Monday, April 27, 2009

To-Do Lists


I have been a roll lately..  getting lots done.  I have really gotten into my “to-do” lists.  I have things like master lists to follow, and I will jot down a few things here and there that need to be done, but never really had an on going to-do list.  Now my hubby is THE list man.  He always has so much to do and so many details to think about between work and home and he has lists going all the time.  So I followed his example and began making lists for myself.   

At first I was a bit overwhelmed..  I saw all that I needed to do and thought..  oh my.. ignorance was/is bliss! LOL..   But then I became focused and started putting one foot in front of the other and it has become a challenge to me to see how much I can knock off the list each day!    Also it has been a nice cure for the lack of inspiration..  doing or action always produces enthusiasm to keep moving (at least for me). 

In the last few days I managed to get a gallon of salsa made, ½ gallon of sauerkraut, 4 gallon size jars filled with granola (I taught Sierra how to do this little job so she can help out with the granola making too! ), did oodles of laundry, made 32lbs of soap, cleaned up my basement and did some reorganizing, sewed a button on a pair of pants, gave the all the guys hair cuts, kept up on dinners for the family and the house tidy, caught up on all my book work, and did some web work, etc..  you get the idea!  

So my cure for feeling a little blue and uninspired lately was to..  “do the next thing”..  put one foot in front of the other..  I find it to be like synergy..  the energy created from doing gives me energy to keep doing (don’t know if that is the exact definition but that is how I think of it)..  Even when you don’t feel like it.  My mother in law said to me once..  “the first five minutes of a job are the hardest”..  sometimes it is the getting up and doing that takes the most effort, but once you get going..  then the synergy part kicks in..  and how great it feels to be productive!  

Now today..  my focus turns toward redoing my to-do list..  As soon as I have checked off more than half of the list, I pull out another piece of paper and transfer the unchecked items to it and start adding more… because there is always more to add! LOL..    

So.. if you have lots to do and are feeling overwhelmed or uninspired..  make a to-do list and start working on it.. one step at a time..  and you too will begin to feel a great sense of accomplishment, energy and enthusiasm from being productive..   

Here is a cute little to-list to print off..





Sunday, April 19, 2009

6 Braid Challah Loaf

I love making challah bread.  It is a traditional Jewish Sabbath bread that is braided.  I like to make it for special occasions and as a treat, my family loves it.  A couple of years ago I learned how to make a 6 braid challah loaf.  I think they are much prettier than the 3 braid.  I made some this afternoon and took some pictures to try and show how it is done.. I hope it makes sense!! 

Crystal Miller

1/3 cup warm water
2 T yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
¼ cup butter
¼ cup olive oil
1 T salt
½ cup cane juice crystals
4 eggs
5 to 6 cups whole wheat flour
2 to 3 cups white flour

In a small measuring cup combine the 1/3 cup warm water and 2T yeast. Let that sit to foam up a little. In a large mixer bowl combine 1 ½ cups warm water, butter, olive oil, salt and cane juice crystals. Mix for a few minutes. Add eggs and mix well. Add yeast and water mixture.

Add flour wheat and white flours starting with the smallest measurements. Mix until well combined. Add more flour (a little at a time) if needed so there is no dough sticking to the sides of mixer bowl and the dough is not sticky, but not too stiff.

Knead for 7 to 10 minutes in a Kitchen Aid or 4 to 5 minutes in a Bosch. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Punch down and divide into 3 pieces.


To make challah loaves you can do a 3 braid or a 6 braid. Three braid challah is easy.. Roll one of the loaves of dough into three ropes and lay them out side by side. Pinch the ends at the top and then braid (just like hair! ~smile~) and pinch at the bottom.

To make a 6 braid challah is a bit more tricky to try and explain but is my most favorite way to do it. If my directions make no sense then maybe next time I will have to have one my daughters do a quick video of me doing it and show you that way!!

Make a log from one of the loaves of dough. 



