Laundering to the Beat

My laundry machine is on strike. Again.

Too much abuse. Not enough daily appreciation. Long unpredictable hours. Demands not in her contract…. mechanics clothing, mud clad children- or at least their attire- and good old sneaky chicken poop.

She’s been complaining for months. With a high pitched wailing and clattering like she swallowed a fleet of knights. But we already gave her a door-lock replacement a while back, and she was still trudging along, so I simply closed the laundryroom door on her loud complaints. And mentioned it to my hubby.

Sometimes random visitors, or even concerned kids would question the sounds coming from behind the closed laundry-room door. But no one truly cared THAT deeply for her well being to investigate. I occasionally feared she might give me another scare like last time. But when she keeps doin her job, you push on.

Committed, I even put up with the occasional shirt she chews on spiteful days.

Like strikes of old, however, although targeted at the adults, the children often suffer.

Lack of underwear is a grievous matter. Wearing your siblings extras? Well, they were more gracious than expected.

But the real turn of events was the children’s attitudes with hand washing a load this week.

They were estatic!

I was trying to be the voice of reason, but sounded more like Debbie Downer, trying to enlighten them that this looses its fun really fast.

They could not be swayed.

Wash cycle

They even brought out a drum to slosh around to the beat. They sung and marched about in great pleasure. Eagerly awaiting their turn to jump in the soapy bucket.

Turning over the load in a rinse cycle

We did a couple rinse cycles in the Rubbermaid bin before we thought of a way we could rinse and drain at the same time.

Rinse and spin

The trampoline.

Turns out, knee drops work swell for beating the water out of the clothes as well, so that we didn’t have to wring them. They were so into it- I left them to it. And went and napped.

Just like that the clothes were ready for the dryer. The kids wanted to string them up in the yard to be finished off in the sunshine. But I figured the pounded clothes could use some fluffing after all that tromping, and we don’t have a line anyways. Furthermore, let’s not give the dryer too much idle time or she might get ideas from that naughty washer.

The kids haven’t had to borrow each-others undies for a while, and with their joyous help I think we will make it through this washer strike. At least till she gets what she wants. Then I’ll be more than happy to give her her job back and some lovely words.

It’s so easy for me to let life’s little inconveniences trouble me and let the grumbles come. But I think God cares enough about my character to give me opportunities to learn valuable lessons. Like maybe to be more like the kids with a joyous attitude to do what needs to be done. And perhaps to see more troubles as adventures and reasons to be creative.

And to season my days with a healthy heap of gratitude.

After all, sometimes you don’t know what you got- till it’s gone.

And Then it Grew

I feel like gardening is an act of faith. You plant in the damp ground with visions of what’s to come. You water, weed, tend, pest control, tie up, prune and thin with hope. Nothing is certain. It might not even sprout out of the ground. It feels like there is no point along the way you can be completely sure your garden will thrive. You are banking on hope and doing all you can to help it along its way. But who stops the heat? And the smoke filled summers? Who brings the rains? Who tells the rains when their job is done? Who holds back the hail, or let’s it thunder down from the sky? Who made the critters that devour in the night? Or brings new flowers and branches? Breezes to blow the pollens and pollinate the yellow petals? Who pulls back the clouds to let the sun in and warm the earth? Calls to the bees and nudges the earth worms?

No it’s isnt I

It is not this gardener.

It’s my creator God, The great gardener. Who makes all things and brings them to being. Who puts the desire inside me to see things grow.

And its him that gives me fellow gardening friends who know what plants need.

Year after year I struggled to make my little plot grow. Soil deficiency. Smokey summer. Too dry. Water softener hard on plants. Not enough sun. Not enough compost. Too much nitrogen. Insects. Straw? Wood chips? Magnesium? More bananas! Too much coffee. Layer method? Ack! So many roots. Crappy seeds. Wrong watering time of day. Too long of watering time, or not enough. Death to gardener by mosquitoes…

I learnt so much along the way tho. Every person who had a garden that grew something- I was asking questions.

