Thursday, September 18, 2008

So in honor of Apple Dumpling Day, my sister and I made Apple Dumplings yesterday

See this post (under Food) for why we were celebrating Apple Dumpling Day.

First, we went over to the church and picked apples off the trees at the church. I JUST noticed on Saturday that there were even apples on the trees at church, and on Monday, my sister asked if we wanted to go over there to pick apples. We went out there and it was so much fun. We got out there about 6 pm, and picked apples for a little while, and we found a frisbee and the kids and the dads threw that around for a little while while my sister and I just chatted. There was a cool breeze in the air, and my kids all had hooded sweatshirts on, and the smell, and the giggling, and just being there was just perfect for a late summer night.

Yesterday, my sister came over around 2 pm to help me peel the apples. We found this recipe for Apple Dumplings, but we didn't have the recipe upstairs where we were peeling the apples, so we ended up peeling 16+ apples each because we were each going to make a double recipe and we thought that the recipes said 8 apples, not 8 slices. Whoops!

It was sort of an adventure because my sister had her baby there, who is 3 months old, and her 4 year old and I had the baby that I watch there, who is 4 months old, and then Super and the two other kids that I watch woke up from nap at 2:30, and then Jelly Bean, and my sister's two other kids came here after school at 3 pm, and between taking care of all the children, it took us until 4 pm to get the apples sliced and the pans loaded. I put the leftover slices in the dehydrator, so they didn't go to waste.

I put the two pans (we decided to just make a batch for each of our families, so we didn't end up doubling the recipe for each of us.) in my oven, and she took her kids and went home and ate dinner at their house, and we had dinner at our house, and then they came back over at 6:30 for dessert.

I took one taste, and seriously about fainted. It was SOOOOOOOOO good. I ate a whole piece because it was SOOOOOOOOOOOO good, but I had a tremendous belly ache afterwards. Which was totally worth it, but I think I will stop after a half a piece next time. Everyone agreed that it was one of the best things that they have ever had.

We will definitely be celebrating this holiday next year, and I anticipate that we will have Apple Dumplings a couple of more times during Autumn. Anybody else celebrate the day? If not, go ahead and celebrate it this week. The recipe is easy, and the results are SOOOOOOOOOOOOO good (did I mention that already?)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More from Laura

From "A Bouquet of Flowers"

The little white daisies with their hearts of gold grew thickly along the path where we walked to Sunday School. Father and sister and I used to walk the 2 1/2 miles every Sunday morning. The horses had worked hard all week and must rest this one day so with Father and Sister Mary I walked to the church thru the beauties of the sunny spring Sundays. I have forgotten what I was taught on those days also. I was only a little girl, you know. But I can still plainly see the grass and the trees and the path winding ahead, flecked with sunshine and shadow and the beautiful golden-hearted daisies scattered all along the way.

Ah well! That was years ago and there have been so many changes since then that it would seem such simple things should be forgotten, but at the long last I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some more September lists (m)

Food Storage Plan for September (Taken from The Idea Door)

Week 1 Sugars: Replenish your supply from canning, also powered and brown sugar
Week 2 Canned chicken.
Week 3 Dry beans, peas, rice, and legumes
Week 4 Sweeteners, Honey, Corn Syrup, Molasses, maple syrup etc

Provident Living things that I'm working on in September:

  • Literacy and Education: Continue Reading Plan
  • Career Development: Find a mentor in my area of interest
  • Resource Managment: Read a book/article about financial planning
  • Home Production: Collect extra fuel for gas grill
  • Health: Everyone goes to the dentist
  • Social-Emotional Strength: Read about parenting

Simplifying My House in September:
Continue working on drawers and cupboards in kitchen

Themes for September

I saw this idea at By Sun and Candlelight, and I used many of her ideas, and then added my own to suit our family. (And yes, I know . . . it's already half way through September. Oh well. I'll get October's themes up at the beginning of the month, all right?) I'm sure I won't get to all of these ideas, but it is nice to be able to have choices.

Themes for September

  • Birthstone - Sapphire, for wisdom
  • Flower of the month - Aster, for memories
  • The full moon of September is the Wine Moon, symbolic of grape and fruit harvest, protection, confidence, strength, and life's blood. It is also known as the Harvest Moon
Nature: Lingering summer, a first taste of fall ...

