Monday, November 23, 2009

The Home Keeper's attitude

Unusual benefits of gratitude

We ought to be grateful simply because God asks us to. However, we benefit and our households benefit when we maintain a grateful attitude. Since this is the month of Thankgsiving for those of us in the U.S., I thought I'd post this interesting article about what some researchers found concerning thankfulness.

Happy Home Keeping.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My stew...

STEW: I decided to cook barley stew for my stew project. Here's the link to the recipe I used:

I just found this recipe today, and I thought I'd try it as I have had some barley in my pantry for a while. I made a few little changes in the recipe. It's a nice, rainy day to be in here, and I didn't want to run to the store to buy a few little ingredients when I knew I had stuff on hand that would work as well. The stew looks yummy!


Here are five ways to add an artistic touch to your home keeping. Some of these may overlap with points we've already studied, but they should help keep our motivation fresh:

1) What artistic talents do you have? Read the Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Shaffer to learn ways to use your obvious or hidden talents in the home. You may discover that you have a talent you never even considered. This is an old book, but you might find it on the shelves of your local library or be able to order it for reading through your library system.

2) Read an interview talking about the life of a gifted artist. Perhaps, you will read about a musician, a dancer, or a painter -- depending on your particular interests. Note the dedication required to become accomplished in any artistic field. One key ingredient is practice, practice, practice. Those of you who have taken ballet lessons or who who have played a sport know what I mean. The way you learn is to practice drills over and over until they become second nature to you. Even then, you continue to perform theses drills in an effort to perfect your technique and to stay in practice for your art or sport. These drills are done not in the spotlight, but in the background. When we see an athlete step on the field or an artist come out onto the stage, we see the performance and we applaud. However, this feedback for a wonderful performance is only a small part of the time the artist or athlete has spent learning his or her craft. Most of his or her time is spent in the lonely pursuit of improvement, and often feedback from coaches and teachers is corrective in nature. To keep the joy of the art or sport in the "off hours", the artist or athlete must practice merely for the love of that art or that sport.

Home keeping is a lot like that. We have "drills" that must be done every day: make the bed, do the laundry, cook the food, clear the table. We also have drills in terms of the people we love -- making time for them, doing kind things for them, etc. Much of the time, our families do not applaud all of this behind the scenes practice that goes into the keeping of a beautiful, loving home. But, they do appreciate the overall beauty of our home, even if they don't realize the minute planning and practice and detail that produces beautiful memories of home. In order to keep going in the little things, we must do it as a labor of love with all of the dedication (and more!) that an artist or athlete pours into his or her profession. After all, we are doing something even greater than producing a beautiful painting, scoring a game winning touchdown, or composing a symphony for the ages. We are loving the souls of our family and our guests. The impact of our work might be felt in eternity.

Also, the great thing about keeping a home is that you can always learn, always grow, and always move to a higher level of skill. So, we must not give up on the "drills" of home keeping because they seem boring or burdensome in the moment. We can remember that these things add up to our goal of creating a godly, loving, sheltering, and welcoming home.

3) Work from your inner spaces out. Keep yourself neatly groomed. Keep your bathroom fresh, your bed made, your clothes in order. Keep your planning notebook up to date, and your purse cleaned out. Aim for peace and beauty in your heart first of all, and then think of it spreading out from there. You don't have to aim for perfection in this, but just an atmosphere of peace and beauty. It's hard to keep a beautiful home when you are feeling disordered in your thoughts or are disordered in your personal spaces. Of course, we will all face troubling or discouraging emotions in life, and we do not do ourselves a service by stuffing them and trying to just soldier through tough times. But, we can keep serenity in our hearts by looking to Christ, praying to the point of peace, by sharing our feelings with a trusted friend, by focusing our thoughts on the things in Phil. 4:4-8, and getting help if we need it. Inward calmness, peace, and order have a way of working outward in our lives.

4) Read a book about drawing or painting. Even if you never pick up a paintbrush, the things you learn about perspective, color, lines, and shape will help you bring beauty into your home keeping. For example, you will have a better eye for materials to select when doing crafts. You will also have a better eye for arranging furniture or knickknacks or pictures on a wall. For advanced study, read a book about photography and use the tips you learn in taking family photos.

5) Review your mission statement to help you keep on track. If you haven't written one yet, read the posts in this course pertaining to the mission statement. Use your mission statement as a positive tool. You may focus too much on what you don't get done or how you may have made a home keeping mistake or two (or many!), and, thus, discourage yourself. Instead, forget what is behind and set your mind on the goal. Remind yourself that mistakes along the way are just part of the process of learning. No household goes smoothly all of the time. Every home keeper experiences troubles or flops. Just keep on the path, and you will see benefits in time. In fact, you probably already have many things to be thankful for in your home keeping, and you probably have already achieved more than you know. So, look for the blessings and the achievements and thank the Lord for these things.

Happy Home keeping!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moving on Through Fall!

For your Book of Days:

Record the sounds, sights, tastes, and textures of late October. Include a photo of trees that are changing colors. Think about happy memories that have to do with fall and write about some of them. Especially concentrate on happy memories that have to do with home or family.


Fall is a great time to cook stew. As the weather turns colder, we naturally crave foods that are warm and hearty -- such as stew, soup, or chili. Stew is a particularly inexpensive way to provide your family with that warm and hearty sensation, as well as some healthy nutritional value. It also has a pleasing aroma.

To "stew" food involves cooking meat and/or vegetables slowly in liquid and serving them in the gravy that results from this slow cooking process. The liquid in the stew is generally cooked at a simmering, rather than boiling, point. The longer the stew simmers, the more the flavors combine and work together to create a wonderful taste.

The reason that stew is economical is that it is a suitable way of cooking the least tender and, thus, least costly cuts of meat. There are vegetable stews, as well, which usually depend on some type of inexpensive bean or legume as the main ingredient.

The liquid in stews is often thickened. One way to do this is by coating the meat with flour and searing the meat before adding the other ingredients and the liquid. Another way is to make a roux or a beuerre manie. These involve mixing butter and flour in equal parts. When using a roux, you melt the fat in a pan and add the flour, cooking it so that the mixture will not taste too "floury" in the stew or sauce. With a beuerre manie, you knead the butter and flour together in a ball and then whisk it in the pan. Another way to thicken the sauce in a stew is to add cornstarch. You can also take up a bit of the simmering liquid into a small cup, add flour to the liquid in the cup, and whisk it until there are no lumps. Then, you can add the liquid/flour mixture slowly back into the stew. This last method is helpful if you realize that your stew is too thin well into the cooking process.

A common American stew is made of stew meat (beef), potatoes, carrots, and onions. However, beef is just one of many meats that can form the basis for a stew. Lamb, chicken, pork, and game are often stewed.

In the South, particularly in south Georgia and north Florida, Brunswick stew is popular. Though it was probably originally made with squirrel and corn, today's Brunswick stew is more likely to be made of chicken, beef, and pork or, most likely, some combination thereof. This is especially true if you eat stew made in a restaurant. Sometimes, home cooks also add rabbit or venison. Most recipes call for corn, onion, and tomatoes, and some recipes also add okra or lima beans. Many people serve Brunswick stew as a side dish for a meal of barbecued meat.

Another popular American stew is a fricassee. The name comes from the French fricassée. American fricasse is usually stewed chicken in a sauce thickened with butter and cream or milk. Technically, fricassee can be made with any number of white meats, such as veal or or rabbit. The meat is cut into pieces. Cajun fricassee is darker in color than many fricassees, for it is cooked with a dark roux.

Chicken stew can be served with dumplings, with is a popular American way of topping a stew. Dumplings in stew can either be drop dumplings -- which fluff up when cooked -- or more like thick, wide noodles.

This weeks homework: Find a new recipe for stew, cook it, and record it in your home economics book and/or blog about it. You probably have a few favorite ways to prepare stew already. Most long-time cooks know how to stew without using a recipe. But, try something just a little different this time.


Have you attacked your attic cleaning projects? What about the garage?

