Friday, September 30, 2011

Applesauce Making

Thanks for all your encouragement! After all my whining, I thought I should tell you about a good day! Yesterday, one of my sisters came to help me make applesauce. (You had a good idea, Suzi!) It is unbelievable how much another set of hands gives a lift!

We did 58 quart of applesauce. I'm choosing not to remember that is less than half of what we eat in in a year.

While waiting for apples to cook, we did some cleaning, completely caught up on laundry and even did some mending! I didn't attempt to do school. One of you said I should have apple days instead of snow days. Love the idea. We were ahead of schedule anyway.

I didn't take any pictures all day. If you want to read more about how we made applesauce check out this post or this post. Ed insisted on taking my photo last night with the applesauce. I look real photogenic at 9:00 at night after a big apple day under the orange kitchen lights!

After a "successful" day like yesterday, do I pat myself on the back? If my success is not dependent upon my accomplishments, I have no right to pride, any more than I need to beat myself on a "bad" day. If my worth is not dependent on what I "do" I am free to thank God for His blessing.

Because it was all God. He gave the willing help of a sister.  He gave healing to my back. He gives life and strength every day for what He has called us to do in that day.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Final Inspection!

The last time I wrote about our home addition was in August when we finished the mud room. I haven't written since then because we have not done anything. The project was at a total stand still.

Last week, Ed finished making the window seats. I loved the idea of using the two corners by the fireplace for storage. After deliberating over whether to have drawers, cupboard-like doors, open shelves with baskets, we finally chose a toy box style box, mostly because it was the easiest way to have a lot of storage.

I love the final outcome. The top is walnut left from other projects. I was planning to make a cushion, but this wood is too pretty to cover. For now, I just threw on a pillow. It is good there is two of them because this is hot real-estate! The children love to perch here with a pillow or two.

Now my only question is what to store here. I'm not planning to use it for toys. I hate toy boxes as the favorite toy is always on the bottom crushed under twenty other toys. I prefer shelving for toys and we already have a good place for toy storage.

For now, I am using one window box to store picnic supplies and paper-ware. I never had a good place to put these things and was actually storing them in the master bathroom closet! I think this spot, right inside from the picnic table, will be convenient.

The other window box holds all my table cloths, another item that lacked a good home. When I walked around the house gathering up the table cloths, I was surprised to discover how many I owned, and how many different locations I was storing them. I can still change my mind, but for now I am pleased.

On Saturday, Ed seeded grass. We had planted some grass in early summer. But it was right before the summer drought. The only thing that grew was weeds. Ed sprayed it all down and started over.

A couple loads of topsoil helped to smooth down some uneven areas.

Sprinkle on the grass seed (with Ed's grandfathers old grain seeder.)

Scatter some straw.

And hope it grows!

Monday night, my brother came back to finish one little area on the outside.

Then yesterday, the inspector visited. And gave his signature for final inspection! We are officially done seven months after making a huge dirt hole in the back yard. We have certainly been living and enjoying this addition for months but now I have permission to finish moving in furniture and hang things on the walls!

We learned a lot through the building process. Maybe my next post should be "lessons learned when building a home addition"!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Startling Discovery

"I can't do it all."

So what is so surprising about that? I know as well as anyone that I can't do everything.

But I don't live like I believe it.

I end every day in frustration on how many things are still undone. Never do I accomplish everything that I thought was possible in the morning.

I finally came to realize that I can only do one or two, maybe on a good day, three things in a day.

If I have a big project like applesauce, it is really hard to squeeze school in also.

If I have a great day of school, supper will probably be simple. (So thankful that Ed loves toasted cheese, bacon and tomato sandwiches!)

Maybe we get homeschooling and baking done - but the house will probably be a disaster.

Or if the house is clean, my children would have dealt with a mother completely lacking the "meek and quiet spirit" and more on the line of a drill sargent.

On the rare day that we seem to accomplish a lot, maybe the children were super helpful, before I can put on my super woman cape, I find laundry forgotten in the washing machine, or a phone call, that I had to make today, that completely slipped my mind.

