Monday, September 5, 2011

Autumn Canning

Root crop season is upon us. Cool weather crops are soon going to be
harvested. Root vegetables, cabbages, and winter squash of various
types will be coming into season. This is the season of that last big
canning binge. Produce prices are rising quickly due to crop failures,
drought, etc.

I am watching closely the produce prices for the autumn and root crops.
As I see something at a low price, I am buying as much as we can afford
that week and canning it up to add to the pantry. I am even going the
route of buying #10 cans of some foods and repackaging them. I found a
#10 can of sliced beets very cheap and repackaged them to make pickled
beets. Having the juice on them already, it was only a matter of adding
the seasonings then repacking them in jars and water bath canning them.
If tomatoes didn't do well, check for the #10 cans of tomato sauce at
the store. I use it to make large batches of spaghetti sauces to can
and add to the pantry. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well it
works out both in flavor and in price.

Often, you can find in the larger stores, such as Sam's Club, the bulk
size bags of frozen vegetables at a fair price. I slightly cook these
to reduce the shrinkage that occurs as a vegetable cooks in the canning
process. Next, I pack the jars just as I would with fresh produce
adding water and canning salt, then processing as usual.

Hunting season will soon be here. Already, I have been hearing the
sounds of neighbors shooting targets in preparation for deer season.
For farming families, it is also butchering season. You can also watch
for meat sales. I love to can up chunks of meat; chicken, beef,
venison, to use in meals later in the year. I make stew meats, taco
meat, add the meat to spaghetti sauce, make beef or venison stew with
vegetables, BBQ shredded meat, or simply can it in a marinade or broth
to be added to pasta or rice later on.

Typically, autumn is that last push for getting your pantries in order
before winter. How are you prepared for the upcoming winter? If you
were to be caught in a winter storm situation or simply one of life's
storms like a job loss or illness, would you be ready for it? Recently,
we had the opportunity to see how well we would fare through such a
situation when Joe's truck kept breaking down for a 2-month period. We
literally had no pay some weeks and I was unable to go to the grocery
store for 3 weeks at the worst point. We were blessed however to have
been prepared. We were lacking some things, but the essentials needed
were there. I learned from that experience where I need to build up the
pantry more and in what areas we are doing good. The greatest blessing
was that we didn't have to worry about how we were going to find a way
to eat. There was always food in the house.

I am so grateful to the Lord for blessing me with a heart for stocking
up and a husband who supports me in doing it.

Our Modified Homeschool Workboxes

Using workboxes for a few months last school year, we tried using them
according to Sue Patrick's instructions. While we ended up not using
them for a time, it was long enough to see where we needed to make
adjustments to better fit our family. Most of the basic ideas Ms.
Patrick shared in her book are still being used, but I needed to change
a couple of things.

Abbie's work area includes a desk with a small bookcase beside it. The
bookcase contains 3 shelves, not including the top. On the top of the
bookcase, I set up a small 3-drawer organizer to hold her pencils,
erasers, pencil sharpener, color pencils, and crayons. She also has a
ruler and an old pencil box for other items like scissors and glue
sticks. The next 2 shelves contain all 12 of her workboxes. The
workboxes are clear shoe boxes with lids. I have them stacked 2 boxes
high with 3 stacks across the shelf. These fit nicely that way.

The workboxes are labeled using clear pouches that are adhesive backed
and labeled. The pouch has a pocket that you place the workbox number
and information into. Being that Abbie loves Tinkerbell, I have
Tinkerbell themed workbox number cards. I cut them in half so that the
Tinkerbell picture will go in the pouch beside the number portion of the
card. I have a second set of the cards laminated with a card in its
corresponding workbox. These cards have a velcro dot on the back.
There is a 12-box grid of squares sized to fit a Tinkerbell card. The
cards are placed inside its workbox. When Abbie completes a workbox,
she takes out the card and attaches it to the grid. Her finished work
is set aside and she takes out the next box.

She seems to enjoy this system. Abbie is learning to be self-directing
and independent. She takes breaks and is learning time management
skills that will benefit her later in life. I am putting together a
portable system for days when we have a day away from home. I am
binding some pocket portfolios together to make a little book. In the
pockets I will be placing worksheets and fun activity pages for her to
do when we are at Micah's therapy sessions or other outings. She has
been asking to take homeschool with us and this will be a nice break
from the usual, but still give her the work she is wanting to do. In
the past, we have taken file folder games with us. Those were fun for
her also. Abbie loves to play but I am seeing a growing desire in her
to look at her books and do schoolwork. In that way she is much like
me, I guess. I would have preferred to have my nose in a book than do
anything else when I was a kid. I had to have my mind challenged in
that way. I am still that way today and am happiest when I am
researching something.

Taming the Snack Monster

"Can I have a snack?" is a common phrase when you have children. It
doesn't matter how much they eat at meals, there is going to be a
request for snacking. This can become either a good habit, or it could
become a parent's worst nightmare. The deciding factor is in how you
prepare for it.

When you look around the stores, vending machines, and other venues
where snacks can be found, it is easy to find the fun snacks that kids
find so appealing. Snacks laden with high fructose corn syrup and
sodium are abundant. All are packaged in a way to draw the child's
attention. For many children, the idea of eating a healthy snack is
just plain boring. So, how does a parent handle this influx of junk
that the kids find so attractive?

It begins with you. There is no way that you will convince a child to
eat carrot sticks dipped in peanut butter if you are eating a sugar
coated snack cake or a bag of chips. Like every lesson in life that we
teach our children, the example should be given through our own
behavior. Let me give you a tip - kids will not respect the "do as I
say and not as I do" approach. While you may browbeat them into
obedience with that tactic, they will not respect it and your authority
over them can even be damaged. Now, this is not to say that there are
not times when you need that approach. One being when teaching them the
negative aspects of an addiction or other behavior that you worked hard
to overcome. In this instance though, getting a child to eat something
healthier than you are willing to eat is seldom effective.

We chose early to only allow healthy snacks at home. There are times
when unhealthy ones have been available, but not for long periods.
Snacks usually involve a fruit or vegetable. At times, the kids are
given more unhealthy choices when visiting others and even will bring
these snacks home after the visit. We don't toss them out. Rather, I
have started portioning the snack out into sandwich baggies and putting
them into a container. Once in a while, the kids are given one of these
baggies as a treat. Not everyday, but maybe a couple of times a week.
The snacks that I offer most days are much more healthy. Here is a
partial list of their favorites.

carrot sticks with a small amount of peanut butter mixed with a bit of
honey to dip the carrot sticks into
cottage cheese (our daughter especially loves this and asks for it quite
fresh fruit (apples, bananas, grapes, cantaloupe, and berries of all types)
dried fruits (I use these to mix up our own trail mixes)
celery sticks with peanut butter
cucumber slices (our daughter enjoys these dipped in ranch dressing)
cherry tomatoes

Whatever the snack we choose, we are trying to make it something
healthy. It is our hope that by providing the healthier options, the
children will learn to make wise choices themselves.