Divide into 6 pieces.



Roll each piece into a long rope. Lay them side by side.



Bring all 6 pieces together at the top and pinch the dough to hold it altogether.


Now.. take the rope on the very right side and lay it across and over the top to the other side..


Now take the left piece and lay it across and over the loaf so it is on the other side..


This leaves you with 4 pieces in the middle. Take the piece of dough that you first crossed over (this would be the one that is now on the left) and bring it down in between the 4 ropes.


Now take the rope that is on the right side and cross it over as you did before leaving 4 ropes in the center again.



Now take the rope on the right side and bring it down in between the 4 ropes in the center.



Take the rope on the left and cross it over to the right.



Bring the rope on the left in between the center 4 ropes and just repeat this process until you to the end of your dough ropes. Pinch the ends together. I tuck in the pinched ends of the loaf so they don’t show.. just makes it looks nicer!


Lay the loaf on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non stick spray and finish the other two loaves..


Let them rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to an hour. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.


Friday, April 17, 2009



Ever had a time when you feel little to no inspiration? That is how I am feeling lately.. I think it is the weather (which sadly affects me more than I like!).. One rainy gloomy cold day after another can get to me.  On the bright side of this all the weather is improving!  And that helps. I also find during these times that it is so important for me to start my day in the Word and with prayer.  That helps so much. 


My inspiration is lacking big time in the meal planning department. I have been having a problem with just coming up with interesting meals. So I pulled out a few cookbooks and spent some time surfing the web for some inspiration on this. I am slowly coming up with some new things to play around with in the kitchen. 


However, for now here is what my menu looks like for the next few days.. 



Crockpot Italian Chicken

~ I don’t have an official recipe for this I just toss in the crockpot: chicken breasts, a little olive oil, sliced onions, diced tomatoes, Italian seasonings and let it simmer on low all day~ Served over brown rice or pasta

Spinach salad

Dinner rolls




Tortilla chips and homemade salsa



Kielbasa and Potato Stew (just like beef stew but I have some kielbasa to use up)

Dinner rolls




Leftovers (that is easy!)



Homemade pizza





Tortilla chips and homemade salsa




Whole grain crackers



Not as exciting as I would like but it is a start and that usually gets the ball rolling for me.


Another thing I have been doing to help is spring cleaning. Seems like when I clean out stuff and organize my home it always improves my outlook. I have taken several boxes and bags of clothes and books to the Good Will. I cleaned out my music room/family room as it tends to be where all the kids gather and they leave their mark on it after a winter’s use! 


Now I need to tackle the upstairs where all the kids’ bedrooms are. I know we have more stuff to go through and give away.   


Something about a clean and organized home that just makes me feel so much better! 



On the topic of cleaning .. I gave Sierra the job of keeping up with and making our homemade general household cleaner. I posted the recipe in my pantry/laundry room and all of the ingredients are easily accessible. It can be tempting when life is busy and hectic (or lacking in motivation) to want to buy cleaners. But they are expensive not to mention so toxic and simple homemade cleaners are so easy to make and frugal and non-toxic that it does not make sense not to do this!  Here is my basic recipe…


My Homemade Cleaner

Crystal Miller 


In a clean, empty gallon milk jug put: 


2 Tablespoons ammonia

1 teaspoon dish detergent

1 pint (2 cups) rubbing alcohol

4 drops food coloring – optional

a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a nice fresh scent

Fill the rest of the gallon jug with hot water.  Pour into spray container to use.


Lately we have been scenting it with lemon essential oil and a drop or two of yellow food coloring.. looks pretty and smells great!!



I also find that plain old vinegar and water makes a great floor cleaner. If my floor is really bad (mud and dirt .. which seem to be a constant with all the rain) I like to use ammonia and water.. it does a good job with the tough stuff. 


I have other homemade cleaner recipes on my site:   


Well I don’t know if anyone else is feeling low on inspiration lately.. or if I posted anything that would help LOL.. but I figured it just might help give me some more inspiration to chat about it! haa.. haa.. 


