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Monday, December 30, 2013

De-Cluttering, Phase II: the Family Room

The 'Before'
Have you ever been on a long camping trip where you ended up feeling like even your DIRT got dirty? And no matter how much you try to keep clean, you just feel like every crack and crevice is full of grit and your very skin is saturated with filth?

1 British, 1 US TV=too much!
And then. . .that first long, hot, glorious shower after you're home. . .suds and steam and swirling brown liquid disappearing down the drain. . .AHHH!!  Heaven!

That's what today was like, minus the camping trip and the hot shower.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Preparing for Rain: Choosing to be Expectant

A number of years ago, I watched the film 'Facing the Giants.'  It was the second project by Sherwood Pictures, which is a ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church.  Filmed on a budget of only $100,000, it grossed well over $10,000,000 worldwide.  It was resoundingly embraced by the Christian community, but not-so-much by mainstream media.  It was, after all, full of amateur actors and volunteers and had a solid faith based theme. 

But, you know what?  I LOVED it.  I thought it was pretty good as just a general film. . .it had an interesting story line or two, a bit of suspense and decent acting considering everyone was new to the craft. . .but it was VERY powerful from a message standpoint.  If you haven't already, you should check it out (you can get it HERE from Amazon).  It's safe for the whole family, though little guys would probably not 'get' most of the dialogue or be able to understand the storyline.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Special Gift for a Special Needs Kid. . .A Burden Removed

The 'After' view
Well, we started the big, huge, massive purge today.  I wrote an article a few weeks back (read it HERE) about my intention to pare down a lot of stuff.  The goal is to remove ten times what we brought into the house this Christmas via recycling, trashing and donating.  We're well on our way.

Why?  Because we spend way too much time maintaining our stuff and in ensuring that our kids maintain theirs, too.  I read an article that spoke to the issue of overburdening children with tons of toys and then forcing them to manage and care for it all. That just seems unfair on the kids and a rubbish use of time.  I don't just want to supervise my kids. . .I want to ENJOY them.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Plus Size Barbie?

I finally managed to lift my head out of the piles of wrapping and ribbon and dishes today and read a little news.  Amazingly, the world has continued to revolve whilst I have been absorbed in family traditions and frivolity.  Whodathunk?

One particular bit of news, which has sparked a rather heated online debate, surrounds the posting of a plus-sized Barbie picture on the Facebook page of Plus-sized Modeling with the question "Should toy companies start making Plus Sized Barbie dolls?"  The Barbie doll image is quite chunky, with a triple chin.  The page asked people to 'like' the post if they say 'yes' to plus sized Barbie dolls and to comment if they say 'no.'  At the time of writing, over 40,000 people had 'liked' the post and there were only just over 2,700 comments.


If people followed the directions, that means that over 40,000 people are okay with a mega-chubby Barbie and only a measly 2,700 are uncomfortable with the idea.

I guess I'm in the minority here.

How to Cure Your Own Delicious Bacon - Finale!!

Ready for the smoker!
See, that didn't take long, nor that much effort, now did it?  A few minutes a day and a little monitoring of temperature on the last day when you smoked or oven roasted the bacon!!

And the results? A-MAZING!  (and a heck of a lot cheaper than the nitrate-laden offerings in the store!)  We enjoyed our Mexican-inspired bacon on Christmas morning and will be eating BLT's with our cracked black pepper version with tomatoes and avocados tomorrow.  We've taste tested all three varieties and are struggling to pick a favorite.  YUM!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Choosing the Perfect Gift--Secrets to a Mother's Heart

Feeling SO blessed!
As usual for this mother-of-four, with visiting relatives galore, Christmas was a LOT of practical work.  It was wonderful, but it also meant a ton of effort and logistics and forethought and elbow grease on my part.  I don't mind, though. . .it's part of the gift I treasure giving my family each year.

But it does mean that whatever gifts I receive don't really get more than a passing glance until the big day is over.  And it is now. . .company has scooted home, leftovers are on the menu (for a day or two!!) and the kids are all exhausted and quiet and enjoying their own gifts.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

And That, My Friends, Is a Christmas Wrap!

