Thursday, January 31, 2008

How to make homemade laundry soap - step by step

I often have requests for this recipe. It's ridiculously inexpensive and easy to do. A family size box of Tide at Sam's Club cost $19.48 (Sam's is the cheapest in our area). It gives you 108 loads. This averages out to a little over 18 cents per load. The best I can figure is that this recipe costs me 75 cent to make. It makes two gallons. There are 16 cups in a gallon. So if you use 1/2 cup per load that will give you 64 loads. That comes out to a little less than 2 cents per load for laundry soap. I told you saving money is like earning it. Being at home allows me to come up with all these ridiculous calculations! Another bonus is your homemade detergent will not be filled with a bunch of additives such as optimizers (see Seventh Genenrations "Naturally Clean" book).

First gather all of your ingredients and tools.

Ingredients: 1/3 bar of Fel's Naptha Soap (avaiable on-line at Soaps Gone Buy see link)
1/2 cup of Super washing powder (available on-line at Soaps Gone Buy)
1/2 cup of Borax (Usually available locally)
Essential oils (optional)
Tools: Bucket large enough to hold two gallons
Measuring cups
Spoon for stirring
Gallon jug (I use this to have a gallon of water quickly available)

1. Grate 1/3 of the Fel's Naptha Bar soap
2. Measure out 1/2 cup of borax and 1/2 cup of super washing powder set to side
3. Put four cups of hot water in Bucket and set to side
4. Add six cups of water to saucepan and the grated Fel's Naptha soap

5. Heat until Fel's Naptha soap is completely disolved.
6. Add Borax and Super Washing Powder, again heat until disolved.
The mixture gets thick almost like lemon pie filling.

7. When mixture is completely disolved pour into prepared bucket. (That's the bucket with four cups of hot water already in it.) Stir thouroughly.

8. Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir well.
9. At this time you can add your scent if you wish. I use lavender and orange essential oils.

10. Let mixture set stirring occaisionally. It will set into a thick gel usually, just stir this up and mix thouroughly. The consistancy varies. I'm sure there are some technical reasons why. I don't worry about it. It works just fine whether it is thinner or thicker. Your soap should be ready to use the next day! Use 1/2 cup per load.
Please let me know if anything about this is confusing :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Three Gifts Challenge Update

I've collected a few things to help me with my promise to Rhonda and her Three Gifts Challenge.

I bought the three bags in the back from Whole Foods. They were $.99 and made out of recycled plastic. I thought they were a pretty good deal since I do not sew (very good anyway-actually not good at all!). Also they are bright and pretty.

I already had the hot beverage mug, again bright and pretty (just like me!).

The pink Stanley Thermos has been in my sights for over a year. I just couldn't bring myself to pay $20.oo bucks for it when I had a perfectly fine drab green one at home :( . But then! Target put it on sale for $9.47!!! I got the last one :) .

The silver topped aqua blue water bottle I got for a mere $.50 on clearance at Wal-Mart (I bought a bunch!).

Then I bought that really nifty Diamond print bag to carry all the stuff I haul around with me every day (journal, magazines, crochet, Bible, books). That way I'm always prepared when I have to wait at the bus stop, or music lessons, or for the ferry etc.(that's how we get across the Mississippi). Nope, can't waste a minute.

The hardest aspect of of the challenge is the bags. I forget them! Yesterday when I stopped at Home Depot on the way to Ladies Prison Ministry, I carried all of my items in my arms to the car. Maybe if I do that enough I'll remember my bags!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Pepper That Could

Last spring before Byron built the beginnings of my garden, I planted several edibles in my front landscape. This little sweet pepper plant never did great. Yet even after all the cold snaps we've had, here it is still hanging on. If it could hang in there another couple of weeks I think It'll make it!

One of my favorite children's' books is "The Gardener" by Sarah Stewart. It's about a little girl who travels to the city to work at her Uncle's bakery during the Great Depression. Her Uncle is grumpy and the city is grungy. The story is related through letters to her Grandmother. She hauls dirt from an empty lot and fills every rusty can or abandoned container and plants the seeds she receives in the mail from her Grandmother. The top of the building becomes her very own garden in the city. Even her Uncle manages a wry smile before she leaves. It's the very message that I want to give my children. With a little desire and creativity you can make almost anyplace beautiful.

