Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day and an Announcement!

What Did I Do Today

Author - Unknown

Today I left some dishes dirty,
The bed got made around 3:30.
The diapers soaked a little longer,
The odor grew a little stronger.
The crumbs I spilled the day before
Are staring at me from the floor.
The fingerprints there on the wall
Will likely be there still next fall.
The dirty streaks on those windowpanes
Will still be there next time it rains.
Shame on you, you sit and say,
Just what did you do today?

I held a baby till she slept,
I held a toddler while he wept.
I played a game of hide and seek,
I squeezed a toy so it would squeak.
I pulled a wagon, sang a song,
Taught a child right from wrong.
What did I do this whole day through?
Not much that shows, I guess that's true.
Unless you think that what I've done,
Might be important to someone
With deep green eyes and soft brown hair,
If that is true... I've done my share.

I had the priviledge of spending my Mother's Day Weekend away with my own special Mom and Dad, my sister, and my brother and sister-in-law. What a special 48 hours it was, deep in the heart of amish country. I brought just the baby and enjoyed being able to dote on her for two days. There were sunny walks, rainy drives through the countryside, games by the woodstove and lots of silly laughter. And it made returning home on Mother's Day all the sweeter :) I was greeted by lots of hugs, homemade cards, a new gardening spade, and dinner lovingly prepared by Joe. A lovely weekend indeed. Happy Mother's Day.

The house we stayed in

The old mill and covered bridge on the same property

My brother- Sam, Sam, the fly fisher-man.

Amish working the fields right outside our door. A beautiful sight. And they were always smiling.

Grandpa and Charlotte

Charlotte and the claw foot tub :)

An old church with tombstones dating back to the 1700's

And... it seems we just can't get enough of all these babies. We found out a few weeks ago that baby #6 is on the way! Due to arrive in December sometime. I postponed announcing it here because my HCG levels were quite low and we weren't sure if it would be a viable pregnancy. But weeks have passed and I am comforted by the pregnancy symptoms I've been having and the fact that my clothes are already tight. I feel deliriously happy and nauseous all at the same time :) And I'm really struggling with fatigue. Not sure I've ever been more tired in my life. Planning to try taking it a little easy the next few months (if that's possible). I'm going to try to spend more time on the couch or sitting in the sunshine just reveling in the new life soon to become part of this boisterous bunch. Thank you God for your blessings too numerous to count.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Raspberries and Hide-n-Seek

A dear friend was so generous in sharing some prolific rasberry bushes that were overtaking her garden. I am so thankful to have these. I've wanted to plant berries for several years, but after buying all our regular garden seeds (n stuff) every year, there's just never enough money left over for berry bushes. Thank you Robin!

I found the perfect place to plant them. Right next to our shed where our old chicken coop used to be. The earth is soooo fertile there after 4+ years of chickens! I tried my best to dig  around the many, many earthworms- a certain sign of healthy soil. 

And I won't even have to wait for rasberries because this dear woman also gifted me with several bags of berries, frozen from last season! Yay! I made my momma a Mother's Day rasberry pie. Can't wait to enjoy it with her this weekend!

And while I was planting these bushes there was lots of giggling going on around me, for Grandpa and Ava were having a game of hide-n-seek :)

Such perfect moments make me want to freeze time. But then, I'd never get to enjoy these peas that are growing nicely despite all the nasty weather we've been having :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011


No, we do not live in Alabama, but my heart and prayers sure go out to them down there. I experienced my first tornado last night as it ripped through our back yard and down the street. Our immediate neighbors have extensive damage. They've lost houses, barns, farm animals and valuables. The wooded cemetary with its beautiful, tall, ancient pines, has few left standing. Praise God no one was hurt. The only thing we lost was our trampoline. Amazing, considering the damage all around us.

 Ava has had a phobia of tornados ever since we mistakenly let her watch Twister with her brothers last summer. Every dark cloud, every strong wind, every rain and snow drop since, I have had to reassure her that, "No Ava, we are not having a tornado!"  I've told her several times we will likely never have a tornado considering we are surrounded by hills and frankly, New York state isn't real famous for its twisters.

