or, "You're a full time homemaker? What do you do all day long?"

Sunday, November 27, 2011

For All You Carb Lovers Out There...Stop By Sometime!

A great resource for bread machine owners
     Despite losing almost sixty pounds in the last year and being super busy with family and school, I have not forsaken my culinary first love: bread-making!I found this fabulous book at the library (it didn't take me long to order my own copy from Amazon) and, along with my marvelous bread machine, have been savoring every delicious bite of home-baked, nutritious bread. I've been experimenting and trying all sorts of recipes. I still grind my wheat berries in my bread grinder and mix the freshly ground whole wheat into my bread recipes. I am experimenting with how much gluten I need to give the bread adequate rise. I'm also endeavoring to add more whole wheat in gradually so that there is as much nutrition as I can pack in to each loaf of bread.
Super fantastic sourdough raisin bread-tangy and sweet!
     I've also started making sourdough starters as well. I have a delicious french buttermilk starter that I've made incredibly yummy loaves of bread with. My favorites are the sourdough pumpkin spice (pumpkin pack from my home grown pumpkins, no less), sourdough raisin, and just plain sourdough sandwich bread. That one is quite popular. I also really enjoy the spongy, tangy yogurt bread as well. Nothing short of superb! Tim especially favors the macademia nut oatmeal banana bread. It slices and toasts up fabulously as a breakfast bread. I add some peanut butter and a little honey and I am happily satisfied for hours. I have a friend who tried the whole wheat buttermilk bread and raved about it.
I highly recommend this for bridal registries-
start off right after all! It's a
Zojirushi bread maker that Sur La Table sells.
     My break maker is in use every day. That work horse is one of the best kitchen purchases I've ever made. I need to make on average 1 loaf every day or so for sandwich bread for lunches. Breakfast breads require an additional loaf every other day or so, unless I've bought cereal. Most of my younger girls prefer cereal to toast for breakfast, but I've tried to lessen our consumption of breakfast cereals. They are very quick and convenient, though. And, I figure, that leaves more yummy bread for me and Tim!
     There are so many more loaves of bread I will be trying. Perhaps some of these loaves will end up being Christmas gifts. It's fun experimenting!

A beautiful loaf completed, cooling, and ready to slice soon!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Operation Apricot Bounty (Thanks, Kit!)

     Last week I went to a friend's house to pick apricots off her tree while she and her family were camping (prior permission obtained, of course). Several of my girls and I arrived in her backyard armed with bags and apricot eagerness. We picked 50 pounds of apricots! No joke. Last week was How Many Things Can I Bake and Make With Apricots Week. It was an orange-y, sweet, juicy week of apricot delight. I'll let the pictures tell the story.
Let the apricot gathering begin!

Weight of first batch - total: 50 lbs!

Washing, sorting, composting, and separating to ripen some more

Carefully placing all the not-yet-ripe apricots in small bags to prevent rot, and on my dryer no less. (Do you notice the canning jars beneath? You can see where my domestic efforts are these days!)

Making many batches of jam in my breadmaker. Yes, folks, one of the most valuable kitchen appliances I've ever owned!

The first of many quart-sized bags of frozen apricots and  bags of frozen apricot juice (I'm going to use it later with 7-Up for a juice spritzer).

Apricot-Oatmeal bars (Never mind the crooked picture!)

Apricot puree used in the breads pictured below as an oil substitute

Apricot blueberry bread and chocolate apricot bread - super duper yummy!
     I also made apricot chicken which is not pictured. Can you tell I had fun with all those apricots last week? 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Keeping My Word + Beautifying My Yard=Making Hubby Happy

