Monday, February 25, 2013

I’ve had 8… you will survive.. I promise..




I just read a post from a friend who has 3 kids and is pregnant with her 4th. She has been sick and the kids are suffering from cabin fever and she is exhausted. Oh my, can I relate! She was so happy for bedtime.. yep, I can relate! As I read posts similar to this (as one I saw recently.. I’ve had 3 and survived)… it is a challenge!! I read these posts and think about my life with 8 kids.. I had 6 of them in 9 years and 8 in less than 15 years… I just kind of sigh… yes! It is hard.. it is work, it is a challenge! No doubt!! But at the end of the day… you will survive.. and every minute is worth it! So.. hang in there mom..


Challenges.. I get it… first child starts throwing up… I’m up all night with him.. then I get it.. I’m throwing up now.. and the next child gets it.. I’m up another night with them (and me too)… then the next 2 or 3 or 4 kids get it… everyone is racing to the bathroom or their bowls (we’ve only ever had one bathroom)… and then just when I think it may be over.. I get it again.. after 10 days I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel.. I spend the next day or two washing sheets, sanitizing everything in sight.. I get it..
 

Three kids in less than 3 years (and they were numbers 3, 4, & 5).. sleepless nights, nursing constantly.. 3 still in diapers (cloth no less).. 2 homeschooling… yeah.. I get it!


Six homeschooling, a baby, a toddler.. lots of work.. lots of my time.. yeah I get it!!!


Meals everyday.. breakfast, lunch, dinner.. and when feeding 10 people every day there is no such thing as ‘fast food’… every meal is a labor.. oatmeal (and LOTS of it.. it is cheap & filling).. lunch.. soup started at breakfast time, homemade bread started in the bread machine at breakfast, dinner.. whatever I can put together to feed 10 people and send with my hubby as he works hard every night (he has always worked graveyard shift)… fall into bed exhausted.. up the next day to do it again.. Yeah.. I get it!!


Is it easy? Is simple? NO!! It is work, and it is hard!! Would I do it again? .. have 8 kids if I could make that choice again? You BET!!!!! So much of the hardships fall to the wayside when you see your child finally pee in the potty chair!!! Or finally “get it” with long division! Or cook their first meal for the family.. or listen to them as they recite an entire chapter of the Bible that you have been working with them on forever… or when they hug you and tell you how much they love you, a day spent reading and playing together, seeing my children reach their goals as adults.. is it worth it? Oh my goodness.. yes… I would relive every sleepless night for the joys that I have experienced!


And at times… just when you think you could not be blessed more.. you have grandchildren.. and your whole family gathers together at your home (their home growing up).. and you are surrounded by children, spouses, grandchildren… and somehow.. those sleepless nights, the sickness, the work, the struggles, melt into nothing.. because all you see is the blessings that God has given you!! " Blessed is the man that has his quiver full".. Psalm 127:5 .. Yeah.. I get it!!

Hang in there mom.. you can do this!! The blessings are there!! I promise…





 



This Week’s Menu



Monday
Leftovers – I switched up my menu last week and made the meatballs & mac & cheese on Sunday and we have enough for tonight’s dinner.

Tuesday
Tacos w/all the trimmings, tortilla chips & salsa

Wednesday
Asian chicken noodle soup (new recipe I'm trying), rolls, salad

Thursday
Sierra’s night to cook: Spinach stuffed chicken breasts, garlic roasted broccoli, dinner rolls

Friday
Crockpot pork roast, baked potatoes, dinner rolls, salad

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Spaghetti, french bread, salad

 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pizza Chili


Sometimes I like to come up with a new twist on an old favorite meal. This is the case with this recipe. A couple of weeks ago I did a beef veggie chili that was really good and this week I was wanting to try putting two favorite food flavors together, pizza & chili. The verdict: it was awesome! My family ate it up and raved about it. 

This recipe is also very versatile.. you can add more veggies or more beans if you want to stretch the meal to feed more people.  You can vary the types of veggies you use as well.  When choosing the veggies for this meal I thought of the toppings we would normally put on pizza. 

