Thursday, November 25, 2010

Truly Thankful

This uniquely American holiday is a time when we gather with friends and family and count the blessings of another year.  For some, those blessings might be the bounty of fame or good fortune.  Others might simply be thankful that a particularly rough time is finally past.  We all experiences highs and lows in our lives and I believe we should be grateful even for disappointment and sorrow because those are the contrasts that gives meaning and depth to our joy.  

I am grateful for my husband who has seen me
at my worst and, amazingly, still loves me. 

I am grateful for all my friends who really know me 
and love me anyway.  

I am grateful for my family who I believe are the 
'friends' God chose to put in my life.  

These are the real blessings 
for which I am truly thankful.

When you count your blessings this Thanksgiving Day, 
I hope you will realize that the people in your life
are your greatest treasure and be truly thankful.  


Sunday, November 14, 2010

What's Come Over Me?

I'm not sure what's gotten into me today.  I woke up with a compelling urge to clean house ...really clean house.  While I don't believe that I brazenly neglect those domestic responsibilities, let's just say I'm not known among family and friends as a compulsive clean house nut!  But today, I'm motivated.

Maybe it's the cooler weather.  Autumn is still hanging on, but only by a toenail.  The nights are routinely down in the 40's now and daytime temperatures above 70 degrees are becoming a rarity.  Some people get inspired to do 'spring cleaning' ...I have always leaned more toward 'fall cleaning.'  It makes more sense to me to do deep cleaning in the fall.  For one thing, the weather is cooling off so you can work pretty darn hard for a few hours and not run much risk of working up a sweat.  But the main thing for me seems to be the threat, I mean prospect ....of holiday visitors descending upon your household.  We wouldn't want family or friends to think we didn't live in perpetually spotless conditions, now would we?   I guess I've only been mildly successful in that regard since, as I mentioned ...I'm not known among family and friends as a compulsive clean house nut!  But still ...deep cleaning in the fall rather than the spring is how I roll.

Since Yeoldfurt started his new job, his schedule finally seems to have settled so that he has Tuesdays and Saturdays off.  In some ways, we miss having our two-day weekends together.  But in other ways, it's been good.  With only Saturday as our mutual day off, we tend to appreciate the time together and use it more wisely.  When he's off on Tuesdays and I'm at work from 6:00am to 4:00pm, he has the luxury of a big block of time to use any way he pleases without worrying about what I might have in mind to do.  Same thing for me on Sundays.  With the time change, it's dark here by 5:30, so I've had to start feeding the livestock at 5:00 every evening.  So I spend Sunday mornings and afternoons catching up on paperwork and housework and ...if I'm lucky ...whatever yard work needs doing.  Then at 5:00pm, I put the chickens to bed and feed all the outside critters.  I'm done by 5:30 and have plenty of time to get cleaned up and go to the 6:30pm evening service at church.  When I leave for church, supper is started and on autopilot ...usually a crockpot meal it's ready in minutes when I get back at 7:30.  Yeoldfurt gets home about 7:15 so we still have our evening together. 

In the two and a half months Yeoldfurt has worked at the bakery, they've changed his days off two or three times.  But for now, it's working well for me.  With both of us having one day while the other is at work to take care of all our main chores, we are free to do whatever we both want to do together on Saturdays.  If his schedule changes again, I'll adapt ...but for now, I'm liking it. 

Laundry is always a big part of my chore list on Sundays.  A normal week is two or three loads if I just do sheets and the clothes hamper.  If I do rugs too, well just depends.  Today is a rug day.  The washer has been going non-stop for the past four hours.  In the meantime, I stripped everything that wasn't bolted down (literally) out of the bathrooms and have scrubbed the shower stall, toilets, baseboards and counter tops.  I don't mean a lick and a promise with a sudsy mop either.  I mean on my hands and knees with a bucket of soapy water and lots of elbow grease ...just like your momma did it.  Well, like my momma did it anyway!   I have gone over the floors by hand, but will go over them again with a mop and some clorox, then again with just clean water before I'm done.  I'll do the same for the kitchen after I finish the bathrooms but have to wait until the last load of laundry is done because my access to the washer and dryer is through the kitchen.  Once all the floors are done, I'll be vacuuming from one end of the house to the other.  I dusted yesterday, but will probably have to dust again when I'm done with the vacuuming as I'm sure I will have stirred up a bit more!

As the title of this post implies, I really don't know what's come over me to be in a such a cleaning frenzy all of a sudden.  But I'm not going to waste it.  I just hope I really do get some visitors this holiday season so all my labors won't be in vain! 

