A New Tool… Or Is It a Toy?

A big family Christmas gift to us from Papa and Mama Byrd was a pressure cooker/canner.  I have yearned for a pressure canner for several years, and while I might be more excited about it than anyone else in our family, the benefits will definitely come to the whole clan.
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So far on the “cooker” side of things, I’ve cooked a chicken & potatoes meal (that certainly showed my learning curve!), some oh-mercy-delicious soups, and some dried beans for using in a casserole.  It seems like that list should be longer, but it’s all I can remember at present.  There are things for which I am really going to like pressure cooking.

Ah, but the dream for years has been to be able to pressure can, because with a pressure canner, you can can foods that will not preserve properly in a water-bath canner.  When I saw turkeys on sale for .50 a pound in early January, I was thrilled to buy a couple.  And after I got them home, I remembered… I can can these!!  There was much rejoicing.
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A good bit of canned turkey broth/stock/meat has passed through our canner since then, and the process has reinforced my need for a means to better track my canning efforts.  You see in the above picture (lower right lid) the remnants of my old “method” of tracking the details of my canning… trying to cram all the info onto the top of the lid.  Not so tidy or effective. So I purchased a notebook just for my Canning Stuff.  Isn’t she purdy?
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The second section has my initial inventory.  This includes the unopened jars of stuff I’ve canned that are still around.  I’d like to add pages with a brief numbers account of each canning session/season/year.
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The first section is for canning notes.  Things like what I actually put into the peach butter I made last summer:
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And detailed information about purchased food for canning, what went into each batch, how I canned it, etc:
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The above picture doesn’t include all the info I actually want to include on these pages.  I will be redoing it in more of a chart form, I think.  Date, size of jar, method with times/psi, ingredients, etc. I am a do-things-on-the-computer person.  But it just does not work well for keeping track of my canning, esp. not for what goes in to each batch.  And canning is such a wonderfully down-home skill, I find it fitting to be hand-writing my notes about it.

Do you can?  How do you keep track of your efforts?

The Beauty Book by Nancy Rue – A Review

The Beauty Book, by Nancy Rue, is a non-fiction book written for girls ages 7-11.  From a no-nonsense, God-doesn’t-make-junk beginning to a fun quiz-style closing inventory of what the reader has learned, Rue seeks to direct the attention of young ladies to the issues that matter most, while giving practical and honest help on issues that seem huge to most preteens.

I found The Beauty Book engaging and practical.  Topics covered include God-confidence, self-talk, shaving, skincare, nails, hair, clothes, caring for your body as the temple of God, respect for parents.  I like the multiple choice mini-quizzes that help the reader to look at their own thoughts and habits, as well as the “Talking to God About It” sections, which give prompts to encourage prayer about the topics.  There is also a “Lily Pad” page at the end of each chapter with space to write about a related question.  These features make the book very interactive, and would be helpful for parents who would like to use the book as a springboard.

On most questions, Rue effectively shares Biblical principles and refers decision-making back to the parents, sharing information that is widely agreed upon.  One disappointment for me was her “there is no such thing as a safe tan. Period. The end.” stance on sun exposure, and her strong endorsement of sunscreen.  Research has shown that regular moderate sun exposure has health benefits, and as a health-conscious mom, I am uncomfortable with the chemicals in sunscreen, so I wish that she had left more room for parental guidance in this area.

Overall, I think The Beauty Book is a great resource for pre-teens and their parents, and I look forward to sharing it with my girls.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a kindle edition of this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

A New Morning Habit

Mornings have long been a frustration to me, in the sense that we’ve struggled to get breakfast done and our day begun.  It’s seemed like we’re very disjointed/disconnected, not very family-ish, and have such a hard time getting to the point where we’re doing anything besides spinning our wheels.

Last month, the Simple Homeschool weekend links included this gem – What’s Working :: 5 Strategies for Right Now, from Amongst Lovely Things, a blog I hadn’t previously read.  Sarah gives some great ideas in a relatively short post, but the one that jumped out at me was #3 – “Start Early. Very Early.”  When I read her description of how her family’s mornings used to be, and I thought she must haved lived at my house!

The whole insistence on being “dressed and ready for the day before starting schoolwork” is really lingering residue from out-of-home education.  But we are not trying to bring into our home what happens in a school building.  No, we are seeking to educate our children at home in the way that best fits them and our family.  And sometimes it is difficult to even spot the things we do as a result of the influence of the school system.

So Sarah describes how they have thrown out the “getting ready” and have begun a habit of just starting the day with reading aloud together.  In her words,

Trust me, getting out of bed is a much more appealing prospect when chores and math aren’t looming directly overhead. My kids wake to the promise of a cozy blanket while mama reads a story. I sip coffee while I read, and before we know it we’ve got 30 minutes of  literature (or history, science, religion, or whatever else we’re reading about that day) under our belts.