Have a great Friday on your Homestead

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Angel Food Cake and moreĆ¢€¦



We had a nice quiet Easter Sunday last week. The girls and I made an Easter dinner for the family. For dessert we made an angel food cake and topped it with fresh strawberries and real whip cream.. yum, yum!! I have always had a tough time making angel food cake with whole wheat flour.. it always comes out rather short in size. This time I sifted my flour and enjoyed the results quiet a bit. Not quite as healthy but better than white flour in my opinion.. (and also not NT.. but that is ok..  )


Here was my recipe:


Angel Food Cake

12 egg whites

1 ¼ cups powdered sugar or powdered sucanat

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ t cream of tartar

¼ t salt

2 t vanilla ( you can use 1 ½ t vanilla and ½ teaspoon of almond extract, but I like it better with all vanilla)

1 cup sugar


A tip on the egg whites first.. if you get any yolk in the whites at all you wont be able to whip the egg whites. So what I do is separate each egg into a small bowl and then pour the whites into my mixer bowl just to make sure there are no yolks. Save your yolks and I will share another recipe on using those!


When you have all 12 whites ready to go put them in a mixer. I like to use my Bosch but a Kitchen Aid will work fine too. Make sure the egg whites are room temp. If they are not let them sit on the counter for a half hour or so to warm up. 


Now before you whip the egg whites combine the powdered sugar and flour. Now if you would like to try and have a lighter higher risen cake then sift these two together at least 3 times. Set this aside. 



Add the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla to the egg whites. Beat on high speed. Gradually as the whites are being whipped add the 1 cup of sugar.  Continue to whip the egg whites until you have very stiff peaks and all your sugar has dissolved. 


Remove the whips from the mixer and gently fold in (I use a spatula or a wooden spoon) the powdered sugar/flour mixture a little at a time (about 1/3 of the mixture at a time). 


Carefully and gently spoon your cake mixture into an ungreased tube pan (angel food cake pan). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the cake looks dry and springs back when you lightly touch it. 


As soon as you pull it out of the oven flip it upside down. If your cake pan has little “feet” on it that allow it sit up off of the counter then that will work. Otherwise you can use a narrow necked bottle to place inside of the center of the tube pan and let the cake hang upside down until it cools. 


Make sure it has cooled completely before removing from the pan. 


When it is time to serve slice up fresh sweet strawberries and whip some whole cream and top a slice of angel food cake with both for a pretty and delicious dessert!!



Now for those egg yolks.. If you are like me you don’t want to see them go to waste. I just hate to have to throw out perfectly good food! So here is what we do with them (by the way this was the cake that Sierra made me last month for my birthday and we made another one after Easter too!)….


Egg-Yolk Cake

¾ cup egg yolks (this will be the 12 yolks left over)

1 whole egg

1 ½ cups cane juice crystals

1 T orange zest (grated orange rind)

1 T orange juice (we used fresh squeezed from the grated orange)

½ t lemon extract

¾ cup boiling water

1 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ t baking powder

½ t salt


In a mixer such as a Bosch or KA beat the egg yolks and the whole egg until well mixed and lemon colored. Add the cane juice crystals a little at a time ( ½ cup at a time or a little less) and continue to beat well. The mixture should be thick and lemon colored and this could take several minutes to do. Mix in orange zest, orange juice and lemon extract. 


In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt well. Carefully fold (no stirring) this flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture.  Add the boiling water and fold that in quickly just until the water in blended in. Pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan (same pan type as you made the angel food cake in) and bake at 325 for 60 to 65 minutes. As soon as the cake is done turn it over (the same way as instructed in the recipe above). When the cake has completely cooled remove from pan and frost with Orange Buttercream Frosting.



