Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life: October 2011

Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life is about paying attention to what it is that we do on a day to day basis and how we impact each other and the planet. We will talk about all of the things that we do here at home to make ourselves and the world a better place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Year Supply Pantry

One of my long held goals has been to build a 1 year supply pantry of food for our family.  This is something that I've wanted, and yet struggled to actually do.  And I am not one to struggle when it comes to putting things to action, usually!  So, the fact that I have waffled on this for years is a sure sign that this is a difficult task.  However, I've noticed lately that we've started to move in small steps towards acquiring more food at one time, and in ways that could actually help make my dream a reality.  So, I decided to take the plunge and just do it!  And, I'm going to share my journey with my readers.

One of the first things we did was to haul home a chest freezer and plug it in, when one was offered to us.  It has been sitting there, rarely even half full, since.  I WILL fill it up with cartons of water, very soon.

Next, we started buying from a grocery co-op that ships once a month.  This got us in the habit of buying once a month, and stocking up on staples.  This also set us up to know how much of different foods we are buying every month, which is easier to translate to a year than, say, an every few days to every few weeks shopping trips.  It also saves us a bunch of money every month on our groceries.

Then, I started freezer cooking, and storing food for future use.  This has been such an amazing concept in my life!  I soak and cook beans a pound or two at a time and then freeze them in plastic freezer bags.  I cook rice a pound or two at a time and store it in freezer bags.  When I need them, they are done - no thinking ahead.  I make chicken broth in bulk in the crockpot and freeze it.  When I need it for a recipe, it is there, and cost pennies instead of the many dollars that gluten free, soy free, sodium and bpa laden broth from the store costs.  I have full meals that are ready to pull out at a moment's notice when we forgot to get something out for dinner or ran out of what we'd planned to have.  I'm only buying meat on sale, and the price I'm paying for it each check is getting lower and lower.  The freezer is what will finally, actually allow me to have a year's supply of food laid in.  It took me until recently to realize it, and I am so grateful and excited that I've finally found a way to make it work!

So, the next step is creating a plan for purchasing a year's supply of food for our family.  Obviously, I can't do this all at once.  The cost would be too great.  I started by making a list of things that my family eats, and how much we would eat in a year.  There are many lists out there to help you get started, but I found that the lists didn't work for us.  We don't eat spam, or cream of mushroom soup, or boxed macaroni and cheese, or many of the other items on the lists.  Some things we do eat, but not in the quantities they were telling me to acquire.  This is the list I've made so far.  It is for our gluten, dairy, soy and corn free family of 5.

Millet Flour (Unifine), Organic - 20 lbs.

Milo (Sorghum) Flour, Organic - 60 lbs.
Tapioca Starch, Organic - 20 lbs.
Bubbies Bread & Butter Chips - 33 ozs. x 4
Dried Apricots  12 lbs
Cane Sugar 15 lbs
Dried Mango 4 lbs
Apple juice 12 Cans
Orange Juice 60 Cans
Hot dogs 6 Packages
Refried Beans  4 lbs
Canned Pumpkin 36 lbs
Tortillas 15 packages
Rice Flour 40 lbs
Dried Cranberries 10 lbs
Tomato Puree 63 lbs
Peanut Butter 27 lbs
Tuna 36 lbs
Salt 3.25 lbs
Canned Salmon 55.3 lbs
Sandwich Bread 100 loaves
Apple Sauce 75 lbs
Mayonnaise 36 lbs
Olive Oil 20 lbs
Palm Oil 18
Pasta 21 lbs
Sesame Oil 3 bottles
White/Apple Cider/Balsamic/Red Wine/White Wine Vinegar
Baking Powder
Rice Milk
Almond Milk
Frozen Vegetables
Sweet Potatoes
Fresh Fruit

And I took the next step to procuring my year's supply of food - I bought some things that were on sale at the best price I'm likely to find for a while, and bought a bunch of it!  I just ordered a case of our peanut butter because it was on sale.  I bought 2 bushels of apples from our local farmer's markets ($20 for Jonathons and $30 for Honeycrisp - both organic) and I have been making applesauce like crazy.  So far, I've got 9 quarts, and many more apples to process.  I bought a half bushel of sweet potatoes.  The potatoes will be stored dry in the pantry in the basement.  The peanut butter will also go on the basement pantry shelves.  The applesauce is going in bags in the freezer.  When we are ready for a bag, we will thaw it and pour it in a jar for easier serving.

