Friday, January 23, 2015

What To Make and Do with Lemons ~ Citrus Series

"The Lemon.—This fruit is supposed to be a native of the North of India, although it is grown in nearly all sub-tropical climates. In general, the fruit is very acid, but in a variety known as the sweet lemon, or bergamot (said to be a hybrid of the orange and lemon), the juice is sweet. The sour lemon is highly valued for its antiscorbutic properties, and is largely employed as a flavoring ingredient in culinary preparations, and in making a popular refreshing beverage."
~ Mrs. E.E. Kellogg, Science in the Kitchen, 1893

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Homeschooling When People Know You're Home ~ A Tragic but True Tale of My Mediocre Beginnings

{I am a bit embarrassed to share this but do so in hopes that it will encourage others.}

For a lot of family members and friends, it is hard for them to realize that your “let’s-go-get-coffee-on-the-spot" schedule must be altered. Or, perhaps you were like me in the beginning and you were the culprit. I flirted with the two life-styles. I was a homeschooling mother when there wasn’t anything else to do on the social calendar!

Tupperware parties, baby showers of old friends (I’m sure I can come up with their names if I really tried!) and occasional invitations to Starbucks (Just how many “times” does it take to call something occasional?) were beginning to overpower the days I spent at home with my child. Then, I would get frustrated when I didn't finish all those neat projects I had planned for our school. The house certainly wasn’t cleaning itself and the dinners were getting skimpier by the meal. By the end of the day I was tired, wiped out and grumpy from trying to get it all done. Could I really home educate? The answer is yes, if I truly dedicated myself to our home and our school!

Help from Your Husband

I wish I could say I was the mastermind in the area of reducing, but it was truly my husband who helped me to crop and chop my calendar of events. I can tend to be the “I don’t want to hurt their feelings by not going person” while my husband helped me to realize that the family God gave me were the ones that were getting hurt. The impatient mother and snappy wife were teaching something, but not the skills I had in mind! It was time to show my dedication to my family and my home.

Prioritize Your Calendar

Yes, there are times when a baby shower is in order (the key here is “close” family and friends) or a jaunt to a coffee shop to do some catching up. Consider Saturdays when father is home to bond with the children or when a friend is really in “need”. As far as the “product” parties go, you can politely call the hostess and say you made a commitment to homeschooling your children that you take seriously but would be glad for a catalog. She will be just as pleased (and maybe even impressed). Perhaps you can limit some of your social activities to once of month and give grandmother some special bonding time with the grandchildren on that day. The bottom line is that your home schedule should dominate your social calendar.

Telephone Time

Maybe you are already in tune with this simple philosophy and it’s not the running around that is draining you but the constant telephone calls. That was my second problem once we faced the first problem. (Yes, I am a slow learner.) We would be in the middle of a craft with paint all over my hands and sure enough the phone would ring. Of course, I would run like a maniac trying to answer it (Isn’t there something about “curiosity killing the cat”?) with my elbows (which I assure you wasn’t what the Creator had in mind as their function) only to find it was a telemarketer or perhaps as it was this time, someone who wanted to see “what’s new” in my life. As I politely begin to “chit-chat”, I notice paint dripping down my skirt onto my carpet and “frustrated” mother is officially on the loose again! I ask my friend if I can call her back in a few hours since I am in the middle of a project. “Oh no!” she answers, “I’ll be at work by then and can’t be disturbed there.” Finally, a light goes on in my head. This homeschool is my work and I shouldn’t be disturbed either.

Take Charge of Your Hours

Yes, dear ladies, the answer is that easy. If you have an answering machine you can simply leave the following message and you will feel liberated by the second! “Thank you for calling the ________ residence, we are not able to answer the phone right now but will return most calls after 2 o’clock”.  We usually finish up “formal” schooling by noon (I say “formal” because our children are learning all day long!) but I include lunch and clean up in the time mentioned so that I can get everything in order before someone expects a phone call returned. Perhaps you will say 3 or 4 o’clock. The basic idea is to leave your self completely available to your homeschooling whims during the day.

Time to Appreciate Time

Let us be honest with ourselves, everything goes smoother when mother is home ruling the roost. When you have more control of the laundry, organization of your home and management of your meals. That is the recipe for a smooth, homeschooling day. You will have more patience to teach that math problem, administer to those cuts and bruises, and hush any quarreling with the children.

Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of”. A homeschooling mother can think in the same terms, “Do not squander time for that is the stuff homeschooling is made of.” And when you have surrendered your schedule to your family, blessings will abound. You will reap what you sow (Galations 6)!

Other Tips to Simplify Your Homeschooling Days

Homemaking Helps for the Homeschooling Mother

Feeling Like You are Getting Nowhere? ~ A True Homeschool Story of Encouragement

For free Unit Studies, Charlotte Mason Ideas and Homeschool Helps, Visit Here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Art of Home-Making Mondays ~ Please Join Us ~ Link Up #36

“I was privileged, in the spring, to visit in a home that was to me – and I am sure to the occupants – a little bit of Heaven. There was beauty there. There was a keen appreciation of the finer things of life, and an atmosphere in which it was impossible to keep from thinking of God.

The room was bright and white and clean, as well as cozy. There were many windows. Flowers were blooming in pots and vases, adding their fragrance and beauty. Books lined one wall – good books – inspiring and instructive – good books – good friends. Three bird cages hung in the brightness and color of this beautiful sanctuary, and the songsters voiced their appreciation by singing as if their little throats would burst. 

Nature’s music, nature’s beauty – nature’s peace… It seemed to me a kind of Paradise that had wandered down, an enchanted oasis – home.”

~ Peter Marshall, Written by Catherine Marshall, from A Man Called Peter
There are so many wonderful features in the making of a home. This is a place where I would love for you to share your love for anything home-related. Homemaking, homeschooling and homesteading are all a part of the lovely art of home-making!

~~Please link up posts in the spirit of Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 (such as recipes, godly encouragement, DIY's, frugal living, child-raising, medicine making, preparedness, gardening, home decoration, school lessons, crafts, etc).~~ You are welcome to share as many posts as you like!

* Today we are featuring our favorite 5 posts from Last Week *

{I would love for you to choose at least one of these hand-picked posts and leave some comment love!}

1. Heart of Home {a poem on the blessings of home} by Simplicity & Domesticity ~  Libby shared a sweet poem of home which paints the picture of my homemaking vision. She also includes a lovely printable for a reminder! Also, if you have older daughters at home, this blog would be a blessing. 

2. January: Now is the Time to Prep the Garden by Mom Prepares ~ This is a helpful post to jump start your spring garden. You may also want to print this list out and add it to your Gardening Journal (just place it in your "January" section and begin)!

3. Creating a Budget: 3 Simple Steps by Logger's Wife ~ For those of you who desire to budget but don't know where to start, Julie shares three simple steps to start taking better control of your finances.

4. Choc-o-Nut Salted Caramel Cookies by The Joyful Widow ~ Sorry if this mention is going to break any resolutions but the salted caramel truly got my attention. With a cold glass of raw goat's milk, I can claim some protein while indulging in a few (don't you think?).

5. Complete Guide to a No-Side Effect Medicine Cabinet by Deep Roots at Home ~ Jacqueline shares an amazing list of no-side effect items for almost every occasion to help you build up a natural medicine cabinet! While you are there, you will also be inspired by the amazing gift she is planning for her husband!

Noteworthy News:

Mom's Morning Coffee is currently hosting an "about page" link up which I found to be very fun! Perhaps you would like to join in? Here was *our quirky entry* in case any of you are curious about the author of this little blog :)


On to this week! For the sake of our readers, please link up appropriate and wholesome home-related articles and leave out any giveaways, advertisements, etc. Thank you for understanding! I can't wait to see what you all have to share! 

Please copy the button below (html code is in box below it) and share on your blog post or side-bar so others can come and join in the link up as well!

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

Friday, January 16, 2015

How to Make a Medicinal Oil {Plus Printable} ~ Home Pharmacy Series

{Before we continue further in our Home Pharmacy Series, a simple tutorial on medicinal oils would be in order so that the "how-to-make-a-medicinal-oil" information doesn't need to be repeated each time we share about a specific herb.}

Making medicinal oils are easy and fun because there is so much you can do with them! It doesn't require any "real" work, just mix together some herbs in some good quality oil. Depending on the herbs and oils used, you may enjoy a sweet smelling concoction for luxurious massage oils and lavish body oils. Or, you can prepare medicinal oils to sooth various ailments depending on the plant used.  You can also use your herb infused oil as a base for making handmade lotions, creams, moisturizing bars, balms and salves.

