Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Until 2012...

You may have noticed my lack of posting in recent weeks. A short trip for a wedding, some special projects, and general life have been calling my attention away from blogging. We attempt to keep our Christmas simple and meaningful but it still we have extra events on our calendar. While I'd love to share some of our favorite family recipes and seasonal celebrations, I think I need to step away from blogging for a time to focus on my family for a while.

I'll be back in the new year. In the mean time, cherish the time spent with your loved ones.

From our family to yours, may you have a blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One Hundred Years Later

Thank you for your interest in New Mules in Pennsylvania. I thought I'd share a little more about my grandfather's family.

My great grandfather, Joe Hawbaker, grew up in Iowa. I always assumed he moved to Pennsylvania for good farming land. I love my state and thought I could understand why a person would want to move here! But I didn't understand the difference between farming in Iowa and farming in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has rocks. I've been told that our area here in Pennsylvania contains a specific kind of limestone that is far harder than general rock. Joe, accustomed to the deep Iowa soil, had a real challenge adjusting to farming in Pennsylvania.

It was only this year that I learned the probably purpose that led Joe to move his family to Pennsylvania. Joe recognized that near his home in Iowa was some evil influences that was affecting the young men of the community. Joe chose to move his young sons to a different area.

I never met Joe. He died many years before I was born. I'm sure he wasn't perfect, no father is. But I'm grateful for his willingness to make a life changing choice to protect his family.

Was the sacrifice worth it? Today, many of Joe's descendants are following the Lord. There is a huge contrast with Joe's family and the descendants of his brothers who remained in Iowa.

I can't help but wonder, a hundred years from now, what will my great-grandchildren say about the choices Ed and I make for our family. Will they point out area of compromise? Or will they gratefully remember the wise direction that we led our family?

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Mules in Pennsylvania

Nearly one hundred years ago, a young boy boarded a train on a bitter cold day in February. He was leaving his home in Iowa for a new home several states away. With him was his father, mother and younger brother.

Earlier in that day, an auction had been held at their farm. All the animals and most of the farm machinery had been sold. The boy's dad was well known for his well trained mules and horses. Photographs were rare in their home, but a friend who owned a camera, took some photos at the auction of the horses and mules with their owner and his two small sons.

All my life, I've heard this story of this six year old boy who grew up to be my grandfather. The photos were family treasures. In his later years, my grandfather wrote down the story of his family's move from Iowa to Pennsylvania in 1915.

I'm not sure what prompted it, but last winter, Ed challenged me to turn my grandfather's story into a children's story book. He knows I love family history, and his skills as a printer could turn the project into a reality.

For a children's story, I needed far more photos than the few old ones we treasured. My two boys are six and four, the exact ages of my grandfather and his brother at the time of the move.

I photographed my boys in settings similar to the story. We visited a steam train, a mule barn, and the old train station, but unfortunately, didn't make it to Iowa.

With the help of some friends with editing skills, the book was finished in time for my Dad's birthday in November. It was such fun seeing him read the story to his grandchildren saying, "This is a story about my dad."

If you have ever considered writing down your family stories, I would highly recommend it. My only regret is that I didn't do this years earlier when my grandfather was alive to answer my questions.  With the ease of scanning photos and making photo books, you can have a treasure for your family. I chose to have my book printed by a local print shop but many online companies will also make photo books for you for about $12.00 for a book the size of mine. Use a coupon or order several and your cost will decrease per book. But the memories treasured in a photo book are priceless.

My goal in writing the book was to record memories for my family but I was asked if I would sell copies to others. For this week, I'm opening it up for orders. If you'd like a story from one hundred years ago about a boy's move to a new state, send me an email. (walkingbymyside @ gmail.com) The book is softcover, 9x6 inches, and 40 pages. It costs $8.00 plus $2.00 shipping in the US. I will accept Paypal or check.

If you want a copy, please let me know within a week. That will give me to time to mail it to you before Christmas. I don't know if these books will ever be available again, so get it while you can!

And if you recognize these photos because you share the same grandfather, I'll be bringing some books to our Christmas family gathering. Hope you enjoy it as much as our family has!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hog Butchering 2011

On Saturday, we had another hog butchering. I've been amazed that these annual butchering posts have been some of the most popular on this blog. As usual, we do things the old way. Scalding the hog, making pon haus, smoking pork loin, curing hams - a lot of work, but fun with family and friends and a whole lot of good eating.

