Monday, July 23, 2012

Tempering Food Storage "Rules" with Common Sense

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Can I even begin to tell you how much food I have wasted over the years because I have listened to the "so-called" professionals on how long food lasts on my counter top, in the fridge, or in my freezer?  Thankfully, I have wised up over the years and waste much less than I used to.

Have you ever read any of the articles that tell you that hamburger can only stay in the freezer for 3 months? I am here to tell you that mine keeps perfectly safely for at least a year.  Sometimes the ground venison that we freeze each year is in my freezer for 18 months.  I am still alive to tell my story after cooking and eating it.

What about the rules that tell us that food can't be out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours?  Woe unto you if you allow this.  Can you tell me why our ancestors could take fried chicken in a picnic basket on the train and eat it many, many hours later without getting sick?  Or how about my husband who took a ham and cheese sandwich to school with mayonnaise in a brown paper sack to school and not only lived to tell about it but never got sick from it?

Now, I am not advising that we aren't smart.  Obviously some things are dangerous.  I am still extremely careful with cans that may have become unsealed or dented.  I am still vigilant to taste, smell, or look at what I feed myself and my family for any signs of spoilage.  And, I still make my daughters pack their sandwiches in an insulated cooler with a freezer pack.  But I know that I have wasted a ton of food because I was too over-vigilant.  I gave too much credence to what I read instead of using my own common sense. This is definitely an area where our mothers, mothers-in-law, and grandmothers can help us discern the truth.

Let's be smart when it comes to throwing away food, because, after all, what we are really doing is throwing away money!

You can find this post on Frugally Sustainable's Blog Hop Today :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: The Best Croutons Ever

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 After parties, I used to throw away the leftover buns, never quite sure what to do with them.  But now with 4 easy ingredients, we make croutons that are so much better than anything you buy in the store.  They take our caesar salads to a whole new level!  I put them in quart-size bags in the freezer and pull them out as needed.  Now we are never without savory, delicious croutons.  Give them a try!


Leftover Bread (2 packs of leftover rolls)
Butter (2 1/2 sticks)
Oregano (2 1/2 tsps)
Basil (2/1/2 tsps)
Garlic Powder (7 tsps)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cut bread into small cubes.  Melt butter and add seasonings. Add mixture to cubes and toss lightly until each cube is coated.  Spread cubes on baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 15 minutes, stir, and then bake for another 15 minutes or until they are golden and crispy.  Store in airtight bags or containers.

NOTE:  You can adjust this recipe in many ways -try using more or less butter or try adding different seasonings, such as thyme or parsley.  

This blog post is featured on Frugally Sustainable's Blog Hop today - a great place for wise living information!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

5 Helpful Steps for Balancing Our Act

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The Olympics are coming up soon.  One of my favorite events is the Gymnastics competition.  As a little girl, I would watch the gymnasts flip and twirl and long to be like them.  Now, all of these years later, I still enjoy watching them.  The balance beam is especially interesting to me, as they do all of the flips and twirls on a bar that is about 4 inches wide.  It is critical that they maintain balance or they will fall off.

Sometimes, I feel a bit like the gymnast on the balance beam in my life.  Only I am holding several weights in each arm.  Weights like husband, kids, cleaning, cooking, laundry, part-time job, and church.  Way up on the tippy top I might add a small, 1 lb weight called friends or hobby.  The problem is I have an awfully hard time staying on the balance beam.  It seems that if I put my focus on one particular weight it throws me off balance and I fall off.

Through the years, this has probably been one of my main challenges.  If I give a lot of time and effort to my home, then I don't spend as much time with the kids as I should.  If I give lots of effort to my job outside the home, then my home suffers.  If I spend too much time with my kids, then my husband feels neglected.  One of the most important things we can do as moms is try to balance everything the best we can.

I have found that one of the best ways to do that for me is to stand back and evaluate what is truly important at the moment.  This past spring, this was especially critical for me to do.  We have a landscaping business and one of our secretaries quit.  It was necessary for me to step up and fill her position.  Given that it was springtime, I am usually pretty busy, anyway, so it threw me into working full-time hours.  I had to make some decisions:  What was most important at home?  What had to be done immediately and what could wait?  Was it more important to attend my daughter's soccer game or to clean that messy closet?

Here are a few things that helped me make wise decisions:

1.  Keep people first, when it is possible.  If I am choosing between my husband or a load of laundry, I choose my husband.  When it is my child's game or a messy house, I choose the game.  