Here is the recipe:

Pizza Chili
1 to 2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red or green pepper, chopped
4 to 5 mushrooms, sliced
1 lb hamburger
½ lb sausage
1 qt spaghetti sauce
4 cups cooked beans, any type (red, black, pintos, etc)
3oz pepperoni, sliced and chopped, roughly
2 cups bean broth (from cooked beans)
1T Italian seasonings
salt & pepper to taste
mozzarella cheese for garnish

It is best to begin this meal earlier in the day by cooking your beans first. You can find information on cooking beans HERE.

In a large stock pot (6 to 8 qt) cook meat and veggies until meat is no longer pink and veggies are soft. Add spaghetti sauce, cooked beans, seasonings and pepperoni. Let simmer to blend flavors. Serve in bowls and garnish with cheese.

And here is how I made it:

I started earlier in the day by cooking up a pot of pinto beans...



After the beans are cooked up the rest of meal goes together fairly quickly. I chopped up my veggies first. You can use any type of veggies you want.. mostly think of the veggies you like on your pizza. I was going to also add sliced olives but discovered I was out of olives (it is now on my grocery list for next week!)…



After the veggies were chopped I heated up my stock pot and added a little olive oil and began to cook up my veggies and meat. Then I added the cooked beans…



And the pepperoni..



Finally I added the spaghetti sauce, bean broth and spices. I did not need to add any salt because I salted my beans when I cooked them and the mild saltiness of the broth was just right…



This was sooo good and will appear on my menu again! I served it with some whole grain crackers and a salad. I was going to serve it with dinner rolls which I think would have gone better with it but I ran out of time to make them.

 

Monday, February 18, 2013

This Week’s Menu





Monday
Beef & bean soup (made from my canned beef and veggies), dinner rolls, salad

Tuesday
Dijon & garlic baked pork chops, onions, mushrooms & cabbage sautéed in butter (I’ll be using my cabbage I canned last summer for this), mashed potatoes, salad

Wednesday
Homemade pizza, salad

Thursday
Leftovers

Friday
Meatballs, mac & cheese, salad

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Beef & rice chile relleno casserole, refried beans, salad

 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Finding Purpose as a Homemaker (and in Life!)

 

This has been a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately.  We will be dealing with some changes in our life at home soon (which I'll share at another time) and it seems that part of the decision making process has led me to think on our purpose in life. In this post I speak from the viewpoint of a homemaker because that is what I know personally.

Sometimes as a homemaker we find it hard to look at our life and see our purpose.  Especially when children are small and the days filled with changing diapers and tasks of the home or when the nest is empty and seasons change in our lives. Finding purpose in life as a homemaker may be a challenge. Or maybe not for everyone, but the hope of this post is to encourage us all in knowing our purpose.


Finding purpose in life is one of those goals we don’t think about as we are becoming adults. It’s not like we say to ourselves, “I need a purpose in life”. We follow our dreams, goals, and interests because they fulfill “something” within us. That “something” could be called purpose. We go to school or training to find work in life that we enjoy. At least that is hope. I know people who have jobs that they don’t enjoy. But they go to that job for another purpose; to support themselves, their families or as a stepping stone to something else.



However to me finding purpose goes deeper than that. If we start with the Lord we will first realize that our main purpose in life is to ‘love God and glorify Him forever’ (Romans 11:36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. & Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!) . This really has nothing to do with a job, it is a spiritual walk. God does have a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.) and He has given all of us gifts and talents. He wants us to use them and in doing so we bring glory to Him. Sometimes in life we are not even sure what our talents and gifts are. Sometimes it takes time for those to become known to us. Often times work is tedious, monotonous, and repetitive and many aspects of it may just not be all that fulfilling. But what people do each day is necessary for survival.


Thanks to Adam and Eve much of life is about work. It is about tilling the fields. It is about putting food on the table, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our back. I don’t think those that were tilling the fields to provide food for their families or working other difficult tasks for survival were necessarily thinking, “Well this is not fulfilling, so what kind of career should I consider instead”. Nope they were surviving. But they still had a purpose, they still had gifts and talents and God had a plan for them and their lives that through the work and the living of day to day life He would be glorified.



