The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Basement Clean-Up

March 28.

Our basement ends up being a catch-all for things.  Is yours like that?  I don't go down there very often, even though that's where our TV/entertainment area is located.  Isn't it crazy how we just seem to accumulate stuff; I mean, where does it all come from?!  We don't have much income at this point, and we're not purchasing much besides food, so really--how do piles and piles of stuff just appear out of nowhere??  I'm flabbergasted.

Here's my before picture.  *insert embarrassed look here*

My goal was to separate in one place all the homeschool stuff I wanted to sell, because I signed up for a homeschool curriculum resale event.  Everything else needed to be put either "in a box" (I'll deal with it later) or in the donation box.  With that, I went to work.  I love all those empty blue Rubbermaid storage boxes--it means I've gotten rid of stuff!

It's amazing when you pick up everything how much floor space there is.  You can see all the boxes of homeschool stuff  on the left; those will hopefully all be gone in a couple weeks.  Yeah, the wires hanging everywhere are ugly, but it is what it is at this point, and as the guys move on with their lives much of that will disappear.  Give it a quick vacuum, and at least we can walk around down in this basement space.

Trust me, there is still lots to do down here in this unfinished space.  But there's something to say about clean floor space, don't you think?

 Stuff to go to Goodwill.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

The Mechanic

End of March.

After two months in tech school (auto/diesel technology), Thomas was ready to work on our own car.  At least that's what Fernando decided.  So under the Suburban they rolled, Fernando armed with Google and YouTube information plus a father's hand, and Thomas with the accomplishment of being one of the top students in his class.

Thomas was nervous at first, but gained confidence as he worked with his dad.

In the end, Thomas replaced the water pump!  I was suitably impressed, and thankful for my amazing son.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Turmeric Tea

Springtime is turmeric time, and I was ready to experiment with making turmeric tea.

The biggest health benefit of this root is its anti-inflammatory properties.  It has been found to contain more than two dozen anti-inflammatory agents, so it is especially helpful for arthritis.  Fernando was happy to give it a try, since he deals with aches and pains when the weather changes up and down--usually in spring and autumn.

Studies have also shown that turmeric has great cancer-fighting and Alzheimer-blocking properties, even in comparison with man-made pharmaceuticals.  So the benefits are definitely worth trying this tea!  Fresh turmeric can have a bitter bite, so you may consider using half turmeric root and half ginger root when making your tea (you'll see that in the recipe below).

I added milk, or coconut milk, to my tea, and you can see that in my pictures here.  You can sweeten it--with honey, that's the best--and you can also drink it hot or cold.

Turmeric Tea

Fresh turmeric root (I found organic turmeric root at Whole Foods this spring!)
3-4 cups freshly filtered water

Thin slice two inches of fresh turmeric.  You can also use half turmeric root and half ginger root; I found the tea just fine with only turmeric root.

Add turmeric to 3-4 cups of freshly filtered water.  Bring to boil.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes to an hour.  Set aside overnight.

Strain out the root and reserve the liquid (called infusion).  You may use the root in another batch of tea.  Reheat the mixture when you’re ready for tea.   Dilute (or not) the infusion to taste.   Sweeten with honey.

This tea is also great iced. It’s best to sweeten it (use honey!) when it’s warm/hot; simply pour the hot, sweetened mixture over ice. Or, after sweetening it, let it cool and refrigerate it before drinking it cold.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Random Signs of Spring


I desperately wanted it to be spring already!  So I grabbed my camera and headed outdoors to see if I could find some signs of the elusive season.  Here's what I discovered.

Rhubarb barely poking its head out of the ground.

Garlic starting to come up.

Dead strawberry plants hang over the edge of the garden bed...

...but other strawberry plants are growing!

Day lilies are a sure sign of spring.

Moss in my porch garden looks otherworldly close up.

Hardy daisies are popping up in the front yard.

I found an autumn leaf stuck in the English thyme.

French sorrel is coming up red!

Little promises of daffodils!

Oregano is also a hardy herb.

Maple trees are budding.

I encountered some very promising signs of spring, which brought on the below:  Fernando grilled burgers for dinner!

Then, of course, a few days later, it snowed.

Such is spring in Chicagoland!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Simple Half Birthday


Our Goal

A simple and beautiful house
that the Lord can use as a peaceful haven
for my family and others.

Click here to find out why/how I started!

March 14.

March 14 is my half birthday!  Here's what I did...

On my journey to a simpler life, I have been collecting and boxing up unwanted things all winter long, then stashing the boxes in the garage.  For me, once a Goodwill-bound box is in the garage, it's gone.  I don't have any desire to wander out there to root through boxes of stuff I already said goodbye to.

