Musings from the Threshold

Category Archives: Homemaking

FB Post – Feb. 18, 2018 #2

We were so blessed to have food delivered to us by loving hands just after we arrived last night!
Tracy, one of my dearest, most golden friends, who does *not* like to cook, cooked and brought us a warm and yummy supper!! That is such love, and means the world to me. Thank you, Trix! 💜💜💜💜
And Melony, a new friend whom I’d only met once before, called me while we were on the way and asked if she could bring me some groceries. In just a few moments on my rapidly-dying phone, she “got it,” and brought lovely fruits, veggies, pork rinds, and even some safe chicken sausage we enjoyed for b-fast this morning.
We have a couple of friends bringing up food for us today as well. Such a blessing! I really had been afraid we would go hungry while we were here, due to our special needs. I wasn’t counting in how well we are loved!
About our food specialities, I’m linking to a post that summarizes what we’re doing and has some helpful graphics. I’ll also attach a graphic in the first comment that is a pretty good summary.


A New Tool… Or Is It a Toy?

A big family Christmas gift to us from Papa and Mama Byrd was a pressure cooker/canner.  I have yearned for a pressure canner for several years, and while I might be more excited about it than anyone else in our family, the benefits will definitely come to the whole clan.
2012-12-25 Christmas_Morning 119

So far on the “cooker” side of things, I’ve cooked a chicken & potatoes meal (that certainly showed my learning curve!), some oh-mercy-delicious soups, and some dried beans for using in a casserole.  It seems like that list should be longer, but it’s all I can remember at present.  There are things for which I am really going to like pressure cooking.

Ah, but the dream for years has been to be able to pressure can, because with a pressure canner, you can can foods that will not preserve properly in a water-bath canner.  When I saw turkeys on sale for .50 a pound in early January, I was thrilled to buy a couple.  And after I got them home, I remembered… I can can these!!  There was much rejoicing.
2013-01-17 TurkeyStock 001
A good bit of canned turkey broth/stock/meat has passed through our canner since then, and the process has reinforced my need for a means to better track my canning efforts.  You see in the above picture (lower right lid) the remnants of my old “method” of tracking the details of my canning… trying to cram all the info onto the top of the lid.  Not so tidy or effective. So I purchased a notebook just for my Canning Stuff.  Isn’t she purdy?
2013-01-23 CanningNotebook_Start 002
The second section has my initial inventory.  This includes the unopened jars of stuff I’ve canned that are still around.  I’d like to add pages with a brief numbers account of each canning session/season/year.
2013-01-23 CanningNotebook_Start 001
The first section is for canning notes.  Things like what I actually put into the peach butter I made last summer:
2013-01-23 CanningNotebook_Start 005
And detailed information about purchased food for canning, what went into each batch, how I canned it, etc:
2013-01-23 CanningNotebook_Start 006x
The above picture doesn’t include all the info I actually want to include on these pages.  I will be redoing it in more of a chart form, I think.  Date, size of jar, method with times/psi, ingredients, etc. I am a do-things-on-the-computer person.  But it just does not work well for keeping track of my canning, esp. not for what goes in to each batch.  And canning is such a wonderfully down-home skill, I find it fitting to be hand-writing my notes about it.

Do you can?  How do you keep track of your efforts?

Backtracking… Miscellaneous May Moving

We closed on our new home on April 27, but didn’t have our first night here until May 5. We spent the intervening week doing lots of scrubbing, sprinkling of baking soda followed by vacuuming, and packing. Saturday the 5th, we moved beds and essentials and had our first “Pancake Night,” which actually wound up being Pizza Night instead. Nobody complained!

The kids got in some game playing with friends in the evening, but they also put in a huge amount of effort throughout the day:
The next Friday, Jonathan and Dad Smith set up the computer desk in our room (a space necessity):
And some progress pictures after one week in the new house:

This first shot is also a progress pic of the Dr. Who scarf
that Wendy is knitting for Jonathan!


Davey/Dining Room

Buffet (in living room)

Computer desk in our room (obviously, without computers thus far)

Master Bedroom

Temporary computer center

In the master bath

We had our first yard sale of the purging process on Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19, at Dad and Mom Smith’s. We by no means made out like gangbusters, but it was a good experience overall.
A view of some of our workers Friday evening:

Andrew is not used to getting up at 6.30 on *any* morning, and fell asleep on our bed Saturday morning while everyone was getting ready to go:
A view of some of our “goods”
We had this really good looking guy that kept looking over the tables:
There was a lot of hanging out on the porch going on on Saturday…
We have a large amount of sale stuff waiting in the garage at Dad and Mom Smith’s new place, and are still trying to decide on whether we will do another sale this weekend or wait until fall…

It looks like I stopped taking pictures of the moving/settling process after the yard sale, and currently the new place looks a bit crazy. I guess I’ll have to see just how “real” this blog needs to be about that!

