Thursday, June 26, 2008

Specifically Summer Part 1

Summer appears to have officially arrived in Michigan...I'm fairly positive. It has been consistently warm here for one week. That is my criteria for judging Michigan summers.

So, I'd like to greet this great season with a series of "Specifically Summer" articles.

I'm thankful for Michigan's four seasons. It gives one an appreciation for spring, fall, winter, & summer, respectively. Things always seem to be changing as the seasons trade places. I like that.

One thing I know that is particular to summer, is food preparation. In our household, we consume less food. Our meals are also lighter and more convenient.

Heating up the house by baking and cooking can be a pain in the summer, but is part of my life at least once per week. My children eat lots of homemade bread and yogurt, so we have to keep that stocked. I also bake gluten-free items for one of my children. Nevertheless, I try to keep the baking heat to one day per week in summer. I try to be positive and think of it as the "sauna" effect. I love saunas.

A brilliant idea came to me a few years ago on an online forum of moms of many children. One participant mentioned that she uses her crock pot often in the summer, but puts it either outside or in her garage, plugged into an exterior outlet. An extension cord can also be used if an outside power source is not available. This helps to cut down on the heat inside!

It is also important to have those seasonal fresh fruits and veggies available. We will be picking many pounds of strawberries very soon so we can freeze them. I still have lots of peaches in the freezer from last summer. I cut and peeled peaches for hours while viewing Rick Steves' travel videos (smile). The children and I went to the Alps as well as Croatia via Rick Steves. These videos are both educational and transporting!

Frozen fruit is one of our favorite treats. Just the other night I made a delectable strawberry sorbet in my food processor. Strawberries, lemon juice, a bit of sugar, and water to ease blending. I then put the processor bowl in the freezer. After a time, the bowl can be put back on the base to blend the mixture again. The children loved it! My husband added it to his glass of red wine, a sort of wine smoothy. This idea would work with any frozen fruit, or a combination of the different fruits.

If you are trying to get a bit more fiber in your diet, you could add ground flax seed or ground psyllium seed to your fruit sorbet. This is great for children or adults who need it. If an irritated digestive tract is a culprit, you could add aloe vera gel or juice to the sorbet instead of water. If you cut an aloe leaf lengthwise, and then scrape out the gel inside, you get a wonderful, soothing pure aloe vera. Be careful not to use to much or it will cause diarrhea. For convenience sake, capsules or packaged juices and gels can be purchased in a healthfood stores.

Hope you are all staying comfortable in the summer heat. I'll try to get to some raw food stuff in the next entry (my summer favorite!).



Saturday, June 21, 2008

Transitioning into summer has its challenges for me. My husband was wonderful enough to head up the seasonal clothing duty as well as organizing and reducing the storehouse of those items. It takes a focused and organized mind to do that task.

As we were working, I was listening for the smaller children, and making sure they were staying out of trouble. Hubby was sorting and piling, and I was helping, yet many times I had to leave and check on the little ones. This coming and going made me realize why I don't get many planned tasks accomplished (grin).

My newest undertaking is to use up the stored foods we have and organize the kitchen and pantry. If this sounds like something you would like to do, here is an inexpensive e-book that would be a helpful guide: Organize Your Kitchen and Pantry in a Weekend. It costs less than $10 for the e-book.

Personally, I will be making myown pantry list. I would love to print out the e-book, but printer ink is a rare commodity in our house. My pantry categories are:
  1. Fruits and juice
  2. Grains and starches
  3. Baking supplies
  4. Condiments
  5. Herbs and spices
  6. Meats
  7. Dairy
  8. Legumes
  9. Vegetables
  10. Beverages

I and a helper (the youngest child capable of writing) will go through the freezer, refrigerator/freezer, and cupboards to take inventory of our food stores. Each food (and the amount) will be written under the appropriate heading listed above.

I will then develop a menu plan to use up those foods on the list. If my brain is working efficiently, a trip to the grocery store will not be required for at least a week. This is a great way to save some pennies while making use of those stored foods before they are past their prime.

