January 31, 2010

One Woman's Trash...

...Is Another Woman's Treasure.

Sometimes God blesses us with the desires of our hearts, even when we don't ask.

Last week, my mom was getting her hair done when the client in the chair next to her was talking about her long history as a seamstress. The beautician doing mom's hair said, "You know, Judy's daughter and granddaughters sew." One thing led to another and the discussion came around to the fact that this lady had been sewing for thirty-five years. In recent years her eyes have been going and she can no longer sew. After so many years behind the machine she has collected many sewing and quilting goods. She wanted to know, would Mom like to take it to us?

"Would I? I would gladly pay you for it," was Mom's response. The darling woman refused a penny and delivered two yard size trash bags to Mom at her next hair appointment. These bags were so enormous Allen could scarcely pick them up and the trunk of his car almost wouldn't close after they were stashed away.

We had a wondrous time digging in and sorting through the plunder. There was clothing fabric, quilting fabric, upholstery fabric

...and even a number of chair cushion forms.
Rubbermaids full of notions, buttons, zippers, bias tape, snaps, needles, snap tape, hooks and eyes...
Yards and yards of interfacing, quilt batting, 2 thread boxes with a rainbow of colors, quilting stencils and dresden plates, dress patterns, home decorating patterns...
... plenty to keep us busy with lots of fun through the winter and most of the summer, too.


January 30, 2010

Dancing In the Kitchen

I am joining Pam at You're Gonna Miss This... in her weekly blog carnival where we reflect and record the daily joys of parenting that we will miss when they grow up.

My children love to dance. They turn on music, any music, usually too loud and all start jumping around.

Oh, but they didn't start out this way. I taught it to them.

Back in 2002 Allen took a new job that required a great deal of travel, and often means getting home late. That was about the time my ovaries kicked into full swing. We had two year old Emma, newborn Nathaniel and added Aedan the next year and Samuel not long after that. I loved those days with all my preschoolers but I would be lying if I didn't say the days were often tiring, especially trying to keep up home school with the older two girls, being pregnant, nursing a baby and all the other responsibilities that go along with being a wife and mama. And doing it on very little sleep. And usually going it solo.

I could hold it together pretty well most of the time. But come dinner it always seemed like everything fell apart. All of a sudden everyone seemed to have a melt down at the same time, and I was often right in there with them. When weather allowed, I would take the kids outside and we would just run and jump and swing and do whatever we had to in order to work it out.

But in the winters, it gets dark early, and often it is rainy or too cold to take babies outside. At a complete loss one day, I put in a CD of kids music that my mom had brought over, and turned it on loud enough to drown out the noise and hopefully gets the kids attention long enough for them to calm down.
Before I knew what was happening, the hokey-poky started playing and everyone was dancing merrily around the kitchen. Putting their left in and shaking their right all about. Everyone jumped and squirmed and giggled until they were worn out and dinner was ready to go on the table. It worked so well, that it became our regular ritual, when Pa wasn't home by dinner time.

The children enjoyed it so much, that when I didn't put music on, they would ask me, "Can we dance?" When Samuel was able to stand up, he joined in the fun, too. A few years later, Elisabeth came along and soon enough learned how to take part.

Now, if someone is in the kitchen and the music isn't playing, Elisabeth will beg, "Ipod, please???" It doesn't matter what music is playing. She will sing and shout and spin and twirl until she collapses.
Even though it started out as a mere survival strategy, one day I am going to miss seven laughing munchkins dancing around the kitchen while I cook dinner.

January 29, 2010

Who is that Fat Little Blob?

Today I am joining Alicia at More Than Words in her Friday Photo Flashback. We have had this picture sitting around for years. It got misplaced when we moved and ended up in a box in the attic. When we found it unfortunately, the humidity up there had caused it to stick to the glass in the frame. I tried desperately to get it out without damaging it but couldn't get it lose and even tore it a little. So we have been staring at it for years trying to figure out what to do. Allen scanned it last week and considering it is almost 40 years old and torn and stuck to the glass, I think it actually came out rather well. I am going to try to have it printed so I can add it to our family portraits in the hall way. This is one of the few photos from my child hood that survived my parents divorce in one piece. Can you guess who it might be? Of course, I gave it away. This is me with my older brother, Frank. Does he remind you of anyone?

That was in 1972. In 1992 we had this photo taken of Frank's son, Brandon, and Kaitlin.

