Tuesday, August 31, 2010

In Session

First, I have to say thank you for all of your encouraging comments on the post I wrote Sunday.  They really mean so much to me.  You guys are awesome.  I hope to share the new direction in the next week or so.


Well, we started school on Monday and it went pretty well.  Better than I expected with a 7 1/2, 4 1/2 and 1 year old.  "Better than expected" still includes "I'm bored" and "I hate school".  Just so you know.  Does that deter me?  No way!! 

I've been impressed with all the materials so far and blown away by a couple books in particular.  I'll tell you more about my favorites a bit later.

This year, Sam (a young 3rd grader) is doing Sonlight's Core 1+2 (World History) with Advanced Readers (this includes History, Geography, Language Arts, Bible, Art and Music), Saxon Home Math Third Grade, Exploring Creation's Swimming Creatures, A Reason for Handwriting, and Spelling Wisdom.

Sadie (pre-K) is doing My Father's World Kindergarten (modified) and, when she's ready, The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  She also listens in and participates as best she can on Sam's History, Bible, Science, Geography, Art, etc.).

Miriam (a new walker and overall cutie pie) has devoted herself completely to wooden magnets with pictures on them.  She carries them from dishwasher (where they stick) to the wooden book they belong in which she keeps at the opposite end of the house.  She's also working on her big kid talk, saying "yeah" instead of yes and "here-you-go", all one word said fast.

We've decided to keep a four day schedule again this year which gives us some flexibility- it's the same materials, just compressed into fewer days.  This way, when illnesses or weekends away come up, we can adjust with minimal effort and stay on course.

Here are some peeks about our {school} house.  Below are collages Sam has made for each year he's done school so far.  They were hanging in our school/play room, but needed to be moved to make space for a new bulletin board and a map.  Here they are in our stairwell instead.  I'm pretty sure with three kids and many grades ahead of us, I'm going to need to downsize these collages.  Just a hunch I have.

Our school room.  Yes, the lamp is crooked.  It still works, so it's still there:-).

School shelves.

Little people.

I love using these silverware baskets for their supplies.  They each have their own, with everything handy, so there is no fighting over who has the red marker.  The clothes pins are used to clip papers/art to the strings I have strung.  There isn't a lot of wall space in a school room where there are four (!) doors/doorways, three windows and two large book cases.

So, there you have it.  Sometime later this week or next, I'll share our loose school schedule (how the days unfold) as well as our lunch and dinner menu for the next five weeks.  Before you think I'm insane, let me say that it's the SAME menu for the next five weeks.  I'll explain.  I promise.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Seek and Ye Shall Find

This has been a very full summer, but not just in regards to all the food we have been putting up.  There has been something going on behind the scenes for me.

I've been seeking.

Earlier this spring and summer, I began to feel unsettled.  As if there could be more.  As if I was missing something.  I didn't want my life to change as it was, per se.  I wanted to add something to it- a different kind of purpose.

So, I began praying and God started opening doors.

I was reminded of the book Revolution in World Missions that I had read a couple years ago and I felt convicted to share that book with you here (our reading of it is still ongoing).  Re-reading it has been powerful.  After I shared one morning in Sunday School, a woman came up to me and told me about a class that was being offered at a local university on world missions, so I signed up and I start that class tomorrow night.  Some of you recommended I read Elisabeth Elliot, so at the beach I read These Strange Ashes.  I stumbled upon Beth Moore's video series, "Do Not Throw Away Your Confidence" (here) and have been watching her talks, feeling my confidence grow.  I discovered Katie and Renee and have been changed forever.  A friend invited me to go with her to see Beth Moore speak.  I just got back.  Wow.  I'll write more about this soon.

The combination of all these events, past and pending, as well as some major Spirit motion going on inside my head and heart has left me overwhelmed, but in an awe-struck and incredibly excited kind of way.

I asked for direction and I believe it is being given to me.

In light of this, I am thinking of taking this blog is a slightly new direction.  Don't be scared- I'm trying not to be.  It would be very much the same, but with added purpose.  At least that will be my goal.  If you believe in the power of prayer, please pray for me as I discern how to do this in a way that is true to the direction I feel lead.  I don't want to compromise out of fear I might lose readers or embarrass myself in some way.  If I lose every single one of you, but have stayed true to my convictions, I will have peace. 

So, stay tuned.  If the Spirit says "move", I will move and you'll hear about it.

There is one more thing.

If you're feeling unsettled or a little empty these days, I highly recommend seeking. Pin It

Friday, August 27, 2010

Real Life

This past week has been a bit crazy.  It's been sticky.  It's been canning stuff (canner, jars, lids, rings, cooking pot, etc) sitting on every counter surface available.  It's been tomato-y, chicken-y, toy-y, pesto-y, dirt-y, dust-y, laundry-y.  It's real {summer} life and it's almost over.