Just because you do not have a lot of land shouldn't stop you from following your gardening dreams. I remember as a young girl planting veggies in plastic five gallon buckets in our backyard. My Mother's small front porch was the brightest spot of the street, with all the vibrant flowers and plants. Go ahead plant some zucchini in the front landscape! My sister's 15 year old son has a green thumb and her front landscape sported some very trendy watermelon vines this past year.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gardening-Planting seeds for transplant & Greens Recipe

Yesterday I worked in my garden. Finally, all my seeds for transplant this spring are sown and tucked away in the cold frame Byron made for me. If the temperature drops too much, I can just plop down the window and have a little green house. I planted several types of tomatoes and peppers, celery, and artichoke. I'm really not sure if artichoke will thrive here. I don't know anyone who has grown any in our area, but I'm going to give it a shot.

Our area is famous for their Creole tomatoes. Myself? I have very limited success with tomatoes. I believe I need to pay more attention to the soil make-up and get the plants in the ground earlier. There are these horrible sucking bugs called "stink bugs" that descend upon my tomatoes every summer and leave them looking sickly and pale with pin pricks covering the surface. I tried controlling them one year by getting up early and sweeping them into jars of soapy water. The soap seemed to kill them. All of the old timers in the area cover their tomatoes with a cloud of seven dust, yuck. That takes away any of the pleasure in eating a home grown tomato. This year I am going to conquer or at least make progress in this area. I'm keeping my chin up in my toxic free oasis. If anyone has experience with these bugs, please your advice is more than welcome.

I also planted some garlic that had sprouted. This is the first time I have grown garlic. They require a very long growing season, so I planted the first batch about a month and a half ago. I think they're doing well, but I'm really not sure. There isn't a previous personal crop to compare them to.

I checked on the beets and they are forming globes, small still. The turnips are also making little pink orbs. My family loves "greens". Collards, mustards, and turnip greens make a great combination in this classic Southern Country dish. The local Creoles also have a traditional dish called Verde Gumbo. Its basically a green gumbo. All greens you have available are used in it. This is where I learned that carrot greens can be cooked with other greens and seasonings for a yummy dish.

Classic Southern "Greens" A tradition in our family
Portions vary you just kinda throw in what you have.

Bunch of Mustard Greens chopped
Bunch of Collard Greens chopped
Bunch of Turnip Greens chopped
Cup of Onions chopped fine
Cup of Celery chopped fine
Cup of Bell Pepper chopped fine
Smoked Sausage cut in pieces
Optional Bacon (Nitrate free)
Tony Chachere's (Cajun Seasoning- we eat everything "Well seasoned" as a friend from Gaithersburg said)
Olive oil or Vegetable oil or bacon grease (if you want to be authentic)

Method: Add oil to a large pot (if your using bacon, fry bacon crispy first) on a high fire sautee onions, bell peppers, celery and sausage (and bacon) til transparent. Add all greens and a cup or so of water. Sprinkle as generously as you dare with Tony Chachere's. Reduce heat and simmer until greens are completely wilted and some of the water has cooked out. (Cajuns prefer everything cooked to death)

All you have to do now is to eat it as is, or for a real feast, serve with corn bread and a sizzling pan fried pork chop. I'm making myself hungry! When I was growing up, this meal was prepared more times than I can remember. I guess I'm just dreaming about when I can go pick a "mess of collards". I did get to pick a head of broccoli Sunday and Byron and I ate it in our salads. Oh yes, the peas are making their first blossoms as well. A real blessing about living in our area, is the growing season really doesn't end. It just slows down and speeds up!

Yee Hoo! New Hiking Boots and Pack!

This is the year Byron and I make 15 years. FIFTEEN YEARS! And we are going to celebrate! This summer we're going to hike to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon. The reservations are already made. We plan on making it all the way to the bottom of the Canyon and back. We took the girls there last year and hiked a couple of miles down the Bright Angel Trail and knew, we have to come back and hike to the bottom. I'm not entirely foreign to self supported trips. Byron and I biked the entire Natchez Trace (452 miles) totally self supported on touring bikes in nine days. We camped anywhere we could find a suitable spot off the road. That experience could fill an entire blog for quite a while. It was a very positive confidence boosting trip, and banished a lot of fears.