Have you planned your Thanksgiving meal? Your Christmas meal? It's not too early to draw up menus for these events. As we've been discussing, it's easier on the budget to start buying non-perishable items you will need. Work them in to your weekly grocery lists item by item. By doing this, you won't have to buy all of the ingredients for large, holiday meals during one budget period.

Happy home keeping!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall cleaning/homemaker health

How's your fall/get ready for holiday cleaning coming along?

Here are a few things you can do now to make life easier during the holiday season:

1) Cook a few meals to freeze. Choose a recipe that will be soothing on a cold day (if you live where you have winter weather). Use this for super busy days around the holidays. You can even freeze some main dishes in large enough quantities to feed your family and any guests that might be in the home.
2) Are you doing homemade gifts this year? If so, how are they coming along? If you would like to do some homemade gifts but haven't gotten started already, search for ideas on the Internet for gifts that will be quick and easy to make. Buy the supplies and take any beginning steps that you need to.
3) Start now and work non-perishable holiday items into your weekly food shopping. This can be easier on the budget than having to buy all of the items needed to make holiday meals or to serve extra guests during the holidays all at once.
4) Stock items in your guest bathroom.
5) If you do Christmas stockings, you can begin now to stock up on little items. This, too, can be easier on the budget than buying all of your holiday gifts at one time.

Have you learned the sale cycles in your area yet? For example, what food items are plentiful in your area during autumn? What recipes can you use to work these items into your menu. Seasonally fresh items are generally very nutritious and usually at their most inexpensive price of the year. Do you know when local department stores, grocery stores, and other stores stock items?

Even if you think you know your area's retail rhythms, you need to keep current. Whatever is happening in the economy in a particular year affects your area's retail cycles. For example, this year retailers are running more frequent sales on clothing. Winter coats and other fall items are already on sale. Given the current economic conditions, retailers know that people are saving rather than spending. They are trying to entice more shoppers into the stores. They also know that people will most likely reduce their holiday spending, which cuts into revenue that retailers depend upon. If you need to fill in gaps in your family's wardrobe and have the budget to do so, this can work in your favor. You may be able to pick up some needed items for a lower cost than in previous years.

We have had several cases of swine flu in our church and in our city. Remember, keeping surfaces in your home clean is one way you can fight the spread of flus, colds, and other viruses. Are you remembering to keep doorknobs, phones, light switches, and other frequently touched but not often noticed areas clean?

How are your bathrooms? If you have completed the cleaning and organizing you want to do in your master bedroom, now's a good time to tackle the bathrooms in your house. If you keep your first aid supplies and medicines in your bathroom, check those. Make sure you have enough items and that they are up to date. Remember, the steamy moisture of a bathroom can mean that the bathroom is not the best place to store certain medicines. Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions.

What is the condition of your towels? Are the bindings coming lose? If you don't want to replace the towels, stitch the bindings back on.

Clean your bathrooms from high to low. Clean any curtains. Replace curtain liners that are mildewed. Clean light fixtures.

When was the last time you scrubbed your bathroom scale?

In what condition are bathmats? Do you need to wash or replace them?

Do you keep cosmetics in your bathroom? Are they organized?

Do you keep cleaning supplies in your bathroom? Are they organized? Do you have enough?

Are your children's bathrooms safety proofed?

Have you sanitized the waste bucket?

Remember, fresh bathrooms are wonderful during the cooler months. For one reason, if you do catch a winter virus, it's more pleasant to come into a sparkling bathroom. Also, on gloomy days, a pretty bathroom retreat can be pleasant for you and for your family.

Don't forget scented candles --at least in bathrooms where small children can't be hurt by them. Even if you do have small children, they may enjoy taking a candlelight bath with you there to supervise.

One of the most feminine, yet demanding forms of exercise is ballet. Other forms of dance, such as jazz, provide good workouts, as well. Dance develops graceful, feminine movement, long and lean rather than bulky muscles, and a generally feminine body. Dance also stretches and relaxes muscles. You and your daughters can greatly improve your health by doing danced based exercise DVD's or by taking a dance class. There are many ballet based workout routines on the market, so do your research before you buy one. Some ballet DVD's are geared for those who actually want to learn and to perfect ballet technique. They are structured like a true ballet class. Other tapes are "loosely" based on ballet and are more for fun and exercise than for the serious ballet student. Either form of DVD can provide an enjoyable way to get a good workout, as well as to develop feminine physique and movement. I personally do not think I would advise daughters to pursue careers in dance, as there are many pitfalls that can befall a young lady who embarks on that course. However, dance does not have to become a career. It can simply be a wonderful way to improve health and grace.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

The HOme Keeper's appearance: Budget friendly grooming aids

While we certainly don't want to over-emphasize the importance of appearance to the keeper at home, the fact is that we encourage our families and feel better about ourselves when we make an effort to present ourselves in as lovely a way as possible. Taking care of ourselves does not have to be expensive. Here are ten drug store items that will help contribute to a neat and lovely appearance:

1) Pond's Cold Cream -- You can't beat this old basic. It takes off make-up, acts as an emergency moisturizer and body lotion when you are traveling and don't want to carry multiple products, and is very inexpensive.
2) Four-sided nail file/butter/shiner/polisher block. You can find these at the dollar stores. You can also find these in nail sections of drugstores and Wal-Mart. These do just more than file your nails into shape. They buff, shine, get rid of ridges, etc.
3) Neutregena (sp?) dry sunblock -- has a pleasant feel to the skin and protects the skin from sun damage. As a fair-skinned person who has spent too much time in the sun, I would recommend that any woman use sun protection. If you're under twenty, get i n the habit now to protect your skin for later. Much of the sun damaage that surfaces in our thirties and later is simply the visible working out of damage suffered before the age of twenty.
4) L'Oreal eye make-up remover -- I love this eye make-up remover. If you use Pond's, thoughk you don't need an extra eye-make-up remover unless you happen to enjoy a particular brand, as I do.
5) Cotton rounds/cotton puffs -- great for a number of uses, particularly in cleaning face
6) A nice lip gloss orm even better, a protective gloss such as Chapstick -- great for when you are not wearing lipstick or if you don't wear make-up in general. Protects lips and gives a subtle sheen. Can also be used under lipstick to smooth lips before lipstick application or over lipstick to soften the look.
7) A skin oil for body; some oils can also be used to deep condidtion hair. Drugstores often carry inexpensive oils.
8) Small make-up bags for organizing items in your drawer, purse, or suitcase. Can be used for more than make-up items -- Use one for items you may need such as a few safety pens, a spot remover pen, a few tissues, feminine protection, clear nail polish to stop runs in hose, a comb, etc. Choose one in a color that makes you feel cheerful.
9) A soothing body lotion, perhaps one with coconut oil in it or shea butter or some other soothing agent. Or use a lotion that is formulated to take care of extremely dry skin, such as Eucerin.
10) A bath pillow and some bath salts -- fill up that tub and soak your way to a relaxed body and soft skin.

Other inexpensive items to pretty up your bedroom and other areas of yoru home: scented candles,pretty candle holders or mirrored plates to catch the candle's glow, padded clothes hangers, closet sachets or cedar chips, a small container of philodendrum (hard to kill and quick to grow -- not expensive), lemons to put in a bowl or in a glass jar; glass containers fo rthe table such as you might use for salad dressings; pretty kitchen cloths or pot holders, etc.

If you wear make-up, you will find that many drugstore brands are as effective as more expensive make-ups. One exception might be foundation. It's good to visit a make0up counter and have someone help yo match your foundation exactly. Plus, the better cosmetic lines do have foudnations that really do look good on your skin. Of course, you can make drugstore foundations work for you. But, if you are going to purchase only one product from a more epxensive line, foudnation woudl be a good start.

There's a lot you can do on a small budget to look pretty and to add touches of lovliness to your home.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Cleaning/the bedrooms/other tips for moving into fall

Hello, everyone:

We're moving into fall. For your book of days, here are some ideas:

1) Take photos of your yard each week through the fall season and paste in your book. Or, take one a month for the next three months.
2) Jot down sights and smells of fall that delight you.
3) Write about how it feels to have accomplished a fall project.
4) Record anything sweet, cute, funny, or inspiring that your husband and children say.

