Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Off the Shelf - January

Instead of trying to do a wrap up  of all the best books I have read at the end of the year, I'm hoping to do a brief review of the books we have read each month. Some months, I know I'll read little, such as the middle of the summer, but in the months that I've been inspired by our reading, I'll share the highlights with you.

I'll include children's picture books, family read alouds, adult books, and maybe even persuade Ed to share what he is reading. Though maybe no one else will be interested in a pastoral library!  Please remember that I'm not saying that I loved everything about these books. No book is perfect.

These are the books in our library bag and night stand in January.

Children's Picture Books

The Empty Pot by Demi
The importance of honesty set in China illustrated with Asian style art.

Winter is the Warmest Season by Lauren Stringer
A celebration of the warm coziness winter brings.

Sam's All-Wrong Day by Gyo Fujikawa
An endearing story of Sam's bad day that turned out okay after all.

The Boy Who Changed the World by Andy Andrews
Even the little things we do for others can have an impact on the world. The story of several Americans - slightly confusing for the younger ones in the way the author merged the stories together.

Tell Me the Day Backward by Albert Lamb
My two year old's favorite book this month.

Bird, Butterfly, Eel by James Prosek
The incredible migrations of three creatures.

Sisters of Scituate Light by Stephen Krensky
The true story of two brave sisters who saved a town during the War of 1812.

Read Aloud Favorites

The Reluctant Dragon by Margaret Hodges
A silly tale that was the perfect connection with our study of medieval history. A knight and a dragon try to find a way that can get out of the fight that the townspeople expect.

Treasures of the Snow by Patricia M. St. John
What a pleasure to introduce my children to one of my favorite books. The setting in the Swiss Alps and the example of forgiveness has lasting charm.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Ronald Dahl
Ed shared this fun story with the children and could usually be persuaded to read "just one more chapter."

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Another "just for fun" story that had us all in giggles.

My Books

Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
A classic set in South Africa that took a little to get into. But by the end I was angry that no one in my 35 years ever pushed this book in my hands and told me to read it. The pleasure was magnified by sharing this book with our book club. Looking forward to visiting this book again.

Style by Joseph Williams
I have finally decided that if I'm going to pretend to write, I should learn to write better. I was slightly overwhelmed by this book. I need to go through it again slowly and work through the exercises. I didn't even want to admit that I read this book as you all know, better than anyone, about my poor grammar skills.

Saint Ben by John Fischer
This book had me crying, laughing, and thinking, harder than any other book I've read recently. It is a little embarrassing to walk into church wiping tears because you've just been reading a story! The two ten year old boys in this story had a way of wiggling into my heart.

I'd love to hear what books you've enjoyed recently!

This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Soaked Granola

Soaked granola - isn't that what everyone eats when they pour milk over their granola in the morning?

If you are familiar with Nourishing Traditions, you know that "soaking" is an important facet of their diet recommendations. They suggest that all grains and seeds should be soaked in an acid medium (such as yogurt or lemon juice) before being prepared for eating. According to their research, grains are hard to digest and can actually bind up important minerals.

I always rolled my eyes and considered those who cook according to Nourishing Traditions the worse food snobs ever.

We loved my peanut butter granola. I always considered it far better than typical breakfast cereal since it contained "real" food, oatmeal, nuts, coconut, peanut butter, and honey. But I must have been slightly convinced of their claim that dry roasting oatmeal makes it completely indigestible. Changing a toddler's diapers demonstrated that very little digestion was happening for some of the family. (I know. TMI. Sorry.)

A few months ago, I decided to attempt making a soaked granola. I was sure the extra steps would not be worthwhile and it would taste awful.

I was wrong. Very wrong. Yes, it was a few more steps, but nothing difficult. But the taste...we were instantly smitten. Ed immediately claimed it was the very best granola ever. The yogurt gives it just a slight tang, though not sour. It is super crunchy, almost like the nut clusters in Honey Bunches of Oats which is Ed's all time favorite box cereal.


I found several online recipes and combined them to come up with my version. I start by mixing the dry ingredients with water and yogurt and allow to sit for 8 or so hours.



The oatmeal absorbs the moisture and becomes a thick glob. I stir in the rest of the ingredients.

 

This may be the hardest part of the whole project. I give up on a spoon and just dig in with my hands. Licking my fingers may be the best part! Yummy!



