Thursday, July 15, 2010

Doing more with less-Thriving in my new reality

Week 2: As we remove the non-essentials and do without more, I could easily cop an attitude about all of it. I could cast blame on others, sulk in my self-pity and complain to others. But after reevaluating what was essential I have found that much of what I am choosing to remove from life just clutters it up anyway. It either distracts me or takes up precious time, neither of which is necessarily good for me. So its really all in what my attitude is as I choose to make changes. If I continue on with our current lifestyle that includes haircuts and new clothes and eating out, we will spiral downward into a sea of debt. Yes, it is the American way these days, but its not smart, its certainly not Biblical and when you get to the bottom it takes way longer to recover.

Thankfulness Journal
One thing that is really helping my perspective these days is a thankfulness journal. Each day I strive to write down 5 things that I am thankful for. Specific things from that day. Be it a cooling afternoon thunderstorm or the pretty wildflowers my daughter picked and placed on the kitchen table. There is so much to be grateful for and as I talk to my Creator at night, I often forget all those little things. With a thankfulness journal I find that even in my lowest, darkest moments I can pull myself up by my bootstraps and continue on, feeling better about my current situation.

Prayer Life
I am constantly talking to God about our situation. These days He seems so hard to hear and although He blesses me constantly with little "gifts" that let me know He's aware of all of it, we haven't been rescued from our current plight and have to continue to cut costs more and more. While God hasn't solved our current dilemma as of yet, I know He cares and that He has a plan. As my dear, sweet friend always tells me; "He is never early and He is never late." And that truth resonates in my mind when I spend my days trying to figure out what exactly He is trying to teach me during this trial we are  experiencing. Recently I came to terms with all of that. I need to stop trying to figure out what He is doing and just rest in the fact that He is "doing it." God doesn't think like I do. He sees the big picture and the happy ending and He knows the path I need to take to get there. I need to let go and not try to "figure" the next step to get out of this and just do what He wants me to do in this moment.

It blesses me to be with like-minded friends as I let go of things. People that understand why we do what we do and understand why we don't do the dramatic worldly things that would "solve" our problems. Having a good support circle makes the tough days doable. Friends don't let me have a bad attitude. They listen when I have a bad day, but they won't let me "waller around in it" for long and they are quick to help if they see I can't quite get to where I need to be. Friends can also put things in perspective. I have friends that are worse off than me or are battling horrible illnesses or have been right where we are and can give sound advice on getting through it. Friends aren't made in a day, it takes years and the true ones always shine during your dark moments. They don't walk away and they won't take "no thanks" for an answer.

Strive to make it better
As I continue to remove and reevaluate, I need to make what we do have better. I need to find free or cheap pleasures to replace what is gone. I need to invest in my family and friends and enjoy what life is offering to me. I need to laugh. A cousin recently shared with me that laughter got her through her battle with breast cancer. Lots of laughing, no bad news, no "reality", and if it didn't make her laugh, she didn't partake. Its a radical plan, but it worked for her. So this week I plan to  laugh more. I plan to have friends for a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea. I need to fix pancakes for supper and play board games after lunch. I need to replace each item removed with something "free and fun." It will take some extra energy. Changing routines always does. But soon they become habits and who can argue that making life more rewarding is a bad habit?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Garden Abundance-Peaches

I purchased a bushel of peaches and had to deal with them pretty quickly in order to avoid losing any to spoilage. Over the years, I have found many different ways to fix them that are popular with the family. I thought I would share what happened to our latest purchase.

Peach Butter
Fruit butters are popular around here. Particularly on toast or a biscuit warm from the oven. To start my peach butter, I pulled out my largest crock pot and started washing fruit. I cut the peaches in half and removed the pit. I also removed any spots that have gone bad. I placed the peaches in the crock pot until it was overflowing, skins and all. I cover and turn the crock pot on low. At this point I move on to another project. When the peaches have cooked for about half a day, they are soft and ready to puree. I place my immersion blender in the bottom of the crock and blend it till smooth. Then I continue to cook on low until it is thick and mounds up on the surface with a spoon. You can add sugar if you like, but we like ours pure and simple. I process this a few days later in pint jars, when it's thick the way we like it.

