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!

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Home and Family, Organization, Uncategorized

One evening of work is worth it!

In the past week, there have been a number of reminders to me of why I do some of what I do-such as:

We had apple pie with our Sunday dinner that took me a matter of minutes to put together. How? Bottled apple pie filling. Our family spent one evening last autumn working and have enough pie filling for the entire year ready to go! We use it for pies, crisps, empanadas, etc. So yummy!

Last evening we took an hour and a half and bottled hamburger and beef chunks (I found a great sale and stocked up on each). I now have around three dozen bottles waiting for upcoming meals. Gravies, tacos, enchilladas, spaghetti sauce, soups and chilis, all kinds of things. Quick. Tasty. No sweat.

I realized I was out of carrots for the chicken stock I was making (from the carcasses from Sunday dinner), so I threw in a handful of dried carrots we have in our storage. Easy. No worries.

Our grandson needed a geography assignment for the day. Not all the planning for March was done, so we grabbed a reproducible book of maps and orienteering off the shelf and made a quick copy. Done.

As crazy as my life is, it would be so much more complicated if I didn’t have food storage, a library, and other tools to keep life moving and melt-downs to a minimum. Next…!

Home and Family

Get ready!

Every now and then, something happens which focuses my efforts as “keeper of the hearth” on something which I may not have been focused on.  This weekend it happened again.  Unexpectedly heavy rains caused flooding and mud slides in a number of communities around us.  One such community is removing mud with back hoes; another is boiling water before it can be used.  All from a few hours of rain.

As I watch the news and pray for those affected by the crazy weather, I am reminded that such things are happening all over and to varying degrees of seriousness.  What is my job in all this?  Well, prayer is necessary.  A helping hand when possible is also good.  Making sure that my family has what we would need in a similar situation is vital.  Praying for help if I haven’t done my part will be so much less effective!  We live where storms, floods, earthquakes, and other natural calamities are well with-in the range of possibilities.

How to prepare?  There are so many unknowns, that it is impossible to be truly “ready for anything,”  but there are a number of things I can do so that we are better prepared for many of them.

  • Have a few months supply of food in my home.  (Even if I only need it for a week or two, I am surrounded by people in my neighborhood that may need my help.)
  • Have water stored.  Empty 2-liter or juice bottles make easy and inexpensive storage containers.  Be sure to treat the water so that it will be usable when it is needed.  (Check with your local university extension or government office for recommended treatment instructions.)
  • Have a portable 72-hour emergency kit in case of evacuation.
  • Get to know your neighbors.  Having a good relationship with those around you can help during hard days, even if all you need is a chat over the fence.  During times of real challenge, knowing you can count on each other is worth the world!
  • Have a plan for waste disposal.  If you don’t have running water, you may not have a toilet that works, or garbage pick-up for a while.  Ick.
  • Have a source for cooking or heating.  I have a wood-burning stove and camp stoves that can double as heating and/or food preparation stations if necessary.  (DO NOT use camp stoves in an area that is not well-ventilated!)
  • Keep candles, matches, working flashlights (with extra batteries), and lanterns where you can get to them.  When the power goes out, the adventure begins!
  • Keep a supply of working tools so that if you are helping clear debris or mud, you have what you need to assist.
  • Learn to smile when things are less-than-ideal.  If things around you are tough, bring a sunny disposition and maybe even a song to the party!  Help calm the children with fingerplays and stories.  Help provide faith, and a positive attitude so that the challenge can be less-miserable.

There are a myriad of books, websites, and classes dedicated to emergency preparedness.  This list is not to be comprehensive, or to take the place of those lists which have been compiled by experts.  (If you truly want a complete list refer to them.)  It simply contains the items which came to mind this weekend as I watched the news.  While I can’t control what happens around me, I am responsible for my preparedness level so that I can be helpful rather than a hindrance when the unexpected happens.

So…where are the flashlights….?

Cooking, Finances, Home and Family, Homemaking

Broth- a wonder food!

My house smells heavenly this morning.  There is beef broth simmering away in my Crock Pot. (It is being created from the trimmings of the beef we bottled yesterday.)  Broth is so simple to make, and has so many uses!  And all this from the bits and pieces that would otherwise be thrown out.

I use my Crock Pot when I make broth.  I can leave it on the counter overnight or when I am out and around during the day with no worries.  Broth needs time to develop flavor, so it will cook on low for 12-24 hours.  Once the flavor is well-developed, strain the broth off into a pitcher or large bowl, and chill it overnight in order for the fat to rise to the top and solidify.  When it is chilled, skim off the fat layer and use it, or bottle/freeze it for later.  I have dozens of bottles of various flavors in our food room just waiting for use.

Basic broth

Place bones, fat, skin, or any part of the meat you don’t intend to eat in to a Crock Pot.  Add onion, celery, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, and turnips (if the meat is beef) to the crock.  Fill with water.  Turn the Crock Pot on low and let it cook.  (You can use the peels, leaves, or trimmed ends from any of the vegetables for broth.  Just ensure they are clean, and throw them in.)  I have made broth from chicken, turkey, beef, ham, and fish.  You can also make it from vegetables.

If you find you don’t have adequate trimmings to fill your Crock Pot one-third full, freeze them.  When you have gathered enough for a batch, thaw them and you’re in business!

We add broth to grains such as rice and cracked wheat when we cook it for dinner.  (We used ham broth last week when we made pinto beans and rice for dinner.  There was no meat, but it tasted like there was! Yummy!)  You can use it for gravies, sauces, soups, or risotto.  I also use it for braising meat.  It is inexpensive to make, and is so versatile.

My husband has a rice/vermicelli side dish recipe that is fantastic and uses whichever broth goes with the meat you are serving.  This recipe feeds 8-10 people.  Feel free to cut it in half.

1/2 stick butter

2 cups vermicelli, broken into 1/2 inch pieces

3 cups rice

2 quarts broth

2-3 teaspoons soup base

Melt butter in 4-6 stock pot, or large pan.  Add rice and brown until very light brown.  Add vermicelli and continue browning until pasta is a toasted.  In a separate pan, combine broth and soup base until heated.  Add enough broth to cover the rice/vermicelli mixture to the stock pot when browning is completed and boil until liquid can no longer be seen (a glass lid is perfect for this if you have one).  Take off heat, and allow the grains to continue to absorb the remaining liquid-about 20 minutes.  Serve hot.