Saturday, October 31, 2009

Autumn Apron for $6!!

Every once in awhile, I get inspired by something that I've seen. This summer, while making the rounds to all of the farmer's markets and fruit stands, I came across some aprons. Not just any aprons, but really cute ones with different motif's. I ended up buying a blue plaid apron that had cute red roosters on it, for $15. At the time, I thought it was a great deal, and it made me happy to wear it!

On my next visit to the farm, I decided to buy another apron. This time, I wanted something for autumn. While trying to decide between a scarecrow or a pumpkin pattern, my husband, otherwise known as "my conscience", whispered, "I bet you could make it for less." My thoughts were, "Party pooper, you're staying home next time!" I left without a new apron, but figured that I'd be back.

After returning home, I sort of forgot about the apron that I had really wanted. Instead, I decided to work on a quilt. Needing some backing and batting, I drove to the fabric store with the sole purpose of finishing a quilt. I was determined to walk right past the cute holiday fabrics and head straight to "quilter's alley". But then...*cue harps*...I saw it. The perfect autumn pattern. Fabric that had scarecrow's and sunflowers. Fabric that just screamed, "APRON"!!!

With the quilt mission completely aborted, I had a new purpose...get to the cutting counter before anyone seen me! (I am sure that my dear husband has spies all over town waiting to report back to him!) Before common sense could kick in, I gathered my material, matching thread and eyelet and raced home.

Upon returning home, I placed my new purchase on the buffet and got busy with some other things. I needed time to collect my thoughts and see if maybe I could find a pattern for aprons. After all, I had NEVER sewn an apron before! I guess I needed a lot of time to collect my thoughts, because 3 weeks later, the only thing that had been collected was dust!

Finally, the day came, when I decided that it was time to jump into the apron project. The worst outcome would be that I would have to make quilt squares for later. I did find a pattern, but couldn't make heads or tails of it, so I had to resort to plan B. Plan A would've been to find a pattern, cut it out, sew it to perfection and enter it in the county fair. Plan B was to "wing it". Now that, I can do.

I laid my newly washed material out on the kitchen table. The rooster apron that I had previously purchased was placed on top of that. I had to move it around a little to make sure that the scarecrow pattern would be straight. I then took my scissors and carefully cut around the entire apron, adding approximately 2 inches all around. With that done, I folded over edges, pinned, then sewed a seam around the two sides and the top. Then I cut out a scarecrow square and sewed it in top of an identical square for a pocket. I found some contrasting material in a pile of forgotten projects (More spontaneous shopping!) and cut strips for the ties and the neck piece. Those were stitched into 3 individual "tubes" with one end left open (sewed inside out) so that I could turn them right side out. Before sewing the ties onto the apron, I measured the tie length that I would need. Then I did the same for the neck piece. After cutting to length and sewing those on, I tried on the apron to check the overall length before putting in the bottom hem. Lastly, I hand-sewed the eyelet across the bottom.

The total amount spent on this project was less than $6. And, it only took a couple of hours! The greatest part? My husband saying, "I knew you could do it."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Yogurt Smoothies

Quite often, you will see "Smoothies" on our menu plans. My family really loves these and by adding different fruits, each drink can be customized to each person. (Although, I'm usually not THAT generous!)

The base for all of our smoothies is yogurt. Not the cheap, mass produced, little cups of corn syrup, but the good stuff. The kind that comes in a large container and says "organic", or even better, the kind that came from our own yogurt maker! (If you don't have a yogurt maker, it is a great investment and so easy to do!)

A good yogurt is going to have a lot of unrecognizable words in the ingredients. Some of those words are; L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus and bifidobacterium lactis. They are our bacteria friends! These bacteria are beneficial to our bodies by increasing the acidity of the intestine and curbing the reproduction of many harmful bacteria. They help to break down the sugars and fight infections.

Fruit is almost as important as the yogurt. By adding the right fruits, you can replace vitamins and minerals that are lost during times of sickness and stress. Here is a list of some of the fruits we use and why.

Raspberries...High in Vitamins A & C, (which are antioxidants), high in fiber

Blueberries...Highest content of antioxidants, known as a "superfood"

Strawberries...Another "superfood" that is high in antioxidants

Bananas...High in potassium, this mineral is vital in controlling the body's water balance and for proper muscle contractions. Bananas are also high in fiber and have the title of "The World's Most Perfect Food". (Freezing the peeled bananas is best for smoothies!)

Plums...High in antioxidants which enhance the immune system

There are others that we use like; mangoes, pineapple, and peaches, which are also high in Vitamin C.

To sweeten a smoothie, add a teaspoon of pure maple syrup, raw honey or a few drops of liquid Stevia. (Vanilla is great!)

Before blending, you have to add a liquid to thin things down a little. Pure fruit juice or a high-quality milk are good choices. We usually use raw, organic milk in our smoothies. Since they aren't heated, we are able to reap the full benefits of the raw milk.


1 cup good organic yogurt

1 frozen banana, chunked

2 cups frozen fruit of choice

1-2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, honey or 10 drops of liquid stevia (or to taste)

1 cup milk or fruit juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (omit if using vanilla yogurt)

Blend together. Makes 2.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quilts and Cookies?

Well, today I am feeling better. Not 100%, but
definitely better. I am "trying" to take it easy,
but anyone that knows me, knows that I don't
follow directions well!

Since I live with a bunch of tattletales, I've decided to work on a quilt. I started this quilt earlier in the year, and then got a little side-tracked with the garden, and had to set it aside. It's difficult to see, but there are beautiful orange flowers on the brown squares. I bought matching orange/copper material for the backing, and I'll finish the edges with brown. It's 60"x60", so it will make a nice throw for the living room. I made this same quilt for my granddaughter, but it was in hot pink, turquoise, green and yellow...NOT the color of my living room!

I have another quilt that I'm working on, but it requires my brain to be fully functional! It is a basket quilt and my first attempt at triangles and flying geese and while it's not perfect, I am proud of it. I'll post pictures of that one when I get up the nerve to jump back into that one! I'm on basket #5 out of 5, so it is getting close to being pieced together. (The blocks, I mean.)

Tonight, our church youth group is "borrowing" our family room for a Harvest Party. Thankfully, there is a door at the top of the stairs, so the noise is generally contained to the downstairs. Even though all of the details have been taken care of, I still worry that somebody might forget to bring something, or there aren't enough chairs, or the room isn't clean enough...really, with a large family, it's NEVER really clean enough! So today, I decided to quit worrying and do something. Bake cookies! (Isn't that what all worriers do?) There may not be enough seating for everyone (they can sit on the floor...they're young, right?), the room may have a little dust (okay, that IS NOT my fault...woodstove!), but at least there will be cookies!

Aren't they pretty? And, I took it easy...I sat while frosting! See, I CAN follow directions!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shopping results....not!

Today was to be the day of the "comeback, Mom", but it didn't go quite as well as I would've liked. The day started out just with my husband, while feasting on a fresh, hot cinnamon roll, followed by a shower and a full face and hair makeover...and I was ready for a nap. Seriously. But, being the trooper that I am (ha!), I decided to forge on.

My husband and I drove into town to pick up our newest married daughter, Valerie. She is moving into her first apartment (husband, Jake, is serving our country in Iraq) and was in dire need of a couch. Since we were going into the "big" city, we decided to make a stop at IKEA first. That was mistake #1. On a grocery shopping trip, when one is recuperating from an illness, groceries should probably come first, or at least before the energy tank is drained! On a healthy day, IKEA is exhausting, so I'm not really sure what I was thinking. Actually, I do...the new bar stools look fabulous!!!