Well we heard of the "tornado watch" on the weather channel before going to bed and I assured her once again as I tucked her in that we would not be seeing a tornado tonight. What do I know? Apparently not much. We heard it coming around 1:30 am, a wind that fiercely rattled my bedroom window and sent a chill through my heart. Joe and I grabbed the children, and ran for the basement. It was Ava's idea to pray first, and she was so calm. The Lord kept us, and really kept the whole neighborhood safe. Not one person was injured. When it was over and done Ava was giggly and giddy. We'd had a tornado and she'd survived it! If only all were that lucky.
I hope that will be the end of her phobia. Brave little Brenna just sat there on that cold basement floor, stunned and shaking. Garrett was concerned and hald asleep, Sweet Charlotte would've slept through it all if we hadn't woke her, and Connor was at Grandma's for the night. Though he's really bummed he missed it :)

Here are some pictures of the aftermath:
Standing in our driveway looking across the road. See that debris? That was a modular home.

Cemetary pics...

The neighbor's barn with our trampoline in the forefront:

Our neighbor's house

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Want Free Soap?

Be a winner and I'd love to send you a bar! Free!  :) Just go here: and enter the giveaway. And while you're there, check out the rest of her blog- really neat. And follow her! This is her giveaway week and she'd love to hear from you! Hmmm, so many giveaways, so little time...

Have a happy Wednesday!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Birthday Gifts

Some pretty wonderful ones were received this year:

An apron from my sister,

Feminine and bohemian = perfect! I've practically lived in it, as the (already) stains can attest to.

A beautiful bracelet and earring set from Mom and Dad:

The woman who made these lives in a single room in Bosnia. In the picture I saw, her smile sparkled as much as her jewelry :)

An azalea bush to plant (my first ever!) from my Mother-in-Law:

Plantable gifts are the gifts that keep on giving!

Grow lights constructed by my man:

three of them! And they work great- the little sprouts are already up and thriving in our dark basement :)

And with some money I received I gifted myself with this book:

I have wanted this book for some time now and simply can not wait to be inspired by it. I really hope to change my (and all of our) eating habits towards a more natural, raw, fermented, cultured foods diet. The benefits are said to be amazing. My concern is, and always has been whether I can realistically do this with a large family, on a very strict budget. But when I opened the book I was encouraged to find the first chapter all about raw, fermented and cultured dairy, with lots of healthy recipes to follow. I've already got the raw milk from ouir goats, so I've got a good headstart :).  Looking forward to devouring the rest... here's to a healthier me.

and... this adorable little barn plaque (can't think of the technical name for them- I know there is one) I found at the Salvation Army, ON my birthday, for a mere 99 cents! Doesn't it look cute on the goat house?

Now I must go sing a sleepy baby to sleep, and then go milk those goats. Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Boys, watch your sister...

so I can get a shower.

  That worked out well. Notice her entire hand in the honey jar.
And that would be a half a bag of rice she's sitting in.

 And the boys? Well, they were nowhere to be found...

Of course she had a similar experience with the pasta last month:

And I know I do myself no favors by taking pictures of these events while proclaiming how adorably naughty she is.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Work...and Fun

Busy this weekend! Joe started a new coop for the poultry. I got plenty of laughs as the goats kept trying to eat his plans. They'd walk up and nonchalantly grab the piece of paper out of his hardware bag and then run for it.  (hee hee). Oh, and how they loved jumping up on the platform to help him, poop on his plywood, chew his clothes, stand directly in his way, etc...  What characters! Unfortunately, Joe didn't think it was quite as funny as I. I'm still laughing. After the work was done for the evening we looked out the back window and there she was, on the platform, legs locked, staring toward the house, "taunting me" Joe said. The girls loved helping him as well and were so cute to watch. I'm glad to be married to such a handy man. God knew just what he was doing :).