As a homemaker we can find many boring monotonous jobs in our day. But each day should not be a focus on this, but rather an opportunity to serve Jesus; an opportunity to “wash the feet of the saints” as we bless our families in our daily tasks (1 Timothy 5:10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work) . It will be through this journey that we will find our purpose. Because no purpose in life truly fulfills the soul apart from God. God will reveal our purpose, talents and gifts as we seek each day to love God and glorify Him forever.


 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hot Processed Soap Making Fun


Well I know I’m feeling better because I had the desire to make some soap over the weekend for fun! I needed some soap for my family and I like to use this opportunity to try out new recipes. I also did not want to wait for the cure time so I decided to make hot processed soap in the crockpot.

There are 2 ways to make soap. One is called cold process and the other hot process. Here is the difference:

Cold Processed (CP): This method involves combining your liquid/lye mixture with your oils and stirring until the mixture thickens (also known as “trace”) . Then pouring the mixture into molds. In a day or two you unmold, cut the bars and let the soap lay out on a flat surface to cure anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks depending on the recipe. This ensures the soap is free from all traces of lye.

Hot Processed (HP): You follow the same procedures as CP but instead of pouring into your mold you keep cooking the soap. The soap is heated and cooked all the way through to the end (meaning there is no traces of lye left in the soap). After you remove it from the mold you can cut the bars and pretty much use them right away. Although the bars can still be a bit soft so letting them sit for a week or so can harden up the bars as excess moisture evaporates.

I have always used the cold processed method (for the soaps I sell) for many reasons (the soap is smoother in texture, looks nicer, essential oils are easier to add, etc..). But every now and again I like to have a little fun time with my soap making.

If you are not familiar with making soap you will want to make sure you are prepared with information and the proper equipment before you start. I don’t go into a lot of that in this blog post mostly because I already have a few web pages on making soap ( http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/homesteadcrafts.htm#Lets%20Make%20Soap ) and an entire ebook on how to make cold process soap, step by step filled with pictures and information ( http://crystalscountrystore.com/handmadesoapebook.htm ) … so this little tutorial is showing just the basics of what I did. Please be knowledgeable on proper soap making procedures and cautions concerning the use of lye.

My soap recipe is a 4# batch (that is the weight of the oils). I don’t recommend any bigger batch in 6 quart crockpot. You won’t have room to stir.

Here was the recipe I used…
18.9 oz coconut oil
30.8 oz olive oil
14.2 oz palm oil

20 oz water
9.2 oz lye

2.5 oz fragrance oil

The first thing I did was measure out my oils and my water…



Then measured out my lye..


I put the oils in the crockpot and set the crockpot on low, put the lid on and let the oils melt. Then I mixed the lye into the water…



After the oils were melted it was time to pour the lye/water mixture into the oils. With hot processing you don’t have to have your oils and lye at a certain temperature…



I started out stirring with a spoon then switched to a stick blender. I mixed the soap until it reached “trace”. Trace means the soap is the consistency of thick pudding. When you lift the stick blender out and drizzle a little of the soap across the top it will leave a trail for a few seconds before it fall back into the mixture. ..



This soap recipe traced really quickly. I put the lid on let it sit for about 15 minutes. When I came back the soap was starting to gel. It will go from the thick pudding to a gel like substance (again it happened pretty quick with this recipe). I stirred it around (or I should say my daughter did as it was very thick and hard to stir for me and my healing hand). In the picture you can see the white looking soap and the gelled bits mixed around..



It did not take long for all the soap to gel (this is the chemical reaction of the oils and the lye mixing and these are the stages it goes through to become soap). At this point it looks a lot like applesauce (and is much easier to stir)…



I put the lid on and let it cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Now it begins to look a lot like waxy Vaseline. It has a shiny look to it (that look was hard to capture in a picture)…



At this point I took a bit and rubbed it between my fingers.. it felt like soap. Then I put a tiny bit on my tongue.. if I feel a zing to it, then there is still lye left and it needs to cook longer. If I don’t feel anything then that means that all the oils and the lye have converted to soap (and there is no lye left). I did not get any zing so I took my crockpot out of the base (if you can’t do this with your crockpot, then turn it off) and added my scent oil and stirred it around until it was mixed in well…



