Monday, August 30, 2010

Homemade Ketchup

Ketchup. Ketchip. Catsup. Catch-up.

High fructose corn syrup.

Whew. I finally got the spelling right.

No matter how you spell, or say it, ketchup has become its very own food group. Even at very young ages, everything from french fries to carrots to little fingers are dipped into the red stuff. When I was little, ketchup was the only way to get zucchini or cabbage into my body.

Everything's better with ketchup, right?

Well, not anymore. In order to keep costs down, the ketchup companies decided to follow the trend of adding HFCS to their products, thus changing not only the nutritional content, but also changing the "side-kick" status of the lowly condiment. Now it is not only a dipping sauce, but is also the base for many other foods, such as thousand island dressing, sloppy joes, baked beans, cocktail sauce and barbecue sauce.

While there are some companies that have gone back to using sugar instead of the corn syrup, for me, it is still not enough. The damage has been done. The trust has been broken.

And I can't really afford to buy the good stuff.

Trust me, we need it. It's zucchini season.

And cabbage is soon to follow.

This homemade catsup recipe comes from a co-worker of my Mister. Thank you J.B. for sharing!

Home Canned Tomato Catsup

1 gallon tomato pulp
2 cups sugar, brown or white (I used Sucanat)
2 cups vinegar or lemon juice (I made a batch of each. I prefer the lemon juice.)
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 Tb. sea salt

Wash, core and quarter tomatoes. If you have a food mill, run them through raw. If you need to use a seive, cook until soft first. The goal is to have a seedless, skinless, pulp.

Don't worry, it will be very liquidy.

Discard, compost, or bless your chickens with the peelings.

And if your sweet son decides to sharpen your knives for you, pay attention.

Sharpening a knife makes it sharp.

Grab a bandage, and a glove and get back to work.

Because now everyone is waiting.

Place pulp into a large pot. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil.

Boil hard for 1 hour.

Mix 1 heaping Tb. cornstarch with 1-2 Tb. cold water, then add to boiling mixture. Continue to boil for another 1/2 hour to thicken.

Pour into pint jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Each batch makes about 5 pints.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

MPM 8/30/10

Can you believe that it's already the end of August? It feels as if summer just flew by! With the public schools starting back up this week, I realize just how NOT ready I am for Fall!

And Fall is my favorite time of the year!!!

One of the things that I am behind in is canning. Because our garden did so poorly this year, I have to buy, or mooch from friends and family, fruits & veggies to can. I am picking up 4 boxes of tomatoes, 2 boxes of peaches, 1 box of pears, and a box of pickling cukes tomorrow. By the end of the week, if I haven't collapsed from exhaustion, I'm going to hunt down some shell beans to put up.

Nothing like saving things until the last minute!

Since kitchen #1 is still under construction and kitchen #2 will be busy canning, I'm bringing out the trusty crockpot. I love my crockpot.

Here's what's on the menu this week...

Soaked Oatmeal
Spicy shredded beef (from a chuck roast), corn tortillas, sliced heirloom tomatoes

Elk sausage, Ezekiel bread toast
Cod fish & sweet potato chips, homemade tartar sauce, coleslaw

Baked Oatmeal w/ apples
Cincinnati Chili

Soaked Oatmeal
Potato salad, chicken/apple sausages, peaches & cottage cheese

Granola & yogurt
Cheese Tortellini Pesto Pasta Salad

Taco Salad

This is linked to Menu Plan Mondays at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kitchen Updates!

'Twas the night before cabinets,
and all through the house,
anticipation was building,
mainly from the spouse.

The lighting was mounted,
from the ceiling with glee,
so people could view,
our new hickory.

The children were used,
to clean up the mess,
in hopes that tomorrow,
the dirt would be less.

The hubby, he bought,
every tool on the shelf,
He said we needed them,
as he mumbled to himself.

The glowing pantry light,
with its brightness so new,
gave the old bathroom window,
something to do.

The glare from above,
gave the room such a glow,
I had to turn it off,
to see anything below.

When my eyes finally adjusted,
and my heart-rate slowed down,
I decided these walls,
would go great with some brown.

With the kitchen enlarged,
and because I am able,
We removed the 12 feet,
that used to be our table.

