Sunday, January 30, 2011

The One Where Jenni Dissects A Facebook Post

Jennifer H Z The trailer park sangria has left its mark on the inner workings of my brain... Or it could be the benedryl I had to take to consume the puppy chow, or the pain meds after you tried to kill me... Come to think of it, that's quite the combination and maybe my day will start a bit better if I go back to bed and take a do-over in a couple hours. Wanna go with me to the Store today, Rach? I've gotta buy cereal and cherry. Juice- two different stores. Let me know.
Yesterday at 6:28am ·
Hello Friends,
  This blog entry will be one like you may have never seen before.  It may be one I've never seen before, and I guarantee it will be one like I've never done before, and may never do again.  Never say never, though because this, I promise you, is good stuff.  It may be full of innuendo and inside jokes, but feel free to jump right in and pretend to understand the jokes, laugh at the innuendo and just roll with the punches... that is, after all, what this whole thing is about.
   The day started normally enough...actually, refer to my last blog entry... it really was an awful day... but bad days happen and most of the day was mentally stressful, but not all in all a terrible part of the day.  SO... Needless to say, I was SO looking forward to my "date" night with my friend Rachel.  This requires explanation as well... (and it might get complicated because not everyone comes from the place that Rachel and I (and a good number of my blog readers) come from... I will explain momentarily, the ones who are "there" will totally get it and end up wetting themselves in fits of maniacal laughter, and the rest of you, God love yah's all... you poor things will just think WE'RE the crazy ones....but at least you'll get a glimpse into the alternate universe that we live in.   Oh.... where to start?
 In the famous and profound words of Glinda (the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz), "It's aways best to start at the beginning..."   So, 29 years ago, in the town of.... oh, wait... that might be a little *too* beginning... How's about we start at the planning stages of "date night"?  That'll do nicely.
I was complaining about our (endless) Winter, (endless) cloudy skies and my general funk attitude because of the lack of what I see as proper sunshine.  My wonderful neighbor and friend Rachel (now, remember, out in the sticks, "neighbor" is a relative term, we live precisely 2.1 miles away from each other, so it isn't like "knock knock, can I borrow a cup of coconut oil" type of neighbor)  But we are ARE the kind of neighbors who keep tabs on each other and will run down (in -273* weather at 2 in the morning, just sayin') some good cough syrup and a completely legal sleep aid when we see each other wide awake and posting on facebook that one of us does NOT have Ass Leprosy, but has Lung Leprosy (not as itchy a condition, but equally uncomfortable to be certain)  OK, so we have a friendship going on here, it is safe to say.
 So...Rach says she's gonna pray for me and my cabin fever, and I agree that I'm going to pray for her too (OK, listen... This really IS the quick version... some details can't be skipped without losing the integrity of the story), so we (and this is entirely via facebook and text, which actually makes it even funnier because... well...suffice it to say I'm not showing you all of the texts and fb messages) OK... so  somewhere in the conversation, Rach says we should do another movie night.  I suggest that I've wanted to see Dinner for Schmucks and we both LOL'd and agreed to meet for the aforementioned movie and wine and some kind of baked goods that was yet to be determined.  Good Stuff.   So as the week (S-L-O-W-L-Y) progressed, I was looking more and more forward to our movie/date night. 
 OK.... here's where the kind of cultural/funny part comes in that some of you just might not get.  The Shmoms and the Shmerrys (names changed to preserve privacy) are a couple of "THOSE" Families.  Come ON... you know the ones... The Christian, Homeschooling, birth your babies at home, grow your own food, butcher your own meat, drink raw milk, natural type families.  So, I knew full well that when I was going to mine and Rachel's movie girl's "date" night, that there would be plenty of other Shmerrys there as well... it is just what we do.  If I didn't need a break from all of my little (and bigger) Shmoms, Rach would have come over here with the same expectation... it really is all about family and watching a movie and laughing is universal. Really, it is, right?  Kind of.  The comedy comes in when you've got a 9 year old (up past most 9 year old's bed times - but remember, we're homeschoolers and schedules are pretty much up for grabs... our kids can do math at noon just as easily as they can at 8 in the morning), so this 9 year old (poor, poor, 'unsocialized' girl) was interacting with me (29), her two older sisters (one 16 and the other is amazingly 29 as well - you know how "us" families are too... lots of kids, widely separated ages... just how it is) and I think, probably the best part is that Dad and Mom (a midwife, of course) were there as well... now Mom was upstairs TRYING to work (no one was in labor, I think she was grading papers) and Dad was watching the movie with us.  SO, now I've explained the family dynamics of how "THOSE" families operate....we do things as a family.
 OK, so before we even start the movie, I get there with the knowledge that Rach has obtained the movie and the wine.  Which she dubbed (NO OFFENSE TO ANYONE AT ALL, see the comedy, feel the love) "Trailer Park Wine" - a large quantity of wine in a box.   So I show up with a tupperware container full of a fruit and juice mix to make "Trailer Park Sangria", of course, to go with the movie.  I also showed up with a gallon ziplock bag full of puppy chow.  Anyone who doesn't know what puppy chow is - look it up and do yourself a favor and make it because it is seriously yummy... and make it with extra peanut butter - our theory is that it is healthier that way - (although if you're allergic to peanuts I might advise against this) its just a theory, so we went with it.  It also has chocolate in it...and I do happen to be allergic to chocolate, so I pre-medicated with benedryl and pepcid (yes, its a stomach med, but it is also an antihistamine) so that I could consume some of the puppy chow with limited hives and throat swelling - which can ruin a date night in a hurry. But I digress... so we mix up our Trailer Park Sangria (just Rach and I, although Dad would have been welcome to as well, but I suppose someone had to watch us crazy kids.)  And started the movie.  Well... started the DVD.... we didn't actually start the movie for another 20 minutes (between previews and laughing and mogging on puppy chow and the strange sensation I was experiencing - the bizarre mix of benedryl and Trailer Park Sangria and obnoxious amounts of giggling.)  I think it was Rachel who actually realized that we should probably start the movie at some point.  So we started the movie and just laughed maniacally at every single mouse taxidermy joke, every mouse taxidermy scene, just, in general laughed...the movie was full of amazing one liners ("A mind is a terrible thing."   "You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not." - THAT, my friends, is good stuff!)
So, eventually, the movie gets to the dinner (wayyyy too much "NOT dinner for Schmucks" scenes in the movie.)  And the entire time, Rachel and I are texting and facebooking one-liners to each other (I don't need to remind you that we are sitting on the same sofa, do I?)  So, things like "Are you looking down my dress? Why Not?" were followed by "There is puppy chow in my bra"  and well, my friends... that was one night that got WAYYYY out of hand.  The both of us had two FULL glasses of Trailer Park Sangria... we were really living dangerously.  (Rach, we do NOT have to mention that they were beer steins... but TOTALLY still glasses - OK?) 
 The best part of the night had not even begun.  So, movie's over, we're still sputtering a little about taking care of our birds and goats (which I had to go home to do...) and I mention getting into the car and turning the tushie warmer on (AGAIN, MY FRIENDS.... I HAD TWO GLASSES OF WINE OVER NEARLY 3 HOURS, DILUTED WITH JUICE - I DO NOT CONDONE DRUNK DRIVING AND WAS NOT DRIVING DRUNK...needed to be said) and one way or the other, Rachel, that wonderful Shmerry woman, told me to lay down on my tummy on the floor in the living room and she proceeded to try to kill me.  Poor Mama Shmerry (NOT delivering a baby upstairs) was probably pretty darned sorry she had to work and was missing this party.  The gutteral screams of pain radiating out of my mouth at the action of Rachel Shmerry's elbow grinding into my sacro-iliac joint sent shock waves throughout the entire township.  We determined quickly that I am not an "elbow girl".... a good thing to know.  I also learned that when Rachel Shmerry presses on pressure point (trigger point?) #27, it is a very, very bad thing.  And I do NOT mean Trailer Park Sangria bad... I mean, like... yeah... like the college party where you and a friend thought drinking a whole bottle of sour apple pucker between the two of you would be a really good idea... yeah... like THAT bad.
  So, my friends.... This is the WHOLE story (almost, I left the really embarrassing parts out) of that one little fb post.  The whole point of this is not a couple of silly 30-somethings 29 year olds getting together and being silly.  The point is that when friends, neighbors, sisters in Christ, sisters are having a tough time, fellowship can be so healing and refreshing.  Everyone's idea of a cleansing looks different.  I'd venture to say that to many people, the evening I just described would definitely NOT count as a de-stressing night out.   Fellowship and prayer in the middle of a dark time is what we need.  We need to come together and embrace in fellowship.  It doesn't matter if the "dark" time is literally, as in Rachel's and my case, because it is so stinkin' dark out and we need some sunlight, it can be a dark time because of any number of personal issues.  The solution is the same for all... SONLIGHT.   We need to surround ourselves with brothers and sisters who shine the light of Jesus and who appreciate us for us shining His light as well.  When the lights come together, the joy can begin.  We can remember why, even through the darkness, we can be the light and we can continue to be content through times when we might not necessarily be "happy".  Being content in the Joy of the Lord is my goal... even if I feel I'm in the physical darkness, His Joy is in me and I desire His LIGHT to shine from me to others.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The One Where Jenni Feels A Deep Inner Peace

