’s face it, I’m a writer. I’m not a crafter or a DIYer or a recipe blogger. At my heart, at this space, I’m a writer.

But I just couldn’t think of anything I really wanted to write about. Well, actually I can think of a lot of things, but they’re all random and not thematic and scattered. Sort of like my life right now. This business of freelance writing and novel writing and blogging all at the same time has me more than overwhelmed.

So instead of blogging for 31 days here’s what we’ve been up to instead…

 A little consignment sale shopping…and yes, I’d really like to post my tips for consignment but I just can’t seem to find the time. And then I figure someone better has likely beat me to it.

Hanging with the tractor in the rain on big sister’s field trip. In his new $8 Thomas rain boots. Consignment.

Before the deluge began everyone was all smiles. Then they found out there would be no hayride or corn maze or petting zoo…

Got to admit I teared up a little bit at this fundraiser relay for our local cross country team. That coaching gig used to be mine, so I was a little nostalgic when she came around the track in her “Future Raider” tshirt. Oh, and it was insanely cold. Like 40 degrees.

A little pumpkin patch visiting later that afternoon. We like to buy from local vendors. This one is St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Cleveland.

These two. My friend Brooke was visiting and she told them to look like they loved one another. This is as good as it gets. And when did my oldest become such a fashionista?

 

Millie Moo and I had a date yesterday. We went to the ENT (hello, tonsillectomy! Looks like this post will be getting an update.) and then shopping at Target. The goal was shoes. The wants were not. So we took pictures of what she liked to send to Santa. (i.e. Grandparents–are you reading this?)

And finally I’ve been doing a lot of fall cooking. I briefly considered a 31 days series of fall recipes. Then I realized I am indeed crazy. But I’ll still post some. Like this incredible soup that has a secret ingredient you won’t believe! For recipe updates it’s best to follow me on Instagram.

So, yeah. That’s what I’ve been up to. How about you?

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http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · living local

Crockpot Peanut Butter Vegetable Soup

Yes, that says peanut butter. And it’s amazing.

I discovered this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks from one of my favorite living simply bloggers: Jane over at Thy Hand Hath Provided. It’s healthy, frugal, delicious and usually can be made with whatever I have on hand.

My version is just a little different from hers because I am so passionate about my crockpot and our CSA has enough butternut squash to survive Armageddon, so I’m using it in everything. You can adapt this version for the stove and make it a quick meal on a cold winter night as well. To keep it super simple, just buy all your veggies precut at the store. I won’t tell!

Crockpot Peanut-Butter Vegetable Soup (adapted from www.thyhandhathprovided.com)

2 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
4 cups water
2 cups diced sweet potato or butternut squash (or a combo!)
1-2 cups chopped zucchini and/or yellow squash (I use my freezer stash)
4 tsp chicken flavored bouillon granules
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)
1 pint stewed or canned tomatoes, chopped (again, I use tomatoes from my freezer)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Saute carrots, onions, and garlic in 1 tsp butter or olive oil until softened. Transfer to crockpot. Add water, diced potatoes/butternut squash, zucchini/squash, bouillon, tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook on low 4-6 hours until all vegetables are soft and soup is bubbly. 30 minutes before serving, turn up to high heat and stir in peanut butter. You want to add it last when the soup is already hot so it will dissolve completely.

Serve with bread, salad, or just in a soup mug all by itself and savor.

family · living local · motherhood

Simple Family Fun at the Chattahoochee Mountain Fair

Originally published in The Northeast Georgian, September 12, 2014
I have a confession. Every year when the fair comes to town, we try to keep it a secret from our kids. We avoid highway 17 or taken the circuitous route around so they don’t see the action. The few times in the past they’ve caught glimpses, we’ve managed to change the subject quickly and distract them with other activities. 
It’s not that I’m opposed to the fair, and actually I think we did take them once when we still had only two, and they were too young to care or even notice the carnival. But we avoid it because, gracious, like I told many when we went for the first time, I just about need to sell a kidney to take them. 
That’s what happens when you have four kids. Simple Family Fun becomes Expensive Family Disagreement.

To keep this adventure affordable, we went on Family Night and were the last to make the cut at the gate for discount admission (thank you, Lions Club!). The Monday night crowd was light and there was plenty of entertainment without the rides. In fact, I could happily go again just to wander the agricultural heart of this true county fair. But my kids had a collective mindset. 
Carnival rides. 
So three armbands and a few tickets later we were out of cash and ready to go. I’m going to remember this experience as training for when we finally get to Disney because I learned a valuable lesson. When you have four kids of varying ages and temperaments and fears, carnival rides do not equal family time. 