I use my dehydrator to dry the granola but you can also dry in the oven. A dehydrator is easy since it doesn't need turned. Plus we get to enjoy the wonderful aroma for hours. I make a double batch in my eight tray dehydrator.



Want to try it?

Soaked Granola


6 cups rolled oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped nuts (peanuts, almonds, or walnuts)
1 cup plain yogurt or kefir
2 cup water
1 cup coconut
1 cup butter or coconut oil
1 cup honey
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup raisins, craisins, or dried apples

Stir together oats, flour, sunflower seeds, and nuts. Add yogurt and water. Stir well. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours.

Add coconut, butter, honey, salt, and cinnamon. Stir well, breaking up clumps with hands if needed.

Spread in dehydrator and dry at 145 degrees until completely dry and crispy. I often start at 145 for a couple hours, turn the granola then lower the temperature to about 125 and allow to dry all night.

If using the oven, spread in baking sheets. Parchment paper will help keep it from sticking. Bake at 250 degrees for an hour or until completely dried. Stir every 15 minutes.

When dry, store in an airtight container.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Window Frame Cork Board


There is no danger in this turning into a craft blog. I completely lack creative ideas, but occasionally I actually have a successful idea.

I was looking for a way to display the children's art work. Frequently, the children make drawing that they want to hang. Magnets on the fridge and tape on the walls was losing it's appeal. I needed something easy to change to a new picture but in some way look a little planned and less haphazard.

A friend gave me an old six pane window. I knocked out the glass (carefully) and all the old putty around the glass. I chose not to change the frame at all, just cleaned it up a little. I liked the look of the old chipped paint on the frame.



I bought a roll of thin cork and Ed glued the cork to foam board and cut it to size. He used glazing points to fasten the cork into the window frame. He added a wire and screws for hanging.

A simple project but I love the result. The cork isn't terribly secure and could pop out if handled roughtly, so I ask the children to let me push the tacks in. I think it looks great empty, or filled with the children's masterpieces.



Not fine art, but perfect for our home.

How do you display your children's artwork?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where to find Water Softening Powder

Since I shared the recipe I use for homemade laundry detergent, I have had many questions concerning where to find Calgon water softening powder.

I purchased mine at a large grocery store in the laundry department. Since one box lasts quite a while, I have not needed to purchase for probably close two years. Maybe stores are no longer carrying it.



If you can't find water softening powder at your local store, you can purchase from Amazon.

The next question is whether the water softening powder is truly necessary if you have soft water? I can't answer that since I haven't tried the recipe without. I think the purpose of the water softening powder is to whiten laundry. If any of you have used this detergent recipe without adding water softening powder, let us know your results.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Most Important 15 Minutes of My Day

You are probably expecting me to talk about prayer and Bible reading. Truly that is the most valuable minutes of the day. Without those activities, all other endeavors of my day fall flat.

But I'm thinking specifically of homemaking and organizing my time.

The most important minutes of my day are the 15 minutes at the end of my day. Wise use of those 15 minutes will avoid stress for the next day.

I utilize those 15 minutes in various ways.  Often I look over tomorrow's menu (or make a menu) and get needed items from the freezer to defrost. Maybe I'll sort laundry and start a load. If I have errands the next day, I can prepare my shopping list, pack my diaper bag, and gather items that need returned. Sometimes I even take items to the van, if I fear the morning rush will cause my mind to be left behind.

Spending a few minutes in the quiet of the evening preparing for the next day, results in fewer 5:00 dinner panics over a frozen chunk of meat. It means having the option of utilizing my slow cooker. It means fewer items forgotten or misplaced. It means getting an early start at hanging out laundry.

I'm not a morning person. Though I love how rising early can help me accomplish so much more in my day, often my brain takes a while to turn on. If laundry is prepped, meals begun, errands planned - I can jump into autopilot and "do the next thing" without analyzing what it is that I should be doing.

But as one who could be described as a night person, I also need to carefully keep a time limit. Every mom knows that the work is never ending and we could easily find work every night until midnight. But tired moms don't function well, and I am learning to value a decent bedtime. The work will still be there tomorrow

If we are home, we are rather strict on a 9:00 bedtime for our children. As anyone with many young active children understands, it isn't easy to carve out couple time when the children are awake. My goal is to spend a few minutes preparing for the next day, but then put away the cookbooks, turn off the computer, shut the door to the laundry, and focus on my husband.

Taking the time to deliberately consider what I can do each evening to bless the next day has been a valuable use of time in our home. I'd love to learn from you. What ways do you maximize your minutes to bless your family?

