Friday, January 29, 2010


If you're interested in improving your domestic skills at all - well, then...Kendra at New Life On A Homestead has a great give away for you! 

Franklin Springs is giving eight of Kendra's readers each a DVD from their series of Homestead Blessings DVDs.  Titles to choose from include; The Art of Gardening, The Art of Bread Making, The Art of Canning, The Art of Candle Making, The Art of Soap Making, The Art of Herbs, The Art of Cooking and The Art of Dairy Delights.  Now, that's a lot of information!

If you're interested in learning (or learning more) about any of the above topics then head on over to New Life On A Homestead to enter to win.

Happy Homemaking!

Monday, January 25, 2010


I have a weekly routine that I stick to pretty closely.  Friday is my shopping/errand day.  I am learning that after spending a full day out running, then putting away groceries - the last thing I want to do on Friday evening is spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning.  I used to solve this dilemma by either bringing fast food home or ordering a pizza.  I'm trying to stop this bad habit for 2 reasons; 1) to be a better steward of our finances, and 2) to be a better steward of our health.  This means I have to do some planning.  I need to have an arsenal of quick, simple recipes that I can pull off without much mess.  This Southwestern Bean Soup recipe has GOT to be the winner of all categories.




This soup is good and easy.  It's also good and easy.  :0)  It takes less than 5 minutes to throw it all together. 

When I got home from shopping Friday, I took a couple minutes to get my soup going, then I started putting away my groceries.  It was the ultimate in multi-tasking.  All I had to do to finish dinner was throw a quick salad together and heat up some French Baguette.  There were also plenty of left-overs - which leads me to my next topic...

I have been working on learning the art of cooking once and eating twice.  For instance, instead of sticking the soup in the fridge for left-overs, I divided into two different gallon sized freezer bags, labeled them with it's contents and the date and layed them flat in the freezer (once they had cooled down).  I now have 2 more quick meals just waiting to be re-heated. 

I did the same thing on Saturday.  Saturday was to be my baking day.  I knew that I wouldn't feel like messing with dinner after baking bread all day.  So, that morning I cooked up some hamburger and threw it in a crock-pot with some vegetables, broth and V-8 juice. 

I doubled my bread batches, which doesn't take any more effort than making a single batch.  So, by the time I had finished my 6 loaves of French Baguette and 2 loaves of Multi-grain Bread - dinner was ready and we had fresh baked bread to go with it. Mmmm... Just like with the Southwestern Bean Soup, I bagged up the left-overs and sent them to the freezer for future meals. 

I also made mostaccoli one night this week.  Instead of cooking 1/2 box of pasta - I cooked the whole box and doubled it.  Half of the finished meal got wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, labeled and sent to the freezer.

In three days of my regular cooking (aside from the bread, which I don't do every day) I was able to add 1 meal of mostaccoli and 5 soup meals to the freezer.  Plus, by spending 1 day making bread  I was able to have 2 weeks worth of a slicing loaf of bread (toast, sandwiches, etc.) and 5 loaves of French Baguette in the freezer. 

*A note on the soups; It's easy to make a large pot of soup by adding more veggies or what-have-you.  But, if you have a larger family and don't have enough left-overs to make a whole meal, simply freeze into individual sized portions.  This would be great to have on hand for snacks, or to heat in the morning and send in a Thermos to school or work. 

I'm learning that by changing the way I view left-overs and utilizing my time in the kitchen for maximum efficiency (batch cooking) - I'm able to save myself a lot of work in the long run and build up a stock pile of freezer meals for those days (like my Fridays) when I know that I won't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen making supper. 

I challenge you to start thinking about doubling your recipes sometimes when you're in the kitchen.  It will save you time down the road.

Happy Homemaking!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


As I am getting a little older and more familiar with my way around the kitchen I am discovering certain tools that I feel no kitchen should be without.  A really good knife is one of those tools.

When Chris and I first got married I got a set of knives that came in a plastic holder.  They are supposed to never need to be sharpenend.  I have used them for 14 years now.  They did the job OK (I did manage to keep us fed somehow.). But, they also aren't the easiest thing to chop a lot with without making my hand tired. 

When my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, I told her that I wanted a Santoku knife.  Being the good Mommy that she is - guess what I got?  Let me just say - I. LOVE. IT!  I does all the work for me without making my hand tired.  It cuts like buttah, I tell ya.  But, that also leads me to the next tool that no kitchen should be without.

Enter the knife sharpener... There are all different types of sharpeneners.  Find one that suits you.  My dad gave me this one.

This end has two V notches.  The knife gets run through each side of the notches, sharpening each side of the knife blades.  The other end has an attachment that is supposed to sharpen serrated knives. I haven't broken out my manual to see how to do that, though. 

The key that I'm finding with a good knife is that it needs to be sharpened frequently.  Like, I sharpen it every day.  A really sharp knife takes a lot of the work out of chopping.  It is also supposed to be safer to use than a dull knife. 

