Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Summer is Really Over

Maybe I've been in denial, but it seems to me it was summer up until today.

We went to the fair last Friday where it was hot, we looked for shade to sit it to eat our lunches. Every day I've gone out to water the chickens and the garden and am glad to get in to the house where it is cooler.

Not today though. It's cold! The weather forecast is predicting freezing temperatures at night later this week. The kids asked for their coats to wear outside. So, I knew it was time.

My husband hung the heat lamp for the chickens and put glass in their window where the chicken wire has been all summer. I picked all of the rest of the gourds, pumpkins and the last of the tomatoes. All of those plants are now in the compost bin and the garden looks so empty! I ate one of the last mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwiches (oh, how I will miss those!) I notice that our Pin Oaks are starting to turn on some outer branches.

My third child and middle son turned seven today (this is totally off the subject, but he asked for french toast for breakfast, Dad's egg pancakes for lunch and my pancakes for dinner - crazy kid), reminding me of the year I was pregnant with him. I remember sitting out in a sukkah, trying to stay warm. I remember the party, the people and wearing blankets around my legs.

This year Sukkot is a little later. This year the fall season has come a little later.

Fall is my favorite time of year, it is just beautiful. But, I sure enjoyed summer this year. I felt like we lived the season to it's fullest, being outside almost every day, walking, gardening, picking, canning, camping, swimming (in the little tiny kiddy pool!) and enjoying every minute of it.

I want to do the same with this season. I need to remember to be close to creation, more outside times, more walks, more bonfires, more pumpkin pies and squash casseroles, more leaf piling and leaf jumping.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Projects for Today....

This morning... my daughter comes to me to show me a poem in her English book that she likes. My oldest son scooters in Tootie style (remember the Facts of Life?) to ask me a math question.

I finished school with my two little boys and everyone that is done with their work gets to pick an activity to play with.

I have the stock pot full of vegetable peelings going to make a batch of stock.

Sitting in my biggest bowl is 32 cups of zucchini, that's not including the peppers, onions and celery added in. This was the beginnings of zucchini relish. I was so blessed by a wonderful Freecyle friend that gave me two gigantic zucchini, literally, 32 cups in two squash, a big bag of tomatoes and another of cucumbers yesterday.

Here are some of the tomatoes ready to become salsa.

This afternoon.... I have finished both of those canning projects.

The cucumbers are awaiting their turn, these will be bread and butter pickles. The vegetable stock is in two different pots, one I will make rice with for the freezer and one will be soup for tonight's dinner. Nap time is almost over - I'd better get busy!

I pray your day a productive, fall in to bed kind of day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Working the Land

Chain Gang?

Swimming pool beginnings?

No, just a little asparagus planting........

Dig a trench that is a foot and a half deep,

Add compost to your soil and mix it in well. Lay out asparagus crowns and cover with soil, watering well.

'Tis the season! Get some asparagus in the ground now for 18-20 years of future harvests, it is a perennial and will come back year after year. A little work for years of good eating.

The Spice is Right: How to Save up to 93% on Spices

The Spice is Right: How to Save up to 93% on Spices
Submitted by: Ray1 02/16/2009 5:35 PM
(This article can be found at Tiphero.com)

Spices are a great way to make a dull, ordinary meal a little more exciting. I use spices on my omelets, potatoes, meat, rice, oatmeal, and in many other dishes. I'm eating at home more often these days to save money and I've found myself reaching for the spice rack more frequently. The other day I ran out of ginger so I went down to my local supermarket. Naturally I went to the spice aisle to grab a little bottle of ground ginger. After looking out over the sea of spice bottles I found the ginger I needed. Needless to say I got a little sticker shock when I calculated that the little bottle of ginger I needed worked out to just over $40 a pound. I had often reached for these little bottles of spices without ever stopping to think about the cost. I decided to find a cheaper way to buy spices.I knew I could go to Costco but you need to buy spices in larger quantities and they only carry a few varieties. Instead, I decided to check out Winco Foods which has a large bulk foods section to see which if any spices they carried.
Buying Spices from the Bulk Bins, I was pleasantly surprised to find over 50 varieties of spices in their bulk food section, and was even more pleased when I saw the prices. I decided to compare the price of spices from the bulk section with those you can buy packaged off the shelf.The price differential was so large I even went back to double-check if I recorded the prices correctly. The reason spices from the bulk bin work out so much cheaper is because you're not paying for the expensive packaging. Many of the off-the-shelf spices come packaged in glass bottles, but even those that just come in simple plastic containers cost significantly more than buying spices from the bulk bins. If you wanted to you could go out and buy little spice containers at a dollar store for fifty cents each and still come in at under half the price of the off-the-shelf spices.I'm sure the spices at Costco and Sam's Club are significantly cheaper per oz. than the little bottles you buy off-the-shelf, but you have to buy in much larger quantities than you may otherwise need. For many spices I find I only use 6-8 oz of a particular spice a year. Spices can spoil quickly making buying the 27 oz. containers from Costco infeasible for me.