     Shortly after we moved into our new home over 7 years ago, I decided to rip out all the unexciting ground cover on the side of our front yard. I told my husband, who had a small coronary over it, "Oh, don't worry - I'll replant and landscape. It'll look great!" In my defense, I did do some planting and "stuff," and then I got pregnant - twice in 4 years, had a child diagnosed with a severe speech disability requiring years of intensive therapy, and some traumatic events that really derailed my energy, ambition, and time. Throughout the years, it became a source of contention and in some unsettling moments, it would come up. And rather unpleasantly, I might add.
     Until this last week. I had this crazy idea to weed the entire front area, plant some incredible sweet potato plants my brother-in-law gave me (thanks a literal bushel, Jerald!) and some big pumpkins. I also planned to put weed cloth, bark chips, and transplant some plants from other areas in my yard to that front area. Many hours later, an achy back, minor cuts and scratches on my arm, and a terribly neglected and messy house later, it was done. Tim was beside himself giddy that the weeds were gone (finally!), the area was cleaned up, and that he and I could now put some lovely plants in that area to fill it out.
      It was my Father's Day gift to him. I didn't get him a card, make a special meal, get him a gift, or even work too hard to encourage the girls to do something special (they had made him cards and gifts on their own). In fact, I was too tired! It was a very pleasant Father's Day indeed, however. With all of Tim's hard work and devotion to our family, he had this project coming to him. (And I was relieved to finally "make good" on my promise and get him off my back! Yes, I fess up to some ulterior motives!)
View # 1: before...
View #1: after...
View # 2 - a real mess!
View # 3 - much better! You see the black weed cloth that hasn't been totally covered up with bark chips - yet

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Operation Scary Garage

Before: View 1 - Unbelievable chaos 

Before: View 2 - You'd think a tornado had blown through here
     I had been praying about my scary garage for years. The piles of "stuff" all over that God-forsaken place were enough to send me to the funny farm. I would worry during my pregnancies that I would trip and fall over things on my way to the spare refrigerator we keep out there. Tim is not one to give anything away. He seems to have odd emotional attachments to all sorts of things. He's also been a math and science teacher for 20+ years and gets free textbooks from his school - boxes of them.   He has a hard time refusing anything of value that's FREE. So, I don't even bother trying to convince him to give stuff away anymore.
     He was away visiting his mother last week with our littlest, "underfoot" girls. This had been my opportunuity to get "down and dirty" with that desperately overcrowded and incredibly disorganized garage. I ended up organizing most of the garage and throwing away A LOT of trash. I also established structure and order within the garage. In each different area there needs more organization, but at least all of the tools are in one place and all of the text books are in another place. 
     It was back breaking, dirty work. My feet and arms ached at night. It was about 10 hours of solid moving, sorting, throwing away, and scavenging neighbors' trash cans for more room for my extra trash.  It was, however, incredibly gratifying! When Tim saw it he was amazed and happy that I had organized things well and cleared so much space out of the garage. When he saw all of his textbooks in one place, he mentioned the ones I could get rid of - unbelievable! I mentioned to him that I really wanted to park my car in the garage. After I get rid of a few more things that is a reality. Hello easy grocery unloading!
After: View 1 - my car is awaiting its new home

After: View 2 - large appliances awaiting removal soon

     The temptation before this vacation from my little ones, with hours of uninterrupted quiet time during the day, was to catch up on some "must see" movies, read a whole lot of  books, and take a leisurely trip to the Huntington Gardens or some other relaxing place. I could have totally justified it. But I felt God urging me on, This is what you've prayed for. This will give you far more rest in the future. The time has come NOW.
     Indeed it had come. Tim and I are ecstatic with the results and the peace and rest in my spirit has far exceeded the movies I'll eventually get to. And you know what? Elena and I had a fabulous adventure in Downtown the next day. We ate yummy dim sum in Chinatown, spent hours at the Central Library where I picked up, and read, a couple of wonderful books, and then had a leisurely lunch at the Bonaventure Hotel overlooking all of LA. It was a sweet reward for hard work done well. Thank you, Lord. Only you could've  prompted the willingness, stamina, and vision for that project. Now, we need to have a little chat about that basement....
All cleaned up and enjoying a wonderful lunch at the Bonaventure Hotel

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lovin' Low Cost Laundry Detergent

