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Friday, February 28, 2014

Home Cured Corned Beef Recipe! YUM!!

When we first moved to the UK, I was a little naive about the food offerings. East Anglia has virtually no Mexican food ingredients.  Nor sourdough bread.  Nor any corned beef not found in a can.  Can you believe it?  And they used to rule the world!!!

So glad to be back in the US!  :)

Though, saying that, I did learn a lot from living in a country that was devoid of foods I knew and loved.  One of those foods was good old corned beef.  Because I couldn't purchase it, I had to learn to make it myself.

And OH how glad I am that I did!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Battle Weary, but Here. . .PLUS Gluten-free Update!!

Thank you to all who have inquired about my few weeks absence. . .we've had a whole lot of, um, challenges in our household lately, and they became the priority.

I am glad to report, however, that though the storm was LARGE and LONG, we weathered it, and are slowly coming back into some sense of 'normal.'  Whatever the heck that is!

But I don't want to focus on the drama of the last few weeks. . .I want to report a REALLY encouraging finding in our quest for ways to help our son with a variety of health and behavioral issues.  If you all remember, we were researching the connection between behavior and gluten and attempting to remove gluten from our 13 year old son's diet.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Goodnight, John Walton

It's always odd to feel close to people you have never met and who weren't really being who they are at all.  But, sometimes, that's just how it is with humans and actors.

And that's definitely how it is with me and John Walton.

So to hear that the actor who portrayed the beloved Walton patriarch, Ralph Waite, passed away today just leaves a huge hole in my heart.  He will be so, so missed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Kids. . .

It's not that I haven't heard this before, nor that I haven't tried to employ it in my own marriage and family.  But last night I was reminded in a particularly poignant way how incredibly important, no vital, it is to do one thing for your kids. . .

Work hard at and prioritize your marriage.

I think before, I interpreted this in a different way.  I know that parents are modeling everything from household management to conflict resolution to our kids.  We're demonstrating how to 'do' relationships, even (well, especially) when things aren't roses and rainbows and ice cream.  We're teaching our kids the skills of fighting fair, honoring one another, how to do 'love-in-action,' and how to come to a workable consensus.

Shirley Temple Dies

My Mom, right, all 'Templified'
Most of my first outfits, and those of my mom, were hand made by my beloved grandma and modeled after those worn by child star Shirley Temple.  My gram was so enamored with the adorable little imp that I endured years of cork screw curls and adorable, chubby knee-showing dresses a la Ms. Temple, though it was more than 40 years after the actress made her Hollywood movie debut.  My grandma just thought she was the epitome of child cuteness.

Millions of people worldwide agreed.

So it was a very sad thing to wake this morning to the news that Ms. Temple-Black had died peacefully of natural causes at her home in Woodside, California last night.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shaun White Doesn't Medal in the Halfpipe: Reaction?

I have such mixed emotions during the Olympics.  I fight all sorts of various and deeply conflicting personal perspectives during each individual event.

For example, I am UBER patriotic.  I don't think that Americans are more important or valuable than anyone else on the world stage, but I do have a decided thing for loving the country (flaws and all) that I call home.  Throwing my support behind the home team is a huge part of who I am. . .red, white and blue to the core.

Yogurt Making: Avoiding Common Mistakes

Slightly Runny, Slightly Sour
For the first time in a LONG time, I did not have a batch of CrockPot Yogurt (recipe and method HERE) come out perfectly.  Considering how easy it is to make and, really, how foolproof the method is, to have even the slightest imperfection is a bit sad, really.  It's not ruined, though. . .just a little more tart and slightly more runny than I prefer.  Think this is going to go mostly into smoothies and go-gurts.

So these things can happen, even with a seasoned yogurt maker, and when they do, it's good to know why and how the mistake occurred so you can avoid a repeat performance in the future.  Here's some things to look out for:

Olympic Bobsledder Johnny Quinn Stuck Again!!

Today was definitely catch-up day for me after being gone for almost a week. . .two appointments, two school runs, a run to the nearest town for groceries, an epic battle with legions of ants, dealing with a propane leak and trying to figure out how to cook a side dish for a pot luck this evening with the propane not available and the wood stove not lit (unusually warm today!), and then a Bible study to prepare for.

