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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Community Garden Notes - vol. 3


After Mass today, we swung by the community garden and I picked up my loot.  A lap full of marigolds, flowered sage, and a bit of parsley.  Most of the tomatoes are being eating by the birds, I think.  There are some peppers still growing though.  I don't think I'll be helping out with the community garden in the Spring.  It's just not worth all the trouble.  A community garden is not a community garden if the community doesn't tend to it.  It was a great idea, but they should have found out if there would be interest, before implementing it.  I'd rather focus on turning my backyard into a little garden.  That way I can tend to it and actually enjoy a little bit of homegrown produce.  I have learned that the sunny spots are probably not the best place to grow things, at least not in Texas.  My "full sun" spots have 10+ hours of sun, which is just too much for most plants.  I was watching the sunlight today and picked an area in the back yard that I think might work well as a vegetable garden.  It's technically part-sun, a little under a tree, but I think it will work.  We'll see.  I like trying to grow things.  It's a fun challenge, and I'm very optimistic.  I always think the garden will be awesome!  Sometimes it will be, other times it won't.  I won't find out if I don't give it a try.



These Felco pruners are very nice.

My front yard herb garden was a success, for the most part.  The rosemary and basil plants have tripled in size. The thyme is doing okay, but still pretty small, but I use it regularly in my cooking.  The dill died - either that, or maybe the deer ate it.  They don't like the other herbs.  The chocolate mint almost didn't make it through the summer drought (even though I watered it a little).  I transplanted the mint into a pot and set it by the front door.  I learned that mint prefers shade and likes to be moist.  Now I keep a cup in the bathroom and whenever I leave the house, I just water it quickly.  It's doing great!


There's the mint in the little blue pot on the right.  We scored a free hay bale and pumpkin at the unit harvest festival yesterday.  Fun!  I love hay bales.  They are fun to sit on (and jump on <-- the boys realized).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Menu Plan Oct 29 - Nov 4

It's been taking me quite a while to get just a weeks worth of meals planned, and then the grocery list to go with it, but it's worth the trouble.  I've got all these cold-weather meals I want to try, but we have quite a few days with highs in the 80's this coming week, so I don't want to heat up the entire kitchen if I can help it.  Too bad I looove good food. =)  I edit the menu plan a little as I go along.  I will also add veggie dishes depending on what kind of deals I find at the grocery store.  All the good recipes have wine in them, so I might have to get some this week.  I can't make my brother's risotto without it.  I'll share the recipe later, it's the best risotto ever.


Saturday:
Breakfast:
Lunch: Out at Harvest Festival
Dinner: leftover Polenta Casserole

Bake: 1 whole wheat sandwich loaf; breakfast rolls

Sunday 
Breakfast: Lemon Crepes (Granola & yogurt for Mommy - the one who can't handle sugar & empty carbs in the morning.)
Lunch: leftover bow-tie pasta, green salad
Dinner: Baked potatoes & fried eggs

Monday - Halloween
Breakfast: Cornbread
Lunch: PB & J
Dinner: Chicken enchilada bake (going to throw chicken, brown rice, salsa, cheese, and some others in a dish and bake). Served with black beans and corn chips. (I had to add this because I have some homemade salsa that's thinking of going bad.)  Recipe inspiration.

Tuesday - Feast of All Saints
Breakfast: Cornbread (Muesli for Mom)
Lunch: Turkey Sandwiches
Dinner: Roasted Butternut & Sweet Potato Soup*

Wednesday - Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Breakfast: Muesli (raw oats, granola, yogurt, chopped nuts, dried fruit)
Lunch:  Green salad, hummus
Dinner: Fannie Farmer's Mac & Cheese

Thursday
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs & Toast Ended up having Muesli
Lunch:  leftover mac & cheese
Dinner: Slow cooker lasagna w/ italian sausage* I ended up making this on the stove and turning it into an elbow pasta w/ tomato and sausage sauce.

Friday - St. Martin of Tours Oops - it's definitely next Friday, not this.
Breakfast:  St. Martin's Day Croissants* We ended up having scrambled eggs
Lunch: leftover lasagna or sandwiches We ended up having bread and cheese out at a picnic
Dinner: Ben's Veggie Risotto (carrots, broccoli, and mushrooms - they'll get over it ;) Ended up having leftover mac n cheese and other leftovers.

*New {to me} recipe

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Updated Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Added on 15 October 2012: After yet another move, and another water source, my dishes weren't getting clean with the new modified version I was using before. I would really erase this post, but I know some of you have pinned and bookmarked it. I stopped using my little dishwashing powder and modified it with the ingredients listed in this blog post:  http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/02/homemade-dishwasher-detergent-revised.html This is what I'm using now:

The new ingredients are:
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1/4 cup Fruit Fresh (That link is what it looks like, it is NOT how much it costs. I found it for cheap at Walmart. It's basically citric acid.)
1/4 cup Kosher salt

I mix these all up in my food processor.

In the dishwasher, add 1-2 Tablespoons of the powder and then add ONLY 3 drops of Dawn dish soap, and 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar.

That's what I'm using now and it seems to be working well. No more cloudy dishes!