{To add to this revelation - which it is for me - Fred Meyer apparently has bulk spices too. I don't know if the prices are as good but I will certainly be finding out!}

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wilderness Family

While on our weekend camping trip, I was wondering, why is it that we do this? We pack practically everything we own in to our van to go and sleep where there are no beds, no running water, no HEAT with lots of bugs, wild animals and COLD. It's such a weird thing to do.

And, while camping, you think you will be out in nature, resting and relaxing,

Well, maybe some people do, but the rest of the time you,

Pass the time waiting to eat, again.

Endlessly move things from your vehicle, rearrange things, can't find many things that you KNOW you brought, like the baby wipes.

You swim. Even when mom says, "We are just wading!" Of course you will need a third outfit to roll in the dirt with after the above mentioned activity.

You do gymnastics on fallen logs,

you climb up on stuff,

you play in the fire (lots and lots of this),

you go fishing, and even when you catch nothing, you can't stop talking about what fun it was.

And, of course, you play in the tent. Then, you pack it all back up in the van and talk about nothing but clean clothes, showers and beds all the way home. Funny thing, camping is.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Drawing Lessons

I am sitting with my son helping him along in math. Next to me, on the other side are two of my younger ones. They are talking and I'm not really listening, until I hear that he is teaching her how to draw. "And this how you make a head, these are legs..... this is me, see my kippah? And this is you."

I can't say enough for being home. I can't say enough for being here for all of these moments. I wonder how I could have ever believed that working would have been more fulfilling?

Fair Deal

After many hours of preparing, my daughter has entered several of the categories in the youth department at the fair this year. She has 12 jars of different fruits we've canned, one sculpture under the craft category and two decorated cakes. This is her wedding cake. She was up until 4 am (no exaggeration!) making those little roses to meet the deadline for the entrance time today.

I just found out that the prize is $2 for the winning cake. What? After all of that!? I wonder how it ever came to be called fair?

Eggy Morning Fun

Up for something a little different this morning?

Cut a hole in a piece of bread with a cookie cutter. Butter both sides of the bread and crack an egg in to the hole. Cook on the first side until the egg is set and then flip and cook on the other.
Easy, fun and works well for an egg breakfast when you are low on eggs!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


My four-year-old was by far the cutest while voicing his sins for the year. I think he said "pinching people" about five times while throwing his bread in to the water.

Creative Genius after a tromp through the woods with prickly, sticky seeds on his pants. Here he is contemplating what other things to say to use up all of his bread.

Just a few pictures for the holiday. Here is my family practicing the tradition of Tashlikh, or casting bread upon the water. Curious? Check out my post from last year on the same subject.

Bulk Recipe: Seasoning for Sausage

I am a huge fan of make-your-own bulk seasoning recipes.

I have to admit, there were many, many years when I frequented that isle in the grocery store where all of those seasonings are displayed in little foil packets. Truly, at that time I had no idea how to season anything on my own, back then I had not yet heard of Google. Teaching yourself to cook in those days meant trips to the library and trying to write down recipes quickly on the back of a napkin as older, well meaning, women spouted them at 100 miles an hour.

What a blessing it is now to find recipes to make my own jars and bottles of tasty blends of spices.

Here is one favorite at my house: sausage seasoning. As you may remember, we do our best to stay with in kosher guidelines, including the Biblical mandate not to eat pork, so I would often substitute hamburger for bulk sausage in recipes. It just isn't the same, however, and was always missing something. A great little trick that I have stumbled on (why didn't I think of this earlier?) is to add this seasoning to raw hamburger before cooking to give it that familiar, savory sausage flavor, perfect for the recipe.

And, what's great, is that being a bulk recipe, you mix it up once and use it multiple times. Streamlined efficiency is always my goal!