For your home economics book, here's some ideas:

Continue to work out your plan for the fall. Jot down some fall recipes. Study what produce is available in your area during the autumn and make a menu plan that incorporates those foods.

The holidays are coming. Inventory your gift wrapping supplies. Do you have holiday papers? Do you need tape, labels, mailing paper, boxes, gift bags, ribbon, gift tags, etc.? Now's a great time to make sure that your holiday gift wrapping supplies are in order. Later on, when the holidays are nearer, bring out the materials you have put together this week and set up a holiday gift wrapping station. Be sure it's out of reach of little hands and pet. (I put my supplies in the corner of our bonus room.) Visit the dollar store for inexpensive wrapping supplies. Also, if you bought holiday papers or ribbons at an after-Christmas sale last year, make sure you know where you stored them!! Sometimes, Christmas items bought at after-Christmas sales don't make it into your regular Christmas storage, especially if you buy them after you have already cleaned up all of your holiday stuff.

Don't forget about Thanksgiving cards or Christmas cards if you use them.

If you plan to write a Christmas letter, start thinking of ideas.

The earlier you can be prepared, the smoother the holiday season will be. Fall is a busy, busy time for most keepers at home, so do the best you can with the time you have.

Are you still doing your fall cleaning? Now's a great time to reorganize and thoroughly clean your bedrooms.

Let's start with the master bedroom. This is either the room you share with your beloved spouse or the room where you sleep. A cluttered bedroom isn't conducive to either rest or romance. Yet, so often, we let the master bedroom become the catchall room. We've talked about that before, but now that we're moving into fall, it's time to take another look at this important room.

Here is a sample deep-cleaning plan for the master bedroom. You can either take a couple of intense days to do this or you can break it down into steps and spread those steps over a longer period of time. You can also adapt it to your needs. Everyone will have her own unique priorities for the bedroom.

1) Pick up any items that are out of place. Check the dresser, the floor, the nightstands, the bed, under the bed, etc. Throw away things that you do not use anymore. Throw away those little bits of trash that seem to collect on the floor of a bedroom and in little nooks. Put things that you want to use, but that either do not belong in the bedroom or that you want to move to another location in a box. Now's not the time to run all over the house to put those things away; you can do it when you are finished with the room. Put away clean clothes; wash any dirty items you may have found.
2) Dust down the ceiling, walls, corners, and baseboards of the room. If you have a ceiling fan in your room, dust that as well.
3) Rotate and/or flip your mattress so that it will wear evenly and not just in certain spots. This will prolong the life of your mattress. Vacuum your mattress. Wash all the bedding while you have everything off. If you haven't already switched to fall bedding, do that. For some of us, that simply means adding one extra blanket -- even a thin one. For those who live on cold climes, you may have a completely different set of bedding for fall than you do for winter.
4) Take down curtains or drapes and clean them or else vacuum them in place.
5) Dust all surfaces, furniture, etc. Polish furniture if desired. Repair any knicks or spots on furniture. Wash and iron and replace dresser scarves, etc.
6) Dust and clean knickknacks.
7) Make a note to turn the master bedroom clocks when the daylight savings time deadline arrives.
8) Clean the flooring in your bedroom according to what type it is. (hardwood, carpet, etc.)
9) Go through your lingerie. Toss out anything that doesn't look fresh anymore. Replace what you need to replace. Think ahead to cool weather. Do you need tights? Warm undergarments? A pretty nightie in a beautiful fall color?
10) Check hats, gloves, etc. If you store your coats in your closet, see if they need cleaning or any repair.
11) Do you wear jewelry? If you do, this is a good time to inventory it. Toss out or give away anything you don't wear anymore. Clean items that need cleaning. Does your wedding ring or engagement ring need maintenance? If so, take it in. Do you need to have any necklaces restrung? Do you need to untangle chains, get rid of that odd earring that no longer has a mate, etc.? Tip: Old costume jewelry can be a fun thing for your daughters to play with as is age appropriate.
12) We already talked about changing your wardrobe for fall. For those of us who are still in hot weather, that might mean simply putting away our most summery things right now. A good many people in the U.S. live in areas where three-season clothing can be worn almost year round. Some people like to dress in fall colors in the autumn. Others prefer to wear the colors that look best on them or are their favorites year round. It is your choice.
13) Polish fall shoes and handbags.
14) If you need to alter or mend autumn/winter clothing, now is a good time to do it or have it done. Do it before cold weather sets in! You may also want to have this chore out of the way before the holidays come, as well.
15) Do you want to paint your bedroom? Do you want to update it in any way? Make a list of things you'd like to do for your master bedroom and work it into your budget and into your calendar. It's probably best to do small things right now, as you might not want to be in the middle of a big painting job when the holidays roll around.
16) Do you have a master bathroom attached to your bedroom? Inventory towels and other needs. Add what you need. Throw away anything you don't want. Clean out all of the drawers and cabinets in your bathroom.
17) Polish or paint cabinets to freshen them, if you like.
18) Give your bathroom a thorough cleaning.
19) If you have bathroom curtains, clean them.
20) Replace shower curtain liner if appropriate.
21) Does your master shower or bath need re-caulking?
22) Clean bath mats
23) Clean tile. Do you need to re-grout the tile or clean the grout?
24) After cleaning thoroughly, polish translucent shower doors with something like Turtle Wax. This will prevent soapy build-up and make them easier to clean.
25) Clean and polish baseboards.
26) Do you have plants in bed or bathroom? Do they need re-potting?
27) Clean brushes, combs, hair tools, hair accessories

If you need to use your master bedroom for a double purpose, find creative ways to organize so that the purpose of your bedroom -- rest, relaxation, and, if you are married, romance -- is still the focus. Many people can't find any office or sewing or exercise space anywhere but in their master bedroom. If this is the case for you, do the best you can to keep your office/sewing materials neat so that they don't add clutter to the bedroom. Perhaps, you could make a screen or a curtain of some kind to partition off the area of your bedroom used for another purpose.

Follow the same cleaning method above for the other bedrooms in your home. Assign chores to children who are old enough to participate in this fall cleaning/re-organization.
If children have some ideas for creatively making their room their own, work with them to carry their ideas out as is appropriate for your budget and time.

If you are lucky enough to have a guest bedroom, be sure to include items that your guests will need. Also put out some interesting reading material or even pretty coffee-table style books. Provide a few sheets of stationary and some envelopes, as well as a pen. Make sure there is some space in a closet for hanging clothing and in a drawer for placing folded clothing.

Many of us use our guest rooms for a double purpose. It is probably better to do this with a guest room than your master bedroom, if at all possible. Again, be creative with storage ideas so that the room has a restful, rather than busy or cluttered, feeling.

Here are a few videos that give tips and ideas for bedrooms. Please note that just because I have put the video on here doesn't mean that I necessarily endorse everything in the video. These do, however, give some tips which you can use according to your discretion.

How to organize clothing drawers, especially when you share space with your husband.

How to organize kid's room:

How to fold hoodies so you can put them in drawers:

How to fold socks so that they fit well in drawers:

Woman who organized her closet to look like a boutique:

Ideas for organizing accessories:

Idea for a teenaged girl's room:

Another idea for a teenaged girl's room:

How to fold towels for bathroom:

Another method of folding towels:

How to fold your bedsheets:

How to make a bed:

How to turn a mattress:

How to put on a heavy blanket:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall cleaning/laundry organization/carpet terms

Here are a few more terms for our home economics glossary. These are related to carpets:

Berber -- a type of loop-pile carpet style. It is tufted with thick yarn such as wool or nylon or olefin. The Berber carpet may have random specks of color which contrast with the base hue. Berber carpeting gives an informal and casual look, yet it has a full and comfortable feel.
Luster -- brightness or sheen of carpets, fibers, yarns, or fabrics.
Pile -- the visible surface of a carpet -- It is made of yarn tufts in looped or cut fashion. Synonyms are nap or face.
Pile crush -- This is when the pile falls due to heavy traffic or wear. The pile loses thickness because the the tufts collapse into the air space between them. Sometimes, this is irreversible. However, regular vacuuming can help to keep the pile lifted so that the pile either does not crush to begin with or perhaps fluff up pile which has fallen.
Plush - Plush carpeting has a luxurious and smooth-textured curface. The individual tufts are only slightly visible. The overall appearance looks like a single level of yarn ends. This is usually a cut pile carpet, rather than a looped one.
Looped pile -- carpet pile made of uncut loops. This may be tufted or woven.
Tufted -- carpet made by pushing tufts of yarn through a carpet backing fabric.
Twist -- the twisting of yarn around itself. The twist should be neat and well-defined. A tighter twist increases the durability of the carpet.

