Cooking, Home and Family, Homemaking, Parenting

Life lessons while canning

We have finished bottling peaches for the year, and one lesson learned was such a fabulous observation, I am still smiling (and thinking).  As we taught my two oldest grandsons to peel the ripe peaches and put them in the jars, the nine-year-old remarked, “It goes more quickly if I go slowly….”.  He was referring to the reality that peach skin will rip (rather than peel) more easily if you pull quickly, or are in a hurry.  He’s right….and not just about peaches.

For him, it held lessons about slowing down in order to complete his math more precisely, or learning to take care with his penmanship so that it only takes one effort to be done. I’m sure we’ll be referring back to it for other lessons as well.

For the adults, it is continuing to teach us to remember to take time to slow down.  Children learn more quickly when we are patient.  Jobs get done more satisfactorily when we slow down and think things through.

And for Grandma.  Slow down.  Accept what you’re given with grace and gratitude.  Stop waiting for what may never be.  The Lord’s timing is perfect.

Be still, and know that I am God.  Psalms 46:10

Cooking, Finances, Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling, Organization

It’s summertime!

Okay.  I admit it.  Summer is NOT my favorite season of the year.  Heat is not my friend.  Pulling weeds is exhausting.  I’m not a huge fan of bugs.  Yet there is one thing that I do love about summer; it gives me a chance to regroup before the return of cold weather, canning season, and the next school year.  What do I do each summer that makes me smile?  It’s time to start making lists, so I grab a notebook and pencil, and inventory my life.

Closets get a good once-ever.  Out with the stained, ripped, ill-fitting, and simply-not-worn items (other than gardening clothes.  They don’t have to look impressive…or even respectable.  As long as they are modest, I’m good.).  I can fill in the gaps I create for minimal cost as I thrift.

Food storage is checked and straightened.  What do I have that needs to be used, or tossed? Which foods need restocking through canning, drying, sales, etc.?  Have our eating habits changed?  How does that affect what I should be storing?  I love seeing neatly faced shelves, and the knowledge that I can cook whatever strikes my fancy without an emergency shopping trip!

This is a great time to tidy, sort, and overhaul the school stuff.  Which items need to go to someone else?  What is so loved (translation: worn-out) I really ought to find an additional or replacement?  What have I not used because I forgot about it?  I also take time to move the contents of my games/learning activities shelves around.  It gives my grandchildren and others who visit a chance to rediscover old, forgotten favorites, and try new things.

I check the linen closet.  It contains not only my towels, wash clothes, and such, it is where I store the OTC meds, extra supplements, first aid and personal care products.  What needs to go on the case lot shopping list?  Having this closet stocked and things in an easy to find place before cold and flu season hits gives me great peace of mind!

As I sort, I am making mental and written lists of needs to look for as I shop, or items to add to the budget to minimize surprises later.

While this list seems overwhelming, remember it is best to eat an elephant one bite at a time!  Pick one shelf, one closet, one drawer, one category and sort that, then in a day or two, work on another one.  In a week or two, you can look back and surprise yourself with how much got done!  And don’t forget to involve the children!  They can empty shelves, take things to the trash, assist with decisions (depending on their age), and if they helped create the mess, they get to help sort it and put it away properly!  Work with one or two kids at a time, or dive in with everyone and when you’ve finished, go do something fun or eat something yummy to congratulate yourselves on a job well done!

By the time autumn rolls around, and I am ready to hunker down for the coming cold weather, the house is ready.

Happy sorting!

Cooking, Homemaking

Promises kept

It is the 8th of October!  Wow.  I am finally back at the keyboard.  It has taken four weeks for me to get to where I can get my head above water from harvest season (and family emergencies).  Yeah!  We are almost there!  November is in sight.

Our family, including the grandchildren, has bottled, dried, cooked, frozen fruits and vegetables, and stocked the food room.  We have corn, peppers (in various forms), salsa, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans, squash, herbs, and other various and sundry foods prepared and ready for the coming cold weather.  Pears are next.  (I have three bushels in my kitchen calling my name.)  Then more salsa, peppers, and beans.  Apples can wait a week or two- thank heaven!   I may even put up some grape juice.

Seemingly unrelated, but not really, I was in my scriptures and came across these verses.

  • Psalms 23:5-Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…my cup runneth over.
  • Malachi 3:10-Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there my be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

My kitchen currently “runneth over”, and we are needing to reorganize in the pantry because there is not currently “room enough to receive it” without some focused planning.

