Thursday, June 14, 2018

Actually Making Life Simpler

I really liked sharing what actually makes my life more simple. I feel like with all these DIYs, homemade foods and avoiding toxic chemicals in store-bought products, one can get rather lost in the jumble and forget we are trying to make our lives LESS complicated.
Part of the reason I became overwhelmed and spread out too thin when I first started this journey is because I was trying to replace every formerly store-bought item individually. I was asking myself the wrong questions, which shows how thoroughly saturated in consumerism I had become. 
 If we want to ”get back to basics," or simplify our lives; I feel the key to success that seemingly everyone forgot to mention, is to first ask each of ourselves the right questions.
"What are my actual needs?"
"What modern convenience items am I giving up that previously filled these needs?"
and, "What are the rudimentary bases of these needs?"
I would ask myself, ”Okay, now how do I clean my toilet?" Instead I should have asked, "Okay, now what can I use to clean my home?" Despite the claims of every cleaning commercial ever, soap is soap and if it cleans one thing, it can clean another if used properly.  It was a  huge turning point for me when I learned that women used to use a bar of soap to clean their house too to bottom, wash their bodies, wash the dishes, wash their clothes, wash their hands etc. Obviously more than one bar, but the same soap. Then companies started offering  soap flakes, so people wouldn't have to shave soap with a knife to dissolve into their dish water, laundry washing water, or bucket of water they were using to clean the house with.  From there, eventually came the many other cleaners one by one that are sold for each individual cleaning job. What a racket!
So may I suggest, instead of looking up recipes to replace window cleaner, toilet cleaner, shower cleaner, grout, tile, stainless steel, dust, vegetable etc. etc. Start by looking up how baking soda works to clean, how soap works to clean, how vinegar cleans, how Hydrogen Peroxide works to clean and then you will be able to formulate your own cleaners as the actual need  presents itself... or cleaner. (One Size Fits All.) Instead of having ten thousand different cleaners under your kitchen sink (homemade or store bought.)
This manner of thinking works on a myriad of subjects. Instead of asking how to make lotion, lip balm, hand cream, moisturizer maybe we should ask, "how do I moisturize now?" Do you really need to moisturize your lips with something different than your hands and face? How would it be if I used Shea Butter to moisturize my legs, hands, lips, and face? I have found I like Argan oil for my face and hair, and a mixture of apricot oil and Shea Butter for everything else. There is no need to try out every butter and oil and moisturizing thing found By mankind either. Information about the defining properties of each item can be found and studied in the web! So you have dry or oily skin? Don't know? Try something that moderates skins moisture.
By looking at ingredients instead of products I'm used to using, I am able to use the same items for multiple uses and therefore keep fewer products, spend less money and make life simpler.
What about food!? Yes, this is a big one, I wish I had stopped trying to eat all the super foods and just stick to what I like. Chances are, you already eat/like some super foods and none of them individually or collectively are going to keep you from ever getting sick again. I didn't need to buy those expensive tiger nuts that ended up in the garbage bin, or the dried mulberries, or the nasty algae powder, or the quinoa. I must  have spent hundreds of dollars on "superfoods" I made myself eat or threw in the garbage after it expired. There are plenty of super foods to eat without breaking the bank. None of them helped me loose weight or get any healthier. Instead of having a pantry full of every variety of legume, seed, nut and berry, just get what you like and know how to eat. Only vegans can justify all that plant matter from exotic places because they don't get to put real butter on their food to make it taste delicious and help them absorb the nutrients.
When it comes to replacing store bought treats, don't try to replace them with homemade counterparts. The truth is no homemade Oreo is ever really going to taste like an Oreo. What I have realized when I am craving an Oreo, not even an Oreo  satisfies that craving. What I really want is something crunchy and chocolatey to dip in milk. I have a chocolate spritzer cookie recipe I like to make and it fills that need deliciously. The point is, you will kill yourself trying to produce these things at home that are made in factories with specific equipment. But there is no need to completely fold, there are plenty of delicious things you can make at home that usually turn out much more delicious than anything that ever came in a package. Want a twinky? Try making a sponge cake with real whipped creme frosting and fresh berries. How about hot chocolate, warm milk on the stovetop and throw in a few chocolate chips and stir until melted and reaches the strength you like. Remember, prepackaged foods were created to replace homemade foods so big corporations could make big bucks and we could eat rich fattening foods more often with less effort. Nothing prepackaged has ever been original, as far as I have seen, it all came from someone's secret home recipe and altered to stay "fresh" for months.
Now, I make a couple cleaners about every three months, I make lotion once a year, my house is cleaner than ever and I feel much better and more at ease in my home. Mindfulness is not stressful as I once thought; it really is about simplicity, and needn't be complicated with pop culture  perceptions and expectations.

