Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Homestead Happenings

Today has been another great day on the homestead. I just love discovering new aspects about this property. The excitement for today centered around Sarah seeing a kangaroo on our property and Sam almost getting eaten by a bird.

Shawn took Sam and Sarah out on a walking tour of the property today so I would have some time to get the kids' bedrooms more organized. They crossed several small creeks that developed from the recent heavy rains and made their way out to our pond. They climbed up the hill to the pond and reached a point where most of our property can be viewed. It was at that point when Sarah excitedly exlaimed that she could see a kangaroo. Somehow, Shawn was never able to pinpoint exactly where the kangaroo was, but Sarah was adamant that she saw one today.

Then, on their way back, Sam decided that he did NOT want to go the same way that Sarah and Shawn were going, so he proceeded to squat on the ground and have a crying fit. Apparently, a large bird heard my heathen child's fit and mistook him for a small wounded animal. The bird commenced to swoop down to see if it could eat Sam. After several very close and intimidating swoops, the bird must have decided that eating Sam was not worth the effort because it then flew away. Seeing this sure did get Shawn and Sarah pretty excited, but Sam was oblivious. He was very absorbed in his wailing and never noticed the bird at all.

I was excited to use my clothesline twice this week. It's just another way that I'm trying to save money this month. I've found that, despite being bitterly cold, our laundry does get dry if I put it out early enough. I have been putting it in the dryer for about five minutes to fluff it a bit. I'm hoping to see a dramatic decrease in our electric bill by drastically decreasing the amount of our dryer usage.

Yesterday Shawn built a fence. There was one area on our property closest to the house that was missing fence, so Shawn spent most of the afternoon constructing it. It was important to us that we have the area around the house completely fenced in to keep children and chickens inside. Shawn succeeded at the fence-building and did a great job. He also spent some time today planning a new structure for trash burning. We have chosen not to pay for trash service out here. We do recycle and compost what we can, but we're still left with some food scraps and paper products that we're going to be burning. Shawn came inside yesterday evening and said, "You know, I was miserably cold out there building that fence, but there was just something really great about being out there doing that kind of work." That's the same way I feel when I'm out there in the cold hanging wet laundry on the line...This isn't fun, but I'm still glad I'm out here doing it.

We're really enjoying being homesteaders and learning all there is to do out here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eating Out Of Our Pantry

I have a new challenge for our family and I thought it would be interesting to blog about it as well. Actually, I'm hoping that blogging about this will help in keeping me accountable.

We were advised at the last minute that our bank is requiring a larger amount at the house closing than we had originally discussed with them. We're trying to offset this unexpected expense by cutting costs and making do with what we have. One of the best ways for us to cut costs is by reducing the grocery bill. So, I am making a serious effort to only cook with items I already have on hand. I need to keep up this effort until February 15th when our financial life should get back to normal.

I intend to blog about my weekly menu plans and report whatever grocery items I buy during this time period.

Fortunately, I've already been in the habit of buying in bulk, so I do have a freezer full of whole-fryer chickens and beef. I have several buckets of wheat, lots of rice and dried beans, and several flats of canned green beans/corn. So, I've got a pretty good start. I do anticipate having to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some canned tomato products.

So, here's our "Eating Out Of Our Pantry" menu for this week:

pumpkin muffins
scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast
egg sandwiches
leftover pancakes
homemade granola and fruit


Big Chicken Salad
Beefy Potato Casserole, boiled carrots, peas
Skillet Pork and Rice, green beans
Beef Fried Rice, pineapple
steak, baked potatoes, corn
Crockpot Roast with potatoes and carrots, homemade bread
supper with family

There are no food purchases to report. My last grocery shopping trip was on December 23rd.

On a more lighthearted side note....This morning Sarah was telling me that she liked our new house on the farm. I asked her what her favorite part was. She replied that her favorite part of living here was doing the dishes. She's a very eager helper with washing dishes by hand. We don't have a dishwasher here, so I've recruited her as free child labor. She's cute and it made me smile, so I thought I'd share.

Monday, December 28, 2009

45 pounds lost!!

Shawn discovered the bathroom scale yesterday. We're still sorting through boxes and this was yesterday's big discovery. So, this morning I weighed myself for the first time in several weeks. I'm pleased to announce that I've finally hit 45 pounds lost! It's been coming off slowly..averaging about 4 to 5 pounds a month. I'm certain that I'm now smaller than what I was when Shawn and I married 6-1/2 years ago.