At the outfitters we met a man who was very knowledgeable, very very knowledgeable, more knowledgeable than reasonable about hiking boots. He helped us pick out the perfect boots. The Vasque Switchbacks just felt right and since the knowledgeable man said they were a great pair of boots, I bought them. A nice young lady who hikes a lot in Alaska and mountainous areas gave us some really good advice about backpacks. I have a very small torso so after trying on several nice bags that were too big, I tried on the Aura 50 and it was just right. I felt like Goldilocks in Baby Bear's Chair. Shopping at specialty stores leaves you feeling like, Maybe I paid a little to much, but I won't be buying it again because I got it right the first time.

Got the gear, and now I gotta train. Yesterday I shoved my sleeping bag into the pack and put on my boots. Byron and I went for a short hike to try out our new gear. I'm sure the neighbors were wondering how two wandering backpackers wound up on this forsaken spot of levee. To my mom and others who worry about us attempting this trip: I do solemnly promise to train consistently and learn every little shred of information about back country hiking I possibly can.

Now, I'm going to do some planting!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Kitchen Windows

Kitchen windows are every bit as fun as mantles, and I love both. Decor wise the most changing spots in my home are these two areas. I don't buy anything new. Just moving around and rearranging what I all ready have makes everything feel new. An important policy for a small home owner is to not keep anything unless you love it or it reminds you of someone you love dearly. Keeping an item is not an obligation just because it was given to you by a well meaning sweet person. The item might be wonderfully cute, but just not you. I'm always on the lookout to give away items I do not use any longer to someone who may love it. The maintenance of clutter takes away most of the joy it gives. Well this isn't exactly a post about clutter, but about making beautiful one of the spots you spend much of your time at. The kitchen sink.

The windowsill is actually carefully arranged with things I love. My new lonely African violet I bought because it was a pretty pink and looked very lonely in the cold Home Depot green house (I'm sure it will now flourish), a kitty peeking out of a basket of flowers, cuttings from a pink tinged leaf arrowhead plant, an orchid that I actually got to bloom again so it is now in a place of honor, an assortment of pretty seeds and acorns that remind me of tomorrows promise, and a hard faced critical little woman who reminds me to pay attention to my work. I have a nice little drawer and a wooden box to tuck away the worn pan brush and sink stoppers. I prefer to only view those when I have to! Then turn the wooden dowel and open the blinds, there is the pink shell ginger only slightly tinged by the recent frost, and beyond that the recently pruned citrus trees. Tomorrow I may banish the critical little lady to the laundry room.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Gardening when it's cold outside!

Here's my wonderful assortment of seeds. I can't resist seeds. There is so much potential in seeds! I love to look through catalogs over and over again. Circling and crossing out selections. Debating..well... maybe twelve varieties of tomatoes are a little to new garden is going to be big though...well...not that big. Do you think five varieties of pumpkins is a little much? Anyway, I bought some really wonderful varieties this year.

The large packets in the front of the pic are some Italian seeds I found at Central Grocery on Decatur Street (the home of the original muffalatta) in the French Quarters. The seed packets are written all in Italian. I can understand pictures though, so I bought stripped zucchini and ox heart and paste tomato seeds. From Bakers Creek heirloom seeds, I bought some southern heirlooms: crookneck white cushaw pumpkins, Georgia southern collards, mustard greens, purple hull peas, sorghum, and burgundy okra. Then some really crazy exotics like: Mexican sour gherkins, Jarrahdale (a gray Australian pumpkin), Musquee De Provence (a gorgeous French pumpkin, looks like Cinderella's carriage), Thai red chilies, red asparagus beans and some others. I also picked out Cherokee purple tomatoes (can't wait to see), two types of eggplant and sweet peppers. O.K. Byron get busy you have to finish that garden now.

I spent some time sorting these seeds and writing down dates to plant, whether in the garden or in pots to transplant. I use Dan Gill's Month to Month Gardening in Louisiana to determine these dates (practical and indispensable book, I ignore the advice for when to spray...yuck!) I can't wait to get all these little bundles of potential in the soil! Hopefully I'll be showing off all of the shiny produce on my blog soon. I'll let everyone know how each variety does in our wilting southern heat and humidity this summer.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Vacation Dreamin'

Wet, cold, gray, dreary, muddy, cold... that's what today is. Makes me dream of vacation. When we load all the kids in the truck along with their backpacks and the camping gear...and hit the road. Reminding myself of those "we'll get there when we get there" days cheers me and keeps me on the budget straight and narrow. I read in one of my magazines where a man from Britain was asked what was the most surprising aspect of his trip across the United States. His reply was-"It's sheer size." There's always something else you just gotta see. This year we're planning to make it all the way to Maine! Does anyone know of any you just gotta see things between New Orleans and Maine? (Besides my Sister. Of course I'm going to visit her!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wow Broccoli!

