Monday, August 30, 2010

We've got a yearnin' for some learnin'

Today begins our first official day of homeschool for the 2010/2011 school year. We have never waited this long to start. We usually begin around the first of August, but there was so much bearing on us we felt that the last of August/first of September seemed better suited for us this year.
We took our beginning of the year pictures this morning.
Scenes from throughout the morning of lessons...



A beautiful, wonderful, successful day of schooling at home.
I hope your day is going well also!

Friday, August 27, 2010

::thankfulness::


I had a comment recently asking me how I stayed sane in the trouble that is going around me...
Well, I don't know that I always do.
I lose it sometimes.
I get all bent out of shape and panicky from time to time.
I get frustrated.
Believe me...
I don't always remain calm, cool and collected.
Ask my family. haha :)
That is one thing that I want to make sure I display here.... Our lives are FAR from perfect. We are far from perfect.
We don't have the idealistic rolling hills with white picket fences farm. We don't have the incredibly beautiful farmhouse with wrap-around porch. Hardly.
What we do have is each other.
We have faith.
Faith in a GOD who is greater than ALL our problems.
So that got me to thinking about today's post.
I want to write out several things that I am very thankful for today.

All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
       but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
~Proverbs 15:15~

:I am thankful for:
... this early morning my family spent together, doing farm chores, enjoying the cool morning that promises that fall is not too far away.

...  the warm breakfast of oatmeal. A little coconut oil and sorgham for sweetness. Healthy and hearty.

... the pantry of canned goods we have put by for winter.

... my wonderful children, my Godly husband and the home that we share.

... early morning devotions on the porch, with a cup of coffee and quiet moments on the farm.

... the smell of bread baking.

... clean, fresh water.

... seeing my children exhibit the 'fruit of the spirit'.

... teaching my children at home.

... watching my husband show grace and love even during times of trial.

... our church family.

... our family, I don't know what we would do without them.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, 
let us be thankful, 
and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe
~Hebrews 12:28~

Times may be hard, but there is so many wonderful, beautiful moments to cherish that surround me every day. I could list a thousand more.
I am thankful.

May God bless you and you look for things that make you thankful today and every day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When Life gives you Apples... Make Apple Butter


We are abundantly blessed.

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
       make known among the nations what he has done.  
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
       tell of all his wonderful acts.
~I Chronicles 16:8-9~

Not only have I been able to put up all the tomatoes that I told you about, I believe I mentioned the apples yet another friend gave us.
Today, I am pickling garlic, as well as canning up the last batch of apple butter. This batch is even bigger than the first, so I should have a good many pints filled up today.

The smell in the kitchen is not as lovely as yesterday.
Let me tell you, the smell of garlic and vinegar competing with apples, cloves and cinnamon is not a beautiful combination.
They both smell great in their own world, but mixing is not a pretty picture. haha

Alright... quit jabbering Chas... :)

I told you I had a SUPER easy, SUPER delicious recipe for apple butter.
Honestly, you will NEVER go back once you have tried this recipe.
It's that good.

Crockpot Apple Butter
6 cups Apples
3 cups Sugar

These spices are a mix that I like... now if you don't care for one or the other eliminate it! Or, add more of what you like. Just play, taste and find your favorite combination. :)
4 Tbsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Nutmeg
2 tsp. Cloves (I added that)
2-3 Tbsp. Vanilla ( I LOVE what this does for the flavor!)
Put all your apples in the bottom of your crockpot (I used my roaster because I made such a big batch), then sprinkle on the sugar and spices. Do not stir.
Cook on low all night and in the morning you are ready to puree or mash and jar up your butter.
Put your jars in a hot water bath for at least 15-20 minutes.  


It REALLY is that simple. And it is sooooo good. 
Another great thing is, if you get it on the night before and then it is ready for you in the morning... How wonderful would this warm apple butter be with a nice crunchy piece of toast and butter. YUM!

I was told by a friend of mine that you should leave the skin on your apples when making butter. I didn't because the skins of mine were not very good. But I will have to give that a go next time. She told me there is a great deal of pectin in the skin and it helps for the butter to set up once canned.
Thanks Kim! That is great advice! :)

I thank you for your visit and I really thank you most for your prayers. Shannon has been able to do a couple of odd jobs this week. Thankfully.
We are still very unsure of what the future holds for us... but, we KNOW who holds the future.
We know we are HIS children and that nothing happens to us that He doesn't allow. 
Please continue to pray if you don't mind. We are seeking God's will in the matter and we don't want to get anxious and jump ahead of His perfect time.
 "He trusts in the LORD;
       let the LORD rescue him.
       Let him deliver him,
       since he delights in him."
 
