Betsy life

We finished our fast at the beginning of last week, and wanted to reflect on it a bit. The plan was to make $327.60 (the average food stamps benefit in Washington for a family of three) last for all of our food purchases for 40 days. I’m happily surprised to say that we did it – with $6 to spare! I should admit, though, that I cheated by purchasing 60 pounds of apples outside of that food budget, and then we ended up eating a number of those apples and applesauce…

As the days passed on our fast, I quickly learned that our pantry and freezer are broad and deep. The freezer provided pretty much all of our meat for the 40 days (I think I bought about 2 meat items the whole time), and we only made a minor dent in how much we still have. This is good news for my vegetarian sympathist side, but may also explain why Seth has been waking up every morning lately asking to have “meat for breakfast.”

Also in regards to our pantry: with a week left to go, I discovered that we had flour beetles. Into the trash went the nearly full box of organic cornstarch, the bag of vital wheat gluten (you know, for making homemade seitan…someday), among many other things.

Overall, our actual meals were about the same as usual. If anything, they were sometimes more ambitious (see: Todd’s homemade sopes, tamales and Caribbean oxtail soup). So did the fast have any effect on us? Well, Todd can write down his thoughts, but speaking as the primary grocery shopper, every single grocery shopping trip was a lesson. As the stack of paper bills in my wallet shrank, and as my shopping list grew more austere (for us), God was showing me how I often take my blessings for granted, and letting me walk, in this small way, in the shoes of someone who lives in poverty. You better believe that leftovers got eaten, the $3 lemongrass “splurge” got discussed and analyzed, and we got stretched to have more-with-less.

I read the book A Place at the Table throughout our fast, and while the short essays were okay, what I found really helpful were the suggestions to pray for specific people in specific communities around the world.

Since we did stay within our budget, Todd asked if we were boxing ourselves into that every month. I said no, as did my Costco receipt the day after our fast ended. But I hope to remember and use what we have learned through these last five weeks.

Pancakes aren’t my favorite food, per se, but I find that I make them a ton, and have also amassed a big collection of recipes. My no-brainer recipe, as in, I have it memorized is from the Betty Crocker red cookbook from the 70′s. It’s also really adaptable:

1 cup flour (all purpose, or a mix of any flours)
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg (or egg replacer)
1 cup milk (any kind)

The most delicious recipe is oatmeal pancakes from Good to the Grain. Seriously, these are amazing with sliced strawberries.

When we need to sneak a few more veggies into our diet (and who doesn’t?), I make these carrot cake pancakes.

Instead of going into lasagna, ricotta more often goes into these ricotta pancakes. Add some lemon zest in there, too.

We always use real maple syrup on our pancakes, but eating them with jam and mascarpone is a yummy alternative.

My recent go-to has been buckwheat banana pancakes, adapted from How it All Vegan!:

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/4 cup milk (any kind)
1 well-mashed banana
1 TBSP sugar
2 tsp baking powder

Adding the buckwheat makes them thin, reminding me of crepes.

One of my unofficial goals of 2012 is to sew more, which is to say, at all. So for Seth’s half birthday (post on his party to come soon!), I made him both a play cape and tool belt. I had been thinking that a play cape would be cool for dress up play. Because it’s reversible and I used a velour-type fabric for both sides, it could also double as a blanket! Seth has played in it exactly zero times, but I’m hoping that it will get at least some use. The pattern is from Growing Up Sew Liberated, and was a good chance to practice my top-stitching.

play cape

The tool belt pattern was from here. I used inch-wide webbing instead of sewing a belt, and made the all of the pockets 1/2 inch deeper to fit Seth’s magnifying glass. This one came out way less polished than the cape, but mostly because my machine did not like sewing through (at times) 6 layers of light denim-y fabric. He does put this on sometimes, and it especially came in handy for holding Pop-its on the 4th of July.

new tool belt!

“You need my hands, my exhaustion,
Working love for the rest of the weary”

- from “You Have Come to the Lakeshore”

We sang “You Have Come to the Lakeshore” the Sunday Seth was baptized, and that lyric above jumped off the page. Todd had just finished helping facilitate a series on Horizons of Mission at church. Since then, we both read The Art of Non-Conformity and Crazy Love and Take This Bread and have been spending more time reading the Bible. It seems like everywhere we turn, Todd and I are sensing God telling us: DO SOMETHING. We have been alternating between praying for discernment of what that “something” is, and being paralyzed by choice and/or fear of where to start. Hence, listening to this song on constant repeat:

Stay tuned! I know we are!

showshoe luv

My sister gifted me and Todd a day of snowshoeing for Christmas. This included borrowing her and Mar’s snowshoes, watching Seth, and even a thermos of homemade spiced wine if we needed some warming up on our walk. Awesome!

