Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Charlie's kitchen--open for business!

We finally finished Charlie's kitchen that we made her for Christmas! This was a really great project for us, and we are thrilled with the results! We wanted a high-quality wooden kitchen that will last us through several children (possibly even grandchildren), but all that we could find in our price range were plastic kitchens that didn't really fit our expectations. We even went so far as to interview with a couple local handymen/carpenters to see if we could comission someone to custom make what we had in mind. Then Paul and I just started putting our heads together to see if this was something we could do ourselves, and here is what we were able to make, with a little help from my dad for the "hutch" part of the sink and stove. I'll go ahead and post pics of the complete process, start to finish.
First, we found an old bathroom sink cabinet ($49) from Habitat for Humanity's Restore. We are very happy to have found something that would work perfectly and is also recycled!

Then we attached a piece of plywood ($18) to the top, changed the orientation of the door on the right so that it opens like an oven door, cut out a circle, and inserted a bowl ($3)for the sink.

Here we painted the body with paint that we had on hand ($0), spray-painted ($8) a piece of tubing for the faucet ($2), attached cabinet handles ($8), and some wood discs for burners ($6), and those are actual hot and cold water handles ($17) that we bought at Home Depot! We also found actual oven knobs at the Restore!

Over Christmas vacation while we were in Greenville, my dad and Paul built this hutch out of some bead board and plywood ($0--thanks, Dad!) that my dad had in his garage. It really adds a nice touch, doesn't it? The refrigerator on the right is a kitchen cabinet ($0) that Paul found next to the dumpster when he took the trash out one day! It even has shelves inside!

Just this past weekend, Paul, Charlie and I finished our little kitchen with this window made out of a picture frame and homemade curtains ($4). It has interchangeable scenes cut out of felt ($6) so that Charlie (and others) can look at whatever she wants to see that day--be it the beach (as shown), a winter snow landscape, or rolling hills in the autumn, spring, or summer!
I hope you also noticed that Charlie has been shopping the farmer's markets for her local produce. Above you will see the latest tomato, peaches, and basil just waiting to be thrown into Charlie's latest creations.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


This past weekend we had the opportunity to stay with new friends in Winchester, VA. We had an absolutely lovely time hanging out at their home, touring the town, and dining at their restaurant, Violino.
Beforehand we stopped at the most gorgeous winery Hillsborough and had a light lunch. Here is Charlie posing by the grapes.
The view is incredible--we will be back!
Some of the kids on Sunday morning before church:
Charlie made instant friends with Isabella, who is about a month older and looks identical if you look too quickly! It was especially difficult to tear these two away from each other when it was time to leave!
Some of the kids playing and posing together:
All of the kids sitting still long enough for us to snap a quick picture:
This trip was so relaxing and fun, but beyond that, it was even inspirational for our family. Our friends live a life that is very similar to the life that we envision for ourselves. They live in the Shenandoah valley of Virginia--it's gorgeous country--they homeschool, they have their closeknit community. It's peaceful and productive. They have the ability to focus on their priorities: family and faith. Now, I'm sure they have their moments like all of us, but the picture that we took home with us is one that we will definitely contemplate as we make decisions for our family in the future! Thank you, Riccardo, Kathryn, and kids! :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

C'mon and sign up!

Okay, so no one has *officially* signed up here for my July local food challenge. That's okay. I'm still totally excited about it! I've been attending my farmers' market and contemplating recipes, meal plans, and such, and I'm almost ready to start in a couple of weeks.

I'd like to clarify a couple things, in case you're interested but maybe overwhelmed by the idea of eating 100% local food for an entire month. For the record, we're probably going to eat about 85-90% local for the month. I think a few exceptions that we're going to have will be spices and seasoning (salt & pepper), almond milk (paul is somewhat lactose intolerant, and this is a staple for him), coconut oil (it's REALLY healthy, and we use it fairly frequently), olive oil, and vinegar.
Because this challenge is really an experiment (I don't plan to eat entirely local when this is over--there are things like pineapple, avocado, bananas that I intend to keep in our regular diet), I invite you to set your own goals and rules and join us! Even something like just dinners or even one meal a week can be a fun way to experiment.
For those of you still unsure about shopping at your farmers' markets, I just wanted to show you my finds from this last Saturday. I bought a bunch of carrots with greens, a pint of strawberries, a pint of blueberries, a pint of sugar snap peas, about 8 baby cukes, a yellow squash, a yellow zucchini, 2 gorgeous big red tomatoes, about 3 pounds of mixed greens, a couple pounds of green beans, and a pan of Amish dinner rolls--all for under $34! And I bought it all directly from the farms. I can't wait to see what next week brings us!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Local Food Challenge!!