On with fall cleaning --

How's your fall cleaning coming? This week, turn some attention to your laundry area. Make sure it's neat. Throw away any old products that you know you won't use. Clean washer and dryer. Clean the floor. Sweep between and around washer/dryer. Take a week or so to make your laundry area shine.

You will spend a lot of time in your laundry area. Make it as pleasant as you possibly can. Some will find it easy, as they have large laundry rooms that have the possibility for organizing and decorating beautifully. Other may find that their washer and dryer are tucked away in a less than pretty area. Even if you can't think of many ways to make your laundry area a lovely and inspiring place, try hanging up one painting, cross-stitch, or other cheerful item just to have a pretty focal point.

Try out these links for some laundry room inspiration:

Real Simple

Personal Organizing

Home and Garden

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall Cleaning

It's time to move on in our quest to organize our home for fall.

1) How are your recipes? Are they organized or scattered? Do you have a system for keeping recipes that aren't in cookbooks? Most people today like to keep them on their computers. However, if you, like me, don't care to lug your laptop to the kitchen or don't have a computer in your kitchen already, you might want to come up with another system. We discussed some ways to keep recipes and meal plans earlier in the course, but it's probably time to check again to make sure that things haven't gotten out of order.

2) How's your coat closet? Is it ready for fall wear? Do you have a boot or shoe mat for rainy days? Do you need one?

3) How's your car? Do you need to clean out junk? Is the interior clean? How about the exterior? A warm fall day is a great time to wash your car yourself. Do you need to add a trash sack to your car? How about an organizer for stuff that you usually carry? In what condition is the glove compartment? While you're at it, what about car maintenance? If your husband normally does the car maintenance, is there anything you need to ask him or tell him about how your car has been running?

My father in law was in the hospital over the holiday weekend suffering greatly from an infection he caught while in the hospital earlier for surgery. I've learned a lot about hospital-related infections, which have generally become strong and resistant to both antibiotics and cleaners. Be sure when visiting someone in the hospital to sanitize your hands -- both for the patient's sake and your own. Be aware that sinks, water fountains, and other moist places can harbor some of these hospital infections. There's no need to be freaked out about that, but do clean your hands as is appropriate and follow other precautions for avoiding disease.

In a time of illness, it's so nice to have a hand-sewing, knitting, or crocheting project to take along with you. My mother-in-law crocheted some cute hats to donate to chemo patients while she was sitting with my father-in-law. Sometimes, illnesses involve long periods of waiting, and it's helpful to have something for your hands to do.

Happy Home Keeping!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Labor Day

Don't forget that we will pass the Labor Day milestone this weekend. If you are of a traditional mindset, as I am, you will put away your brightest, lightest summer whites no matter what the outdoor temperature is. That especially includes bright summer white shoes, sandals, and purses. You will probably also put away your most summery looking prints, particularly if those prints show a lot of white background. True white blouses and T-shirts are appropriate any time of year, particularly if they have a bit longer sleeve, so you don't need to be concerned about those.

Of course, this is a cultural norm and a changing one at that, so no one's going to turn you into the fashion police if you prefer to keep wearing your whites. It is entirely a personal decision.

There is, however, some merit to the idea of dressing with seasonal colors in mind, even if you live in areas where the seasons don't really change that much. The fact is, bright white sandals and shoes do not look fresh with our more fall colored items -- even if those items are of a lightweight fabric. Even if you dress in your favorite colors year-round, as I do, you may still find that you look and feel fresher if you put away your brightest, lightest whites for the season.

Note that soft white, winter white, ivory, buff, oyster, champagne white, eggshell, and the like are lovely year round. However, even at that, you might want to pair these with slightly darker shoes, though, of course, it all depends on the overall look of the outfit. These soft or off whites are as flattering -- if not more so -- to the complexion as true bright white is. If you like the wonderful effect of wearing white, use these whites instead of bright white in the fall and winter months. Again, note that you can always wear a true white blouse with any outfit, provided that the cut of the blouse is appropriate to the outfit. However, unless you are one of the lucky 1/4 of the population that wears white well, you might consider using soft white even for blouses. This is particularly true during the cooler months, when you might not have as much sun-kissed color in your cheeks

When should you break out your summer whites again? Miss Manners would tell you that you should not don them one minute before next Memorial Day. She would tell you to wear bone shoes or a bone purse in the spring. I, on the other hand, side with the tradition of Easter as being fair game for wearing summer white -- weather permitting.

So, one of the first things to consider when looking at your wardrobe during our 12 week mission is whether or not you'd like to put away your most summery items for the time being.

Some summer clothing has a season-less look and can be worn until the weather turns too cold to wear your lightest weight items. You can extend your summer wear by pairing summer items with fall-weight or fall-colored items. For example, some summer skirts and blouses look lovely when paired with a light-weight sweater or jacket. Though this year may be the exception to the rule, we usually have a long, long fall here, and people can usually wear short sleeves, summer weight fabrics, summer capris, etc., for weeks and weeks to come. Even so, I stop wearing the most summery looking items of clothing after Labor Day. For example, I will put away my white capris, but continue to wear my khaki ones for a while.

Don't forget to clean your white clothing, white shoes, and white purses before retiring them for the season. Even if you continue to keep them in your regular closet, rather than storing them away, be sure that you leave them fresh and clean. You don't want to reach for them on a beautiful spring day next year, only to find that stains have set in and the item is no longer wearable. You should also take care of any raveling, missing buttons, etc. Tending to that now means that your wardrobe will be spring-ready. Also, if you clean your summer items thoroughly now that will keep these items smelling sweeter, which also makes for a sweeter smelling closet and/or storage area.


Moving right along --

I'm going to post a lot to make up for not having blogged as much during the summer. Remember our motto: Work at your own pace!! Don't feel obliged to keep up with my posts.

If you read my last post, you know that we've embarked on a 12-week fall cleaning plan. The first step was to go through the house and identify all of the things you would like to accomplish during these 12 weeks (or however many weeks you would like to devote to this.)

Here's our second step: We're going to deal with surface clutter before we get started on deeper organizing and cleaning. The neaties among us are asking, "What surface clutter?" The mostly efficient look around and see a few things to put away in their otherwise orderly house. The overwhelmed might be thinking, "Where on earth do I start to clear away all that clutter."

It doesn't matter where you're starting from. Set a timer for an hour and work at your own pace to clear away clutter and put things back in their place. If all you can find is one little scrap of paper that's fallen at the back of your closet, throw that away and enjoy the rest of the hour doing whatever you'd like. If you work for an hour and you don't feel as if you've even made a dent in things, that's okay. Stop and take a break. Whether your house is perfect or out of control or somewhere in between, limit this exercise to an hour. After the hour is up, either rest for a few minutes or move on to the other activities of your day. If you have children in the home who are old enough to help, enlist them in doing an hour with you. Think how much all of you will accomplish in one hour!

Concentrate first on the visual clutter -- the things that you can obviously see are out of place. If your house has no visual clutter, jump to suggestion number 4 in the list below.

If you like, you can carry a basket with you as you move about the house. You can put stuff in it that needs to go into another room. Work one room at a time, if you like. Then, when you reach a room, glance inside your basket to see if you have any items in there that need to go in their place in this room.

