Monday, July 9, 2012

Blog Changes

Well, this has been a decision that has been coming on for some time now.  I started keeping a separate blog, Our Prairie Home, to be a place where I write about homeschooling and autism related topics.  I have loved it.  I then chose to start a blog, Simplicity by Choice, at that same website.  Simplicity by Choice is where I am starting to write my homesteading and simple living blog.  I will be keeping this blog active for a few months to give readers a chance to access the old posts.  By the end of the year, I will likely be closing this blog account. 

New posts are being made to the Simplicity by Choice blog.  You can follow my writings there.  I am sorry for any inconvenience that this may cause.  I am finding that the new blogs are easier to manage and work with.  I am posting at least once post a week to both the Simplicity by Choice and the Our Prairie Home blogs. 

I hope that you will check out the new blogs. 


Monday, July 2, 2012

I'm Getting Older - Yikes!

Guess I have to face the fact that I am getting older. The inner child
in me is stomping her foot and throwing a tantrum saying, "I don't want
to!" The reality doesn't change though. Some mornings I really feel
it. I sleep like a baby some nights. If you have little ones, you know
that "sleeping like a baby" isn't always a good thing. Babies often are
awake every few hours throughout the night. Next year, I will be 50
years old. When did THAT happen? I may joke around about being ready
to be able to use the senior discount, but I feel blindsided at times
about my age. There have been plenty of indicators along the way. I no
longer bounce back as quickly from the little bumps and injuries that
occur in life. A simple cold can take longer to recover from. I
remember when I could be sick with flu-like symptoms and still be
active. Now, that same illness would lay me out, or at least wishing I
could draw the blankets over my head and hibernate until it has passed.

I think that what has surprised me the most is that to lose weight, I
have had to get even more active than before. I would have thought that
my lifestyle would be enough to keep my weight at a good level. I carry
an extra 30 pounds. Physically, I feel great, but I know that as I age
the weight could increase more unless I get a good handle on it now. I
have been gradually changing my diet over the past couple of months. I
am going to a more raw foods and vegan diet. That has been effective,
but yet I felt the need to do more. That sleep issue? I found that in
spite of my lifestyle, I needed to bump up the activity level more to
get tired enough to sleep through the night. So, at night after the
kids are sleeping, I have some time to myself and do belly dancing.
LOL I can only imagine the shock some may feel at that idea. I started
belly dancing years ago when I was just beginning to no longer need a
walker to get around. I found that the moves of belly dancing are
really gentle and were able to help make my body limber again. Now, the
exercise is becoming a part of my nightly routine. The past couple of
nights I have slept well. I haven't awaken during the night at all. On
a side note, I bought a dress at a church rummage sale for $1.00. It
was in beautiful condition, looking like new. I brought it home and
tried it on. It fit perfectly! With great hesitation, I looked at the
size. The dress fit so comfortably that I was afraid that the size was
a bit larger. The last time that I bought clothing, I had to buy size
x-lg to 2x. I was shocked to see that the dress is a size medium! I
haven't worn that size in many years. I guess the diet change and belly
dancing is having an affect.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Family Produce Stands

Don't you just love them? I remember when it was very common to see a
table set out in a front yard loaded down with fresh garden harvest.
Families who had a bountiful harvest would sell off the extra produce
that their garden provided. Sadly, it is not as common here in
Oklahoma. At least, it is not a common sight in our area. Today, I
found one while driving home from town. A neighbor, about 3/4 miles
from us, had a little sign at the end of his driveway. There, parked in
the yard was a pickup truck with the tailgate loaded down with the day's
harvest. Needless to say, I stopped for a look see. His prices were
very fair. The cucumbers were 4/$1.00 and the squash was $1.00 per
pound. Yeah, the squash was a bit high, but still less than the stores
are charging. He is selling the long skinny type of eggplant at the
same price as the squash. I asked about the eggplant and he is saving
the next pickings for me to buy in a couple of days when it is ready. I
love it!!! I am in heaven finding a family produce stand. In all, I
spent $6.00 for the produce that I bought today, but the amount (and
it's quality) is well worth it.

This brings to mind the few times that our family set out extra produce
when I was a kid. Strawberries were the main thing we would sell.
Vegetables that were not used fresh were always canned up for our pantry
as well as shared with both Grandma and Aunt Sarah for their pantries.
There were times when we would buy produce from Katie's garden. She was
Old Order Amish and raised a very large garden for her family.
Sometimes, she would have extra to sell. It wasn't often, but we always
bought from her when she had the extra to sell.

I wonder if the current economics of our nation, will the family produce
stands come back into popularity? I know that there is a definite
market for it. Yes, I could grow produce to sell at a Farmer's Market
in town, but I have children to look after. Having a way to sell a few
extras from home would be a blessing. If not selling, I know that I
would be quicker to stop at a family produce stand than go to a
supermarket to buy in season produce. Not only is the produce
guaranteed to be fresher, but we prefer to help out our neighbors
through supporting them in this way.

The downside to all of this is a simple one. Depending on what state
you live in, there may be rules to follow in having a small stand. I
keep hearing of children getting their lemonade stands shut down. If
that can happen, it would only be a matter of time before there are
rules against selling your surplus garden produce from your front yard.
I am so grateful that we live where we are. I could set up a stand and
even sell fresh baked goods as long as it is not run as a regular
business that is meant to support the family.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pineapple & Quinoa Salad

This recipe is one of my experiments that turned out to be a good one.
I had a recipe for Pineapple Salsa that I had found in a gluten-free
cookbook of recipes for autistic children. One major problem with the
recipe was that it contains black beans and a couple other ingredients
that I knew Pookie would not eat. So, I played with the recipe a bit
and came up with my own variation. I used quinoa in the recipe. Eating
vegetarian diet that is very close to being vegan, I like to introduce
protein every chance that I get. Quinoa is a grain that resembles the
tiny round tapioca. It cooks up exactly the same way as rice. You use
a 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water ratio. By itself, quinoa has a nutty
flavor. In a recipe such as this, the quinoa loses the nutty flavor and
blends very well with the other flavors present. Ideally, I would make
this recipe the night before I planned to serve it. The flavors are
able to blend and mellow.

Pineapple-Quinoa Salad

1.5 cups of quinoa
3 cups water
1 can of crushed pineapple with it's juice
1 small bell pepper, finely diced*
1 Tbsp. dried minced onion, rehydrate in warm water
2 Tbsp. orange juice**

In a small pan, bring the water and quinoa to a boil. Cover and reduce
heat enough to allow it to gently boil, bot not boil over. After 2-3
minutes, turn off heat and set aside until all water is absorbed and
quinoa is fully cooked.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. There should be enough
pineapple juice to allow some to absorb into the quinoa while chilling
in the refrigerator. If you need to add more juice, a small single
serving sized juice can should work well. Once the mixture is mixed
together well, cover and place in the refrigerator and chill overnight
before serving.

To serve: We love this recipe both as a salad and as a refreshing dip
for flour tortilla chips or flat bread. My beloved enjoys simply eating
it with a spoon also.

* Our son doesn't like to see his vegetables as he eats them. When
making a recipe such as this one, I nearly have to mince the veggies so
that he cannot see them well enough to identify them. Just another way
to hide a veggie from a picky eater's notice.

** Depending on the amount of juice in the can of crushed pineapple, you
may need to add a single serving sized can (abt 4 ounces) of pineapple
juice to the mixture. You want enough juice to allow it to be absorbed
into the quinoa, thus adding the flavors to the quinoa. If doing this,
go ahead and experiment with juice blends such as
pineapple-orange-banana. If adding a juice blend that contains orange
juice, you can omit the 2 Tbsp of orange juice from the ingredients list.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Music and a Teaching Tool

I have been working on teaching Pookie sign language over the past
year. It has been very slow going. I have been wanting to teach Little
Miss to sign also. It is much easier with her, as you can imagine. I
am finding that she is very easy to teach, especially lately. I began
teaching her using songs that she enjoys. Teaching them ASL version of
sign language is the easiest form. In most music interpreting, ASL is
used. The interpreter does not sign exactly each word. Instead, the
important words needed to convey the message is signed while body
language and facial expressions fill in the gaps. It is a very
beautiful and flowing language. I love teaching Little Miss to sign.
By teaching her more words first, she will be able to interpret for
Pookie when they are at Grandma's, Sunday School, or other times when I
may not be right with them. Who knows? Maybe one day Little Miss will
have the chance to serve as an interpreter herself.

By doing a search on YouTube, many videos can be found that show songs
interpreted into signing. I began by looking up the names of songs that
we sing at church. Some videos are better quality than others, but they
all serve as a lesson. One video that I watched was done by someone
very new to being an interpreter. She didn't use facial expression and
body language effectively. Another video by a more experienced
interpreter gave a beautiful example of how to sign. Through these two
videos, I not only learned what signs to use in the songs, but I saw the
importance of using the facial expression & body language. The first
video, the interpreter knew was very good in her signing, but the
stiffness in her body language didn't seem "right." In the second
video, the difference was amazing. The interpreter was so flowing in
the signing that it was like a dance. Her movements were graceful and
the body language & expressions matched the feeling in the song. It was
an excellent reminder to me.