  • goldenrod ~ appearing alongside the road, a sure sign of summer's end
  • seeds ~ in so many forms - bristles, burrs, whirring helicopters, bursting wildflowers
  • milkweed pods ~ soft white fluff floating by
  • apples ~ ripe in the orchard at last
  • honey ~ It's National Honey Month!
  • bees ~ busily gathering the last bits of summer
  • cool misty mornings, hot afternoons ...
  • a first tinge of color in the foliage
  • at the doorstep: chrysanthemums, cornstalks, and kale
  • Michaelmas daisies ~ tiny wild asters at the end of the month
  • The Full Harvest Moon (15)
  • Visit Autumn on the Prarie at Nachusa Grasslands (20) to see fame flower, Hill’s thistle, kittentails and forked aster. It is also home to the gorgone checkerspot butterfly, grasshopper sparrows, dickcissels, and Henslow’s sparrows, badgers and other wildlife.
  • The Autumnal Equinox (22)


  • applesauce ~ homemade, with just a touch of cinnamon
  • granola ~ homemade, for cereal or bars
  • blackberry jam tarts ~ before Michaelmas, not after
  • baked apples ~ a cozy breakfast on a chilly fall morn
  • pies filled with the last fruits of the season
  • National Cherry Popover Day (1)
  • National Date Nut Bread Day (8)
  • National Hot Cross Bun Day (11)
  • International Chocolate Day (13)
  • National Apple Dumpling Day (17)
  • National Pancake Day (26)
  • National Mulled Cider Day (30)


  • clean the kitchen thoroughly (well ahead of holiday baking)
  • organize art materials
  • work on September food storage items
  • buy new shoes, and make slippers and pajamas for the fall
  • put fall/winter clothes in closets/drawers and pack up spring/summer clothes
  • review chores
  • work on homemade Christmas gifts
  • decorate the home with colors of the harvest: Orange, Dark Red, Yellow, Indigo, and Brown
  • review harvest and decide what to plant for next year
  • move fall in season produce lists to front in food management journal
  • reflect on life and the “seeds” of thoughts/actions that you “planted” in the Spring

Family Life:

  • Labor Day (1)
  • Gramma Susan’s Birthday (1)
  • Aunt Nancy’s Birthday (2)
  • New academic year kicks off! (4)
  • New NFL season kicks off - Go Bears! (7)
  • Grandparents Day (9)
  • Lisa’s Birthday (18)
  • Flower’s Birthday (22)
  • Super’s Birthday (26)
  • Michaelmas (29)

Stories: (Themes ~ harvest, seeds, bees, apples)


  • make leaf crowns and name the Autumn King!
  • make a Harvest Queen
  • dry apples and hang on a string
  • tell apple stories (find the stars inside)
  • plant spring bulbs in the garden
  • make up a fresh batch of homemade play dough
  • make blackberry jam
  • bake homemade pretzels
  • make harvest “stone” soup

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I like a lot of what this guy has to say

His name is Wendall Berry and he has published more than 40 books (none of which I've read, but I'm motivated to now). Here is a recent interview with him in the The Sun.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So the title of my blog isn't what I was originally going to call it

I was originally going to call this blog - Blame It On Laura. As in Ingalls Wilder. I was a HUGE fan of the books and then the show (yes, I'm definitely old enough to remember the show). It always bothered me that the show didn't stay true to the books, and Flower made a similar comment the other day, so apparently I'm not the only one who gets bothered by things like that. :)

Anyway, Flower started reading the Little House books a couple of years ago. One year for Christmas, she asked for the Little House Cookbook. Her lovely Aunt Lisa and her family gave it to her. She looked at it for days, and we cooked a few of the things in the book, and then she couldn't find the book. She finally asked me about it, and I told her that I was reading it. She said "Because you are looking for more recipes for us to try?" I said "Well, yes, but I'm also reading it because I find it really interesting to see how they cooked back then, and what they used, and how they used food that was in season and things like that." She looked at me a little funny, but just said "Well, give it back pretty soon, o.k?" I promised that I would. And I did.