~Psalm 22:8~
Have a beautiful day friends... and I will leave you with a line from one of my favorite movies....
"I'm Blessed with work, Gracie"
             ~Carroll O'Conner in Return to Me~ 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Step 2: Taking Action

After the l.o.n.g day yesterday of canning, we ended up with 27 quarts of tomato puree and so that makes a grand total of 103 quarts of tomatoes 'put by' for the winter.
Praise the Lord!
(I'm working in apples now!)

In the past I have made our laundry detergent. I just finished up our last bit of our last batch... it lasts forever! :)
So, I needed to make some more.
I wanted to try something different, and I had some of this on hand, so I used the liquid Dr. Bronners soap
 I think it will be just fine, but there is no 'gooping' up like you would have if you used the bar of soap.
Here's the process I used.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap
½ Cup Borax
- Pour water, liquid soap to saucepan. Stir continually until mixed. Add in your Washing Soda and Borax.
-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Stir in soap mixture. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
-Now, like I said... with using LIQUID soap the mixture will not thicken very much at all. I think this is going to be just fine though. 
-I also added several drops of peppermint oil to the mixture. It smells wonderful and I will be using it today. I will let you know if there is any problem... but, I don't foresee any.

Making your own laundry soap is SUCH a money saver. 
Laundry detergent from the store is very, very expensive and full of unheard of chemicals.
This is something you will have to try out for yourself. I have found it is worth it for me.
Some don't feel the same way... some feel that if you don't have that TIDE smell and spend $20 per bottle, it can't be cleaning your clothes properly. 
It's up to you.
All, I know is... I have saved our family a TON of money this way, the bucket of detergent lasts f.o.r.e.v.e.r, our clothes smell nice and drying in the sunshine makes them smell even better! Total win/win!

I also wanted to say a big HELLO! to some of our new 'followers'!!! I am so glad to see we are up to 60! Readers! My site meter says that we have more than 60 visitors each day, so please... feel free to 'follow' us. I hope to have helpful and encouraging tips to make each day a treat. :)

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
       she can laugh at the days to come. 
~Proverbs 3:25~ 

Wouldn't that be a wonderful feeling? Taking such good care of your family that you know you have your home prepared for the days to come.  Such a grand woman this Proverbs 31 woman is... 

Yesterday afternoon, the children and I went to a dear friends house who shared a bounty of apples with us. We took home three basket-fulls that was just brimming.
Last night, we had an evening of enjoying one of our favorite movie series Anne of Green Gables and peeling apples. 
We had one full roaster pan with almost 2 baskets of apples left. So this morning we woke up to the smell of cinnamon, cloves and apples.
Delicious!
Apple butter is waiting to be canned.
Apple butter is WONDERFUL!
It can be used as you would a jam, you can fill fried pies with the butter, apple dumplins. SO many things incredible dishes you can make with apple butter.... or, you can just eat it from the spoon. YUM!
I will share with you my crockpot apple butter recipe later on this week. 
It is the EASIEST and the BEST recipe ever!

Well, that apple butter isn't going to can itself... I had better get moving.
I hope you have a wonderful day and remember...

This is the day the LORD has made;
       let us rejoice and be glad in it. 
~Psalm 118:24~

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Step 1: The Result of a Blessing

Never do you have a time when you are going through a trial that you don't have a blessing... just waiting for you to see it. You do, however, have to open your eyes and your heart sometimes to see it.
A phone call on a Sunday afternoon.
A neighbor
A church friend
Willing to share...

An enormous box of tomatoes.
I was so thrilled, I almost had tears in my eyes!
I wanted to put up as many tomatoes as we could this year, because we use SOOO many!
Last night after we returned from a meeting I began right away.
Blanching
Coreing
Peeling
Quartering
Pureeing
Into the early hours of the morning.
    ... and her lamp does not go out at night. 
~Proverbs 31:18b~ 
(This woman is who I want to be when I grow up!)  
It was a lot of hard work, and hot work. :)
But, this morning I woke up to a FULL roaster pan of tomato puree and two 8 quart stock pots of puree!
There were quite a few bad ones in the bunch too and those did NOT go to waste.
Because, since they woke up this morning, my chickens have been FEASTING on tomatoes. :)
Hooray!!

Today, I have been canning.
I am excited to see just how many quarts we will get from the wonderful gift.
 A friend loves at all times...
~Proverbs 17:17a~
Sometimes it seems easy to be idle and wish for what we would like to have or how we might like things to be.
But, is that how we are supposed to be. 
Wishing, hoping, thinking of a life of ease?
It is good to rest for a time...
How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
       When will you get up from your sleep? 
A little sleep, a little slumber,
       a little folding of the hands to rest-  
and poverty will come on you like a bandit
       and scarcity like an armed man. 
~Proverbs 6:9-11~
These verses are a very good reminder to me. 
Right now, I must not tarry. I must get things ready and prepared.
If I waited too long the tomatoes would all be gone. They would have become rotten.
I don't need to put off til tomorrow what I can get accomplished TODAY!