Instead of just sharing pictures, I shot a few videos to give you a little better taste of the day. If reading this in a feed reader or email, you may need to click over the blog to view the videos. I tried to be tactful in not showing too much gore, but this is a butchering so there will be blood.

First cutting up the meat. We did four hogs this year. Everyone pitches in and the work proceeded very smoothly.

This video shows grinding the meat into sausage and making links. In past years, grinding and stuffing sausage were two steps. My brother just acquired this grinder/stuffer which made the process much faster.

Next is straining the lard. After the lard is ladled into the stuffer, it is pressed. The remaining "cracklings" are ground and added to the puddin' - a seasoned meat mixture.

I was recently asked for our pon haus (also known as scrapple) recipe. This video shows why I can't give out recipes. There is no measuring. Salt and pepper are added to the broth until it tastes right. Then flour and cornmeal are added until it is thick enough.

At one of the most crucial parts of butchering, the pon haus and puddin' are briskly stirred. When the pon haus is thick enough, the  pot needs to be immediately removed from the heat, and ladled into pans. The men struggle to move this heavy pot of scalding hot pon haus while still stirring the pot to keep it from sticking. Almost out of sight in the video is Joe, our old neighbor, who though in poor health, was still able to come and make sure we young ones did it right.

And a few still pictures...

 The scalding trough

Table full of pon haus.

One of the old timers who are teaching the skill to the younger ones.

The future generation.

A youngster already learning.

First butchering day, for three more young men. (Just to keep from confusion, for those of you who know these young ladies, they are not all holding their own babies!)

I'm sure this looks like a crazy way to spend a Saturday. By evening I was completely exhausted, and I had not been up at 4:00 like the men! But it is great fun and I'm already looking forward to next year!

Go to last year's butchering post for more information on home butchering.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Where is God in our pain? - Book Reviews

This post contains affiliate links.

Thanksgiving. This week, it is an event on our calendar, a day off work, a holiday, an excuse to indulge in a huge meal, a time to make memories with family.

But Thanksgiving is so much more. It is an attitude of the heart, a spirit of giving thanks every day of the year. 

But many days our table isn't laden full. Sometimes there is a face missing at our table. We notice the void, the emptiness, and feel deprived, not blessed.

Some days giving thanks doesn't come natural. Can we find gratitude amidst our sorrow? Can we see God's glory in our pain?

I've only had brief brushes with pain and grief which for others is a constant companion. But still I've had times of wondering if God does care? Where is He when His children hurt? In the past year, reading books like 1000 Gifts and Light My Candle helped show me that God can use our pain to draw us close to himself and help heal others.

The three books I read in November all echoed the same message of how God can use unlikely circumstances, what looks to us like trials or mistakes.

In The Power of the Powerless, Christopher De Vinck shares the story of his handicapped brother, who despite not being able to see, think, feed himself, or do anything "normal," impacted his life in extraordinary ways.

Christopher wrote a short article about his brother which was printed by the Wall Street Journal and reprinted in Reader's Digest and many other places. He received letters from many who were impacted by the story. In this book, Christopher shares stories from his life plus interviews with several families who wrote letters to him such as a father with a still born child, a man with a Down Syndrome brother.

I don't know what Christopher's relationship with the Lord is and the book lacks the power of Jesus Christ, but he is right on with his message that the weak and powerless have something to share and teach us.

Then I read These Strange Ashes by Elisabeth Elliot about Elisabeth's first year on the mission field. After describing the intense struggles of daily life, the bugs, the rains, the mud - I expected an outpouring of God's blessing for these ladies who have sacrificed much for the cause of Christ. But instead there is loss.

I like that the book doesn't pretend to have pat answers. It doesn't answer all the "Why, God?" questions. There is only a trust in  God. And that has to be enough.

A few quotes: "Usually we need not bow. We can simply ignore the unexplainable because we have other things to occupy our minds."

"To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss."

The same day I finished These Strange Ashes, a friend lent me Life is a Gift by Jenny Miller.

Jenny's story perfectly echoed Elisabeth's. Completely different setting - Mennonite community in Colorado instead of steamy Ecuadorian jungle. But same God teaching many of the same lessons to His daughters.