Now comes the experiment part.. I was trying to color my soap. I don’t normally color it. I wanted to try a more natural way to color it. So I added 2T of paprika. I was aiming for a peach color to my soap (I scented it with a fruity smelling fragrance oil)…


In the end it came out more of a tan color… oh well.. I just had to give it a try and see what would happen. Then it was time to put it in the mold. The soap is very thick and kind of plops into the mold. You have to work fast as the soap hardens up quickly. I put the soap in and would press it down with my hands and tap the mold on the counter to get out any air bubbles.. For this recipe I used a 4# wooden loaf mold that I lined with a plastic bag…




The next morning the I removed the soap from the mold..



And cut it into bars…



I have 10 bars that are about 5oz’s each in size. It has now been 2 days since I made the soap and it is hard enough to use.

An important note:
It is very hard to use essential oils with hot process soap. All scent oils (essential oils & fragrance oils) have a flash point temperature. This is the temperature that the oils will evaporate into thin air. Essential oils have very low flash points. They are basically so low that the soap will be hardening up before you can mix the oils in if you wait until the soap is the right temperature. Fragrance oils have high flash points and this is not a big concern. If you want to use essential oils I recommend you make cold process soap.
 

Happy Soap Making!!
 


Monday, February 11, 2013

This Week’s Menu



I don’t know why it is but some weeks I really struggle to come up with a menu and some weeks the ideas just flow without effort. This week was a struggle! But I persevered until I came up with a menu that I was happy with. I have couple recipes that are new to try out (marked with a “*”). If they are hits with the family, I’ll share them!

Monday
Beef & rice enchiladas, tortilla chips & salsa, salad

Tuesday
Hamburgers w/trimmings, chips, salad

Wednesday
Cajun chicken, macaroni & cheese, garlic roasted brussel sprouts

Thursday
Leftovers

Friday
Pizza chili*, dinner rolls, salad

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Garlic & lemon chicken*, brown rice pilaf, salad


 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Couple Updates from the Homestead


 

The best update I’ve had is my hand. I went to the doctor earlier this week and was told that it looks like we have beaten this infection! I still have a bit of swelling in my hand (especially my two middle fingers) but the doctor said it was just going to take time for that to continue to heal. I have MUCH more use of my hand now. I’ve been doing lots and lots of physical therapy exercises to gain movement and increase strength and they are working! Praise the Lord I’m on the mend. I will finally be off my antibiotics tomorrow. Three plus weeks of antibiotics is enough for me! The side effects of those have been difficult to handle, but obviously necessary.

I also wanted to thank so many of you who left me comments on my blog post when I told you what happened and those who left comments on my Facebook as well. I so appreciate the love, concern and prayers, it meant a lot to me.

I also wanted to update those of you who’ve been following my blog about my daughter Leanne. She has now been in S. Korea for almost 3 months. The first month or so was tough. So many changes. So many new things to learn. Just learning to ride the subway and get off where you are supposed to and not get lost in the depths of the city was a challenge (Seoul is a HUGE city). It would be one thing if someone said, “you need to get off the subway at 32nd street”.. that would not be the biggest challenge in the world.. but this is S. Korea and there is no English signs! They are all in Korean. Thankfully she has had many kind and helpful co-workers to show her the ropes. After all her co-workers were in the same situation when they first arrived and Leanne has said you immediately begin to bond to them because you are all walking the same path, just at different points.

Leanne has also said that Korean people have to be some the most kind hearted sweet people she has ever met. As an example, one night shortly after she arrived she got off the subway and it was dark. She could not remember how to get back to her apartment. She also did not have a phone at that point. A very nice Korean man saw she was in need and called the school where she works to find out where she needed to be and then proceeded to call her a taxi and tell the taxi driver where to take her. Praise God for kind hearted people to help. 

She has now adjusted very well she says. She has her own little apartment that she enjoys quite a bit. She has found a church that has both Korean and English services, she has learned to navigate her way around the subway system, and learned her way around her neighborhood and found the basics such as where to shop for groceries and other goods. She is enjoying teaching her 4th & 5th graders and is thankful for the friendships she is making with her co-workers and others.