Today is baking day as well. I have to bake our regular whole wheat bread, gluten-free bread, hot dog and hamburger buns, and gluten-free buns. I want to have this all done so I won't have to bake too much this-coming week.

It will be a busy and, hopefully, fruitful day.

Have a great day,


Thank you for your kind comments and encouragments. I love to hear them! Click here to add a comment or suggestion. If you have any questions or blog ideas, don't hesitate to send them my way.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Information Junkie

I am a total junkie when it comes to finding new ideas for making life easier and richer. That's why nonfiction reading is my preference and many of my favorite blogs and websites feature practical information for daily life.

I love an idea recently posted at Homeliving Helper. The author speaks of how to start your day off thinking, with pen and paper in hand. She mentions that when you sit down to have your morning beverage, begin writing down a list of things to accomplish that day. It sounds so simple, and it is, yet it is brilliant! I have been doing this and it puts me in a more logical frame of mind, planning out the daily activities (and who will be doing them).

When our days begin, I do poorly when weariness and fatigue set in. It is always nicer to have a sheet of paper with a list on it. I delegate jobs first to the youngest child that is able to do them, and then gradually hand out additional jobs sequentially to the older children.

I find it helpful to split the page into two sections: contacts (persons needed to be telephoned, emailed, or written to) and to-do's. You can carry this idea further by breaking up your list into morning, afternoon, and evening. I like to use a simple, yellow legal pad.

Another great idea I got from somewhere else (that slips my memory!), is to organize your daily web reading. To do this, you create folders in your favorites (in Internet Explorer which is my search engine). There are many possible labels for these folders. You can name each folder a day of the week and then put websites under each heading according to when you'd like to read them. You could read news sites one day, blogs another, and informational sites on another, etc.

I hope these ideas are helpful!

Another thing, I did want to give instructions on how to germinate lentils (re: the Black Bean Salad recipe posted in the previous entry). Just soak 1 cup of lentils in about 1 quart of water for about 4-6 hours. They are ready when they crunch like a bean sprout. Drain the water from them and either put them in a jar for further sprouting. Don't forget to put the jar in a dark place and rinse & drain the lentils a few times per day. I put my soaked and drained lentils in a glass quart jar topped with a square of nylon net secured w/ the jar band. This makes rinsing and draining very easy, you just run water into the jar (without removing the lid) and then pour the water out through the netting. Sprouted or germinated lentils can be served t on a salad or as a salad main course. Yummy and so simple! You could top them with salsa, serve them over rice w/ plenty of veggies, mix them with a dressing and vegetables and wrap them in a flatbread, etc. Germinated lentils are a great raw food, full of enzymes!

Have a great day!



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Friday, June 13, 2008

Thanks for Listening

Through the years of raising a large family in the homeschooling lifestyle, the lessons of life have come one by one without ceasing. Sometimes they are painful, humbling and weary months (usually when I'm pregnant or caring for a small baby). I call those times the "barely keeping my nose above the waterline" times). Other times those learning moments are satifying and welcoming as the blessings that come from suffering and difficulty manifest themselves before my eyes..

God has really called me to task in my life. Many of you are familiar with the story of how God prunes the vine in order to make it more fruitful. I'm one of those vines who has tried to fight the pruner, attempting to grow out of control in my own direction. It is such a blessing to know that my God is a determined gardener with infinite power to do as He chooses...for my own good. It is like the child who is taught his/her boundaries for their own safety.

He has not left me on this journey alone, but provided strength, peace, joy, and wonderful friends and family. I would not call my life stagnant at is full of surprises and changes that keep me hopping.

Currently my husband and I are in the stage of having many children of different ages. One moment a toddler needs his bathroom mess cleaned up. Another instance a 7 year old needs training, correction, and hugs (all at the same time). Pre-adolescents need chore training for quality control and teenagers may need my our time for chatting and talking about the things of life. Needless to say, they all need meals and clean clothes...and plenty of both!!! (I always think if they didn't nees these things that my life would be a lot simpler!)