Jenny tells the story of her handicapped daughters. I had briefly met Jenny and her oldest daughter when she was only a few months old, so I had a tiny connection. But I would have cried through the book even if I knew her not at all.

I was impressed with Jenny's raw honesty with her struggle to surrender her perfect dreams for her family. She doesn't pretend that life is a bed of roses and Christians have all their prayers answered. But the overriding theme of the book is hope. As much as Jenny loved her daughters, God loved them, and Jenny, even more.

I think this may have been the only time I borrowed a book, read it, and immediately bought my own copy. I wanted to share Life is A Gift with others and reread it.

Some quotes: "Faith is easy when we get what we want. Faith is put to the test when life doesn't go our way and we have to choose our response."

"It is in our brokenness that we realize His greatness."

I have been thinking a lot about thanksgiving. I think of those who have lost husbands and children this year and wonder how they can ever give thanks. I wonder why I don't give thanks for all I have. I so often take for granted my dear husband and my healthy, energetic (read "wild") children. Why would I wait until it is taken, to appreciate, to give thanks? Have you ever heard the saying "What if I would lose tomorrow, everything I did not thank God for today?" Do I see all of this messy, hectic, crazy life as a gift?

Today, I'm thankful for the authors who have opened up their heart to help me see the Giver and His greatness and challenged me to count His gifts.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Gift Ideas

Did you hit the stores early this morning? I'm not big into shopping (unless it is books) and I'm not sure what it would take to lure me out of bed before dawn to go to the mall. But if you were there, hope you enjoyed it for me!

With young children, I have found internet shopping to be best for the sanity of the whole family. Today, I thought I'd share a few gifts ideas that can be purchased from the comfort of your home. Many of these are home businesses, a few are friends, some have held giveaways here in the past, but none of these folks know that I am posting this today, and I will not benefit from your purchase.These are just products I love that I want to share with you.

1. Planner -
I love The Time Keeper for helping me stay organized. A lovely gift for a  busy mom.

2. Nature Friend magazine
My parents subscribed to Nature Friend when I was a child. When I was reintroduced to the magazine this year, I was impressed that all my favorite features were still there, such as You Can Draw, but the quality of photographs and the articles have increased in the past 20 years. Best of all, they still give glory to our Creator God. My children look forward to each issue, and especially enjoy the articles contributed by children.

3. Scripture recordings
Another product I enjoyed as a child is the Scripture recordings by George W. Sarris, The World's Greatest Stories. These are word-for-word Scripture read with drama. I've learned from listening how to make Scripture reading more interesting when I read to the children.

4. Jams
Yummy homemade jams from Baer's Pantry

5. Wooden toys
I have been so frustrated when buying toys for my boys. They love trucks and all things with wheels, but frequently the wheels are falling off within days. My parents gave my boys some trucks from Chickory Wooden Products. Two years of hard use, and they are still being enjoyed.  I think the prices are quite reasonable for quality toys.

6. Cookbook
Kay's Country Cookin' will give a cook new recipes to try for a long time.

7. Bath products
Homemade goat milk soaps, lip  balm, and lotion candles made by Homemaid Expressions.

Do you have a favorite place on the web to buy gifts?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal

Here is another version of baked oatmeal that is the current family favorite. We are a little crazy over anything peanut butter, and I like to think it adds some protein to our Sunday mornings.

Baked oatmeal makes great leftovers. Once upon a time, when there was just two of us, I made baked oatmeal on Saturday and we had enough for all weekend. We like it hot or cold and I even like it for a bedtime snack. Now, our children usually scrape the pan clean and don't give opportunity for leftovers.

Again, I'm sharing two versions, one that soaks the oatmeal the day before.

Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal

3 cups quick oats
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together and stir well. Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Serve with milk.

Soaked Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cup milk
1 T yogurt, kefir, vinegar, or lemon juice
1/2 cup honey 
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

In the evening, mix oats, milk and whatever acid ingredient you prefer. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, mix all ingredients together and stir well. Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Serve with milk.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Books Celebrating Long Life

I've wanted to do a post on my favorite books about the elderly, but I wasn't sure what to call it. Finally just called it celebrating long life. There is so much love and wisdom that we can receive from the elderly. I love picture books that show the love between a child and those full of years.