Here are some pictures she recently sent me…

Where she buys her groceries…



The school she works at….



A snap shot of the surrounding neighborhood….


All in all she is feeling that this has been a positive experience and she is enjoying it. She is also working to learn to speak Korean as well!

That is all the updates from the Homestead for now!
 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dishwasher Soap Sub


One of the most common emails I receive is ladies asking if I have a good homemade substitute for dishwasher detergent. After making my own homemade laundry detergent and having such great success I was eager to try and find something that worked as well in my dishwasher. I found and tried a couple different recipes. I was not happy with the results at all. The most common recipe I came across was a combination of washing soda, borax and citric acid (some recipes used Kool-Aid in place of the citric acid). What I discovered is that this combination left a cloudy film all over my dishes that was hard as heck to remove. I quickly went back to Cascade and gave up trying to find a substitute.

Well, last week I ran out of dishwasher soap. Because I live rurally just hopping in the car to run and pick up one item is out of the question. Plus, at that point my hand had not healed enough to be able to drive (I have a stick shift and could not shift with my right hand). I had the choice to wash the dishes by hand (also not easy with my injured hand) or find a substitute that would work at least until I could go shopping. I scoured the internet looking for options other than the washing soda/borax combo. Here is what I found….



I know you are thinking.. but wait you can’t use regular dish soap in your dishwasher. But this is what I discovered. You can use a “little”. The purpose of the baking soda is to keep the suds down low enough to keep them from foaming out the dishwasher door.

Here is how I did it: I put 3 or 4 drops of Dawn dish soap (I’m sure any type of liquid dish soap would work) into the soap dispenser and then filled it the rest of the way with baking soda. I ran my load of dishes. When they were done, I had a load of sparkly clean dishes…



I was impressed and decided to keep trying to use it and see what the long term results would be. I did buy a box of Cascade when I went grocery shopping just in case. Here is what I’ve found after doing several loads now: the dishes are still clean, I’ve noticed a few spots on my silverware. I put a “little” more Dawn in the next load (not wanting to push it too far as I don’t want a big foamy mess to clean up) and had no spots on that load. I should add that I have soft water so I don’t know what the results would be with hard water. And a few loads of dishes is not showing me any real long term results yet. I am going to continue to try this for a while and see what happens. The cost savings would be great if this did work for the long term.

For now, I can recommend this method if you are in a pinch and suddenly realize you ran of dishwasher soap and you need a quick and easy substitute.
 

Monday, February 4, 2013

This Week’s Menu





Monday
Leftovers – I switched my menu around last week and made the sausage and peppers on Sunday and we have enough left for dinner tonight

Tuesday
Lasagna, french bread, salad

Wednesday
Leftovers (with only 4 of us we seem to end up with a lot of leftovers lately!)

Thursday
Crockpot BBQ chicken (I’m using this recipe and subbing chicken for the beef), baked potatoes, salad

Friday
Leftovers

Saturday
Meatloaf, macaroni & cheese, salad

Sunday
Leftovers

 


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Crockpot Pork Roast

This meal was incredibly easy to make. I had a 3 ½ pound pork roast that I wanted to cook in the crockpot. Last summer I canned some sweet/spiced cabbage (you can find that post here). I put the pork roast in the crockpot and opened a pint jar of the cabbage and poured it on top (doesn't get much simpler than that! :) ….



Put the lid on the crockpot, set it on "low" and 10 hours later the meat was tender, falling apart and tasted delicious!



I served the meal with mashed potatoes and a green salad (photo taken by my daughter Sierra Beth)…


If you don’t have the canned cabbage mentioned above 2 cups of sauerkraut and 2 to 4 tablespoons of brown sugar (or Sucanat) could be added instead. 



Saturday, February 2, 2013

Newsletter and Monthly Menu Calendar




Better late than never!!  The newsletter for February has been sent out.  I’m having a tough time with the side effects of the antibiotics and between that and my hand still healing…  well, I’m a bit late and slow on everything lately!  :)  If you did not receive the newsletter and would like to read it or would like to sign up for it you can do that here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HomesteadHappenings/

The February menu calendar is also up on my site:  http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/menuplanningcalendars.htm