Added on 10 November 2011: A few people have noticed that the previous recipe left a cloudy film on dishes.  I didn't notice it very much at first, but I do notice it now and it is a little annoying.  Homemade dishwasher detergent should have equal or better results than store bought detergents.  A few recipes suggest adding citric acid to the mix.  I wasn't going to bother because I don't want to have to order my ingredients online or make special trips for it.  Thankfully, my friend Kristen has an easy fix!  Kristen found that you can just add one tablespoon of lemon juice into the rinse cycle along with the vinegar and that will do the trick.  Too easy!  Thank you, Kristen, for the great tip.

---

I'm so happy to have found this easy peasy recipe.  I sincerely dislike paying for things like laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent.  They just seem so expensive.  I've been making my own cloth diaper and laundry detergents for a while now, but I didn't even think of making my own dishwasher detergent until I saw a pin on pinterest.  A quick google search, and it looked like a lot of people had success with making their dishwasher detergent.  When I saw the two main ingredients, I knew I would try it.  I already had borax (sodium borate) and super washing soda (sodium carbonate) on hand for my laundry detergent stash.  You can find both of these at your local grocery store.  In Texas, we have really hard water and that was leaving a cloudy film on my dishes.  Sometimes the dishes would get clean, sometimes I'd have a dirty one or two.  I knew from my laundry detergent research that sodium carbonate softens water.  So I tried it.  Here's the easy recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup borax
1 cup super washing soda
3-5 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar (for rinse)
1 TBS lemon juice (the kind that comes in a bottle)

Update 4/24/12: I have been quite liberal with the vinegar and lemon juice. I use closer to 1/4 cup each for my hard water. I just put it in the dishwasher door and then close it. I also have noticed, that if you use too much powder, it is worse for your dishes. So you might have to fiddle around a little to see what works with your water type.

Basically, it's equal parts borax & super washing soda.  You mix them up.  I use the food processor because that is the easiest way to break up the clumps, but you could probably also just use a fork.  Use 1 tablespoon of the mixture per cycle.  Then add 3-5 tablespoons distilled white vinegar into the rinse compartment of your dishwasher.  I use closer to five because of the hard water.  My rinse compartment on my dishwasher is kaput (broken), so I just pour the vinegar into the dishwasher door and my dishes come out shiny.  See the plates below?  Straight out of the dishwasher with my new homemade detergent.


Occasionally, you'll get the stubborn dish, like the one below.  This one had a little bit of leftover chocolate syrup in it and sat in the sink all night long - my husbands and his sweet-tooth late night snacks ;).  I tend to rinse dishes right away that have oatmeal in them, or very sticky things such as cheesy pasta.  In defense of the homemade detergent, I got the same results with my expensive chemical detergent.  I don't mind it.  It's a very easy fix.  (It's probably just my slacker dishwasher anyway.  The things is so old and doesn't have a water-squirter-thingy under the top rack, so sometimes the things on the top don't come out perfectly clean.)


When I get a dish like this, I take a damp tea towel and wipe it clean.  Voila.  I'm pretty sure that's what my Swiss grandmother would do (except that she won't ever have dirty dishes because she doesn't have a dishwasher and washes everything by hand).  My Swiss mother would do that too (right Mom?)  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  Besides, I'd rather have leftover food in my bowl than leftover chemicals.


All clean.  If you try it out, let me know if it works in your area.  It works in Texas.  I know that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Salt Crystals


These are the results from this experiment.  Isaiah and I thought we knew what a supersaturated solution was, but apparently not.  Our first experiment failed.  There I go, being bad at science again. ;)  So when we did our re-do, I didn't help the boys at all.  Isaiah led the experiment with Luke as his helper.  They basically dumped a ton of salt into the jar and spilled a bunch of salt-water on the floor and table and on one of my books and floor.  But, somehow they succeeded.  


You can see a few salt crystals on the string.




You can really see the salt crystals inside the glass.  It's hard to tell, but there is a plane of salt crystals sticking out of the very salty bottom of the jar, so I'm going to go ahead and mentally log this as a success!  Next time we want to try to grow our own sugar crystals, aka rock candy!


October Grocery Challenge Update

On the fifth of October, I decided to take the grocery challenge and try to keep my grocery bill under a certain limit.  We had been spending through the roof and no idea where the money was going (or what fancy foods we were eating).  I decided to just cap our monthly grocery bill at $500 for this first month and then go from there to try to lower it.  Well, secretly, I was actually trying to keep it under $400, just to see if we could do it.

Step one in saving money while grocery shopping was meal planning.  I've never been a meal planner.  I had tried a number of times, and failed.  I'm not sure what part of it was overwhelming, but I think it was a combination of having to spend time actually planning meals in advance, as well as going grocery shopping with a bunch (okay, only 3) of kids and then actually sticking to the meal plan.  This time, I was very committed.  I take pride in being able to penny pinch!  I knew I could do it!  So at the beginning of the month, I started a new blog and started planning my meals every week.  It was a good idea to put my menu plan online, because I already keep most of my recipes organized in a number of bookmark folders on my computer.  It was a bad idea to start a whole new blog.  My husband was trying to tell me to just put them on my regular blog and create a label, but he didn't use those exact words, so I didn't understand what he meant.  Stubborn as I can be at times, I just had to do it my way first...only to realize that it is too complicated for me to have two blogs.  So some of you who read my blog through google reader may have noticed that I posted a bunch of posts (ten or so) yesterday.  I backdated them to mid-October, but google reader apparently doesn't want you to miss anything. =)  I had to laugh at Grace's comment on my brown bread post.  From now on, I'll just post my weekly meal plans on this blog with a "meal plan" label.  I'll probably make a button for it too, so I can easily access the current weekly  meal plan.  I look at it almost every day.  Sometimes I go back and cross things out and write down what we really had, in order to try to meal plan better in the future.

