Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quick Soda Crackers


I have a great old recipe for light crisp old-fashioned yeast raised soda crackers that I love, but it requires 24 hours in the fridge before rolling out for baking.  Yesterday I needed something quicker - our Storyteller was in a bad way with a stomach bug and wanted some soda crackers to settle his tummy. These were not as light and tender as my old recipe, but they were certainly enjoyed, and they did their job.

Quick Soda Crackers

  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (more for flouring the counter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • sea salt to sprinkle on tops

Directions:

  1. In large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.
  2. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until crumbly.
  3. Add water and honey, stir just until mixed.
  4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead til thoroughly mixed.
  5. Roll out dough on well-floured surface to 1/8" thickness. Fold this in fourths and roll again to 1/8".
  6. Cut into 2" squares.
  7. Place 1/2" apart on parchment lined cookie sheets.
  8. Prick each cracker 3 or 4 times with a fork, then sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
  9. Bake in preheated 350º oven for 25 minutes until crisp and lightly browned.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

HomeSchool: Home Economics

 I love home making {most of the time}and I really want our daughter to enjoy it to!  More than that, I want her to be skilled before she leaves home so that she doesn't have to learn everything all at once. My sweet Mum was an amazing whirlwind of activity when I was growing up - she could do everything faster, better and up to her standard without our help - and she did! We got away with murder when it came to chores - she did it all for us! Can you say spoiled? I did laundry for the first time under the close tutelage of a friend at summer camp - in a laundromat. I learned to wash dishes at camp too. I mastered vacuuming and clean bathrooms at Bible College - my room-mates taught me. When the Historian and I were first married, I spent countless hours on the phone with my Mum asking cooking questions - and served more than my fair share of burnt offerings to my poor husband. 
I had a lot to learn.  
I'm not the whirlwind of energy my Mum was.  I've needed a lot more help with chores then she did, 
and so both children are actually quite skilled in many of the basics already. 
I like to think that's one of the many blessings of chronic health struggles.


Our Dreamer is by nature A Messy - she has the uncanny ability to turn a tidy room into utter chaos in less than 24 hours - but I still hold out hope for change! 
Figuring out how to inspire that change has been a challenge.  
I'm ready for another tactic.  
Nothing as drastic as boot camp or anything, but something that will inspire.
 Here's my latest plan - making the basics of home keeping a grade 9  
High School Elective Course 
- complete with grades, tests, and fun projects. 
Dreamer and I have been bouncing around ideas based on the Biblical example of the Proverbs 31 Woman so this is a combination of things she wants to learn and things I think she ought to master!
We are almost ready to get started!


 Grade 9 Home Economics Class
Based on Proverbs 31
 Table of Contents: {so far}
 I.                    Course Objectives and Overview

  II.                 How to Clean the Right Way
a.       Read Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean
b.      Laundry Skills Overview
c.       Stain Removal Chart
 III.               Soap Making 101

 IV.              Vegetable Garden Basics
a.       Planning a Garden
b.      Preparing to Plant
c.       Starting Plants From Seed
d.      Weeding, Watering and Feeding
e.       Harvesting the Bounty
 V.                 The Art of Preserving Food
 a.       Fruit Leather
b.      Freezing Foods – Storage Time Chart
c.       Making Jams and Jellies
d.      In a Pickle


 VI.              Basic Yarn Skills
a.       Make a scarf
b.      Darn a Sock

 VII.            Basic Sewing Projects
a.       Sew a winter hat for yourself
b.      Sew a simple apron using a pattern
VIII.         Advanced Sewing Skills: Garment Construction
a.       Sew a skirt for yourself
b.      Sew a jacket for yourself
c.       Sew a hat for someone else
 IX.              Made By Hand
a.       Embroider a Sampler
 X.                 Food for Thought: Monthly Menu Planning
 XI.              Grocery Store Tips & Strategies
a.       Grocery List Master
b.      Shopping for Sales
c.       Price Comparison
d.      Keeping a well stocked pantry

  XII.            Recipes To Master
 a.       Muffins
b.      Quick Breads
c.       Soup
d.      Yeast Bread – white and whole wheat
e.       Entrée Basics ( 5 meals she can make well consistently before she leaves for college)
f.        Pie - Apple and Pumpkin - her favorites!
 XIII.         Money Sense: Preparing a Budget
a.       Read What Ever Happened to Penny Candy?
b.      Read Money Sense for Kids
 XIV.         Physical Fitness
a.       Physical Activity Log
b.      Calorie Chart
c.       Understanding BMI
 XV.           Candle Making

  XVI.         Personal Style
a.       Flattering and Modest
b.      Your Best Colors
c.       Layers and Accessories
  XVII.      Time Management Basics
a.       Daily Schedule
b.      Chore Chart
c.       To do lists
 XVIII.    Wisdom for a Faithful Woman
a.       Scripture Memorization
b.   Prayer
c.   Bible Study Basics
XIX.         Baby Care Basics
 XX.           Emergency Preparedness
 XXI.         Skin Care Essentials
a.       Read The Herbal Home Spa
b.      Make three skin care products
c.       Plan a spa night for a friend and you!

