Sunday, August 31, 2014

Weekend Goodies

When I was a child I fell in love with the fable about the ant who worked all summer long to store food for winter.  That little guy worked hard to make sure he didn't go hungry.  Little by little -day after day- he found food and brought it back to his storehouse.  Ii loved the little by little, ending up with a lot, part of the story.  I seemed to have taken the story to heart because I realize that is how I do things.  As an example, I have one basil plant.  When it grows, I pick the stems and dry them.  Over the summer I have gotten a heaping half cup of basil, with much more to come.  I wonder if the person who gifted me the plant thought it would produced so much.




There's more in this half cup than in a spice jar bought at the grocery.


I believe it was last Thursday that I planted seeds I saved from my current crop  (Bean, cucumber, pepper) to check to make sure they were viable.  I put two bean seeds in one hole.  To my utter surprise, they have germinated already.  (Today is Saturday)  How exciting to see my efforts bring success.

Look at these two bean plants.  Strong and healthy.  I'm not sure if they will grow as a winter crop, but an experiment is on the way.  These will get transplanted in the garden to see if they will survive the winter.  If I have to, some nights I will cover them with a glass jar.  Hands on learning is a 'good thing'.



The soil is ready for the winter crop and I have planted parsley from my saved seeds as well as garlic.  Tonight will be lettuce, carrots, beets, and spinach.  Unless it's too hot.  Then I will need to wait a week or so because these crops need cool nights.

I have to research how big a lemon tree has to be to transplant into the garden.  My lemon tree has gone from 11 leaves to 21 during the summer months.  I have been hardening it all summer, so hopefully I can plant it out doors in the fall.


Do you think the lemon tree is ready to go in the garden?  Or should I wait until spring?


The blackberry bush is huge.  So are the weeds behind it.  I can't get behind it without being scratched up.  So far I have picked 1.5 cups of berries with about 2 more cups still ripening.  Not enough for a batch of jam, but enough to put into a peach cobbler.  I see the fable of the ant applies here as well.


The blackberry bush is putting roots down behind the marigolds.  I got him 2 falls ago as a bare root plant given to me by the same friend who I exchange plants and seeds from.  Next year this will be the only thing in this section of the garden.  It's very greedy for space.


The only other thing I've done this weekend is bought some undies.  Victoria Secret is having a sale on undies.  Seven pair for 26.50.  That's less than 4.00 a pair.  Cheaper than undies at the big box - buy anything at it - store.

Stay safe.




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Garden Update

I am very aware of the sun disappearing earlier every day.  I'm also aware that I have been 'putting up' foods to enjoy during the winter months.  I was not aware my plants were coming to the end of their life cycles.  I began noticing yesterday morning when I pulled brown bean plants and tossed them in the compost bin.  This morning I begrudgingly pulled the sad tomato plant and threw it in the woods behind my house.  After cleaning up the mess I made, I sat down.  Only to notice my cucumber plant needed to be pulled as well.  I foraged the last three cucumbers and pulled it out, dragging it behind me to the woods.


 
The small spot the cucumber plant took up.  I ended up with 21 jars of pickles, 4 salads to feed 9 people, sharing with 3 families and 2 turtles, (My daughter has turtles in her classroom.) with 12 left in the refrigerator for good eating.


The potted tomato plant was an heirloom variety.  It just didn't do so well after I began finding the horn worms on it.  I won't grow that variety any more because I had the same problem last year.  What it did produce, an animal snuck into my yard at night and feasted on.  I cleaned up the pot and pulled 2 marigold plants from the garden to put in the pot.


 
The marigolds look pretty, but I was after nourishment rather than beauty.

The soil is turned and amended in the garden so I can plant the winter garden.  I have 50 garlic bulbs to go in tomorrow morning.  Today I have to save my energy to can the peaches I bought on Sunday.

So the garden is beginning to take on the shape of fall.  The peppers are still producing - slowly - and the other tomato plant is still healthy with a few tomatoes and a lot of flowers.  I do have a guest on the tomato plant though...



Can you see the praying mantis?  I'm told they are good for a garden, so I leave her to her business.  She moves slowly and stays in one spot for days.  I'll have to research her and if she can do damage to my plants.  So far I don't see any.

The green tomatoes I had to pick last week so they didn't get eaten are beginning to turn red in the paper lunch sack I put them in.  Here's a picture of the first one to turn.  It will go in the freezer with the others from my daughter's garden to make a pot of sauce.



The first red tomato from my garden (as opposed to my daughter's).  I'll probably have to take a slice of this to eat before I freeze the rest.



This is what fall looks like in a garden.  Bare and a bit sad.



On a brighter note, the blackberry bush is huge and looks like it will produce enough berries for a batch of jam.

The experience I've had this summer with a productive garden was (is) exhilarating.  I never thought it was something I would be able to do.  My husband could grow anything.  All he had to do was smile at the plants and they would grow.  I swear he would pick out all female plants.  Maybe mine this year were mostly male plants.  Who can tell. (If there is even such a thing.)

Stay safe.

 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This Week's Accomplishments

What a week it's been.  It went by quickly.  I did accomplished a few things this week.  I've been active with two days of resting.

1.  Saved a number of beans for seed.  I have well over 100 seeds for next year.
2.  Sowed some bean, pepper, cucumber seeds in a small pot to see if the seeds are viable.
3.  Pulled the bean plants.  I have to get more organic soil to amend what is in the garden so I can plant the winter crops.  Spinach, beets, carrots, and lettuce.
4.  Picked a few peppers.  The plants are slow growing but well worth the wait.
5.  Made 3 more jars of pickles.  That brings me to 21 jars from my one plant.  I have 12 cucumbers left in the refrigerator which will be shared with a couple of friends and family.


This time I used quart jars.  I packed them tightly, but the cucumbers shrunk quite a bit.

