Saturday, September 1, 2007

Raised Yeast Doughnuts--Bread Machine

¾ cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 egg
3 ½ cups all purpose or bread flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. shortening
2 tsp. fast rise yeast
veggie oil for frying donuts

Remove dough from bread pan. Let rest 15 minutes. Make into a rectangle about ½ inch thick. Cut with a doughnut cutter. Cover. Leave on counter to rise. Knead together scraps of dough. Let rest 10 minutes. Reroll. Cut doughnuts. Let rise 30-45 minutes or until double in size. Fry 3-4 doughnuts in 3 inches of veggie oil preheated to 375°. Turn doughnuts over as they rise to the surface. Fry 2-3 minutes until golden brown on both sides. Drain. Frost or sugar as desired.

Homemade Salsa--Canned

15-20 tomatoes (use more if needed)
3 cups onion, chopped
3 cups peppers, chopped
½ cup vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
7-10 dashes garlic powder
1 carrot
3 oz. tomato paste

Put all together. Simmer until thick. Get jars, lids, and rings hot. Fill jars leaving ¼ inch head space. Boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Let cool on counter.

(This is my own recipe that I put together by trial and error! It is really good if I do say so myself! LOL) When I did this recipe I used Roma Tomatoes and Banana Peppers, because those were what popped out on the plants that I got from the store and planted in my garden.)

Honey Graham Crackers

(Top Secret Recipes)

1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey, warmed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Combine shortening with sugar, honey (warmed for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave), and vanilla in a large bowl. Blend with an electric mixer until smooth.
3. Combine flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in another large bowl, and then add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and blend well with an electric mixer.
4. Slowly add the water to the mixture while beating. You may have to mix by hand until the mixture forms a large ball of dough.
5. Divide the dough in thirds and roll 1/3 out in the shape of a rectangle that is at least 1/16 inch thick on wax paper. This dough should be paper thin! It will double when cooked to the desired 1/8-inch thickness. Use a knife to trim the dough so that it has straight edges in the shape of a rectangle slightly smaller than the size of the baking sheet you are using.
6. Grease the baking sheet with a light coating of shortening. Turn the dough over onto the baking sheet, and carefully peel away the wax paper.
7. Use a knife to score the dough in 5 x 2 3/8-inch rectangles. Use a toothpick to poke holes that are 1/4-inch apart across the entire surface of the dough.
8. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until the dough begins to turn light brown around the edges. Be sure to turn the baking sheet around about halfway through the cooking time.9. Cool the graham cracker sheets before breaking them apart along the scored lines. repeat the process with the remaining dough. Makes 44 crackers.

Tidbits: If you would like to clone the cinnamon variety of graham crackers, simple combine 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in a small bowl. Before you put the graham cracker dough in the oven, sprinkle a light coating of this cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top surface of the dough. Shake the baking sheet around gently to evenly distribute the cinnamon/sugar and bake as instructed.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Mothering the Minutes

Mothering the Minutes
by Kym Wright

As the mother of eight children, one of the best ways I organize myself, is by organizing my time. Quoting from Lord Chesterfield, "Take care ofthe minutes, the hours will take care of themselves," let me share withyou what began as an experiment of desperation, but became a lifelong habit of joy.

When we had four little children, one barely reading, the rest great listeners, my days were filled with children, meals, chores, and diapers. There seemed to be no time to just regroup, do something fun,or enjoy some precious alone-time. I'm not an advocate of "My Time!" orthat as moms we have a right to time off. I believe we are to serve our families, but that we need to discuss situations with our own husbands and come up with creative ways for each parent to have some time to themselves. As our example, several times the Bible mentions Jesus going off alone to reenergize. We need it, too, when done in an honoring and gentle way.

Since my husband and I were committed to my staying home with the children, I didn't want to hire a babysitter to watch them while I sewed, read a book, or worked on a project. So I prayed. I ran across an article about early, early risers—people who arise before 6 A.M. and even before 5 A.M. People who actually choose to get out of bed early! Iwas intrigued, became creative, set the alarm for a predawn time, and went to bed early to account for it.

I remember waking up that day with the sheer thrill of excitement. I read my Bible and prayed, then began a sewing project. I had just enough time to cut out two Sunday dresses before it was time to wake up the family. I was hooked! A smiled played on my lips as I carried a sense of joy with me throughout the day. For something so simple, it affected our lives so dramatically. And the best part was that I hadn't taken time away from the children to accomplish it.

Research shows that each hour of sleep before midnight equals two hours of sleep after midnight. So, the earlier one goes to sleep, the less sleep she will need. I now go to bed, most nights, with the littlies—our youngest children—around 8:30 P.M. Without an alarm, I awaken between 1 something and 3 A.M., which works well with my natural early bird circadian rhythm.