Couldn't get the tiller started and Joe was busy with the coop, so I hand-tilled the garden. A lot of work, that was . But good to be digging in the soil again, and good to work up a sweat in the good 'ol outdoors. My back, and the blisters on my hands and feet can attest to the hours of labor spent in the garden this weekend, and it's all good. Got the onions, beets, spinach, greens, and half the peas planted. Decided to try the tee-pee method for the peas. I've always used chicken wire to hold them up, but have never been thrilled with it. The last couple years I made a large tee-pee for the pole beans and was happy with the results. The kids thought it was cool too. It was large enough for them to "fort" in. So here's some pictures of my little pea tee-pee's. I have 3 more  pea tee-pee's to build this week and all the peas will be in (can you tell I like saying  pea tee-pee :). Brenna was my big helper collecting dead branches and sticks from the woods out back for the tee-pee's. Later, when she felt dirt in her boots, she complained, "momma, there's a garden in my boot!"  She's a trooper and especially enjoyed the wheelbarrow rides she earned. I remember riding in the wheelbarrow pushed by Dad when I was not much bigger than her. Sweet times. Sweet memories. Charlotte was so pleased to be out crawling around the yard all afternoon too. I wished the boys had shown more enthusiasm about helping. Garrett used to be just like Ava and Brenna- by my side every Spring with his hands in the dirt. I hope he's not lost his enthusiasm.

Connor turned 12 today. How did that happen? Connor, our "honeymoon baby" who made his entrance into the world, fists clenched and wailing, just 10 months after us two crazy kids said "I do". I had just turned 21. His fists have been clenched ever since. His wail is now louder. But oh what a blessing he is to us. He makes us laugh daily and again, God knew just what he was doing giving us Connor first. He sure broke us in as young parents. I love him.
He requested a bonfire for his birthday. We had fun around the first fire of the year. Looking forward to many more. I don't have many pictures of him because he's so hard to catch. But here he is staring into his birthday fire.

Now I must go catch up on the laundry that has been neglected for the last 3 days. Yikes.
I hope your weekend was just as satisfying!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Catching up

Wow, how to catch up from an 11 day blogging block? I've had 596 things running circles in my mind these last couple weeks to write about, but everytime I've sat down to actually do it- nada. I have, however, enjoyed reading all your blog updates! Keep 'em coming. :)

I will start by saying that a dear friend of mine is promoting our products on her blog! What a sweet, special, gifted lady she is. With a brand new, fresh little baby in her arms to boot! Number 10! Stop by her blog at  and you're sure to be blessed! Also, if you have checked out our products pages and are discouraged to find that many of them are out of stock, take heart! They sit curing as I type and will be ready in 2-4 weeks. Check back, please! If you'd like to reserve a bar or 10, leave a comment, or send me an email! I'd be glad to set some aside. This is our first foray, if you will, into the small business world and I never really imagined that the original 200-some bars would sell out in the first two weeks. :) The soaps must cure for 5-6 weeks before use, so it takes a bit of time to make up for such a quick sell-out. Thank you to all who have ordered so far! Don't forget about our wonderful salves. Scrubs and goat's milk lotion are in the works :)

The past couple weeks have gone a little something like this:

Our sweet Charlotte turned 1! Here she is loving her cake. Really, what child of mine doesn't love cake?
What a treasure.

And what to my wandering eyes did appear?

Garlic! Spring is here :)

Trampoline jumping, mud-crawling, nature hiking, wheelbarrow lounging, school with pull-ups on our heads...

you know, the usual.

For my birthday two days ago, I requested from Joe a grow light system. Cause really, what 33 yr old woman doesn't want her some grow lights? More on that later... :)

And, our Connor will turn 12 this weekend. Birthdays really are wonderful things, even so close together!

I know I must be leaving some things out. So we'll catch up later.