6.  Swept the garage.
7.  Cleaned the birdbath and outdoor furniture.
8.  Weeded the garden and watered the plants.
9.  Rearranged the guest room.
10. Stopped at a farm stand to buy strawberries, peaches, and apples.  The strawberries will be frozen to make jam in the middle of winter.  I'll can the peaches today.  The first crop apples are being saved to make a crisp on the first day of September.  Then a bunch of applesauce.  All of these things will taste real good in the dead of winter.
11.  I hung a picture in the master bathroom.  That bathroom is a work in progress.
12.  Peeled bean casing off of the seeds.
13.  Saved more cucumber seeds.
14.  Helped out an ill family member.

What did you do this week?  Climb the Empire state building?   Or maybe a mountain?   Whatever it was, your contributions are much appreciated by those in your circle. Hearing from you in the comments section would be uplifting to me as well as others who may be struggling.

Stay safe.
This is Marley.  The picture is purely for your entertainment.  She doesn't like her picture taken so I had to be patient until I could get a good shot.

'It doesn't get any better than this' .  This plaque is a reminder to me about how good life can be. 
This is what the beans look like when they are ready to be picked for seeds.


 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Could it be That Facebook Has Been Untruthful?

I've been checking out my daily hits because Facebook says only 8 people reached or 9 people reached.  They want me to 'boost' my readership by paying them.  Sorry, FB, I'm not interested in having the world love me.  Just interested in the those who are interested.

Just to see if what they say is true - the hits on the blog site are much higher than FB records - I have not been posting when I write a entry on FB for the last three additions.  Should I be surprised that the stats they reveal to me are incorrect?  Most of the hits my blog gets is from FB readers that go to my blog when I write that I posted.  Some days it's well over 150.

My blog took a hit when I did this experiment, but now I know the truth is not always out there.

I have a lot of work in the kitchen today so there won't be a post until later.  But, you can read the last three posts that you weren't aware of.

Stay safe.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Weekend Cheating

I have always been aware of the foods we eat are the fuel for our bodies.  Raising our children I made sure they were fed healthy foods - with a splash of goodies thrown in.  Even though I am still learning about healthy eating and proclaim it's benefits,  I also am aware of the phycology behind food and the human.

If someone loves chocolate, and they swear off chocolate, it's a matter of time before they binge on chocolate.  It's human nature to need to and 'break' from responsibility.  Eating healthy is a responsibility.  A responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones.

But, I'm not here to lecture.  I'm here to tell you I have found a balance between the two types of food - healthy and not so healthy.  I like both of them, one more than the other.  Fruits and veggies are my first choice.  Especially from the garden.  There's nothing like the taste of the first ripe peach of the year when the juice rolls down your arm and you're too busy to notice because the taste of the peach is heavenly.

I do all my cheating (if you want to call it that) on the weekends.  Yup.  I may want pancakes during the week, but I wait until the weekend to enjoy them.  Maybe it's a piece of good chocolate I'm craving.  Weekends are the time I indulge.  However, what I do to counteract any negative outcomes is down a half glass of milk with the 'forbidden' foods.

My method appears to be working because my blood work is good these days.  Very good.  I'm pleased with the results of my method.

I also take an antioxidant each morning that is comprised of natural materials.  It's from Market America which sells only items that are organic or natural.  (I do not receive any compensation from this company.)  If you check out the company I would ask that you use the slash with john1010 after it.   This will take you to a good friend's site.  She is a fair and honest vendor. 

So enjoy your weekends and have a piece of chocolate for me.  I do know I will have one for you!



http://isotonix.marketamerica.com/john1010/USA  This is the link to the Isotonic antioxidant I drink each morning.



 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Two Days in the Kitchen


I've been working in the kitchen for the past couple of days.  Yesterday I made cheese crackers.  I followed the directions because this was the first time I made any sort of cracker.  There was no salt in the recipe.  All crackers have salt in them.  I didn't think of it until they were ready for the oven.  I took the opportunity before they went into the oven to moisten the tops (slightly) and pop some sea salt on them.  I'm so glad I did.
For my taste there was too much parm in the finished product.  Next time I will cut the parm down by half and add a Colby to the dough, which is less potent of a taste.  On their own the crackers were too pungent.

But, I also made farmer's cheese.  Which is a first for me, as well.  I followed the directions, but instead of laying the cheese cloth over a sieve, I hung it from a cupboard knob.  I also added a bit of salt after it was done separating from the whey.

It has the consistency of cream cheese and it's very tasty.  I took a bit in a bowl and added the ingredients I normally make a cheese ball out of - one made with cream cheese.  We are talking gourmet food.  Martha Stewart couldn't have done better.  I am so happy with the outcome.

One not so good thing happened. (But, not the end of the world.)  I took the bottle of whey out in the garden to feed some to the tomato plants and dropped the glass bottle on the patio.  Nothing hit me, but I had an unplanned cleaning of the patio.




The cheese hanging over a bowl to separate the whey from the cheese.



The simple ingredients used to make the crackers.  Flour, salt, butter and cheeses.  This was turned into....


This.  Then rolled out and cut with a canning jar ring to make....



These.  I only got 16 crackers this time around because the cutter was bigger than a normal sized cracker.  A friend suggested I use the cap from a spice jar the next time.  Sounds good to me.  I may also roll the dough thinner.

This morning I took one of my large cucumbers, a tomato from the farm market stand, onion, and a pepper from the garden to make a salad.  Since my daughter and her family are coming for dinner, I made a large salad so she can take some home with her.  The meal is completed with home made corn bread, meatloaf, and green beans from - you guessed it- the garden.  Dessert will be jello with whipped cream made from fresh cream.

I consider us very  blessed to have such good, simple meals.  Gourmet?  Not for this family.

Before we eat, my son in law is putting a new light up in the kitchen for me.  he'll be hungry after all the swearing he's going to do!