"Wow, Broccoli!" that was Talia's words when she noticed the broccoli growing in the garden! I didn't realize my daughter had never seen how broccoli grew. My neighbor who has chickens told me about her grandchildren. She offered them eggs from her chickens. Her grandchildren replied, "No, thanks Grams, we don't eat chicken eggs. We get ours from the store." Poor Granny was appalled and incredulous. This is kinda scary! We need to let children know where food comes from!

Here is my broccoli. My very first and boy am I proud.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Lemons! If there is a reason to love winter in our area it is because of the citrus. We don't get snow. Just a cold deluge of rain, bleak gray skies and a lot of mud. My trees are too small to produce yet. But thank God for Bro. Cal. Bro. Cal is a man in our church who brings bunches of citrus and gives it away with a big smile. As opposed to my neighbors who are citrus farmers. They pick the fruit from the trees. If it isn't fruit they are going to sell, they leave it to rot underneath the trees. They practically break their necks to make sure they are looking in another direction when we pass in our vehicles. Also notice was served to my children not to touch their citrus. They would give us some if they wished. It happened once. When my husband pulled the elder father's lawnmower out of the drainage ditch between our properties where he had slid when cutting the grass, he walked over picked a branch of about 8 satsumas and gave it to him as thanks. It really makes me feel ill to look out of my kitchen window and see all those yummy navel oranges rotting away when there are people who pass them in the grocery store because they cannot afford them. Maybe there's an answer I'm not aware of. My neighbor on the other side is a different story (I'm sandwiched between two citrus orchards and yes, it is a great place to live, smells heavenly in the spring) She's very generous. What makes the difference?

Well I certainly do not let any citrus I'm given go to waste. I cut oranges daily for my children to eat with their breakfast or to bring for snack at school. Here is Talia squeezing the lemons. We squeeze the juice, freeze it in ice cube trays, then store in a container in the freezer. The rest of the year there is plenty of juice for cooking or making lemonade when its 95 degrees outside!

Since Talia worked so hard it called for lemon bars. Here is Seleste and Talia enjoying their lemon bars and playing DS.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Working on a Wedding

I'm working on a wedding today, and sweating the tulips opening. I'm waiting until the last minute to put together the bridesmaids bouquets for this reason. January is not the greatest time for florist flowers. When you're dealing with nature, sometimes you have to take what she gives you. The peonies were wimpy, the tulips were tight and green, the callas were crushed! This sometimes can be a blessing in disguise. Some of my most beautiful creations were from dealing with less than idea colors or flowers. Back to the design studio.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Finding What We Have Lost - Growing your own food.

My lunch from the garden (pre-washed)

My Grandmother grew all the food for her family when she was raising her 8 children. Very few staples were purchased from "town". It's just two generations since, and our families are now far removed from this way of life. Sometimes I wonder, could I survive if there were not little packages of food on a grocery shelf? How did we lose this skill in these few years?

Well I'm not going to wander off into the woods to test my ability. I have a feeling the adventure would quickly turn into a rescue search. I am going to attempt to do what my grandmother did, grow all the veggies and fruit for my family. We'll have to learn to eat what is in season. My mother said that in the summer they couldn't open preserved items, that was for the winter. They had to eat what was currently ripe.

Here it is my first meal from my new potager. A salad! I grew it myself -buttons bursting-. I planted a salad mix and this is the results. Most of the lettuce is still small, so I thinned out the ones that were too close. This is those that I thinned and the the few larger leaves I found. It was enough salad for myself and my daughter. It was yummier than any other lettuce I have ever had :-)!