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Saturday is the only day we're both off work, so we try to make it count.  The big project this past Saturday was to move the food stores from their present location to the new area we had prepared.  It took us most of the morning to get it all moved, but we got it done.  The new storage area is a bit closer to the house which is a big bonus for me.  As the primary cook and shopper for this outfit, I'm the one that is usually in and out of there on a regular basis.  The biggest bonus for Yeoldfurt is having his shop back.  I believe every man should have his own shop, and he ought not have to share the space for any purpose than his own. 

We were pretty pleased with ourselves for having accomplished a big goal, but then some unexpected trouble with one of the vehicles threatened to put a damper on the mood.  We got ready to go into town for supper to celebrate our anniversary this past week, only to discovered there was a problem with one of the trucks.  The big truck is a diesel and, hence, has two batteries ...both dead as doornails.  Dead batteries certainly explained the truck refusing to start, but it does have over 100,000 miles on it and all of the components of the starting system are still factory original.  So since we have towing coverage on our insurance, we decided the best course of action was to have it towed to the shop Monday morning and have everything checked out.  We are both scheduled to work on Mondays, but one of us would have to stay home to meet the wrecker and wait on the truck.  Yeoldfurt is off on Tuesdays and could have requested to switch his days so he could be home on Monday.  But if something besides the batteries was wrong, it might take longer than the one day and we would have the same transportation problem on Tuesday.  I've been at my job almost two years and have plenty personal leave accrued so we decided I would be the one to stay home.  I'll drive the other truck to work tomorrow and stop by the shop on the way home to pay the bill.  Then Yeoldfurt and I will go back to town tomorrow evening to bring the other truck home so we can both go to work Wednesday morning.  

After Yeoldfurt left for work Sunday morning, I set about organizing the food in the new space and doing a real inventory.  Our goal is to accumulate and maintain a 6-12 month food supply.  We don't count what's in the cupboards in the house on the inventory.  Once an item leaves the storage area, it's subtracted from the inventory even if we don't use it up in the house for a week or month.   The new storage is also a lot more space which makes organizing and keeping track of what we have a whole lot easier.  The new storage room is approximately 12 x 12, with sturdy wooden shelves on three of the walls.  The shelves run the full length on two of the walls, and 18 inches short of the length on the third wall.  I use that unshelved bit of wall to hang a wisk broom, dustpan and store a step ladder.  We have two plastic shelving units in the room as well.  One of them is set up with four shelves and the other is set up as two separate two shelf units that I placed underneath the wooden shelves.  I have stored non-edibles such as cleaning supplies, aluminum foil, sterno, and assorted soaps and shampoos on all the lower plastic shelves.  The rest of the food items are organized by categories that make sense to me since I am the one that will usually be looking for what I need.  The only items that still remain to be moved are paper goods ...the ever-important toilet paper and convenience items such as paper towel, paper plates and paper bowls.  We will store a year's supply in plastic crates but since those items don't 'expire' like food stuffs, we won't rotate them when I do grocery shopping.  Home-canned foods will be stored in the house for now simply because I have the space and it's more convenient to put them in the cupboard after I process them, than to tote them all down to the food storage room. 

So it was a good weekend as far as accomplishing what we set out to do, and a frustrating weekend because of unexpected vehicle expenses.  Two steps forward, one step back.  But as much as I dislike having to spend money on unexpected repairs, I'm grateful that both trucks are paid for and have been for years.  The occasional repair bill is a whole lot easier to swallow than monthly truck payments. 

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baked Fresh from the Freezer

About a year ago, I started making my own bread to save money.  I found a couple of recipes I liked and would make one or two batches every other weekend or so, baking the loaves and putting them in the freezer.  But we have limited freezer space and bread takes up considerable room.  Since bread dough before the final rise is only approximately half the volume of a baked loaf, I started trying to figure out how to freeze bread dough that could be baked as needed.

My first resource is always my network prepper friends, but no one had any advice to offer on the subject.  My research online was somewhat successful, but a few sites said any bread dough could be frozen before the final rise and others said you had to double the yeast in the recipe as some of the yeast would die off in the freezing process.  Yeast is relatively expensive and doubling any ingredient in a recipe increases the cost of the final product.  Since I was making my own bread in the first place as a money saving measure, increasing my cost didn't appeal to me.  So I decided I would experiment with my usual recipe, using just the normal amount of yeast.

For my first experiment, I made a batch of Pepper Bread dough just as I always do and, before the final rise, I put the dough in a loaf-size baggie and placed it a loaf pan, then put the pan in the freezer.  I patted the bagged dough flat after it was in the pan so it was no more than an inch thick as some websites suggested it would freeze and thaw more evenly at that thickness.  About three hours later, the bread dough was frozen solid so I removed the loaf pans and just left the frozen dough in baggies in the freezer.  The baggies of frozen dough took up only half as much freezer space as one loaf of baked bread first objective of saving freezer space was looking successful!