Hello Friends,

   Yesterday, boy oh boy, yesterday was a day.  I had to deal with something that was a HUGE elephant in the room, not really being ignored by me, but I felt, being ignored by my husband.  Today, looking at it through eyes of clarity and peace, I am no longer angry about my perceived hurt of being ignored.  This was a topic that I'd been dealing with on my own for MONTHS, trying to get him involved, explaining how deeply it was affecting me, to no avail.  Today, through the clarity (and a massive surge of Grace from our Heavenly Father),  I am slowly grasping that my husband heard my words, he just didn't hear my needs or how deeply I was hurting.  This, the perceived slights and my hurts, will heal with time.  This is, once again,  God knocking on my head, reminding me that He created Men and Women differently.  This is not good or bad, it just is.  So, I'm feeling OK (not wanting to physically injure my husband... at one point, I wanted to cut off his ears and then physically dig out the inner workings of his ears, since I figured he apparently wasn't using them anyhow, and if he were physically deaf, I couldn't be angry with him) .... so now, I'm feeling OK with things... I had to do something yesterday that I had to do.  I had to reach to the inner-most part of my being, pull up my cow-girl boots,  put on my big girl undies, and (most difficult of all) restrain my overwhelming emotions.  Now, it should be said that I am a cry-er.  I cry when I'm sad. I cry when I'm happy.  I cry at the end of JUST ABOUT EVERY MOVIE EVER MADE (Remember the movie Cool Runnings - it leaves me sobbing for 2 hours EVERY TIME I see it).  I'm a cryer

  I don't intend to be cryptic in any of this.  I feel like I've shared every single detail that I can share without violating trust and privacy.  I feel like I've gotten my point across.  My point is that I did something yesterday that I didn't want to do.  I did something yesterday that I didn't think I could do.  I did something that I could never have imagined myself doing.  I did something that I didn't think I had it in me to do.  I trusted fully in God to guide me through something that I could not have not peacefully done by myself.   I showed love and compassion to a situation that had me absolutely raw and ragged with emotion and I did it without injuring people who I care about very much, people who already knew that I was extremely hurt by their actions.  I can't say that I'm proud of myself, because I hope I never have to do anything like that again.  But I feel empowered by the Grace of God.  I feel STRONG in HIS Strength.  I feel renewed in my spirit and empowered as a parent and wife.  I feel like I've found my voice and I've learned that even though I say something, I need to be more forceful in my words if I have needs that are not being met.  I know my husband wants to protect and embrace and provide for my needs, but if I am not clear in my expression of those needs, my feelings of loneliness will only continue.

  My Friends, find your voice.  You all know I am an outspoken, loud, assertive, loving woman.  You know that I will fight to the end to get the needs of my children met.  I am an outspoken advocate for our lifestyle, for my God, for so many of the things that we hold near and dear... and YES, I will continue to advocate for, among other things, my children, special needs children, epilepsy advocacy, a natural lifestyle, natural health, healthful foods, home cooking, raising, growing our own food, preparedness, raw milk rights, small scale farming and sustainability, homeschooling, vaccine choice and so many other things... I'm still going to be loud about these things because they are important to me.  But, from now on, I am also going to advocate, for the first time EVER, for my well-being, for ME being heard.  I can't help anyone or advocate for anyone or anything when I am feeling ignored, unloved and unheard.  I can change MY outlook and change MY methods in order to be heard and understood.  And I vow to never ignore the needs of others who have felt the pain of feeling unloved and ignored because although their words may have been heard, their needs are unheard and unmet.  Be gentle to yourself and others, my friends.  We have our God and we have each other.  Be kind.  Love.  Treat others with compassion and peace.  Sending you Love and Peace. ♥


Friday, January 28, 2011

The One About Us Not Relying On The Government - Part Two

Hello Friends,

 After yesterday's entry, you can see where I'm going with, the purpose behind these posts.  It is vital that we, as a society, do NOT depend on the government to "save" us in times of emergency.  Not only do I just not believe that is the government's job (ALL of my feelings about the government aside- it is simply not, in my view, the government's job to feed my family or take care of us in an emergency. This, again, is not to say that people who need assistance shouldn't get a hand up - but I am talking about my views for MY family - I'm not passing judgement on ANYONE for getting help- be it disability, be it unemployment, be it food assistance, I think people need to do what they need to do to take care of their families and if they need help feeding their children, I'd much rather my tax dollars go to feeding a family than any number of the pork projects that our tax money goes toward.)  That said, as yesterday's entry clearly stated, this is coming from a different mindset... I am coming from a place of wanting to not change my lifestyle in case of an emergency, whether that emergency is the fall of civilization, a tragic economic downturn, a natural disaster, a political takeover or the zombie apocalypse... doesn't matter what the emergency is, I would like to continue to be comfortable and have my family warm, cozy, well fed and healthy... without having to depend on any governmental bodies to provide for us.  As I stated yesterday, my grocery bill LAST WEEK (for the same items I buy all the time) had increased 15% - in a matter of just a couple weeks since the last shopping trip. Groceries are going up. Gas is going up.  It is UP TO US to prepare to take care of our families.  This is part two of what we are doing to continue to eat well and keep costs low at the grocery store.

* Go through fliers/ circulars of a few different stores and stock up on those "Loss Leaders" - if you see chicken legs and thighs for 59 cents a pound, go to that store and stock up - and leave that store.  Go to the next store and stock up on the frozen veggies for 60 cents a bag - get the maximum number of those items allowed (and pay for them and go back through another line if you need more) and then leave the store. Then go to your regular grocery store and do the bulk of your shopping there.  This ONLY makes sense if the stores are near each other - it does not make sense to spend gas money on running all over town to save money.  It DOES, however, to me, make sense to spend TIME in doing it this way.  I figure that it is my job to spend wisely and I am willing to spend some extra TIME in shopping this way.  Spending my time is the trade- off for saving money.  If you have an Aldi or Save-a-Lot in your area, it might make sense to use these stores as your primary grocery store to stock up on staples and supplement your groceries elsewhere.  The number of items available at these stores is limited, but, for me, (especially in the Winter when we don't have a sufficient number of eggs being laid or milk from the goat),  the savings in milk, eggs and cheese alone makes a stop to Aldi very worthwhile. (Eggs, 78 cents a dozen, milk $1.89 a gallon, cheese $1.79 for 8 oz), and I can also get a few staples here - white flour - which I use very limited amounts of and sugar - same thing, but I can also find canned beans (for stockpile and for bean use if I don't have time for soaking and boiling) and spices for the stock pile.  Sometimes, their produce is decent as well... I don't do all of my shopping here, but it is VERY worth a stop to check out what is available.  The items I do buy at Aldi, I generally save about 40% over the same items at a regular grocery store.

* Figure out what you need to keep on hand.  With a house full of growing boys, a  Daddy who is Diabetic and a Mama who eats healthfully, "Snacks" are a necessity.  "Little Debbie" snacks are not only nutritionally empty and not good for anyone, but they are expensive and don't last long and are not filling (as well as the artificial chemicals in them creating an addiction and wanting more... not happening here!).  If I don't have carrots in cold storage, I can buy a 10# bag of carrots for $3.99 - $4.99 and we have carrot sticks plus all the carrots we need for soup, stews and roasts for 2-3 weeks. (Same thing applies for apples, celery, oranges, bananas, grapefruit, cheese and whole grain crackers)  So "Snacks" might be a staple, a necessity, but be wise about snack options.  Add some peanut butter to those apples, carrots, celery or crackers or add cheese to the apples, carrots or crackers and you have a perfectly acceptable and completely healthful snack.  In my home, if a child doesn't want one of the many options for a snack, I call their bluff... they're not hungry, they are bored, and they get to wait until the next meal.