Moving Check-List

I have done a lot of moving in my life, but at this point in time is when I have had the most stuff to move. I have a husband and a child's stuff to move along with my own, but I have more personal stuff now than ever before. It has made me think, 'Gee, you know, maybe I don't actually need all of this!' I have had to put it in boxes, carry it down stairs, stack it in a truck and then unload it into a new home where I have to unpack it, and find a place to put it all. I am thinking it is time to down-size.
I keep this stuff because it is useful and I, at least occasionally, use it. But, now I am wondering to myself, " how much enjoyment and comfort does this stuff bring to my life, if any?" I am speaking mostly of a collection of hobbies. Drawing, painting, embroidery, sewing, knitting, spinning, guitar, cello, recorder, weaving, dancing and paper crafting. Those are a lot of hobbies to keep up on! I don't keep up on most of my hobbies, I just have my stuff around for whenever I want to pick it up again on a whim. Maybe what I should ask myself is, do I actually do this hobby for me, or for someone else? What is the likelihood that I will want to do this again? Then, how much less of this do I actually need to have on hand to enjoy this hobby? Do I feel obligated to finish this project or would I enjoy it?
I grew up in an environment that promoted self-sufficiency and I dependence. So I quickly learned how to do anything useful that I could think of and then stick up on The tools and materials needed for each project just so that in a pinch, I could hand craft my way out of any problem. This is probably part of the baby boomer affect handed down through generations. It is thrilling in a way to think, hey I could make.... Hmmm, now just what is it I think I'll need? Yeah.
The reason I wanted to write about this today is, having stuff or possessions complicating our lives is a recent passion/study I've been engaged in. I've been watching a lot of different vlogs and reading more about letting go of material possessions as a means to simplify our lives and free up our intentions to live in the present.
Getting all my things together made me realize how much stuff I have that I just don't use, need or even want. I thought that I had gotten rid of so much stuff and now I know how much is left for me to unburden myself with. How many times does it take a move for someone to realize how much stuff they really have?
I feel like if I get rid of these old hobbies I will be free to try something new!
Here is my Moving checklist for mindful movers hah! It's amazing how much there is to do after all that packing!

Moving Checklist
*Purge!
*Pack Everything
*Hold Yard Sale
*Dust all Blinds, Fans, Light Fixtures, Moulding, and Shelves
*Wash Walls
*Fill Nail Holes in Walls
*Clean Fridge and Freezer
*Replace Refrigerator Water Filter and air filter
*Clean Oven
*Replace Drip Pans
*Clean Oven Racks
*Dust tops of cabinets and fridge
*Wash Countertops
*Clean behind and under oven and fridge
*Wash out Microwave
*Clean Microwave Filters
* Clean out Dishwasher and Filter
*Wipe out drawers, cupboards, and countertops
* Clean Toilets, Bathtubs, Showers and Sinks
*Wash Mirrors and Windows
* Clean Washer with Lemishine and wipe out Dryer
Wash Dryer filter with dish soap and let dry completely before replacing
*Replace A/C Air Filter
*Check batteries of smoke detectors
*Check lightbulbs
*Sweep
*Mop
*Vacuum
*Treat Stains
*Wash Carpet

I don't need a Slow Cooker, because I have a pot! A Rant.

