Archive for the ‘housekeeping’ Category

FYI, tomorrow is an apple day!  Yesterday evening, we went ot the in-laws and picked apples and pressed apples.  I am hoping to document how to ferment some cider as well as a day of making applesauce.  We are running out of fridge space fast (as I assume other people who ferment are this time of year.)  If I can’t fanangle more space than I think I have, I might have to can some of this juice (freezer space is overflowing into my parents freezer. It’ll help in situations like this to have goodies stored up so I will do what I can.

So check here tomorrow.  There will be multiple posts, apple recipes, pictures…lots of pictures!


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hard times

While I have seen with my own eyes that we are blessed with a bounty unknown to much of the world, there is no denying these are hard times for us in the USA.  Who knows where the economy will head next, what will we do if our banks fail us, how did we get here to begin with, what is there that a person can do about it?  While everyone and their brother have an answer for these things, I won’t pretend to.  I wish I had more time to research and try to figure it all out in my head.  I feel like I have a grasp on it, but to comment on it’s entirety would be blowing hot air. 

What I can comment on is where our family is at.  I again will say that we are beyond blessed.  When in Vietnam, we saw families of four piled onto their motorbike.  These families didn’t have a mini van or small car to break down or pump gas into.  They do not have to worry about losing a freezer full of food or the electricity it costs to keep the freezer going.  They buy only what they need for the day, every single day, at the market.  Nor do they have to worry about banks failing or losing their homes as many still do not utilize a bank or really have enough money even do so.  They live simple lives without fluff…and much of what we have really is just that…fluff.

The fact of the matter is that we have had some expenses come up that are stretching us beyond our limit…or so we think.  My first instinct at this situation is to eliminate something.  However, we do not pay for cable/satellite nor do we pay for a cell phone (have one, thanks to my sis who works for a major carrier and gifts it to us year for Christmas….see, we are blessed!)  We own our vehicles (and all their problems) and do not have any extras like ATVs, motorcycles, trailers, snowmobiles, or campers (necessary for some, not for us.) We do belong to our local Y and I thought of eliminating that monthly expense.  However, husband’s company reimburses some of that and we get a discount on soccer and swim.  With the girls not being in public school, I find it important for them to be involved in outside of the home activities and preferably something that helps them make exercise a habit. Eliminating their sports is not an option.  The savings on the sports plus the reimbursement and in the end we are left paying for two months out of the year…blessed again.  We belong to no other clubs or organizations, we give to our church and that certainly will not be eliminated.  So where do I look to eliminate?

I don’t. 

Instead I found I needed to look to utilize what I have.  I have a freezer, full of food and cupboards fairly well stocked.  If there was ever a time to take advantage of this it is now.  I have quite a bit of meat, lots of veggies, and broth enough to float a small boat sitting in my freezer.  Soup anyone?

Then I look at how we can increase our income some.  That isn’t so easy, but still, did I mention we are blessed?  My parents own a small restaurant and occasionally find they need someone to fill a shift.  Guess who that someone now is?  I can only do evenings, as school takes up much of our daytime.  I try to arrange so that it doesn’t fall on a game, but I have missed a few practices.  About once every week or two I end up working a shift and the tip money comes in very handy for incidentals such as a haircut, new socks, or equipment for the girls’ sports. 

So, these next couple weeks I’m putting the two together and we are going to eat frugally.  It is my hope that not buying groceries out of my husband’s paycheck the next couple weeks will help ease the tightness we feel the few days before he gets paid.  If I need something it will have to come out of that extra money I earn waiting tables here and there.  There are a few things I will have to buy out of the budget (milk, eggs, and produce through our CSA) as we are already committed to do so. Frankly, I am not sure I could manage this without our farm goods as I am wanting to keep our menu as nourishing as possible and again we are blessed to have a very affordable farm that we work with.  In the end, I’ll post what I normally would spend on groceries/CSA in the two-week time period and what I ended up spending throughout my personal challenge.  It is that, it’s a personal challenge for myself and my family.  To use what we have, make room in the freezer for the end of the harvest, to find money where for days we thought there was none, and to hopefully learn a little more about being stewards of the blessings we have been given. 