Step two in saving grocery money was shopping alone.  Up until about a month ago, every grocery trip I made, I had three little companions.  I'd go early in the morning, when the children are happy, but it was getting more and more difficult for me, because baby can now lean back in the cart and grab things, which may or may not have resulted in frozen juice overboard or smashed chips.  In any case, I decided that as long as my husband is states-side, I need to take advantage of the luxury of solo-grocery shopping.  I've been going every Saturday morning and not spending more than an hour.  Lovely!  I'm sticking to my list more because I can easily run back and get something I passed up in the store.  With the kids, if I forgot something that was on the other side of the store, then forget it, there was no way on God's green earth that I was going to go back and get it.  So we'd be left without a thing or two, which meant we had to run out for it later in the week.  More errands - more work - more gas money out the window.

Step three in saving grocery money was shopping with cash.  I, personally, don't believe I have an impulse shopping problem, but, I do admit, that sacrificing my special foods (brie, fancy jam, oreos, ice cream) is saving us at least 10 bucks a trip.  We are eating healthier because of the meal plan.  The kids were asking about the MIA (missing in action) hot dogs the other day.  We only have  expensive meat (beef, pork, chicken) once or twice a week, and the occasional cheaper meat (lunch meat, sausage) a couple of times a week.  Before my meal plans, we were actually having hot dogs twice a week, and hot dogs aren't cheap, at least not the good kind. =) I was just buying whatever whenever because I had no plan.  That left me craving food, because a lot of the time, without a plan, we'd eat the same things over and over again.  That would lead to us eating out because we really were craving Mexican (or whatever).  We have really cut down our eating out trips this month, which is a huge money saver.

So anyhoo, before this blog post turns into a really long novel (oops, it already has!), here's my total for the month (not including my last grocery trip of the month which will happen this Saturday):  $284.71.
WOOHOo!! Not bad, huh?  I'm pretty proud of myself.  This includes things like: pull-ups (which I caved and had to buy because I've been too lazy to sew a tighter pair of cloth ones for Luke).  It also includes kitchen things like cookie sheets and measuring cups.  I don't have to pay for dishwasher detergent anymore because I make my own and it actually works!  It includes hygiene items like toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo (all of which I will be making myself one of these days).  Of course, that is only what we spent in October, and I happened to have bought some meat right at the end of September, but I'm not going to include that.  I'm going purely by the dates on the receipts.  Andrew, the finance MBA, thinks I should go by when we eat the food that we buy, or something like that, making it easier for money/record keeping, but that makes no sense to me.  He said something about not going shopping right at the end of the month, etc.  The things is, I can only go shopping on Saturday mornings, even if that day happens to fall on the 31st of the month.  If I just go by the dates on the recipes, I figure it will all even out in the end.

So my new budget for groceries is keeping it under $400.  I can do it if we eat more like we did when I was growing up in (very expensive) Switzerland: less fancy meats, eat lots of grains and potatoes, and shop in season.  Love how cheap the squash is these days.


Oh, I do have to mention that I now shop exclusively at the commissary (military shopping place).  They have no tax, but we do pay a surcharge.  They mostly have name-brand products, but have more and more off-brand things.  The milk right now is 16 cents cheaper that anywhere else in town (that I know of).  The produce is hit and miss.  Sometimes the lettuce looks awful, but then I'll buy something else instead.  They just lowered their bananas to 44 cents a pound.  I also shop there now because it's a 3-minute drive from my house.  Before I was going 8 minutes at least.  I really don't like driving, so this is much better for me.  Okay, that's all for the update.  Seriously. =)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spotlight on Jacob

I used to have this rule of only posting one blog post a day.  Well, I'm done with blogging rules.  No more rules!  Haha.  I just happen to have windows of time on certain days when I can blog a lot, and on other days I have no time at all.  So I guess I could set up a scheduled post.  I may do that, but that's a little complicated and I like to keep things simple.  =)

Here's an update on baby Jacob.  I took a bunch of pictures last week.  Jacob is 10 months old.  He has almost 6 teeth.  He still nurses during the day, but mostly before naps and bedtime.  He's a strange one this department, in that he doesn't like to nurse in public at all, compared to my other two, who were always nursing.  He is much too interested in what is going on around him.  (My mom says I was exactly like this too.)  So I've been carrying a water bottle for him ever since he was 5 months old.  He goes to bed around 7pm and wakes up around 6:30am with one waking, anywhere between 2-5am.  I used to be convinced that the lack of sleep from co-sleeping caused my migraines.  I don't know what causes them anymore.  I personally, think it's Texas.  Anyways, I have pretty much surrendered to the migraines and I will try to offer them up, if I have another one.  At the same time, I've been praying that I will just be completely healed from them.  I haven't had one since that one a few weeks ago.  I have mild headaches occasionally but they are nothing compared to the worst, so I can tolerate them easily.  I also have been reading 10 stories of people who have experienced great suffering in Amazing Grace for Those Who Suffer and am learning a little more about suffering and offering it up, and I'm realizing that in the grand scheme of things, a migraine is nothing.