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

Blessings to you and yours this special, holy night!

Merry Christmas to all!

Gingerbread Joy and Other Christmas Eve Fun

Making ready to start!
It's been a busy day: baking, last minute wrapping, cleaning up and heading out to the family Christmas Eve dinner, which was joyous, delicious and overflowing with dear, dear family.  All in all, it was a great day.  But the highlight?  Our annual gingerbread house competition.

This year, contestants ranged in age from 7 to 17.  You would think that the 17 year old would go a little easy on the 7 year old, but that is NOT what happened!  Competition was fierce, no-holds-barred
and stressful as there were various equipment malfunctions and whispers of treachery and subterfuge.  Dodgy business, this having a grand time!

In the end, however, everyone seemed pleased with their entries as they were placed before the judges.  Anticipation ran high as creativity, use of materials and craftsmanship were carefully scrutinized and the winner announced. . .it was an ALL-WAY tie!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Baking Mayhem. . .Russian Tea Cakes and English Toffee!

I have four kids.  The youngest two are 12 and newly-turned-7 year old boys.  You kind of expect Christmas wonder and excitement out of those two.  For the most part, they don't disappoint.

But they aren't out of control, either. . .they don't get over stimulated and hyper or crabby.  They don't hunt for presents or try to sneak peeks.  They largely are just fun and happy and a joy to be around.

My girls, on the other hand, are a hoot at this time of year.  Almost-18 and almost-16 year old young 'ladies', they are.  But you would NEVER know it at Christmas time.  The oldest, in particular, who happens to be my most mature (both in age and in personality) positively VIBRATES with excitement at this time of year.  It's downright adorable.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Duck Dynasty Two Cents. . .Let Phil Robertson Have His Own Opinions

All right. I normally wouldn't weigh in on this sort of thing, but I can't believe how nonsensical this has become.   Phil Robertson has a right to his beliefs and, if directly asked about them, he has a right to answer honestly.   There, I said it.

Likewise, Miley Cyrus has a right to twerk and simulate intimate, private relationships, and Sister Wives has a right to espouse polygamy.  I don't mind if illegal moonshiners try to verbally argue the validity of their practices or if someone tries to defend their right to marry a lamp post.  So long as laws are not broken, and we are only talking about views or opinions, we should have the right to our own opinions.

The truth is, modern media flies in the face of my personal belief system about 95% of the time.  But I don't have to watch the VMAs, Sister Wives, or any of the other shows that I don't agree with.  I don't whine about it, I just turn the TV to another channel or off altogether. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

How to Home Cure Your Own Bacon

Fresh pork belly. Already looks like bacon!
A friend of mine asked me if I have any recipes for home-made bacon.  Moi?!?!  Bacon?!?!?!  Of COURSE I do!!!!!  So, in the interest of helping out a friend (cough, cough!), I thought I would dedicate today's post to that delectable treat!

Normally, I would show the whole process from ingredients to finish, but if I do that, you won't be able to enjoy this treat for Christmas!  So, I'm going to do something a little different this time in that I will be updating this post throughout the process.  This means, if you have a hankering for a special treat for Christmas morning, you will still be able to enjoy it this year if you start today--run out now and get some pork belly!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Making Home Made Lemon Sugar Scrub. . .With Love!

Little House on the Prairie we are NOT.  We have store bought gifts under the tree, many requiring
batteries or an electrical outlet.  I have some very generous kids, but I doubt any would follow Laura Ingalls' lead and trade their most prized possession (Bunny the horse!) for a cook stove for me.  But we do like to make things with our hands.  Tonight we got to do just that.

I have a few special friends I wanted to make something for to go along with some preserves I have already made.  My oldest daughter wanted to make something for her best friends.  We put our heads together and decided to make Lemon Sugar Scrub.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

7 Christmas Traditions That Make Our Family Smile

Christmas is only one week away and I am finally in the holiday mindset.  With four kids going in four different directions, shopping and wrapping and baking to do, and holiday events and concerts and dinners galore, I have hardly had time to think about, let alone savor, the buildup to the big day.