Mistake #2 was stopping at Best Buy to exchange a couple of Ipods that had expired. (Loving the warranty!) The store was HOT, and it took forever. Well, it felt like forever. Now, I was really feeling the energy drain. On the way out of the store, I told my husband to just skip Whole Foods and head straight to Costco. All I really "needed" was some organic, nitrite/nitrate free bacon. The rest I could do without.

Mistake #3...thinking that I was going into Costco and only getting bacon.

So now I will crawl (literally) into my bed, and recharge my batteries for tomorrow. The day that I will actually get my grocery shopping done!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Meal Plan for Week of 10/26-11/1/09

After being sick for the last 3 days, I am ready for a new week to begin! Laying on the couch is NOT my idea of a good time, unless it's my choice! (There's that control thing again!) Being forced to take it easy has had its "up" side though...I have been able to watch HGTV to my heart's content! My poor husband's head is spinning with all of my new ideas for our place, so it's probably a good idea to get started with a new week.

As you know by now, I like to use "organic" whenever possible. Not only does the food have a better flavor, but I also don't have to worry about what pesticides were used during its growing process. It can be very expensive unless you know where to look. About every 3 months or so, we make a run to Costco. Our bill there is slowly decreasing, but it is fun to roam the aisles and look for deals. Without a plan though, everything can look like a "deal", so it's extremely important to have a list and for me, a shopping "buddy". (Especially with the holidays just around the corner!) After Costco, my husband (a.k.a. "buddy") will take our list and head to Whole Foods Market. I LOVE their selection of organic produce and am hoping to score some organic chicken for a good price. We also love a Parmesan cheese that is imported from Italy. A little spendy, but for flavor, there's nothing better! (It is going to be delicious in my Ravioli soup recipe!) They also have a sulfate-free red wine that is wonderful in a stew base, and costs less than $10. Time (and energy) permitting, we may stop at Trader Joe's which also carries a nice selection of "organic". Since I won't be making the trip again until January, my list will include items for the holiday baking season.

Monday: Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls (homemade!)
p.b. & j. sandwiches, tortilla chips/salsa, sliced apples
Tuna casserole, green peas (made by our daughter Melissa!)

Tuesday: Sunshine casserole (left over from last week), orange juice
Chili nachos (leftover chili), slice apples
Broccoli Cheese soup and sourdough bread
Wednesday: Whole wheat waffles with homemade blueberry syrup
leftover Broccoli/cheese soup, crackers, sliced oranges
Meatloaf, mashed taters and gravy, broccoli salad

Thursday: Poached eggs on toast, orange juice
Corndog muffins, carrot sticks, sliced apples
*Ravioli soup, sourdough bread, green salad

Friday: Blueberry/coconut muffins, hot chocolate
(leftover) Meatloaf sandwiches, banana
*Sweet & Sour meatballs, Jasmine rice, spinach salad

Saturday: Kefir smoothies (banana, peach, raspberry), cinnamon toast
Cheese/black bean quesadillas, orange slices
Chicken tortilla soup, cornbread

Sunday: *Granola (homemade)
Leftover lunch (we're cleaning the fridge!)
Beef stew, sourdough bread
Of course, all of this is dependant on whether Momma is feeling "up to it". Think I'll go cuddle up on the couch (my idea) and let my family coddle me a little longer! (Mwahahaha....)


Ravioli Soup

2 lbs. lean, ground beef
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 t. onion salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
3 cups onion, finely chopped
2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes in puree (I use 2 quarts of home-canned)
1 (12 oz.) can tomato paste
1 quart beef broth (store-bought or home-made, but watch for MSG)
2 cups water
1 t. sugar
1 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 (12 oz.) package of plain, cheese ravioli (in the freezer or refrigerator case)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Brown the beef in a large pot; combine remaining ingredients except frozen ravioli and additional Parmesan cheese. Bring soup to boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook ravioli in a separate pot until just tender. Drain ravioli and add to soup. Salt to taste. Serve with Parmesan cheese. Serves 12 (makes a great leftover for lunch!)

Sweet & Sour Meatballs

1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks
1/3 cup water
3 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. soy sauce (I use Tamari)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 T. cornstarch
Large green or red pepper, chunked
1 large sweet onion, chunked
1 lb. pre-cooked meatballs (I make my own, but store-bought works fine, just watch the "spices" that are added!)

Drain pineapple; reserve juice. Set pineapple aside. Add water to juice to make 1 cup. Pour into large wok and add water, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch. (Mix the cornstarch with brown sugar before adding to keep from lumping.) Stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Add pineapple, meatballs, and green/red pepper. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve over rice. (I usually double this recipe!)


6 cups old-fashioned oats
2 t. cinnamon
4 cups shredded or flaked, unsweetened coconut
2 cups pecans, chopped
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw coconut oil
1 cup raw honey
1 T vanilla
1 cup raisins or dried blueberries

In a large bowl, mix oats, cinnamon, coconut, pecans and sunflower seeds together. Heat oil and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat until just melted, but not hot; remove from heat and add vanilla. Stir honey mixture into oat mixture. Pour into large baking dish. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Add raisins or blueberries. Store in airtight container. Makes 14 (1-cup) servings.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lesson Planners, Pt. 2

This is part 2 in a series of "Lesson Planners", although, this post should've come first! Before figuring out a "schedule", you have to decide on what type of curriculum you want to use. (I've always been a "cart before the horse" kind of gal!) There are a couple of steps involved in the process that you do not want to skip, especially if money is an issue. (and when isn't it?)

First, determine what kind of learning style your child/children have. In a perfect world, all of your children will learn exactly the same way and they will be exceptionally bright students who NEVER squirm or sass...Sorry, I started to daydream a little! Back to learning your child a lover of books who retains everything she reads, but hates to write it all down? Does your son LOVE to write in workbooks and work at his own pace? How about "hands-on" learning? A mixture of all three?

Secondly, if there are multiple children, decide which subjects you are willing to teach as a group lesson. This is not as hard as you might think! For our family, science, history and geography are taught together. There are plenty of options for teaching multiple age groups and it can be quite fun! This is where the "extras" come in, like experiments, field trips, art and even cooking foods from a country that was just studied! (Daddy likes this one!)

Lastly, decide how much time you want spend preparing lessons. I enjoy coming up with a plan, but don't necessarily want or have the time to do that every week! How much time are you willing to put into weekly lesson plans?

Here's what we are using this year. Since we have been doing this for 16 years, we've had time to build up a nice selection. What didn't work for daughter #1, may have worked for daughter #4, so we have hung onto the "mistakes" in the hopes that one of our 9 kids would have a need for them!

Math: Teaching Textbooks (Pre-Algebra, Math 6, Math 7)
Abeka 2nd grade Arithmetic

Spelling: Christian Liberty Press

Vocabulary: Wordly Wise 3000

Grammar: Easy Grammar Plus

Language: Language Lessons for ...

Writing: English & Writing

Science: Apologia General Science & Zoology 1

History/Bible: Sonlight Core 6, and 1&2

Geography: World History

Music, PE, Home Ec.: An old piano, free drumset, music books, 14 acres on a farm, sewing machine with supplies, cooking with Mom, daily chores and plenty of free time round out our curriculum!

