4.20.2014

Delivered over to Death, Raised to Life



He was delivered over to death for our sins 
and was raised to life for our justification. 
(Romans 4:25)








Praise the Lord...He is Risen!



Dear Lord Jesus, we are amazed and so grateful for the sacrifice you made for us, dying on that cross for our sins.  You love us so much that you willingly gave your life for ours - an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  We didn't deserve it - we don't deserve it.  We didn't earn it - we can't earn it.  It is nothing that we've done - it's all about you and what you've done.  Thank you for the free gift you've given us,  we accept it, so that we can have eternal life with you. You are Lord of our lives now, and we pray that Your perfect will be done in every area of our lives.  Use us, work in and through us.  We want to be your hands and feet on earth, to make you known while we're still here.  And, Oh Lord, how we look forward to worshipping at your feet one day!  Amen



4.18.2014

Detoxing my Moisturizer


Oil on my face.


Now that statement means something entirely different to me than it did a few years ago.

My whole life - until the past several years - I would have described my face as "oily."  Very oily, actually.  

I would wash and scrub it clean several times a days, use toner...and could/would still blot it multiple times during the day to get the excess oil off.

I didn't want anyone to touch my face. Not Jas, not the children.  I would cringe.  It grossed me out to think of someone else being grossed out by all the oil they would find there.  

Because I already had so much oil on my face, I couldn't stand the thought of moisturizing my face.  Purposefully adding oil to my face?  It made no sense to my simple mind.

But I kept reading it enough, that I finally decided to try it.  I purchased a Wally world knock off of Oil-of-Old-Lady.

A move in the right direction?  Ummmm, not really.

I finally wised up several years ago and realized that the coconut oil that I swore by in my kitchen would also make a fantastic skin care product.  

Again:  If I can't eat it...I shouldn't put it on my skin.  

I definitely would not have put that store-bought stuff in my mouth...but I put as much coconut oil in my mouth as I can!  

And as it turns out - my skin is not truly oily.  

I was stripping my skin of its natural oils.  Over-washing.  Over-cleansing.  And in return it was over-producing oils to try to keep up with what I was taking away.  



I scooped some of our coconut oil from our stash in the kitchen into a little container to keep in my bathroom.







Every morning and every night I smooth some of this on my skin.  In cooler weather the oil will be in a solid state.  No biggie, I just scoop some up and it melts instantly as the heat from my face melts it.

Coconut oil's melting point is about 76-78 degrees, so in warmer weather when the temp in here is above that, the oil stays in more of a liquid state, which is just even easier.

I just smooth a little on and it soaks right in.  If I happen to put a little too much, then I might blot it 30 or so minutes later to get the extra off.  






My skin has never looked better in my entire life.  I get compliments now.  And I've had one blemish in the whole past year.  It sticks out to me because it was so strange, and it prompted me to think, "Come to think of it, this NEVER happens anymore!"  

And the cherry on top is that this is cheaper than store-bought moisturizing products.  I bought probably the cheapest stuff out there, and this is still cheaper (not to mention healthier).  But we all know how very expensive women's facial products can be.  


But my homemade moisturizer meets my three criteria:

Healthy

Cheap

Easy




I used to feel safe believing that if a product was on the shelf, that must mean it is safe.  And that...was a myth.  

The American government doesn’t require health studies
or pre-market testing of the chemicals in personal care products.  (source)


This may seem self-explanatory, but the FDA regulates Food...and Drugs.  Not cosmetics.  

Read more about cosmetic safety myths HERE.  

Want to see if your favorite beauty product is safe to use?  Check out the EWG's Skin Deep website.




4.16.2014

What We've Been Reading


I'm going to talk about what we've been reading here at our house, but it starts with what we've seen lately, namely, God's Not Dead.  We took the four older children to see this a couple weeks ago.  Really, really good.  Totally recommend it, even for children (maybe 8 and up)...it has led to some great conversations. 

One of the previews at the beginning of that movie was an upcoming new film, Heaven is For Real.  The older two remembered that we had a book by the same name on our bookshelves in the school room.  I'd picked it up at a book sale at the library, but hadn't read it yet.  Noah asked if he could read it,  and then proceeded to read the whole thing in less than 24 hours.  