My Santoku is also very versatile.  I use it for everything from chopping veggies, to slicing bread (I've never had an actual bread knife), to cutting meat, to slicing my banana in the morning.  I won't say that it is the only knife needed in the kitchen.  But, I will say that if you could only own 3 knives - I'd make this one of them. 

I'm realizing that it is better to own a good quality piece that is very functional and versatile than to waste money on many little gadgets that take up lots of space and have only 1 purpose.  So, the next time you're in the market for a good, versatile knife - the Santoku is a good bet.

Happy Homemaking!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I cooked chicken and yellow rice for a crowd Sunday. My family has this thing about feeding people - you MUST have food left over when company leaves. If there's nothing left over then someone didn't get to eat his fill. That would make me a tragic hostess. Incidentally, I also married into a family with the same philosophy. So, as you can imagine, I had a lot of chicken left over. It got morphed into pulled chicken sandwiches for dinner last night.

This is so stinkin' easy - you don't even need a recipe for it. I based it off of my now-favorite roast recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking since my family isn't a huge fan of BBQ - unless it's Sonny's and we don't have those in these parts. Even if we could just buy the sauce here...sigh...

Here's what I did.

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

I took my already cooked chicken (you could also use left-over turkey) and broke it apart into my crock pot. Just put in the amount that you think your family will eat. Next, I opened a can of cranberry sauce with whole cranberries in it and added that to the pot. I also added 2 TBSP of soy sauce and about a tablespoon of dried onions. You could use some chopped onion, but I didn't have any in the freezer and was just way to lazy busy to chop any at that moment.

*When you get the ingredients into the pot you'll need to use your judgement on whether it looks wet enough for you or not. This isn't rocket science. If you've so much chicken in your pot that it looks very dry - then add more sauce mix. They key here is for every 1 can of cranberry sauce - add 2 TBSP of soy sauce and 1 TBSP of dried onion flakes. Very simple.

Since the meat is already cooked, you really just need to warm the sauce through. I put mine in the crock pot on low heat about 2:30 PM and we had dinner around 6:30 PM. I doubt it would need that much time if you didn't have it.

To serve, I brushed the insides of some whole wheat hamburger buns with a little bit of butter (you could use a mix of butter/olive oil) and toasted them in my iron skillet. Add a bit of Romaine lettuce and top with your pulled chicken and voila! A yummy and healthified sandwich.

I served with homemade fries (which are super easy to make).

Homemade Fries

This is a judgement thing again. Figure out how many potatoes you'll need by the size of your family. My Russet potatoes were pretty small, so I used 5 for our family of 3 and we had left-overs.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees while you begin cutting your potatoes.

Cut your potatoes in 1/2. Then cut each 1/2 in 1/2 again - making sure your cuts are parallel. (Sorry, no pictures.) You will have 4 layers of potatoes now. Flip them over and cut into strips as wide or narrow as you like. *I wash my potatoes but don't peel them. There is a lot of nutrients in the skin. But, you do what you like. You'll save a lot of time by not peeling them, though.

Toss your potato strips with a little bit of olive oil, enough to coat but not drown them. Lay them on your baking sheet(s) and roast at 450 degrees until done - flipping about 1/2 way through the cooking time. It took mine about 30 minutes.

Season with salt at the end. *When roasting any vegetable that you want to stay crispy don't add salt until towards the end. Salt draws the moisture out of the vegetable and will cause it to be soggy. You definitely don't want that with French fries.

My guys loved this meal and requested that we have it again. I like knowing that it isn't full of yucky preservatives and trans fats. We're baby stepping and this is an easy meal that is oh, so yummy that we didn't even miss the bad stuff. You won't either.

I'm linking this post up to Tasty Tuesday and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Happy Homemaking!

Friday, January 15, 2010


Grab a skillet!

Among many of the iron skillet's wonderful attributes is it's ability to infuse iron into your food, and therefore your diet. This is a good thing since it's obviously something that our bodies need, right? Just check out the vitamin and supplement aisle the next time you're at the grocery store.

I have two and use them all. the. time. I got the largest one first. After I had just turned 19, I was planning on moving out of state to go to school. I would be sharing an apartment with 4 other girlfriends and needed to acquire some things of my own to take with me. At this same time my cousin was getting married and he and his fiance were buying his grandmother's little house. She was moving out, but left a house full of decades worth of treasures behind. Richie and Lisa decided the best way to handle this was to have a yard sale.

As they were setting up for their sale, I went over to see if they had anything I could use. That's when I spotted it - a beautiful, old, perfectly seasoned iron skillet. I didn't think that Lisa knew the treasure that she was getting ready to let go of. So I told her. "Lisa, you don't want to get rid of this iron skillet. It's already seasoned and everything. They last forever." To which she replied, "I will NEVER cook with that thing. Just take it. You can have it." I couldn't believe what I just heard. My mind could not comprehend that someone would get rid of an iron skillet. It still can't. So, I have been using Granny Lula's iron skillet for the past 16 years and I don't know how long she used it or whether or not she inherited it as well. What I do know is that it has served me well.

Sometimes I don't need that large of a pan when I cook though. Enter the perfectly sized smaller skillet that I picked up at a barn sale a few years ago for just a few bucks. It was already seasoned as well.