A few photos of my progress so far:

My dry pantry

My embarrassingly empty chest freezer

And my newly organized attached freezer

I look forward to updating you all as I make my journey to having enough food to last an entire year, already laid away in my own home!

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Friday, October 21, 2011

All Things Warm and Wooley

I think that Autumn has finally set in, here in Missouri.  The days have been in the 50's this week, and the nights are getting nearer and nearer a freeze.  I'm really trying to leave the thermostat at 65 degrees during the day and 62 degrees at night.  However, I am not a person who enjoys the cold, and I also believe in keeping the kids nice and warm as well.  So, finding a balance can be a challenge.  So tonight, I decided to compile a list of my best stay warm while the thermostat is down tips.

*Dress for the weather.  Really, no matter what the weather, dressing appropriately can make a huge difference in how much we need to change our atmosphere, which makes a much larger impact on our planet and our pocketbooks.  When it is cold, wearing layers is essential.  The layers need to have space between them, to hold in the warm air that will build up between them.  They also need to keep the wind out while allowing your skin to breathe.  For indoor activities, the children wear their regular under things with a pair of pants, a pair of socks, a long sleeve T type shirt, and a warm sweater most days.  I typically wear tights, socks, a skirt, an underskirt, a long sleeve T type shirt and a wool sweater, and slippers.  If a child's hands or feet feel cold, the child is cold, even if they aren't complaining of it.  A child who is cold very likely can't feel how cold they actually are, so it is important to monitor this.  A child whose body is working hard to maintain warmth is not using that energy towards things like health, growth, learning, creativity, play, or impulse control.  Dressing to stay warm is important.

*Put a lid on it.  More warmth is lost through our heads than any other part of our bodies.  The Bean will even tell you - "if your hands are cold, you need a warm hat!"  It is so true!

*Designate a warm spot.  And keep it warm!  For us, this is the living room.  We have a wood burning fireplace and all the wood we could need for the winter.  We keep a fire on the hearth pretty nearly every day.  This makes such a huge difference in how warm the house feels.  And, if we get cold, we can always make our way to the living room to toast up in front of the fire for a bit before making a foray into another part of the house to have an adventure doing something else.  If we are going to be in another room for an extended period of time, we will forgo the fire and take the space heater instead.  This is helpful when I'm sewing or doing some other project which requires hours spent in the craft room.

*Eat warm foods.  Many foods leave us with a feeling of warmth and comfort.  Soups, stews, casseroles and other warm meals come to mind.  However, some foods, like those containing cinnamon or ginger, actually make us feel warmer.  Eating these things or drinking hot drinks can help to keep us warm, and warm our space through the heat of preparing them.

*Prepare a warm sleep environment.  Sleeping is easier when you aren't cold.  Flannel sheets, layers of blankets, warm rice bags or a hot water bottle, and warm jammies can make all the difference for bed time.  On our bed, we have flannel sheets, 2 hand made quilts and a down comforter.  On the kids' beds, we add a rice bag (a flannel "pillow" filled with uncooked rice) that we warm in the microwave and put in by their feet on cold nights.

*Use natural fibers.  Natural fibers like cotton, wool and bamboo all insulate well.  They also breathe, allowing moisture from sweat and condensation to wick away from the skin.  While fabrics like polyester may seem to be warm, they actually feel colder to the touch and they trap moisture against the skin, which cools us off.  Or they may have the effect of overheating us because there is no air flow.  Wool is our go to fiber here.  It is by far the warmest fiber choice we have found, and it is much easier care than it would seem.  We use wool for everything from socks, hats and mittens to blankets.

