Thursday, December 8, 2011

2012 Guide to Groceries under $250 a Month Ebook by Budget 101


Check out this new ebook from the folks at Budget 101.

"In the “2012 Family Guide to Groceries under $250 a Month" the author outlines how and where to cut grocery expenses to get spending under control while opening the consumers eyes to little known dirty manipulation tactics employed by retailers to seduce unsuspecting customers into spending sprees.

For many people struggling to maintain a budget, the cost of groceries is the only major expense in their control that can be drastically reduced without feeling a negative impact on their lifestyle. Liss explains in detail how to make simple changes that will not only pinch pennies, but help pinch Benji’s too!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Brick Walkway--Part of the History of My Home

This post was originally written several years ago as part of a 'Show and Tell' series, and the photos are old. The shrubbery and flower beds are so different now, but I thought it would be fun to post again.

When we were in the process of gutting and remodeling my grandparent's farmhouse in 2000, my husband had to knock out the brick chimney in the center of the old part of our house in order to implement the new floor plan. Now to let you know, this chimney was never part of a fireplace. Instead, it was the hidden chimney that vented the heating stoves in three different rooms. But when my grandparents had gas heaters installed in later years, the chimney was no longer needed as the heating stoves were removed. The round holes at the top of the walls where the metal pipes once came out and connected down to the heating stoves were covered with metal ‘plates’…and that’s what I remember as a child.

When Chad started the ‘gutting’ process, he painstakingly took out the chimney, brick by brick, or at least chunk by chunk! LOL I asked him if we could knock the mortar from each brick and stack them up for a future project. Now, I am the queen of coming up with ideas, but the following through…well, that’s another story. But he humored me, and took the time to do what I asked, probably thinking that those bricks would still be sitting there twenty years later!

But I surprised him (and myself)! I hauled those bricks, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, around to the front of the house and laid a brick walkway from the porch steps out to side driveway and near the picket fence and arbor. I used a ‘basket-weave’ design, and I think it turned out great for a first try. The ground was fairly level, so I didn’t have to do any grading…I simply laid the bricks. And so far, after almost seven years (now 10 years), it’s still in pretty good shape. The bricks, of course, have ‘settled’ some, but otherwise it looks the same. As with everything else, I go for the ‘cottage’ look, and in my opinion, the simple little brick walkway provides the front of our home with old-fashioned appeal. Plus, whenever I walk on the bricks, I remember that they once played an important part in keeping my daddy, aunt, uncle, and grandparents warm and cozy inside their little home.

(The photo at the very top of my blog gives yet another angle of the walkway if you scroll back up to look.)

My house has a lot of family history, and I feel blessed to live here. I like to imagine my grandma hanging out her clothes on the clothesline or putting a big plate of biscuits on the table for my hard-working farmer grandpa just in from the fields. I like to imagine my daddy as a little boy, playing marbles in the yard.

Now I see my own children playing in the yard, and I have the privilege of serving up good country cooking in the very same kitchen my grandma used. I like that!

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Children, Two Phone Calls, And An Exhortation

I had originally written this post in April of 2007, and it is about what happened on my husband's birthday that year. I (hopefully) learned a good lesson that day, and I thought it was worth revisiting! Just keepin' it real!

The Lord has His ways of getting our attention and reminding us of basic spiritual and biblical principals. Sometimes He uses people to convey His message, and sometimes He uses other forms of communication. But in any case, He WILL succeed!

The other day, I had not one, but two, of His ‘reminders’…and all in one afternoon. But in my case, He used my children and two accidental phone calls as His instruments. The result: A good old helping of humble pie and an exhortation to remember the importance of a meek and quiet spirit…even during the hectic and busy times…and even when our children are trying our patience!

It was my husband’s birthday, and I wanted his birthday supper celebration to be special. But I didn’t plan very well. That afternoon, instead of readying the house for his arrival home from work and getting a head start on cooking, I was scurrying to one town to get our car tags before we had to pay a penalty. I also needed to pick up a few items in another town that I’d ‘forgotten’ the night before when I went grocery shopping. Plus, a couple of the children wanted balloons and streamers. I also needed to stop by the bank before it closed. And to top it off, I didn’t know if I’d even be home before my husband…and remember, supper wasn’t even started yet. The two youngest children were also extremely whiny and fretful from no nap (once again, my poor planning). All of this hurrying to and fro was not making for a very peaceful Mama! I admit my nerves were a bit (!) stretched and I wasn’t long on patience. No excuses here…just the plain unvarnished truth.