My oldest is scared of heights which meant she wouldn’t ride anything her sister wanted to ride. So then my second daughter was mad because we wouldn’t let her go off with a friend (family time remember?), and by the end of the night she hadn’t gotten to ride any of the big rides she wanted.  Since we were literally out of money, I couldn’t buy tickets to ride with her. Which made me a little sad, too. 
Not my husband, though. He’s about the same as our oldest when it comes to carnival rides. 
Then we had a four year old daredevil who wanted to ride big rides by herself, but she needed a “responsible person” and her sisters were riding the only thing they could agree on together. So there might have been a tantrum or two about that. 
Finally, we had to divide and conquer with one of us referring the carnival and the other taking two year old Gus away from the rides since he was out of tickets. That’s when I really had fun. We petted the cows and watched the acrobats and he made a new friend. The sweet pup standing guard at the milking demonstration received lots of love that night from a little boy who was reminding his mama to just enjoy life’s simple delights. 
Like Family Night at the County Fair.
living local · motherhood · reflections

When All You Really Need is 10 Quarters to Do Laundry

I came home from the beach a week ago to this greeting from my husband who likes to try and reduce my stress.

“So, you want the good news or the bad news?”

Hmmm….well the bad news was the washing machine had been broken since Tuesday. But he thought he could get it fixed.

With at least $85 and a technician.  Luckily we had this conversation in my parents’ kitchen over pizza after I had napped in the car while my daddy drove two kids, me, and lots of our stuff back home from a week at my favorite place.

Cushioned the blow. And my dad chimed into this conversation with, “You know I think I saw a YouTube video on how to fix that problem.”

Really, sometimes I wonder how people survived before YouTube and Google were actions that can solve anything.

But…fixing it required more hands than Joshua has and more patience than our eight year old has when she’s out of shorts. Plus, I honestly wasn’t sure if this would work (much as I wanted it to) and I had the crazy notion that the laundromat could be a good experience.

Yes, I think taking all four of my kids into a laundromat on a Monday afternoon sandwiched between school and Family Night at the Fair could be a good experience.

I wanted them to see how the other side lives. What it’s like not to have a washer/dryer handy for your favorite shirt at any time. What it means to choose between after school ice cream and clean socks. What it is to mingle with people who look a lot like us but don’t walk in our socio-economic circle in which a laundry room is a necessity and not a luxury.

I wanted to have a smidge of an experience of what it might look like to live out words I penned nearly a year ago.

Because we don’t really know each other until we do dirty laundry together.

So we did. We got an education from a kind gentleman who wasn’t put out that they had taken over the folding tables in order to complete homework. We exchanged smiles with a Hispanic father whose daughter was infinitely calmer than any of mine. We marveled at those who do this on a regular basis and are pros.

But mostly we just learned about Georgia’s habitats and fourth grade algebra and listened to the refrain of the Daniel Tiger app. Being stuck in the laundromat meant I couldn’t escape into the internet or my bedroom or even a novel because between four kids and four washers with timers, something constantly needed attention.

Which was the real heart of this experience for me.

In my own home, I often hole up and overlook the outside world. Including the world of my kids, sometimes. It’s easy to let them retreat to their rooms to complete homework or a project or a book. It’s easy to flip on a show and call it “family time.” It’s nice to fold laundry by myself in my bedroom with a podcast going.

But sometimes that means I’m out of step with all that’s going on around me. I want to see. I want to experience. I want my kids to know how good we really have it.

Even if that sometimes means I need 10 quarters for every load of laundry that needs washing.

What about you? Any new experiences lately? 

Oh, and YouTube worked. He fixed the washer. And after seeing Madelynne’s photo on Instagram, I had no less than five friends tell me I could have used their machines. Which was kind and a lesson to me about remembering it’s okay to humble myself and air my dirty laundry with a friend, too. 

http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · living local

That Time We Didn’t Grocery Shop for a Month {guest post}

One of my few paying gigs as a writer is the marketing I do for Red Dust Ranch. Each week my family participates in their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and receives a paper grocery sack full of fresh vegetables. Lately, that sack hasn’t been able to contain all the squash and watermelon that the farm’s abundance is blessing us with. It’s been a banner farm year, for sure, and when we were hanging out with our Red Dust friends and making barbecue pizza with their pasture-raised pork, I got to hear Sandi and Tim’s story. She tells it best, and I hope it inspires your family to appreciate the food that’s on your table.

