Category Archives: Homemaking

Homemade Yogurt

I’m always looking for great breakfast alternatives to cereal. Typically, our breakfasts consist of our own organic scrambled eggs and fresh fruit, occasionally muffins, blender waffles, or baked oatmeal. But homemade yogurt is a real treat–it’s easy, and we love it. We use raw whole milk in ours, and Activia yogurt for starter. Not all store bought yogurts are equal, by the way. Be sure you check the wording. It should say “CONTAINS” active cultures, not “MADE WITH” active cultures. If it was simply made with active cultures, then those cultures were killed off in the pasteurization process, and it won’t work for making homemade yogurt. You need those live good bacteria for good health, and for good yogurt!

This recipe works best with whole milk, but I’ve scoured the net for variations, and you can use lower-fat content milk with this method. For it to be nice and thick, however, you should add one packet of unflavored gelatin to the mix after stirring in the yogurt with active cultures. It seems that some have been successful mixing non-fat milk powder in as well. FYI–I have not tried adding in gelatin or powdered milk–so experiment at your own risk there!

Here’s the recipe and how-to’s. It makes around 2.5 quarts–but it won’t last long if your tribe likes it as much as mine does!

Homemade Yogurt

  • 8 cups (half-gallon) of whole milk–raw, or pasteurized and homogenized is fine, but do NOT use ultra-pasteurized.
  • 1/2 cup store-bought natural, live/active culture plain or vanilla yogurt (You need to have a starter. Once you have made your own, you can use that as a starter)
  • frozen/fresh fruit or jams for flavoring
  • thick bath towel
  • crock pot

**Note: This takes a while. Make your yogurt on a stay-at-home day so you can monitor your yogurt.

  1. My crockpot holds 4 quarts. Plug in your crockpot and turn to low.
  2. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.
  3. Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.
  4. When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.
  5. Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.
  6. Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.

In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened—it will not be as firmly thick as store-bought yogurt, but it still has the consistency of low-fat plain yogurt. And differing batches might have varying results. I’ve never had a batch mess up, but I’ve had some yogurt that was better added to smoothies than eaten with a spoon!

Chill your yogurt in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. You’ll want to save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch.

To serve, blend in your favorite fruit, either fresh or a tablespoon of jam per serving. We have access to fresh strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, so these are our favorite additions. We usually just pull  out a container of homemade organic freezer jam and stir a little of it into our yogurt. Mmm! You could also just add a little honey. Voila!

The Homemaking Reward

Bedtime StoryBeing a stay-at-home wife and mom is the best job ever. Can’t beat the commute! *Smile*

I’m thankful for the gift of time to pursue my own interests and ideals–as well as my husband’s, to enjoy my husband and children, to find joy inMay God Bless This Home making my home into a sanctuary. Every second, minute and hour.

I adore leafing through home-improvement magazines, gleaning simple ideas for making our abode more cozy. Same thing with cookbooks. Collecting great tried-and-trues from friends and loved ones is a must for my recipe box. And for fun crafts, family games and great themed-room ideas, Family Fun is a favorite!

With homemaking, you’re never done learning. So many skills and talents to perfect~fantastic things~all in the name of advancing your “career”. My own interests include cooking and baking, sewing,  homeschooling, frugality, nutrition, canning and kitchen gardens. I look forward to learning more in these areas and also in the areas of homesteading, budgeting, organizing, landscaping, candle making…

Problem solving your own dilemmas is the best reward for your challenge ratio there is! Depending on the size of your dilemma, it’s also a pretty good way to grow in the faith. Relying on God’s provision, dh’s salary and being as creative as I can be when stretching our dollars has made me a better individual, emotionally and spiritually.

I’d much rather be furthering my husband’s career than someone else’s, and thank God my husband feels the same way.

Perhaps most important to my sense of satisfaction is having an appreciative husband. Appreciation. It’s so important. We wives don’t get raises, or incentive plans. We love you, we love our children, but we do sometimes wonder if anyone notices all we do when so much of it all needs done again after a few hours.