 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Not So Good Review

I really am not one to write or think anything negative.  Life is just too short for that.  Especially at my age.  I'm writing this review because I want to save others from making the same mistake I did.  I went on a brand's reputation without researching the item.  Mistake, big mistake. (anyone know what movie this line is from?)

I bought a Food Network food processor.  We don't get along well at all.  Because I put money on it, I live with the battle to use it, but you don't have to.

The suction cups on the bottom which are there to hold the item in place, don't hold the item in place.  That is, unless you want to pick it up to put it away.  Then you have to fight with it to remove it from the counter.  This is something that would not ordinarily phase me.  A small glitch, but doable. 

What is not doable is you have to literally slap the bowl part to engage with the bottom part.  Literally.  I have to whack it to engage.  Not a little, but hard.  Then try getting the cover on to twist into the lock as well.  Again, a firm whack is needed.  Not with your fingers, with the side of your hand.  It needs plenty of pressure to engage.  Do this three times when you use the appliance and I see you will be saying words that normally are spoken in a bar room.

So, no, I don't like the appliance, one bit.  But, I paid for it so I will need to suck it up and fight every time a recipe calls for use of a food processor.

Stay safe.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Sunday was a relaxing day.  I don't normally go out on the weekends because there is so much traffic in my area when everyone is off work.  The crowds make me nervous, so I stay in the house.  I have all week to go out to get groceries or do errands, so I don't stress about driving on the weekends.  I will venture to one of my daughters' houses, though.  Offer me a free meal and I'm there.

I spent the afternoon cruising the internet.  I found a couple on yootoob who had one of the first HGTV shows, Mat Foxx and Sherry Hillar.  After watching a few of their videos I subscribed to their channel so I can watch more the next time I want to relax.  I love their comfortable decorating style and miss their input.

I also found a recipe for rosemary tea.  A year or so ago I bought a tea ball because I wanted to start drinking herbal teas.  Teas that I grew in my garden.  I forgot about my mission for one reason or another.  Yesterday I was reminded.  There's a couple of precautions you have to take when preparing the tea.  One is not to use too much rosemary.  I used half a teaspoon for an eight ounce cup.  Then the post warned not to reuse the rosemary because it can get bitter.  Other than that, you can enjoy the healthy properties of rosemary tea.  The health property it's known for is protecting the memory. A touch of honey and I was a happy girl.  Let's see if it works!

Remember that bathroom shelf I bought this past week?  I took the time to put it up in the powder room.  Other than paint, that is just what the little room needed.  I gathered things from around the house to decorate it.  That morning I read a post on one of my go to blogs that reminded me that I could decorate with greenery.  (link below)  I clipped a couple of small branches from the bushes in front of the house and added a bit of water.  I can continue to do this when the clippings die off.  Thank you Prudent Homemaker.



The shelf has two drawers and three hooks.  The wall stencils are from the Dollar Store.  The rest of the items I had around the house.  It's difficult to see, but the greenery is already starting to turn red - orange.  Other signs of an early fall include the geese that have been flying overhead in formation.

This is the only area that has anything on the walls.  My husband picked out the butterfly picture around eight years ago and a friend sent me the needle work picture as part of a new home package I received.



http://theprudenthomemakerblog.blogspot.com/

Link to Prudent Homemaker's blog site  The post about greenery is the second one.







https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZACc582HpVQ

In this video Sherry Hillar  makes  a decorative pillow cover.  The perfect frugal way to change the look of a room with season changes.









 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Shelves and Seeds

You might remember a couple of weeks ago I bought a shelf for the garage to get things off the floor.  Another reason I bought it is to be able to park my car in the garage during hurricanes and hail storms.  Like most people in the South, my car is normally parked in the driveway.  People use their garages down here for -among other things - a man cave.  It's not uncommon to see big screen TVs and a kegger sit in a garage when you pass by.  The door is wide open and the men are hooting it up while watching sports on the TV.

No man here, so I craved organization.


This pile of plastic became...



This organized unit.

I placed it on the back wall so there would be room to get out of the car.  All it took to put it together was a picture for instructions and a hammer to pound the stilts in.  Yes, I do use bug spray.  I live in the South where there are spiders that could kill a person.  The spray is used as a first line of defense.

When I finished this project (and cleaning the garage) I relaxed and turned....


This....
 
 
 
 
 
into this.  A handful of radish seeds were harvested from a few of the pods on the radish plant I let bolt and go to seed.  I have more that I harvested earlier.
I surprise myself every day with the things I'm willing to learn.  Lots of yootoob on a subject, and I have gained confidence with projects I never imagined doing.

Stay safe.
Angie

Kitchen Deodorizer

I have been making my own room sprays for a few years.  Once you start, it's difficult to go back to store bought.  I know what I'm breathing in when I make my own.  My favorite is lavender, made from flowers I grew and harvested a few years back.  I still have quite a few of the dried buds.  The recipe is simple.  I use the cheapest vodka I can find and add whatever I want the spray to be,  It needs to infuse for about five weeks in a dark place.  When it's totally infused,

 it gets transferred into a spray bottle I got at Wal Mart.

Recently I came across a recipe for a room deodorizer.  Amended to fit my needs - as well as what spices I had on hand - it's suppose to rid the kitchen of cooking smells.

My recipe:
I bought a three cup spray bottle at the local Wal Mart for .87 cents.
The contents are:
1 c of water
1 c of vodka ( I have a supply that I paid 4.57 for (each one).  I use it all of the time for making sprays, so I stocked up when I found a clearance sale.)
1 c of vinegar (distilled is the cheapest.)
Add:
3 cinnamon sticks
2 t of cloves
5 anise stars
Peel from one lemon, cut in strips
2 t vanilla

Let the mix sit for three to seven days before use.

The spices you use are your choice.  I would always use vanilla and lemon or orange peel.  (Which can be frozen until needed.)

If you try this, let us know how it worked for you in the comment section.




