We Eat/She Eats and Monday Motivation

I’m feeling a little low as I write this, having just waved goodbye to my mother and younger brother.  We had the best weekend, and even though we got a little off track on the healthy eating (my mom is an awesome cook!),  I still managed to lose another pound last week and finish the full T25 Week Four lineup.

Hanging with the family before they headed south.

Hanging with the family before they headed south.

So here we are… the Monday two weeks before I go back to work.  A is down for a great morning nap, I just finished the day’s workout, and I’m starting to try to imagine a world in which she and I get home from work at dinner time and have to shuffle ourselves into a routine of snuggling, nursing, and still getting a meal on the table.  Over the next few days, I’m hoping to post about some of our favorite make ahead meals.  Living in a rural area, the takeaway options are nearly non-existent or incredibly unhealthy, so we combat that by making and freezing meals ahead of time to try to help balance evenings when I have to work later than normal.  So here’s our lineup for this week:

We Eat/ She Eats Week Five:

* = Produce from Our Garden

Monday:
We Eat: Chicken Cesar Salad: Grilled Chicken, Salad Greens, Organic Lettuce, Cucumbers*, Tomatoes*, Red Onion*, Zucchini*, Organic Croutons and Parmesan Cheese
She Eats: Chicken Bits, Cucumber*, Banana, Parmesan Cheese, Cabot Greek Yogurt, Avocado

Tuesday: Plan Ahead & Freeze for Back to School
We Eat:  Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce with Pasta, Green Beans*, Side Salads*
She Eats: Bits of Meatball (working on an Amelia-friendly recipe), Pasta Pieces, Green Beans*, Watermelon, Parmesan Cheese

Wednesday:
We Eat: Indian Chicken made with Seeds of Change Masala Sauce, Peas*, and Organic Chicken Thighs, Brown Rice, Cucumbers* in Greek Yogurt with Mint* and Garlic*
She Eats: Chicken Bits, Cucumbers* in Greek Yogurt with Pear Sauce, Brown Rice, Pieces of Peas* (chopped up)

Thursday:
We Eat: Hamburgers on Sandwich Flats with Sweet Potato Fries and Cucumber* Spears
She Eats: Ground Beef Bits, Bits of Bread, Sweet Potato, Cucumber* Chunks

Friday:
We Eat: Tomato*, Bacon & Pepperoni Pizza on the Grill (homemade crust)
She Eats: Cheese, Chopped up Soft Pizza Crust, Avocado, Lean Protein (Probably Organic Chicken Breast)

Goals:

  1. Continue to drink more water … I’m really struggling to get to that 10th glass every day.
  2. Live in the moment – summer is fading fast!
  3. Start getting up at 4 a.m. and working out to prepare for the return to work.  Sigh.
  4. Try to get to the blueberry fields.

Hope you’re enjoying a lovely summer Monday!

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We Eat/She Eats & Monday Motivation

Though it took me several days to make it (for some reason it fell out of the rotation last week),  we had a real We Eat/She Eats success on Sunday night when A ate exactly what we did – organic chicken sausage (with sun dried tomato and basil) sauteed with organic zucchini and red pepper over pasta (hers was all cut into tiny bites), garnished with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  She gobbled it up and finished it with a side of Greek yogurt with pear sauce.  She also ate a great lunch on Sunday of turkey (chopped), blueberries (diced) and cheddar cheese with a few Cheerios.  It’s really interesting to watch how much more delighted she is with more seasoned and flavorful food.  Here’s hoping we’re raising an adventurous little foodie!

In other news, T25 is still going great.  The scale still hasn’t moved much, and since balancing nursing with weight loss is such a struggle for me (I’m back at my pre-pregnancy weight, which I’ve maintained since doing Weight Watchers this past spring), I’ve decided to commit to three more months of WW to see if it can get me to my goal weight.  I went off when I traveled home to Vermont, knowing that I didn’t want to pay for two weeks during which I’d probably slide off program, but I’m ready to finish slimming down in hopes that a little less weight might ease up the last of my residual back pain.  I should note that all of these dinners are pre-tracked in my WW calculator, something that I’ve had really good success with in the past.  I tend to eat the same breakfast every day, and knowing what dinner will bring allows me to make better choices at lunch and in the early afternoon, when I tend to be most snacky.