BBQ chicken, potato salad, slaw, squash and zucchini, green beans, pickles. Nearly every thing on this plate came from our CSA one week this summer.
My husband, Tim, and I had tried gardening ourselves for two years. The first year was great. We had a robust garden with lots of veggies that we begged people to take it off of our hands. The second year was awful. We made our plot bigger, we added variety, and we did everything we did the year before. Our garden got flooded out and next thing we knew we had a forest and no veggies.
This year, we decided to try a CSA per the suggestion of my husband’s wonderful coworkers. They led us to Red Dust Ranch and it was the best decision we ever made. Not only do we get veggies weekly for a great price, but we have made some great new friends and are stocking up on frozen veggies for winter. Oh yeah…we didn’t go grocery shopping for a month and a half.
I know what you’re thinking…what about bread, milk, and eggs? It sounds daunting, but in reality it was actually really liberating. Every week we went to get our veggies and we got creative. We had meat in the fridge from Sam’s Club and enough other things to keep us from starving. When we ran out of something, we wrote it on a list and we improvised.
Every morning, I like to eat a cup of Greek yogurt. Well, I eventually ran out and was left with the decision to go to the store or find something else. I found something else. We had a lot of oatmeal and grits that had not been eaten and I am not above a simple toast breakfast. Until we went to the store upon returning from vacation, we ate what was in the house.
The week before our vacation was the hardest. We had run out of just about everything. We had no milk, no eggs, no yogurt, no orange juice, etc. The fridge was bare and our grocery list was massive to say the least. But why should we go to the store if we are days away from leaving the state? So, most breakfasts became the raisin bread that was lost in the back of the freezer, lunches were leftovers of dinner, which usually consisted of rice, a veggie, and a meat. Sometimes there was sauce, sometimes there wasn’t.
But we made it to vacation and then went shopping when we got back. We got enough to be able to go another month or more. This time we MIGHT go back for milk.
What this experience did for us?
  • Made us appreciate all that the Red Dust Ranch CSA is and all that it has done for us in a short time
  •  Made us realize we don’t have to rely so heavily on a store to survive
  •  Forced us to be creative
  • Forced us to eat the often ignored items in the pantry
  • Gave us a clean fridge and pantry to start anew. We realized what we do like eat and what we don’t. So now we make sure not to buy those unnecessary things.
I tell others that joining this CSA has been better than couponing from a money saving stand point. I used to clip coupons and desperately hunt through various websites looking for the best deals. It was incredibly time consuming, it was stressful, and honestly it was a giant pain.
So not only are we eating better, we are eating smarter in every way.
Thank you Red Dust Ranch!

Tim and Sandi Suda live in Demorest, Georgia with their two dogs Mattie and Courtney. The two met at Piedmont College over seven years ago and were married on December 31, 2010. Neither grew up in the north Georgia area, so it’s a wonder how a military brat and Atlanta native found each other and settled in a city with a population less than 2,000. Tim is a Technology Specialist for the Banks County School System and Sandi is a Communications Specialist for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. 

living local · summer

Why That South Carolina Low Country is Home Too

This is a repost I wrote two summers ago. Over the past week Edisto Beach suffered extensive damage in the wake of Hurricane Matthew because it did what it does best–provided a barrier. You can view photos of how the beach fared on Facebook Edisto Beach Police Department. Much gratefulness to those who serve the locals of Edisto and those of us who borrow that title whenever we can.

 

I like to write about living local. So much so that it was my 31 Days series this past fall. (Anyone already gearing up for that? Yeah, me neither.) I write about places to go and eat and how to support local small businesses because it’s a topic my husband and I are passionate about. Also, I just really love to get out of the house and explore. Keeps my kids from fighting over electronic devices.

So I write a lot about living local here in northeast Georgia even though I’m technically a transplant to this place. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. How something about a place will continue to shape our character and decisions long after we’ve left it. How you can belong to a place in zipcode and phone record but never really belong, never really feel a part of the intricate web of history and geneology that so pervades small southern towns.

I’m glad I live here, belong here, am raising my family here. My blood connection to these woods and blue ridges lies with my grandfather who loved a campfire and hot coffee with almost the same intensity that he loved my grandmother. But even so, sixty-plus years of fall camping trips at the secret Walnut Tree isn’t the same as having been born into this place and these people. I get the history but not the lineage.