The point of this exercise is not to think too much about it, but to get as much as you can done in one hour. If you need trouble deciding where to put your priorities, here are a few suggestions:

1) How's your laundry situation? Now's not the time to start a new load. But, if you have a load folded and ready to put away, put it away. Also, if there are worn clothes that didn't make it into the dirty hamper, either get those into the hamper or have the person who wore them do this.
2) How's your entry way? Have you and others dropped keys, papers, books, shoes, etc. here? Tidy up anything that's out of order.
3) Take one surface at a time -- a dresser top, a counter top, a nightstand, the top shelf of a bookshelf, your mantel, etc. Tidy that surface and then move on to the next. For those who are organizationally challenged, concentrating on smaller visual areas is easier than sizing up a whole room or house. Count a room's floor as a surface, as well. You can even break down a floor into smaller visual areas: the floor on your side of your bed, the floor at the bottom of the bed, the floor underneath the bed, etc.
4) If your house is already fairly orderly and you'd like to get the jump on our fall cleaning project, here are some ideas: neaten out a jewelry box. Or, go through your unmentionables and toss anything that is too worn to be pretty any more. Or, send off a few of those cards and letters you've been meaning to get to. Any light organizing that you can do now will help you prepare for a thorough fall cleaning. Even cleaning a purse or going through your coupons counts.
5) How are your bathrooms? Are the towels crumpled or tidy? Are they clean or fresh? Have people left grooming aids out on the surfaces?

Remember, if your house has gotten away from you in the past few weeks or months, concentrate on the things that are visibly out of place. Unless your house is visually tidy, this is not the time to organize a closet or re-arrange your kitchen.

Taking care of visible clutter gives us peace of mind, and it also cuts down on a feeling of being overwhelmed. Starting out with some visually tidy and appealing surfaces will energize us as we go on to other projects.

Would you like to help teach the Home Economics Project? Here's how you can participate.

1) Do a craft project, photographing each step in your process. Post it on your blog, and leave me a note about it in the comments section of this article. I will then post a link to your site so that we can all visit and learn from you.
2) Cook a favorite recipe. Either list the recipe and ingredients in the comment section or post photos of you preparing the dish on your site. Again, I can post a link to your site so that we can all visit you.
3) Show us before and after photos of a space in your home, garage, or yard that you have organized, tidied, or otherwise beautified.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back at Class -- Renewing our Home Economics Project for the Fall

Can you believe it's September first already? It's time to get back to our Home Economics classes. We'll finish up projects we started during the spring and summer and move on to new heights in our strive to be excellent home keepers.

First, here's a link to an interesting article about how younger Australian women are largely yearning to be home keepers, while older Australian women see this a bit differently. A great exercise for our home economics notebooks would be to watch the video or read the transcript and ponder what your own goals in life are. You might also think about what cultural influences factor into your outlook. Take an honest appraisal of whether or not you see being a keeper at home your full time or part time occupation and whether you see it as drudgery or as a joy. There's not a write or wrong answer here. Just think about where you are in this spectrum and why. Note: The views in this article are just a snapshot, and the people who are interviewed are just representative of different views. The particulars might be vastly different for different people. Also, no mention of faith is mentioned in the decision making process for any of the women. So, write out what your own personal convictions are.

On to organization: It's time to do a fall cleaning!
Of course, you may live in a place like I do, where cold weather is still a long way off. Where I live, even in the winter, we have many mild days when its still possible to air rooms, dry items outside, and clean windows. However, September is still a great to get a jump on getting things in order before the season changes and before the string of fall holidays arrives.

Why do a fall cleaning?

Here are some reasons why fall is an important time to start a week by week sprucing up of your home. I've listed them roughly according to what your geographic situation might be:

For everyone:

1) Twice a year, it's a good idea to take inventory of your pantries, utility closets, and items in your storage areas. This doesn't have to be a written inventory, though it can be. You just need to make sure that items in these areas are clean, neatly organized, and that you have refreshed your memory about items in storage. Closets have a way of getting out of order, so some twice yearly tweaking is a good thing.

2) Twice a year, it's good to evaluate your family's health and nutritional needs. Does anyone need a checkup? If you live in an area with very defined seasons, will you be moving from heavier, warmer foods to lighter, cooler foods or vice versa? What foods are in season in your area? What about things like eye wear, dental care, etc.?

3) Do you need to start now to prepare for upcoming holiday festivities, especially if you will be hosting large gatherings at your house or having company in? Some of us have more fun during the holidays if we get a lot done ahead of time.

4) Twice a year, it's great to clean or vacuum curtains and draperies to cut down on dust, pet dander, etc. It's also good to pay a little extra attention to carpets, rugs, etc. Also, rotate mattresses, vacuum mattresses, and, when appropriate, change bedding to what is appropriate for the season. If you have been using a lightweight spread during the summer for example and you live where the winters are hard, you need to select a time when you will change to warmer bedding.

5) Do you have a schedule for maintenance during the next few months? Do you need to have your air system serviced and checked? Will you be closing down a garden or starting one, depending on where you live. Does your car need maintenance.

6) I consider this to be the most important item that needs attention: Twice a year, it's good to take stock of your household's clothing, as well as your own. What needs mending? What needs a once a year dry cleaning? Is something so faded or worn that it needs to be eliminated from your closet? What about socks, underwear, etc. Have your children grown out of their clothing in the past six months? Have you lost or gained weight? Are your closets and drawers organized and clean? Of course, you tend to these things on a year round basis, but taking a twice a year look at your family's clothing inventory helps you stay on top of your family's clothing needs.

Note: You do not have to accomplish all of these tasks right away. Break down your fall to-do list into small tasks and spread them out on your calendar so that you do not become overwhelmed. Allow yourself ten to twelve weeks to accomplish everything on your list. I'll be posting weekly action items that you can use as inspiration for your own ideas.

She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. Proverbs 31

A) Northern Hemisphere -- from coldest clime down to the sub-tropical areas that have at least a slight seasonal variation. In the northern hemisphere, we move from our warmest to our coolest temperatures over the next six months. For some of us, we are headed for an early, long, consistent winter while others of us may experience only a cool snap here and there.

In Great-grandma's day spring cleaning was the most important cleaning season of the household. This was because the methods of heating and cooling, as well as cooking, used back then created soot, grime, and a stale feeling during the winter. Now, if you live in a modern home or a modernized home and you clean well all year long, you might or might not experience the winter staleness that Great-grandma had to battle. The harder your winters are, the more likely you are to need an old fashioned house cleaning in the spring.

Nowadays, however, fall can be the time when our house most needs attention. All summer long, our families have been tracking in dust, pollen, etc. Our pets have shed down to their lightest coat. We might have spent more time outdoors doing fun things or gardening or, if we live on a farm, helping with farm chores. Plus, during late summer and early fall, extra pollens are in the air, which might irritate allergies in susceptible family members or even in pets. Our lawns have been mowed frequently, which can add to the stuff tracked inside. Windows may have become streaked from summer dust and summer rains. Even clean looking curtains might be harboring dust, dust mites, pet hairs, and pollens. All of this adds up to the fact that our homes might be less than fresh now that the summer bustle is settling down. Even if you have kept on top of your cleaning all summer long, you might want to do some extra, deep cleaning now before heading into a colder season.

The cleaning expert Don Aslett maintains that a fall cleaning is actually more important nowadays than a spring cleaning.

B) Tropical climes in both northern and southern hemispheres. You do not experience a change of seasons. Perhaps, you have rainy times and dry times. The rainy times bring their own home keeping challenges. Perhaps, your weather is pretty much the same all year round. Still, you might think in terms of breaking down deep cleaning tasks into quarterly or semi-annual times of evaluation and action. Or, you might simply work deep cleaning into your year-round schedule.

C) Southern hemisphere -- from coldest clime to semi-tropical areas with slight seasonal variations. Those who live in the southern hemisphere are moving from colder to warmer. Fall cleaning in the southern hemisphere prepares the home for warm weather, just as a spring cleaning does in the northern hemisphere. The tasks of deep cleaning and organizing are similar, though, not matter what the weather is like. So, if you are in the southern hemisphere, follow along with us. Just know that when we move from lighter clothing to heavier and cooler bedding to warmer, you will be doing the opposite. You will be celebrating many of the same fall and winter holidays, so you can follow along as we prepare for these festivities.