He kept bubbling over, excitedly telling us snippets of what he was reading.  He got E and I interested...and now we've both read it also.  It is a pretty quick read...and very encouraging.  Such exciting stuff to ponder!




This next book I'm frankly very sad to be done with.  You know how that feels?  Being so excited to get to the end and find out how it all turns out...and then so sad when it is over.



This story is an allegory, which - as it turns out - was a very effective way for my children to understand much deeper truths about God's Kingdom.  Wow, we've had some very in-depth and wonderful conversations due to this book.  

One description on Amazon: 

Action, intrigue, and danger follow Scarboy wherever he goes, especially in the Enchanted City, where the “imperfect” are cast away and orphans are enslaved. Scarboy manages to escape the evil Enchanter to safety in Great Park, but has yet to confront his greatest fear—and he’ll need enormous courage to conquer it! 
That sounds so strange to me, and I had no idea what to expect when we started the book...but oh, how glad I am that we've read this together!

Kingdom Tales was included in our curriculum this year, and I'm so thankful, because I don't believe I would have found it on my own.  The specific version we have is published by our curriculum provider (My Father's World) and has discussion questions at the end of each chapter, which was a nice addition.  

(If any local friends want to borrow this...I'd be happy for you to!)





This next book is a children's bible...that I learn something new from every time we read it.



We've had this for several years and I've read it to the children several times already.  I've probably posted about it before too.  

But it bears re-reading.  And the recommendation bears repeating.  

I especially wanted to re-read it to the children this time around with LK in mind.  Coming home at almost 4-years old, I can tell she still doesn't have Jesus figured out (but then, who does?).  And I really wanted to just read through and put all the stories into order and context, especially for her.  I love how in this bible, every story points back to Jesus..."Every Story Whispers His Name, " as the subtitle says.  




This last book is much more practical...and it has truly surprised me.  In a good way.



A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family by Mary Ostyn


I cannot even recall where I read about this book.  But I put in a request in our inter-library loan system...and then promptly forgot all about it.  When it showed up at our library, I was pleasantly surprised.  

I thought I would just speed read it...skip around to the sections that looked the most helpful/appealing to me.  I started right in the middle with Chapter 8: Parenting Hacks.  Then Chapter 11: Encouraging Sibling Friendships caught my attention.  By the time I was done reading what Mary had to say in those two chapters, I was hooked.  I've read the whole book now.  

This mom-of-ten (six of whom are adopted) has a very down-to-earth, yet Heavenly-focused way of looking at parenting.  I've come away from this book with quite a few gems of advice tucked away.



4.14.2014

The Pasture

We are ever so slowly, but ever so surely, getting stuff done here on our homestead.

When we moved in (almost 11 months ago now!), I thought so much of this would happen quicker than it has.

I was...

1.  Totally naive about the work that is entailed

and

2.  Totally not realistic about what we can get done with our time.

It is so nice that it is not dark by the time Jas gets home from work anymore.  Now we (sometimes) can all get outside and get some stuff done after supper, before bedtime.  On the nights we don't have soccer, that is (soccer is twice a week).

And I always think "Oh, the kids and I can work on that during the week, while Jas is at work."  Ummmm, again not realistic.  Our days are bustling and we really can't get too much done besides our homeschooling (and preparing/eating meals!).

But things *are*  getting done and moving forward around here.  And when it is all done (will it ever be "all done"?) it certainly won't matter that it took a few months/years longer than *I* had thought.


The most recent progress has been in the pasture:




I've called this approximately one-acre portion of our property "pasture" ever since we moved in...even though it didn't pasture anything...and looked not at all like a pasture at the time.

I knew we planned to make it a pasture someday...and now, it is so close:







Dad drove his tractor from his farm down the road.


First he tilled the pasture.




Well, he tilled most of it.  Then something went wrong.  Very wrong.  Tiller stopped.  Tractor lurched to a stop.  I'm just thankful that Jas and I weren't driving it at the time.