We Eat/She Eats: Week Three

Monday:
We Eat: Grilled Chicken with Homemade BBQ Sauce, Maple Braised Carrots, Orzo
She Eats: Chicken Bits, Steamed Carrots & Chopped Orzo with Greek Yogurt & Pear Sauce if she’s still hungry after dinner

Tuesday:
We Eat: Cheese Burgers (90% lean, grass fed beef) on Sandwich Flats and Homemade, Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Watermelon
She Eats: Sautéed Ground Beef, Cheddar Cheese, Sweet Potato (Frozen), Watermelon Bits

Wednesday:
We Eat: Homemade Taco Salad: Lettuce, Tomato & Peppers Studded with Ground Beef (Homemade Spice Mix), Light Sour Cream, Avocado, Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar & Tortilla Chips (garnish – think croutons)
She Eats: Sautéed Ground Beef, Avocado, Watermelon Bits, Sharp Cheddar or Cottage Cheese

Thursday:
We Eat: Chicken, Sautéed and cooked in Seeds of Change Masala Sauce over Brown Rice with Broccoli and Garden Peas!
She Eats: Sautéed Chicken, Broccoli, Chopped Peas, Cottage Cheese

Friday: Possible Dinner Guests
We Eat: Homemade Pizza on the Grill – Pepperoni and Veggie
She Eats: Leftover Chicken, Leftover Broccoli, Cheese, Cheerios

What are you looking forward to cooking this week?

 

Weekend Wrap-Up

It feels sacrilegious that I’m writing our weekend wrap-up on Sunday morning, but that’s sort of how the whole weekend has felt.  We had an awesome dinner with friends on Friday night, but Jason and his mom have had to spend the entire weekend (and nearly every weekend this summer) out at his father’s house preparing it for sale (we’re under contract!), which has made for a weekend that, frankly, feels a lot like the middle of the week.  I’m not complaining, but it has lent a different feel to the days, particularly since A loves her Daddy so much.

We did sneak in a lovely dinner last night (pizza on the grill) and a quiet early evening together before A woke up for an hour.  When she did finally go down, she slept through the night for the second time ever, so this Mama’s keeping her fingers crossed that it happens again.

Since the summer is slipping away so quickly, I wanted a quick list of things that I’m hoping to accomplish this week.  Not having to drive into work should definitely help with the getting things done, but it’s also that time of the summer where I usually start devoting my mornings to lesson planning again, so we’ll see how it all goes.

  1. Put away A’s Swing.  She hasn’t used it in more than a month, but it’s still set up in her bedroom and taking up a TON of space.  We’re thinking #2 needs to wait a year or two, so it’s definitely not something I want under foot until then.
  2. Re-cord the living room entertainment system.  There are so many wires behind our bookshelves, and A has taken to trying to get them.  I also need to figure out some kind of charging station for the laptop because the old cord across the living room floor to the coffee table is an accident waiting to happen.

    I love this idea from HGTV

  3. Wash the kitchen floor.  Seriously.  Scrub it on hands and knees.  Because if A isn’t crawling on it, she’s licking it like her best friend, Abby the Dog.
  4. Find a solution to the mail on the kitchen table nightmare.  So much mail.  So little organization.  I’m thinking some sort of organizer I can hide away in my kitchen closet.  Ditto for a purse hanger.  I need somewhere other than the floor to set my handbag when I come in.
  5. Put together Katie’s Bridal Shower gift – I’ll share this one with you after her shower on August 2.
  6. I doubt I’ll get to it this week, but I bought 15 yards of fabric in April, and my living room still has the ugly Roman shades that have been up since… Jason bought the house ten years ago.

    Fabric Swatch – Waverly Swept Away

  7. Finish Week Three of T25 – Weeks 1 & 2 are complete.
  8. Keep harvesting peas.  Yesterday, I picked, shucked, prepared and froze two quarts.  All during nap time.  I’m hoping to do a Preserving the Harvest blog post on how to freeze peas that taste sweet and fresh all year long.