Thursday, August 14, 2014

This Week's Accomplishments

Time is going so fast that it's difficult to remember this week from last.  Who am I kidding, there's times that I have to reflect on what I did yesterday!  Tee Hee.  I know I will miss a couple of things, and I may even put one in here that I posted last week.  It's OK if you just pass by it without reading.  After all, I will never know!  (I'm in a humorous mood.  This mood has always gotten me in trouble when I was a kid.  My humor tends to be rather dry.)  Come to think of it, it has gotten me in trouble within the last few months.  Oh well, life goes on.

1. Dusted the hardwoods.
2. Froze four packs of beans.
3. Made bread rolls.
4.  Bought the grands some back to school clothes.
5.  Bought a rug for the master bathroom that matches.
6.  Watched organizational videos and am finally getting the hang of it.
7.  Reorganized the bathroom cabinets.
8.  Now that I found the paint color for the powder room, I have redone some of the decorations in that room using things I have on hand.
9.  Canned four jars of cucumber salad to be used for the holidays.
10. Cut the grass, put down moth balls. (to keep unwanted critters from liking my yard.)
11. Cleaned up Marley's garden 'gifts'.
12. Cleaned the table top bird bath.
13. Watched my neighbor put up my flag.
14. Had my hair cut.  (My daughter is a stylist, so it's very easy to be relaxed as she does it at her house.
15. Packaged up the seeds I dried.
16. Fermented cucumber seeds for next year's crop.
17. Mailed four packages at the post office.
18. Visited the doctor for an annual checkup.
19. Bought a new printer.
20. Three loads of laundry.
21. Froze tomatoes from my daughter's garden.
22. Fermented tomato seeds for next year's harvest.
23. Dried pepper seeds for next year's harvest.
What have you accomplished this week?  I love to read your comments, so don't be shy.  God bless.  Stay safe.


The seeds I've dried so far.  When they are all picked and dried I will put the paper sacks in a Food Saver bag to keep them safe from deteriorating.

Breakfast Was Fit For a Queen

I feel like a queen this morning.  No I did not win the lottery.  I'm not wealthy in terms of cash and assets.  I feel like a queen because of this morning's breakfast.  A queen couldn't have eaten better food.  A queen most likely would have wanted a fancier meal, I like my simple rustic meals.

I fried up some green pepper strips in olive oil and butter.  The peppers came from my organic garden, the butter from the milkman's farm and the oil straight from Italy.  What a difference in my peppers compared with grocery store ones.

The egg came from the milkman, too.  Free range and yummy.  I added a slice of the rolls I made this week with just a tad of home made peach jam.  The combination was delightful.

I can afford to eat like this because I have altered my eating habits.  I decided quite a while back that I was tired of being sick.  I was tired of being over weight.  I was tired of remembering what food use to taste like.  I had my fill of junk foods.  I wanted to taste good food again.  In order to do that, I had to eat less.  I slowly decreased my portion sizes, a tablespoon at a time.  If I ate less, I could afford good foods. 

Let me put a disclaimer in here.  I am not a food Nazi.  It doesn't matter to me who eats what or when.  When you have a growing family there are times you have to buy what you can afford.  I also still eat junk food from time to time.  My weakness is a good jelly donut.  I can't seem to resist a good donut.  Or sometimes I crave bread dough fried and rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  I'll eat a half a loaf of bread when I make those.  I'll eat it with no guilt.  It's somehow satisfying to me.  So, no, I'm not perfect or bragging.  Just happy and content.

The scrambled eggs and peppers were a quick and easy breakfast.  While the peppers were cooking I cleaned up the dishes from a project I did this morning.  I ordered my milk for the week, and checked out Facebook.  Since the pan was already hot from cooking the peppers, the egg only took a minute to cook while the bread was in the toaster.

Other foods I eat for breakfast often are oatmeal - nice and runny with lots of salt- soft boiled eggs and Special K or Cheerios cereal.  Once in a while I add bacon to the meal, but not often, only when I crave it.  I do small tasks while the food is cooking, then sit down to eat, adding a cup of coffee when the meal is gone.

My health has improved tremendously.  I sometimes wonder if the health epidemics in this country aren't due to the additives manufacturers put in our food.  The additives are there to extend the shelf life, not to keep us healthy. 

I also eat carbs.  The ones I eat have no additives.  My blood work has never been better.  So I urge you not to follow fad diets and to check out the contents of your food.  If you can't pronounce it, try to stay away from it.

A few good snacks are:
Sun Chips (No additives)
Nuts
Name brand cream cheese (no additives)
Crackers (read the ingredient list)
Block cheeses ( The shredded kind has cellulose in it -wood shavings- to keep it from clumping  Even the brand name cheese has wood shavings in it.
Carrot sticks
Celery sticks
Pepper strips
Other raw veggie
Potato chips with only three ingredients, potatoes, salt and oil
Ice cream, read the ingredient list

My food bill for two weeks is approximately sixty dollars.  I do have to tell you I'm not a big meat eater.  If I were my costs would increase.  I'll also say that my bill (for one person) only increased around four dollars with changing my food choices.



Garden peppers frying in olive oil and butter.  Try it, you'll like it

The cooked meal.  Eggs, peppers and home made bread with home made peach jam.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Foods and Chemicals

The link to this blog - Boys, Badges and Writer's Block - is my daughter's.  The blog is named so because she has boys, her husband is an officer and she is an author with a book due out in late November. 

She is a much better writer than I am as she is a professional writer these days.  She is humble and sweet and bright and loves her mom.  What more can I say?  Oh, and a science teacher and a great mom.

I know you will enjoy her post about foods containing chemicals.



http://boysbadgeswritersblock.blogspot.com/2014/08/chemical-free-food-myth-or-reality.html?showComment=1407974760308#c1701353292246103836

Guest Post in Response to Part Fout of the Simple Life Series, Author, Elise Griffin


Today's post is an encouraging  response to Part Four of the Simple Life Series from guest speaker and author, Elise Griffin.  Ms. Griffin explains how de cluttering her family home has been beneficial in many ways.  The pictures would not transport, and I have to leave the format as it is because my program did not 'like' the copy and paste version of this post.