* This one should go without saying, but stop eating out so much.  If we go out to eat, we go to the local buffet that offers free coupons for children and so my husband and I and the three boys can eat out for under $20.  And that is a treat.  And it is a good choice because there are plenty of healthful options, a big salad bar, roasted meats and broiled fish available at all times instead of the standard fried fare.  Still cheaper to eat at home, but a good evening out, a nice treat.

* Buy in bulk. When you hear "bulk", you may think of 50 pound bags of flour.  Re-think bulk purchases.  There certainly is nothing wrong with buying 50 pounds of flour (if you can store it properly and can use it) but think about this: Mama and kiddos eat a container of yogurt each morning... why buy 20 individual containers of yogurt when you can buy a couple quart size containers of vanilla yogurt and cut some fruit on top of it?    Bulk doesn't necessarily mean going to Sam's club and buying 50 rolls of paper towel at once.  In our home, it is not uncommon for me to buy a 10# bag of oatmeal, 10# bags of whole wheat flour and pasta (semolina) flour, 5# of barley, beans, lentils, large tubs of spices and other baking goods as well as seeds for sprouting.   This is the norm here.  It is cheaper and it lasts longer.  It just makes sense.

* Possibly the most important part of grocery shopping is to remember to buy whole foods.  It may take time to chop carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, cheese, garlic, onions and watermelon and make your own pancake batter, bread dough and noodles, just to name a few things, but the $ savings you will see will more than pay for the time you spend chopping them yourself.

Friends, this is such an important thing for all of us to be doing.    Not only is saving money more important now than ever, but our world is undeniably changing, we owe it to our families to be prepared for anything from job loss to natural disaster to anything that is just so terribly unspeakable that I'd just as soon not think about it.  Our government is telling us the recession is over...I didn't feel "crunch" during ANY of the official recession, we bought a new house, everyone who needed to be employed was gainfully employed, we had food, shelter, clothes, entertainment, vehicles, vacations... only now when the recession is "over" are we feeling a financial crunch - with groceries, of all things.  We (our families) can not operate as our government operates... if there is less money coming in or even just a set amount of money coming in, we have to live within our budgets, we can't spend more than we have.  As I sit here and type this, I'm listening to news of riots in Egypt, the government shutting down Internet and communications, an earthquake in the Middle East.  Folks, I'm NOT an alarmist.  I am fully relying on God to keep my family under His protection, but God gave me a mind to use and to protect my family as well.  I am a keeper of the home.  I am a wife and a mother.  I will continue to use our finances to do the best I can and make them stretch a far as I possibly can to continue to ensure that we have enough in the event of something happening.  Gas prices are rising. Food costs are rising.  WE, as keepers of the home, are the ones who need to learn the skills to ensure health and safety for our families. Simple things like learning to sew, so that we can re-purpose clothes that no longer fit our little ones, setting up networks of like-minded moms so we can have a group that we can rely on to pass along clothes that no longer fit our little ones, even passing along toys to moms who have younger children, will be a social circle that will become a need.  Neighbors, coming together and growing food together, preserving food together, helping each other learn skills that have become obsolete in the past few generations, will be increasingly necessary.  I state again, I am not a conspiracy theorist, I have no idea what the "change" will be, and I'm not going to scare non-Christians with "End Times" thoughts... because this is not the time for fear.  Now is the time for actions.  Action to prepare to keep our families well no matter what comes our way.  Actions to get ourselves as healthy as possible to ensure we can weather whatever comes our way.  And taking actions to make sure our families are fed well, well within our budgets.  Look Up, my Friends.  Look ahead.  Don't look back, and don't be fearful.  The time to make positive changes is right now.  It doesn't matter what we did yesterday. We can start making changes today, so that tomorrow is better because of it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The One About Us Not Relying On The Government

Hello Friends,

  I've been reading some news stories today about higher grocery prices in the coming year, I drove past some gas stations yesterday with even higher gas prices, and my grocery bill LAST WEEK was almost 15% higher for the EXACT SAME stuff I normally buy.  This is the stuff that is affecting us all.  This is not a rant about unemployment (because I've got friends who have desperately  needed unemployment benefits in the past couple of years - jobs are tough out there!)  This is not a rant about the disabled folks who are receiving social security, this is not, in short, about people who need help. Period.  Heck, this isn't even about the people who are abusing the system.  This is ENTIRELY about what WE can do to become more self sufficient and not rely on the government.  In my family, this self-sufficiency is prefaced with saying that by the grace of God we are able to do the things we do.  Tonight, in this blog post, however, I am not going to focus on the homesteady - grow your own, raise your own, butcher your own and make your own health drinks from scratch side of things.  I am going to focus on the real life of every day folks who are trying to make a go of life without the benefit of having home-grown back ups.  Grocery Shopping 101 that I've learned through the years.  Some of it might apply more to the more natural, cook from scratch types, some of it applies to everyone.  I desperately hope it helps someone save some money in their food budget. This is a topic that is very, very, vitally important in the day to day lives of people all over this country and the world.  The tips, along with my experiences, in no particular order:

                             BUYING FOOD ON A BUDGET

* Make a plan - A Meal Plan.  Know what you are going to make for each meal and for each and every day.  If you know what you need for those meals, you know what you need to buy, and what NOT to buy at the market.  Be sure to check what you have in your pantry so you don't duplicate items that you already have during times of an extremely tight budget.  

* Make a list.  Stick to the list.

* Start Stockpiling Food and other items (toiletries, paper products).  Even spending an extra $5 a week will start your stockpile to be used in case of an emergency.  (For Example, just $20 in one month can buy a large can of peanut butter (6 pounds - this is how I buy peanut butter all the time), 2 pounds of rice, 3 pounds of beans (dry) 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of whole wheat flour.  OR, cut down the peanut butter purchase to just a jar or two and instead of the extra money for peanut butter, use it to buy some spices to make the beans and rice more interesting)  That is just for one month.  The following month, I'd get (with your second $20), shortening, powdered milk, yeast, mayonnaise, tuna and salt.  Keep adding to your stockpile and please (PLEASE, PLEASE) purchase foods for your stockpile that you will use. You'll need to constantly rotate older foods to the front and use and replace them.  The worst possible time to get used to a change in diet is in an emergency situation.  I'm not a fan of canned foods, but do believe that canned foods (especially home canned foods) have their place in a stockpile.  The exception to this that I would make would be canned pasta type foods that could be eaten (::Shudder::) without being heated.  They would provide protein and carbs and even a modest amount of vegetable nutrients.  Other things that I think are vital to have stockpiled: jerky (in packs with oxygen absorbers, can be home made jerky), flours (frozen for 24 hours and then stored in air tight buckets with moisture absorbers and oxygen absorbers), home canned (or frozen) fruits (or store bought fruits in fruit juice), nuts (raw), seeds to sprout, seeds (heirloom) to plant in your own garden.  I also recommend storing up grains, yes, pastas, but real grains: oatmeal, barley, quinoa, bulgur wheat....these items will add nutrition and variety to your diets by using them as cereals, but also by adding them to your breads.
  In addition to things you need to purchase, stockpiling can include things that you've grown, frozen or canned veggies and fruits, and other garden goodies... many things can be stored in cold storage and last throughout the winter, I still have a couple dozen winter squash sitting in cold storage, waiting to use when we have the taste for it, other things that do well in cold storage: potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips... all good items for wonderful winter soups that don't require a bit of meat for a hearty meal.)  Which brings me to the next tip...

* Not many of you will want to hear this (OK, most of you reading a blog like this couldn't care less, but your husbands might care...), but here it is... Cut down on meat.  Use roasted chicken breast strips on top  of a nice big salad full of veggies instead of having two chicken breasts with a side salad.  You'll still get plenty of protein.  I've become very good at using a cut of meat for multiple uses.  I am cooking for 9 people every single day, so I if I can make things stretch with a house full of growing boys... it can be done.  A couple of examples.... I will roast a chicken.  For the first night, the breasts and legs are cut up into a casserole.  For a second night, the carcass and remaining meat are made into either chicken noodle soup or chicken and (homemade) dumplings with a side of veggies.  Both healthful meals with ZERO waste (because, as awful as it sounds, all meal scraps go to the chickens... veggie scraps alone go to the goats, mixed scraps go to the chickens).  Hams are even more "fun".  The first night, we have a ham roast.  we'll wait a couple days and I'll use the meat I've cut off the ham to make scalloped potatoes and ham or ham salad for lunches and then on yet another day, the ham bone and meat that is attached to that is used to make a tasty navy bean or split pea soup.  No Waste.   And, I'm going to do the quick calculation here... we spend just under $140 on a meat bundle, but I'll round it to $140.  It lasts us for 8 weeks (yes, with 9 people, and occasional guests) and that is an average cost of  ($140 divided by 56 days)  $2.50 a day - for meat for 9 people.  This bundle includes some breakfast meat (3 pounds of bacon and a ham steak), ground beef, pork sausage, a few roasts, a full ham, several chickens, pepper steaks, ribs and a few other things,... I think it is about 67 - 70 pounds of meat... granted, we do not eat meat every day, but I'd say that is not too bad.

