Archives for April 2012

Oven Baked Potatoes

The potato was burned black outside, but inside it was white and mealy and a most delicious baked-potato smell steamed out of it. They let it cool a little, and then they gnawed the inside out of the black crust, and it was the best potato they had ever eaten.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy

One of my favorite foods is a baked potato smothered in butter, sour cream, and cheddar cheese (it is even better with bacon bits and chives). But for some reason my baked potatoes never tasted as good as the ones at the BBQ restaurants.

Until my mom stayed with us last summer…

I realized that most of my problem was the fact that I had only made them in the microwave, which is fine for a quick meal, but not so fine for a tasty one.

From now on, all our baked potatoes are made in the oven. It does take a bit longer (like 2 hours longer), but it is worth the wait. If you have never made oven baked potatoes, I would urge you to at least try them!

Oven Baked Potatoes

1. Wash and scrub baking potato. Poke it several times with a fork or knife.

2. Place on a rectangle of tin foil. Pour a bit of oil over potato, then cover with salt. Note: add more salt than you normally would so that it can penetrate the potato.

3. Place wrapped potatoes in baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The time it takes to bake can vary greatly depending on how large the potatoes are and how many you are cooking. I check the potatoes by sticking a knife through them. When it is easy to pierce, I consider it done.

4. I let the potatoes sit for a while after taking them out of the oven.

Chickens from Scratch (part 2)

If you missed our humble beginnings, make sure and check out Chickens from Scratch (part 1).

It seems to be getting harder to blog about homesteading as we begin to practice homesteading.  It does additional time during our days to learn about and care for our flock.  I get impatient sometimes, wanting to have a complete homestead right now.  This has been a great lesson on taking it one step at a time.  There is a learning curve, and by growing our homestead slowly we can learn without getting overwhelmed and burnt out.

Housing

The chickens have been growing fast and quickly out grew their rubbermaid tub home.  We had a large wooden crate/box from our move, so I turned it into a chick box.  Because it wasn’t very tall, I put chicken wire over the top to keep them from jumping out (I didn’t realize how high they could jump!).

We kept the heating lamp on them until they were about 1 month old and had plenty of real feathers.  Our nights have been pretty mild lately and they are now kept in the garage, so it has been warm enough to remove the lamp.

We continue to change out the shavings/bedding as needed, making sure it stays dry.

Feeding

We are continuing to feed the chicks the same growth feed that we bought when we got the chicks.  We have also began to feed them scraps such as veggie peelings, left over cornbread, etc.  The girls have been so excited to find grasshoppers to bring to the chicks.  All the chicks flutter and fight for the little critters.

We had to nail a small piece of wood across the box to hang up the water.  The chicks are scratching more, kicking up the shavings into the water container.  Keeping it off the floor has helped it stay cleaner, longer.

Training

We have been taking them out for a bit each day, letting them peck and scratch and look for bugs.  They seem to enjoy it, but I now know where the term “chicken” comes from.  They get scared at the slightest things and all huddle up together.  If one of them gets separated from the group, you can hear her calling out to the other chicks with a “crying” chirp.  She frantically looks for the group and they look for her.  Once they are reunited, all is well.

Up Next

We have been working on a real chicken coop, so I will keep you posted on how we did it!

 

Science Project: Edible Cell

I had good intentions of using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology for science this year. But time has slipped away from me and here it is May and we are just now getting started with it. Science is one of the things that gets put on the back burner with life gets too overwhelming. And really, most of what the (elementary age and younger) kids learn about science should come from Nature Studies, hands-on exploration, and really good “living books” (like Pagoo).

The girls have been asking to do science, so I believe that is a good indicator that their minds are yearning for a little more. I ordered the experiment kit to go with the books, because at this point in my life I just don’t have the time to brain capacity to run around making sure we have toothpicks and marshmallows and vinegar all at the same time. When I opened the experiment box you could hear the choir sing. It was filled with zip lock baggies, neatly labeled for each chapter. On the labels, the list contained the items in the back, noted which ones to save for future projects (gotta love that!), and then listed the few items we would have to supply ourselves (like pencils, or cups).

Every day the girls have been asking, “Is it time for science?”

And they are loving it!

And I am learning it (did I ever tell you I am studying to become an herbalist? Anatomy and physiology are good things for an herbalist to know.)!

Despite our mishaps…

This is our edible cell. The big white ball is the nucleus. The yellow jello is the cytoplasm. Looks like the perfect cell. Everything is in it’s place. We have talked about each one and what they do.

We turn the cell over just like the directions stated. The nucleus falls out. Not too worried because we can always slip it back in.

Then plop. Out falls the cell, completely discombobulated. Older daughter (who is working through her high school anatomy and is much further along than the rest of us) states that it is a holocrine secretion — the whole disintegrating cell is secreted from the glands along with the secretory product.  What an amazing elementary science lesson!

