"Home is the nicest word there is." Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Snow Free For Weeks

The land is slowly showing signs of spring. 

Robins have returned ...tom  turkeys are trotting and dancing for their mates
Gobble-gobble.  Look what I spied yesterday out my back door.

 ... rhubarb is emerging and it's nice to have more sunlight each evening.

 Living in the North Woods our winters scrub the landscape turning annuals into mushy pulp, lawn into straw colored mat, puddles and mud holes galore .. and the sight of a dwindling woodpile all are reminders that the seasons march on. 

We've had six family birthdays in six weeks time.   Being a generational family, all living in close proximity to each other, hubby and I treat the entire family to a night eating out to celebrate all the birthdays at once each year .. it's a tradition.  Our youngest son turned eighteen last week.  This week our grandsons have birthdays two days apart. 
Nathan's birthday 'cake' .. his choice.

Living in a four seasons area really makes the approaching seasons longed for ... like experiencing a rainbow (spring), sailing on the high seas (summer),

bundling up smelling smoky campfires (fall),

and sitting by the fire with hot cocoa (winter) each distinct and anticipated.

How are you embracing the changing of the guard?  Or are your seasons not distinct?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Last Tidbit

I've just posted my last 'tidbit' over on the Scarf Sister's blog.  I hope to return to regular posts here soon.  Get a tissue if you visit.  http://travelingscarf.blogspot.com/2014/03/my-last-tidbit.html

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Having a Plan ...

Uber busy day.  Baby cakes this AM .. and leaving just past noon to pick up Nathan; he needs an official evaluation for his disability case as he transitions to adult services.  Yesterday .. much the same with stopping in to get him on the 'list' for vocational rehabilitation for when he turns 21 in three years (that's how long it takes to get services at the proper age).  Stopped at the pediatrician's office as well to get his annual physical scheduled before he turns 18 and I'm no longer his parent authority.  That means we are also timing the process of guardianship so when his birthday arrives he's in line for legal services to hear his case before the court so we can obtain legal guardianship.  As a parent you really need to stay on top of this, and timing is everything.  Oh my, prayers appreciated that no major medical event arises between now and the court hearing.  My mind is spinning!   The HIPPA law has certainly confounded being the parent of a handicapped child transitioning into adulthood! 

Saturday, March 08, 2014


I'm posting on the Scarf Sister's blog today.  Forget-Me-Not

Friday, March 07, 2014

Entertaining Spring

We're having a rapid meltdown this week.  The raised garden beds are visible as snow retreats revealing straw covering strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus.  Mucky and yucky!  The house has stayed warm overnight (in the high 60's) without burning much wood.  Hubby has ditched his thermals of late, I did that a month ago ;)

I hear the robins have returned to town.  Not here in the foothills, but soon.

Saturday I plan on planting some seeds indoors for my mini greenhouse. 

Oh my .. and with the time change this weekend, won't it be nice to have sunset and hour later?

Mama moose, spied out my bedroom door recently.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Just Wondering ...

... if I'm the last one on the planet to get a salad/lettuce spinner?
Smallish in size .. salad/lettuce spinner.
I make salad twice a day and need washed and dried lettuce quickly, especially for our son's packed school lunch.  To me these gadgets seemed to be a big space waster.  But after being the recipient of one for my recent birthday, I'm a happy camper!  The model I received can have tap water running through it while the lettuce spins; which really doesn't work that well at actually washing, but it does an awesome job of drying cut/washed lettuce.  Bye-bye wet-soggy salads! 
A quick rinse and the spinner is clean enough to put away.

Changing Shopping Habits

Gone are the days of loading up two carts at sprawlmart or Costco.  Why?  Because we don't buy processed foods in boxes.  Instead, our grocery shopping revolves around a weekly trip to town to buy organic produce .. and a monthly trip to Costco for items such as paper goods, coffee and cheese. 
Garden tomatoes are canned

We also purchase from Azure Standard once a month.  This shipment usually contains organic potatoes, boxed apples, dried beans, popcorn, dried fruit, canning supplies, etc.  Meat, eggs, milk are from local sources that are picked up seasonally (meat) and weekly (milk). 

Once your garden beds are in, the rewards of fresh produce are endless.

At the beginning of the month I work out a budget for cash and non cash items.  Groceries are cash .. the utilities, insurance, etc. are non cash.  I start out with all of my grocery money for the month after the budget is finished.  Cash is put in an envelope and has to last until the next budget.  This method takes a few months to become second nature .. but it does cut down on spur of the moment buys when you know you have a limited amount to spend each month.