Years ago, when I was a teen, I did a bit of interpreting for some
missionaries. They were teaching a deaf-mute couple and neither of the
missionaries knew how to sign. My skills were very elementary at that
time, but sufficient to be able to interpret. It helped that I knew the
couple and had a friendship with them. They were the ones who had been
very helpful in teaching me to sign. We understood each other well.
That time in my life has always stuck with me in my heart. I loved
being able to communicate with them through signing. I took a course in
sign language years later, but never had opportunity to put that
knowledge to use.

In teaching the kids to sign, the knowledge is coming back. I watch the
videos and so much is familiar to me. I found a couple of books at the
local library and they also are refreshing my memory. I have been
wanting to add a couple of good books to our family library so that we
can reference them as needed. The books that I am using are from the
1970's. I am hoping to find updated editions so that they will include
the signs for modern terms and technology. Beloved found a program that
I am going to be able to use to record short videos for him. When I
learn to use it, I will be able to record a video for him showing him
the signs that the kids are learning. This will help him while on the
truck. When he comes home, he will be able to understand the signing
also. I already catch myself talking with my hands from time to time.
My theory is that if we using signing as well as speaking at home, then
Pookie will be able to pick up on both as we go along. It is a form of
total immersion. It is so much better than simply teaching one sign at
a time. Both kids will also be learning the signs in context instead of

Using the songs that the kids enjoy listening to as a launching point,
Little Miss is learning a wider vocabulary faster. Pookie loves doing
fingerplay type songs, so this is just another form of it for him. He
is very receptive to the lessons and doesn't realize that it is therapy
as well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Homestead News

I have been neglectful where this blog is concerned. It seems that the
days get away from me. My Beloved is still truck driving for the same
company, but on one of their accounts. It is nice. While on the
account, he will be home each weekend. That is a blessing indeed! Most
of the time, he has been out on the truck 3-6 weeks at a time. The way
the trucking company works their days off (called home time in trucking
lingo) is that he gets 1 day at home for every week spent on the truck.
The company requires that the drivers not on an account have to stay on
the truck 3 weeks before getting time off. After the 3 weeks, he would
have 3 days at home. To get 6 days at home, he will have to stay out on
the truck for 6 weeks. That is the most he will be home. Like many
companies, this one has a policy that limits how long you can be at home
without having to remove your gear from the truck also. In this case, 6
days is the limit. Any more than that and he has to remove all of his
gear and there is a high probability that his truck will be given to
another driver. He is currently in a new truck and so is not wanting to
risk being given an older truck.

Having my husband home on weekends means that I am working my daily &
weekly chores around so that the weekends are free for our family time.
Last weekend, we went to a store and picked out the paint colors for all
of the rooms of the house. We are going to be working on them
throughout the summer. We are hoping to have the house nearly done by

Luckily, the plans that we have for the house will not be too hard to
work out. We are following our dreams of taking this home back in
time. While we will have a few modern conveniences, they will be
minimal. We found a place to buy the old fashioned lamps that run on
natural gas or propane. These were a precursor to the modern electric
lights. Many Amish families still use gas lighting today. They provide
a very nice amount of light that is comparable to electric lights. The
only adjustment that we will be making is to have a separate propane
tank just for the lights. The reason is very simple. If the lights
share a propane tank with the refrigerator and stove, then the lighting
will be dimmer. By having a separate tank for the lights, we will be
able to get the most out of the lighting.

Over the past month, I have found that the refrigerator is becoming
wasteful. It is a full size refrigerator similar in size to the
electric ones. With my home canning everything and not cooking enough
to have a lot of leftovers, the refrigerator is at least half empty at
all times. It seems a waste to keep that refrigerator cold when so
little is stored in it. A quart of almond milk, cheese, butter and eggs
are the primary items stored. The only other thing in there are a jug
of water and one of sweet tea. While in the store, we looked at smaller
refrigerators. We are considering getting one the size of an RV
refrigerator. It is about 50% larger than the small square office-type
refrigerators. The refrigerator that we have now will be kept as a
back-up for during holidays and for use in our outdoor kitchen.

As I think about our plans for our home, I am enjoying the thought of
taking it back in time. Having an outdoor kitchen will be a blessing in
the summer months especially. No heating up the house while cooking or
baking! The shower house will be great also. In the summer when we are
doing some really dirty/muddy work, the ability to clean up before
coming to the house will be nice. We will still have a bathroom
indoors, but the shower house will be used the most often when the
weather is warm.

Our home is gradually going to become an old homestead again. It will
have the old fashioned feel while still being modern enough to manage to
meet the technology needs. Beloved is going to put up a tower similar
to the windmill towers behind the house. On the tower will be our wind
power generator that we will be building along with the solar panels.
The batteries will be stored in a sheltered box within the tower
structure. An electrical line will carry the power to the home. We
plan on getting a good quality power inverter to make all that energy

This week, I am working on sorting more things for our upcoming yard
sale. Beloved chose to have it the weekend after the July 4th holiday.
He will be home then and will be helping to tend the sale. Overall, it
is a busy time for us. The kids are homeschooling through the summer.
Mornings they do school and in the afternoons they play in the pool or
we go out for the afternoon after their rest period. Though the days
are warmer, the breeze keeps the house about 10-15 degrees cooler than
the outdoor temperature. We are enjoying it. The kids' play yard now
has a small pool and other water-related toys to keep them cool as they
play outside. Add the shade from the trees and they are very comfortable.

The apple tree is loaded down with apples for the first time. They are
the Winesap variety. In previous years, the tree either has done poorly
or the insects & birds got to the apples just before they ripened. I am
hoping that the apples will survive so that I will be able to can some
up as pie fillings and chutney. If possible, I would love to dehydrate
some also for snacking.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Easy Protein Bars

We have been eating a mostly vegetarian diet for some time now.  Pookie has never really eaten meat without it being well hidden in foods.  One of the areas that I have to be watchful of is that we get enough proteins in our diet.  We eat a variety of foods that contain protein, one of our favorite being quinoa.  We use that as much (if not more) than we used to use rice.  Problem is, sometimes Pookie just gets in a mood where getting him to eat enough is a challenge. Sensory issues abound on those days.  Foods that he normally will eat well, just don't appeal to him.  I have found a great way to get proteins into him though.  I cannot remember where I found the recipe online, but it has been a blessing to have.  I keep the ingredients around and make it often.

Quick & Easy Protein Bars

1/2 cup of honey
2/3 cup of peanut butter (or any other nut butter that you enjoy)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup of whey protein powder (the chocolate flavor tastes great in these!)
2 1/2 cups of rice crispies cereal*

I warm up the honey and peanut butter just enough to make them more pourable.  Stir in the vanilla and protein powder.  Pour over the cereal in a bowl.  Mix together to coat the cereal well.

Spray a 9x9 inch pan with vegetable spray.  Spoon the cereal mixture into the pan and press evenly into the pan.  Let set until cooled completely.  Cut into bars about 1x3 inch in size.  The bar size may seem small, but these are very filling!

* I have used various cereals in place of the rice crispies type.  The kids love them made with Kix or Cheerios cereals.  You could try the recipe with granola (my favorite way to make them) or any cereal that is not overly sugared.

Even on days when Pookie is the most picky about what he wants to eat, these are always a hit with him.  I love that the kids think they are getting a snack, but it is a very healthy one.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Summer Routines & Staying Comfortable in the Heat

Oh, the lazy days of summer!  The days are warming up and with that, our warm weather routine has begun.  We don't use fans or air conditioning.  Our little solar panel system is just not large enough for that.  We have found that we manage well without them though.  It just takes planning.  Here is an overview for those who are curious as to how we deal with the summer heat without electricity.

I plan out the week's tasks thoroughly.  This allows me to get everything done, but in smaller increments.  My days begin early.  By 7am, I am awake and beginning my day.  The kids sleep in until closer to 8:30am.  By the time that they are awake, I have a batch of laundry on the clothesline.  I don't have a set "laundry day", but will do smaller loads almost daily.  This allows me to stay ahead on it while not having a large amount to do at one time.  The only exception is that I will plan a laundry day if there is large items, such as bedding, to be done at the laundromat. 

When the kids wake up, breakfast is often ready or staged to be a quick fix.  Some favorite summer breakfasts are muffins or some other pastries.  Pookie loves breakfast bars that have fruit in them.  I found a recipe for a very healthy breakfast bar that is much like an oatmeal cookie.  Instead of making it into the drop cookies the recipe directed, I make my own breakfast bars.  This is very easy!!!  As you place a generous spoonful of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet, pat it into a thin rectangle about 3"x 4" in size.  Thinly spread your favorite flavor of preserves along the cookie.  Fold over the cookie dough to make a 1.5"x 4" cookie.  Bake as recipe directs.  I recommend using fruit preserves in these instead of jam or jelly.  Preserves have more fruit to them and you can find low sugar varieties. 

