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Friday, May 30, 2014

Mojo - My New Favorite Marinade Recipe!

Have you ever suddenly come upon a delicious flavor that you’ve never quite tasted before?  That happened to me this week when I had my first encounter with a Cuban marinade called MOJO.  I nearly cried with excitement.    Oh. My. Goodness, it is that good!

We're all about big flavors around here and this little marinade/sauce/nectar from Heaven concoction is so dang yummy! It even freezes well, so if you’re making it, you might as well go for a big batch!

Traditionally made with sour oranges, which aren't terribly common up here in my alpine neck of the woods, this recipe uses a good substitute mix of lime and orange juices. But if you can get the real thing, do. . .I bet it's awesome!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ma's Cottage Cheese Balls with Onions - the Recipe!!

Well, I finally got around to making this recipe. . .and I'm glad I did because I was in danger of not being able to!

My homemade cottage cheese is just that good!

Between a ridiculously delicious no-pasta lasagna (check out this post for the recipe!) and nibbling from the bowl, I was barely able to restrain myself long enough to make Ma's good Cottage Cheese Balls with Onions!

Maya Angelou

Maya AngelouSo saddened to hear of the passing of one of my favorite authors today, Maya Angelou. 

Among her many fantastic books and speeches, chronicling her amazing life and person, is nestled my favorite quote:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Rest in peace, dear lady.  You will be missed.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/maya_angelou.html#8wJbhsK1Hkswv228.I;v

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Homemade Frozen Yogurt!!

Okay, so I happened to have a little extra time today waiting for school to get out after doing some errands.  Instead of just hanging out in my car, I decided to pop into a local thrift store to see what kind of trouble I could get into.

The boys are HARD on their clothes, and our 13 year old is growing faster than a Chia Pet, so I'm always on the lookout for some sturdy, inexpensive clothes.

Why Many Don't Sing in Church Anymore

Someone posted an interesting article on Facebook recently entitled "Why Men Have Stopped Singing in Church." (it can be found here)  It outlined the fascinating way church music has evolved from a time when only designated priests and cantors were allowed to sing while the congregation stood quietly through the advent of printed hymnals and resulting burst of corporate singing. 

A Trip to Downieville

Darling Main Street
Our oldest had to work today (at 6 am!!) so we put off doing something as a family until she got off.  Given that meant leaving at lunch time, we had a fairly limited radius in which to plot a mini adventure.  So, we looked at a map and made a decision.

Given that my daughter was just in a musical about a a California Gold Rush town, Downieville, we thought that was a splendid choice!

Downieville, once home to over 5,000 residents, now has less than 300, but is a stunning and well preserved historical hamlet nestled deep in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  It's also the setting for one of California's more tragic moments of history:  The "Trial of Juanita."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thank You to our Troops. . .

To all those who have faithfully served our country. . .to those who given their lives on behalf of the US. . .to those who have supported our troops and held down the home front so others could serve. . .to those who have endured the unspeakable loss of a father, son, sister, mother, brother or friend.

We profoundly thank you.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

All Veggie Lasagna

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that this makes TWO lasagnas!  One for now and one for the freezer!  Apologies to all who tried to get all that stuff in one pan!  :)
The other day I mentioned that I was going to be making an all veggie lasagna with some of the home made cottage cheese I produced the other day. (see here for how to make that yummy cottage cheese!)

A friend of mine is gluten free, so she quickly picked up on the reference and asked for this recipe.  I've been making it from well before anyone in our house was gluten free, though.  It's just that yummy.  It can be made both with meat or without, depending on your mood or food preferences, too.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Simple Way to be the Hands and Feet

There's a Matthew West song on the radio that, in response to all the hurt in the world, asks God the question:  "Why don't You do something?"  And the response?  "I did. . .I created you!"

I love this simple reminder that we are the hands and feet of Jesus. . .and sometimes the shoulder to cry on and a cheering section on His behalf, too.

Today one of my oldest friends (like 30+ years!!) called me from her home in Dallas, Texas.  We met as kids and walked through high school, a grand post-college cross-country adventure, weddings and all sorts together.  She's a precious friend and dear sister to me. 