Space Perspective – A New Family Adventure

In the next month or so, our family of ten will be moving from this house –

to this house –

We will be moving into a space that Jonathan estimates to be about a third of the space we now inhabit. This is neither an accident nor a disaster, but an intentional choice made with much prayer and thought.

We love our current home. We love the house, the property, the community… it has been more of a blessing than I could recount to live here for the last year. If you look through my pictures over the last year, you get a glimpse of how much we love it here. And I will be honest and admit that the thought of leaving is far from easy.

However, this gorgeous abode runs between 32.5 and 42.5% of our monthly income (our rent is somewhat variable according to how much work we do for our terrific homeowners). That is just way too much for us to be spending on housing, and we have been looking and praying about something different for a while now.

In early-mid March, we looked at three different houses. After much prayer, we made an offer on the mobile above and sat back to see what the Lord would do. Because we have a bankruptcy with a foreclosure on our record, a traditional loan was not an option for us, and we were unsure whether the family would accept our land contract offer (though we had sweetened the deal as much as we could and included a down payment that was almost a third of the asking price). We got word a few days later that they had accepted our offer.

Our closing date is set for April 27th, and we will be moving somewhat gradually through (at least) the first half of May. Our new home is a smidge shy of 1100 sq. feet and sits on an acre and a half. The payment will be about 21% of our monthly income (house payment + taxes and insurance; 4 year term with a goal of having the whole thing paid off in two).

The property is closer to town and in a decidedly more populated area (a disadvantage in our books), but we are glad to have a field across the dirt road from us to the north and only one house between us and more fields on the west. We’ll be less than four miles from Kansas Bible Camp, which is something about which we’re pretty excited. We have plenty of room for a garden, and actually have already started working on that with permission from the current owner.

The big challenge/opportunity with this move is going to be an adjustment in our space perspective. The American idea of how much living space is needed per person is pretty crazy, but it is extremely difficult to get away from that mindset.

I have been longing for years for our family to craft a more simple life together, to weed out the extras that weigh us down and to choose a less encumbered lifestyle. Part of that simpler life is financial freedom, which is one of the biggest reasons we are making this move. Another part of that simpler life is “stuff” freedom, and we will, by sheer necessity, be making great strides in that area as well.

From Merriam Webster
Definition of PARE
transitive verb
1: to trim off an outside, excess, or irregular part of (pare apples) (paring his nails)
2: to diminish or reduce by or as if by paring (pare expenses) (the novel was pared down to 200 pages)

I hope to blog regulary through this process of paring down our “stuff” and simplifying our life. I’d love it if you’d join me as I do!

Valentines Day Fudge!

After reading some to our Blessings about True Love,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
1 John 4:7-14

I embarked on a fudge-making adventure.

First, I made this, my favorite pre-dairy-free-days fudge – Coffee Shop Fudge (sans the nuts, because my valentine does not like nuts in his fudge!)

Then I tried out a new recipe, because I wanted to make something that Katie (who is allergic to chocolate) could enjoy. After a swagbucks search, I settled on the recipe given by the first commenter on this post.

Here is the recipe, adapted for American measurements:

South African Fudge

9 T butter
3/4 milk (I actually used coconut milk because it was what I had on hand)
5c sugar
5t golden syrup (light corn syrup… don’t shoot me)
1 can sweetened condensed milk.
1 t almond extract (the recipe called for vanilla, but I was out of that)

1. mix butter milk sugar and syrup in a large pot and boil for 3min.
2. add condensed milk while stirring – keep stirring for 15min or until mixture turns light brown and becomes thickish
3. remove from stove
4. add vanilla and beat well for 5min
5. pour into greased baking pans and leave to cool.
6. cut into squares before completely set.
7. enjoy indulgently.

The South African Fudge:

And the Coffee Shop Fudge:

Happy Valentines Day!
May your heart be filled and held by the love of the True Lover!

No-to-low-Knead Wheat Bread

One of my top five tips for those getting started in the kitchen would be to find a bread recipe that works for you and is adaptable for multiple purposes. It’s only in the last 8 months that I’ve found a bread recipe that truly works for me. I can use it for almost anything… loaf bread, rolls/buns, pizza crust, bierocks, cinnamon and other sweet rolls, and more.

My friend Tabitha introduced me to a terrific no-knead bread recipe a while back. I have tweaked it here and there until it really works for me and for our family. Perhaps it will work for you, too! See link at end of recipe for an easily printable pdf file.

Measure 2 cups white and 2 cups wheat (I love Hudson Cream whole wheat flour) into a large bowl (mine is the big ol’ tupperware bowl).