After breakfast is squared away, we homeschool.  First up is the lessons that both kids are doing together.  I love the My Father's World curricula for the ease that it allows for me to adapt Little Miss' lessons into something that Pookie can participate in.  We do the Bible study portion together, along with our morning calendar.  When it is time for worksheets and other desk work, Little Miss goes to her workboxes and gets started.  As she is busy doing her independent work, I have one on one time to guide Pookie through his homeschooling.  I am adapting the worksheets that Little Miss is doing into a simplified version that Pookie is able to do, yet is challenged by.  After the independent work is done, we do artwork and I read books to both kids.  That rounds out their school day.

Afternoons are a lazy time for us all.  Being the hottest part of the day, we slow way down.  I have a cold lunch ready for when schooling is done.  Then the kids play in the water to get cooled off.  A hour long rest period comes next.  Naps are not required, but they are learning to take that rest time.  They listen to music, look at books, or watch videos quietly.  The important part is that they are learning to have that rest period during the warmest time of the day.  I have found that days in which the rest period is not utilized, the kids get more cranky.  Simply taking that break really makes a difference! 

Once their rest period is over, they have free time to play.  We have a shady yard and water toys for them to enjoy.  There is a lake about 13 miles from home that we can go to for swimming.  City parks, museums, and other locations are enjoyed in the afternoons.  I am planning those trips for the hottest days especially.  It is a perfect time for field trips! 

We are very careful with the heat.  At the store, we found the little scarves that you soak in cool water before wearing.  I have 2 for each person.  This allows us to be wearing one while the second is cooling in the water.  We have little battery operated fans.  The kids love the ones that include a spray bottle.  Pookie has a little fan that has a cover over it to prevent little fingers from touching the moving blades.  Little Miss and I both have the spray bottle types.  As soon as Pookie sees those in use, he is right there enjoying it also.  LOL

The key factor that is important is to be smart.  NEVER do heavier work in the afternoons, for example.  Save that work for early mornings.  Be alert to the heat index levels.  If there is an excessive heat warning, play it smart and have a back-up plan for staying comfortable and safe.  We never had air conditioning when I was a kid.  We learned to work in the mornings and take things easier in the afternoons.  Our family has been living off-grid 4 years now. Some summer days are pretty hot, but we manage it well. 

If your family were to have a power outage in the summer and unable to use electrical fans or air conditioning, how would you manage the heat?  Do you have a back-up plan in place?  What if the heat index was in the triple digits?  Do you and your family know how to safely manage?  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Old-Time Pantry Building

It seems that the topic of pantry building keeps coming up in one way or
another in both personal and online conversations. It would seem that
the rising costs are affecting many families. Sadly, many are so used
to the idea of buying packaged, convenience foods that they are lost at
the thought of having to cook from scratch. Unless you are willing to
learn to cook, this blog post will likely be of little value to you.

I think back to stories I heard from people who had clear memories of
the Depression years. For some reason, even as a child, I have always
had a passion for learning what I could about that time. How did the
families work through the hardships of that time? What did they do to
get the things that they needed when money was scarce? Back then, rural
families especially were large. How did they manage to feed a large
family with little to now finances to spend at the grocery stores? As
the title of this post implies, this post is about the pantry. It is
based on the stories told to me through the years by those who lived
through that time period known as the Depression Era. Due to our being
a rural family, I am writing from that perspective. There are many
aspects of what rural families did that you can easily implement even if
you live in the city.

Families did not eat fancy. Their meals were simple foods that were very
wholesome and nutritious. It was good ol' basic farm cookin'. Simple
meals prepared using the vegetables and fruits that were in season.
Much of the produce was home grown. Some families would barter with a
neighbor for produce that they needed. One example would be if a
neighbor had a large crop of sweet corn and you had a surplus of green
beans. These neighbors may get together and trade some of their surplus
for the vegetable that they lack. Typically, however, a rural family
would buy very little of their foods at a store. They learned to eat
according to what they grew.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, a frugal family garden had very
few varieties in it, but had larger amounts of what they did plant.
Consider the vegetables that you eat the most often. In our home, it
would be things like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, squash, green
beans, carrots, beets, onions, and corn. Added to that would be a
couple of summer vegetables that are not able to be canned. These are
summer squash (zucchini & yellow squash), leafy greens, radishes, and
eggplant. These round out the typical garden that we would have
growing. This list varies depending on your family's tastes. Now,
should I find that it is cheaper to buy a bushel of the green beans, in
example, at a Farmer's Market than it is to grown them, I will buy them
instead. I can then bring them home and put them up in the canning
jars. The same goes for any of the other vegetables. If you are a
member of a Sam's Club or similar warehouse store, you can buy in the
#10 cans things like ketchup, diced tomatoes, and various other foods
for far cheaper than to grow them. The garden list is only a reference
tool for what to stock. It is up to you to decide which are cheaper to
grow in your area.

In the earlier generations, the bulk of their food purchases were those
items that they did not have the ability to grow. Basic pantry staples
such as flour, sugar, honey, molasses, baking powder, baking soda, salt,
pepper, culinary herbs & spices, cornmeal, oatmeal, maple syrup, and
yeast are such items. Buying milk, eggs, cheese, and meat were the only
perishables that they might purchase. Can you imagine only buying those
items at a store? Likely, many people wouldn't be buying all of those.
In some households, they used molasses in place of maple syrup on
pancakes or waffles as well as using it to sweeten or add flavoring to
their cooking.

Have you noticed that in the lists of foods that would be in the pantry,
there is no mention of frozen dinners, boxed foods, or any of the
convenience foods so common today? They didn't use them! Some foods
that most would not consider a convenience item that are not mentioned
in the above lists are: noodles, breads, snacks, and desserts. They
made their own. Pasta is a very easy recipe to make. It is simply
eggs, flour, and a little bit of water to make the most simple recipes.
If you want to get fancy you add a bit of pureed beets, spinach, or
carrots to the recipe to make your red, green, and orange vegetable
pasta. The point is, these were simple foods that were made at home as
they were needed.

The pantry items listed are ones that require that you know how to cook
or be willing to learn. As with anything, the more work you are willing
to do, the lower your costs will be in the end. A large loaf of bread
costs about $1.29 for the cheapest brand at the local store. To make it
at home, I am able to make 2 loaves for just under that cost. Pasta
from the store is a rip-off. My dear husband was surprised when I made
homemade pasta for the first time. He got himself a large helping of
spaghetti. He served himself the same amount he would have done if the
pasta were the store bought variety. He was caught off guard by the
fact that he couldn't eat it all. The homemade was far more satisfying
than the boxed stuff from the store. He ate far less, but was full. It
stuck with him longer also. He wasn't feeling the need to snack later
in the evening. When using homemade pasta, I can cook half the quantity
and feed the family well. Using this method of pantry stocking, we are
able to feed a family of 4 for under $450 per month. The more we grow
ourselves, the lower that cost is. That cost is based on what it is if
we did not have a garden.

So, where do you begin? You start with a menu as I mentioned in the
previous post. Choose meals that your family enjoys, yet does not take
a lot of fancy ingredients. You can do an occasional fancy meal, but
most are farm cooking style. Plan well the meals and what is needed to
make them. Wherever you can, find recipes for the ingredients. Pasta
is a good example. Instead of buying it, make it yourself at home.
Each time you make the pasta, you are saving money. Breads are another
money saving option. I use one basic recipe for my breads. Shaped into
loaves, it is our basic bread. Rolled out 3/4 inch thick and cut out
with a 3" diameter cutter (a clean large tuna can with both top & bottom
removed works great) and you have burger buns. If you cut the rolled
out bread dough into 2"x 6" long strips, you have hot dog buns.

Like the toaster pastries? Try making a pie crust dough. Roll it out
and cut into an 8"x 6" rectangle. Spread a favorite flavor of jam
thinly on one half of the dough. Fold over to make a 4"x 6" rectangle
and press the edges closed. Bake in your oven at 350*F until lightly
golden. Voila'! You have homemade toaster pastries! Similarly, you
can cut the pie crust into 5" square pieces. Add a spoon of pie filling
and fold into a triangle to make a turnover or fruit pie. These little
pies were popular as they could be tucked into lunches easily.

If you are willing to do the work of cooking from scratch, you can feed
your family very well for far less than you pay now.


Monday, May 7, 2012

No Refrigeration....Now What?

It is surprising how often I hear people readily admit that they are a slave to technology.  Our family is still in the process of slowly learning to adapt to using only the technology that is truly a necessity.  Just when you believe that you have done all that you can, there is something else that you find yourself making adjustments with.  Refrigeration is one of these areas.

The thought that brought me to considering refrigeration is how dependent we are on it as a society.  Think about what would happen is the power went out due to a storm.  How much food would you lose?  Let's say that you go to your refrigerator right now and open it up only to find that the condensor went out and it was no longer keeping the food cold.  How would that affect your family?  I have seen many times a refrigerator that is stocked to the gills with containers of food.  So much food that much of it ends up being tossed out due to becoming spoiled before it was used.  Such a waste!