What are you hoping to accomplish this week?  Amelia is working hard on standing up in her crib every chance she gets!DSC_0085

We Eat/She Eats and Motivation for Monday (well… Tuesday)

We’re running a little late here because we got invited over to the neighbor’s for some playtime on the porch after our afternoon nap yesterday, but here’s your update:

Goals for the Week:

  1. Continue to eat less sugar.  We did okay last week.  Then I baked a batch of cookies.
  2. Keep pushing the water.  It’s hot and so hard to keep up with nursing A while remaining hydrated.
  3. Snack on fruits and veggies.

T25 is going great so far.  I finished week one, getting all of my workouts in and doing the Sunday Stretch workout, as well.  I feel great and my back pain finally seems to be receding.  I haven’t noticed any major movement on the scale, but I have a lot more energy and a lot of muscle to rebuild.

We Eat/She Eats

Monday:
We Ate: Tomato & Goat Cheese Bruschetta (we had both eaten really late lunches)
She Ate: Yogurt with Pear Sauce, Cheerios, Watermelon, Ground Chicken (weekend leftovers)
Tuesday:
We Eat: Grilled Rib Eye (Grass Fed), Herb Roasted Potatoes (local potatoes with herbs from our garden), Steamed Asparagus
She Eats: Ground up steak (depending on how tender the meat is), potato, steamed asparagus bits, watermelon for dessert

Wednesday: I have to work, so I’ll prep Jason and A’s dinner before I leave.
We Eat: Burger & Homemade Fries for Jason
She Eats: Sauteed Ground Beef (Grass Fed), with Fruit & Cottage Cheese

Thursday:
We Eat: Spaghetti and Meatballs (Homemade – Pioneer Woman Recipe – Frozen)
She Eats: Alphabet Pasta, Cottage Cheese, Leftover Steamed Carrots

Friday: BBQing with Friends on the Lake
We Eat: Bringing Watermelon Salad (Recipe to Come) & Italian Lemon Cake
She Eats: We’ll bring watermelon, Cheerios and Yogurt for A (and likely give her bits of chicken, as well)

Saturday:
We Eat: Sausage, Zucchini, Parmesan Cheese & Pasta
She Eats: Steamed Zucchini, Pasta, and Cottage Cheese

In the spirit of truthful reporting, we managed to follow our menu exactly last week, except for Wednesday when I had to work and I came home and made French Toast for dinner for myself, mac and cheese for Jason and pasta bits, peaches and yogurt for A.   This is the entire reason why we’re doing a freezer meal for when I work on Thursday.  Gone are the days of putting A on her play mat in the kitchen and cooking while she watched on her back.

Meal Planning Sunday

I have one more week of classes before two days of faculty meetings and then… summer vacation!  In my last post, I talked briefly about a back injury that is still clinging, nearly a week later.  So I do my physical therapy stretches, and Jason does all of the in and out crib lifting of Baby A, and we wait.  Hopefully, by next week, I’ll be able to tackle the flower beds.  On top of all this, though, is the nagging reminder that 90% of this injury is the lack of core work I’ve been doing since A arrived.  I’m hoping that over the next twelve weeks, I can eat healthily and exercise my way back to an injury free self, just in time for fall classes to start.

As a new mom, it’s really important to me that I teach A to respect her body, rather than spend her time wishing she could look like someone else.  And the only way to teach her that respect is to set a good example though healthy, sustainable diet and exercise and a positive outlook.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, especially when even though I’m back to my pre-baby weight, things haven’t quite settled back where they used to be.  I’m hoping to use this injury as a way of being thankful for what I have: good health, a happy, healthy baby, and plenty of time to get myself into shape over the next few weeks.  And what’s one way of holding ourselves accountable?  Meal planning.

I’ve been an avid meal planner for most of my adult life because I hate extra trips to the grocery store.  And now, with a seven month old in tow, they’re even more complicated to plan and execute.  And although takeout pizza still happens (more regularly than I’d like to admit), hopefully by owning my meal planning, I’ll be more likely to get into the kitchen and cook with the last of last year’s garden produce before this year’s garden starts ramping up.