Monday, January 23, 2012

For Fear of Chocolate Pie

Recently, I've been thinking about fear and why I am intimidated by the most ridiculous things. Do I fear failure? Am I intimidated because I don't think I will measure up?

Readers often admit that they are scared to attempt to bake bread. I've baked bread since I was ten years old and have made every kind of blooper in the book. Yeast holds no power of intimidation over me.

But apparently, I have a fear of chocolate pie.

My husband loves chocolate pie. Most Christmas meals are not complete without a piece of his mother's chocolate pie. When we married, it was one recipe that he wanted me to get from his mother.

I planned to learn to make chocolate pie. I love cooking to please my husband. Besides, I loved chocolate pie as much as Ed did. But something held me back.

Was it fear of failure? Was it intimidation of his mother's wonderful flaky pie crust? Regardless of the cause, the result was that I never made chocolate pie.

Last year, I told Ed I'd try to make him a chocolate pie for his birthday, but I broke my word and made cheesecake instead. Surely after almost ten years of marriage, I could have mustered up enough courage to tackle my husband's favorite recipe!

But birthdays have a way of coming around again and this month, I finally did it. I actually made a chocolate pie. The result - a pie every bit as good as Ed's mothers (well, maybe the crust wasn't quite as good, but Ed didn't complain.)

The worse (or best) part - it was easy! I have no idea why I waited so long to make chocolate pie. It was almost embarrassingly easy.

I wonder how many of my other fears would be so easily conquered if I only made the first attempt?

Now I'll share the recipe with you, so you too can enjoy an easy chocolate pie! But I should note that this recipe could strike fear for another reason, it contains raw eggs. I don't have a problem with eating homegrown raw eggs, but if you do, you just missed the opportunity to eat a wonderful chocolate pie.

Chocolate Pie


1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 T milk
2 T sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg whites
baked pie crust

Melt chocolate, milk, and sugar at low heat or on double boiler. Cool slightly. Beat egg yolks into chocolate one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold chocolate and egg whites together. Pour into pre-baked pie crust and chill. Serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2011 Garden Review


Seed catalogs continue to arrive in the mail box, reminding me that I have not taken the time to review last year's garden and make plans for the coming planting season.

Despite a wet spring, late garden, and dry summer, the Lord did bless us with an abundant harvest in 2011. Our worse challenge was the critters who wished to share our crop. Next year we need to be much more vigilant in pest control.

Our worse pest was ground hogs. I might have to give in and learn to shoot a gun. The varmints never show up when Ed is around but will walk within a few feet of me. Apparently they know I'm harmless.

Rabbits were another pest. They were almost tame and  hard to run off. They acted like they owned the place.

But the biggest change I need to make for next year is simply to plant more. I have been planting nearly the same amount the past few years but between our growing family and dry seasons, the harvest has not been enough. This year, we were blessed to receive green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes from family and friends, otherwise I would not have had nearly enough.



One of the best successes this year was the peas. I never have a good crop of peas. We love peas and it is discouraging to have a slim harvest of our favorite vegetable. This year we planted our peas in a new garden plot that was formerly pasture. We planted a far greater quantity of seeds than usual and chose two new (to us) varieties (Bolero and Encore both from Stokes).

I'm not sure what to give the credit. Was it the soil, the variety, our cool wet spring, or just that fact that we planted a huge amount? All I know is that we picked buckets of peas! (Thankfully a neighbor has a pea sheller and shells a bushel of peas for only $1.00.) I plan to mimic as closely as possible what we did last year and hope for the same success.

The new garden plots that we began in our pasture did well for certain crops and poor for others. The soil there is stony and drains well. It was perfect for our peas as our other garden lies low and was far too wet to plant in early spring. By the time the hot dry weather hit, the peas were over. Onions and potatoes also did well in those plots.

But the plots are too far from the house for any kind of pest control. The lettuce and beets had no chance. The squash were harassed and only one pumpkin escaped without at least one set of toothmarks. About half of the corn was pulled down and eaten. Next year we plan to keep the plants the varmints enjoy closer to the house where we can watch them easier and possibly protect better.

I appreciated Quinn's thoughts on trusting God for our harvest and focusing on doing what we do well, before adding new projects. After an overwhelming year in various fronts last year, my goals are to keep my garden plans simple and focus on growing those things that we know we can grow well.