Here you can see my dad walking in the pasture, next to a section that didn't get fully tilled:


Dad tried going over the un-tilled part with the harrow, but it wasn't very effective.  In the end, it wasn't much that didn't get tilled, just that strip in the back...and this section behind the chicken coop:












Next, it was time to "roll" the ground.  Guess who drove the tractor for this.



Naw, not really....












...but he would have loved to have done it!

He did get to take a quick once around on the tractor, though...Papa and G have a love/love thing going on. 




After the pasture was "rolled", grass seed needed to be distributed.  The grass seed was too small for the tractor to help with spreading.  



Soooooooooooo......







....Jas got to hike it around the acre and spread the seed with a hand spreader.




Then, the pasture got "rolled" one more time.


Now, we have to let it grow for at least 2-3 months before we put any grazing animals out there.  If we put them out there too soon, they would pull the grass out by the roots as they eat, instead of clipping off the top.


So, we're watering it, and praying for rain...and can't wait to see it growing!


Jas put together these tall water sprinklers to help with the watering:




He did some research on Friday, bought the supplies Saturday a.m., and had two of them built and watering our grass seed by that evening.  He impresses me.  (Have I said that before?)

He has built two so far, and has them set up "serially".  He is thinking he may want to build some more...

...because in addition to this one-acre pasture, we will (hopefully) soon have a nice-sized garden to water also.  

As much as we'd love to have a garden (well, we'd love to have the "fruits" of a garden, not the work) we weren't sure if we had time to mess with it this year.  But when dad tilled, he tilled that section of the property also (adjacent to the pasture).  Soooooo....now we're thinking we better put in a garden.  

Jas and I are total newbies at all of this.  We've checked out more than our fair share of library books...but actually *doing* it is a different animal altogether.  We wouldn't have known what kind of grass to plant (Trey recommended Tif Quik Bahia to us), or how long to let it grow before grazing (J at the county extension office helped here)...and I don't know what we would have done without dad and his tractor!

We're learning and growing...and so thankful for all the help and guidance we've received!





4.09.2014

Using Kefir to Make Whey and Kefir Cheese

We love using our kefir to make smoothies and popsicles so much that we usually make them every other day...and sometimes everyday.  Even given that, we still sometimes end up accumulating more kefir than we currently need.

Here we had about a gallon of kefir

So what should we do when we're making more kefir than we need...dump it out?  Never.  Bite your tongue.

A great thing to do with extra kefir is to turn it - in one fell swoop - into not one but *two* great cultured/probiotic products.  Multi-tasking at its healthiest.

The two products I'm talking about making from kefir are:

1.  Whey

2.  Kefir Cheese


And here is how you do it...




Start by setting out the container of kefir.  Yes, right on the counter.  This is already a cultured product remember, no worry about it spoiling.  The good bacteria that is already teeming in there keeps any bad pathogens from getting a foothold.

This time, I set out two quart jars of kefir:


I set them near my crockpot of chicken broth that was bubbling and brewing away...just to provide a little extra warmth that would help move things along with the kefir.  It's not necessary to do this, it just helps speed things up a little.  Also right next to the crockpot you can can see the jar of kefir we were currently making, with the coffee filter and rubberband on top.  It is near the crockpot for the very same reason.


After we set the kefir on the counter, what are we waiting for?


We are waiting for it to go from looking like this:



....to looking like this:


In my kitchen, at this temperature, it took my kefir about 24 hours to do this.

The kefir has separated.  The more transparent liquid is whey.  The thicker whiter "solids" are the kefir cheese.

(Note:  You can also make get whey by dripping yogurt in this same manner as kefir.  AND...you can get whey using this same process with raw milk.  You set a container of raw milk on the counter, and just wait until it separates.  I like to do this with kefir, however, because the separation happens much quicker.  With raw milk, it could easily take a week for the separation to occur.  I'm too impatient for that.  Warning:  Do NOT try that with pasteurized, store-bought milk...it will turn rancid and be very harmful if ingested.)





After the kefir is good and separated, get out a few supplies...

-  bowl or measuring cup
-  strainer
-  cheese cloth or clean kitchen towel



Set the strainer in the bowl/cup....