It was actually quite simple to grow, and the lettuce will keep producing new leaves as long as you leave the roots in the ground. This can even be done in a box with drainage on a patio. Just choose seed for a loose leaf variety of lettuce. Sprinkle the seeds on the prepared garden or patio container soil. Dust with a light layer of soil. Water well and soon you'll have lettuce popping up! Oh yeah, most veggies need lots of sunlight, lettuce does too. When they are about an inch tall, thin them to about an inch apart. You can eat all the little lettuce you thin. When the lettuce is larger, just pinch or snip off the larger leaves and the lettuce will continue to grow new leaves. Lettuce prefers cooler temperatures. Hot weather makes the lettuce bitter. So in our gulf coast area you must grow lettuce in the winter.

I'll be posting as different veggies are ready to harvest. Learning to stagger the harvest and keep something either preserved or ready to pick is going to be a challenge, but finding the lost skill of feeding yourself will be plenty rewarding!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Crochet Dish Cloths

Here are some of the dish cloths I made. This is one of the little mundane things I do to rest my weary mind or make use of time in the car (when Byron's driving of course-I wouldn't recommend crocheting and driving!). All that's to it is 35 stitches across and 21 double stitch rows. Then finish off the edges by crocheting a simple chain stitch all around. You can get fancy and put a fan stitch around the edges or add a crochet flower embellishment. They are very useful things, and I haven't met anyone who doesn't like to receive them as a little thank you gift! I make them out of 100% cotton yarn.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Staying Home

Congratulations Carmen! You passed your test! I knew you could!

Deciding to be a full time stay home mom is the most full filling decision I have made in my adult life. A lot of struggles in my heart were put to rest when I made the transition. I am still an event florist, although I limit my bookings to once a week on Saturdays and no more than two to three a month. Some months during the summer I block completely for my family. We go "Nation Traipsing" during the summer (that's hitting the road with camping gear and a general destination). There will be time down the road for me to grow business wise, but I can never go back and re-raise my children.

Staying home has its many rewards as well. Isn't saving money like earning it? Being at home gives me the time to do things such as bake bread and grow our own veggies and fruits. All of these things would be bought if I were working an outside job. Also the yummy food I cook at home is inexpensive and much healthier than eating out. I know exactly what is in the ingredients and preparation as well. Being home gives me time to organize and clean the home. This makes for a much more peaceful home life. I also adore the quiet time I have to myself when everyone else is at school or work.

I have not given up my fun (florist) completely. The money I earn from it helps to give us all the little extras we like (vacation!). Doing it on a limited basis keeps it from becoming overwhelming with all of my other family, church and community responsibilities. I also have a wonderful husband who loves the fact that I'm at home as well (that certainly

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Here it is! My new clothesline. My husband just built it for me. Isn't it wonderful? Just one more way to save energy. Having a clothesline gives you a reason to leave the inside chores and enjoy the sunshine (or overcast day as in the picture) and the birds singing. It was when I was hanging clothes to dry that I realized it was a mocking bird not my phone ringing. A mocking bird has learned to ring just like my cordless phone I bring outside in order to not miss any business, kids or Byron calls!

Sometimes it rains for days here and I use my dryer, or lay the clothes around the house if there isn't too many. But if its sunny or just overcast....there they are... my laundry. My Father-in-law asked my husband, "What's the matter can't you afford a dryer?" Sigh...What do you do with some people!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Three Gifts Challenge

Rhonda in her Down to Earth Blog challenged everyone to change three things to benefit each other and the earth. I've accepted the challenge. Now I have to decide what three things I need to do. Really I do most of the obvious things and some things others consider extreme. For example: Cooking in a solar oven.

Things I do currently: I use cloth napkins, cut up old towels for cleaning, use air conditioning and heat only when necessary (otherwise I use ceiling fans and adjust dress), buy mostly organic and local, minimize car trips, cook in a solar oven, grow my own fruits, nuts, and veggies, use lights sparingly only at night or overcast day, clean with non-chemical cleaners (see clean and green post), buy food with minimal packaging, compost, line dry my clothing. I have removed my carpet and installed porcelain tile. I won't have to replace it if we flood again and it requires nothing but human power to care for it. I draw the line at toilet paper. I buy toilet paper (although I have read on some sites about other options!).

So I've really been thinking about what else I can do. Here are some options.

  1. Not use any bags from stores at all. Bring my own.

  2. Cut grass bi-weekly instead of weekly in summer(I'll have to see if this is feasible in our area.) Minimize lawn by installing landscaping and gardens.