What's ironic about this though is that I'm not really, truly trying to lose weight. (Yesterday I had dessert of homemade cupcakes with homemade icing and this morning's breakfast was homemade pumpkin muffins with Ghirardelli chocolate baking chips in them....mmmm, good diet food!) The weight loss is just an added benefit to changing our family's eating habits. I am overweight and I do need to lose the weight, but I'm not keeping a food diary, or counting points, or starving myself. I did really well using the Weight Watcher's points system after Sam was born. I lost a decent amound of weight then, but still ended 10 pounds heavier than what I am now...and I gained a considerable amount of it back when I stopped keeping a food diary.

My personal opinion (lacking any formal education on nutrition or physiology) is that my body now knows what to do with the food I'm eating. Before, I would consume margarine, cream of chicken soup, and boxed breakfast cereals. My body would get the monosodium glutamate or blue dye #2 and go, "Whoa, what's this and what do I do with it?" Then my body would store the questionable product somewhere (usually my abdomen, face, or hips) until it could figure out how to process it.

Now I like to think that my body recognizes what I put in it. When I consume butter my body recognizes the cream and salt and processes it the way it's supposed to. My homemade granola cereal includes oats, raw honey, butter, walnuts, organic coconut, and homemade vanilla extract. My homemade cream of chicken soup contains butter, freshly milled flour, whole milk, pepper, and chicken. Everything's easy to pronounce and easy to recognize. I like it that way.

I would still like to lose another 19 pounds before I would be at what I consider a healthy weight for my height. After reaching that goal and maintaining that weight, then I'll reevaluate and see if my body needs to lose more. I know at some point I'll probably have to increase my activity level or cut back on the homemade cupcakes to continue to lose weight, but for right now this is what's working...and I'm liking it.

Editing to add: Shawn came home and weighed himself this evening too. He's now lost 15 pounds since we changed our eating habits. There's such a noticable difference in his waist that I knew he must have lost a decent amount too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We Are Still Here...kind of.

Just wanted to post a quick note so you all didn't think we'd moved to another continent or something. We are moved in, still sorting through boxes and trying to find places for everything. I absolutely love it here and I don't miss my other house at all! The kids are doing great too. I haven't heard any complaints about wanting to go back to the other house. We are spending so much more time outside simply because it's so nice to go out there and see all the surprises that our property holds. Our first night here was Wednesday night. Thursday morning we woke up, opened the blinds..and sat and watched four deer play (or fight..I don't really know) in the open pasture on the other side of our pond. It was a great way to wake up that first morning. Shawn also says that he saw a bobcat in the patch of pines near our pond today. That certainly never happened at our old home.

Our internet is not as fast or reliable out here, so getting online is more of a hassle. Also, my cell phone only gets reception if I'm standing next to one of our south-facing windows. So, yes we are here, but not as accessible as before. I do promise to post more as things get settled.

We love being country bumpkins. Is it bad that it suits us??

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moving Day Is Approaching Fast!

Well, so far everything is right on schedule. We're still looking at closing on our home Monday afternoon. The new owners of this house won't be moving in until a week later, so we will have six days to get everything moved. I am excited about this, but at the same time a little sad. Part of that sadness is due to the fact that I really love my home. If I could take this house and move it out to the country, I'd be thrilled. However, the majority of my sadness comes from the fact that I'm going to miss seeing the kids do things in this home.

I'm going to miss the place where we brought our children home for the first time.

I'm going to miss seeing Sam and Sarah play outside in the "jungle" (a small cave-like space where two trees sit close to our privacy fence) while they sing, "Snakes and monkeys in the trees..come along there's more to see..Congo, Congo, boom boom boom.."

I'm going to miss seeing Sam wave to the neighbor's Jeep Liberty as they drive away. Then he says, "Ohhh..Jeep goes back to work. Bye Jeep."

So, this time is a little bittersweet. But, you know, almost everything else I can think of can continue at our new home. Actually, it's probably pretty possible that the kids will discover a new "jungle" somewhere on our 30 acres! When I think.."Oh, I'm going to miss the way that Sarah pushes a chair up to the counter to help me cook." Well, she's still going to do that in our new kitchen. Drew is still going to pull all my pots and pans out of the cabinets. Sam is still going to pace around the fence at our new home just like he does the privacy fence here.

So, here are some more pictures to keep me in the right frame of mind. Here's why we're moving:

An orchard to grow our own apples, peaches, pears, grapes, pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts.
A nearby garden that already has blueberries, asparagus, strawberries, and blackberries.

A barn with working chicken coop.A woodstove to heat our entire home.

