Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sourdough... Start Your Engines

After The Sourdough That Wasn't because the Post Office mangled it, the wonderfully kind folks, known as Carls' Friends, at Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter sent me a replacement packet of dried starter.  After worrying for a couple of weeks that my house wouldn't be warm enough (I'm only heating it to 55F because I don't love the gas company enough to give them all my money this winter then wearing a sweater and using a space heater in the area where I'm working) I took the plunge this afternoon and started the starter.

First I found a suitable container.  The directions on the website say use glass or plastic NOT metal.  I came up with a vintage food service jelly jar my Mom probably brought home from one of the many diners she worked at in rural Southeast Idaho.  Here's the very simply printed lid.  The bottom of the bottle is stamped Pure Food Manufacturing Svc. Co., Denver Colo.  This bottle holds several cups.  It's from the good old days before the plastic single serve cups were even invented... back when we trusted restaurant workers to know that washing their hands after using the restroom was not just sanitary but simple good manners without a dozen posters in various languages to remind them.  I barely remember those days but I miss the simpler, and in many ways wiser, times.

Once everything was washed, the instructions told me to dissolve the packet contents in 3/4 cup warm water.  I added both to the jelly bottle and let it sit for a few minutes.  I admit it.  I am a very curious person.  I took a sniff.  And no, it didn't smell sour at all!  Next, I added 3/4 cup plain white flour and 1 tsp sugar and used a plastic scraper/spatula to mix it all into a moist dough.

To keep it warm enough, the website suggested setting it in the oven with the light on.  I draped a tea towel over the top just in case there is stray dust or a bug (since the spiders are coming out the past couple of weeks).  And I guess, we'll see what happens.

The 48 hours is up on Thursday between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m.  At that point I will need to feed it again and then it can be kept in the fridge until I'm ready to try my hand at breadmaking.

Can hardly wait until next week when it will be ready to use!


I've linked this post to The Country Homemaker Hop - Week 9 at White Wolf Summit Farmgirl.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Appreciate What You've Got

Yesterday afternoon I was scanning through some blogs as I do many times during a week.  This post from The Way Grandmama Does It caught my attention for a couple of reasons.  First, I love the idea of prepping to share.  What a truly kind and thoughtful way to fill a need when a neighbor meets hard times!  As I can get financially back on my feet a bit, I want to incorporate this idea into my food storage.  The second thing that grabbed my attention was this paragraph:

(Let me pause for a moment to say this:  I do not believe in hoarding, buying up gold, or stashing away large amounts of cash.  The Bible has plenty to say about what happens when we store up treasures on earth and my faith rests in the Lord for all needs.)
By some the act of storing a supply of food and other necessary supplies against the hard times that are predicted in our future is seen as hoarding.  I accept that as their viewpoint.  And if they choose not to stockpile these life sustaining necessities that is their God-given right.  Just as it is my right to keep a working
 supply as part of how I manage my household.  Indeed, food storage is a part of my faith.  The Bible tells us the Lord will look after our needs; it also teaches that He helps those who help themselves... that if we give our best effort, He will compensate for our lack.

Let's consider some spiritual aspects of being prepared to survive future emergencies and urgencies.  Looking to the Bible for guidance,  God directed Joseph (who was carried away to Egypt and gained a position of trust in Pharoah's household) to store up grain against a seven year famine.  Because he did so, he was able to save his own family when they came destitute and hungry thereby preserving the lineage of all Israel.  Now, if we read the Bible because there are lessons for us to learn, what do we learn from Joseph?  I draw from it the need to shore up both my temporal and spiritual supplies against future calamity.

If you read through the New Testament, you're likely familiar with the story of the loaves and fishes.  Yes, it demonstrates a great miracle of God's power in multiplying just a small amount of food into enough to feed a crowd.  But look at the context.  A large group of hungry people were gathered to learn from the Master.  Did He choose to speak great truths to them first?  No.  He made sure their temporal needs were met then He taught them.  You can't effectively share the Gospel with those who are physically starving.  And that includes yourself.

From a practical standpoint, food storage encourages you to take advantage of sales.  Your limited resource, money, then stretches a little farther.  Rotating through your food storage makes you plan meals to use items before they expire.  I know I am much less stressed when I know what I'm cooking that day rather than having to scramble at the last minute.  Having a supply of food already available in your home cuts down on last minute shopping trips and, thereby, unplanned purchases which are often junk food.  Done right, food storage promotes healthy eating because the best foods to store are the basic, and often minimally processed, ingredients for a meal.  Many of the fruits and vegetables in my store room came from my own garden so I know how they were grown, when they were picked and exactly how much sugar and salt were used in preserving them.  And finally, if there is a huge disaster food will become the most highly valued currency of all.

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: And by knowledge shall the chamber be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.      Proverbs 24:3-4

If this is hoarding, then yes, I do believe in it!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicky, Chick, Chick... Chick?

Rumpless Araucana
Among the many things I want to add to my yard and garden is a few chickens.  I know myself well enough to admit right up front that they will be pets, chickens raised for eggs and entertainment not meat.  I couldn't kill something with my own hands that I've petted and loved and nurtured and given a name and laughed at its personality quirks.  And I certainly couldn't eat a family pet.

If I'm going to do this, I want to do it right.  So I've been doing some research.  And that's led me in all sorts of directions from thinking about the broodiness traits of different breeds of chickens... to coop design... to what to feed them... to their unique benefits with garden compost and bug control... to the nutritional benefits of home-grown eggs... and even to the horrors of factory-farming.  And it seems like the more I research, the stronger my desire to add some backyard chickens becomes.  But also, I have even more questions; not just about how to do everything but about my ability to do it all.  I really dislike feeling so unsure of myself.