But from that time on, I really started to become interested in cooking and eating more naturally (Sorry Laura, I do draw the line at lard, but I try to eat whole foods and things locally and organically and in season.) I decided to start storing food and other necessary items, but I knew that I didn't have the space or the money to have a large supply. I started with trying to have two weeks of the food that we eat on hand, and now, I have three months of most things, with the exception of eggs, milk and fresh produce.

Then after a few months of trying to live like this, a friend gave me a book called "Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Family Collection." This book is a collection of articles written by Laura for the Missouri Ruralist, a widely-read farm paper, between 1911 and 1918. They talk about what she thought about and how she lived. I read this book in one sitting, and then again more slowly, and a third time to pick out the quotes that I loved.

After reading this, I knew that I wanted to try and live a more simple, more self-sufficient life, and it was when my journey toward simple living really began.

So in this post, and whenever I feel like it LOL, I'll include little snippets of articles that spoke to me. If they don't speak to you, well, skip 'em. :)

From "Doing Our Best":

I am proud of Marian because she is not a quitter; because she can take
disappointment without a whimper and go bravely ahead with her undertakings even
tho things do not always work out as she would like. I am sure, as the
years pass, Marian will answer perfectly that good, old description of a lady,
"Still mistress of herself tho china fall."

Marian failed to send her application in time to become a member of the
Ruralist Poultry Club, but she is hustler nevertheless and should not be classed
as being too slow to win in the race for membership. It was not really her
fault, for the Missouri Ruralist does not come to her home, so she had not read
about the club and as she is a little girl, only 10 years old, I did not tell
her of the club until I had spent some time telling older girls about it.
You see she did not have a fair start.

When she received word that the club membership was complete and her
application was too late, the least that might have been expected was a crying
spell, but not this little girl! She sat still a moment and then said
quietly: "Well, I'm going ahead just the same. Maybe some of the other
girls will drop out and there will be a place for me, anyway I'll be learning

Doing the best we can is all that could be expected of us in any case, but
did you ever notice how hard it is to do our best if we allow ourselves to
become discouraged? It is so easy to slump a little when we can give the
blame to circumstances. I think Marian has found the way to overcome this
by being so busy with mind and muscle at the work in hand that there is no
thoughts of failure or for bemoaning our hard luck."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Why is that mothering is never simple?

I've tried so many things to try and get Jelly Bean to be a little more obedient, and a lot less violent, and nothing ever seems to work. Sometimes, I'll hit on something that will work for a week or two, and I'll think that I've found the answer, and then WHAM! it will be back to the way it was or worse. I've really been trying to be patient with her, and give her some extra loving for being the dreaded middle child, and just being matter-of-fact about choices and consequences. And yet, I found myself last night, at the very end of my rope with her after a long night of her acting up. I yelled too much at her and I know that it didn't accomplish anything. It won't improve her behavior, and it just left me feeling bad.

She was the child that was so hard for me to conceive, and so hard to keep her inside until it was safe. She was so wanted. I need to remember that more often when she does things that seem to have no purpose but to annoy Flower or Super or Me.

I love you Jelly Bean. Please help me see how to help you.

Simply Simplifying

I decided to start simplifying, but I decided to do it in very small steps. So my goal is to simplify a drawer or a cabinet/cupboard or shelf or a tub five days a week until I've made it through the house. Peter Walsh writes in his book, It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life:

How does your home serve your notion of the life you wish you had? Do the things you own help you achieve that life or distract from that vision? Is there room in your bedroom to sleep peacefully? Does the front hallway welcome you when you arrive home after a tiring day? Can your family gather for meals, fun or relaxation without the interference of piles of junk? Every item filling your home should move your life vision forward and serve a real function, one that you can explain without making excuses. Remember, 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.' Do your things meet these standards?"

