Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snow in Camp Verde!

We're in a valley here and rarely get snow.  In 1967 there were 3 feet of snow on the ground, and beyond that it's a sprinkling here and there and rarely sticks.  Today there's about an inch and everything is covered with a pretty snow blanket.  Here are some pictures.

Chickens wondering what this cold white stuff is.

Friends car parked here while they drove another car to a cabin.  They might be snowed in!

Surprised by all the ground being covered.

The brave ones.

The creek surrounded by snow.

Goat pen.

Tried to get the mountains in the background.

Peaches wondering if I had a treat for her.

Edge of the storm.

House on the hill behind the creek.

Snow babies.  They have their pretty white coats to keep them warm!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Following My OCC Boxes

I received an email this morning that the shoeboxes we personally prepared went to Indonesia.  According to the web site,

Twenty-eight percent of Indonesia’s 242.9 million people are 14-years-old or younger. In 2009, 82,392 shoe box gifts were delivered to children in Indonesia, which first received the gifts in 2000. Since then, 980,479 children have received a shoe box gift.

These aren't the kids that got our boxes, but here are pictures of other happy kids getting a box.

Please consider supporting this ministry throughout the upcoming year.  You can shop for little gifts year round and fill a number of shoeboxes on a "shoestring".  Sorry, couldn't resist!  I found a website with instructions for making yarn dolls, and it's something Goober Gus can help me with, so that he's part of the giving also.  Full price yarn is $3 around here and it will make at least 4 dolls.  We'll be on the lookout for yarn at yard sales now too!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

As Real as it Gets

At least around here for now, anyway!  Just a glimpse into a few real food forays this week. 

These are the ingredients in Amy's Homemade Ranch Dressing.  We mixed up a few bags for Christmas gifts the other day.  It went into plastic baggies with one of these labels and the instructions from Amy's blog.

Tuesday night we had these yellow fin tuna steaks with this Japanse sauce.  I only made the sauce, didn't use the rest of that recipe.  It was so delicious!  We had a little bit of wasabe sauce to go with it too.  Mmmmm.  The recipe for the sauce was for  more tuna than we had, so I used the leftover to flavor a crockpot full of rice to eat for dinner tonight.  I added asparagus to it and that was good enough that my husband had seconds.

The only reason we even had tuna was because we saw it on sale Sunday when we stopped to buy cod for dinner.  Guess we're all in the mood for fish lately!  We baked the cod in lemon garlic butter, and once again had asparagus with it.  Another delightful dinner!

Before dinner tonight, I made this fermented cranberry-apple-orange relish from the GNOWFGLINS blog to take to my parents house for Christmas dinner-the day after.  I modified that a little too-I had tangerines, but no oranges.  It smells and looks fabulous!

After dinner, I started a loaf of whole wheat bread in the bread machine.  Then the 3 of us made granola.  It's a recipe from Amy at Homestead Revival too.  Goober Gus and I have made it before and we love it!  Once that went into the oven the boys went to play and I made coconut/peppermint bark from GNOWFGLINS.  It's YUMMY and has the added benefit of being good for me!  I should have taken pictures, but I really just wanted to get it all done so I could sit down for a few minutes!  Is it bedtime yet?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Operation Christmas Child

This story was originally written in December of 2010.  I have since been back to the processing center one more time with my husband.  We talked on the drive over about how God uses this ministry to reach communities in countries where Christianity is strictly forbidden.  Those same countries allow Samaritan's Purse to bring in shoe boxes packed with gifts for children.  Each child also gets a book in their own language called The Greatest Journey, which is used to take the children through a 12 week discipleship program where they are taught that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  It is a great evangelistic tool that otherwise wouldn't make it into some of these countries, simply because it comes as a Gift.  I'd like to ask you to prayerfully consider participating in this program, where you can even pack a box online!  National Drop-Off Week is the 14th-20th this year.  Find a drop off location near you here.

OCC National Collection Week

A couple of weeks ago I volunteered at the Operation Christmas Child processing center in Orange County, CA.  I spent 3 days (more like 2.5) opening, inspecting, sorting, re-stuffing, taping and cartonizing shoe boxes.  It was fun!  I figured I better make this post now before I forget too many details-life gets crazy when the routine is gone (even when there's very little routine to start with) and I just haven't sat down to do this.

First off, my mom went too, and we drove across the desert on I-10.  Anyone else been on that desolate highway??  We would have preferred to fly, but prices were too high and I'm glad we didn't now that the TSA is allowed to grope you!  On with the story...