In a futile attempt to get the baby to hush, we handed him the cell phone to play with. Um…not a good idea unless you turn it off first. Without us knowing it, he hit the speed dial button to one of my friends. Here was the conversation that was taking place in our van at that time:
Me: "John, hush."
John: (For the gazillionth time) "Waahhhh! I want my sucker!"
Me: "John, hush!"
Erin: "John, we’re heading to the bank. We’ll get a sucker."
John: "Waahhhh! I want my sucker!"
Me: "John, I will specifically ask for a sucker."
John: "Peas, Mama."
Me: (MANY decibels louder and with much irritation)…"JOHN. IF. YOU. DO. NOT. HUSH. YOU. WILL. NOT. GET. A. SUCKER!"
John: "Es, Ma’am. Es, Ma’am. Sniffle Sniffle."

Now, instead of all of this escalating yah-yah, I could’ve calmly and rationally handled the whole situation and administered appropriate discipline as needed…all while possessing a meek and quiet spirit. But no, I was the frazzled mom tearing madly down highway trying to get to the bank before it closed.

Then all of a sudden…R-i-n-g!
Me: "Hello!"
Friend: (Laughing) "That was quite an interesting conversation I just heard."
Me: (Cringing and face beet red) "Um, really?"
Friend: (Still giggling) "Uh-huh. I just got a glimpse into the window of the (our last name) world."
Me: "Um….I hope I didn’t say anything too bad."
Friend: "Well, let’s just say that when I heard the raised voice saying, ‘If you don’t hush, you WILL NOT get a sucker’…I figured I better hang up!" (Still laughing)

You would think after that little embarrassing episode, I would’ve learned my lesson. But nooooooo…. Fast forward to finally getting home…right before my husband pulled in. And let me set the stage here. One of the twins was staying home doing more spring cleaning. Almost our whole living room was out on the front porch, because she wanted to really deep clean, dust, and vaccuum without anything in the way. And because we were focusing on other areas of the house, the kitchen was a TOTAL wreck…as in, there was not ONE surface that was cleaned off in there. The sink was full of dishes, and I was frantically trying to get the lasagna concocted and in the oven. And two of the children are wildly trying to blow up balloons and hang streamers in the living room before Daddy drives up. You know, in the room where much of the furniture and knick-knacks are still out on the front porch!

Husband drives up. He has to navigate around the coffee table at the top of the porch steps, nudge beside an end table, and step over the magazine rack to successfully make it to the entrance. Door slams in his face. "No, Daddy! Don’t come in yet! We’re not ready!" LOL Can you imagine? His children won’t let him in the house because they are ‘surprising’ him, and his wife is running around the kitchen like a maniac, hair flying in all directions, ugly look on her face as she is trying to get his favorite meal in the oven…fussing at anyone who cares to listen!!! Happy Birthday, Honey! LOL

So the soupy lasagna is finally in the oven nowhere near to being ready. I think..okay, we’ll change the order of things and give him his new coffee maker…so he can use it after supper to make coffee to go with his chocolate birthday cake (that still isn’t finished)! "Have a seat, Honey, and I’ll get your present!" (Happy smiles through bared teeth)

Phone rings.
Friend: "May I speak to Wesley?"
Elisabeth: "Wesley, telephone."
(I tear out the room in my haste to get the gift. Wesley leaves the kitchen and disappears into his room, so I assume he’s off the phone. Um…don’t make assumptions.)
Me: Wesley, come on. We’re giving Daddy his gift. Wesley, where are you?"
Wesley: I’ll be there in just a minute, Mama. I’m looking for something."
(Finally, the stress of the day catches up with me big time, and I HAVE HAD ENOUGH of children who apparently aren’t minding their mama. By the way, is that burning garlic bread I smell??!)
Me: (Gritting teeth) "I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU ARE DOING! GET IN HERE RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE! WE. ARE. GIVING. YOUR. DADDY. HIS. GIFT! NOWWWWWWW! (I think there was a growl in that last word)!
Wesley: (Enters room with pale face and points to the waiting phone receiver…that IS STILL OFF THE HOOK …and connected to friend!) When he picks up the receiver, silence…obviously hung up on the other end. I probably scared our friend half to death…especially since my yell-fest was right beside the telephone! What kind of mother am I??!!! I’m sure our friend was thinking…I’m glad that’s not MY mama! Poor Wesley! LOL

I sort of threw the coffee pot box into my husband’s lap with a quick "Happy Birthday" and hurried to call our friend back to apologize! Yes, it was definitely one of ‘those’ kind of days and after some contemplation, I learned a few things!