If you've not been there yet, be sure to stop by 365 Ways...


January 28, 2010

Week 41 of 52

Forever In Blue Jeans
I've accepted Carin's challenge, as a Mom, to get back into the picture. The idea is that once a week you take a picture of yourself. Give the camera to your hubby, the kids, the grocer. Who cares? Just pass it off and say, "Cheese." It's that simple. If you'd like you can post your picture on your blog. You can let me know you posted so I can check out your pics. You can check out my previous weeks or Click the button below to add your name to the Linky and take a look at all the others. If you want start fresh for 2010, Carin has a new challenge, "Shoot Me!" Check it out on her blog at Forever in Blue Jeans.

I had no pictures of me this week. It was 42 so we went outside for some fresh air and I ended up on the teeter totter with the kids. Kaitlin grabbed the camera and snapped a few shots for me to post. Thank the Lord for Kaitlin.

I love Elisabeth's face in this one! She would go up and down FOREVER!
When the kids got tired and the sun started to set, they decided to find the good old indoors again. We read some books and had a cuddle by the fire until they warmed up again.

And if you've not been there yet, stop by 365 Ways... and check it out.


January 27, 2010

The Staff of Life

I have saved Jen T.'s comment from two weeks ago because she touched on exactly the issue I wanted to write about this week. Bread. I have talked about bread in other posts. But it needs to be addressed here again. It may just be wheat, salt, water and yeast but it is something I feel very passionate about both from a financial and a health issue.

My mom always says, "Bread is the staff of life." I think that is a very true statement. A good loaf of whole grain bread is filling, satisfying and nutritious. What is better than a nice piece of toast when you are feeling under the weather? Have you ever enjoyed a meal of bread hot from the oven with fresh butter? Bread is indeed the simplest and most basic of foods and when properly prepared can be both incredibly nourishing and enjoyable.

However, the stuff that most of us are eating is neither nourishing nor, if we really admit it, enjoyable if not to carry the topping or filling. Bread, in its unadulterated state, can stand on it's own in glorious splendor. When was the last time you desired to eat a slab of that processed, chemical filled stuff for it's delicious flavor? No, on second thought, don't answer that. Even if you do eat plain wonder bread out of the bag and enjoy it, sadly it is because your taste buds have not had the opportunity to really enjoy the good stuff.

When the Israelites were wandering in the dessert, what did God provide them with on a daily basis? Bread. This ought to show us that it is an important aspect to our diet. Jesus called Himself the bread of life. And there are indeed many spiritual lessons to be gained from that analogy. However, I will let it suffice to say that bread should have some serious consideration from a health standpoint.

When we talk about bread from a commercial point of view you can sum it up in two words. "Too much." The ingredients are too much and it costs too much! I have said it before, I said it again last week and I will say it again now, read that ingredients list! All it takes to make an excellent loaf of bread is, now say it with me: flour, yeast, water and salt. What other junk is in your loaf? Further more, even with the unbelievable increase in the cost of flour in recent years, you can still make a loaf of bread for about fifty cents worth of raw materials. How much did you pay for that last loaf off the grocery store shelf?

And this is a great way to convert your family to a healthier status. Dear Daveda, in reference to your comment about your sweet hubby's refusal to eat healthy bread.

"As far as stubborn hubby's my is at the top of the list...still. There are many things he will not switch on, for example bread, so in these area's as much as I hate to do it, I have to buy bread for "us" and bread for "him" YA...stubborn!!!"

I am willing to bet that if you have a loaf of bread ready to come out of the oven when your man comes home from work, he will not only ask what that delightful smell is, but also be hanging around waiting for a taste.

Listen up my friends!

This is a big first step in converting him, not only to better bread, but also to better overall eating. That's how I won my husband over many years ago. He still talks about that wonderful bread. And I still have to smack his fingers away when I have a few loaves on the cooling rack. And he still will choose some home made bread sliced up and toasted for breakfast or a snack. And that my friends is a far cry from the frozen pizza and Little Debbie snacks who used to call food!

I stand firm that the best way to go is to start with grinding your own wheat and forming it into something terrific. But don't sweat it if you are not ready to take that plunge yet, although, it is a lot easier than it sounds. There are lots of options between wonder bread and your fresh ground whole wheat home baked loaf.