The beauty of the iron skillet is that it only gets better with time and usage - unlike my other multiple sets of non-stick cookware that has repeatedly disappointed me with their false claims and "life-time guarantees". My iron skillets are sturdy, steady, faithful and true. With love and care these babies really do last a lifetime. Actually, a well-loved iron skillet will outlive us all.

If space is at a premium in your kitchen - this is the one pan to have. It can fry chicken, make pancakes, omelets, the best cornbread you'll ever eat, steak, home fries, gravy, biscuits and even dessert. It needs very little oil once it's seasoned well. And clean-up is a breeze.

I rarely ever use soap on my iron skillets. Soap can remove that precious seasoning that has taken a long time to acquire. A quick rub with a nylon scrubby under running water is all they really need. Sometimes, (like when I make cornbread) wiping them out with a dry paper towel is all that is necessary.

Occasionally they need to be re-seasoned. It's really very simple to do. Just wipe it down (inside and out) with a paper towel coated in oil. Give a generous coating. Then pop it in a 300 degree oven for 2 or 3 hours. Then wipe off the extra oil after it's cooled down. Seasoning a skillet gets oil into the pores of the iron, sealing it and giving it a smooth invisible coating.

If you spot one at a yard sale - grab it. Even if it is covered in rust and gunk it can be restored quite simply (as long as the metal isn't cracked). Just take some steel wool to it until the rust is removed and then re-season it several times. I do hope you'll rethink the practicality of an iron skillet and blow the dust off one that hasn't been cooked in for quite a while. It will serve you well and bless your body with the iron it needs in the process.

Happy Homemaking!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Monday, while I was baking a loaf of my multi-grain bread, I got a hair that was just wild enough to cause me to try my hand at making Parisienne Farmgirl's French Baguettes. This is a double batch - so, it makes 6 loaves of baguette.

My family loves French Baguette, but it can be a little pricey. I don't have a bakery anywhere close to me. So, the closest thing we got to the real thing was when I would buy the frozen La Brea Bakery loaves in the grocery store or Pillsbury's French bread in a tube. That's actually pretty good bread, BTW. I would always buy it on sale, but it's still not what I would consider cheap. I bought a bag of unbleached flour at Trader Joe's for less than 3 bucks and only used about 1/2 of it. Like I said, I got 6 loaves at about a buck fifty. Can't beat those prices. I'm sure other stores carry unbleached flour - that just happened to be where I was.

I actually enjoyed the process even though it took a long time. But, the largest portion of time was used up in waiting for the yeast to do it's thang. During all the waiting I was free to do other chores stuff. Here's how it went...

In a large bowl mix 8 cups of unbleached (organic if you can find it) flour and 1 TBSP. of salt. Divide up the flour/salt mixture and put half into another large bowl. It should be large enough for the dough to rise in.

Next, add 2 TBSP. of yeast to 4 cups of warm water. Let it set until bubbly. (My bowl isn't dirty. This is the "popcorn bowl" that we used when I was just a little girl. Those are burn marks. Now ain't that special?)

Once the yeast is proven (bubbly), add the water/yeast mix to 1/2 of the flour in the largest bowl.

Stir well. It will be soupy. Then cover and let it set for 3 hours in a warm area.

It will look like this after 3 hours.

Stir well. Then add the remaining flour and salt.

You're ready to knead at this point and it will look something like this.

Knead dough for 10 minutes, adding a little flour as needed. I have to admit - this part was fun. It smelled all yeasty (Is that a word?) and the way it handled was fabulous. I'm sure the kiddos would get a kick out of this part, too. It should be a pretty smooth ball by this time.

Now you can put your dough into a large bowl that has been coated with oil. Cover it with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with oil and let it rise for another hour. Go clean your toilette or eat bon bons and watch TV or something.

It's time to punch this bad daddy down and knead it again for another 10 minutes - don'tcha think?

Cut the dough into 6 portions and roll into a log about the size of a baking sheet. Cut a few shallow slits in the top and let set for another 10-20 minutes while you pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.

Fill an oven-proof bowl with water and put it in the bottom of your oven once it's pre-heated and you put your loaves in. (I had to cook mine in 2 batches. You want to make sure the air can circulate in there.) Bake for 15 minutes.

Take the bowl of water out and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like your crust. (I liked ours best at 10 minutes.)

Remove your French Baguettes from the oven and repeat the process with the next batch.

Mah-velous, Darling! Simply mah-velous!

Of course, we couldn't resist sampling a bite right away! Can someone say DELICIOUS? Mmm -Mmm -Momma! So good it'll make you want to slap your Grandma!

6 loaves of bread is a lot - but it's a smart way to bake. You see, I simply wrapped up what we wouldn't be eating the next day (in plastic wrap then aluminum foil) and stuck the rest in the freezer. When it's time to eat them I'll be able to unwrap them and re-heat in the oven on 325 degrees. Parisienne Farmgirl says they're even better re-heated. I haven't gotten that far, yet, though.