Add 2 rounded tablespoons yeast and your sugar. I use 1/2 cup unpacked brown sugar, unless I’m making sweet rolls, in which case I increase the sugar.

Add 4 cups warm water, 1/2 cup oil, and 2 beaten eggs (or egg substitute*) and whisk until mixture is smooth, a couple of minutes.

For my warm water, I put four cups of cold water in a glass measuring cup and microwave it for two minutes. With our current microwave, this is just right. Use whatever method works for you to get your water in the magic 100-115′ range.

Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. I put the salt that I will add after the resting time on top of the bowl, or in some other obvious place, because otherwise I tend to forget it. I like to wait to add the salt so that the yeast has time to really get going before I curb its action with salt.

After the rest:

See how wonderfully poofy, then bubbly, it is?

Add 2 cups white and 3 cups wheat flour and 1 tablespoon salt

Mix with wooden spoon until all flour is incorporated

No-knead bread –
Cover again and let rise in bowl for about 30 minutes (until doubled).

Stir down dough

Spoon into three greased loaf pans. Let rise again until dough peeks over top of pans, 30-45 minutes. Bake at 375′ for 30-45 minutes.

Low-knead bread –
Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes, working in another half cup or so of flour.

For loaf bread – divide in thirds, form loaves, and let rise in greased pans until dough peeks over top of pans, 30-45 minutes. Bake at 375′ for 30-45 minutes.

Rolls –
Rolls are the staple bread around our house. I make them large enough to work for sandwiches, and they are my preferred form of serving bread to my family. No worrying about slicing evenly, bread falling apart, etc. So simple and practical.

For sandwich sized rolls, form kneaded dough into a rectangle, then cut into 36 pieces.

Form dough into balls, place on greased pans. I use two half-sheet cookie sheets (3 rows of 5) and one 9×13 pan (two rows of 3).

Let rise, covered, for 30 minutes.
Turn oven to 350 and let rise another 15 minutes.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.

~ For “dinner roll” size, simply cut into smaller pieces. I expect they will bake more quickly.
~ For cinnamon and other sweet rolls, I cut the dough into quarters and roll out/fill/cut one quarter at a time.
~ For bierocks, I cut into 36 pieces like I do for rolls, then roll out and fill each bierock individually.
~ For pizza, I divide dough into sixths to make six crusts. I prebake them for 5 minutes or so before adding toppings.

**Egg substitute –
For substitute for two eggs, I now use a rounded 1/4 c measure of ground flax seed and add 3/8 cup hot water. For this bread recipe, I put the flax and water in glass bowl that I know is one full cup. The flax mixture takes up half a cup, so I simply add oil to fill it.

Here is a .pdf of this recipe for easy printing

Still here!

I’ve been a bit distracted from blogging lately…

We’re on our second round of chicken pox currently. Unless Andrew ends up getting them in a third round, we will have lifetime immunity for seven out of eight Blessings. It’s been a doozey, and we were gifted with a stomach bug in the midst of it, but I think we’re going to pull through. Do please pray for Katie, though. She’s just getting started on her case, and I’m thinking there was some basis to the article I read that said that kids with eczema and other skin problems are likely to have thousands of pox as opposed to hundreds. She’s not up yet today, but from the way she looked last night, my mama-heart is very concerned for her.

I started dreaming last year of making available an Advent Wreath resource that folks could download for free, and that project is almost done! I hope to have it available in the next few days. This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, so I’m a bit down to the wire. If you would like to try using an Advent Wreath as a tool for worship this year, consider going ahead and picking up the needed candles while you’re out this week. You’ll need a white candle for the center (I like to use a pillar for this), and four candles for the outer ring (I usually use tapers) – three purple or blue, and one pink or red. What a solemn and estatic joy it is to celebrate His coming!

Our dearly loved dog Juilin died last week. He ran out in the road one too many times, and he did not make it. It was an honor to have him breathe his last with his head resting on my leg. We will miss him. I enjoyed going through our family pictures and picking out some of Juilin. If you like pictures of sweet adorable dogs, you might enjoy looking at them.

Our apples are all canned. I don’t have a final count yet, but hope to post more on our appling with some numbers and pictures. We did six bushels this year and tried some new stuff. I think we all enjoyed it.

And now, I must work on finishing that Advent Wreath book!

Apple day

We’ve been busy today taking care of various projects around the house. It’s the first weekday the Blessings have had off school since mid-September, and they’ve been a big help.

We worked on getting the venison we were given earlier this week in the freezer at last. We were given one rear haunch and two front haunches, mostly clean. Jonathan boned and cleaned it up some more, then we roasted it. The boys and I got a good bit of it trimmed and pulled/shredded this morning, and when I realized I was wearing out with quite a bit of meat left and other projects still to do, we went ahead and got it all in the freezer… some ready to pull and some still in need of trimming. Whew.