You know, a usual Monday.

Monday, February 10, 2014

My Love Affair With Cooking on Wood Stoves

A vintage version of our stove!
During our nearly nine years of living in the UK, we happened to live in two homes that had old fashioned range cookers.  One was a converted farm worker's cottage that had something called a Rayburn, and another was a thatched cottage from the 1600's that had a more upscale version, called an Aga.

Both the Rayburn, and their pricey cousin, the Aga, work on the same principle as old fashioned wood cook stoves:  The heat source is constant on one side of the stove, which heats (typically) two ovens on the right side (a roasting oven and a warming oven) as well as two plates on the top (a boiling plate and a simmering plate).

19 Natural Methods and Remedies for Dealing with Ants

I was so anxious to get back to my babies today after a short trip was rudely extended by a massive storm over the Sierras.  It was still kind of dodgy driving through some wild weather, turning an hour and twenty minute trip into a three hour epic. . .so turning into the drive this afternoon was a wonderful feeling.

However, more than just four precious kids, a gorgeous husband and a bevy of lovable pets greeted me as I entered our home:  Apparently, while I was away, we've become the indoor Mecca for ants of all sizes and descriptions.


Saturday, February 08, 2014

Gluten and Behavior Experiment: Preliminary Results Look Promising!!

Typically, when I'm out of town on business or for any other reason, and I have to leave my family at home for a time, our 12 year old struggles.  Whether it's the disruption in routine, missing his mama, or just plain coincidence, it's usually a pretty big downward spiral from the moment I step out of the door.

Calling, emailing or texting home is always a little nerve-wracking as I'm never quite sure what I'm going to hear. . .drama?  Meltdowns? A husband at the end of his rope?

US Bobsledder Johnny Quinn Trapped in Bathroom and Other Interesting Olympic Stories

What an interesting start to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi!  So far, we have had an array of news stories coming out of Russia that either scares, surprises, or tickles me.  And we're only a day in!

For example:

  • US bobsledder, Johnny Quinn, apparently got trapped in his hotel bathroom on Saturday and had to bust his way out.  This probably won't do much to improve frosty US/Russia relations, but it did, at least, show that our US team is pretty fit.
  • Check out the Twitter picture he posted of his VERY dramatic 'breakout' here.

No Sugar, No Wheat, No Milk, Oh My!!

Continuing my theme of taking advantage of a weather-forced pit stop, I've been researching ways to transition my son's diet to one free of sugar, gluten and non-fermented milk products with a little G.A.P.S. thrown in for good measure.  Oh, and no preservatives, artificial colors or artificial flavorings, either.

No big deal, right?

Um, yeah.

Friday, February 07, 2014

From Cramps to Conditioner: 15 Surprising Uses for Mustard!!

Flower of Mustard
Being stranded due to a massive winter storm has it's benefits. . .I have an extra day to write, I got to watch the opening ceremonies for the Sochi Olympics, I will be able to sleep in a little tomorrow morning, and I had a chance to learn that you can sort some forms of muscle pain and cramps by sucking on a packet of plain yellow mustard.

Um, yeah.  You read that right!

Stranded Due to Snow

I've been blessed to have a chance to get a few days away this week to work on some writing projects.  It's a rare opportunity for me and I've thoroughly enjoyed the quiet and progress I have been able to make.

But I was more than ready to go home.

The fact is, I miss my babies.  I miss my wonderful husband.  I miss my cozy home.  That's just the kind of girl I am!

The weather had other plans. 

Happy Birthday Laura Ingalls Wilder!!

Well, how could I let this day pass without a nod to one of my FAVORITE authors?

Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder!

In honor of this much beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie series, here are a few 'Laura' facts you may not have known:

How to Make Money Using Coupons

A 'Money Making' Haul
For some reason, though I haven't posted about coupons for a little while now, I've had a few messages from people asking almost exactly the same question this week.  I might not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but even I can take a hint!

The question was regarding how I make money on items I "buy" using coupons.  Getting something for "free" is a hard enough concept to get your head around, especially with expensive items, but making money?  Can it be done?

