Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baby Steps to Better Health

I mentioned last month that I don’t make resolutions since by definitions they’re almost meant to be broken.  I do make goals though and one of mine is to improve our families health and eating habits.  I’ve been taking everything in baby steps.

1. I replaced our plastic storage containers with glass.  Although Tupperware now claims to be BPA free, my stuff was all over a decade old.  They also had scratches and places that could potentially hide bacteria.  Now we’re using mason jars and glassware as I’ve found some on sale or at garage sales.

2. We bought an electric tea kettle to heat hot water rather than relying on the microwave.  Last year while watching a DVD on Understanding Child Brain Development I saw microscopic images of how a water molecule is distorted/damaged in a microwave.  I’m trying to avoid reheating food in the microwave, but now I can definitely avoid it to make tea or morning oatmeal with my kettle.

3. I’m adding fermented food to our diet.  I’ve been making kefir for breakfast smoothies for several years now.  Last fall I started brewing kombucha to drink (although I’m the only person willing to do so currently) and I’ve just started keeping sourdough starter for baking.  Sometimes slower is better I’ve found.  This week I started a part time job with our library and don’t get home until 5pm, but Tuesday is still pizza night in our home.  If I started my traditional yeast crust in the bread machine at that time, dinner would be delayed until 6:30 or later.  I was able to start the dough souring on the counter all day and it had a nice rise in the bowl when I got home. 

Areas that still need work:

1. I need to exercise consistently.  Last May I went through a Couch to 5K program and I managed to stay motivated to do my jogging three days/week following the regimen.  Then my Achilles Tendon become so sore I hated to touch it.  I’m able to walk without pain, but only do that on Wednesdays when my son is at homeschool gym (I walk on the track above the basketball courts). That’s simply not enough exercise.

2. I need to add more vegetables to our diet—something beyond potatoes, corn and green beans.  I’ve got plenty of recipes.  I guess I’ll just have to try one each week and everyone has to at least sample it and will see what’s appealing.  I don’t simply want to hide vegetables behind cheese and cream sauce though.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rescued Book #32 On the Way Home

Do you remember the early episodes of the TV series Little House on the Prairie?  They always ended with a voice over of Melissa Gilbert (who played Laura) saying “If I had a book of remembrances….”  Guess what?  She did!  I don’t know when she began keeping her journal, but by the time the Wilders moved to southwest Missouri she had a writing desk (it’s where she hid the $100 saved to buy a farm) and she kept a journal of their journey in a 5 cent Memorandum book.  Long after the Little House books were published,  after Laura Ingalls Wilder’s death in fact, that journal was discovered and published under the title On the Way Home.  I rescued my copy from a YMCA book sale.

The first chapter was written by the Wilder’s daughter Rose who was also a writer.  In it she explains about the drought and the financial crisis in South Dakota and how her parents had saved some money to start an orchard in “the Land of the Big Red Apple.”  In order to preserve their funds to buy the farm, Almanzo Wilder bought a box of asbestos fire-mats to sell or trade for food on their journey.

Laura wrote entries almost daily, beginning July 17, 1894 when they set out till August 30 of the same year when the family arrived in Mansfield, MO.  Rose Wilder Lane then takes up the narrative again to share the $100 bill so carefully hidden couldn’t be found on the day they were heading to the bank to buy the land.  Had it been discovered and stolen on the journey?  Had Rose taken it herself and lost it or destroyed it (she was 6 or 7 at the time)?

It seemed their dreams were dashed.  Rose recalls her mother saying “What can’t be cured must be endured.”  Several days passed and the family was actually packing up the covered wagon to move of and search for a means to make a living elsewhere when Laura found the money in a crack in the desk.  The land was purchased and a house was built –the same house you can visit today, the same house where the Little House books were all written.

On the Way Home contains several black and white photos of the Wilder family, their farm, and even the writing desk.  If you’re truly interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder, you’ll be please to know her original work Pioneer Girl has finally been published by the South Dakota Historical Society.  This is considered her true autobiography (the Little House books were fictionalized, with some event occurring out of sequence and some people combined into one character, etc.).   I’m currently on the waiting list at the library to read it.  Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be able to rescue my own copy.

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rescued Book #31—Walt Disney: Magician of the Movies

Last year I set out to share 52 of the books (or series of books) that I’ve “rescued” from library sales and other used book sales.  The came the ABC Blogging across Missouri challenge and I fell waaayyy short of my goal of 52.  So I’m going to finish the Rescued Books series, although you’ll notice I’ve taken “weeks” out of the series title.

My “W” for Blogging Across Missouri was Walt Disney’s Hometown.  He wasn’t born in the state, but he considered Marceline, MO as his hometown—it was even the inspiration for Main Street U.S.A. at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  So naturally good ole Walt came up when we studied famous Missourians in Schnickelfritz’s study of The Show Me State.  I used all living books for our history that year and was fortunate to find an old Disney biography.

Walt Disney, Magician of the Movies. Thomas, Bob, and Leonard Vosburgh.  New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1966. 176 pp.

Before the Table of Contents is a storyboard of Disney’s life.  For those who don’t know—a story board is a series of illustrations displayed in sequence to pre-visualize the actions of a motion picture. The process was develops by Walt Disney Productions in the early 1930’s.

The biography begins with six year old Walter having too much time on his hands, a bucket of tar, and a perfectly blank canvas of whitewashed siding.  When his father saw the painting of the pig on the side of his home he gave Walt a spanking, when Walt’s aunt heard the tale she gave Walt a set of colored pencils and some pads of paper.