Sunday:

Steak on the Grill/Asparagus (Fresh & Local)/Local Potatoes Roasted with Olive Oil, Herbs & Garlic

Monday:

Grilled Chicken (Mom’s Secret Recipe) with last year’s Green Beans and Wild Rice

Tuesday:

Chicken Sausage Pasta (Organic Chicken Sausage Sauteed with Summer Squash and Zucchini over Angel Hair Pasta with a bit of Parmesan and Mustard)

Wednesday:

Taco Salad Bowls (Grass Fed Beef/Homemade Seasoning/Diced Veggies over Salad Greens)

Thursday:

Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots

Friday:

Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries (Grass Fed Beef with Veggie Trimmings on Sandwich Flats with Homemade Sweet Potato “Fries” Roasted in the Oven and Home-Canned Pickles)

Saturday:

Plan & Shop for Next Week

What are you planning for this week?

Returning to Blogging after a Long Hiatus

After a long hiatus, I’m happy to say that I think I’m finally back…

School has been incredibly busy this year, and given our other news…

DSC_0251

Abby will be a big sister in October!

…things have been much busier around here than they usually are in spring, and if you’ve read about past springs, things are typically pretty busy, anyway.

In the next few weeks, I look forward to catching you up on where we are in the garden (tomato and pepper seedlings were planted indoors two weeks ago), in the coop (currently selecting eggs for the 2013 hatch), and in the nursery (cloth diapering, anyone?).  So thank you for sticking around, if you have been periodically checking back in; and if you’re new, welcome!  We look forward to sharing our summer (and baby!) adventures with you over the next few months.

Putting up the Harvest: Preserving Green Beans

Jason and I plant a garden that seems way too big for two people.  Take a walk through our backyard past our six blueberry plants, herb garden that was once a fire ring and the large garden (50′ x 25′), and when you notice the smaller garden (25’x10′), you might start to wonder what’s going on.  Yesterday’s confession that we grow 5 – 25′ long rows of tomatoes probably only helps reinforce this image.

What is my plan in all of this?  It’s my goal to buy as few grocery store vegetables (frozen, fresh or otherwise) in the winter.  And one of the ways we succeeded at this last year was by putting up a vegetable we both love to eat for dinner: green beans.

The first year I tried this was a raging failure because my original thought process went something like this:

Larger Beans = More Beans = More Food

I waited until the beans were pretty big.  Picked them, processed them, put them up… and they were horrible.  Stringy.  Tough.  Generally gross.  So my first lesson for you is that if you’re putting up produce, put it up young and fresh.  Just because you have more of it does not mean you want to eat it.

Young, fresh beans

Below, please find my guide to preserving green beans.

Materials:

Quart Freezer Bags

Glad Press & Seal

Fresh-picked green beans (you want these in the pot almost immediately after you pull them out of the garden)

Large pot for blanching (with large metal sieve, if possible)

Colander

Bowl or clean sink full of ice water

Cookie Sheets

Clean, absorbent dish towels

Before starting, make sure you have enough space for two cookie sheets in your freezer, as you need to flash freeze beans BEFORE placing them into bags.

Step 1: Pick you beans.  We usually pick tender beans of about 4 inches that have not started to form thick beans inside the pods yet.  This is how we prefer to eat them raw, and we’ve had great luck with them frozen.  Last year, we grew Tenderette and Soleil varieties from Park Seed, and they’ve now grown beautifully two years in a row!

Beans, Fresh-Picked for Processing

Step 2: Immediately after your beans are picked, bring them inside and remove the caps from each bean (the part that attached the bean to the plant).  If your beans are a bit longer, you can break them into segments at this point.  A fresh bean should snap easily.  Discard any beans that look like they’ve been munched on by bugs or spotted by disease.

Cap Removal

While you are removing the caps on the beans, place a large pot of water with a lid over high heat to boil.  We use this crazy old pot that my father in law gave us a few years ago.  I’m not sure what it’s initial purpose was (probably canning!), but it consists of a large pot, a slotted interior pot and a lid that lets off steam.  If you can find one of these at a garage or yard sale, snap it up!  Best. Preserving. Pot. Ever.

Preserving Pot, Disassembled

Step 3: Rinse beans under cold water in a colander until clean.  This step is particularly important if you’re using pesticides in your garden, which we don’t.  That said, it removes dirt, bugs and anything else that might be on your beans.

Rinsing the Beans

Step 4: In batches that fit your pot, blanch beans for 2 minutes.  I use the interior slotted section of my preserving pot for this; however, I’ve also used a large metal sieve before, when preserving peas.  Anything that will let you get the beans into the hot water for two minutes and remove them quickly is perfect.  Note: I would not use a plastic colander for this purpose.