And I am beating myself up again over how much I let undone.

I don't really truly believe that "I can't do it all". I keep thinking that after canning is over, and I finish some sewing projects, then, life will slow down and I'll have time for everything.

Or maybe I search for one more tip on time efficiency,  one more home organization gizmo, that will magically give me time to do everything.

It is a lie. I already have far too many interests, projects, and plain old work for several lifetimes.

I can't do it all. 

Last week found me battling back pain that put me on the couch. But, of course, I wouldn't stop. I hobbled through the day, and drove us all crazy.

Attempting super woman status isn't good for my health. I was far closer to total burn-out than I ever what to be ever again. Couldn't I take a hint from God that it is time to slow down and not try to do it all?

I'm not sure how to break a mindset where success is found in accomplishment. Not sure how to order my days to deliberately accomplish the most important, and blow off the chaff. Not at all sure where blogging fits in the equation.

I've been reading through some of the Christ's healings in the Gospels. I have faith to believe that an overwrought mom can be a recipient of the Master's healing touch. Not just from back pain (which is much improved) but in wrong thinking.

Maybe the first thing I need to do is dig out my neglected gratitude journal and start looking for blessings.

Because God IS good. I have just been too distracted to notice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Make it Yourself - Liquid Hand Soap

I considered liquid hand soap, the kind in a pump dispenser, to be a luxury item, even though we used it constantly. Our grandmothers made out just fine with bar soap. When I started making homemade soap last winter, I figured we could adjust to using bar soap.

I bought soap dishes for every sink and the children thought the bar soap was great fun. But mom didn't. The purpose of soap is to make things cleaner. But with bar soap, the sink was a mess! There was globs of soap smeared EVERYWHERE. I was constantly searching for the bar of soap, returning it to the dish, and scrubbing the caked soap scum off the sink.

Bar soap may have been good enough for Grandma, but since I knew how simple liquid soap was for children to use, it was a source of frustration.

I turned to Natural Beauty at Home. She said that any soap can be made into a liquid simply by dissolving it in water. She uses one part soap to one part water, but said the amount of water used depended on how thick of soap you desired.

That sounded easy. I had a batch of homemade soap that didn't turn out well and was rather dry. I coarsely chopped two or three bars of soap, added an equal amount of water and heated on the stove. When it melted, I used a stick blender to thoroughly blend the water and soap together. But the mixture was far too thick. I added double the water and it seemed a nice consistency. Using a funnel, I poured the soap into an old pump soap dispenser. (Mistake #1.) The rest of the soap I stored in a plastic container.

Then the soap cooled. And hardened. It was far to thick to come out of the soap dispenser. You could barely push your finger into it. I needed to add more water. But now it was stuck in a narrow necked soap dispenser. I decided to microwave it to melt the soap. (Mistake #2.) The plastic soap dispenser melted in the microwave long before the soap melted.

I turned to my bowl of "hard" liquid soap. I poured boiling water in it and blended with the stick blender until nice and smooth again. This time I had the smarts to allow the soap to cool before placing in a soap dispenser. And again it hardened as it cooled. Again I added water. Eventually enough water was added that it stayed a nice liquid soap when it was cool. By the time I was finished, I had a gallon of hand soap - all from two or three little bars of soap.

I thought the soap and water may separate in time. But after six months, it never has. I stored the soap in sealed plastic containers with a wide mouth. And it is good I did, after a few months, the soap was once again too stiff to pour. So again, I added hot water and blended it.

By this time I have no idea how much water I added, or how much soap I got from those couple bars. I'm not sure if  part of my problem was from using a failed dry batch of homemade soap. If you try this with your soap, add a little water at a time, allow it to cool in a bowl, and see if you need more water.

I use this soap for all our hand soap and even as bath soap for the children. The only fault I have with it is that the soap is "stringy". The soap dispenser is a little messier then regular soap. But again, that may be because of the soap I used. I would like to try melting other soaps - but I need to use this batch up first!