Their advice, complied with trial and error, and google searches- I learnt things.

Like how to high heat compost my chicken manure and straw. (My parents always seemed to visit during muck-out-the-winters-worth-of poop-from-the-coop week, and at least acted like it was fun 😜). I tarped and forked over those piles weekly. Sam detached the outside tap from our water softener. I pruned back tree branches. (And loggers did big pruning in the forest behind us.) Bought quality seeds. Let the kids patiently sew the seeds. Waited till just before June. Was given a row cover (made by my kids for my birthday). And took advice and rototilled the mass compost piles into the soil- cutting roots and getting the goodness WAY down.

Every year Sam kept encouraging me to keep trying with gardening. Telling me one year I’d get it.

I kept asking friends for tips and trying.

And with the help of many, the faith of my hubby, and the Lords graciousness, and a sprinkling of hope-

My garden grew.

This was the year.

And I’m stinkin greatful.

So if your caught in a yearly struggle, don’t loose hope. Learning, listening, and leaning on the Lord- is never a waste of time.

And a big thanks to all my gardener friends 😘

Good Bacteria?

That’s right, I’m gonna talk about bacteria. Unlike the ones the world at present is madly trying to kill with hand sanitizer, wipes and washing your hands. But about GOOD bacteria. Think of it as like some distant cousin…. but very much still family. Only using its powers of take-over for good. The warrior ninja who hugs.

Yogurt.

Milk meets friendly bacteria, Lactic Acid, whom feeds on the lactose sugar in milk. And the beautiful result- Thick white creamy spoonfuls of wonder. Yogurt.

So I figure, now with more home time for many of you with a world virus going on- what better time to learn how to make your own friendly bacteria- yogurt? You will also be helping your immune system, as yogurt is so good for you! There are MANY benefits, but one is when you have good gut flora it can help you fight off bad bacteria and make your illness go quicker.

Reason number 2….. it’s way cheaper to make it yourself. It only costs me $5.12 for milk that makes 4 yogurt containers 1kg each.

I freeze the two little ones for starter for my next batch

Reason number 3, the kids love it more! I make mine not as sour, but you can adjust its sourness by how long you leave it incubating. Look here’s my kids having it as an outdoor snack with no sweetener- only bananas!

So one of my biggest hurdles of getting behind making yogurt was that I’m a one pot kind of girl. I talk about my efficiency problems in All About Beans …. but basically I’m looking to shorten as many steps as I can, and getting-er done. So here’s how you do that.

These are the things you will need.

  • 3.25% 4L Milk (Homogenized)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (first time you will need to buy some, I used Astro Balkan style)
  • Large pot with thick bottom to it
  • Towel
  • Cookie Tray
  • Food Thermometer (I use my meat one)
  • Ladle
  • Spatula

Homemade Yogurt

  1. Take out your 1 cup of yogurt so it’s at room temp for when you use it later.
  2. Pour all your milk into the big pot on the stove at medium heat. Stir with spatula every now and then till the temperature of the milk reaches 180*F (do not skip this step).
  3. Then with the lid off, transfer pot to a sink with cold water in it. Stir the water around the pot to cool the milk. Stir the milk in the pot till it reaches 110*F- then quickly take it out. The temp drops way faster than heating it up- so pay attention!
  4. Flick your oven on for a couple mins just so it’s not cold.
  5. Ladle some of the milk out of the pot into your 1 cup of yogurt and mix them together. Then pour the mixture back into your pot of milk adding them together.
  6. Don’t stir the milk in circles. You want to mix them together with back and forth movements with your spatula. But don’t take too long, you don’t want your temp to drop below 105*F.
  7. Put the lid on. Wrap with a towel and place on a cookie tray.
  8. Slide tray in warmed oven. You can turn your oven light on if you wish. I’ve done both and found no difference.
  9. Put a note over your oven ON or BAKE button that there is yogurt in there! And wait 8 hrs. (More if you want it sourer)
  10. Take it out after 8hrs and see if it’s thick! There might be a tiny bit of whey. Don’t mix it, throw it in the fridge to cool. Then take it out cooled, ladle it into jars and enjoy!