  3. Research solar possibilities for my home. We are going to build a studio for my business adjacent to our home. I believe we could install a solar system to power our home and my business.

  4. I'm already getting chickens. I'll use them for pest control instead of poisons. (Does anyone know of an organic way to get rid of red ants? They eat us if we do not control them. I have tried many things. None except poison have worked so far.)

  5. Try to stockpile enough groceries for three to four weeks to minimize trips to shop.

Any other suggestions? What are you doing?

Here is a picture of my garden! Look how it's grown. I recently planted bok choy, tom thumb lettuce, arugula, and calendula. I'm going to plant tomatoes, peppers, and celery for transplant.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Clean and Green

I totally quit using chemical cleaners about three years ago. My house is just as clean and we don't get sick! Even without the 'industrial kills 99.9% of all germs" sprays. Simple old fashioned products is all you need. Not only is it much better for the environment, it's great for the budget as well. Even laundry detergent is easy to make and costs about .75 cents for two gallons. All you need is 1/2 a cup for each load. I'm not sure how many loads that is. I think around 40 or so.

I use a mixture of lavender essential oil and water for spraying my kitchen counters. Some things you should take extra care with. Such as, not using the same knife to cut the lettuce that you just cut raw meat with. Vinegar and water is all I use for cleaning surfaces, mirrors, glass, and my porcelain tile floors. I clean my bathroom toilets, tubs and sinks with a sprinkling of borax. Then I apply a little elbow grease to remove any buildup. Then I spray the entire area with lavender spray. I use a micro-fiber cloth to dust and old cut up bath towels and cloths for cleaning. To polish my furniture, A mixture of lemon essential oil and jojoba oil works beautifully.

Here's my cleaning recipes: Vinegar Spray-1/2 cup vinegar to 4 cups of water, Lavender Spray-20 drops lavender essential oil to 1 cup of water. For polishing furniture I just sprinkle a few drops of jojoba oil and lemon essential oil on a rag and rub.

Homemade Laundry Detergent:
1/3 bar Fels Naptha soaps (other bar laundry soaps may work, I buy Fels Naptha from
1/2 cup washing soda (sodium carbonate)
1/2 cup borax powder
You will need a small bucket to hold at least two gallons

Method: Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups of water and heat until the soap melts. Add washing soda and borax, stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Add your soap mixture and stir. Then add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the mixture sit for 24 hours and it will gel. Use 1/2 cup per load.

For scent I add 10 drops of lavender essential oil and 10 drops of orange essential oil. You can add your favorite scent of essential oils.

The texture of the soap gel varies for me. Sometimes it is thicker and sometimes it is like egg drop soup. I keep a spoon in my bucket to stir it each time I use it. I have a very modern high efficiency washer and the laundry soap works fine in it. My husband just finished building me a wonderful clothesline. I will include a picture in upcoming posts.

I really believe most of the products we buy are unnecessary. Advertising does a great job of making us feel inadequate, so we buy their products believing it will make life better. In reality most of these products further complicate our lives. That could be another long, long, long, discussion!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Budgeting Time

"I'm sorry I just don't have time." The most aggravating thing someone can say back is, "Make time!" Please tell me how to do that. Not possible. Nope! But, you can organize or budget your time (although I admit if you have children under the age of three it is mostly impossible, they are the time dictators). Time seems to slip away like those little plastic tubey things filled with gel. The only way to harness time and put it to work for me is to budget it. I do this with my money and my minutes. M&M's. I imagine little dollars running around and me organizing them and telling them where to go. Sometimes I have to line up the minutes and get them marching in the right direction as well.

After the morning routine of waking the children, dressing them, feeding them and sending them away to either do chores (I also provide them with a list), play or school, I sit down and budget my time. The first thing is to make a list (I have them categorized). List everything except bathroom breaks. I even write down "clean the cat's litter box".

