Favorite "Meditation of My Heart"

Call unto me,

and I will answer thee,

and shew thee great and mighty things,

which thou knowest not. --Jeremiah 33:3 KJV

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dishwasher Soap & other failures

I have been trying since New Year's to perfect a homemade dishwasher soap (liquid or powder).  So far each batch is an improvement, but I'm still not yet pleased with any of them.  This last batch reminded me of the Palmolive Eco Friendly stuff at the store.  My dishes got clean, but some plastics had a filmy white coat on them.  I didn't like it when I bought it at the store and don't like it even when I can make 7 times as much for the price at home.  However, my search will continue and I'll keep you posted if I find an affordable alternative to Finish (R) dishwasher detergents.

In my quest for dishwasher soap, I discovered an old soap called Kirk's Castile Soap.  It's been on the market since 1839 and it is for hard water.  Plus its hypo-allergenic, all-vegetable based and it has amazing lather.  Its clean feeling like Ivory, but it is less drying.  I think someone with dry skin (like my younger kids) would still find it too drying, but normal to oil skin would enjoy this fresh clean soap.  The soap is very hard and it does not melt away if left on the ledge of the tub in a puddle of water by a spouse, for a tested example.  The link to buy Kirk's from Amazon is on my picks at the lower left of this page.  I think you will be impressed.

Now I must confess that there are homemade products out there that I love, like those I've shared this month, but there are others that unlike dishwasher soap, did not result in even finding a new, fabulous bath bar.  For example, making baby wipes is not for everyone.  I got icky, soggy, slimy, wet paper towels when I first tried it.  Plus in order for my "homemade" wipes to work, I had to use top of the line Bounty so 400 wipes cost me $3.50.  I can do almost as well with coupons and sales on brand name baby wipes so the budget is going to need to get tighter before I start making our own slimy baby wipes.

I must ALSO confess that I have some "dream" make-at-home-for-less recipes that I have not yet been able to find....things like scrubbing bubbles bathroom cleaner, disposable diapers, trash bags with the drawstring, tissue paper (Kleenex), and infants Tylenol....although I did make aspirin in Chemistry lab in college (BUT I wouldn't have tried it, even for bunches of money)....HOWEVER, if there was something that I could spin straw into, it would NOT be gold.  It would be Angel Soft Toilet Paper.  We use shocking amounts per month and I still have 4 in diapers full time!  This month I tracked our usage and this morning I put out double rolls 72, 73, and 74!  I am officially on a campaign to educate my family on how much toilet paper is actually needed to do the job.  If education cannot reduce usage of TP, then Plan B may be to encourage the family to use the restroom at school, church, friend's houses and not so much at home...if we lived closer to a city park, I'd close the home bathrooms from dawn to dusk! (Joking!...Sort of...NO, no, what am I thinking...well, its a good thing the park is a long ways away!  I don't have to be tempted! ) My husband is doubting that my efforts to conserve and shift costs will work so he is praying for a stock-up sale price tip from the Crazy Coupon Lady.  I, on the other hand, am hoping for a an April Fools morning with toilet paper still on the roll and with my Kirk's Castile Soap on dry "land" in the shower...I guess a wife and mom can dream! 

But who may abide the day of his coming?
and who shall stand when he appeareth?
for he [is] like a refiner's fire,
and like fullers' soap --Malachi 3:2

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Carla's Recipes

My cousin Carla always had a new recipe to try out on us at family gatherings.  From her teen years (my earliest memories), I remember her always bringing a new recipe to reunions or when just visiting.  It was usually dessert and it was usually, unusual but delicious!  As a small tribute to Carla I am going to share a few of my favorite Carla recipes.  And yes, they are all desserts!

Apple Pie
Kneed together:
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Flour 
And pat out in the pie pan.  (This is the bottom crust.)

Mix 6 cups sliced fresh apples, 1 1/2 cup sugar, 3 T. Flour & 1 t. cinnamon.
This is the filling.  Put it in the pie pan.

Mix 1 cup melted butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 cup flour. 
Pat out by hand and lay on top of the apples in the pie pan. 
(I pat it out on wax paper and then put it on top.)