So, while I may miss seeing Sam wave to the neighbors, it's worth the trade-off to have this lifestyle. I want the kids to experience caring for the animals, tending to the garden, and helping harvest the fruit from our orchard. I want the reassurance that comes with knowing where our food came from. As sad as I get over this transition..I am so very, very excited and convinced that we are doing the right thing for our family.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Decorating Cakes

As promised, here's the post about my first experience using natural food coloring.

I've always made the kids' birthday cakes. We don't do big birthday parties or buy elaborate gifts, so this is the little "thing" I do to make each child's birthday special. I used to use the Wilton food colors, which include artificial dyes. Last week we had the first birthday celebration since our food conversion and I was able to make birthday cakes for the first time using decorating colors made from vegetable colorants.

I purchased India Tree Natural Decorating Colors online. It included three small bottles of color: red, yellow, and blue. The back of the package gave hints on how to combine the colors to achieve other colors.

I think that if I had never used Wilton colors, I would have been extremely pleased with the natural colors. However, since I already had previous experience with the rich, vibrant Wilton colors, the softer, more pastel colors from the natural dye were less exciting.

This was Sarah's cake. She specifically asked for a butterfly cake, which worked out nicely since my mother-in-law had already purchased a butterfly cake pan to be part of my Christmas gift! Fortunately, pastel colors work out great for a 3 year old girl's birthday cake.

For Andrew's cake, I went for the simple and easy to transport approach. We celebrated the birthdays at the same time, so I had to make and decorate two birthday cakes in one day. It was my first experience doing that, so this simple cake is what he ended up with. We also had the party at my parent's home instead of our home, so having cakes that could travel easily was important to me this time around.

That number one is supposed to be blue. I kept adding more and more and more of the natural blue food coloring, but this bluish-purple color is the best I could come up with. With the Wilton colors, I could've created 1,000 different shades of blue, but I guess there's got to be some trade-offs when you go from artificial to natural.

Anyhow, I guess the most important thing is that they did taste good and the kids seemed pleased with them.

Here's a picture of Sam's birthday cake that I made before we removed artificial dyes. See how much more bright and vivid the Wilton colors are?!?

When I start getting all nostalic about Wilton colors, I have to remind myself: The dyes cause your 4 year old to act autistic and your baby to scratch his neck until he bleeds. It's not worth it, it's not worth it, it's not worth it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Menu-Planning Monday

I bet you all thought I had disappeared, huh? I'm finally taking the advice from my friend Suzanne (Hi Suzanne!) and posting something new on here. She told me several days ago that she's tired of looking at pumpkin! post time.

I used to be so very good at planning out my menu every week. At one time I even got motivated enough to plan it out two weeks ahead of time. Here lately, though, meal plans have been made around 3pm every day. Since we now eat in a way that requires some preparation, that makes for some pretty hectic evenings!

I'm proud to announce that I have my meal plan made for the week! I know you're all dying to know what we'll be eating this week, so here it is:

homemade granola cereal and milk
pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins
leftover muffins
oats with maple syrup and milk (two mornings)
leftover pancakes

grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit
cheese quesadillas and fruit

Beef stir fry with rice, pineapple
Fettucine Alfredo with Broccoli and Chicken, spinach salad
Seasoned Rice and Beef, green beans, boiled carrots
Laura's Probeans, spinach salad
Grilled steak, corn, sweet potatoes
Monterey Chicken with Potatoes, guacamole and chips
Beef and Potato casserole, peas, boiled carrots

pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds

It is such a relief to already have this planned out. My day goes so much smoother with a little pre-planning. I know I have everything on hand to make these meals. I already have the necessary meats thawing in the fridge for use later this week. Yay for organization!

And I promise that it won't be another week before I post again. I already know that I'm going to do a post on decorating birthday cakes with natural food colorings. I have the pictures and everything ready to go. So, I promise in the next couple days I'll have that one put up here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Making Pumpkin Puree

Well, I tried something else new this week! Some of you may have heard about the devastating pumpkin shortage of 2009. Rumor has it that there will only be enough pumpkin puree to fill the demand for the holiday season and then there won't be any more pumpkin available for the rest of the year. Are you in a panic yet? I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own pumpkin puree!

I used a pumpkin that my mother-in-law (Hi Colette!) purchased for me at a pumpkin farm when she came to visit in October. The owner of the farm assured us that this was a great pumpkin to use for making pumpkin pie..sorry, I don't know the exact variety.