Here are some of my current questions:
New Hampshire Red

Do I just pick a supplier and order sexed chicks?  When?  What do I do with them after they arrive until they are big enough and the weather is warm enough for them to survive outside?

If I get 6-8 hens, how big of a coop/run do
I need?  How many nesting boxes do I need?  Where do I best site it on my property? 

Buff Orpington
Should I let them free-range at least part of the day?  Is free-ranging as important in the winter as in the summer?  What about predators?  I do see a few hawks circling in the summertime and we have racoons in the neighborhood.

How much should I plan on spending for feed?  Is feeding them a morning chore or an evening chore or both?  When do eggs need to be gathered?

How do I tell if they are getting sick?  Where do they pick up pests like fleas, lice and worms?  Do I periodically treat for these things as a proactive step or wait until there's reason to suspect an infestation?

Any thoughts, experience, advice you can share to relieve my angst?

Credit for all chicken photos and identification to

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pay It Forward - Gift Received

 Aren't these just the sweetest, brightest, most cheery dishcloths ever?  And the note is so clever, too.  I love it!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jodi!!

They're so pretty it's going to almost be hard to use them... but I will.  And every time I will be reminded of how kind and

wonderful my friend is.  It's almost like a reward hug for doing the dishes.

Now... to get my big procrastinating backside to the Post Office.  The items I'm gifting forward have been done and ready to go for 2 weeks and just need to be mailed.  I hope they make someone's day as much as Jodi made mine today!!

Once Upon a Soapbox

Every once in awhile it happens.  I get up on a soapbox and have my say about something.  Some might argue that it happens pretty often, even.  Maybe that's true, maybe it's not but tonight I'm stepping up there all because of a video I saw on YouTube.  So, assuming the position of old-time street preacher...


There I said it.  Go ahead and label me a racist.  I'm a white girl, after all, and I just put in print that singular word no white person is supposed to even think.  Ever.  But... black folks can use it to address one another and it's fine, even the subject of jokes.

Is it okay for me to laugh at Glozell or should I be offended?  Is my laughter offensive to people who share her racial background?

I don't know.  And I don't get it.  I admit that I'm utterly and completely confused by the power and emotion that continues to be vested in this one word.  I just don't understand how any word is so inflammatory when spoken by one person and yet socially acceptable when said by another.  And that the distinction is made based on the shade of brown gracing the skin of the speaker.  How is the very same word used the very same way with the very same tone derogatory coming off my lips and just a greeting when spoken by someone else?

It's not that I even want this word to be part of my everyday language.  I don't.  I think it is demeaning and hurtful.  Then again, there are a lot of words I don't care to have as part of my day-to-day experience for that same reason.  But right now the word I'm talking about is nigger.  I don't understand why we continue to accept the double-standard that's been thrown up around it.  If we are all truly equal as people, as simple fellow citizens on planet Earth, then our words should have equal treatment and acceptability as well.

I did a little research and found a critically acclaimed and peer-reviewed paper from Kevin Cato and the Syracuse University Writing Program titled Nigger:  Language, History, and Modern Day Discourse.  In it he states:
As a black American male, the word nigger conjures up within me hate, hostility, violence, oppression, and a very shameful and unfortunate part of American History. The word symbolizes the everlasting chains of a people plagued with hate and bondage simply because of skin color. For many black people, including myself, nigger is the most pejorative word in the English language. Even when compared to racial slurs like kike, honkey, cracker, wet back, spic, jungle bunny, pod, tarbaby, and white trash, nigger is noted as the worst insult in the English language. The word nigger suggests that black people are second class citizens, ignorant and less than human.
While many blacks and whites agree that the word should not be censored from the English language, it certainly should not be used by all people because of its historical significance. For example, black militants believe whites should never use the word nigger.

He goes on to note that the word has been "reclaimed" by modern youth in the hip-hop movement who argue that people give meanings to words and not that words give meaning to people.  They believe the context makes their use of nigger acceptable.

I wish we could just come to a consensus.  Either nigger is an insulting and debasing racial slur or it's an acceptable term of endearment.  Same word.  Same meaning.  For everyone.  I don't care what shade your skin is, we are fellow human beings.  And in that respect peers.  Equals.  But when you tell me I can't use a word simply because I was born with a lighter shade of skin covering my body, it says to me that you don't see me the same way.  And that makes me angry.  And very sad.  I thought humanity was making progress toward valuing every person's contribution but maybe we're just stuck in the same old ruts of an out-dated mindset... picking at wounds to keep them from ever healing because hate has become more comfortable.

Okay, I've said my piece.  And I feel better for getting that off my chest.

Stepping off the soapbox now...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Signs of Spring

Out and about the last few days I've been noticing that nature is beginning to rejuvenate... Spring is truly just around the corner.  For a few weeks now, I've been watching robins in the tree outside my kitchen window.  The first robin sighting of the year is a grand thing to me as it means that winter is coming to end.  I am not a big fan of snow and cold.

The robins in my yard move faster than I can get my camera focused and zoomed in on them so I pulled this stock photo from another website.  And learned a lot about the American Robin and how to attract more of them to my yard .