This recipe I posted some time ago, is a great one to start with. As I look back over this post, I see that I covered the basics of grinders here, too. So pop on over and take a look. With this recipe, I have found a great way to have fresh bread ready all the time is this... I mix up 3 loaves and form three into loaves, put them in the pans to rise and bake right away. (Three is the magic number because I can mix three at a time in my kitchen aid and three is how many my family eats in a day.) Then, while I already have my ingredients out and the mess on the counter, I make up a few more batches. I shape them into loaves that will fit my pans and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Then it is straight into the freezer. Once they are frozen solid, I wrap each loaf in plastic wrap and pop them into a freezer bag. When I need a loaf of bread, I simply grease my pan, drop the dough in and let it thaw and rise until it is about 1 or 2 inches above the top of the pan. If you have a wood stove or fire place, on the hearth is a great place to do this. It will speed the process and there is something aesthetically pleasing about seeing bread rising next to the fire.

You are very welcome for that little side note. Now, for those who aren't ready to find their way into the kitchen or aren't yet convinced to take the plunge, go one step at a time.

This week when you go to the bread aisle, try to get one step better than what you normally buy. If you are a wonder bread family, try the "whole grain white bread".

Then next week move up to a fake wheat bread. One of those breads that say they are wheat but when you read the ingredients it is in fact bleached wheat flour and a lot of stuff to make it look like whole wheat.

The next week, go for the one that actually has some whole grains in it.

The next week try one that has unbleached flour as the main ingredient.

And the next week try to find a loaf that has unbleached flour and does not contain high fructose corn syrup. (High fructose corn syrup is an entirely different post but let me just say here that it is one ingredient you should avoid at all costs.)

Before you know it you will be ready to buy the 100% whole grain loaves available.

Then you can move on to the ones sold in your health food store that are baked by locals from fresh ground wheat. Some large grocery stores have a health food department where you can find these sorts of products.

Finally, your family will be hooked on this delicious product, you will get sick of paying the prices and learn how to bake your own bread.

Yes, this can be a long process, and I assure you that the family will balk at it a lot more than if you just do as I suggested earlier and bake some at home, but some times people like to take things a bit slower. Daveda, I do not suggest this method with your hubby. This method will only work on those where bread is not a big deal. For you my dear, I fear, it is the baking challenge alone that will work. In fact, I am so sure that you can convert him this way, that I am willing to reimburse you the cost of your bag of whole wheat flour if he won't eat it or doesn't love it. Furthermore, to anyone who rises to this challenge and posts or emails me a picture of their bread or family eating the bread I will award them with this wonderful Staff of Life made by my dear darling Brianna.

Do you think your family is already doing well because you buy the high fiber breads sold in the stores? Did you ever wonder how they get all that fiber in there without adding more whole grain? Paper. No joke. Some of the commercially prepared high fiber breads actually use the equivalent of paper pulp in order to boost the fiber content. Don't get me started on the fact that the government allows such labeling and falsehoods in the ingredients label.

For those who are more advanced bakers you could check out some artisan breads, like this recipe I posted. And for those who are really going along well and want to take that final step you can move on to 100% whole grain in bread recipes.

Which brings me back to Jen T's questions and comments on bread from a few weeks ago.

"Great post. Back when we were first married in Japan we bought a bread machine. When we got back to the states we went to Sam's Club with my mom and picked up 6 bread machine cook books. We still have them and use them to this day. In fact, I just put in 2 batches of dough for Herb Rolls for lunch. It calls for bread flour (which is white), but I substituted fresh ground wheat. What do you grind your wheat berries in? We use our new 5200 Vita-Mix. It works just as well and faster than our grinder attachment to our Champion Juicer. Anyway..."

OK, my friend, Jen T. You bring up a lot of great points here. What not to do when looking for a wheat grinder? Don't use your Champion Juicer. (Although, for those who are asking this is my definite preference for juicers). The Champion Juicer, or any juicer, nor your kitchen aid have motors that are made to stand up to this kind of work. Despite the manufacturer's suggestion that you can grind wheat berries and other whole grains with these appliances, no one I have ever spoken with who tried it found success and all of them ended up burning out their machines in which they had invested a good amount of money. Better to just make the investment in a good grinder to begin with.

Speaking on the Vita-Mix, I have heard of success when grinding wheat berries, and with such a great long time warranty who cares if the motor burns out? However, ladies I have asked who have used both a grinder and a Vita-mix to grind told me that they found the vita-mix to be slow and cumbersome. Not a problem if you are baking an occasional loaf but a hindrance if you are grinding for a family of your size. On the other hand, with so many children there are lots of people to do the work so if you are good with it, I say go for it and get the most out of that Vita-Mix. However, if you don't already own a vita-mix and you are looking for a grinder, the vita-mix is not a small investment and you can find a grinder for less that will do an efficient job.