I cut the pumpkin into chunks. Sarah helped me scoop out seeds and stringy stuff. She helped out so much that I had to wash her shirt pumpkin was everywhere. Then I put it into a 350 degree oven for about an hour. This is what it looked like after baking.

Then I scraped out all the flesh.

I placed the chunks into my blender and processed it until smooth. This is all the puree I ended up with from the entire pumpkin.

I placed it in freezer bags in one cup portions. I ended up with about 15 cups of puree. I figured that a typical can of pumpkin contains 1-3/4 cups of puree. So, I had about 8-1/2 cans of pumpkin puree here. Since that pumpkin cost $4 at the pumpkin farm and I ended up with 8-1/2 cans of puree, that works out to about $0.47 per can of pumpkin puree. Now, I don't know what it typically sells for at the store, but I usually pay $0.70 per can at our local "bent and dent" store. So, even at my reduced cost it is still a money savings for our family. Of course, there's more work involved in this method, but that's one of the reasons that I stay home, so I have the time to do little things like this.

And then we had pumpkin muffins for breakfast this morning. The homemade pumpkin puree must've turned out ok since Sam ate about five of the muffins!

So, unless you want to be one of the unfortunate victims of the great pumpkin shortage of 2009, you'd best get to work processing your leftover Halloween pumpkins!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sharing Another Blog With You

I read through a blog post today that I found very enjoyable. I wanted to share it with you too.

This family owns an 180 acre farm in the Pacific Northwest. They raise most of their own food and live a homesteader lifestyle. I really enjoy seeing the beautiful pictures that are posted. I hope you enjoy the blog as well!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Looks Like We'll Be Moving!!!

My good friend and awesome realtor just called to notify us that our offer on our homestead property has been accepted by the sellers!! She said that we should expect to be in our new home around January 4th. Of course, this also means that we have to sell our current home, but that looks promising too. We've had one couple come through to look at the home and they've already written an offer. I'm optimistic that it'll turn out well. I'm amazed that we are actually selling our home without ever even having a sign in our front yard or a listing in the newspaper. It all went so fast!

I'm so excited that my knees are literally shaking!! We are going to own 30 acres with a stocked fish pond, two springs, an orchard, a garden, a root cellar, a chicken coop, a workshop, and a woodstove...a real, functioning homestead!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rendering Beef Tallow

Today I tried rendering beef tallow for the very first time, and I think it turned out ok.

We just purchased some great grass-fed beef and the processor threw in the tallow for free. For those that don't know, tallow is the beef version of lard from a pig. It's a natural fat that is commonly used in frying or even in soap-making.

All the explanations that I could find online spoke about first having to take the time to chop up the fat into small pieces. Fortunately, when we received ours from the processor, it was already ground up like you see ground beef in the grocery store. So I breezed on through to the next step. I used two methods to render my tallow. I put two large pots on the stovetop and one large pot in the oven.

For the stovetop method, I placed a significant amount of tallow in the pot, set it on the stovetop on very low heat and walked away. I did occasionally stir the bottom to make sure nothing was sticking, but that's pretty much it. After about two hours, the fat was melted and crumbly meat/fat was floating on top.

For the oven method, I lowered my oven rack to one of the lowest settings and preheated the oven to 250 degrees. Then I placed a significant amount of tallow in a large pot, set it in the oven, and walked away. I did occasionally stir the bottom of this pot as well. After about 1-1/2 hours, this pot was finished.

Then I found some extra glass jars that I had around, placed a metal strainer on top to catch the crumbly meat/fat, and poured the rendered tallow through the strainer. I set the meat/fat aside because I'm going to try feeding it to a stray cat that comes to visit us every once in a while. I thought that our cat friend would really enjoy that treat. Anyhow, this is what I ended up with.

When it was time for bed, I placed the lids on the jars and continued to let them sit on the counter overnight. This is what they looked like this morning.

So, I'm pleased with my first tallow-rendering adventure. If anyone has any advice or suggestions, I would certainly welcome them! Also, if anyone knows a better use for the leftovers (besides kitty food!), then I'd like to know that as well.
Now I can't wait to cook with my great grass-fed beef tallow!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm Jealous

I got online today and looked over some of my "regular" blogs. A lot of them have to do with traditional eating. After checking in on those blogs though, I found myself so envious of the writers. You see, several of the bloggers are participating in the Wise Traditions conference this weekend. My understanding is that the Wise Traditions conference is put on by the Weston A. Price foundation and focuses on healthy eating, traditional foods, alternative methods of treating illness, and other things like this that most people see as odd. I would love to attend that conference! I think it would be so much fun to grab a couple of girlfriends and just take off for a weekend of soaking up Weston A. Price knowledge! They also serve traditional, nourishing meals at the conference.