Now, think about exactly what you keep in the refrigerator.  Are there items that you don't use often, such as condiments, that you could utilize in a better way?  The goal for me it to limit the refrigerator use to only the extreme essentials. 

Condiments, like ketchup, I am able to repackage into much smaller amounts.  If you buy the #10 size cans of ketchup, you are able to home can it into the smaller 1/2 pint size canning jars.  The smaller size is plenty to use, but not so much that I contantly have a bottle of it in the refrigerator.  I try to purchase condiments that need refrigeration only when needed for a specific recipe or meal.  Buying the actual size needed will save refrigeration usages also.  Try making some things fresh, like mayonnaise. 

When cooking, try to eliminate leftovers by keeping portions at the right level when preparing the food.  Not only will you save money in the ingredients, but you won't be tossing out leftovers later on.   If making foods that can be home canned for the pantry, take it into consideration during the meal preparation.  One example is when I make a pot roast with vegetables.  I make a large roast but only enough vegetables are added for that one meal.  Once the meal is done, I divide the leftover roast into jars.  I then add the raw veggies to the jars.  Add the liquid from the roast with just enough water to fill the jars properly.  Processing the roast this way will allow you to have all the wonderful flavors of the roast, yet the veggies will not be over-cooked.

In summer, my refrigerator contents drops down to minimal.  I have a lot of bottled water filling the bottom shelf.  Another shelf contains cold salads, such as macaroni salad or a onion & cucumber salad.  Sweet tea is always present, along with fruit flavored drinks for the kids.  The only milk is a quart container (a day's supply) of almond milk.  Eggs and cheese round out the contents.  With the exception of eggs & cheese, I only store enough perisables in the refrigertor for that day's use.  This is the biggest savings fo us.  Should the refrigerator stop working, we only lose a day's supply of food.  It is nothing that we cannot easily replace.

I took a serious look at what I truly needed a refrigerator for and found that our family could easily use only a small office sized refrigerator for our needs.  That was a huge discovey!  I am so glad that I learned to home can.  That alone has done much to reduce the need for refrigeration.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Little Miss Meets an Author

The past week, my dear husband has been home. He was out on the truck
for 5 weeks, so was able to have 5 days off at home. It has been such a
blessing. Sure beats the 36 hours he got to have at home in the past
few months. We were able to attend church services together as a
family. That is something that we haven't been able to do in a long time.

On the homestead, I planted very little thus far. We have been trying
to get the new raised bed garden going, but keep running into snags
along the way. Our biggest obstacle being not having a pickup truck
running. Can't haul in the recycled pallets with my new jeep. There is
no trailer hitch on it yet. So, I am going to make slight alterations
in my plans so that I can grow at least a few things.

I decided against participating in the craft show this year. I am
simply not finding enough time to get crafts made for it. Instead, I am
planning to just start working on holiday gifts and be content with
that. If I happen to sell a few things along the way, then that would
be wonderful. My first priority is in the tending to our young children
and homeschooling them.

I am going to be getting Pookie set up with a new therapist for his
speech and occupational therapies. The office he previously went to
wasn't a good fit in the end. We are excited to get him to the new
therapists though. They are coming highly recommended. I will continue
working with him at home. I am looking forward to having a therapist to
work along side of in Pookie's therapy. It will give me more options to
consider in how to work with him effectively.

Little Miss is getting to be such a big girl. We are loving the
thematic study approach of the My Father's World curriculum. We took
her to the library to get her own library card. She was excited to
receive that! I took her and Pookie to the homeschool convention in
Tulsa. While there, she met Susan K. Marlow, who write the "Circle C
Adventures" books. These books are like a cowgirl version of the Little
House stories. The main character in the series in a little girl who
lives on a ranch. She doesn't mean to get into mischief, but it always
seems to find her. The first set of 6 books are for young girls, age
6-8 yrs old. The next set are for girls 9-12 yrs old. Mrs, Marlow is a
veteran homeschooling mother. She has on her website free printables to
use along with each of her books. She sells lapbooks that also
correspond to each of the books. Little Miss was very excited when Mrs.
Marlow autographed the book that we bought. I also was able to take a
picture of Little Miss with Mrs. Marlow. In reading the book, I am
seeing that Little Miss is going to love this series. Her favorite
movie is "Flicka" and she enjoys anything to do with horses. The best
part is that these books are ones that, like the Little House series,
you can trust your child to read without being exposed to a lot of
worldly nonsense & ideas. They are a truly wholesome book.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Woman's Heart

"A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ, that a man should have
to first seek Him to find her." - author unknown

That saying is one of my favorites. I found it years ago and still find
it to be as profound as I did back then. I am thinking of embroidering
it to hang on my wall and as a future gift for Little Miss.

The message of that saying is convicting to me. It is a constant
reminder that it is our responsibility to seek out the Lord first.
After my divorce from my first husband, I had no intention of ever
getting into a relationship again. That relationship damaged me in a
way that is hard to talk about even after all these years. My patient
Beloved even had to ease me into the idea of being told "I love you"
because I had no trust in the words. They were always a tool of torment
in my past. I have always believed that it was the Lord who led mine
and Beloved's relationship. I trusted no man. In my experience over
the years since my first dating relationship at age 16, had taught me
that men were deceivers who would say anything to get you to trust
them. Once they gained your trust, they would use your emotions against
you and their true nature would come out, often in some form of
controlling or abusive behavior. For that reason, at age 40, I decided
to spend the remainder of my life alone. The Lord, however, had other
plans and hadn't given up on me.

When I first was going through the divorce, I also separated myself from
the religion that we were members of. The church leaders had sanctioned
behaviors that were not those of someone who follows Biblical teaching.
The term the church used was "unrighteous dominion" as a label for this
behavior. The leadership of the church spoke out against it, but the
local leader of the congregation ignored the behavior and chastised me
for saying anything about it. At that point, I felt the need to leave
the church as well. I had been in that church for 26 years, from the
time I was a teenager. I felt deceived and damaged. I still believed
that there was a Higher Power who was in control, but I had to take a
step back form organized religion completely.

I turn into a more Native American belief system. In that lifestyle you
are taught to see the creation of God in all life around you. It was
that lifestyle that started my process of returning to the Lord. Sounds
strange, huh? I guess it is. You see, after being left feeling damaged
by organized religion, I had to step back completely and find the Lord
in my own way. Without the dictates of someone's interpretation of what
the scriptures say or the legalistic attitudes. In my heart, I felt
that the Lord isn't that complicated or demanding. I began seeking Him
out in my own way. I prayed often and tried to see His hand in all that
was around me. This was a part of the foundations of learning to trust
in what God was again.

By the time I met Joe, I was already on the path back to the Lord. I
still had no trust in Christians, but I was learning to have faith and
trust in the Lord. In truth, I think that is how it is supposed to be.
Even if you are trusting a very strong follower of Christ, you cannot
allow your faith to be in that person more than it is in the Lord.
Eventually, you will see human nature come out in that person that will
have the ability to make you question your faith. All people, Christian
or not, will say or do something that can shake your faith in them. The
Lord, however, is worthy of our faith and never fails us. He may allow
us to go through experiences in our life that make us wonder why He is
allowing it, but He always has a plan for our life.

In finding that truth and in seeking out a peace in the Lord, I found
much more. Joe came along into my life and against my own plans at that
time, we began getting to know each other. The fact that he is very
open about his faith should have had me running away like a scalded
cat. It was the Lord's grace that kept me willing to get to know Joe.
I began learning more from Joe about his beliefs after we were team
driving for the trucking company. We spent many hours with one of us
reading the Bible to the other and talking about what we were learning.
Faith in the Lord was critical to me. Not just for me personally, but
if Joe and I were going to have a relationship he would have to have a
solid faith in the Lord also.

Today, we both still have strong faith in the Lord. It is what helps us
to go through our days. For me, it helps in keeping much of the
loneliness at bay. I know that I can keep Joe in my prayer and that the
Lord will watch over him while he is away on the truck. I know that the
Lord is watching over our family. Not just because of my prayers, but
those of Joe's also.

This past Sunday, we had a wonderful example of that protection from the
Lord. Pookie always walks on my left side out of habit. I am right
handed, so it is easier to hold his hand with my left so that my right
hand is free to do things. After church, I stopped at a fast food store
to get the kids a sandwich before making the 90 mile trip home. When
going back to the jeep after our meal, I had Little Miss climbing into
the back seat. A small pickup truck was parked close beside us with
it's engine turned off. I had to step back with Pookie to allow Little
Miss room to climb into the jeep. Just as she was getting in, I
transferred Pookie's hand into my right so that he was next to the back
bumper of our vehicle. The driver of the pickup started his engine and
quickly began backing out without looking. Their back bumper hit me,
knocking me into the side of my jeep as I moved Pookie further behind
our back bumper to protect him. I slapped the truck repeatedly to get
their attention. The driver stopped for a moment and then continued
backing quickly and drove off. It was a hit & run. Little Miss saw it
happen and was very upset. Pookie went into a meltdown. I had 2 young
children to comfort and so didn't see the license plate of the truck as
it drove away. My first priority was my children's well being. I was
not hurt as badly as our old ram had done years ago, just very sore.
Nothing was broken and it was mainly my left leg that was affected. Not
my stomach or other soft tissue area that I would have to worry about as
much. We went back to the church. The pastor and his wife got ice for
my leg and helped calm the children. It gave me a chance to calm my own
nerves before making the journey back home.