I had a friend who's husband refused to invest in an electric grinder. He bought her the old fashioned wheel kind. They had six children and he rigged it up to the exercise bike. Each day the children were required to grind a certain amount of flour, which I think was one cup. They found this a useful way to burn off some of the boys' excess energy so they would sit still for school. If you have a garage, need to lose a few pounds, or like my friend have five energetic boys, I say more power to you here!

But I have neither a garage nor the time to invest in grinding wheat like my great grandmother did. So for me I have the Wonder Mill. This was formerly called the Whisper Mill. You can check out all the details and even watch a video on their website. There are lots of other grinders on the market. In fact, I used to own the k-tech. Which is a high end mill and does the job well. However, it was so loud that we did the grinding on our porch or in the basement because I truly feared it would hurt the children's hearing. It also took a long time to grind 8 cups of wheat berries, created a lot of dust and was cumbersome to clean up. I was thrilled when my Allen gave me the Wonder Mill for my birthday a few years back. It runs quieter than my kitchen aid, makes no dust at all, can grind 12 cups in a matter of minutes and requires no more than a wipe with the tea towel to clean up. Unlike some of those sales videos, their demonstration video truly shows what it is really like. The prices run the same from dealer to dealer but some dealers do offer free shipping so look around to save yourself a few bucks.

Another point that Jen T. raised was that once you get comfortable with making your own bread you will be whipping up a batch for breakfast, lunch or dinner without giving it a second thought. If Jen can do it while homeschooling their many small children, you certainly can!

Jen also brought up bread machines. This can be a great asset to starting your journey to home baked bread. I know longer own one because it couldn't keep up with the amount of baking required for my family. Plus I have limited counter and storage space. So when I was blessed with my kitchen aid, I did away with the bread machine. I found the bread machine was great for white bread products but I did not care for the way a whole wheat loaf finished in it. HOWEVER, I did put my ingredients in the bread maker and let it do the work of mixing and kneading for me. Then I would take the dough out, put it in my pans to rise and bake as normal. Don't let me discourage you from trying out a bread machine. I know lots of people who love theirs and if you don't own a kitchen aid this is a cheaper option if you are just looking to knead some bread dough. Check out good will and yard sales for used machines for even less. I have seen them for $10 and $20, a real bargain.

Of course, there is something wonderfully delightful and pleasing about kneading a loaf by hand if you have the time and are willing to get your hands sticky. Hint: Remove your engagement ring before trying this.

Well, my friends, my time has come to a close for this week. My friend Gaby at True Blessings has asked me to do a post discussing my eating habits and portion suggestions. So stop back next week for answers to those life shattering questions.

In the mean time be sure to check out 365 Ways...

Stop by We are That Family for more Works for Me Wednesday ideas.


A Walk Down Memory Lane

Wednesday's Walk Down Memory Lane

Come for a walk with me down Memory Lane!
And if you have a "Memory Lane" post, head on over to Scottsville to join in on the fun!

I recently dug up this old photo from 2002 when Brianna and Kaitlin first got glasses. How cute are they?

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January 26, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits

I have a mish mosh of things floating around that don't fit anywhere and need to be addressed... so this will be all over the place but on the bright side it will have a little something of interest to everyone.

My parents dropped by the other day, for those who didn't see yesterday's post. We have a real interest in composting, gardening, recycling... anything that improves our quality of living. Between the lot of us, we are always checking out new things to try. Mom has recently come across an under the counter composting method she is interested in trying out during the cold months when our table scraps must be tossed in the trash. It is called Bokashi. While it looks fascinating and may have merit, it is not an inexpensive endeavor to buy the enzymes needed to keep it going. She asked if I would write about it on my blog because she is interested in hearing from others who have used it to find out if it really works or if it is just a money maker. Would anyone who has heard of this, used it or knows anyone who has please let me know what kind of results you got?

