5 TIME SAVING LIFEHACKS FOR SPRING

Longer days of Spring bring welcome rays of warm sunshine but also work projects, lawn maintenance and activities for the kids. 

One of the ways busy families find time for more important priorities has been to take advantage of restaurants and delivery service. On average for this nation we eat takeout 4 to 5 times a week. 

As our youngest foodie recently told me, there’s no greater love than a home cooked meal. 

  1. Creative Cooking 101

Who says we have to use the same formula for cooking every night? Over the years we’ve found some time saving techniques as alternatives to eating in restaurants or take out.

Weekends are a great time for the family to buy groceries and prepare food items for the coming week. Our girls loved to select veggies for salad for one night. Leftover vegetables can then be thrown into a pan for stir fry the next. Leftovers are great to throw together on those nights when the families activities cut into dinner. 

The local produce stand or farmers market are great fun activities for all and for seasonal produce you can’t beat going to the local orchards to pick your own. By using the time to do it together, it becomes more of a time saver than a burden.

Most markets sell fresh caught wild fish which can be broiled or sautéed in less time it takes to order a meal online. 

2. Clean Up

One of the greatest motivators in our family is fun. When it comes to laughter and joking our family takes it seriously. So, as the kids were growing my husband and I included them in on the daily chores of the household. This cuts down on the hours required to clean house and gave us more opportunities for the business of play.

Start them young and it becomes a habit for life. Even a toddler can learn to pick up his or her puzzle pieces as part of the “game."

3. Containing The Chaos

Individual schedules and busy lives plus life’s surprises can lead to chaos. 

My husband used our dinner times to talk with the girls about their needs and our expectations. I didn’t always want to take that time to discuss “business”. But, years later, I see how his attention to detail helped shape them into responsible young adults today.  As a self employed writer, I was able to teach, guide and direct them during the “teachable” moments of the day. When they woke up we’d talk about their day and what they needed to have done. When we drove to an extracurricular activity, I’d stay in the car to wait for them and used the time to write lists, work on projects for my writing,  or clean the car out. 

In our home, everyone pitched in and had clear boundaries for getting their jobs done. That way, when something wasn’t done, we knew who to call. 

4. Calendars
From day one we used a calendar to help the girls visualize time management . We used a fun magnetic one as toddlers which showed their accomplishments and rewards for the day. This gradually became a large cork board/white board we kept in the laundry room for everyone’s schedule to be posted. 

It was their jobs to keep their school/ sporting events up to date, and social activities posted as well. This helped save time when sports, school outings and social activities are at their peak.

5. Controlling the Budget

We keep our financial records and receipts in one place in a desk in our home. This helps to save time on money management. We also save time by agreeing to a limit of money we want to spend for any given item.

That way when the bills come around there is less confusion and enough capital to cover the expenses.

Hope these simple tips help you to have a happy Spring! 

Share some of your family’s tips in the comment section below. 

A BREADMASTER'S TIPS FOR BAKING HEALTHY LEAN ARTISAN BREAD

I spent yesterday afternoon in the french country kitchen of a bread master. Between the chickens, beehives and vegetable garden right outside the  patio door, my brother and his wife 

have the DIY thing down to a science. Together, they make Chip and Joanna Gaines look like DIY amateurs. 

I figured if I spent some time there by the new year I’d be making bread like a boss.

As Bill mixed and waited and baked and waited I drank herbal tea and snacked on a tray of healthy baked goods Sherry had made. 

The room filled with the yeasty scent of baking bread and we chatted about the science of  creating the lean dough for artisan bread. As Sherry stated, creating the perfect healthy mixture for the dough and baking it into a crispy crust with a porous inside is an art form.

And as a thank you to my faithful readers, I wanted to share my twin’s secrets on how to make a great loaf of delicious homemade bread. 

Like any other good thing in life start with a good quality flour. Bill used a mix of Jovial flour, Organic sprouted spelt flour and whole wheat. One cup each.

He recommends using an electric mixer vs. kneading to save the extra time and trouble. 

Next pour one cup of warm water into the empty mixer. Add 2 tsp. of quality active dry yeast into the water. Activate the yeast with a “dash” of sugar, honey or maple syrup and wait from 3 - 5 minutes for it to bubble. 

When the yeast is happy and bubbly add the 3 cups of flour. Sound like fun? It is. Here’s one of the master bread maker’s secrets ~ when you add 2 tsp of salt do not allow it to touch the yeast. Apparently, this will kill the yeast action and cause the dough to lose it’s “rise.
Next, turn the mixer on low with your bread hook secured and watch the dough take shape. 

