a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How I Became a House Witch and. . .other confessions

Apparently I am on a roll (theme-wise) so I guess-----
If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy
I'll just keep on rolling . . .                          

I use to attempt to keep our home spotless. 

On the few occasions I was able to come close to that goal---
 it was because we were having company. 

Then logic would rear its ugly head and speak to me, "since it is in this near perfect condition, with everything in its place, there is no reason for it to become messy ever again. All it will take is 
for everyone  to put things back in their proper places when they are through using them."

It may work for some, but not me, or my family.  When I tried to keep our home spotless I became the stereotypical wicked witch!  And . . .
It wasn't worth it!

Confession: I thought the kids were the main problem. The last one moved out 18 years ago and guess what?

I've probably already said this: 
needs, and more often what-I-thought-were-needs, change over the years.

When I was first married I used to iron everything. When our first two were toddlers I even ironed their undershirts!

Confession: I "progressed" to the 'Askit Basket' where a piece of clothing got ironed when it was asked for. And then, every six months or so I would go through and remove those that no longer fit.

I was thrilled when synthetic no-iron clothes came on the scene. Later, when 100 percent cotton was again in vogue I accepted it when our, then older sons, assured me that the cotton was suppose to be worn wrinkled.

Recently a good friend introduced me to the hair straightening tool as the perfect pocket, front placket, and collar touch-er-upper. Hers is even leopard print!

Have priorities changed in our kitchen and other areas of our home?
I used to arrange the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies artistically in a wonderful huge apothecary jar. Honest.

Confession: Now I eat half the cookie dough before it is baked! And serve the rest directly from the wire cooling rack!


Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better 
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind.
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.
                               ---author unknown

Oops! I can't figure out why this part suddenly has a white background, and I can't find a way to change it. 

          We named our dust bunnies and Dave and I had competitions to see if we could hang a thread from a cobweb without breaking it.
           Our first door ornament was a framed semi-official looking document "Notice: the dust in this home is a protective covering. You may touch it if necessary but please don't write in it. Thank you, The Management. Since we never dusted it we forgot about it even being there until we would answer the door---coming face-to-face with a laughing stranger.

Just recently I read a gentler, kinder and more positive spin on accumulating dust:

Remember, a house becomes a home when you can write "I love you" on the furniture.

Along the way we have established priorities----individually, as a couple, and as a family. We never thought of them in such a formal way but that's basically what they were. 

Wednesday I'll tell you about some of them.

Until then, I am still Simply, Gail

Friday, November 18, 2011

Come out of the Phone Booth

True or False: Telephones were originally attached to the wall and you had to stay right next to it when you wanted to talk to someone.

True or False: Telephone booths were little public enclosures on street corners and outside of gas stations----allowing privacy when you wanted to make a phone call away from home.  You have probably seen them if you have ever watched an old black and white suspense movie.

True or False: In make-believe, a phone booth is where meek and mild, normal citizen Clark Kent went to  transform into Superman.

True or False: Later, with women's equality and all, along came Superwoman.

I can't remember what enclosure she ducked into to go from ordinary to extraordinary but I do remember she, also was make-believe!

I started on this semi-diatribe in yesterday's post. I continue today because I don't want you to have to spend years of your life trying to live up to a comic book character!

For a few years I lived by the motto "It's better to reach for the stars and miss---than aim for the mud and hit it!" I'm not sure how to define what it did for me but it did speak to me.

It is important to have goals----realistic ones. Ones that are realistic for each of us individually ---- and not what some program or magazine---or whoever/whatever tells us what we can and should do.

In spite of what the clock says, I content we do not all have the same 24 hours!
As I have probably said before, I am bothered by the common phrase "Time? You have as much as anybody." That is not true! Circumstances are such that in spite of what the clock says, we do not all have the same 24 hours! Physical conditions, illnesses, commitments and responsibilities all affect us and the speed at which we accomplish.

Walking a fine line
At the same time, we must not let our limits become crutches and excuses. It can be a very fine line between knowing our limits and having proper priorities, and making excuses for our lack of progress. We need to know our personal line and be very careful not to abuse it.

Our commonality
While hopefully you agree with the above, I hope you will also agree that what we do have in common is the ability to improve our productivity. I used to hate to wash dishes so I put them off. My mom hated to wash the dishes so she did them immediately after each meal.