That's what we've got so far - are we missing anything? 
What do you think is most essential in equipping our girls for life in the grown up world?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The 7 year itch ...

Photo Credit





 I'm the first to admit that sometimes it takes me a while to figure me out 
- and it takes my poor husband even longer!
It's not easy living with me ...
I have this dreaded '7 year itch' - but it doesn't have anything to do with my wonderful husband!
We've been married for 20 years - and we love each other very differently then we did when we first made that lifetime commitment, but it is a deeper, richer - tried and tested kind of love.
Two perfectly imperfect people relying heavily on the grace of God 
and loving each other to the best of our ability.

Nope.

My sweet Historian has nothing to do with this crazy itch.
It's the house.
I've got this crazy 'itch' to redecorate every square inch of it!
I've suddenly fallen out of love with our lovely home!
Crazy stuff for a woman who is 
overwhelmingly blessed
and strives daily to be thankful and content.
 For a little bit I thought my problem stemmed from my new obsession enjoyment of Pinterest.
You know - the whole lust of the eyes thing bringing discontent into my heart.
I prayed about it for quite a while and almost cancelled my Pinterest account.
I realized I was getting a lot of inspiration - and some terrific ideas for our upcoming 
boys bathroom remodel. 
I didn't think getting some fresh ideas through Pinterest was any different from enjoying 
a good magazine and they haven't been a problem in the past.

Then it hit me!





 This is the LONGEST we have ever lived in a home since our marriage began in 1991! 
We rounded the corner on 7 years in this house in November. 
Seven years.
And counting!

Photo Credit




We spent 3 months in our first home, 2 1/2 years in our second, 3 1/2 in our third, 6 months in our 4th, 3 years in our 5th home, and 4 1/2 years in our 6th house - and now we've been here 7+ years!
No boxes, no trucks, 
no major redecorating for about 5 years!
{we did a lot in the first 2-3 years}
So now that I've put my finger on the problem, I'm not sure where to begin!
My husband has suggested that I dig out my  house journal and go room by room listing:
Things that need to be fixed.
New paint/fabric and furniture ideas
Major remodel ( if price were not an object) dreams.
Then he wants me to start room by room with the little fixes and see where we go from there.
I'm ready to tear out a wall.
{or two}
Purge the whole house.
Reupholster everything.
Paint every wall.
Re-arrange everything.
{but I have no ideas and no energy}
I guess I will do what I can do and that will have to do for now! 
 What do you do when you fall out of love with your house?
How do you deal with the urge to totally re-decorate everything?

I have one friend who just goes to town - fearlessly re-doing her whole house frugally and frequently.
She has endless energy and creativity and an amazing sense of style.

Any suggestions?

{my husband thinks this could have something to do with a certain birthday that's just around the corner}

45

I'll think about that next month ...

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Waste not, want not


Luscious Leftovers for lunch
 The other day I was dismayed to read that Americans regularly waste 25% of the food we purchase, totaling roughly $2150 per household per year! Yikes! My first reaction was a pretty self-righteous 'Well, not us!', but then I got to thinking about how much we actually waste. We certainly don't toss 25% of our food, but we do still waste some 
- and not as much as we used to, but enough to count.

Another day of Luscious Leftovers - for supper
 It used to be that leftovers often died horrible deaths 
in their cold plastic-ware graveyards  
and once a week I would clean the fridge and dispose of the forgotten leftovers with regret. 
Shoot!
I had great intentions ...
I meant to give this or that to the Historian for his lunch or warm it up for the kids.

Leftover soup and salad for lunch
Since I was raised with the 'Waste not, want not' way of thinking
 I really hate throwing out spoiled food, 
but the whole 'out of sight out of mind' thing got me every time. 



Our habits improved greatly when my husband started working the evening shift on Monday nights. 
Instead of making another full meal for just the children and I, we instituted the  
Luscious Leftover Buffet
Every Monday morning I quickly clean the fridge and take stock of the leftovers..
Intentionally using up the leftovers is fun - and it has worked out well because I often do my grocery shopping for the week on Monday night while our Dreamer is at ballet.