*Keep moving!  It is much easier to stay warm when our bodies are in motion.  Cleaning, playing, taking a walk, building something - any kind of movement will keep us warmer than sitting on the couch.

What are your best tips for staying warm?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Did You Learn At School Today?

Today, my kids have:

*Reacquainted themselves with some of their favorite cold weather clothing - Turning of the seasons - Earth Science

*Hauled firewood - Physical Education

*Sat mesmerized in front of a burning fire - Chemistry

*Counted out how many "clumps" of frozen peaches they could have with their lunch - Math

*Reenacted scenes from Farmer Boy and Little House on the Prairie - History

*Built with blocks - Both Math and Physical Science

*Learning new words and building a giant vocabulary - English

And this afternoon they will be

*Drawing with crayons - Art

*Learning the letter H (The Bean) - Reading

*And who knows what else?!

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Allergen Friendly Homemade Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire sauce is one of those flavors that I use a lot in my cooking, but was unable to find commercially without at least one of our allergens in it - usually high fructose corn syrup.  So I was quite happy the day I discovered a recipe for it at Hillbilly Housewife!  I've used this recipe for about a year now and the longer I use it, the more I enjoy it.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!


Dear Susanne,
Here is a recipe I picked up along the way and found it to be a real “Penny Pincher’s Dream”.
I have saved the bottles from Soy Sauce –the larger ones. This recipe will make 2 -1/2 bottles and lasts well, un-refrigerated. I have kept mine as long as 6 months.
I hope someone else can make use of it, too.
Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 centimeters (1 inch) fresh Ginger, bruised
  • 2 cloves Garlic, bruised, (not even necessary to peel, just toss them in)
  • 6 teaspoon whole Cloves
  • 4-3/4 cups Vinegar
  • 1/4  teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 cups black Treacle ( Brer Rabbit molasses)
Optional: I, also, use 2 Tablespoons of the oil off a tin of Anchovies for flavor, but it’s not necessary, will taste just as good without.
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan; stir to combine.
Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand overnight.
Next day; strain into bottles and seal tight. Store.***
***Can be used straight away, but does improve with age.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

House Rules

I wrote these house rules several years ago, when the Bean was a baby. The house rules apply to everyone who is at the house - adults included. We lived by them and loved them. They hung on the fridge so we could see them every day. Then, when we moved to this house, the fridge wouldn't hold magnets because it is brushed aluminum, and I put my house rules away. One day when I went to look for them, I was unable to find them anywhere! It was so sad, because we had loved the way they were written.

Fast forward a few years and I was cleaning out my desk to move it out of the room that I'm changing into our classroom space (yes, I'm already rearranging our classroom space), and THERE IT WAS! I'm so excited to have the rules back! So, I'm sharing here for anyone else who is looking for a great set of house rules.

Barr House Rules
1. Everyone is to be respectful and treat others with dignity.

2. Everyone is to work together to keep the house orderly. We must all clean up after ourselves as much as possible.

3. Respect others' things.

4. Everyone is to work towards better communication and to continue learning the nice and appropriate way to say things.

5. We do not waste things just because we may not want them. We have respect for the Earth and all other living things.

What are your house rules?

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to Clean a Playroom

One thing that my five year old has struggled with for the past many months is that she is on the verge of being able to do many things completely on her own - but she isn't quite there yet.  Helping her to do it herself has been a great project of mine.  One thing that she loves is her cleaning charts.  They help her to see her way through the madness of a mess and find a way to organize her efforts.  Since we've been moving things around so much lately, it was time for a new cleaning chart.  We made it today, and it has now been printed up and is ready to hang in the playroom.

This is what it looks like.  And just so we are clear, the writing is just to help any adults helping her to clean the playroom.

Cleaning the Playroom


Pick up the dress up items and hang them on the wall or put them in the dress up basket or silks in the silks basket.

Pick up kitchen items and put in the kitchen – food in fridge, dishes in cabinet, utensils in drawer, small appliances on top of “counter”.

Doll clothing and diapers in changing station.  Dolls in doll furniture.