The warehouse-those are the cartons that the inspected shoe boxes go in, at least 14 to a carton.  BTW-it isn't heated, and although it was southern California, it was only about 60 degrees inside.  We were told to wear layers of clothes so we could adjust as we warmed up from working.

Pallets of shoe boxes, used to divide the break area from other parts of the warehouse.

Me and Jan, another volunteer from my church.  The first day we were inspectors.  I prefer to call the job, "contraband confiscators" because it sounds more exciting!  This stage of the job requires you to open each box and verify that there are no inappropriate items.  That's the easy part.  Getting everything back into the box was sometimes a huge challenge!  Items we had to remove include:
food of any type (nothing with an expiration date)
any liquid
anything breakable
toy money
war related toys (fighter jets, guns, etc)
Harry Potter
There were a few more things, but I don't recall the whole list.  Anything that was taken out was placed in a container and at the end of the processing time, taken to a local charity.  It gets used, just not in the shoe box.

People have to get creative when packing a shoe box, and we found many great ideas, as well as a few humorous ones like this lion puppet with toothpaste in its backside.

On this day I was the taper.  Every box that got processed at our station got wrapped thru the center with tape.  I estimate I taped over 500 boxes in my 6 hour shift.  I was surprised when my hands weren't sore, when one of my friends pointed out that it's probably because I milk goats, so my hands get a daily workout.  Possible?

This is where broken or torn shoe boxes go to be repacked into different boxes.  We also brought a few that were just plain too small for everything inside.  I thought it was a creative name.  The pallets on the floor had triage type names too.

I think this is our first day, that's my mom on the right in red.  Her job was to open the box and look for money.  Each shoe box costs about $7 to ship, so they ask for a donation to help cover that.  All money gets dropped into a locked box at the front of the table.

This is the contents of one of the boxes.  Wet wipes for kids, sidewalk chalk, candy, art supplies, personal grooming items and little toys.  We saw some cute ideas for gifts and ways to present them.

If you like to give, and you really like to give to kids, I encourage you to learn more about this ministry.  It's best to learn now and buy little things all year long than to wait until next year and try to fill a box with full priced items.  All items must be new, so no thrift store or yard sale finds allowed.  However, we saw a number of boxes come through with State Farm coloring books and my guess is those are free from an agent.  I'm going to find out, and collect other similar freebies during the year.  Happy Meal toys (we don't go there anymore, but it's an idea to look into), clearance items, the dollar section at Target-all places to shop whenever you're there.

A few times per year my mom and I meet at an outlet mall that's about an hour away from each of us (we live two hours apart).  It's usually to let her take TJ for a couple of days, but we do shop there also.  My brain wasn't engaged when we were there a few weeks before the main collection week.  We saw lime green gellie shoes for $2, and packs of Star Wars underwear for $3. I ended up spending $6 for underwear to go into my boxes.  I did however, remember to take advantage of the back to school sales and buy LOTS of penny crayons, etc at that time.

Some people wrapped a bar of soap in a washcloth and tied it with a bow.  None of the presents can be wrapped, since the box has to be inspected.  We did find a few that had wrapped gifts inside, and the mission of this outreach is to not disturb the integrity of the box, except for inappropriate items, so once those presents were unwrapped, the paper goes back into the box.  The purpose being that we don't know what God has planned for any of the items in the box.  Many people pray about what to include and it's not our job to interfere with that.  Some boxes had bows on the outside that simply got moved to the inside.  Many of the boxes themselves were wrapped-so that the lid could be removed without unwrapping-and we decided that it's not really a good idea.  The paper gets torn during handling, and then the box is wrapped with packing tape around the center.  It's nice to let your kids draw on the boxes and include a handwritten note to the child that will receive the box though.

I hope this story will encourage you to participate in spreading joy and the Gospel of Jesus Christ next year.  Many of these boxes go to countries where the Gospel is not allowed, but the boxes are.  It's a wonderful way to teach children and their families that Jesus loves them!

Operation Christmas Child

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It Happened

***After a little time to think, I decided to delete most of this post.  It wasn't very honoring, even if it is true.  Thanks to those that commented.***

 Just a quick note.  It started as a quick one, then I decided to add the Bible reference that sticks out regarding this, so it got longer. 