If I time unpleasant tasks and see how few minutes they actually take, I am much more willing to tackle them immediately. For example: our medicine cabinet needed reorganizing and I dreaded doing it. When I decided I couldn't put it off any longer I decided to time how long it took. It only took 12 minutes to clean and reorganize it. I was encouraged.

When experiencing a low-achievement day and still having much to do, I have pretended I would have visitors in 30 minutes. That's motivation! Better than a visitor panic attack, however, is basic planning so time can be used more effectively.

If you ever read women's magazines, or even just the covers when you are waiting in a check-out line, you will usually find headlines or articles on how to gain control quickly:

  • Shape up your body in just 30 minutes a day---
  • Have perfect nails in just 15 minutes per day---
  • A spotless home in just 45 minutes per day---
  • on and on, so on and so forth, etc., etc. ..... 

The article's author might even recommend you stay up a few minutes later each night or get up a few minutes earlier each morning to accomplish the goal they are pushing and you say, "Yes! I can do that!"

If you incorporate many of those plans you could soon find yourself going to bed just a few minutes before it is time to get up!

Let's Get Real!
Judge yourself by your goals---stretch yourself within your ability to stretch. Again, I am not saying that you should be content with things as they are----rather asking that you be realistic in what you can do and how much you can do.

If you sew, think of all the different types of elastics and their different abilities. One is not good or bad, rather each has its purpose. We, also, all stretch differently and probably need to stretch differently at various seasons of our lives. To very loosely paraphrase Robert Browning, "when the fight begins within herself, a woman is worth something."

Stretch within your capabilities but don't stretch so tight you snap!  That hurts.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

              One time, when our six children were still young, I taught five classes and workshops 
              on four different  subjects within a six-week period of time. Each was a class on various 
              aspects of efficiency and making-do.

             Those attending the classes probably thought I was one of those super women who 
              had it all together.
What they were seeing and hearing me present was the ideal----
not the real!

They didn't know that at the very moment I was taking a phone call request to teach one of those classes I was digging out a bottle of moldy beets from the back of the frig as a visual aid for Heidi's school project (and no---I had not let them mold for that purpose).  I do use pint and quart bottles in my cupboards and refrigerator for storing leftovers because they are efficient---tall and slender, not taking up much room ---and clear so I can see the leftovers disintegrate and then feel it is okay to throw them away.)

They didn't see the soup and sandwich dinner my husband had to make for the family that night; they didn't see the piles of dirty laundry; and they didn't see the condition of the home I left to come to each the class.

If we are human we compare ourselves ourselves with others. A mistake! Usually our comparison takes place when we see others at their best and we are feeling at our worst.

If we must compare ourselves, we need to compare aspects of ourself with other aspects of ourself. What do we do well? 
What is our most productive time? 
What are our motivators? 
What drags us down and slows us up?  
Where do we need help? 

Once we have done that we have some realistic things to begin working with. We have the whole picture, the good and the bad, and we can begin looking for ways to improve. Realistic improvement---little ways, simple goals. 

Think about it, any forward movement is made one step at a time. Trying to take continuous giant steps will just wear you out and discourage you.

It is easy to slip and slide, and we all do that. When it happens just start taking forward steps once again. One of the hardest things to master is self, and self-mastery is a continuous program---a journey, not a single leap. 

Perseverance is carrying out a project or chore once the enthusiasm is gone!

More than likely, if you will only admit it, your husband and your children already think you are the most wonderful wife and mother there is. You know they have good judgment that can be trusted; so don't be so hard on yourself. Proverbs 31:10-31 has always been one of my favorite Bible scriptures: ". . . for her price is far above rubies."

And did you know that rubies, according to a magazine article I read, are priced above diamonds? My goal is to be as the ruby, to strive to reach my full potential. But in the process I need to remember that, like diamonds, rubies do not happen all at once. A ruby is the product of heat, time---and pressure.

Lots of each!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#5 What If . . . WHEAT -- when the grocery shelves are empty!

This Tuesday and Thursday series of posts is to help you prepare for the time when the grocery store shelves may be empty---something that can happen quickly even if there is just the potential for some type of emergency. Please check out all the others under the "What If. . .?" heading, especially the post on water---the absolute essential for sustaining life.

Also, please consider making these "storage" items a part of your everyday life---giving you peace of mind while saving you money!

Opps! I got my days mixed up. This should have been Thursday's post.

WHEAT is considered the most basic of all food storage items. When stored correctly, wheat will keep almost indefinitely (it is said that edible wheat has been found in the tombs of Egypt), and it is very nutritious. Eight ounces of wheat provides 30 grams of protein, over 1 milligram of thiamin, 8 milligrams of niacin, 6 milligrams of iron, some riboflavin and other nutrients. It can be easily prepared in a wide variety of dishes---from breakfast cereals to bread to main courses to dessert.

Wheat Terms
Berries: This is the wheat kernel itself. The kernel or berry can be "dissected" as follows--
  • Bran: The outer covering of the wheat, made up of four layers, rich in minerals, protein, and vitamin B.
  • Wheat Germ: The small area of the kernel in which new life is located and which will, under proper conditions, germinate. The wheat germ is rich in vitamin B complex, vitamin E, and also protein, fat and mineral matter. Calcium for bone and teeth is also supplied from these two parts of the wheat.
  • Endosperm: the bulk of the kernel, where cellulose, starch and gluten are abundant. It contains no vitamins and very little mineral substance. White flour is made principally from the endosperm.
Bulgar: The term used for wheat kernels that have been softened by soaking or steaming, and then dried.
Cracked Wheat: Wheat that has been ground with the grinding stones not as close together as for flour, creating a coarser product---often used for cooked cereal and as an additional fiber source in "nutty" breads.

Chew Whole Wheat Berries! 
Pop a small handful into your mouth and chew it. After a while the sandy bran will be gone and you will be left with a "chewing gum."

Types of Wheat and Flour
Hard red or white varieties are best for bread-making.
Soft red or white varieties are better for making pastries and crackers.

Hard red wheat and hard white wheat are the most common options for long-term storage. They contain similar amounts of protein and fiber but they differ in color and taste. Hard red wheat, reddish in color, has a stronger, nuttier flavor and makes delicious bread. Hard white, golden color, has a more subtle flavor  that is easily disguised in baked goods.

To substitute  White Whole Wheat Flour for other flours use the the following guidelines:
1 cup white whole wheat flour = 1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup + 1 T. white whole wheat flour = 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup + 1 T white whole wheat flour - 1 cup regular whole wheat flour

Whole Wheat Flour -- this flour, made by grinding whole grain wheat kernels, includes the grain's nutrient-rich bran and germ. Nutritionally speaking, whole wheat flour is superior to refined flour. Sadly , many people grew up eating refined baked goods and find whole grain products too heavy for their taste. A good way to learn to enjoy whole grain flours is to use part whole wheat and part unbleached flour in recipes, gradually increasing the amount of whole wheat.

While whole wheat berries store for years, ground whole wheat flour loses nutrients and can become rancid quickly. It is recommended that if you grind your own whole wheat that you grind one week's worth of flour at a time and keep it in the refrigerator.

Wheat in Realistic Terms
You can buy wheat in # 10 cans (gallon size), 40 or 50 pound buckets or 100 hundred pound bags. A #10 can of wheat weighs 6 pounds, equals 14 cups of wheat, and grinds to about 21 cups of flour.

One  #10 can of wheat will provide the flour necessary to make:
  • 7 large loaves of raised bread
  • 10-12 loaves of "quick" bread (banana, pumpkin, zucchini, etc.)
  • 10 batches of pancakes (15 4-inch pancakes per batch)
  • 10 batches of biscuits
  • 10 batches of chocolate chip cookies
Blender Wheat Berry Pancakes
1 cup wheat berries, uncooked
1-1/2 cups milk (or 1/4 cup non-instant or 1/2 cup instant powdered milk and 1cup + 1/2 cup water)
1 egg
3 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 T oil
Combine wheat berries and milk (or milk powder and water) in blender. Blend on high for one minute. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour pancake batter onto hot greased griddle or large frying pan, cooking until bubbles pop and create holes. Flip pancakes to finish cooking.

Wheat Berry Batter Bread
2-1/4 cups regular all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 packet (2-1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 cup wheat berries that have been cooked until tender and drained
1 cup warm water or liquid drained from cooking the wheat berries
cornmeal for coating bread pan
1 T. melted butter or margarine

Cook and drain the wheat berries, saving the liquid if desired. Set both aside. Combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, gradually beat in the warm water. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes or until dough is very elastic. Add wheat berries. With mixer at low speed, gradually beat in remaining 3/4 cup flour---the dough should be very soft and elastic. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Stir dough down with a wooden spoon. Grease 4x8 inch loaf pan and coat with cornmeal; tap pan to shake out excess. Spoon dough into pan. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean and the crust is well-browned. Remove from pan. Place on rack to cool. Brush top with melted butter.

Wheat Chili
Soak 2 cups wheat berries, in enough water to allow for expansion, overnight. Drain. Brown 1 pound ground beef* and one medium chopped onion. Combine the drained wheat and the meat mixture in a crock pot. Add:
one quart or one 28-ounce can tomatoes
1/2 cup catsup
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
a little bit of brown sugar to taste
additional tomato sauce or tomato paste, if needed for desired consistency
Cook in crock pot for about 12 hours.
*may use beef-flavored TVP (textured vegetable protein) in place of ground beef. TVP does not have to be browned.

'til we meet again,
          Simply, Gail

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#4 What If. . . Eating the Elephant

     This store could be YOUR store faster than would ever seem possible --- even when there is just a possibility of a disaster. I will be posting ways to prepare for that eventuality on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
     If you are new to this blog, please go to the What If . . .? posting category and become acquainted with the postings there. This series on foods to sustain you and your family when a need arises starts with an introduction and then each will be numbered, best to be read in order. Previous posts in this category include emergency water, lighting and waste disposal.
Photo from http://preparednesspro.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/empty-grocery-shelves.jpg.

Another approach to stocking your cupboards


The Same Way You Identify What You Already Have On Hand

Bite by bite or piece by piece ---- or cupboard by cupboard!

Any food you have sitting on a shelf or in the freezer is food storage! See, you have already started! It will be  very helpful to know exactly what you already have. You can identify what you have, all at once if you so choose, or easier and less-overwhelming---- a "bite" at a time. 

Using sheets of paper or a notebook or whatever method you choose, begin to make lists of what you have on hand: staples, canned goods, packaged items, pastas. . . 

While you are doing that, you may want to make note of items that may have an outdated use-by date and move them to the front. Don't discard any of them out unless the cans are bulging, leaking or otherwise obviously beyond use. If I don't provide it before you need it, there is much information on line regarding use by dates----for now, understand most are basically attempts to get you to discard the older and buy newer. 

You will probably be surprised by how much you already have, and you may be surprised to find some of the things you had forgotten you have. This inventory lets you start where you are so you can efficiently go forward.

Later, on future posts, suggestions will be given on organizing, keeping track of, and rotating your storage.

Getting Started!

1. Compile a list of the main dishes that your family eats on a regular basis. If you have a family, you might prefer to give each person a sheet of paper and have each list their favorite regular every day main dishes. 
(When our kids were at home I tried to include something from each of their lists each week.) 

2. From those suggestions, select 7 main dishes that would lend themselves to storage items. 

3. On a sheet of paper, list the main dishes down the left hand side, and make two columns across the top: Main Meal Menus for a Week / All Ingredients for this Meal.

4. Using the Menu/Ingredients lists, make a shopping list for just these 7 meals.

5. When you go shopping, buy at least one item from your 7-meal-shopping-list, or if possible the ingredients for one meal from your list. And there, as simply as that, your storage program as begun.

Keeping it Going!
Continue this process each time you go grocery shopping, gradually increasing your supply until you have 12 weeks worth of main meals. You will use these items on a regular basis, but the idea is to keep replacing what you use so that you always have a three month supply on hand. 

Whenever possible, also buy a non-food item each shopping trip. This will allow you to stock up on those items and allow you to wait to replace them when they are on sale.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Letting Go Takes Love

To let go does not mean to stop caring, it means I can't do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off, it's the realization I can't control another.

To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go  is not to try to change or blame another, it's to make the most of myself.

To let go is not to care for, but to care about.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their destinies.

To let go is not to be protective, it's to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny, but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.

To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.

To let go and to let God, is to find peace.

Remember: The time to love is short.

----author unknown