I have to add this in:  I know we should have a rainy-day fund for this type of situation.  I’ll be very upfront and honest, though, that adoption costs a fair bit and that is where ours went to.  Before the twins came home, I did work a day or two a week and I no longer do so.  The combo of stopping working and adding two little bodies to our home has stretched us to the max.  BUT, I would gladly be stretched even further if it were necessary.  The twins are our daughters and no mountain or valley could be too big for me to navigate for them just the same as anyone in my family.  Life ends up how it does and right now ours is full of love and low on cash.  I would hate to have it the other way around.

I plan on updating about this as I go and find the whole thing to be a sort of a “Grocery Challenge”.  Anyone want to join in?  If so I’ll add a link to this post if you like.  I’ll recap the details:

  • starting Friday, I plan on spending as little as possible on groceries
  • I am planning all meals around what I have on hand to minimize what I need to purchase at the store
  • store purchases will have to fit my cash on hand
  • it is my hope to post regularly about it, including what we’ve been eating
  • I do not want to compromise our nutrition in doing so

So, anyone up for the challenge?  Wish us luck and do not forget to enter my giveaway…tomorrow is the last day and surely you have a little girl in your life who could benefit!

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 I grew up in a restaurant, not that we lived there…well, at least we didn’t sleep there.  I remember getting up in the morning, going to school, walking home and either walking to the restaurant or my parents picking me up and taking me to work with them.  We would usually go home in time for bed.  The office had a TV, small table, desk, a couple chairs and was about 10 ft by 12 ft.  While I can complain on and on about how miserable it was (and most of the time it was) I learned so much from growing up in a self-owned and operated business.  
One of the things I did not learn was how to cook…at all.  We always ordered our food from the cook (I know, cushy life) and took our dishes to the dishwasher (cushy, cushy.)  We rarely observed a meal being prepared, let alone helped in the preparation of a meal.  We rarely saw how a home should operate as mom did the cleaning after we went to bed and paid bills in the morning before the restaurant opened.  We did, however, learn good work ethic and the value of someone who isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty.  We learned wonderful social skills and at a young age could hold conversation with people from all walks of life and all ages.  We learned that work was not always fun, and we learned that fun was sometimes work.


where I grew up  The twins playing in the kitchen after a busy night…they like to stir in all the odds and end bowls.  Thankfully there is a BIG dishwasher right behind where I took the picture from!

Then I got married.  My poor husband slowly began starving.  Kidding!   He knew how to cook more than I did.   He could make Hamburger Helper and he could make homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I remember the first time he made cookies for me thinking what a wonderful guy I married.  To this day, I love to cook with him in the kitchen cooking along with me.  When we built our kitchen, I wanted to make sure the island was far enough from the counters so that we both could easily move and work together in the kitchen.  

Back to our first year of bliss in the kitchen.  I kept getting migraine headaches, bad ones that would have me crawling into darkness with a pillow over my head.  I finally narrowed it to Hamburger Helper and a few other “meal-in-a-box” type things.  In retrospect I suspect it was MSG as if I ingest it in a fair quantity now I will get a migraine.  I was forced to learn to cook and boy was it scary.  My poor spouse probably never knew what was going to be on the table when he got home and looked forward to Wednesday nights when I worked late at the jewelry store and he could eat whatever he wanted without fear.  I had to call my mom to make a baked potato (what temp, how long), to figure out what meat to buy for a roast, etc.

That was ten years ago.  I like cooking at home and my skills slowly developed from there. I’ve already blogged some about how we got to where we are with eating whole foods, raw dairy, and meat raised the way it was meant to (cows were not meant to eat grain, they are supposed to eat grass.)  I know I still have much to learn and these last few months I came away with something I find significant.  When you learn something that is exciting to you, you feel the need to share it and share I will. 