One of my lists looks like this:


  • start laundry
  • start dinner
  • do dishes
  • clean bath
  • sweep
  • cat litter


  • Find pictures for project

Self and Health:

  • Make appt. for spot on nose
  • exercise
  • take nap

TFA (My business):

  • cash check
  • check balance
  • call ----------
  • pick up flowers
  • put flowers in water

Garden Club:

  • write e-mail
  • Call art in bloom

Beautification Committee:

  • Call fencing company


  • Review scriptures from Sunday

Special Projects

  • Compare insurance for car
  • do pictures
  • finish painting bathroom
  • organize and clean top pantry

Sometimes I put more than I think I can do in one day. Then prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Just number them from most important to least- 1, 2, 3 etc.. Do the most important ones first then draw a line through each one as you finish it. I usually finish everything except the special projects. Those are mostly non-pressing. Having everything on paper and in front of you will help you focus. Drawing a line through each item will give you a sense of accomplishment and order.

Sometimes I still say, "Sorry, I just do not have the time." Knowing when to say this is just as important. But don't let time slip away from you because of neglect. You can't get it back. It's absolutely your most valuable commodity. Crack that whip! Get along little minutes, get along!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How big is your house?

What is the right size house for a family of five? I bought the Have More Plan book from Baker Creek Heirloom seed company. It was written in 1943. The book had plans for the idea house. 705 square feet was the smallest house and the largest recommended house was a whopping 753 square feet! Really, how much space do we need? That size seems extremely tiny to me.

Surrounding my house are houses of 3,000 square feet to much larger, the largest being over 10,000 square feet. My in laws, just the two of them live in a 5,000 square foot house. Large houses have become a status symbol. My house is 1,680 square feet and is the smallest in our immediate area. My in-laws have suggested that maybe we would like to swap houses, since there are 2 of them and 5 of us.

The benefits of a small house are:

  • Less cleaning

  • Smaller Utility Bills (My electric bill this December was $40.00, it is usually around $20.00 but the state is allowing the energy company to gouge us to make up for their loses in Hurricane Katrina. Since the storm the cost of living in this area has increased significantly)

  • Less room to collect useless clutter

  • Smaller Insurance bill (Insurance in the New Orleans area is already outrageous. My house is $1,950 a year with a huge hurricane deductible and $380.o0 for state sponsored flood insurance)I'm hoping that we will be able to self insure our home for hurricanes eventually because of my smaller home and my husbands increasing carpentry skills.

  • Less maintenance

  • Lower Taxes

  • Larger Yard (kids tend to play outside more and not sit in front of the computer, we do not have a television) More room to garden!

  • You don't have to move when the kids leave.

  • Easier to become debt free and have a paid off home. We owe very little on our home and will pay it off soon. This frees up money for saving and living! (Debt Free Vacation Yea!)

  • Have a sense of satisfaction that you are not being wasteful of the limited resources of our planet.

  • Much cozier and satisfying. Is easier to personalize.

Some drawbacks of a small house are:

  • You have to be really creative for storage and every square foot must be used wisely

  • A little tight for Garden Club Meetings (I am the President of our local Federated Garden Club and I host a meeting once a year)

  • Sometimes your peers make incorrect judgements about you. I call them peers, because if they do this they do not qualify as friends.

Some benefits of Large House are:

  • Lots of storage (for mostly useless clutter)

  • Plenty of room for gatherings

  • Impresses some people (I'm not sure if this is a benefit---!)

Some drawbacks of a Large House are:

  • Huge utility bills and unfair use of resources (my in-laws electric bill in December was $240.00, it can go over $500.00 in the summer, our summers are sweltering)

  • Large insurance bill (Their insurance is $8,000.00 a year, the flood is $380.00 the same as mine because it is for a flat amount and is state sponsored)

  • Much higher taxes

  • Much more cleaning to do (my mother in law hires someone to help out occasionally)

  • Clutter collector (everyone I know with large houses still complains they do not have enough storage, they have the clutter habit)

  • Maintenance costs are much higher (after the storm it cost my in-laws $26,000.00 to re roof their home and garage. Their garage is an additional 1,800 sq ft. My home and shed cost around $5,000)

  • Large house note if financed

  • In some cases restricts savings because all money is spent on home.

  • Sometimes you must deal with the jealousy of small minded family and people.

After considering all I will keep my house. Unless a hurricane blows us away or my husband must relocate (small chance) we will be here til til!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


This year is a bumper crop for pecans! I lost two very old pecan trees in Katrina. There are still three left and I planted four more. Finally! They are lookin' good! They produced a wonderful crop. I have about thirty pounds of pecan halves in the freezer and a lot more to shell. The rocket cracker (a got at a local hardware store) works really well.