Phew. That was a long tangent.  What I was trying to say, is that when baby Jake wakes up at night, I sometimes nurse him and put him back to bed, but lately, I've just been bringing him to our bed.  He's just such a good snuggler.  I've been feeding him bananas, avocado, applesauce (homemade, pureed, cooked, apples), pureed whatever we're having and sometimes little bites of my morning cereal (rolled oats and things).  I'm very much not worried about allergies.  I think, we, here in the United States, are just a little too paranoid about everything.  If allergies run in your family, then yes, but so far, we have never had an allergy to anything, so I've been giving the child small portions of wheat, dairy, and eggs, from my plate ever since he was about 9  months old.  Pizza crust is so good for those teething little gums.


Eyelashes.  Nose.  Lips.  Everything.


That's his cadillac.  I paid $40 for that stroller, back in the day (2005) before Isaiah was born.  The thing's still trucking along.


Haha.  This crazy little fellow.  We have 13 steep stairs in our home.  I don't like them, not one little bit.  Jake does though.  We taught him to go up them a few weeks ago (better teach, then let them learn the hard way).  Now, I have to be careful.  If I don't put up the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs and I'm distracted by some housework, then all of a sudden it's very quiet in the house and we realize the baby's missing!  We run upstairs, and there he is, ripping up a book I left on the floor, or playing in the playroom.  Haha, he's so darn cute and good at getting up those stairs.  I'm still afraid he'll fall though and I do not want that to happen.  Ever.


Who needs toys.  I strongly dislike plastic toys.  So family and friends, if you're reading this, please don't buy baby toys.  Buy mommy pots and pans and wooden spoons.



Haha, I like this move.  Looks like his leg is in some ballet or exercise move.


Little, strong, fingers.  Pulling himself up on the coffee table.

Fabric Pumpkin


I have been dreaming of making my boys a toy kitchen, like this one.  I just can't get myself to spend that much money right now and I think it'd be fun to try to make one.  I've been sketching little plans for it, so we'll see.  We have a wood working shop on post and I can go take a class and get help with projects for 50 bucks.  I'm going to do that in a few weeks.  Maybe I will make something simple first, like a toy box or something.  We'll see.  The whole point of it, is to save money, so I just have to keep that in mind.  

Dreaming of toy kitchens has me thinking of making fabric food.  I found this handy little tutorial and made one with some scrap fabric.  The yellow fabric is too thick, so it's kind of wrinkly and was a bit difficult to work with, but overall it was pretty easy.  I'll be keeping my eyes open for cheap, thin, orange, fabric to make a few more.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls


We had these overnight cinnamon rolls today.  They were very good.  I did skip that initial part about letting the yeast/water/flour mixture sit for 30 minutes.  I don't have all day, actually, night, in this case.  They are a very special treat, so I think I will save these super sweet and delicious cinnamon rolls for very special holy days, like Christmas or Easter mornings.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Brown Bread



I made Amy Caroline's bread the other day.  I used maple syrup instead of sugar.  Recipe source here.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1-2 Tablespoons honey or sugar or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 6-8 cups whole wheat flour

This is how I made it:

1)  Mix the yeast with the sweetener and water in the mixer bowl.
2)  Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix them up.
3)  Mix the remaining dry ingredients in another bowl.
4)  Slowly add the flower mixture to the wet mixture in the bowl and mix with the dough hook until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
5)  First rise - 1 hour.  I use my large cast iron pot and a cut up plastic grocery bag.  If your home is cold, it helps to fire up the oven to it's lowest setting.  This is why I like doing my baking for the week all in one day: the kitchen is already warm and it helps the dough to rise.
6)  After an hour, punch it down, knead it a little, divide it into two loafs, shape them a little, and put them into two greased (I rub them with oil) bread pans.
7)  Second rise: 30 min - 1 hour.
8)  Bake: 375 F for 30 - 40 min.
9)  Use a knife to loosen the sides and get the bread out.  Let it dry on a rack.





Oops.  Don't put cold water in a glass dish that just came out of a 375 oven.  I knew this.  Forgot.  I don't think I'll forget again. =) 


Menu Plan Oct 22-28


We had a lot of extra food this past week.  I cooked too many big meals.  I just like food so much! =)  I still like having my breakfasts and most lunches planned out though.  I will update the menu plan if we don't stick to it, so I know what we had, but mostly we have been sticking to it.  I'm not planning the veggies and a few lunches for the week.  I'll buy whatever veggies are in season or on sale at the grocery store and then I'll update the menu plan as we go.