     Here it is folks- a fabulous recipe of low cost, environmentally-friendly, and EFFECTIVE ingredients for homemade laundry soap. I've been using this concotion of laundry items for several months now and have been very happy. I searched high and low for all these products and finally found them at my local ACE Hardware store and a little cheaper at my local Albertson's. 
     The Fels-Naptha (so hard to remember that funky name!) soap is simply remarkable at stain removal. This includes stains on white canvas shoes, paint on jeans, and various stains that just won't wash out with regular methods. I found this recipe on this super-cool blog Although I don't know the exact cost breakdown, the lady on this blog did it and found this laundry detergent to be much cheaper than regular store bought laundry detergent. (I'll take her word for it and spare myself the math minutia!) This detergent also works just fine with my top-loading washing machine that can only use low-sudsing detergent.
     The one minor downside to this recipe is that I need to use my cheese grater or food processer to shred the soap. The grater and processor parts wash out the soap just fine, however. I try to make a big batch at a time because I easily do about 8-10 loads of laundry a week. One upside to this recipe is that I've started using Borax for many of my cleaning chores. The list of uses on the box was so proific that I cut part of the box out and posted it near my cleaning supplies! I have been especially pleased with how excellent it is in washing dried food and liquid "crusties" off my kitchen table without having to use bleach-based products like Comet or Ajax. 
     These new- found products have given me more enthusiasm about my cleaning tasks. Whatever helps, I say!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Work of Understanding

Buy truth and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding. Proverbs 23:23
    Since this blog focuses on my "work" as a full-time homemaker, wife and mother of six kids, I thought I would describe a different kind of work I engage in. This post is not about vegetables, chairs, recipes, or organizing projects. It's focused on understanding the best ways to meet my children's spiritual, emotional, and educational needs. In reality,  this work is more important than feeding them tasty, nutritious food, making our home beautiful, or keeping things picked up and organized. They won't take the food, floral arrangments, or recovered chairs with them as readily as they will take the spiritual truths, character lessons, or relational deposits I am imparting to them. This effort to read, understand, integrate, and communicate to them life lessons IS vitally important to my children's lifetime welfare. So, here we go. Because I am a "book" person, I will be highlighting some books I'm reading through (s-l-o-w-l-y) to gain more understanding and tools to meet these various needs my children have.
     Do I need to say that Scripture is the foundational guide for me and them? It is. That's a given. Beyond that, though, I have tried many different approaches to spiritual and biblical training. I'm so glad I go to a church that provides exceptional biblical instruction not only in the sermons my older kids and I hear, but in  the children's ministry program as well.
     In addition, however, I am going to be taking about an hour every two weeks to go over the book my older girls are reading in their youth group, Growing Up Christian. My next three kids are inovlved in the AWANA program, so I  try to go over the memory verses and bible studies with them on a weekly basis. And Julia gets bible stories from different children's bibles we have. Making this time for different groups of kids on a consistent basis is very challenging for me. My goal is to be consistent in this endeavor.
     As far as their emotional needs, I am going through The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman. I love the concrete, practical approach Dr. Chapman has to understanding how a child best experiences love. I haven't figured out all of their languages yet, but as I'm getting through the book my goal is to have a better idea of how each child receives and gives love. This will give me some insight as to how best keep their "love tank" full. My understanding is that this might come before spiritual instruction. This is the reason: if each child feels genuinely loved and cared for, they will be more open to instruction from mom or dad. Those lessons and words will fall on soft, fertile, tilled soil and produce the fruit of godly charcter and well-adjusted children. So, this book is a primary focus for me right now.
     The other book I'm working through is How to Reach and Teach Children and Teens with Dyslexia.  A couple of my kids seem to need a different approach to learning. This was my training in college and over the years, wonderful research and techniques have been developed to help these "different" learners. I LOVE practical tips, worksheets, lists, etc. I am a very concrete person and thrive on structure. I'm going through all the legislature currently, but will get to the "good" stuff soon. Plus, I might go back to work in the next couple of years and want to be prepared.
     I am believing that these different resources will benefit my children significantly. It's so easy to lose sight of these other areas of parenting when appointments, dishes, laundry, and sheer exhaustion zap my motivation. This simply brings me to the point of desperate prayer often. That is a great place to be!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sitting Pretty

     A few years back I was given this wonderful glider. It's been well-used and enjoyed and the cushion covers showed that fact! Nevertheless, it sat in the corner of my living room so needing a new cover. This last Thanksgiving as I was busily preparing my home for a crowd of about 30 for Turkey Day, I kept thinking, What am I going to cover those glider cushions with? They need something! I had enthusiastic fantasies of recovering both cushions with the material I used for my curtain valances in my back room. I wanted to "blend" my rooms together using the beautiful fabric I purchased years ago. I kept putting the project off because I had never tried anything so ambitious before.
     And then the irrestistable urge hit. Crazily, on Wednesay I set out to work recovring the chair cushions thinking, Why not?! Sure enough, as God was so gracious and helpful to me, I did get the chair recovered in time. The chair turned out passable for Thanksgiving, but it's taken till way past Valentines Day to redo and finish the rest of it. It still isn't perfect, but it was my first attempt, I've learned a couple of things, and I'm satisfied overall. Besides, I have many more sewing projects to start!
Needs some loving....