I've also noticed the past week or so that the buds are noticeably swelling on most of the trees around town.  And just today I was thinking the lawn has a definite greenish hue that's different than the straw-like shade of winter months when it's dormant.  Tulip, hyacinth, daffodil, crocus and other bulbs have sent up leaves and a few are beginning to get flower buds.   And the rhubarb crowns are starting to poke out where leaves will soon uncurl.

The spiders seem to be waking up, too.  Yesterday I saw two in the bathroom (why do spiders so frequently show up in bathrooms anyway?) and just now one ran across my screen.  No worries, they are just harmless little critters that look very much like this European Garden Spider.  If I don't know what it is, I kill it.  But these live for another day.  I've even been known, if it was in the bathtub when I wanted to use it, to catch one in a dixie cup and let it go outside.  They do their part to keep insects that are harmful to my garden plants under control so, to me, they are part of the good guys that I want to protect and have hanging around.

Inspiration photo for patio though mine won't
be so elaborate with columns and a fireplace.
And it will have orange trumpet vine growing
overhead because I already have some of those.
A few more nice days and I'll be itching to get outside and dig into those flowerbeds and finish the patio structure and figure out how to do it and what to use to mulch the garden.  And of course then I'll complain about sore aching muscles that haven't seen that much or kind of movement in many months.  I may find my garden ambitions are bigger than my abilities but I'm sure planning on giving it my best shot.

Spring.  Bring it on!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Fellow Blogger's Seed Give-Away

Fellow gardeners... meet fellow blogger. Clint Baker!  On his blog, you'll find all kinds of great ideas you'll want to check out to make your garden grow better and more cost-efficiently along with some devotionals and other inspiring happenings.  And there's a great seed give-away going on right now.  Be sure to click over and enter at The Redeemed Gardener.

The Book of Home

Awhile back I had this great vision of creating a little coffee table photo album/scrapbook using the leftover paper strips and cardboard from the dahlia-shaped wall medallion.  Yesterday I finally sat down and assembled it and while I'm not 100% thrilled with it, it's not bad considering it's mostly stuff that would have been tossed in the trash otherwise...  I'm going to explain what I did and offer some suggestions for things I think you'd be wise to do differently if you want to give a home-made scrap album a try.

First, I assembled all my materials together:  Corrugated cardboard cut to size (determined by the size of the leftover paper strips I was using), the leftover paper strips, a sheet of scrapbook paper, a small stick with attractive bark, acid-free glue sticks and a length of ribbon (not pictured) for the binding.

Then I cut the scrapbook paper so that the cardboard could be glued leaving about 1/2-inch all the way around and about 1/4-inch between the two pieces that will make the cover hinged.  Spread glue on one side of cardboard evenly and then affix to back side of paper.  Press out any bubbles or wrinkles.

Spread glue evenly along one edge at a time and wrap paper over.  Trim to make smooth mitered corners.  I also cut just a tiny tab out of the "hinge" or open space between the two pieces of cardboard because it made it easier to open and shut.

Now trim 2 pieces of your filler paper to hide the raw edges from covering the album.  Make both a front and back cover this way.

My next step was to trim the filler paper just slightly and to add some quotes that I wanted to be part of my album.  If you want to borrow them, or just satisfy your curiosity about what I chose, click here for a .PDF document.  I have pretty decent handwriting and I didn't want to spend hours figuring out how to feed scrap paper through my printer so I hand wrote the quotes.  I left lots of blank pages to hold photographs that document the way rooms looked the day I got the key and both what changes I've made over time and how they look today.  I also chose to include pages to briefly record significant events, memories and visitors to my home.

Then I punched holes in the filler pages.  Unfortunately, here's where I made a wrong choice.  I was too lazy to change the spacing on my big 3-hole punch and the covers were too thick to fit in it anyway so I chose to only punch 1 hole in the center. For the covers I used a large yarn needle to perforate the paper and cardboard and wiggled it in a circle to make the hole the right size.  One center hole isn't enough to hold the pages stable; it really needs 2.

Now for assembly... I cut my ribbon into 2 pieces and, holding together, folded them in half and  tied a simple knot in the center that won't slip through the back cover.  With a yarn needle, I fed the tails up through the back cover, then the filler pages and front cover.  It takes a bit of twisting and smoothing to keep the ribbon flat and tight.

Once they were all worked through this way, I tied knots using 2 ribbon ends at a time around the stick.  Make sure it is pressed firmly to the album cover while you are making the knots.  Now I just need to decide on a die-cut initial and add small beads to the ends of my ribbon tails for embellishment and it will be done!  Oh... and get photo paper and figure out how to size and print my pictures, of course.

This would make a fun gift for a couple buying their first home.  The idea could also be adapted for a keepsake recipe book or as a guestbook at a special party.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Ambitious Woman