Now that the Mr. has retired and we've been living on a budget for the past four years, it's much easier to live on retirement income.  Planning and restraint in spending are necessary to live within one's means.  Maybe the gov. could take some tips from retired seniors, ya think?

If you want to get out of debt and live on a budget, check out Dave Ramsey's website.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

On The Mend

After a day of not feeling well, I'm on the mend; thanks in part of a good immunity.  Last night I made fresh kefir.  Rarely will I take even OTC medication for a cold or flu, instead opting for rest.  My theory is that if you take pain meds, such as ibuprohpen, you start to feel better and tend to not take it easy.  So after a day of rest, probiotic drinks and diffusing essential oils to help keep my nasal passages open, I am feeling 75% better. 

'Recipe' For The Flu!

Have culture, will travel!  I did it!  Neglected my immunity and now I'm sick.  When we travel our packed chuck box looks more like that of a pioneer chuckwagon taking care to bring most comforts of home. 

Cultured buttermilk was packed in our picnic cooler, but one thing I forgot was my nutrient dense kefir!  Kefir is a wonderful probiotic culture that is eons old (long story of history) (short history).  It's similar to yogurt, but much more potent and can keep you 'regular' and build up your immunity.  Studies have found that our immunity begins in our gut

Back to kefir.  Here are what kefir grains look like.

Rather like cottage cheese .. and when rinsed little pieces of cauliflower.  However, it's a mortal sin to rinse your kefir in my humble opinion.   The best place to obtain kefir grains is from a friend that wishes to share.  Or online. They multiply and it's perfectly fine to share about a tablespoon in you have double that amount.

Back to the flu!  On our recent vacation I tried very hard to eat healthy.  It's sometimes difficult when staying at a hotel or when you are a guest.  My sleep pattern was disrupted as well.  Getting proper sleep is right up there with consuming kefir or other cultured foods in my backwoods' doctoring opinion.  I did buy a plain kefir drink at the market, but it was full of unnecessary ingredients, a weak culture and tasted horrible. Dairy free options for kefir are also available, and I went three days without consuming kefir when we returned home.

The last time I endured the flu was in 2009 just prior to changing my family's diet to include organic pastured meats that I buy from local farms, fresh milk .. and soaked grains if we dare consume them.  I may have had one or two colds since then as well.  This is a pretty good five year track record in my opinion and attests to the need for nutrient dense foods and good sleep.

Next time I'll show you the process for making dairy kefir at home.  It's inexpensive once you have your kefir grains and tastes 100% better than store-bought.

So remember, if you're often sick, take the time to nourish yourself and get onto the road of good health .. one bite, sip, nap at a time.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Home On The Range

We found the sun ~ Mt. Shasta, CA
We've just returned from a late winter trip to try and find a slice of warm weather.  Warmer weather we found, including sunshine for two days, then it rained and rained and rained, sleeted, iced over and snowed on the way home.  Over hill and dale, 'round bends .. including BEND, Oregon, whizzing past Crater Lake National Park not able to stop due to foul weather .. only to drive in nine hours of nasty, twisty, turny, white knuckle roads with 18 wheelers flipping over along and cars in ditches.  We had no choice but to drive on s.l.o.w.l.y. as this storm was/is a several day event.  Along the road we saw signs for the Lewis and Clark Trail .. and the Historic Oregon Trail.  In weather like this I was thankful to be seated in a warm 4x4 truck instead of on foot or in a covered wagon.  Brrrrr .. just the thought put a shiver down my spine.  Oh my, won't this be a wonderful trip ... perhaps in the spring or fall .. not winter?
Palouse ... Eastern Washington

Home sweet home at last to a cozy warm lodge with a long driveway in need of plowing.  It's nice to get away, but even nicer to return appreciative and anticipating sleeping in my own bed!

Tomorrow will be spent unpacking and the washing machine will be humming.  I've got sourdough, buttermilk and kefir to reawaken, bread to bake and must get busy with the 2014 garden plans.

There's no place like home .. and sometimes you need to leave home to appreciate all it holds.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fake Food & The Anguished Homemaker ~ Update

An oldie not moldy post originally published April 24, 2012~ in light of the recent push by the Food Babe to bring to light azodicarbonamide AKA a chemical used in the production of yoga mats that is found in factory bread produced in the USA ... and banned in numerous other countries around the world.  Here's my take on this subject a few years back. Know what you're feeding your family. 

Dilemma ..