Have a great weekend!! Pin It

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Homestead Revival Interview

I'm not sure which one of us started commenting on the other's blog first, but soon Amy and I became friends.  When I first read her, her blog was a combination of family life and homesteading posts.  Before long, Amy sensed that many of her readers longed to hear more about homesteading, so she started a new blog, Homestead Revival.  Amy has a gift, friends.  She does a wonderful job of teaching her readers about different aspects of homesteading.  Whether you have a lot to learn or think you know it all, Amy has something for you.  She also has awesome giveaways, but that's beside the point.

About a month ago, Amy asked me if I wouldn't mind answering some questions for an interview on her blog.  She's started a homestead tour, giving her readers glimpses into fellow homesteader's lives.  She was so very patient with me as I laid the questions aside until I could give them my full attention while on vacation last week.  The interview is up and you can read it here if you like and get a peek at our property layout (hand drawn by me).

Tomorrow?  My {busy} week in pictures. Pin It

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Saving Them Twice

As many of you know, much of what I talk about here has to do with food- how we grow food, recipes for food, how we can and freeze food, how our chickens provide us with food (eggs and meat), and I even talk about how the menace-that-is-sugar isn't food from time to time.  Today is no different.  I'm here to write about food once again, but this time there's a twist you may not have been expecting.

Can you imagine 900 children showing up at your house twice a week for lunch?  Can you imagine feeding a baby special formula every 15 minutes, around the clock after clock after clock after clock?  Can you imagine living in a place where almost daily people bring you children and infants on the verge of death due to malnutrition and starvation?  Now try imagining that you're a mother who has nothing but water to feed her baby because your milk has dried up from lack of food (and water) and you have no means to buy food.

Hm.  Not usually what we think about when we think about food, eh?  Before a couple months ago, I was right there with you- happily going about my day to day life, going grocery shopping whenever I needed anything, experimenting with recipes and the food that literally overflows from my garden, fridge and cupboards. I was feeling pretty good about the food choices we make- to grow much of our food or buy it locally.

Then, via their blogs, I met Katie and Renee.

These are two young women who have decided that others needs should come before theirs in the name of Christ.

When I was in my early twenties, I was finishing up college at a private university.  I was looking forward to marrying Jamey, finding a job as a social worker, making our apartment a home and starting a family before too long.  You know, living the American dream.

Well, when Katie and Renee were in their early twenties, they chose to move to Africa.  Each works for a different non-profit agency they started to bring aid and the gospel to the people of Uganda.  Katie (who is 21 years old) has adopted 14 orphaned Ugandan girls as her own, sends over 350 children to school, has helped develop feeding programs (feeding 1200 a day) and a women's group, providing them with an income through these necklaces.  Renee takes in severely malnourished infants and babies who require around the clock care, nurses them back to health, educates their caregivers, and returns them to their families as well as feeds over 900 children lunch two days a week.

Even more amazing than their dedication and love for these people is the incredible transformations God is working through them in the lives of so many children and their families.  Katie and Renee are acting as God's hands and feet.

I wasn't called to this kind of ministry in my early twenties.  I take that back.  I read the Great Commission many times in my Bible (Matthew 28:18-20), but I didn't act on it.  Instead, I wanted a husband, children, a house, a yard, vacations, nice clothes, to live near family, enough food...you get the picture.  It was a choice.  But, nowhere in Matthew 28 does it say, "Some of you, go and make disciples of all nations" or "A chosen few, should baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit".  Oh, yeah and then there is James 1:27, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world".

And, I'm pretty sure that if I consider myself a follower of Jesus, I'm to listen to what Jesus told his disciples.  But, we're not all Christian robots, programmed to do what will please Him.  We get to choose and I made a different choice.

Because of Katie and Renee, I want to change my choice.

Or rather, I want to adapt the choice I made.  Some changes are going to be happening around here and thankfully, Jamey is fully on board.  We live on a budget (because we have no job currently).  But that budget is as cushy as all get out compared to the needs of those children and mothers in Uganda.  We've decided to  tighten our belts so we can provide more, not just for our family but, for others.

Have you heard of the saying, "Live simply so that others can simply live"?  Well, I'd like to take it one step farther.  Our new mantra around this house is going to be "Live simply so that others can simply live- now and forever".  Filling bellies is saving someone once.  Introducing them and their families to Jesus Christ, could save them forever.

Becaham, when he first came into Renee's care and Becaham,  4 months later, with his mother.  
Photos courtesy of Serving His Children.