You can use either dried herbs or fresh for this project (I prefer using dried when available as you know the water content has been removed). However if you choose to use fresh, it is recommended to fresh-wilt your herbs first to remove excess moisture from your oil. Here is how herbalist Rosemary Gladstar explains it:

"When I make oils from fresh herbs, before adding the herbs to the oil, I usually freshwilt them: I place them on a basket or screen in a single layer, in a warm area out of direct sunlight, and let them wilt for several hours. They’re ready when they look limp. Fresh wilting allows some of the moisture to evaporate, so there’s less chance of spoilage."

Two Methods to Prepare a Medicinal Oil:

There are two methods to making your medicine oils. The solar infusion is my favorite as it only requires a clean jar filled with herbs and oil which you place in a warm, sunny area (you can cover oil with a light cloth if you want to avoid direct sunlight). This seems to me to be a natural and gentle way to create an herbal oil. However, when in a rush, you can always prepare a batch quickly using the stove top. Both methods are described below.

Type of Oils to Use:

You will want to use a high quality vegetable oil. Keep in mind that olive and coconut oil are both highly medicinal while boasting longer-lasting shelf lives (about 1 year). Almond oil is also a nice choice for more cosmetic purposes since it doesn't have a strong aroma and absorbs quickly. Jojoba is also lovely as it mimics our own moisturizing sebum and therefore works wonders for dry and chapped skin. Just keep in mind the shelf lives of your oils first so that you use your product up before it becomes rancid. 

Note: Cooking oils such as "vegetable" oil, canola oil and corn oil are not recommended.

To Make a Solar Infusion {my preference}:

1.  Gather your fresh or dried herbs (make some or buy some). If using fresh herbs, fresh-wilt them first as shared above and place them in a clean jar.

2.  Cover herbs by at least 1-2 inches with oil making sure they are completely submerged the entire time (with this in mind, the more herbs you use, the more medicinal oil you will produce).

3.  Screw lid on firmly. Let the mixture steep in a warm, sunny spot for 2 - 3 weeks (you can cover oil with a light cloth if you want to avoid direct sunlight).

4.  When the time is up, strain the solids through a fine cheesecloth or a piece of thin cotton/muslin to remove all particles. I found that double straining with a second time through cotton works best.

5. Pour into a clean, dry jar or bottle (we often reuse the glass bottle our oil comes in) and label with the name and date.

Quick Maceration Method:

1.  Place your herbs and oil in a pan (making sure to fresh-wilt the fresh herbs as described above). For better results, use a double boiler.

2.  Cook at a low heat for 20 - 30 minutes (you don't want burnt herbs or oil so be careful that it is gentle).

3.  When the time is up, strain the solids through a fine cheesecloth or a piece of thin cotton/muslin to remove all particles. I found that double straining with a second time through cotton works best.

4. When the oil has cooled off, pour into a clean, dry jar or bottle (we often reuse the glass bottle our oil comes in) and label with the name and date.

Double Strength Infused Oil:

To make your infusion double strength, add another batch of herbs to your finished (and strained) oil and repeat the process one more time.

Optional: Medicinal and Aromatic Additives

You can also add 10 drops of your favorite essential oil to every cup of your infused oil to give it a stronger potency of medicinal benefits and a longer shelf life.

How to Store, Maintain and Print Directions with Labels:

Store oil in a cool, dark area (like your pantry) for 6 - 12 months (or until oil seems "off").

If you notice condensation on the inside of your lid, wipe with a clean and dry cloth immediately (your herbs may have had too much moisture in them when preparing this).

We are also sharing some printable instructions and labels for your herbal {to learn what an herbal is and to make your own, visit here}. Simply download from the menu link below, save and print.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified herbalist but a homemaker interested in the arts of natural healing. The information I have learned has been gleaned through study of some of the following favorite books; Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's GuideGrow Your Own Drugs by James Wong, and The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs by Reader's Digest and websites of herbalists (such as the Bulk Herb Store Blog).

I am not a doctor. While I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use, remember that using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others. Also, if you have a medical condition, are taking pharmaceutical drugs, or are pregnant, please consult your physician prior to taking herbs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How We Blanch, Freeze and Like to Eat Broccoli {Stumps & All}

It's been many years since I had such an exemplary vegetable.”

We had a bountiful crop of broccoli this year! The excess flowers were prepared for freezer storage. Being a no waste advocate, I was excited to see how my freezer stash increased by shredding all the broccoli stumps and placing them separately in smaller sized baggies. I couldn't think of tossing those home-grown beauties and you don't realize how much the stumps add up! These I have been including in homemade vegetables soups, pasta sauces and layered in lasagnas.