And now as we rest,
and wait as we must,
I'll anticipate the new cabinets,
and write my name in the dust.

To be continued...

Not the poem.

Sorry for that.

It's been a long summer.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Geography Tools/Resources

When we started our home-school journey almost 18 years ago, I was fairly confident in my ability to be able to teach the various school subjects. I was particularly looking forward to teaching geography.


My knowledge of geography begins and ends with; north is always up, south is always down and somethin-somethin about the sun always setting somewhere.

It's no wonder that I get lost just trying to find the kitchen.

Thankfully, there are other mom's who have put together some amazing geography curriculum's. I have tried quite a few over the years, not because they weren't all good, but because of how good they really are.


During the grade school years, adventure is key to grabbing and holding kids' attention. The people at Geography Matters understand that and have developed multiple levels of age-appropriate material. Needless to say, I am a fan. Cantering the Country (U.S.) and Galloping the Globe (World) are almost complete curriculum's by themselves. Literature, science, art, history, vocabulary, and bible lessons are added to each section and you, the parent, can use as much or as little as you like. Some things are better seen than read, so there are Internet links provided as well for various subjects. Have I mentioned that I'm a fan? Better yet, my 3 youngest kids are also fans.

Remember Highlights magazines? They came out with "Which Way USA?" issues. It took me a while to collect all 50 states plus Washington DC, but it will be well worth it when we dig a little deeper into each state's history. Some of the content is pretty easy, while others are more difficult, making this a great supplement for multi-age families.

Middle School

I also purchased these from GeoMatters. One of the things I like the best about the Trail Guide books by Cindy Wiggers, is that they are also multi-age appropriate. There are 3 different levels in each book, already coordinated into the same lesson!!! I cannot tell you what a great tool that is. I used to spend hours on the weekends trying to make everybody's geography line up with each other. It just doesn't make sense to me to have 1 child learning about Texas, another learning about Delaware and another trying to figure out where Nebraska is.

I'm not even sure where Nebraska is...

The Geography Through Art and Ultimate Geography and Timeline books are not necessary, but I found them to be amazing add-ons to this program.

High School

In Washington state, students need to have a semester of World Geography to graduate. We have used Abeka's World Geography for all 5 of our graduates and I'm fairly certain they enjoyed it. Along with the textbook, there is a mapping workbook, test booklet, and answer key. Even though it is written for a classroom setting, it adapts easily to the home-school student.

Another option is the Trail Guide to Bible Geography, also by GeoMatters. It is set up just like the other trail guide books (multi-grade learning), but focuses primarily on the biblical maps of ancient and modern day. With this one, I suggest getting all of the atlases that are recommended. 'Frugal Frannie' here tried to "wing it" and just use what we had. Bad idea. We had to jump ship and wait until we could afford to get all of the appropriate atlases. Lesson learned.

When deciding on a geography program, make sure that you don't cut too many corners on the supplemental supplies. My kids have made layered maps on vinyl sheets, created lapbooks, and mapped on a huge wall map. Even the youngest child can participate by coloring the state or country from a coloring book.

Finally, even though books can teach the basics, real life has a way of making the facts stick. For instance, a few years ago, we were studying the various trails that the pioneers traveled. Being in the Pacific Northwest, we were able to take a vacation and follow some of the Oregon trail. We stopped at several museums and even stayed in a campground that had covered wagons and teepee's! Over the years, we've walked where Lewis & Clark walked, stood on a mountain that erupted (Mt. St. Helens), and camped inside an active volcano (Yellowstone).

Geography doesn't have to be a boring subject. With the right curriculum, resources and a sense of adventure, geography just might turn into a favorite subject!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Home-school Testing

With the new school year around the corner, it's time to get my home-school in order. One of the things that I do to prepare for the upcoming year is to have my children evaluated by an individual testing service.

Whether you are new to homeschooling, or a seasoned pro, annual testing can be great for 2 reasons.

#1. Most states require some form of testing to evaluate your child's progress. The two tests most commonly used are the SAT and CAT tests. In Washington state, we also have the WASL tests that are given in grades 4, 8 and 10. (I think.)

#2. It allows you, the parent, to see any "gaps" in learning so that you can adjust your teaching style or change curriculum if needed.