How have you been blessed recently?
And are you making the most out of your blessing???

Monday, August 23, 2010

A set back...

About 6 weeks ago, Shannon started, what we thought, was the best job of his life.
He was THRILLED with his work. It felt rewarding and exciting. He worked hard, came home exhausted... but smiling.
On Friday afternoon, on his birthday... He was fired.
I wish I could say that I handled it perfectly. That I was able to, say... No worries, I know God has us in His hand and we will be fine.
But... I didn't.
I cried.
I got somewhat depressed.
I slept a lot.
I prayed a lot, but didn't seem to want to accept His peace.
Finally... I began to accept.
I KNOW my God is bigger than any problem we have.
I KNOW my God has us in His Righteous Right Hand.
We are safe and secure and even though we don't know what is around the corner, we can be at peace with His timing and His ways.
Sadly, we felt so secure with his former job that we didn't immediately start saving. We tried to start paying some things off and such. Our plans were to start a savings account, but we hadn't got there yet... like I said, it has only been 6 weeks.

So, I got to thinking. I quit crying. I quit wringing my hands and started trusting and said... "I know God is working, but what does He want me to do?"
Of course...
He wants me to exercise what I already know.
Planning
Organizing
Frugality
I KNOW how to do these things.
We have lived on VERY little in the past and I know how to stretch a little into a lot. :)
So, the children and I took EVERYTHING out of our pantry cabinet. We are going to organize it, and plan meals with it and see just how much we can stretch every scrap.
We have some meat in the freezer also. I know there is some venison, some chickens. I can use the venison for our red meat meals and then once I use the chickens, there is always stock that I can make from the bones. That will make up some wonderful soups as hopefully we will be cooling off here in the next few weeks.
I have several buckets full of grains and beans. Some popcorn and rice.
We will make due.
Will we have our favorite meals every night?
Doubtful
Will we be fed?
Truly
Will we learn thankfulness and restraint?
Yes, indeed.
I hope to be organized about the whole ordeal and list and plan so that I can share how we make it each week.

We would love your prayers during this time of uncertainty. We appreciate your thoughtfulness and love.
I pray you have a blessed day!
xoxo,
Chas

Friday, August 20, 2010

Technical difficulties

Please bear with me....
I am working on backing up my photos and data for the past 5 years. I take a LOT of photos, so it could be a while :)
I hope to be back on Monday (or maybe sooner) with all this figured out, new pictures from the weekend and a fresh perspective. :)
Meanwhile, I hope your day is fantastic... we have some birthday celebrating to do for my sweet hubby who turns #35 today! Ack, when did we start getting old?!?!? :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clean and Fresh

September is right around the corner
(gack! Can you believe that??)
So that means Lessons... Homeschool!
We have started  back usually in early August in the past, but we are going to be starting the last week of August and the first week of September this year.
It was a good change for us.
Waiting a little longer gave me more time to plan. It gave me a little more time for putting by some food. Albeit that I can do those things while I school, it is much easier to have them out of the way for the most part so I can put more energy and thought into our lessons.
One thing we like to do is to get everything clean and freshly organized in our schoolroom/dining room area.
This year, Cameo and I decided that it would be nice to have the dining room more roomy with everything but our school table (which is our dining table).
So with the long skinny room right off to the side, it gave us a place for my desk, our school shelf, a bulletin board and so on.
Groovy.
Here are a few pics.
This picture is the skinny room. We built it on a long time ago to make it a dining room. It served as a dining room for a while, but it was difficult because of the long, skinny shape.
It works  beautifully for school supplies and my desks now.
Woot!
This is part of the long wall. The shelf houses our school boxes.
Each child has a box with their workbooks for the year.
We also have a crafty box, a box with magazines, coloring books, etc.
This is my desk and the bulletin board.
I will write out their daily assignments on the dry erase part.
We have some good reminders and our memory verses printed out on the bulletin board side.
Directly opposite of me is a small bookshelf with the boys computer and a rolling caddy of pens, pencils, markers, construction paper and all sorts of goodies.
Then our dining area and school table is completely free and able to be placed in the middle of the room.
On the walls are our timeline, a map of the world, a map of the United States, a poster of the presidents and a couple of pretty pictures.
It is neat and simple and it works for us! :)
It looks as if everyone is ready for dinner... bye! :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

{this moment} 8.13.10

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 
Wishing you a wonderful weekend!
                                                                                 *** *** ***  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chattanooga Ducks Field Trip

Our latest field trip happened upon Abram's birthday. I wasn't sure if the trip would make him feel like we were skipping part of his birthday 'day' or if he would like it...
Now, I know.
It tickled him. :)
We were able to get a huge discount because we are part of our local homeschool group, so it made the trip feasible for us to take.