Also, a long time blog reader of mine popped into my new blog over the weekend and said, "I didn't know you had this." So I want to be sure to direct your attention to the side bar where you can click over to my other blog. I posted about it during the busy holidays and during a crazy time here in Wachter world so it might have been swept aside by the busy-ness. You can read about the purpose of it here. We are having a great time and hopefully blessing the men we love along the way. We'd love to have you on board. A sweet blog buddy of mine was concerned that she must do everything everyday to join in. Let me assure you, that is not the point or goal. It is about being an encouragement, not a hindrance or one more long thing on our already too long to do lists, so you can come in as often or as little as you like and no one will be bothered either way.

Also, my comments have been going crazy for the last week or so. Sometimes they get emailed and show up on the post. Sometimes, they show up on the post but don't get emailed. Sometimes, they get emailed but don't show up on the post. Anyway, I don't know why things go crazy on blogger sometimes but... I would hate to miss your comments after you take the time to write them. So, my computer, blogger, really smart and helpful daughter suggested I try turning on comment moderation to see if that alleviates some of the problem. I wanted to make sure that no one thought it was a problem with anyone. Just so you know when you see the change.

And, I think I am allergic to church. No kidding. I have very severe allergies. Last Sunday, when I walked into church my throat started to close up and I was having trouble breathing. Fortunately, or maybe not so fortunately, I have had these sorts of reactions before so I know how to treat it and carry Benadryl and an Epi pen with me at all times. It took three days for my throat to open up completely but by Thursday morning I was relieved to be back to myself.

Well, guess what? Sunday morning we weren't in church for ten minutes before the same thing happened again. This time my face turned red and began swelling a bit, too. (See picture near the end of this post for details.) By far, not the worst reaction I have had, but not exactly the way I was hoping to look and feel for our afternoon plans. (See True Story Tuesday below to know why it mattered to me.)

So now, I need to track down the source of the problem, which is not an easy endeavor as the suspects are so many! Cleaning supplies, air fresheners, mold, mildew, perfume, deodorant, hair spray... Even as I write my eyes are still uncomfortably swollen and it is hard to swallow. How do you tactfully explain to your Pastor that you can no longer attend worship because you are allergic to his preaching?


January 25, 2010

Not My Parents Monday 1-25-10

I can NOT believe it is already NOT me Monday, again! This week I am featuring my adventurous folks. Last week we were NOT doing school when I heard engine. I did NOT look out the front window to see a couple at the end of the drive. I did NOT recognize the lovebirds at first but I did recognize the motorcycle. I did NOT go out to kiss my parents hello. NO that is NOT a typo, those are my parents on a motorcycle.

I did NOT tell the boys it was ok to get up from their naps to come say hello. NOR did dad put Samuel on the front of the bike to check it out. He was NOT scared NOR did he ask to get off. My child who is afraid of NOTHING would NOT worry about falling off a parked motorcycle.

These fun loving folks of mine are NOT at the age where most people retire and take up needlepoint and golf. They surely are NOT cruising all over God's green earth instead of playing canasta. They do NOT spend their weekends at motorcycle conventions, because everyone knows that grandparents bake cookies and putter in the garage on Saturday afternoon.

I do NOT worry about their welfare because after all they taught me everything I know about being careful and how dangerous motorcycles can be. I do NOT love their adventurous spirit, willingness to try new things and ability to enjoy every minute of life that God has blessed them with.

What have you NOT been up to this week?

Welcome to Not Me! Monday! This blog carnival was created by MckMama. You can head over to her blog to read what she and everyone else have not been doing this week.


January 24, 2010

How to Win Friends...

...and Influence Your Garbage Man

This post is at the request and really the inspiration of my dear husband. He calls himself the blog idea man.

I can be a little driven, a tad obsessive and an itsy bitsy opinionated. You didn't know that about me did you? Actually, there are a lot of things about me that you all don't know. You might think twice about popping over here if you did. But here it goes anyway.

I will not write with a pencil that is not sharpened to a point. I insist on my pencil having an eraser, even if I have no intention of using it. And I while I have seen my children write with a pencil just a few inches long, I refuse to write with a stubby pencil.

You know what else? I hate grumpy people. I just can't stand them. Nothing is so worth being grumpy about that you can't find something else to be happy about. (Not that I don't have moments that I fall into that temptation.) In fact, when I come across an unpleasant person, I make it my personal responsibility to make them smile. Often all it takes is for us to get out of our own world, smile at the person waiting on us and ask how they are to change their whole disposition. Although, I have met some challenging cashiers at Walmart. If I can not get a little bounce in someone's step by the time we part ways, I consider it my personal failure.