During dinner with friends, I mentioned the early-birding to a group of young adults, and they latched on to the idea. One began getting up early to work on her watercolor paintings. Another used the productive time to study for law school, with great improvement to his grades. Our older children get up at 5 A.M., read their Bibles and pray, do chores,then hit the gym before 6 A.M. to work out for track team.

Managing Projects
After fifteen years of arising early, I have learned a few things to make the time even more productive. I absolutely do not use that time to clean or do housework. However, I do use it to make meal plans, create lists, prepare school, write, or work on creative projects.

One of the first tips I learned for project management is to simplify and focus on one project to begin, then count the cost, asking yourselfif this project is really worth your time. Can you buy it instead? Does the difference between store-bought and homemade matter to you and your family? For example, I used to sew almost everything for our children, including underclothing and the baby's shoes. When I realized that packets of underthings cost less than $5 for three pair, I had to rethink my time investment. Sometimes, while it might not be especially prudent to make a dress for one of my little daughters, rather than buy it, the emotional payoff does wonders for their hearts. I've heard my girls tell their friends, not boastfully, but with gratitude overflowing their hearts, "My mother made this dress for me, rather than just buying it." To them it signifies their importance in my eyes.

Another tip is to think ahead—plan ahead—buy ahead. Think through things before you get there, and spend lost time thinking through the next project. Lost time is any time not spent doing something else. Waiting in line at a store, sitting in a doctor's office, changing a baby's diaper, nursing a little one, or washing dishes. Even if my body is still, my brain is active, thinking, planning, making lists.

If I haven't had time during the day to plan my next morning's activities, I plan them the night before. In my Day-Timer or even on a sticky-note, I list my priorities and what needs to be done next. I also plan out the steps to accomplish these goals. As the mom of many, large chunks of time don't just miraculously appear in my day, week, or month, so I try to work on projects daily. Thinking through helps me plan ahead. For example, when working on a quilt, I might not be able to finish the entire project today. But while running errands, I can buy the batting and thread I need. Or, I can cut out the pieces for one twelve-inch block, rather than waiting to cut out the entire quilt all at once. Literally, little bits daily, help me accomplish large projects in a timely manner.

If you can find a way to leave your project constantly—or easily—accessible, it helps you make progress. Too many preparations drain incentive. If I have to drag the sewing machine out of the closet,set it up on the dining room table, get out the scissors, pins and thread, then find a chair to use—sewing might just become too big of a chore to be fun. But, if I found a used sewing hutch at a garage sale, moved it into the dining room, with all my sewing paraphernalia inside,I could have everything I needed at hand with just the flip of a wrist to open the cabinet.

From my experience, if we can conquer those minutes, with planning future fun, our hours really will take care of themselves. And it makes the mothering so much more enjoyable.

This is something that I definitely need to start doing!! I have kids that think getting up at 6:30am for the day is good time! LOL Becoming that early riser that I was in college would help me to get sooo much done that *I* want to do. I bet that I would have better patience with the kids during the day. I need to work better at setting a good and healthy tone in my house. Like the saying goes, "If momma ain't happy, nobody is happy!"

You can catch up with Kym at Mother's Heart or Learn and Do Unit Studies

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

First ask yourself these questions:
1. What is your monthly amount for groceries right now BEFORE you do any cutting back?

2. Are there any special diets due to allergies, etc. that need to be followed?

3. How many are you needing to feed?

4. Do you have picky eaters?

5. What type of things if any do you make or can you make from scratch??

6. Do you have a extra deep freeze and pantry space??

7. Do you want to shop weekly, biweekly, or monthly?

Now for suggestions(in no specific order) on how to accomplish grocery shopping on a budget:
1. Shop your house before you shop the store!!

2. Make weekly menus for every meal and snacks AND around the grocery sales.

3. Make a pantry list of EVERYTHING you buy and post it on your fridge so that when you run out or are getting low you can circle or hightlight that item. I made up a form that has different categories(canned goods, frozen items, produce, etc) and then wrote down everything in those categories that I purchase. One place where you can get some of these forms(pantry list) is at Organized Home. Here is a printable master grocery list. You can either print out or use as a guide to make your own.

4. If you are not already, start making bread and baked goods/sweet treats from scratch.

5. Use coupons for items that you purchase consistently! Watch the sales and when those items are sale use the coupon and save more!