The verdict: This was a huge success with the men in my life! Not only is it delicious and cheap, but I know that my guys aren't getting any wacky preservatives that we can't pronounce. And, each loaf is baked with a big ol' heapin' helping of love. Awww! Now, tell me your gonna get THAT from the store!

So, if you're ever feelin' froggy and want to try your hand at baking bread - this is really very simple with only FIVE ingredients. French Baguette is great with soup, salad, just about any dinner you can think of - and it could easily be split and morphed into garlic bread. Don't be intimidated. You might even have fun!

Here's a recap.


8 c. unbleached organic (if you can find it) flour - and more as needed during kneading
2 TBSP. yeast
4 C. warm water
1 TBSP. salt


Combine warm water and yeast and let set until bubbly.

Mix flour and salt then divide equally into 2 bowls. Add the water/yeast to 1/2 of the flour in the largest bowl and stir to combine. Cover and let set for 3 hours.

Add the remaining flour mixture and knead for 10 minutes, adding a little more flour as needed. Place in a bowl that has been coated with oil. Cover with plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with oil. Let rise in a warm place for another hour.

Knead for 10 minutes. Begin to pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut dough into six portions and form into loaves the length of a baking sheet. Make a few shallow slits in the top of each loaf. Let set for 10-20 minutes while oven pre-heats.

Once oven is pre-heated - place one batch of bread (3 loaves) in the oven with a bowl of water on the bottom rack. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove water and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Repeat with second batch of baguette. Don't forget to add the water back in the oven for the second round of baking.

Freeze whatever won't be eaten right away. Re-heat in a 325 degree oven until warm.

Happy Homemaking!

P.S. I'm linking this post up to Works For Me Wednesday because making my own bread really does work for me!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I have begun implementing ideas from the FlyLady into my life schedule and it is really helping. For instance, yesterday, I spent the entire day in the kitchen and I was completely spent. By the time we had finished eating supper - the last thing I wanted to do was get in there and clean the kitchen (again). But I did. I knew that I would be thankful for it this morning. And I was. Very thankful. Establishing a routine is helping me to weigh the cause and effect of doing now versus doing later and thinking about the future outcome instead of just living in the moment.

I talked about getting on a routine of things that need to be done on a daily basis as far as cleaning goes in this post. Today, I want to talk about things that should be done weekly. Basically, there are 7 things that should be done weekly in the home - give or take. If you break each chore into 10 minute segments and set your timer to finish each one in that amount of time - it will take just over an hour to git 'er done. FlyLady calls this the Home Blessing Hour. You can do this however you like. Some people want to deal with it once a week and be done. That doesn't work for me. I spread my 7 across several days. Also, running the vacuum once a week isn't enough in my house, either. I supplement by sweeping with a broom in addition to the vacuum on another day or two (I don't have carpet).

Here is a breakdown of the 7 chores:
-vacuum or sweep just the middles, not around the walls
-mop kitchen and bathroom
-clean the glass in the doors and bathroom mirrors
-purge magazines
-empty trash cans (all)
-change bed sheets

It may seem strange to see that you aren't supposed to vacuum around the walls. That is because the house is also broken down into zones where you deep clean (little by little daily) when you are in that zone. I can't not vacuum the edges, though. Like I said earlier, I don't have carpet in my house. Therefore, dust bunnies and dog hair love to migrate to the edges of the room. So, it's all about tweaking and adjusting until you find a system that works for you.

The first time I set my timer for 10 minutes to dust I was very surprised. I had dusted everything from furniture to lamps to pictures on the wall and the dining room chandelier before the timer ever went off. Of course, I have a small house. But, it is really amazing how much you can accomplish in a short amount of time if you just get at it.

I'm still not perfect with system, but I'm getting much better. I'm finding that by simply striving for a goal gets me a whole lot farther than I used to get, even if I don't always make the finish line. I knew that things are getting better in this area when my MIL came over the other day and told me that my house looked pretty. Sadly, I hadn't heard that in a while.

So, if you're feeling like you need a little coaching where getting control over your house is concerned - let me encourage you to set some realistic goals, write them down and start somewhere. FlyLady is a great place to go for more inspiration, too.

Tomorrow I'll share my first experience with making French Baguette and the recipe I used.

Happy Homemaking!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


"The world makes a lot of demands on us. There's always something that needs to be done, someone we need to make time for, an item to pick up here and another to drop off there, traffic that tests our limits, friends and coworkers caught in dramas of their own, and often, at the end of the day, any number of to-dos and should-dos that already casting their shadow over tomorrow.

Your home should be a refuge from all that. The "shelter" in the food, clothing, and shelter equation means more than mere protection from wind and rain or a place to stow one's belongings. It also means shelter from the stresses of the greater world, a little oasis where we can relax, pursue our own interests, share time with those we love."

That is an excerpt from the book I am currently reading, "Country Living Simple Country Wisdom; 501 Old-Fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your Life". The focus of the title should be on the word IDEAS in the phrase Old-Fashioned Ideas, because what I have read so far is very relevant for today. It isn't old-fashioned information that wouldn't work for today at all. On the contrary there are many things in it's pages that will help to make life much simpler, even in today's world.