Am I crazy to be thinking about gardening already? Please tell me that I'm not the only one! To be honest, one part of me wants to enjoy the winter's sabbatical. But then I get excited about making next year's garden better, pull a gardening book off the shelf, and start sketching garden plans.

Maybe I do have some farmer genetics passed down to me.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Favorite Lasagna

We love lasagna but I  rarely make it. The multiple steps and ingredients I don't usually stock, hold me back. I've tried simpler recipes, but keep coming back to this lasanga as our favorite.

The original recipe required part of a container of cottage cheese and didn't use a whole box of lasagna noodles. I disliked having partially used containers. Besides, while I was in the mess, it wasn't much more trouble to make several pans.

I adapted the recipe to make three 9x13 pans and use up complete containers.


This morning I simmered the sauce while I made lunch.

 

The noodles cooked while we cleaned up the kitchen. 



The cheese filling didn't take long to stir up.



The hardest thing about assembling the lasagnas was guessing how to make all the layers come out evenly. And that wasn't so difficult.



By the time I finished, I wondered why I think making lasagna is a big deal. Now I have a lasagna all ready for Ed's birthday next week and two more for the freezer. Anyone want to come over for lasagna?

Favorite Lasagna - Large Batch

Sauce:
4 lb ground beef
2 quart pizza sauce


OR instead of pizza sauce use:
2 quart tomato juice
4 (6oz) cans tomato paste
3 tsp salt
3 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder

Cheese Filling:
2 (24 oz) cottage cheese
6 eggs
1 1/2 cup paremesan cheese
4 T parsley flakes
3 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper


2 (16 oz) boxes of lasagna noodles (36 noodles)
2 lb shredded mozarella


Brown ground beef. Add pizza sauce OR sauce ingredients. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Combine cheese filling ingredients.

Cook noodles until just softened. Drain.

In three 9x13 pans, put a little sauce in bottom. Layer noodles, cheese filling, and sauce. Repeat two times. End with layer of noodles and any remaining sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Wrap tightly and freeze or bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Books on Children Around the World

Books are a wonderful way to expand your child's world. Through books we have traveled to places we will probably never visit.

The following list is picture books we have enjoyed. Families preferences vary and you may want to pre-read them first to check the modesty in photos and references to idol worship.



Children Just Like Me by Barnabas Kindersley
All around the world are children who live in homes, do their chores, play games and enjoy their families.



People by Peter Spier
Celebrate the differences in people around the world with Spier's wonderful drawings.



One World, One Day - by Barbara Kerley
Photos of children around the world doing things every child does.



Nine O'Clock Lullaby by Marilyn Singer
Introduction to the time zones.



How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman
Look at the ingredients on your shelf in a whole new way.

From Arapesh to Zuni by Karen Lewis
An alaphbet book  from Wycliffe sharing a short description of a people group who does not have a Bible in their own language. Last year we read one page a week and gathered some ideas from Mother's Bible to learn more about the people or country.



What the World Eats by Peter Menzel
I don't consider this a children's book but found it in the children's department of our library. I brought it home just for the photos but ended up reading most of it. Families around the world are photographed with the food they eat for one week. The contrast between refugees in Chad and middle class America is startling. This book prompted a lot of conversations on nutrition. If you like this book, look for Material World by the same author.

Have fun with your world travels from the couch!


This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fresh Winter Greens

If there is anything better than a January salad of freshly picked greens, I'd like to hear of it.

Our busy fall meant that I did not get lettuce and spinach planted in the cold frame until very late- almost too late. The lettuce is tiny and I've only harvested a few leaves. But the spinach is doing well, probably thanks to our mild winter.

Once again, I realize I did not plant nearly enough. Greens grow very slowly in cold weather. I have been cutting the spinach about every two weeks. The spinach is so crisp and sweet, far better than spinach grown in warmer weather.  Even our children ask for seconds of salad. I wish I had enough planted for a fresh salad several times a week.

The spinach is growing in a small raised bed beside our house. The bed is covered with a double layer of row cover. Rain and sunlight can penetrate the row cover and I give it no attention unless I want to harvest.

I find planting a late garden to be a challenge. By the end of summer, my planting enthusiasm is waning. But these few spinach plants were well worth the tiny bit of effort.

Are you still harvesting in your garden?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Best Frugal Tip

At the start of a new year, many of us have the goal of stretching our hard earned money further.

Some money saving tips are so time consuming, that I wonder if the money saved is actually worth the time involved.