A couple bars of soap, a few minutes of my time, a melted soap dispenser = cheap soap, for a YEAR!

Have any of you tried making your own liquid hand soap?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Classic Picture Books - Part 2

More classic picture books for children! I loved reading about some of your favorites in the first post!

Henry the Explorer 
Henry the Explorer by Mark Taylor
The illustrations so perfectly match the story.

One Morning in Maine (Picture Puffins)
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
One of the first books I remember reading and rereading.

The Happy Lion (Read to a Child!: Level 2)
The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio
Some of the sequels are even better. I love The Happy Lion Roars!

The Story of Ferdinand (Puffin Storytime)
My daughter actually had a "Ferdinand" experience of sitting on a bee this summer!

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
I never loved the illustrations of the Madeline books - but the books are a classic favorite in our house.

Amos & Boris.
Amos and Boris by William Steig
Steig's imagination cranks out many crazy but favorite stories.

Billy And Blaze: A Boy And His Horse
Billy and Blaze by C. W. Anderson
Wonder how many times my brothers borrowed the Billy and Blaze books out of the library?

Caps for Sale- A Tale of a Peddler, a Monkey and Their Monkey Business
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Don't read this book if you don't want to hear your pre-schoolers walk around imitating the peddler!

Just Me by Marie Hall Ets
Somehow this book captures a glimpse of childhood imagination.

The Biggest Bear
The Biggest Bear by Lyn Ward
What can I is another well worn favorite.

Millions of Cats (Gift Edition) (Picture Puffin Books)
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag
Tickles my children's funny bone.

The Moon Jumpers by Janice May Udry
This author must know children in summertime.

If your day is hazy and cool like mine...find a child and curl up together to read a book. Think I'll go take my own advice!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What's So Wrong with Sugar - Part 4

Continuing guest post by Regina 
I apologize for the oversight in sharing sources!  I'm still learning.... 

Macrobiotic Guide- Sugar-It's effects on the Body and Mind
Natural News - The Harmful Effects of Sugar and Choosing Healthy Alternatives
146 Reasons why Sugar is Ruining Your Health- By: Nancy Appleton Ph.D  

News at Princeton (Princeton University) - A Sweet Problem By Hillary Parker
Nutrition Diva - Why is Sugar Bad?

Friday, September 16, 2011

What's So Wrong With Sugar? - Part 3

A continued guest post from Regina. You can also read part 1 and part 2.

You may be feeling overwhelmed and thinking, “But how do I begin to change? It looks way to big!!” And if you are like me, even after learning all this information, I still love my layer cakes and cheesecakes and shoo fly pie, and when I go out to eat, the dessert menu is the first thing of interest…a big slice of Triple Chocolate Wave anyone?

I’m again reminded of how addicted we Americans have become to our sweets. Even though we know the harmfulness of consuming all this sugar, we still do it day after day! One of the best things you can do is, read, read, and read labels! Don’t expect food companies and stores to provide healthy snacks and food because it just won’t happen! Do research and arm yourself with information of what you are eating and feeding your children and how it will affect you. Just because something is labeled “all natural” or deemed as “healthy” don’t believe it. Check it out for yourself. For instance, a lot of granola cereals might have whole grains and nuts etc. but they usually are all loaded with sugar. (Although it is still a smarter and healthier choice than Lucky Charms, but why not make your own and control how much sugar is put in?!)

Start small, take one day at a time and the change won’t seem as impossible. Teach yourself and your children to enjoy one cookie instead of a handful, and drink water with a dash of fresh squeezed lemon instead of juices and soft drink. Learn to enjoy the natural sweetness of fruit as a dessert and take care of your sweet craving with a handful of ripe grapes or clementines. What is more appetizing to the eye than a tray of colorful fresh, ripe fruit! Try to cut out white breads, noodles, macaronis, etc. as our bodies convert these cheap carbohydrates into sugar. As you consume less sugar, your body will eventually adjust to the change, it will crave the sweetness less and less and one day you will realize you hadn't had a thought about that next bite of whoopie pie all day!