Canned Peaches
Wash the peaches and cut in half. Remove the pit. Cut off blemishes. Dunk the peaches in boiling water for about 30 seconds and then remove to ice water. Save the water you blanched in,keeping it hot on the stove. It will be staturated with peach juice by the time you are done and will be used up. Set up your canning station, preparing quart jars, rings and lids. I put a 1/4 tsp of vitamin C(ascorbic acid)in the bottom of each hot jar to prevent browning, slide the skins off the blanched peaches and place the skin in a pot on the side. I pack the jars tightly with the peaches. Using the water I blanched the peaches in, I cover the peaches to within 1/2" of the top. I remove all the air bubbles, wipe the rims, seal and process. At our elevation, I process for 35 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Peach Jelly
I take all the skins that I reserved, add any remaining peach water and set on low on the stove. If I don't have any peach water left, I add water. This will simmer all day, producing a nice peach juice that will make peach jelly. This liquid will be strained in cheese cloth after simmering for several hours. Usually I freeze the strained juice and make the jelly in the fall when I have more time.

Dried Peaches
I wash and remove the pits of the remaining peaches. I take each half and dip it in a solution of ascorbic acid and water to prevent excessive darkening of the fruit. I place the peaches cut side up on dryer trays and start them at about 125 degrees. Once they have been in about an hour, I raise it to 155 until they are almost done, then lower to 140 to finish off. Sometimes halfway into the drying, I remove and cut them into smaller pieces. These are good in granola or oatmeal on a winter morning. They are also good in muffins if you cut them even smaller. The reason I start with halves is that I want to keep all the juice. Every cut causes more juice to come out of the fruit. By leaving them in halves, I keep all that flavor. Once they are dry on the cut part, you can turn them over to finish drying.

There you have peach assembly line! When all is said and done, I have an abundance of safe, tasty, summer bounty in my pantry for those long winter days. How do you use those extra peaches in the summer?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

This lecture is jaw-dropping in the depth of factual information on the dietary damage fructose does to our body. Delivered by an endocrinologist, the lecture covers the negatives effects of processed foods on the body and the disease load it causes to our bodies. This video is long but easy to listen to and will keep your attention when you hear all the ways it negatively affects you. You will have many an ah-ha moment as you follow along and watch him link disease and consumption

Coupon Adventures: 7/7

Get double manufacturer Health & Beauty coupons with your
Shop Your Way Rewards card 7/4/10-7/10/10 (limit 5).

Get a FREE $5 Kmart gift card instantly when you buy $25 of  HUGGIES(coupon here), PULL-UPS and/or KOTEX products 7/11/10-7/17/10.

Details here

Below are the basic “rules” for this event:
*You can use manufacturer coupons up to and including a $2 value (i.e. if you have a $2/1 coupon, it will be doubled up to $2 for a total of $4 off the price of the item)

*You must be a member of the Shop Your Way Rewards program AND the cashier MUST swipe your reward’s card at the beginning of your transaction!!*

*Limit 5 total health & beauty coupons per customer per day (No, grocery coupons.)

*If you are using more than 5 coupons in your transaction, ONLY the first 5 coupons will be doubled.

*Does not include Kmart Store Coupons or Kmart Pharmacy Store Coupons (i.e. Kmart coupons will NOT be doubled)

*If you are not currently a Kmart Shop Your Way Rewards card member, you can sign up on line(above), get a card at the store or call KMart and request one. If you sign up online, you can print a temporary card out after you sign up.

