Saturday, August 30, 2014

Weekly Round Up: Kitchen Remodel Edition

Guess who was able to cook dinner in the new kitchen?  Yup--that was me!  I'm so excited to have our kitchen back and have the dining room space liveable again.  Many thanks to Grandpa, Steve and Bryan for working so hard on this project. 

Here you are--pictures from each day of our remodel.

Sunday, August 24

Look at those nasty floor boards!  It's wonderful to not have mold underfoot anymore. 

Monday, August 25

Wow--the room was stripped, painted and got new floor boards in less than 24 hours! My crew was super busy. 

Tuesday, August 26

A special tool had to be rented to bust a hole through our foundation for a new sewer line.  It was rock and concrete--about 7 inches thick.   Grandpa and Bryan worked together to get the job done. 

Wednesday, August 27

A trip to Spokane for cabinets, plumbing, electrical odds and ends and whatever else was on the list.  No pictures from this day, and no work done in the kitchen as the linoleum was drying.

Thursday, August 28

Cabinet installation day! Here Bryan is working on the upper above where the microwave will be hung. 

Friday, August 29

Plumbing day.  Like our creepy basement?  It's half dirt floor and piled high with stuff from when my Grandma lived in the house.  I'm sure there are many treasures here--a project for someday!

 Like I've mentioned before, plumbing and electricity were not original to the house.  All of that has been sort of jerry-rigged over the years and the basement kind of shows their history. 

Anyways, the whole house (with the exception of the toilet) got moved to a new, larger sewer line.  The kitchen got new hot and cold lines as well. 

Side note.  When your husband asks you to go to the store for a much needed part right before the store closes...remember that hot and cold water lines are different sizes.  And that's important.  I didn't know that, and came home with the wrong one.  Which meant the plumbing couldn't get finished until this morning.  Oops!  But I learned something new, and Bryan was super sweet about my mistake.  Thanks honey!

 Saturday, August 30

Get finished day!

Well, except for a few minor things like touching up some paint over where we filled holes from the old cabinets and putting in the kick boards on the cupboards.  I've even unpacked the majority of the boxes from around the house.  It's wonderful to have a functional, beautiful space!

This picture shows Bryan working on the dishwasher.  It was nice to run a load tonight. 

Kitchen remodel was the story of our week.  We survived, and have a great space now.  We are all looking forward to resting tomorrow and Monday before starting back to work for Bryan and back to homeschooling for the kids and I. 

Have a relaxing long weekend!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Inexpensive Kitchen Remodel 2

The kitchen is going back together; I'm so excited!

We tried hard to stick to our budget, and have done a good job so far.  In case anyone is looking for ways to remodel a kitchen without spending a fortune, here are three ways that we cut the costs on this remodel.

1.  Bryan did the work (with the help from his Grandpa and my Step-dad).  We didn't have to pay for any labor expenses. They did the planning and layout, electrical, flooring, plumbing--everything. That was a huge money saver! I'm blessed to have a husband who can do so many things around the house (and family who can come to help!)

Hanging the microwave support bracket.
2.  We went with linoleum for the floor.  Someday, we'd love the beautiful hard wood or tile or something.  But for now, knowing that it'll just keep getting wet (the kids love to help wash dishes!) we went with the inexpensive linoleum.  I think it was a great choice for us! And it was only $400 for the floor--including the fancy roller and knife we bought and all of the glue and surface prep material. 

3.  By reusing everything possible.  We scrubbed cupboards.  Bryan used the staple gun to reinforce a few that were wobbly.  This way we didn't have to buy all new cabinetry--just the pieces that were missing for our new design.  We cleaned the microwave and decided to put it above the counter (where it used to be over the stove) instead of trying to buy a new one to put on the counter.  These simple moves kept expenses down.

4.  With our countertops.  We were able to reuse every bit that was in our old layout.  Then we realized we were short about 5 feet.  And were blessed at Home Depot to find one that has the same pattern in just a slightly lighter color.  We'll use that for the missing piece, and saved money by not having to special order!

And it's looking good.  I'm excited about not going over budget and about the new layout.  I've been playing around with different things on paper, and think I finally have my spaces all accounted for.  It'll be much less cluttered than before. 