This top part was harder than the bottom!

I was pleased with how this bottom cushion turned out

All done!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Pleasures of Industriousness

     I had a very productive day in my kitchen and garden. I had a  couple of sick kids who slept on and off all morning long. This was not a bad thing overall. While their bodies were healing, I was making a batch of whole wheat pita bread to go with the hummous I whipped up. I used some fragrant, bright yellow lemons from my tree in the hummous that added so much pungent flavor. I was also working on two loaves of french bread that were quite scrumptious with some brie, gouda, and fontina cheeses that I bought yesterday from Trader Joe's. I had read that soft cheeses are good for intestinal health and we've been having some issues with that lately. Plus, they are delicious cheeses! Especially the smoked gouda - one of my favorites. Speaking of cheese, I'm aiming to use up some mascarpone cheese from Christmas (a sweet, creamy cream cheese popular in Italian cooking and tiramisu) in a pasta dish that I'll use my chinese snow peas in, some shelled peas I picked from my garden, and some tiny bell peppers that are still growing in my yard. Such faithful cuties, those baby bells of mine.
     While making a sandwich from the french bread I made, Elena asked if we had any tomoatoes. We did! I had seen a half dozen or so growing outside on my back fence. They were incredibe tasting!
     My little ones have perked up and oh what pleasure to feed them tasty, wholesome, home-grown and homemade food!
the leftovers

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January Yummies From My Garden

     Summer vegetables! Yes, my sweet and faithful baby bells and green bell peppers keep producing. They are still tasty (especially on pizza) and oh-so-colorful. I also picked these bright yellow cherry tomatoes I planted from seed toward the end of the summer. They were fabulous in a salad I ate today.
Yes, that is sour grass in the left corner. My girls pick it from our yard and delightfully munch on it!
My golden and red beets - fresh picked from the garden
      As for my winter vegetables I finally picked my rainbow swiss chard. It was beautiful. I also picked my tiny red and golden beets.I peeled and sliced my little beets, steamed them and then added them to the green tops from those beets and my swiss chard using this delicious recipe.Beet Greens Recipe | Simply Recipes I then made a cheese bread I adapted from my cinnamon roll recipe. I used a little less sugar in the dough and Leanne helped me rolled the dough with mozzarella and cheddar cheese and a little garlic salt thrown in. Since this is my first year attempting growing my own winter vegetables, these foods were new to my girls. It was a delicious meal and the girls ate our new foods without too much coaxing or, "Eww-gross!!!" faces. Tim raved about it. I've always said that man has good taste.
Leanne - my enthusiastic helper
This cruddy picture doesn't quite capture what a beautiful meal it was
         Last week I was delighted to finally pick this beautiful white head of cauliflower. It was tender and sweet! I added it to a homemade cheese sauce and some broccoli from Trader Joe's. Super tasty. I also cooked mashed butternut squash from my summer pickings (it stores very well in my cupboard) and mixed in some Parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper. I crunched up french-fried onions on top and heated it for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. It was quite popular with my dinner crowd, which included my niece and nephew that night. I served these veggie dishes with boneless pork chops baked with a spicy seasoning. A beautiful, healthy and mostly homegrown meal. So fun!

broccoli and caulifolower in a homemade cheese sauce - delicious!
     I'm going to try my hand at growing potatoes, onions, and garlic.(Beef stew anyone?) I've also set my sights on growing raspberries as well as expanding my strawberry planters that produce year round. I will most definitely keep you posted!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Knee-ding New Jeans