Finally, on this day, I was ready to make a run to Goodwill--and the funny thing is that the store is at the end of my street, then across the main road!  I'm not one for making multiple trips; I'd rather get it done all at once in one big run.

And there you have it--from the garage to the back of our Suburban, on over to Goodwill and unloaded by two handsome young men!

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Timing is Everything

March 5.

I'll just jump right in to this story, okay?  You've probably heard the phrase God is good before, and wondered why Christians say that so often.  Or maybe not, but still, you're wondering why I'm saying it now.  I mean, look at this first picture below.  There's a hole in my ceiling.

Trust me, it's not an easy thing to say, especially when trouble hits you.  And sometimes trouble is huge--a death, a job loss, a move.  God is still good, though, and let me tell you why I say it:  His goodness doesn't change, regardless of my circumstances.  Therefore He is good, all the time, and it's a reminder that even when trouble comes, I can rely upon His goodness, and keep His perspective, not mine.

It all started one Wednesday night in March, while Fernando was away contracting for Arctek doing satellite transmissions and truck driving (work = yay!).  The Lord allowed all the circumstances to come together when this particular trouble hit.

Fernando called me while I was on the computer, so I decided to move to the family room and sit in the single chair in the corner--not my usual spot.

I was facing the corner with the now-holey ceiling, but I didn't notice anything while we were chatting about our day.  Then, I heard a drip-drip-drip.  Slow, but it was there.  Rapid fire, my mind questioned whether the snow was melting outside (icicles?), but dismissed that after I realized the temperature was in the teens that night.  Then, I realized it was coming from inside my house.

I stood up and walked over to the corner.  Water was dripping onto the floor.

Amazingly (God's providence), I had just moved the side table out from that corner a few hours earlier, since a redecorating mood hit me.  Our "boom box" was on that table, with CDs and other items.  Basically, the corner was cleared out.

I looked up, and the ceiling was bowed down, like someone had pushed a huge bowl into the drywall of the ceiling.  I started hollering at Fernando, telling him what I was hearing and seeing.  He helped me through things. 

Danny, who was nearby, ran and grabbed a bucket and the stepstool, got situated under the bowed-in ceiling, and poked the hole with a screwdriver.  He caught almost all of the water in the bucket--no water damage in the family room.  Thank You, Lord!

Under Fernando's instruction, we turned off the water to the house, and eventually the dripping stopped.

The next morning, with my Dad's help, we figured out that the leak was coming from the master bath shower stall.  The dripping shower head helped us figure it out!  When we caught the drips in a bucket, the leak stopped; so, it wasn't the shower head, but either the drain or the pipe leading from the drain.

We're still awaiting the fix, but insurance took care of the water damage, and an agent was able to cut us a check to fix the damage.

For now, there's a hole in the ceiling, and the knowledge in my heart that it could've been worse, and that God is good.  This is a small thing, and He is so gracious, even in the small things.

We can count on His goodness.  It's who He is.

Back to life,

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Debbie's Chocolate Sauce

Years and years ago, I tasted this chocolate sauce for the first time.  Our friends Gary and Debbie invited us over for dinner, dessert and fun.  And dessert was ice cream.  Debbie made the sauce right there while we all chatted and laughed, and her son pronounced it perfect after at least two official taste tests.

I promptly asked for, and received, the recipe, and it has been in my recipe binder ever since.  Without further ado--since I know you want to make this right away to put on something, anything--here it is.

Debbie's Chocolate Sauce
Yield:  ~3 1/2 cups

1/2 cup butter
2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar (I use cane juice crystals)
1 cup evaporated milk (you'll have a little left over from the can)
1/2 cup light corn syrup (I use organic, crazy expensive but, you know...)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (homemade--recipe coming soon!)

In a saucepan, melt butter and chocolate.  Add sugar, evaporated milk, corn syrup, and vanilla.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly (that's where kids come in handy).  Then, let it boil 1 1/2 minutes (not sure why that exact time, but I stick with it).  Remove from heat.

Serve warm or cold over ice cream or pound cake.  Or, you know, anything that needs chocolate sauce.  In other words, everything.  Refrigerate leftovers, if there is any.  I use a pint canning jar, which usually holds what's left after dessert.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Simplify -- Master Bedroom Closet, Part One


Our Goal

A simple and beautiful house
that the Lord can use as a peaceful haven
for my family and others.

Click here to find out why/how I started!

Today's focus is on our master bedroom closet.  Sometimes, simplifying means making a mess first, taking everything out, then putting back only those things you do want.  Everything else needs to go.  So make it leave!

Part One, 
In Which We Remove Everything in the Closet, Then Paint and Re-Floor It.

We received an incredibly generous gift of laminate flooring from my parents.  We held on to it until we knew we would get to keep our house (read all about that here).  Once our house issue was settled, this project--in the master bedroom closet, of all places--became a symbol of hope, that we would stay, that we had a future right here.  So we forged ahead.