Now, I guess some of that stubbornness of mine is rubbing off. Do you remember this post? After I wrote it, the family was sitting to dinner and I was telling my Allen about the boys' conversation involving the grumpy trash man. The conversation turned to how we could turn this fellow's attitude around. He often comes very early in the morning so it is not likely we would have the opportunity to stand on the street and wait around to make small talk with him.
It was decided that we would bake cookies for him. Cookies can go a long way on the path to making friends. Yesterday, Kaitlin helped Samuel make a batch of fudge and pack it into a tin. Since Nathaniel has the best writing of the three boys, he was chosen to write the note. It said this:

"We hope you have a good day. Signed, Nathaniel, Aedan and Sam."

Bright and early this morning all three boys were up and dressed and wearing their galoshes. Aedan was posted at one window and Samuel at another as lookouts for the truck. There they waited for a half hour until that magical noise rang through the neighborhood. Aedan won the draw to have the honour of giving over the gift. When the word was given all three boys ran in a flash to the curb with their little package.

Fortunately, Allen was ready with the camera. Aedan is incredibly shy and when the fellow asked him what this was for all he could do was shrug... but hopefully, the note will speak for the three of them. Who knows, my little men may have gone a long way in winning the heart of their hero and perhaps at the very least he will stop tossing my trash can every Thursday.


January 23, 2010

Feet Under the Table

I am joining Pam in her blog carnival featuring all the little every day things we will miss one day. The other day, Elisabeth dropped something on the floor at breakfast. When I bent down to pick it up, I saw this...

Don't you love the crumbs and trash on the floor? No, that is not what I am referring to. I mean all the feet under the table. And my family thought I was odd as I grabbed my camera and crawled under the table to take a picture. One day, I am going to miss all these feet under my table, or more importantly what they represent. Having my whole family together in one place for meal time three times a day. The laughter and shouting that goes along with it... and maybe even the crumbs, too.

Right after I took this photo, the kids and dear old Pa starting sword fighting with my rubber spatulas and wooden spoons. Yes, that is a common occurrence. That's when I realized that is something else I will miss one day... seven sets of feet pounding on the floor as they chase Pa down the hall for a wrestling match.

And 8 people giggling when they catch him.


January 22, 2010

Italian Funerals and Other Demented Stuff

I am joining Alicia at More than Words in her Friday Photo Flashback.

Today I have a picture of my cousin Gregory with Emma (6 years), Nathaniel (4) and Aedan (3). This was when we went to New Jersey for cousin Christopher, his brother's, funeral.

Now here is the thing about Italian funerals, don't think me cold, but they are really fun events, once you get past the fact that you are burying your loved one. For one thing, all the family gathers from the far reaches. It is really like a big family reunion, that we don't take time for otherwise.

And for another thing, when it comes to weddings and funerals, no one can put out a spread like my Italian relatives. So, yes, this was a very sad ocassion but in our odd demented Italian family way, we had some good times that week, also. One of those being, this is one of the few times my kids have seen cousin Gregory since he has spent most of his adult years in jail.

And while that sounds really awful, in his defense I must say that he is a really sweet guy, who unfortunately has made a lot of poor decisions.

Anyway, all that being said, and the fact that Emma and the boys were practically babies, you can understand why I love this photo.


January 21, 2010

Week 40 of 52

Forever In Blue Jeans

I've accepted Carin's challenge, as a Mom, to get back into the picture. The idea is that once a week you take a picture of yourself. Give the camera to your hubby, the kids, the grocer. Who cares? Just pass it off and say, "Cheese." It's that simple. If you'd like you can post your picture on your blog. You can let me know you posted so I can check out your pics. You can check out my previous weeks or Click the button below to add your name to the Linky and take a look at all the others. If you want start fresh for 2010, Carin has a new challenge, "Shoot Me!" Check it out on her blog at Forever in Blue Jeans.

Here is a funny one that Allen took while Kaitlin and I were both working on the computer.

This is our busiest time of the year for school. We work from 8 until about 4 every day. We do double days during this time so that we can call it quits by the beginning of May when the weather turns nice and we want to turn our attention to the outdoors. This has worked well for us the last 8 years and knowing they can put their books away earlier than most kids motivates them to work diligently.

Teaching Emma math.

We have moved our school to the basement where we can be warm by the wood stove. This works well for Elisabeth, too, so she can hang out in the play room while we work. The basement is a disaster of books, manipulatives and projects in the works from Monday to Friday. On Friday afternoon we tidy it up and put everything away so we can enjoy the game room and family room through the weekend.