In order to get the most bang for our buck, we tried to spend our money in ways that would really count.  Here are some areas that cost the most:

1.  Cupboards.  We were thankful that Home Depot still had the cupboard pattern that matched.  We spent a bit less than $1300 on cupboards for the new layout, and our full height pantries were almost half of that amount--but the amount of storage space has been increased significantly, so it was money well spent! 

3 pantries all in a row, just waiting to be filled. 

2.  A new sink and faucet.  I wasn't going to do it.  But Grandma and Grandpa convinced us otherwise.  We now have a nice deep stainless steel sink and a faucet that goes up quite a ways.  Washing my gallon glass jars for milk will be so much easier!

Bryan and Grandpa getting the sink installed.

3.  Plumbing.  Did I mention that we live in a really old house?  Our plumbing has been in need of upgrading for a LONG time!  Bryan increased the pipe size to maximize water flow, and added a vent.  We had to rent a tool to punch a hole through the foundation for the new pipes to come out.  I couldn't believe how many rocks were in there! This upgrade benefited not only the kitchen, but also the bathroom and washing machine.  It's so nice! But, all of the connection pieces really add up quickly.

4. Electrical.  Since we moved the stove to a different wall, we needed more of the heavy duty wire to support that move.  At $2.69 a foot for just the wire, electrical adds up almost faster than plumbing. Ouch!

But, the Lord provided exactly the amount we needed to tackle this project, and we are very thankful.  The electrical and plumbing should be finished up today, which means tomorrow my kitchen will be in full working order again and I can start unpacking boxes!!!  I'm looking forward to it. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Beginning of an Organized Kitchen: Planning!

I mentioned yesterday that I really needed to work on getting my kitchen organized.  I spend a lot of time in there, and I want it to be an efficient place.

Since I'll be getting more storage out of our kitchen remodel, I thought it'd be good to spend some time planning.  That way when it comes time to unpack all of these boxes...

See all those boxes hiding behind the table?  Those need a new home!

I'll have a spot all picked out for them.  I really don't want to unpack everything only to discover that my new system doesn't make any sense.  I'd much rather spend a couple of hours over these next few days and plan. 

I still may not like the new system.  But at least this way I'll have tried to be proactive and organized!

And I think I will like it.

So, how am I planning?

I took the grocery list that I made in Excel, I added a new column titled Storage Location.

Then I went item by item and decided if it was stored in the pantry, in the fridge, the freezer or in 5 gallon buckets.  It didn't take too long.

Once every item had a home, I resorted the list, by storage location.  Then I "saved as" so I didn't accidentally ruin my shopping list,  and deleted everything that wasn't kept in the pantry/cupboards. 

Now my list was down to about 50 items.  A much more manageable number for organizing. 

I decided to further break down this list, so I added another new column.  This one I called "Category." Here, I decided if the PRIMARY purpose of each item was baking, cooking, seasoning or snacking. Some things definitely overlap, which is why I stuck with primary. Here's a sample of what it ended up looking like.

My list is now pretty organized, and during my next work session, I'll tackle where it makes the most sense to store each group of items.  For instance, my seasonings should be by the stove since I tend to add the most seasonings to things I cook on the stove top or in the oven.

I am wondering about a couple of items though.  Potatoes and onions.  How do you store them? 

I used to keep onions in the fridge, but I read during my research this week that they should be at room temperature.  Same with potatoes.  But they shouldn't be stored next to each other.  I really think I'll just end up with a mess of dirt at the bottom of my new pantry if I just dump the potatoes in on the bottom.  We have at least 40 pounds of potatoes and 5-10 pounds of onions to keep track of.   Any ideas for me?



Monday, August 25, 2014

Inexpensive Kitchen Remodel 1

Guess what we'll be learning about this week here on Maggie's Milk?  Remodeling your kitchen on a (tight) budget! 

If you read my weekly pics post from Saturday, you know that our kitchen was in pretty bad shape.  A while ago Owen bit through the water line going to our ice maker (it was sticking out from behind the fridge) and we didn't realize it.  It leaked under our stick on floor tiles and ruined the floor.

Pretty sad!  We've been dealing with it for awhile, since Bryan's been working such crazy hours at work, but now is the time to fix it! He is off until next Tuesday, and is a man on a mission!

So yesterday afternoon/evening, Bryan took our kitchen from looking like this:

Please pardon our mess--I forgot to take before pictures until we were in the middle of packing it all up!

to this...

Big difference!