I don't need a "crockpot" any
more! That feels good to say! I don't need a slow cooker anymore and chances are, unless you are an avid Slow-cooker user, you don't need one either. I don't really need to ask how it is that everyone and their mother came to believe that a "Crockpot" was a kitchen necessity. Advertising and novelty is the reason. 
I used to fret about using my slow cooker- "oh man, I have to make sure I put this in to cook six to eight hours before my family is going to want to eat. Oh no! It's already two P.M.! Guess pot roast is off the menu!" No! No no no no N-O! People have been cooking without slow cookers since for-e-v-e-r. It's called a dutch oven or a deep Baker and it works perfectly. I can get that pot roast or chicken in to cook two to four hours before I eat it and it is succulent! 
You can cook stock on the stove top or in the oven all day! I have done it y'all. You can cook a pot of beans in two hours on the stove top and you can leave it just as you would a Crockpot! 
One less kitchen gadget for me! I don't​ have to worry about lead in the glaze, or overcooking everything or undercooking anything. I have more control and I can get sidetracked all day and still have my dinner plans work out!
Now, I am a Stay-at-home wife and mother with a toddler. Maybe down the road when I have a teenager and am out of the house literally all day then I might find my slow cooker useful again. I am sure working mothers all over the globe find a slow cooker to be a huge blessing. But, we don't have to feel obligated to use one just for the sake of following in mother's, or grandmother's, or a trendy neighbor's footsteps. Every kitchen does NOT have to have a slow cooker in it! 
I feel it's important to recognize these things especially trends that last generations. This is not the same thing as a tradition because it is built around a purchased gadget. This is, dare I say, brain washing? Yep, I just said it. I guess it's not an unrecognized concept that marketers brain wash us through commercials and adds to makes us think we and everyone we love needs their product. The commercials of today are the peddler-men of "yesterday." But, it's rarely spoken of, and I think we forget and get sucked in now and then. Let's not leave it to extremists to call it like it is so we can sigh, roll our eyes and continue to ignore problem just so we don't have to make a change in our lives. Let's live mindfully and make good choices based on present needs instead old notions.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Homemade Knitting Needles

When I found out I could make my own knitting needles easily and safely, I was floored. I was about fourteen when my mother said, 'Ok, we are going to make knitting needles,' I thought she was out of her mind. We went to our local drugstore and bought some dowels, sandpaper, wood glue and large wooden beads. When I started to understand how easy this was gonna be I became elated, ecstatic actually because I only had one set of knitting needles my mom gave me when I had started to learn to knit. I wanted every size needles so I could make anything and everything I took a fancy to, but buying that many knitting needles would be so expensive!
If you go to a home improvement store or craft store, depending on the size you get, you can buy dowel sticks for around 30¢ each. The craft store will be more expensive so I recommend the former, where you can also get a reasonable price for wood glue and sanding paper. Wooden beads, or any other kind of bead for that matter, that can fit at the end of a dowel is somewhat difficult to find-probably depending on your area. If you make larger needles, you will have to fine tune your whittling skills, but a size 8 knitting needle can be formed from a dowel using an electric pencil sharpener. I have five sets I've made in this size because I use them the most. I make Granny Dishcloths on them and one set is double pointed for knitting a hat on. I have a scarf I am knitting on another set of 8s. They are my favorite size.
So once you get your purchase home, you can measure the length and cut/break the dowel into knitting needle size lengths with about a half inch longer so you have room to glue a bead on the end. Sharpen one end of each dowel carefully so you don't shorten the needle length.
Then sand the sharpened end so that it is smooth with a rounded tip. (This is the best time to remove any product labels.) Make sure the shaft is also smooth so it will not snag any yarn.
Next, put some coconut oil or olive oil on a paper towel and oil the entire length of the needle.
Squeeze a sunflower seed size amount of wood glue on to the blunt end and carefully slide your bead onto the end (it may be a tight fit and sometimes takes​ a bit of gentle finesse. This is the most difficult part.) Wipe excess glue from the knitting needle and set aside to dry.
When dry you may begin use immediately, the needles will become smoother and more slick the more they are used. I really enjoy the feel of them in my hands and they knit so much quieter than other needles I have used. I really love them.
I hope you will try it and let me know how it goes, or if you have any questions.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Eating More Vegetables: Homemade Italian

Last year Kristin over at LiveSimply.Me posted a hearty roasted vegetables spaghetti sauce recipe. At first  I was sceptical, but I was also somewhat desperate to get more vegetables into my picky toddler's belly, not to mention my dear husband. Pasta is one of my little boy's favorite foods and he doesn't mind if it is whole wheat so I made the sauce and boiled a pot of whole Einkorn Spaghetti Noodles  and he gobbled it up. I altered the recipe a little to suit my family and the sauce turned out delicious. Although my husband didn't care for the whole grain pasta, he also enjoyed the sauce. 