On the last page of every Working Mother magazine is an editorial feature called "The Last Word."  This morning I read that editorial by Carol Evans, President of Working Mother Media, from the February/March 2012 issue and I want to quote a bit of it for you.
I hear the lamest excuses for the lack of business power entrusted to women.  "We can't find qualified women." is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Women make up 50 percent of the workforce, and qualified women are all around us.  Companies need to give them the power positions to get them ready to advance.
"When women have babies, they go off the career track" is another lame excuse.  Most women have babies, but they can also create a viable career path even if it doesn't look like the typical steady upward climb men can achieve.
"They don't want it" is the worst excuse.  A lot of executive men don't aspire to be CEO either, but no one says men don't want to succeed.
"Women aren't ambitious" reflects conflicted social norms.  Being an ambitious woman can feel wrong, like living in an '80's movie with the big hair and stilettos.  We need to reexamine "ambitious."  [Is it] greedy, unprincipled and cold?  No.  Ambition is the desire to succeed, to get to the next level of responsibility and trust - a strong desire in women.
We need to get past the subconscious feeling that men are better, stronger, more suited to lead than women.
What do you think?  Does Ms. Evans make a valid point?  Based on my personal observations, I agree that in the typical American workplace there is a double standard between what's expected and what's rewarded to men and women.  And that's not right to have such a lopsided system not only in place, but in wide acceptance.  At the same time, men and women are created differently.  We do have different outlooks, different work styles, different strengths.  Perhaps the bigger problem is how those outlooks, styles and strengths are valued.  Perhaps it's in how we, as women, value them ourselves.  Because it is different, is our contribution less valuable?  Or do we accept receiving less than full value for it?

I have, in the past, worked for female managers in male-dominated industries.  I wasn't always a happy employee in this situation because it felt like, in the effort to be taken seriously in their managerial role, many of these women caved and became the stereotypical nag.  They were hard, harsh, often cutting and cut-throat.  I felt less valued as an employee much more frequently with a female supervisor.  Thinking about it then and now makes me sad.  But to analyze from a distance, I think it's because they tried too hard to be something they were not and so their actions came across as insincere and incongruent.  I'm not trying to assign fault, just to make an observation that  when we act outside of our core values and beliefs it's noticed and we never gain the respect and authority we seek that way.

Perhaps women would do far better to embrace our differences and create products, information, position, power and influence based on our God-given strengths instead of trying to become what we innately are not.

Anyway, that's my ambition!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate Tasting Party

My friend and neighbor, Lorraine Young, recently became a chocolatier for Dove Chocolate Discoveries so I'm going to host a little chocolate tasting party on Wednesday evening... not quite sure what to expect except the yummy, silky, smooth deliciousness of chocolate melting in my mouth!

Don't these pictures just make you want to drool?

Be sure to check out Lorraine's webstore whether you want to host a tasting party yourself or just buy some really great chocolate!

Updated ordering instructions:  If you'd like to purchase chocolate or chocolate accessories, my party will be held open until Wednesday, February 29.  Payment is due to me so I can give it to her to place the orders then.  By clicking the link to Lorraine's store above, you can get information on many of the products AND download a catalog from the lower right on her homepage.  The functionality isn't quite ready to be able to order directly from the website just yet.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In Danger of Becoming Free

"In our society, growing food yourself has become the most radical of acts."  That's a quote from near the end of the video.  And something to really think about...

This is not just a lifestyle I'm interested in but a very needed and sustainable business model as well.  It's something I'm going to be investigating seriously to meet my future income needs.

Grandma's Cookbooks

Born January 6,1897 in Atlantic, Iowa, Emma Engabora Christensen was the second child in her Danish immigrant family.  Her parents had come America as teens when their families were enticed by the offer of free farmland left from the land grants given the railroad companies building the first transcontinental rail line in America.  Through a series of moves, the family ended up in Ririe, Idaho where she met and married my grandfather, Doyle George Clarke.  They met because his older brother married her older sister.  For much of my life this is all I knew about my mom's family history and because there was so little information every tidbit has been a fascinating find.  These were people who did not leave behind written histories and made efforts to hide their vital statistic information.  What I have to guide my search for details of their life and what gives me a sense of familial connection is the things they left behind.  And today the "thing" I want to talk about is grandma's cookbooks.

The nicely bound Searchlight Recipe Book and the wood covered New England Recipes I'm not sure she where she obtained them.  But the little paper one, with the very old Christmas tape patch job on it's torn cover, is one that grandpa brought home to her when he completed a lumbering job in Oregon in 1926-27.

It is the Wallowa M.E. Ladies Aid Cook Book from 1926.  In addition to recipes compiled by the good ladies of Wallowa, Oregon, it contains several pages of advertisements for local businesses.  Some of them made me smile...  like the grocery store that encouraged "Buy your ingredients here and feel sure of success in your cooking if you follow the recipes contained in this book."  And the bank that proudly announced it's capital and surplus were $110,000.  The ad on the lower half of this page, which I'm not sure you can make out in the picture, is a barber shop plying it's selection of Ladies Toilet Accessories.  The facing page of cake recipes begins and ends with submissions from a Mrs. Lillie Timm, Vancouver, Wn.  Both are transcribed here:

2 1/4 cups sugar, 3/4 cup shortening (1/2 butter, 1/2 white substitute), 1 cup liquid (1/2 milk, 1/2 water), 4 level teaspoons baking powder, 3 2/3 cups flour (Fisher's blend or pastry), whites of 10 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon lemon extracts.  Cream butter and sugar a little bit at a time, cream together thoroughly.  Sift flour once before measuring.  Measure and reserve 1/2 cup to which add baking powder.  Sift four times.  Add flour (except that with baking powder) alternately with liquid, beating thoroughly.  Add flavoring and beat.  Beat egg whites stiff but not dry and add a level 1/4 spoon cream of tartar.  Add egg whites alternately with last 1/2 cup of flour to which baking powder was added, by carefully folding them in.  No beating after adding  either egg whites or baking powder.  Bake in 3 layers in moderate oven until it starts to pull away from pan.

3 cups pastry flour, 3 level teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 cup butter,  1 1/4 cups sugar, yolks of 3 eggs well beaten, juice of 1 orange in a cup.  Fill cup with water.  Rind of 1 orange, white of 3 eggs.  Follow same general directions as for white cake.