We went on our adventure this last Saturday, even though Seth was coming down with a cold. Sarah tells us she and Seth got in a lot of snuggles while reading and watching the Muppet Show. Meanwhile, Todd and I drove up to Steven’s Pass, and hiked up toward Skyline Ridge. It was fun, but so much work, too! Granted, Todd tells me that we (I) tend to go fast when hiking on bare ground, and slapping snow shoes and ten feet of snow under us didn’t seem to make me want to adjust my pace. After an hour we reached a dead end, though I don’t know if it was actually the top of the ridge, as there was another, much smaller trail a little way below the dead end. We’ll have to come back in summer and compare notes. Then we turned around and hiked down, and passed lots of folks on their way up with snow-camping gear. Maybe next time… Then after a pizza lunch, we headed back home. Thanks for the great day out, Sarah!

A couple weeks before Christmas, our church newsletter had a heads up about a five week class in ‘Simplicity Parenting’ being offered at another local church. The moment the service was over, I leaned over to Todd and said, “I’m signing myself up for this!” He said, “Oh good! I was trying to both think of a way to smuggle a copy into my pocket to have the info, and fit it into our Christmas spending budget.” I’m so glad we were on the same page about this.

The class is going to be based on this book. I’m in the middle of the book now, and am already excited about integrating some of his ideas into our family life. It has already inspired me to take a vacation from Facebook; I’m on day three, and definitely have withdrawal, but am already feeling like I have more time. More time is a very good thing around here.

I’ve never been one to ‘exercise.’ I’ve had one-girl dance parties, but these started to dry up after Todd and I married, and have been non-existent since Seth arrived on the scene. I tried to motivate myself to do workout routine DVDs checked out from the library, but timing was an issue, as well as being embarrassed by hopping around my living room, even though no one was watching.

I recently got inspired, though, through the blog of one of Kari’s friends, who talked a lot about her running, and also recommended Run Like a Mother, to run. Run?! I’ve always said I loathe running. Todd runs, and once described to me that, even when you run often, it still hurts, but you just keep going anyways. Why would I want to willingly do something that hurts? (Pregnancy nothwithstanding…;) Well, the book pointed out that you get to get out of the house and be outside, by yourself, listening to music or your own thoughts, and exercising, all in one activity. Put that way, running sounded…awesome.

Since finishing the book, I have run 5 times in 3 weeks, and am working toward consistently running 2-3 times a week. I don’t currently have any goals regarding how fast I run, because really, I run slooooow and don’t care, but I do have to run the whole time. When I started, I told Todd that we should run a 5k, but I have pleasantly surprised myself by running 5k every time I go out! I put together a super peppy playlist, and every time I start getting tired, Lady Gaga or Beyonce helps me push through to a second (and third, and fourth…) wind. Hopefully I can keep it up so Todd and I can run a 10k this spring or summer!

It’s been a while since I shared some knitting/crafting projects–mostly because I hardly ever finish anything! But I have been whipping up a few items for our new little girl friends. I’m really having fun making things for girls as you can, uh, see…

Our cousins welcomed their new little girl, J, into the world last month, so I knitted this vest for her:

sweater for J

I’m especially pleased about the yarn on the buttons following a pattern as I didn’t even plan that. Go, yarn! And this was for Heather’s daughter, N (who’s already 5 months old – crazy!):

dress for N

And this is for C, due to make her debut at the end of July:

sail away sweatersail away sweater

A few months back, one of our priests at church asked if I knew of anyone who could give a talk on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s) at our Sunday morning adult education (I work for a farm that has a produce box program similar to a CSA, so the question wasn’t completely out of nowhere ;] ). I volunteered myself, and then put off planning until the very last minute, but in the end, gave what I thought was a pretty nice talk that mentioned CSA’s as part of a larger picture of making sure our food choices are sustainable, and honor Creation.

In preparation of the talk, I finally watched Food, Inc.– if you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to, or you could take Todd’s suggestion and read The Omnivore’s Dilemma instead if you would rather read about than see slaughtering imagery… Long story short, I am a newly minted vegetarian unless I know the source of the meat I’m eating. What do you call that? Ethical omnivore? Flexitarian?

I’m hoping to be gracious about it, and if I’m at someone else’s home and they serve me meat, I’m not going to question, scold or refuse. We went over to Jake and Cerra’s house a few days ago, and when I mentioned that I wouldn’t be having a beef hamburger, Cerra found me an awesome black bean burger in the freezer. That was super accommodating of her, but I don’t expect that everywhere we go. (And plus, I later turned a blind eye and ate a marshmallow…:/ )

I also really have no intention of raising Seth as a vegetarian, nor could I impose a no-meat policy on Todd even if I wanted to, nor do I want to make two separate meals at dinnertime. I’m trying to find a good balance between veggie and meaty meals at home; few enough meat meals to not raise our grocery budget by too much, but enough so that Todd doesn’t go on Arby’s benders on the sly. Todd, lovely guy that he is, spends a lot of time making sure that I don’t feel stressed out as a mostly stay-at-home mama, and is hoping that I don’t feel undue stress by having to make special trips to find “happy” meat, as a friend calls it. So far, I would say that it’s actually renewed my excitement in grocery shopping and cooking. is an all vegetarian recipe blog that is always fun to look at, but I’ve started a delicious account to bookmark the recipes that I think look especially good (and quick and Seth-friendly*). This also gave me an excuse to visit the Grainery, a natural foods store in Burien, for the first time. I probably got way too much joy out of buying french lentils in bulk. Anyway, we’ll see how this goes, but at the very least, I won’t feel guilty every time I sing a round of Old MacDonald to Seth.