Starting with next week’s food plan the girls (older two) will help me and we will start by planning a non-starchy vegetable first.  Then plan our meal around that.  Not that we are ditching meat, we’re just starting our planning with the veggie and a non-starchy one at that. 

In the future I would like for at least one and preferable two meals to be divided in four parts.  Two parts non-starchy vegetable, one part protein, and one part whole carbs.  So if I were looking at my plate I want one half of that plate to be non-starchy vegetables and the other half divided between carbs and protein.  I’ve really come to believe that ratios or categories are just as important as calories.  I also believe, through what I have learned, that this will not only help me drop the baby weight that is no longer excusable (my birth babies are 6 and 7, don’t think adopted twins count for baby weight), but it will also help our overall health and energy levels.

At the end of this post you’ll find a list of non-starchy vegetables.  Some of them are debatable (tomatoes) but this seems to be as good a list as I can come up with in the time that I have.  My goal is to try this for two  months and see where we all stand in mid-October.  If I eat my words, so be it,  I know I won’t be doing anything detrimental to my families health in eating more veggies.  If I’m right, well then you’ll have two months worth of menu plans that you can try for free and hopefully it will work for you too!  We have a vacation in there as well, so it will be interesting to see how well we can accommodate the new menu ideas while at a big-time amusement park…that’s right, we’re going to Disney World and I hope to blog the vacation!  That’s coming up in just over three weeks (my goodness I’ve got to start thinking about what to take, who will watch the dog, and so forth…the panic a mom goes through before any vacation!)  There is also a short camping trip that just my husband and I will be taking in two weeks…no children, our best friends meeting us there for one night.  Wonder how I’ll work in those non-starchy’s when camping?

So, while not earth shattering, there it is.  I plan on getting the kids involved by teaching them what their plate should look like, when it’s okay to eat special foods/fun foods/sweets/junk (you can’t completely eliminate it, I’ve tried), what is a starchy veggie and what is a non-starchy, and to start letting them plan one of our meals each week.  I know if I have them involved it will help them not mind the change so much and keep them excited about eating healthy and helping in the kitchen.  In fact, they really are getting to the age that they can help prepare most of the meal they plan.  No, not slave labor, any mom knows a kid helping in the kitchen is harder than doing it yourself.  The long-term investment for their health is immeasurable…besides their personal health I’ve got future (way, way in the future) grandchildren to think about!

Non-Starchy Veggies

Sprouts (bean, alfalfa, etc.)
Greens – lettuces, spinach, chard, etc.
Hearty Greens – collards, mustard greens, kale, radicchio and endive
Herbs – parsley, cilantro, basil, rosemary, thyme, etc.
Bok Choy
Sea Vegetables (Nori, etc)
Cabbage (or sauerkraut)
Cucumber (or fermented pickles, no sugars)
Peppers (all kinds)
Summer Squash (including zucchini)
Scallions or green onions
Bamboo Shoots
Brussels Sprouts
Snow Peas (pods)
Green Beans and Wax Beans
Artichoke Hearts



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I’m back.  In effect I just took a tour of our state’s north-western quarter as well as a foray into the central area over the last day or two.  Doctor appointmentsfor family members, new glasses, farm day, visiting good friends, visiting two new-to-me farmer markets, and a shopping trip for clothes that I’m too chicken to try to make.  Now, if I lived in Rhode Island, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but living in the Midwest the states are not so tiny.  Phew, I wore out and glad the price of gas has dropped as much as it has!

Before leaving, though, I did manage a project. 

a dress that no longer fits finds a great use

the twins outgrew the dress, but I always liked the print


I think it is cute and it works perfectly for my clothespins.  In my experimenting, I have found that tumbling the clothes in the dryer for ten minutes helps keep them from getting so stiff and to also cut down on lint.  Fabric softener would solve much of this, I know, but there are a few of us tender-folk in this house who have an aversion to it.  I have some lavender “brewing” in vinegar for my own fabric softener, so  that will get tried out as well.  The ten minutes works out well as once I get it in the dryer and going, it takes me just about ten minutes to sort and start the next load.  More updates to come and as always I am open to suggestions. 