And it looks much better now.  Between Bryan, my step-dad Steve and Grandpa Bill, they've taken everything apart, cleaned up the moldy floor boards, scrubbed walls, repainted (a really similar shade of green)

Bryan painting the chimney area.  I really recommend a paint sprayer--it saves so much time! And isn't that expensive.  We bought ours while redoing the upstairs of our house since it would hit the awkward angles better!

 and have the new floor boards installed.

Praise the Lord, the water damage wasn't as extensive as we thought, and we only had to replace half of the floor boards!

Tomorrow, the plan is to cover the screw holes with sheet rock mud so they don't bust through the new floor, and then lay the linoleum.  After doing some research, that sounded like the best floor  covering for  us since it's very likely to have water on it again.  We picked one that is wood patterned, and I think looks nice. 

Bryan is also going to redo the plumbing to the kitchen.  Our house is old.  All of the plumbing was installed after the house was built (our bathroom was NOT original to the design).  And it needs some work.  He'll start tackling that tomorrow as well.  I'm so thankful to have a husband who can do so many things, and who works so hard for us!

After that, we have to stay off the new floor for at least 24 hours, so Wednesday we're heading into Spokane to pick up a couple of new cupboards.

You see, we decided to rearrange things a bit.

Our sink will be moving to the other outside wall, so now I'll be able to watch the kids play while I'm at the sink.  Our stove will be taking the spot where our sink was.  And I'll have some nice counter space where the stove used to be.  And more cupboards!!! 

I'm looking forward to it!

And I'm learning a lot about kitchen organization.  You see, that's an area I really struggle with.  In fact, for years our kitchen towels and dish clothes were in a drawer clear across the kitchen from our sink.  One day, I decided to move them to the drawer next to the sink.  It was amazing how much time in the kitchen that simple move saved! Then I went all radical and moved the pot holders in the drawer next to the stove.  Can you believe it?  So needless to say, my kitchen needs some serious thought as I put everything back together.

So I went online today searching for kitchen organizing tips.  And was kind of discouraged because I couldn't find exactly what I wanted.  We buy too much in bulk, we don't stock up on lots of cans (except tomato products), and we don't need to worry about keeping our coffee maker next to our coffee cups (since we don't drink it!)

But I did learn that every kitchen is different, and every cook has to decide to how to best lay out the space given.  So I've been thinking a lot about it, and am excited to share some of what I've been learning.  And planning.  I think it'll be really efficient.

And I'll finally have enough space (we're adding two more full length pantry cupboards!) to put away the groceries when I do my big shopping trip.  That means no more stubbing my toe on potato bags stored on the floor, oh yes it does!

Until then, I have cupboards to go wash.  One of the ways we are REALLY cutting the expenses for this project is by reusing everything that we can.  Home Depot still has the exact same cupboards in stock that we bought seven years ago when we first moved in.  Everything can match still!

But, that means all of my dirty cupboards that are sitting on the porch are meeting some Murphy's Wood Oil Soap cleaner and sometimes some bleach water.  And elbow grease.  Lots, and lots of elbow grease!

Looks like a dysfunctional yard sale or something!

While I go scrub cupboards, I will leave you with this, our newly designed floor plan for the kitchen.  We found a great app, and used that to design. Called Mark on Call it was well worth the few dollars we paid!

A few quick notes:

The black thing in the corner is the chimney.  No moving that!

The door by the full height pantry cupboards goes outside.  The door directly across from that goes to our utility room.

The brown thing by the fridge is the doorway to the rest of the house.  It used to have a door, but we took it down and have a gate there now.  Someday (when Owen can get around the gate) a nice Dutch door will go back.

The X boxes are upper cupboards.  That one was probably obvious, but I thought I'd tell you anyways!

Under the upper cupboards by the chimney (where you don't see a lower cupboard) will be counter top with empty space underneath.  That's where I store my large 5 gallon buckets with flour, wheat berries and what not.  

Welcome to my kitchen!  I'm looking forward to sharing this project with you all!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 17-23 Pictures

 Another week, another seven pictures to share.  I enjoy capturing these everyday moments!

Sunday, August 17

We were making goofy faces for me to capture on camera, and Ellie's just had to be shared!
 Monday, August 18

Jeffrey really wanted to play Monopoly City.  But, he's a bit too young to play correctly.  So we had a fun time setting up the city in various configurations and knocking it down with toy tractors, wind storms and earthquakes.  Then we got to build again!