What is it? ...
Enriched bleached flour (wheat, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin, mononitrate [Vitamin B1], folic-acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, contains 2% of each of the following: vegetable oil (soybean and/or cottonseed oils), salt, wheat gluten, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: mono-peroxide, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonaumide, enzymes), calcium sulfate,/yeast nutrients (monocalcium phosphate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate and/or calcium carbonate), cornstarch, calcium propionate (preservative) distilled vinegar, soy lecithin, milk, soy flour, sesame seed.  Allergy warning:  contains milk, wheat and soy (AND GMO'S .. emphasis mine).  Cost .. $3.29

The above FAKE FOOD is the ingredient list on a package of white hamburger buns.  Yep, it's vacation time from the family and I had to 'stock up' on some food while I am away for a mini trip.  Sticker shock!  Ingredient (not so) shock(ed)!  Creepy feeling shock!  Oh .. I also had the choice of 'whole' wheat buns and the ingredient list was similarly (anti) nutritious!

My homemade bread ingredient list:  Freshly ground sprouted wheat flour, water, sunflower oil, sea salt, yeast.  Notice there are no vitamins added because they have not been stripped out of the flour.  No dough conditioners and preservatives .. because the shelf life is a few days .. not months.  Cost including baking fuel .. under a dollar.

I walked away from the market with a basket half filled with mostly JUNK, and was hoping not to be seen with the various items in my cart.  I digress .. there was also a  box of Kashi cereal .. some sort of message on the box reassured me that it didn't contain high fructose corn syrup and that was supposed to make me 'feel good' about serving it to my family.  A bunch of grapes (out of season), bananas from half way around the world, a package of kosher hot dogs, sliced deli turkey lunch meat, lettuce, lemon and (God forbid) a bottle of (fake) peppercorn ranch salad dressing.  My total was $76 (almost 1/4 of our total monthly food budget).

Last time I went away I worked my butt off making bread, spaghetti sauce, and prepped enough food for several days .. along with our daily food prior to leaving.  This little endeavor left me exhausted and questioning the sanity of why I was getting away from the family for a little rest and relaxation.  I came home to find the spaghetti sauce still in the freezer (not used) and a few receipts for 'fake food' on the counter.

In a perfect world I wouldn't need to buy this JUNK.  My family would know how to make their own salad dressing, cook oatmeal for breakfast, make lunch that didn't include processed meat.  My job is not done.

Get to know your food sources.  Read labels.  Learn to cook. Plant a garden with your family. Have ingredients available and teach your kids to pack a healthy school lunch.  The rewards will pay off with overall health now and when you're older.

Homemakers prayer: "Lord, I cannot always inspect the food my family eats.  Let there be enough nutrition in the foods I prepare at home to offset the times I have to close my eyes.  Help me teach my family the importance of good nutrition and making wise food choices.  Amen"

Friday, February 07, 2014

Grain Free Meals ...

... can be filling.

We've been cutting out grains of late.  My thoughts are that they contribute to poor health and 'feed' the cravings within.  Our 'modern' society is in a flux.  We have obesity and poor health running rampant and seem to be fixated with food 24/7.  We're the most overfed and undernourished generation EVER! 
spaghetti squash with meat sauce and tossed salad

I'm not saying we won't eat a piece of bread now and then, but I've found that by cutting it drastically from my diet .. I'm less hungry and don't walk around looking for my next snack.  Nathan's not craving and constantly asking for the three P's ~ pizza, pasta and potatoes.

grass fed beef burgers, cauliflower with cheese, tossed salad and beef stock
Included with our diet are 'snacks' of cultured veggies, buttermilk and kefir.  Getting creative . . . comes naturally with a little practice. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Restoration Tuesday

RESToration!  Requires REST.  Do you get enough REST?  How can you be RESTored if you are not RESTed?  I bet Dr. Seuss could make a children's book on this subject.

How do I REST?  Let me count the ways:
  1. Limit caffeine .. and never past 2:00 PM if I plan on sleeping at night
  2. No TV in the bedroom
  3. Sleep with the window cracked
  4. Stick to a routine
  5. Eat healthy food
  6. Read about topics of interest
  7. Drink plenty of water
  8. Enjoy a cup of spearmint tea before bed .. it's become a 'signal' that it's my bedtime
  9. Rub a little lavender oil on my pillowcase or diffuse near my bed
  10. Read a novel in bed
Do you RESTore your body, mind and soul each day?

Monday, February 03, 2014

Fine Tuning The 'Machine'

After detoxing, restoring my health, eating nutritionally sound meals .. it's not difficult to self diagnose those little twinges that creep up on occasion.  For example, when my neck starts making creaking sounds, I need to drink more bone broth.  If my feet start to ache and/or I don't sleep peacefully I've usually run out of my cod liver oil.  When my left index finger aches at the first knuckle and/or my knees ache .. I've consumed too much sugar.