We learn that Walt loved English in school, even Shakespeare, but algebra seemed like a foreign language. He spent his recess and lunch hour sweeping the sweeping the candy store across the street from the school in return for a hot lunch and some treats.  Other jobs included delivering newspapers for his father (a non-paying job), selling papers and refreshments on trains, and being a mailman.  He never forgot his love of drawing and painting though.  While driving ambulances for the Red Cross after World War I, he earned some spending money by painting medals on the leather jackets of the soldiers.  He returned home having made up his mind to be an artist, more specifically a cartoonist.

We still had two chapters before The Mouse came on the scene (and he was originally going to be called Mortimer).  Fritz got to learn about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and the innovative “Alice” series of shorts that combined live action with cartoons decades before Song of the South.  Then came Mickey Mouse,  Silly Symphony cartoons, Donald Duck and the first feature-length cartoon, Snow White.  I’ve got quite a collection of Walt Disney Treasure DVD’s and whenever we read about a cartoon, we’d look through the collection to see if we could watch the actual feature.

More chapters and more innovations—the True Life Adventure movies, Disneyland, television shows.  We go on a ride worthy of an E ticket (and I’m old enough to know) before the book ends with Disney’s death on Dec 15th, 1966.

Walt Disney: Magician of the Movies is one of Gross & Dunlap’s Pioneer Books. The introduction explains that these books are “designed to create unique and challenging biographies in many areas in which there has been some significant breakthrough in human achievement—a breakthrough largely engineered by a single person.”  Remember, there was a time when Disney wasn’t a worldwide corporate behemoth but simply a man with a dream, better yet a boy with a paintbrush and a blank canvas to fill. 

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

What We’re Reading—January 2015

As winter is generally the time to be cooped up indoors, we’ve been filling our time reading books.  Here’s a few of the titles we’re enjoying….

Schnickelfrtiz is reading My Side of the Mountain.  I can remember my sixth grade teacher reading it aloud to class.  Fortunately for me every student had a copy of the book to follow along, but I was actually reading ahead because I couldn’t wait to learn what would happen to Sam Gribley living in his hollowed-out tree in the Catskill Mountains.  How refreshing to read a book about survival that doesn’t involve a post-apocalyptic society where kids are killing kids.  This is just a teenage boy trying to get in touch with his family’s roots and learning self reliance, how to deal with fears, etc.  What I love best….when Sam doesn’t know what to do, he often heads to the LIBRARY to read up on a subject. 

I’m reading aloud Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers to Fritz as part of our school day.  He’s perfectly capable of reading it to himself, but I like to read it with the enthusiasm it deserves.  This week’s reading included a wild race to stay ahead of a cloudburst—when it fails, the young man and his horse are nearly drowned after tumbling in the river.  Fritz is sometimes thinking more about his piano lesson than my reading, but in this case he was riveted.  I also like to read aloud to censor some of the cowboy talk—it’s true he’s heard those words before, but why expose him to more when a “dern” works just as well. The Little Britches series is often categorized as the Little House alternative for boys.  I personally think that both boys and girls can benefit from both series. Both series deals with families that practice hard work and self-reliance while trying to eke out a living in the American West (Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 and Ralph Moody was born in 1898). I’m loving the fatherly words of wisdom Mr. Moody shares with Ralph and will miss them since SPOILER ALERT: he dies at the end of the first book.

IshmaelAs for my own reading—I’m embarrassed to say I practically have a book for every room, although I am limiting myself to only one fiction title.  That one would be Ishmael by E.D.E.N. Southworth.  It’s one of the Lamplighter Publishing titles I’d bought years ago.  I just bought its sequel, Self-Raised at their end-of-the-year seconds (the slightly less than perfect books) sale and thought I’d better re-familiarize myself with the story and characters.  Ms. Southworth takes her time to develop characters as much as Victor Hugo – it was almost 100 pages before the title character was born.  The point of the first fifth of the book was to set up his being an orphan.

The forecast includes winter weather advisories and we may even have to deal with ice accumulation and power outages…Thank goodness I don’t have to plug in my books.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sausage Chowder



The tree and decorations are down, the temperature is dropping, a cold rain may turn to ice overnight…the reality that the holidays are over and winter itself still lies ahead has hit me.  I need comfort food!  As long as the weather holds, I plan on sharing a comforting soup, stew or chowder with you on Saturdays.  And the bonus for myself—I’s going to scour through my all-too-large cookbook collection and select all new ones to try.  I’ll share first opinions and brainstorm how I might tweak the recipe in the future.  I might be using the pressure cooker, slow cooker or just a Dutch oven on the stove.  Here’s my first—Sausage Chowder.





  • 1 pound fully cooked smoked sausage
  • 1 med. onion, quartered & thinly sliced
  • 4 cups diced potatoes
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can cream-style corn
  • 1 can evaporated milk


Cut sausage in half lengthwise and then thinly slice.  Brown the sausage and onion over medium heat in a soup kettle or Dutch oven.

Add potatoes, water, parsley, basil, salt and pepper to pot.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add canned ingredients.  Cook another 5-10 minutes until heated through. Yield: about 3 quarts of chowder – you’ll have to judge the number of servings depending on whether you use this as a main dish or an appetizer.

Family Reaction:

You can see I already tweaked the recipe because all I had in the house was kielbasa instead of smoked sausage.  Rather than use a Dutch oven, I cooked it all in my Ninja 3-in-1, which has a stovetop setting.  Everyone loved the taste.  My husband would have liked it to be a little thicker—maybe I’ll cut down on the water.  I’m including a picture of my diced potatoes.  For their size a 15-20 minute simmer was too long, they were too mushy.  Another thought is to mash them slightly to thicken the dish before I add the corn.  A sprinkling of cheese when serving would go well too.

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