Since that night I have been serving up this vegetable packed sauce with spaghetti with grass-fed ground beef in it and in lasagna. I am very excited that Jovial is now making traditional pastas and I have great hopes my husband will enjoy them. 

Einkorn seems to make a huge difference in my health as well as my family's and I count it as an important part of our diet. I make a big order from Jovial from time to time and stock my pantry with einkorn wheat berries, pastas, sea salt sourdough crackers, beans, tomatoes, olive oil, and all-purpose einkorn flour. I feel the taste and nutrition is well worth the higher price tag.

The first time I made cheese pizza for lunch with this sauce and einkorn flour crust, my toddler said, " Mom, this is the best pizza I ever ate!" Aaaw, it is so satisfying to make a nutritious meal that everyone loves and I don't have to worry about making up for the nutrition later.

*Hearty Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce

Bethany Thompson Style Inspired by Kristin Marr

3 med size Carrots (about 1 ½ cups chopped)
2 med size Zucchini (about 2 cups chopped)
1 orange Bell Pepper
1 med size yellow Onion
4 whole Garlic cloves, peeled
2 TB extra virgin Olive Oil
1-2 cups halved white Mushrooms
1 tsp Salt, divided
½ tsp Black Pepper
1 - 28 oz can Whole Plum Tomatoes (with juice)
2 TB Tomato Paste
2 cups Chicken Stock
1-2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1 tsp dried Organo
finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Chop the carrots, bell pepper, onion, and zucchini into equal size pieces as best as you can. Spread vegetables onto a rimmed sheet pan lined with parchment paper if desired. Sprinkle the whole garlic cloves onto the pan of vegetables.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle ½ tsp of the salt and all the black pepper over the veggies. Using your clean hands, mix the vegetables to evenly coat them with the oil and seasoning.
Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, and add the halved mushrooms. 

Use a wooden spoon to stir the mushrooms in with the roasted vegetables. 

Roast the vegetables again for 20-25 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked & soft.
Carefully slide the vegetables into a large Dutch oven or pot and add the canned tomatoes (with juice).

Blend the veggies and tomatoes together with an immersion blender.
To the pot, add tomato paste, chicken stock, oregano, and the rest of the salt.

Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Stir in the Maple Syrup and adjust seasonings to taste.

When ready to serve, stir in the parmesan cheese.

This makes a lot of sauce, so I usually fill a few freezer safe jars at this point, chill them in the fridge and then store them in the freezer. A pint is usually all I need to make a pizza or spaghetti, but lasagna takes about 1-2 quarts. I just defrost, add fresh grated parmesan cheese and assemble.

I add cheese to what is left in the pot, and usually some browned beef and serve over noodles, in a pizza, or in lasagna. 

Store the sauce in the refrigerator​ up to 

4 days, or in the freezer up to 4 months. 

*Easy Pizza Crust

1.25 cups of lukewarm Water

1 tsp Active Yeast

1 tsp Sugar or Maple Syrup

1 tsp Salt

3 cups of whole Einkorn Flour or All-purpose Einkorn Flour

2 Tbsp Butter

1 clove Garlic minced

 In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water. After about 7 minutes, the yeast will begin to foam. Stir in the salt and flour using a Dutch whisk or wooden spoon.
Cover the bowl with a towel. Let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes, until doubled in size.
* Dough may be stored in refrigerator at this point for 24 hours until ready to make Pizza.
Preheat the oven to 425F.
While the oven is heating prepare the sauce and garlic butter and shred the cheese.

 For the Garlic Butter: Melt butter and add minced garlic to it. Mix with basting brush.

Brush large stoneware bar pan with some garlic butter.
After 30 minutes, gather and cover dough with flour, place on pan and pat into pan. Or if using a preheated stone form with floured hands and place on parchment paper.
Baste crust with garlic butter and par-bake 10 minutes.
Top with some sauce, cheese from grass-fed cows' milk, and other toppings.
Bake for 10 minutes, until the crust is golden and cheese bubbles. Makes 2 small pizzas or 1 large.