 Tuesday, August 19

Ellie's learning to crack eggs.  Look--no shells!

 Wednesday, August 20

Owen didn't sleep last night, and by quiet time he was so exhausted he fell asleep in this awkward position.  Doesn't look comfy!

 Thursday, August 21

Sydney practicing one of her morning chores--emptying the bathroom trash can into the kitchen one so I can take it out later.

Friday, August 22

Jayme and Simon.  What sweet siblings! 

Saturday, August 23

Prepare for something ugly! About eighteen months ago, Owen bit through a section of our ice maker hose behind the fridge.  And we didn't realize it until it was too late.  Though it has since been replaced, our kitchen floor has slowly been getting worse and worse since then.  See what I mean? 

 We couldn't find matching floor tiles, so I've been mixing and matching it with some we had in the basement...but this floor is just scary!

Thankfully, Bryan will be home for the next ten days (and his grandparents are coming!) and we'll be improving our kitchen.  I'm so excited! 

Do you have any big plans for the rest of summer?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Broody Baldy's Update

After nearly seven weeks of sitting (on two batches of eggs), and a failed attempt at chick adoption, Baldy has finally hatched a chick!

That fuzzy brownish lump in the corner is the baby! Kind of hard to see, but Baldy was getting really mad so I didn't try too long to get a good picture.  Will wait until they are walking around for a better shot!

During chores Thursday afternoon, there were still four eggs under her.  When I went out to lock them up for the night, I was surprised to hear some new peeping and peeked under her again.  One chick ( Ameraucana from the looks of it, and due to the fact that it was a green eggs I saw pieces of) and three eggs.

This chick was born exactly at day 21 for this second batch of eggs.  How exciting! I'm not sure if we'll have any more chicks from the other three eggs, but I'm hoping!

And I'm thinking that now Baldy can get over being broody and become a great mama hen. I'll be sure to keep you updated. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Refrigerator & Freezer Pickles

I love sweet pickles!  So do many of the kids.  But I've been growing frustrated lately by the ingredient list at the store.

High fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and colorings.  All that junk for a delicious slice of pickled cucumber.

What's a mom to do?

Check the garden and find some cucumbers and start searching the internet for an easy recipe that doesn't require a lot of work and crazy ingredients!

I found just the one!

You can find all of the details here.

We've made a couple of batches of freezer pickles, and two of refrigerator pickles.  And most of the fridge ones are already gone.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that you don't need a ton of cucumbers to proceed.  It seems like mine are ripening in short stages, and trying to get enough all at one time to can is hard.  

Don't those look tasty?  You just need vinegar, a few simple spices, an onion and cucumbers.  Oh--and some salt.  I just used sea salt.  Pickling salt works too!

These refrigerator pickles are ready in 24 hours.  The freezer ones need at least a week in the freezer. I put those ones in freezer bags instead of glass jars to save room.

One fun way I've experimented with this recipe is with pickled carrots.

I followed the same brine recipe, and just poured it over sliced carrots instead of cucumbers.  They were delicious! I'm sure other vegetables would taste good as well. 

Does your family like pickles?  Have you ever tried making fridge or freezer ones?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why I Homeschool Owen

Meet Owen.  I talk about him a lot here at Maggie's Milk.  Owen is our oldest son, and second child.  He's 8 now (it's so hard to believe!)

Owen has Angelman Syndrome.  You can read more about his health in a five-part series starting here.  But this post isn't about that. This one's about education.

When I tell people I homeschool my children, many of them assume I don't mean Owen.  They think he should be in school.  My own extended family has asked me over and over again why I don't send him to school.  They think it'd be easier.  And they are right. I know.

Owen attended preschool at our local school for three years, while I was working full-time as a teacher.  Life was easier.  In some ways.  

But I'm not in life for easy.  I don't think life is supposed to be easy.  And I am happy to homeschool Owen, and the rest of my crew. 

Want to know why?

Here are ten reasons why I homeschool my severely disabled child:

1.  I am called to homeschool my children.

That means ALL of them.  How would it make Owen feel if I sent him off on a bus each morning, but kept everyone else home for hours of learning, love and laughter?  I can only imagine the rejection he'd feel.  He is smarter than most people give him credit for.

Also, we homeschool because we have serious doubts about public schools in general.  Why in the world would I be okay putting Owen in one but not the rest of our kids?