So, while I'm here at my computer, I'm going to start something that I've been thinking about for a while. I've been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and enjoying it immensely. In the book, Ms. Kingsolver documents her family's year-long project of buying all locally grown food and growing much of that themselves.
It seems that Americans have no real food culture. We buy whatever we want, whenever we want, and we don't really understand where food comes from. Because of that, we as a nation have an unhealthy relationship to our food. We take it for granted, we overconsume, etc. Buying real food from our local farmers is a step in the right direction toward healing that unhealthy relationship.
It's summertime, the farmers' markets are bountiful, and it seems a particularly great time to begin the journey of eating all local foods (at least as much as possible). We in the Callahan household are going to do a month-long local food challenge, and I invite you and your households to join us!
I'm still working out all the kinks, but this is what I have so far:
1. The challenge will commence on July 1 and will last the entire month of July. This gives us a little time to digest what changes are going to have to happen before we begin and also find what resources we are going to have to have at our disposal.
2. We will do our best to buy and consume only locally grown foods; however, sometimes our staples are not available to us, but they are somehow processed locally. If a food is imported and then locally turned into something that can count as a local product, then it will work. Take bananas, for example. Since bananas are not grown locally and nothing else happens to them once they are imported, we can't have bananas during the challenge. Now, take coffee--though coffee is not grown locally (and I'm pretty sure that coffee is not grown in the US?), but we can find coffee that is locally roasted and ground, that will work for this challenge. I might think the same way about bread bought at my neighborhood bakery or the chocolate at my neighborhood chocolate shop.
3. The Callahans like to eat out occasionally. During July, we are going to dine out no more than once per week, and when we do so, it will be only at a non-chain restaurant (something we do our best to do anyway) and hopefully at a place that primarily uses local foods.
4. When discussing this idea with a friend, the question was posed, "What about flour that I already have in my house before the challenge begins?" I don't know at this point what to say about that. I think that my response is going to be that we'll probably all tweak our rules according to our own thoughts and needs, but I'm going to do my best not to use my flour or sugar or olive oil that I have in possession. I don't know what that means for my baking needs (not that I bake that often). I know that Ms. Kingsolver was able to find wheat flour that was locally ground. I may have to look into some substitutes or amend my rule. ;)

Okay, these are the rules that we've set here for our family. I'd like to invite you to amend as you see fit for your family but keeping in mind the main goal, which is to support our local farms and local food traditions. I'd also like to propose that if you "cheat," let's share those experiences. Let's not judge. Instead, let's analyze the situation and talk about why the "alternative choice" happened, how it could've been avoided, etc.
I would also like to recommend that you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle if you have not already. The book gives great insight as to why a person might want to take on a challenge like this.
So, who would like to sign up first? Do you have any suggestions? Do you have resources to share? Meal ideas to share? I may also set up a facebook group so that we can all keep in touch and share our progress a little easier. I'll let you know if that happens.
I hope you'll join me!

See Joy's Blog and Birth Care Picnic

A week ago we visited our wonderful friends, the Blasers. I didn't even bring my camera, because I knew that Joy would have hers at arm's length the entire visit. See Joy's blog to view some really great shots. Thanks, Joy!

Among other events was our annual Birth Care picnic. Birth Care is our local birth center that offers out-of-hospital births and also well-woman care. We have had two of our babies with them. I absolutely love the midwives here and also our birth assistant who is affiliated with them. I can't say enough about the wonderful care that they offer. Incidentally, I have also had a baby at the hospital, and while the care there was also very good, I can honestly say that I MUCH prefer to be handled by a group of women who understand normal, unmedicated birth and the gratifying quest of delivering one's own baby by the labor performed by one's own body. Anyway, here are photos taken at yesterday's picnic:

Some guy that I assume is a Birth Care dad playing his guitar and singing for the kids:

Charlie very intense about her watermelon:

Paul and Judah in their matching plaid :) :