We Burn Anyway

Recently I had a conversation with my youngest about choices.  Noah James was asking me what the effects of making bad ones have on a person.

For a while, I hemmed and hawed around the edges. . .explaining that we actually hurt ourselves and our relationships when we make bad choices. . .and very often the people we love.

He sat there, blankly staring at me.  Clearly I hadn't hit the mark.

A Moment of Breath and Light

A glorious day. . .
In college, I quickly gravitated toward Jewish American Literature when pursuing my English degree.  There was something powerful in the writing, so hauntingly strong and beautiful. Authors like Chaim Potok and Elie Wiesel pretty much rocked my world back then.

Why?  Because they deftly took me out of my own life and plopped me right in the middle of lives vastly different from my own.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Home Made Cottage Cheese

As you well know, this Practical Pioneer loves to make things from scratch.  Not only is the end product typically much healthier, but it's also usually significantly less expensive.  (Examples:  Making Your Own Buttermilk and Making Your Own Bacon)

Sometimes, however, cost isn't the driving factor. . .nor even health.  Sometimes, making something from scratch just tastes so. . .much. . .better!

Ma's Good Cottage Cheese Balls with Onions In Them

$3.79 for plain, bland store bought?  No thanks!
Today had the smell of summer in it.  A golden brown, warmed-by-the-sun kind of smell.

You know what I mean?

We've had such a weird spring this year.  It came early, backed away for another mini-winter, then came back warm and heady, then left again in lieu of cold and rain and sleet.

But today. . .well today it seem to come back but by early afternoon had left things in the hands of summer.  And it kind of looks like winter's not coming back again this time.  Which is okay by me.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thrifty Thursday - MoneyMakers

I've had several people ask me recently how I feed my family of six on the amount of money I do.  It's definitely a broad strategy of frugality with many components, but none of them are that hard to understand or master.

So, with that in mind, I've decided to launch a new series that will appear each (Thrifty) Thursday in which I'll highlight a variety of things. . .tips, recipes, and general strategies to help keep your budget in check.  Ready for the first one?  Let's go.

Homemade Tomato Feed/Fertilizer - 8 Options!

Finally getting some tomato plants in yesterday made me all dreamy and excited. I LOVE fresh, sweet, sun-ripened tomatoes. . .just about any way they can be used.

I have ten plants this year. . .two in hanging baskets and the rest in containers. Four are various cherry/small varieties (regular, purplish black, pear, and yellow) and the rest are a mix of hybrids and heirlooms. I can almost taste them now. . .tossed with some good olive oil, sea salt and fresh basil! YUM!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Home Made Poly Tunnel, Part 2

Finally had a chance to get back to my poly tunnel construction project today.  To remind you, we decided to make it just for this season out of found things to keep the cost down and our ingenuity up.

Making the frame and raised bed
We chose one of the few mostly sunny spots on our heavily treed property. . .right in front of our house in a location we're intending to build a patio in at some point.  We're doing a combination of containers and raised bed (see HERE for how we made that out of found materials) and using mostly stuff we had on the property to construct a makeshift poly tunnel.

Today we mostly just constructed the plastic cover (marrying three fairly cheap drop cloths together) and figuring innovative ways to secure the finished product (20x30 feet) to the arched poles.  We settled on strong hair clamp things.

Lots to Learn from Laura (Ingalls Wilder)

It's funny where the lovely Ms. Wilder pops up.  55 years after her death yet the tiny little pioneer woman still seems to maintain a relevant voice in today's modern culture.  How awesome is that?

This time it was in a blog post for a Healthcare PR firm.  Did you see that coming?  I sure didn't!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Home Made Dish Soap--Three Easy Recipes

As I was flying around town today trying to squeeze six hours worth of errands into two, I happened upon a casual acquaintance I hadn't seen in quite some time.  She's a fellow couponer and Modern Pioneer and we enjoy exchanging tips and ideas when we get the chance.