They're surely written a bit different than what we find in today's cookbooks but I think I could stumble my way through making either of those cakes.

I've linked this post to the The Country Homemaker Hop - Week 7 at White Wolf Summit Farmgirl.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Windowsill Greenhouse

Tomatoes and cucumbers and a few other garden plants have been purchased as seedlings when I'm ready to plant them unprotected outside for the most part.  I think once or twice I've tried starting them indoors in egg shell halves and got a sprout that I promptly killed because I couldn't seem to control the moisture.  I live in a very dry climate... and that tiny bit of soil doesn't hold much water.  But, I've rigged up a new plan this year and decided to give it another try!

The materials I pulled together were a rectangular clear plastic tub that salad greens come in from the grocery store, tubes from toilet paper rolls and some dirt (half soft garden dirt and half leftover potting soil from my last shot at houseplants).

I cut the TP tubes in half and placed them in the plastic tub, filled them with the soil mixture and poured a little warmish tap water over all.  Then I snapped the lid on and waited for it to get absorbed evenly.  The amount of steam it created, and so far kept, surprised me a little, but I figured it's a 'greenhouse' and so a little humidity was normal.

The next day, I planted my seeds...  After I searched through my stash that didn't get used last year (okay... some of them were older than last year) only to find I didn't have tomato or pumpkin seeds like I was planning on planting and made a quick run to Walmart's nursery.

I put 3 seeds in each half tube and will thin depending on what sprouts.  If I'm successful, there will be 3 hills of pumpkins and about a dozen tomato plants.  It's my first time growing pumpkins and I'm hopeful for a couple nice jack-o-lanterns and some frozen puree for pumpkin muffins.

Impatiently waiting to see those first sprouts.  And hoping they survive my "tender ministrations" and good intentions to make it into the garden!  And I can't help checking every time I walk by and thinking...

Now GROW, dammit!!

I've linked this post to the blog hop at My Simple Country Living.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What's in a Name?

Today at Church a new baby was blessed and presented to the congregation.  In the LDS faith, the blessing ordinance follows a loose pattern and often very similar wording at the beginning.  Part of that formal verbiage is "to give a name and a blessing."  It allows the baby's father to express the wishes and comforts the child will need to grow successfully as it helps all of us know how to support and identify this new little person.

Names, like all words, have meaning.  For example, my given name is Kathryn.  Most of my life I've thought it was an old English name meaning pure.  But says it's a variant of the Greek name Katherine and means pure.  Either way, I guess, pure is good.  My Mom used to tell me that she wanted to name me Kathryn Louise but my Dad said no.  His opinion was that "girls just go off and get married and a middle name just makes it too long."  For a long time I was kind of grateful... the thought of having Louise as a middle name when I was 12 or so was kind of horrifying!  I mean, that's like a grandma name.  Funny.  It doesn't sound quite so terrible these days.

As Church services progressed and we moved into our Sunday School class, the topic today dealt with names and blessings.  The lesson material was drawn from 2 Nephi, chapters 3-5.  Here, I'm only going to touch on a few verses.  At this point, an elderly Lehi takes each of his children aside to give them a final father's blessing.  Chapter 3 is the blessing of his youngest son, Joseph, and while he elaborates on many points throughout the rest of the chapter, I want to focus on verses 3-5 where he explains just who Joseph is, their family lineage and blessings to come to his posterity.  Specifically, he points out:

  • Joseph is his last born... the youngest child in the family, born in the wilderness after their family left Jerusalem.
  • Joseph's seed, or posterity, will not be utterly destroyed but will survive to continue their family line.  Not all of his sons received this promise... they were told that their future generations would dwindle in disbelief and die.
  • Lehi reconfirms that Joseph is his child, the "fruit of my loins."  I think at some point every child needs this reassurance of belonging in their family.  In effect, what their name is.
  • Their genealogy can be traced back directly to Joseph who was carried away to Egypt.  And he likely is the namesake for this Joseph.
  • They are the "broken branch" and still entitled to all the blessings promised to the house of Israel in the latter days.

For a young man whose entire life had been that of a poor nomad, this must have been wondrous information and an intensely spiritual bonding experience with his dying father.  I can only imagine that it would make quite the impression on me anyway.  How would you feel walking in his shoes?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Granny's Square

On my mom's side, I come from a long line of lace makers.  The women in my history used that fine little crochet thread to make miles and miles of lace that decorated the edges of tablecloths, napkins, hankies, pillow cases  and I'm sure many other household items.  One of my Uncle Jim's favorite stories is of his Grandma Chris (short for Christensen) getting together with the other ladies in the neighborhood to crochet and gossip.  He remembers these get togethers from his childhood and says that it was hard to tell whether their crochet hooks or mouths were moving faster and that sometimes Grandma would get so caught up in what was going on that she'd lapse back into her native Danish.  The startled looks from the other ladies would get her to giggling saying "Oops, I forget me English."  For no lack of my mom's trying, I never mastered the art of using such fine thread and tiny hooks, but I can crochet some simple items.  I guess I'll take my family heritage where I can find it...

One of my favorite things to crochet is the granny square.  They are simple and the repetitiveness is soothing and almost meditative for me.  If you want to learn to make them, Crochet Cabana has what looks to be a really great Granny Square Tutorial.  I admit, I googled that just this morning because I knew that surely someone had already put the work into it.  Why reinvent the wheel?