6. Start following the sales, and make a price book of items that you buy regularly. You will find that stores have what are called "loss leaders" in the ads...basically an item is advertised for a major discounted price. I am sure that you have seen in the ads where the same items are sale week after week...well track the price of those items and you will see that one of the weeks that an item is on sale it will be discounted more than any other week it was on sale.

7. When you find an item at a low price stock up within reason on that item. For example, whole chickens were on sale at one of the stores that I shop at for 59 cents/lb. Instead of getting other cuts of chicken that week I got 3 whole chickens to use in my menus.

8. Buy store brand items rather than name brand. Do you have an Aldis or Save-A-Lot near you?? You might want to give them a try for your shopping needs.

9. Do a garden and can it! (I am not able to do this because of limited space right now)

10. Buy items in bulk from Sams/Costco. I go to Sam's on a monthly basis and get only certain things(baking supplies, cheese, cereal, snacks,etc.) WATCH your prices though, because sometimes buying in bulk may NOT be cheaper than buying the item in the grocery store.

11. Make a grocery list and stick to it!

Here is a few other suggestions that I got from my friend, Debbie:

1. When you make your menu for the week, do it with a grocery ad and a few cookbooks in front of you (or with lots of recipes in your head.). See what is on sale and plan meals around those items. If you can't think of what to cook using things that are on sale, use the cookbooks.

2. Don't be afraid to serve leftovers. We have 'smorgasbord' at least once a week. I pull everything that is hiding in the fridge out and tell the family to help themselves. I do require that they choose from each major food group, otherwise at least one person would have rice, potatoes and pasta and not a vegetable in sight on his plate... (Leftovers in my house are used for lunches or in makeover dinners! I use them mostly in dh's lunches but if I make more than just one extra serving it is fair game for the kids to have for a lunch.)

3. Make as much from scratch as possible. The only things I buy that are pre-mixed are pudding mixes (and I make it from scratch sometimes too), jello, and occasionally brownie mixes if they are cheap (so the kids can make them).

4. Learn to identify convenience foods and eliminate them. A good example is popcorn. I've had teens here who didn't know you could make popcorn without using a microwave. I buy it by the 50 pound bag for way less than it costs to buy microwave popcorn. (This is a hard one for me because I find that convenience foods can be a meal-saver! Even with planning menus, life just gets too hectic and dinner gets forgotten or something happens where having convenience foods to use is ALOT cheaper than heading out to eat at a restauraut.)

5. Learn to recognize if a food has been prepared in a way you could do yourself. Any time you buy something like that, you are paying someone else to do something you could do. You may decide it's worth paying someone, but lots of things are so easy and inexpensive to do yourself it doesn't make sense to pay someone. For example, I never buy condensed soup. Making a white sauce is a breeze, flavoring it is a breeze, and it works in casseroles just like Cream of Whatever. You can also make a lovely cream soup when you know how to make a basic white sauce.

6. Discipline yourself not to buy something unless it is available for your 'target price' or less. To determine target prices you need to pay careful attention for six months or so to what items cost, so you know what is the lowest price for which you are likely to get any particular item. If you have a hard time remembering, write information down in a notebook. If I can't get something for my target price, I will do without or substitute unless it's a special occasion or I have extra money anyway that week.

Now a look into my shopping experience....I feed my family of 7 on around $450/month(that does not include the WIC)! However, it does include even non-food/household items like shampoo, toothpaste, cleaners, and paper products. Because of only having one vehicle and my dh's work schedule, I have no choice but to take my munchkins shopping with me. I take dh to work in the morning and we go in the morning to shop while there is not alot of traffic in the stores. So if my kids want to take up a whole aisle it isn't that big of a deal! LOL I also allow the kids to pair up and go into the next aisle and get the items that I need. I find that shopping goes twice as fast instead of me walking up every aisle with them in tow. I shop at least 3 stores when I go. I do shopping every two weeks. I also will not shop a store if there is not at least 1/2 dozen "loss leaders" in their ad. I figure that if I am going to waste gas to go to that particular store than it better have good sales! I usually can get my shopping done in about 3 hours(with the kids).I also have more patience in the morning to work with them to help them learn how to shop frugally. The kids know that I have list that I am following so the likelihood of them asking for something and getting it is very unlikely! Oh and just sooo you is a hassle to take ALL the kids with me too, esp. having one that does NOT like to shop! But I have found that getting them involved in the menu planning, and the shopping at home and in the stores they are getting some life skills taught!!(I count my grocery shopping with the kids as part of homeschooling!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Homeschooling on a Budget

Is it really possible to homeschool on a budget? Yes it can be done!! I have done it! I am going into my 7th year of homeschooling(officially). Aside from getting a black and white laser printer the first year so that I wasn't spending TONS on ink with all the printing I was doing, I have only spent on average $100 each year total(not for each individual munchkin!). For certain subjects, I use textbooks but I usually use the textbooks as a supplement book as I make up my own curriculum for my kids.