But things are settling down a bit now, and I have a pretty good handle on the logistics of the holidays, so my thoughts are definitely turning to the traditions that make our celebration particularly meaningful.  I am feeling all Christmassy and giddy.

To get myself even MORE in the mood, I thought I would run down some of our favorite holiday traditions:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Game of Graces

The Game of Graces was a wildly popular French import in the 1800's.  Though boys did play it on occasion, it was primarily a game for girls and young ladies.

The rules were pretty simple and could be played almost anywhere. . .even in fancy dresses if need be.  Two players, each holding two wands (short sticks), would throw a hoop back and forth to each other.  If the hoop dropped, the receiving player would lose a point. When a player lost 20 points, the game was over.

Somewhere in there among the raucous point tallying and enthusiastic hoop throwing, young ladies were supposed to be learning poise and grace.  I have no idea how.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Glory of a Gotcha Day

The whole family is tucked up in bed, my husband having gone a few minutes ago.  It's been a lovely day and I have a few things to do before I follow them to dreamland, but I am taking a moment to pause in the deep silence of the midnight hour and reflect on what made the day so special.

Today was the anniversary of my daughter's 'Gotcha Day.'
What's a 'Gotcha Day' you may ask?  It's the day an adoption is finalized and a forever family is born.  Our first such day was one of the greatest of my life.

We were licensed as foster parents first, but also wanted to adopt at some point.  Our overall plan was to build a large family via adoption and biology.  And we wanted to continuing fostering, too. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rich in Love, If Not in Money - Christmas on a Dime

This year was an interesting one.  It started out very normally. . .which, for us, is decidedly 'un-normal.'  We were getting settled in our new home, looking forward to some home improvement projects, and expecting  a quiet 12 months (which is also hugely unusual for us!).

We made it about half way through the year before we sensed a change in the weather.

To put it delicately, some 'situations' presented themselves and we needed to make some rather important family decisions.  To be honest, though, the choices weren't hard.  Unorthodox, maybe, but not hard.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Very Prairie Christmas - A Mildly Shameless Plug

I kind of hemmed and hawed about adding a Mercantile to this website.  On the one hand, I didn't want people to think this site was a commercial venture or cheapen the heart and humans behind the scenes who are so passionate about Modern Pioneering / Frugal Living / Having a Prairie Mindset.

On the other hand, in the past, I have spent copious amounts of time scouring the net for all sorts of hard-to-find products.  So, compiling them seemed like a helpful kind of thing to do.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Re-Purposing Your Pantry Surplus: A Bit of Inspiration

As you probably read in my recent post on The Art of Re-purposing (http://blog.mylittleprairiehome.com/2013/12/the-art-of-re-purposing.html), I have a wee bit of a thing for the concept. . .but it doesn't stop with re-purposing STUFF!  I am hugely fond of re-purposing foods and sundries, too!

Sounds a little weird, but hang in there. . .it's not as odd as it seems.  You just need a little creativity and a little vision, and you might be surprised at what you can come up with.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Having Less to Live More

Just a portion of the stuff from storage!
As if by magic, on the very day that I was starting to stress over the upcoming holidays, a beautiful gift floated out of the sky and into my arms in the form of an article on 'Stuff.'

I wish I had saved it now, or at least knew its title or who wrote it, but I was in a hurry and only had enough time to quickly read through to the end.  Yet, the effects of this article keep seeping in and saturating my whole being.  It was challenging.  Riveting.  LIFE CHANGING!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Homesteading vs. Prepping vs. Extreme Couponing: What's the Difference?

When people find out that I have a bit of a love affair going on with Homesteading and Pioneer -y type things, I often get a slightly strange response.  Some people are enthusiastic and curious, some are mildly amused, and some step back and regard me carefully through distinctly suspicious eyes.  Many people just don't know what it means to be a modern homesteader.

And no wonder!  With all the various shows on TV today (Yukon Men, Doomsday Preppers, Extreme Couponing, Gold Rush, Alaska: The Last Frontier, etc.) there seems to be a lot of media confusion about what Modern Homesteading and 'Prepping' is.  Throw in Extreme Couponers with their extensive stockpiles and a show about a Hoarder or two, and the lines between them all seems to get a little fuzzy.