All’s not lost. Mom scoops the cell back together. Kids get their once a year dose of jello. Life is good.

Simple Hospitality

With my husband being in the military for the last 19 years, we haven’t had the chance to live near family.  And as our own family grows, it has become more and more challenging to visit our family as often as we would like.  Thankfully, the Lord has always blessed us with friends that have become as close as family.  Our family has been through many trials over the years — births, illnesses, miscarriage, and many moves — and through it all we have had loving friends by our sides.

One of the reasons our friendships have developed so deeply is due to hospitality.  Honestly, I feel like we have been on the receiving end of most of the hospitality.  I have learned so much from so many wonderful families who have opened up their homes and their hearts to my family in times of need.  Most of what I will share with you are ways that others have shown us hospitality.  What a blessing they have been to us!

Hospitality Ideas

Hospitality doesn’t always mean having people over in your home for a meal.  Hospitality can can take on many forms.  I like to think of hospitality as “loving thy neighbor as thyself”.  If you desire to become more hospitable, pray that the Lord would open up doors for this to happen.

Some ideas for hospitality include:

~bringing a meal to a family

This has probably been the biggest blessing to our family over the years.  There have been so many times that I have not been able to cook and others have stepped in and brought meals to us.  Bringing a meal to someone can be as simple as picking up a rotisserie chicken, a bagged salad, and a loaf of French bread.  Or you can add a personal touch and make your favorite casserole (many of my recipes come from other women who brought us delicious dinners).

~watching a family’s children

We don’t leave our children with others very often (and now we have older children to help), but there have been times when it was necessary.  Several years ago my husband was hospitalized with a serious staph infection.  He needed me by his side, but my children were young and couldn’t spend long hours at the hospital.  My sweet friend took my children, watched them, fed them, and played with them like they were her own.  This can really take a burden off of someone’s shoulders, especially if they are not accustomed to leaving their children with others.

~offering your services to a family (mowing lawns, cleaning the house, helping to move)

Oh boy, do we know how hard a move can be.  There are so many things to think of and plan for.  It never fails that we are cleaning stoves and edging lawns right up until the last minute of every move.   It is a wonderful help to have others take care of some of the chores for you.  Sometimes it might mean moving heaving furniture and boxes, other times it might mean helping a family get organized.

Don’t overlook serving elderly people as well.  There are many widows and widowers who may need a handiman 0r woman to help then around the house.  Things as simple (to most of us) as changing light bulbs can be a real challenge to older people.

~lending items

I remember after one move all our things were packed up and a friend brought over sheets and towels, something I had forgot to leave out.  It is little things like this that really bless a person!

And let’s face it, most of us are not overflowing with money.  We need to be frugal and willing to share what the Lord has blessed us with.   I once had a friend (who was the epitome of hospitality) that was constantly offering anything that others needed, and I mean anything.  If she had left over party invitations and goodie bags, she was finding someone that needed them.  If she knew that a friend was attending a wedding, she was digging through closets finding dresses to lend them so that they didn’t need to go buy new ones.

And not only did she give, she gave her best.   She didn’t pull things out of a “going to the thrift store” pile.  She went to her closets and pantries and looked for the best she could offer.  That is true hospitality!

~and of course, having families over

It has been a while since we have had families over for dinner.  After being displaced for almost a year, then getting settled into our new home, I am slowly feeling the “urge” to have others over.  This is something I really need to work on, so this section is more for me than anyone.

I love having others over, especially the fellowship.  I just get this overwhelming feeling in my chest when I think about making sure the house is clean, preparing the perfect menu, and then making sure our guest are comfortable.

So here are some reminders to myself…

1. The other families aren’t going wearing white gloves and checking for a speck of dirt.  Besides, if the house is too clean, it may make them feel uncomfortable about their own homes.  Reality check:  most of don’t live day to day in a spic-n-span home.  Especially if we have children at home!

2. When it comes to meals, keep it simple.  A few weeks ago we were invited over to a family’s house for hot dogs.  We had such a relaxing time…I loved it!  The kids roasted hot dogs on the fire outside, while the adults sat around the fire chatting.  I thought to myself, “this is true hospitality, true fellowship with other believers”.

3. As far as being comfortable, others are comfortable when we are.  So relax and enjoy the fellowship!

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I am looking forward to getting some ideas from the other moms this week!

Brandy at The Marathon Mom

Keri Mae at The Happy Home

Stacy at A Delightful Home

Andie at Happy Andersons

Review: The Money Saving Mom’s Budget

A little over two months ago I had the privilege of reviewing Crystal Paine’s new book The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year.  So why has it taken me so long to write the review?  I am asking myself the same question.  I think the answer to that question is why I really needed to read this book in the first place!

Why I Needed The Money Saving Mom’s Budget

As I mentioned to Crystal, I have been married for almost 20 years.  Nineteen of those years have been as a military spouse.  As you probably guessed, we aren’t rich.  And here’s the big secret…we have never had a budget {gasp}. I always felt that we couldn’t have a budget because there really wasn’t much to budget.  We don’t spend on extravagances, we live very frugally, and are working hard to pay off the last of our debts.