Nature items, clothespins, spools, fabric scraps and musical instruments in baskets on shelves.

 Dollhouse and farm items in dollhouse, barn or bushel basket.

Items in cubbies put away.  Cars and trucks go in basket on top.  Balls in one cubby.  Crocheted gnomes in crocheted bag.  Wooden gnomes and fairies in one cubby.  Trees and mushrooms in one cubby.  Train tracks in one cubby.  Bean bags in one cubby.  Hand puppets in one cubby.

Horses, jumping ball and other large toys at back end of playroom.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Gluten Free Dairy Free Vegan Banana Cranberry Muffins

These muffins are a huge hit at our house! We chow them down in a day or two, unless I manage to sneak a few into the freezer. The original recipe is vegan, but an egg can be added to the milk substitute measurement if you find that your muffins are a tad crumbly.

1 1/4 C Sorghum or Milo Flour (Sorghum and Milo are different words for the same thing)
3/4 C Millet Flour
1/2 C Garbanzo Bean Flour
1/2 C Tapioca Flour
1/2 C Evaporated Cane Juice (Succinat, Turbinado, Raw Sugar, or plain old sugar will work just fine too)
2 tsp Salt
4 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 C Milk Substitute or Water (Milk Substitute means rice, almond, soy, hemp, coconut milk or whatever other type you might like)
1/2 C Palm Fruit Oil (You can substitute any type of oil you prefer, including margarine or olive oil. However, we cannot do any margarine that we have found yet and palm fruit oil gives a better consistency than any other oil we have tried. We have oft discussed using coconut oil, assuming it would give similar results, but never tried it.)
4 Bananas (fresh or frozen and thawed)
1/4 - 1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries

Preheat oven to 350*F.

I prefer to make these in my stand mixer. Combine first 7 ingredients. Add milk substitute and oil. Mix thoroughly. Add in bananas and cranberries, combining thoroughly.

Pour into muffin cups or oiled muffin pans. Bake at 350*F for 20-30 minutes. These should not be doughy at all. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Craft Day

I'm hopeful that Friday can become my craft day around the blog.  I'd love to share our projects from the week with my readers!

This week, the kids and I put up our Halloween decorations, and we made papier-mache bowls.  Unfortunately, it's been a while since I've done papier-mache and I didn't know I needed to grease the bowls!  So, we'll be soaking the paper back off, greasing the bowls, and putting the paper back on to dry again.  Better luck this time!

Papier-mache take 2

I've been very passively working on a hat for myself for a few weeks now.   I'm in no rush to get it done because it isn't really needed yet and I don't have any pressing projects lined up.  So, I've not been rushing to grab it every time my hands are empty.  I'm working on the second strap, although I've decided I should have done them both at the same time so they'd be exactly the same.  Then I'll add a small flower and the hat will be done!

So, what have you been working on this week?


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap

We've long used Seventh Generation Free & Clear laundry detergent on all of our diapers and clothes. However, even through Frontier co-op, it is not exactly cost effective. And I wasn't thrilled with the performance on my diapers. So, I began looking for other options. When I bought some new diapers, they came with a sample of laundry soap and it worked VERY well! I knew that the soap was homemade, and that meant that I could make it myself. So off I went to research a recipe! I found that the basic recipe is:

1 Part Borax
1 Part Washing Soda (This is not baking soda)
2 Parts Grated Bar Soap
Several drops essential oil (optional)

Borax and Washing Soda are found in the laundry aisle at many grocery stores. Some stores carry one or the other but not both, so you may have to check around. For the soap, you can use whatever you like. Many use Fels Naptha or Zote soaps, but I don't like that they don't list their ingredients. Many use Ivory, but we don't use anything with "Fragrance", "Perfume" or "Parfume" on the label unless we can find somewhere that the fragrance is from essential oils. I used Kiss My Face brand olive oil and honey soap. I also add several drops of patchouli and sweet orange essential oils, because I like the light fragrance it gives our clothing and diapers.