Our church has been without a permanent pastor since April of 2009.  The interim pastor started about a month after that.  Attendance started to decline, but that's to be expected with changes.  The IP has done his job, but the people want a permanent pastor.  So much so that they're willing to vote for a pastor simply to have one.  Any familiar with the story of the Israelites that wanted a king so they could be like the nations around them?

1 Samuel 8:5-7 (New King James Version)

5 and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”

6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.

8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. 9 Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”

10 So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who asked him for a king. 11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men,[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day.”

19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the LORD. 22 So the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed their voice, and make them a king.”

And Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Every man go to his city.”
Do verses 11-18 sound like another nation with which we are all familiar?  If only our king simply took 10% of our sheep!
God allowed this to happen for a reason.  I was convicted to be obedient to what I felt God telling me to do, and I suppose that means my obedience doesn't if I don't get my way.  Our family will give him the benefit of the doubt, but we've been feeling separated from this church for some time.  Perhaps this is the final message from God to us regarding leaving?  We shall see.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Something to Think About

I thought I had made a similar post in the last couple of months, but checking my archives I find nothing on this topic.  So here goes.

I've been feeling the need for a big shake up lately.  You know-totally change the way my days flow, what's important vs what's not, what takes up more time than it's worth and what I'd like to spend more time doing.  That kind of shake up.  My brain is full of things I'd like to do "when I have time" but if I don't just make an effort to do it, that time isn't likely to come.

There have been a number of times in my life where I realized I could live anywhere I wanted, the first time being after my divorce.  With no husband and his job tying us to a location, and no children that would feel uprooted by simply taking off and going somewhere, I gave it serious thought.  What kind of environment is important to me?  What am I looking for in a community?  Weather would be the biggest issue for me, right after cost of living.  Having been raised in sunny, warm, AZ I knew I wouldn't like dreary, cold winters, and that's why I turned down a job offer in PA.  It was good pay doing something I would have enjoyed, but I need sunshine to operate.  The man offering the job tried to get me to believe that there was plenty of sunshine in PA.  Apparently he'd never been to AZ where we have more days of sunshine than any state in the nation.  Every picture I found for apartments there was taken on a cloudy day.  No thanks.

While I was single I met a man from Albuquerque and wondered what it'd be like living there.  That fizzled quickly though and I never gave it another thought.  After meeting & marrying Tony we talked about various places we might live.  Until recently though, we were a bit tied to the area we're in.  We're now able to do what we do from any location, so the topic is open for discussion again.  Together we've ruled out any place that has long winters-neither of us is crazy about cold weather.  California is out for political reasons, as is Colorado.  New Mexico might be alright, though just not quite what we're after.  High humidity places are also not given a second thought, although I wouldn't mind a bit more humidity than the dry southwest has! 

That doesn't leave very many options, does it?  Oh wait, we only considered places within the USA!  If we can truly do what we do from anywhere, are we limited to the USA?  Not really.  But would we really just sell everything and go somewhere that they may not even speak English?  Maybe.  I'd at least consider it.  And that's what this post is supposed to be about.  Considering the why behind a move to say, Tuscany.

First off, could I really do it?  What would be left behind vs what to look forward to?  Next, is the why.  Why leave the state I've lived in for 37 years?  Maybe because I've lived here for 37 years.  The where is important of course.  I don't think I'd be typing this if the option was Moscow.  I've never been to Europe.  Heck, I've only been to Central American countries on my few travels.

The why for me right now has to do with that need for shaking things up.  For making my days different than what they are now.  Do I really need to consider moving to another continent for that to happen?  Can I just make it happen right here?  What would it take?  Above all else though, what's God's will in all this?  Is this just some crazy idea that popped into my head or is there more to it?  Do I feel like I need shaken up because some shaking is about to take place?  It's odd, but all of our local connections are dwindling and drying up.  Am I making that happen with some level of discontent, or is it being orchestrated by a Mind far greater than mine?

I shared with Tony a month or so back that I felt our days needed a new focus.  More purpose.  Living life more intentionally.  This past weekend I shared my crazy idea to move to Italy for a couple of months.  While talking about it, we realized if we were going at all it should be for a year.  I think I like it because it feels like I'd have less responsibility.  We could act like tourists for a while.  We could spend a day at the beach without making a big deal out of it.  We could simply sit outside enjoying the countryside.  But would it really be like that?  If so, do we have to go there (or wherever) to get that ability?