When I Am Old with You by Angela Johnson
All the wonderful things that a child can do with a grandparent.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonal Partridge by Mem Fox
A small boy attempts to bring back his friend's memory.

Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack
When Saturdays meant a bycyle trip to Grandma's.

The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins by Lester Laminak
A lovely but bittersweet book which brings back memories of my Grandma's last years with Alzhiemers.

A Day's Work by Eve Bunting
A young boy discovers he can learn a lot from his newly immigrated grandfather. This book is a favorite that we enjoyed from the library until finding our own copy - at a used book sale! 

Babu's Song by Stephanie Stuva-Bodean
Another lovely book depicting the love and wisdom of a grandfather.

Looking for more book suggestions? Check out the bookshelf page.

I'd love to hear about your favorite books celebrating the special bond between children and their grandparents. I'm sure there are many more than the ones I thought of today.

Cookbook Challenge - Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

Continuing my challenge to thoroughly get to know and use one of my cookbooks, I chose Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook for October. My goal was to get out my dusty slow cooker and actually use it!

It was not an easy goal. Slow cooking means planning ahead. There was so many nights I stared at the slow cooker, knowing if I wanted to use it the next day I had to thaw the meat. I found myself resisting the need to plan ahead. I wanted to put off the decision. But when I exerted some will power, it was a delight to prepare a meal at breakfast and enjoy the aroma for the rest of the day.

My second challenge was my actual slow cooker. I've always known my slow cooker is hotter than it should be. Often, one side of the pan would be overdone, and sometimes almost burnt. I often only used the low setting and sometimes turned the insert in the cooker halfway through the cooking time hoping it would cook evenly. Finally after having several people tell me that food should NEVER burn in a slow cooker, I decided I needed a new slow cooker.

I didn't have to look far. I had another slow cooker in the closet that we had received for a wedding gift. I rarely used it because it was "smart cooker" and because of it's large size. Our family is growing and the large size may be an asset now. I needed to learn how to use the "smart" aspect of the cooker, which meant that it would turn to warm after a specified amount of time, but it wasn't that difficult.

I didn't realize how much I was used to a cooker that was always too hot. Several times this month, I was near to meal time with food still uncooked. Twice I had to dump the ingredients into a pan on the stove to quick cook them! That definitely destroyed any benefit of using a slow cooker. But gradually I've learned to use, and almost enjoy, this slow cooker. With a little more practice, I may love it.

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook is a hefty book full of lots of tips for using a slow cooker. The authors have a adapted a huge variety of recipes for the slow cooker, including lots of ethnic recipes. The biggest failures were the bean recipes. I was determined to find some good ways to eat dried beans. Maybe we just don't like dried beans, but I haven't found any super ways yet, besides refried beans.

Our favorite recipes were the ones with chicken such as: Caribbean jerked chicken, lemon chicken, and peking honey chicken wings - Yummy! We also enjoyed Spanish rice, tamale pie, baked apples, and chocolate peanut butter pudding cake.

I'd love to hear about your favorite slow cooker recipes. I'd like to assemble a list of our family's favorite crock pot recipes to make meal planning with a crock pot easier. Besides Not Your Mothers, I own Fix It and Forget It and Crockery Cookery. I also found some crockpot favorites in Kay's Country Cookin'. If I had a list compiled with our favorite recipes in one place, maybe my slow cooker wouldn't gather dust.

And I can't talk about recipes without sharing one!

Tamale Pie
from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

1 lb ground beef
2 small onions, chopped
3 T chili powder
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp salt
pinch cumin
16 oz can stewed tomatoes
2 cups corn
14 oz can black olives
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown ground beef and onion. Mix all ingredients, except cheese together and pour into greased slow cooker. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Sprinkle with cheese. Cook on high for 10 minutes to melt cheese. Serve.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Always Another Project

This past week I've had the invigorating experience of  finishing projects, big projects, and not just one but several! I completed a family history project that I've worked off-and-on (mostly off) since February. The last bushel of apples was made into sauce and canned. Unless I get venison to can, my canner is on sabbatical until next summer. Yesterday, I finished up the winter sewing, though I'm certain to find a Christmas project or two to sew just for fun. And that hated project, clothes sorting, is finished until warm weather hits.