It should be creamy and thick. If it’s not however, you could strain it in a colander with a cotton sheet square (my version of cheese cloth) in the bottom. Who knows, you might nail it the next batch😉

If you want to up the probiotics in your yogurt, you can empty a probiotic capsule and mix it in with your yogurt starter in step 4. I found this made my yogurt even thicker!

The reason the tray and the note are a good idea: No matter how much you think you will not forget that yogurt setting in the oven, one day you just might. It happened to me 😬 My hubby offered to grab my daughter from her gymnastics class and I ended up with an extra half hour before dinner. What could go better with my stove top soup but hot fresh scones? I cranked the oven to 425*F. It’s only by the grace of God and his kindness to my scattered Mom brain that I didn’t cause an oven fire. I think the oven was on for 10mins before I remembered. The tray worked as a barrier and kept the towel from flaming. The towel has a dark pot size circle to it now. Anyways, I never left myself a note because my day was going to have been too busy for baking. Just goes to show your day can change- leave a note!

Yogurt is one of those things that’s simple, but ohh so good. I find in the last few weeks of crazy (with the Corona virus) God has been reminding me to look not at the seemingly gigantic problems, but at the simple good things all around me. That when I feel my boat is being rocked, to stop looking at the waves and the storm… but realized who’s in the boat with me- Jesus. It’s so easy for me to let my eyes drift back to those waves, but I can find peace if I only keep my eyes on Him. His love never changes, He is my steadfast.

So don’t get so wrapped up in killing bad bacteria, you forget about the good 😉 And go on and try making your own.

Dinners of Shame

We’ve all had those days where we remember were the one in charge of feeding the small helpless people of our home. That their lives require a dinner. That it can be prolonged no further.

I hear the beeper on the oven go off, and am hopeful for a minute… till I remember it’s cake. This may be just me… but I have no problem thinking of deserts, which usually happens (totally inconveniently) around dinner time. I can’t in good conscience FEED desert as dinner, so I find my self fumbling through the freezer and fridge looking for food.

The way my mind works once in this state of “What’s for dinner panic” differs, but I’ll use tonight as an example.

The freezer let’s me down. There really isn’t any good meat that I could possibly defrost in time for dinner. Hmmm… maybe some starchy filling veggies. I remember something. Lame! I was at the wrong store for potatoes ( if I’m gonna pay nearly $8 a bag they better be from Canada)… ooo what is this…. a sweet potato. K, that goes good with carrots and zucchini. A little chopping, little oil, dash of this and that. Nice! The oven is still warm from cake 😁

Into the oven.

I glance at the counter and see I also dragged out some corn on the cob I’d forgotten about. Yes. You can be cooked. Drat you’re still not meat. I examine frozen bags of random meat. Re entertaining the freezer is like going back down the isles of the grocery store. You know full well they don’t have what your looking for, but you darn well gotta find SOMETHING as a substitute. Some how I settle on 4 burger patties left over from a camping trip. I verbally thank the Lord for the presence of all my fingers- still intact- after the separation of all four said frozen patties. They were met with a large kitchen knife where they skidded and danced across the counter top before joining the roasting veggies in the oven.

I was able to put aside my dinner dilemma and phone my good friend. We laugh and chatted and talked about how it’s about that time of year when we should actually start making dinners. We hang up and somehow, this time, I don’t burn dinner. ( I recently had a whole pot of rice boil over so bad the pot was bobbing on an ocean of rice water… while my frying pan, on the other element, cooked it into burnt rice paper. I’d gotten carried away in the garden 😬.)

Back at the oven I decide its time to throw corn in the pot of boiling water.

I peek in the oven to see how the burger patties are doin.

Then bam. I look up to this.

How did those dogs get in there?

This is what results of multiple re visits to the freezer, the pickings get increasingly slimmer. But look- meat!