Little ways my husband shows his appreciation:

  • He thanks God for me and for the food I’ve prepared, in his mealtime prayers.
  • He rinses the bathtub out after a bath. Consideration is tantamount to appreciation.
  • He almost always thanks me when pulling on a clean white t-shirt, loving the smell of bleached laundry!
  • He makes a great fuss over dessert…it’s no wonder I’m always baking around here…
  • He hangs out with me in the kitchen, or herds the children off to give me quiet time.
  • He tells me he could never do what I do (bless his heart!)

Little ways to make your home a sanctuary:

  • Leave your Bible out on an end table, or in the middle of the kitchen table. Someplace within easy reach, and be stretched, comforted, and inspired!
  • Books, stacked or on shelves, whisper of leisureclockbooks1.jpg and simplicity, of intelligent pursuits.
  • Every home needs a pendulum clock. The tick-tocking layers a perception of peace with time well spent.
  • Skip the overhead lights. Instead welcome evening by lighting a couple of lamps. This exudes warmth and hospitality, and begs exhausted husbands to kick their feet up and relax.
  • Keep tea and hot chocolate nearby, always ready for an impromptu tea party.
  • On the back of your stove, simmer orange slices with cinnamon sticks and breathe deeply. Later on, add apple cider mix to it, and call the family around!
  • Keep your children’s library books in a basket by the couch and make read-aloud time a priority each day.
  • Create an outdoor living area. It can be on your deck, patio, a corner of your backyard, or in the middle of a small flower garden. Two yard chairs and a table, ta-da!French Doors

Now it’s your turn. What makes you feel appreciated? What does “cozy” look like to you? What home project currently engages you?

And to all my working mom friends, you are amazing! Please don’t be discouraged by my stay-at-home-mom ramblings. Hang in there…I know it’s tough to “do it all” and still feel sane. You’re in my prayers!

(originally posted in July 2007)

Essential Oils in the Home

Essential oils are a homemaker’s best friend! And cleaning is always more enjoyable when your cleaning products smell good! Adding a few drops of lemon essential oil to my mop water makes scrubbing the kitchen floor almost as big a treat as enjoying that clean floor for as long as it lasts in our busy household. *wink* 

And don’t forget to breathe deeply!  Aromatherapy while you work!

So where are some places you can use essential oils in your house?

  • In the washing machineTea Tree oil is an antiseptic that kills germs, add several drops to your load of whites to disinfect them.
  • In your toothpaste–we love Wintergreen essential oil for this. My husband, youngest daughter and I all use baking soda for brushing (my other daughters prefer “real” toothpaste), and adding a single drop (more will sting your tongue!) to the baking soda leaves your mouth tingling fresh, and it tastes sooo good!
  • In your footsoak or hot bath–Lavendar essential oil is great for a calm, soothing, refreshing soak after a long day. Combined with Epsom salts, you can almost feel the toxins leaving your body! Simply add 8-10 drops to a bathfull or basin of hot water…
  • On your kitchen sponge–a drop of Rosemary essential oil on your Dobie scrubber (my sponge of choice for dishwashing!) makes washing dishes a heavenly chore!
  • In the air–as air freshener. Just fill a small spray bottle with water, and add 8-10 drops of your favorite essential oil and spritz the house. Again, my favorite oil for this is lemon!
  • On your wrist–all natural perfume! Try blending two scents. One of my friends loves to combine peppermint with lemon…

So there are just a few ideas to get you going…I’d love to hear how you use and enjoy essential oils in comments!

January Planning

09houseSnowGot a yen to organize thy household? Well, step right up. There’s nothing wrong with a little “New Year’s” motivation…and with single digit temps and snow everywhere, there’s not much to do outside. Wish you could see the curvy path I’ve tramped through the snow to the chicken barn each morning and night the past two weeks…it’s not quite a tunnel yet…*smile*. The chickens won’t even venture forth in this weather. They peek out at the bright snow and blink.