Though the work never stops (and I mean *never*), though I rarely get time by myself for things I want to do(*rarely* is an understatement), I can say that happiness is beyond measure for me. My heart just overflows with joy when I step back and look at my life so far. So far! I just know God has more blessings to come.

Blessings do not come without hardship, this I have seen. I am thankful that God says He "will never leave me or forsake me" and that He is a "pleasant help in time of trouble" and that "the joy of the Lord is my strength." The Bible, His Word, is living and breathing. The mere reading of it will produce an effect and it will not return void. It cuts through bones and marrow, right to the heart of the matter.

This may all sound so sentimental and mushy, but it is my desire to communicate God's message and love to you, dear reader. Perhaps it doesn't make sense to you and has not in the past. Maybe your life seems like daily drudgery and you just "suck it up" to make it through every day. Perhaps the joy has left your marriage and relationship with your child (or others) and it leaves you in despair or feeling cheated by what you thought would be something different.

So, I have a challenge for you today. Put your life in His hands and be prepared for "extreme living." Talk to Him & read His Word daily (see the online read though the Bible plans). Don't stop being who you are, because He takes us just as we are and uses it for His satisfaction and glory. "You" were born for a purpose!

This doesn't mean that you won't mistakes. You won't be perfect. But you will see your purpose for living and experience the joy God intended for our lives.

I'd like to close with 5 questions for you. I got this idea from my dear friend Donna at Quiet Life (a daily read of mine). Her "Friday Five" is one of my favorite things to do each week. I guess I just like questionnaires about various topics. Here is my own version of the Friday Five...

1) Have you ever thought about if everything was taken from you (material possessions, loved ones, health)?
2) What has been the most significant loss in your life?
3) What has been the most joyous time or occasion (I guess this could be singular or plural!)?
4) Do you know Jesus as a personal friend and not a religion (see "not religion" for more explanation).
5) If you were to define your life so far, what statement would you use?

Thanks for listening to my ramblings.



One more thing...HAPPY 5TH BIRTHDAY JOHN ELDON!!! My dear little son who hates to wear clothes and is never without a gun tucked into his underwear. He wants to marry me and loves to give me kisses to make Daddy jealous. He has the most heart-warming "belly laugh" that you could ever hear. I love you, dear son.

Leave your comments and answers to the Friday Five questions by clicking here.

Here's a salad recipe I'm making for our yearly homeschool support network picnic:

Black Bean Salad

1 cup of black beans (I will used lentils soaked for 6 hours...they do not have to be cooked if you soak them a long time)
1 tomato, diced
the juice of one lime
1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I will use 1 tsp. of garlic powder)
1 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dried cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil of your choice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine and mix all of the ingredients and let sit for a few hours to let the flavors combine. Yummy!

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Homeschooling Semantics

I love this humorous cartoon by Bruce Tinsley that was in the recent edition of our area homeschool newsletter. The main thought of the cartoon was about the homeschooled kid's vocabulary and whether or not he/she would assimilate in their mainstream peer group.

We had an example of one particular homeschooled kid's semantics that very day.

Malcom (14) announced that he would like to inquire and follow up on some of his submitted job applications. He mentioned a few of the establishments he had applied to, among them a small restaurant in town called "Morsels."

Malcom went on to describe that he liked to work at this eatery and that it was a small, quaint place.

Greyson (11) commented with this statement: "Uh, duh! Morsels, meaning *very small*, *tiny*..... hence, the name "Morsels." (He used his fingers to represent quotation marks to emphasize the word "Morsels", similar to how Austin Powers did in his movies)

I just burst out laughing upon hearing that interchange between an older brother and his younger nemesis.

I don't think I have heard anyone use the word "hence" in a long while.



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Friday, June 6, 2008

Family Popcorn Night!

