Zinck’s in Berlin

Zinck's in Berlin

While the weather was still nice we took the opportunity to take a quick trip down to one of my favorite fabric outlets, Zinck’s in Berlin. They were having some great sale prices including fabric as low as $0.25 a yard when you buy by the bolt and trims for $2.50/ lb. While I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I did find some inspiration. Love that! As much fabric as Zinck’s has, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Vogue Fabric warehouse in Chicago. I am already getting my list ready for our next trip.

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**Warning***The fabric buying itch may be hereditary!

Zinck's in Berlin

While the weather was still nice we took the opportunity to take a quick trip down to one of my favorite fabric outlets, Zinck’s in Berlin. They were having some great sale prices including fabric as low as $0.25 a yard when you buy by the bolt and trims for $2.50/ lb. While I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I did find some inspiration. Love that!

Sunshine is planning to take a sewing project for 4-H this year and even though she has not even touched the sewing machine yet, I think she might have the bug.  She picked out some fabric she just  *had* to have even though  she didnt know what she wanted to make with it.  Grandma ended up getting it fo her, so we will see what comes of it. Both her grandma and great grandma have more fabric then they will ever use.

As much fabric as Zinck’s has, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Vogue Fabric warehouse in Chicago. I cant wait to take the girls there this summer.  I am already getting my list ready for our next trip.

Home Organization – Freezer Inventory

I received an email from my aunt yesterday letting me know that our pig was ready and was headed to the butcher.  When I went down stairs to look in our deep freeze I knew I was in trouble.  We have 2 have large freezers in our basement and there was definitely not room for ½ a hog or the 14 whole chickens I have stashed in a freezer at the home farm that I need to get moved over here. 

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Luckily for me, the Handyman decided that since it was so cold outside that he would forgo his outside projects in favor of helping me unload, defrost and reorganize our freezers.  Yeah!  If you have ever emptied a deep freeze, you know it’s a lot of work!

We purchase our meat farm direct and we usually purchase a side of beef and a side of pork at a time.  Our chicken comes from a local Amish farmer.  When the chickens are ready, we purchase in bulk. This fall we purchased 24 whole chickens.  We freeze a couple hundred quarts of fruits and vegetables every summer and fall.  In addition, last year I started doing the majority of our grocery shopping once a month, so for us the freezers are an integral part of our food storage. Unfortunately what I have learned is it that if I don’t keep track of what is in my freezers, things get really scary in there.  Not only is it frustrating because I can’t find what I want and I end up wasting time looking for it but food ends up staying in the freezer too long and gets freezer burnt and needs to be discarded.  When this happens I am not being a good steward of my time or resources.

One way to keep track of what is in the freezer is a freezer inventory sheet. There are dozens of freezer inventory sheets available online that you can print and keep by your freezer or in your home management notebook. What I would really like is to find an app I can use.  There are several out there but,  so far no luck finding one I really like.  Does anyone have any suggestions? For now I am using this printable form from Faithful Provisions.   It very simple and allows me the flexibility I need.

I ended up hauling up several loads of food to cook today.  I processed some of last year’s tomatoes into marinara sauce, roasted a few chickens, started a few pots of stock and made a batch of brownies  from a mix I made awhile back. It was a busy day in the kitchen but it was nice and toasty warm and it sure smelled good!

If your freezer is in need of attention here are a few tips.

*Unload everything from your freezer, defrost if necessary before putting anything back in.

*Store like items together, meats, vegetables, freezer meals…..

*Check package expiration dates before your put items back in. You can find FDA guidelines for safe freezer storage here.  If it is questionable…throw it away.  Yes, I know I hate to waste things too but go ahead…throw it away already!

*Check package condition. Is the packaging in good shape? If the package has been damaged, throw the item away or repackage it if it can be salvaged.  Package items in flat containers or lay bags flat in the freezer.  The bags will stack more easily and the contents will thaw more quickly when you need them.

*Use freezer bags or freezer containers to extend the life of the product.  Remove as much air as possible from the package before sealing.

* Label, label, label.  Label each package with a Sharpie including the contents and the date. You can find some really cute printable labels.  Here are some really cute labels from Oh My Veggies.