The Lord was watching over us in that experience. Pookie is always on
my left side. Had I not transferred him to my right when I did, he
would have ended up underneath that truck. The Lord's grace was with us
in that I was not badly injured. We were close enough to the church
that I was able to have help both in treating my leg and in seeing to
the children's needs. I am so grateful to the Lord for His divine
intervention in this situation. It could have been so much worse! But
the Lord is good and took care of us. I praise Him for His love and
grace in watching over us.

While I am still sore, I am at peace within. I know that the prayers
for the Lord to help the man who drove that truck will be answered.
That man needs prayer! I can forgive him for what happened, but he
needs to find that place within himself to come to terms with his
reckless behavior. The Lord is good though and I know that His divine
will is going to prevail in this man's life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Garden Plans Resources

Finally! I bought some of those seed starting trays with clear lids. Today, after laundry is done, I will be planting seeds. By the time they are ready to be transplanted, my raised beds will be ready for them.

It is amazing just how much time it takes to move a garden and change methods. Once done however, the garden will be so much easier to maintain. I cannot remember if I had posted a link to the YouTube video, but here is the video that inspired me. I am going to be using the planting mixture suggested in Mel Bartholomew's book, Square Foot Gardening. The planting mixture recipe can be found here.

One of the nice parts of this method will be that it will require far less maintenance. Once the raised beds are made and filled, you only have to maintain the soil each season to"freshen" the nutrients in the mix by adding a bit more mix to the beds.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Teaching Compassion

Raising a child with autism disorder is a challenge and a blessing to
many parents of children with autism.We are challenged in the struggle
to help our child to reach their potential.We are blessed to have these
special ones in our lives.They bring joy to our families.We find each
and every milestone that they reach to be an event to be celebrated, for
we know how hard they have had to work to reach that goal.

There are times though when reality will slap us in the face.A recent
experience at a church function was a good illustration of that
statement.First, let me say that the other child involved meant no
malice towards my son.The situation is a great example of a "typical"
experience with children not familiar with special needs.I relate this
story so that it will hopefully bring about awareness in others,
especially in the teaching of their children in how to show compassion.

Our church held a block party the day before Easter.We had a great time
and even Pookie was enjoying himself.At one point, a little girl came up
to try and talk with him.She looked to be about 10 years old and was
very sweet in trying to say "hello" to Pookie.When he didn't respond to
her, I explained that he has autism and cannot talk.She looked unsure of
how to handle the situation.I explained that she can play with and talk
to Pookie.He would enjoy it.He just plays differently than other
kids.After a moment or two, she walked away and never approached him again.

I don't have any bad feelings towards her for her reaction.It was simply
a new experience for her and she did not know how to interact with
Pookie.As for him, Pookie didn't seem to notice at that moment.He was
too involved playing with a toy maraca that he had been given earlier in
the day.The experience does illustrate the reaction that many autistic
and other special needs children (and adults) face.In the training of
our children to be kind to others, are we teaching them to not fear or
be uncertain in how to interact with others who are not like them?As
Pookie's momma, I welcome questions about him.I would much rather deal
with the questions than having someone misunderstanding Pookie and why
he acts differently than they do.

That experience was not the first time that a child has walked away from
Pookie because of his being different.Unfortunately, it will be a
reoccurring event throughout his childhood.While he doesn't seem to
notice what happens around him, I am seeing a growing awareness in
Pookie.He notices the little things.He cries and fusses each week when
his sister is gone for the day without him.He gets upset if he wants to
play with Little Miss & Tank when they are busy with a game he cannot
join in on.It may not happen often, but it does from time to time.It's
no different than when any younger child wants to play with older
siblings, but the siblings are playing a game the younger one is too
little to join in with.

On the flip side of the equation, I was so humbled to see how our Pastor
and a few others set the example for the other children. At the block
party there was an inflatable bounce house set up. When I first
approached it with Pookie, Little Miss had already gone in it and was
having a lot of fun jumping and playing with other kids. Pookie heard
the sounds of the fan and the kids' at play. He got frightened and
wanted nothing to do with it. The 2 ladies that were overseeing the
children asked them if they would mind climbing out long enough for
Pookie to try to go in. Their were no complaints. The ladies explained
that he was afraid and the kids seemed understanding. When Pookie showed
no signs of wanting to go in, the kids went back to playing. Later in
the day, our Pastor and another gentleman were overseeing the bounce
house. There was a group of kids in there having a lot of fun, Little
Miss was among them. When Pookie approached the bounce house, actually
touching the entrance/exit point, we took the opportunity. As I removed
his and my shoes, our Pastor spoke to the children inside. he explained
that Pookie was coming in and asked if they could not be loud or jump
too close to him. Now, I must state that most o the kids have seen
Pookie at church and realize that he is different. Many know he has
autism, though they may not understand what that means. Well, the kids
were very sweet and quieted down a bit and allowed Pookie and I to get
in. He was very nervous, but when I sat in the bounce house, he simply
laid in my lap until he felt comfortable. Kids were bouncing and having
fun around us, but staying just far enough away as to not frighten him.
The bouncing motion, after a few moments, had calmed him enough to get
on his knees in front of me and bounce. We were only in the bounce house
a few minutes, but it was a huge progress for Pookie. He had faced a
fear and dealt with it. I was so proud of him. I was especially proud
and at the same time humbled, by the compassion that was shown towards
him. Our Pastor helped the kids to gently ease Pookie as he faced a
fear. Their willingness to do so without complaint or fuss was a
precious experience to behold.

It is not a comfortable reality to know that our Pookie, as well as many
others with special needs, will face times when children are uncertain
how to approach or interact with them. It is the responsibility of all
parents to teach compassion to their children. Not only through words,
but by example. If you know that your child has a classmate or maybe
even a neighbor that has a disability or other special needs issue, try
to find out about that special need. Talk to your kids about it. Maybe
even take the time to get to know the parents & family yourself. Set the
example for your children. If possible, invite the child's family to
your home so that your child can get to know them in a setting that they
feel comfortable in. It has been my experience that if a child is given
the opportunity to see compassion in action by their parents, along with
being given time to be around others who are different than themselves,
the children will most often become at ease around special needs children.

If you are the parent of a special needs child, I feel that we have a
responsibility to help ease the way. Talk to others who are curious.
Don't take offense if someone asks questions. Take the opportunity to
help others understand your child. When they gain a bit of
understanding, it may make it easier for them to interact with your
child. We cannot sit back and bemoan the unfairness of how our children
are treated by others if we are not willing to help ease the way. Just
as children don't understand how to interact with a special needs child,
many adults have never learned either. They don't mean to be rude, they
simply may never have had the opportunity to learn how to interact with
a special needs child or adult. Through your willingness to help ease
the way for others, you are also setting the example for your own
children. They learn how to be compassionate towards others in setting
them at ease in what may be an awkward situation for them. Compassion is
a 2-way street. Just as we would like others to be compassionate towards
our child, we should be compassionate towards others also.

A Growing Fence

Wow! I didn't realize how long it has been since my last post until I
started getting emails from readers asking how we are doing. It is so
humbling to know that there are people out there who you have never met,
but become concerned when you don't update your blog. Thank you so much!

The past week or so has been very eventful and busy. We were blessed
recently to be able to replace our old car. We now have a "new to us"
jeep that is only 6 yrs old and is very nice condition. It is such a
relief on both my beloved and I to have a reliable vehicle again. Once
we got the car, we have been trying to get caught up on things we were
unable to do over the past few months without a car.

The weather lately is becoming even more reliable for gardening. I now
have potting soil and plenty of little containers for starting seeds.
As soon as the raised beds are ready, I will have the little plants
ready to transplant. In previous years, the last frost occurred in late
April. With the mild winter we had, our planting season began a month
earlier than usual. Already some families have planted their root crops
and a few salad greens. It seems unusual to me to think that in
mid-April I am already behind in my garden planting.

This year, we are doing our garden in a completely new way. We are
turning completely to the method of raised beds. One reason being that
it will be far less work for me to maintain. I won't have to bend down
or get on my knees in the garden to weed or manage the plants. The
second reason is that we will have more control over the critters that
like to use our garden as their personal buffet. We are recycling old
shipping crates and pallets to make the garden. The garden beds will be
about waist high and lined with the leftover black weed barrier plastic
from last year. The plastic will hold in the dirt while still allowing
the extra water to drain through.