I just picked up the book from the library and am already about 1/3 of the way through it. I am looking forward to finishing it and implementing some of the ideas. There are chapters on; WHAT MAKES A WELCOMING HOME?, CLUTTER CONTROL, WHAT MEETS THE EYE, THE ELEMENTS OF CLEAN, THE TAO OF LAUNDRY, KITCHEN WISDOM, THE A-Z OF FOOD, BETTER LIVING THROUGH BAKING, IN THE GARDEN AND A GREENER LIFE.

If you're looking for a good manual to help with the ins and outs of making your home a refuge from the riggers of the world - "Country Living Simple Country Wisdom" would be a great place to look.

Happy Homemaking!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I have been using my own homemade herbal shampoo for a while now. I've experimented with a few different recipes. Did you know there is a whole movement called No Poo ? I kid you not! I can't say that I'm a part of that (When I hear the name I don't know whether to giggle or cringe!), but I don't like the idea of all the chemicals in store bought shampoo. So, I try to find a happy medium.

I found (and modified slightly) a version that really works for me at Parisienne Farmgirl. It's super simple to make and does absolute wonders for my hair! I love this stuff! Honestly, the difference in my hair when I shampoo with this versus the store-bought stuff is unbelievable.

You need some herbs. I had rosemary - so, that's what I used. Put it in a pot with 2 cups of water on low heat for 20 - 30 minutes. It makes the house smell divine!

Strain it into a bottle when it's done. I use a plastic water bottle with a sports cap. I wouldn't want to put anything glass into the shower, ya know? Next, I added 3/4 cup Castile Soap. Honestly, next time I'll cut that amount down to 1/2 cup because it's so sudsy. Then I finished filling my bottle up with water. That's it.

The original recipe calls for 2 cups of herbal water and 1 1/2 cups of Castile Soap. That's just too much soap for my liking. I think that a ratio of 1/2 cup soap to 3 cups herbal water would be just perfect.

The Castile Soap I have is peppermint scented. So the final product ended up being a heavenly combination of rosemary and mint. You could do whatever combination suits you. Also, the rosemary I used was the last of what I had. So, after I steeped it the first time - I put more water in the pot with the rosemary and steeped it again for about a half hour. Then I strained it into a canning jar and refrigerated it. I'll have enough for another batch of shampoo when I need it.

My hair is much shinier, full and manageable with this herbal shampoo. I also do a cider vinegar rinse before I condition. If you have any herbs hanging around that you don't know what to do with - or if you just don't know what to do with your hair - you should really give this a try. I'm hooked.

Happy Homemaking!

Friday, January 8, 2010


Probably one of the most important parts of homekeeping is keeping the people that live in the home healthy. This time of year, especially, sinus infections seem to be lurking around every corner. No family seems to be immune.

I have a terrible history with sinus infections. Growing up, I didn't even have to make a trip to the pediatrician for him to call me in an antibiotic due to my history. Then, there were the times I would try to self-medicate with an over-the-counter pill so I wouldn't have to pump anymore of those antibiotics into my system than absolutely necessary. Once, I accidentally overdosed on Actifed. Usually, I would take 2 Sudafed, but Actifed only required 1 pill. I took 2 on an empty stomach. Then I went to church. That made for a re-heal-ly exciting evening. We'll just leave it at that. Anyhoo...before we moved to Florida my sinus infections would almost instantaneously turn into bronchitis. I didn't get them quite as often while we lived in the Sunshine State. But, the minute I would head north I was in for a doozy.

During my time in Florida I started to hear about sinus flushing. I couldn't find the neti pots that you were supposed to use to do this. So, I improvised and used salt water and a nasal aspirator. It wasn't the greatest approach - but, it helped. Nowadays, you can find neti pots almost anywhere.

They come in a kit with saline packets and the neti pot itself. These things are a God-send!

It reminds me of an Aladdin lamp. It is so easy to use that my husband (who would not use the nasal aspirator) and nine year old son use it regularly.

The refill packets are cheap. I think this box of 100 cost me $9.99.

Dr. Oz (and about every other doctor out there now) recommends flushing your sinuses to stay healthy. They say that all sickness starts in the sinuses and then progresses to the throat, the chest, yada, yada,yada... I received an e-mail recently regarding the Swine Flu virus. It said that the virus stays in the sinuses for something like 2 days before it germinates (or whatever viruses do). So, they said that if you flushed your sinuses daily, you wouldn't get the H1N1 virus. I don't have medical facts supporting my next thought - but it seems to me that the same thing would be true for any flu bug flying around.

I am convinced that we have been spared at least one trip to the doctor for antibiotics this year to get rid of a sinus infection, and probably more. My husband likes to sleep with a fan. But, it can't be pointed at his head or he will wake up with a sinus infection. This seems weird to me - but after 14 years of marriage, I don't even try to understand it anymore. I just know that's how it works for him. About a month or so ago - the fan got moved and he woke up with those burning sinuses. So, he flushed them before he went to work. By the time he came home, they weren't burning anymore. He continued to flush them morning and night for the next couple of days. By the 2nd or 3rd day he was completely over it. No trip to the doctor required. Let me just say, that was a first.