Granny squares are most often combined into afghans, sweaters or winter scarves.  To get the gratification of finishing a project much quicker, I also like to make them into potholders.  Here are 3, well used and many times washed, from my kitchen drawer.
Actually the one farthest to the right looks pretty new... it must have been hiding in the bottom of the drawer instead of getting used and thrown in the washer every week or two.

You can see, however, that while these are the same shades of blue and white that there is a variety of ways to put granny squares together.  I thought today, I'd talk just a little about two of those methods and then show you how I finish them off into a potholder.

First, is using multiple colors of yarn.  In this picture, you can see that I changed my yarn for each row.  It's relatively simple to do and provides pattern and contrast. which is very pretty.  The downside is that you have all those tails to tuck and hide in your work.  This is for a potholder, so there are 7 rounds for a total of 14 tails - one to begin and another to end each round.  Tail tucking is my most hated part of any crochet project!  I look for ways to avoid it.

You can also use contrasting colors divided on the diagonal by carrying the yarn you aren't crocheting on the back.  I didn't have enough left of either of these yarns to finish a potholder... but you get the idea.  Admittedly, it's a little awkward to carry that extra strand of yarn until you've done it for a few rounds but I really like this method because it is so very different and you don't have all those darned tails.

Obviously, by itself a granny square is too light and open to provide any protection to your hands from a hot dish so the potholder needs a backing layer.

 To do this, I chain 32, then use half double crochets (usually abbreviated hdc in commercial patterns) to make a solid square.  I like the hdc because it provides bulk and substantialness while working up faster and softer than single crochets (sc).  At the end, I don't cut my thread - saves me a tail to tuck!  I just begin sc around the edge to affix the solid backing and granny square together.  Then I finish the potholder off with a loop so it could be hung on the wall or a magnetic hook on the side of the stove.

To make the loop, I chain 10 in the corner where my last sc meets my first sc from putting the two pieces together and slip stitch to connect it.  Then ch 1 and sc around the loop to fill it in.  I just counted a couple of them and it's 18 sc in the loop.

Simple.  Pretty.  Useful.  And it makes me happy to feel this little connection to my family history.  You see my maternal ancestors didn't pass on a lot of great stories... or traditions.  Some of them didn't want to be found or known and went to some effort to hide their identities.  Most of my memories and sense of connectedness to them is in the things they left behind.  I love having Grandpa's gold rimmed shot glasses and Grandma's Blue Willow dishes and the pillowcases (great) Grandma Chris made out of old cloth flour sacks around me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pay It Forward

It was a kind of spur of the moment decision, but I've decided to participate in a Pay It Forward Challenge this year.  I'm reasoning that it supports my goal to be more kind in action and thought and also to step a little outside my comfort zone and reach out to others.

So... how did this happen?  Reading another blog, of course!  Tribalmama made such a good point when she said "Homesteading has a tendency to manifest into selfishness."  It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities and plain hard work of learning to live a more sustainable lifestyle.  We save more things and look to use old things in different ways.  Spending goes down.  Things like that... which generally are very good until it makes us kind of stingy and isolated from the people around us.

On to the rules...  It's really pretty simple.  There's only 2:
1. I promise to make something and send it (before the end of 2012) to the first five people who comment on this post.  Yes, you can help me get my craft on again!!
2.  If you are one of the first five, you then re-post the rules on your blog or Facebook and send something to the first five people who comment on your post.
(Again, the item must be hand made by you and the recipient must receive the gift before the end of 2012. The item may be as simple or as complicated as you would like. You just have to promise to follow through.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gardening... by God's Word

 And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.  Moses 6:63
But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.   D&C 46:7
ALL things bear record of me and in ALL things ask of God...  What is there that ALL doesn't include?  What awesome evidence that we have a Creator who takes individual interest in each of us, even in the minutiae of our every day.

But I never thought to ask Him for gardening advice.

For a long time I've been fascinated by the scriptural references to gardening and that Adam, the first man, was placed in a garden and left to tend it.  Also interesting is that neither weeds nor the declaration that sustenance would be gained "by the sweat of your brow" come until God has banished Adam and Eve from the garden as a consequence of their transgression.  I've been awed at how much like our own the veins in tree leaves are and that they have the same purpose of carrying water, nutrients and other enzymes from the core to the extremities.  I've made correlations in the natural patterns of growth, decline, death and renewal between nature and our Lord and even our own mortality.  I've sung hymns in Church denoting "All the Earth's a garden sweet."

And still it never occurred to me to ask Him how to best grow my garden.

Happily not everyone is as dense about that as I am!  Thankfully my paths crossed someone else who'd seen the video Back to Eden and I was intrigued enough to follow their link and watch the presentation.  I jotted down 19 more scriptural references to support this method of gardening during the 3 times I've watched it in the past couple of days.  Paul Gautschi's method makes sense logically, scientifically and scripturally.  And it seems to me that it would be a whole lot less physical labor to care for a garden this way.  It's seriously made me rethink how I'm going to do things in the future... not the layout so much as the methodology of it.  This just makes sense!

I urge you to grab a notepad and watch, too!!  From the Back of Eden website you can either watch the movie or buy a DVD.  Watch it more than once, really ponder what he says and then let's talk about it.  I'd love to get a dialogue going here with thoughts and experiences so we can all experiment and learn together!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Reality vs Fantasy

Perusing Facebook this morning I saw two things that kind of disturbed me.  One was this image.  The other was this news article about a young man in Taiwan who died in a cybercafe playing online games and no one even noticed for about 9 hours.  I don't know if I'm more stunned or saddened by what happened.