We spend about $500/year. In the beginning, it was closer to $1000, but since we didn't have to buy each child a new wardrobe every fall, we decided to allot that amount to books, binders, art and science supplies, and other miscellaneous items. Over the years, some curriculum worked while others fell by the wayside. (Actually, they "fell" into a couple of large trunks to be saved for "next year"!) Teaching styles also changed, going from a classroom style to a more laid back style and worries about learning "gaps" were proven to be a waste of time! (Not to mention, worrying takes a tremendous amount of energy!)

Money-saving tip...

When we decided to use Sonlight, I knew that we would need to make it more affordable for our family. Once we decided which "core" to go with, I printed off the book list and did a search on our local library's website for each book. If it was available at the library, I would mark the title with an "L", if we already owned the book, (after 16 years, we were bound to have some of them!), I would mark the title with a *. Any books that we needed to purchase, I circled, then ordered! We saved approximately $100 off of our bill by doing this, however, I have to be diligent in making sure that the library book is here when we need it to be!


We DO NOT do every subject, every single day. School should not feel like a punishment, but rather, encourage our children to seek wisdom on their own. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a child discover and learn without being asked! They are naturally inquisitive with a desire to explore and imagine. As parents, we just need to facilitate that time. Time, that is moving much too quickly.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fermenting Foods for Health

Almost everyone has tried sauerkraut at one time or another, whether store-bought or homemade, and decided right then and there whether it was something that they would have again or not. I grew up on the store bought stuff and have to say, was not a fan. I LOATHED St. Patrick's Day because it meant that my mom would cook corned beef and kraut. Ugh. Just the smell of it cooking would send me into a panic! I also knew that no matter how much I complained, I would be sitting at the kitchen table for a very long time. Usually until it was time for bed. (In an "ah-ha" moment, I fully understand why my children are so stubborn!) But, I have to hand it to my parents, they never gave in!

I am happy to say that my early years with pickled cabbage did not deter me from trying it as an adult. But now, instead of store-bought, we make our own, using only cabbage, salt and a crock. This isn't going to be a tutorial on the art of kraut making, but more of an introduction to fermenting your own foods.

Back in the "olden" days, before refrigeration (*gasp*), people used to ferment their foods as a means of preserving them. They also knew that "soured" food made them feel better. Fermented foods were commonly prescribed for digestive problems, aches, and illnesses. What they didn't know was that foods that had been salted and left to sit on the counter, not only soured, but "grew" healthy bacteria. This process is called, "lacto-fermenting." When the newly grown bacteria enters the body, it needs to "eat", so it goes after the bad bacteria. It's kind of like an internal game of "Pac-man". (I figure that if the Pac-man is happy and well fed, he won't turn on me!) When we're sick and are prescribed antibiotics, it is important to take a supplement like Acidophilus, or eat yogurt that has live cultures. Antibiotics are not "good/bad" driven...they kill ALL of the bacteria. Our bodies were not meant to function without the "good" stuff.

What kinds of foods can you ferment? Vegetables, fruits, dairy products and grains are all good choices. In fact, I regularly soak my fresh ground whole wheat flour overnight in buttermilk to make the wheat easier to digest. (Only soak what is needed to complete a recipe!) At any given time, you will find all kinds of foods "souring" on my counter!

In the picture above, taken today, is Greek yogurt (as a starter), sourdough in Mother, Baby and dough form, and buttermilk. I am also sprouting wheat grass (for my chickens) and peas for a stir-fry next week. In the fridge, we have sauerkraut and salsa. For dinner last night, we opened up a jar of salsa that we lacto-fermented this summer and had it with tortilla chips and enchiladas. It was so delicious!!! For the recipe, go here.

If you aren't into (and who wouldn't be?) lacto-fermenting food in your own kitchen, most health food stores carry lacto-fermented sauerkraut and pickles. And if this is something that you'd like to learn more about, check out "Nourishing Traditions", by Sally Fallon. This is more than a cookbook, it is filled with eye-opening information that no family should be without.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Natural flea remedies

Maisie (4) and Molly (6 months) in their "Flea-free Bandannas"

As you know by now, we live on a farm. Actually, it's officially called a "hobby farm" since we make no money on it. Ask any "real" farmer and they'll tell you that there is really no difference between our farm and theirs, as we both put money into them and never really see a return on our investments! But to us, it is a farm. Pure and simple.

Currently residing at "Jabez Farm" are our cows, Ms. Bailey's & Cream and her calf, Angus. Then there are the "girls", but to "city-slickers", they are called chickens. To us, they are pure entertainment! Next spring, we will be adding a milk cow, bees and meat chickens. When we get a smoke-house built, we will add a couple of pigs. In the past, we have had sheep, goats, rabbits, turkeys, a pot-bellied pig, lots of cows and a one-eyed, gimpy horse, aptly named "Old Man". (No offense to older men!) Also taking up residence are our "barn" cats, Maverick and Milo, who keep our back porch stocked with mouse cadavers, and our farm dogs, Maisie and Molly.

Maisie joined our family 4 years ago, after our yellow lab, Twinkie, died. Since she is a purebred beagle, she can only go outside if she is on a leash or tie-out. Off-leash, Maisie's nose takes her wherever the wind blows...literally. And hollerin' for her to come back, just gets her more excited and she runs faster! On more than one occasion, I've had to chase her down with the car, yelling out the window, "Ya wanna treat?", to which our neighbors holler back with a "YES!" Maisie is also a very talented dog. She knows all the words to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" and sings them loud and clear! Some might call it "howling", we just call it beautiful farm music!

Molly is the newest addition, having arrived at 6 weeks old. A little young to be away from her momma, her previous home could not take care of an adult lab and 4 growing puppies. We found her at the Humane Society and adopted her on the spot. Molly is a chocolate lab with green/blue eyes and has all the impishness of any puppy. The vet thinks that her "daddy" was a husky mix since she has a rather thick coat of fur and curved toenails. ( She also has webbed feet which is a true lab characteristic!) We decided to get a larger breed dog to "protect" the farm...Molly has yet to spend a single night outdoors. So while our "farm" dogs are basking by the fireplace, napping on their padded beds and eating scraps from under the kitchen table, the deer are happily feasting on our raspberry plants, nibbling away 2 years worth of new growth on the apple trees and pulling my rosebushes out of the ground. Molly too is learning the words to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" and along with Maisie!

One of the problems of having the dogs indoors is fleas. It is also one of the first (of many) questions that I have for God when I get to heaven! "WHYYYYY?" I'm sure the lowly flea has a purpose, but I'm not seeing it. The little blood-suckers multiply faster than a physics major and draw more blood than the Red Cross, and for what? Well, I don't know...yet. In the meantime, I have to do battle with these thirsty little militants and reclaim my home from their invading forces! Recently, we have used a flea prevention product called Frontline. The way it works is that you put this "poison" on the back of the dogs' necks and it absorbs into the skin, goes through the blood system and repels the fleas back through their skin. Hmmmm....if the doctor told me that in order to cure a skin condition, I would have to put poison on the back of my neck, let it absorb into my bloodstream, and wait for my skin to clear up, I would promptly walk out! (After telling him what I really thought!) Why would I continue to do this to my dogs? This would probably explain the horrible red rash that appeared on Maisie's tummy. I "Googled" Natural Flea Repellents and ended up spending half of a day reading about the consequences of using poisons and the all natural alternatives. Some of the dangers are; neurological defects, skin rashes, seizures, and in extreme cases, death. We decided immediately that "going natural" would be worth our time to try.