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. (About 35-45 minutes)

Zucchini Bread
3 cups raw grated, unpeeled zucchini
1 cup oil
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar (1 brown & 1 white)
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 1/2 cup chopped nuts (such as walnuts)
1 1/2 cup coconut
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla  

Mix together.  For variations, add canned fruit or raisins. 
(I sometimes omit the nuts.) Put in small loaf pans.
Cook at 325 degrees for 60 to 90 minutes depending on the size of the loafs.
This is a VERY moist bread and freezes well.

Zucchini Brownies
Cream together:
1/2 c oleo
 1 1/2 c sugar
 2 eggs

Mix in 2 c flour
1 t baking soda
 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 T. cocoa

Then stir in 2 c grated zucchini
1 c chocolate chips
and chopped nuts if desired

Bake at 350 degrees in 9X13 greased and
floured pan for 40-45 minutes. Frost if desired or eat as is. 
My kids like it with Hershey syrup drizzled over it.
Freezes well unfrosted.

Photo from 2009:  Grace & David eating strawberries
dipped  in sour cream and brown sugar.  Carla, Corrine
& Grandma are visiting in the background. 

Carla and our cousin Brenda taught my kids the "only" way to eat strawberries.  Hold on to your hats because this is weird and even weirder is the fact that ALL my kids like it.  Dip a fresh strawberry in sour cream and then in brown sugar and enjoy!  I don't agree with my kids about it being the "only" way, but it is a very delicious way to enjoy fresh strawberries!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What a week!

It all started Monday morning and the week has done its best to roll right over me.  So when I was trying to figure our what I made this week...well the only answer that came to mind was ..... MESSES!  Yep, it was that "good" of week! 

Pre-inflating the new MicKey button
to make sure it didn't leak before
putting it in Nate's side.

Monday morning 5am Mr. Workman went to connect Nate to his feeding tube while I was showering.  He soon discovered Nate's Mic-Key button (which is the part that goes through Nate's side and into his stomach) laying on the bed next to Nate.  It was dry so it had been out for awhile.  The hole for a feeding tube closes quickly, if the tube comes out...so needless to say PANIC ensued after this discovery.  We had some spare part such as a variety of sized catheters left from Jon's problems with his button, and we were able to get a smaller sized catheter in the hole to keep in from closing up more.  However, due to the awkwardness of the catheter and limits of what tape can hold, Nate kept pulling out the catheters!  Very stressful morning!  PLUS Ed's car was in the shop so he HAD to take a sick day so I would have a car to get Nate's new button.

So Monday was a wreck of a day,  Mr Workman and I got to put in Nate's new button ourselves at 2:30pm when the supplier finally found it.  We immediately hooked a VERY grouchy Nate to eat and he went to sleep.  We assumed our excitement for the week was over, but it was just starting!

To fast forward through the highlights, that evening we went to get the Prius from the garage and they would not accept our check because the check number was not printed in magnetic ink at the bottom of the check near the routing and account number.  The bank was already closed so we couldn't just go get cash.  No car until Wednesday afternoon!  Grace has the National Christian HomeSchool Basketball Championships playoffs in Springfield this week so I took her to grandma's before coming home and crashing in bed.

Anita at In His Image did take some
awesome new photos of Nate this week.

Tuesday:   Grace's team lost their first game of the Championship and the orthodontist found a cavity at her appointment today. Our babysitter for Wednesday had to cancel at the last minute.  A BIG thank you to Layna who agreed to babysit with less than 10 hours notice!  Saddest part of the day was my cousin Carla was transferred to the Hospice House in Omaha.  This is Mr. Workman's long day with college class so when he got home at 10pm, I was exhausted.

Wednesday:  Was THE immigration appointment for Nate.  It went well, but no answers were reached so time continues to tick on when we could be forced to return him to Haiti.  Everyone tells us not to worry because its being worked on, but nothing seems to be happening!  As a cherry on the top of the day, Mr. Workman messed up his substitute plans for the day!  I knew I had let home stresses get to him to have something like this happen!  BUT we did get our car from the garage with cash and Grace's team WON their game today.