I can still hear you all complaining though, “ I still need something rich and gooey!” The good news is, we don’t have to go through life with no sweet indulgences as some natural sweeteners have been discovered. Stevia is a very popular herb whose leaves are very sweet and when in powder form can be used in place of sugar, even in baking, cooking, canning and sweetening drinks.

Stevia has zero calories and a glycemic index of 0 (meaning it will not make your body‘s blood sugar rise) Xylitol is another popular form of a naturally occurring sweetener found in vegetables and fruits and is produced commercially from plants and other hard wood trees. Xylitol has a low glycemic index rating of 8 and has the caloric gram of 2.4 versus table sugars 4 grams. Using fruit sugars and honey are still forms of sugar, but they are in the natural state which our bodies can then “recognize” and be able to digest easier. (Just don’t let that deceive you into thinking you can consume all you want!!)

Learn to use these natural sweeteners and practice making recipes without all the sugar it calls for. I have learned a lot of dessert recipes will turn out and be just as good by cutting out ½ cup or more of the sugar called.

And finally there is a time and season for everything and I'll be the first one to say that includes, eating sugar!  On your birthday, have a piece of cake with a little ice-cream, and it's not Thanksgiving with out a piece of pumpkin pie (made with natural sugar of course!)   I'm the first one to get a slice of pecan pie and my Mom's special coconut cake made from my great grandmothers recipe at Christmas!  And it isn't spring without enjoying a slice of fresh strawberry pie!  But why not save these special treats to keep them extra special, instead of including them in our daily food group?  Or if that is impossible, try to at least work it down to one small serving a day instead of three of four.

The Bible says we are to be good stewards of our bodies, that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost. Why would we fill our bodies with something that is so addicting, something that decays our bodies that God has breathed life into?  Why consume something that may make us sick and keeps us from having a good quality of life?  Why would we as mothers want to do this to our children?

May God help us to learn to use this yummy, sweet product in a proper way and balance, and enjoy the healthy bodies that He wants us to have.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's So Wrong with Sugar - Part 2

A continuing guest post from Regina. You can read the first part here.

Learn to check and read food labels all the time! Take nothing for granted! Sugars are hidden in everything from soups to nearly all prepackaged foods to breads to veggie dips, to hamburger patties etc. We do not have to eat only refined sugar to be consuming sugar. Sugar is also labeled in other terms. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup, sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), lactose (in milk), maltodextrin, caramel, beet sugar, barley malt, fruit-juice concentrate, and brown sugar (almost the same as white sugar and not any “healthier”) are all different terms for sugar. Sugar is also often the second ingredient listed in products and in some cases (Honey Puffs cereal, Hershey Chocolate Syrup, Baby Rays BBQ etc.) it is the very first ingredient which means that sugar makes up more than anything else in the food.

High fructose corn syrup is one of the worst forms of sugar and is used more than any other sugars since it is so cheap to manufacture. HFCS has replaced regular sugar in nearly all products and studies are know showing how detrimental to our health HFCS is. Our bodies do not know how to use and digest HFCS and it can take up to 3-4 days for our bodies to metabolize what we consumed of HFCS versus a day or so for regular sugar. One study showed that rats who ate HFCS gained significantly more weight than rats who ate basic table sugar. Since HFCS was formulated in 1970, the obesity rate has been considerably on the rise. Another research has shown that HFCS is destructive to the liver (it is so hard for the liver to pass it through) and that a lot of it is laden with high levels of mercury. The problem is, it saves the manufacture’s money and is so easy to mix with foods that it is found in everything we buy. Pancake syrup is mostly high fructose corn syrup, commercially made jams and jellies and ketchup are made with it, and so is drinks, juices, cakes and cookies, marshmallows and breads. A very sad one I just discovered was Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. HFCS is the first thing listed on the label. A quick note, Karo is nothing but high fructose corn syrup with King Syrup close behind.