* Next, if you are on a tight budget, you really need to examine how many "luxury" items you are purchasing.  Convenience foods are a luxury when you can cook the same thing at home with the expenditure of a little bit of time.  Convenience foods have no place in my kitchen. I don't want to feel the preservatives and colors to my children.  Each of us has to decide what is acceptable  to our family and adjust accordingly.  I feel very strongly that I am home, I am the homemaker and it is my job to nourish my children by providing them the best food I can, and I feel that food comes from my effort cooking the food and not opening a box.  The convenience foods that I regularly buy are dried pasta (i can make it, and do, but only when time allows and children are not all over not allowing space and time for drying), blocks of cheese (we do make our own , but we go through quite a bit) and peanut butter.   Chips, soda and other nutrient empty foods are not in the food budget and I refused to buy them unless it is tortilla chips for homemade salsa or for a special occasion.
  I buy frozen veggies when I need to supplement our home frozen and canned and I buy fresh and frozen fruit to supplement our frozen and canned from our garden..

*Coupons -  I ONLY use coupons if I NEED the item and will USE the item. (One caveat: If I get coupons for free items that I will not use, I will get the item and donate it to either a family in need or to a local food pantry, not going to let something perfectly good go to waste) Also, only use the coupon if the brand name item's cost, with the coupon deducted, is cheaper than the store brand.  Don't be a brand snob.  It doesn't pay.  (My example: I wrote to the company that makes Pull ups training pants.  I just received 5 -$4 off coupons for Pull Ups.  I normally use the store brand, but taking the coupon off of the pull ups, I save $2 per package on pull ups, which are a monthly expense.  I need to buy them anyhow, I might as well get it cheaper.

That's it for Part One.  I have another half to go but I am falling asleep.  So I bid you goodnight my friends. Right at this very moment, I'm so sleepy I am going to be thankful for spell check.

The One With The Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes

Hello Friends,

  Thanks to Back to the Basics- Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst  on Facebook, and Kelly @ OFAMM on Cafe Mom for sharing these... I thought I'd pass along some good old fashioned cough syrup recipes... after all, it IS the season!  Again, The recipes and concoctions contained herein are in no way promoted to heal, cure, treat or diaganose any ailment, real or ficticious and you should contact your health care practioner and use common sense when attempting to treat a cough, ingrown toe nail, sty, gallbladder attack  or pink eye.  In other words, if you're gonna try it (as our ancestors have been doing for hundreds of years (uh, and are NOT around to tell about it, another thing you may want to consider)), do so at your own risk.  I hope it is sunny and happy where you are and that gave me an idea for a great song to post at the end of this entry.  Sending much love, and very little coughing.... ♥


1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 cup honey
1 pint of "Rock & Rye" Whiskey

Boil brown sugar, vinegar and honey until a little thick, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Add Rock & Rye, refrigerate and use as needed.

For a sore throat, at bedtime, very slowly, take 2 tablespoons, just taking a little at a time from spoon. Your sore throat will be gone by next day.


1/2 c. honey
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 tsp. horseradish (fresh prepared)
Fresh garlic

Mix well. Take 1 or 2 teaspoons as needed. If mixture is too hot, add more honey to taste. It has worked well for sinus problems and chronic bronchitis.


Take a thin slice of onion, sprinkle with sugar and let stand until sugar is converted into a syrup, 15 minutes or so. Sip syrup as needed and coughing will be relieved. Syrup does not taste like onion.


1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. whiskey

Mix all ingredients, store in jar. Put 1 teaspoon or 2 teaspoons in a cup of hot water or tea.

    * 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    * 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    * 1 Tablespoon honey
    * 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    * 2 Tablespoons water
      Mix and take by the teaspoon.

Soothes irritated throats and relieves chest congestion and phlegm. Tastes terrible.

The recipe doesn't indicate how much to take. I took 3 teaspoons the first time because I had a bad dry cough for over three weeks, and I was desparate for some relief. It worked and I got a good night's sleep. I have been recommending it to others ever since, and many have confirmed my positive results.
************************************************************************ (source for the recipes below)

Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes #1

Simmer 3 teaspoons of black currants in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes. Strain and add 2 tablespoons of honey. Use as needed for coughs.


 Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes #2

Pour 2 cups boiling water over 2 tablespoons of dried thyme. Cool to room temperature. Strain and add 1 cup of honey. Shake to mix well. Keep refrigerated. Take 1 tablespoon several times a day for sore throats, colds, and coughing.


Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes #3

Place 2 cups of cherries in a pan and add just enough water to cover. Add several lemon slices and 2 cups of honey. Simmer the mixture until cherries are soft. Remove from heat. Remove the lemon slices and the cherry pits from the mixture. Refrigerate and take several tablespoons as needed for coughing.


Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes #4

This is a remedy for bronchial complaints ranging from bron­chitis to asthma. Slice 2 ½  cups of fresh garlic into 4 cups of water. Bruise 2 tablespoons each of caraway and fennel seeds. Add to garlic water. -Boil this mixture until garlic is soft. Let stand 12-14 hours in a very tightly closed container. Measure the mixture at the end of 14 hours and add an equal amount of cider vinegar. Bring again to a boil, adding enough sugar to make a syrup. For coughing, take 1 teaspoon every morning or when necessary.


Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes #5

Add 6 tablespoons of horehound and 2 tablespoons of grated horseradish to 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half Strain and add ¾ cup of honey. Take 2 teaspoons as needed for coughs.


Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes #6

Put 1 tablespoon each of bone set, Irish moss, white yarrow, slip­pery elm bark, thyme, peppermint, horehound, and lemon balm in 4 cups of boiling water. Steep for 30 minutes. Strain well and add 4 cups of honey. Drink several cups of this liquid a day for coughs.


Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes #7

Put 1 tablespoon each of elecampane, coltsfoot, Irish moss, lobelia, and 3 tablespoons boneset in a pint of water. Boil down to half the liquid. Strain well and add 2 cups of honey. Refrigerate and take by the tablespoon as needed for cough.


Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes #8

Mix 1 teaspoon each of thyme, lobelia, elecampane, coltsfoot, boneset, mullein, Irish moss, slippery elm bark, wild cherry bark, and 1 tablespoon balm of Gilead. Add mixture to 4 cups of water and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain and add 2 cups of honey. Add a few drops of wild cherry oil for fla­voring. Keep refrigerated after bottling. Dosage is 1-2 table­spoons for coughing. I keep this handy all the time. It will keep for long periods of time and it works well.


Homemade Cough Syrup Recipes #9

Place ½ cup of borage leaves in blender along with ½ cup of water. Blend until mixture is of a smooth consistency. Place in an enamel pan and add 2 cups of honey. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the juice from 2 lemons. Take 1-2 tablespoons as needed for coughs


  Enjoy... I hope you're having a Shiny Happy Day! ♥

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The One Where Jenni Brightens Up Her Kitchen

Hello Friends,

  Guess what?!?! The SUN *ALMOST* was shining for about 10 minutes today! It was *ALMOST* fantastic.   I had a helluva day but it was a better day than the last couple have been.  I made a decision about one of the boys' doctors that has been frustrating me for a while now.  I'm always concerned about hurting the feelings of others and I just have to cowgirl up that when it comes to my kids, the boys are more important than the possibility of someone's feeling being injured a little bit.  I really like this particular doctor, but the past few times we've seen him, he's really showing serious signs of possible senility.  Forgetting what I've said, acting confused... And I don't want to hurt his feelings... but my child's life is in the middle... I generally care very, very deeply about not hurting anyone, and I certainly don't want to hurt his feelings, but I think the prudent move would be to change doctors.  The other two boys see a different doctor in the same practice... It will be better to have them all seeing the same doc anyhow.  See how a little bit of bright light helped me... I was completely unable to make a SIMPLE decision (really, it is a no- brainer, right?) only yesterday.  I was upset about this just yesterday...aye!  OK... So, this is what I've done in my kitchen... I cleared off the windowsill of candles to make room for the bowl of fruit.  I took down the curtain, which was only a valance, but it was still blocking too much light.  My kitchen is a happier, brighter place and today alone, I've been in there to make pizza for lunch, navy bean and ham soup for dinner and I have a caramel praline cheesecake in the oven right now.  What a difference a little light makes.... My "new" curtain free, fruity kitchen.....