I don't give #1 a whole lot of thought. Even though there are some really wonderful teachers in the government run schools, the reality is that the people running the public school system are busy worrying about budget cuts, higher learning and meeting standards to care about a few "rebels". But, just in case they do start to worry about my children, the tests offer proof that I am truly educating my children at home.

I'm more interested in #2. I've found that with my children, they all learn differently.

That would account for the thousand's of dollars worth of curriculum I have accumulated over the years. Clearly, not MY fault.

Each year, we test our children through Christian Liberty Press. For $25/student, we are sent the CAT test appropriate for their grade level along with the scan-tron sheet that the kids fill in. I am sent a guideline for administering the tests with the time allotted for each section. My job is to make sure that the time factor is enforced and that all of the bubbles are completely filled in. I then mail back the booklets and the test forms and CLP grades and accesses them before sending us the results. It usually takes a week to get the results.

Based on the results, I can now plan our curriculum. CLP also offers a customized curriculum recommendation for another small fee. Instead of taking another year of grammar, my 10th grader will get to earn an English credit with English Literature. Because my 10 yr. old tested higher in Language Usage/Structure, he'll be spending a little extra time on the mechanics and spelling of language, which he didn't do so well in. I also found that my two 8th graders are at different levels in a couple of subjects, so I will have to find a balance between the two instead of putting them in completely separate books.

Testing at home allows my children to take the test in an atmosphere that they are accustomed to. They are not distracted by little "Tommy" picking his nose, or little "Suzy" humming to herself. They are not worried about the teacher possibly eating them or getting beaned in the back of the head with a ball by another student. (True story for my little niece.) There is no fear of failure or embarrassment and the wiggles are encouraged, not frowned upon.

Besides all of that, Mom makes cool snacks to munch on in between sections. Or so I've heard.

Testing gives me peace of mind in knowing that I'm doing my job. Testing at home gives my children peace of mind in knowing that the person administering the test loves them unconditionally and has only their best interests at heart. It also gives them a sense of satisfaction for a job well done.

Even if one of them got caught picking his nose.

As we gear up for a new school year, I will be sharing some of our favorites with you in the coming days. For our favorite history programs/books, revisit here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010



The week I've been waiting for is here.

My kitchen cabinets are being installed on Friday!!

Thankfully, we do not have to do that part of the remodel, which leaves us open to do other important stuff.

Remember these?

Our turkeys are full grown and still waiting for their very own yard.

The chickens don't like to share.

Speaking of chickens...

Our Rhode Island Reds, that were meant for the freezer, have started laying.

And since there are about 25 grown "chicks", that means we have an abundance of eggs.

Abundance = Approximately 12 dozen, currently crowding out the condiments.

Not counting tomorrow's gathering.


Wanna guess what's on the menu this week?


Soaked Oatmeal w/ blueberries

Leftover Chicken Tortilla Soup

Lentil Burritos, sliced heirloom tomatoes


Elk sausage, toast

leftover Lentil Burritos

Salmon Quiche, Zucchini Bread


Blueberry/Coconut Smoothies (new), Zucchini Bread

Grilled nitrite/nitrate free hot dogs, sauerkraut

Grilled chicken, corn on the cob, garden salad, devilled eggs



Out to lunch

Mexican Frittata


Pennsylvania Dutch Baked Oatmeal

Plum Smoothies, whole grain crackers, raw cheese

Grilled hamburgers


Scrambled eggs, elk sausage


Gluten-free Chili Mac (new), garden salad

*For more menu planning ideas, visit Laura for Menu Mondays!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


My favorite feature of the t.v. remote control is the pause button. If I'm thirsty mid-MacGyver, I can hit the button and quench my thirst, without missing MacGyver fashioning a parachute from dental floss and some old chewing gum.

That dandy little trick could come in handy someday.

It's important not to miss any of MacGyver.

Yes, I'm that old.

Sometimes I dream of a pause button for life.

We've been so focused on the kitchen remodel that other things have been a little neglected.

Like remembering to buy toilet paper.

Until it was too late.

Don't ask. It was ugly.

My Mister and I decided to make a run to Costco to pick up some basic supplies. Since it was a warm summery day, we chose the one closest to the beach.