Yes!  And really, it's not that hard.

There are really only two components of the process:  one involves having coupons in the first place, and the other simply requires you to keep a sharp lookout or visit couponing websites that do the scouring for you.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Welcome, Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics!!

Although I have to confess that I love to watch a LOT of different sports, the Olympics are pretty dang special.  There's something about the athlete stories and the celebratory atmosphere and the unusual sports that pop out of oblivion for a glorious two weeks that just mesmerizes me.

My British husband is equally enamored with them.  Before we married, he used to take off two whole weeks from work on Olympic years (he got five weeks vacation annually, the lucky duck!!) just to watch as much of the spectacle as possible.

At Least You're Pretty!

See?  Gorgeous!!
Writing an earlier post about homeschooling in the UK, I alluded to an event that resulted in our pulling our eldest child out of public school and educating her at home instead.  We can laugh about it all now, but it wasn't very funny when it happened.

Our daughter was ten at the time and, after a cross-county move, was attending a new school.  At her previous school, she had needed a little support in math.  She was certainly at regular grade level, but just needed to keep on top of things to stay there.

To maintain her momentum, I met her new teacher as soon as I could to ask how I could help our daughter at home and to ensure she understood the particular issues our daughter faced.  She was polite, but dismissed my concerns, telling me that it was more important, for the time being, for our daughter to just get settled in to her new class and surroundings.

Homeschooling V. Public School

I had a bit of a rude awakening upon moving to England ten years ago.  Though I'd lived there before while dating my husband, and had gone back for numerous visits over the years since marrying him and settling in America, none of that really 'counted.'  My first 'living there' experience was when I was young, in love, thrilled to be experiencing the adventure of life in another country. . .and I had no kids.  Subsequent visits were far more about seeing friends and relatives than sinking into the culture as a young family.

So I was a little surprised at some of what I discovered when we actually went to live there with a 7, 5, and 2 year old in tow.  Homeschooling, for instance, is a rare and suspiciously regarded thing.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

We're Your Parents, Not Your Friends: Avoiding a HUGE Parenting Mistake

Who doesn't want to be loved by their kids?  I mean, we're human, right?  We have an inherent desire to be valued and appreciated and cared about. . .especially by those we treasure most.

So it's completely understandable that we'd want our children's admiration, approval, and just plain friendship.  Isn't it?

Well, yes and no.  The 'yes' part comes from our basic human need to be wanted and loved.  But the 'no' part comes from the fact that parents aren't actually meant to be best buddies with their kids. . .at least not while they're growing up.  What they're meant to be is, well, PARENTS.

Teaching Children to Respect Adults. . .Common Courtesy or Outdated Convention?

We have a personal family conviction around here about how children should address adults.  It's kind of a combination of my grandparent's southern roots, our own personal beliefs, and the modeling of a similar notion by some dear friends of ours who started parenting a few years before we did.

The basic idea that we are trying to instill in our children is to honor and respect those who are elder, more learned, or who are in a position of authority.

Almanzo Thawed his Frozen Feet Incorrectly

Waiting for an elevator tonight, I heard the funniest conversation.  Which work out well.  I kind of needed a little laugh.

Two businessmen, both of whom looked like they were in their early 60's, were discussing the upcoming cold front heading toward their next destination.  Somehow, that segued into 'how to save feet that are frostbitten.'

One man was saying that if your feet are frozen, NEVER try to thaw them if there is any chance that they might be re-frozen before you get to help (which is true).  He then said to NEVER rub your feet (or any frozen tissue) to try to thaw them. . .frozen flesh has ice crystals in the cells, and rubbing them is a little like having a lot of little rocks under your skin.  If you rub them, you can cause even more damage (which is also true).

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Abuse of Special Needs Kids. . .How do we Respond?

Two friends of mine have recently posted articles on Facebook that sickened my mother's heart.

One was about a Brentwood School District teacher of special needs kids who repeatedly abused children (verbally AND physically) and, even after school authorities were made aware of the abuse and a conviction relating to it, was merely transferred her to another school where the disgusting abuse continued.