I love this time of year.  The feeling of coming together.  Planning for the Holidays.  And the end of canning season.  It always served as a great reminder to me that the Lord keeps His promises to those who are faithful, and will bless us as quickly as we can accept what He sends!

Now, back to the kitchen…


Finances, Home and Family, Organization

Look at things differently!

“The true economy of housekeeping is gathering up the fragments so nothing is lost.”  Mrs. Lydia Childs  The American Frugal Housewife

One of the challenges of the 21st century is the seeming need for two incomes and the ever-increasing need for there to be a full-time parent in the home. This challenge can be met; it just requires some careful budgeting and a willingness to look at things a bit differently.

One strategy we used to stretch what we had was to live by the adage:

Use it up. Wear it out.
Make it do or do without.

There are so many items we regularly toss into the garbage/recycling which could meet some of our needs if we look more closely at them.  Consider the following:

  • Cereal bag liners are made from restaurant grade wax paper.  Anything you would use wax paper (or sometimes plastic wrap) is free in your cereal box.
  • The bottom 2 inches of a milk jug makes a handy plunger saucer.  When it needs replacing, you can easily find another one!
  • Old calendars often have artwork that can be framed (second-hand frames, of course) and mounted in your home.
  • Shoe boxes make great storage for pictures, and your children’s treasures.
  • Old cotton t-shirts make some of the best cleaning rags you will ever find.
  • You can make magazine holders from cereal boxes.
  • Yard sale season is almost upon us.  Start your list, pray about it, and off you go!
  • Second hand sweaters can be unraveled for yarn if you knit.
  • Save a nice pair of jeans or two and a couple shirts for each child to wear in public.  They don’t need a closet full of new clothes.  Just a few to look presentable in as you are out and about.  They can wear their favorite, old, possibly holey clothes at home.. Change out of public wear when you get back from errands, etc.
  • Cheap shampoo makes some of the best bathroom cleaner.  It is made to cut through the oil in our hair, so bathtub rings, tacky sinks, and even ring-around-the-collar is no match!  Add baking or washing soda if you want something a tad more abrasive.
  • Want to redecorate?  Remove everything from a room or two.  Reintroduce things to new places.  Group like items as you decorate to make focal points.  You can get a new room or two without spending a dime.
  • Open-ended toys are often the best.  Wooden blocks (look for a shop or cabinet maker locally.  They make have scraps you can use to create your own set).  Legos.  Dolls (make your own clothes, furniture, etc.).  Balls and other sports equipment.  Child-friendly cleaning and cooking tools.
  • Apple and orange boxes from your local grocery make great storage boxed for your children clothes that are too small (and waiting for the next child), or too big (and waiting for them to grow).
  • Go to the park, or local nature walk area for lunch.  Take a picnic you all helped create.  Have a great day as a family without entrance fees, or expensive souvenirs.  Take lots of pictures!
  • Visit a second-hand store to purchase board games and puzzles.  Use them for fun family nights.  Pop some popcorn, make a batch of cookies, or some hot chocolate, and enjoy time with each other.  Invite your children’s friends, and get to know them as well.  No electronics needed!
  • Books are great things to find second-hand.  Great information, stories, and craft ideas for pennies on the dollar.  Cook books for your scratch cooking adventures.  Enjoy!
  • Gather perennials starts from friends to landscape your yard.  If you offer to help with yard work, you can often glean great plants for free.
  • Use cardboard egg cartons for planting your tender vegetable starts.  Each cup hold one of two seeds.  By the time they are big enough to plant outside, the egg carton cups come apart easily.
  • Plant those things which give back.  Fruit trees, berry bushes, grape vines, etc. are fun to use for landscaping, change with each season, and feed your family.  Win!
  • Reuse old headboards, ladders, and such for decorative trellising.  They are sturdy, add visual interest, and it keeps them out of the landfill.
  • Keep things clean.  Order and organization helps you make better use of what you have, and can make staying home a more pleasant alternative to shopping.  If your kitchen is clean, you are more likely to be able to cook in it.  If your family room is orderly, it invites people to use it.  This is a co-operative effort for the entire family.
  • Learning about interior decorating, the up-coming fashions, make-up and hair, and other creative outlets gives you the ability to save money without feeling as though you are decades behind everyone else.  Find what you love, and use it!