(Actually, we chose it because it was the furthest away from the kitchen!!!)

After shopping and dinner out with my in-laws, we headed home. About 20 miles from our beloved kitchen (that we had really started to miss), it began to rain.

At least, that's what we thought it was doing.

Look closely.

Does this look like rain to you?

I'm pretty sure the next town over was hit with a plague of some kind.

That's probably not going to help the real estate market.

Besides running out of toilet paper, we forgot that we had a new member of the family arriving.

Meet Lola.

She was supposed to be a farm kitty.

Until she became a gift.

For Heather.

Because it was her 14th birthday.

Thankfully, she's not mad anymore.
We're still waiting on Gertie.

Since walking is good for a pregnant gal, I decided to take her for a stroll.

She got side-tracked.

The girls tried bribery.

I tried to reason with her.

What did we expect? She's a goat. Even if she doesn't realize that fact.

As darkness fell, I was left with 2 questions.

Where is MacGyver when you need him?



Just another reason for a pause button.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spinach Chicken Salad

While I like the sunshine, I am not a fan of hot kitchens.

A great way to keep the kitchen cool is to make salads that can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until needed. My family knows that when there are pots on the stove of potatoes, noodles and eggs, that a heatwave is imminent.

This is one of my favorite make-ahead salads that keeps well for several days. It also uses fresh, in-season produce that you probably already have on hand.

Hot kitchen? Not me!

Of course, I still don't have my kitchen, but that's another story.

Spinach Chicken Salad

5 cups cubed, cooked chicken (about 3 whole breasts)
2 cups green grapes, halved
2 cups packed, torn spinach
12 oz. brown rice corkscrew pasta, cooked and drained
1 jar (6 oz.) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1/2 large cucumber, sliced
3 green onions with tops, sliced

1/2 cup EVOO
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tb. champagne vinegar
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. dried minced onion
1 t. lemon juice
1 Tb. dried parsley or 2 Tb. fresh parsley, chopped fine

In a large bowl, combine chicken, grapes, spinach, pasta, artichokes, cucumber and green onions. Cover and refrigerate. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl; mix well and refrigerate. Just before serving, pour dressing over salad and toss.

Serves 8-10


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Humble Pie for One

As a stay-at-home mom, I rarely have occasions to dress up. Face it, it makes no sense to put too much effort into my wardrobe to chase the cows, pull some weeds, or stack some firewood.

Give me some sweatpants or blue jeans and I'm good to go.

Even though my skirts are crying out for me to show them a little love, on most days, it just doesn't make sense.

The exceptions to that are Sunday's and grocery shopping day.

In the summer, I ALWAYS wear skirts to town. ALWAYS. Skirts provide a cool breeze and have the added benefit of covering my legs if I neglected to shave.

I know. Too much information.

When wearing my skirts, I feel feminine. And if I'm not in too big of a hurry to escape...I mean, get to town before the rush...I may even apply make-up.

With my latte in one hand and grocery list in the other, I'm set. I'm feeling good and looking groomed.

Today while shopping, one of the grocery store cashiers paid me a compliment. Sometimes I do get compliments. Usually they have something to do with how organized I am with my list attached to a clipboard, but today it was about me. She told me I was a "very pretty lady...a real natural beauty".

Ummm...okay. Apparently she didn't notice the 3 layers of spackle on my face.

But, like a hungry lion, I ate up that compliment, and waited for more. I stood a little taller. I felt good.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, created humbleness.

And He decided to use it on me today.

In fact, He served a big slice of it on a platter.

I cannot show you the picture because this is NOT one of those kinds of websites.

I'm not even sure that I should share this with you.

But, there were witnesses. It's out there now. You have the right to know.

As I walked to my car, I noticed a couple of other people looking my way. "Wow", I thought, "I must really look good today."

I may have been strutting.

Then I looked down.

Tangled in my necklace was the underwire to my bra.

Sticking right out of the top of my tank top.

I'm currently in the market for a new home...preferably somewhere overseas.

And lest you be scarred for life, I'll leave you with some happy thoughts.

And what's truly beautiful.