3 tbsp. rosemary, ground
10 tbsp. sage, ground
7 tbsp. salt
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. marjoram
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. basil, powdered
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. garlic powder or garlic salt
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cayenne, if desired

Mix all ingredients. Store in a glass jar. Shake well before using. Makes about 1 cup of seasoning. Use three tablespoons per pound of meat.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Duggar Economics: The Costs of 19 Kids

I am totally disgusted by how people view and speak of the Dugger family. Yes, having nineteen children is extraordinary but really, must they act like Michelle's fertility is a personal affront against them?

Knowing that is God himself who opens and closes the womb (Gen. 20:18--The Lord closed all the wombs of household of Abimelech Gen. 29:31--The Lord opened Leah's womb Gen. 30:22--The Lord opened Rachel's womb 1 Sam. 1:5--The Lord closed Hannah's womb 1 Sam. 1:6--The Lord closed Hannah's womb), and that God alone makes and forms babies (Psalm 139:13-"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb." Isa. 44:2-"Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb…" ) we know that the Duggers are blessed (Psalm 127:3-5 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. - John 16:21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. (Am I preaching to the choir here?:)

But, you know, I'd never considered the further foolishness that these naysayers exhibit - at their own expense. Read on in this essay by Jonathan Last to find out what I am talking about:


Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar made headlines recently when the Arkansas couple announced that they are expecting their 19th child. The news about the reality-show stars was met with quiet condescension by polite society and impolite mockery in the trendier parts of the Internet. The dirty jokes write themselves.

Yes, the Duggars are an easy target: They have taken the idea of a large family and given it an exponential boost. And their lives are not exactly filled with suburban glamour, fancy college degrees or evenings at home reading aloud from collections of symbolist verse. The family tends toward plain clothes, warehouse-club portions and the New Testament. And yet the discomfort with the Duggars is not merely an expression of class snobbery. It has partly to do with their hyperfertility. There is a creeping anti-natalism in America that has made having large families a radical act.

Even by historical standards, the Duggars' soon-to-be-19 kids are exceptional. In 1800 the American fertility rate—that is, the number of children born to an average woman in her lifetime—was 7.04 for whites and 7.90 for blacks. (The first census was taken in 1790, and the numbers for the races were tabulated separately.) Over the years, the fertility rate trended inexorably downward. Today the average American woman has only 2.09 children, just a hair beneath the replacement rate of 2.1. The rate for Michelle Duggar's demographic group, non-Hispanic whites, is just 1.85. In 1800, the Duggars would have been odd. By today's standards, they seem positively freakish.

There are scores of reasons for society's decreased fertility. Better medical care reduced infant mortality. In 1850 more than one in five children died in infancy; today that number is just a little over one in 166. With more babies surviving, families needed fewer births to achieve their desired family size. Effective birth control reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies. And, beginning in 1974, widespread access to abortion reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies that were brought to term. Forty-eight million abortions have been performed in America since Roe v. Wade; for perspective, the entire baby-boom generation comprises 75 million people.

There is a panoply of other pressures on fertility, ranging from delayed age of first marriage to car-seat laws (few vehicles can accommodate more than three child-safety seats). But a big part of the story is economics.

In agricultural societies, including that of early 19th-century America, children were of vital economic importance. They provided free labor in the family business and then, in adulthood, care for their elderly parents. They don't perform either of these functions today. Toward the end of the 19th century, industrialization pulled children out of the work force, limiting the contributions they could make to the family. Then Social Security, and later Medicare, began to give to the state the responsibilities that children once had for the financial care of aging parents.
Whatever its merits, the welfare state is a disincentive to childbearing. Each generation of workers pays for the retirement benefits of the generation ahead of it. The system is powered by babies, who grow up to become productive little FICA contributors. But even if you never have children, someone else's kid will eventually pay for your Social Security benefits.

Even as economic incentives for childbearing have diminished, costs have grown. The welfare state required an enormous new tax burden, for instance. When Social Security was first instituted, in 1937, only 1% of earnings up to $3,000 were taxed. Today Social Security and Medicare eat up 7.65% of earnings up to $106,800. According to a study by the Tax Foundation, the median American family in 1955 paid 17.3% of its income in taxes. By 1998, the median two-earner family paid 40.9%. All of which makes family formation much harder. As demographer Phillip Longman observes, young white men since the 1970s have seen a 40% decline in income relative to their fathers—for young black men the figure is 60%.