As we were readying to part, she happened to ask me what recipe I used for dish washing soap.  I stammered a bit.  I didn't have one.

He Leaves Me Notes

I love my husband.  A lot.

That's probably a good thing considering we're four kids, five pets and twenty years in.

But I kind of think the fact that I still like my husband is slightly more remarkable and possibly more valuable.

Why?  Because it's rarer.

Liking someone doesn't ride on a fickle rush of hormones or gushy romance.  It isn't anchored in years together or convenience or obligation.  No, it stands on its own.

Cleaning a Mattress, Stains and All

Just a few ingredients and a spray bottle!
I have a weird little personality quirk.  Well, actually, I have a load of weird personalty quirks, but today we're only going to talk about one:  Doing yucky stuff when I feel yucky myself.

I've been told that what I do is a little odd, but it makes perfect sense to me. . .if you're already mad or sad or sick or something, why not get a yucky chore out of the way while you're already in a less than wonderful mood?   That way, you don't have to gunk up a fab mood with a blech-y chore!  Total logic!

Today I'm a little bummed. . .our son is struggling with some big issues and we are struggling to find the help he needs.  So, seeing as I'm already a bit discouraged and worried, I thought it was a perfect time to tackle something I've been semi-dreading:  Mattress Cleaning.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Finding Hope in the Mundane

Making Laundry Soap
After being gone for so long, I had a million tasks to weave into our efforts to find help for our son today.  Between us, my husband and I spent about 6-7 hours on the phone and about as many on the computer, researching, all the while sorting our typical respective responsibilities.

Husband also put in an eight hour day working while I managed two home schooled kids, two traditionally schooled kids, the house, the chores, and a zillion other things.

To say I'm tired is an understatement.

My heart is tired.  My body is tired.  Even my hope is tired.

But it's not gone.

Ah, the Sweet Onion!

When I was growing up, I didn't realize that California was a deeply agricultural state. Or, more importantly, that being so was a bit unusual.  Had I known then that the Golden State produces about a third of what all of America eats, from dairy and fruit to veggies and meat, I might have appreciated it a little more.

But as it was, I just reveled in my family's prolific gardens, my grandma's raspberries and walnuts, my uncle's endless supply of abalone and salmon, and my cousin's steady flow of venison and antelope and freshwater fish.  Between our own home grown bounty and copious road side stands selling everything from luscious melons to corn so sweet and fresh it didn't even need to be cooked, we pretty much lived like kings from May through the end of October.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An Opportunity for Growth

Home sweet Home for 9 days

Today was one of those days that we call an 'Opportunity for Growth.'

After nine days in the ER, each day being told we were waiting for a bed to open in one of only two California facilities that could possibly treat our son, we heard early this afternoon that neither facility would, after all, take our son.  Reason?  Because of his cecostomy.

Keep in mind two things:

Day 9 in the ER, and I Think I Finally 'Have It'

Home away from home
I wish I was as fast a learner in life's lessons as I can be with academic subjects.  Things would certainly go a whole lot simpler for me.

But I usually get there in the end. . .or, in this case, the middle.  Guess that's better than nothing.

I want to be a person who always trusts that God has things under control and just watch for opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus along the way.  I'm not always successful at it.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Helen - The Mary Poppins of ER Nurses

Today's nurse was one I hadn't seen before.  She blew in on a gust of wind and, with great authority and emphasis, declared that "this boy needs to get on a schedule!" before we'd even introduced ourselves.

Nathan looked a little shell-shocked, to be honest, but it roused me out of a bit of a waiting-induced stupor.  I obediently answered a hail of questions as Nurse Helen quickly got a thorough overview of Nathan and our situation, and then whisked out her dry erase marker with which she started  scribbling furiously on our room's whiteboard.

"We'll start with the most important stuff" she announced, putting down times for medication and cecostomy flushes and other set-in-stone items.  Then, with great gusto, she began throwing out suggestions for times for all sorts of things. . ."when do you think he should shower?  Morning or night?  And what about schoolwork?  Better in the afternoon?"

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