Mix all of this up, store it in a container with a lid, and use 2-4 Tablespoons per load of laundry! We've been thoroughly pleased with the results.

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L, M, N, T?

The Bean has begun to learn her letters. I really held out as long as I could on teaching her, but she'd started to teach herself how to spell, and I was worried that she'd get into bad habits thinking that letters made a sound that they didn't. I've been very glad that we went ahead and started doing the letters, in the end.

We are going slowly - learning one letter each week. We started with L. Then we did M. Next came T. And this week we are working on N. And then people have asked... "Why L?"

I looked at many aspects of the letters and took a lot into consideration. Since I'm teaching an early 5 year old who doesn't have a lot of drawing skill yet, I felt it would be best to start with letters that are all straight lines and are not complicated to write. The part I didn't think through was that she can't really pronounce the L sound very accurately yet. But, she can hear it well enough that she can pick it out in a word most of the time just fine!

Bearing the language barrier in mind, I chose M next, then T. I was afraid that M and N would be too similar, but when she began calling Ns M, I knew we needed to address it head on - and she has done just fine.

On letter day, which is Monday, I tell the Bean a story or verse, and draw a picture from the story with her. I have my copy and she has hers. For L we did, "There once was a Lovely Little Lady who Loved to Ladle Long Leaves on the Lawn." Then we drew our lady, holding a big ladle which was actually the letter L, and all of the leaves fallen on the lawn. I write the verse at the top of our pages with all of the Ls in a different color than the rest of the text. Then we get a clean sheet of paper and write a big L in the middle. We go around and around the L in different colors until we've filled the entire page. Last, Beanie likes to practice writing the new letter on lined paper until she feels like she's really got it down.

Throughout the week, we practice the sound, find the letter in different writing, make the letter out of sticks and bark outside, draw the letter with sidewalk chalk, and anything else fun we think of to do with the letter! Bean will write the letter with her crayons when she is drawing for fun a lot.

And then we hole punch all of the papers from Monday and put them in her binder in order. When we've done the entire alphabet, we will bind the pages in alphabetical order in a book that she can keep.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Basic Roast Chicken

I love to make roast chicken! My family goes crazy over it. We rarely have leftovers. And, all natural whole chickens are often on sale at our grocery store for 49 to 69 cents per pound. This makes chicken a very affordable option for us. It is easy to make and largely hands off. And, it looks great on a platter when company comes!

1 Whole Chicken (or pieces, if that is a more affordable option)
Olive Oil (you can use butter too, but I avoid it like the plague)
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Sage to taste

Preheat oven to 350*F. If you are running short on time, go ahead and make it 375* or 400*. Place chicken in a roasting pan. I have 2 four quart casserole dishes that I love for making chickens. Now, if you are brave, you reach inside the chicken and take out the lovely things they leave in there. I, however, am rather squeamish and really have to work myself up to this. It is just fine to leave them in and cook them, but it will increase cooking time.

Brush oil over chicken. The ONLY reason to brush the oil on is to make the skin crispy. Since this is SO important to me and my children, we always do this step. If you don't eat the skin anyway, this step can be totally omitted.

Sprinkle seasonings over chicken. You don't want too much of anything in any one spot. My kids love to help with this part, but you really have to watch because if you get a pocket then the bite of skin that is full of garlic powder is going to be hot!

Cover and bake for 1 to 1.5 hours - just until it reaches 165*F when tested in the thigh.

I prefer to make 2 chickens at once and use the second one for lunches for many days afterwards, or to freeze for use in other recipes (like chicken enchiladas, chicken soup, chicken casserole, you get the idea). I also prefer to make roasted or baked veggies and sides so that I can pop all of dinner in the oven and not do much more to it! Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, roasted broccoli or cauliflower are all good options - most of which can be popped into the roaster with the chicken for extra flavoring.

And remember, this is a very basic roast chicken recipe. The seasonings can be changed, and foods can be inserted in the chicken or in the pan with the chicken to change the flavor. That is all up to you and what you like!

How do you like your chicken?