Snacks: popcorn, kale chips


Saturday 22 - Blessed John Paul II
Breakfast:
Lunch: Chicken salad sandwiches
Dinner:  Angel hair with tomato sauce and leftover breadsticks

Sunday 23

Breakfast:  Overnight cinnamon rolls
Lunch:
Dinner:  Steak fajitas, chips, guac, brown mexican rice, sauteed veggies: onions, yellow bell peppers. Small flour tortillas.


Monday 24
Breakfast:  Cereal
Lunch: grilled eggplant pesto sandwiches
Dinner: Homemade pizza


Tuesday 25

Breakfast: apple pancakes
Lunch:  squash soup not feeling that today at all. Going to cook some up for baby food though. We'll have leftovers or sandwiches
Dinner: Polenta Casserole*, green salad


Wednesday 26

Breakfast: Soft boiled eggs and toast strips
Lunch:  tomato & rice soup from freezer
Dinner:  Rosemary Pork Chops*, sweet potatoes leftover brown rice fried in olive oil w/ onions, salad


Thursday 27

Breakfast: Carrot Cake Oatmeal*
Lunch:  Sandwiches
Dinner:  Free dinner @ CC (taco night) We caved and got pizza at a nice Italian place.

Friday 28

Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch:  fun pasta (bow-ties, wheels) with chopped fresh herbs, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan
Dinner:  split-pea soup (Andrew wasn't too excited about this anyways) leftover pizza

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sabbatical



Sab·bat·i·cal: any extended period of leave from one's customary work routine, especially for rest.

When I started blogging two years ago, I did so in order to update my family and friends with photos and stories of the children, my little projects, and life in general.  That is still why I blog.  I didn't realize though, the toll that blog reading would have on me.  I'm becoming more and more aware, that I cannot be a blog reader.  Why, you ask? It's not because I can't manage my time and there are way too many great blogs out there (although that is part of it).  The real reason I cannot be a blog reader anymore, is because I struggle with being content.

Being "contented" ought to mean in English, as it does in French, being pleased. Being content with an attic ought not to mean being unable to move from it and resigned to living in it; it ought to mean appreciating all there is in such a position.G. K. Chesterton
I don't know when it started, but I know that blog reading doesn't help me overcome it.  When I read blogs about families and the chickens they're raising and the beautiful garden they're growing and the house they're fixing-up, it makes me jealous.  I don't covet their actual chickens, or their homegrown tomatoes, or their new back porch.  What I covet is stability.  I am envious of families who never have to move, who can paint a tree onto their living room wall if they want to, and who have neighbors that they've known for more than two years and friends they don't have to leave.  There are a lot of other reasons, things that come with being a military family, but I will not dwell on them anymore.

I am going to dwell on being content.  I know I really actually have nothing to complain about, because I have a healthy family, and we have everything we need.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who occasionally feels that it would just be nicer to have something that someone else has, or that it would be easier to be on the other side of the fence.  Maybe God allows me to feel this way to remind me to come back to Him.  I want to become a saint.  I know I can't really become a saint without God's help, so I pray for God to help me become the person He wants me to be.  Then I forget again and I try to do things my own way.  Maybe this little trial is just God's way of calling me back to Him, reminding me to pray and to continue to ask for His guidance.

I was really blessed today by a meeting I went to.  I wasn't going to go, but we went as a family.  We prayed the Litany of Loreto there.  I have never felt close to Our Lady, but after praying the litany with all my heart, I really felt her inviting me to come to her, the Queen of Peace.  So I am taking a little sabbatical from blog reading.  I'm not going to be too legalistic about it.  I know which blogs I need to rest from and I know which ones are okay for me to visit.  I will still post on my blog (I think), but I will be spending much more time offline, in prayer, seeking God's peace.  During my sabbatical, I will fully appreciate everything that is right in front of me, not online.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pizza-dillas



I needed an easy lunch idea.  Instead of quesadillas, we made pizza-dillas.  You take a tortilla, spread it with pizza (or spaghetti) sauce, and put cheese and pizza seasoning on top of it.  We melt it on the cast iron griddle. The boys loved it!

Added for Dianna:
This is the link for the exact cast iron griddle that I have. However, I did not pay $70 for it, I only paid about $40 at Academy Sports, and I see they still have it here.  Walmart has an even cheaper version of a similar item by the same cast iron company I like, Lodge.

German Apple Cake



This past Saturday I spent the entire morning baking.  I'm doing that in order to save money.  Every Saturday morning, I will bake the bread for the week and a few extra things.  
I made two German Apple Cakes, one for a pot-luck, one for us.  Recipe source: here.
I used gala apples, which is what I had on hand.  It was sweet.  Too sweet for my Swiss tastes, but the boys loved it.  Next time, I will take it easy on the sugar, and I bet nobody will notice.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 medium Cortland or other baking apple, peeled and sliced

METHOD

1 Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with or pie pan with a 4-cup capacity.
2 In a medium bowl, whisk vigorously together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3 In a separate small bowl, mix 1/4 a cup of the sugar with the cinnamon, set aside.
4 Using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat in the egg until blended. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk, beating after each addition until just combined.
5 Pour half of the batter in the bottom of the baking dish. Lay the apple slices on the batter so they just cover the batter (you may have to overlap some slices). Sprinkle the apples with the cinnamon-sugar mixture, reserving a teaspoon or two to sprinkle on top. Spread the rest of the batter over the apples. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar on top.
6 Bake the cake for 25 minutes or until it is golden brown and apples start to bubble at the edges.
Yield: Serves 6.



butter, eggs, and sugar = yummmm


It wasn't this green in real life.