What are your thoughts?  What would you change in your life with the right opportunity?  Would you pack up and move if you could?  Where would you go?  Why did you choose that place?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Friend Karrie

We've never had the pleasure of meeting in person, but we do keep in touch online.  She's an amazing photographer and has been toying with the idea of turning her work into a marketable product.  She recently took the leap of faith and has posted her work in her artfire store.  Take a look and let her know what you think-she'd be grateful to read your encouraging words.  It probably wouldn't hurt if you wanted to buy something too.  ;-) 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Experience with Pumpkin Cake Bars

When I read this recipe, my mouth started watering!  We had a pumpkin waiting to be made into something wonderful, so this went on the list.  Maybe I built it up too much in my mind, but it just didn't satisfy the way I anticipated.  We cut up and cooked the pumpkin Friday night, and I started in on these bars Saturday.

I think I needed to cook them just a bit longer.  The top had browned and it seemed firm, but I failed to do the "insert toothpick" test.  The frosting called for coconut oil and coconut butter, so I had set them in the oven with the light on to liquefy.  I think that caused the icing to not mix properly.  I never did put it on the bars.  Tomorrow when the house is a bit warmer, I'm going to try mixing it again and see what we get.  If that doesn't work I'll figure out a way to use the mixture in another recipe.

The Cake Batter

Icing Ingredients

Cooled and Cut
One plus-the almond butter was purchased at Costco for $5.99 for a 26oz jar.  I had to go to New Frontiers for the coconut butter and saw this brand of almond butter for $12 something, for a smaller jar!  Sure glad I found it at Costco, but now I'm convinced I spent too much on the coconut butter!

Have you got a favorite pumpkin recipe to share?  I still have a full crock pot of puree to use!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I won, I won! Again!

Some of you might remember when I won the Chico Produce Bags, and then the very next day I won a book, The Town That Food Saved.  I've entered plenty more give aways since then, and just won again!  I won the Herbal Nurturing eBook from Michele at Frugal Granola.  You can see the post here.

Here's the table of contents.

I can't wait to get my link to download my free copy and try the Mama's Passion Bath Salts!  I've been wanting to learn more about natural care remedies and now I'll have this handy little book!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin Chips

Today we made pumpkin chips.  We had purchased a bag of Sweets & Beets after cutting a truckload of wood today...and on the way home talked about getting our gigantic pumpkin made into puree so we can make pumpkin pie and pumpkin cake.  That's when Tony thought it might be fun to try making pumpkin chips.  He was talking about making a puree and drying it, I suggested he just use the vegetable peeler and slice it raw.  We tried some on the oven, with salt and garlic powder on them and they're pretty good!  Now we've got the dehydrator full to test that method.

This post is part of the Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Did It!

I made butter!  I've been wanting to try all year, and just never made it a priority.  I'm glad I waited until we were getting the higher fat Nubian milk though.  It separates better than Alpine milk, and I was able to collect 44oz of rich cream to start with.  I don't have photos because my hands were covered with butter.  Here's how I did it:
  1. Scoop cream out of jars.
  2. Mix with whip at highest speed of mixer that still keeps the cream in the bowl.
  3. The cream will expand just like whipping cream, and then start to break down-I turned the speed up at this point.
  4. When it gets watery and looks like it's going to fail, turn off the mixer and notice all the clumps of butterfat in the water!
  5. Here's where I could have used an experienced butter maker...I read the section on butter making in the Encyclopedia of Country Living, but still would have liked to have someone here.  I washed my hands, got out a fine mesh strainer, some parchment paper (so the counter wouldn't get all smeary) and a bowl of ice water.
  6. I poured the whole thing into the strainer (over yet another bowl), then scraped the butter out and tried working it on the parchment paper.  Don't do this if you're using my instructions for butter making!
  7. I ended up forming the butter into a ball and placing it back in the mixer bowl to rinse it.  The ice water didn't seem to be a good idea either.
  8. I just kept putting in enough water to cover it well, squeezed the butter thru it and poured off the milky water.  Next time I will do this with a bamboo spoon.  My hands were covered and I was kinda stuck doing what I was doing.
  9. After 6 or 8 washings I decided it was clean enough. [The rinsing keeps it from going rancid too quickly, but I don't think it will last past our first loaf of homemade bread!]  In reality you should rinse until the water is clear, and then do it again.  I thought it was clear, and then the next rinse would be just as milky.  Not sure if I just wasn't squeezing the butter enough or what.
  10. I put it in a small glass bowl and worked some salt into it with the bamboo spoon.  I rinsed it one more time too.  I think I've got about 3/4 cup of butter from the 44oz of milk.
That's it!  I have tiny pieces of butter stuck to the strainer, thinking that next time I will plan on cooking some fresh veggies that should be topped with butter and let the strainer sit over the pot while they cook-letting those particles melt onto the veggies.