Let me sort it out for you.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

While We're on the Subject. . .How to make Home Made Hawaiian Ice (Snow Cones!!)

Use any flavors you like!
Well, we can't let all this this beautiful snow go to waste, now can we?  Our whole family surely enjoyed our big old bowls of snow ice cream yesterday, but ice cream every day would get a little old (okay, I don't really mean that, but it does give me a chance to make another recipe!).

I think it's time to make some home made Hawaiian Ice.  If you don't know what Hawaiian Ice is, you probably know it under another name. . .the glorious summer favorite: the SNOW CONE! 

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Musings on the First Big Storm of Winter

 I should be in bed.  It's well past midnight, but I can't make myself go.  I am pretty much glued to the window that looks out toward the front of our property.  It's just lovely.

All the lights are out inside, except for the glow from the woodstove, and the outside lights are on. The soft purr of the fire and the thickly falling snow are, frankly, mesmerizing.  I love the first big storm of the year.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Strange Little Ice Spaghetti. . .

Whenever you move somewhere new, there are always a whole bunch of interesting things to experience and learn.  When I lived in Washington, DC, I was drenched in amazing museums as well as traffic I could never have imagined.  In Santa Barbara, I discovered unbelievable Mexican food and dealing with tar from the beautiful sandy beaches.  In the UK, it was the eternal dampness, stinging nettles, and falling in love with the gorgeous Norfolk coast.

EVERYWHERE has a learning curve of what is awesome about the area and what must be endured.  My current home in the Sierra Nevadas is no exception.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

There's a Storm A'Comin'!!! Snow Ice Cream time!!!

UPDATE:  Our forecast is now expecting temps down to 14 degrees.  Even for where we live, that is pretty darn cold.  Snow of 3-10 inches could fall all the way down to 1000 feet!  Please make sure you check on those most vulnerable, especially in areas this rarely happens. . . sometimes that means folks aren't as prepared for burst pipes, downed power, and un-passable roads.  Be safe!
Most of the country seems to be experiencing cold and wild weather conditions this week and our neck of the woods is no exception.  We live just under 4,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California.  We certainly do get snow, but rarely have more than a couple of feet on the ground at any one time. . .this coming Friday we could get a storm dump that much on us in one night!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Art of Re-Purposing

Re-Purposed Wine Barrel Planter!
I’ve mentioned before my (slight) addiction to our website and blog stats.  They just mesmerize me.  And today’s point of particular interest is the fact that our highest trafficked areas of the site are not what I expected them to be when we first launched. . .at all.  What are most people interested in?  Re-Purposing!

I, frankly, am more than a little surprised. Not that I don’t find the topic enormously worthwhile, mind you: re-purposing is quite a passion of mine.  But it is surprising to see the overwhelming volume of people who are drawn to that section of our site.  The proportion is staggering.

So, what is ‘re-purposing?’  And what is the big draw?  It’s really just another form of recycling. . .some even try to ‘posh’ it up a bit and call it ‘up-cycling.’ 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Laura Ingalls Wilder was SHORT!

As a mom of four beautiful kids, I’ve always tried to instill the plain fact that effort and determination is a far more accurate indicator of overall success than inborn talent or ability.  Take Laura Ingalls Wilder, for example.  She was a tiny little wisp of a woman.  Only 4’11”!

Despite her diminutive stature, however, she helped make hay, tame wild horses, clear rocky land, milk cows, saw huge logs, teach school (starting at 15!!) and do just about every heavy task that there is to do on a farm.  In short (pun intended!) she didn’t let a little thing like height stand in her way!

When she was leaving home for her first job as a teacher, though, she began to fret that she wouldn’t succeed.  Her Pa encouraged her brilliantly:

“You’ve tackled every job that ever came your way,” Pa said.  “You never shirked, and you always stuck to it till you did what you set out to do.  Success gets to be a habit, like anything else a fellow keeps on doing.”

© 2013, Robynne Elizabeth Miller. All Rights Reserved.
My Little Prairie Home™ is a trademark of Robynne Elizabeth Miller
Forest image courtesy of xedos4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net