So, I’ve been having fun printing off a slew of great organizational helps at donnayoung.org this morning. For instance, her month-on-a-page household planner would be a great way to track monthly bills and “mental notes” in a binder from one year to the next. Need a greeting card registry, or a telephone number chart? How about refills for your yearly planner? She has several sizes and choices. She also has chore charts for kids, homeschool planners of every kind. We discovered her site this past fall, and have really been blessed by her generosity. Everything there is free, AND, it’s a Christian website!I personally like her “checklist” for a semester at a glance–it’s all on one page and what a way to see how much you’ve accomplished and how far you have to go!

So how is your New Year shaping up so far? Cold like mine?

Blessings,

Mary

Baby Chicks Arrived!

chicks09Up at 5:50 A.M. anticipating a phone call from the neighbors…who were anticipating a call from the Post Office…saying, “Come get your chicks!!”

Yes, you too can order chicks via a reputable hatchery.  Or check your local farm store, many of them advertise “Chick Days” this time of year and have everything you need to get started.

In our case, our CSA farming neighbors, Farmer John and his sweet wife let us order fifteen broiler chicks along with their 150…and today was delivery day! I actually waited about an hour for “the call”, at which time I fished three girls out of bed where they’d been snoozing fully dressed for a half an hour, loaded them in the vehicle and off we trucked down the road to the farm.

All 165 chickies were packed in two smallish post office boxes, little mounds of vibrating yellow. According to John, they’re packed tightly to ensure they’ll stay warm. After all, day old chicks need to be in 95 degree temps to thrive. Thus, a heat lamp is an important part of chick-rearing!

We stayed at the farm long enough to watch John’s wife count out the first thirty-five chicks and introduce their little beaks to the waterers, familiarizing them to their new digs. Picked up on a new-to-me tip while watching:  use a cut and slightly smashed garlic clove in their waterers as a natural antibiotic. That’s helpful info when you’re trying to go au naturale!

Collected our little cheepers and their organic feed and headed home to settle them in a warm home, a thigh-high produce box from Aldi’s that’s about 3’x4′ and honewchicks09gging a whole corner of my already crowded laundry room!

Aren’t they sweet? Just don’t get too attached, as I’m telling my girls…in 6-8 weeks these Cornish meat broiler babies will be in the freezer…yes, we are not naming this batch. No siree. I’m not wavering on this not one little bit. But oh they’re soooo cute…

Yes, it feels like Spring has officially begun Winter’s thaw. Meet one of our two baby Boer goats and hopefully soon I’ll get pics up of our three Australian Shepherd puppies who are one week old today! babygoat2

You’ll remember my similar post last year when we pioneered our way through raising baby chicks for laying purposes. Those twenty-five babies are full grown beauties shelling out about 18 eggs a day. We LOVE chickens! If you are serious about pursuing this calling, *wink*, I highly recommend this book: Living with Chickens by Jay Rossier. While our chicken house was still a work-in-progress, I used to take this book out there and dream while thumbing through all the glossy pics of chickens and myriad chicken houses across the U.S.A.

If nothing else, get yourself a copy for the coffee table conversation it will bring…and maybe it will come in handy in the next few years. You just never know.

;O)

After all, I ordered laying hens last year for a reason. I’ve come a long way to thinking I could butcher my own meat. And it too, remains to be seen.

Homemaking: Teaching our Daughters

Came across a great post today that really affirms all we do as mothers, and equally important, how important it is that we teach our daughters all they need to know to equip them to run their own homes some day. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s at the Girl Talk blog, and titled, Homemaking IGirl Sewing in an Interiornternship.

Even if your daughters are preschool aged, it’s never too early to start. At 3, 4 and 5, they’re still full of enthusiasm when it comes to helping around the house. For instance…my four year old responds eagerly when I call, “Oh Laundry Girl…where oh where is my Laundry Girl?” *smile* She can transfer wet clothes into the dryer, adjust the dials, toss a dryer sheet in and get the load going with no help from mom.  She’s pretty happy about it too.