Blanching the Beans

Step 5: As soon as the beans come out of the hot water, place them immediately in ice cold water to halt the cooking process.  Leave in the water 5 – 8 minutes. I don’t usually stress about this time, as long as they’re in there at least five minutes.  A bit longer won’t hurt them!

Cooling the Beans

Step 6: Spread your tea towels out onto your cookie sheets.  You are going to use these to absorb as much water from the beans as you can before freezing. 

Place the beans in  a thin layer onto the tea towel, then roll up like a jelly-roll, tucking the edges in over the beans to keep them from slipping out.  If you have a lot of beans, you can place a second towel over the beans before rolling, to soak up excess water.  Remember: too much additional water = freezer burn.

Step 7: Once your beans are dry, remove the towels and leave the beans spread out on you cookie sheet in a thin layer.  You’re now going to flash freeze the beans in your freezer.  Place the trays in the freezer for 8 – 12 hours to ensure a quick and uniform first freeze.

Beans prior to freezing

Step 8: Remove one tray of beans from the freezer.  Loosen them gently with a spatula and arrange a complete dinner serving for your family onto a sheet of Press and Seal.  I usually measure out enough for one meal for Jason and I.    Wrap tightly.  You will want to work quickly because you don’t want the beans to thaw.

Step 9: Place 3 – 4 servings in each freezer bag.  Remove as much air as possible and mark with the date.  As soon as a bag is complete, return it  to the freezer.

To reheat, remove beans directly from the freezer.  Unwrap and place either in a microwavable bowl in the microwave for one minute (or until hot) or in a steamer basket over the stove until they’re hot and ready to eat.

Perfect, garden fresh beans every time!

Hosting a Homestead Wedding

Jason and I got engaged in January of 2011, but long before that, I knew that I wanted a backyard wedding.  I had this image in my mind of a hayfield with just the ceremony site mowed out: simple white chairs, a rustic arbor, country flowers.   I had no real experience with wedding planning beyond an interest in wedding blogs like The Broke-Ass Bride, Green Wedding Shoes and Wedding Chicks.  I had a lot to learn.

One of the most stressful parts of planning our homestead wedding was lining up the vendors.  I knew we’d need tents and chairs, though I had no idea just how much tents and chairs for 100 would cost (roughly $1,500).  Beyond that, there was food to consider.  I definitely wanted to work with someone local, but it was hard to find someone willing to cater to an outdoor wedding for 100 in July that was 15 miles outside of town with very few options for electricity and water.  I was lucky enough to discover the catering branch of our local U Maine system, which produced delicious meals for under $15/plate and offered a reduced child’s rate.  They were also more than willing to help us with linens and extra glassware rentals to cut back on waste.

Photo by Allison Emmerich
Tents and chairs… well worth the cost.

Strangely, the least stressful part about our wedding was the marriage, itself.  I’ve said this to a few of my friends, but marrying Jason was the first big decision I’ve ever made that I was 100% certain about.  I couldn’t wait to be his wife and partner, and my confidence in that really carried me through the piles of mundane tasks that awaited us.

There are a few things that I feel we did right that saved us time, money and anxiety.  By allowing ourselves a full, 18 month engagement, I was able to do all of the big planning (tent, food, dress) a year in advance, allowing for a much more relaxed few months before the event.  We also decided to eschew the wedding planner that several family members suggested we get.  While this meant having to deal with more of the details, myself, it saved money and really let me interact with my own wedding and ensure that nothing got too out of hand.

By hiring a local caterer who served on china, glass and silver outside and choosing two kegs over bottles of beer, we were able to create no more than two 30 gallon bags of trash (including gift wrap), despite the number of guests and scope of the event.  We were careful to recycle what we could, but this lack of trash was important to me.  I was also careful in creating wedding signs that could either be passed forward to friends getting married or used around our homestead.  The Christmas lights are being donated to the school I teach at for an event I host every year, and the cupcake tower has already been loaned out to another bride.

Photo by Allison Emmerich
One of our many, reusable wedding signs.