Here are some of the food blogs I follow. The writers are at the conference and posting about the activities this weekend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

House For Sale

Today we're listing our house for sale. I still have reservations about leaving simply because I love my home and all the memories we have here. This is the only home the kids have ever known. On the other hand, it's possible that we could be living our dream of having a homestead!

The property we're interested in is perfect for homesteading. It has an established orchard with apple, peach, pear, cherry, walnut, pecan, and hazelnut trees. It also has blueberries and blackberries on the property. There's a garden with an asparagus patch, a stocked fish pond, chicken coop, and two springs. There's enough wooded property to hunt deer and turkey and enough pasture to contain cattle and goats one of these days. Plus, the home is nice too. Of course, there are things I'd like to do to it to make it my own, but those can come later as the budget allows. Here's a picture of the home.

If you feel led, I would appreciate any prayers. Of course, I would love the sale of our current home and our purchase of this new property to go smoothly. However, ultimately I want to ensure that we're following the path that God has for our family. It's so easy to start focusing on all we want and to lose focus on what God has planned for us. It would be a tremendous help if we had prayers for discernment and open-mindedness throughout this process. Also, if this should not happen, prayers for acceptance would be necessary! I'll keep you all updated.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Good Deals Of The Week

(Sorry, for the long, jumbled post here. I cannot figure out why my spaces between paragraphs aren't showing up.)
Here are my great buys from Walgreens this week:
Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal on sale 2 for $5
Glade Sense & Spray on sale for $4.99 each
Walgreens 6 pack batteries $0.99 each with raincheck
Almay Foundation $9.99
Almay Mascara $6.99, but 1/2 off this week, so $3.49
Glade Soy Candle on sale for $3.99
Johnson & Johnson First Aid Products on sale for $3.99 each
Before coupons, this total comes to: $58.37 plus tax
Then I used the following coupons:
Three of the $4 off 1 Glade Sense & Spray
Three of the $1 off 1 Johnson & Johnson First Aid Product
One $2 off 1 Glade Fragrance Collection Product
Two $1.50 off 1 Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal
Two $3 off 1 Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal
Two $1 off 2 Glade Products coupon from Walgreens November booklet
Register Rewards from previous purchases for $7, $6, and $1
So, my total out of pocket, including tax was $17.52
Then I received the following Register Rewards to use on my next purchase: $10 for buying the Almay foundation, $5 for buying the Almay mascara, $8 for buying the First Aid products, and $1 for buying the Glade soy candle. I will also receive a $5 rebate from SC Johnson for purchasing three Glade products.
So, I've already made money on this transaction.
Then, I'm going to put a lot of this in the yard sale. The Glade Sense & Sprays will be priced at $3. The Glade soy candle will be priced at $2. The Almay foundation will be priced at $4 and the Almay mascara will be priced at $3. So, that will be an additional $18 made from these products at our next yard sale.
Walgreens is great!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Food For Thought

Please take the time to review the article on this site.

There's so much good information there.

Recently, I became very convicted about improving the quality of the food that my family consumes. In our household, I take care of all the food purchasing, meal planning, and preparation of our foods. So, my family's poor eating habits could not be blamed on anyone else but me. I will admit that Shawn was not exactly enthusiastic about removing "badness" and including more "goodness" in our diet. However, he is open-minded enough to know that this is good for us, so he agreed to make changes as well. Our compromise was that we would eat healthy meals together as a family, but Shawn could keep some of his favorite processed foods set aside. So, he has definitely improved his eating habits, but he's still eating more processed foods than the kids and myself.

I do think it's important to note that my opinions on this are somewhat biased because I am a firm believer that eating well causes you to feel better both physically and emotionally. I am totally convinced of this. I believe that the neurological effects of food and food additives are often overlooked. Shawn, however, was a skeptic at first, so I think his opinion is a bit more neutral. With Shawn being a bit skeptical about this change, I was pleased to hear him comment about how two recent meals caused him to feel bad.

Several Sundays ago the kids and I went to visit my parents. Shawn stayed home to work, so he was on his own for supper. He decided to fix a box of Hamburger Helper that was purchased a while back. He had the Cheesy Hashbrown Hamburger Helper, which is his absolute favorite. He likes this type sooooo much that we actually ordered boxes of it online and had it delivered to our house when local stores stopped carrying it. I'm not kidding when I say that it's his favorite! Well, when the kids and I arrived home, Shawn was just finishing up his supper. Later that evening he commented that it just didn't taste as good as he remembered. He said, with a confused look on his face, "It sort of tasted like...plastic."