Does this mean that we have waved a white flag and surrendered to the fleas? Ha! I will not go down that easily! While visiting our oldest daughter, Kelsie, we found a natural remedy in one of her books she had recently picked up. We are trying it right now, and I have to say that so far, I am impressed! Not only is it natural, our house has a nice floral scent to it! It's like a "roaming potpourri"! (And you will ALWAYS know where the dogs have roamed!) This is only day 4 of the experiment, but the dogs are scratching less and we aren't worrying about anybody accidentally touching their necks! And the rash on Maisie's tummy? Almost gone! (Her last dose of poison was about 5 weeks ago.)

Natural Flea Repellent

1 bandanna, folded down to an inch wide

rose geranium essential oil

lavender essential oil

Before tying the bandanna around the dog's neck, put 3 drops of each oil in the middle of the scarf. Before you put the repellent on, bathe your dog thoroughly. I had been using baby shampoo, but have recently switched to castile soap. It is natural and rinses clean. I also sprinkle Borax on the carpet, let it rest for 15 minutes, then vacuum. Make sure that the kids and dog are outside or kenneled. Not the kids, unless that works for you...The Borax stuns the fleas and makes it easier to vacuum them. (It also works great for carpenter ants, but that's another story.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crockpot Salsa Chicken

Imagine coming home from a tediously long day in town. You've been shepherding children around , "mingling" with the masses at Wal-mart and dodging drivers who are unaware that there are other people on the road. The kids are hungry, again, and are asking not only for a menu, but a precise time of when it will be ready. The last thing that you want to think about is cooking dinner! Or, so I've heard. (I, of course, have NEVER had days like this....)

I love my crockpot! When I suspect that our day is going to be L-O-N-G, I take 10 minutes and throw stuff in the crockpot. Sometimes it's a total surprise! (Having chickens allows us to have fresh eggs, which allows me to redeem myself with scrambled eggs, when it is not a welcome surprise!) Most of the time, things turn out alright though. One of our favorite crockpot recipes is Salsa Chicken.

Salsa Chicken

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 envelope reduced-sodium taco seasoning

1 can cream of mushroom soup (the healthier, the better)

1 cup salsa

1 can black beans

1 cup (or so) frozen, sweet corn

1/2 cup sour cream

Place chicken in bottom of crockpot. Sprinkle taco seasoning over chicken. Pour undiluted soup and salsa over chicken. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Put back into pot. Add beans and corn and cook a little longer, just until hot. Stir in sour cream. Serve over rice. This is also good with tortilla chips as a nacho dish! Excellent as leftovers, if there are any!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

As some of you know, last weekend my family and I took a road trip to the southern Oregon coast, to celebrate our granddaughter's first birthday. I cannot believe how much Madison has grown since July, which was the last time we saw her! She is walking, saying simple words, "Nana" being one of them (!!!!!), and getting into mischief. Her smile lights up the room and she is not stingy with her cuddles. (Especially if you are holding her favorite blanket, named "Bobby"!) This week, I am grateful for time. Time that I get to spend being a grandma. Time that my husband is actually able to take off so we can make the trip. And for all the time that I will get to spend with future grandchildren. With 9 kids, that could be a lot of "time"!

"Did someone say cake?"
Madison's first birthday.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shopping result

Picture this...a mom wearing make-up, clean clothes and hair just so, sipping on a cup of hot tea, clipboard in hand and cap off the pen. Arriving at store #1, carrying purse, reusable bag, clipboard and of course, the tea. Walks in....and totally forgets why she's there!!!!! I don't know what happened today, but my brain was misfiring something awful! It must be the lack of sugar (yes, I'm still off sugar, hence the cup of tea rather than my weekly latte), it "could" be the age, but it's probably more that I was so excited to be wearing make-up and clean clothes that I forgot everything else! I've been living in my sweats for the past week, taking care of a sick daughter, working on lesson plans, catching up on laundry, cleaning, baking bread, etc..., so today was my first day of blue jeans and mascara...started off pretty good! The funny part of this story...this store WASN'T on my list! No wonder I couldn't remember! Not one to waste a trip, I did end up buying a gallon of raw, organic milk.

However, the day did improve. Remember the 350# of beef we had to buy? It ended up being 440# of hamburger! That's 440# of "as organic as you can get, without the title of organic" beef! I priced organic burger at the grocery store today. To buy 1 pound, the cost would be $4.99. By buying it off the farm, we saved $1800.00!!! That puts me in a pretty good mood! Think I'll reward the family with an apple pie tonight! Momma's feeling festive!

Here's how the rest of my shopping trip went...

Country Village Health Food store
1 gallon raw, organic milk $11.99 (We buy 1 of these each week and skim the cream for a dessert or butter)

Grocery Outlet
2 quarts 1/2 & 1/2 $3.78
2 1/2 gallons milk $8.45
beef hot dogs $1.49 (not organic, but I had a weak moment!)
1 pound breakfast sausage
2 bags coleslaw $2.38
2 bunches green onions $1.00
Subtotal: $19.59

Winco Foods
4 quarts organic chicken broth $7.52
2 large cans enchilada sauce $3.56
4 lemons $1.12
1 large box salad mix $4.98
1 box wheat Chex $3.42
2 cans olives $1.96
bananas (4.68 lbs.) $2.71
Q-tips $2.47
box of yellow cake mix $.98 (church potluck this weekend)
3 lbs. butter $7.11
2 oranges $1.32
cottage cheese $2.18
2 cans green chilies $2.96
onion powder $3.38 (couldn't buy in bulk, the bin was empty!)
Monterey jack cheese $4.51
2 pounds carrots $.98 (the deer finished our garden carrots off last week)
bulk brown lentils (2.13#) $1.64
apples (4.29#) $3.35
bulk oregano (.14#) $.49
tortilla chips $1.98
Subtotal: $58.50

sesame salad dressing $3.59
2 pints organic heavy whipping cream $7.18
2 lbs. bacon $7.00 (again, not organic, but really missing bacon!)
8 chicken thighs $3.46
1 large box organic spinach $4.99
1 box organic basil $3.99
Subtotal: $30.21
-$ 5.00 coupon
Subtotal $25.21

Total: $115.29

I went over by $15.29, but I still ended up saving $1,784.71 for the whole day! Not too shabby.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I am so excited! This week we are picking up approximately 350# of ground beef from the butcher. We didn't have a steer to butcher this year, so we purchased a whole hamburger cow from a good friend of ours. Like us, they raise grass-fed, hormone/antibiotic free beef. Officially, it cannot be called "organic" since the inspector has not bestowed a "title" of organic farm, but even without the official label, that is exactly what it is. Organic beef without the bureaucracy. I think I like that! So this week, we will be having 3 meals using hamburger. Love it!!!

Our family is battling a flu virus, so this week should prove interesting with school starting back up in full force. We've been more relaxed the last few weeks, trying to fit in vacations, family visits and canning. Now that the cooler weather has arrived, we are back to a routine of school and comfort food. Did I mention that I really LOVE autumn?