*Seth is a really good eater so far. He likes lots of different veggies, and loves rice, other grains and beans (maybe he likes beans a little too much), so it’s less to cater to typical toddler tastes, but more to make sure that it’s something that he and the rest of us will enjoy. :]

We celebrated my 30th birthday a couple weeks ago. A few days before, we went out with my parents & siblings at our new favorite Thai restaurant (yay!) The next day Seth and I went to the zoo with some friends and their kids (yay!), where I got bit by a duck (boo!).

Then my actual birthday: Seth woke up super early, was cranky, and I of course expected everything to be covered in glitter, cuz it’s my birthday, ya know? (boo). Todd got off work early, which was nice, and we arranged to meet him at the farmer’s market (yay!). But then the car battery died in the parking lot and he had to walk to a car parts store, borrow tools, and replace it (boo and yay — what would I have done if Todd hadn’t been there? Change a batter with a toddler on my back? Ask the car parts guy to come out and do it for me?…)

The next day (Friday) was much better overall — Seth and I spent a wonderful morning at Lincoln park throwing rocks in the water, then I made homemade pizza for dinner, as is our new every-other-Friday tradition, and Todd gave me my birthday presents. A Liberty of London nightgown, and…a day off! He presented me with a bunch of envelopes with times written on them. I could only open the one marked “Tonight” at the time. It had a coffee card in it, and said:

Betsy’s Day Off! Tomorrow morning, leave the house at 9:30. Drive to Tully’s, buy yourself a coffee, and await further instructions. Spend some time knitting, reading, or just enjoying the quiet.

Other than that, Todd would only tell me that I wasn’t spending lunch or dinner at home, and to dress in something I wouldn’t mind getting lizard blood on. Just kidding! I was 10% sad to not be spending the whole day with Todd and Seth like I had thought, but the other 90% of me was pumped. A whole day of *something*, but none of it involving changing diapers, cleaning up messes, making meals, etc. The next envelope, opened at 10:30, had $20 and said:

Watch the front door of Tully’s for a familiar face. Once they appear, take this money and go visit some of the thrift/used clothes stores on the ave.

Well, and then who should show up but Brandy! She has two kids, and whenever we get together we’re pulled in three different directions, so it was so nice to be able to hang out with her and browse clothes. I didn’t end up buying anything, but it was still fun. Then the 11:20 envelope:

Go to Araya for lunch! You may want to look around for some friendly people to eat lunch with.

Brandy walked me to Araya, and I asked if she was going to lunch with me. She had to meet back up with her family, but then my sister and brother showed up, so I had lunch with them! Even if my ‘day off’ ended after that, it would have been fabulous, but I still had five more envelopes! 12:30:

Is your phone turned on?

It was…We had just finished eating and I said my goodbyes to Sarah and Michael, when Heather and Emily called from New York to sing happy birthday, and chat briefly. I opened the 12:45 envelope while on the phone with them:

Go to the Henry Art Gallery. If you are lucky, you may be able to find someone to discuss art with.

I could get used to this. Coffee, thrift store shopping, art? I felt like I was on ‘This is your life,’ with all these things packed into one day. Aaron was waiting for me at the Henry, and we had a fun time looking at art, then swinging by Solstice for more coffee. 2:00:

Drive up north, and park at Hillary’s house. Ring her front doorbell. Perhaps you’ll meet someone nice at her front door, hmm?

Hillary and I spent our time on a wonderful walk. She also gave me a card that pointed out the fact that we’ve been friends for 17 years, which made me cry (in a good way). 3:30:

You and Hillary should both drive south to Third Place Books. I doubt you’ll find anyone who is friendly there.

Todd told me he was getting tired of talking about friendly people. Jake, Erin and Matthew were there and we played games for a while (and Jake sent me to browse books with a shiny new TPB gift card — I picked up Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard). 5:15:

Head back south to West Seattle. Go to Revo — with your wit and charm, try to find someone who is willing to let you join their table.

And who else was it but my amazing, clever husband? We had a huge dinner, then headed back home to thank my parents for taking care of Seth on the last leg of my day, and enjoy chocolate gelato. Phew! It truly was one of my favorite days ever, and a wonderful birthday gift. Thanks, Ddot, and friends, for making it special!

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