I have a copy of Mel Bartholomew's book, Square Foot Gardening, which I
bought last summer. In the book, he gives his "recipe" for a no-weed
soil planting mixture. It contains peat moss, vermiculite, and
composted soil. The peat moss and vermiculite loosens the soil as well
as providing a great method for holding in moisture. This is a big
concern if you live in a drought area. The composted soil provides
nutrients the plants need. One of the best parts of his soil mixture is
that it makes the gardening much easier to manage. You have a
relatively weed-free garden. The only weeds that it may produce are
those grown from seeds that may have blown into the raised bed on a
windy day. I used the square foot gardening method years ago when I
lived in an upper desert region. It was very successful. I had a much
larger harvest than when I tried gardening in the traditional way. This
year's garden may be much smaller than I would have planted in the
ground, but as we are able to add more raised beds, I will have an
expanded garden area to use.

An extra benefit to this garden is that Beloved is having it set up as a
fence line along one side of the children's play yard. We are going to
let each of them plant a few vegetables in their own little garden
beds. Little Miss and our 6 yr old grandson have each picked out a
couple of favorite vegetables that they would like to plant. I am
excited to watch them plant and tend their little garden areas. It will
be fun to see them get excited about the plants blooming and producing
the veggies.

Having this growing fence line is such a wonderful idea. My Beloved is
such a clever man to think of it! We plan to plant cherry tomatoes and
possibly some strawberries that the children can snack on if they get
hungry while playing in the yard. Both Little Miss and our grandson
love strawberries and cherry tomatoes. Who knows? We may end up having
to plant a strawberry bed and a cherry tomato plant for each of the kids
so that they all get enough to snack on.

I am amazed that the garden is only going to cost us the cost of nails
and the soil mix. The recycled crates and pallets are free from a
lumber yard in a town about 25 miles from home. If you ask around, you
may find old pallets that are being given away. Businesses that receive
their order shipments on a pallet have to pay to have the old ones
hauled off when they are done using them. If you ask, you may find that
they are willing to give away the old pallets for free or ask only a
very small price for them. The lumber yard that we got ours from gives
the old ones away but sells new pallets for $6.00 each. Prices depend
on the business. You might find some through Craig's List or the local

Monday, April 2, 2012

Self-Reliance Blogger

I wanted to share an awesome blog. Crafty Country Momma recently shared a recipe for Homemade Liquid Dish Washing Soap. For those of you who are looking for frugal living recipes and ideas, I would strongly suggest that you check her blog out.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Decluttering.......Yet again

It seems crazy that after all of the decluttering that I have done over
the past few years, I still am finding excess. Life is funny that way.
You get accustomed to the level of possession that you have. Things
seem important or have a purpose that you are sure will make itself
known the moment you part with that item. It is silly. We get this
idea in our heads that we must have all this stuff. The attitude is all
around us. Society tells us that you need to have certain "things" in
order to be acceptable. It is considered bizarre to not have a TV or
worse yet cable/satellite systems to give you the essential 150 channels
(or more) to choose from. I had someone tell me once that because we
don't have a TV that we are depriving the children of something they
need. Really??? TV is an essential need for proper childhood
development? WOW! I had no idea that TV was so critical. (Please
insert the intended sarcasm in that comment.)

We have begun the process of remodeling the house. The plans to build a
home fell through and so we are going to just remodel and update the
homestead. In the process, there is going to be a bedroom shuffle going
on. Currently, the study is being used by my eldest daughter & her
husband as a bedroom. They are fixing up the storage room (an
unfinished bedroom) to become their room. Once they move in, I will
move our bedroom into the study. Our bedroom, which is the largest,
will be fixed up for the kids' bedroom. It is large enough that we
could split it into 2 smaller rooms if we chose to. Once that room is
done, the kids' current bedroom, which is the smallest in the house,
will be fixed up for Beloved and I. Once our bedroom is finished and we
are in there, the study will once again be made into a homeschool

With all the shifting around and remodeling ahead, I am decluttering yet
again. There is always more that can be purged, sadly enough. It is
liberating however. I am getting a strong sense of what is truly
important. Beloved and I believe that a home should reflect what the
family finds most important. When someone walks into your home, what
does it tell them about your family?

Decluttering your home and life of worldly excess is a process. You
didn't collect the excess overnight and unless a natural disaster took
place, you don't lose it overnight either. Living in a small home,
storage space is a premium. This means that you have to take a critical
look at what you are needing to store. Everything needs a purpose. It
goes back to that museum rebuilt home that I have spoken of before. As
was typical of the time, the home displayed only the barest necessities
that were used on a daily basis by the family. There was no clutter of
excess. It may be another person's nightmare to have a nearly empty
looking home but it is paradise to me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


There are days when I just have more questions than not. The subject of
the Sabbath is one of "those" topics that always has my head ready to
explode. Here is why.

Under the Law, the Jews were given the Law of obeying the Sabbath Day.
They were given very strict rules of conduct that had to be observed.
Later on, in the New Testament, the establishment of the New Covenant
through Christ changed the way the Sabbath was observed. And this is
what confuses me. In some Christian faiths, the observance of the
Sabbath is still a very important part of their religious practices.
For some, they are adamant the Sabbath is on Saturday while others
observe a Sunday Sabbath. Okay, I realize that it is like splitting
hairs to figure out what is right and wrong in that particular topic.

The real question for me is the faiths that believe that in the New
Covenant Christ became our Sabbath. That looking to a particular day of
the week as a Sabbath is not as critical as it once was to worship.
So, does this mean that the Sabbath is no longer necessary since Christ
made His sacrifice for our sins?

I get mixed emotions about this. I honestly do not know where I stand
in it. While I am gradually coming to understand (in extreme baby
steps) the New Covenant that Christ established, I still have more
questions than answers. This is a part doctrine that eludes me. I
readily admit that if I am not in the habit of attending church services
on a regular basis, I fall into the habit of treating the Sabbath like
it was any other day of the week. It has no meaning to me.

Back in my days as a pagan, I had very set routines that I followed in
my beliefs. I felt so much more comfortable in the absolute structure
and ritual of my beliefs. There were clear defining practices that I
followed. Some of them that I used daily were the prayer alter,
candles, meditations, and readings.

I find myself at loose ends at times now. Ever since giving up a method
of worship involving the observance of rituals, I find myself constantly
feeling adrift. Yes, I can read the Bible and pray. It isn't the
same. I don't feel that rhythm to my worship that I seem to crave and
need. Add into the mix that I have been unable to attend church on a
regular basis due to not having a vehicle and I feel very adrift.

Looks like another long conversation with my very long-suffering husband
is on the horizon. He is so awesome about explaining things.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Canning: Potatoes

Today, I noticed that my large bag of potatoes were just starting to
grow the tiny eyes/buds on them. They were very tiny, just barely
noticeable. The weather is warming up, so I knew that the potatoes were
going to quickly grow the sprouts. I got out the canner and got busy.
In canning white potatoes, the process is very easy. I place cold water
with a bit of salt into a bowl. This keeps the peeled potatoes from
browning. Wash the potatoes and peel them, removing any discolored or
bruised areas. I diced the potatoes into chunks about 1 inch in size.
The diced potatoes soak in the salted water until I have a bowl full. I
fill the canning jars leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to
pint jars and 1 tsp. salt to a quart size jar. Fill with cold water
leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust the lid assembly. The potatoes are
processed in a pressure canner.

By canning the chunks of potatoes, I am able to quickly use the fresh
potatoes before they sprout too much or go bad in warm weather. I am
able to take advantage of sales at the store. Some stores will have a
special on the 50# size bags of potatoes. This helps to quickly build
the pantry stores as well.

The canned potatoes are great for adding to a quick stew. If you drain
& pat the diced potatoes dry, you can fry them as you would southern
style fried potatoes. If in a hurry, you can heat the potatoes up,
drain them and mash the potatoes for a quick meal addition. Beloved
takes pint jars of diced potatoes on the truck. One quick meal that he
is able to make is to drain the potatoes and place them into a foil loaf
pan. Pour over the potatoes a jar of BBQ roast beef and cook in his
"lunchbox cooker" that he uses to cook his meals on the road. If he
happens to have a bit of shredded cheese in the cooler, this is a great
topping to add.

One of my favorite ways to use canned potatoes is for mashed potatoes.
They cook up just as fast as the instant varieties but are more hearty.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Things About A Mom of an Autistic Child That You Didn't Know

There was a very well written blog/article written on the Huffington Post, "Maria Lin: 7 Things You Don't Know About a Special Needs Parent."  In the article, she wrote from the heart about her list of things that people don't generally know about her life as a parent to a special needs child.  It was a very inspiring and insightful view of what life can be like.  Her article inspired me to write my own list.

There are always assumed ideas that people have of what it is like to raise an autistic child.  I don't speak for ALL parents of autistic children.  I can only write from my own experiences.  As the saying goes, if you have met 1 person with autism then you have met only 1 autistic person.  The same can be said of the family members who care for and live with that autistic person.  We are all individuals and have varied perspectives on what this journey called autism is like.  It affects each person and family differently.  This is my perspective.