 

Confessions from a Family of Pack Rats


 

Twelve years ago, when we were moving into our current home, the moving truck weighed in at four tons; roughly a ton per person in our family. This was a reduced version of “stuff” after donating a pick-up truckload to charity and delivering another pick-up truckload to the dump. Since that time, we accumulated more “stuff”. It’s very easy to do when you’ve got growing kids under your roof. More important, I’m a serious bargain shopper. I’ve never met an extra discount off of clearance coupon I could pass up. Being bombarded with advertising everywhere doesn’t help.

One fun-loving woman I know put it best when she said, “At least I don’t have to live like I’m poor.”

Clutter happens because we acquire far more “stuff” than we actually need. Slowly, steadily, our homes become stuffed with “stuff”. Have you ever been packing away Christmas, wondering where you’ll put all of the gifts? It’s an annual event in our household. The home office became our indoor storage unit… to the point where it was hard to walk through the room. We all avoided it, other than to add more to the boxes and piles.

De-cluttering is a family project. It’s no longer just up to Mom to create and maintain an efficient, organized, peaceful home. Children as young as six or seven can be involved in sorting their unused or unwanted belongings to donate to charity. Broken or battered items can be tossed in the trash can or recycle bin.

If our home office was ever to get cleaned out, it was going to take more than just me to accomplish the task. All of the boxes and piles were moved into the hallway, and my sons were given two big garbage bags and a box; one bag for trash, another bag for donations, and the box for items they weren’t sure about. As they sorted, I emptied bookshelves, filling a few boxes with donations for the library, dusted and vacuumed… washed windows. In one day, the room was cleaned and organized! It motivated everyone to continue de-cluttering. Each son followed suit in their bedrooms. I tackled the kitchen and living rooms. My husband worked on our bedroom.

After pictures of the office are below… I didn’t take before pictures, because I was afraid someone would submit my name to the producers of the “Hoarders” show!

HPIM1946.JPG

You literally could NOT see the top of the desk before.

HPIM1947.JPG

This corner was stacked at least 3 ft. high & wide with boxes.

HPIM1948.JPG

The bookshelves had been buried behind boxes.

 

 

Adopting New Habits and a New Mindset


 

Here are a few suggestions for your family, based on our recent lessons:

1.       Pray for strength and diligence to accomplish your goals. I’m a firm believer in the power of prayer. Energy and motivation often elude me. Health issues kick in, too, as well as just plain stubbornness. And then, it’s not always easy to get the rest of my family on board with my ideas.

2.       Whether on paper or on the computer, for one month keep track of all non-grocery purchases you all make, particularly for items beyond school supplies, cleaning supplies and so on. You might be (as I was) surprised by how many non-essentials are walking through your front door. My list included a few DVDs, household extras like a table runner on sale, 3 t-shirts that’d been on clearance with extra percent off, some deeply discounted gifts for Christmas, etc.

3.       Next, make a list of current needs and needs for the not-too-distant future. With growing children, for example, you might be looking at the next size of clothing or shoes. Having this list helps put your actual “needs” into the forefront, so you’re not as easily tempted to buy what you don’t.

4.       Create the habit of equal amounts going “out” to what’s coming “in” your household. When you buy those new shoes for your son or daughter, the pairs that are too small can go “out”. If you snagged a great deal on a DVD, gadget, gizmo, article of clothing, book, etc… find something else that can head “out”.

5.       Project a little into the future with all of your purchases. Anyone who knows me understands that I love jewelry and accessories. When I see a great sale on a brand I like now, I’ve started asking myself if it’s something I’ll be wearing or using 20 years from now. With technological gadgets and gizmos, ask yourself if it’s going to be obsolete in a few years, and if so, is it a good investment now? Ditto home d├ęcor… will you love it 5 years from now? If you move, would you want to have to pack it up to take with you?

A cluttered house is stressful and was affecting us all; after dinner, we’d all go off to our own, quiet little spaces for the evening. We stopped inviting anyone over. Accumulation of more “stuff” wasn’t making us feel richer… it was bogging us down. Have you ever felt that way? What are your thoughts and suggestions about creating a more manageable household as a family?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Morning Rolls, Right Out of the Oven

For at least thirty years I have been trying to make home made bread.  My family stood by my efforts, but I'm sure it was difficult for them.  I recall during one dinner I had to go to the kitchen for something.  When I came back to the dinner table, my entire family was making 'walls' with the biscuits, using mashed potatoes as the concrete that held them together.  This included dad.  He was probably the master mind behind the wall building.  What could I do.  I laughed.  I laughed and got the message.  Bread making was not one of my skills.

I have a bucket list.  Simple things are on it.  Nothing grand like traveling to the Far East.  (I would love to see Italy, though)  Learning how to make good bread at home is on that list, along with pie crust.  Neither of these skills come easy to me.  My current quest is learning to make bread.  About two months age I made French bread.  It was OK and my family ate it.  A couple months before that, I made white bread.  I didn't care for the recipe, it was too heavy.  There lies my problem.  Heavy bread.  I think I took care of that problem today.

I got a recipe from a blogger in Australia, Down to Earth. (link below)  She is my age and has been making bread for many years.  The recipe is for a bread maker, but I don't have one, so I kneaded the dough by hand.  I'm glad to do that because it helps maintain muscle tone in my upper body.  After she gave the recipe, she added a tip.  To be gentle with the risen dough.  That seemed to be the tip I needed.  I made the rolls she wrote about in her post.  They are so good it's difficult to keep away from them.  I did it.  I can now scratch off an item from my bucket list.




The dough is simple - made with flour, salt, yeast, and milk.

This is what the dough looked like after I kneaded it for 10 minutes.  If you have a bread maker, this , the rising, and the punch down is done by the machine.