 I've written about the Luscious Leftover Buffet in this 2009 post, but I think it's worth repeating because it still works so well for us. 
It might work well for your family too!
Lots of time we are just in too much of a hurry and I 'take orders' and quickly plate up the leftovers,
but once in a while I let them take their pick buffet style and it's still a lot of fun!

Here's quick summary of how I serve leftovers with style:

  1. Spread it out. Everyone likes to make choices, and buffets are super popular with kids.
  2. Divide it up. A single small mug of chili, soup or baked beans is fun to pick up and that way everyone who wants a taste can get one. No one needs to see that messy casserole dish, so dish it up in paper cupcake cups or little custard cups and make it something special.
  3. Swap the cheese. Sometimes the cheese on the top of a casserole gets over browned in the process of reheating. I don't feel badly in scraping off a bit of the ugly cheese and putting on fresh. Fresh cheese also dresses up a cup of chili, reheated quiche, a bit of salad or a creamy soup.
  4. Keep it simple. Cold roast beef, turkey, chicken, bratwurst or ham can be served sliced 'as is' or in a sandwich, on top of a cracker or diced into some leftover salad.
  5. Put it on a stick - it's always more fun! 6" bamboo skewers are cheap $1 per 100, and they make a great 'finger food' supper when you put your leftover meats and cheeses or fruit cubes on a 'stick'.
  6. Cut it fancy. It doesn't take any extra effort to pull out your crinkle cutter then your paring knife, so why not cut up those fruits and veggies a bit 'fancy' and see if they don't liven up your buffet?
  7. Use those tongs. I don't know why our kids think this is the 'best part', but we use salad tongs for picking up things like sliced meats, breads, veggies and scrambled eggs.
  8. Make it a privilege. We are so blessed to have an abundance of food in this country - wasting is just not a choice. Making being a part of the buffet line a privilege that can be lost through grumbling or complaining can seriously brighten the attitude of those picky eaters.
  9. Set it to music. My husband started the 'music to match the meal' thing for our family when he took over the making of Mama Joy's Meatballs and serving them up with fresh green salad, a fresh loaf of crusty bread, and Dean Martin singing in the background. It made a simple supper more fun for all of us. I decided that we should do the same thing for 'The L.L. Buffet' and so I let the kids pick - they chose Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey 'Eugene Sings' and it seems to be a perfect fit!
 
The other thing that has really made a difference in wasting less is clearly simple - glass food storage containers!  No more  plastic ware graves hiding tasty morsels!  Yeah! Now that we can see the contents of every contain we are less likely to waste it - in fact it's made it super easy for my Historian to grab food for his lunches, so sometimes there aren't any leftovers for the buffet - which is just fine because the kids love 'breakfast for dinner' and that's just as fun!
My glass storage containers are wonderful - the lids are super tight and keep everything fresh, but not too hard for the children to remove.  Because they are glass, we can microwave them easily when needed. 
I was blessed by Dad and Mum with a big box full of various sizes of glass containers for my birthday last year and I promptly gave away most of my plastic food containers.  


It took me a while to realize that they were actually saving us money because we were wasting less food!


My last thought on the subject of food waste - where the leftovers go is just as important and how they are stored! It took about 3 months for everyone in this household to get on board with my 'TOP SHELF' only for leftovers rule, but I think we've actually adopted the habit. I hope!
Food stored at eye level gets noticed and eaten - not wasted!
Super simple concept, I know, but it works.


As always, my heart's desire is to please God with my simple life.
I am too wasteful. I waste my time, my energy, my resources, and my opportunities 
to share Christ with others. Our abundance lulls me into complacency and I forget that this ease we are so comfortable with comes with no guarantees. The bounty of God's provision is regularly under appreciated, taken for granted and enjoyed with little thought and even less thankfulness.
Once in a while I might sigh as I throw out 'unsalvageable' food as I remember the families living 
in the dump that we visited in the Dominican and  wonder how they would view our wastefulness.
Most days, I give it very little thought, until bold statistics rouse me from my ease.
I want to be a good example to our children.
To be frugal about our own needs so that we can be joyfully generous with others.
To be thrifty so that we can stretch what we've been given to meet the needs of others as well.
To be creative and ingenious bringing new life to things that others have deemed irredeemable.

To live waste not, want not so fully that they will one day have what they need,
and know how to care for it as temporary stewards of God's faithful provision.

To be properly 'wasteful' like the woman who poured costly perfume over the feet of Jesus,
pouring myself, with no restraint into the lives of others.

What about you? What are your favorite waste not, want not strategies?
You know how much I enjoy hearing from you.

blessings,