A creek after the rain subsides


Returning soldiers

The beach after a storm

Beauty is a sunrise that you were privileged to be awake for.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

MPM 8/16/2010

Well, the computer fairies have shown me some favor. My "issues" with picture loading seems to have resolved itself. For the time being anyway. I'm still not convinced that my blog isn't out to get me, but for now, all is well.

The summer heat has arrived. We've had temperatures hovering around the 100 degree mark for the last couple of days. That means my tomatoes have a fighting chance of actually changing colors! WooHoo! Green is a pretty color, but not on my tomatoes.

Speaking of green...My sister, Erin and I decided to go to the "island" and pick some more blueberries. My 4 year old niece, Anna, decided to help me. She likes green. I reminded her that blueberries are supposed to be blue. She nodded and continued to pick the green ones.

Because green is bootiful Auntie Kim!

Green berries and all, we each ended up with an end-of-the-season flat.

The early peaches, Red Havens, were ready to be picked too, so we headed into the orchard to pick enough to snack on.

Remember all of the rain and cold weather we've had?

The peaches did.

It took a lot of looking, but we finally found enough to take home. Peaches like the sunshine too, so I'm hoping the Alberta's are soaking up a good portion of it!

My sister, Erin, employs oompah-loompah's to climb the trees.

My nieces and nephew decided to "bathe" in the orchard.

They used the antibacterial wipes that were saved for the outhouse!

These will make great smoothies!

Speaking of's what's on the menu for this week!


Soaked Oatmeal w/Blueberries

Fruit Smoothies, turkey breast & whole grain crackers

Summer Curried Chicken Salad


Breakfast sausage, toast, grapefruit juice

Black bean burritos

Spinach Chicken Salad (still new!)


Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes w/ Blueberry Maple Syrup (new)

Strawberry/Peach Slushies, whole grain crackers & raw cheese

Gorgonzola, Walnut, Grape & Rice Salad


Soaked Oatmeal w/blueberries

Turkey sandwiches on whole grain bread, fruit

Broccoli salad, Chicken/Apple Sausages, cornbread


cold cereal (early appointments!)

Chef Salad

Elk steak, oven-roasted red potatoes, fresh green beans (!)


Yogurt & berries, toast w/almond butter

Hot dogs (organic/nitrite free), lacto-fermented sauerkraut

Lazy Chiles Rellenos, corn tortillas, garden salad

For more meal-planning ideas, visit Menu Mondays at The Organized Junkie.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Alternate Universe...

I have not abandoned my blog. My blog does seem to have it out for me though.

I don't know why. I've been very nice to it. I feed it regularly with photos, kind words and I rarely raise my voice to it.

Okay, maybe they're not award winning photos, and maybe I haven't thrown in enough computer jargon such as; bytes, pixels, and ram, but I love my blog and up until now, it has loved me back.

Somewhere along the line, the love has soured. Maybe I've spent too much time on The Pioneer Woman, The Inadvertent Farmer, Mountain Home Quilts, Finding Joy in My Kitchen, Homestead Revival, and Heavenly Homemakers websites. Maybe my little "blog in the wall" got jealous and decided to rebel.

It could happen.

Or, maybe, just maybe, I hit a button somewhere that makes all of the pictures I download, jumble up and get out of line.

Not likely.

It's more likely that I'm in some alternate universe and the radiation left from my former self has messed up my gigs, rams and bytes.

Yea. That's probably it.

If any of you wonderul bloggers have had any issues with picture jumbling, I'd appreciate any advice on what to do! (When I try to line the pictures back out, they end up in the right margin.)

In the meantime, have a blessed weekend!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Quick Break

Between the remodel and the weird weather we've had, our garden has been a little neglected.

Some might say, "Define a little."

We really have been busy though. With the new sheet-rock up, we've had to seal the new walls.

It's not as much fun as putting color on the walls.

We have had a little garden gnome tippy-toeing through the tulips.

Wait a minute...we don't have any tulips!

Spring seems like such a long time ago. Seems as if we've been waiting for the
lettuce for months.

I don't have a clue where it went, but I'm pretty sure that it was planted.

Heather took it upon herself to replant the greens.

I guess my reaction to not finding lettuce in the garden scared her.

Our broccoli did really well.

The bees appreciate my gardening skills.

Maybe I should just say, "I meant to do that."

Are you buying that?

How are your gardens coming along?