Week I -- task one: Walk through your home. Make a list of all the things you need to do to winterize/summerize your home. Jot down cleaning projects you've been meaning to get to, but haven't done. Take an evaluation of what you'd like to accomplish in the next six months. Keep up with your regular cleaning.

Spiritual, emotional, physical/appearance inventory: Don't forget to jot down the joys of home keeping in your keepsake book. Maybe, write a page or two about the happenings in your family for the last few months are so. In your home economics book, spend a little time evaluating what's going on with you. As a busy wife and mother, you might not have taken much time to reflect on this. Surrender anything in prayer that you need to. Set some goals, if you like. Don't overdo this. Too much focus on self is one way to end up in the pits. However, the opposite extreme of forgetting to be a good steward of your own soul, mind, and body is not healthy, either.

Remember, in our Book of Days keepsake notebook, we are concentrating on making wonderful memories. In this book, we write about the things that make us happy and thankful. This is a book we want to be able to pick up and read on a rainy day and find that it lifts our spirits.

In our home economics notebook, we look at both sides of life -- the happy and the sad, the hard and the easy, the blessings, and the trials. As you overcome a particular trial, that might turn into something you'd like to also record in your keepsake book: This period of time was hard because ______________, but this is how the Lord delivered me______________ or this is how I overcame _______________. Often the things that seem darkest in our lives at the time become the greatest blessings in our lives. However, it may take some time for us to be able to look back and see the jewels that were formed in the flames. So, once you do see blessings arising out of ashes, record that in your Book of Days.


Monday, August 17, 2009

New Thought for Home Keeper's Attitude

Last night, I was flipping through a book called, "She hath done what she could." A thought by the author inspired me to do some thinking along the same lines.

Do you recall that when the Lord commissioned Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and to the Promised Land, that Moses was not confident? His fear led him to make excuses to the Lord. Have you found that fear and excuses and inaction go together? I have found that to be true in my life. At any rate, God asked Moses a question:

Moses answered, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you'?"Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?""A staff," he replied. The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.

The staff was the tool of Moses' current trade -- being a Shepherd. It was what Moses had in his hand when the Lord called Him to a new adventure. It was only a humble tool in Moses' hand, yet the Lord transformed it and gave it power.

Moses lacked confidence and made excuses because he was looking to himself and his own abilities. Yet the Lord made Moses and the Lord called Moses. Once Moses surrendered to the Lord in obedient trust, the Lord worked through Moses to bless an entire nation. Moses had but to offer up what was in his hands to the Lord, and the Lord could bring life to it.

So often, we keepers at home underestimate their power to impact others by living a life of faith in the Lord. At any moment, we might feel shy or tired or wonder if our life is counting for something. When we feel insecure today, God might say to us today, "Woman, what is that in your hand?" If we give him what is in our hands -- if we give him our entire self -- God can use us to help others in a powerful way.

We need the faith to believe that God will use our hands to bless many. Our hands and the tools in them are meant to be extended in love to our husbands, to our children, to our friends, to our neighbors, the poor, to the neglected, to the lonely, to the suffering, to those who are rejoicing, to those who are hurting and confused, to other young wives and mothers, to our parents -- to all kinds of people.

What is in you hands today? Could it be...

A Bible?
The hand of your husband?
A baby?
A toddler to rock?
A brush to neaten your sweet child's hair?
A shoulder for your teen to snuggle on?
A grand baby?
A parent's arm?
Car keys?
A cell phone?
A blackberry with lots of applications?
A soothing salve to rub on someone's wound?
A cooking spoon?
A mixing bowl?
Children's Bible storybooks?
A tissue to dry someone's tears?
A bouquet of flowers?
Tomatoes or squash from a garden?
A gift for a teacher?
A broom or mop?
A dust cloth?
A bottle of perfume?
A needle and thread?
An iron?
Laundry detergent?
Clean sheets for your family members' rooms?
Clean sheets for the guest room?
The trembling fingers of an elderly neighbor?
Baby clothes to give to a new mother?
A challenging, but helpful book?
A pair of walking shoes to slip on?
A cook book?
A pair of scissors?
Artist's paints?
Wall paint?
A slip from a favorite flowering plant?
A garden trowel?
Loose change found when cleaning up?
Your weekly food budget money?
A list of Bible verses to memorize?
Paper and pen?
A computer keyboard?
An MP3 player?
A Wii control?
A memory stick?
A scrap book?
Photos that can be shared?
A bit of lace?
The ties of your apron?
A candle and a match?
A list of people in a nursing home?
A list of people who are sick and shut-in?
A list of people who can be congratulated for some happy life event?
The address of a new mother?
A pitcher of iced water and a glass?
Invitations to a tea you are hostessing?
A pie crust?
A garden hose?
A rake?
A bag of groceries?
A skein of yarn?
A few yards of material?
A sentimental object?
An object that is out of place and needs a home?
A bag of items for a charity store?
A present for a bride-to-be?
An obituary?
A birth announcement?
The hand of someone who is in deep sorrow?
The hand of someone who is rejoicing?
A scrub brush?
A text book?
Papers that need to be filed?
Tickets to the zoo?
A beach towel?
A freshly baked loaf of bread?
A jacket you no longer wear?
Clothing that needs mending?
Baby clothing or books to take to a hospital for mothers who cannot afford to buy these things.
Quilts or blankets for those who are sick?
Clothes to hang in your closet?
A warm scarf to wrap around a loved one's shoulders?
A car GPS?
A map?
A camera?
A basket?
A cloth grocery bag?
A book bag?
A grocery sack or plastic bag?
A pet leash?
A diaper?
A prayer list?
Bubble bath?
A note of apology?
A note of thanks?
A list of things to be thankful for?
A calendar?
A to do list?
Another person's precious baby, over whom you can silently pray?
A canning jar?
A journal?
A children's game?
A toy?
A potted plant?
A tablecloth?
A clothespin?
A dryer sheet?
A collander?
A rolling pin?
A cheese grater?
A huge pot of chili or soup?
A back rub to give to a husband or child?
A loving pat to bestow on a family member or friend?
A hug for someone who needs it?
A clap to show delight in someone?

What is in your hands today? Let God transform it into an object that yields blessing, love, and truth.

Happy Home Keeping

Friday, August 14, 2009

Are you wondering where I've been?

When I started the home economics project, a) it was winter and 2) I didn't realize how busy I'd be during the summer. So, I've not gotten around to posting lately. Why don't we call it a summer break, and I'll "start school" again next week.

In the meantime, I'd love to know if anyone's finished their crochet project!

Happy Home Keeping!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Home Keeper's Glossary -- Part III

Some cooking terms:

We've already discussed some cooking terms in past weeks of this course, so, in this glossary, I'll include ones that we haven't mentioned previously.