So I'm going to take a look at each item and ask myself does this item serve a real function? Is it useful? Do I believe that it is beautiful? And of course, the obvious, do I use this item? I also want to make sure that I don't have more than necessary. There will be times when I can't get rid of an item yet because I don't have the money to replace it with something of better quality, but I am going to begin a list of things that I want to replace so that we can use our surplus $$ (well, hopefully if we budget better and are more frugal, there will be surplus $$) more wisely.
An exception to the having more than necessary to this rule is food storage, but even there, I only store what we eat/use. No use have 500 cans of tuna since we don't enjoy it that much. 4 cans upstairs in our monthly pantry and 12 cans in our three month storage is plenty of tuna for us.
I'm going to start with my pots/pans & small appliances cabinet in the kitchen. I figure that it will probably take me about nine months to get through the whole house. I'm going to store the items that don't make the cut out in the garage, and next May, I'll have a yard sale. Anything that doesn't sell will go to Goodwill.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Binders, binders, binders

Binders always kind of reminds me of a innocent version of a curse word. Like saying "Oh binders" instead of I'm not sure what. Anyway . . .

In an effort to simplify my busy life, I've gone to a binder and file crate system to keep track of our days and the things we do. My file crate system is similar to the file crate system here, although I use it slightly differently. I have a little file basket in my kitchen and I put the monthly bills and the weekly file folder in the basket. During the week, I put anything that I need/want to do for the following week in the file folder, and then on my planning day, I look through it, and put anything necessary in my calendar or file it or fill out and mail the form or whatever. At the ending of the planning session, I move the folder downstairs in the file crate, and I put in the next week's folder in the upstairs file basket. I also have a folder for each season in its own hanging folder and I put seasonal ideas as I see them in that folder and review them every month or so. I'm also not nearly as crafty as Dawn, so I don't have as many craft projects in my weekly folders, although I have a fair amount of crafts in my seasonal folders (because you just can't celebrate Spring or Advent or whatever without a craft or two!)

My binders. I probably have too many, but I'm keeping what I have until I feel that a particular binder isn't being used effectively. The binders are 1/2 inch presentation binders. I've looked around at office supply stores, Walgreens, and discount stores, and I've found that in my area, buying an 8 pack or a 12 pack at Sam's Club is the most cost effective. I have three groups of binders - my home management binders, my provident living binders, and my Schooling binders. I also have three file crates - one to hold my weekly and seasonal folders, one for my home management binders, and one for my provident living binders. I use a label maker to label the spine of the binder, and I usually use some of my pretty scrapbook paper that I'm not currently using for anything else on the front as well as the title. In this post, I'll talk about my home management binders.

The first binder is my Planning Notebook and I store it in my tote bag. In this binder, there is my monthly calendar, schedules, seasonal activities, and my daily journal. I don't use my daily journal in a traditional way. I record what we did that day, errands I need to run on Town Day, quotes that I like, etc.

The next home management binder is my Faith Notebook and I store it in my church bag. This binder contains church magazines, church membership list, brochures, handouts, talks, etc.

The third binder is the Phone Notebook and it is stored in the phone book drawer. This is where I store class rosters, take-out phone numbers, club directories, emergency phone numbers, etc. I also store a few blank pages for writing name and numbers, and on a monthly basis, I decide if they need to be added to the permaenent list.

The Family Notebook is stored in a file crate. Ths binder contains information about family members such as a personal information page for each family member, clothing amounts and sizes for each child, master occassions (birthdays, anniversairies) for immediate and extended family, list of movies to watch and books to read, library information, etc.

The Housekeeping Notebook is stored in the kitchen. This binder holds information about cleaning, decorating and organizing your home. My housekeeping binder contains chore checklists, daily cleaning schedules & daily routines, organizational ideas, how to clean each room, deep cleaning list, home inventory, and home storage inventory.

The Food Management Notebook is also stored in the kitchen. This binder helps plan meals, create menus, and track inventory in pantry and freezer. I have a master list of the food that we use and the amounts I want to have on hand, and then a list that has the items listed but the quantity area is blank, and I look at the pantry before I shop and enter how many of each item that I need to purchase. I put the weekly grocery flyer for the two grocery stores that I shop at regularly. It also includes my monthly menu plan, lists of what foods are in season for each season, which foods are the best to buy organic, etc.

The next binder is the Money and Finance Notebook. It is stored in the file crate. The following items are included in this binder: monthly/yearly budget, credit card list, insurance information, utilities directory, warranty information, verhicle information, etc.

The Health and Fitness Notebook is stored in the file crate. This binder contains medical information sheet for each family member, first aid kit checklist, emergency directory, prescription drug record for each member, insurance information, and pet medical information.