After an 8 million dollar settlement with affected families, the firing and resignation of the superintendent and several employees, there is now 'training' in place to ensure current employees are able to recognize abuse and know how to report it.


On the Autistic Spectrum, Not Otherwise Specified

She's more precious than treasure. . .
Two of the three children we've adopted are floating somewhere in the mildest reaches of the Autistic Spectrum.  One, our son, has a host of other issues.  Another, our daughter, has only this one.

And most people wouldn't suspect a thing.

She's beautiful and kind and funny and incredibly creative. . .she's not overly enamored with sports, but she's 'principle's list' smart.  And I love her so.

Essential Oils? I want to know. . .

As is probably blatantly obvious by now, I hunger after things that are natural, frugal, and effective.  From the foods I prepare to the products I use in my home to the activities we chose as a family, I try to be mindful of the costs (environmental, financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual).

It's just the way I roll.

Don't get me wrong, though, I am not living in a yurt drinking goat milk from bowls I have made in my kiln while thinking about the homespun skirt I am going to make later.

At least not yet.  :)

Monday, February 03, 2014

Oil of Cloves for Teeth Pain?

In recent posts about home made toothpaste (you can find them here and here) I was interested to find one ingredient listed that I hadn't heard of before: Oil of Cloves

Nosy Nelly that I am, I couldn't just leave it there. . .I had to find out what it was used for and whether it was a crucial piece missing from my daily oral care routine. :)

What I found out was pretty interesting!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Wells of Freedom We Did Not Dig

My husband loves to watch the 'Who-do-you-think-you-are-finding-your-roots' kinds of shows.  Usually, I am only half listening while I am answering emails, editing something, or blogging.  But something grabbed my attention last night and and I have been thinking about it ever since.

The show was 'Finding Your Roots,' a PBS show about discovering your genetic and genealogical roots.  Two noted people (celebrities, athletes, politicians, etc.) are featured each episode and it's usually full of interesting twists and turns and occasionally some dodgy hidden family surprises.

Understanding the G.A.P.S. Diet

Someone sent me a private message asking about my recent slight preoccupation withI've known for some time that there's a huge connection between the Gut and the Mind.  From artificial colors and preservatives to OD-ing on sugar to the dangers of genetically modified foods, we've all heard the warning about how foods affect our behavior as well as our health.

But it wasn't until a friend gave me a copy of a book called "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" that I began to really, REALLY get that connection.  And, given our son's particular set of issues, it certainly seems like something worth considering as a part of the complicated puzzle that he is.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Can You Re-Mineralize Your Teeth? (Recipe for Toothpaste and Mouth Rinse, too!)

In my recent post about home made toothpaste recipes, one of them was supposed to be for 're-mineralizing' your teeth.  (find that post here)  I've heard a LOT of debate on the subject and honestly don't know quite what to think about it.

Dentists, for the most part, seem to imply that tooth enamel, once damaged, is not fixable in any way.  But proponents say that, just like bone tissue, given the right diet, treatment and opportunity, teeth, which are alive, can heal.

Re-Purposing: ME!

I just had a birthday.

Usually, birthdays act on me like New Year's Eve does on others:  I reflect on the previous year, bemoan the changes I DID NOT MAKE, and set goals for the coming year.

To be honest, it's often a less-than-enjoyable time for me.

You know. . .kind of melancholy and 'can't believe I let another year slip by'-ish.  I think about all the moments wasted in worry or anxiety over things that, after all, ended up just fine.  I consider all the plans I had that I never carried through because of time, resources, or just plain energy.  I wonder at how I managed to squander all those precious moments with my husband, family and, especially, my God.

It makes me kind of blue.

How to Make Home Made Lip Balm - with Variations Galore!

I'm supposed to be cleaning up from a small dinner party with friends.  I'd been cooking all afternoon and had a mildly lavish spread planned.

But I'm waiting by the phone, instead.  My oldest son had a bit of an emergency this afternoon, and so I'm waiting to hear from my husband what the outcome is.

I don't do 'waiting' very well.

© 2013, Robynne Elizabeth Miller. All Rights Reserved.
My Little Prairie Home™ is a trademark of Robynne Elizabeth Miller
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