The box says that this is so safe that you can safely flush your sinuses up to 20 times a day. I can't possible imagine needing to do it that many times. But, hey, whatever.

It may seem like a strange thing to do if you've never flushed your sinuses before. But, truly, it's quick, easy and painless. My nine year old flushes his all by himself. And, $.10 per pack of saline seems like a cheap price to pay to keep my family healthy. I hope you consider flushing your sinuses the next time an infection comes knocking on your door.

Happy Homekeeping!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Yesterday I had said that I would share my system for cleaning the bathroom. I didn't get to it, so, sorry. Mother Nature threw a curve ball and my weekly routine was interrupted. We are being hit hard with snow and hubby suggested that I do our grocery shopping yesterday instead of tomorrow because there is a good chance I won't be able to get out. And, just in case you're ever snowed in - food is a good thing to have on hand. :0) So, here it is - a day late.

The bathroom has always been a major nemesis for me. I HATED to clean the bathroom. Now, it's a breeze thanks to my new simple FlyLady system. I clean it every day. Yep. Every day. The funny thing is, it is much easier than it sounds because this keeps hard water stains and soap scum from building up - thus, making it take longer.

As you can see, my bathroom is dinky. You can shut the door while you're sitting on the toilette. But, I still have a cabinet in there behind the open door. I now keep a roll of paper towels in the cabinet - along with a spray bottle I bought for a buck at Dollar General filled with nothing other than straight rubbing alcohol. It's a cheap, all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant. These two items never leave my bathroom.

Every morning once I'm finished applying my make-up and fixing my hair I get out my roll of paper towels and bottle of alcohol. First, I spray the mirror and wipe it down. Then, I spray the sink and wipe it down. Next, I take that paper towel that is already damp with alcohol and wipe the toilette handle and grab any stray hairs that have fallen on the toilette. (Sometimes, I think I shed worse than my dog!) By this time that paper towel is pretty well finished, so I grab a new one. But first, I dump a glob of shampoo (use could use body wash, hand soap or anything you have on hand) into the toilette bowl and give it a quick swish with the toilette bowl brush. Soap is soap, right? Lastly, I spray down the commode with alcohol and wipe it in this order; top of tank, seat lid, top of seat, underside of seat, rim and finally the bottom where the bolts are located.

This takes me all of a minute and I keep a clean bathroom - even while sharing it with two guys. I never get stressed over having to clean it. And, when company drops by, I'm never embarrassed.

The worst monster in the bathroom for me used to be the shower. I admit, I've had to compromise here. Every since my son was hospitalized for asthma, I have been on a mission to rid our home of chemicals. But, something about scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing the shower while I was twisted into weird, pretzel-like positions was rather unappealing to me. So, I just didn't do it very often. Don't judge - I'm just being honest, here. My compromise is in the cleaner I use. Every Tuesday, I spray the shower down with a Scrubbing Bubbles type cleaner, crack the bathroom window a few inches (even when it's 18 degrees outside) and shut the bathroom door. I tell my kiddo not to go in there until I'm done with the shower. I let it set for 10 minutes, then I hit it with the scrub brush I leave in the shower and rinse. The cleaner does most of the work for me. If it's not perfectly clean -well, that's OK. It's better than it was before, right? Consistently cleaning it every week makes is consistently cleaner. By the time I'm done, the smell has pretty much dissipated so, I can shut the window and open the door.

I would like to get to place where I can use a green cleaner for the shower again. But, I need to find one that doesn't require contortionistic flexibility. For now, I know I need to work on developing the routine of consistency. I'm sure I'll branch out again and try to clean it with something different. But, I believe that life is about give and take. We do the best that we can do and constantly strive to do better. For me, a clean shower with a chemical is better than a scuzzy shower with no chemicals.

So, there you have it. My easy peasy approach to a clean bathroom; clean the shower weekly and wipe down everything else daily. It takes all of a minute and a half, and I don't have to go hunt down cleaners because they stay in the bathroom. I hope you consider giving this approach a try. I think you'll be glad you did!

Happy Homemaking!

P.S. Tomorrow I'll share my favorite remedy for staying healthy this season. It works like a charm!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting Control Over the House

I have stayed in a state of "overwhelmed" where my house is concerned for quite some time now. I don't like that feeling. You know, the one where you're already behind before your feet ever hit the floor - and you can never quite seem to get caught up? I hate living there.

Back several years ago when we sold our home in Florida to move back to Hoosier-land, I didn't have that problem. My house stayed pretty clean. Actually, when the appraiser came to look at it he told me that it was the cleanest house he had ever seen. Then he repeated that sentiment to the realtor, the people buying our house and their lawyer. I, personally, found that quite humorous - I never considered myself an immaculate housekeeper. But, the house was usually presentable.

I have found myself wondering "What happened?" too often lately. Not only am I homeschooling now, but, our current home is very small. You would think that a small home would be easier to keep clean. I'm finding the opposite to be true. Space is at a minimum, so clutter wants to creep out of control. That makes me almost claustrophobic. I HAD to do something about this. So, I have decided to change my address. I don't want to live in that place anymore.

I am finally finding a system that works for me. It's not perfect yet. I doubt it ever will be. This is real life, after all. And, sometimes life gets messy. But, it's getting better. Much better. I feel like I can take a deep breath again. If you find yourself suffocated by your own home, that place that is supposed to be your refuge - read on. I'll share what's working for me.

Have you ever heard of the FlyLady ? I have recently become a "flybaby" and it's making a difference for me. Basically, you sign up for her free e-mails and she baby-steps you through getting a routine going. Basically, every task is broken down. There are things you do each day. There are things you do each week. And, things you do each month. The house is broken down into zones. If you miss something, it's OK, that zone will come around again. Hang with me a minute and I'll show you what my Control Journal looks like.

At first, the e-mails can be a little overwhelming. Not only do you receive a daily e-mail with the current "mission of the day", but, there are testimonials, updates and things like that. The key is to not let it overwhelm you. I quickly learned that I don't have time to read all of the testimonials. So, if I don't have time that day - I simply check the boxes of all that aren't necessary for me and I hit delete before I even open them. I have also found that at the beginning of the week an e-mail comes out with the entire weeks "mission of the day" on it. I simply print that e-mail out and hang it on my fridge. That way I know at glance what I need to do every day of that week. It also means that there is one less e-mail I need to look at each day. The key is to find out what works for you.

The biggest change that has happened for me in the few weeks since I have been flying has been the change in my attitude. I was almost paralyzed by the mountain in front of me, so I did nothing. I now realize that something is better than nothing and I am beginning to eat that elephant one bite at a time. It's amazing what simply moving in the right direction can do for you.

One of the main things about "flying" is creating your Control Journal. I resisted this for weeks. That was dumb on my part. I'm still working on creating it - but that's OK. I'm moving in the right direction. You can make your journal as simple or elaborate as you like - just be warned; don't get caught up in perfectionism and not do it at all. Some people use a 3-ring binder and clear sheet protectors. I simply used a one subject notebook that I bought for a dime before school. It's what I had on hand. Let me just apologize here for the crappy pictures. But, you can at least get the idea.

The Control Journal sits on my counter where I can refer to it as I need throughout the day. It has sections. And, I wrote in pencil in case I see that I need to tweak something that isn't working for me. It's personal, so don't be afraid to make it as such. My schedule is different than yours. That means what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. That's OK.

There is a before bed routine. Doing a few things at night can make the next morning go a whole. lot. smoother. Trust me.

I was a classic example of the person who didn't usually do dishes at night, but waited 'till the next morning. Don't judge. And don't hate me because I'm beautiful. My hubby works hours where he usually conks out pretty early. After dinner we like to spend family time together and by the time dishes were done there was a good chance he'd be asleep. I chose my family over a clean kitchen. But...I'm finding that since I go ahead and clean up after dinner - my hubby is helping put things back in the fridge and helping me DO the dishes. That way, I get done faster AND we still have time together in the evenings. I didn't even have to ask for his help. He just jumped in all on his own. Man, what a bonus! When I wake up to a clean kitchen I feel so much better.

There is also a morning routine. I know some of this stuff probably seems self-explanatory. But, there really is something to having it written down in front of you. It's easy to get distracted and not get anything done. There used to be many days when my bed went unmade. Now, as soon as we crawl out of bed in the morning - me and my man make her up. Not only does it go quicker with the two of making it, but I sleep better at night because the sheets don't end up getting all twisted. They're smoothed and tucked every morning eliminating the problem. Also, making sure that I'm dressed to my shoes and make-up. It's mental, but it works. One of the most beneficial things in my morning routine has been to clean my bathroom every day. It's not as bad as it sounds. I'll go into detail about it tomorrow.

Another section in my Control Journal is my weekly schedule. These are things that are done regularly on each day of the week. For example, because Friday is my errand and shopping day, Thursday is the day that I make out my weekly menu and grocery list. And since my trash runs on Tuesday mornings, Monday is the day I clean out the fridge of anything that needs to be trashed. It keeps me from finding out Tuesday afternoon that the last handful of lettuce is nasty and is going to have to sit in the trash can (or fridge) for another whole week.

I'll get into the cleaning routine part that works for me in another post. In the meantime, if you're not already "flying" but are interested in finding out more about it - you can go check out the FlyLady for yourself and see if it might be something that can help you like it's helped me and so many others to get back on track.

Happy Homemaking!

Monday, January 4, 2010


For my first official post on this new blog I thought I'd share how to make homemade bread. I am feeling the need to get more nutrition into our food lately, as well as learn the art of making things from scratch that I have taken for granted by buying from the store my whole life. I was really intimidated by the whole process when I began looking for recipes to try my hand at. I found a no-knead beer bread to try thinking that would be an easy way to start. That was a disaster both times I tried. This bread, however, is very easy. And the satisfaction of doing it myself is priceless. Plus, my guys really love it! Let's get started, shall we?

Start with 1 1/4 c. very warm (not hot) water in a bowl. Add 1/3 c. sugar and 1 TBSP. yeast. Stir, then let set 5 - 10 min. until the yeast is proven by becoming bubbly. If it's not - throw it out and try a new batch. Better to waste 10 minutes and 3 ingredients than to ruin a whole loaf of bread. I didn't get a picture of the proven yeast (bad blogger!) but you'll see it in a minute in the flour.
While your waiting on your yeast to activate get out a big bowl and add 2 3/4 c. flour. You can add it how you like. White flour will give you white bread (duh!). All whole wheat flour will give you a dense wheat bread. You can also do a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of white/wheat. Whatever - this recipe is very forgiving. I have been doing it a little differently. Because I want to infuse more nutrition into the bread - I have been grinding up flax seeds and oats in a coffee grinder to make flour to mix into the bread.

The ratio I used for this loaf of bread was; 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 c. ground flax seeds, 1/2 c. ground oats and 3/4 c. white flour.
You will also need to add 1/4 c. vital wheat gluten (found in the baking aisle), 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. baking powder and 2 TBSP. dry milk.

This is what my dry ingredients looked like. Mix these all together and make a well in the center.

Add 1 TBSP. melted butter and 1 TBSP. vinegar.

By now your yeast should be nice and frothy. Add it to the well with the butter and vinegar. You can see how foamy mine got in the picture above.

Mix all of this together until you have a sticky ball of dough. Lightly flour your clean, dry counter or board and dump the dough out on it. Begin to knead it for 8 - 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. Don't skimp on the kneading time - it is vital to develop the gluten strands so you get a nice loaf of bread.
You could do this in your stand mixer. I prefer to do it by hand. I find that I can tell better how much flour to add by handling the dough myself. But, you do it how you prefer. Tomato, tomahto... I also find it kind of therapeutic. Call me weird, I know...

By the time your 10 minutes are up you should have a nice ball of dough. See the difference a few minutes can make?

Now, pour about 1 tsp. of olive oil in the bottom of your bowl and put your ball of dough in there and roll it around to cover the ball in oil - lightly please. :0) You'll also want to cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with PAM. If your house is cold - do the plastic wrap.
Since it's frickin' cold outside right now I have a hard time keeping the house warm enough to get a good rise out of my dough. An easy remedy is to turn my oven on about 225 - 250 degrees and set my bowl on the stove top. It's just warm enough to give me a good rise without cooking my bread.

Let the dough rise until it's doubled in size. This will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the temperature. I probably let this go a little longer than double but, it didn't make a difference.
Punch the dough down and knead for 2 more minutes. Roll it into a cigar shape and dampen the log with cold water. This will give you a nice crust. You can also roll the log in nuts, seeds or oats to get some more nutrition in there and make it pretty. I rolled mine in oats. It's what I had.

Now you're ready to place the dough into a lightly sprayed loaf pan for the final rise. Don't forget to cover it back up with your plastic wrap. Just use the same piece you did before. Let it rise until it's about an inch or so above your pan. This will take anywhere from another 30 minutes to an hour.
When it looks like it's getting close to the height you want it to be for the oven - go ahead and and raise the oven temp to 425 degrees.

Yeah, Baby! It's ready for the oven. A little side note here; you want a hot oven for your bread to get a good rise. I first tried recipes that said to bake at 350 degrees. That did not work for me. The inside stayed doughy while the outside got too dark. Upon further research I found that most recipes call for a 450 - 500 degree oven for 10 minutes and then drop the temp down to 400 degrees. I have a glass loaf pan, though, that can only go in an oven up to 425 degrees. So, I compromise.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then, without open the oven drop the temperature down to 395 degrees for 15 minutes longer. Mmmmm...smell that heavenly aroma?
Check for doneness by tapping on the bottom of the loaf. It should give you a hollow sound. I now know what that sounds like because of my first doughy loaves.

If you have an ounce of will power, let it cool completely before slicing. If you don't - grab some butter and dig in!

This is delicious fresh from the oven slathered in butter. But, if you want to use it for sandwiches or toast, it slices sooo much better once it's completely cooled.
I want to encourage to give making bread from scratch a try. It's not a lot of hands on time for the process. Most of the time involved is waiting - waiting for the bread to rise, waiting the bread to bake. You will want to wait to do this until you have a morning or an evening when you'll be home, though. I get a lot accomplished during those waiting sessions. Or, you can eat bon bons and watch your shows while you're waiting. Whatever... My point is - the flavor, nutrition and satisfaction from a home baked loaf of bread just can't be beat! Your family will hug you and squeeze you and kiss you all over for it!
Happy Homemaking!
*Update: I baked another loaf of bread yesterday and completely eliminated the white flour. With the addition of ground flax seeds and oats - it was still very soft. Also, I replaced the sugar with raw honey to activate the yeast and it worked perfectly. Now, not only does not have the bad sugar - it has the benefits that raw honey adds.

Also, the vital wheat gluten can be eliminated with this amount of good kneading.