Carla & I around 1975

Thursday:  My cousin Carla passed away.  When you have a large family, you have members who everyone knows because they are a friend to everyone, they value family connections and they are at reunions and gatherings.  Then you have others that only their immediate family know.  Carla is one that everyone in our large family knew and loved.  Her obituary written by her nieces does a great job of explaining the wonderful life Carla lived.  The sadness is overwhelming...  (Grace got her cavity filled today and her team WON again.  Mr. Workman had parent teacher conferences tonight & it was a half day at school AND 6 months ago I agreed to speak at a Springfield HR group luncheon today.  I ran behind all day, but got it all done thanks to Sis. Anderson's help with my kiddos.  Finally, got the kids to bed and worked on taxes until Mr. Workman got home.  Not my best work today, but the day is done and sometimes that has to be good enough.)

Friday:  The kids are out of school and I was exhausted already.  I made spaghetti & meatballs for lunch in hopes of leftovers for supper....wrong!  The kids ate 60 of 64 meatballs and 4 of the 5 pounds of pasta for lunch!  Overall fun day with the kids.  We played, but they also entertained each other so I could get some of my work caught up.  They were SO good overall.

Today:  This morning we learned that Hannah's special education teacher, Bonnie Gary, had a brain tumor discovered yesterday and it is being removed today.  We are asking friends to add her to their personal & church prayer lists.

For this God is our God for ever and ever:
he will be our guide even unto death.--Psalms 48:14

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Crock Pot Favorites!

I love my crock pots! Yes I said pots. Plural. It is not uncommon for us to eat 3 or 4 meals a week out of the crock pot. A couple years ago, after the tornado, I used a crock pot daily and our construction workers would say the delicious smells were very distracting. One worker said that he never let his wife cook in a crock pot because it all tastes the same. A bowl of roast & veggies later, and he was asking for some recipes to take home along with the crock pot that he said he would be picking up on the way home! It made me feel good to know that it wasn't just my imagination that crock pot meals are super flavorful.

Italian Chicken
4-6 chicken breast (frozen or thawed)
1 cup chicken broth or other liquid
1 block of cream cheese
1 packet of Italian Dressing Seasoning Mix

Toss all this in the crock pot in the order listed. Put on the lid and place on low for 4-5 hours if thawed OR 5-6 hours if frozen. Stir in some cheese (such as 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of parmesan) and serve over pasta or rice. I sometimes add broccoli and/or slice mushrooms or carrots to the pot at the beginning for variety. It’s ALL good!

Okay so the next 2 recipes involve cooking wine (salted) and
I know this is not acceptable for some people so a possible
substitute is chicken broth with meat tenderizer added.
Red cooking wine is found near vinegar in most stores.

Slow Cooked Beef Roast
6 or 7 celery stalks trimmed
3 to 5 lb. beef roast (thawed)
1 to 2 cup(s) of red cooking wine depending on roast size
1 can Campbell's Select Harvest French Onion Soup
1 can Campbell's Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom*
1/2 to 1 lbs. of carrots**
2 to 3 lbs. of sliced or cubed potatoes**
5 to 8 sliced or quartered mushrooms**

Place a single layer of celery on the bottom of the crock pot like a grate to keep the meat off the heat at the bottom. Add the ingredients in the order above. Put the lid on and set the crock pot on low for 8 to 10 hours (depending on the size of the roast). Stir before serving.
*Brand doesn't matter, unless you want it to be MSG-Free.
**Optional.  I rarely add the extra mushrooms.

Beef Stroganoff
2 lbs lean stew meat
1 lb mushrooms (washed & quartered)
1 cup red cooking wine
1 onion (chopped)
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 t. cracked pepper
At the end:
    2 T. cornstarch
    2 T. Dijon mustard 
    1/2 cup of sour cream

Put all the ingredients in a crock pot and stir. Set on low and cook for 8-9 hours. After 8-9 hours, you need to thicken the juices and add two final ingredients. In a microwave safe dish, combine 2 T of cornstarch with 2 T of water and stir together. Then ladle off 1 cup of broth from the crock pot into the cornstarch mixture. Stir and microwave 30-45 seconds at a time. Stirring each time the microwave stops until the mixture boils. Then stir this thickened liquid into the crock pot and stir. Finally turn off the crock pot and stir in the mustard and sour cream. (I like to mix some dill weed into the sour cream before adding it.) Then serve over egg noodles. We especially like it with a slice of crusty hot French bread on the side.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cake That Won't Make It to the Church Dinner

This past Sunday was our Pastor's Anniversary of 19 years of service to the Lord at our church.  I was intending to bring a dessert that is a crowd pleasing favorite, but as usual my crowd at home got to it first.  The cake is called Mexican Chocolate Cake and my Aunt Treva gave us the recipe years ago.  It is great for church dinners or other large groups because it bakes in a flat "cookie" sheet (mine is 12x17x1) so when serving a big crowd it makes at least 24 servings (20-3x3 pieces and 4-2x3).