However, I know there are MANY areas of improvement in our home when it comes to my passing along the baton of homemaking. So this post was a blessing and a great reminder to me that my time is short with my girls…and homemaking is definitely part of a well-rounded education, if you consider how crucial it can be not only for our living environments but also to maintaining healthy marriages, children and bank accounts!

What homemaking skills do you think are important, that maybe you feel you wish you’d known more about when you got married?

Monday Mornings

Woman Placing Her WashI love Monday mornings! Sundays are busy for us, so having a day at home is always something to look forward to!

Plus, my children are usually over-tired from a busy Awana club meeting the night before, so they sleep in a little bit, allowing me more time. I’m usually fired up about getting the house in shape after letting it go over the weekend, so starting a load of clothes is first on my list, and if there’s time, I get our lesson plans for the week all written in before the girls wake up.

Seeing to the chicken chores is another welcome morning routine, necessitating a trip through the brisk morning air–revving up my lungs and heart and putting the final touch on “waking me up” to a brand new week!

How do you feel about Mondays?

The wind is howling today, we’re almost done with schoolwork, 4 year old is napping…and I’m thinking about supper tonight…we had steaming, oven baked sweet potatoes for lunch, slathered in real butter and sprinkled with ground cloves…most delicious, nutritious and filling lunch in the world.

Hope your Monday is going great!

What to do with Ginger? Homemade Ginger Tea

If you’re like me, you’ve often wondered just what all you could do with ginger root.  I had some leftover after making my Super Tonic, and there it sat on my kitchen counter until one fine–er, actually, brisk and chilly–day found me and my daughters at Farmer John’s place again. After spending a couple hours weighing and packaging broilers, we retreated indoors to warm up with hot tea. Mrs. Farmer John showed me how simple it is to make a cup of ginger tea! And is it ever tasty, or I wouldn’t be sharing it here!

She took a “hand” of ginger root and cut 5 small slices from it, peel included. These went into our mugs, followed by boiling water and a teaspoon of honey. Mmm. This tea has a spicy, fragrant taste, even my girls like it. As I was enjoying my tea, my hostess explained that these chunks of ginger are even good for another cup of tea–joy!

So today after an hour of being outdoors in 35 degree weather, we came indoors to ginger tea and cookies. We let our tea steep covered for ten minutes, and I had to test the recycling theory of reusing my ginger–yes, it worked! Now, don’t let the light color of this tea fool you, it’s rich and flavorful.

Here are some more *good things* to know about ginger:

  • Ginger can be found in the produce section of your grocery store, and you should consider checking out your health food store for the organic option. Look for smooth skins and buy the ones with the least amount of branches/knots. Your ginger root should feel heavy and firm.
  • Googling the storage of ginger gave me several options. Some sources say to store unpeeled ginger wrapped in a paper towel, and sealed in a baggie in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Others say it will be good for a week only, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. I kept mine on the kitchen counter for a week before discovering it made delicious tea…and it was a little wrinkled and less firm, but still worked just fine. I’ll probably store my future purchases in the refrigerator.
  • Ginger is said to be excellent for gastrointestinal upsets, such as morning sickness, motion sickness, and nausea. I even read at one site that Ginger tea is recommended for use in alleviating nausea in chemotherapy patients, because its natural properties don’t interfere in a negative way with other medications. And by the way, it’s safe for use with morning sickness, it won’t harm your unborn baby.
  • Farmer John and his wife, and even his apprentices (we were all “taking tea” together) overwhelmingly recommended chewing a sliver of ginger root to alleviate sore throat pain. It’s a bit spicy-hot, but not unbearable.

I just love learning new things, especially when they are simple to implement into my daily life and for the better health of my loved ones. I hope you’ll all chime in with how you use ginger, and if there is another easy-to-make, good-for-you tea, do tell in comments!

And if you want to know more, this article on how to use Ginger has some good info.