Excuse the cheesecake supplies on the island... I was in the middle of that project.  It is kind of hard to see the fruit bowls... (ha ha ha ha and Yay Yay Yay Yay) - because of the light shining in!

  So, I'm hoping and praying for a better, sunnier, happier day tomorrow... if just a little bit of bright light can make me feel this much better... I can only imagine what a little more (or a lot more) will do for me!  Shine On, Friends!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The One Where Jenni Scratches Her Eyes Out

Hello Friends,

  I suppose, following up from yesterday's rough morning,  I can completely, 100%, totally, utterly and fo shizzle say that I am completely, 100%, totally, utterly and fo shizzle DONE with Winter.  We are one month into it and I'm done.  My skin itches so badly that I'm going to give myself some kind of weird infection that comes from open wounds that come into contact with the air when you're mucking out a barn.  DUDE... I KNOW, it is terribly gross, right?  I'm LIVING WITH THIS! It is horrible.  I need sunshine.  The sun shined for like 10 minutes two Sundays ago.  Nothing since then... and I'm waiting...

   Sam is so ready for Winter to be over, he is, at this very moment, setting up a tent in the living room to sleep in because he is "SOOOOO BOREDDDDDDD"

 I spent 20 minutes this morning, drinking my pomegranate white tea (from Trader Joes- best stuff ever but the blasted place is 3 1/2 hours away from me and I can't exactly drive out there every time I run out, can't buy it online and I bought the last 7 boxes they had last time I was there and I only have a few precious tea bags left...just sayin') anyhow... I spent 20 stinking minutes looking at the vitamin C bottle... it is a nice cheery orange color.  I have freaking oranges and bananas and apples on the counter, laying around to remind me sunnier days are ahead... the vitamin C bottle is there too.  It isn't working. 

  Everything outside is icy, can't go for a nice long walk.  I'm afraid I'll break a hip or an arm. Seriously... girl is that klutzy... So I take my vitamin D, look at the vitamin C bottle, put fruit in the path of destruction, walk the dogs (a perilous situation, but it does, alas, have to be done) a couple times a day, drink lots of water, laugh at my weird kid setting up a tent and think about happier days.  Don't get me wrong... I'm not really prone to depression outside of the usual situational type of depression (Here I am 29 years old and I've lived through 29 God-forsaken Illinois Winters.  Heh heh...29, that made me laugh.) 

  I have a hangnail. It hurts and I just chopped garlic for pizza sauce.  Sam's grinning like a Cheshire cat that he's got an extra pillow in the freakin' tent.  My butt is NOT sleeping on the floor tonight.

  And, just out of curiosity, if someone (who shall remain nameless) comes home (late) and says "see ya when you get back" to his wife (darn), and when wifey gets back from her meeting and the nameless one is all ticky at her because he forgot to take the basketballs out of the trunk... who's fault is that exactly?  I REALLY don't need HIM being Princess Mood Swing when I'm trying so hard to not be Princess Mood Swing.

  And my eyeballs itch. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Life in the Icky Lane (Funny) Farm Reality

Hello Friends,

  So far, you've received the nice pleasantries of life on the (Funny) Farm.  This morning... the bitter, gross, icky, cold, stark reality of (Funny) Farm life reared it's ugly head.  Good news, no one is injured, I'm breathing better, animals are all OK, if not slightly embarrassed by the indignity of it all.

   I got up a little bit later than usual, after having gone to bed around 4 a.m. (Actually, I fell asleep during the football game and then woke up and stayed up way too late), so the doggies were gracious enough to allow me to sleep in a little bit.  Once we got downstairs, as per the usual routine (that is not allowed to be altered NO MATTER WHAT!) I get their leashes on them (Daniel took So Big, so I just had So Great and So Pretty to walk) and we went outside to let them do their business.  It is actually a nice day.  Cold, but not as bone-chilling damp cold as it has been.  But then all heck breaks loose.  First, I start wheezing, no biggie, I'll get inside in a minute and things on the respiratory front can calm down.  Next, Daniel got excited to find an egg (in the Winter, it is like an Easter Egg Hunt) and he held it up and Lyla (So Pretty) got excited and pulled me over, so I fell on my tuchis in the ice and snow (no worries - plenty of padding, I'm uninjured).  Then, I realize what is taking Henry (So Great) so long to do his business. UGH.  NOT TODAY.  Now, I'm not going to go into great detail here because it really is a horrible thing.  But imagine a Cockapoo (a rescued Cockapoo who gets skitterish and jittery at the sight of scissors and clippers) who hasn't had a good, close haircut in a while.  This minor veterinary emergency always (ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS) happens at THE MOST inopportune time, the last two times it has been on a Sunday morning right before church.  Today, right at the moment I'm starting to have an asthma attack and still have a cold and am gagging at the smell of the brewing coffee. Fantastic Timing, Henry.  I love you. 

  So....get dogs in, keep So Great on his leash and run him upstairs to the tub, get gloves on, doggie shampoo and scissors out, run the water and get the devil dog (only devil dog when it comes to scissors, bath time and me donning gloves in his presence) into the tub, wheezing the entire time.  Did I mention that I love my Henry? 

  Fortunately, this story ends well.  Henry's little problem has been remedied.  I was able to get downstairs to a hot cup of tea and an inhaler.  And a very loud little Sammy, who is recuperating well.  He still screams every time I put out his medicine for him (still on antibiotic for his ear and throat infection) "MEDICINE IS MINE ENEMY!!!"  It is very endearing.  So, poor Sammy, again, being a very loud little boy, is recovering from  the ear infections, but his hearing is not good right now.  This isn't the selective hearing issue that my boys seem to have on a regular basis, but the kid just can't hear me.  So he's dumping out every lego he has onto the wood floor and screaming at his ninja lego guys (who were in a vicious battle with the star wars lego guys) and I can't breathe and keep encouraging him to hush a bit through my wheezes.  And eventually, he realizes I'm standing there and says "MOMMY!" and comes and gives me a hug.  I've been talking to myself, wheezing, coughing and sputtering "shhhh" for 5 minutes.  But at least he's happy to see me.  And Henry can do his business again.  And I'm breathing.  OH... and the van is fixed.  So, all in all, it was a messy, stinky, wheezy, deaf kind of a morning, but by 10:27 a.m. I've accomplished quite a bit and now we are, I think, ready to move onto bread making, lunch and dinner prep and getting school work done.  Be well, my friends. Be safe.  Be blessed.  Give your dogs haircuts before it becomes vitally necessary. ♥

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lessons I've Learned

Hello Friends,

 I hope you're having a blessed Sunday. We've missed church today because of sick children.  So I turned on the radio and listened to some of my favorite Praise & Worship music while I was doing dishes and cleaning up.  Praising God always clears my head and gets me ready for the week ahead.  I prefer to do this at church, with my amazing Church Family and have fellowship and connection time, but some days, that just can't happen.  So, Jonah is resting, Sam's playing legos and I am getting ready to lay down with Sam for a nap that we both need.  This head cold is winning the battle... I will win the war... but this battle is still on going.

  I have come up with a list of things I've learned in my 29 years on this planet (uhhhh.....yeah).  Some are serious, some are fun, all are true in my world.  What lessons can you share that are truths for your life and are meaningful to you?  Please share your wisdom!

* Grey hair doesn't hurt. Neither do wrinkles.

* I'm not too awesome to wear gloves or a hat when it is cold.  Or the dorky moon boots
   that embarrass my kids.

* You can't change people and you know you're on your way to becoming a grown up when
    you have no desire to change people.

* You can't make people like you.

* It doesn't matter if people don't like you.

* Everything around you might seem to be crumbling, but God is good - ALL the time.

* Jesus Loves Me.

* Answering questions with questions is fun.

* You can't say "I love You." too often.

* You can never give too many hugs.

* No one can do everything.  Everyone can do something

* You're allowed to be angry.  You're not allowed to be mean.

* Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want to be loved, it doesn't mean
   they don't love you the best they can.

* Change is constant.

* You can never be happy if you've never been sad.

* Pick a side and stand up for it.

* Our past may have influenced who we are but we must be responsible for who we
   become and for our actions.

* We are responsible for our actions, no matter how we feel.

* Either you control your attitude or it controls you.

* Emotions make us human. Allow yourself to feel, just don't act out destructively
   in the name of emotion.