2.  I don't like NOT knowing what happens all day.

Owen can't talk, and doesn't really have a viable means of communication currently.  That means I'd be sending him off for the majority of his day, and have no idea what was going on.  I used to teach in a high school severe-profound class.  I know how hard it is for teachers to have time to fill parents in on what happens every day.
But I NEED to know.  I need to know about Owen's days. Some subtle signs of behavior are seizure related.  Perhaps he is trying to communicate something.  Looking at patterns really helps me to figure Owen out.  If we're apart for over half the day, I can't look for them.

3.  Owen has severe medical issues.


We're talking issues that have required week long hospital stays.  And even more minor ones like seizures that force his body to sleep during random hours during the day.  I hated calling the bus garage and the school when Owen was in preschool and cancelling.  Again and again.  And I hated getting called in to pick him up, not knowing exactly what happened.  Not having all of the details about the situation.  I'll just keep him home with me, thanks. That way he can sleep off a seizure when he needs to. I can adjust his schedule (and ours) based on how he's doing medically. 

His Pica is also a major concern.  This kid eats everything.  I'd rather at least know that the random tissue he picked up and ate was from someone in the family instead of a random kid in school.  Finger sweeps have also been necessary at multiple points in Owen's life to keep him from choking.  I know what to look for, and can take care of it immediately.

4.  Owen needs routine and continuity in his life.

Trying to balance home and school was hard.  I felt like if I was doing something that worked, I'd like them to do it.  And if they were doing something that worked, I should be doing it.  But trying to find the time to actually communicate those items,  that was hard.

At home, there's no need to inform a teacher that we're trying this, or then forgetting to update that it wasn't working so now we switched to this. We can just adjust as we need to.

5.  We have a built in social community.

 The other kids love Owen.  They have naturally figured out what so many teachers struggle with--how to include a disabled person in their day.  Owen's been a shark in the water, a passenger on a bus and a shopper at the store--without ever leaving our living room.  The kids are really creative with their play, and love to find ways for Owen to play with them.  

We're surrounding Owen with people who love him.  And that's really important to me!

6.  I'm working on potty training Owen.

And he's figuring it out pretty well.  But I can't explain how I know when he has to go.  We'll call it a mother's intuition.  I know that his potty training success would be far less if he were in school. Remember that Owen can't tell anyone that he has to go.  But by being able to have him here, he's been in underwear (except at night) for several days in a row.  It's amazing! 

7.  Expectations for Owen are low.

No one seems to think that Owen can learn anything meaningful, and  I do not want his days to be focused on social skills and life training.  Why?  Because those are taught naturally and modeled for him at home.  School time is for academics.  And I expose Owen to everything that he can while we homeschool.  He's been engaged in letter play, math, history and science. 

I used to teach special education, both in a self-contained class and in a resource room.  I had the kids that everyone had given up on long ago.  And you know what?  They made progress.  I loved shocking parents and other staff members by what these kids were doing.

Because I didn't give up.  I didn't listen when others said they couldn't.

But since I've been in the school environment, I know it happens.  People are quick to give up.  It's much easier to assume that someone  can't learn than to actually take the time to try a new method to help them learn.

I'll keep Owen home and let him sit in on our lessons.  I'll adapt them as I can, add new apps that correlate to his iPad and let him pick up what he can.  He may never be able to show me what he learned, but that's okay.  Teaching academics is the right thing to do.

8.  Owen would be a major distraction to other learners in a school setting. 

Let's be honest for a minute.  Owen is loud.  He is hardly ever sitting still.  He tries to eat every paper he can reach (and I swear his arms are made out of elastic and can stretch!) In a typical school environment, he'd distract the other kids.  A lot.  I imagine he'd get taken out of the class.  And miss out on all of the academics so the others could learn. 

Oh he'd be included for PE and Music, and his teachers would love on him.  But he wouldn't be there for reading.  Or math.  Or history.  Or anything academic.  He'd be on his own with an aide somewhere else in the school doing something fun.  Not learning from a teacher. 

But isn't he a distraction at home?

 At times.

 But everyone here is used to him.  They can push his hand away if he tries to take their paper and keep right on doing what they're doing.  They are used to him.  And Owen is used to us.  He doesn't have a new group of kids to get to know every year--a  new teacher, possibly a new aide.  He just has us.  And we're used to each other.