Monday: oatmeal w/peaches
p.b. & j. sandwiches, chips/salsa, apples
crockpot barbecue shredded pork, brown rice, sauteed green beans & garlic

Tuesday: Cranberry/Orange muffins, homemade hot chocolate
Plum smoothies, simple nachos
*Bottomless Chicken Pot Pie, spinach salad

Wed: Mom's Cream of Wheat Pudding
toasted cheese sandwich, homemade tomato soup
bean & cheese enchiladas, green salad

Thurs: poached eggs on toast, orange juice
organic, boxed macaroni & cheese, sliced apples w/peanut butter
chicken noodle soup (with homemade noodles & broth), sourdough rolls

Friday: Blueberry coffee cake
leftover chicken noodle soup, toasted cheese sandwich
Fettuccine w/meatballs and marinara sauce, green salad

Sat: *Sunshine casserole
Tropical smoothies (frozen banana, mango, pineapple, vanilla yogurt), bran muffin
*Sloppy Joes, oven fries, coleslaw

Sunday: Hot granola
Chili & cornbread
dessert: Pumpkin bars

*Recipes* (remember to use organic whenever possible!)

Bottomless Chicken Pot Pie (from MaryJane's magazine-April/May 2009)
Serves 8

2 cups unbleached white flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbl. chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp. dried
1 Tbl. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
1 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/3 cup ice water

5 Tbl. butter
5 cups vegetables, cut into 1/2" pieces-peas, potatoes, carrots
1 Tbl. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup unbleached white flour
2 cups chicken, cooked and cut into 1" pieces
1 Tbl. lemon zest
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup plus 1 Tbl. heavy cream, divided

1. In a large bowl, blend flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and herbs.
2. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut butter into the flour mixture until pea-size clumps form.
3. Stir water into flour mixture to form dough. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a circle.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add vegetables, thyme, salt, and pepper, and saute 10 minutes.
3. Add flour and stir 1 minute. Add chicken, lemon zest, broth, and 1 cup cream. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens to coat spoon.
4. Pour into an 8-cup baking dish.
5. On a floured surface, roll out dough to the shape of your dish.
6. Place dough on top of filling and press up the sides of the dish. Brush the top with 1 Tbl. cream. Cut 4 slits in the dough to vent. Place the dish on a cookie sheet (very important!) to catch any spills.
7. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

*Sunshine Casserole (from The Farmchicks in the Kitchen cookbook)

1/2 -3/4 lb. breakfast sausage (not links)
10 large eggs
2 cups cottage cheese
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 (7 oz.) can diced, green chilies
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 F. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage to the pan and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces. Stir occasionally, until browned-5-8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Lightly oil a 9x13 glass baking dish. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in sausage, cheeses, chili peppers, and green onions. Without stirring, add the flour, then the baking powder, and then butter; then stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake until set-40-45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes; then serve.

*Sloppy Joes (from Gooseberry Family Favorite Recipes)

1 lb. lean, ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 cup catsup (I use organic so we aren't eating "Corn Syrup Joes"!)
1/4 cup water
2 Tbl. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
6-8 hamburger buns

Cook beef and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Stir in catsup, water, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper; simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Spoon onto buns. Serves 6-8

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lesson Planners, Pt. 1

I am a procrastinator that even puts off putting things off! If the sun is shining, I don't want to be indoors, sitting at a table, putting together lesson plans for our home school. There are plenty of chores outside that need tending to and other things that I would really like to do! If it's raining, I would rather spend the day baking bread, cinnamon rolls or some new dessert, or hunched over the sewing machine working on a new quilt. (Or finishing one of the many "starts"!) Then there are the days where I would just like an afternoon to finish a book! (again, one of many!) But, alas, as a home school mom, having a plan for school has to come first.

It is not as if I HATE lesson planning. Quite the opposite in fact. I enjoy it. I mean, really enjoy it. During the summer months, you can usually find me several times a week, sitting on the patio, sipping an iced tea, perusing the home school catalogs for the next, newest, greatest school book. And during the month of August, I develop quite the relationship with the UPS man. I don't think he "loves" me quite as much as I "love" him! I equate the feelings I have when I see the big brown truck with the feelings a child has on Christmas morning! How sick is that? So, you see, I don't dislike lesson planning. I just dislike the "timing".

One of the most asked questions (after the famous, "Are they ALL yours?") that we get is, "How do you schedule your day?" Easy. We don't. We have "guidelines", but one of the beauties of homeschooling is the flexibility to "wing it" when we need to! Here's a sampling of how our day goes...

7:00-7:15ish Mom shuffles to kitchen for first up of coffee.
7:15-8:00 Kids and Dad start trickling out of bed.
8:00-8:15ish Mom starts on second cup of coffee while starting breakfast.
8:30-10:00 Kids devour breakfast, while asking "what's for lunch?", and get their morning chores done. Dad leaves for work. (We are fortunate, my husband works as an emergency room nurse with an awesome schedule that gives him every other week off!)
10:00-12:30 Independent study time for older kids. (Math, grammar, spelling, writing, reading)
Mom-on-one time with 9 year old
12:30-1:30 Lunch and clean-up
1:30-3:00ish Geography, History or Science together
3:00-???? Mom relaxes with third cup of coffee or tea, usually at the computer, while kids start begging to play video games.
4:30-6:00 Mom starts dinner while kids do afternoon chores, read, play games, work on a craft project or just fight with one another, in which case, Mom reaches for a fourth cup of something hot (doesn't really care at this point, as long as it's not a weapon!)
6:00-7:00 Dinner time, typically being serenaded by the shrill ringing of the telephone
7:00-7:30ish After dinner clean-up and Mom begins correcting while chatting with Dad who's still at work, but on his lunch break.
7:30-8:00 Mom is still correcting, but at least it's quiet because kid's are finally allowed to play video games for 1/2 hour!
8:00-9:00 T.V. time with whole family while DVR is recording what Mom & Dad REALLY wanted to watch!
9:00 Kids go to bed and parents get to enjoy their recorded program....or we fall asleep and plan to watch it "tomorrow".

This is just a sample of a day in the life. Usually, it's not that neat and tidy. We experience many interruptions and end up postponing something until the next day. The key is to not beat myself up about not getting the clay model of a volcano built, or fixing a meal from the country we just studied (Hey, China was supposed to be done 3 weeks ago...I used up the ingredients in something else!). It isn't even about how much "knowledge" that I can throw at them. It is about teaching them the love of learning! If that is done correctly, parents won't have to worry about potential "gaps"...their children will fill them on their own.

Next time, I will share which books we are currently using. As you will see, I am more of an "eclectic" home school mom who likes variety! Works for us!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cranberries Galore!

The Pacific Northwest. Just the name of the area in which I live, conjures up images of rubber boots, umbrellas, mud puddles and dark, dreary cloud cover. Those that live here may tend to agree with that image, but it depends on, well, the weather! A well-known fact up here is "summer begins on July 5th." It's mostly true. But with all the rain, (and it's not 9 months, more like 8) comes a landscape that cannot be described. It must be experienced. For my family, living between the Pacific coast and the beautiful Cascade Mountains, an hour's drive in either direction allows us to do just that.

Our latest adventure was to go to a Cranberry Festival. Every fall, millions of pounds of the little red berries are harvested and sent all over the world. Chances are, you've probably eaten cranberries that have come from the Pacific Northwest! As someone who grew up in this area, I had never seen cranberries in bins! I mean, don't they always come in packages or cans? Sure, I have seen and experienced (funny story involving a moped) the cranberry bogs, but had never visited them in October. (Which is the start of our rainy season!)