If you've made butter, got any tips for a newbie?

Taking Stock

I've been in the kitchen this morning taking inventory of what food I have.  At the same time, I'm eliminating anything with artificial color or preservatives.  We think our son is affected by them, so we're trying a couple of weeks of focused effort on not letting him have any to verify the suspicion.

It's a testament to our almost two year old journey towards real food.  There's not much to toss or give away, and what's there just might be two years old or more.  [sigh]  Some chocolate graham crackers, old cereal bars, rancid macadamia nuts (the travesty!) and an assortment of cookie/cupckake sprinkles. 

Our original goal in this journey was real milk, healthy fats and homegrown eggs.  Then came the removal of all HFCS and any hydrogenated oils.  Seems that taking those out took out a lot of the dyes and chemicals too.  We're also trying to follow EWG's list of the most pesticide laden produce.  Living in a small town whose population doesn't care too much about that (or simply can't afford it) the options are very limited. 

Since the list has 49 items on it, we determined that the top 25 cleanest we would buy conventional and the rest had to be pesticide free.  Potatoes are in the lower 24, so now that the farmers markets are closed, we don't have access to organic potatoes.  I feel very restricted by this one alone, and there are 23 other items on that list!  It makes me question-do we go without fresh produce or do we eat the pesticides?

I'm almost done with the inventory.  I still need to go thru the fridge and freezer (mostly to list what we have for meal planning purposes) and one cabinet in my son's room that holds bulk items.  Then it'll be time to create healthy meals using these items.  Oh, and I want to plan carefully so that Monday's leftovers get used in Wednesday's soup (or whatever, you get the idea).

What's your feeling on chemicals in our food?  Whether they be pesticide residues on produce or added to boxed items-how do you handle it?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The First Freeze

I can't find an accurate official low for last night, but my guess was mid 20's.  Tony got home around 11:30 and the car thermometer was reading 32*, and that car is infamous for reading high.  While walking with a friend I mentioned the temperature and she said it was 26* at 8AM in the shade.  I believe it!

I didn't take pictures, but the trees were dropping their leaves rapidly as the sun came up over the mountains.  At one point they were coming down so quickly it sounded like rain falling.  Now the ground is covered in a carpet of yellow and green leaves!  I'm trying to scoop them up to feed the goats-too bad our perimeter isn't fenced so I could just let them out to clean the ground.

I don't remember looking at the temp while I was out early this afternoon.  It got warm enough to be out in short sleeves though.  I love that!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Autumn in AZ

This is my main view while I milk goats.  As much as I tried, I couldn't capture the brilliant yellow with my camera.  I think the sun is so bright that it gets washed out.

These are the trees over me while milking.  Again, the contrast of the bright yellow with the glorious green on a blue sky background just can't be captured with this camera.

I took this with the camera on my phone while hiking today.  I love the orange leaves!  I think this is a sycamore tree, but I'm not a tree buff to know these things.

So we do get fall colors here, perhaps not as vivid and glorious as New England, but seeing it here is cheaper than flying across the country to view them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Procrastination vs Just Too Much To Do

Goodness!  I know I don't like to open mail or deal with the tedious tasks that go along with paperwork.  I try to set aside a certain time each week to sit down and make the calls, reply to the letters, pay the bills, whatever needs done in the paperwork/desk work category.  I tend to avoid that day though, or simply update my checking accounts and call it good.

Today I pulled out the stack of papers (at least 4 inches tall) and just started at it.  Plugging along, one piece of paper after another.  Here's what I'm finding:
  • FamilyLife Resource offers from March and April that I wanted-but didn't take the few moments required to fill out the form and put it back in the mail.
  • A stack of UNOPENED mail from early August.  One letter is date Aug 3rd.
  • A letter from an online friend from May 2009.  I think I kept it to remind me to send one back.  Oops.
  • Letters from WorldVision and Food for the Hungry regarding the children we sponsor.  Cards that we're supposed to sign and send back.  From June.
Does it really take me THAT long to just do these things a few moments at a time on a regular basis??  Part of my S.H.E. program will include handling the mail DAILY every afternoon.  I sure hope I can overcome this issue!  But I never addressed the title of the post-is it simply procrastination or too much to do?  I don't know.  I'll have to get back to you.  It's time to take books back to the library, go to the post office and make a deposit at the bank.  How do YOU handle these things?