....then lay the cheese cloth/towel in the strainer and pour some kefir in there:



The whey drips right on through...but the kefir cheese stays in the towel:



Well, actually the whey doesn't drain "right on through"...it takes a while.  Hours. When you walk by every so often just keep adding more separated kefir to the strainer as it filters through.  Eventually, all the whey that is going to voluntarily drain through will be done draining through.  Seriously it takes hours...and that is normal and o.k.

Now gather up the towel, and give it a gentle squeeze to release more whey.  Do not squeeze too hard or cheese will start seeping right through the cloth (ask me how I know).  


You end up with beautiful liquid gold whey....and pretty white kefir cheese.  


Both...are so, so good for you. Or your gut, more accurately.  But...since about 80% of your body's immune system is found in your gut, if you do something good for your gut, you're definitely doing something good for you!



Now....what to do with this whey and kefir cheese?




I'll start with the whey.


**  I use whey to add a probiotic kick to our freshly made juice.  (Shhhhh...if my peeps knew that whey was in their juice they would probably say they didn't like it.  As it is, they don't know....and they don't mind!)

**  Some of my fermented food recipes call for adding some whey to the jar, as a kick-starter for the fermentation process.

**  In our pre-GAPS days, I would use whey to "soak" our oats overnight, Nourishing Traditions-style, in order to make them more digestible (and so they didn't rob our bodies of minerals).

**  We've learned since starting GAPS how good it is (taste-wise and gut-wise) to stir some whey right into soup.  Let the soup cool down some first though (so the heat wouldn't kill and inactivate the probiotics)


Jill at The Prairie Homestead has some great information HERE about more great uses for whey.






Now, for the kefir cheese.


I think this tastes remarkably similar to sour cream, and even to cream cheese...and I think it could be used in applications that call for either of those items.

I've eaten this kefir cheese just like I do our sour cream: straight up, with a drizzle of raw honey on top. Heaven.



Another of our favorite things to do with kefir cheese is to use it as a spreadable cheese.






Jas rummages through our spice cabinet and gets out this...and gets out that...

Jas is a much more naturally talented cook than I'll ever be.
Too bad he has to be at the bank all day...we'd eat much better if he were here!

...and makes a divine tasting cheese.

This time he used dill, garlic salt, garlic powder and onion powder.  Totally. Yum.




So, to summarize....

Don't throw out kefir.  


Make whey.

And kefir cheese.

Your gut (and mouth) will thank you.


The end.



4.08.2014

Of Feeding, a Finger, Fantastic Steamers...and a Fieldtrip

We spent time over the weekend getting (more) ready.  Some new items, some repurposed items...now ready.




We're getting close...so close I can almost taste it now!






We're getting close to having more mouths to feed here on our homestead.


35-40 new mouths, to be (not so) exact.





Jas thinks this setup will be big enough.  And as much as I think of Jason's smarts...I'm not so sure this time.  I'm thinking this won't be big enough, especially 4 or 5 weeks in.    



******************************************


The steri-strips are off.  After three weeks, finally everything is out...and off!



The pinky is still swollen, which I just find interesting. It will be interesting to see how long that takes to go away.

And I can't feel that fingertip.  I've been told it could take 6-12 months for the nerves to regenerate.  Or they may never.  Again, interesting...we'll see...



******************************************


It's so hard to know how to dress this time of year.  It ends up being really nice in the afternoon, but if I dress for that, then I'm cold first thing in the morning.  In order to fix that mid-morning coldness the last couple of mornings, I've made this special drink....Pumpkin Spice Steamer.    Oh. My.  

Yes, I'm still using that mug...and I still love it.

G loves it every bit as much as I do.  I'm so glad it is legal for him...and downright healthy to boot!



I feel like I need to confess:  G loved it so much the first morning I made it, that I did not tell him when I made it the second time...because I wanted it all to myself!  

Selfish mama, I know...and I felt bad.

Lie.  That was a lie.



**************************************



We went on a fieldtrip with our homeschool group recently, to the Science and History museum.


(Elisabeth took all these pictures, save the last one.)



While we had fun seeing the dinosaurs...


...and spiders...


and salamanders...


...and the show at the planetarium, and on and on....     