The other instance occurred earlier this week. Shawn came home from work with a headache. Several hours later he went to teach his night class, came home, and still had the headache. He plopped down on the couch and complained that his head still hurt. I asked him if he had drank enough water that day. He replied that he had and he really thought that his head was hurting from the junk (that's actually the term he used..junk) he'd eaten at work for lunch.

The only way to really understand how your body responds to processed foods and chemicals is to allow your body to be without them for a decent period of time. Then, when you do eat something processed, the difference between it and fresh food will be so obvious to you. The "fake-ness" of the food will be so apparent. The residual effects on both your mood and energy level will be obvious. After ridding yourself of smelly chemicals, a walk down the laundry aisle at a grocery store will be suffocating. So, while it may be easier to go through life accustomed to blue dye in marshmallows and chemicals fragrances in your fabric softener, it is not better for you or your family.

There are still a lot of improvements that my family needs to make for our health, but I feel that we are headed in the right direction. It's necessary for me to take baby steps or else I get overwhelmed. I hope that, after reading the above link, you will also be convinced to take a baby step that will improve your family's health.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Productive Day: Take 2

Ok, so yesterday was very NOT-productive. I am determined to rectify that today.

So far today, I have a pot of chicken broth simmering on the stove and smelling very yummy. I also have a load of towels in the dryer. We're all fed and dressed.

Since I need to play catch-up from yesterday, my to-do list is rather lengthy..

Water plants
Plan weekly menu
Fold and put away towels
Sweep and mop floors
Clip coupons
Library with kids
Walgreens/Kroger/Dollar General/drop off recycling
Organize coupons after kids are put to bed tonight

Since I have so much to do, I guess I ought to get off here and start getting things done! I'll leave you with my recipe for homemade chicken broth:

carcass from one roasted chicken (bones, skin, everything)
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks of celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
1-2 onions, quartered
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. vinegar

Take your roasted chicken carcass and, using a meat cleaver, chop up some of the bones. This will make your broth more nutritious by accessing the good marrow inside the bones. Dump the chopped up carcass in a large stock pot. Wash carrots, chop and dump in the pot. It is not necessary to peel the carrots, but you can if you prefer. Wash celery, chop and dump in the pot, leaves and all. Quarter onion and dump in the pot, skin and all. (The addition of the skin will give your broth a pretty golden color.) Add salt and pepper. (I used my new Celtic Sea Salt!) Then add 1 T. vinegar. This helps in drawing the nutrients from the bones of the chicken. Add enough water to cover all contents of stock pot. Place on stove and bring slowly to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 24 hours. Yes, you read that right, 24 hours! About 10 minutes before broth is finished simmering, add a palm-full of parsley. I use fresh parsley from my kitchen windowsill, but if you're using dried, just add to taste. Strain into a large bowl and set in refrigerator until fat congeals at top. Skim off fat and package broth for storage in freezer. You now have yummy, nutritious broth that doesn't include MSG or any other badness!

Ok, now to tackle that to-do list...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Collecting My Thoughts

Over the weekend I had several ideas on what I wanted to write about, but couldn't come to a decision, so today is just going to be a hodge-podge of all things on my mind...

Yesterday's lesson at church was about how being different than everyone else is not a bad thing. We are called to not love the world or the things in the world, so not quite fitting in with the rest of the world is good. I'm thankful that Vernon chose to preach on this topic because it was something that I really needed to hear.

I'm so thankful for the new goodies I received this weekend. My first purchase of unrefined coconut oil, some cod liver oil, a natural deodorant crystal, and some essential oils for homemade cleaning mixtures. I'm excited to learn about using these products instead of those I was used to using before.

I have so much to do today...First of all, I need to write out my to-do list for the week and make out our menu-plan for the week. Then I also need to wash all our sheets, go through Sunday's papers and clip out coupons, make homemade chicken broth , study the Kroger and Walgreens sales for the week, and homeschool the kids today. Sometime this week I'd like to look up how to process sunflower seeds so I can use the few that we harvested from our garden this year. I meant to do that last week, but never got around to it. We also need to clean up the deck and yard sometime this week so we can add the leaves to our compost pile. If I get to work on this, hopefully I can come back on here this evening and update on my progress.

Oh, and I'm really looking forward to possibly having friends over this evening for a last minute get-together. One of my friends is getting really close to having her baby, so hopefully we can all visit with one another before her life gets really busy.