1.  I am a Momma.  I am not just the caretaker of the special needs child.  He is my son.  He is a child that I love deeply.  I feel all of the typical emotions that a mother has for her child.  I have hopes and dreams for him just as any mother has for her children.  When you make comments about the lack of future my son may have, it hurts me deeply. 

2. Don't assume he is undisciplined.  If Pookie is in a situation that causes him extreme stress, he reacts to it.  This may or may not include: stimming (repetitive movements that are a self-calming action that helps him cope), screaming/crying, biting himself, hitting himself in the head, or showing signs of absolute terror.  This is NOT a child having a tantrum but a child having a very frightening overload of stimuli.  Each and every time he goes to a new place or is forced into places that have stimuli overload "triggers" he will react to it.  Some of Pookie's triggers are: an echo, blinking fluorescent lights, crowds, PA systems in a building, and loud noises.  There are many triggers, but those are the ones that nearly always cause a reaction.  One note about fluorescent lights: some children with autism or other neurological problems can even have a severe seizure just from being in that type of lighting.   Autism is a neurological disorder within the brain.  It is not something that a parent can make go away through discipline.

3. My son has emotions.  He is filled with joy.  Little Man, who I call "Pookie", laughs often.  He loves to play and giggle.  Just because he has the more severe form of autism called Autism Disorder (aka Classic Autism or Kanner's Syndrome) doesn't mean that he doesn't feel or show emotions.  He is not a robot without feelings.  He often will react to the stimuli of the emotions around him.  In example, he laughs when others laugh or will get weepy if someone else is upset.  He is very empathic in that sense.

4. My son has intelligence.  Just because he is non-verbal does not mean that he is lacking intelligence.  When he finds ways to communicate, he shows the level of his intelligence.  Being non-verbal and not having a broad vocabulary in the use of sign language or PECS communication system yet (he is 4 yrs old), he often is viewed as being of low intelligence.  Don't call him "retarded".  Even a genius like Albert Einstein would have looked less than intelligent if he had to speak to people who did not understand the language he spoke.  Pookie has ways of communicating, but his ways are not ones that are generally understood by those who are not around him often.  He is learning to communicate, but it takes time.  Picture this - you speak can only English and are trying to speak to someone who only speaks Italian without the benefit of an interpreter.  In a effort to communicate, you try to speak through sign language which the other person is trying to teach to you without the benefit of a common base for understanding.  Get the idea?  How intelligent would YOU appear in that situation?

5.  I'm exhausted.  I am a SAHM with 2 young children.  We homeschool and live in a rural area.  I also am working with Pookie on occupational therapy and teaching him to communicate in addition to preschooling him.  I am not complaining.  I love our lifestyle and being with the kids.  The tired feeling comes from the emotional ups and downs that is common in families of special needs children.  Pookie can be feeling fine and suddenly a stimuli will set off a meltdown.  You simply learn to adjust to it and ease him through the situation in an effort to teach him self-calming skills.

6.  He has a sister.  Pookie is not the only young child in the home.  While I welcome questions about Pookie, I often wonder if Little Miss sometimes feels ignored or left out by others' attention.  She needs attention also.  At 6 yrs old, she doesn't have the full understanding to know why people ask about her little brother but not her.  We have our special times just her and I.  We make a point of it.  Whether it is working on her Little Keepers program, sharing an Afternoon Tea, or just having some girlie time painting her nails for her, I try to have time that is just for her alone.  When others do talk to me about Pookie, I am always thrilled when Little Miss is brought into the discussion and made to feel special also.  Not just for being a good big sister to her brother, but for her own individual personality & interests that have nothing to do with being a big sister to an autistic brother.

7.  I get lonely.  Having a special needs child can be one of the most isolating things a person can experience.  It is isolating enough just living in a rural area.  When you have a child with special needs, play dates at a park where Moms get together while their kids play just doesn't happen very often.  I have never gone out for a cup of coffee with a friend.  To do so requires a babysitter.  The times that I do have someone watching the younger kids, I am out having to run errands.  My husband is a truck driver and away from home most of the time.  We talk often but it isn't the same as having time to sit, relax, and talk with someone.  My eldest daughter's family lives here, but it isn't the same as having friends to talk to.  Sometimes, you wish for a phone call.  One of the things that helps is that I have a couple of people who I write letters back and forth with.  All the same, there are times that I really wish I had a friend that I could talk to who really understood what autism is about and could relate to what it is like to have a child with autism.

8. I get discouraged at times.  I am not always strong.  I become very discouraged at the total lack of understanding even within the autism community.  Nearly every time I hear people on autism support websites or in groups talk about their autistic kids, they are talking about Aspergers or PDD-NOS which are on the autism spectrum, but are NOT the same thing as the more severe Autism Disorder that Pookie has.  I get sick and tired of having people tell me that change of diet or using supplements will cure him.  While a good diet benefits anyone, it cannot change a neurological disorder in the brain. To say that changing his diet will make him become "less autistic" is not a truth.  Some people would argue the point, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.  I know my son.  I know what we have tried.  I know what works for him.  If a change in diet makes a miraculous change in your child - God bless ya!  But don't get on a rant and tell me that I am a bad mother for not "curing" my son's autism through diet & supplements.

9. I am a woman.  I am more than a mother to an autistic child.  I can talk about subjects other than just the autism.  I homeschool Little Miss, I am a voracious reader when given a chance, I enjoy gardening, quilting, crocheting, and scrapbooking.  I love doing photography.  I have been known to play a guitar, organ, and drums as well as have written songs and poetry.  I spent 26 years researching genealogies, teaching others how as well as researching others' genealogies as an income resource.  I love the outdoors and being around water but the thought of being in a boat terrifies me.  I was a truck driver.  When my husband and I first got together, we drove as a team for a trucking company up until I was about 6 months pregnant with Little Miss.  I grew up a trucker's kid and went to it as a job after my 1st marriage ended.  I loved the job and having that time with my husband.  I miss it still at times, but am happy to be home with the kids now.

10.  I am a woman of faith.  I converted and was baptized into a Christian faith 5 years ago after a time as a pagan.  Even before the baptism, I always had faith in a Higher Power.  I knew that there was more to life than what we see on the surface.  I saw the majesty of the Lord's creation and His hand in what goes on around us long before my conversion.  Now, I find peace in my faith.  I see Pookie's autism as a perceived weakness (in the world's view) that can be turned into a strength that the Lord can use to show His grace and blessing.  I know that the Lord has a purpose for Pookie as he is.  The Lord may not of caused Pookie's autism, but the Lord is powerful enough to use it as a testimony of what a person can do in spite of being autistic with the Lord's blessing.  The Lord can use any negative and turn in into a positive.  I already am seeing in through Pookie.  I see glimpses of the Lord's blessing in his life.  Those precious moments when Pookie suddenly makes progress in his development.  Yes, we go through the 3 steps forward, 1 step back routine in his development.  Each time however, the progress made is more than before.  Slow and steady, he is progressing.  This doesn't mean that I am always strong and never have times of discouragement.  I believe there is a reason why people have always attended their church.  It is to fellowship and uplift each other.  Unfortunately, I haven't found a church locally where I can take Pookie.  Either the acoustics cause meltdowns or they don't know how to manage an autistic child.  The church we attend when we are able to is a 90-mile drive (one way) from our home.  With fuel costs, that is not something we can do very much. 

Much of the above are things I would not normally blog about.  That article inspired me however.  It made me stop and think about the many misconceptions that people can have about the parent of a special needs child.  We are more than the caretaker.  We are individuals with hopes and dreams.  We have many facets to our lives.  Sadly, many only see the caretaker.  We are so much more than that. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Activity Bag Swapping

It has sure been a fun time here.  I signed up for a long distance Activity Bag swap for preschool age kids.  The swap is being coordinated by another Momma on the message board for the Activity Bags website.  The one that I was assigned to make was a dry-erase activity to teach the writing of letters and numbers.  I made 10 of the activity bags and once they coordinator swaps them all out and mails them back, I will have 10 different preschool level activities.  On a facebook group, I am signed up to participate in a one-to-one swap for something similar.  Activity bags are based on the e-books that the website sells.  They are also known as "Busy Bags" which is a generic term for the same thing, but made using any activity that would teach or reinforce a skill.

These bags are a great way to reinforce skills.  Some of them are just plain fun too!  One that I am looking forward to making is the "Find & Seek" bottle.  You add to a clean, dry 20 ounce bottle about 20-30 small objects such as decorative beads, buttons, charms, decorative erasers, or any tiny toy like you may find at a dollar store.  Then fill the bottle 3/4 full with colored tiny beads, multi colored fish tank gravel, rice, or other small filler.  Shake the bottle well to distribute the objects into the filler.  The child then gets to turn the bottle and try to find each of the items you put in.  A really fun bottle project would be to make themed ones such as alphabets, animals, shapes, buttons, etc.  If you child loves dinosaurs, find small dinosaurs to add to a bottle.  The idea is to make it something that your child would enjoy going to again and again.  You can use any type of clear plastic bottle.  Some single serving juice bottles have a wider opening at the kid and can handle larger objects being added.  Use a good adhesive to glue the lid on so that a curious child cannot twist off the lid, spilling out the contents. 

