Friday, July 19, 2013

Rebecca's HEARTH AND HOME Newsletter - July 19, 2013

Greetings, Dear Sisters!

It's a hot and steamy July here in southwest Missouri! As I write this temperatures remain in the mid- to upper-90's and the humidity is out of this world!

Despite the heat there are lots of good things going on in our lives right now. First and foremost, since our youngest son married, and moved out of the home, my husband, John, and I have made a concentrated effort to purposefully work on, and renew, our marriage relationship, as well as, our relationship with God and His Word, individually, and as a couple. Some of the things that we are doing to achieve that is daily devotionals together before bedtime, emersion in God's Holy Word through reading, good on-line teaching and preaching, and, purposefully, looking for places to go, and things to do, and work on, together, that build us up, and solidify our relationship, rather than tear it down or just coast along. Despite our best efforts we have times when we get off track, but, overall, after a very long period of being derailed in practically every area of life, we are starting to see much victory over the enemy! Praise the name of the Lord!

One of the areas that we are working on is moving toward debt freedom. We've paid off multiple credit cards over time, but, this one card in particular has been a real struggle for us. The interest on it was HUGE and we have paid and paid and paid on it for YEARS, and never really made any headway until we purposefully devised a plan and stuck to it. We stayed with a balance of $3000.00 for approximately 12 years. Once we put our plan into action, we've watched that balance plummet down...down...down...on a regular basis. It's taken a little time, but over the past few weeks, we've seen a mighty move of the Lord's hand and He's provided us the ways and means to get that thing paid down and off. It will be paid off in full by August 1st! Again...praise the name of the Lord and glory to His mighty and magnificent name! What an awesome God we serve! Praise the name of the Lord!

Okay...it's time to get on with another issue of HEARTH AND HOME! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do when we spend this little bit of time together. Here we go!

HOUSEHOLD TIPS -

* To sour milk (or cream) mix a tablespoon of lemon juice into a cup of milk. Let stand a few minutes, stir, and it's ready for use in any recipe calling for sour milk, sour cream, or buttermilk.

* To chop herbs such as parsley, sage, or basil, bunch up the herb, then snip across it in narrow slices with kitchen shears or scissors.

* To keep salt flowing freely in humid weather, add a few grains of raw rice to the salt shaker.

* Make garlic cloves easier to peel by mashing them slightly with the edge of a knife.

* Adding about 1 1/2 teaspoonsful of lemon juice to a cup of rice while cooking will keep the kernels separated.

* Put rubber bands around the ends of hangers to prevent clothes from slipping.

* Perk up limp lettuce leaves by soaking them in a bowl of cold water mixed with a splash of lemon juice; keep in the fridge for about an hour. They'll be as good as fresh!

* Make a dull pair of scissors like new again simply by using them to make several cuts into a piece of fine sandpaper.


DOLLARS AND SENSE -

* Energy-Saving Tips Around The House - Refrigerator/Freezer...

Your refrigerator/freezer is probably one of the biggest energy users in your home. Here are some ways to beat the cost of keeping things cool.

1) Keep it clean. In a manual-defrost model more than half an inch of frost can build up and make the appliance work harder, so defrost regularly. Vacuum clean the condenser coils below or at the back of the refrigerator/freezer three or four times a year. Clean coils keep it running efficiently and help save energy.

2) Keep it closed. The time for decisions is not when you have door open. Get everything you need for a sandwich or recipe in one trip.

3) Keep it full. Frozen food helps keep the air cool in our freezer. But don't overpack food in either refrigerator or freezer, or the cold air won't have space to circulate properly.

4) Heat has no business in the refrigerator. Cool dishes before you store them so your appliance won't have to work so hard.

5) Investigate before you buy. A frost-free refrigerator/freezer may use 30 percent more electricity than a manual-defrost unit. Also, be sure to choose the correct cubic footage for our family, sine a too-full or too-empty refrigerator/freezer wastes energy.

6) Unplug your second refrigerator. Refrigerators are big energy users, so if your second refrigerator is not being used to full capacity, unplug it. It could save you $15.00 a month or more, depending on its size.