This will be a two post day, the next one will by my market and CSA report for the week!  Tomorrow’s post will be a tutorial for making and canning fresh, raw salsa (no cooking or pressure canning required.)

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this is yesterdays post, I must have saved instead of publishing…talk about lazy! Scroll down for todays post and birthday cuteness.

It’s hot out, summer is here.  We plan on going to a sprinkler/splash park sometime this week with friends.  I’d also like to go pick some berries to freeze.  The last couple weeks, however, have been so intense for us so far as helping family that I’m not sure it is over yet.  Don’t get me wrong, part of why we live where we live is to be there for family…we want to do it.  With four little ones it just gets exhausting.

Keep the laundry suggestions coming!  I have some vinegar that has lavender blossoms soaking in it.  I’m thinking I might put that in a Downy Ball the next time I do a load and see what happens.  Three of us are extremely sensitive to fragrance so I’ve never used fabric softener, just scent-free sheets in the dryer.  I know the vinegar doesn’t leave a smell as we sometimes use it as a hair rinse.  It will be interesting to see if the lavender smell stays and the starched texture go.

This weeks meals are not going to be planned out due to wanting to be on the go some.  Here are some things on my mind that I’m wanting to fix and I’ll even post recipes of new ones that turn out good!

  • Fresh Corn Polenta (perhaps making the leftovers into corn cakes?)
  • Lasagna (with brown rice noodles)
  • Bean and Beef Burritos with Guacamole and Lacto-Fermented Salsa
  • Chicken Salad (adapted slighty from The Pioneer Woman’s Recipe, don’t skip the grapes or cayenne!)
  • Roasted Chicken (because it is easy and it’s hot out)
  • Green Beans (a big pot full of them cooked long and slow all day until there is no nutrition left, just a less-guilty pleasure from childhood)
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Something has to be done with the zucchini as it’s taking over my fridge and the freezer already has 2 gallons of it shredded
  • French Toast for breakfast at some point, perhaps for one of the days on the road

So this is it, I’m calling this week my lazy week so far as meal planning.  Summer is nearly over for us and I’m calling a truce with all the stress of the last couple weeks and going to make sure to enjoy this one week without financial cost or nutritional detriment!  (okay, drama enough…It’s hot out and perhaps that makes me lazy.)

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I have a clothesline, thanks to my dear friend’s husband.  It’s wooden supports are study, the new green line is strung and secure.  Now I need some tips for line drying.

What do you do to help keep things from being so stiff?

Anything to help prevent wrinkling?

I have a little clothespin bag I am sewing and will photograph when I am done seeing as the missing camera has been found!  I had to stop the project, though, due to illness….food poisoning I’m thinking.  This post is the most work I’ve gotten done in the last day, but I’m on the mend and hope to have photos up soon as well as my husbands market report (isn’t he sweet for going in my place!)

All tips on line-drying are welcome and encouraged!

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laundry detergent

I thought I would be posting once more to warn of my absence, but alas I didn’t meet the deadline.  I am, however, back and ready to go now. Sorry about that readers!

Do you make any household cleaners yourself?  We make our own laundry detergent and are quite happy with it.  Here’s the recipe I follow:

1 bar of finely grated Fels-Naptha

2 cups Washing Soda (not baking soda)

2 cups Borax

Mix well and use about 2 Tbsp per large load.

My favorite way to grate the soap is to use the grater in my food processor and then to process them with the standard blade as well.  To get the finest consistency you could use a micro-plane but it takes quite awhile to do! 

Another idea is to put vinagar in your fabric softener ball.  Your clothes do not come out smelling like vinegar, but it does help to soften and reduce static.  I’ve heard tell that you can scent your vinegar and might try that with some of my lavender growing abundantly in the garden.


Please share any home-made household products you currently use as I’m always up to saving some money and having fewer chemicals sitting around the house.

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