Here's how it works. The cranberries grow on small, compact, bush-like plants. In the fall, the farmers flood the fields with water to float the berries to the surface. Then they use these big rakes and pull them in. It's a little more complicated, but that's the "gist" of it. Some are made into cranberry sauce, some are packaged whole and fresh, while others are processed into juice.

These little berries are good for us too. With only 44 calories/cup, they are a good way to get in a couple of servings of fruit! Here are some more stats on cranberries:
carbohydrates: 11.5 g.
fiber: 4.4 g
calcium: 8 mg.
magnesium: 6 mg.
potassium: 81 mg.
vitamin C: 12.6 mg.
Cranberries are also used to fight urinary tract infections and other types of bacterial infections.

We had the opportunity to purchase "fresh from the farm" cranberries in bulk. I had never seen them in bins before, so it was a new experience for me. All my children could talk about was how many Cranberry/Orange Muffins that those bins could produce! While we couldn't purchase entire bins of cranberries (not unless we bought yet another freezer!), we did end up with about 35#! Just enough to enjoy Cranberry Orange Muffins all winter long!

Cranberry Orange Muffins

1 orange, quartered with seeds removed
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 large egg
1/2 cup butter
1 3/4 cup flour (I use fresh ground white wheat)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tins. (I use melted butter) Put orange quarters in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add orange juice and puree. Add the cranberries and pulse a few times, just until the cranberries are chopped up. Pour ingredients into mixing bowl and add butter and egg. Mix well. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add slowly to wet mixture with mixer going. Only stir until ingredients are just mixed. Don't over-mix or the muffins will be "chewy". Fill muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes. Let muffins cool slightly before removing from pan. Yummy!!!

Homeschooling with the Movies!

One of the things that I love about homeschooling is that I am able to make up the rules as I go. For a control freak like me, that can be a good thing. But, even someone like me needs a little help now and again...okay, I need it WAY more than I ask for it, and when I find it, I like to tell people about it!

When we first started our homeschooling journey, I felt the need to "stick with what I know". (Of course, it wasn't much!) In the public schools (which I was an unwilling participant of, back in the "olden days"), we had textbooks that we read, followed by workbooks or tedious writing projects to show off what we learned. Blah, blah, blah... Needless to say, I was not a fan. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED science and history, but to read about Christopher Columbus EVERY SINGLE YEAR from kindergarten through 11th or 12th grade, well, let's just say repetition didn't make it any more exciting. In fact, by the time high school arrived, I had NO interest in history. To me, it was dull. I even tried to change things up a bit by writing a "rap" poem about old Columbus! My teacher was NOT amused. In high school, any late arrivals to U.S. history class (It was after lunch...clearly not my fault.), would be "punished" by having to write The Gettysburg Address. Other than Columbus, that was the most I took away from history. After all, I did have it memorized by the end of the semester!

So how does a parent make sure that history does not get monotonous? Try adding some movies to the curriculum! I found a wonderful book, Learning with the Movies, that does all of the work for me. The author lists movies by category, such as; Ancient Greece, The Renaissance, 1800's, and 1900's. There are sub-categories that dig deeper into the different wars. Besides that, there are categories for Biographies, Science/Nature, Holidays, Literature and Family Films. (Just to name a few!) The really nice part of this book is that the author, Beth Holland, rates the movies with stars and lets you know which age group the movie is more geared to. I have found a lot of the movies on Netflix and at our local public library. Some of the movies we really enjoyed, so they are now a part of our home video library! (Really, can a family have too many John Wayne movies?) One of our favorite studies was on the Civil War, using movies such as, "Gone with the Wind", "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals". We also found a Ken Burns documentary at our library that was a nice addition to our study.

If history is getting a little tiresome at your house, have a movie day! Add some pajamas and popcorn and sit back for some fun learning!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Catch-up" Wednesday!

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach
made famous in "The Goonies"
Whew! What a marathon! This past weekend was my granddaughter's first birthday party. This "Nana" wasn't about to miss this major milestone, so we loaded up the camper, gave away the tomatoes that were ready to be canned, left instructions for our older kids and headed south for the weekend! We are a very "destination oriented" group, (you would be too with 4 chatty kids in the cab of the truck!), but this time decided to take the scenic coast highway (101) and enjoy, well, the scenery. We could not have picked a better time to travel the coast as it was beautiful all the way down. My family & I lost track of time and ended up pulling into our campsite in the dark. (At that point, we were just HOPING that is was a campsite!) It was a lovely weekend. The kids got to go "crabbing" with their grandparents and Auntie Kola, I got to visit a couple of antique stores, and my hubby helped put a roof on our daughter's porch. Of course, there was smooching. Lots of smooching. After all, isn't that what chubby 1 year old cheeks are for?

This week will be a little different for us in the kitchen. I'm going to "grocery shop" from our freezer and pantry today. I have to buy milk (really wanting that milk cow now!), but think that I can have some fun with what is already here. My family & I are also going to start our "NO SUGAR" week. I have officially banned white sugar from the house to show our family just how much they are consuming. I am just as guilty...mine is in the very justified *ahem* form of a chocolate/raspberry latte. Did I mention that it is a daily dose? Things could get ugly around here.

oatmeal, poached eggs w/ toast, cream of wheat, cranberry/orange muffins, smoothies
crab, soup/crackers, sandwiches, fruits/veggies, leftovers
Wednesday: lentil burritos, salad
Thursday: stew w/ cornbread
Friday: spaghetti w/ sourdough, green beans
Saturday: Taco pizza (daughter Mandie's 15th birthday dinner)
Sunday: potato/corn chowder w/ cornbread

As for the beginning of this post again! It really doesn't get better than that.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Healthy All-Purpose Cleaner

One of my favorite "recipes" isn't about food at all. It's about a non-toxic cleaner that I use for my counters, tables and appliances. The surfaces that we eat from or store food in should be "clean enough to eat from", but most cleaners contain chemicals that have been linked to all sorts of health issues! If I'm not going to put bleach in my soup, why would I serve my soup on a table that has bleach residue? And don't even get me started on the warning labels of these chemical-laden products! A gas mask is not an option in my house!

All-Purpose Cleaner

3 T. distilled white vinegar
1/2 tsp. washing soda (washing soda, not baking soda! I use Arm & Hammer)
1/2 tsp. vegetable oil based liquid soap (Castile works great!)
2 cups hot water

Mix all ingredients into a spray bottle. Apply and wipe clean.

Now your counters will be clean (and safe!) enough to eat from!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Homeschooling 101

Jabez Academy's 1st graduate, Kelsie

Class of 2005

I feel very strongly about least for my family. I do not believe that every parent should take their children out of school and teach them their "3 R's". (If there were only 3...*sigh*) I wish that I did. But I have seen too many parents think that "if she can do it with 9, I certainly can do it with 2!" They have jumped into it "gung-ho" for a couple of weeks (the time I refer to as "The Honeymoon Period"), then lose all patience because the new-ness has worn off and the real work has to begin. They have struggled, hollered, (*whistle*whistle*), reacted and given up because they did not take the job seriously enough. (I am not talking about the parents who are unable to home school for financial or health reasons!) It is selfishness that has caused them to fail. And it is the children who end up paying for it.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I DID NOT want to home school my children! I was a mom who couldn't wait for the first day of school, when the bus would come and take my children...for free!!! I couldn't wait to"have a life"! I thought my homeschooling friends were all a little "goofy" in the head! But, when that first day of school came, and the bus pulled up, I knew in my heart that my daughter was not supposed to go. I didn't keep her home that day. In fact, I didn't take her out of school for an entire year! I needed to make sure that I wasn't going to mess her up by not being prepared mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. That year she was in school, I prepared. I read every book I could get my hands on. I looked at more curriculum (and bought most of it...really stupid.) than I even knew existed! I hunted and gathered information. And when that day came to take her out of the public school system, I was ready. No, not really. It is NEVER that easy! While I had prepared in all of the ways that I knew, it came down to me being willing to give up all of my selfish pride, ambitions and expectations and just be a mom.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, "For I know the plans I have for you", says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." This is the "theme" for our home school. It is not only for my children, but also for me. On those days where I think that I can't do this anymore, I look for God with my whole heart. He restores my hope and gives me the courage to keep going.