Cultured Veggies
To boost immunity I give my family cultured foods daily including kefir, buttermilk, pickles and sauerkraut. 

When my youngest son consumes too many starches he breaks out in a rash on his neck and makes odd snorting sounds in his nose .. often accompanied by a headache.

Do you notice how certain foods affect your mood or health?  Get to know how to fine tune your 'machine.'  Eliminate or drastically reduce the offenders.  When I need to detox, I sip milkweed or stinging nettle tea in the evening several times a week, cut out sugar and starches.  If you wish to consume detox teas, please read up on side effects and consult your doctor if  you have certain health conditions.
Grain Free Meal ~ Japanese vegetable soup, salad, zucchini 'cakes', applesauce 

Maybe we're just WEIRD ..... say it aint so! ;)

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Off Grid Baking

So you want to be prepared for feeding your family should the power go out.  If you have a wood heat stove and a cast iron Dutch oven, you're in luck.  It just takes careful practice.  You have to time the rise of your yeast bread with the glow of wood coals.  If you use a bread recipe such as this one for no knead bread, your window of opportunity to bake is more dependent on coals than timing the dough. 

This means that I start my loaf the night before I want to bake it .. at the very least ... making it early in the morning and baking before bed; I prefer making it the night before baking.  You only need one bowl .. mix up the dough .. cover  .. and set aside for 12-18 hours.  I've even let the dough go 24 hours which gives it a little extra punch in sour flavor.  Bread with a long ferment period is supposed to be more nutritious and easier to digest.  Believe me, when you have lost the ability to cook conveniently you are more apt to eat what is available in your emergency supplies.  Hunger takes precedence to proper diet.

So .. the planning part comes into play usually after dinner and my dough has been fermenting nearly 18 hours.  This dough has just been sitting in the mixing bowl covered with a plastic bag and a dish towel to stay moist .. usually starting off by the wood stove .. and if that gets too warm, I move it to the kitchen counter.

My wood stove would have been burning all day and our home toasty warm.  About 2 hours prior to actually baking the bread, I remove the dough from the bowl, shape it briefly on a floured surface and place it in a ball on a greased piece of parchment paper placed inside a glass pie pan or med. size skillet.  It's covered loosely with the plastic wrap and clean dish towel .. left to rise in a warm spot for 2 hours.  The coals in the wood stove will be glowing read and pushed to the sides and back of the stove. 
Red glowing coals get broken apart with ash shovel and arranged along both sides and back of wood stove.

A few canning rings will be carefully placed in the ashes of the stove floor to support the Dutch oven.
Several canning rings are placed in center of wood stove's floor to support Dutch Oven.

 About a half hour before bake time, with the fire out .. and embers are glowing red, the empty Dutch (D.O.) oven is carefully placed on the canning rings to preheat.. door shut .. and timed for approx. 30 minutes.  I use heavy leather gloves to handle the D.O. After 30 minutes the D.O. is removed and placed on a trivet on top of the stove.  The lid is carefully removed .. and a little smoke should come out.

Raised round loaf is placed inside hot Dutch oven using parchment as a sling.

 Dough is lifted carefully with parchment paper and settled in the D.O.  The top of dough is snipped and dusted with a little flour.  Lid is placed on pan .. and carefully placed on the canning rings .. door gets shut.
A little fire is OK .. but watch carefully .. you really just need a medium amount of red coals.

 If the stove seems too cool a few pieces of kindling can be tossed in to keep the stove heated.

Small pieces of kindling may be added to coals if the oven temp seems too low.  Getting a feel for the temp with your hand is a developed skill.

 It doesn't take much kindling .. if any.  You don't want a big fire .. but a little flame is OK if pushed away from the D.O.  Door needs to remain shut.  Let the bread bake for 30 minutes .. rotating the pan every 10 minutes for even baking.

 After 30 minutes carefully remove the D.O. and place on trivet. 

I've only burned one loaf from too high of temp (from flames).  This one came out perfect!

Remove lid.  bread should be brown and well raised.  Carefully slide an additional metal canning ring under the parchment to lift the bread off the bottom of the D.O.  and cautiously place the pan back in the oven where it will bake for 10-15 additional minutes without the lid.

This bread is full of holes and has a crispy crust.  Slices easily too.

 Carefully remove pan at end of baking time transferring baked bread to a wire cooling rack for approx. 2 hours before slicing.  Store cooled bread in a plastic bag. 

If you try this baking method, be extra careful.