The last binder in the Home Management area is the Activities Notebook and it is also stored in the file crate. The Activities binder covers the extra-curricular activities that make life worthwhile. Hobby, church, club, sports, volunteer, vacation and travel ideas are included here. This binder includes sports and music schedule and contact information, scouting materials, travel packing checklist, before we leave checklist, camping checklist, vacation idea list, house-sitter information, etc.

This system works for me, but it might be too many levels for you, or my needs of a a mom of three young kids are not your needs, or I might not have included things that you need. Many people have all of these items in one binder. For me, a single home management journal would be too large, and I needed the ability to have various parts of it in different areas. I was originally motivated to set up my home management binders because I needed to have a better handle on my life, and I also felt the need to be able to have things in place if I was ever in position of not being at home for a short or long period of time and other people needed to help manage my home.

But the key really is to create a system that works for you. I won't be offended if you don't use my ideas, but I think that it is helpful for most house managers to have SOME kind of system. I know that my system sounds a little complicated, but it helps me have a place for everything and helps me decide what to keep and what to NOT keep. So for me, it does make things more simple. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I was reading something today -

shocking I know - that said True beauty is based upon simplicity. Another shock - I totally agree. But I do need to remind myself often. And I do need to work harder to simplify so many things in my life. I need to focus on having less, but more beautiful, better quality, things. I need to focus on doing less, but having more beautiful moments with my family and by myself. And I need to remind myself when I'm looking for answers to all the big questions of life, that the answers are found in beautifully simple truths.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Well, I bought the girls their Christmas dresses

I know, I am trying to be frugal, and not spend any unnecessary money, but this was a SERIOUSLY good deal. We went to this warehouse discount store (not SAM's or Costco - it is a local/more overstock kind of store) and they had things from Sears that were 80% off. The dresses were beautiful, and they were originally $65 each, and I ended up spending $27 total for both. Was it a need? No. Was it something that I was likely going to buy at some point in the next two months? Probably. Are they much prettier than the onces that I would have ended up with? Probably. When it gets closer to the holidays, I'll put a picture of the dresses up.

Tonight is my planning night. I have a system that involves binders and file folders and a journal and a calendar. I've pieced it together from a couple of different blogs and tweaked it to make it work for me. I think that the "tweaking to make it work for you" is the key in making an organizational system work. I'll post about my home management binders more specifically in my next post. But anyway, I'll spend tonight putting activities on the calendar that have come in during the last week, reviewing things that are already on the calendar, planning next week's lesson plans for preschool and Flower, decided on any other optional activities that we want to do next week, filing paperwork, returning e-mails, etc. I have found that if I don't limit planning to one night that it leaks into every night, and it doesn't all make it to the calendar, and I just don't use my planning time as well if I spread it out over the week.

Of course, I'm talking about doing my planning, and being all organized about it, and I didn't get dinner prep done this afternoon, so it is 5:30 and I still need to decide what we are going to eat. I didn't want you to think that I had it all together. I rarely have it all together. Every once is awhile, I'll have a little part of it together. But never all of it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It's funny how little things throw off a whole day

We went away for the weekend and I did do all of our "trip" laundry last night before I went to bed, and I caught up on the dishes, but I had plans to get back to our weekly routine today. But today, it was my first day of teaching preschool (for details, see my other blog) and then this afternoon, I've been taking care of the little baby that I watch. He is three months old, and normally, he gets here at 7:15 am and then eats by 8, and sleeps for at least an hour, eats every couple hours, takes a late afternoon nap, and then goes home with his mama around 5 pm. He is generally a fairly content baby. It is almost 3:30 pm, and the little guy has yet to nap. He has been crying almost non-stop since noon. I've given him all the milk that his mom left for him, and there is still an hour and a half to go before his mama gets here. I've tried everything that I can think of - the swing, holding him, putting him in the front carrier, his baby gym, holding him some more, laying him down, holding him more, and nothing is working. I know that he is crying because he is tired, but I just can't get him to go to sleep. After three kids, I thought I had this baby thing figured out. So today, I'm not going to get any of my Tuesday routines done. But tomorrow's another day and everything and everyone will survive. I think I'll try taking the little man and the rest of the crew for a stroller ride and see if that will work.