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, Homemaking

Three cheers for indoor plumbing!

It is cold outside. Not as cold as the mid-west and eastern parts of the United States right now, but cold enough. Days like today make me more grateful for  the simple things in life.  A working furnace.  A fully-stocked pantry.  Fuzzy socks.  And indoor plumbing.

I am currently enjoying a book about cooking and housekeeping in Britain during the 19th and early 20th centuries. While some of the procedures and methods sound almost reasonable, or even down-right quaint, much of what I am reading make me cringe!  And I feel more grateful for what I have-like indoor plumbing.  No need to choose between running out to the outhouse or using a chamber pot that I would get to clean out later.  Or worrying about having enough water inside that is fresh and potable.  Or needing to manually fill a large tub to climb into a hot bath to warm up, or soak my husband’s muscles-sore from a day’s labor.

I can run a bath, put in a load of laundry, turn on the dishwasher to clean up from a meal, fill the kettle from the tap for hot chocolate or mint tea, and even make a “pit stop” without the need to go outside or start with frigid water.

Yeah for the 21st century!

Cooking, Home and Family, Homemaking

Confessions of a reluctant cook

Thanksgiving is this week, and I am beginning to shudder when I step into my kitchen.  We have close to twenty guests this year, and the cooking begins today. Don’t get me wrong.  I love Thanksgiving.  And I really enjoy the traditional foods for the holiday; I just don’t necessarily love cooking.  When I find a way to simplify things, I do.  So how do I cook for twenty in bite-sized chunks (pun intended)?

  • If I can make it ahead of time, I will.  The next few days will include grinding flours for rolls and pie crusts, making refrigerator roll dough and pie dough (kept in the fridge until Thursday morning), peeling potatoes (and leaving them in water so they don’t brown), par-baking and slicing yams, and anything else I can think of getting done.
  • Pull it from storage.  I bottle, dehydrate, freeze, and cook in large batches-not because I love to do it, but because one day busy in the kitchen helps save me time the rest of the year.  Our apple pie filling will be from the batch of 25 quarts we bottled a few weeks ago.  The apple butter is from a batch of 36 pints we put up in a couple of hours.  The corn is from my garden via the freezer.  Ditto on the peas.  Wassail will also come from the juice in 2 quart bottles downstairs.
  • Assign some things to others who are coming, or enlist the help of those who are at the house.  Working together helps the meal come together more quickly, and is definitely more fun!  (I claim the titles of Mother, Keeper of the Hearth, and a few others, but I am not a serving girl, servant, or hired help.  The Little Red Hen is one of my favorite stories after all!)
  • Smile.  Enjoy the wonderful smells in the house.  Anticipate the meal, and the yummy creations to follow in the next few days.  Enjoy the spirit of the season!

While I may not love cooking, the time with family and friends is precious.  The peace that comes with a grateful heart is needed and cherished.  And food feeds not just our bodies; it also feeds our souls!

Home and Family

Turn it off and pay attention to your child! (Warning-rant ahead!)

Warning: this post is a rant that has been brewing for some months.

Last spring, my attention was called to an article written by Neal Halfon, M.D., M.P.H entitled “Parental Benign Neglect.”  You can read the article at  http://www.childup.com/blog/childup-bestof-parental-benign-neglect-could-texting-while-parenting-harm-babys-development.  It has provided me with months of food for thought, and a number of conclusions of my own.

The first conclusion is TURN IT OFF!  There is no reason to respond to every text, email, and notification you receive!  As I observe parents throughout my community, I am disturbed by the need they seem to have to pay attention to the little screen in their hands and miss the wonders of childhood right in front of them.  Story time at the library is to interact and engage your children as you SHARE the experience.  The librarian is NOT a free babysitter so that you can address more pressing matters.  Take time in the grocery store to talk with your children about food, meal planning, even prices (depending on their age).  Nothing on your phone is more important than teaching your children the importance of the people in your life, and how to treat them.  They learn that by example…good and bad.

Second conclusion- they are learning from us!  As a society, we bemoan the addiction our youth seem to have to video games and screen time.  Where did they learn it?  When you take them to the park or playground, do you run and play with them, or sit and become absorbed in a game which excludes them?  When you are home as a family, are you reading, laughing, working, and playing together?  Or are you all so busy with a little (or big) screen that conversation is an inconvenience?  How much are you missing?  What message are you sending them?  What is really more important to you?

My third conclusion is that our attention span and ability to retain is sorely lacking!  If there are no bells and whistles, no flashing lights to hold our interest, we don’t bother to remember.  As short as thirty years ago, we learned to read, do math, interact with others, and play without the aid of batteries or electricity.  It can be done, and we need to teach our children how to do it.  There is a need in everyone to have time to think, ponder, meditate, and be still.  Focus can never happen when there is always a blinking screen obscuring our vision.

Conclusion four- People become less and less important as we spend the bulk of our time with programming.  So many people around us need us to notice them, help them, love them.  We were put here to be the Lord’s Hands.  How can the Lord speak to our souls unless we make a quiet space for Him?  How can hear and remember the needs of those around us if we never purposely take the time to listen- really listen?  Do we think the two-dimensional people we see on the screen are more vital, or more real (or more convenient) than the three-dimensional ones around us?