I would never ever talk to my friends or acquaintances in a hateful or impatient tone of voice…and how much more important is my family??!! I’ve often heard that ‘character is who you are when you think no one is looking.’ Yes, that’s correct. But true character is also who you are in front of your children! Sometimes, I need to carefully examine my character! I do realize that there is a time to deal with disobedient or fussy children, but there are proper avenues for that. Losing my temper shouldn’t be an option. In all things, self-control.

Also, no matter what level of stress or irritation I may be experiencing, the Lord still commands and exhorts me to have a meek and quiet spirit…no excuses! It is of great price in the sight of God! (1 Peter 3:4) My children are my treasures. I need to treat them as such! And I want them to remember a mama who was patient, loving, and kind. That’s the legacy I want for them. I want them to remember me as one who drew strength from the Lord during the trying times and valiantly tried to crucify the flesh. Oh, how I fail in this area so many, many times!

Even though it was an extremely embarrassing and humbling experience for my friends to inadvertently hear me lose my temper at my children’s expense via telephone, there is Another who hears me all the time…24/7. And He’s much more important than any other. I need to remember His presence, His teachings, and His exhortation for me to strive to lead a godly life. I need to pray for His guidance and mercy, every day, every hour. Without Him I am nothing!

That’s the lesson I learned, and I thank the Lord for loving me enough to get my attention…even though He had to recruit my children, some unsuspecting friends, and a telephone to do it! He is faithful…may I be as well!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Strawberry Cobbler


4 cups cut up strawberries
3/4 cup water
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1 3/4 cup self rising flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place berries in a 9×13 greased baking dish. Mix water and 3/4 cup of the sugar; mix well and pour over berries. Mix flour, butter, and the rest of the sugar until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of the berry mixture. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Optional: serve with ice cream.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Decorating With Old Windows

We live in my grandparent’s remodeled 1930′s farmhouse. This is the house where my daddy was raised, and where I spent MANY happy hours with my grandma. My grandpa died when I was three, but I remember him too. I grew up right next door, and I was in and out of this house all the time. My mama jokes and says that my sister and I would find out what she was cooking for supper, then ask my grandma what SHE was cooking for supper. If we didn’t like the supper at our house, we just made ourselves at home out here! LOL

Anyway, I have a personal ‘relationship’ with my house. You can see other posts and pictures here, here, and here showing special things about it. But I love using old things to decorate, and things that have a special significance to my past and heritage are even better. So when we gutted and remodeled the house back in 1999 and had to replace all the old windows, we kept all of them out at the barn. My mama and daddy had plans for some of them too. Below are a few pics of some of the things that we’ve done with them.

First of all, a preacher friend of my mama and daddy’s used some of the windows to build this conservatory. Now I WANT one too!

Now, here’s another idea that I got from Angie over at The Happy Homebody.
After scraping off excess peeling paint, I stained one of the windows with a nice Italian sage green, backed it with burlap, and propped it over my mantel. Then I used some ribbon to coordinate with my living room colors and hung a nice ‘Home Is Where Our Story Begins’ sign in front. When I decorated for Christmas, I hung a wreath and a seasonal sign that said "It's A Wonderful Life" that my daughter painted for me.

One last photo. I propped one of the old windows (peeling paint and all) up on a small entry table beside my front door. I know it looks rather bare here, but since this photo was taken, I've used it to display seasonal decorations such as wreaths, garlands, signs, snowflakes, etc. I LOVE it!

We also have some old outbuildings from when this house was constructed. One is a pump house, and I have plans to repaint it, and hang one of the windows complete with window box underneath on one side. That project is right up there with repainting the picket fence! Sigh…..