Homeschooling isn't for the weak. (Or the forgetful.) Kids will find the parents' weaknesses and they will do whatever they can to use those weaknesses to their benefit! It is their gift. So as homeschooling parents, we must remain diligent. We must remain strong. We must remember what we are supposed to be doing! We must make a list if all else fails. And it will at some point. Trust me, it will get better. I have 16 years of experience and counting.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chicken Tortilla soup & Kim's Kornbread

Here's the truth...I love autumn! I love the cooler temperatures, the faint scent of wood smoke in the air, (and not from a forest fire!), the sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet and the early evenings as the days get shorter. In the spring, I will be ready for the longer days and the freedom from having to pack firewood into the house, but right now, this is paradise!

Autumn is also a sign that it is safe to head back into the kitchen. During the summer months, the kitchen is the last place I actually want to be, even though that is where I'm most comfortable! Meals during the hottest part of summer are either cold or prepared outside. My canning is done on a camp cook stove and the baking is just a happy memory. The cooler weather brings me back indoors, where I can happily look through my recipe files and reintroduce my family to the "comfort" foods of fall. It is also a time when I can utilize all of the summer's bounty that is now gracing the pantry shelves and freezers!

This is one of our favorite meals! (Whenever possible, use organic ingredients for maximum nutritional value!)

Chicken Tortilla soup

1 whole chicken, cooked and deboned (I cook it in a pot of water with carrots, onions, celery, salt and pepper and then save the broth to use here!)
2 quarts stewed tomatoes
9 cups chicken broth
1 large, sweet onion; diced
1-7 oz. can diced green chilies
2 cloves garlic; minced
1 can black olives; sliced
1-15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 can black beans
1 T. ground cumin
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 t. dried oregano
2 cups frozen sweet corn
Garnish:shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips
Put everything into the pot and bring to boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Garnish with cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips. Great for left-overs!

Kim's Kornbread

1 cup organic white flour (organic has a higher protein content)
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
2-1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

Place 10-inch cast iron pan with 1 T. butter in 400 degree oven. Mix dry ingredients with wet. Do not over mix! Take skillet out when butter is melted and pour batter in. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I can't believe another year has flown by. One year ago, my family and I were anticipating a very important phone call. You know the one? The call that makes the rest of life come to a standstill and all but disappear? The call that drowns out the noise of life and all you can hear is the Hallelujah choir singing. For me, it was the call that I had been waiting for my whole life. My graduation day from being a Momma, to becoming a Grandma! Age didn't cross my mind at that point. Oh, it has made it's point too many times to count since that day, but on that day, not once.

This year hasn't been all sunshine and roses though. Back in February (the 13th to be exact), my daughter was on her way to work (she's a nanny for another pastor and his family), when she hit black ice and spun out of control into the oncoming lane. There just happened to be a car there. My husband & I were camping nearby, celebrating our anniversary, so when we got the call, we were able to be at the hospital in minutes. That is NOT a phone call any parent/grandparent wants to receive. My daughter, Kelsie, was bruised, cut-up and badly shaken, but generally okay. But my granddaughter, Madison, had to be life-flighted to Doernbecher's Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon. We drove. For 5 hours. It was the longest drive of our lives, made even longer because Kelsie was driving with her husband, Ben, behind us. We spent 2 1/2 days at the hospital, holding Kelsie's hand, comforting Ben and praying over little Maddie. The doctor's were amazing and ran every test that they could. It was determined that she did NOT have bleeding on the brain, but did have a fractured neck and skull. They said she would make a full recovery, and that the biggest obstacle would be to keep her from bouncing up & down!

I am happy to say that, 8 months later, Madison is fully recovered. She has hit all of the major first year milestones and I'm pretty sure even made up some new ones!! And this goofy "Nana" is going to spend several days watching her do every single one of them and thanking God for this beautiful gift. My granddaughter.

Our son-in-law, Benjamin and granddaughter, Madison Anne

Monday, October 5, 2009

Grocery shopping results

I learned 2 valuable lessons today. If there is not a price on an item, don't assume that you're getting a deal! I made that mistake with toilet paper of all things! I was in a local "bargain market" and seen the "deals" on other brands of t.p., and figured that the larger package would be approximately double of the smaller. Wrong! I found the same package of t.p. at Wal-mart for more than a dollar cheaper. So, just because there are good deals to be had in a discount store, doesn't mean that everything is a good deal!

The other lesson learned is this...DO NOT TAKE THE HUSBAND GROCERY SHOPPING! My nerves can't take it, and neither can his heart. (and he is a perfectly healthy 43 year old man!) It is such a shock to him to see how much food costs these days. The good thing is that he realized just how much work goes into each home-cooked meal! And I got to spend a couple of hours "alone" with my honey!

I went over budget this week because I had to plan for our meals at home, meals while camping, and meals that my college kids could fix for themselves. These groceries will be lasting for 1 1/2 weeks also, so overall, not too bad! (If I do say so myself!)

Grocery Outlet
4-1/2 gallon milks $6.76
Fresh cranberries (Yippee!!) $2.99
Pineapple sausage $5.99 (camping trip)
2 quarts 1/2 & 1/2 $3.78
2-12 pack, double rolled t.p. (grrr...) $13.98
Sub-total: $33.50

Frito-Lay variety pack (36) $8.98 (college lunches!)
2-Arm & Hammer washing soda $5.40 (taking to daughter so she can make soap too!)
2-cans of olives $1.96
2-cans spaghetti sauce $1.76 (camping trip)
2-mayo $5.96
Pure maple syrup $19.76
1-bag of tater tots $2.93 (college kids meal!)
2-spaghetti noodles $1.96 (camping)
Adams peanut butter $4.89
Spanish olives $2.73
Sweet Italian turkey sausage $3.18
2 lbs. Tillamook butter $4.80
bulk Sunflower seeds (1.42#) $1.69
bulk dried cranberries (.86#) $3.23
frozen hash browns $2.93 (camping)
bulk Parmesan cheese (1.04#) $3.91
bulk dried dates (.59#) $1.37
bulk popcorn (3.23#) $2.10
bulk granola (3#) 6.93
2 pig ears $2.26
2-Fels Naptha bars $2.24 (daughter's laundry soap)
2-bags of tortilla chips $5.16
bananas (3.64#) $2.11
1# bag of key limes $1.28 (special dessert)
flour tortillas $2.98

Sub-total: $102.50

Grand total: $136.00

There are things that I could change to make this total smaller, I can't help but wonder if the difference would be made up (and over!) in doctor's office visits. In the long run, I think that we are saving money without compromising our health.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Menu Plan for 10/4-10/11/09

This week is going to be a little different. We are heading south to celebrate our granddaughter, Madison's, first birthday! I can't believe how time flies! Seems like yesterday that we were racing south, turning a 6 hour drive into 4 1/2! (While I don't recommend speeding under normal circumstances, the birth of a first grandchild is worth the ticket that might be received!)