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I'm a reader.  Books, magazines, blogs, forums, email, name it, my eyes are scanning and reading it.  Since I find so many things interesting, I'm subscribed to a number of blogs and email newsletters.  I have them sorted into folders as they arrive-homeschool ideas into the Homeschool folder, and general ideas to help me be a better wife, mom, homemaker go into the Mom Stuff folder.  The homeschool one I can usually keep up with, but the mom one gets way more messages and I get behind.  If I delete w/o reading, I feel guilty, or like I've missed something.  This is, of course on top of email that doesn't fit either of those categories!

Lately, I've been taking advantage of Tony's night time music jobs by sitting on the couch with my laptop while TJ watches a movie.  He feels more like I'm spending time with him, and I get to catch up.  I made a big dent in the total number of messages weekend before last, as Tony played out of town both nights.  I was almost able to keep current after that, but today/tonight I managed to clear ALL of my folders of unread messages!  Trust me, that's a big accomplishment!

I didn't do any meal planning or homeschool prep, but I do feel good about this being done!  I even learned several things and have stuff I want to research too.

So now it's off to bed, where I'll read a few pages from Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto.


It's an interesting idea, but not one I'm eager to embrace.  I don't think chocolate grows around here!  Regardless, I do prefer to buy locally when possible and growing our own is the bigger goal.  Last night while eating dinner I realized everything had come from within 50 miles of home.

Pastured chicken from the farmer's market (been in freezer), green beans from a friend's garden, squash from the U-pick farm, and a pomegranate from the farmer's market.  Milk from our goats rounded out the meal.  I didn't take pictures.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


No, not that kind of paradigms, but I couldn't resist.  Sorry.  Lame, slapstick humor.  The kind that I often choose to not even grant the obligatory eye roll/moan process when my husband does it to me.

I'm talking about the belief system that we all have regarding just about everything in life.  The way we think about a topic or view the world around us.  In the last year and a half or so, many of my personal paradigms have been knocked on their duff.  It's sent me on a journey that is changing my life and the way I process new information now.  My eyes have been opened to so many new ways to see things, but it does get hard and confusing. 

For instance, most of us were told (popular media influence, school texts, etc) that to be healthy we needed to restrict our saturated fat intake and consume more carbohydrates.  Many obediently pursued the low fat approach, trusting that this would lead to a healthier life, reducing risk of heart disease and obesity.  I for one, never asked to see the research, nor looked at the daily evidence that there's now actually more heart disease and obesity than at any time in modern history.  Why?  Why is the advice of many research studies and government programs not working?  Perhaps because those studies are funded by businesses that have a vested interest in the outcome, and reports are skewed?  Do I sound paranoid yet?

I've come across a lot of new information during this journey and it can be so overwhelming that I just want to shrug and say, "oh well, I'll just keep doing what I've been doing".  However, that might not be what's best.  Instead, I've learned to run the new info through this filter test. 
  • Who stands to gain from this line of thinking?
  • How was it done before the Industrial Revolution?
  • How did God design the process?
Is it foolproof?  Not as long as this fool is involved.  I do think it's a better way of digesting all the conflicting, and sometimes misleading, information that's out there though.  After answering these questions, I can determine the route I think is best for me and my family.  That won't necessarily be the route that's best for you and your family, but I do want to encourage you to at least consider when something new comes along that it might be valuable.

I'm noticing, however, that many people simply to choose to keep on believing what they've always been taught, not questioning it at all, and I think that's a sad statement on our society.  We've grown complacent and we just accept the way things are done in this country as normal, a standard to be reached.  I say we because I know I'm just as guilty as anyone.  I'm trying to change that though, and want to encourage you to do the same.  The next time someone comes to you with info that sounds corny, conflicts with what you've always believed, or any of a multitude of reasons for why you'd tune it out, try listening and running it through your own filter.  Listen with an attitude of "this person must believe this, or think it's worthwhile, maybe I should examine it too."  Maybe the person presenting it to you cares about you so much that they want you to know what they've discovered.  I'm not suggesting that the new info will always be better, just that it's worth it to consider why it was brought to you in the first place. 