To properly freeze broccoli (most vegetables in fact), you need to blanch them. This helps to retain flavor, color and texture (though I didn't bother with the stumps since they would be thrown into soups and sauces where the quality didn't need to be top notch). 

The first step is to thoroughly wash your produce. I added a few drops of grapefruit seed extract in the water to kill any undesirables. I also separated the flowers from the stumps reserving the stumps to be processed later.

The second step would be to blanch your broccoli. This can be done in two ways, by submerging in boiling water for three minutes or by steaming for five minutes. I chose to steam this time in order to preserve more of the nutritional qualities.  

Once the broccoli has finished steaming, immediately plunge into an ice water bath for three minutes. This stops the cooking process. (You will notice some of our broccoli was starting to go to seed when we picked it as we had a sudden heat spell but it still tasted great!)

Once the time is complete, place your broccoli in a colander in order to remove excess water. Though not mandatory, I also follow this with a journey in the salad spinner for additional water extraction.

Place in freezer bags and freeze (sorry I forget to take photos at this point). Make sure you remove as much air as possible from the inside of the bag. This can be accomplished by sealing your baggie and leaving a tiny corner open. Place a straw inside the opening and suck out any extra air. Quickly seal and store.

If you want to be able to access customized amounts of broccoli for different recipes, place your final product (blanched and cooled as shared above) of broccoli in a single layer on a cookie sheet and flash freeze them. Once frozen you can put these in a plastic freezer container and scoop out the individual pieces as needed.

Now on to the stumps. Once they were nice and clean, we shredded them. As mentioned earlier, we didn't bother blanching these first as they would be added to soups and sauces so perfect quality wasn't necessary and time was more important to me at that moment.

The shredder attachment on my Bosch mixer made easy work of this little project! I have heard of these kitchen tools being referred to as the maidservants for the modern Proverbs 31 woman. I must say I agree! 

Of course, I had to label the baggies that the shredded stumps would be placed into. Just a note to write on your labels before adhering to slippery plastic! You could see I struggled with writing at that point.

As with the broccoli flowers, you want to remove all air from the freezer bag. I like to flatten down the contents in the bags so that they will stack nicely in the freezer like little office files. 

We ended up with eight full baggies (2 cups each) of the shredded stumps which will supplement many meals nicely! The fun part is to put all your homegrown produce in the freezer for those "rainy days". So very convenient for the cook!

Some of our favorite ways to prepare broccoli is steamed with assorted vegetables and drizzled with garlic infused olive oil, a dash of butter, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Lemon Broccoli Bowtie Pasta (photo above) is also a favorite. Don't forget about cream of broccoli soup. A tasty summer dish is to add the blanched broccoli into pasta salads (our favorite recipe is shared below).

Favorite Summer Pasta Salad {with Blanched Broccoli}

Toss together the following:
  • 1 bag of cooked and cooled rotini pasta (you can also use whole grain pasta)
  • 1/3 bottle of Salad Supreme Seasoning (Size 2.62 ounce)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped red onion
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 can of sliced olives (use basic black or green marinated ones for different flavors)
  • 1 basket of cherry tomatoes cut in half or a few garden fresh diced tomatoes
  • 2 - 3 cups of blanched broccoli flowers
  • Italian Dressing (according to taste, about a cup or more)
Serve chilled. You can always add more or different veggies to this than the amounts specified. The more raw ingredients the better (and healthier). This makes for a tasty lunch or is a wonderful side dish to grilled meats, etc.

Another dish we like to serve is White Bean Broccoli Alfredo. Simply prepare the pasta of your choice (our favorite is the brown rice spaghetti from Trader Joe's). Sprinkle pasta with a liberal amount of steamed broccoli followed by a generous serving of white bean Alfredo sauce (recipe follows and adapted slightly from the Prudent Homemaker).

White Bean Alfredo Sauce

Blend together the following:
  • 2 cups cooked white beans (I use my pint jars of canned butter beans)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups of cream
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)
  • ground pepper to taste
Cook blended ingredients in a small saucepan until heated through and starting to bubble. Keep stirring so that it doesn't burn. I like to prepare this sauce over the traditional Alfredo for the extra protein that the beans offer.

Did you plant broccoli this year? Perhaps you stocked up at a Farmer's Market? And finally, what do you do with the stumps?

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