Reading practice with Aedan.

When Allen is home I make a big breakfast and we all sit down together. When he is traveling, though, I like to get right down to business. We put muffins, fruit, juice and fixins for tea and cocoa on the buffet as well as a kettle of water on the wood stove. Then everyone helps them selves to breakfast while we work. The kids have dubbed this the break room.

And there you have it. A busy home school week in Wachter world.


January 20, 2010

How to Find Good, or At Least Better, Prices on Organics

This is part of a continuing series on changing your life one step at a time for a healthier you and a healthier family. To read previous posts click here.

A quick note and/or question to someone who might know the answer. Earlier this week, I went to my dashboard and all the blogs I am following were gone. This has happened before. Another odd thing is that some blogs were not updating on my dashboard, Vanessa at More than Mommy, is one that comes to my mind. Does anyone have any idea why or what to do about this? Brianna's was doing this, also, and I stopped following and started following again and it fixed the problem... but what a pain to have to do that on everyone's blog. As my friend Hope says, sometimes I think life was much better B.C. (Before computers.)

Now, on to business. Right about now I am guessing that you are all having sticker shock at some of the huge prices for organics. Had my post not been so long already, I would have taken the time to tell you that there are lots of ways to find better prices on organics. Part of the trick is to know what is worth buying organic and what is not.

At the top of your list should be dairy and meat products. Easier said than done when you are working on a budget. And who isn't? Try a budget times 9 people. It adds up quick. One of the ways I keep costs down is to buy local. I have paid up to $5 for a dozen organic eggs at the local grocery store. However, by asking around, I found a coworker of my father who raises his own organic chickens and sells the eggs for $1.50 a dozen. I put in a standing order for 7 dozen a week to be sure that I always get what I need before they run out. Word of mouth is the best way to find a source such as this because anyone advertising will have more overhead and likely charge more. Not having luck finding those chickens by word of mouth? Take a Sunday drive out to the country and stop by some local farms. Chances are there is a small farmer out there just looking for someone to buy his eggs, chickens or maybe milk, too.

As for dairy products, you must shop around to be sure you are getting the best price. One might assume, for instance, that Walmart has the cheapest price on everything. However, we can buy our organic milk at the most expensive grocery store in town for considerably less per gallon than what the super walmart charges. I haven't the time or inclination to run from market to market to get a good deal on everything, but my hubby is near that store at least once a week and doesn't mind running in to grab a few gallons of milk for me.

I have already told you about our local butcher, who has the best quality meat I have ever found. I always assumed I would pay more there because they are a small family owned business. In fact, pound for pound it is far less than any of the grocery stores in town and it is a product I feel good serving my family. It pays to do your research and home work, ladies!

It also pays to become friends with the people you do business with. By taking the time to ask questions of the butchers I deal with, I found out that Thursday is the day they butcher the chickens so I can pop in and get the freshest meat possible. Thursday happens to be my regular errand day, also, so it is no extra running for me. I also found out I can call my order in and they will have it ready for me. When I stop in, they say, "Hey, there's the lady with the ten kids (yes, they know that I only have seven but they like to tease)" and then tell me what the specials are that I shouldn't miss out on.

Another product that should be at the top of your organics list is apples. Yes, apples. Apples are treated with more toxins and store the toxins more readily than many other fruits. So if you are making just one change, buy organic apples.

And believe it or not, if you are a coffee drinker, coffee should be one of your top five organic choices. Coffee beans are treated with a considerable amount of toxins and is one of the most toxic foods we consume on a regular basis. There are lots of organic coffee choices out there and you will be pleased that they don't cost an arm and a leg. Even Target has an excellent tasting organic coffee choice that is very reasonably priced.

See how easy that is? Dairy, eggs, meat, apples and coffee.

I intended to talk about bread this week, but there were a number of comments and questions from last week that I would like to address. For time's sake, I will save Jen T.'s questions and comments on bread for a more in depth post next week.

First, I want to thank Tony for mentioning the Farmer's Markets in his comment last week. Farmer's Markets are a great resource. If you can't buy your meat, dairy and eggs there you can make contact with other people who can tell you where to get them direct. Talk to vendors and other customers for names of small farmers with products to sell.

Another resource is your local Cooperative Extension Office. One of my best sources for referrals and information over the years has been the friend I made at our local extension office about fourteen years ago. She not only has lots of good information, but a quick email to her gets me names, numbers and emails for just about anything I am looking for in the farming community.