Decorating with old's a good thing!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: P is for Peach--A Georgia Alphabet

P is For Peach: A Georgia Alphabet

Written by: Carol Crane

Illustrated by: Mark Braught

Published by: Sleeping Bear Press

  • ISBN 13: 9781585360468
  • ISBN 10: 1585360465

Sometimes you just find a book or series that makes your heart beat a bit faster, and you know you’ve hit a resource jackpot! That’s how I felt as I was browsing the non-fiction shelves in the juvenile section of our regional library last week. A picture book with a beautifully illustrated cover of a peach tree caught my eye, so I pulled it off the shelf for a closer look. I was so excited to find that it was P is for Peach: A Georgia Alphabet by Carol Crane, and I quickly started flipping through the pages. All I can say is WOW—a geography/history/alphabet book all in one! And of course, being a Georgia gal AND a history/geography buff, I put it in my ‘check out’ stack with a sigh of contentment and a feeling of anticipation!

Sleeping Bear Press has found a niche for educators, homeschoolers, elementary school students, and state history enthusiasts with their wonderful series, Discover America State By State. A few other book titles in the series include:

L is for Lonestar: A Texas Alphabet

S is for Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet

T is for Tar Heel: A North Carolina Alphabet

L is for Last Frontier: An Alaskan Alphabet

P is for Peach is the perfect book to introduce young children to the alphabet AND the wonders and natural splendors of Georgia, but it also contains thorough information appropriate for older children and adults as well—no fluff here! In fact, according to the Sleeping Bear Press/Gale website, here is a description of the book:

“As you travel through the Okefenokee Swamp, keep an eye out for Tiger Swallowtails and Brown Thrashers, and be sure to pick some Yellow Confederate Daisies before taking a nap under a Live Oak Tree. This is the Georgia that becomes a wondrous reality within the beautiful rhyming verses of Carol Crane and the colorful images of Mark Braught. At the same time the rhymes entertain and inform younger readers, Crane's in-depth expository text will appeal to older ones, creating a two-tiered teaching tool for educators in the Peach State and across the country.”

Carol Crane has done an excellent job compiling information and fascinating facts about Georgia, and the illustrator, Mark Braught, adds much to the book with his gorgeous and vivid illustrations. Well done! I like this picture book so much, that I plan to purchase a copy for my own state history bookshelf! And an extra bonus? There is a free teacher’s guide on the Sleeping Bear Press/Gage website to go along with this book and the others in the series as well. I plan on using the book and the teacher’s guide to add more interest and variation to our Georgia history studies.

For more information about P is for Peach, or any of the other Discover America State by State books, check out the website above. Highly recommended!

For more great Nonfiction posts, head on over to Practically Paradise, (the host for today's round-up).

Make A Bunny Banner

*Post first published in 2009 at my original blog.
~Note: Although in our home, we don’t equate bunnies and eggs with the resurrection of Christ, I do enjoy decorating for spring! And in the springtime, I think of flowers, baby animals, gentle days, etc. So enjoy the following project:

Spring has sprung! And to celebrate the season, you can create a special ‘bunny banner’ that is easy and fun to make. The basic idea is just the same as folding and cutting out old-fashioned paper dolls, but this project uses a cute bunny design instead.

Here’s what you’ll need:

8.5 x 11 inch paper or cardstock



Cut out of bunny template (below)- Copy the design on card stock for ease and durability, and cut out to use as a tracing guide.

Crayons or makers



Fold the paper or cardstock in half lengthwise and crease, then cut.

Fold one of the strips of paper into fourths, then fold like an accordion. Each section will measure 2.75 in. x 4.25 in.

Position the bunny template so that the nose and back of bunny touches each side of the paper. Trace around the template.

Cut around the traced design, being careful not to cut where the outline touches the sides.

Unfold the bunny chain…you should have four connected bunnies.

Give each bunny an eye and a pink nose.
You can tape more than one ‘litter’ of bunnies together to create a bunny garland. Hang from a mantel or spot of your choice to add a little seasonal interest and enjoy!

(Bunny Template)

Copy on cardstock and cut out to use as a tracing guide.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Press Release for the Virtual Specialist Tour Hosted by the NWFCC

I am so excited to be a part of this month’s Virtual Specialist Tour hosted by the NWFCC. Below is the press release! I've never done anything like this before OR had a press release written for/about this is pretty neat! :)
Amy M. O’Quinn’s 6-day Virtual Homeschool Specialist Tour hosted by the NWFCC Fri, Mar 25.