* Carelessness is the root of failure.

* Life begins when you step out of your comfort zone.

* Smile whenever you can and to everyone you meet.

* A random kind action might make someone's day.  Everyone has struggles
   and you can ignite a spirit of positivity in someone who is having a rough time.

* Never regret trying and falling short of a goal. The true regret is failing to try.

* Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Alternative Uses For Everyday Items

 Hello Friends!

  As most of my family is moaning and groaning because of the nasty head cold we've all got (the moaning and groaning ones are, needless to say, the boys), I was thinking of the alternative remedies we use for different conditions and thought I'd share some of those along with other alternative uses for ordinary items.  I love things that do double duty!  Letting items do double duty saves time (not as many items to shop for), money (don't have to buy as many things) and best of all, you don't have to use all of the chemicals to accomplish cleaning oriented tasks.

I'll start with a disclaimer that I'm not a doctor and the views and methods contained in the following are the opinion of this writer only and in the event of a medical emergency, head cold, heart attack, gallbladder problems, ingrown toenails, the flu, gout, hives, hangnails or any other malady, you should contact your medical provider and/or use sufficient common sense in treating your condition.  The advice contained herein does not represent the mainstream medical guidelines and is, therefore, probably considered "fringe" which will put me on yet another "watch list" - along with the ones I'm on for not vaccinating my children, homeschooling, being an unapologetic Christian, growing my family's food, raising and butchering our own organic meat and raising animals that provide raw milk which we consume.  That said.... We do believe in antibiotics when indicated, we go to the doctor when sick (pretty much only because of involved medical conditions my children have, if seizures didn't complicate everything, we'd not be at the doc too often), but we believe that healing and staying healthy through natural hygiene and natural foods are the best medicine.

For immune support all year round, (with increases in the Winter months), we liberally use raw garlic and onions, vitamin D3 and Vitamin C supplements and elderberry syrup.  Echinacea tea helps too.  Raw Ginger made into a tea or in homemade salad dressings can help with an upset tummy.  Younger children may like candied ginger to chew on, but the taste is rather strong, and I tend to stay away from the sugar in general, but especially when there is a viral infection (cold/flu) going on.  Adding honey and lemon to your hot tea will help soothe a sore throat.   Homemade juice popsicles can help lower a fever and get fluids into your little one when they don't feel like drinking.

   My recipe for Homemade Electrolyte Replacement drink follows.  Much cheaper and healthier then buying artificially flavored sports drinks and very important when trying to keep hydrated.  Of note, foods such as avocados, bananas, yogurt and citrus fruits are also high in electrolytes, but if you need a liquid for hydration, this is the way to go.

   1 Quart Distilled Water (distilled really is best, filtered is a satisfactory substitute)

   Juice of 1 lemon OR lime

  Juice of 1-2 oranges

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp.  salt substitute (make sure it says potassium on the label)

You can also add a 1 - 2 Tablespoons of sugar if you need for flavor.

Mix it all together and refrigerate.  You can also make this into popsicles.

Pure coconut milk (sold as coconut water at health food stores) is also an excellent electrolyte replacement solution.

 Now onto the other stuff....

Hydrogen Peroxide
 *mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 1 part water for an oral rinse
 *put peroxide into a spray bottle (be sure to label bottle) to spray & wipe surfaces to disinfect
*pour on blood stains on clothing to remove stain

 *whiten fingernails by rubbing a wedge of lemon over them
* use a wedge of lemon to clean soft cheeses or sticky foods off of a grater
 *put a couple wedges of lemon (squeezed the juice into) a glass coffee pot, add a few ice cubes and salt
   and swirl around for a sparkly clean coffee pot

Olive Oil
 *polish wood furniture with a bit of olive oil on a soft cloth
*coat measuring cups with olive oil when you need to measure something sticky such as honey  or  mustards,  the sticky liquids will come out easily
*control frizzy hair by combing  a bit of olive oil through dry hair

Aluminum Foil
 *keep birds out of your fruit trees by hanging twisted strips of foil on the branches - use fishing line to secure
 *sharpen your scissors by cutting through 6 or 8 layers of foil

Alka Seltzer
 *clean a toilet- drop in two tablets, wait 20 minutes, brush and flush.
* remove burned food from pots and pans - fill cookware with warm water, dissolve 4-6 tablets in it and let it
  sit for an hour before scrubbing

 *polish leather shoes with a destringed banana peel. Buff with a soft soft cloth or towel.
 *rub a scraped knee with the inside of a banana peel to promote healing
 *deter aphids by burying dried or cut up banana peels a few inches deep around rosebushes.

Be Well, My Friends.  Be blessed. Be Safe. Be Healthy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Keeping with the S-L-O-W Theme...

Hello Friends,

  Welcome to a beautiful new day.  None of us knows what the day has in store for us and we could face this uncertainly with fear, because certainly bad things can happen...they happen all the time.  We could face the day with a spirit of loneliness, stay at home moms often have lots of little voices and lots of big projects (as well as many smaller day -to - day projects) to accomplish, but we tend to be in our own little world, isolated from others, friends are doing their own things, husbands are gone at work, so we're in it alone.  Sure, we know God is with us...but... boy oh boy... sometimes it would be nice if God would pick up a broom or do some dishes - because the littlest of our wee ones will certainly not be helping with these tasks... and if they do... well, let's face it, it generally is NOT much of a help because we have to do it all over again.  Or, we can choose to face each new day, each new challenge, each new spilled cup of milk or pile of cheerios dumped on the floor with humor and grace.  None of us are perfect, and none of us can possibly be perfect at this, but life goes so much smoother when we approach our lives with grace and mercy.  The same grace and mercy that our Loving Father God has granted us. 

  This wasn't at home, but a few weeks back, one of the little Cubbies at our Awana group was sitting patiently for his snack.  I poured him a cup of juice and he spilled it.  The grown ups chuckled and grabbed napkins and cleaned it up, the other cubbies kept eating their snack.  I poured another cup of juice for this little boy, this time not quite as full,  and not two seconds passed before his second cup of juice was spilled again.  The adults were chuckling a little less, but we gathered more napkins and another snack for the sweet boy, who was doing nothing more than being a three year old, soaking his snack with his juice was simply an unintended consequence of being a three year old boy.  The third cup of juice was the charmed one because he drank it without a drop spilled.  Can you imagine if we, as the adults in that room, would have treated this little boy with anything less than grace and patience and love?  Yelling in an instance like this would have done nothing but startle the little boy (and the other little ones) and is breaking a child's spirit over spilling something really the goal in correction? 

  This story reminded me that I'm quick to say words to myself that break my own spirit.  I'm not nearly as gentle with myself as I am to others.  In the day to day grind of all that must be accomplished, I'm not doing my family any favors if I am beating myself up because I messed up a recipe or left something in the oven for too long.  My mood (uh... hormones aside, of course) is 100% dependent on my reaction to stimuli.  There could be terrible things happening all around, but my mood is dependent solely on how I CHOOSE to react to those stimuli.  So in those days of loneliness (and the frustration that rises within us when we tell a friend or (worse) tell our mom that we're feeling lonely and the response is "You've got 5 kids and 4 dogs running around the house, your husband will be home in 3 hours and I saw you talking to a goat and 3 chickens earlier, how can you be lonely?!?!"), when our spirits feel crushed and we feel so small and insignificant, remember two things.  Friend, Sister... you are a Princess... Daughter of the Risen King MOST HIGH, He will NEVER leave you, NEVER forsake you and He loves you like nobody else could ever love you.  And Two...I love you.  You have friends who think about you and adore you all the time.  You have people you don't even KNOW that are praying for you and praying for the very best that this life has for you.  If those two things don't make you feel loved and cherished and wanted, nothing will.  I have taken the drudgery out of mundane tasks in my life.  Doing dishes, folding laundry, making dinner, just the things that take a lot of time and are "mindless" activities.  I pray during these times.  I pray for friends and friends of friends who are going through difficulties.  I praise God for all things He's done in my life, all His creation.  Each spoon I wash, each little pair of socks I fold, is a prayer going out to a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger who needs to be lifted up.  I've found it to be a powerful time of the day for me, knowing that I'm doing the very best I can do for a friend or brother or sister who needs to be supported through difficulty.