My local home school email list has also been a wonderful way to connect with small farmers who provide everything from goats milk and eggs to free range turkeys. We even found a source for duck's eggs through this list. Not a home schooler or you don't have a list you subscribe to? Check out Freecycle Cafe and Craig's list to get quick references for any service or product you could possibly need.

Carol mentioned coops in her comment last week. I did not mention our coop last week because my focus was on meat and dairy but coops should not be underestimated. A coop run by a local family that we worship with provides us with great prices on produce. This has been a tremendous savings for us over the years and an encouragement to eat well when finances were tight. Grocery store pickings for produce can often be slim or definitely not always the freshest. Having a place to go for fresh produce year round makes it possible for us to get the nutrition we need on a budget we can manage. While ours only deals with fruits and veggies there are coops out there that supply meat and dairy products from local farmers. How do you find one... word of mouth, farmer's markets, extension office, newspaper... see other suggestions I have already mentioned above.

Carin mentioned knowing people who butcher their own beef. We happen to live in the middle of a farming community and my husband comes from a family of farmers who do their own butchering. That provides people in our area with lots of options for healthier meat sources. I don't know how common it is to know a local farmer who does their own butchering in other parts of the country but the places I have mentioned above for contact info could help you to find someone. Just to recap you can try asking around your local farmer's markets, contacting your coop extension office, email lists and word of mouth.

Kristin, thanks for your testimony of how little changes over time really do work. I have a friend who grew up in the south eating nutrition less white rice. She too found, over time her family came to prefer what they initially balked at, meaning the healthier brown rice choice. Just as your families may turn their noses up at wheat bread and cereals free of high fructose corn syrup, they will eventually come to prefer them. But let's not get ahead of ourselves!

Lindsay-Ann, I feel for you. My hubby is a picky eater and he has been my greatest challenge on the healthy eating boat. But he did eventually come around. You know one thing is, if the kids have no choice, they will get hungry enough to eat what is served. If that method is too harsh for you, don't worry. Taste buds can be changed!

As for variety, I have a cook book with 365 ways to cook chicken. If you start with a nice organic piece of meat, there is lots of variety to be had there, that will please the whole family, even when your choice is not to eat red meat. There is lots of variety out there, and we can explore that at another time, it just takes stretching our minds once in a while. It is easy to get stuck in a cooking rut with our busy schedules!

Maybe this will help? Tonight we worked late on school and I was in a hurry to make dinner. I had taken nothing out and yet in thirty minutes we had a well balanced, nutritious dinner that my family raved about. I started by laying plain old fashioned fish fillets on a baking pan. Then I spread each with about 1 teaspoon of a honey/bbq/mustard blend. I opened the fridge to see what else I had and found a jar of roasted red peppers leftover from hubby's birthday last week. I sliced a few very thin and laid the strips across the fish. Then I found some spinach and put a little bit on top of each. To finish it off, I thinly sliced some asiago cheese. In the over for 12 minutes and voila! No work, no fuss, no time. Dinner done-healthy, fast and delicious!

I stand to say, and this is strictly my opinion, that if your hubby likes some good old fashioned beef once in a while, there is nothing wrong with that as long as you make the best choice you can. To me that means a nice chemical free, hormone free, additive free steak. There is always compromise to consider, too. Why not serve beef one night a week or every other week? He feels like he is getting something and you can serve chicken and fish the rest of the week without complaint.

Now, please do not get me started on cafeteria food! I won no points with my mother-in-law, who happened to be a dietitian for our local school board, when I told her that the pizza and other processed foods served to our school students had no business being called food at all. I agree, there is nothing healthy on the school menus so we can go pretty far in helping our kids be healthier by packing nutritious lunches that they will eat. This is a challenge in itself but there are some fun tricks and good cook books out there that deal with this topic. I will address that down the road and perhaps you will share with us some things that you have learned along the way?

Mimi, you can get there! We will do it together.

Rachel, good for you to have made such a big change already. Maybe you will let us know what differences you have noticed and how it has impacted your family for the better. Also, maybe you have some resource and money saving secrets you would share?

Wow! That is all the time I have for this week. Where does the time go? Stop back next week to read the exciting answers to Jen T.'s riveting questions about grinding wheat and how to make great bread choices if you are baking impaired.

For more Works For Me Wednesday posts visit We are That Family.