After the dough is shaped like a large sausage, it's cut into 8 sections.

The finished product.  If you're counting the rolls, yes, I did snatch one up and slathered it with home made jam - right out of the oven.  Someone had to test them.



http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A busy morning After a Long Day of Rest

After a day of rest on Saturday, I hit the floor running this morning.  I'm so delighted that my little garden is providing us with so much food.  In the past three days I've picked 17 cucumbers.  Since I couldn't possibly eat them all I will be canning them this morning.  I may only get two jars from them ( I got four jars.), but it's well worth the time when in the dead of winter I can feast on my harvest.  These jars will be cucumber salad that is made with a warm vinegar and sugar brine. 

My cucumber plant today.  I have gotten 19 pints of pickles from this one plant.  That's not counting the ones we've eaten.


The bean plants are starting to turn brown.  There's still a lot of beans though.  In two days I got enough to feed my family when they come for dinner.  That's a total of nine people. (Four of them are the kiddos.) 

Then there is the basil and parsley.  I have four trays of them in the dehydrator. 

Three trays have basil, one has parsley.  My parsley is just now getting to the point of being able to use it.  It's a slow growing plant.


Dehydrating is so easy.  My dehydrator is a simple one I bought fifteen years ago from the Ronco ads on TV.  There is no thermostat on it so I can only do simple fruits and veggies with it.  No eggs or other items that need higher temperatures in order to preserve them.

Any fresh herb can be easily dried.  They can come from the store, a garden, or the farmer's market.  The most important thing to do is wash the herbs a number of times until you see clear water.  Pat them dry with a kitchen towel and place in the dehydrator.  During the drying process it's a good idea to rotate the trays a couple of times.  Rotate them up and down and in a circle.  In five hours you will have a spice you can use all winter long.  It's such a simple thing, but you get a sense of accomplishment with it.  Time invested is less than ten minutes.  More if the harvest is huge.

The green beans are frozen.  Again, wash them until the water is clean.  You may have to do this up to four times  Place them in boiling water for three minutes to blanch them.  Then right in to a bowl of ice water.  This stops the cooking process.  When they are cool pat them as dry as you can on a kitchen towel.  Place them on a cookie sheet, trying not to touch them to each other.  Place them in the freezer for thirty minutes, then take them out and bag them to put back in the freezer.  Simple and the task is completed in just a few minutes.  The beans can also come from the garden, store (on sale), or farmer's market.

The beans  are in the ice water bath after they were blanched.

The beans frozen and put in an air tight bag.  They are now ready for their home in the freezer.



If you try doing a couple of small tasks, you'll see how good it feels to begin a journey to the simple life. 






Friday, August 8, 2014

Take Care of the Pennies and the Dollars Take Care of Themselves, Part Four, De-Cluttering

Do you go out into the world and race around running errands, picking up and dropping off the kids, working, grocery shopping?  That's just what life is today for the average woman with tons of responsibility.  When you reach the final destination at the end of the day, you want to plop in a chair with a good book.  But, you aren't able to.  There's dinner and bathing the kids, a load of laundry and lunches to be made for the next day.  There's no energy left to pick up the house, let alone organize things.

I remember. It's something that is burned into the memory.  Always tired.  Will it ever end?

Yes, it can.  There's a bit of effort we put into the situation, but yes it can end.

The first thing I did was take some vacation time and dedicated it to de cluttering.  If that's not possible, put aside an hour on a weekend day to de-clutter you home.  What does this have to do with a hectic life?  It brings order and peace into your little hide away.  Even if it takes three months, it's three months you will be walking the earth anyway.  You may as well benefit yourself during that time.  You could say it's a way to show yourself some love.

De - cluttering will also have a calming effect on your family.  When your environment is orderly, spirits tend to become calmer and more relaxed.

How do you begin?  Small.  You can start with a kitchen drawer.  Whatever you have not used in a year put in a box and put it in storage in the garage or whatever area you have designated for storage.  Leave it there for a couple of months to see if you want to use it.  If not donate it.  Go to the next drawer.  Keep going each day until the kitchen is the way you are comfortable working in it.

The next small area would be magazines and books.  How often do you really use them for reference?  Donate what you can part with to the library.  They can decide what they want and often have book sales to make extra cash.

Clothes and toys can be next on the list.  Just systematically go through items in each room in small spurts, when you are motivated.  I promise you, you will be happier and more relaxed when you end your day at home.

Areas to consider de-cluttering are; bathroom cabinets, linen closets, (do you really need four sets of sheets per bed?) clothes closets, toy chests, kitchen drawers, garages,  paperwork, books, magazines, kitchen cupboards, pantry, and the refrigerator.  These are all areas we put things in 'until we can find a place for them'.  Ask me how I know.

Where does saving money come into this?  Have you ever known you have an item, but can't find it?  Then buy it again?

Let's say you have done all this and your spouse doesn't seem to be on board.  Watch the video below from a young mother who has a husband, a baby, and works full time.  She is wise and has answers on how to handle this situation.

A word of wisdom here.  This process takes time.  It depends on how much time you have to put into it.  But, I Know the results will be glorifying.  Peace will begin to enter life, if not outside your home, in your home.  Good luck.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAYR72UYM8M


Stay safe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dinner's at My House Tonight. Bring The Wine

I woke up with a need to cook today.  I'm making Porcupine Meatballs with cucumber salad and green beans as a side dish.  For those of you who don't know what a Porcupine Meatball is, it's a way to stretch hamburg using rice.  I make the meat up as if it will be a meatloaf, then add partly cooked rice to the mixture - as much rice as meat.  Doing this doubles the amount of the main dish.  I'll post the recipe below.  The meatballs get placed in a casserole dish and covered with mushroom soup.  About ten minutes before the meatballs are done, I uncover them and put shredded cheese over them.