Please read more about Katie and Renee's incredible work (there are more pictures that show the incredible transformation that occurs when children have access to food).  If you feel lead and able, join us in making changes so more children can be fed and saved (maybe even twice).  Both blogs give you opportunities to give. Pin It

Mother R Had It Going On

I have no idea who Mother R is, nor do I know what the R stands for.  All I know is that these are most likely the best peanut butter cookies I've tasted.

I had a very good peanut butter cookie recipe.  I had no complaints.  Then, my sister in law, Kim, the one who brought us Peach Salsa, served these babies up when we went for the day to a lake.  They were sooo good.  My sister and I swooned and moaned over these cookies and both of us asked her for the recipe.  She shared.  And I made them to take camping.  And, to the beach.  Thanks, again, Kim.

Mother R's Peanut Butter Cookies (recipe from my sister-in-law, Kim)

The secret to these cookies is to under-bake them a bit.  Pull them out before they begin to brown.  Did you hear me?  BEFORE they begin to brown.  This is a little tough- you'll see that some of mine have browned.  I recommend putting one tray in and watching them carefully to see when they first start to brown- time it.  For the rest of the cookies?  Bake them a minute or two less, then let them sit on their pans until they firm up enough to safely move them.  You'll be so glad you listened:-). 
This recipe makes about a gallon container full (plus a few more).  Can you tell I forgot to count?

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the shortening, butter and peanut butter.  Add both sugars and mix.  Add eggs and vanilla and blend.  Add dry ingredients.  Beat until well blended.


Shape into balls and placed on greased cookie sheets.  Mark with fork tongs and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes- but watch closely!!  Everyone's ovens are different and you want these nice and soft:-).

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Monday, August 23, 2010

The Last Week of Summer

Earlier in the summer, we traveled here (no electricity, no hot water, about half of the six families slept in the same room, etc.)...

Last week, we traveled here (gated community a few miles from the beach, 4,000 square feet, master suite, swimming pool, billiards, ping pong)...

Quite a contrast, no?  Both were great weeks with family.

This past week gave me some much needed quiet time even amidst 8 adults and 9 children.  While everyone else went the beach each day, I stayed back at the house while Miriam napped.  I took notes on six weeks of math lesson plans (my very least favorite part of homeschooling).  I also had time to read- something I haven't been able to do all summer.  I had peace and quiet for several hours at a time- something else I haven't had all summer.  It was wonderful.

I read Elisabeth Elliot's These Strange Ashes: Is God Still in Charge?, her account of her first year as a missionary in Ecuador (prior to her marriage to Jim, her husband who was later murdered by a member of the very tribe they were trying to reach).

I'm almost finished Frank Peretti's The Wounded Spirit.  This is his story of what life was like as a victim of bullying.  If you are a parent, an educator, if you work with kids or just care about what happens to kids, you really need to read this book.  I will warn you, though.  The first chapter was the hardest chapter I've ever had to read in my life.  I read two pages and closed it.  I didn't think I could endure it.  Get through the first chapter and you'll be okay.

I'm also still reading Revolution in World Missions which we're discussing over on Perspective.  I read this book several years ago, but it is rocking my world all over again.   To say that my insides are churning and in a bit of turmoil would be an understatement.

So, I'm home again and it's our last week of summer.  Jamey starts a new rotation next week and Sam, Sadie and I start school.  Between now and then, I have a fridge and garden full of ripe tomatoes that need to be stewed, soup-ed, and roasted.  I have one last batch of pesto to make.  My sister and her two girls are coming for two days so we can make sauce for her.  Jamey will be harvesting chickens.  There is laundry to be done, bathrooms to be cleaned, a couple last homeschool details to check off my list and meals to be made.

At the end of this crazy week?  Something I have been looking forward to for months.  I am going to see Beth Moore speak!  With adult women!  Overnight!  In another city!  You'll probably hear about it.  Who are we kidding?  You'll definitely hear about it.

What are you doing this week?  Are you still up to your eye balls in produce?  Did you see your kids off to school yet?  Are you in inner spiritual turmoil (the good or bad variety)?

Whatever your week brings, I wish you love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.  I can always use a heavy dose of the fruit of the Spirit. Pin It

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Last Hurrah

Summer is almost over and I have to squeeze in a sweets post.  Then, we'll begin our goody-two-shoes fall schedules and steer clear of that menace called sugar.

But before you go and get all healthy with your planned balanced meals for the new school schedule, ask yourself one question.  Have you had S'mores yet this summer?  If not, do I have some suggestions for you.