Be blessed and have a great weekend!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Natural Cold Help

Thursday night, Charlotte had a wee cold going to bed, so we turned on her cool-mist vaporizer. Feeling the need for just a bit more, I added to the top tray of the vaporizer (against my better judgement) the "Medicated Vaporizing Steam Liquid" that Joe had picked up when he bought the vaporizer last year. Just a bit. To help her congestion. The back states it is safe for children, and although I usually prefer to go a more natural route, I was honestly too tired to go back downstairs and rummage through my cabinets for my oils and balms. Lazy I was, and I paid for it in the middle of the night when she woke with the most awful sounding breathing/coughing I have ever heard come from my babes. I grabbed my stethescope and listened to her lungs which sounded equally awful. A scary moment, as thoughts of respiratory distress rushed through my brain. I thought hard about bringing her to the ER. Now I will tell you that I am quite conservative when it comes to ER visits. In my 11 years and 5 children worth of mothering, I have maybe made that trip with them three times. Once was when my first was about 3 and I suspected appendicitis (it was not), another when Garrett broke his ankle, and the other a couple years ago when I thought perhaps my now 3 year old had swallowed a marble (she did not). Aside from her breathing, Charlotte was smiling, alert, and active and so I decided to try the "sitting in a steamy bathroom" trick. Now I know cool humidity is recommended now-a-days, but the house already felt so cold, it being the middle of the night and all, so we tried steam. We sat and played in the bathroom for a good half hour with the doors closed and the shower turned as hot as it would go. It worked wonderfully and before nursing her, praying for her, and putting her back to bed I applied some of our Breathe Better Balm to her chest and behind her ears. And I did not turn her vaporizer back on until I had removed what was left of that medication from the top tray. I can't say for sure that it was the medication that caused her breathing troubles, but I can't help but feel that it was.

Now let me add, so that I don't come across as an extremist, that I do believe that there is a time and place for medical intervention. I am a nurse. I think medical professionals are great. But, as a nurse I see the ER flooded non-stop with people, many of whom have forgotten how to help themselves and their children. 

That morning, though her breathing sounded better, she still had a nasty cold and so I was thankful I had made a large batch of my echinacea/chamomile/nettle tea. To make, you simply throw a handful of each of these botanicals into a quart mason jar and pour hot water to fill the rest. Set aside to "steep" for several hours, strain, and add about a half gallon of water. Store in the fridge. Feed the spent herbs to the chickens :)

I simply gave her this tea, warmed, with a bit of raw honey (I felt safe to do this as she will be a year old next week- it is not advised to give honey to babies under a year) and some milk. She drank it right up. About 3- 6oz bottles worth, throughout the day and her condition improved significantly as the day wore on. I also massaged the Breathe Better Balm,which contains eucalyptus, rosemary, lemon, mint and beeswax, into her chest a few more times as well. She smelled so pleasant :) I woke yesterday with a scratchy throat, runny nose, and congested head as well, and drank the tea myself several times. Today, I am 100% better. You can get dried herbs here: or from several other online sites, or any natural food store in your area. Or, you can try your hand at growing your own- as I plan to do this Spring. I'm just loving learning more and more about the healing properties of herbs. It is true, God gave us these for a reason.

Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
Psalms 104:14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth.
Be well,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Soup and Snow Castles

We cooked up a chicken in the crockpot a couple days ago. Usually, I make broth from the remains and freeze it to be turned into homemade chicken soup or stew. Well, after doing this about once a week over the winter, this family has grown tired of homemade chicken soup and stew! In trying to figure out what to do with all the broth from Monday's chicken, I remembered that we use a lot of condensed soups for casseroles and such. Perfect! I will find a recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup to cook with! Have you ever read the ingredients list in those soups? Downright scary. So it did me well to find this recipe: and whip up a bunch of my own. Not to mention, it was a great way to help use up all the goats milk we are fortunate to have a surplus of right now.
I quadrupled the recipe and wound up with about 8 cans bags of soup. It is an easy and relatively quick recipe. Took me only about an hour. Take away babies at my feet, helping the 6 year old with math, and emptying out my spice cupboard (3 times!!) looking for that darn bottle of paprika, and I probably could have it done in half that time. It was tasty, though next time I will add a bit more spice and a little less flour. It thickened up real quick and I had to take the stick blender to it. Used it for Mom's chicken broccoli divan casserole tonight. Yum. I will file this recipe away and will undoubtedly be pulling it out at least a few times a year.