For myself, I feel betrayed by the very institutions I once trusted and wonder why someone didn't show me what I've been discovering with my own research.  It's with that attitude that I bring new info to those around me.  I may sound nuts, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.  If I think it can help you live a better life, I'm going to say something.  If you don't like what I say, that's certainly your prerogative, and I won't spend time trying to persuade you.  I will continue to present new ideas as they come to me though, because I care.  Not because I think everyone must do it my way, but because the info was so profound to me, that it changed the way I live, and I want to share this new discovery to give you the opportunity to perhaps improve your life!

Here's to growth and improving one's life and the world around us!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Look & Feel of a Blog

I liked the old Blogger design tools better than the new system.  What I'd like even better than that is the knowledge to make and create blog backgrounds and layouts.  Some of the blogs I follow are so nicely layed out. 

Amy, at Homestead Revival has a very homey and welcoming blog.
At A Wise Woman Builds Her House, the site is beautiful and the music complements the blog substance.
At Keeper of the Home, Stephanie has a clean, crisp look.  Here's another at Small Notebook.

I like my blog to be welcoming, pleasing to the eye, and easy to navigate.  It's also a source of reminders for me, like the side bar constants that I just cleaned up.  I used to have a home business teaching and training home users and small business owners how to use their computers.  In all that time I never learned even basic HTML.  I've tried a few times, but it just doesn't make sense to me.  I'd love to create a look for my blog that truly represents me and my goals.  Got any suggestions?

Cod Liver Oil

Yes, cod liver oil, or CLO for short.  I've been reading about its health benefits, and even tried to consume it daily, but just couldn't get past the ick factor, regardless of the health that might come from it.  I'm encouraged to try again after reading this review at Kitchen Stewardship, but the giveaway would be helpful.  The good stuff is expensive, so it makes it harder to part with the cash and then not be able to "stomach" it.  Her review is funny and uplifting, so take the time to read it.

In my defense, I am taking a high Vitamin A capsule daily, and that's one of the nutrients in CLO.  What about you?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Deal, One Giveaway, and Then She Found More

I love winning free stuff, don't you?  Since there's usually just one winner at a giveaway though, discounts are a nice consolation prize, right?

The first giveaway is the book, "In the Kitchen-Real Food Basics eBook".  I read the six page preview and ordered it!  It's only $5.21 with the current promotion.  If I win, she'll refund my purchase price.  Now that's good business sense! 

How about a wholesome family skincare goodie basket?

At another blog I follow there's a discount for Family Fun magazine.  It's 30 Minute Martha and the price is just $3.75!

I just found this while exploring this evening.  For the Love of Pie free eBook download.  Or Fun, Fabulous and (mostly) Free Preschool Projects.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Adventures in House Hunting

Some of you might remember my post on the pros and cons of a house we found a few months ago.  We decided not to buy the one in the post, but have been searching continuously-mostly online until we find something interesting.  A month ago we did find something interesting and made an offer several days later.  The listing agent still hasn't responded, and all kinds of twists and turns have arisen since then.  It's still in the works, but we're looking for other options too.

Thursday our son was with my parents, and Tony just had a bug to get out on the road.  Me, I was looking forward to a day at home without my son, getting stuff done.  By the title of the blog, you've probably figured out who won. 

Our agent had sent us a list of homes that had been served with a trustee's sale notice and I went thru it to see if anything on it met our needs.  There's a 10 acre parcel listed, but with a trustee sale, opening bids aren't released until the day before the sale.  The county lists parcels with previous and current years valuations, so I use that as a guide.  This 10 acre parcel was valued at $93,000 last year, and $1,000 this year!  OK, now my curiosity is aroused enough to consider leaving home.  It was a little hard to locate on the map because it's in an undeveloped area.  We found the names of a couple of dirt roads and knew we could get to it.  What we didn't know was the condition of the roads...

This is what we were faced with after driving over a couple of hills with washouts as deep as the one on the left of this photo.  Did I tell you it was a narrow road?  With a steep enough drop-off to make me quite nervous?  Or that the ruts were situated such that we had to drive as close to that drop-off as we could without falling off?  What about the fact that the road is rocky granite?

You might be asking why we stopped and got out. 

The road we were on ended and there was a three foot deep, five foot wide ravine before the next one started.  That's Tony making a rock bridge for the tires to drive across.  I would have helped, but I was busy taking pictures and limping around.  Yeah, as soon as I stepped out of the car I slid into that rut on the left side of the picture.  Tony couldn't see me and didn't know I had fallen.  I wasn't sure I could stand up with sliding more.  It was kinda funny!  Here's my injury:

This is from the day after.  The one I took at the scene doesn't really show anything.  I got familiar with the contents of the first aid kit kept in the van.  Glad I bought one when we bought the van!  Did you know neosporin stings??