Are we really so totally oblivious to those around us?  Has the technology we think connects us and makes the world smaller really just  isolated us?  Does an online fantasy world mean more to us that the day-to-day reality we are living?  Has the distinction between reality and fantasy blurred that much?  Come on folks!  These games are meant to be a fun break in the routine and not an alternative to living our life.

If you've read my blog for long or followed my Facebook convolutions of late, you know that I play an online game.  You probably also know that I've never lost sight of the fact that it is a game... those vast medieval armies of Evony are just little pixels on the screen.  I've always been much more a social player than a serious gamer.  And there's good and bad to that.

The good part, is that it's a social outlet.  Not only did it fill that hole in my life while I was constrained to be home pretty much all the time caring for my mother during the last part of her life, but I also had the opportunity to meet some pretty amazing people from all over the world.  Many of them have become dear and cherished friends and our connection and conversation have gone far beyond the realms of the game world.  My life experience is richer from knowing them and so from that viewpoint, I have no regrets about getting involved in the game.

At the same time, that sociability has sucked me in much deeper than I'd care to admit.  I've become a daily player.  Sometimes for several hours in a day.  And sometimes (way too often!)  it's among the first things I think of when I get up in the morning... and sometimes it's kept me up way past the time I should have been in bed asleep... and sometimes the game drama has even left me in tears.  I don't like that!  So I'm planning my exit from the game world.  I  made it a goal this year to break the habit.  But I'm finding it to be tremendously more difficult than I thought.  I don't want to build my army and go wage war any more, but the thought of not interacting with the people makes me very sad.  Still, I think the time is at hand.  I need to be back fully into the world of living, breathing human beings and tangible things that can be touched and tasted.

And I want someone to notice if I die...

I've shared this post on Barn Hop #48  at Homestead Revival.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Applesauce Muffins

These are probably my second most favorite muffins in the history of forever!  The basic recipe comes from With Heart & Soul:  Favorite Recipes from Our Family and Friends with recipes by Roxie Kelley and Friends and Illustrated by Shelly Reeves Smith.  I bought it on clearance at Borders a few years ago every bit as much for the illustrations as the recipes, both of which are fantastic.

Their recipe:

1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves (I skip this)
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup ground pecans (I also skip this quite often)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Put paper liners into 12 muffin baking pan.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth.  Beat in the egg.  In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients then mix into the creamed butter and sugar.  Stir in applesauce and pecans.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins.  Bake 17-20 minutes or until lightly golden.

What I do differently (besides doubling the recipe) is add a little filling made from cream cheese and brown sugar.  Just mix up a bit until it's the level of sweetness that you like.  Fill the muffin cups about halfway with the batter, add a generous teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture and then the rest of the muffin batter.  Bake as directed.

Good eats!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Big Blue Dahlia

Inspired by this post from Vively Online I set out to make a medallion that adds a little of that "cuteness factor" to one of my bare living room walls.  And because aqua is my main accent color in there, I chose that shade of copy paper to work with.  If you have a crafty bone in your body I think she posted enough to get you through the project so I'm not doing step-by-step instructions and photos...  Just one picture to show off the finished project!

And here's the reveal of my need for cardboard (backing for all those paper cones) the other day:

I've linked this post to the Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop #43 at White Wolf Summit Farmgirl.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Cleaning Schedule

You might remember from my early mid-January post about setting goals, I mentioned that devising a good cleaning schedule and doing it was one of the things I was working on this year.  So far that's been going pretty well.  I think this schedule works for me:

MONDAY - Master Bedroom
Change linens and make bed
Dust furniture and lamps
Dustmop and spot clean the floor
Clean tub, toilet, shower and sink in main bath
Sweep and mop floor
Take trash to garbage can
Wipe tile, picture frames and mirror as needed
Dishes into dishwasher
Run dishwasher as needed
Wipe stove top, counters and sink
Water houseplants
Get dirty clothes to laundry room
Do laundry loads as needed
Put clean clothes away

TUESDAY - Upstairs Guest Bedrooms
Change linens and make beds (if the rooms have been used)
Dust furniture and lamps
Dustmop and spot clean the floor in bedrooms and hall
Clean toilet and sink in Jack & Jill bath
Wipe mirror and shelves as needed
Take trash to garbage can
Dishes into dishwasher
Run dishwasher as needed
Wipe stove top, counters and sink
Get dirty clothes to laundry room
Do laundry loads as needed
Put clean clothes away

WEDNESDAY - Living and Dining Room
Make bed
Vacuum area rug and furniture
Dustmop and spot clean floor
Dust furniture and lamps and chandelier
Sweep front entry and shake doormat
Dishes into dishwasher
Run dishwasher as needed
Wipe stove top, counters and sink
Get dirty clothes to laundry room
Do laundry loads as needed
Put clean clothes away

THURSDAY - Kitchen
Make bed
Polish appliances
Clean inside of fridge and freezer as needed
Clean inside of microwave
Clean oven as needed
Dustmop and spot clean floor
Trash to garbage can and cans to street
Dishes into dishwasher
Run dishwasher as needed
Wipe stove top, counters and sink
Get dirty clothes to laundry room
Do laundry loads as needed
Put away clean clothes

FRIDAY - Back Entry and Downstairs Bath
Make bed
Sweep back entry and shake door mat
Sweep stairs and spot clean
Clean bed and bath as needed
Plan menu for next week and write a grocery list
Dishes to dishwasher
Run dishwasher as needed
Wipe stove top, counters and sink
Get dirty clothes to laundry room
Do laundry loads as needed
Put away clean clothes

SATURDAY - Family Room and Craft Room
Make bed
Sweep and spot clean floors
Vacuum area rug and furniture
Dust furniture and electronics
Grocery shopping
Plan business/finance activities and blog posts for next week
Dishes to dishwasher
Run dishwasher as needed
Wipe stove top, counters and sink
Get dirty clothes to laundry room
Do laundry loads as needed
Put away clean clothes
1-2 periodic cleaning jobs  (wash curtains, clean fireplaces, wipe ceiling fans, etc.)