As the wet flour shapes into a ball begin to add more water a tsp at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. This takes patience and time. Another tip from the bread master ~ the wetter the dough the fluffier the bread. However, the wetter the dough the stickier your flour mixture will be. The mixer should be going about 10 minutes until the lean dough is ready.

Jovial flour and spelt flour produce a low gluten bread. If you’re like me, the less gluten in bread the happier my tummy will be. So be careful to develop the gluten in the above mixing process by testing the elasticity of your bread dough. If it breaks easily when pulled it’s not ready.

Now, cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap (so it doesn’t stick) and set aside until it doubles in size or for one hour, whichever happens first.

The oven needs to be preheated to the highest temperature ~ 550 on my bro’s oven. 

Another great tip to create a crusty loaf is by placing a cast iron pan in the oven while it’s preheating before the dough goes in. Shh…I’ll tell you why in the following paragraphs. Remember, I write suspense.

Here comes the fun part. Spread some corn flour or All Purpose flour on a wooden cutting board or other clean surface so the dough doesn’t stick. Carefully remove the mixture from the bowl without pressing out the fluffiness/ air bubbles. 

Shape into a rectangle by pulling on the outer corners of the bread dough. Now remember making those paper airplanes when you were a kid? Here’s the next part. Fold over the top right corner like you would for the airplane. Next fold the other corner so that the sides meet and a point forms up top. Next, take that point and fold it about halfway down. 

Next, starting with the point to roll the soft mixture into a long log. Press the seam where the dough meets at the end of the log, and voila! 

Place onto a parchment paper covered upside down cooking sheet, a loaf pan or if you’re fancy a v-shaped bread baking pan. 

It’s time to wait for the dough to rise yet again.  After 20 minutes or so it should have risen enough. 

Finally, the tip I promised you. As you place the prepared bread dough into the blast furnace, er, preheated oven, throw a handful of ice cubes in the heated cast iron pan next to it to create steam. 

In 10 minutes, turn the oven to 425 and enjoy the heavenly scent of baking bread fill your home.
The bread should be done in 25 minutes. Your hard earned product is ready to slice and enjoy.

Have a happy and healthy New Year from our family to yours!

                                                        Ingredients

3 cups flour ( All purpose, whole wheat, Jovial, organic spelt )

1 1/2 cups water

2 tsp. yeast

1 tsp sugar, honey or maple syrup 

2 tsp. salt

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LET'S DISH ON FALL RECIPES ~ chicken fingers a family fave!

Who doesn’t love comfort food in the fall? Soups, stews, and fresh bread top the list with a pumpkin spice latte to follow. Over the years,  I can’t wait to begin making slow cooker meals, my favorite minestrone soup and chili. But, the family fave has always been chicken fingers.

I started making chicken fingers before the Colonel. After tweaking the recipe for the last 35 years I’m thinking they’d rival any fast food restaurant’s including the one that closes on Sundays.  And, they are healthier. 

The kids will have fun helping with this recipe as well. There’s nothing homier than the family gathered in the kitchen preparing dinner.

So when Sunday rolls around and you need a new recipe -try these and let me know how they turn out!

FAVE FAMILY CHICKEN FINGERS with dipping sauce

Ingredients serve 4

1 lb. organic chicken 

If you can afford it use the chicken tenders. If not, use a mallet to pound out chicken breasts and slice into tenders with a good sharp knife.  I found that the smaller, thinner the chicken the less oil you need to cook it through. 

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup of Panko coarse white bread crumbs

1 or 2 large brown eggs

 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil of choice (enough to make a thick coat the bottom of the pan you use to sauté chicken at least )

Directions

Rinse and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Dispose of the paper towels right away as you don’t want to cross contaminate while cooking. 

On three separate plates place flour on one, beat eggs and place on the other and panko bread crumbs on the third. 

Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour both sides, into the egg mixture, and finally cover well with panko. 

Once you have the chicken ready, put the oil in a large frying pan ~ cast iron or cephalon both work well. 
Heat oil on high until water drops pop off the surface.

Before you place the chicken in the oil season tenders well with salt and pepper. This is important as it helps seal in the moisture and flavor while cooking.

Carefully place each piece away from you into the oil so it doesn’t splatter. Chicken should cook through about 3 mins per side. If not completely done after turning brown put them in an oven for a few minutes preheated to 350 degrees. 

For the adults, or any children who prefer fish, I let the chicken rest while I pan fry or bake the fish which cooks quickly.

Serve with mashed potatoes, pierogies, rice or pan fried potatoes, and veggies. Or, for watching the football game, just serve them up with finger foods and dipping sauce on the side.
