When I was in college, a small Italian restaurant had a very similar cake that they sold for $2 per piece and they called it Texas cake.  It wasn't as good as my aunt's recipe, but it would help satisfy the craving (especially since this is not a cake to be baked and left sitting in an apartment with 1 or 2 people to be tempted to eat it all). 

Mexican Chocolate Cake
1 stick butter
1/2 C. vegetable oil
2 squares unsweetned chocolate OR 4 T cocoa
1 C. water
2 C. flour
1 t. baking soda
2 C. sugar
1/2 C. sour milk* 
2 eggs
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla

*Add 1 1/2 t. vinegar to "sour" the milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine butter, oil, chocolate, and water in a sauce pan.  Heat on medium low until fairly smooth.  Remove from heat.

Combine flour, baking soda, sugar, milk, eggs,  and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add the first mixture and stir.  Put the mixture in a cookie sheet (no oil, spray, etc) and bake until done (about 35 minutes in my oven).  Test doneness with a tooth pick.  Let cool for about 20-30 minutes and add the icing while the cake is still warm. 

1 stick butter
4 T. cocoa
6 T. milk
1 pound powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. chopped nuts such as pecans (optional)

Combine butter, chocolate and milk in a saucepan and stir over medium low heat until smooth.  Remove from hear and stir in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Ice the cake while the cake is still warm.  After it cools, garnish with pecans or other nut, if desired. 

AND last but not least, find a safe hiding spot for the cake until you're ready to serve it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Laundry Soap Savings

With gas prices on the rise, I am sure we are all looking for co$t saving ideas.  So with my blog theme this month being "Made in March", I'm going to start the month with a new favorite inspired by Marie at Cottage Homestead.  About 2 months ago, I made my first batch of liquid laundry soap and I've perfected it now to the point that it is my FAVORITE fresh clean laundry smell.  Plus it only cost $.86 per 64 loads!  Yes, I'm sure I did the math right, and this meets the h.e. requirements for energy efficient front loaders!  I have featured the ingredients on the margin of my blog through Amazon, if you have trouble finding anything in your area.

You will need:

1 bar of Fels-Naptha Soap (if you don't have heavy stains, Ivory works fine)
1 1/2 Cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT Baking Soda)
3/4 Cup Borax
Lemongrass or other Essential oil (optional)

It is also VERY helpful to have a funnel and a slotted spoon.

Pre-fill 5 one-gallon jugs 1/2 full of water. (I use distilled or pre-boiled water to prevent bacteria growth...most people use tap water.) If you are going to add an essential oil, then put about 5 drops in each jug with the water. I use lemongrass oil for a wonderful clean smell and it is an antimicrobal so it helps kill stuff like ringworm, athletes foot, etc.

Next grate the bar of Soap (I use a cheese grater). Put in a pan with 8 cups of water. Warm over medium heat until completely dissolved.  Turn down the heat if it starts to boil. (This is where the slotted spoon is helpful because the water gets really milky and its hard to tell when its melted. I always let it go a couple minutes extra after I think it is melted.)  

Remove from heat and make sure it is not boiling.  (It will look like the picture above.)  Stir in the Washing Soda and Borax. Add 2 gallons of water & stir some more. (I use distilled or pre-boiled water to prevent bacteria growth.) Then top off each 1/2 filled gallon jug. Put the lid on & shake.

Use 1/4 to 1/3 cup per load. (We have very hard water.) Shake the jug before each use & I usually shake each gallon once a week so the gel doesn't get thicker at the bottom.

BTW-It will gel, but not always to the same thickness. Using distilled water increases the thickness of the gel.

SAFETY NOTE:  Since you may be reusing milk jugs, apple juice containers, or other already labeled containers, it is important that kids know it is NOT food.  For a free sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers, go the the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh for the address and directions.