In other news, Winter is here. Well it seems it never left. Never mind that it is Spring. It is most definitely NOT Spring. I was quite enamored by this unexpected snowstorm as I walked out to milk this morning. Everything was glistening white, magical. I thanked God for the beauty of His creation. However, later today I learned that temps will be in the 30's for the next 7 days and that has me a little perturbed. Suddenly the snow is not quite so pretty. Because it will be around for at least a few more days, and we have reached the end of March. Sigh. So human of me. I am ready for green.

Ava, who embraces every new opportunity with glee, who has been counting down the days until Spring sinced mid February (because to a 6 year old, it just magically becomes warm and green again on the first day of Spring)and who- just 2 days ago, was making mud pies in shorts and a tank top (when it was 60 degrees), wasted no time getting out there and making snow castles... I love that girl.
And no, she does not have really huge hands. She just happens to grab the gloves that are closest :)

Until next time,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Conflict Resolution

Life in a larger-than-normal family can be hard. The work, is constant; the disputes, often frequent; the noise level, well- as one visitor put it "I don't think I've ever been at a meal this loud!" Yikes; and I hardly ever get to drink my coffee before it turns cold.

Connor and Joe had an argument at the dinner table tonight. A loud, harsh, "say things you don't mean" kind of argument. My heart sunk. My appetite fled. Dinner was spoiled.  I was torn between the man I love and the boy I bore. My flesh and blood, and my highschool sweetheart.. Connor- my independent and sometimes misunderstood wildchild, and Joe- my hardworking, God-fearing, tired (tonight) husband. I hate moments like that. I'm thankful they don't happen too often around here, but tonight they did. I felt the need as a faithful wife to remain silent, and pray God would work in both their hearts to heal the damage from the words that had been said.
 The Bible lay on the table waiting to be picked up by Joe for family devotions. It wasn't going to happen tonight. So I picked it up and started reading. I'm not sure anyone genuinely listened to what was being said.
After I was done, everyone left the table and went their separate ways. Bitter. Silent. I looked around at the large mess that cooking dinner for a large family tends to make. I sighed, and did the dishes with a hard heart. After the kitchen was cleaned up, I scooped up little Charlotte and took her upstairs to put her to bed. As I sat down in the rocking chair to nurse her, I looked out her window which overlooks the backyard. There, was Joe. Playing wiffleball with his children. Laughing- all of them.
 Thank you Lord, for the spirit of forgiveness and renewed love for one another. And thank you for my loud, large, lovely family.

I think I'll go bake some brownies for my baseball team.

Life in a large family can be hard. But, Oh. The. JOY.

Happy First Day of Spring :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

But what will we do?

The children have made the decision not to play sports this spring and Joe and I have made the decision to honor their choice. This will be the first spring in 6 years without baseball and all that goes with. Though I find myself a bit nervous at the prospect of SO much downtime for these "active" children, I don't think it will really be a problem. Connor says he plans to spend a lot of time in the woods. He'll be learning to trap this spring.

I've noticed my children craving freedom, choices, un-structure, lately. It shouldn't surprise me, for I'm the same way.
I'm looking forward to seeing the fruit all this freedom may bring. And if we're wrong and everyone ends up bored and miserable, well, there's always next year. We've been home so much the past several months, and if my children have learned anything this winter, it's been to get along with each other and find useful and creative things to do when there is simply nothing else. After this long winter, spring and summer should be a breeze.