Not only did we receive a gift of flooring, but a gift of funds for a closet organizing system.  The Lord is exceedingly generous, isn't He?  In order for this huge project to go forward, we first had to empty our closet.  Time to declutter, people!

Here's the before picture; I have decluttered this space in the past, so it doesn't look that bad.  Notice I'm focusing the camera on my side of the closet.  Fernando's side is a bit, um, messier.

You can play Guess What's Missing? with these next two images.  Before removing everything, I decided to declutter clothing that I knew I wouldn't be keeping.  May as well get that taken care of, instead of sorting through it later.  I removed only a handful of items, maybe seven or eight things.  What you see is the extent of my wardrobe, except for some tee shirts, shorts, underthings, and workout clothes.

After the quick once-through of my clothing, everything else came out, starting with the stuff on top of the shelves.  I donated a whole bunch of stuff, and set aside some other stuff to sell.

Fernando's side--the scary side.

I hung a lot of my clothing around my bedroom, and folded the rest, which fit inside a Rubbermaid 44-quart box (below).

We splurged on a quart of paint, a beautiful brown color named Armadillo.  Huh?!

Our bedroom looked like this:

Fernando ripped out the closet carpeting and tack strips, and then he was ready to install floating laminate flooring.

My hero!  *sigh*

That's the end of Part One.  Join me soon in Part Two, where I'll show you the final result, and what our closet looks like now--can't wait!

Back to life,

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Parmesan Cornmeal Bread

Parmesan cornmeal rolls.

In the midst of a cold February, I was looking forward to a sweetheart dinner on Valentine's Day, hosted by a family in our church.  When I asked Linda if I could help in any way, she mentioned that it would be great if I could purchase dinner rolls, enough for about 30 people at the evening's meal.  I went one better, and decided to make two batches of rolls from my regular bread dough recipes--one batch of rolls from my recipe for rice bread (I'll have to share that soon!), and one batch from my recipe for Parmesan cornmeal bread.

Bread dough is versatile, and simple to turn into rolls--simply take the dough and break it into small balls, shape it into rolls, place in the pan(s), and let rise then bake.  The recipe doesn't change one bit.  I usually make four loaves of bread at a time, in my Bosch universal mixer, so it's easy to separate half the dough and make about two dozen rolls, then bake the other half into two loaves.  This bread is great toasted, or as a side with almost any meal (mmm, I'm thinking soup right now, even with our warmer days!).

Parmesan Cornmeal Bread
Yield:  Four loaves (each loaf's worth of dough can be turned into a dozen or so rolls)

Set One1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup honey
~4 teaspoons lemon juice
4 generous cups water, heated to warm but not hot (oh, around 105 degrees F should do it)

Set Two
2 cups organic yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dried basil (1/4 cup fresh chopped)
1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon vitamin C crystals (helps with the fresh whole-wheat flour)
1/2 cup ground flax seed (can omit if you don't have it)

Total Flour
about 10 cups

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon SAF yeast

Directions for use with Bosch Universal Mixer

Place ingredients from Set One into Bosch bowl.  Top with ingredients from Set Two.  Pour about three-quarters of the total flour on top, then sprinkle the yeast on top of that.

Turn mixer to Speed 1 and mix until incorporated.  Slowly add the rest of the flour, and turn the mixer to Speed 3 as you hear the pitch of the motor start to work harder; you'll recognize it!  Once everything is incorporated, add additional flour if necessary, in 1/4-cup or 1/2 cup amounts until dough pulls away from the sides but is not dry (don't add too much--the dough should still look pretty sticky).  Replace the lid and set your timer for five minutes.

At the timer, scrape the dough onto an oiled surface (use evoo, not flour, so the dough doesn't dry out!).  Hand-knead the dough into a nice ball--if you want, slam it down onto the counter to remove air bubbles!  Divide according to what you want to make--four loaves, or rolls (I actually weigh my rolls--about three ounces each--so they're uniform).  Shape into loaves (or rolls) and place in appropriate pans

Cover with a cloth and let rise for about 45 minutes for a loaf, and at least that amount or longer (up to an hour or so) for rolls (I find that my rolls take longer to rise for some reason).  Bake at 350 degrees F:

  • Bread loaves -- 45-60 minutes (my oven works with 45 minutes, but go with your usual bread baking time).  
  • Rolls -- 25-30 minutes; I err on the longer side since I make two dozen in a stoneware pan and often the rolls in the center end up dough-y in the middle.

Turn out onto cooling rack.  Eat while they're warm!  Or, cool then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Or, wrap and freeze--for loaves, I wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum.  For rolls, I usually just stick them in freezer bags, a dozen in each bag.

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