9. Owen is being presented with the Gospel and God's love.

This is a major reason we decided to homeschool in the first place.  So we can show God's love to our children and help them to grow strong before being out in the darkness of the world.  Much of that instruction is taught during our homeschool time.  Owen would miss out on that.

Does Owen have the ability to understand salvation--is he mentally aware enough to realize that he's a sinner?   I have no idea, and thankfully I'm not the one in charge of that.

I do know that I would much rather err on the side of believing him to be capable then not.  And so he listens to Bible stories, plays with large blocks while his siblings build pieces of the story, finger paints Bible stories along with us, and is here for his family to love on and show God's love. 

10. Owen doesn't have to be reevaluated every three years. 

Guess what?  In three years Owen will still have Angelman Syndrome.  He probably still won't be able to communicate what he knows.  And he would absolutely fail the tests that the law says he has to have every three years to stay in the special education system.

And I don't want that for Owen. 

I'll just keep him home and document progress through a portfolio of goals and progress monitoring.  I know that he's not retarded.  I can see the brain neurons firing in his eyes when I look at him.  And yet that is the labeled that special education law would force on him once he ages out of the developmentally delayed category. 

It's not fair to be required to give a child a test every three years that you know is unfair.  Owen is unable to communicate his responses.  It doesn't mean he doesn't know anything. 

Please know that my decision to keep Owen home doesn't mean that I don't like the teachers and aides in our local school.  Owen went there for three years, and I know that they would do their absolute best with him. That just isn't what is right for Owen.

Does this mean that I think everyone should homeschool their disabled children instead of sending them to school? 

Nope.  That's a decision for each family to make individually. 

Here's to a great new school year--whatever academic choices are selected for your family!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

More Pictures: Weekly Round Up

It's strangely quiet in our house tonight.  After a busy day, the majority of the kids are sleeping well.  I thought I'd take advantage of the quiet and finish up this post.  Enjoy our week in pictures!

Sunday, August 10

Look at the little princesses.  They were so excited about their new dresses for the wedding that they wanted to wear them to church.  Sydney even left her hair ties in for a little while.  
Monday, August 11

We were blessed with the opportunity to go swimming at my aunt and uncle's house.  The kids all love the water so much.  My parents went too, and Grandpa had fun swimming with Owen and Jeffrey.  Then Bryan was able to join us for dinner after he got finished at work. What a wonderful day!
 Tuesday, August 12

Mobius Science Center came to the local library to do a science presentation.  After watching that, we checked out some books.  Jeffrey, Ellie and Sydney were waiting patiently for Jayme to get done selecting books.  They all love to read!

 Wednesday, August 13

Check out that fog!  You can barely see my milk cows coming towards the barn for their morning milking.  It was beautiful!  And a reminder that fall will be here before we know it. 

Thursday, August 14

We made butter today.  Here's Jeffrey helping to churn.

Friday, August 15

It's sunny.  And it's raining.  You can see the drops falling heavily off the barn roof.  I snapped this one while I was filling up the water tanks for the cows.  With the storm, losing power (and thus water) is always a concern, so we make sure all the animals have plenty of water.

Saturday, August 16

On a side note...Happy Birthday to my sister Katie!

Wow--what a productive day!  I made some bread and granola bars to get stocked up, Bryan got the oil changed in all the vehicles, we cut some firewood, and we had a great visit with some Grandparents. 

So many things to choose for picture taking moments.  What did I pick to share with you?  Here you are.

You can see that wood is starting to stack up nicely. We let it dry even more in the hot sun, and then Bryan will split it and we'll get it stacked where we need it.  I'm so thankful to have a husband who works so hard to meet our needs and make sure we're cozy in the winter!

I'm going to go enjoy the peace and quiet of the house and turn in a bit early.   Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Maggie's Milk: Butter Edition

Anyone else noticed how expensive dairy products have gotten lately?  In the last year, I've watched butter creep up from $7.50 for four pounds at Costco to just over $11.  That's expensive! 

And it makes me thankful I have some cows.

I don't normally make butter.  We usually just use the whole milk cream and all.  But, with butter getting so expensive, I decided to see if it'd be worthwhile.  So I saved milk for three days and dumped it into the great churn my parents got me for Christmas a couple years ago (thanks!).

I started turning the crank.  And had some helpers do it as well.