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* Keep your inventory log handy to enter items as you put them back in and as you take them out.

Taking the time to take care of your freezer can save you so much time, frustration and money in the long run.  Its definately worth the effort.

 

Linking back to Housewife How-Tos.

Why it is important to keep your house clean

Let me start by just saying, “Our home is lived in!”  No, really lived in.  I remember when we used to live in our house from 7pm-7am Monday thru Friday and on weekends.  Now, with homeschooling and in-home childcare, we really live in our home.  Our house looks lived in, some days I might even say it looks like a tornado hit it. I am okay with that some days or at least for part of the day.  I realize that my home is not going to look like it came off the pages of Better Homes and Gardens, at least in this season of my life.  But here’s the problem…..most of the time it drives me crazy! 

My husband is great! He rarely mentions if the house is a disaster.  As long as he has clean clothes, something to eat and everyone is happy….he’s happy.   I can’t operate that way.  It is as if when my house is cluttered, my brain is cluttered. This is one of the reasons why the mess is a problem…

Have you ever seen someone pull in your driveway and ran out to meet them, so they didn’t have to come inside? (And see the mess) I know I have.  Have you ever wanted to invite another family over to dinner after church on the spur of the moment, but hesitated? (Because of the mess)  Has a friend ever stopped over in need of your ear and you failed to really truly listen? (Because you’re fussing about what she might think about the mess) I’m sorry to admit, I have …just trying to be real here.

I’m not a perfect housekeeper, I don’t aspire to be one, but I know when my mess gets in the way of allowing me to serve others by offering hospitality, it’s a problem.  I want others to feel comfortable in my home, not because it is immaculate but because they know they will be welcomed anytime and that they can count on me to really listen to them.  I want my husband to know that if he feels like inviting a co-worker home for dinner he can, without worrying about me flipping out.  (Because of the mess)  I know this is one area I need to work on as I try to focus on showing hospitality to others. 

What hospitality challenges do you have?  What works for you?

Homemade Laundry Soap

I’ve heard so many great things about this laundry soap recipe that I finally decided to give it a try.

It only takes 6 ingredients and goes together in less than 5 minutes. Here is what you’ll need.

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1 (3 lb) container of Oxi Clean

1 (4 lb 12 oz) box of 20 Mule Team Borax

1 (4 lb) box Arm and Hammer Pure Baking Soda

1 (3 lb 7 oz) box Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda

6 (5 1/2 oz) bars Fels-Naptha soap (You can also use Zote soap)

1 (55 oz) container of Purex Crystals

While I’m not a big fan of Wal-mart, or any big box store for that matter, I purchased all of the needed items in one place for less than $30.00.  This recipe is flexible and can easily be customized to fit your needs.  For instance, most of the recipes I found for this called for the large 55oz container of Purex Crystals.  I’m not big on fragrance in my cleaners so I used the smaller 28 oz bottle.  I used the “fresh spring waters” scent and my laundry has a nice light, clean scent coming out of the dryer.

My biggest concern making the soap was grating the Fels-Naptha.  I put it in the freezer overnight before shredding. My Kitchen Aid food processor shredded it without even hesitating. I dumped all the ingredients in the large Tupperware that I am going to store it in and gave it a mix.

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 I have a Maytag Neptune front load washer and I am using 2 tablespoons per load. I have tried it with more delicate clothes as well as on my husband’s heavily soiled work clothes and it works great!  This is the first time that I have made a DIY cleaner. With such great results, I’m excited to see what else I came whip up in my kitchen.  One product I am in love with is Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Lavender Countertop Spray!  So now I’m on the hunt for a recipe for something similar.  Any suggestions?

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Preparing to be without power

This weekend storms swept across the midwest and the Ohio Valley, according to the most recent article on CNN literally millions of people remain without power.  Those millions of people include almost all of my husbands family who live in rural Southeast Ohio.  Being without power for them is certainly an inconvenience but as inhabitants of “Gods country”  as the Handy man refers to it, is nothing new.  Because of all the trees and back country roads, they have been known to lose power during ice, wind and snow storms more often than the rest of us. So, they tend to be more prepared to deal with these outages. Which leads my to my next point.  This weekends storms gave us the opportunity and motivation to revisit our level of preparedness in the event we are not so lucky next time around.