Homeschool Specialist Amy M. O’Quinn is being showcased the entire month of March at the National Writing for Children Center. Part of this showcase includes a 6-day virtual specialist tour.

PRLog (Press Release) – Mar 24, 2011 – M E D I A R E L E A S E

CONTACT: Suzanne Lieurance

Amy M. O’Quinn’s 6-day Virtual Homeschool Specialist Tour hosted by the National Writing for Children Center kicks off Fri, March 25

Homeschool Specialist Amy M. O’Quinn is being showcased the entire month of March at the National Writing for Children Center. Part of this showcase includes a 6-day virtual specialist tour. Join Suzanne Lieurance, founder and director of the National Writing for Children Center, and the virtual specialist tour hosts as they welcome Amy M. O’Quinn for her exclusive tour that starts Friday, March 25.

Amy M. O’Quinn is a pastor’s wife and former schoolteacher-turned-homeschool mom of six. She is also a freelance writer who enjoys jotting down ideas around the fringes of family life. She specializes in non-fiction, and her work has been published or acquired by various magazines including Jack and Jill, US Kids, Guideposts for Kids, Learning Through History Magazine, Highlights, GEORGIA Magazine, Homeschooling Today, International Gymnast, etc.

Amy is a product/curriculum/book reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and a regular columnist for TEACH Magazine. In addition, she has done some educational product/website writing for a major school supply company. She was also the co-founder and president/newsletter editor of her local homeschool support group for seven years.

Intrigued? Want to learn more about O’Quinn? Follow along on her virtual specialist tour. Here’s the schedule:

Friday, March 25
“Meet the Homeschool Specialist”
Host: Irene Roth –

Saturday, March 26
“The Homeschool Specialist’s Life”
Host: Donna McDine –

Sunday, March 27
“Homeschooling Research Tips for Parents”
Host: Nicole Weaver –

Monday, March 28
“Homeschooling Resources”
Host: Mayra Calvani –

Tuesday, March 29
“On the Go”
Host: Nancy I. Sanders –

Wednesday, March 30
“Become a Facebook Fan”
Host: Terri Forehand –

Thank you for your interest, we look forward to your visit.

Authors interested in being showcased at the National Writing for Children Center can download an application or email Donna McDine for more information at

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jonah Days vs. Julie Days…And Happiness Bubbles In Your Heart

Note: The following entry was first posted back on September 30, 2006. However, I thought it might be encouraging to revisit this little piece of writing to keep things in perspective. Even though ‘Jonah’ days come upon everyone from time to time, thank the Lord that He provides the ‘Julie’ days as well! Sometimes I just need to be reminded~


I think Anne of Green Gables coined it aptly when she referred to those days when nothing goes right as "Jonah" days! We’ve all had them at times–some more than others–but "bad" days, all the same. You know, the days when you’d rather pull the covers over your head instead of getting up out of bed. The laundry and dishes are piled high, the pipe under the kitchen sink is leaking, the house needs a good cleaning, the baby is running a temperature, you need to buy groceries, you’re out of toilet paper (!), and you ESPECIALLY don’t feel like teaching any school lessons today!

At times like this, it’s tempting to lock ourselves in the bathroom or better yet, go back to bed! But we can’t, and we don’t. We pray for grace, grace, and more grace, and we move forward…even if it’s at half-speed. We do what needs to be done, because it’s what we’ve been called to do…even when we don’t feel like it….and even when we do it out of ‘duty’ instead of joy! The Lord picks us up and carries us through the "Jonah" day (or days)…for in our weakness are we made strong…apart from Him we can do nothing! We have to look up, and eventually we do feel that joy again.

Then there are days that I will refer to as "Julie" days. These are the days when we feel like twirling around with arms outstretched (ala Julie Andrews as Maria in ‘The Sound of Music") and belting out…"The hills are alive with the sound of music…" Everything is going right. We love everybody, and they love us back! Life is good, and we are just happy to be alive! Now granted, we don’t have many ‘hills’ down here in south Georgia, but I’m sure you get the general idea! And I think that the Lord does give us "Julie" days just when we need them most…sort of like a good rain after a drought!