...our favorite part was carpooling with our buddies, the R family.  






And when we go on our fieldtrip this Friday?  Vicki gets to drive all 11 of us...because she just got a 12-passenger vehicle.  She unveiled a picture of it on FB with this quip, "The Mothership has landed."  



We can't wait to ride in the Mothership with our buds!




4.07.2014

From Zero to "YUM" in 30 Minutes


I always start my menu planning for the week by looking at our calendar for the week.

Soccer practice this evening?  Appointment with Dr. Kathy that afternoon?  I just need to know all that so I'll know how to plan accordingly.  If I won't be home during the late afternoon I need to plan for a meal that will either use the crockpot, or a meal that I can get ready ahead of that appointment...something that will be right ready when we get home STARVING!  (I'm admittedly the worst about this...Jas and I joke that I get "hangry".)

Or...I need a meal that comes together and is ready *real* quick.  It is always handy to have a few meals tucked into my arsenal that I can get ready - start to finish - in about 30 minutes.  

This menu is one of those quick but healthy meals:

Green Peas



But that menu is not set in stone.  Don't like garlic?  Make Mayo Parmesan Salmon instead.  

Don't like cabbage?  Make roasted cauliflower instead.  Or roasted asparagus.  

Don't like peas?  Steam some broccoli instead.  Or make some green beans.  



(I took the first few pictures, but then Elisabeth took over with the camera.)


I began supper this day at 5:11 p.m., with....







....a head of cabbage, a bag of green peas and 1 pound of salmon laying on the counter:





First, turn the oven on to bake at 425 degrees.  

Set about 2 tbsp of coconut oil on to melt in a small pan on the stovetop.

Then cut open the salmon packages and place them in a glass dish.

Cut the cabbage in half, then quarters, then slice in vertical strips and place in a glass casserole dish.  Drizzle the melted coconut oil on top of the cabbage.  Generously salt and pepper the cabbage.  


These steps took approximately 7 minutes, so at 5:18....






...I put the two dishes containing the salmon and cabbage into the oven to bake.  (The oven wasn't even quite done pre-heating at this point.)

Set a timer for 20-22 minutes.



Fill a pan with the peas and cover with water, turn the stove on to bring this to a boil:






I even had time to answer a quick text from my friendgirl, Sabrina.


I think it is so funny that E took a picture of this.



Then, back at it.


Now it's time to make the sauce to go with the salmon.

Cut up a stick of butter into a skillet over low-med heat.






Then get 3-4 cloves garlic ready to add to the melting butter:



You could mince the garlic up, but I love my garlic press.


Next, it's time to squeeze a lemon for the sauce.

E was going for a real close-up...it didn't work out so well.



After taking out the seeds, pour the lemon juice into the sauce.  Give it a few shakes of salt also at this point:




Get the plates out onto the counter so you're ready to begin "plating".




Yes, we each have our own unique plate that we picked out from Target....



...because we've found color-coded/assigned stuff makes life easier in our house.



Stop and smile for your cute 10-year old that is helping you by taking pictures.



Check on peas.  When they've come to a boil, turn them down to low and cover.



Get out the big 'ol jar of sauerkraut....




...and start dishing up just a little onto each plate.  (Here is why we strive to eat a fermented/probiotic food at the beginning of each meal.)



Just a couple tablespoons will do it.





The sauce is looking good.  Turn it down real low - or even off - so as not to burn it now.  (Learned this the hard way several years ago.)




Peas are still looking good.


Put little custard bowl on each plate and divvy the Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce out to each person's bowl:




At 5:39, take the cabbage and salmon out of the oven:


Put the peas, salmon and cabbage on the plates, and then.....well, enjoy!



I totally and completely forgot to take pictures of the plates totally plated and ready to go.  We just dug in.


About 10-15 minutes later I finally remembered and hopped up and got some "after-the-fact" pictures:



LK's decimated supper plate.  She is always the first one done at any given meal.
She doesn't talk at meal-time...she is all business.


G is always the last one done at any given meal...and he was still working on his peas and salmon.



So, that is how to go from no food at 5:11...to sitting down with full plates at 5:40.

*phew*



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