That was just the beginning of the adventure though.  Once we got onto the other road and wound our way around a couple more hills, we took two month's worth of rubber off the tires trying to climb back out.  We could smell the burning rubber.  I prayed.  God answered!  The granite on this road wasn't ground up and rocky.  It was large rocks and small boulders.  Driving from one to the next, hoping we wouldn't start slipping back down.  We got over that hill, came back to where the other road joined this one and kept on going.  Turns out this road has been taken care of, and it's the route I suggested we take in.  I agreed with his route because it was shorter.  Yikes!

We got out of there and continued on into the next series of towns to look at houses that Tony had researched.  Keyed the addresses in to the GPS but "she" wanted us to go a different way than what Tony had written down.  We went miles out of our way, drove by 2 houses he thought we might like (we didn't) and then tried to find two more.  One was empty, so we got out to look around.  Not bad.  Not in the area I'd like to be, but it sat on a hill looking out over the valley.  I decided not to be so firm in where I want to live and told Tony we could investigate this one more.

Darkness had now come upon us, but we tried to find the 4th house anyway.  It didn't exist.  Or the address in the instructions didn't.  We gave up and decided to go eat.  He said there were photos of the one we looked at online so I was eager to get home and see them.  Know what the listing said?  2500 gallon water tank to store hauled water.  You don't know Tony so you don't know how ironic that is.  The reason we haven't left the area we're in is because water is a prime requirement of his for any property we buy.  The town we live in has irrigation ditches, and most of AZ does NOT.  I couldn't believe we were in the car for 6 hours to look at 4 houses and one parcel of land, with one of those houses not even having water!

I think I was a good sport about it though.  I didn't rub it in too much, but I did remind him that I'm supposed to be the navigator.  :-)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Least Among You

This movie is a based on a true story that I was not familiar with prior to ordering this for review purposes.  I prefer "based on a true story" movies over fiction more often than not, and this was no exception.  The storyline was a bit slow moving, but who says it has to be high speed to be good? 
Set in 1965 following the Watts race riots, Richard Kelly finds that he is unable to take the job with the big computer company that he was so proud to get.  Instead, he'll be spending "time" at an all white seminary as the only black student in their history.  In the process he learns about reverse racism, forgiveness, consequences, perseverance and loyalty.  To tell you anything else would give away too much, so let it be known that I enjoyed the movie and recommend it to all.  It's an important life lesson learned.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cause & Effect

I requested a copy of this 4 disc series of Adventures in Odyssey to review and find out if my son enjoys listening to the show.  I know the suggested audience is a little older age range than he is, but I figured it was worth a try.  To my surprise, he was really paying attention!  We listened while running errands one day and he wanted to wait in the car while I went into the grocery store, so he could keep listening!  I didn't let him stay but he reminded me as soon as we got back that we needed to turn the story back on.

I found myself even being curious as to what would happen next.  We've listened together and enjoyed everything we've heard!  I like the morals and values that are expressed throughout the stories and the way the shows wrap up with a recap of the lessons taught.  This set is something we will listen to over and over!  If you've got young children, I recommend this set for "edutational" purposes.

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this CD to review in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, October 1, 2010


This morning I made my first successful batch of ricotta cheese from the whey left after making chevre.  I only got about 1/2 cup (little errors on my part) but was wondering what I'd do with it, so it wouldn't just sit in the fridge and spoil.  I decided we'd have lasagna for dinner, but 1/2 cup of ricotta wouldn't be enough.  So, I found out how to make ricotta straight from the milk rather than from whey.  We had Italian sausage from the 1/2 hog we bought a few months ago, but everything else would have to be store bought. 

This was the first time any of us assembled a lasagna and we were quite excited to take on this adventure together!  I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

Ricotta curds draining in butter muslin.

Goober Gus and Dad frying the sausage and beef.

A huge bag of fresh basil from a neighbor.  What else can I do with this?

Layering the ingredients.

Goober mixing the egg and seasoning into the ricotta.

More layering.  My artistic husband made sure it was very eye appealing.

The ricotta goes on...

Ready to go into the oven.

The mess!

More of the mess.

I even did the dishes after dinner-I hardly EVER do that!  Just ask my mom...

Goober cracking the egg...