Breadsticks


I've been using this basic recipe for pizza dough and breadsticks for a while now, although I frequently change it up a little.  This is how I make breadsticks the easy (lazy) way.

Recipe source here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. warm (105-115 degrees) water
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 1/2 c. flour

1) Mix all your wet ingredients + yeast in mixer.  
2) Mix all dry ingredients in another bowl. 
3) Slowly add flour mixture to wet mixture and stir on dough hook, until dough doesn't stick to side of bowl anymore.
4) Roll out the dough into a big rectangle.
5) Cut it into breadsticks with a pizza cutter.
6) Let it rise.
7) Bake at 375 until brown around the edges.
8) Spread with butter and seasoning (we like garlic salt & italian herbs).





Bake on Saturday


I had so much fun baking this past Saturday.  In order to save money and keep our grocery bill down I've decided to spend Saturday mornings backing the bread for the week.



German Apple Cakes, Breadsticks, Brown Bread.

Monday, October 17, 2011

On Keeping House and Being Home



Do you recognize that list?  I bet you do.  It's Ma Ingalls' weekly schedule.  Reading the Little House books, and then reading about Amish women, has me motivated.  I have been caught up with my laundry, and my kitchen has been tidy and clean, at least on days when I don't have headaches.  Keeping up with the housework and the children, leaves me feeling joyful and energized.  It gives me a peace that, many mothers long for, but don't know how to find.

On this military base especially, there are so many activities available for moms that I could have my children in free child care for a minimum of two hours a day.  These activities are good and necessary for spouses of deployed soldiers, but are available to everyone.  Last year, I enjoyed the weekly time with like-minded mothers, but found that after I added the necessary grocery trip, the short errands, and a play date to the routine, the children and I were actually out for three or four days of the week.  The housework suffered because there was nobody at home to tend to it.  The mess at home and the hurried clean-up before mealtimes was making me crabby and stressed out.  (I am not a happy person when I don't eat on time.)  I realized my need to be at home and set aside two "stay home" days, scheduled around my "mommy time", play dates, and errands.  The housework improved a little, but I still felt behind.  The laundry was usually half way done, the kitchen, the same.  Keeping up with the housework when at home was stealing away quality time with the children.  Despite those two "home days", I felt a slow and steady call to be home.  I struggled with it for a while, feeling the pressures from society to get mothers outside of the home.   It's become trendy to be a stay-at-home mom, but many moms who stay home are not really at home and struggle with being a stay-at-home mom.  There are a lot of stressed out moms out there! (I know this, because I have been one.)

Society doesn't believe that the mothers of today have what it takes to stay home.  Most strangers I run into, see the baby in the carrier and the other two (sometimes) loud and energetic boys, and they give me condoling glances.  They are usually quite shocked that I'm hoping for at least two girls someday, and would gladly take as many girls (and boys) as God wishes.  I love children.  They are a gift from God.  Who says "no" to a present?  (Many do.)  Not us.  Sadly, I meet a lot of mothers who thank God for the gifts He gave them, but then turn around and leave them, just like the little boy, who, two weeks after his birthday, grew tired of the new red ball and now leaves it in the living room under the couch, forgotten.  Beside the mothers that work outside the home, many work at home.  I have been approached many times to work from home as a personal consultant for this or that.  I did try direct selling for a while.  I enjoyed it a little, but I noticed that it was not just a hobby, it was a job.  I didn't like it.  I had to have my husband home for child care, while I had to take time away from my family to go to a "party".  I thought to myself: "Why the heck am I working when I don't have to?"  So I quit (and am thankful that I did).

It seems like a lot of moms are turning their hobbies into part-time jobs.  If you're blogging, you surely know how popular hobbies are these days.  They are all over blogland and pinterest and they are so cool and we love them and want to do all of them!  We moms love making things for our children, and showing off our accomplishments to all our friends (online and off).  There is nothing wrong with that, in moderation.  I'm not saying that mothers don't need a creative outlet, or time alone, but I do think we don't need it nearly as much as we keep telling ourselves.  When hobbies require an excessive amount of money and time, then it's not really a hobby that is useful to you, it's a hobby that is using you, and stealing time from your family that you can never get back.  While society is trying to help struggling stay-at-home moms by distracting them with hobbies, and luring them outside the home for "mommy time", society should really be encouraging mothers to be at home, to mother our children.

What is mothering?  Well, for me, Ma Ingalls and her weekly schedule is a great example.  When I wash those smelly little clothes and piles of diapers; when I iron my Sunday dress; when I mend a hole in my son's favorite pants; when I clean those bathrooms, wipe the tables, sweep the crumbs, mop the floors, and keep my house neat; when I bake that corn bread the boys like so much and make a batch of cookies while I'm at it; when I do all these things, I can then rest on Sunday and take pride in my home and it gives me new energy.  It seems to be easier to keep up with the chores when I do not look at them as chores, but as little acts of love that I joyfully do for my husband and children, and for God, who has given me these gifts.  Now, I'm sure you will notice that I don't churn on Thursday.  Thankfully.  =)  I do another load of laundry on Thursday instead.  You might also catch me cleaning around the toilets more than once a week, after all, Ma Ingalls had a tiny house full of girls (maybe she ended up having boys, but we're only on book 3).  I doubt she had a toilet, and I know she didn't have three boys, two of whom go standing up.  But it's not really all about the housework at all, it's about for whom I am keeping house.