2.  Arrange our hours wisely.  Over the years, I have realized that my most productive time is in the morning and so I will try to do high-energy tasks at this time (cleaning the mud room, scrubbing floors, gardening).  I lose more and more energy as the day goes by and so I save things like folding laundry and bookkeeping for the end of the day, when I don't need as much energy.  Everyone is different, but it helps to look at your energy level and then adjust your tasks accordingly.

3.  Realize the work's not going anywhere.  This is probably one of the most important things for me to realize.  I used to get all stressed out and uptight, but gradually I realized that I just had to prioritize my list each day and know that whatever doesn't get done will still be there tomorrow.  

4.  Stop procrastinating!  Okay, so I still struggle with this one a bit.  Gradually, I am realizing that the drawer that is driving me crazy will only take 15 minutes to organize.  The closet will take an hour or two.  I often look at projects like that and think I need at least a day to accomplish them, but inevitably, they take less time than I was anticipating and it is rarely as bad as I thought it would be.  

5.  Use your 15 minutes between commitments wisely.  When I have days that are all broken up with appointments or commitments, I find that I can fit a lot of work in between if I just use my time wisely, instead of figuring the day is shot and just wasting time in between.  

6.  Now, with all of that said, I do want to mention that I do think it is important to make sure that you do have that weight of friends or hobby thrown in on the top.  These are fun and refreshing ways to renew our energy and help us give our best to our family without getting burnt out, if we keep them prioritized properly and in such a way that we do not hurt or neglect our family (our most important calling) in the process.

I hope these hints are helpful to you, as you try to carefully stay on the balance beam.  It is no easy task, but it is oh, so rewarding!  There is nothing better in life than being a wife, mom, and homemaker.  I wouldn't trade it for the world!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

America, the Beautiful...and Lost

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My heart aches as I write this.  The other morning I did something I rarely do.  I watched the news.  I was dismayed, not only by the natural tragedies occurring in this country on an all too frequent basis, but also by an agenda that makes hard-working families pay the bills for those who aren't willing to work, an agenda that is not based on democracy but instead on a totally different philosophy.  I am saddened by the debt-ridden, despicable place this nation is in financially. But I am most distraught by the clear and ever-growing bias against anything that has to do with morals, God, or conservatives, while pushing, shoving, and dumping leftist, liberal ideas and thoughts into our heads.  Sure, some mornings are worse than others.  I happened to pick a pretty rotten morning to watch.

The temptation is to throw our hands up in the air and give up.  But what good does that do?  I submit to you that we need to stand for what is right and true in our own homes. Let's raise our kids to love God, work hard, and spend only what they make.  Let's make sure they are not entertained by the filth that is called entertainment.  Let's do our best to set a good example of integrity, so they do not go out into the world wishy-washy and easily moved.  And let's make sure that they know that God created the world.   

There is a battle going on for our families.  We need to put on our armor (Ephesians 6) and fight for them!  And, in so doing, give a crumbling country the bright hope of young people who love their God and their country.

If we can raise  moral, hard-working, God-fearing kids the results of that will trickle out into the nation.  Sure, it may be just in a small area of this great land...but isn't that better than nothing?  

I can't help but wonder what the next years will hold for this great land of the brave and the free that seems to be so very lost.  But I still love my country!  I am still thankful to be in a country that is like no other.  We are still so very blessed to live least for now.  Here are a few very applicable quotes for this July 4th, 2012:

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
- George Washington, 1st U.S. President

"Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience...without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure...If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under."
- Ronald Reagan

"It is necessary for the welfare of the nation that men's lives be based on the principles of the Bible. No man, educated or uneducated, can afford to be ignorant of the Bible."
- Theodore Roosevelt

"The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained."
George Washington, 1789

Note:  I posted this on Frugally Sustainable's Blog Hop (#28).  Check out all the posts for lots of great ideas!

Tasty Tuesday: Yummy Orangeade

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When we think about summer, visions of refreshing lemonade often come to mind, but have you ever considered orangeade?  Oranges are naturally sweeter than lemons so they do not need as much sugar to make a refreshing drink.  I often mix it with my homemade iced tea to make orange tea, another summer favorite of mine.  Enjoy!

5 oranges (sometimes I use 3 oranges and 2 lemons, but I  increase the sugar amount slightly if I use lemons)
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 cup water

Mix 1 cup of water and sugar in small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Meanwhile, squeeze juice from oranges.  I usually end up with a little more than one cup of juice when I use Valencia oranges.  You will need at least a cup of juice, so if you are using very small oranges, you may need more than five.

Pour juice into half gallon pitcher, along with the sugar mixture.  Add water to fill pitcher.  Chill in the refrigerator and then pour over ice and enjoy!