It is so much fun being able to walk out of the door and pick up valuable, edible, useful things off of the ground! Shelled pecans sold for $10.00 a pound at the local farmers market. Mine were free! Currently I store the shelled pecans in the freezer. I would like to find out if you can toast and can them like you see in the store.

New Orleans is famous for their pralines. Really yummy! I found a recipe that tastes like pralines, but is in smaller bite sizes. I gave sugared pecans to my children's School and Sunday School teachers, they loved them. I made 4x the recipe for my large family's Christmas get together and they didn't last very long.

Sugared Pecans

2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of milk
1 tbsp of butter
pinch of salt
4 cups pecan halves
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the sugar, milk, butter and salt and cook over medium heat to a soft ball stage, about 235 degrees (this is very important for it to turn out right, I know it seems to take a long time) Add the vanilla then pecans mix well. Spread on a platter to cool. Separate pecans with fork and store in an airtight container.

I also like to crush the pecans for cheese ball coatings and to sprinkle on salads.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Where do I go from here?

Do you ever feel like despite all your efforts everything including relationships with people seem to take the wrong turn and the more you try the worse it gets. Seems to me that when I learn to be quiet and wait it settles out.

It's times like those that tackling a mundane or repetitive chore settles my mind. I love to crochet dishrags for this very reason. I've made all four of my sisters and my mother sets and now I'm giving them to my friends. The funny thing is everyone expresses such appreciation for them. They are time consuming and inexpensive to make... but very relaxing and mind numbing. I love mind numbing things. It is the only time my brain finds rest. (Simplifying is something I need to do more of.)

These things help me find contentment. Really contentment is something I desire more than happiness. Contentment is Happiness

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

My New Veggie Garden and No Knead Bread

Byron is building me my dream garden, a french style pottager! He's come a long way with his skills. We were just laughing recently over the PVC pipe green house he built me that blew to pieces a couple of days after he finished. His skills have improved exponentially!

The beds in the pictures are really only one sixth of what the garden will be when it is finished. I will have room to grow organic veggies, cut flowers (which I intend to use in my event floral business) and a perennial border with a pergola and seating. I would like to deck the top of the pergola to overlook the Mississippi river. My house is right on the banks of the Mississippi. The hill you see in the background is the levee containing the river. During Katrina the river topped the levee and only two extremely old pecan trees that had blown down in the winds before the storm surge protected my home and minimized what could have been much worse damage. I still have four large pecan trees left and I recently planted four more.

The blue trellises were also built by Byron. Boy he's getting good. I would like the garden to have a very cottage style country feel. I'm trying the raised beds specifically because of the huge amount of rainfall we receive in our area. I also am attempting to control the rampant growth of grasses and weeds. I always said, if there weren't an army of lawnmowers cutting grass daily in the New Orleans area the swamp and forests would remove any trace in ten years. Well maybe not, but when I try to control weeds in my garden it feels like it!

So far I am please with the progress. We will be finishing the veggie and cut flower portion of the garden this spring. This project is to provide our family with a constant supply of fresh vegetables and eliminate the need to purchase tasteless supermarket varieties (that includes the "organic store veggies" as well). This is just another step in the right direction for sustainability.

Here is the No Knead Dutch Oven Bread recipe I got from my Mother Earth Magazine
My husband loves it. My daughter eats out the center and says the crust nearly breaks her braces.

Bake in 6 to 8 quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (I use half white and half whole wheat you can use either or
1 1/2 teaspoon of salt

-in large bowl dissolve yeast in water (warm water til it is just hot enough that your finger can stand it). add flour and salt stirring until blended. the dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest 8 hours preferably 12 to 18 hours at warm room temp about 70 degrees.

-the dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour work surface and place dough on it sprinkle with a little four and fold over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

-Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface, gently shape into a ball. coat a clean towel with flour. Put seam side of dough down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another towel and let rise for 1 to 2 hour until doubled in size.

-20 min before dough is ready heat oven to 475 degrees. put a 6 to 8 qt cast iron dutch oven in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready remove pot form oven and lift off the lid. Turn dough over into pot seam side up. Give the pan a shake to distribute dough.

- Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 10 to 20 minutes until loaf is browned.

Yield- 1 1/2 lb loaf
Mother Earth News adapted from New York Times