With summer vacation approaching in a few months, it may be fun to put together some busy bags for car trips.  Though in thinking about it, these would be fun for any trip away from home with little ones who need to be entertained.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Canning BBQ Beef

I had a brainstorm while at the grocery store last week. I bought some
roast beef at the deli counter and had it very thinly sliced. I brought
it home and added BBQ sauce to it and canned it in pint size jars for
beloved to take on the truck with him next trip out. After seeing how
fast and easy it was to do, I am now looking at other ideas. BBQ sliced
turkey or shredded chicken are a couple of options. Another that I am
considering is sweet & sour chicken or beef for him to have over rice.

In a half-pint jar, there is enough BBQ meat to serve over rice or
potatoes. A pint jar is enough for a couple of nice meaty sandwiches.
I am going through my meat recipes and seeing what ones can be converted
into a canning recipe. I think my beloved is going to be getting more
variety this spring.

Monday, March 12, 2012

He Is Risen Garden

The kids and I are working on a fun project in preparation for the
Easter season. I first saw this idea on a homeschool group that I am
on. If you want to do it with your children, you need to start soon.

The garden is a large saucer such as the type you would put under a
flower pot. You fill it with soil and lay a small flower pot on it's
side in the soil. Pile more soil on top of the pot to form a hill,
keeping the open end of the pot exposed. The soil is generously
sprinkled with grass seed. A large rock is placed along side of the
open end of the flower pot. This is the stone in front of the empty
tomb. On the hill, behind the flower pot, you place 3 small twig
crosses. Spritz the seed covered soil with water from a spray bottle
several times a day to keep the soil damp. Place in a sunny window. It
takes about 2 weeks for the grass seed to grow. When finished, you have
a nice little garden scene with a grass covered hill, with 3 crosses,
and the empty tomb in the foreground.

The kids and I are doing this as a part of our devotions in preparations
of the Easter season. May the idea be one to bless your family as well.

New Homeschool Adventure

On Monday, I placed an order for a new curriculum for the kids.   Yes, I said the kids as in plural!  Little Miss has been working through the Rod & Staff materials, but I can see much problem that Little Man will have.  One big problem is that it is all workbook/text book based.  It may be years before Little Man will be ready for that.  So, what to do in the meantime?  I saw how Little Miss has learned to read, but not through phonics.  She memorizes the words (which is important) but struggles with blending letter sounds.  This is a big issue for me.  I see it as a problem caused by not having gone through a kindergarten curriculum.  Unfortunately, Rod & Staff has preschool, then jumps straight into 1st grade.  They do not offer a kindergarten level.

After much prayer, I am stepping back from the Rod & Staff curriculum and switching to My Father's World.  I will include the worksheets that are appropriate to use up what we have already purchased.  Little Miss will also be doing the Rod & Staff math that she has been doing well in.  My Father's World is a unit study curriculum.  We are beginning with the Kindergarten level.  This will given Little Miss the chance to review the phonics that she had missed and develop a stronger foundation in it.  Along with Little Miss, our 6 yr old grandson will be doing the curriculum with her.  Of course, Little Man will be taking part wherever possible. 

In the autumn, after they have finished the curriculum, Little Miss and grandson will be starting the My Father's World 1st grade curriculum together.  At that time, I will begin working on the Kindergarten program with Little Man.  Unlike the 1st time through with Little Miss, he will be exposed to more of it on a level that he can handle.  The plan is to use it as Little Man's Pre-K and Kindergarten curriculum.  This is not unusual for kids with learning delays.  By the time he has gone through it twice, he will have a good foundation being put into place.

Little Miss and grandson are very excited about the new curriculum.  It will be here in a couple of weeks.  One of the parts that they are liking the most is that they will be doing the same work together.  Both kids love to be read to and this curricula is very heavy on reading.  Yet another plus for us!  I am at peace with this decision.  My eldest daughter is happy about it also.  She is looking forward to it almost as much as her son is. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Little Miss Earned Her 1st Awards

Yippee!!! Daddy came home on Sunday afternoon. It is always a fun time
when Daddy gets home. My husband and I made the decision before the
school year began that on days he was home from work, the kids would
have time off from homeschooling also. It was a great decision to
make. As excited as the kids become with Daddy home from the road, they
would have a hard time focusing on their schoolwork anyways.

After dinner, I brought out the 4 awards that Little Miss had earned in
the Little Keepers at Home program. Over the past couple of months, she
has been working on the phonics portion of the ABC's academic skill.
She had already learned to say and write her ABC's but I wanted to be
sure she understood their sounds. The second skill she worked on was
Decoupage. She used the decoupage technique to make holiday gifts last
December. That was one of her most fun projects. She really enjoyed
making them. The third skill was Cookie Baking. At the holidays and
since then, Little Miss has been helping me to make cookies. At her
age, I have to do the actual baking to prevent her getting a burn. She
is able to do the mixing of the ingredients and putting the dough onto
the baking sheets. We did take a minor shortcut in the baking part. I
always try to have parchment paper on hand to line the baking sheet
with. I am then able to simply slide the parchment paper full of baked
cookies off the sheet and onto a cooling rack. This helps also to
prevent her from getting burned due to a hot pan. The last area that
she worked on was a health unit on Keeping Clean. We talked about good
personal hygiene and why it is important. Having learned it during a
time of year when colds are going around was especially timely. She was
able to manage going through the season without getting sick, even
though exposed to others with colds.

Daddy was really pleased with her efforts. He made quite a production
out of awarding her the pins. I haven't made her banner yet to display
them on, which is a good thing. We decided to make her a vest with her
helping to sew it. This will give her another skill area to work on.
She has been wanting to learn to sew something. Letting her help sew
her vest will make a nice project. I already have a pattern. It is
very simple and does not require button holes. I have a couple of ideas
for closures, but will wait and let her help choose them.

I am finding that Little Miss, while very much an outdoors type of girl,
is also a very dainty girlie-girl. She is so cute to watch. One day
she is wearing bib overalls, playing in the mud with her brother and
nephew. The next day she can be found wanting to wear a dress and do
the more dainty things. I love it! I hope that she always knows that
being a lady doesn't have to mean always being "girlie" but means far
more. I believe it to be an attitude more than anything. Of course,
this is coming from a Mom who used to drive trucks for a living.

Afternoon Tea

Little Miss and I are greatly enjoying our tea times. typically, we
will have tea in the afternoon while Little Man in resting or taking his
nap. This has led us to talking about the tradition of having tea in
England. I have tried looking up information about it in library books,
but have been disappointed to find that the interpretations of
"Afternoon Tea & High Tea" in America differ from one author to
another. Unfortunately, many of these same authors say that they
learned about the English tea customs when living in England.

This has led me to questions about the custom of the more British style
of tea. What is the true difference between the afternoon tea and high
tea? One resource said that scones, light tea sandwiches, and pastries
are served at a High Tea, while another said that these were served at
an Afternoon Tea. I am sure that to some, it may not matter. I am
wanting to teach my daughter the custom however. In her Keepers at Home
program there is an optional award for hosting a tea party. Since we
are not doing the Keepers program as a group, but as a family, I am
wanting to alter the suggested activities a bit. I want to teach my
daughter the difference between an Afternoon Tea and a High Tea. With
the amount of enjoyment that she gets from our tea times, I know that
she would enjoy helping put together both types of tea for our family.
Who knows? We may even begin adopting the custom in our own family.

I would love to hear about the Afternoon and High tea from anyone who
has a knowledge of them. Maybe even share a recipe? Here is a recipe
that we use for scones. We love them and the recipe is easy enough that
Little Miss is able to do much of the putting it together.

Banana-Chocolate Buttermilk Scones

2.5 cups of all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp.baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
3/4 cup chopped bananas
1/2 cup chocolate chunks

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking
soda, and salt. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until
mixture is very crumbly. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk
and egg. Pour into flour mixture. Stir with a fork until the mixture
is completely moistened and you have a soft slightly lumpy dough.
Gently fold in the chopped banana and chocolate.

Lightly flour your hands and press dough into a ball. On a floured
surface gently knead the dough about 10 times. Do not be tempted to
knead more than this. If you overly knead the dough and the bits of
butter melt, the scones will not be light and flaky.

Pat the dough into a circle about 8 inches diameter. Using a sharp
knife, cut the circle into 8 wedges. Place the wedges onto the
parchment paper. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

*** I have made these without the bananas and chocolate. You can make
them plain or substitute your own favorite fruits and nuts. Just keep
the ratio to about the same as those given. Dried apple pieces with a
bit of cinnamon is good. You can take the dried apple pieces and toss
them in a little bowl of cinnamon - brown sugar before stirring them
into the dough.

This recipe doesn't make a lot of scones, but that is what we like.
Scones always taste best to us if they are fresh from the oven.