45 minutes later we were still turning.  And I was getting desperate.  So I used Google.  Did you know that you're supposed to have room temperature cream before making butter?  I sure didn't!  Ours was really cold. 

But, I also found something else interesting.  You can make butter in the blender!  And it doesn't need to be warm to do it.

So we dumped the cream we'd been working on forever into the blender and let it go.  Actually I just dumped half in at a time.  Remember that cream expands and you don't want a mess! 

I turned it on, and just a few minutes later--we had butter! 

Ugh. After all that work, seeing the blender do it so quickly was a bit frustrating. But on the bright side, I got a great arm workout that day!

After pouring off most of the buttermilk for the pigs (since I make cultured buttermilk for our use), I got out some special butter making tools.

That bowl and paddle?  Those were my Grandmother's.  And I'm now the third generation in the family to make butter with them.  That kind of brings some family history to life!

After the butter was washed and the water and buttermilk were out, we added a bit of salt and wrapped it in plastic wrap. 

And later we spread it on bread.  Yum!

The verdict?  It was good, but I need to figure out a way to measure it better.  I'm thinking using a half cup measuring cup and packing it in and then wrapping.  Or else weighing.  Haven't thought that far ahead yet. 

I don't think I can make enough to not have to buy butter at all, but I do think I'll keep making it.  If I separate the cream on 4 gallons a week, that still leaves some for drinking whole.  And I can make chocolate milk and yogurt from the skimmed stuff.

Next year--next year Annie will freshen.  And she's half mini-Jersey.  I think her cream content will be better.  And I'm looking forward to butter from her.  But for now...I will keep making some butter regularly to help reduce the cost of food.

And I'll try it with warm cream to see if it's more manageable in the churn.  But if not, there's always the blender!

Do you make your own butter?  Any tips on measuring or making the churn work better?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Veggie Egg Scramble

One of the benefits of summer is that the kids can sleep in a bit more.  We're not trying to fit a few hours of school into the days, so our time isn't as managed as it is during the school year.

One of the downsides of the kids sleeping in is that breakfast is pushed back.  The problem?  I'm still getting up at five to milk the cows and do the other farm chores and after the hard work, my tummy doesn't like to be empty until 8 or even later. 

My solution?

A quick breakfast of sauteed veggies over scrambled eggs. 

I know.  It sounded gross to me at first too.  But I had lots of eggs and some extra carrots and some large zuchinni that my mom blessed me with, so I decided to see what I could do. I used Google, and the first thing to pop up was this.  A Paleo egg and carrot breakfast.

 It sounded pretty good, but I didn't want to add the ginger or tamari that early in the morning, so I stuck with just salt and pepper. 

After peeling and grating the carrot, and a small chunk of unpeeled zuchinni, I sauteed the veggies in a bit of coconut oil (butter works too.)  While that was simmering, I scrambled up a couple of eggs in more coconut oil.  (If you're looking for a new way to scramble eggs, you'll have to try the method outlined in the post I linked to above!)

The carrots and zuchinni just getting soft in some oil. 
I dumped the veggies on top and called it breakfast. Each time I've made this (even when varying the veggies), it has kept me full for a long time.  When I just grabbed something random for an early breakfast, I was eating again an hour later with the kids.  Not with this meal!  I was fine clear through until lunch.  That's amazing! 

This meal is quick (10-15 minutes is all), versatile (add some mushrooms, take out the zuchinni, use what you have!) and easy to clean up.  Those are all bonus traits when I'm making two breakfasts!

 The best part?  I can share with my cuties who happen to wake up early.  Simon and Owen both love this meal.  Jayme devours the eggs, but isn't too fond of the veggies yet.  I didn't start early enough with her on a love of veggies unfortunately.  But I think over time she'll get there! 

 After eating in the morning, I feel much better and have plenty of energy to tackle some housework while everyone is sleeping.  It's the perfect time to clean the bathroom, take out the trash and just do a general pick up. I can also add the finishing touches on breakfast for the kids, and have it ready for them when they wake up.

Making a quick breakfast is definitely better than being a grumpy mommy!

What's your favorite veggie to eat in the morning? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

A BIG Announcement

When we counted our blessings last night, Bryan and I shared a special one with the kids.  Now we'll let Simon share this blessing with you...

We're SO excited!  The Lord has decided to bless us with another bundle of joy.  Another little one to train up for Him.  