Oh, that sounds inviting, doesn’t it?!  It definitely got me thinking.

Then, around New Year’s, I read a terrific article from Thomas Jefferson education about Winter’s Educational Superfood.  More good stuff in there than I can cover in this post, but it was further motivation for me to want to switch things up with our routine!

So last week, as we got back into official school stuff, I started calling the Blessings out to the living room first thing in their morning.  Now, my morning starts long before theirs, as Jonathan leaves for work about 45 minutes before most of them wake.  I use the gap for studying of my own, or a quick nap, or trying to get some of my computer stuff out of the way before they begin their day, or even making breakfast for them!  But when I’m ready for them to begin their day, I call everyone to the living room and we begin.  So for me, starting early is less about time-early and more about first-thing early.

We are reading I John 1 this month, one of them reading it from my Kindle each morning.  By the end of the month, it should be somewhere between very familiar and memorized.  And since there are five chapters in I John, the book will fit in nicely by the end of our “official” school year.

After we read our Bible chapter, we read a chapter from a classic.  Right now we are enjoying Little Women.  Not sure what will come next, but I think all the Blessings and I are enjoying it.

While I read, they usually eat breakfast (if something’s ready), or one of the older Blessings quietly fixes something, then they eat.  It seems so much easier to move on to other studying and work after starting our day together with a cozy read.

And, a treasure for you from this morning’s read.  I found this so resonated with me that it was difficult to make it through the paragraph as I read aloud to the Blessings this morning…

If I don’t seem to need help, it is because I have a better friend, even than father, to comfort and sustain me.  My child, the troubles and tempations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavely Father as you do that of your earthly one.  The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom.  His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength.  Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.” ~~ Marmee to Jo in chapter 8 of Little Women, “Jo Meets Apollyon” ~~ Louisa May Alcott

Maybe you’d like to try it?  Maybe you have found something different that is fabulous for your family?  I’d love to hear about what morning routine works for you!

A Thirty-One Party!

James Bloom, a lifelong friend of ours, is headed to Haiti next month to finish a church building project that he helped start last summer. His lovely wife, Eryn, whom I have also known most of her life, is a Sr. Consultant with Thirty-One, a 10 year old Christian company founded with the goal of helping women start their own businesses. They have a great selection of totes, bags, organizational items, and fun gifts, most of which can be personalized.

I’ve seen Eryn use Thirty-One parties before as fundraisers to bless others. A few weeks ago, a mutual friend of ours decided to have one as a fundraiser for James’s trip, and I thought it was such a great idea that I decided to play copy-cat. With many non-mutual friends, I’m hopeful that we’ll both be able to have good success in raising money toward James’s trip. If you’re interested in helping, please let me know and I’ll make sure you have an invite to the FB event (with all the needed info).

I’d like to highlight some of the products that look enticing to me in the catalog, and thought I’d start with one that I own and love.

My Mama brought me a thermal tote (p.2 & p.43 in the spring catalog) when she visited this summer, and it has been such a lovely and practical gift! Mine is purple (big points to begin, for this purple-girl), and I’ve used it for a variety of things. Even though it’s thermal and works great as a cute and classy cooler, the thermal lining is so thin that it’s very usable for other things. It’s 9.5″H x 14″W x 4.5″D, so I’ve toted a change of summer clothes in it, used it for a purse, carried toys in it for Andrew, used it for a mini-diaper bag, and more. The tote also has an exterior pocket, which is nice for tucking in last minute extras.

When Eryn had the thermal totes on special after Thanksgiving, I bought three for three dear ladies in my life, and had them personalized. I loved all the options – for patterns, thread color, and stitching fonts. And their bags look terrific!

So, whatever other goodies you might pick up before this party ends next Sunday (Jan. 20), consider adding a thermal tote to your order. I’m sure you’ll enjoy and appreciate it!
Happy shopping!

Brief Thoughts on the New Year

As I lay in bed early this morning thinking about another year and pondering my “big picture” goals for the year, the words to this dear hymn came to mind –

More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.  

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

As I thought of words that might be key for me in 2013, the one that stuck with me was OPEN. The Lord has been teaching me much about being open, and my guess is that these lessons have just begun and will be key in this new year. Open to Him (to Who He is); Open to His leading; Open to His grace and forgiveness; Open to His plans instead of my own; Open to His gifts; Open to my husband; Open to my children; Open to broken people hiding behind polite smiles; Open to how He wants to use me; Open home; Open arms….