Albumen - egg white
Al dente -- literally "to the tooth" in Italian. Dried pasta and some vegetables are best cooked al dente, which means that it is somewhat firm. It is the perfect point between being underdone and too done. If pasta is underdone, it will have a floury taste and be too hard in the center. If it's overdone, it will be too soft and won't have enough texture. The pasta should be firm enough that it requires some chewing (al dente), rather than being mushy and dissolving in the mouth. Likewise, many enjoy vegetables that are cooked just to the point of being tender, yet crispy.
Aspic -- a dish in which foods are set into a clear jelly that is made from stock or occasionally from fruit or vegetable juices; tomato aspic is a popular aspic.
Arrowroot -- is most often used for thickening sauces, fruit pie fillings, and other foods. It is a white powder that is processed from the root of a West Indian or rainforest plant known as arrowroot or Maranta arundinacea. It is an easily digested starch. It does not provide a lot of nutrition. However, some people believe it soothes upset stomachs. Therefore, some people make or buy arrowroot cookies to eat as a digestive aid.
Bain-marie -- this term is used both to describe a method of cooking and the dish used in this method. The method consists placing one dish containing a delicate food -- such as a custard or a flan or chocolate to be melted -- into another dish containing water that is heated just to the simmering point. The dish is a special container that holds the simmering water.
BĂ©chamel – A classic white sauce made with whole milk thickened with a white roux. It is flavored with aromatic vegetables.
Roux -- A mixture of flour and butter used to thicken sauces. It is the starting point for some sauces and gravies.
Bisque -- a rich-tasting soup made of pureed vegetables or shellfish. It is generally thickened with rice and has cream in it.
Boiling -- to cook in water or other liquid that is heated to the point of bubbling or boiling vigorously. A rolling boil is a very fast boil that doesn't slow down even when you stir it. Water boils at 212F at sea level.
Simmer -- cook in liquid kept just at the point of boiling or just below the boiling point. About 185 to 200 degrees F.
Some recipes may require that you boil, simmer, or poach to an exact temperature, and this requirement should be observed. Most cooks, however, can judge by the eye whether a liquid is at a rolling boil, is just at the boiling point, is simmering, or is suitable for poaching. That is fine for discerning how to cook many foods. Most cooks, for example, know how to bring a soup or stew to boiling and, then, keep it simmering for a couple of hours. However, some foods are easily ruined by boiling too vigorously or, conversely, undercooking, so practice and careful attention help the cook avoid many mistakes.
Chop -- to cut into fine, irregular pieces
Chiffonade -- fine shreds made by rolling several herbs or leafy vegetables together and slicing the roll at intervals of about 1/16th to 1/8 of an inch
Dice -- to cut into cubes
Poach -- cook in liquid that is just barely simmering -- about 160 to 180 degrees F
Clarify butter -- to remove the milk solids and water from butter. This is done so that the butter may be used at higher temperatures without scorching. it is also done so that you can use the clarified butter as a dip or sauce for items like seafoods. This can be done by melting the butter slowly in a pan, skimming off the watery foam that rises to the top and pouring the clear butter liquid off of the milk solids, which settle to the bottom. You can buy butter that is already clarified. This is commonly called ghee.
Persillade -- a chopped mixture of parsley and garlic
Prosciutto -- a salt-cured, air-dried ham Italian or Italian-style ham. If it is crudo, it is raw; if it is cotto, it is cooked.
Roulade -- a slice of meat rolled around a stuffing
Pilaf -- a technique for cooking rice in which the rice is sauteed in butter first and, then, simmered in water or broth.
Rice -- a) cereal grain that is the seed of the Oryza sativa plant, which is a member of the grass family
b) to sieve a food so that it becomes the consistency of rice.
Basmati rice -- an aromatic long-grain rice from India
brown rice -- rice from which the chaff has been removed, but which still contains the germ and the bran -- the whole grain form of rice
white rice -- rice from which the germ and the bran have been removed; white rice keeps longer than brown rice, and it has a taste and consistency which many people enjoy. However, it lacks some nutrients that wild rice contains. In cultures which eat a mainly rice based diet, white rice must be supplemented with brown rice in order to provide optimum nutrition and to prevent health problems, such as the disease beriberi.
Long grain rice -- long grains of rice which tend to remain distinct after cooking.
Medium grain rice -- medium length grains of rice. These tend to be sticky after cooking, and they are suitable for Italian risotto, as well as in sweet dishes.
Short grain rice --This is also known as round rice or pearl rice. When cooked, it is moist and sticky.
Superfino -- the finest grade given to the finest Italian risotto rice.
arborio rice -- a rice grown in the Po Valley in Italy.
Parboiled rice -- subjected to a steaming or parboiling process while it is still brown rice. This moves the nutrients from the outer husk into the grain itself. The grains turn from white to yellow and are also less brittle. The rice can then be dried and milled or dried and used as a whole grain rice. Parboiled rice does not stick to a pot when cooked as much as other rice does.
Wild rice -- Wild rice is not truly rice, but like rice, it is the seed of a grass. Wild rice is the brown seed of a northern water grass.
Skim -- to gently lift off unwanted foam or fat from the surface of a stock, broth, soup, or sauce. Also, to separate the fat off the top of milk, so that you end up with a quantity of cream and a quantity of skim milk.
Zest -- The rind or shavings from the rind of a lemon or orange.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Home Keeper's Glossary Part II

More cleaning terms:

Ammonia: NH3 -- a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen. Ammonia is a very strong base. It is a powerful and inexpensive cleaning agent. It is an ingredient in many cleaning formulations, but many home keepers prefer to buy a bottle of inexpensive ammonia and dilute it themselves for a variety of cleaning purposes. This saves a lot of money when compared to buying already formulated cleaners. Ammonia can be used to clean jewelry, used in laundry, to clean windows, to clean bathrooms, to clean drains and traps, and for other household uses. Warning: Ammonia is very strong, with very strong fumes. Never use in an area in which you have just used a product containing chlorine (bleach), for the combination produces a noxious gas. Also, follow directions on the bottle for safe handling. Wear gloves. Use ventilation. As with all cleaners, make sure that you keep it out of reach of little ones. While ammonia is strong, it is a naturally occurring chemical and is actually a precursor to fertilizer for plants. Thus, when used properly and according to directions, it is not toxic to the environment.

Borax: A naturally occurring chemical that has a variety of cleaning and household uses; Borax is made up of sodium, boron, oxygen and water and is sold in powder form for household uses. Borax can be used as a laundry booster, mixed with water to soak baby clothing or stained clothing, to eliminate odors in clothing, to clean bathrooms, to dry flowers, to repel roaches (though it does not always work), to condition laundry and remove hard water chemicals, diluted with water and sponged on carpets to clean them, to clean counters in the kitchen, and other uses. It's pretty inexpensive and pretty safe, so it's a great addition to have in your cleaning arsenal. Note: Most modern laundry detergents already have boosters in them. If you decide to use borax with your laundry detergent, add it a few minutes after your laundry cycle starts so that it does not compete with the boosters in the detergent.

Baking soda: Bicarbonate of soda -- a natural, inexpensive, safe substance that has so many uses in the home I can't list them in this glossary. Most keepers at home keep this in their pantry and use it for at least a few purposes. If you want to be a frugal home keeper, research the many ways that inexpensive baking soda can be used. You might be surprised to find some ideas you had not thought about.

Bleach: A bleach is something that whitens a fabric and removes color and stain, often by the process of oxidation. There are many types of bleaches. Even the sun can act as a bleaching agent. For purposes of this glossary, we'll concentrate on chlorine bleach, which can be used in laundry and cleaning. It is an inexpensive cleaner. Most of us are aware of the many uses of chlorine bleach. We are also aware that it must be used safely. (Though some of us -- cough cough -- have been known to forget to wear an apron when cleaning with bleach and accidentally bleach one's clothing.) While bleach is strong and must be used with care, it does break down into chemicals that are non-toxic to the environment. Bleach is a strong germ killer, and the Chlorox site offers information about using bleach to help keep down H1N1 germs.

Biodegradable: If a substance is biodegradable, it will break down into smaller parts by biological processes. Such substances are generally organic in nature, and microorganisms can transform them or break them down so that they are not a waste problem or remain toxic to the environment.

Buffer: Have you ever seen "buffers" on the list of ingredients of a cleanser? Buffers are added to cleansers to help keep the PH stable. Buffers usually don't change much when a little acid or a little base is added. Most buffers actually consist of a weak acid and a weak base that, together, resist drastically changing when another acid or base is added to the formulation.

Caustic: strong alkaline substance which irritates or injures skin tissue. Care should be used when handling a caustic cleanser, such as ammonia.

Enzymes: Enzymes are a type of protein, made as all proteins are of amino acids, and produced by biological organisms. The enzymes in your cleansers are taken from microorganisms that are purposefully cultivated for this purpose. These enzymes are added to cleaning products. They improve the laundry process. Proteases act on stains that contain proteins. Amylases act on starch based stains. Lipases are effective in removing oil and certain food stains, as well as oils from the body.Cellulases are general cleansers and are effective in removing dirt stains.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Home Keeper's Dictionary (Glossary) Part I

Cleaning Terms:

Abrasion- Can refer to purposefully cleaning something by the application of friction (elbow grease :)) or to the unwanted wearing away of a finish or other item or substance by friction.