Orange Buttercream Frosting

3 cups powdered sucanat or powdered sugar

3 T orange juice

1 t vanilla

6 T butter


Blend all ingredients together until smooth. If too thick add a little more orange juice, if too thin add a bit more powdered sucanat. Frost cake and enjoy!! 



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Updates from the Homestead


After what has seemed like a looong, cold and wet winter we finally have had a few spring like days to bask in.  Sunday and Monday were in the 70’s and yesterday was in the 60’s with sunshine!  It has been so nice.  Today is more cloudy and transitioning back to the rain and cooler temps..  but hey…  I am just thankful for the few days we had!   

On Sunday after church my girls and I (including my daughter Hannah and my grandbaby Elizabeth) headed into the city to do some shopping and just be out and about in the warm weather.  We had such a fun day together.  Elizabeth is 6 months old now and growing and growing!   She also is such a good baby and loved all the attention from her grandma and aunts for the day.   

On Monday Tobin and I spent the day in town running errands and enjoying our Starbuck’s coffee stop.  We are probably different than most Starbucks lovers but all we ever order is a “coffee of the day”.  On a very rare occasion I will have one of their drinks and my girls always want me to try which ever one they buy (I do love their Pumpkin Latte in the fall once in awhile),  but I really love my coffee and love their “coffee of the day” with some half and half in it.  After that stop we headed to do some other things and eventually stopped and got a bite to eat.  It was another long but fun day in town.   

Yesterday Tobin took advantage of the nice weather and rototilled the garden!  Seemed like the first time so far that it had actually dried out enough to rototill.  Now I need to get some seeds ordered.  After Tobin was done with that job he and the younger kids worked on the property picking up and raking sticks and the leftovers of winter damage. After all the work was done Tobin took the kids down to our local mom & pop store and let them each pick out their own Haagen-Dazs ice cream as a treat for all their hard work outside. The kids and I made pizza in the evening.. well they did more of it than me!  I helped make the pizza dough and that was about it.  They did the rest.  They were topped with salami, pepperoni, pineapple, mushrooms, olives and onions.  Not real NT but oh well..  sometimes you just have to have some pizza!  LOL..  We all enjoyed pizza and ice cream while we watched a couple more episodes of LOST (we are about half way done with season 4 and will have to TRY and patiently wait for season 5 to come out on DVD!! )… it was a fun family evening.  

Today I have salsa to make, bread dough to get soaking for bread baking tomorrow, orders to pack and some packaging of  products to do and homeschooling.  We are in home stretch with the schooling.  The kids should all be done by next month!!    Leanne has been studying for her last GED test which she should take in the middle of this month.  Emily keeps plugging along with her studies too..  she took and passed her Financial Accounting CLEP and within a couple of weeks now should be enrolled in her first class with Thomas Edison.   

That is all from my homestead..  hope you all are enjoying some nice spring weather in your area! 




Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Cleaning and Freecycle


Lately I have been doing some spring clutter clean out.  I don’t know how it happens, but try as I may to keep the “stuff” out of my house I still find I have it to purge.  Mostly it is things like outgrown clothing and books that we no longer need and toys, games, a few small household items, etc.  I typically take anything in good condition to my nearest Good Will drop site.  I am not into garage sales because I don’t like the hassle of them.   

Well I had a large item that needed a new home and I did not want the hassle of selling it for most likely not enough money to make the whole process worth it.  I decided to try Freecycle.  I have been a member of my local Freecycle Yahoo Group for sometime but never have used them.  This morning I put my item on Freecycle and then went about doing some more cleaning and purging.  In about one hour I had 5 responses!  Hopefully one of them will work out and my desire would be to see this item gone before the weekend is out!  What a great feeling to give my “stuff” that just sits and collects dust to someone who can use it.  AND I don’t even have to go anywhere to deliver..  they come and pick the “stuff” up.   

So if you are currently doing any spring cleaning then you might want to check out Yahoo Groups and see if there is a freecycle for your area and “free” yourself of items that could use a new home!!