Bring on 2014!

It has been ages since I’ve written on this blog, but it has truly been a very busy fall and early winter.  In addition trying to keep up with my kids, husband and the Giant Newfoundland, I took on some new projects.

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Such a pretty girl.

In October, we put the Columbia Falls Community Garden to bed for the winter.  We planted flower bulbs and garlic. It was definitely a successful season.  Our growing season was amazingly long, and we were able to donate nearly 260 pounds of fresh produce to the Columbia Falls Food Bank.  I feel like I spent the better part of September and October in the kitchen, processing tomatoes.  I was able to put up 74 jars of tomato products though–should last until next year.

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74 jars of tomatoes on the wall…

I started teaching a new course at the high school called History through Literature, which fulfills the required credits for both US History and English 11.  Those of you who are teachers know how time-consuming it is to craft a new course.  For this one, I have the same set of students twice a day, and I am trying to implement student-centered and inquiry-based learning.  There have been some successes and some things that definitely needs reworking for next year.

In addition to my full schedule at the high school, I also began teaching World History for the Montana Digital Academy. MTDA is a fantastic program that offers (free) courses for high school age kids throughout the state of Montana.  Montana high schools are often very small and far away from one another (the state is just barely under 150,000 square miles with just barely over a million people) and they can’t always offer the same buffet of courses for their students; this helps to fill that need. I have students from Columbia Falls to Wibaux, and from Shelby to Red Lodge and everywhere in between.  Some are home-schooled, while others are trying to get caught back up so they can graduate.  Many of my students this past semester are taking World History in addition to a full class load at school.  So far it has been very rewarding.

Finally, I was elected to the Columbia Falls City Council this past November.  I have my first meeting on my birthday, January 6th.  I’m excited–I have an orientation with the city manager on Thursday morning so I I’ll know what to expect.

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Other than these exciting additions to my life/schedule, I taught myself, with the help of my mother-in-law, the basics of crochet.  This will accompany my knitting–there are just certain things that are better crocheted than knitted.  Like baskets.  I still find crocheting awkward and much more difficult that knitting–but I assume it will get easier.

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My first attempt. It has issues.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  It’s a full plate, but someone told me that I must like it that way, or it wouldn’t be.  Very wise, very wise.    My next post will be about my “Very Crafty Christmas”.  Stay tuned!

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When Convenience is No Longer Worth It

Before I moved to Montana, I was all about convenience, especially in terms of food. I loved my prepackaged, ready-to-eat, microwavable food…my baby carrots, canned soup, Stouffer’s frozen entrees, salad in a bag, and fast food. I have a tendency towards lazy, so these products were definitely worth it. And please, don’t misunderstand–these products have their place. But I chose the convenience because it was easy and I am lazy–not because of a fast-paced, action-packed lifestyle.

When I moved to Montana, my husband couldn’t believe some of my habits. He couldn’t understand why I would buy baby carrots when I could simply cut up “real ones”. Why buy frozen pizza when you could make one? Salad in a bag? Really? He’s right, of course, although he has come to realize that it is okay to use these products occasionally.

What’s crazy is that after living here for 15 years, I’ve realized that I don’t want to eat that way anymore. Part of it has to do with my friends here. This part of Montana has a substantial population of people who want to live simply, eat freshly, and exist self-sufficiently. They are outdoor enthusiasts, protectors of the environment, and overall, just well-read, intelligent people. A little bit “hippie”, a little bit “granola” and altogether awesome. I’m not quite there yet–I am still guilty of using Miracle Gro on my flowers (but not my vegetables) and wearing make-up. I occasionally throw recyclables out. But I’m working on it.

I find great satisfaction when I look at my cubby of “put-up” salsa and pickles, or when I pull spaghetti sauce I made in the fall from the freezer. I smile a little inside when I use our freezer jam. Nothing tastes better than carrots I pulled from the ground or grape tomatoes still warm from the sun. It seems silly to me to use soup out of a can when it is so easy to make (although my boys do love canned chicken noodle) The elk that Eric provided is more delicious than almost any other type of meat (except bacon). Our milk comes from the creamery down the road. When our garage is finished, I want to start raising chickens for eggs, perhaps in cooperation with our neighbors.

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I am becoming much more cognizant of the various preservatives and additives in our grocery store food, and interested in finding ways to avoid them.

I’m not perfect about this, and I don’t want to be preachy. I’m not a health nut (not that there is anything wrong with that), nor a purist–I still love my Cheez-its and Skittles, cheddar cheese popcorn and McDonald’s french fries. My boys eat Chef Boyardee Ravioli. But I find pleasure in the knowledge that I am trying to be a healthier person, and provide some healthier options for my family.