  As an example of us choosing our reactions to external stimuli...I am guilty of having a bit of a temper. Not usually with the big stuff... but small things that build up over time can send me in a tailspin the likes of which haven't been seen in decades. I'm going to be honest that this is hard to apply to myself, but in a moment of complete clarity and perhaps a bit too much caffeine (with another pot of joe brewing just feet away from me), I know that I get irritated with my husband when he is running late.  I don't think it is EVER OK to be late (well, there are a few notable exceptions: if you've died and are unable to call me, you get a pass, if you are in a car accident and your cell phone was thrown from the vehicle, you get a pass (as long as your last words before getting carted off in the ambulance are "Call Jenni...she's expecting to meet me in 15 minutes....cough cough sputter sputter"), if you are speaking to a governmental official and telling them how badly they're messing things up and your raucous tirade goes on longer than expected or you end up in jail... you get a pass... but I had BETTER be the one call you're allowed... I'm probably not going to bail you out, but I would like to know why you're late)  ANYHOW... So, my sweet, wonderful husband, who has qualites that any wife would adore (and many most would...nevermind) has a habit of not being on time.  To his credit and very hard work, I will say that he has improved in this over the years.  But when he is late, I feel lonely.  I feel unappreciated, unloved, uncared for, unwanted (insert pity party here).  And then SHE enters the picture... mmm hmmmm.  HER.  Her name is Princess Mood Swing and NOBODY likes her.  She is my alter ego and I don't even particularly care for her.  But... watch the personality switch from calm, loving mom working in the kitchen, lovingly preparing her family's healthful dinner into HER the second Daddy walks in that door 47 minutes late. It would make your head spin.  Nice Jenni is the face behind, happy to forgive, continuing cooking, but Princess Mood Swing is the face out front.... DRAMA RAMA, tears, crying "YOU DON'T LOVE ME..." (Really, I will spare you... she is really not fantastic to be around)  but after oh my... going on 13 years of marriage, I realized (yes, this is a VERY recent "light bulb" moment for me) that he NEVER gets angry with me when I am late, even if he has somewhere important to be... Granted, I'm not late very often, and if I am late, it is 10 minutes late because of traffic (hee hee... getting stuck behind slow moving tractors duirng the harvest, generally), but if he were ten minutes late, my response would be an exaggerated, over the top, drama queen reaction worthy of some kind of academy award.  And he doesn't bat an eye... His response is ALWAYS "Its OK. I have to go, love you, see you soon."  And I'm such a woman... I'm like "Let's talk about this....."  or (when Princess Mood Swing is speaking) "Would you just yell at me already?!?!"

  I don't know how men put up with us... any more than I know how we put up with them, but I have learned this (wait for it....wait for it.... YES there was a point to this!):  Life in the slow lane makes relationships easier.  Life in the slow lane makes parenting easier.  It makes the day to day operations of running a home easier.  It allows us time to examine our selves, our reactions, our behavior, it allows us time to instill desirable traits into our lives and the lives of our children.  It allows us to spend our time doing the things that are most important to us, leaving behind or minimizing the "clutter" that fills our time.  It allows time for friends, it allows time for people to connect.  It has allowed me to allow human-ness in others.  I've learned that not only is it not my place to change people, as trying to change someone is as unloving a thing as anyone could possibly try to do, but not only is it not my place to change others, but I don't want to change anyone.  We need to love others for who they are, not for who we want them to be.

  I leave you with this, a video of a song that brings a tear of joy to my eye every time I hear it.  Enjoy, my friends.  Be blessed.  ♥

Monday, January 17, 2011

Organic Authority Berry Bars Recipe - YUMMY!

I have a few places where I find many recipes.  These are always recipes I covet and keep for a long long time.  I've discovered another one from Organic Authority ( you can also follow them on Facebook!) that we just loved!  This recipe is for Berry Bars.  They are fantastic for a snack or for a good, filling homemade breakfast that can be made the night before.  The recipe below is directly from the site, the green comments in the parentheses next to the original recipe are my tweaks and changes I made to up the flavor and nutrition.  These turned out to be incredibly tasty and we'll be making them again!

Berry Bars

Crust and topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
(or substitute 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour for all of the above)
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
(Substitute half of butter for equal amount of coconut oil)
  • Heat the oven to 350. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl or a food processor. Either use the food processor until the butter is reduced to small crumb-size pieces, or use a pastry blender to blend the butter into the flour. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the mixture.
  • Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish. Pour the remaining crust mixture into the baking dish and spread out to the edges. Cook in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes.
Berry filling:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 to 1 1/2 pounds organic berries, fresh or frozen (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, a mix) (If using frozen berries - thaw and drain VERY well)

Juice from one lemon (or 1 – 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
(I substituted the entire amount of butter for coconut oil)
 (I also added 1 cup of shredded coconut)
  • Melt the butter and set aside. 
  • Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and flour in a medium bowl. Add the rinsed berries, the lemon juice, and the (now-cooled) melted butter. Toss gently until the berries are coated. 
  • Spread the berry filling over the cooked crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture on top of the berry mixture. Return to the oven for about 40 minutes. 
  • Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, then cut into bars and set on a wire rack to cool completely. 

Twice Baked Potatoes

Hello Friends,

A quick lunch recipe for your family!   We had a baked potato bar for dinner a couple nights ago and I had a bunch of leftover potatoes that had to be used (because you KNOW I'm not going to waste them!!!), So I cut the taters in half, scooped out the middles and "revived" the middles by mashing them up with some milk and sour cream.  Leave some lumps.  Add in about half a stick of butter (this was for 12 potatoes).  Add some shredded cheese (I use sharp cheddar, great flavor and you don't have to use as much with all that flavor!) and crumbled in some bacon.  Mix potato mixture together and spoon back into the potato skins.  Pop into a 375*, pre heated oven for about 30 minutes and you've got a lovely lunch that has cleaned out your fridge (using up leftovers), is filling and wonderful when paired with a green salad.  I have 5 happy boys with full tummies right now!

Whewwwwww! Keeping busy for kids...

Hello Friends,

  I'm afraid that the very ice stormy weather outside has 5 boys INSIDE!  :)  So far, I've made it through the morning, which was no easy feat.  The boys (big boys don't have school today because of the MLK holiday) are all currently building a volcano and waiting for lunch to be ready.  It was wonderful standing in the kitchen prepping lunch (twice baked potatoes), watching all of the boys working nicely together!  This morning was kind of hairy... Jonah was in a SUPREME mood - which happens with him from time to time, and all I could think was that I wanted to rewind to very early in the morning (1 O'clock to be exact) and remember to pack Jon's breakfasts and lunches for the week (SOOO sorry, Honey... I am doing this today... I'm such a bad wife!) and then NOT get out of bed... just sleep in and let the chaos occur without me.  That might make me a bad mom too, huh?

 Normally, on days when the older boys don't have school, when things get too loud, I send them all outside to play. They usually end up shooting each other (no, I'm not kidding, but I do make sure they all are wearing protective eye wear.. that TOTALLY counts for something, right?), but at least they're making noise OUTSIDE of the house.  Today, however... today that is not meant to be.  We've got an ice storm happening out there and I am sentenced to listening to the chaos - ALL. DAY. LONG.  Just sayin'.   I'm not too big on using the television as a baby-sitter, but I admit to a bit of a panic (OK, OK... full blown anxiety attack) when the ice covered the dish and we lost signal.  I know the 4 bigger boys were wanting to watch a basketball game at noon, and so I hope, if for no other reason than I'd like to not listen to whining, that this passes quickly without me having a nervous breakdown... because my sorry self will be out there whacking away at the dish mercilessly with my whacking contraption... a street hockey stick duct taped to the end of a broom.  I KNOW I look like an idiot out there banging away at the elusive ice on the dish which is positioned wayyyy too far out of my reach.  I know the words I say would make me sound like a loon.  I'm not.  Really, I'm not. (No... really!)  And... oh, I can't believe I'm going to admit this... but it always evolves into me slipping and sliding around on the little deck, whacking at the air with aforementioned contraption... SO... I'm sliding around on ice and whacking, the kids (and Papa (Grandpa)) are inside watching me, laughing uproariously at the sight, screaming, "NO!  NOT YET!"  "KEEP GOING MAMA!"  "WHACK IT AGAIN!"  "YOU ALMOST GOT IT... I JUST SAW.... NOOOOOO! HIT IT AGAIN."  All yelled through the stucco/concrete of the house.  Fortunately, there is a window so I can not only hear them yelling at me (and hear and SEE them laughing at me), but I can also catch a little glimpse of ESPN basketball on the I know that, if just for a few hours, there will be relative peace within the confines of the (Funny) Farm.  I may have to repeat the whacking procedure when the ice builds up again... but I know that all of the men folk have "got my back"... laughing, jeering and pointing at Mama in her moon boots swinging the whacking contraption wildly... all for them.  Don't they see that its all for them?  Mama loves them (and her sanity) so very much that I will endanger my own safety to go out in the ice (it should be noted that Mama Zahmma is an extraordinarily klutzy Mama) just in the name of a basketball game.  I love my boys and I would do anything to make them happy.  As evidenced by the basketball game that is starting soon, a favorite lunch in the oven and a drying papier mache volcano drying on my dining room table....  I suppose the chaos is not all bad... unless they are laughing at me.  And laughing at me is one thing... but I've gotta say... laugh, if you must.... but the pointing and laughing so hard that you need rescue breathing and wetting your pants and water coming out of your nose from laughing so hard....those things might be better saved for watching your "worlds dumbest type shows"... because I have to say... nothing I'M doing should elicit that dramatic a response.