Now I'm smiling as I listen to Sam sit in the living room singing, "Pretty little surry with the fringe on the top..." from the musical "Oklahoma!". Sarah's trying to tell him that if he puts together the train tracks then momma will be so happy. Having children that are only 20 months apart is very hard, but also very, very rewarding. They play so well together.

I hope everyone (including myself!) has an enjoyable, productive Monday!

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Part-Time Job

I may be a SAHM, but that doesn't mean that I don't contribute to our income. I have found a way to bring money into our home without going into an office Monday through Friday.

About two years ago I really got into couponing. I started off following the sales at Walgreens and picking up some great deals. Then I started following the sales at Kroger. At that time, I made use of nearly everything that I got for free or nearly free. If it was a really good sale, then oftentimes I would actually get paid to take an item. Unfortunately, a lot of the items that go on sale are things that we can no longer use. It seems like fruit snacks, canned ravioli, and Glade candles go on sale all the time. With our new way of eating though, those items are not useful to us anymore.


I have discovered that yard sale people get giddy when they see brand new, unexpired products for sale. It doesn't matter if it's boxes of cereal or Listerine mouthwash, they really enjoy getting brand new products at yard sale prices. So, this is what I do:

I will figure out what the great deals are, even if it's for something that we won't use. I will purchase the item using sale and coupons, making certain that my out of pocket expense is considerably less than the price an item will sell for at a yard sale. When I get home, I immediately put the item in my yard sale pile. I have a sheet of paper there where I record the shelf price for the item. That way, when I am pricing items for a yard sale, I can write the regular price on the sticker. My thinking is that then the yard sale shopper can see what an awesome deal they're getting by buying a product at a yard sale versus off the store shelf. So far I have sold things like: mouthwash, deodorant, toothpaste, mascara, eye shadow, diabetes monitors, Visine, GoodNights underpants, hair color, Schick Quattro razors, Kotex pantiliners, KY Jelly, Triaminic Syrup, Children's Tylenol, pantihose, Ecotrin, Vaseline lotion, ChapStick, Theraflu, nail polish, boxed cereal, FiberOne bars, and a W-I-D-E assortment of Glade candles.

Here's an example of one of the great deals I got at Walgreens recently:

Theraflu was on sale for $4.00. When you purchased three of them, you received an $8 Register Reward, which is like store money that you can use on a later purchase at Walgreens. So, the deal was:

Purchase 3 x $4.oo = $12.00
Use 3 internet printable coupons for $2 off (deducts a total of $6)
Use a Walgreens coupon book for $2 off one Theraflu (deducts another $6 since I purchased three) So, after these coupons, I ended up paying absolutely nothing out of pocket for the three Theraflu. Then, I received an $8 Register Reward that I can use later. Basically, I got paid $8 for taking the Theraflu. After selling those items for $2.50 each at my yard sale, I ended up making a total of $15.50 on those three Theraflu products.

We had two yard sales this year. We made $427 at the first one and $585 at the second one. Granted, that was not all from my couponing products, but a fairly large portion of it was.

So, now that you know all this, just promise me that you will not wipe out all the great deals at my local Walgreens and Kroger!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Today is trash day.

Last night we were getting ready for trash day. I emptied the trash cans in the bathrooms, added them to the kitchen trash, and took the bag out to the big can in the garage. When I opened the big can I noticed that there was only one other bag of trash in there. We only have two kitchen-size bags of trash for the week. This isn't the first time that's happened recently either. Now, I know that there are others out there that have much less trash than us, but for us this is an awesome amount. Not too long ago, it was not unusual for us to consistently have six bags of trash per week. However, for the past month or so, less trash has been a regular occurrence and there are several reasons for it:

1.) We changed our eating habits. In July we started the Feingold program. As part of that program, we cut out all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. While there are still packaged foods that are free of these additives, it was just easier for us to not use the packaged foods. Instead, we switched gears and I started making things instead of just buying them. Boxed cereal, for instance...I now make a homemade granola that we use for cold cereal instead of buying the boxed stuff. So, our change in diet resulted in less packaged foods and, therefore, less trash.

2.) We started recycling. A month or so ago, I started setting things aside to take to the recycling boxes at K-Mart and Wal-Mart. I didn't realize how quickly it would accumulate. This has also dramatically cut down on what gets put in the trash cans.