Some of you may be thinking, why worry? What is the harm of consuming a cup of sugar a day or 180 pounds a year?

Do a quick Google search and you will get endless sites of research of the effect that sugar has in our bodies. To name just a few, sugar causes excitability, hyperactivity and anxiety in children. It hinders concentration in studying and reduces learning capacity and foggy thinking. Sugar causes headaches, bone, tendon and teeth decay, irritable feelings, mood swings, depression, kidney stones, diabetes, and food allergies. Sugar also is a cause of poor complexions, feeds cancers, yeast and suppresses the immune system.

When our body gets more sugar than it can use (one research said our body can safely handle only about 3-4 tsp. a day ) then it can not metabolize it correctly and an over-acid condition results. So the body pulls calcium, minerals, and enzymes out of its store deep in our body to offset the affects of all the sugar in the system.

Sugar is also very addicting and your body will crave sugar just like a drug addict. If you remove sugar from your diet, you can have withdrawal symptoms, and if you don’t believe me, just try it! Try going without any added sugars for several days. You will find that you crave it, that you will walk around trying to find something to eat with sugar, you will have to about sit on your hands to keep from grabbing jelly beans and stuffing them into your mouth!! You may get shaky and jittery and have a headache just like a person on drug withdrawal. Studies show that sugar is just as habit forming as any narcotic. Refined sugar is called a drug by some because in the refining process everything of food value has been removed except the pure calories. Many experts say that white sugar is extremely harmful, possibly as harmful as a drug in the quantities consumed by Americans today. A very interesting fact: Dr. David Reuben states that sugar is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, and is purer than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways and shares a close chemical formula.

Another point of interest is that you will find after you haven’t had sugar for a while, and especially after you work it out of your diet for months, when you do introduce it again into your system, you may get flu like symptoms and will feel tired and irritable!

Article continued tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's So Wrong with Sugar? Part 1

We all know that sugar is bad for you. But sugar is such a part of our life, that rarely do we actually think about how much sugar is in our diet and why we should care.

My friend Regina did a little research on sugar and I begged her to share her finds with us.

What's So Wrong with Sugar? 
Guest post by Regina

We are in a love relationship with sugar. We celebrate with it (birthday cake and ice cream anyone!!) we reward with it, we bribe with it, we comfort with it- sugar is our best friend that we just can’t get enough of!

What’s the first thing you reach for when you feel depressed or out of sorts with the day? Anything with sugar, of course! Once we get a taste for its sweetness, our bodies crave more and more. Our bodies feel pulled to this invisible power of sugar; we can barely resist its call. But for all the love we have for sugar, it is one of our bodies’ worst enemies. 

You may be thinking, “But I don’t consume that much sugar.” If you were like me, I would often read the labels on the backs of products but it was always in grams and I could not “picture” how much was in a gram. 

One day I decided to check the back of a sugar bag. Sure enough, it told me one serving was a teaspoon and a teaspoon equaled 4 grams. Great! I now had my conversion ratio of 4 grams = 1 tsp. So then I started walking through my kitchen checking food items that I had, and received quite a shock! I checked a bottle of juice. Juice is healthy, right? Well, a lot of 100% juices had anywhere from 28-34 grams of sugar per 8oz serving, which is one cup. So I divided the 28 by 4 to see how many teaspoons it equaled and the answer was, 7! A cup of juice is not much, I can drink that down in a few gulps and that quick, I just added 7 tsp. of sugar to my body.

I checked my yogurt- and gasped! Yogurt is always considered a very healthy snack, but after finding out it had 36 grams of sugar or 9 tsp. in one very small container, I wasn’t so sure. What Mom would dump 9 tsp. of sugar in any child’s 6oz. of yogurt? No wonder yogurt is so yummy and good and children love to eat it!

I began to see how much sugar we really are consuming without even realizing it. I began to wonder how many teaspoons of sugar a child was consuming in a day? So I did some very quick calculations.