But hair cutting is truly a money saving activity.

I started cutting Ed's hair before our marriage. He wanted me to do it for him and I figured it was a good time to start. If I messed it up, he couldn't get too angry with his soon-to-be-bride. My mom cut my dad and brother's hair so I used her clippers and she helped me through the first several haircuts. I had no idea what I was doing but thankfully, Ed has curly easy to cut hair.

When we had our own sons, we decided it was time to purchase our own haircutting tools. We bought a Wahl electric trimmers and a pair of scissors. We figured the investment paid for itself with only a couple haircuts.

I can cut my two sons and husband's hair in fifteen minutes, including clean up time. It would take about that much time for us to drive to a barber, not including wait time and the return home. If each haircut would cost $10.00, those fifteen minutes of my time save $30.00. I call that a worthwhile investment of time. If there were twelve males in my household and I could keep up the five minute haircuts, I could "make" $120.00 in an hour.

If I give three haircuts a month, my year savings is $360.00. My total time investment is three hours. (Even better, Ed calls this my book buying money!)

I would love to hear your best tip for saving money. What do you do to stretch your dollars and how much time to you estimate it to take?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Start a Book Club!

Have you ever read a book, and you were so excited about it that you couldn't help but talk about it to everyone you met?

But no one else cared. Not that they didn't care about you, but they had not read the book and didn't understand why you were excited.

I remember when I first discovered the fun of discussing books. In my teens, one of my brothers gained a love of reading. Both of us enjoyed reading classic fiction. When I saw my brother start to read a book, I would choose to read the same book just for the fun of discussing the book with him. Sherlock Holmes, Great Expectations and The Prisoner of Zenda still hold fond memories because of those book discussions.

I was fortunate enough to marry a man who enjoys reading. The joys of a book are double when shared with a good friend.

Last winter, a couple from our church asked if anyone would be interested in starting a book club. It took  about 15 seconds for Ed and I to decide to join and it has not been a disappointment.

Our book club is very loosely organized. We take turns choosing a book, which means we have all been stretched to read books outside of our normal comfort zone. We have one month to read the book and then get together for an evening to discuss the book.

Usually the evening's host or hostess prepares some discussion questions but since our group knows each other well, it doesn't take long and we are into a thick discussion, complete with lots of good natured disagreements, conspiracy theories and laughter.

If you have ever considered being part of a book club, go for it! Send out a couple emails and see if any of your friends have the same desire. Our group consists of couples, singles, males and females with a wide range of reading but you could narrow the focus of the group to only females, non-fiction, classics, or whatever. For Ed and I, it has been a fun date night and enjoyable way to interact with friends and grow.


Our group took a field trip to Johnstown, Pennsylvania after reading about the Johnstown Flood and ate homemade egg rolls when reading about the persecuted church in China. Be creative, have fun, and enjoy reading as a community activity. (The photos are of Ed and I at book club meetings. Sorry I'm not showing any of the other beautiful people in our book club. I want to be sensitive to those who don't like their photo on the web.)



Okay, if I read this post, I'd be asking, "so what books have you read?" Here is the list. We only meet in the winter for about five months.

Last year:
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Robe by Lloyd Douglas
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

This year:
These Strange Ashes by Elisabeth Elliot
Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Radical by David Platt
The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter
Silent Tears by Kay Bratt

Have you ever participated in a book club?

This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels


One of our favorite wintertime activities is making soft pretzels. They are fun to shape and always yummy to eat.

This recipe can be used with white, whole wheat or a mixture of flours. I have it listed for whole wheat flour. If using white flour, you'll probably need slightly more flour.

 

I used to divide the dough into balls but it took so long to roll them into long strips that the children became discouraged. By rolling the dough flat and cutting it into strips, it is far easier. The children like to get creative with their shapes.



Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels


1 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1 T yeast
2 T honey
2 T soft butter
1 tsp salt
5 cups whole wheat flour (or white flour)
1 T gluten (optional)

Mix all ingredients together. Knead for five minutes. Allow to rise 1 hour.
Roll out dough. Cut into 12-15 strips with pizza cutter. Shape pretzels.



For dipping:
2 cup warm water
4 tsp baking soda

Mix  water and soda together. Dip pretzels into water and place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 500 degrees for 8 minutes.


Option: If you like your pretzels with lots of buttery goodness, you can brush on some melted butter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Key to Staying Organized

It is rather simple (though maybe time consuming) to clean and organize a home, the greater challenge is to keep it that way.