3.) Sam and Sarah are no longer in Pull-Ups. Prior to starting the Feingold diet, Sam was four years old and refused to go #2 on the potty. He would kick and scream and fight us if we tried to hold him on the potty. He would wait until we put him in a Pull-Up for bedtime and then go in it. If we didn't put a Pull-Up on him, he would hold it for days and just refuse to go. It was so frustrating to have to clean up a four year old boy like that. On Day 4 of the new diet, we put Sam on the potty. He sat there calmly and went! On Day 5 of the diet, he went to the potty all by himself, did his business and flushed all by himself. It was amazing! That's why I'm so committed to this diet. I have seen the awesome changes that have come about because of it!

Sarah was so much easier. She loves her (almost) 6 year old cousin, Lexi, and wants to be a big girl just like her. As soon as she decided that she wanted to go potty like Lexi, that was the end of the diapers/Pull-Ups. It was underwear-time 24/7!

So, now our trash is made up mostly of food scraps that can't be composted (I don't have a garbage disposal), Andrew's diapers, and a handful of other things that can't be recycled. It's a move in the right direction and I'm proud of it, so I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

About us..

So many people have blogs, so I wanted to focus on what will make this blog different than most.

About my world in SAHMville:

I'm Janice. I'm 32 years old. Wife to Shawn for six years. Mom to 4 year old Samuel, 2 year old Sarah, and 11 month old Andrew. I'm a SAHM and Shawn works in law enforcement. We have a nice home in the county, but are currently looking at properties for our own homestead. Our dream is to have a functioning, self-sufficient homestead complete with chickens, goats, gardens, an orchard, and possibly even a milk cow!

We live a bit differently than most families around here.

Probably the first oddity that you would notice is my appearance. I only wear skirts, no pants. I have long hair that I wear put up and I do not wear makeup. I wear skirts because I struggle with accepting that Shawn is the head of the household. I'm stubborn and I like to be in control of things. The Bible states that the husband is the head of the wife. (1 Cor 11:3) Since I have such difficulty with this, I decided that I needed a physical reminder that my husband is called to be the head of this family. So, in this house, my husband literally wears the pants in the family! I don't expect any other woman to do as I do, but it does work for us.

Possibly the next oddity that you would notice about us is our way of eating. We do not eat foods with any artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. We do not eat corn syrup, MSG, or sodium benzoate. So, basically, that leaves out most anything that is packaged or processed. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, we eat whole foods. I make all of our breads, muffins, pancakes, and desserts from scratch. I grind the wheat in my grain mill first and then proceed with the recipe. We eat this way because we want to avoid the chemicals that are added into foods when they are processed. We began eating this way in order to help Sam and Andrew. Sam had some behavioral issues that resembled autism and Andrew suffered from eczema. When we removed the artificial dyes, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives, Andrew's eczema went away within a week. Sam still has some lingering behavioral issues, but has drastically improved since starting the diet. We haven't seen any type of change in Sarah, but we keep her on the diet too for two reasons: 1.) It's easier to have everyone eating the same way. I don't want to cook separate foods for my family. 2.) It is just a healthier way of eating and I want all my children to be healthy regardless if they're being obviously affected by a chemical or not. Since we want to avoid chemicals, we also do without scented candles/air fresheners, makeup, smelly laundry detergents, perfumes, etc.

I guess the next most obvious oddity would be our frugal lifestyle. We don't buy a lot of things that others have. We don't have blackberries, iPods, flat screen TVs, or even a riding lawnmower. Our cell phones do not have cameras and we do not text with them. Our family's clothing is plain and simple. It's usually received as a gift or purchased at Goodwill or yard sales. We don't have much, but that is by choice. We forego those types of items and prefer to save our money for purchasing our homestead. For us, living simply is just easier. There's less to store, less to clean, and just less stuff to keep up with.

Welcome to our wierdness!

Getting Started

So, I decided today that I would actually start a blog.

I'd been thinking about it for a while..and my motivation for doing it would vary depending on the day. Some days I wanted to do it just to have a place for all my thoughts to go. Other days I thought it would be neat to blog so family could be updated on our day-to-day happenings. Then there are days that I think (like to least) that other people might benefit from events going on in our own home.

I plan on writing about topics that I'm passionate about. There are certain issues that I truly enjoy learning about and constantly strive to improve upon. Some of those issues are:

whole-foods/traditional eating

Since I do enjoy studying these topics, our family is always changing to reflect what I have learned. So, if you find yourself visiting my blog on a regular basis, my hope is that you will witness these changes.

I named my blog SAHMville, because I expect this blog to be about my little world as a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). I look forward to sharing my thoughts and experiences in SAHMville!