My daughter came into the kitchen to ask what’s for dinner as I pressed frozen wieners further into the water. “Wow, are those boiled hotdogs? Never had those before!” (Oh child but you have…) I shoo her aside and pull out the sizzling patties. Her brow creases, “Why are there burgers? ”

There is a moment of confusion. She tallies up the odd things she sees.

” Corn, veggies, boiled hotdogs and burgers…… well I like all those things!”

And we all live on-

fed for another day.

The side of me that wants to greatly impress you all with my clever cooking is dying as I write this. Because occasionally wonders emerge from my oven. But I think that’s just it. We all have days of brilliance where we wish someone besides the kids could see what we’ve done!

And… (flip side)

we all have those perfectly “interesting” days where we’re glad only the kids have seen what we’ve done.

Besides, dinner panic awakens our problem solving, quick thinking, survival skills. And everyone knows the great importance in those.

So cast aside shame when you throw food at the kids that isn’t what you hopped it would be. Just pray over that dinner,

dig in,

And don’t worry- other side of you will rise again. 😉

(Wait, 🤔 the cake had zucchini in it… it totally would have been an acceptable dinner! Ah well, there’s always breakfast.)

Addicted to Homemade

I realized this morning (as I made two different pie fillings from scratch) what a struggle it is for me to get away from making things myself and to just buy it.

When I decide “I’m going to save myself the work this time and just buy the thing already made”, it somehow is never quite that straight forward. First of all, I have the homemade version coursing out of my taste buds and burning in my mind, so nothing on the store shelf looks, well, like it should. I start reading labels.

Note: If you are trying to make a transition from homemade to store bought NEVER read the labels!

But it can’t be helped. I’m already thinking things like how is there this much crap in here? I make this with like 4 ingredients. I could easily make this with half that amount of sugar! And what even is Acetylated Monoglycerides?

I’m drifting dangerously close to resolving to just go home and make it. I give my head a shake and scan the price of the item I’m holding. It burns me like a hot potato and I nearly drop it on the floor. What?! I could definitely make this for less… and my mind starts calculating the cost of real ingredients. Stop it! Your doing it!

And just like that, I’ve ditched the notion of buying the pre-made product and am I’m off buying the one or two ingredients I don’t already own at home. Feeling pretty stinking satisfied with myself that I’m not only going to be saving my family from evil 14 letter ingredients, but a few bucks as well. Somehow the time it was going to save me by purchasing it already made slips from my brain and is replaced with my familiar friend

Thrifty.

Closely related to Homemade.

But every now and then I survive all those steps, and just close my eyes and grasp what I need off the shelf. I try to numb the knowledge of the ingredients and prices by making it a quick grab and move right along.

This happened yesterday at the grocery store.

I’m making homemade danishes for an charity auction, and I really don’t need to make 3 pie fillings from scratch for their centres. I don’t love constant stirring over the stove, it’s too unimaginative.

Problem is- I must have literally had my eyes closed because when I got out the fillings last night it was followed by a groan. Both of the boxes not only needed things like separated eggs and milk (am I paying $4.99 for cornstarch and flavouring?), but they also came with long detailed time consuming instructions. With lots of stirring over the stove🙄! My eyes then spotted a coconut on my vanilla filling, and slid over to the products name. Coconut Pie filling. “Nooooooo!” Well, at least I have a lemon one. So why is their a lime on that box? Yep, Key Lime Pie. My husbands flipping the boxes around at the counter with a smirk and cheeky sparkle in his eye, “didn’t you even READ? It says the name right on the box…. Both of them.”

I snatch the boxes from him and mumble about them being in the vanilla section with all the other vanillas and the lime one right next to the lemon ones. And suddenly freak out wondering what on earth my canned “cherry” filling actually is. After unloading half my cupboard I’m convinced I never even put it in the cart, when I finally find it next to the beans. Thank God, It’s Cherry.

I need the other two fillings today.

So you see, even when I try to just buy pre-made, I’m busy making homemade. Because driving into town with 4 kids sounds like more work then sitting at the stove stirring (which apparently I’d be doing anyways).