The Blessings put the winter squash we gathered last night onto a shelf in the basement, and did some cleaning around the house in preparation for the arrival of our apples. Because today is apple pickup! I headed out at lunchtime to pick up the six bushels we’d ordered, and threw in an extra 1/4 bushel of a type we hadn’t tried before while I was there. We will get serious about putting them up next week, as we have chiropractic appointments this afternoon and a busy day tomorrow. I’m so excited about canned apples, applesauce, and applebutter, and I think we’ll try dehydrating some as well. Any favorite recipes you’d like to share??

We listened to the Statler brothers through a good bit of the day as we worked (that 30 years 3 CD collection lasts through a lot of projects!). Love the Statlers! My friends the Youngs introduced me to them when I was in high school, and I was thrilled that I got the bonus of marrying into a family that appreciated them as well.

I love to listen to the Statlers sing How Great Thou Art. I got all thrilled and throat-catchy today thinking on
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
and there proclaim (for eternity!!), my God, how great Thou art!

So, here’s a treat for you (you’ll have to follow the links because WP is not letting me embed them, for some reason)…
The Statlers singing How Great Thou Art in 1971 on a Johnny Cash special
And a more recent version (looks like it’s from The Statler Brothers Show)

October 27, 2011

The garden is almost done for the year. Last week we gathered a large harvest before the first freeze of the year.

The Blessings and I also spent about an hour covering tomato and pepper plants with sheets before that first freeze to try to protect them and give them a bit more time to mature the fruit they’ve been working so hard to produce since the intense heat cooled. What you see on that plate was the extent of our tomato harvest to the date of the picture, less three tomatoes. Impressive for the almost 50 tomato plants we planted in the spring, eh? Hot hot summer makes gardening interesting, anyway!

The long skinny peppers are Holy Moles (holey moleys). This is the second year we’ve grown them. They are prolific producers with varying degrees of heat. The first year, they were quite mild, while this year they packed a bit of a punch. I found this out after I’d taken them to fellowship lunch along with miscellaneus bell/banana peppers and assured everyone that I had only brought sweet peppers. Or not…
I canned five pints of Holy Moles (sliced) and a couple pints of banana peppers (a portion of this batch), but I haven’t gotten a picture of their loveliness yet.

Tonight after we got home from town, we did another pre-frost harvest, as it’s supposed to get down to 31. Here’s what Jonathan and the older Blessings gathered while I got Andrew ready for bed:

The tomatoes made a bit of progress in the mild week+ after the first freeze; hopefully these will ripen nicely inside.
The pitiful watermelons didn’t have time to mature, yet this is the best success we’ve had yet with watermelons. Maybe next year we’ll grow some that we, instead of the chickens, eat.

A couple of the little butternuts broke off at the stem and were cooked tonight… gorgeous, aren’t they?

In Which I Speak of Soy and Estrogen

I have recently been asked to articulate my concerns about soy as food. I have told some of my experience with soy and estrogen dominance in my dust-gathering-yet-unfinished series on Balance, but thought I would share this brief as well.

About five years ago, at 32 years of age, I was displaying the classic signs of pre-menopause (about 15 years earlier than average). I will not go into the details of my physical symptoms, but I was miserable. In addition to my obviously feminine-related symptoms, I had memory loss, confused thinking, mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability, extreme fatigue, and blood sugar issues.

A midwife friend suggested that I might be dealing with the results of estrogen dominance. After research, I realized that while I had likely been dealing with estrogen dominance for most of my life (having displayed key signs of hormonal imbalance along the way), the soy-intensive diet plan that I had been following for the previous year plus had sent my balance further askew than ever before. This resulted in the symptoms mentioned above, all of which are linked with estrogen dominance.

After realizing that my consumption of soy was likely linked to my physical, mental, and emotional difficulties, I cut soy from my diet. I made changes to eliminate other sources of phyto (plant) and xeno (chemical) estrogens from my life, but the elimination of soy was by far the biggest change. Within a month, I could see a dramatic improvement in my mental, emotional, and physical state. In a few more months, it was like a new person (the person I had once been, but hopefully even better) had come to live in our house.

Hormone balance is all about balance… having the right proportions of estrogen, progesterone, etc. Large amounts of soy, a phyto-estrogen, can cause an imbalance in anyone. Some people are more susceptible than others to this imbalance or, already having an hormonal imbalance, to even greater extremes of imbalance. I am one of those people, but I am not rare. And I believe that there are many people whose health issues are, unknown to them, due to hormonal imbalance.

If I’ve peaked your interest, I would be glad to answer questions as I am able. Also, I have found Dr. John Lee’s website to be a helpful and informative resource.