Keeping a house organized requires the discipline of regular upkeep. It means returning items to their place and encouraging my family to do the same. I have found, the key to an organized home is what I call "margin."

Organizing a closet,  bookshelf, or drawer is fun. Fitting the items in a neat organized manner is like working a puzzle. But if I wedge every item together closely, stacked tightly with no margin, the organization will not last.

We are all familiar with the margins on a page. It is the white space which makes a book easier to read. Another definition in the dictionary of margin is "an amount beyond what is needed." When organizing a home, if I allow empty space, space beyond what is presently needed, the space stays organized far longer.

I can't expect my children to replace a book when the books on the shelf are wedged so tightly that not even a magazine can squeeze in. The art drawer will be in shambles if every time they get out the scissors, they need to pick up three other items on top. No child, or even adult, will be encouraged to hang up their coat if the closet is stuffed to the gills.

The problem is that most of us own too much stuff for the amount of space in our home. I'm trying to learn to be ruthless. If the books don't all fit easily on the shelf, some need another home. If the kitchen drawer is overflowing, something is added to the giveaway pile. Planning for margin in my home has been wonderfully freeing.

I found that margin  is the key to time management as well.

What do you consider key in staying organized?

Reminder...you still have time to sign up the cd giveaway!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pizza Roll-Ups

Here is pizza variation that we have enjoyed. These are easy to prepare ahead and freeze for a quick meal. You may use frozen bread dough or your favorite bread recipe. I used a batch of pizza crust dough.


Pizza Roll-Ups

1 loaf of bread dough
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1/2  tsp pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 T parsley
2 cup mozzarella cheese
tomato sauce

Brown meat. Mix seasonings with meat.
Roll out the dough (14x24 inch) Spoon on meat, sprinkle cheese. Roll up length-wise.


Slice into 1-inch slices. Place on baking sheet. Allow to rest 10 minutes.

 

Bake 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.
Serve with warm sauce.
May be wrapped, frozen and reheated.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Recognizing Hindrances

Some may spring clean, other choose fall cleaning, but for me, every new year, I'm overtaken with the desire to throw open the closets, chase out the dust bunnies and whip this house into the state of immaculate organization.

Of course, I never attain. I'm not sure I want to have a perfectly organized home. I want to enjoy living here. But with my goal this fall to deliberately work on having a home that better fulfills the needs of it's occupants, the work of organizing is on-going.

I've learned a few things about myself through the years. I'm good at starting projects. I love the thrill of pulling out the accumulated stuff, scrubbing down the shelves, purging the useless, and neatly replacing the items.

But it is hard for me to fully finish an organizing project. There is always a pile of miscellaneous items that I don't know what to do with. Maybe they are broken, or missing a part, or just don't belong here, there or anywhere.

So the pile sits, and is shoved from side to side, or pushed in a drawer to be lost until the next organizing binge. The lack of closure to the project brings a feeling of despair. Why dig into another drawer, when I didn't finish this one? How can I start another room, when I don't know what to do with this stuff?

If recognizing the hindrance is half the problem, the other half is removing the hindrance. Maybe this sounds like avoidance, but this fall I found the perfect (for me) solution. I chose an empty corner of the basement to be my catchall.

Of course, I continue to find homes for items as much as possible. Trash and giveaway items have their specific places but any item that I don't know what to do with presently is placed in this basement corner. Maybe some day I can find a perfect place for it. Maybe I'll decide to get rid of the item. But for now, I now where all the miscellaneous homeless items are located. I can't tell you how much this has helped in the past months.

Now I would like to hear from you. What is your greatest hindrance when cleaning and organizing? What have you done to remove the hindrance?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Giveaway - Nolt Family CD

I have a weakness for families that sing together. There is something inspiring about the close family harmony.



One of the Home Joys readers contacted me with an offer to give away one of her family's new cds.



Jewel Nolt, along with her husband and eight children produced a cd featuring their singing accompanied with banjo, piano and guitar as well as some a capella songs.

You can order a cd by emailing Jewel at jewinbunch@dejazzd.com The cost is $14.00 each or 5 or more $12.00 plus shipping. 

To enter this giveaway, go listen to some of the Nolt Family music here and come back and leave a comment.  Please give an email address so I can contact you if you win.


Giveaway is open to US residents and will be chosen by Random.org. Giveaway is open for one week.

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