Abrasive Cleaner -- a cleaner that works by a texture that creates friction. For example, you might use an abrasive pad to clean an iron pot or you might use a powder or other type of cleaner that has an abrasive texture to it. Be careful to use abrasive cleaners only on surfaces that can handle abrasion without being damaged.

Acid -- Some cleansers are acid-based. Acids are compounds that ionize in water to produce hydrogen items. You often find acidic based cleansers in in toilet cleaners, rust removers and hard water stain removers. Vinegar is a mild acid that has a number of household cleaning applications. Do your homework before using an acidic cleanser -- even vinegar. An acid cleanser has a PH significantly below 7 -- generally around 5. Acids react with soil molecules to form a water-soluble molecule that can be wiped or rinsed away.

Alkaline cleanser -- Alkaline cleansers have a PH significantly above 7. Alkalies dissolve in water to contain more hydroxide ions than hydrogen ions. Alkaline substances feel soapy -- at least the ones that are in formulas mild enough to touch. Like acids, alkalies can be extremely strong. Baking soda is a very mild alkaline that has many household cleaning applications. Again, do your homework before applying alkaline cleansers to a particular surface.

Alcohol -- Alcohol is an organic compound that is frequently used in cleaning solutions. Usually, alcohols used in cleaners are methyl, propyl, and butyl. These are not the form of alcohol that is drinkable, and they are dangerous if consumed by mouth. Alcohols have disinfectant properties. You can use ordinary rubbing alcohol for many household cleaning purposes.

Aqueous -- This just means that a cleanser is water based.

Cleaner -- This simply means a single chemical or a chemical formula used to clean something. A cleaner may be a solvent, an acid, an alkali, a detergent, and a water based blend. Be careful with mixing cleaners or any other household chemicals as some combinations produce noxious gases. One famous example of a noxious gas inadvertently produced by using cleaners in the same area at the same time or when mixed is the accidental combination of bleach and ammonia. Before the dangers of combining bleach and ammonia or using them near each other at the same time were widely publicized, home keepers who fainted from the mixed fumes accounted for many emergency room visits

Detergent -- A cleaner that acts similarly to soap, but is made from chemical compounds instead of fats and lye. Detergents are less affected by chemicals in water than soaps are. Laundry detergent and laundry soap powder both clean clothing, but they are not exactly the same thing, for example. Detergents enhance the cleaning power of water. A detergent has an emulsifier in it. An emulsifier penetrates the oil film that binds dirt particles and breaks them up. A detergent also has a wetting agent in it, which helps the dissolved particles to wash away. Detergents use alkaline properties of cleaning. You'll often see sodium carbonate on the labels of modern detergents. In the case of laundry detergents, scents and bleaches may be added. In popular lingo, soap and detergent ares sometimes used interchangably. However, it's good to know the difference in order to correctly interpret labels on cleaning products.

Solvent -- A solvent is a liquid which dissolves another substance. Water can be a solvent. Some solvents are anhydrous, meaning without water. Solvents often contain carbon, making them organic (in the chemistry sense, not the "green" sense). Dry cleaning fluid is an example of an anhyrdrous solvent.

Soap -- A soap is a cleanser that is the salt of a fatty acid. For example, you can make soap by adding potash (an alkali) to a fat. Similarly, Castillo soap is made of soda added to olive oil. Soaps are used with water to produce suds or, in other words, a lather. The lather has a cleansing action. Soaps are a wonderful way to clean many things. One drawback is that when used in hard water, the soap can react with minerals to form a soap scum. This can dull clothing or shower surfaces.

Soap flakes -- Soap Flakes were the first mass produced laundry soap. They were originally manufactured by Lever Brothers, who continued to produce them until 2001. They are made of a 100% vegetable base and have no bleaches phosphates, enzymes or perfume. Soap flakes are biodegradable. You can find more information, including a recipe to make your own Ivory soap flakes, on the Internet.

Saponification -- the process of making soap.

Soils -- a wide number of substances that attach themselves to surfaces forming a pollutant.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Housekeeping -- Pests

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal. Matthew 6:19-20

Don't you love summer? The sunny days seem to bring one delight after another: garden bounty; picnics; flowers; vacations; etc.

We're not the only ones who love summer. As I mentioned in an earlier post, a number of insects flourish during the warmer months. For those who live in tropical or semi-tropical climates, these can flourish almost year round.

Two common summer pests are ticks and fleas. A few years ago, I attended the loveliest outdoor wedding I think I've ever seen. Alas, after the ceremony was over, several guests found shade underneath a beautiful tree. Two of the guests later came down with Lyme disease from tick bites.

Your first line of defense against fleas and ticks -- at least as far as concerns the inside of your home -- is to treat any pets that go in and out of doors. Today, there are many safe medications on the market. The best are those prescribed by veterinarians. If you do use something over the counter, be careful which you choose. I once applied a supermarket brand of tick and flea medicine to two cats, both of whom had a terrible reaction. When I called the vet, the vet said that they had encountered many problems with pets who were treated with this brand, as it can affect the nervous systmem. Fortunately, our cats survived, but I will not use that product again.

If your pets go outside, you are quite likely to have a flea infestation in your home, even if you do not realize it. Good housekeeping can keep the number of fleas in your home to a minimum, and you might not even notice them. However, if you were to go away on a trip for a week, you might come home to find that the few living fleas have multiplied in your absence. So, it's best to treat your pets before you see a problem.

Having said that, your second line of defense is to vacuum thoroughly and frequently. If your vacuum is the type that has bags, be aware that fleas can survive in the bag. Change bags frequently. If you know you have an infestation, change bags every time you vacuum.

Be sure to pay extra attention to the area around your pet's bedding and in any area where your pet lounges. Vacuum these areas thoroughly. Wash your pet's bedding on a regular basis -- even more frequently if you know you have a flea problem.

If you don't have pets, it's still possible to bring in a flea or tick infestation. Whether you have animals or not, check yourself and your children for ticks when you have been near or in wooded areas. Check after camping, hiking, or picnicking. Check pets for ticks, as well. Also, you might want to check your carpet occasionally to see if fleas have made their home there.

A third method of defense against fleas and ticks is to keep your lawn mowed and yard trimmed. Of course, if you live on a farm or if the area surrounding your house backs up to natural areas, you will not be able to keep down fleas and ticks simply by mowing. Again, it's wise to do vigilant checks to make sure that your family members and pets are not bringing fleas and ticks indoors.

If all else fails, and you find yourself fighting a stubborn problem, consult a pest control service that is both aware of human health and environmental concerns.

Being able to enjoy the outdoors is a delight for both people and their pets. If you take a few simple precautions, you can have fun under the summer sun without bringing unwanted ticks and fleas indoors with you.

Another summer pest is the chigger. When my husband and I were in our first year of marriage, we rented a home, and the yard was infested with chiggers. One Saturday, we hosted a cookout for quite a few people from our church. Being the newlyweds that we were, my husband and I were so excited to host our first outdoor gathering as a couple. The next day, everyone at church was itching! Our new little yard was infested with the little critters.

Here's an article which provides information about chiggers. Here is another resource.

When I was growing up, a typical home remedy for chigger bits was to brush them with clear nail polish. The belief was that this suffocated the chigger. It seemed to work just fine. However, modern thinking is that the chigger does not actually burrow into a person's skin, but only bites and leaves behind saliva. It's the saliva that actually makes you itch. So, solutions such as nail polish are not the best treatment for the itching.

Some pests do not bite living beings but prefer to dine on fibers. One way to avoid moths, silverfish, and the like is to make sure that you keep your clothing clean. Whenever you store items for a season, make sure that they, too, are clean. One way to do this is to air and brush fabric items before storing them. Bugs are attracted to soil in clothing.

One of the most persistent of summer pests is ants. Here's a useful article about managing fire ants. Here's an article about dealing with the type of ants that invade the home.

Of course, the most famous of summer pests is the mosquito. Here's a resource that details seven methods for dealing with these pesky insects.

Happy homemaking!