Some of the things that I get with my $100:
--case of paper
--school supplies (during the back to school sales)
--used textbooks (usually not the current editions)
--fees for co-op/support group classes

There is more help at Budget Homeschooling!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Miracle Baby!

We are going to a party tonight for NICU graduates. You might wonder which one of my munchkins is a graduate?!?! Well let me tell you a story...

I found out that I was pregnant with #4 in March of 2003. At 22 weeks, I had my ultrasound and measurements and growth were very good. We did not find out if we were going to have a boy or a girl.
The pregnancy was very uneventful other than me having gestational diabetes diagnosed at 27 weeks. I changed my diet and went on with life as normal. Once Thanksgiving came around, I started getting into the full "nesting mode" so I thought that the baby was going to come early like what my three boys had. However, I carried the baby right to the due date...December 27th!
Labor started around 8am and I got to the hospital around 9:30am after dh stopped at McDonald's for a couple of breakfast biscuits!(yes he went thru the drive thru with me in labor in the passenger's seat!)
I got hooked up to the monitoring device and the nurse could not keep a good reading coming on the baby's heartbeat. So I had to stay positioned a certain way in order for her to get good readings. Labor progressed along and I started noticing that they were contacting extra help(NICU nurses) being on standby before baby was actually delivered. I thought it was strange that they were not really saying anything to me other than saying things like we are having trouble monitoring the baby.
The doctor broke my water around 1:30pm. I delivered a girl at 1:40pm!! She weighed 9lbs 12 oz. and was 22 inches long. She was delivered so fast that she wasn’t able to expel any of the fluid in her lungs naturally and didn't start breathing on her own upon delivery. After about 16 minutes of alternating between suctioning her lungs out and pumping her with a breathing tube, she was able to breathe on her own. She was placed on oxygen for 6 hours and earned herself a stay in NICU for observation. I was able to see her about 3 hours after she was born and hold her(tubes and all) for the first time. She was the biggest baby in the unit!
The doctors had to give us the run down as to what might happen to her negatively. The doctor also said that as long as her white blood count stays down she would be able to come home quickly. We had the faith that God didn’t give us this little girl to have her taken away from us so quickly. We got the prayer chain at our church going and other friends praying for our little S! She ended up not having any of the negative effects (like seizures, or stop breathing) happen to her in that first 24 hours! Amen!
Today she is a normal 3 1/2 year old little girl! Looking at her one would never guess the “scare” that she gave us coming into this world!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Menu Plan Monday

**This is just a plan and plans have the ability to change at the cook's discretion! Lunches listed below are for the kids and I, dh's lunches are not included as he normally will just take what leftovers are available. A special thanks to Organizing Junkie for hosting Menu Plan Monday!**

August 26- September 1
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, sausage links(kids), steak(dh), cinnamon rolls
Lunch: deli meat sandwiches, chips, carrot sticks
Dinner: grilled chicken, boiled potatoes, corn
Snack: "snack basket"

Breakfast: cereal(hot or cold), toast
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: Sloppy Joes, french fries, salad or carrots
Snack: cake and beverages @ NICU graduates party

Breakfast: waffles and fruit
Lunch: leftover hoagie bun pizzas
Dinner: Breaded chicken tender sandwiches, hashbrowns, green beans
Snack: "snack basket"

Breakfast: eggs and bagels
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Pork roast in gravy, rice, and peas
Snack: popsicles

Breakfast: pancakes(leftovers that were put in the freezer from last Friday)
Lunch: leftover sloppy joes, fries, applesauce
Dinner: Oven Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits
Snack: cookie and milk

Breakfast: cereal(hot or cold) and fruit
Lunch: sandwiches(tuna or PB&J), chips, fruit and raw veggies
Dinner: payday--might go out or order in pizza
Snack: homemade chocolate shakes or sundaes

Breakfast: fend for yourself!
Lunch: still in the planning stages--probably leftovers or sandwiches
Dinner: Chicken club sandwiches, pan fries, carrots
Snack: popcorn and a movie! :-)

Singing Sunday

**here is this Sunday's song of worship! I sang this morning in church and it really touched me! No matter our circumstances, He is our shelter! The Lord is the one that we can solely depend on to get us through the storms of life.**
Bring the Rain
By MercyMe
I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You

Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

I am Yours regardless of
The dark clouds that may loom above
Because You are much greater than my pain
You who made a way for me
By suffering Your destiny
So tell me what's a little rain
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Is the Lord God Almighty