 Alright... Lunch almost done.  I'll bet they'll love me again (and apologize and ask for forgiveness and grace) when they see the ooey gooey cheesey bacony creamy twice baked potatoes that are waiting for them.  And not to be a kill joy... but they're getting a salad for lunch as well.  Bwah ha ha ha.. cuz I AM THE MAMA.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Recipes: Raw Peanut Sauce and Yummy Carrot Cake

Hello Friends!

   Well, I'm happy to report that after two full days, the migraine hangover is gone and I can FINALLY move on with life.  The stress of "being down", not being fully functional, weighs heavily on my spirit and I'm always happy when I can move on back into normalcy... whatever that looks like on any given day around here!  The following are recipes that are much loved around here.  I make the carrot cake about twice a year... it takes a long time to grate carrots and just mixing this bad boy up takes a long I was quite happy to finish this and put the recipe away for another 6 months or so.  The last couple pieces are sitting on the counter and I may just have to snag one of 'em.  I'm not too big on sweets, in general, but this is a good one, so we'll see.   The peanut sauce is a modified recipe.  We make peanut sauce to go with Asian noodles, stir fries, chicken satay... I thinned it out a bit and added a bit of additional spice and it went wonderfully over a lovely bed of zucchini and cucumber noodles.  It is a PERFECT "first food" for anyone wanting to try a raw diet and a fabulous way to take a break from meat or just a nice, real food yet quick to prepare lunch.

Raw Peanut Sauce

1 cup raw nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew or sun butter all work well)
3/4 Tablespoon powdered ginger (OR 2T fresh grated)
1/2 cup water (I used a bit more)
6 T lemon juice
2 T pure maple syrup
3 T soy sauce (I use liquid aminos)
4 T sesame oil (I use dark)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 a jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds for less heat)

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate.  Spoon over zucchini and cucumber noodles. To make noodles, shred zucchini, yellow summer squash and cucumbers.  Allow to "cure" for several hours (up to 8 hours) in a colander, they will drain liquid during this time.  Arrange on a plate and spoon cold peanut sauce over noodles.

Carrot Cake

6 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup dark brown sugar
(combine in bowl for 1 hour)
add 1 cup raisins after 1 hour.

Preheat oven 350*.  Grease and flour two 10" cake pans.

In a large bowl:

beat 4 eggs   gradually beat in:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup veg oil
2 t. vanilla
1 cup crushed pineapple (drained)

In a separate bowl:


3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
4 tsp cinnamon

Stir flour mixture into  wet mixture until well blended.  Stir carrot mixture into batter and add 1 cup chopped walnuts.    Pour evenly into the two prepared pans.  Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan.  Cool on wire racks and frost with cream cheese frosting when completely cooled.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 - 8 oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
3 - 4 cups confectioners sugar
1 T vanilla

In a stand mixer (or use hand mixer), cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add vanilla and slowly add confectioners sugar until frosting is the desired consistency.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Random Thoughts

Hello Friends,

Here I sit at 4:30 in the morning.  After waking up over an hour ago with just the slightest remnants of my migraine hangover, I thought I'd get a big glass of water and play Tetris until I got sleepy... go back to bed and that would be that.  I love it when my thoughts turn to the impossible - I know full well I won't be going back to sleep after chugging 20 ounces of anything!  It sounded good on paper, though.
  I'm finally going to start doing the food journal to try to narrow down what is causing these migraines.  I usually have one or two a year, but have, sadly, had four or five in the past couple of months.  It is rough on the system.  I'm thankful that I'm able to function in between the headaches and that they are not daily, but when these happen, the amount of dread that goes along with them is really overwhelming.  And then... just when I think it is over...the hangover.  Definitely not as horrible as the headache itself, but it brings with it a nagging reminder that my brain has a mind of it's own and that I have no control over what is going on at the moment.  Being very acutely aware of this right at this moment, having just come out of a doozy of an episode, well, suffice it to say I'm grateful to be and the tail end of this again.
   I'm also acutely aware of being able to function, or rather being UNable to function during these attacks.  There is not much happening with me other than laying in the dark, praying silently and suffering through a seemingly endless amount of the most painful thing I've ever experienced.  This is where the rubber meets the road...this is when good preparation comes in handy.  We combined households with my parents over 7 years ago, so I have the benefit of having my mom and dad here.  I am usually the one who cooks meals, but, of course, Mom steps in and takes over in the kitchen when I am unable.  I'm so grateful for the help when I need it, because, we all know, kids need to eat and even when my world comes screeching to a halt temporarily, there would be mass chaos if we didn't manage to get them fed!   So...rubber meets the road? (What do you mean, Crazy Woman? Your mother is cooking for you!)  Grandma is stepping into a prepared kitchen.  A thoughtfully stocked pantry and freezer - a meal ready to be put together with minimal thought, if need be.  Even with limited convenience foods, a healthful meal can easily be made with just a bit of time and elbow grease.  Making mixes (baking mix - add milk and you've got biscuits, add egg and milk and you've got pancake or waffle batter, rice mixes- prepare the rice and add the homemade seasoning and you've got rice pilaf to go with dinner, cake and brownie mixes - follow the directions and you've got a dessert without preservatives or chemicals) ahead of time, making sure that we have staples, flours, rices, vegetables in the fridge and freezer... it makes my job easier, and in the event that Grandma needs to step in, it allows the transition to happen seamlessly.  Another thing that has been prepared? The children.  They get plenty of time to do their own thing.  I get in the mix and play with them, of course, but they know how to entertain themselves and can play quietly as well.  I've always felt that it is not my job to entertain the children endlessly.  And because of this, they can happily play with each other as well as by themselves.  They know that sometimes, especially when someone is sick, that I'm not available to play a game or even read a book with them.  If I'm tending to a sick child (and my boys... aye... they can get sick.  And when you've been through some of the things they've been through, you know I don't mean they have a cold. So, if I say sick, you can assume that someone is having seizures, not regaining consciousness, has a 104.6* fever or is bleeding profusely... you can understand why having the ability to keep children occupied by themselves for a bit is a useful tool in preparation), sometimes it is necessary to tell the other boys that they need to be in the other room playing.  The boys also know that if I'm getting a migraine, that keeping noise to a minimum is important.  Even so, it is hard for Sam (who is 6) to not cuddle Mama, not talk endlessly (still working on him, he still thinks he needs to verbalize EVERY SINGLE THOUGHT that pops into his head ♥) and not be able to jump around and squeal with joy at every little thing.  So today, after two days of limited cuddle time, today will be a Sammy gets to cuddle on Mama all day kind of a day.
  Later today, I'll be posting a couple recipes that I wanted to get up yesterday but just couldn't muster typing them out in front of the glaring computer screen.   Raw peanut sauce (over zucchini and cucumber noodles) and carrot cake were big hits here yesterday.  The carrot cake takes some time to make, and was, honestly, a bit difficult for me to follow in my mental fog, I make it occasionally, but it is a time intensive recipe, so yesterday probably wasn't the best day to make it.  But it did get made, everyone loved it and I'm glad to put away that recipe for another 6 months.  I just made the peanut sauce for the first time yesterday.  I needed an easy lunch because I really wasn't feeling like cooking, so I adapted a peanut sauce that we use for Asian noodles... the addition of ginger and hot pepper flakes made a wonderful sauce that went beautifully over fresh zucchini and cucumber "noodles".
  The slow life comes in handy more than occasionally here. We have been able, to a large degree, to cut ourselves off from the frenetic pace of the world.  I think we have a good balance in our home.  We still are a busy, active family, the twins have a basketball game and a baseball practice tonight, so we don't cut ourselves off from life or friends or busy-ness, but it is nice to know that, if we need to, we can be content with not running all over the place and doing a million different things, just for the sake of keeping busy.  There is plenty to do around here without adding societal expectations to the to-do list.