I know I won't be bored. For this is the order I just placed:

Amish Paste Tomato
Big Beef Hybrid Tomato
Cupid Hybrid Tomato
Kentucky Wonder Wax Pole Bean
Cylindra Beet
Blue Curled Vated Kale
Packman Hybrid Broccoli
Sweetness 3 Hybrid Carrot
Graffiti Hybrid Cauliflower
Tango Hybrid Celery
Extra Sweet Sweet Corn
Homemade Pickles Cucumber
Jungs Kaleidoscope Mix
Red Zeppelin Hybrid Onion
Yellow Sweet Spanish Hybrid Onion
Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea
Katrina Garden Pea
Bell Boy Hybrid Pepper
Dills Atlantic Giant Pumpkin
Phantom Pumpkin
Mammoth Island Salsify
Tyee Spinach
Commander Bush Squash
Rumbo Squash
Sunshine Winter Squash
Moon and Stars Watermelon
Jerusalem Artichoke Tubers
Neon Calendula

It will be nice to have extra time in the evenings to work with the children in the garden rather than driving them to practice and games 5 nights a week.

Hip hip for freedom and slow time together.

Now I need to figure out where to plant these goodies. This mama needs more garden beds, for sure.

Happy Spring to you (soon!)


Thursday, March 10, 2011


The two littlest are sleeping sweetly and so I look forward to updating this blog a bit.
Tomorrow I will kiss my firstborn goodbye and put him on a southbound plane to Texas. He'll be spending a week with his cousin, and will have all sorts of boyish adventures, I'm sure.  
Exciting for him and bittersweet for us. I expect the house will certainly be a bit quieter and, dare I say, more peaceful without his pre-teen antics, but he will be missed! I've never been away from him that long. It will be interesting to see how Garrett, (his only brother and inseparable pal) will deal with this short term loss. Tonight I let him pick the menu for his farewell dinner. He chose french toast, with angel food cake for dessert. In other words, we'll be having two desserts for dinner :) I think I'll serve the french toast with homemade strawberry topping rather than syrup to decrease the amount of sugar we'll be consuming. I love this recipe :

Sugar Free Berry Fruit Sauce:
12 oz can white grape raspberry juice concentrate
1 can water
4 Tbsp cornstarch
16- oz pkg. frozen berries- any kind you wish

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup of water
Heat juice and remaining water in saucepan until boiling
Add cornstarch mixture and stir over medium high heat until thickened
Add frozen fruit, stir and remove from heat

The angel food cake will be store-bought because I simply do not have enough eggs for both french toast and angel food cake. We were consistently getting about 5-6 eggs from our 7 chickens for a while, but they've slacked off again and we're down to 1-2 a day. That hardly supports my baking habit. Good thing we've got these now:
Is there anything better than a baby chick in a chubby hand?

6 new pullets (3 buffs and 3 rir's) and one rooster. Because I believe every flock needs a rooster.
He will be a handsome barred rock and Ava has named him Julian.

Can you find Julian?

Nothing spells SPRING in the Sliwa house like a boxful of brooding chicks. Joe has plans for a larger coop for them and the elder chickens, along with the Cornish rocks and turkey poults we'll be getting in May. I look forward to admiring his carpentry skills once again, though I have really liked having the (grown)chickens in with the goats. They seem to have such a symbiotic relationship. The goats poop, the chickens follow behind and turn it under. I've really enjoyed watching these two species coexist.
Other things going on include LOTS of soap making, salve making, label designing, not to mention money spending, to get our little business off the ground! It must be true when they say you must spend money to make money...  we should be ready to start selling in about a week.

We're into March here. In like a lion, they say. I'm quite sick of snow. Apparently, the kids are not:

Who would get tired of jumping from roofs?

Today- rainy, windy, overcast. But in the desperate need for the out of doors we all bundled up and headed out for a hike. When we came home, dripping wet and cold- but invigorated, we enjoyed a cozy lunch of bread, warm from the oven, with honey. We love our hikes through the woods to the creek, and this morning was no exception. But I really can't wait to make the trek in flip flops, through fragrant green grass, with the sight of sundress-ed little girls and shirtless little boys running on ahead in the sunshine. Without the mess of 5 soaking wet snow pants, 10 muddy boots, and hats, mismatched gloves etc etc...
But for now...

we will seize the day.