If the ride itself wasn't fun enough, the guide had TONS of information, and he was SO nice. Letting the kids all take turns driving the DUCK.

The picture below is where we were headed to 'splash down' into the Tennessee River. Abe was slightly nervous... haha
Once we actually hit the water, he said to me numerous times...
That wasn't scary, Mom! :)
Eli of course, wanted to know how much the craft weighed.
19,750 lbs without occupants.
I love that kid!
Cameo and I sat in the back, Abe swapped back and forth.
Could these next two pictures be any sweeter???

The DUCK when in use did not have any seats except for the Captain and Co-Captain.
It had hangers for wounded soldiers and could hold 8 cots.
If it was being used in the war it had a machine gun attached to the front. and the rest was full of ammunition.
Chattanooga is really a beautiful city.
Our fearless Captains above. :)

What a great day with my kids!
What a great field trip!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Baby's 5th Birthday!

5 years ago, Cameo and I went to the doctor because I was having some troubles. Fully expecting to be sent home I let Cameo go with me. She was 8 at the time. I thought it would be nice to have her with me as we talked to the doctor about our little Abram coming into the world.
We were told that we were going for an amniocentesis... I was SO troubled. I prayed and prayed and even had my church pray that it would not be necessary.
Cameo and I were sent to a specialist that would perform the procedure and would see if little Abe would be ready for this world.
Thankfully the Lord saw fit that it was an unnecessary and risky and proceeded to tell the Doctor the same thing!
She went with me on to the hospital, was my little helper and buddy the whole time they were getting me ready for surgery. She was then and still is... my right arm.
That afternoon our Abram Jerome was born and big sister was able to be with us the whole time. (just not in the operating room)
Our lives were changed by our new sweetheart.
Always a ball of energy and a little bit more challenging than the rest of the children.
Just 13 months younger than his sister Carlie, they were fast friends.
Another fast friend was "Blankie" he has been with you since day 1!
Such a joy you are in my life Abram. I love your determination, even if it is hard right now, one day it will be something that helps you stand strong in the Lord and accomplish your goals!
I fully expect you to be Moma's farming buddy, you already love the farm and are such a helper.
I hope your big boy 5th birthday is a great one my Son. I love you with all my heart!!
(this picture was taken this morning. You can see who is still his 'best buddy')

Friday, August 6, 2010

Homemade Hotdog or Hamburger Buns


Please excuse the crummy pictures. :)

If you had asked me say 5-10 years ago would I even consider making my own hot dog or hamburger buns, I would say... "WHY?"
I mean really, why would you go to all that trouble??
Well, since I have started reading labels and being much more conscious about what food we put in our body, I have realized that I want to make, grow, produce as much food from our homestead as possible (and if I can't then I will buy local).

If this is new to you, take a look at the label next time you want to buy a certain product. It might help you save a little money and be a bit more aware of what seemed to be no big deal, is really full of all kinds of garbage you don't want for your family!

These buns are as easy as can be.
They are really tasty too, so that is a bonus.
Here's how you do it...

2 cups freshly milled whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
(OR, you can use 4 cups of all purpose flour)
2 Tbsp yeast
Combine in a large bowl and set aside

In a small saucepan add the following:
1 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
Mix in saucepan til warm but not hot!
(Remember you are adding this to your dry ingredients and the yeast will not activate if it is too cold and it will die if it is too hot)

Add the wet to dry and mix
It will begin to get thick, once it does toss it on your floured counter and knead briefly.
This is a quick bread recipe so it doesn't take but just a couple of minutes.

Sprinkle some flour back in  your bowl and add your nice smooth ball of dough back in, cover with a tea towel and set somewhere warm for about 10-15 minutes.

Once you see that the dough has at least doubled and maybe tripled, plop dough back onto your floured surface and knead a few more times.

Your dough should be smooth and elastic.
Roll out on your counter (NOT TOO THIN!)
Remember! These are going to be buns, so don't make them too thin or small.
Grant it, they are going to rise, but still... keep this in mind.
Once they are cut out, place on your baking sheet and cover with a tea towel again.
You want them to puff up and rise, so leave them for a bit.
They will only rise just a tiny bit more in the oven, so make sure they are about as big as you want them while they are rising on the counter.

Bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes or until browned and not doughy on the inside.
I hope you enjoy!!!
Have a GREAT weekend friends!!