     Basic jeans seem to be the easiest choice of clothing for my elementary school girls, Leanne and Chloe. But, oh, how hard they are on the knees! Especially my super-industrious girl, Chloe. A quality pair of jeans in my estimation is a pair that I will pass down to the next sister, without holes in the knees. Hole-y knees might be fashionable, but I don't prefer them for me or my girls. I've tried all brands of jeans from Target, Old Navy, Gap, Levi's, JC Penny's, Crazy 8, The Children's Place, and Wal-Mart. I've had some excellent pants from Gap and surprisingly, Wal-Mart's Faded Glory line.
      So, one afternoon I was very  limited on time and money, but Chloe really needed at least one more pair of jeans. I thought about trying to swing by the thrift store, but only had time to go to Wal-Mart. At Wal-Mart I found a darling pair of sparkley jeans for only $8. I was so reluctant to buy more than one pair, because I've been trying to stick to my budget. As I've been praying regularly about how to save money, an idea popped into my head. I walked over to the sewing section and purchased two denim patch kits in different colors for the ripped up jeans at home. Each package cost $1.28, tax included. In the past, I've tried patch repair for jeans, but iron-on patches peel off after a couple of washings. I reasoned that I would just have to iron and sew the patches on. It would save me money in the long run.
     And did it! I was able to patch 4 pairs of jeans, and add some colorful thread as well, for only $2.56. It only took me about 2 hours to do all the patching. Since I spared the hole-y jeans from becoming summer cut-offs prematurely, I had 4 new pairs of jeans in essence. (They will eventually become summer shorts). I spent $8.78 (tax added)on one  pair of jeans and $2.56 on 2 packages of patches totaling $11.34 for 5 pairs of jeans. Each pair effectively cost me $2.27. I doubt I could have gotten this many pairs of jeans for this price even at the thrift store.
     It was a marvelous savings day. God does provide easy and creative ways to save money!

A little tricky machine sewing the patches, but quick overall

And of course, I had a helper
     I must post this picture of the prize winning, all-time most durable jeans I've ever purchased for my girls. I think I paid a whopping $20 for these Lee size 2T jeans at Sears when Elena was a toddler. That's a lot of money! BUT, they have been worn by every one of my girls - all six of them - when they were toddlers. Only now are they getting a little ragged in one knee and showing a little light through the material. I marvel at these little wonders. I might even frame them as an example of high quality clothing and for sentimental reasons. I love the toddler years! Despite the tantrums, failed toilet training attempts, and runny noses it is a precious and charming season of life.
The prize winner for most durable jeans EVER!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Carrot Cake to Write Home About

     I really, really enjoy carrot cake. I especially like the cream cheese frosting. Growing up, our family's favorite cake was from Shaker's, The Bakery, or Wild Thyme all owned by the same company and located in South Pasadena and southern Pasadena. Their delicious, round, two-layer carrot cakes were always my favorite.
     Until recently. I found a simple, ultra-tasty recipe from my favorite recipe site Recipes - Allrecipes. In fact, at a baby shower two years ago I brought this cake and someone else brought one from The Bakery. Someone tasted both and said, "Yumm....I can't tell which one is better." Score! Mission Accomplished! And then my sweet husband has affirmed in no uncertain terms that my carrot cake IS BETTER than Wild Thyme and The Bakery. Okay. I've always said that man has great taste (and he's smart, too!). This Christmas I took it to a Christmas Eve function where it was savored and showered with compliments. This made me happy. I aim to please.
     The funny thing about this recipe is that it is so easy. I have made some modifications to it, however. Instead of three cups of carrots, I put in two cups. I also add a cup of crushed pineapple, 1/2 cup of golden raisins (I like the way they look better than regular raisins), and 1/2 cup shredded coconut. I also don't add the nuts into the batter. I sprinkle chopped walnuts, not pecans, over the the top. (This is to accommodate my non nut-loving kids.) To the cream cheese frosting I zest fresh lemon peel and squeeze about 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice into it. I attempted a four layer cake a couple of times and it turned out pretty well. Try it yourself and let me know how it turns out!

Frosting! Yum!

I baked the batter on a cookie sheet and then cut four equal pieces. I put those pieces  together with wax paper between them to freeze them for easier assembly and frosting.
I prefer small chopped walnuts with my carrot cake

This was my first attempt. I'm not accomplished at fancy cake assembly, although I would like to develop this skill. Pretty cakes taste better!