Icing on your cake:
Spend $35 on participating P&G products (BEFORE coupons) and get a $10 Catalina coupon OYNO! Here are 2 shops that make it a moneymaker when you walk in the store:

First trip: 
Buy 2 Gillette Body Wash, 12.2 oz $4.59 = $9.18
Buy 3 Gillette Men’s Deodorant $4.49 = $13.47
Buy 4 Old Spice Body Wash $3.50 = $14
Total = $36.65
Use 5 $2/1 Gillette Body Wash or Deodorant coupons from the 7/4 PG (these will double and deduct $20)
Plus, use 2 buy one get one free Old Spice Body Wash coupons from the 6/6 or 7/4 PG (deduct $7)
Finally use the $1/2 Old Spice Deodorant or Body Wash coupon from the 6/6 or 7/4 PG
Pay $8.65
Get back a $10 Catalina coupon
Final cost FREE + a $1.35 moneymaker!

Trip two:
Buy 5 Crest Rinse, 1L $4.99 each = $24.95
Buy 4 Oral B Advantage Toothbrushes $2.99 each = $11.96
Total = $36.91
Use 5 $2/1 coupons from the 6/6 PG (give these to the cashier first and they will all double for a total of $20 off)
Use 4 $2/1 coupons from the 7/4 PG (will deduct $8– these won’t double since the limit is 5 per day)
Pay $8.91
Get back a $10 Catalina coupon
Final cost FREE + a $1.09 moneymaker

Here are some other deals to watch for:
Gillette Body Wash $4.59 or Gillette Men’s Deodorant $4.49
Use the $2/1 coupon from the 7/4 PG
Final cost ONLY $0.59 or $0.49!

Nivea Lip Care $2.69
Use the $2/2 coupon from
Final cost $0.69 each!
Oral B Crossaction & Advantage Toothbrush $2.79-$3.99
Use the $2/1 coupon from the 7/4 PG
Final cost FREE!

Tampax Pearl 18 ct./Compak Pearl 20 ct. $4.79
Use the $2/1 coupon from the 6/6 PG
Final Cost $0.79!
Advil PM 20 ct $4.29
Use the $2/1 coupon from here
Final cost only $0.29!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Breakfast Skillet

Around our home, we joke about being foodies. We relish good, healthy, local foods. vance. Recently a new local city market opened that is fairly close to home. My middle child and I decided to check it out. There were some great farms there and one in particular is a favorite;  the Spinning Spider Creamery. You see, my daughters and I share a love for goat cheese; a long-time favorite that we rarely get to partake in. So we happened upon this familiar vendor that travelled a fair distance to be at our market and we decided we needed to purchase something "since they were there." We settled on a garden vegetable chevre after sampling several of their cheeses. You realize of course, that the sampling was not necessary since were were completely familiar with their products, but might I remind you of the "foodie" issue.  As we headed home, we discussed all the ways we could use this wonderful treasure in a meal. Crackers with cheese... on a warmed a dip with some carrot sticks, etc. This morning, I started forming my breakfast plan around that very same treasure. I ended up with a skillet that was SO good that I thought I would share.

First I gathered my ingredients:
1 T fresh butter
1 new potato, straight from the garden, diced
1 small spring onion, straight from the garden, chopped
1 small piece of fresh pork sausage, already cooked
1 farm fresh egg, straight from the chicken :)
1 T fresh cream
2 T of garden vegetable chevre
Sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper

In my favorite small cast iron skillet, I sauteed the potato in the butter until it was lightly browned. I added the onion and sausage and continued cooking on a med heat. At this point I salted and peppered the mix. Once the onions were caramelized, I mixed the egg and fresh cream together and poured into the skillet. I lowered the heat a bit so the egg wouldn't burn. When the egg started to set, I flipped it over and put dollops of chevre on top. I covered with a small lid and let the cheese melt. Once it was done I devoured it, thinking to myself, "I wish the peppers would ripen...I need to do this again when they do...what if I added some garlic scapes?..."you get the picture.