Thursday, October 15, 2020

Slowing Down


A break from cleaning

    With James growing and everyday tasks becoming more and more physically taxing, I am inevitably starting to slow down.  I can feel my energy levels dropping, and I'm no longer able to get things done at the rate I was going.  But I'm ok with this, for I am slowing down in other ways as well.

    Knowing that a unique, wonderful chapter of our lives is closing and a busy and exciting new one is about to begin, I am slowing down to soak in every last bit of our current season.  I know the marathon that is coming with a newborn, but instead of the urgency I felt in weeks past to get things done, I now feel the desire to simply relax and enjoy my time with my family.  I still have my to-do list, but it has been reevaluated and put in its place- it is no longer so important.

    Craving rest and time together, Colton and I decided one last trip to the beach was in order.  We went earlier in the year and were surprised by how much fun we had.  Living only an hour away, we had intended on going back throughout the summer, but then the beaches closed for a period of time and we just got busy with projects.  But Monday we decided we would make it happen!  I packed our lunches, chairs, and tent, and away we went.

"A bit of sea-bathing would set me up forever." ~ Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice 

    It was just what we all needed- a day of doing nothing but spending time together relaxing and playing, surrounded by the calming beauty of God's creation.  We had the beach mostly to ourselves with no one on either side of us for 50 feet, at least. 

    John could run and chase the seagulls, splash in the water, fly his kite, and dig in the sand to his little heart's content.  He and Colton searched for crabs, clams, and shells.  I like to think it was an unintentional homeschooling lesson for John as we watched the little creatures.

    Colton enjoyed a swim, which ended up being therapeutic as it brought down the swelling in his post-surgery knee.  He challenged me to a fun game of bocce ball, too.  I won't tell you who won. (Hint: it wasn't him. 😉)

    I set my chair at the water's edge, just close enough for the waves to wash over my feet.  It was the most relaxing thing.  I had brought a magazine with me, but I was too distracted by the beauty around me to enjoy it!

    It was such a lovely break from our busyness.  Sometimes, in the midst of all that is happening, we have to step back and realize how blessed we are.  Not to hurry on to the next thing, but to simply enjoy what we have right now.  Our day at the beach holds memories I will always treasure, and they are far more important than the things I didn't get done.  True, quality time with family always is.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Pantry Clean-Out

     With the changing of seasons and cooler weather approaching, it seems many of us are giving our pantries extra attention.  Though our Texas winters are far from harsh, I do still like to be prepared, and with a baby on the way, I want to make sure my pantry is stocked and that my need to venture out is kept to a minimum.

     This year has brought so many surprises and uncertainties, and I think we have consequently seen the importance of having and keeping a well-stocked pantry!  This has been a practice of mine for several years now, and our pantry has seen us through job loss, periods of very little to no income, hurricanes, and most recently and unexpectedly, food shortages.  I personally don't think we have seen the end of it, so it is my aim to remain diligent about what I have stored.  Homemakers, this is one way you can truly bless and provide for your family in a tangible way!  

    Having these things in mind, I recently did a major pantry clean-out.  It took me several days to get it done, and I made several observations along the way.  I thought I would share here in the event it helps and encourages someone else.

    The first thing I did was take everything out of my pantry.  I vacuumed, wiped down the shelves, and mopped the floors.  I knew it was temporary, but seeing my pantry empty was a bit unnerving!  An empty pantry is what we want to avoid.


    Once the pantry itself was cleaned, I went about sorting through all the food.  I decided to go through everything in categories as I went about setting things back on the shelves.  For example, I went through dry baking goods, then moved onto canned vegetables, then canned fruits, teas etc.  

    All of my jars and cans were wiped down to remove any dust.  Things that were outdated were tossed out.  Now, I did keep some things that are past their "best by" date to an extent.  I am talking here about things that had been forgotten and were too far gone for me to feel comfortable eating or feeding to my family.  As I went, I made a list of things that are getting old and that need to be used up soon.

    I used a Sharpie to write expiration dates on the front of all my cans.  I learned this tip from my parents after snooping in their pantry!  (Anyone else like to snoop in people's pantries to see how they do things?)  By doing this, I am able to see what needs using first.  The items with the furthest dates get placed towards the back of the shelf, and the ones with the closest dates get placed up front.  This system has been working very well for me so far.  Now when we buy groceries, I immediately write the dates on the cans and am able to quickly place them on the shelves accordingly.  Everything should now be much easier to rotate.