Monday, January 23, 2017

My First Detox

This month, to start the new year, I did the five day Thrive Market Detox. It was a rough week, no grains, no red meat, some days no meat at all, no dairy, little olive oil and coconut oil, not a lot of fruit, but loads of vegetables. I probably spent about three hours a day washing chopping and otherwise preparing vegetables, but it seemed like it was all I did all day. I loved the salads, so delicious especially the fresh tahini dressings. The smoothies were OK. I devoured the chicken breast and like I'd been starving all week. I discovered sweet potatoes mess up my belly, so now it's OK I don't like them.
When my detox was done, to my surprise, I didn't have any bad reactions to dairy. I didn't have any problems with eggs, but gluten was another story. Einkorn sourdough crackers didn't seem to bother me, neither did sourdough waffles or pancakes, but everything else messes my stomach up. Which is strange because I never seemed to notice any issues with bread, pasta, or other baked goods before. My theory is, my body cleaned house during my detox and so it more readily recognized what was making a mess of things. Grass-fed red meat doesn't bother me, but it's no surprise sugar is a big problem.
Benefits of my detox are, less to no achy joints and muscles when I wake up. I can climb the stairs without my muscles screaming at me. My teeth are whiter, and my hair has brighter color and looks shinier. I realized just how many vegetables one can eat in a day and new ways to prepare them. I realized just how little we eat vegetables and how to remedy that. I learned some new recipes I liked. I learned some new habits, like oil pulling and drinking lemon water in the morning, and having a cup of herbal tea before bed. The detox worked in only one week!
Cons to the detox are, not every recipe agreed with my palate and it was sometimes difficult to choke down. It was time consuming, I found myself putting other areas of my life on hold. But the biggest one, It was a burden on my family who did not wish to participate.
I would definitely do it again and probably will in about six months. Things I learned this time around is how to make the recipes more appealing to my family. (Which includes adding meat, and adjusting ingredients to better suit our tastes.) Also, not all the obscure ingredients are necessary, many of them can be replaced with more readily available ingredients. So instead of golden berries in your trail mix, you could substitute organic dried cherries, and instead of filbert nuts you could use walnuts (which is what I used fyi.) If you can't find pea shoots, try radish sprouts, I used sunflower sprouts myself. And if you can't find watercress, use Dandelion greens or something else equally nutritious. See, it doesn't have to be an overwhelming list of obscure ingredients you will only use once, but if you can get them, it's nice to try them because you may find a new favorite!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Soups On!

When it's time to make dinner and no one wants to eat what you were planning to make, it's easy to want to dash to the drive-thru. But, if you can get through the initial dismay and frustration, there is a fairly quick alternative. It has worked every time I have thought of it. On these emergency occasions I am glad to have chicken stock and prepared beans in my pantry because this is the best time to make up a new soup or throw together an old reliable like chicken noodle. Soup is such a versatile and nourishing dinner, whip up some biscuits or cornbread and it becomes comfort food. If you have a hard time getting vegetables into your family's bellies, soup is the perfect vehicle to get the job done.
It's easy to make soup without a recipe if you know the basics. Start with fat and cook your meat, onion and other vegetables. If you want to thicken the broth, now is the time to add some flour and let the rue cook a minute or two before adding the liquid. Next add seasonings and let it simmer at least five minutes. Enrich with butter or cream, garnish and serve. It takes some practice, but not too much, you can start to understand at what point to add each item so you don't overcook any one thing. Always taste and adjust seasoning just before adding enrichment.
Tonight was a successful inspiration, I browned some frozen hamburger patties diced onion, a diced tomato, and green bell pepper, threw in some Navy beans, stock and a dash of Chipotle. Enriched with butter and accompanied with a slice of sourdough bread and a sliced avocado on top. This creative brainstorm was a hit with my picky boys.
Sometimes its chicken noodle soup if I have leftover chicken, next time it could be creamy potato soup with kale and elbow macaroni. I just depends on what you are in the mood for and what you have on hand. I'm calling soup my go to fail-safe for last minute real food dinner and keeping my pantry stocked with the basics. Good luck, and have fun creating your masterpiece.