Jason’s family provided all of our flowers, from the wild flowers on the tables to the four huge buckets of white hydrangeas from their gardens that provided bridesmaids’ flowers and dressing for our homemade arbor.  This not only saved money but provided a really nice connection to those we love as we were able to integrate them into our ceremony and the day.  And rather than doing vases on the tables, we used quart mason jars for the wild flowers and pint mason jars for the dianthus that held the table numbers and can, ultimately, be reused.

And despite numerous horrified family members and friends, we successfully made our own wedding cake (117 cupcakes and a small cutting cake).  We used as many local ingredients as we could, and it was, surprisingly, the least stressful part of the entire day.   I plan on writing a full post, including recipes, next week.

Photo by Allison Emmerich
Homemade Wedding Cake

So what did we learn?

Our friends were invaluable.  My best friend Allie and her boyfriend Dave came early and may be one of the only reasons we managed to dress the tents on time the day of the wedding.  They not only helped us set up the ceremony site and take care of the chickens leading up to the event, but they also wrangled kids, ensured that a few early (and late!) photos got taken, and generally did everything that I didn’t have time to think of the day of the wedding.  And Allie reminded me to drink water.  Constantly.  Invaluable.

Photo by Allison Emmerich (tripod)
Best friends really do make the difference in wedding planning!

Give yourselves extra time!  Nothing happened quickly or easily the morning of the wedding.  I was so glad that we’d planned for a 4 p.m. ceremony because with only four of us doing initial set-up, it was a miracle that Allie and I got out the door at 11:30 a.m. to drive into town for hair.

Count everything you rent.  Somehow, during our rental process, five chairs disappeared.  Since the manifest was signed without counting the chairs, we ended up paying for five chairs that I’m pretty sure never got dropped off at our home, but there was really nothing we could do.

Have a casual rehearsal dinner.  We wanted an outdoor rehearsal BBQ that was as low-key as we are.  It allowed us to invite the close friends we’ve made who were not in our bridal party and kick back with family and friends from far away.  It is still one of my favorite memories of the weekend, and the kids in our bridal party had an awesome time with the ring bearer’s gift: a kite.

Photo by David Todaro
Perfect Rehearsal… and look at that sky!

Pen up or send away animals for their own protection.  Although our flock regularly free ranges, everyone spent the three days before the wedding cooped up in their outdoor tractors because the last thing we had time to do was chase chickens.  In addition to this, we opened a basement window so the cats could go in and out as they pleased and sent Abby (our Australian Shepherd) to Jason’s Mom’s house for the weekend, as she has a deep love of both cupcakes and running in front of cars – it just wasn’t safe to keep her on site and I was more relaxed knowing that she was relaxing at her grandmother’s.

The chicks on wedding weekend. Note: they were in their indoor coop the day of the wedding. They were one of many stops for the children at the event.

Let go of your expectations.  Some things didn’t work out the way we’d planned, but at the end of the day Jason & I were the only ones who knew.  We got married.  We had one of the best days of our lives together with our family and friends.  Letting go of some of those early expectations was the best way to have fun and relax and enjoy our new life together.

The day after.

 

 

 

Becoming More Self-Sufficient: Fixing A Sliding Screen Door

This is a post that has been a long time coming.  When I first moved in with Jason, we both had pets.  He had Abby (who is almost officially half mine!) and Buddy…

Buddy

and I had Oscar and Charlotte.

Charlotte in the background… Oscar in the foreground.

Well, that first year was a little tough on the cats.  Mine were terrified of Abby; Buddy and Charlotte did not get along; and Oscar… well, Oscar just coped.  He’s sort of zen that way.

Packing for the Move

Within the first two weeks of moving in, Charlotte decided to make herself an escape hatch by chewing a Charlotte-sized hole through the screen door.  I’m a little embarrassed to say that we just let it go for the entire summer, suffering the occasional mosquito and black fly, and she continued to dive and in out of it like the formerly-feral cat that she still is.

A year later, I successfully managed to replace the screen, and as we were approaching the wedding, I decided to redo the screen on our back porch (right off our bedroom).  Since screen replacement is incredibly costly, I did it myself, and I thought you might appreciate a quick how-to, since it was one of the easiest projects I’ve done recently!