While the government started taking more of a family's money, the expense of raising a child shot to the moon. The Agriculture Department estimates that the costs of raising a child from birth to age 18—that is, clothes, food, health care—averaged $207,800 in 2007. In real dollars, that's a 15% increase since 1960. But the department's numbers leave out three big-ticket items: child care, college tuition and forgone salaries.

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies reports that in 2008 the average cost of a full-time nanny was $9,630; the average cost of full-time day care was $14,591. That's as much as a year at college. The average cost of state-university tuition, along with room and board, is now $14,333. Private colleges average a good deal more— $34,132. But what's really striking is the rate of increase. During the past 35 years, the real-dollar cost of college has increased by 1,000%. That's not a misprint.

Finally, there is the opportunity cost of a parent not working. Every family's situation is different, but demographer Phillip Longman gives us an illustrative example: If a parent making $45,000 a year stays home with a child until the child begins school, and then returns to work part time until the child graduates from high school, she is forgoing more than $800,000 in lost wages (counting normal inflation and raises).

When you add it all up, it's not uncommon for a single child to cost a normal, middle-class family something like $1.1 million, from birth through the undergrad years. To get some perspective, the median price of a home in 2008 was $180,100. It is commonly said that buying a house is the biggest purchase most Americans will ever make. Having a baby is like buying six houses. Except that they don't increase in value, you can't sell them and after 16 years they'll probably say they hate you.

To be sure, the Duggars have experienced some economies of scale with their soon-to-be 19 bundles of joy. The marginal cost of each additional child is reduced but still nontrivial. Even if none of the Duggars require child care or have to pay for college and Mrs. Duggar never forgoes outside income, the total expenditures will probably be north of $1 million.

The Duggars have mortgaged their financial futures for their children. Yet we're the ones who will benefit. In 1940 there were 160 workers paying the tab for each person collecting Social Security. By 2006, there were just 3.3 workers supporting each pensioner. The Social Security Administration estimates that by 2034, there will be only 2.1 workers for each person collecting a government retirement check.

In an era when it is rare for a bourgeois couple to have even three children, the Duggars are helping subsidize our retirement at considerable costs to themselves. Instead of mocking them, we ought to thank them.—Mr. Last is a Phillips Foundation Fellow working on a book called "America's One-Child Policy."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tutorial: Making the Traditional Round Challah

This is practically in real time... here is my earliest riser making challah with his mommy this morning. :)

L'Shanah Tovah! It is Rosh HaShanah, the new year (see the post I did last year explaining the holiday, here and Missi's post here, lots over very cute pics of her kids blowing shofars!). Jews all over the world will be celebrating and with it, beginning the new cycle of Torah readings for the year. The round challah bread pictured above is the traditional Rosh HaShanah loaf. Why not make some with your children today? See my recipe here and follow the pictures. What fun!

Take your risen dough strands

and roll them out gently as long as possible.

When you go to shape the dough, the raisins will all be well hidden inside and will be delicious when the challah is sliced open.

If you intend to add raisins to your Rosh HaShanah challahs, place them all around the flat piece of rolled out dough and then roll it up.

Do this with four pieces of dough until they are all about the same length. Lay the pieces out in front of you, tic-tac-toe style.

Each strand should be placed in opposite directions; one side is over/under, the next row is then under/over. There should now be 4 sets of 2 strands each coming out from the four sides of the woven middle, one under and one over in each set.

From each set, pick up the one that was “under” and pull it over its partner, thereby placing each of these “unders” over their corresponding partner, in a clockwise rotation. Practically speaking, this means that the left piece of each set will be placed over the right piece of each set.

When this rotation is done, work in the opposite direction, clockwise. What was formerly the right piece, will now go over the left piece in the counter clockwise direction; the pieces are not yet next to each other as they are still apart from the first rotation; pull them close to each other and bring the right piece, i.e. the one you did not touch in the first rotation, over the left piece of the neighboring strand.

To finish, pinch each set of two ends together firmly, then bring all four sets together towards the center.

Now comes the really fun part: carefully flip over your challah and look!

(I wish I could say that all of those beautiful pictures were from my kitchen, but alas, my challah is not yet done. This was taken from ou.org.)

Happy (Biblical!!!) Holidays to you and yours,