We are going to drive the coastal highway and make a few fun "pit" stops along the way. We'll be visiting a cranberry festival, kite festival and maybe even an aquarium..who knows? Since our daughter and her family live in a coastal town, prayers for good camping weather would be appreciated!

Oatmeal w/ blueberries
Leftover stew, sourdough bread
Quinoa, meatloaf, corn (carried over from last week)

Leftover meatloaf/tomato sandwiches on sourdough
SpicySplitPeaSoup, green salad

*Plum Smoothies, English muffins w/peanut butter
Leftover Spicy Split Pea soup, crackers
Salmon Patties, green beans

Poached eggs on sourdough toast
*Corn Dog muffins, sliced carrots, sliced apples
*Lentil burritos, green salad

French toast, orange juice
On the road sandwiches, chips and apples

While camping, we will be eating the usual camping fare...pancakes (from a mix, blah), hamburgers, chili, sandwiches, and some dutch oven stuff. I'm not very good at "winging" it, so I'll let you know what we ended up doing! I'm sure that there will be some seafood on the menu somewhere, after all, how can you visit the coast and not partake in some delicacies of the sea!

Here's the recipes that I have no links for. I don't even remember where I got them, so if you are seeing something that looks like what you've created...well, thank you from the bottom of my heart! (And I am sorry that I didn't give you the credit!)

*Plum Smoothies (This recipe came from MaryJanesFarm. It is my absolute favorite magazine! I couldn't find a link to the recipe, but you can get your own subscription with this link. This is from the June-July 2009 issue!)
1 cup plums, frozen
1 cup strawberries, frozen
1/2 banana, peeled and frozen
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbl. maple syrup (the real stuff!)
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Corn Dog muffins
1 favorite cornbread recipe
4 nitrite/nitrate free hot dogs (we use Shelton's)

Mix up your favorite cornbread recipe. Fill muffin tin (12) 1/2 full. Slice hot dogs into thirds. Place on each muffin. Cover with remaining batter. Bake according to your cornbread recipe!

Lentil Burritos
3/4 cup dried, brown lentils
3/4 cup brown rice, uncooked
4 cups water
4 beef bouillon cubes (read labels and avoid MSG and it's aliases!)
1 Tbl. + 1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
shredded cheese
Dump everything into medium pot and bring to boil. Turn down heat to med. low and cook covered until done. Stir occasionally. Fill large tortillas with approximately 1/3 cup (could be 1/2 cup, I don't like to measure!), sprinkle a little cheese and wrap. Place on greased (I use olive oil) cookie sheet. Bake @ 375 for about 15 minutes. If you like your burritos crisp, brush a small amount of olive oil on each burrito before baking. Serve with sour cream!

Check back tomorrow to see how I did on my shopping trip!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


According to Webster's Dictionary (1828 version), simplicity means, "plainness; freedom from artificial ornament; as the simplicity of a dress, of style, of language"...Living in this modern day of technology and growth (not always a good thing), it is easy to lose ourselves in the busyness of life. We run to town for the slightest thing, have to have 500 channels on the satellite, cell phones for every person, Internet that is faster than the speed of light and all for what? So we can work harder to pay for these "luxuries" of life?

This week, for me, involved a lot of time spent behind the wheel of my car. Between transporting kids to college (that is SO ending!), to appointments, to groceries & library, I spent more time on the road than I did on the couch! And I need couch time! I don't mean that literally, but for me "couch time" is the simpleness of just living. Not trying to make it in a dog-eat-dog world, but just breathing in and out and actually seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling what I have been blessed with. The simplicity of enjoying a meal with my family, of watching our newborn calf frolic with the chickens in the field, of taking a walk through the woods with my husband, and listening to my children challenge each other during a game of Scrabble. The simpleness of a fire in the wood stove, the smell of apple butter bubbling on the stove and the sound of the crows, fighting over the scraps thrown to the chickens are things that I've been taking for granted.

It is important for each of us to find that simple place that we can visit, a place where we can linger, and plan for that time when we can slow down and just enjoy all that we've been given. A place that I plan on visiting more often.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Benefits of Black Tea

In a family of our size, finding drinks that are affordable and nutritious is a sometimes daunting task. We do not drink Kool-aid or other sugary beverages, and buying fruit juice is limited to orange and apple only. When we lived at our previous home, apple trees were plentiful and autumn meant pressing the extra apples into cider. It was a huge family affair, with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents participating and the prize was to be able to take home 15-20 gallons a piece! Of course, the juice never lasted as long as we wanted it to, but boy, was it delicious!

When thinking about black tea, I picture Grandma in her chair, sipping from a pretty teacup, with her sugar cubes and cream lined up neatly on a tray. Grandma enjoyed her afternoon tea, but I wonder if she knew about the "benefits" of drinking it!

Black tea has been used throughout history for medicinal purposes, such as; preventing tooth decay, lowering cholesterol levels and relieving diarrhea. It also promotes blood flow to the brain without overstimulating the heart like coffee does. While black tea does contain caffeine, it is at a much lower level than coffee.

How do you incorporated black tea into your family's diet? Try making this simple, nutritious drink.

Pineapple Tea

8 cups water
12 black tea bags
2 cups pure pineapple juice
2/3 cup lemon juice
4 Tbl. agave nectar

Bring water to boil. Turn off heat and place tea bags in water to steep for 3 minutes. Remove bags. Add juices and agave nectar and stir. Serve over ice.

Not only will your family enjoy the healthy benefits of the tea, but they will also be getting their vitamin C from the juices! And better artificial dyes and preservatives!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rainy Days and a Giveaway!

I love the autumn rains. I guess I would have to, living in the Pacific Northwest! After experiencing a rather hot summer, the cooler moist air is most welcome. I enjoy seeing the beautiful trees start to change colors, the creek levels rising so the salmon can return to spawn, and the brown fields giving way to patches of green. The air even smells cleaner! Of course, that could be because the dust has settled and now we can actually breathe!

So, what does a rainy day and homeschooling have in common? Actually, not a lot, but it is a good time to take the kids into the craft store and let them choose a project to work on! When the weather is sunny, they work diligently on their bookwork with the goal of squeezing in a little outdoor playtime. For a country kid, that doesn't mean 10 minutes of riding a bike. It has to be long enough to have an adventure, such as fort building, a "safari", or zoo-keeping. (They have to have plenty of time to gather "critters" and send me into a full-on tizzy!) Rain means that they will have to find something to do with their extra time, or Mom will!

Today, we will have a rainy day adventure. My kids will go in the local craft/fabric shop, armed with their baskets and ideas, and go nuts! (Oh wait, we're not talking about me!) And while they are happily working on their projects, they will be learning to follow directions, using math skills, and practicing patience. The workbooks will still be waiting for them, but we'll save that for a really rainy day!

Speaking of projects...Mountain Home Quilts is having a give-away! Visit Heather's site at and look at the beautiful quilt patterns she is sharing with 2 lucky winners! Leave a post on her blog and on Oct. 7, she will randomly draw 2 names! It's that easy! While you're there, check out the gorgeous quilts in her shop! I am inspired...and I am going to the fabric store...!