Some interesting reads for you…

I apologize for the lack of *me* around this neglected blog lately. Just for fun, here’s some good stuff:

Are you writing up your Christmas shopping lists? Mine will be simple this year, hopefully! My hubby’s family does the traditional Christmas gift exchange, while my family just gets together for the pleasure of it and the good eats! My eight yo daughter wants a Bible with larger print–she said she’d be happy if that’s all she gets. Aw. Isn’t that awesome? (Should I test that theory?)

How is everyone? I’d love to hear how things are going…

Making Super-tonic in the Great Outdoors

That’s right, super-tonic. I’ll get around to explaining it in a second.

I knew the minute my hand left the back porch door knob this morning that *this* day was going to be a hum-dinger! I couldn’t make myself go inside after letting the chickens out…thankfully only my oldest daughter was awake, so I reveled in the clear morning unfolding around me, restocking the chicken feed and cleaning/refilling their waterer, clucking right back at my beautiful hens who are sometimes giving us 19 eggs a day by noon! Ahh…the gift of living this country life.

All weekend long I’ve been wishing for time to put together this super-tonic recipe our herb-savvy neighbors gave us…but between caring for a sick child and getting some garden and yard work done, I just didn’t have time, nor all the ingredients on hand to get it done. So this afternoon, I and my older girls set up an outdoor “kitchen” complete with camp chairs, cutting boards, knives, veggie peelers, a food chopper and a makeshift “sink”. Okay, so it was just a hose with a sprayer nozzle and a bucket, but it worked! Why outside? Well, firstly, because of the gorgeous weather! Secondly, because of the fumey ingredients in this here tonic!

Here’s how it works. Oh, it’s for good health, by the way. You knew that, didn’t you? *Wink*

You take five equal parts of the following diced fine, say one cup each which is what I did:

  • horseradish
  • garlic
  • onion
  • ginger
  • jalapeno peppers or cayenne peppers or other hot pepper

My oldest scrubbed and peeled the horseradish, which I then sliced into chunks and diced fine in my food chopper. Worked slick! While she was scrubbing horseradish (and tossing the stems to her eight puppies to chew) my 8 year old nimbly broke apart garlic buds, peeled the cloves and took her turn at the food chopper. I sat and removed seeds from peppers with my rubber gloves on of course! Onions came next, and last, the ginger. Mmm, ginger smells good! I just peeled it with my knife, hoping that was the “way to do” and then into the chopper it went. By this time we had a bowl almost brimful of knock you off your camp chair strong smelling stuff! I was so glad we’d done it outside with nary a tear or sniffle from fumes. The breezes outside were extra delicious today, I soon realized exactly *how* welcome they were when I went inside to fill my gallon jar with the ingredients. Whew-ee did my cheeks burn from jalapeno osmosis or what? Anyway, onto the next important step of this recipe.

  • 2.5-3 quarts Apple Cider Vinegar, the kind from the health food store that has the “mother” in it

Once you’ve filled your gallon jar with the five chopped ingredients (or 4 quart sized jars with equal portions) take your ACV and finish filling the jar(s) to the top. Put your lids on and store in a dark place, such as a cupboard or closet. Mine are in my canner. Take the super-tonic out twice a day and shake it good. After two weeks of this, strain the liquid out and keep it in a glass jar. If you have any glass medicine bottles, the kind with the droppers, that would be an excellent keeper for easy handling. One dropperful in apple juice for a child, two for an adult. This can be used daily for a good immunity builder, or when needed for nipping colds and flu in the bud.

Our neighbors shared a bottle with us last week, and I can promise you that diluted in juice, you hardly notice the taste. But by evening, my daughter and I both had clear heads and no sniffles! Good-bye head colds. I know a good thing when I smell see it.

Do you have any home-brewed health goodies to share? Btw, this super-tonic recipe is all over the net, but my neighbor’s good instructions aren’t. Let me know if you make this!

Hat tip to my friends, Farmer John and his wife!