"It's popcorn night! It's popcorn night!" exclaims little Sam (2 1/2).

He gets very excited when he discovers it's Friday night, our family movie/popcorn night.

This tradition began when I was a little girl. Every Sunday evening we would watch the Disney Sunday night movie, and my mother would make a large bowl of popcorn. It was the highlight of my week, and thus began my love affair with popcorn.

I decided to add popcorn night as one of our family traditions when my twins were little guys. Now they are 14 years old!

Tonight we are going to watch "Rocky." The very first of the series of Rocky movies. I figure it will motivate and encourage my boys to step up their workout programs (grin).

10 reasons to have a family popcorn night
  1. Family togetherness

  2. The benefit of viewing great & inspirational movies. We enjoy popular movies as well as great documentaries.
  3. You get to drink pop (this is about the only night our children get to splurge on pop :O)

  4. No need for supper preparation (yahoo!). Just have a light, informal and early supper of sandwiches or another simple meal. We begin popcorn night at 6:30 or 7 pm.
  5. Encourages serving one another. Have a few children help with serving pop, getting bowls and napkins, and passing out the popcorn. This is great for the littler children.

  6. Provides a restful evening for busy parents. It's nice to just unwind and sit with the family.

  7. Allows the family to re-focus. While everyone is in one place, you could have a short family meeting/conference/devotional time, etc. before you view the movie.

  8. Facilitates discussion over movie content. Sometimes the content is objectionable and the movie is turned off. Other times, we are inspired and encouraged by motion picture themes.

  9. Helps get the house clean! No popcorn night until the house it tidy and laundry is put away.

  10. It's cheap!!!!! Along w/ homemade popcorn and pop in 2 liter bottles (we get 3 or 4), we get our movies from the public or church libraries. Once in awhile we will get videos or DVDs from the video store. Still, it's a thrifty way to have family entertainment!
We use a Stir Crazy popcorn popper to make our popcorn. Here's our recipe:
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut or other oil
  • 3/4 cup popcorn
  • 1 stick of butter + 2 tablespoons of oil to stretch the butter
  • salt
You could also use a heavy pan instead of the Stir Crazy. Just pour the oil into the pan along with the popcorn kernels, cover with pan lid. Heat on medium-high and shake pan occasionally. When it pops, shake pan over heat until you hear just a few pops and most of the corn is popped. Remove pan from heat and pour popcorn into a large bowl.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add the 2 tablespoons of of oil. Pour over popcorn. Stir w/ a large spoon. Salt to taste.

You can also add other spices to flavor the popcorn. The possibilities are endless! We will add Parmesan cheese once in awhile.

Our family quadruples the batch listed above in the recipe. If we want leftovers for the weekend, we double the quadruple batch.


Hope this inspires you to have a family movie & popcorn night.

(*if the evening is simply too hot for making popcorn, we eat ice cream sundaes!)

Enjoy :o).



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Monday, June 2, 2008

Next Time, Do That In The Woods

Last Sunday evening we were with a gathering of friends. Our children accompanied us and looked forward to hanging out with the other children who would be at this get-together.

It was a lovely, late afternoon and the host family decided that we should all move to their deck and have an outside meeting.

The children played on the lawn below as the adults had fellowship together. It was going very well, the bigger boys were playing a game of football while the smaller children shoveled and plowed in the sandbox. No one seemed inclined to wander out of the yard, and the situation was content . Until....

During a quiet, reflective moment with our friends, the host family's oldest son said rather clearly and plainly, "John, next time go pee in the woods!" (John is our 5 year old, by the way)

We all just looked at each other...My husband & I specifically exchanged a "we know perfectly what is going on" kind of glance. Then came the laughter.

At this point and time in our family life, my husband and I have learned to have quite a sense of humor over moments such as these, and we seldom experience embarrassment anymore! I think we are getting used to it! (However, stay tuned...this could change at any time)

For such a time as this we all had a laugh!