This summer we were introduced to two new variations on the whole S'more theme.  Let's first review the basics.  From top to bottom a S'more is: graham cracker, roasted marshmallow, squares of chocolate, graham cracker.  They're delicious.  You already knew that.

What if I told you that you could substitute a large Reese's Peanut Butter cup for the squares of chocolate?

What if I told you that you can also substitute a (whole) brownie for the squares of chocolate?

Sorry.  It's hard to take good pictures in the dark.

Am I your new hero?  Well, wipe up that slobber and plan a back to school hurrah complete with S'mores made three ways.  Ours is set.  Wish I could see you there!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shifting Gears & My Homeschool To Do List

The past several weeks have been marathon canning weeks.  I've done at least one project every day except for a few days when we ducked away from it all for some much needed R & R.  I even did nectarines on a Sunday (I've already asked for forgiveness).  While I've been bent over cutting boards, large pots and my even larger canner, my mind has been wandering toward school which starts for us again in less than two weeks.  I long for it.  Could it be because I can't wait to sit down?!  Quite possibly.

I also miss my kids.  While many parents spend summers enjoying their children and maybe even shed a tear when they send them back to school, I look forward to school because it is then that I get to know my kids all over again.  Oh, they're with me all summer, but I am often occupied.  Lengthy read aloud sessions are just not possible when peaches are threatening to spoil and the fridge is packed to the gills with ripe tomatoes.  It's helped that Jamey has been home for this five week block- they've gotten plenty attention, but I say this every year- I miss my kids during the summer.  I miss snuggling to read on the couch.  I miss seeing their eyes light up when they understand something they thought was going to be difficult.  I love seeing their handwriting and drawings.  I miss giving them my undivided attention.

There is only one problem with all this.  Transition.  It's hard from me to transition from work work work in the kitchen kitchen kitchen to sitting sitting sitting at a table table table.  To shut out what's left in the garden and on my canning to do list until the evenings and weekends is a challenge.  I think I'm ready for it.  Yep, I am.  Probably.  Too bad- either way, I've got to do it.

All summer, I've been getting ready for the new school year in tiny little spurts.  Organizing the school bookshelf one evening, putting together a notebook here, looking over the teacher's book here, planning our school calendar during this free 10 minutes and counting out lessons during that 10 minutes.  With all my spurts of effort, there is still some work to be done.  Here's what I have left...

1)  Move large homeschool pictures to the stairwell to make room for a new large bulletin board and map.

2) Make math lesson notes.  Saxon's teacher books are behemoth.  Way too big to actually work with, so I make notes on notebook paper and work from those.  I file them away for a future year's use so I won't have to do this every year for every child.

3) Review Sadie's curriculum.  It's what Sam used, but with all the excitement over Sam's new curriculum, I haven't looked over Sadie's much yet.

4) Clean out and reorganize their school baskets.

5) Move the foosball table out (boo) and move the school table back in.

6) Sign up for homeschool PE.

7) Update my meal list so I can start planning menus again. 

It will all come together.

This year will be interesting.  Miriam is learning to walk, but isn't super confident with it yet, so she still prefers to be chauffeured around the house by a finger.  She sometimes takes two naps, sometimes one.  Sadie will need more one on one time than last year.  It will be tough, but like with anything, if it's important enough to you, you will make it happen.  Soon, I'll post pictures of our schoolroom and share our curriculum choices for the year.

Whatever school looks like for your family, I hope you have the most wonderful last days of summer and smooth and happy transitions into the fall.

Great Links About Homeschooling

Famous Homeschoolers
Pros and Cons to Homeschooling
Answers to the questions, "How do you have enough patience?" and "What about socialization?"
Free e-book on getting started  homeschooling. Pin It

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fruit Love

I am in love with nectarines.

Generally, I am a berry lover through and through, but a ripe, juicy nectarine can make me swoon.  A relative to the peach, it contains all the best features of the peach we know and love, but there's more.  I don't know how to explain it.  They surpass peaches...way past.  In fact, for the last week, I've had this chorus stuck in my head...

Nectarine, nectarine*
living reflection from a dream
I was her love, she was my queen
and now a thousand years between

* original lyrics by Led Zeppelin use "tangerine" (I didn't always listen to kid's praise CDs).  Okay, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  Neither does love sometimes.


Last year, we ate a ton of these babies fresh and semi-dried (and then froze) the rest.  They were good dried, but we decided to try canning them this year.  A friend of mine insists she gets fabulous results canning them (like you do peaches) with their skins on.  After all, you eat the skins when you eat them fresh.  And canning them without having to peel them (unlike their pesky cousins, the peaches), sounded a bit like a vacation.

I think it's time I get away.

Well, lo and be behold, my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has a recipe with this exact method.  We used the same extra light syrup we used when canning peaches and it was almost like a vacation.  I mean really.  The pits pop out beautifully.  There were very few blemishes to cut out (like 5, in the whole bushel).  There are no skins to remove.  They pack like a dream.  Am I getting a little too excited about this?

The bizarre thing about canning nectarines is that they change color in the hot water bath.  They turn from a beautiful reddish yellow (above) to a peach-like color with pinkish water (below).

We opened a jar a few days after canning and they are wonderful.  The consistency is that of a peach.  I had heard they are softer than canned peaches, but three days out, there is no difference.  The skins become softer.  You hardly know they're there.  Next year, we're canning way more nectarines and way less peaches.

They're that easy- one more reason to love them.

Canning Nectarines
Read this post FIRST on proper canning practices. 

Update 5/22/11: A commenter below mentioned that when her mom canned nectarines, they turned brown after about 6 months.  I was watching for this, but ours did not.  They kept just fine and we are still eating them:-).

Wash ripe nectarines well.  Quarter and remove pits.  Do not peel.  Pack into hot, sterilized quart jars, pit side down, tapping the jar on the counter gently to help settle the nectarines.  Add hot sugar syrup (recipe below).  Keep the nectarines and syrup below the neck/thread of the jars.  Top with hot lids, then ring.  Process in a hot water bath of boiling water for 30 minutes.

One recipe above is enough for about 4 quarts.  Please ignore my pencil markings.
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Peach Raspberry Crisp

I have one more idea as to what you can do with your peaches, then peach week is over.  Promise.

For the first time since before Lent, I made a dessert just for us to eat at home.  This is NOT to say that I have not been eating sweets.  The summer has been full of "special" occasions.

There is something about being surrounded by ripe, fresh fruit that inspires desserts.  May this recipe inspire you.

Peach Raspberry Crisp (inspired by Jamey's mom's apple crisp recipe)

8 cups sliced peaches
2 cups fresh red raspberries (frozen would probably work well here, too)
2/3 cup flour
2 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter

Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  Lay in sliced peaches.  Sprinkle red raspberries on top.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Pour in melted butter and stir until well combined.  Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until bubbly and nicely browned on top.  Let stand 15 minutes and enjoy.  It will be juicy.  That's okay:-).

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

What to Do With Peaches: Part 2

For numbers 1-5 in Part 1, please go here.

6.  Make Peach Jam.  No secret family recipe here.  We like the recipe found inside the box of Sure-Jell boxed pectin.  They have a number of varieties including regular, all-natural, low-sugar and no-sugar.  I generally use the all-natural and low-sugar options.

I don't dice my peaches for jam very small.  If you dice them finer or mash them with a potato masher, they won't raise to the top like these do.

7.  Eat them fresh until the juice runs down your arm and chin like you did when you were a kid.  Remember those days?  What's wrong with us now that we've grown up?  We need to let loose a little more.  Start with some peaches.  Don't forget to slurp.  The kids will love it.

8.  Frozen Chopped Peaches...

Freeze them chopped for baked goods like baked oatmeal.  No sugar or special ingredients required.  Just chop them and freeze them in the desired amounts (we do 2 cup bags) and toss them in the freezer.  To use, thaw them and use them shortly after.

8. Can. Can. Can. Canning Peaches...

Canning peaches is fairly simple.  But before you begin, PLEASE read this post on the basics of canning.

Choose fresh, ripe peaches.  Peel them, remove the pits and quarter them (You can pack more peaches in each jar if you quarter versus halve them).  Place them in hot, clean, sterilized quart jars pit-side down, using a long handled spoon to turn them over if they fall wrong side down.

Tap the jars on a folded dish towel (on the counter) to help the peaches settle so you can pack more in your jars.  It takes about 4 1/4 peaches to fill a quart jar.

Pour a hot, sugar-water syrup over the peaches, using a table knife to help release any pockets of air left in the jars.  Fill the syrup to just below the bottom of the ring thread at the top of the jars.  The peaches should not come up above the bottom of the threads either.  **If your jars are too full, they will bubble over in your canner and little peach pieces and residue will come between the jar lids and the rim, keeping the lids from sealing.  

You have choices as to how sweet you want your syrup.  We use the Extra-Light version.  See the chart below.  Each batch of syrup recipe is enough for about 4 quarts of peaches.

Please ignore my pencil markings.  This is from my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

After cleaning the tops of the jars, lidding them with hot lids and ringing them finger-tip tight, place them in a hot water bath of boiling water for 30 minutes.

9.  Share the wealth (of peels, that is).

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