Lets say Tommy has a ¾ cup serving of Lucky Charms for breakfast which has 12 grams in one serving so that gives him 3 tsp. of sugar. For lunch he has a juice pack which has around 6 tsp, a container of yogurt which gives him 9 tsp. and a honey bun for dessert which gives him another 4 tsp. (Hostess brand of Honey Buns has 7 tsp. of sugar along with 440 calories!) After school, Tommy comes home hungry for a snack so he eats a fruit roll up which is 3 tsp. of sugar and he drinks a Welch’s grape soda which gives him -hold on to your seat- a whopping 13 tsp. of sugar! One can of Welch’s grape soda has approximately 51 grams of sugar! Or maybe he drank a 16oz, bottle of chocolate milk which would equal the same -surprise!! Now comes dinner time and I think we could safely assume he gets another 15 tsp. through his macaronis, Jell-O salad, and cake.

We add this all together and see that Tommy has consumed 53 tsp of sugar! To make it easier to picture, there are 48 tsp in a cup, so Tommy has had over 1 cup of sugar in one day’s time. I‘ve done other calculations using other foods and drinks etc. and I really think I’m on the conservative side of how much sugar a lot of children are getting in a day, especially children that eat a lot of prepackaged foods and baked goods. (This is not including the sugar Tommy would have gotten naturally through his bread, corn, milk, fruits, pasta and other main foods.)

Take a one cup measure, fill with sugar and dump into a bowl. Would you really let your child sit and eat all that sugar? But yet, we are, every day!

Doing some more quick calculations, if Tommy gets 1cup a day, that means he gets approximately 31cup in a month or 365 cups in a year. Now to convert that into pounds and to make it easier to picture, I checked my sugar bag again and there are 10 cups in the five pound bag. The astonishing answer is, Tommy is eating 180 lb or 36 ½ five pound bags of sugar every year!

Ketchup is one of the surprising foods where sugar is hidden and we think it should be more an “okay” food. I happened to check the bottle one day after my children consumed more ketchup than hot dogs and realized that one serving is 2 Tb. and out of those 2 Tb - 1 Tb. of it is sugar. BBQ sauce is just as bad, with Sweet Baby Rays ( I know, don’t hit me!) the worst!

Coke has 10 tsp of sugar in one can. McDonald's 32oz. sweet tea has 9 ½ tsp. A serving of Raisin Bran cereal has 4 ½ tsp of sugar. A serving of fruit loops has 3 ½. Okay, so you’re thinking we’ll eat oatmeal packs, that should be healthy! Well, each small oatmeal pack has around 3 tsp. of sugar to the small amount of oatmeal that is in the pack. Three Chips Ahoy cookies has 8 tsp. of sugar and a pop tart has 5 tsp.

Well then, surly chocolate milk should be okay! It’s milk and that is healthy for you! One cup of packaged chocolate milk contains 28 grams of sugar which equals 7 tsp. A lot of chocolate milk bottles have two servings in one bottle but the nutrient label only lists what you are getting for one serving. So if you drink the whole bottle, which most of us would, you have to remember to double the amount listed on the nutrition label. One plus with chocolate milk is that your child is getting the benefits of the calcium and vitamins in the milk versus empty nutrients of sodas but it is a very small plus. I found it interesting that even some public schools have stopped serving commercial made chocolate milk and juices to the students because of all the sugars.

Be very careful with juices. Many claim to be juice but by reading closely you’ll see small wording stating that it only contains a small percentage of real juice and the rest is sugar flavored water. The other day, I grabbed a bottle of “juice” sold right amongst the other juices and the bottle said 100% vitamin C, etc. When I got home and really looked at the bottle I saw in very small letters that it only contained 10% juice and the first ingredient on the list was high fructose corn syrup. And then they are trying to brag it had 100% vitamin C and the store was selling it as juice? How can it be allowed?!!

Article will be continued tomorrow...


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