    I repackaged many of my dry goods into glass jars.  This created so much space, as it eliminated a lot of bulky packaging.  Glass jars also keep bugs and critters out, keep food fresh longer, and allow you to see at a glance what and how much you have of something.  Colton and I invested in the half-gallon mason jars years ago, but any recycled glass jar will work just as well.  Here you can see my shelves of dry baking ingredients and cereals.  I used a Dymo labeler to label the fronts of my jars.

    Packaged snacks were also put into glass jars.  On the shelf above the snacks, you can see coffee and my system for sorting tea bags.  It is just an inexpensive set of plastic drawers from Walmart.  I have the drawers labeled by category.


    Above that, I have milk items (I'd like to stock a bit more) and my paper/packaging items.  The large cookie tin holds my paper plates.  Once I have an empty coffee can, I'll use it to store my coffee filters.  This is just a way to keep any potential pests out.

    Other shelves hold my dehydrated goods, canned vegetables, pasta, dry beans, and potatoes.  Pictured on the floor is vinegar in jugs, wheat in buckets, and not shown on the other end are jugs of distilled water.


    And here is my pantry all put back together!  It was a big job but well worth it.


    Over the years, my pantry has evolved based on the needs of our family.  I never expect it to stay the same, as I am always finding ways of improving my system.  One of the most important things that I have learned is to only stock the foods my family likes to eat.  I know that may seem like such an obvious thing, but sales and good bargains have tempted me many times to purchase things we ended up not caring for!  What looked like savings ended up being a waste.  

    When the food shortages hit earlier this year, I saw many people buying things they wouldn't normally buy out of necessity.  They needed food and it didn't matter what kind!  Think of how much better it would be to be stocked with familiar and comforting foods that you enjoy in a time of crisis.  It would not be such a shock to the system and routine.

    The way that I have built most of my stockpile is by shopping sales, using coupons, and checking the clearance section of stores.  Again, this only helps if you buy things you like and would normally eat, but if you know you'll use it before it goes bad, buy several, not just one when you find a deal.  I can't tell you how many cans in my pantry have a yellow clearance sticker on them!

    Normally I do a lot of stocking up around the Thanksgiving and Christmas sales.  This year I am taking a bit of a different approach with everything going on in the world.  I don't want to be dependent on sales or availability that simply may not be there this year!  I've been making a list of things I am running low on and I just buy a few cans here and there when I am out shopping.  This also builds up my supply without spending a fortune all at once.

    If you want to learn more about building a pantry, I highly recommend A Working Pantry, The Bluebirds are Nesting, and Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth blogs.  I have learned and continue to learn so much from these ladies!

    I hope you have enjoyed my pantry tour and gleaned some helpful ideas.  Do you keep a "deep" pantry?  What is your system? If you have any tips on keeping, stocking, or rotating your food supply, please share in the comments below!    

Monday, October 05, 2020

Cowboy Cookies


     With the arrival of autumn and cooler weather, I feel it is the perfect time to enjoy some baking.  Truth be told, I love to bake all year, but there is a particular coziness when the air is crisp outside and the kitchen is warmed by home-made goodness, filling the house with sweet, comforting aromas.

    Over the weekend, I baked a batch of cowboy cookies to share with friends.  I found the recipe in a cookbook, "Great Recipes from Texas", that I purchased at a garage sale.  While it was only my second time to make them, they were a huge hit!  Colton has declared them to be his absolute favorite cookie.  They have everything good in them-- chocolate chips, cinnamon, oats, coconut, and pecans.  I thought I would share the recipe with you here should you like to try them.

    First I must warn you that this recipe makes a LOT of cookies!  But I am of the opinion that one can never have too many cookies.  They are perfect for sharing or taking to gatherings, and although I have yet to try it (they always disappear before I get a chance), I'm sure they could be frozen for later.  I have never tried to halve this recipe, but I have frozen cookie dough with success, so that is an option too.  Expect about 8 dozen cookies from this recipe!

~Cowboy Cookies~

3 sticks butter (1 1/2 cup), softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 cups chocolate chips
3 cups oats
2 cups shredded coconut
2 cups chopped pecans

Cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat.  In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Gradually add to sugar mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredients.  Bake at 350*F for 10-12 minutes.