For most people their biggest concern in water.  Be are blessed to have multiple sources of water available.
1) We storage potable water in our basement for drinking and cooking.
2) We have a 2 acre pond on my parents farm within 200 yards of our house.
3)  A quarter of a mile down the road there is a spring at the local community church.  Fresh cool water has not stopped flowing from it in the 25 years that we have lived here.
4) We have a ravine at the back of our property with a fairly steady stream, at least in the spring and early summer.

Having said that, the Handy man and I did talk at length yesterday about the pros and cons of putting in a cistern, so that we would have access to clean water via hand pump here on our property,  however as funds are always a consideration…….discussion to be continued.

We have a generator but we unfortunately do a lousy job of keeping gasoline stored for it.  We try to keep the gas cans full but before you know it we end up using them for the 4 wheeler, the lawn mover, the chainsaw……. Having seen the pictures of people lined up for miles to get gas at the only gas station in hubbys hometown that had power was a BIG wakeup call.  What good is the generator with no fuel?  He estimates the generator needs about a gallon of fuel an hour when running under load.  We have GOT to get serious about this and get a tank put in.  The first thing we did was go fill all of our gas cans up with fuel.  It cost us about 150.00 but is well worth it for the piece of mind it brings.  The second thing we did was to secure a 250 gallon tank to have here on the property.  As soon as we get it moved over here, and save up the extra funds we will have it filled as well.
Aside from the above mentioned concerns, my next concern for being without power is conserving food and preventing loss due to spoilage.  We purchase our beef and pork by the side.  We get whole chickens by the dozen through a local amish farmer.  We freeze corn and beans.   We have ALOT of food in our 2 chest freezers.   It wont take much time to lose alot of food and alot of money.  I would like to put up enough meat in jars to get us down to one freezer. (I also think it would be awfully convenient to have the meat precooked for soups, BBQ beef and the like.) I have found a few recipes for canning chicken and beef and will be trying my hand for the first time this week with canning meat in the pressure canner.  Ill let you know how it goes.

The Great Fall Decluttering Event..Too much stuff!

Over the past few weeks as the kids have started spending more time in the house, it seems that it is absolutely impossible to keep things picked up.  I’ve have sorted, organized, reorganized and sorted again.  I have decided we just have too much “Stuff”!  I began purging this week. This is not an easy task because I hate to get rid of things.  Even things that have worn out the current use. I always have some idea how I can recreate and reuse them.  The problem is that I never have time to recreate them. Its really not just the kids stuff, its all of us.  Although for now, Ill leave hubby’s things alone.   But other than that, I am forcing myself to be ruthless!
I had originally planned on doing the great toy sort during nap time but I think Ill “man up” and do it with the kids.  I know it will be a good teaching moment. (or hour as the case may be)  It will also save me from explaining where their things went, when and if they would ever notice things missing.
I am using a combination of Ebay, Craigslist, Goodwill ..and yes even the trash to move some of this Stuff out.  I know that when my house is a cluttered mess so is my mind so I am looking forward to having things back in order.  (It always gets worse before it gets better)
Im planning to put back part of the proceeds from the Great Decluttering Event to help pay for Christmas. I actually started Christmas shopping a few weeks ago because I ran across a great deal at Toys-r-us.  I need to put together my Christmas planner so I have a master list to work from. I think Ill tuck a picture of the chaos in my planner as a reminder of the fact that we have so much “stuff.”  I know I need to keep this in mind when planning for the kids.  I always get out of control buying things for them at Christmas.  I really need to not do that this year!
I do love to use Organized Christmas to help keep my Christmas craziness in order.  More on this later, for now I have more clutter to attack!

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Im excited just thinking about starting Christmas planning! 
(Yes I know its October. I cant help it.)