Driving to get something I forgot or because I got the wrong thing is OFTEN my reason for discovering how to make something homemade and save myself a trip. (One year amid making homemade gingerbread houses, we ran right out of icing sugar to make icing, and it turns out icing sugar is just blended white sugar with cornstarch!)

And guess what?

I made lemon and blueberry filling in about an unfocused half hour and they were cheap and simple 😊

and so now

I’ll probably always have to make pie fillings, because of all above said reasons.

And they turned out pretty tasty too.

Some of the Things We Love Better Homemade:

  • Bread (for the most most part. Best dollar I’ve ever spent was my breadmaker at a thrift store. Fresh focaccia for about 10 mins of effort? Yes please.)
  • Jam (so easy to throw a little fruit in a pot- my kids even make it! We use chia seeds to thicken and only a couple Tbs sugar)
  • Muffins (we love extra fruit ones)
  • Lasagna (the more you make it the more efficient you get)
  • Cookies, cakes, pies, squares, pancakes (I do love baking, and it doesn’t have an after taste baked with pronounceable ingredients)
  • Cheese sauce ( 100s of dinners thank me for learning this)
  • Granola (not all recipes are the same, some are fantastically easy)
  • Pita pockets (entertainment for the kids, and soft and STRETCHY… not dry and crummy)
  • Dried fruit (ALWAYS better. Why are the stores coated in sugar!?)
  • Puddings and custards (a win for cornstarch)
  • Apple sauce (purée with the skins for fibre no one knows is there! Instead of sugar add cinnamon for a sweeter flavour)
  • Soup (raised on the stuff- keeping the tradition running strong)
  • Pizza ( breadmaker dough, and what-ever-our-hearts desire toppings. Yes even last nights stir fry)
  • Gravy (just the old fashioned good stuff… or organic bouillon paste)

And more.

Some things truly are easier/ better to just buy. And there is NO comparison to Campbells tomato soup. But what are some things you simply love homemade and can’t go back to bought? Do you also love some of my above list?

Blessings! And happy food making.

All About… Beans?

I buy beans, in dried form, in large bags. It’s one of those tricks you learn when you have a lot of kids and try to make food go a little further. It made me feel pretty super cooking my own beans.

If you follow the simple directions on the back of the package, your winning and things are simple and straight forward. Problem is- your suppose to soak those beans all night.

There’s really isn’t anything complicated about that. Beans, pot, LID (made that mistake once) and a lot of water (as they’re thirsty, dried up little buggers).

Except that I usually forget come night. I’m usually winding down from my shift of… using my brain.

My beans might sit dried in their store bought bags for a month as I nightly forget to soak them.

Turns out, there is a remedy to this problem. You just cook them oh-so-long and no one knows the difference.

K, well, except all who enter your home that day.

It’s like the fart that just wont quit. The kids keep entering the kitchen starting the question, “who let one?!….. oh, never mind…. BEANS.”

Yep.

Today Elise asked me if there wasn’t a perfume spray or something we could use.

I probably smelled like an armpit when I dropped and picked her up from her gymnastics class.

As well as forgetfulness, I often struggle with another problem that seems to arise whilst cooking beans. Its my Efficiency Expert Training. Or at least that’s what I call it on good days when it works well for me. Other days, like today, it appears in the form of Lazy Mans Poor Choice Shortcuts.

Have you ever read Cheaper by the Dozen? Well if you haven’t its a true story of a family with 12 kids. The Father has a JOB as an Efficiency Expert. He goes into businesses and helps them cut out useless tasks, and do things in an order that will help their business be more cost effective and efficient. Get stuff done, for less money and time. He also applies may of his skills at home with his dozen kids.

Sounding good eh?

My Mother was an Efficiency Expert. She did things like wash an army of muddy garden carrots in the washing machine. Or make a funnel out her window that went straight into her compost bin. She never sorted the cutlery, but stored it all face up in a vase so you knew what weapon your grabbing.

So I come by it honestly.

Some days it’s gloriously inventive. Impresses the socks of my impatient self. Others it’s darn right lazy and disastrous. And ends up being MORE work.