I have learned that in order to keep up with the housework and have time for my family, I need to have a loose and flexible schedule.  My schedule is not an hour by hour planned day.   It is more like Ma Ingalls' schedule, where I focus on certain housekeeping tasks while spending time with my family.  I focus on staying home, and being physically and mentally available.

So if you are a stay-at-home mother who struggles with your vocation, keep these things in mind:

1)  Embrace this season in your life.  It won't be long until your children are grown and you will wonder where the time went.  Ask God to help you see what a high calling it is to raise children, and to give you peace about your vocation.

2)  Make a loose schedule, like Ma Ingalls' and stick to it for a while.  Try to do housework while the children are with you.  While you're working, they can help, listen to an audio book, color, tell you stories, etc.

3)  Give yourself permission to say "no" to the many invitations that take you out of the home, and to the distractions inside your home.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.  She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.  ~ Proverbs 31: 26-27

Friday, October 14, 2011

Menu Plan - Oct 15-21


I had a rough week last week, with migraines, so we strayed from the menu plan a little.  We're not always going to stick to it, so I'm going back and crossing things out and writing down what we really had.  I'm just doing that for myself.  I still find it difficult to menu plan.  I know I don't really have to plan 3 meals a day, but I think it's better for me that way, because that way I always have what I need in the house.  And I guess I'm a picky eater.  I like three good meals a day, just like my momma cooked when we were little.  I'm trying a few new recipes this week.  I just like trying new things (*), but usually end up cooking it my way anyways.  I bought a new slow cooker (my other one was a fast cooker and burnt everything), so I'm trying out a few recipes in that.  Hopefully it's a good one.

I'm cooking a lot of sweets for my people for breakfast, but I can't have sugary breakfasts.  I need straight up protein for breakfast or I turn into a bad person.  So whenever I have a sugary breakfast on the menu, I'll probably be having rice & beans or oatmeal instead with just a bite of the sweet thing.  I know that is lame, but I guess I'm getting older. =)


Saturday 15 - St. Teresa of Avila
Bake 2 loaves of bread, 2 apple coffee cakes, 2 batches breadsticks
Breakfast: Lemon Crepes
Lunch: Sandwiches or leftovers
Dinner: Oktoberfest after Mass. BYOB & Brats.  Bring a side or dessert: Apple Coffee Cake

Sunday 16
Breakfast:  Apple Coffee Cake
Lunch: Pork chops*, rosemary roasties, green salad.
Dinner: green salad

Monday 17 - Slow Cook Monday
Breakfast: Bagel breakfast sandwiches
Lunch: Veggie/Rice Skillet
Dinner:  Slow cooked moroccan lentils

Tuesday 18 - St. Luke
Breakfast: German Pancake (Luke's favorite breakfast)
Lunch: Homemade mac & cheese* (Luke's other favorite meal)
Dinner: Free dinner @ town hall meeting


Wednesday 19
Breakfast: Toast & tea
Lunch: Sandwiches - grilled veggie melt (mushrooms, eggplant on humus, lettuce)
Dinner: Cranberry Crockpot Chicken* Daddy wants to go out after his PT test. =)

Thursday 20
Breakfast: Birchermuesli variation w/ whatever we have on hand.
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Free dinner at CC

Friday 21
Breakfast: toast with jam, hot herbal tea with honey
Lunch:  leftover mac & cheese, green peas
Dinner:  brown rice patties*, green salad

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oh, it's just a little rant.

I just have to tell you why I have such little faith in today's medical professionals (and why I rarely take myself to the doctor, not even for a birth).  I had to go to my doc to get a referral to see a neurologist because I've been having 5-day migraines a few too many times this month.  My "doc" is an NP, in her mid-thirties.  She was very amazed that I homeschool the children.  She thought that was "a lot".  She asked Isaiah to count to 10 (no brainer, the child is almost 6).  She asked him the date of his birthday.  Isaiah told her his birthday, Luke's birthday, and Jacob and Andrew's birthday.  She then told me that she thinks I do have a little bit of "underlying depression".  (She told me the exact same thing back in April, when I was a bit overwhelmed with school.  It made me wonder whether she tells all mothers they have "underlying depression".)  She thinks it's just "so much" for me to homeschool, cook, clean, do laundry.  I'm thinking: "Mothers have been doing this type of work for years!  It's not that difficult!"  I told her that staying home with my children is very enjoyable when I don't have headaches.  We go to the park, we read books, we color, I cook for my family (something I love doing), do laundry, the usual.  I think I take it so much easier than most moms these days who are running around here and there most days.  Then I mentioned breastfeeding.  That I do wake once or twice a night to feed the baby, but that I feel like I'm getting plenty of sleep, especially since I've been forced to go bed at 7 or 8 because of the headaches.  The NP says:  "You breastfeed??? With all those teeth??"  Jacob has 4 teeth.  "How old is he??"  (10 months.)  She was very shocked.  I told her I nursed the other two until 18 months (just to shock her a bit more).  Lol.
At this point, I pretty much said to myself: "Sigh...if this female NP doesn't even know about nursing babies, how in the heck is she able to help people??  What do they teach these people in medical school anyways?"