This morning I got up early and went for a long walk. I’m not much of a morning person by nature (especially on Saturdays), but when I do make the effort to get up and take my ‘daily constitutional’ early in the day, I find it’s always worth it! I started down the farm road towards the pond…praying and meditating on scripture. The air was cool and crisp (how did these cold mornings sneak up on me?), and the atmosphere was calm and peaceful. The cows eyed me suspiciously for a moment–then ignored me. I moved along at a brisk pace, just enjoying the beautiful morning. All was well.

As the pond came into view, I just stopped and took in the lovely scene before me. As misty clouds surround majestic mountain tops, so did the will o’ the wisp whiteness hover above the water’s surface, like steam swirling above hot coffee. It was breathtaking, and I was in awe of God’s creation and His greatness! It was definitely a "Julie" moment! But I contained myself, as I didn’t want to disturb the cows! ~LOL~ I "drank it in" (to steal another quote from Anne), then I started home.

One of my daughters described it best not long ago. As she looked at her baby brother, she said, "I can hardly stand it; it feels just like "love bubbles" welling up in my heart." I knew just what she meant, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s real joy, and as I got close enough to home to see the top of the barn and the roof of the house, I felt it too. I guess you could say I felt "happiness bubbles" in my heart. I felt so blessed and content with my life and my family. Now, I’m no Pollyanna….just ask my husband and children…especially before I’ve had my first cup of coffee. But, at that moment, all I could feel was absolute joy. My heart headed home, and my feet quickly followed! I felt the Lord’s presence in a mighty way, and it was a special moment. I knew my husband and children were there at home, waiting on me…well, okay, most of the children were still asleep, but they were still there…safe, happy, and healthy. And in today’s world, that’s saying a lot! I’m very undeserving, yet so richly blessed! God is good!

I’m glad that amid the "Jonah" days, there will also be "Julie" days to refresh us and remind us that no matter what, God is there…during the good days and the bad, the happy and the sad. He will never leave us nor forsake us! I pray that your weekend will be blessed, and may "happiness bubbles" find their way into your heart today!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Favorite Whole Foods Recipes and Resources

As a homeschool wife/mom and a notorious ‘researcher,' I’ve had an interest in nutrition and a healthier lifestyle for quite some time. I know that I must have adequate energy and a positive attitude in order to keep up with all my responsibilities, and I enjoy reading about the topic and experimenting in the kitchen. But I remember when I first seriously started searching for nutritional answers for my family…

About fifteen years while browsing in a Christian bookstore, I stumbled upon the book The 15 Minute Meal Planner by Emilie Barnes and Sue Gregg. I already had many of Emilie’s organizational books and loved her writing, so I bought this book…and needless to say, a whole new world was opened up for me. I eagerly soaked up all the nutritional information and practical advice about incorporating a whole foods diet, and immediately I set out to revamp all of our eating habits. I hit the health food stores, bought all kinds of “healthy” ingredients, and began churning out “healthy” dishes. Let’s just say that all went over like a LEAD BALLOON! Learn from my mistakes. If you want to change the way you eat and encourage your family to embrace a whole foods lifestyle…do it S-L-O-W-L-Y…one step at a time.

So, I was back to square one. I may have been discouraged, but I wasn’t defeated. I was still determined to incorporate more whole foods into our diet, but I had learned a valuable lesson. I kept reading and learning, but this time I took baby steps. First of all, I started serving more fruits and vegetables and substituted brown rice for white rice. That worked out great. Later, I introduced store-bought whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta…so far, so good. Very few complaints! When you are used to white bread and white pasta and rice, the heavier texture of whole grains takes some getting used to…but it comes…eventually…or at least it did in our home. I also started using meat as a compliment to our meal instead of the main focus, and I began substituting store-bought whole wheat flour for white flour, first 1/4 to 3/4, the 1/2 to 1/2, etc. But these changes were made over several months. Patience, patience!

During this ‘transition’ time, I purchased the set of Sue Gregg cookbooks. I wanted them right after I bought The 15 Minute Meal Planner, but I had to save up my birthday and Christmas money…it was a great investment. I learned so much from these cookbooks, and they are still a permanent fixture in my kitchen. I’ll admit that I don’t always use the recipes word for word, but I did learn a lot about the concept of whole foods cooking! Below this post, you will find one of our favorite recipes using lentils that comes from her ‘Main Dishes’ cookbook.