There are thousands of ways to reuse things, or find them at a discount so that you don’t need to go purchase new at high prices.  Second-hand shopping and yard sales can provide great finds for cheap.  Google thrift, tightwad, reuse, or cheap for a lifetime of ideas of ways to save money, and still provide what your family needs.  Make saving money a family adventure rather than feeling deprived because of your budget.  Attitude and creativity make all the difference!

Some of my favorite books on this subject are:

The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn

Living More With Less by Doris Longacre

Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker

A Simple Choice by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Beating the High Cost of Eating by Barbara Salsbury

How to Survive Without a Salary by Charles Long

Home and Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Tips for working with preschoolers


My life finds me surrounded by my grandchildren.  5 boys, 1 girl.  The oldest is 7.  It gets a bit crazy.  Rather than pining for the day when they are older (I do look forward to all that will bring), I have decided to love each moment I have with them now!  Preschoolers are a handful, so here are my thoughts on making the most of each day!

Tips for Mom’s survival

  • Consistency (or lack thereof) will make all the difference.  Choose your priorities.  Stick with them.  Mean it when you say it.
  • Doing things with them will work ten times better than simply telling them what to do.  Teach them how and then teach them again.  Together.  Often.  With love and laughter.
  • Now is the time to develop good habits.  If left unsupervised, they will develop not-so-good ones.
  • Learn about learning styles, stages, and personality types.  It will help as you teach them, and as you live together as a family.
  • Open-ended play can give you more bang for your buck.  Buy toys and books that will grow with them.  Enjoy family activities that can expand with them.  Grow with them.
  • Feed them the good stuff.   Limiting sugar and junk food will result in better health, better behavior, and better eating habits.
  • Limit screen time.  If it involves a screen, limit it.  Big ones, small ones, any screen.
  • Let them be kids.  They will be goofy, foolish, fun, and emotional.  It is okay.  They really do grow up faster than you think!
  • Keep it basic.  (There are lots of basics.)   If they never learn that basics are important, growing up is much harder!  You can’t build on a shaky foundation!
  • Give them chores.  Age-appropriate, genuinely helpful chores.  They can do it.  They need to do it.  You need the help.  Teach them to work.  As much as possible, have order in your home.
  • Routines are essential.
  • Allow them to contribute.  As they grow, they should feel needed, and should be taught to do what they can.  It is a good feeling.  Share it with them while they are still wanting to help!
  • Listen to them.  Laugh with them.  Enjoy them.
  • Keep your voice down.  The angrier you are, the quieter your voice should be.  (I do not know anyone who has perfected this, but it works when I remember.)
  • Find a few good friends for them and enjoy limited, supervised play dates.   Preschoolers tend to have a “pack” mentality if left to their own devices!
  • Sing.  A lot.

Tips for academics

  • Use real information and vocabulary.  They can handle it.  And it makes later learning much simpler!
  • Fun is important.  For you.  For them.
  • Do not panic.  They are preschoolers.  College is over a decade away!
  • Get your hands dirty.  Even harder, let them get their hands dirty.
  • Now is the time to develop an interest in the arts.  Visual.  Music. Theater. Sports.
  • Use simple learning materials.  If it is too complex for you to learn in an afternoon, don’t use it with your children.  Keep is simple, and it will be.
  • Let them explore-with supervision, of course.
  • Use good literature.  Dumbed-down books and other media are everywhere.  Be as discerning about what you allow them to see and hear as you are about what they eat.
  • Challenge yourself to challenge them.  Look for the best, and try different things.  If it is too hard, they will let you know.  But you may be surprised at what they can and are willing to do!
  • Keep it basic.  (There are lots of basics.)  We have developed this idea that basics are to be skimmed over in order to get to the “good stuff”.  Sometimes, the basics are some of the “good stuff”.  And they always make the “good stuff” easier to understand, and more enjoyable!
  • Use units as much as possible i.e. the human body, the alphabet, mammals, the United States, Fairy Tales.  Studying things in ordered groups allow children to order them in their head, and begin to learn how inter-related the world is.
  • Make messes-and then clean them up when you are done.  Together.
  • Sing.  More.  Learning songs, fun songs, nonsense songs, gospel songs and hymns.  Sing.

Enjoy them while they are young!  Charles Dickens said, “I love these little people, and it is not a slight thing when they who are so fresh from God love us.”  I concur.