So…are smart phones, tablets, or other technologies inherently bad.  Nope.  Just our habits sometimes as we use them.  They are wonderful gifts; just not as wonderful as the people around us!  So take a few hours, turn them off, and tune into real life.  Enjoy!

Cooking, Gardening, Home and Family, Homemaking, Organization

The right tools for the job

This evening, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and happened to look around at the beehive of activity at my house.  I had both ovens going with food for dinner.  I was using various pans and Pyrex dishes for meal prep.  There was the immersion blender for mixing milk, and the spoons made of various materials for stainless steel and non-stick pans.  After we eat, the dishes will go into the dishwasher to get clean.

My husband and son-in-law were outside with the weed-whacker, mower, and tiller in use as they cleaned up the lawn, and prepped three grow-boxes for the corn and beans to be planted tonight.  Three loads of laundry are on the clothesline drying.

Downstairs were the washer and dryer helping me complete the days laundry.  (I don’t hang underwear, socks, towels, or wash cloths on the line.)  My daughter is teaching her five boys.  Some academics.  Some cleaning skills.  And sorting as she goes.

None of this would be possible without the correct tools for the job.  No tiller would mean a full day of amending and mixing soils before we can plant.  No immersion blender could result in lumpy milk.  Doing laundry with modern appliances just doesn’t bear thinking about at all.  And without the ability to plan and the correct supplies, raising and teaching children is tough!

We don’t have the “ideal” world of years gone by in which to rear a family, but we don’t have to go plow the “back forty” with a horse and plow either.  I will take the 21st century anytime!  I will use my curriculum, my scriptures, and lots of time talking with the young ones as I use the wonderful tools at my disposal!  We are so blessed!

Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling

Living with integrity

While talking through character study with my eldest grandson this morning, we discussed the difference between dishonesty and integrity.  At seven years old, he seemed to have a handle on dishonesty with no problem.  Stealing, lying, telling half-truths, etc. are dishonest behaviors and we shouldn’t indulge in them.  Integrity took a bit more explanation.  Not committing any of the aforementioned offenses is obviously part of living with integrity, but it goes further than that.  We talked about the need to be true to yourself and others, choosing to walk away rather than participate in activities that you know are wrong, and doing your best.  He seemed to “get it.”  And now his grandma is thinking… and thinking…

What does living with integrity mean in my life?  What does it look like?  This is what I decided living with integrity means to me:

  • Being true to myself, the Lord, and my priorities.  If I can’t get to everything on my list, I need to focus on the most important, and trust Him with the rest.
  • Trying to be wise.  If my health, time, or finances won’t stretch that far, admit it.  Walk away.  Move on.
  • Recognizing what each day allows.  Some nights I can put on a full roast chicken/mashed potatoes/biscuits/salad dinner.  Some nights we have box mac-n-cheese and bottled fruit.  Other nights we may just grab take-out.  Trying to create a masterpiece for each meal is just not reasonable.  We are either too busy, too stretched, or too much in need of “down time.”  This goes for getting dressed everyday including doing my hair and a full-face of make-up, having a spotlessly clean house, perfectly done laundry, flawlessly weeded garden, or even an articulately written post.  I need to do be content with what I can actually do at the time.
  • Allowing others the same.  I can’t expect perfection of those around me.  If I am letting go of that expectation for myself, I have to afford them the same courtesy.  Some days are just not the best.  If the children are having an off day, or are not feeling tip-top, let things go a bit.  Do a crossword for spelling.  Don’t ask for perfection in their math assignment.  Let the unmade bed go a bit longer (they may need to crawl back into it at some point).  If my husband had a crazy day at work, I need to lighten up on the “honey-do’s” and let him read the sports page, etc.
  • Honesty matters.  I can only do what I can do.  I believe what I believe.  I am not obligated to negotiate any of that to make someone else happy.
  • False modesty is akin to lying.  If you are good at something, be good at it!  I can cook a mean pot of spaghetti, and my bread is yummy!  I love assembling curriculum and helping others teach their children, and they come to my home for that, so it must be worth their time.  On the other hand, I am hopeless with a needle or playing sports.  Those are things I joy in as I watch my children participate.  My daughter, her husband, and oldest boy all knit and/or crochet.  My other children are gifted artists, athletes, and designers.  I do what I do.  They are good at so many other things!  And we all love to play with words!
  • Gratitude is vital.  I have no integrity if I refuse to see the amazing blessings and tender mercies that shower down each day!  I have a good man for a husband, loving and contributing children with great priorities, and the cutest grandchildren ever! (They really are!) 166766_10200951243442301_2055576302_n IMG_6477    I live a comfortable home, in a stunning part of the country, in a great nation, and have friends and faith to get me through the challenges of life.   Denying or letting go of any of that is a betrayal of all I know and love.

I can’t live each day with full excellence or perfection.  There is too much about me and my life that is human or challenging.  But “til I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”  (Job 27:5)