It reminds me of that one time 6 years ago I went to another doctor because of migraines.  This one was another woman, in her late twenties (or very early thirties).  She proscribed me a medication that she swore up and down would not go through to the breastmilk.  I knew better.  Either she was lying straight through her teeth, or she was just a very uneducated doctor.  I read the little side effects sheet and talked to the pharmacist.  The sheet said the medication is used to treat "mild heart attacks" and "might cause heart palpitations".  I told the pharmacist that I was breastfeeding and I won't be taking anything like this while I'm nursing.  The pharmacist was very surprised the doctor even proscribed it for headaches.  (Duh people, I don't have a medical degree, and I don't like chemistry, but I can read, and thanks be to God, He gave me a good amount of common sense.  My dad is a microbiologist, and my mother is a Swiss RN, so I do know a thing or two about medicine and health.)

Another time, a few months after this, while Andrew was deployed and Isaiah was about 10 months old, I went for a women's check-up, and now you'll find out why I don't do those check-ups anymore (big waste of time).  The doctor (female) asked me whether I was sexually active, even though she knew my husband was deployed.  I politely reminded her that my husband was currently about 7000 miles away.  (I really had to keep from cursing at her - how rude of her to assume and suggest such a thing.)  She then wanted to know whether I was taking any birth control.  Now I really started to feel that maybe this doctor wasn't quite right in the head.  2+2=4. Husband deployed + not sexually active = no need for birth control.  I also made sure to tell her the fact that I would never take any birth control because it is a grave sin, not to mention, really bad for my body.  "Well, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding, you know", she continues to inform me.  "Yes, I know.  I'm not fertile right now.  I monitor my fertility through the sympto-thermal method of Natural Family Planning."  "The what?"  I go on to explain what NFP is, what the sympto-thermal method is, and how I do my little observations to be 100% that I cam not fertile.  It was all news to her.  I felt like I needed to give her my NFP textbook so she could read up on it and not be such an ignorant family medicine doctor.

Haha, so that's my rant on the health professionals.  There are a few other instances when doctors have acted like they cannot do anything that requires common sense.  They can only check the symptoms and give medication.  Now, don't get me wrong, I think doctors are wonderful people and do amazing things.  I'm glad that there are a lot of good ones out there.  I just wonder sometimes, why all the ones I have seen through the military system (which are not actually military doctors - they are civilians), are so ignorant of common things such as breastfeeding and NFP.  NFP I can understand.  It's the best kept secret, unfortunately, and women are being told lies about birth control.  So, if per chance you do not know what NFP is, please, go to www.ccli.org and find a teaching couple and educate yourself on Natural Family Planning.  But now you know why I don't bother to go to the doctor (unless I need a referral).  We'll see what the neurologist comes up with.  Should be entertaining.  No, seriously, I do hope some health professional will finally help me figure out these headaches.

Thankfully, prayer seems to work better than medicine.  My headache is gone since 10am and not back yet.  Praise be to God.  Thanks for all your prayers.  The finger is also healing very quickly and looks much better today.  Now off, to nurse that baby, with "all those teeth".

Prayers Please


 

Picked some flowers from the community garden earlier this week.  Going to the doctor today to see if anyone can figure out the cause of my migraines.  I'm on day 5 of a headache today.  It let up yesterday morning, then came back after lunch.  Please keep me in your prayers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our Trip and My Cut

We spent this past Friday and Saturday in San Antonio, to use our yearly free trip to Sea World, and visit the Alamo.  We also took the boat tour that goes along the River Walk and ate at Casa Rio.  Yum.  I didn't take a ton of pics because I took the point & shoot, and go figure, it was low on batteries.  I wanted to blog about it on Sunday, but I was "out" Sunday - Tuesday with a migraine.  Then, to top it off, I sliced off a tiny bit of my finger tip yesterday evening while chopping lettuce.  (Picture at the very end of this post...after the warning.)Serves me right for trying to put dinner on the table while not 100%.  I just really, really, wanted to stick to my new dinner plan.  I'm afraid I'll have to veer off it this whole week.  I just can't really keep up with the kitchen work without the use of my left handed pointer.  But I will probably just take it very slow and still try to keep with the menu plan and not use my finger as an excuse to get pizza every day, as much as I'd like to. =)







Below the dots is a picture of my injured finger.  Kinda gross picture...but it's really not that bad, it could have been a lot worse.
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I'm keeping it small.  That way you don't have to see it unless you really want to, and in that case, you can click on it to enlarge it.  This is day two.  It's already healing.  The protruding part on the top right is my flesh, already growing back.  Ick.  I'm so annoyed I did this, but whatever, it's taught me a good lesson: don't chop stuff unless you can pay attention to what you're doing.
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