During this time, I also purchased Hearth and Home by Karey Swan. I’ll admit I bought this book on a whim while ordering some of my homeschool books from CBD, but it turned out to be one of the best books on homemaking and the whole foods lifestyle that I’ve ever read. I refer to it all the time. And because of Karey’s information about baking homemade bread and using freshly ground whole grains, I was inspired to try new whole grains and save up for a grain mill and a Bosch kitchen machine…but that came later. I was still learning (and I still am).

Fast forward a year or two. We moved to a new town where my husband began pastoring a new church. We joined a new homeschool group, and made new friends. New, new, new! And it just so happens that one of my new friends was an expert on grinding whole wheat flour and baking whole wheat bread. She invited me over for a bread making session and allowed me to try out her Whisper Mill, Bosch, and Vita-Mix. Now I was hooked for sure. I kept saving gift money, and my friend was able to get a great deal on a Whisper Mill and Bosch through one of her good friends who also happened to be a distributor of bread making supplies in Texas. I was in business! And somewhere along the way, I also added two other great cookbooks, More With Less and Whole Foods For the Whole Family. Both are great resources filled with wonderful recipes!

Fast forward to the year 2000. We moved back to the family farm where we now live. Many healthy habits were now in place, but with this move I lost easy access to my bread baking supplies and whole grains. But after doing some internet research, I found a co-op in a nearby town that uses Bread Becker’s delivery out of the Atlanta area. Eventually, a sweet lady in our church took over that co-op, moving it even closer to home, and she does an EXCELLENT job of running it, sending out a newsletter with recipes and information, and answering questions about using whole foods. So, every three months I can order buckets of whole grains, oats, baking supplies, etc. Very convenient!

Now, let me say this. We are by no means purists! I sometimes do use white flour and white sugar. And instead of a sweet ‘tooth’…everyone in my family has sweet ‘teeth’! And although my husband will eat homemade whole wheat bread, he actually still prefers Capt. John Derst bread. But my children would honestly rather go without bread than eat anything BUT homemade. They also prefer the whole oats that I buy through the co-op, and we do eat a lot of oatmeal. I sweeten it with Sucanat or honey, and add locally grown blueberries that we buy each year by the gallons and raw sunflower seeds that I purchase through the co-op as well. I did have an electric tortilla press and baker, and we used it a lot until I wore it out–now I need to get another one. I cook black beans or pintos either in the pressure cooker or slow cooker, and we have homemade burritos for lunch.

Many nights I will bake whole wheat sour cream cornbread using freshly ground whole wheat flour and freshly ground cornmeal. I do try to make healthier substitutions in favorite recipes (and I know some of this is debatable)…for example, whole wheat flour for white, whole wheat angel hair pasta for white spaghetti noodles, Sucanat for brown sugar, honey for white sugar, olive oil for shortening, non-fat plain yogurt for sour cream, etc. We drink a lot of water, and my children love fruit! I’ve dabbled in buying organic meat, eggs, and milk (I love organic skim milk!), but that has been a bit cost prohibitive. We eat a lot of veggies, brown rice, barley, lentils, and other whole grains and legumes.I know we are not where I would like us to be, but we are so much further along the healthy eating path than we once were! And I admit that I make progress in spurts…then I fall off the healthy lifestyle wagon. I get up, brush myself off, and start again. It’s not a diet…it’s a lifestyle…and it’s one that takes time and effort. But it is SO worth it.

Oh, I almost forgot. There are two great websites that I visit often that have wonderful recipes and information on the whole foods lifestyle…Crystal Miller’s The Family Homestead and Healthy Hillbilly Housewife. Check ‘em out!

Recipes Worth Trying:

Lentil Rice Casserole
From Sue Gregg’s ‘Main Dishes’ Cookbook

1. Blend all together in casserole dish except the cheese (wash lentils and rice, if needed).

3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup uncooked lentils
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 cup intstant minced onion flakes or 1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup grated cheese, optional
*Note: sometimes I doctor this up a little more with salt and pepper or addtional spices…it’s your preference!