I love the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies a completed project and job well-done. But then I'm reminded of the danger of finding my fulfillment in what I do, and not in Christ. Why do I either feel like a failure who can't keep up with life or proud at what I have been able to do? Both maladies stem from the failure to keep my eyes on the Lord. Both can be cured by focusing on serving God with the time, strength, and resources He has provided and letting the results to Him. 

But finishing several projects has me wondering, what next? I work best with a slight sense of urgency. Overwhelming impossible deadlines are demoralizing, but a few attainable goals help me use my time wisely and avoid time wasters. It has been far easier to keep the computer off the past couple weeks (though I've missed reading your blogs and interacting with you) when I had a focused plan for my days.

Now that much of the seasonal work is finished, I see a need to make some new goals. Maybe I could actually complete some of the projects that never get enough attention.

It doesn't take long to think of the perfect project. House cleaning. I don't do so bad at general upkeep, but deep house cleaning and de-cluttering happens far too rarely.

When we built our home addition, I had the goal of going through our entire house and re-organizing. I made some headway, but I'm far from done. My goal is that you could ask me at any time where any item in our house is located, and I'd be able to direct you to the exact location of that item. Of course, that is an impossible goal. There is five other persons living in my house who may not have replaced that item in it's place. But at least I should know where the item should be, or tell you where to put the item. To meet this goal, I see three steps.

1. Each item in our home belongs in our home.
2. Each item in our home has a specific place in our home.
3. Each item in our home is marked or organized in a way that others can return it to it's place.

There is a whole lot of things dwelling in our house that have no purpose being here and need removed. Far to often I put something "here for now" without deliberately considering the purpose of the item and where it is best stored. Making it easy for my children to return items to their place and then training them to do so, is a constant challenge.

Of course, I plan to live in a home and not an institution. I never plan to enforce this goal strictly. I want a home organized enough that we can find things and messy enough to be comfortable. With four young children, I think the messy part will be easy! I also give the children a lot of freedom about what "treasures" they keep and how they organize their rooms, as long as it can keep from spilling out in the hall.

Think I have my work cut out for me? I'm sharing this with you all because I know what great accountability you have been in the past. Not that I'm afraid that you'll come check out my basement closets (if you value your life, I wouldn't recommend it) but to gain your encouragement. Maybe I'll share some of the organization journey in the coming weeks.

What are your organizing/de-cluttering tips?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

I loved hearing your thoughts on traditions versus ruts. You all made me feel better about serving the same meals to my family - as long as it is done in love and received with joy!

For the past year or so, we have been having baked oatmeal on Sunday mornings. Unlike regular cooked oatmeal, which is eaten reluctantly, everyone at our house loves baked oatmeal. I like to choose a Sunday morning menu that is eaten quickly and also has quick clean up. Boxed cereal, the Sunday morning breakfast that I grew up with, is super simple. But it doesn't last long in my children's tummy. Oatmeal has staying power and helps ward off the cranky hunger pangs, at least until we get home from church.

I'm going to share two slightly different recipes. They are almost identical, but I'm separating them to keep from being confusing. The first is mixed in the morning and baked immediately. The second recipe has the oatmeal soaked overnight in milk and an acid ingredient. If you are familiar with Nourishing Traditions, you'll recognize this method as one that some prefer to increase the digestibility of grains. I usually soak the oats, because it is simple, tastes good, and has become part of my Saturday routine. I have no idea if it is actually healthier. Try both and see which your family likes best.

And yes, I'm picky about my oatmeal. Sometimes I prefer quick oats, and other times the old fashioned rolled oats. I hate to keep both on hand, so I only buy rolled oats (in 25 lb bags) and if I want quick oats, give it a light chop in my hand chopper.

 Baked Oatmeal

3 cups quick oats
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
1/4 cup  butter
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups raisins - optional
2 cups chopped apples - optional

Mix all ingredients together and stir well. Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Serve with milk.

Soaked  Baked Oatmeal

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cup milk
1 T yogurt, kefir, vinegar, or lemon juice
1/2 cup honey 
1/4 cup  butter
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups raisins - optional

2 cups chopped apples - optional

In the evening, mix oats, milk and whatever acid ingredient you prefer. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, mix all ingredients together and stir well. Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Serve with milk.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rut or Tradition

What is the difference between a rut and a tradition?

Soon after we married I read Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer. I loved the inspiration for homemaking with love and creativity. But one comment I've never been sure I agreed with.