Then, after a six year hiatus, my family heads back down the coast to sleepy Edisto Island on the edge of the South Carolina low country. I grew up riding the waves and scraping the shells out of my swimsuit on this beach that’s like a portal to another time. My mother grew up coming here after the tobacco had been hung to dry in the barns and school was near on the horizon. I’m writing a novel that’s set on these shores and dirt roads hung with Spanish moss. So it’s more than just a vacation destination. It’s as much home as the Granite Capitol that raised me and the mountains that hold me now.

 

 

But I didn’t realize that until I’d been gone and returned to be saddened by the changes and heartened by all that stayed the same. We rode bikes in the evening twilight and bashed our knees in the high tide waves. We hunted snail shells and sharks’ teeth and the elusive sand dollar. We set up canopies and played all day.

 

We bought a book that could have been written about my family.

The Pink House, by Kate Salley Palmer

We shared this favorite place with friends and popsicles and Independence Day.

One day I rode my bike down Pointe Street in search of two older beach cottages the local historian said would help me visualize the Edisto of my mother’s childhood. There was a woman tending tomatoes and flowers in the raised beds of a community garden in someone’s front yard, and I stopped to ask her a few questions about living here.

Tivoli Cottage, Edisto Beach
“Where you from, honey?” was her iconic greeting.

I told her where we live and added that I’d grown up coming here and my grandparents had been from nearby Walterboro.

“Oh,” she said with an easy wave of her hand. “You’re local then.”

Local indeed. And grateful for it.

http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · living local

Ten Things To Do With All That Zucchini

We went to the beach last week. It was great but more on that at a later time.

Anyway, due to some miscommunication, I came home to a fridge full of my CSA produce including plenty of this year’s bumper crop.

Do you know what all locally home-grown farmers (and gardeners) are picking right now?

Yellow squash and shiny green zucchini.

I love it. But I’ve heard some folks don’t. Or maybe they’re just tired of always eating squash covered with cream soup and cheese.

Hopefully, trying one of these new ways to eat your vegetables will turn you on to these humble veggies that can grow as big as a baseball bat if left alone. Those are only good for scooping out the inside and being stuffed with some delicious concoction involving cheese and sausage. This ideas are more on the simple side.

Funny story. Sometimes my kids just eat the zucchini while I’m slicing.  Then they say things like, “Mama, that was a funny tasting cucumber.”

Indeed.

1. Shred it and freeze it. Add it to soups, chilis, tacos, spaghetti…all winter long. They’ll never notice.

2. Make Blueberry-Zucchini Muffins. (Recipe for 2-4 below.)

3. Make Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread.

4. Make plain zucchini bread. There might be a theme here.

5. Try Squash and Potato Au Gratin. I made this the other night and my picky no-squash eater said, “Hmm…this is actually good!”

6. Make pizza crust. Pinterest has at least a gazillion pins for this.

7. Shred it. Add it to cooked rice with black beans and salsa. Mix well. Stuff tortillas and top with cheese.

8. Roast it with a drizzle of olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. 425 for about 15 minutes.

9. Roast it with a sprinkle of parmesan, some sliced olives, and maybe some thinly sliced purple onion. Same as #8. Add leftovers to pizza.

10. Shred it (if you’re going for disguise) or chunk it (if you’re going for hearty). Add it to the Best Tomato Sauce Ever and top your favorite pasta or that spaghetti squash that came with this week’s CSA delivery.

Zucchini Bread (or Muffins) Adapted from Thy Hand Hath Provided

3 eggs
1/2 c brown or granulated sugar
1 c honey
2 c grated zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
2 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole-wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine all your wet ingredients including zucchini. In another, smaller, bowl combine the dry ingredients. Sift the dry into the wet. (Yes, it’s necessary. Yes, it’s a pain.) Fold in blueberries (2 c) or chocolate chips (2 c) or some of both. Divide into two greased loaf pans (9x5x3) or into 24 muffin cups. I recommend using liners because I hate to wash muffin tins. Sometimes I get a little more than 24. Sometime I get a little less. It’s what happens when you don’t measure precisely. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (bread) or about 35 minutes for muffins. You want a knife inserted in the center to come out clean. I make muffins because I can never get the center of the bread to get done. Also, I think muffins keep better. Or maybe I’m just lazy.

See original recipe here.

What do you do with all your zucchini and squash?