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!

Home and Family

Take care Mom!

Wow.  It has been weeks since I have written anything.  And what a party those weeks have been!  The bridal shower for our new daughter-in-law is over.  The wedding was wonderful.  Having family and friends join us in the preparations and celebration of the main event created so many memorable moments!  It is time to hit the books for the new school year, and the garden is producing like crazy; the canner will be a fixture in my kitchen for the next six weeks or so.  Life is so full!

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Photo by Emily Pearl Photography

On the down-side, I have over-extended just about everywhere.  The last few weeks have given me a completely new understanding of why Mom needs to take care of Mom.  I have batttled multiple infections, migraines, and other body challenges, my sleep schedule and naps became a distant memory, and I am just beginning to return to anything resembling competency.

What did I learn from all this?  A lot.

  • Take care of yourself.  Eat right.  Sleep.  Take a quiet walk or two.  Allow for time to pray, read, and ponder.  Although I am unsure what I could have changed during the craziest parts of the last month, I have surely come to appreciate the importance of taking time to recharge my batteries.
  • Ask for help.  We did, and it was amazing how many hearts opened.  We solidified old friendships, created new ones, and saw the Lord’s Hand in so many ways…large and small!
  • Have a budget for your time, money, and energy.  Know your limits and work within them.  There are so many things we wanted to do that ultimately didn’t matter.  And so many others that we were able to do because we worked to be aware, careful, and blessed.  While things will be a bit tighter for a bit, I am so grateful for the miracles we experienced through this!
  • Communicate.  Talk with those around you about limitations, plans, and needs.  Listen to what they have to say.  You may find some suggestions are worth their weight in gold.  And sometimes others just need to know what you need from them.
  • Attitude is everything!  While I felt lousy physically, I determined that I was not going to let my body get the better of me.  The shower was fun.  We laughed, shared, and visited.  The day of baking and cooking for the buffet table at the reception allowed for more visiting and great memories.  And the wedding day was marvelous.  Playing mom to both the bride and groom was exhausting, but I would do it again in a minute!
  • People are more important than things.  Focus on them.  While the hall was lovely, the food was yummy, and the gifts were greatly appreciated, the real memories involve the people who were there.  The bride and groom were radiant.  Our son and daughter-in-law were able to fly in from CA so that the entire family was all together.  So many of our family, and friends came and supported us.  There were a few glitches on the big day (The bride left her shoes at my house.  The hairclip we hunted and hunted to find so that my hair would stay out of my face disappeared until the day after the wedding.  Not everyone who wanted to be there could be due to car trouble, illness, etc.), but in the end, it was full of people, love, and peace.
  • Let go of what really doesn’t matter right now; some things will need to matter a bit more later.  My garden, canning, blog, and curriculum planning took a back seat to the other things happening.  As I get back into real life, they are still there, waiting for me to jump back in and get on with things.  And I will.  If I had tried to keep up with all of it as well as the planning, nothing would have been done properly and I would have ended up in bed or the hospital for way too long!
  • God is good.  The blessings and miracles we witnessed were myriad and memorable.

I am so grateful the wedding happened and is now in the rear-view mirror!  This autumn promises to be full of a flurry of activity.  My job is to take time for me, so that I can then take time for everyone else!  Take time for you too!

Gardening, Homemaking

Gardens- the ultimate multi-taskers!

The race is on to get the garden in the ground before rain falls this weekend!  (In the desert, that doesn’t happen as often as we would like!)  Last evening we planted 36 tomato plants, 9 bell peppers, and seeds for watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber,  squash, more cabbage, and watered the existing plants.  When I went outside to get the newspaper this morning, I just grinned.  Overnight while I slept, the starts took root, more buds were created on the peas, some spinach, lettuce, and beets appeared from the soil, and my beans grew another 1/4 inch or so.

There is so much I can learn about productivity from my garden.  Plants set down roots, grow taller, and become fruitful at the same time.  Maybe that is why Adam and Eve were placed in a garden.  It is an amazing object lesson in taking advantage of every opportunity to settle, grow, and bear fruit.

Today we’ll get potatoes, sweet potatoes, hot peppers, and more corn and beans in the ground.  Once seeds are planted I can go about my life putting out the fires that appear, living each day as I need, and (with minimal intervention from us) in the next few weeks we will have peas, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and strawberries to enjoy.  Then comes the corn, beans, tomatoes, melons, and everything else.  They just quietly use what they are given and turn it into food for my family.  No fanfare needed.

I need to be more like my garden….