"It seems to me totally unnecessary for any home, or even institution, to fall into the rut of serving the same thing the same day each week. One should not be able to say, 'oh yes, Monday, bread pudding' anywhere. Meals should be a surprise, and should show imagination." 

I think I understand the author's goal in encouraging creativity, but don't we look back with good memories at the traditions of our home?

My husband fondly recalls eating bran muffins every Saturday night. At my parent's home, the Saturday night tradition is pizza. Soon after we married, we somehow started making waffles every Wednesday and now I have mutiny on my hands if I forget what day of the week it is.

Maybe we are boring, but my family appears to thrive on a weekly routine.  I love having a few meals each week that I don't have to decide what to make. If I'm thinking ahead, I can even prep the day before.

Think of all the holiday traditions when we MUST have the same menu year after year after year. Is that a "rut"?

Is the key serving things we enjoy? If my family hated pizza or waffles, eating them every week would be drudgery not a treat.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you have menus you repeat regularly? Does your family mind?

Tomorrow I will share our Sunday morning tradition. Or maybe rut. You choose.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Sale Treasures

In the past month, I've visited four used book sales. The fall book sale season is officially over. Now I can only dream of spring - or tackle my towering stack of books.

I know I'm possibly unbalanced, but I can hardly think of a more fun entertainment than visiting a good used book sale. I hate shopping, despise the mall, and don't get excited about yard sales. But give me a couple tables full of musty books, and I'm thrilled. And if it is a large well organized book sale and I can get there to stand in line before the doors open, that is true bliss!

This year I went to nine book sales. That number includes visits to the book shelves at the Goodwill. I visited more sales than normal this year mostly because my children are now old enough to go with me. As much as I like book sales, I couldn't justify getting a babysitter for every book sale. The children are learning that book sales are real treats. They will usually find a book to look at and crawl under a table out of the way until mom is finished shopping.

Most of the book sales I visited several hours, or even days, after opening. The best books do leave in the first hour but what I think is best may differ from another and I still manage to find some treasures. Some sales have such crowds that I would never attempt to take my children with me in the first hour. If you are looking for book sales in your area, I give hints here.

Are book sales worthwhile? If you are a bookaholic, I would say "YES!" We have been able to stock our family library very inexpensively thanks to book sales. This year at used book sales I bought 211 books and spent $123.70. That comes to 59 cents a book. I call that a bargain. Children's picture books and classics are easy to find at used book sales. I've also found many books to supplement our homeschool.

You could look at our loaded bookshelves and argue that we don't NEED any more books. And you would be correct, more books are not a necessity for living. But how else can you get hours of entertainment from just over a $100.00?

Sometimes I pick up a book that I don't know much about, and when reading it at home, decide it isn't worth keeping. Other times I don't remember if we own a particular book. And sometimes I pick up books on purpose that I know I have but can share with others. Many of these extra books I swap on Paperback Swap for credit to order free books. If you love books, and don't do Paperback Swap, you are missing a great source of cheap books. I am constantly amazed at the great books I can order from Paperback Swap. It just takes patience to wait for the book you want to become available.

Do you visit used book sales? Please someone tell me I'm not the only book obsessed person!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November in My Garden

Funny how excited I am to start gardening in the spring, and how relieved I am to finish in the fall. I already miss the fresh vegetables but we have plenty of vegetables and fruits preserved in the basement to last until spring. Right now I'm in the mood to sit by the fire and read to the children for half a day instead of pulling weeds.

I didn't do well at planting a fall garden this year, so our garden ended earlier than usual. Some years I would still have broccoli, carrots, and lettuce in November. I feel bad about it until I remember our summer and realize that sometimes there comes a limit to what a person can get done, even if that is only throwing some seeds in the ground. And there is always next year.

My November goals are all about making next year easier. A good mulch job now will help perennials make it through the winter and make spring clean up a breeze. Writing down some notes will help in planning for next year. Organizing my garden tools will extend their life and save time in the spring.

November "To Do" List

1. Drain garden hoses and store for winter.

2. Clean and sharpen tools and organize the garden shed.

3. Empty, clean and carry in the pots for winter.

4. Mulch or compost leaves.

5. Write down notes on this year's garden - a project I should have been doing all season since I probably already forgot a lot.

In the next week, I plan to share my 2011 Garden Year In Review with some lessons I learned and things I plan to do differently next year.

Is your garden done for the year?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Tomorrow is the last day of the giveaway from Homemaid Expressions. Have you signed up?

Thanks to each one who joined in the discussion on using homemade detergent in high efficiency washing machines. I learn so much from you!

I thought I should share the recipe I use for homemade laundry detergent. There is so many recipes on the web. I have tried the cooked recipe and the shredded soap bar recipe in the past. They worked but the recipe I've been using for nearly a year now is the simplest I've found. I keep the ingredients handy, and when I run out, it takes only minutes to dump it together, give it a stir, and we are back laundering clothes.

I've tested this recipe on very dirty muddy clothing this summer. I won't say that it will remove every stain, but it does a better job than many detergents. I figure any soap that can make cloth diapers smell sweet is doing a good job!

For a short while last spring, I used a bought detergents since I was given a box. Immediately, my dish clothes started to stink again. Ed wanted me to throw out the bought stuff and go back to homemade.

All ingredients can be found in the laundry department of larger grocery stores.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

1 box (55 oz) Arm and Hammer Super washing soda
1/2 cup Mule Team borax
2 cup oxygen cleaner (such as Oxyclean)
1/2 cup Calgon water softening powder

Mix together. Use 1/8 cup per load.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Question - Front Loading Washing Machine

Yesterday my washing machine died. I know great-grandma did, but I didn't think I could survive long without a washing machine.

Thankfully my husband agreed.

Tonight Ed brought home a barely used Whirlpool front loading washing machine.  We tried it out tonight. The children were fascinated. Can you tell we don't have TV?

According to the manual you MUST use HE high efficiency detergent, because it is has low suds.

My question: Can I use my homemade detergent? It is low sudsing. (Is that a word?) I love my homemade detergent and hate to go back to buying it.

Anyone have experience with front loading washers?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bread Questions

I'm hoping to get back to writing about bread, finally finishing the series I began in the spring.

I plan to answer some of the questions you have asked about sourdough. If you have been wanting to start baking with sourdough, now is a great time to begin a starter!

I'd love to hear your questions to add to future posts. What bread baking problems would you like addressed? I won't promise to know it all, but I'd be glad to try!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giveaway - Homemaid Expressions gift basket

Jesalynn, a long-time friend, began making goat milk soap several years ago. Jesalynn's soaps found loyal customers at farmer's markets. The cream and proteins in the goat milk has a moisturizing affect on dry itchy skin.

Recently, Jesalynn began to blog at Homemaid Expressions and asked if I'd be interested in hosting a giveaway.  I've had the opportunity to try several of Jesalynn's products in the past year and am eager to share them with you!

Jesalynn makes soaps in many different fragrances. They all smell wonderful and it is almost impossible to choose. I usually lean toward lemon grass, mint, and patchouli for my husband's sake! Not that he wouldn't use lavender scented soap, but he prefers the woodsy scent of patchouli.

One of Jesalynn's newest soaps is chamomile baby soap. My children have had numerous skin issues and I avoid most soaps. This soap is super mild, lathers well, and appears to be working well for them.

I was surprised how much I liked the goat milk shampoo bar.While it doesn't lather up as much as bottled shampoo, using the wet bar on wet hair did lather decently and felt squeaky clean. I like the convenience of having only one bar in the shower for soap or shampoo. I also tried Jesalynn's suggestion of a lemon honey hair rinse. Yummy!

Just in time for winter, Jesalynn is now making lip balm. Ed describes the lip balm as "kissable". Works for me!

I wasn't sure how to use the lotion candle at first but now I'm hooked.  I like to light it before I jump in the shower. The fragrance fills the bathroom and after blowing out the candle, the oils are the perfect body temperature for a lotion. The skin-safe soy wax and oils absorb well and are non-greasy. Ahhh...luxury.

One of you has the chance to try a variety of Jesalynn's products. Jesalynn is giving away a generous gift basket, which contains a bar of goat milk soap, goat milk shampoo bar, a lotion candle, lip balm, and a pack of three  guest soaps. The basket can be completely customized with your choice of fragrances.

To enter, visit  Homemaid Expressions, look around, find your favorite fragrance, and come back and share it in the comments. Leave an email address so I can contact you.

Want another entry? Subscribe or follow Homemaid Expressions blog and leave a second comment.

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


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