At 6:00am the next morning when I was ready to leave for work, I put one of the baggie of the dough in the refrigerator to begin thawing.  When I got home from work at 4:30, the dough was soft and pliable.  I placed it in a greased loaf pan in my dehydrator to begin the final rise.  An hour and a half later, it had doubled in size and was ready to bake.  When Yeoldfurt got home that night, he had fresh-baked bread with his supper.

For my second experiment, I decided to try freezing the dough in two- to four-inch balls so I could make individual or cloverleaf rolls.  I froze the two-inch dough balls two to a sandwich-size baggie and the four-inch balls one to a sandwich-size baggie.  Then I put all of the sandwich baggies of dough balls in a larger loaf-size baggie.  When I wanted hot rolls for a meal, I put however many sandwich-size baggies I needed in the refrigerator overnight to thaw, then let them rise and baked them fresh the day I was serving them.  I used a muffin tin to bake the four-inch balls and a mini-loaf tin to bake the two-inch balls (two balls per mini-loaf slot).  If you want cloverleaf dinner rolls, place three two-inch balls to a muffin slot. 

Use your imagination.  Remember pull-apart loaves of bread?  Just use the four-inch balls, pat them flat and stack them vertically in a greased loaf pan.  When the loaf is baked, the individual segments will pull apart easily into slices. 

Making bread dough can get messy, especially in a small kitchen.  Being able to make a double or triple batch and just freeze the dough for when you need it means you only make and clean up one mess instead of two or three.  I'm all for saving clean up time!

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Time Will Tell

I am very happy with most of the election results from yesterday.  There were some disappointments, several incumbents I would have liked to be rid of ...but overall, I am pleased with the loud and clear message we, the people, sent to Washington in this election.  Whether the newly elected crowd becomes part of the solution or part of the problem, remains to be seen.  All politicians at every level of government should take note of the mandate the people have voiced at the polls yesterday.  I believe Washington DC was put on notice that no politician is exempt.  This was not a partisan victory, this was a victory for patriotism.  I just hope we can maintain and build momentum for 2012.  

The next two months will be a measure of whether the incumbents are listening.  The four to six months following will be a measure of whether the newly elected will remain true to the principles that got them elected.  Only time will tell.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Catching Up

I'm not sure if anyone noticed but I haven't posted in about three weeks now.  We decided to take some time off and catch up on a lot of little things around here that have needed attention.  We finished preparing the new food storage area finally and will begin moving our food stores there next weekend.   It will take us the better part of a day to get it all of it moved and set up in the new storage area, but there are benefits for both of us in making the change.  For me, the new location is at least twice as much space and solely dedicated to the preps and food storage.  It's also about fifty steps closer and over time, those fifty steps can really add up.  For Yeoldfurt, the biggest bonus is getting full use of his shop again.  Every man should have his own shop and he should not have to share the space with non-shop items.  That's my philosophy anyway and I'm pretty sure he agrees.

We're still chipping away at all the downed brush and limbs scattered along the driveway from the ten pine trees that died in last year's drought.  They were 60-70 feet tall and were only topped about 30 feet up the trunk.  So after all the brush is cleared, the trunks will have to be cut down, cut up and hauled to the burn pile as well.   It may take us all winter to finish completely but it will eventually get done. 

Last week was a little rough for Yeoldfurt because I was out of town all week taking care of our new granddaughter.  Her parents have both gone back to work and they let me come and stay with her so we could delay her debut at daycare by one more week.  I had a wonderful time with all of them and will cherish the memories, but I sure was happy to see Yeoldfurt when I got back home.  I think he was happy to see me too.  We share the chores around this place and when one or the other of us is gone for more than a day or two, it gets to be quite a load on the one that's left behind.  I got home Friday night and we took it pretty easy on Saturday ...just spent the day together and enjoyed each other's company.  Yeoldfurt did manage to get some maintenance and repair work done on the electric fence in the front paddock Saturday afternoon.   We need to do the same in the big pasture too.  That's another job that will require several weekends to finish up. 

When you live out in the country, there is never a shortage of projects waiting for your attention.  On the agenda for the next few weekends is turning and mulching the raised bed garden, making some minor improvements to the chicken coop, and a final mow and cleanup of the yard.  We have a very short 'winter' in this part of Texas.  The cold weather doesn't last that long or get that cold and snow is a real rarity here.  But you can always tell it's winter because the lawn doesn't grow, so you don't have to mow!  It's a good thing too since that leaves more time for all the holiday baking and festivities.

Today was my first day back at work after the week long vacation.  My desk was in better shape than I was expecting, but then maybe my co-workers were just hiding the REAL PILES from me so I wouldn't panic on my first day back.  Hopefully not.   We eat a cold salad for supper several times a week and that's all Yeoldfurt is expecting today.  But I think I'll make him a grilled cheese on some of the homemade pepper bread as a surprise.  He loves grilled cheese and I think it will make him smile.  

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