Since I had the itch to cook today I made mushroom soup from the mushrooms I dehydrated a couple of months ago.  I dehydrate foods because they would waste if I left them fresh.  I tend to not be able to eat a whole package of mushrooms before they go bad.  So I dry the tops in slices, then dry the stems in pieces.  When the stems are dry I grind them in the spice grinder and use them as a powdered bouillon.

Doing this assures me of 1) less waste, and 2) I have items on hand without having to run to the grocery when I want to cook.

The one large cucumber I picked not only provided seeds for next year's crop, it gave me three cups of thinly sliced cucumbers for another salad which will be served with tonight's dinner.

Dessert will be chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream and warm jam.

You all are invited at four PM!




My brother once asked me if I ate dinner so I could have dessert.  Doesn't everyone?  In that spirit, I put dessert up first.


 

The cream of mushroom soup that will keep the meatballs moist while in the oven.
 
 
The meatballs are larger than the normal size.  These will be covered with the soup and latter some shredded cheese.
 
 
 
Porcupine Meatballs (serves 4 - 6.
375 oven
Covered dish
40-45 minutes (last 10 minutes uncovered)
 
One pound of hamburg
1/2 C uncooked rice
salt and pepper to taste
1 T parsley
1 egg
1/4 C milk
1/2 to 3/4 C bread crumbs
 
Boil water (2C) on stove with a pinch of salt.  When it comes to a boil, put rice in.  Cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside to cool.  Mix the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Add cooled rice.  Form in 4-5 meatballs.  Cover with a can of mushroom soup.  Cover the dish and heat in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes.  Uncover and add shredded cheese. ( Whatever amount you would like.)  Return to the oven and heat for 10 more minutes  at 350 degrees..
 
 
 

The finished dinner.  Everyone was eating without talking.  So it must have tasted yummy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

This Week's Accomplishments

How does someone miss huge cucumbers on the vine?  I found three this morning that have been there all along.  Two that are huge and one that's very big. 

This week's accomplishments please me.  I have been active which makes me feel one foot isn't in the grave.  My lazy week a while back made me wonder about that.

1. Made a cucumber salad from a recipe a friend gave me.  The brine is warmed before it's mixed with the cucumbers.  This does something nice to the salad.  It can be frozen, but I'm thinking I'd like to can it for winter.  I can take out the seeds from my huge cucumbers and use the flesh.
2. Picked and froze 4 bags of beans.  A number of the beans are still on the vine so they will grow into seeds.
3. Watched a yootoob video about how to save bean seeds.
4. Cleaned away the paperwork on the kitchen counter.
5. Put up lights.
6. Went to a home store and purchased a flag for the front of my house.  We can put up a 3x4 flag.
7. Decided on the paint color for a couple accent walls in the living area to complete the last step of completing the cozy feeling in my home.
8. Two loads of laundry.
9.  Cleaned the wood floors.  Today I need to vacuum the bedroom rug.
10. Went to the grocery store and found peaches on sale as well as strawberries.
11. Took my daughter to pick up her vehicle from the mechanic.
12.  Attended a 31 party.
13.  Met a neighbor and yakked for an hour and a half.  This is a big deal for me because I pretty much stick to myself or family.
14.  Watched it rain for three days and three nights.  Praying there is enough drainage in my garden so the plants don't die.  Still watching.
15.  Froze tomatoes from my daughter's garden for sauce in the cold of winter.

What did you do this week?  I'd love to hear from you in the comment section.
Stay safe.
Angie

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Look what I Did- All By Myself! And Other Things I Did This Weekend

I am stoked.  I put up pendant lights over the counter in the kitchen.  I read the directions, checked that I had all of the parts, got out my flat head screw driver and tape measure, and started.  When I was having a difficult time figuring things out I sat back and relaxed and looked at the pictures and figured out what items were.  I now sit back and look at my finished project with wonder.  It's hard to believe I did it all by myself!

Since the outlets were already there, it was a matter of exchanging a light bulb for the light kit.  I didn't get into heavy electrical stuff.  I have a kitchen light too, which I will ask my son in law to install.  Still, it's more than I thought I was capable of.

I felt like this when I bought a bed side table from Wal Mart that I had to put together.  That project took me two days of reading and trying this screw with that part.  Sometimes the pictures can be confusing with the dotted lines and arrows.  What happened to using words in the instructions?   So I walked away from that project too.  I went back when I had a light bulb form over my head, seeing exactly what I had to do.

Here they are.  The weekend project.  My new pendant lights.


 
I also figured out what to do with my bill corner.  A while back I decided I didn't want to get a desk for the office.  That room is empty.  My daughter suggested I put my printer in my bedroom closet instead of going up the stairs just to print something.  That made sense to me, so I put the printer in the large walk in closet in my first floor bedroom.  It's on the floor, but I only need to bring the cord around the corner to plug it in and use the printer.  On one shelf I also had file boxes with paperwork in them. 
 
It hit me this weekend (two and a half years after I moved in here.) to put all of the mail on that same shelf.  It was one of those 'Could have had a V8' moments.  The picture below is the result of my decision.  No more paper work in the kitchen.
 
 
My 'bill corner' after I made the move into the closet.  I'd be too embarrassed to show you what it looked like before the move.  It was just plain ugly.
 
 
 
Basil I dried and pulverized today.  My jar is filling up quickly.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Hungry Hippo Day

Some days I'm so hungry I could eat all day.  And, I do.  Today is one of those days.  I was OK between breakfast at 10:00 AM and lunch at 11:30 AM, but I've been eating ever since.  I just want something, but I don't know what it is. (I want you to notice there was only an hour and a half between meals.)

For breakfast I had a bowl of cereal with lots of milk.  I drank down most of the milk.  That in itself should have kept hunger at bay for at least two hours.  Today it didn't.  Today nothing does.