72 hour “Go Bag”

Today I worked on putting together a Family “Go bag.”  This would be the bag we would grab in the event that we needed to evacuate our home.  Because so much of our efforts are focused on being prepared here at home it seems strange to think about preparedness in regards to being prepared to leave. As a young married couple my husband and I lived in apartment in Columbus, Ohio.  In fact we lived there during Y2K as well as on 9/11, which  in my opinion were 2 of the most uncertain times as far as domestic stability is concerned.  (at least during my adult life)  I remember thinking about how we would “escape” the city in a hurry if we needed to in order to reach either one of our parents homes in the country.  This was one of the many reasons I was so relived to move out of the city and into our own home where we have more control over our surrounding.  (At least some days we do) Now I don’t have to worry about things such as, “What if the power goes out?”  We have prepared ourselves for these occasions with things such as wood heat, a back up generator, a gas stove, oil lamps, etc.
But what if there was an emergency that forced you to quickly take the family and leave?   It may sound an unlikely event and it probably is.  However that is exactly what happened to my family in 1988.  We lived in rural Seneca County Ohio when there was a pipeline rupture and 100,000 gallons of flammable toluene spilled into the nearby Sandusky River.  My mother gathered my sisters and I with a few toys and clothes and  drove us to stay with friends.  It was an awful good thing she did.  We were only gone 3 days but I remember worrying about my goldfish being hungry. I also remember coming how and finding them not only dead but seriously decomposed in the tank.  It was a good thing we left.  Would you be ready to evacuate your family to safety if needed?  Being prepared means not only having the peace of mind to know you are ready to leave quickly but also that your family’s needs will be met and that you can make a stressful situation a little easier on you and your family.
There are many, many website and lists you can access to determine what to put in a 72 hour kit or you can buy one already packaged.  I decided to prepare my own because I think this will best meet the needs of our family.  I have broken our 72 hour kit into 10 areas, but everyones needs will be somewhat different.

1. Water – You will need at minimum 1 gal. /person/ day
2. Food – canned, dehydrated, high protein food items
3. First Aid – a well stocked first aid kit
4. Tools – Lots of options including flashlight, radio, lighter, whistle, candles, can opener….
5. Personal Hygiene – toilet paper, diapers, wipes, toothbrushes, soap, ..again depends on personal needs
6. Clothing – rain poncho, sturdy shoes, undergarments, change of clothes of each family member
7. Bedding – sleeping bags or blankets for family members
8. Documents – copies of important papers including insurance policies and cards, licenses, account #s
9. Entertainment – Also will depend on family needs may be cards, crayons, coloring book, blocks
10. Cash – you will need to decide how much you need but I certainly would rather have cash than plastic if there is an emergency.

Today I completed the clothing, first aid and personal hygiene portions of our kit.  I certainly hope we never need our “Go Bag”  but I will be happy to have it ready. It may seems a little overwhelming to think about, but I would encourage you to prepare something if only a single backpack with water, food and essential medications.  I don’t know about anyone else but I certainly don’t want to be stuck waiting around for someone else to come rescue me or feed me if there is an emergency.

The Family Clothesline

Last winter my clothesline inadvertently got broken while we were bringing in wood so, this year I got a new one. I was so glad when hubby put it up, it was the first project this Spring. I love to hang out clothes! I know to some it sounds strange to some but I love the smell of line dried clothes. I love the act of doing it, somehow it is soothing to my soul. Its also good exercise. I also love knowing we are using the free solar and wind power God has given us rather than using propane. I do think eventually we will need another one since I have no problem filling this one. Or perhaps Ill have to start spreading more loads out during the week instead of doing most of it on one day.
I love my new clothesline because:

1) Its twice as big as the old one.

2) Its near the swing set so the little ones can play while I hang out and fold clothes Plus, I usually get help for at least the first half of the basket 🙂

3) Its in a better spot, so most days the clothes dry much quicker in the new location.

bumGenius 4.0

Just thought Id update on our new adventure into all-in-one cloth diapers. Since I liked the bumGenius 3.0 diapers so much I decided to order the bumGenius 4.0 and check it out. It works really well! I also love that it is adjustable and is a one size fits “all” diaper. The bumGenius 3.0 diapers we got were in size Large as Jacob is getting a little big for the mediums. I love the way they stretch on the sides for a great fit. So, yeah a good investment I think. In case you’re interested, www.cottonbabies.com has the bumGenius on sale for $15.25 through March 20, 2011.