Recently I have been couponing and have seen some success from it, but I knew there was more to the puzzle than just clipping coupons each week.  Financial freedom doesn’t come from cutting your grocery bill.  I was excited when I started reading Crystal’s book.  She has laid out all the elements in plain English.  And she does so in an order that both makes sense and is doable.

I guess that is why it just made sense to me when one of the first chapters has nothing whatsoever (ok, well it is foundational, but not in an obvious kind of way) to do with budgeting and money.  It is entitled, “Are the Chaos and Clutter in Your Life Keeping You from Financial Freedom?”  Who knew?  And it is so true… When the house is a mess and our schedules are out of whack, the last thing on the to-do list (for me anyway) is to make sure the finances are in order.

Here’s the thing: you might have great intentions, you might be able to set inspirational goals, and you may even put together a surefire budget.  But if you’re drowning in cutter and your days are completely overbooked, implementing any of the money-saving tips in this book is going to be a feat of sheer willpower.

~Crystal Paine, The Money Saving Mom’s Budget

So what have I been doing to get us on a budget?  I have been clearing the clutter.  To be honest, I didn’t really think this was a big area for me.  My husband likes a clean, mess free home (and I do too, it’s just hard to make happen on a daily basis).  Our home is generally clean and picked up, but once I read chapter 2, I realized I had some work to do.

Where I Am At

Knowing that we need to downsize anyway has helped, but overall I like to hang on to too many “things”.  However, I have gone through each room purging them of anything that we don’t need.  And let me tell you, it feels so good.  I am about to do it again.  There is just something mentally relaxing about walking into a room where there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Because I like the feeling of clean, I didn’t have a problem completing the de-cluttering step.

My problem is more the “chaos”.  Which leads me to the answer to the question, why haven’t I gotten the review done sooner?  Here is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…I have an overwhelming schedule that hasn’t been tamed yet.  I have more plates spinning than I can count, and until I can get them under control, I won’t be able to see real results with our financial goals.

Saving money and budgeting takes time and it takes discipline.  These are two areas of my life that I need to get under control.  I have six children spanning from a toddler to a young adult, and balancing it all requires a disciplined use of my time.

So that’s where I am at right now.  Working on me before I work on finances.  Learning to budget my time before my money.

The Rest of the Story

When I finished reading the book, I was all fired up (and still am) about all the goodies tucked away in this gem of a book.  I wanted to go through each step and have them all done before I wrote up my review.  After all, if I could do it all, it could be done by anyone!  Then reality struck and I realized it was going to take a lot of work to get from A to Z.  And all that work was going to take some time.

Yes, the steps are “easy” and Crystal does a great a great job of breaking down each step in bite-sized chunks.  I also loved how she intertwined stories of real people, their struggles, and their successes.  This helped me visualize and apply each step to my life.  This book isn’t meant to be a “follow my method and get rich quick” type of book.  Rather it is a book of sound principles, which when applied with diligence and hard work, will help anyone gain control of their money (and really a lot of other areas of their life as well).

I am still working at it, and thankful for the tools Crystal has provided to help with the journey!

To learn more about Crystal’s book, or to find great dealsstretch your hard-earned dollars, and live on less than you make so you can save more and give more, visit her at Money Saving Mom!

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Cooper One Year Later

Last Sunday was Cooper’s first birthday. First birthdays are always somewhat bittersweet, especially for the mama. We celebrate an entire year that the Lord has given us with our child. We are joyful for the milestones they have reached and their growth and their health. But there is also a bit of sadness as we see our baby leave the days of infancy and move into toddlerhood.

This birthday was also a time of closure. As I look back over the last year of Cooper’s life, his birth and crippled feet seem lifetimes ago. He runs and grabs the bowl of dog food quicker than I can get to him, and gone are my fears of him not walking. He kicks his feet in protest of getting his diaper changed, and gone are the worries that he won’t be a normal little boy. He toddles to me and lifts his hands for me to pick him up, and gone is the sadness that filled our hearts just one year ago.

It seemed only fitting that for his birthday, he should get a pair of shoes.

How the Lord is working all for good…

Beyond the blessings Cooper has brought to our lives, I believe the Lord is also using Cooper’s story to bless others. Last month my mother, who is working as an OB nurse, noticed one of the patient’s was due to have her baby on Cooper’s birthday, April 1st. As my mom was looking at the patient’s records, she realized that a sonogram had revealed that the baby had club feet.

My mom began to talk with the lady about her grandson Cooper, who was also born on April 1st with club feet. She passed along my website to a very grateful couple. I hope that they have found their way here and are encouraged by Cooper’s story. I pray that they will be further encouraged by the Lord.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

1 Corithians 1:25-31