Materials:
Replacement Screen (enough to overlap at least 2 inches on each side of your door)
Spliner (little tool with wheels on each end found at most hardware stores in the screening section)
Spline (the material that holds your screen in place – I usually cut a three inch piece of this from the screen to be replaced before going into town to buy supplies to ensure I get the correct size spline)
Duct Tape
Razor Blade
Pliers
Cleaning Supplies

Materials

I started by removing the screen door and bringing into the house. This could easily be accomplished outside, but it was POURING on the day that I completed this task.  After cleaning it with soap and water, I  duct-taped the door (spline side up) to our linoleum floor. It’s important that you firmly secure the door in place, so you don’t mis-shape it with the screen when you’re attaching the spline and rolling it into the grooves. 

Next, I used the pliers and a flat screwdriver to remove the existing spline, which I discarded along with the former screen (ours was pretty chewed up).

At this point, I spread the new screen out over the door and used a piece of tape to secure each corner to the floor, leaving a little bit of give, as the screen gets pulled into place by the spline as you set it into the groove using the spliner.

Starting from the top, I cut four pieces of spline that were a bit longer than each side needed (25′ was more than enough for the door). I secured the top piece, then worked my way down the sides doing about a foot at a time on the right and left, removing excess spline when the entire piece was set in place and firmly setting in the ends with a flat head screwdriver. Finally, I set the bottom piece of spline in place. You want the screen to be tight, but not so tight that it bends the door frame.

Finally, I used a razor blade to trim the screen.

Replace the door, and you are done!

Just a quick word on screen products. We used Pet-D-Fence, a product from Lowes that I was initially super-skeptical about. Remember, Charlotte chews through screens like a little cat-weevil. That said, after a year of Charlotte throwing herself bodily at the screen and sticking to it about five feet up by her claws whenever she wants to come in, the screen doesn’t have a visible mark on it. This has been a phenomenal product and totally worth the slightly higher price!  This screening is a bit darker than traditional screen, but after a few days, you really won’t notice the difference.

Update and Summer Blogging Plans

The first Monday after school lets out for the summer always feels like borrowed time.  Today is no different.  I bounced out of bed at four a.m. after a long weekend of cleaning the house, one of the first chores I like to get out of the way when work wraps up for any period of time.  Usually, it’s so I can focus on whatever project is at hand, but in a summer so riddled with projects, last night’s cleaning spree had more to do with shooing away mental clutter than it did coping with physical clutter (even though there was plenty of that).  A naturally neat and tidy person, there’s something about the last three weeks of school that always throws something off.

And what are these plans for summer?  Within the next eight days, we’re hoping to have our 28 eggs hatch into at least 20 chicks (hopefully more!); the wedding is now only six weeks away, preceded by my bridal shower on my thirtieth birthday(!); I’m flying down to Boston to visit my family and do some final shopping prior to the wedding in just a week; and I’m also still training for that 5K with Abby.  We’re doing okay, though we did take a week and a half off at the height of school-related craziness.  We’re refocusing this morning, starting with the blog and then moving on to running.

Most importantly, though, with a draft of my first novel sitting with a pretty awesome literary agent  (I’m trying not to be impatient about hearing back…), I’m getting ready to start my next project in earnest, by which I mean returning to my old writing schedule of early, early mornings, which means that everything else in my life is going to have to shift a bit: gardening, chickens, exercise, even blogging.

I have a vision for what I’d like this space to be, and I am still trying to get it there.  I know that I’ve tried to create a framework before; however, I’m hoping that the added hours of summer will give me the time I need to continue to take this blog to the next level… of organization and content and … maybe even design.

Here’s what I’m hoping for:

Monday: Homesteading Update (Starting Next Week)

  • This will hopefully include a regular round-up of chicken and gardening progress
  • Including a weekly photo of the chickens and garden

Wednesday: Wedding Wednesdays (At Least Until July 14)

  • More regular wedding planning/organizing updates for budget brides

Friday: Friday Flock Update

  • I will start this new feature off this Friday with a pre-hatch review of our incubator (the Hovabator 1588 with egg turner)
  • From there on, I’m hoping to fully document our chicken progress from chicks to broilers/layers

Sunday: Weekend Roundup

  • What we accomplished and plans for the next week

I’m hoping that this organization will help me work through some of my recent writing struggles and provide the balance necessary to move forward both with the new fiction project and more regular blogging.