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.