GOD'S FAITHFULNESS

My husband and I walked the trails at Jacobsburg Park last Sunday. As we hiked through the beautiful wooded paths, my mind went to the years of bringing our little ones there.

The tree lined route wound closely by the sparkling Bushkill creek swollen from the recent rains. We brought our Golden Retriever Rottweiler mix, Layla, with us and enjoyed a break from the typical August heat.

As usual, I had my iPhone out taking pictures as I soaked in the loveliness of the place while my hubby patiently watched nearby. He's a patient guy.

One particular shot ~ a man-made pile of stones sitting in the middle of the creek sparked my interest. And, I haven't been able to get rid of the image from my mind since.

I tried to "spin" this blog post with a title like "3 WAYS TO SPOT THE HIDDEN TREASURES IN YOUR LIFE" or something like that. But, I could not ignore the niggling thought of how we have seen God's loving faithfulness through 36 years. And, how very blessed we are as a result. 

Isn't that why we are here after all?

Just as the rocks and the trees and blue sky can't help to attest to God's faithfulness neither can I. 

Reminds me of one of my favorite songs which I'm listening to at this moment. Interesting, huh?

It's called 'So Will I (100 Billion X)' by Hillsong. If you get a chance to listen I highly recommend it. 

"If everything exists to lift you high, so will I. If the rocks cry out in silence so will I. I will sing again 100 Billion times....God of salvation chase down my heart through all of my failures and pride... And as you speak a hundred billion failures disappear. For you left your life so I could find it here. If you left the grave behind you, so will I."

The pile of stones, a memorial to his goodness. A place to stop and remember all he has done for me. To praise him for his mercy and his faithfulness to me. I can't let this be left unsaid. Unwritten. Unspoken. 

I have to share the testimonies of why I am here. And, that is why I write. Whether you agree with me or not. That is why I am here. And, why I write. 

If you have a God story to share and have never published it, I'd love to hear it. Post it in the comments below, I know it will encourage another person who needs to read it. Or if you want to share an encouragement, I'd love that too. 

Be blessed!

 

MAKING A POSITIVE MARK ON THE WORLD

“When can we eeeaaatt?” “What’s for dinner?” “I’m so hungry!” “I don’t like that food…”

When my kids were little, they didn’t always care for the dinner I chose to prepare. Five different individuals with five unique tastes can be an interesting challenge to overcome.

After what seemed to be endless complaining, my solution to the problem came by deciding to teach them that whining would not produce the change they desired.

“Mommy can’t hear whining.” I would tell them. 

Young children often need a repeat of the lesson you try to teach them. 

“We’re not whining!” 

“Oh, but, you are.” I would say as I worked on dinner. “One or two times is a request, repeated times turn it into a whine.”

My point is that complainers never win. Whether it be about dinner, a new toy or their bedtime. Or anything else in life. 

We often set goals and work hard towards them until we reach a setback or obstacle in our plan. 

Circumstances change. Life often doesn’t go as planned. We can either allow the setbacks to be motivators in our lives to continue towards our life goals, seek counsel on making necessary changes or stop us in our tracks.

One surefire way of stopping progress is by getting caught up in the negative and allowing it to control our minds and our mouths. This in turn bleeds into our actions. 

Sometimes just choosing to focus on the positive or positive thinking is not enough. Sometimes we need to take a long look at our routine to see what we’ve allowed to creep into our life to bring on the downward spiral of complaining.

Are we hanging around with negative people? That includes the news, social media and even co-workers. Research has shown that negativity from complaining can actually change the healthy function of our brains.

Are we looking at the current administration and blaming the shape of the current economy, world events, and hate mongering on the political system of the day?

It’s tempting to look at the shape of the world and cast stones at the other person, system, or organization to rationalize our setbacks. But, in reality the only person who can choose the outcome of our lives is ourselves.

Some effective measures to end the destructive cycle of complaining~

  1. Go to God with your heart issues, worries, complaints. If anyone can help you it’s the King of the universe.
  2. Ask him to show you scripture which deals with the problems you are facing. Then look for verses in the bible that deal with that topic.
  3. When your problems become overwhelming go back to these verses and read them, think about them, speak them out loud. 
  4. Make a list of the things you are grateful for and focus on these things. 
  5. Do what is in your power to do. Continue to grow and learn new ways to use your gifts and talents. Then trust God to perform the rest. 
  6. Praise and worship God for being good even when life is not. 
  7. Sing and laugh. A lot! 

When we apply these steps liberally our mark can be remarkable.