2. Bake covered at 300 degrees for 2 – 2 1/2 hours until tender and water is absorbed.

3. To serve, top hot casserole with the grated cheese and stir it in.
Makes 4 to 6 servings:

Many times we will put this mixture into tortillas and top with addtional cheese and sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, etc….sort of like a burrito. Delicious and economical!

Whole Wheat Sour Cream Cornbread

3/4 cup cornmeal (I use freshly ground)
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground)
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. sugar or substitute
1 egg, beaten
2 T. melted butter (I use olive oil)
1 cup sour cream (fat-free okay or substitute with non-fat plain yogurt)
4 T. milk (or more to make right consistency)

Sift flour and cornmeal; add soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add beaten egg, sour cream, milk, and melted butter (or oil). Beat thoroughly. Pour into a greased 9 inch square pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

*Note: Sometimes I double this recipe…one 9 inch pan usually isn’t enough for my hungry crowd…especially with this favorite recipe!

Baked Oatmeal

3 cups dry oatmeal
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter (yes, but it’s good!)
1 cup brown sugar (I use Sucanat)
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla (I make my own)
1/2 cup to 1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup nuts (we have pecan trees, but sometimes I use almonds or sunflower seeds instead of pecans)
2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter; stir in sugar, vanilla and eggs. Add oats, nuts, and dry ingredients. Stir in milk. Fold in berries. Pour into an 8 inch greased dish. Bake 20-25 minutes or until firm in center.

*Note: This is another recipe that I always double. Also, I make mine a little soupier because my husband doesn’t really like it too dry. Chopped apple and maybe some nutmeg is also a delicious option. This is SO good!

Whatever stage of ‘nutrition re-assessment’ you are in, just learn as much as you and make the necessary baby steps to improve your diet. Take it slow, but be persistent and consistent. The dividends of a whole foods lifestyle are great!

Gladys Taber on Homemaking

"But housekeeping is fun, and I think the women who hate it lack imagination. It is one job where you enjoy the results right along as you work. You may work all day washing and ironing, but at night you have the delicious feeling of sunny clean sheets and airy pillows to lie on. If you clean, you sit down at nightfall with the house shining and faintly smelling of wax, all yours to enjoy right then and there. And if you cook–ah, if you cook–that creation you lift from the oven goes right to the table."
~Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Seasons

From Country Living

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Little Kitchen Corner Of Happiness

I just love little bits of happiness spread all over my house. When I walk past this corner of my kitchen…I smile! It’s the small things in life that can bring the greatest pleasures.

I’ve wanted one of these little vintage stoves for a long time–ever since I first saw a similar one on Ruthann’s blog, Sugar Pie Farmhouse. I just love the retro look, and I was excited to find my stove on Ebay for $3.00, although it needed some work. I repainted the outside, but I still need to repaint the top…but I’m still happy with how it turned out!
I found the LeCrueset look-alike ramekin at Goody’s, and the tiny teakettle and rolling pins were clearance Christmas items at KMart in January. The ‘pies’ (candles) came from CVS in the fall, and I found the glass dome/pedestal at Hobby Lobby in December…it was a little Christmas gift from me to me! LOL Actually I had a coupon for 50% off one item, so it really didn’t cost much.
The lamp is really cool. It has a built-in easel on the front to hold a book or plate. I chose to display the precious red/white polka dot plate my daughters gave me for Christmas. I have the matching coffee mug, and I LOVE it. It’s from the Spode "Baking Days" pattern. I think the soft glow of a lamp in the kitchen is so peaceful…especially in the evening.
I also enjoy my red/white "You Are Special" plate that my mama gave me for my birthday a year or two ago. We don’t eat off it much, but I’m going to try and use it more in a conscious effort to do small (but important) things to bless my family. And yes, I do think it adds to the decor. LOL

I am really considering re-doing my kitchen in a red/white retro-vintage-farmhouse theme. I think red/white curtains and accessories would go nicely with my blue/white walls and trim.

Like I said…it’s the little things.

Under Construction

This site is currently under construction for a 'face lift!' Please come back later for a visit, and hopefully you'll see some great changes and new posts. My old blog at Homeschool Blogger changed completely when they re-vamped the system, but I still have lots of original posts and information there if you care to dig through the archives while this blog undergoes a transformation!
That old address is: