June 26, 2015

Dairy is back on the menu

We took a little trip up to Door County earlier this month. It would be a crying shame to visit Fish Creek and NOT have some ice cream, right? Right. So, I took a chance and indulged in my first taste of (cow milk) ice cream in three months.

So, I did it. I may regret it once the dairy hits Finn's system, but oh my. It was so good. Also, my nails matched my ice cream. #bluemoon #firsticecreamin3months

Yeah, I order the little kid flavors. I’m over it.

The good news is that Finn seemed to do just fine. I had a few other tastes of dairy throughout the trip – some cheese, butter in various pastries, etc. A week later and I think we’re officially in the clear. I’m still planning on using almond/coconut milk for most of my baking/breakfast needs because I’ve come to prefer the taste and texture, but I can’t lie, I’m really looking forward to having ice cream and cheese in my life again, and to not worrying about menu ingredients when we go out to eat. Hurray Little Finn! Way to mature into your Wisconsin-ness.

June 25, 2015

No E(scape)

I know, that was terribly cheesy.

It’s garlic scape season in our garden. If you’ve never heard of scapes before, they’re the flowering part of a hardneck garlic plant. It looks like a long, curly stalk. They taste like garlic (duh) but without the bite. You can use them in stir fries, omelettes, or, like me, in soups.

Scape potato soup with kale and thyme. I love eating out of the garden.

The great part about scapes is that the garlic bulbs actually grow bigger if you harvest the scape, because it redirects the energy that the plant is expending into reproduction back into the root system. See, I did learn something in Hort class.

Anyway, you probably won’t be able to find them in your local grocery store, but if you can get to a farmers market, pick up a pound or two! Below is the recipe I used for soup. It’s a combination of a few that I read online, and in typical Johanna fashion, is mostly improvised.

Garlic Scape Soup with Red Potatoes and Kale

2-3 cups garlic scapes, chopped into 3″ lengths
6 cups chicken stock (more or less, depending on how thick you want your soup)
10 red potatoes, chopped into thick chunks
1 pound kale, chopped into large pieces

Saute your garlic scapes in olive oil until slightly browned and tender. Add chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree the stock/scapes in a full-size blender (immersions won’t do the job, sorry) and return to pot. Add potatoes and simmer until spuds can be pierced easily with a fork, then add the kale. Remove from heat and let the kale soften for about five minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme to taste. You could also add sausage or bacon – if I make this again, I’ll definitely be doing that!

June 17, 2015

Cheese, Please

Up until about a month ago, Finn was exclusively breastfed. We started letting her try some simple fruits and veggies recently in addition to nursing. Somewhere around her 3-month mark, we realized that any time I had dairy, she had quite a bit of difficulty digesting what came through my milk for days afterward. Lots of throwing up, runny diapers, and general crankiness. So, I did something that’s been really, really difficult for a born-and-bred Wisconsin native to do: I gave up dairy.

It wasn’t hard in everyday life. Neither Boo nor I have regularly used cow milk for anything. He likes soy, I like coconut. And almost all of our recipes could stand some easy substitutions: coconut oil for butter, applesauce for yogurt, and so on. But where it got to be maddening was when it came to “treat” foods – eating out, eating over at friend’s houses, deserts, snacks…I hated being “that person” at get-togethers or restaurants. What’s more, it’s a little convoluted to explain. People ask, “Oh, so you’re allergic to dairy?” and I have to clarify that, no, I’m not, but I’m breastfeeding and we think our baby is at least lactose intolerant and we really don’t want inconsolable bouts of crying/throwing up, so please, allow me to pass on the butter.

Trying out some avocado!

But, I mean, just look at those rolls.

Anyway, I’m optimistic that dairy might not bother her as much anymore. For one thing, she’s spending quite a bit more time sitting up or on her belly, which makes digestion easier overall. Also, she’s had a good variety of fruits and vegetables, and hasn’t reacted negatively to any of them. I’m going to tentatively try re-introducing dairy into my diet again. And, honestly, I’m probably going to start with ice cream.


And then cheese. A dry, aged cheddar cheese. Heck, right now I’d settle for the $2.50 block of pepperjack.

Oh well, soon enough. I’ll probably look back on this time and wonder why it ever seemed like a big deal…right?

June 13, 2015

Backyard Camping

We have some camping plans for the summer, but weren’t quite sure how that was going to work out with a baby. So, to test the waters, we set up our tent in the backyard and slept outside last weekend. I’ll confess that we cheated a little bit; I put Finn to bed in her crib inside at the normal time, and brought the baby monitor outside while Jason and I had a bonfire and grilled out. When we got ready to go to bed, I brought her into the tent and tucked her in with me. I was sort of worried about where exactly she would sleep, but it turned out to be easy enough to share my sleeping bag. She occasionally ends up in our bed if she’s having a rough night, so I’m already comfortable co-sleeping. Plus, it solved the problem of how to keep her warm, as it got down almost in the 40’s that night.

Tent mornings. Finn slept like a champ. #campingwithbabies #babesinthewoods #backyardcamping

Another from this morning.

She slept great, which, obviously, means that we both slept pretty good, too. Turns out that she seemed to really enjoy being in the tent. She kept looking around with wide eyes when we first brought her in, and we ended up playing in there for most of the next day.

Now, let’s hope that the real thing goes just as smoothly!

June 11, 2015


Well, it’s actually been finished for awhile, but let me present the final layout of the vegetable garden:

Finished! And it's mostly straight ūüėč. Now, to plant.

Truly, I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I know that, technically, I could fit in more if I did a long rectangle with straight rows, but because I spend so much time back there, I wanted the garden to be something that was aesthetically pleasing. Eventually, we’re going to enclose it with a good fence, and incorporate some built-in benches and trellises. Right now, I’m just really proud that we got this far!

Some practical stuff: I use free mulch from the Milwaukee self-help recycling center. I know that not everyone is comfortable doing that, but we’ve always used mulch from their pile and never had any problems with it. I laid down thick layers of wet newspaper underneath to help smother the weeds. I do my mulching this way for two reasons 1). It’s free. Duh. 2) Both the mulch and newspaper decompose eventually, adding more organic matter to the soil. In essence, it turns a functional pathway into another potential thoroughfare for earthworms, which are really important in my heavy clay soil. I need to do all that I can to give them cool, damp spots in the garden!

June 4, 2015

It’s that time of year

On Sunday, I:

  • Harvested six pounds of rhubarb
  • Chopped said six pounds for half an hour
  • Canned nine half-pints of my famous rhubarb ginger jam
  • Admired my shiny jars of jammy goodness with bleary eyes, because, as much satisfaction as I get out of canning, it is always more work than I remember it to be!


June 1, 2015

Two and a half sixes

In the past two weeks, we celebrated two important “six” occasions:

Finn is six months old!

She would love to be able to crawl but just can't quite figure it out yet!

This little toot has now passed the half year mark. That cliche saying, about how quickly time goes by¬†when you have a baby? Well, it’s mostly true. I say mostly because there’s also an aspect of it that feels just right. We love her in every stage that she’s at, and each one is more exciting than the last. She certainly does make it hard to get anything done, not just because she has an amazing amount of needs for us to fill, but also because she’s so darn awesome. Nothing is fun the way that hanging out with your kid is fun. She loves smiling, grabbing onto skin/dreadlocks/beards, giggling after a diaper blowout, and gnawing on anything she can fit in her mouth. After multiple attempts at stealing food out of our hands, we tried some solids this past month with entertaining results. Aside from avocados, she seemed to like everything we fed her, especially sweet potatoes. I’ll have to try to trick some into growing for us next year! Now that the garden is just starting to produce, I’m excited to be able to offer her lots of fresh vegetables over the summer. Although she would dearly love to get mobile and start crawling, she’s fairly stationary at the moment, which is a bit of a relief for me. I’m sure it will be highly fascinating to watch her scoot around when the time comes, but for right now, it’s nice to be able to lay her down on a play mat and not have to worry about her going too far.

This little peach is 6 months old today!

Our marriage is six years old!

Today we left our baby with @holldahl.mke and went on a real date. It was scary.

Boo and I celebrated our six-year anniversary this past weekend. Another couple from our house church graciously took Finn for the evening, and we tried out a new place for supper and an old haunt for some games and drinks afterwards. Also, Boo made me three new mix tapes, which, if you know me, you know that nothing gets me more than a good mix tape ;). In our early days of courtship, we indirectly flirted with one another by trading mix tapes. Obviously, it worked.

I won’t lie – having a baby¬†takes its toll on a relationship. We’ve had to get used to having a lot less time for slow conversations, or random movie nights, or spontaneous trips out into the city. And while it’s quite endearing to watch each other grow as parents, we still feel it’s important to focus solely on one another. I¬†see so many new parents shift all of their attention and affection onto their kids, and justify their relationship with their spouse by saying things like, “Oh, it’s so¬†romantic when he changes a diaper and cuddles with the baby! I love him so much for that!” ¬†And don’t get me wrong, I love Finn, and I also love watching Boo love her, but as hard as it is to imagine, someday Finn (and her potential siblings) will head off into the world on their own. When that happens, I don’t want to feel as though Jason and I have spent two decades of our marriage ignoring one another in light of our children.¬†So, we do what we can. Sometimes that means sitting down to a late dinner after she goes to sleep, or planning our dates around activities that can involve a jogging stroller, but I think we do a decent job of it. I still really like him :).

It's a good day in Door County, kids.

We’ve spent three years in the little house!

And we still love it here! Now that I’m home more often, I love it even more. Our neighborhood, our garden, our way of life,..everything feels just right. The very best days are days when when all three of us hang out in the yard and watch June chase squirrels and play with the neighbor’s dog. We’ve been here long enough that things look different from the year that we moved in – paint colors have changed drastically, trees that we planted are finally getting bigger, and the garden has gone from one raised bed to a beautiful potager. We’re looking forward to the days when Finn is old enough to run wild with the other kids on our street, or to build forts in the forest at Havenwoods. Life is very good here on the north side of Milwaukee.

May 22, 2015

An Ode to the Ripe Scent of Fish Emulsion

This isn’t really any sort of ode, but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate title for my first blog post in almost a year. And I do actually smell like fish emulsion from my garden’s weekly drench.

When we parted last, I was six months pregnant. Well, obviously, I’m no longer pregnant. I’m almost six months past being pregnant, in fact. And here is what I have to show for it:

Finn loved the magnolia tree.

Finavaire Andrea came roaring into our family right on her due date, November 26. You can read her birth story here. She is absolutely amazing. We call her Finn. I never knew what a paradigm shift having a child could be, or how within mothering there exists a strange dichotomy of wanting to spend every breathing moment in all of the cuddling/giggling/facemaking/dancing that comes with the territory and yet feeling so blissfully liberated after laying her down to sleep for the night. It’s weird. Weird and really wonderful.

As if child-rearing wasn’t enough for me, Boo and I made the decision as a family that I wouldn’t be returning to my church secretary job after Finn’s birth. Instead, I finally put my big girl pants on and did something that I’ve talked about for years: I enrolled in a local technical school’s horticulture program. My last class of my first semester took place on Wednesday, which explains the fact that I actually have a few spare minutes to blog.

Obviously, there is quite a bit I could unpack about everything I’ve shared thus far, but my hope is that I will be able to blog regularly, at least for the summer, and be able to unpack things in smaller pieces instead of dumping them in piles before your curious eyes. In the meantime, I will tentatively say that it’s good to be back. I’ll also leave you with a photo of what my vegetable garden looks like, because I’m really quite pleased with how it’s shaping up.

Got more than halfway done. We need another load of mulch and more newspapers to finish, but I'm already in love with how it's turning out.

Be still, my circular-loving heart.

August 26, 2014

Life as a dog parent

So. Two months later…an update on doggie ownership.

To start things out, I just want to say that whenever I feel really crummy about something that June does, I read this¬†post and it never fails to cheer me up. Because Allie gets it – dog ownership. How it’s insane and also rewarding.

As I mentioned, June started out being very shy and submissive. After about two weeks, she warmed up to life with us and started showing more of her sparkling personality.

First, the bad:

  • She doesn’t like the existence of other dogs. At first, I thought this was limited to smaller dogs – she got a bit snippy with a neighbor’s dachshund while I was walking her one night. However, it didn’t bug us too much. She had interacted with bigger dogs and done really well. I don’t know if she was just scared out of her doggie mind for the first few weeks, but suddenly, she was a maniac to deal with in crowds with other dogs. She still retained her hatred of tiny yappers, and she also decided that bigger dogs needed to be sniffed/corralled/bullied. This made for a very embarrassing first trip to the dog park in which she would randomly bark/growl/lunge at any and every other dog and then whine pitifully when we held her back. Yeah. Thankfully, some friends of ours have a lab mix that’s just a bit bigger than her who offered to let June have a sort of “play date” and work out some of her craziness around other canines. There was some growling/snippiness at first, but then eventually June calmed down and they ended up playing with each other for a solid hour. It was reassuring to find out that our dog is not inherently doomed to behave like a mad woman around other pets. Since said play date, she’s been a bit better. Now I think she looks at other dogs as potential playmates and tries to initiate a wrestling match.
  • She looses her mind around critters. We noticed this from the get-go; the abundance of squirrels in our neighborhood had the potential to turn her from a well-behaved pup into a mindless killing machine. It’s only gotten more entertaining. The first real time it became a problem was the Saturday morning that she ran a muck through the neighbor’s backyard, bolted to the front, and proceeded to chase some bunny/squirrel/chipmunk through our entire block with gleeful abandon while I stumbled after her in my pajamas, profoundly grateful that we don’t live on a busy street.¬† She jumps at tree trunks. She pulls on her leash so hard that she ends up standing on her hind legs and hopping like some strange, awkward rabbit. She even tried chasing a deer while I was running with her. A deer. Seriously, what was she thinking she would do if she caught the thing?! Once, while driving on a dirt road on our last vacation, she saw a chipmunk cross in front of the car. She jumped from the backseat onto the dashboard. Good thing we were crawling along at 5mph. ¬†
  • She pulls like a sled dog whenever we walk her. Which would be awesome if she was one. But she’s not. And I mean, I get it. She’s 32 pounds of muscle, energy, and independence. Imagine if you were bred to roam the wilds of Australia without much direction and keep unruly cattle at bay. You probably wouldn’t want to heel nicely either. Thankfully, we did discover a method for keeping her in check. Basically, we keep the leash short and take long steps in front of her. This usually calms her down and gets her to stay right alongside of us. Now if only she would do that naturally instead of lunging forward from one tree to the next at six in the morning when I’m trying to stop and pick up her poop…
  • She gets chewy. Nothing terrible. She hasn’t demolished any shoes or valuables or anything. But she does have her days where, for whatever reason, she gets anxious or bored and goes after something. The most willing victims have been the couch pillows. She likes to knock them on the floor when we’re not home and play with them. She ended up tearing up the covers I made for the ones on the white couch. We do our best to leave her with plenty of chew toys, and now we’ve taken to putting the couch pillows out of her reach when we’re gone during the day. For the most part, this works.

So, all of that aside, owning a dog is really, really wonderful. Here are some of the awesome things about it:

  • She loves people. Even if other dogs aren’t her thing, nothing makes her happier than being in a big group and getting lots of attention/pets. She’s very calm, doesn’t jump, doesn’t lick compulsively, and never shows the least bit of aggression.
  • She’s a fantastic running partner. Even though gets easily distracted by any poor rodent in the general vicinity, her endurance amazes us. She never lags or falls behind. On the contrary, she’s usually the one setting the pace. It’s so nice to have a little friend along with me when I go out for a jog.
  • Car rides aren’t an issue for her. On the contrary, she loves them. We took a long road trip around Lake Michigan recently and she did great. If we walk by the car and have a door open, she jumps into the backseat on her own. And she does this while we’re driving, which is highly entertaining:
  • She’s a great camping dog. She sleeps at our feet in the tent and hang out around the campfire without any issues. I think she actually prefers camping – it makes her feel more like a “wild dog” being outside all of the time. She also does this cute thing where she digs a little hole for herself in the dirt and curls up in it:
  • She’s a canoe champion:
  • We know our neighbors better because we’re out walking her all the time. Seriously, if you want to meet the people that live around you, get a dog. I feel like we’ve connected so much more with the folks in our neighborhood because everyone wants to meet our dog. For the most part, I think it breaks down barriers. People view you in a warmer light when you’re out with your pup. The kids all know June by name and come over in our yard to say “Hi” whenever they see her. It’s great.
  • She’s so excited to be with us. Her little tail stump goes crazy whenever we walk in the door, or when we wake up to take her for a walk. It’s such a good feeling, knowing that your pet is always there to greet you and roll around ecstatically no matter what kind of a day you’ve had or what kind of a person you’ve been in that day. She keeps us company if we don’t feel good or if we’re tired or sad. She hangs out in the yard while we work in the gardens. She sleeps at the foot of our bed every night. It gives you a whole multitude of warm feels to have such a sweet little friend hanging out around your house all the time. Totally makes up for any of her craziness.

Thanks for being our friend and putting up with all of our weird antics, June Bug. Hopefully we’ll have many more years of car rides, camping, jogs, and canoe trips.

June 23, 2014

You’re goin’ to Jackson? Go comb your hair!

This post really has nothing to do with hair combing or the city of Jackson…but, to make the title a bit more relevant, here is an interesting factoid about our household: neither human resident brushes their hair on a regular basis. I have dreadlocks and Boo keeps his remaining hair cut short. Once in awhile, I use a boar-bristle brush to distribute oils through my bangs in between washings, but the cat and the newest addition (already born) addition to our family are getting more combing and brushing than the two of us are.

In other words, we finally got a doggie friend for Clarice. At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves; in reality, we got a doggie friend for Boo and I that the cat is only mildly interested in. Meet June Carter:

June Bug #littledoginthebigcity

She’s a one-year-old Australian Cattle Dog, adopted from the Ozaukee County Humane Society Saturday afternoon. As with most endeavors we take on, we’ve (umm, Jason) spent quite a bit of time laying the groundwork for bringing a new resident into the homestead. We read some dog training books. We made sure a neighbor was available to let her out on days where we’re gone longer than the normal working hours. We researched a few different breeds. And then came the fun part – we started looking!

We knew three things: we wanted to adopt from a shelter, we couldn’t do a puppy at this point in our lives, and we wanted a dog that was “mostly” a working dog – shepherds/collies were our top picks. I say mostly because adopting from a shelter means that there’s a very good chance that you’ll get a mixed bag, which we were fine with.

In terms of breed, we felt that working dogs were a good middle-of-the-road way to go. They’re loyal, smart, built for running and endurance, but don’t have the crazy amounts of energy like setters or labs. I am not a drooling/wiggling/constant peeing/general obnoxiousness fan, though Jason might have been a bit more tolerant of that type of behavior.

We stopped by the Milwaukee branch of the Humane Society once a week for about a month and didn’t really see anything that appealed to us. We DID see quite a few pit bulls/pit bull mixes, which is pretty sad. Some of them looked like genuinely sweet dogs. I think that if this hadn’t been our first dog and if we didn’t have a baby on the way, we might have considered adopting one. Maybe somewhere down the road. It’s a shame that they’ve gotten such a bad reputation and been branded as something that they don’t have to be – pit bulls, with the right training and a good household, can be just as good a dog as any other breeds.

Anyway, we didn’t have big plans for the past weekend, so we decided to make the most of our Saturday and visit a few neighboring shelters. The Ozaukee County branch had a whole new batch of puppies, some that were older (10-11 months) and fit out breed preferences. The one that we had our eyes on in particular – an 11-month old Shepherd pup- had just been adopted right before we came. We ended up seeing two dogs to start out with. We had a few more on the list, but basically fell in love with the first one we met, and ended up taking her home, giving her a red bandana, and renaming her June. We’re big fans folk music fans, and June was our first choice for a girl. If we have adopted a boy, we would have called him Woody Guthrie.

Nap time. #littledoginthebigcity

(On a funny note, the second dog was an older puppy who, upon entering the meet-and-greet-area, went insane, peed everywhere, jumped in said pee, rolled in said pee, and sent me to the bathroom with wash off my hands and sandals. Jason liked her energy. I thought she was cute, but the constant peeing was too much.)

I think we initially envisioned ourselves getting a larger dog (more like a German Shepherd size), but while we don’t typically make a quick decision like we did, neither of us regret going with the first dog we met. June is amazing. She was a stray from Kentucky, and came without a tail or much information. However, all she wanted to do when we met was nuzzle up to us. No drooling, no compulsive peeing, no jumping, no general mayhem. She’s actually very, very submissive; we’ve already learned that the best route for training her is lots of positive reinforcement as she ends up cowering and shaking when we speak sternly to her or try to guide her physically. Poor girl, who knows what her life was like as a stray.

Squirrel! #littledoginthebigcity

She was just spayed the day before we adopted her, so we’ve been keeping her exercise down to walks around the neighborhood. BUT – when she’s all healed up in a week or so, we’re both really excited to RUN with her! We’ve jogged a few laps in the yard, and as is her instinct as a herding dog, she stays right by our side like a champ. We don’t even need to leash her at home – she thinks of people as her “herd” and doesn’t let us get more than a few feet away. Of course, we leash her on walks just in case she gets curious and goes too close to the road. Cattle dogs are also said to make very good hiking partners because of their high endurance. We’ve yet to introduce her to water, but we’re also hoping she’ll make a good canoe dog.

She’s met most of our neighbors, including the toddler across the street and their lab/shepherd mix, and so far she gets along really well with everyone. Which makes us feel even better about our choice – we’re hoping that introducing her to the Smithling when it comes along will be a piece of cake. Another “sheep” for the herd, you might say ;)

Of course, she’s not without some flaws. Like I mentioned, she has some shy, cowering behaviors that I think will take some time to get over as she gets more comfortable with us. She wouldn’t eat or drink much for the first day, and it takes her awhile to do her duty outside because she gets anxious. Boo tried roughhousing with her the other afternoon, and it didn’t go well. She got so scared that she piddled a little. She’s done that a few times since then when she’s very nervous, but nothing I’m too concerned about.

Also, she has NO interest whatsoever in toys. We picked up a Kong, a bone, and some tennis balls and even the bone isn’t appealing to her. So, our mission, aside from helping her feel more comfortable with us, is to teach her to fetch. Because working dogs are so intelligent, they need some sort of mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise to keep them happy. Maybe if we fill her Kong with the right kind of treats, she’ll show some interest in it and even chase after it.

And for those of you who were curious about how Clarice took to her new housemate…she’s doing way better than we thought. They’re not friends, by any means, but they’re not enemies. Clarice spends a lot of time in the same room as June, just watching her. On occasion, she’ll creep up to her and take a sniff, as if she’s still trying to figure out what this other creature is. Mostly, she just flops on the ground and looks at us resentfully, as if she can’t believe we brought another animal into HER house.

June couldn’t really care less about the cat, which is a relief. I was a little worried that a herding dog might chase the cat around the house and make her life miserable, but she hasn’t done anything like that yet.

So, to close out this absurdly long post about our new canine, I’ll leave you with two interesting/funny pieces of information:

  1. Australian Cattle Dogs are a result of drovers breeding their herd dogs with dingoes back in the late nineteenth century. The ones with the all grey-and-white coloring are referred to as “Blue Heelers” due to the bluish tinge of their fur. June has a little patch of this on her chest :)
  2. In the absence of having a tail, June shakes her entire rear end when she’s excited about something. It’s so, so cute.



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