That's about it.  My house is never perfectly spotless, but it is very livable and comfortable.  Most days I can be done with my cleaning chores in around an hour, excepting the time clothes are in the washer and dryer.

25 Things

I'm seeing this more and more on the blogs I regularly follow... Not sure if I really like it or not.  But I thought I'd give it a try today because I have some little observations and project results to share.  You know stuff that just isn't big enough to make a whole post.  So here goes!

1.  When I get my finances stabilized again, I want to get a puppy and kitten.  Have them grow up together so they are friends.  When I had cats before a couple of friends said they didn't visit much because they were allergic... my girls have been gone for nearly 3 years now and they don't visit any more often.  So bag that.

2.  An idea I found on Pinterest was to regrow the tops of your green onions in a glass of water.  That hasn't been working out so well for me.  Yeah, the tops regrow.  Slowly.  See how stubby they still are after 2 weeks?  And the outer skin of the onion bulb keeps molding and I have to clean it off and peel back another layer.  For next winter I'm going to put some Egyptian Walking Onions from the garden into a flowerpot and keep myself in green onions for salads and baked potatoes that way.

3.  I also want to plant ginger in a pot on the windowsill.

4.  I made salad dressing with an unusual ingredient today.  Of course, I didn't measure anything!  I mixed apple cider vinegar, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, honey, a bit of hot water (to get the last of the honey out) and a couple of packets of the dry hot apple cider drink mix together.  Yummy over a mix of spring greens, bow tie pasta, slices of grilled boneless pork chop, chopped cucumber, raisins and grated jack cheese.

5.  I really dislike raisins!  But those 72-hour kits I'm renewing had some in them and being poor and jobless I couldn't just throw them out.

6.  Another Pinterest find was a tip to clean the burners on my gas range.  This one worked!!!  Just put 2-3 Tbl of Ammonia into a large ziplok freezer bag then put the burner in being careful to not poke any holes in the plastic.  Leave it sit for 24 hours then wash.  It really gets the gunky little burned on bits that are insanely hard to scrub off.

7.  I really really LOVE having a gas stove!

8.  Right about now I'm wondering I have 25 things to say or if I should rename the post 10 Things...

9.  You know how your kitchen faucet can get to running really slow?  It's because there is sand, or teensy little rocks, caught behind the screen.  It comes off to be cleaned.  I knew this, but until a few days ago I didn't know how easy it was to remove that part and clean it out.  A full stream of water is such a wonderful thing!

10.  There are a couple of projects that I'm looking for the final pieces to complete.  Hoping I can find a good piece of cardboard and some dry garden dirt this week.  Intrigued?

11.  I am in love with the floor plan of my house.  I am also in love with the idea of having a mud room.  These loves seemed in total opposition to one another until I started to rethink how I'm using the closet in my back hall (not really the back, but behind the kitchen).  Now I'm in love with the idea that I CAN have them both.  Just gotta make it happen.

12.  Mr. Hansen was right...  I do actually use algebra in real life.  Maybe I should have taken higher math classes?

13.  Tulips, Iris, Hyacinth and Star of Bethlehem are sprouting in the flowerbeds.  Spring, and the beginning of yard work, is only about 6 weeks away.  Yay!!

14.  In a couple of weeks I'm going to host a chocolate tasting party.  It's a somewhat new concept from Dove Chocolate and one of my neighbors has signed up as a consultant.  If Dove accommodates an online party would you be interested?

15.  I really want to get some chickens but I'm kind of intimidated by the idea of taking care of them.  Especially in the wintertime.

16.  One of the yard projects I hope to complete this summer is a firepit along side the [half-built] patio that's attached to the garage.

17.  Another is a greenhouse attached to the other side of the garage.  Saved some old windows just for this purpose.

18.  If I'd built that greenhouse last year, I'd probably be out there today planting the seeds for tomato and pepper starts.

19.  I wish I had some strawberry jam in the freezer.  That would inspire to make bread!

20.  I've been stuck on #20 for quite some time... I think that means I need to get off the computer and go clean house and do some things so I have more to blog about.

21.  Dr. Pepper is my favorite pop... soda... ummm... non-alcoholic carbonated beverage.  Haven't had one for at least a month and I'm really wanting some.  Today might just be the day!

22.  Some of my friends question if I'm really a girl.. I HATE shoe shopping.  Seriously!  I'd almost rather go to the dentist than the shoe store.

23.  Making this list is driving me crazy.  It's way harder than writing a regular post so don't look for this to be a regular feature.

24.  I finished acquiring and packaging the food to renew my 72-hour kit yesterday.  Yay!!  One task ticked off the goals list for this year!

25.  La Frontera makes the yummiest Fries smothered with Chile Verde, grated cheese and finely chopped onion.  Went for a treat while out on today's errands - got my fix for awhile again now.  Yummy!!!