For lunch I had a pepper sandwich and cucumber salad, with milk and a cookie.  Two hours later I'm munching on an open face sour cream sandwich.  Which brings us to today's post.  I have a couple of healthy snacks to share with you.  Quick and easy to prepare and yummy.  If you have small children it's a good idea to start them on this kind of snack when they are young - very young.  That's when tastes are developed.

Sour Cream Open Faced Sandwich
1 slice of bread
Sour cream
Butter
salt and pepper
Butter the slice of bread.  Slather on as much sour cream as you want.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut up Veggies With Dip
Veggies of your choice
2T mayonnaise
1 T ketchup
Mix the mayonnaise and ketchup together.  Dip veggies in it.

Both of these are quick and healthy.  Don't forget fat is needed to create healthy brain tissue in children.

Take Care of the Pennies and the Dollars Take Care of Themselves, Part 3 Clothing

This post is about caring for clothes.  Somehow in the last generation the idea popped up that clothes are a consumable.  Use them and throw them until the pile is so large the clothes are out dated.  All of them. 

Clothes have a couple of uses for us.  One, they cover our bodies and  keep us warm and protected.  Two they can give us confidence.  Real confidence.  The kind that says our life is fulfilled and I'm in charge.  Any piece of clothing can keep us warm and protected.  It is the choices that can bring confidence.  Since this post is not a lecture on choosing styles, I won't continue down that path.

I will, however talk about the care of clothing.

When we take care of our clothing it lasts longer.  We can add years to the life of a top by simply taking care of it.  Doing this only takes a small bit of time, but adds time at the other end so we don't have to do the big search for that top we know we washed.  It relieves stress not having to find the top just when work is only an hour away.

Hanging Clothes
This is the easiest and quickest way to preserve This is where I would suggest you check out the material.  Do your best in choosing materials that will keep their shape better - for a longer period of time.  I bought six tops from The Loft (online) three summers ago for $6.00  The ones with lycra still look new, the ones without are showing some wear.  When clothes are put on a hanger, the hanger should be introduced from the bottom of the garment.  Stretching out the neckline to put it on a hanger compromises the threads.  They break down making the top look old before it's time.

Choosing Material
I would often look at a clothing tag to see if it needed to be dry cleaned or washed.  The items that needed to be dry cleaned I respectfully returned to the rack.  I would focus in on that information and ignore the rest of it.  Until I bought those tops from The Loft.  I loved the way the tops with lycra fit and felt.  I especially loved that they washed and dried so nice - going right back to their original shape.  I now read all of the information on the tag.  If it's made from wool, I look to see if it is washable wool.  I'm not a snob about where something is made because I figure everyone has to make a living - in every country.  I do look for Made in USA, but don't turn down a good item if it's made elsewhere.

Cottons need to be ironed unless there is an additional fiber in the fabric.  The same goes for linen and wool.  Clothing that include these three natural fibers will last the longest.

Washing Clothes
This is where it gets a bit time consuming, but well worth it if you are watching your pennies.  One time saver is to have two bins or baskets for laundry.  One for dark clothing and the other for light clothing.  By having these two baskets the step of sorting clothes is skipped.  They are already sorted.  If you don't sort clothes into darks and lights, I would encourage you to do it.  As the saying goes, 'The whites stay whiter' when sorting is done.  This adds to the life of your clothing.  Whites won't get dingy looking and unappealing to look at.

Using cold water in the washer has two positives.  It saves money on the gas bill, and colors stay brighter for a longer time.  I do use warm for my lights, but this is because I don't use bleach in the wash cycle.  The only things I bleach are my dish clothes and/or rags.  I pop them in the sink with soapy water and bleach before washing to let them soak.  The stains never come out on the rags, but I know they have been disinfected before they are introduced into the lights load.

Another way to make clothes last longer is not to overload the washer.  Leaving room in the wash water tub gives the clothes an opportunity to get cleaner and not get caught on the agitator.  Some of you may have a front loader without an agitator.  That's good, but you still want to remove all of the grime before wearing your clothes.  So it's not a good idea to pack front loaders too tightly, as well.

Washing clothes this way saves money, too.  Clothing not only lasts longer, the cost of  products is reduced.  I only use detergent in the washer.  I use to make my own, but because it's just me now I do purchase it.  I use dryer balls in the dryer that I made from wool yarn as the only other addition.  (link below)  They cost about three dollars to make and last a lifetime if properly cared for.  The only thing I have to shake the static out of when it comes from the dryer is the afghan that my husband's grandmother made for me.

Drying Clothes
There's two ways to look at drying clothes.  One is to hang them and save money on fuel costs.  The second is the convenience of the dryer.  The method you choose will fit into your budget and lifestyle.  The simple life includes hanging clothes, either indoors or outdoors.  I do both.  When I feel lazy, I use the dryer.  God knows why.  I don't have that much to hang, but to be honest with you all, I do get lazy at times.  Not worth beating myself up over.  Humans tend to take the path of least resistance when the opportunity arises.  Mostly I hang them on a drying rack.  Outside in nice weather and inside when it's rainy or humid.  I pop the clothes in the dryer for about three to five minutes, then hang them.  This helps in the process of making them last longer.

Putting Clothes Away
I certainly understand this is a task that can be put on the back burner.  I had four kids and a husband and this didn't always get done in a timely manner.  But, there were only two places clean clothes were stored.  In the appropriate drawer or closet or in the laundry room, folded on the laundry table.  This relaxed the confusion in the mornings getting ready for school or work.  Not all of the anger though.  A couple of times (well lots more than that) I heard a few choice words come from under my husband's breath when he found out he had to walk to the basement for a piece of clothing.

A way to bypass this part is to teach your children how to put their clothes away when they are old enough.  Making it their responsibility is a good step in teaching them self reliance.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.  Even if you don't have a question leave a comment to let others know any simple life hack you know of.  Or leave a comment to say hi.

Stay safe

Making dryer balls
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhGmoRjBvYk


Making detergent, This is non caustic and works very well

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grYyqzZ0t3w