I just finished the first trimester, and our estimated due date is February 5, 2015.  We are hoping to deliver at the birthing center again.  That worked so much better than the hospitals when we went there with Simon. 

I know many of you are thinking...why so many kids?  How many do you plan to have? And since many won't be rejoicing at the news of our seventh child, we wanted to share some of our reasoning. 

We truly believe the words given to us in Psalm 127:3.

" Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward."

Children are a gift from the Lord.  They are a BLESSING.  We don't turn down other blessings from God, but for some reason society has lowered the value and worth of little ones. They've decided that they are an inconvenience, a burden.  They get in the way of selfish dreams and fulfilling ones self.  It's really quite sad. 

Our children have helped smooth many rough edges away.  They've helped us learn to focus on others instead of on ourselves. They've taught us how to serve and love in ways that we can't even begin to describe. 

So, after much prayer and study, we have decided to trust God with how many children we should have.  We know that the Lord opens the womb and the Lord closes the womb--there are numerous examples of both in scripture (Abraham and Sarah being the first to come to mind--her womb was closed until she was in her 90s and had Isaac to fulfill the promise that God gave to Abraham.)

Know this--if we never have another child, we will be truly blessed with the ones we do have. We don't have a number in mind that we are aiming for--we don't think that having more kids will make us better than everyone else.  We are just sinners, saved by grace. 

If He does send  us more, we'll welcome them into the family with open arms and much love.  

Love multiplies--it isn't divided.  And when God provides a blessing, He also provides all that we need to raise that additional one up for Him.

And so we are EXCITED about this new addition. 

What a great way to start the week!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wedding Prep, More Stitches, A Birthday and A Marriage--Weekly Wrap Up

Like my title?  That pretty much sums up the week!  My cousin Danielle and her fiance Scott are getting hitched tonight down by the creek.  The ceremony will be beautiful!  My mom and step-dad worked really hard for several weeks beautifying the ranch.  Their effort really paid off!

Last night and today, many others in the family came together to decorate and get everything ready.  Now we just have to wait until the ceremony. 

But...until then, we're celebrating Simon's first birthday!  Yup.  One year ago today he joined our family.  Here's a birthday snapshot of him before we begin the weekly wrap up. 

Our kids have one opportunity to dig into their cake (literally.)  On their first birthday.  After that, they're expected to have enough manners to keep their hands out.  But it sure is cute to watch them!

Now onto the rest of the week.

Sunday, August 3

Look what I got from the garden!  They were a delicious snack before dinner.
Monday, August 4

Grandpa took some of the kids fishing in the creek and they ended up with seven trout.  We fried them up on Tuesday for dinner, and really enjoyed them! Thanks mom for the picture.

Tuesday, August 5

Sydney and Owen both woke up overnight, and I settled them on the couch.  They were a lot cuter in the morning than they were when I was exhausted in the middle of the night! Thankfully Sydney doesn't normally wake up--that is a blessing!
Wednesday, August 6

A big wedding prep day.  Grandpa installed electricity and lights on the pergola.  Jeffrey climbed up to inspect the work.  I love how a hose keeps Owen busy.  The creek is a hard spot with him because of his fascination with water, but thankfully the hose kept him occupied.   He loved trying to squirt everyone--the booger! :)
Thursday, August 7

More stitches.  This time on Owen.  A seizure into the edge of the coffee table left him with a gash on his eyelid.  If it had been somewhere else, the doctor would have just glued it, but because of the hair it needed stitched.  Owen is a LOT easier to have medical work done on than Jeffrey (a combination of a really high pain tolerance and just how much medical stuff he's had done in his life).  We just went to our normal family doctor and not to the hospital. 

Friday, August 8

A shopping day.  All day in town--whew!  Sydney woke up really early and decided to go with me to finish up morning farm chores.  Here she is in her jammies slipping on her rubber boots on the porch.  Sweet company in the early morning!

Saturday, August 9

Wedding Day!  Birthday Day!  Lots of cake and celebration. 

But first, wood cutting.  Simon loved the tractor.  And special thanks to Jayme for sitting precariously on the other side and being ready to grab the birthday boy so he didn't plunge off!

Well, I've got some kids to cycle through the tub so they are clean for the wedding (I mean...chocolate covered kids might not go over too well!) Sydney and Ellie are looking forward to wearing their fancy "new" dresses (from some friends and Goodwill!).

  Enjoy your weekend.