Right. Beans.

If you take the time to get out your colander, you just dump the cooked beans and boiling water into the colander in the sink. Or you scratch that step, grab your pot with large oven mitts, tilt it over the sink and pour your liquid through the perfect size slot you made by slightly sliding the lid ajar.

Then as your kid starts your vehicle for you so you can take her to gymnastics- you’ve got two minutes or you’re gonna be late. Suddenly you find yourself scooping an entire pot worth of beans out of your lunch dishes and the sink. Stupid oven mitts! Stupid sliding Not-So-Perfect crack! You draw a crowd of worried onlookers (teaching kids life lessons here) and focus on the fact everything was submerged in boiling water and is probably totally edible after a good rinse…. in the colander.

Why do I always feel like I accepted defeat when I use the colander? It feels like…… I lost and had to get a parent to come help me… sheesh maybe I need kitchen therapy.

Once your beautiful beans are cooked. Reserve what you need for the recipe (that I most likely am not going to follow, ) and then dump them on a cookie tray to freeze. They will break apart easily and can be stored in a ziplock bag in the freezer and poured into any other meals as you need them later.

No don’t just freeze them from warm in a bag.

Hammering the frozen bean cluster against the counter top only draws a crowd (kids again wondering what on earth your doing) and rips the bag in more ways you thought possible. Nobody can eat THAT many beans at once. So just take my word for it.

Freeze on a flat tray and transfer. Expert speaking here.

I hope this doesn’t make you NOT want to try cooking your own beans! Honestly they are a fantastic fiber, protein… or um whatever healthy thing they are. And you can cook so many more things with them on hand. Makes chilli a heck of a lot cheaper too.

To win you back, incase I chased you away from the idea,

Here is what I’m making for dinner tonight.

Of course I don’t really follow the recipe- but it’s nice to have a starting point. I make my own seasoning, add cilantro to everything I can, 2 extra cups of beans (I have them, I might as well put them to use) and just use marble cheese that I go ahead and shred myself.

Some how I wrote a whole post on beans.

Since I have them on hand, what’s your favourite bean dish? Or just one that fills the spot, isn’t too time consuming, and has a max of two dirty pots?

Yours truly,

Efficiency Expert (in Training )

MAKE crackers?

20150203-203824.jpg

I love to bake. Ask anyone who’s asked me to bring food to any event- I beg them to let me bring desert.
The problem is… when I’m pregnant it gets a little out of hand. All I want to do is bake. It’s like some kind of impulse. This want is magnified by the cool wet weather making me want to stay indoors and eat warm comforting foods.
I don’t want to just lose myself in baking goodness, however, and leave my pregnancy at blame for my weight.
Surely you can BAKE savory, not sweet… my conscience told me as I envisioned a chocolate iced soft yellow cake.
But seeing already piled on my counter, a baked box of Extra-Chocolate-Chip-Peanut-Butter Cookies which were stacked on top of the box of Cereal-Munchy-Squares, made rethink chocolate cake.
Savory.
Cheesy.
Crackers.20150203-203612.jpg

I knew there was a good reason I hadn’t thrown out those impossibly small cookie cutters given to the kids.

  • Homemade Cheese Bears
    • 6oz of shredded cheese
      1/4 C Butter (or marg)
      3/4 C Flour
      1/2 tsp salt (I did 1/4 tsp)
      1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (the secret WOW ingredient)
      1-3 Tbs milk

    Mix all the dry ingredients together and food process, or just work to crumb like stage.
    Add milk till it’s no longer crumbly and works as a dough.
    Roll out as thin as you want, thin is best.
    Slice or cookie cut. (5 mins vs a small eternity)
    Place very close, just not touching, on parchment paper on a tray.
    In the oven at 350* for 12-15 mins
    Makes 2 trays worth- close to a box of Goldfish, I mean bears 😁

    I’ d tell you to store them in an air tight container… but there is no storing involved. Seriously they vanish. Pictures will be your only proof.