(This information was taken from Emilie Barnes' 15 Minute Home and Family Organizer.)

* The biggest 'Dollars and Sense' tip I have for you this month is this...

Recently, our youngest daughter introduced me to Ibotta. Have you heard of it? You get paid CASH to answer simple marketing questions and purchase items that are probably already on your shopping list (and, if the items you buy aren't offered today, they most likely will be in the near future). And there are all sorts of bonus items that can earn you cash, too! I've not even been with Ibotta a week yet and I've already earned $18.25! I've determined to turn all the cash I earn from Ibotta back into groceries, and saving what we would otherwise have spent out of our regular income. To find out more about Ibotta click here: http://ibotta.com/r/D2wUA By using my personal link to sign up, you and I could both earn extra cash right off the bat! Woo-hoo! :)


KEEPING COOL WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING -

(I have printed this before, but am reprinting it again as it is so terribly hot and we know of several folks who are, indeed, trying to keep cool and do not have air conditioning.)

On the JOYS of Living without Air Conditioning in Oklahoma,

Simple ways to minimize air conditioning and save big bucks on your summer electric bills.

By Robert Waldrop

Originally published Summer 2003, revised May 2005

Keeping cool without AC, or while minimizing air conditioner usage, is not rocket science. It's mostly common sense. These suggestions are distilled from our six year experience of living without air conditioning in Oklahoma City. It should be remembered that our advice is for this particular climate, but ideas may be found here for use elsewhere..

1. Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. Avoid soft drinks and caffeine, these will dehydrate you, as does alcohol. The idea that an ice cold soda pop is the perfect solution to thirst is a delusion fostered by hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising. Its purpose is to enrich the stockholders and management of soda pop corporations at your expense. The more soda pop you drink, the more thirsty you will be, the hotter you will feel, and thus the more uncomfortable you will be in hot weather. Soda pop advertisements are LIES! Sugar free soft drinks are as bad as the sugared versions.

2. Dress for the season when inside your house. Wear shorts and a light shirt. Loose fitting clothes are cooler and more comfortable than tight fitting garments. Go barefoot or wear sandals. Natural fabrics are cooler than synthetics. At night, use light cotton sheets on your bed. Minimize indoor fabrics, as fabric increases interior humidity. This is good in the winter, but bad in the summer. People living without air conditioning should probably opt for no carpet on the floors; during the winter they can lay down area rugs, but roll them up and put them away during the summer.

3. In the summer, shade is your friend. Keep the sun's heat from hitting windows, doors, walls. Install window shades on the outside of your house; indoor curtains are not enough (although they will help). Once the sun hits the glass and window frame, the heat is conducted inside the house, even if you have indoor curtains, so shade them in addition to your curtains.

It is easy and inexpensive to make your own outdoor window shades. For six years we have had great success using mylar covered auto sun shades that are about 5' X 2'. They cost a dollar or so at local stores. We duct tape two or three of them together (depending on the size of the window) and hang them on the outside of our windows. Then we cover that with a white roll up shade, which is mostly for appearance. An inexpensive bamboo roll-up window shade works fine. One or more curtains inside will help, and choose white or another light color (sheets are do-able and cheap, & more is better). Don't forget to shade the doors if you don't have a porch. Shade cloth is available and can be used over windows, although it costs more.

The best choice for your wall shade is vegetation. Although it takes many years to grow a tall tree, vines grow in just a few weeks. Morning glories provide plenty of shade plus flowers that are beautiful to look at. We have grape vines on our trellis, so not only do we get shade, we also get tasty grapes to eat.

If you have indoor thermal mass, such as concrete or brick floors, a masonry fireplace, etc., make sure it is shaded so it doesn't soak up heat during the day. (The opposite of what you want to do in the winter, of course.)

3. When keeping cool without any air conditioning, the basic rule is: keep the house closed up during the day when it is hot outside, and ventilate it in the evening and at night when it is cooler. At night we put box fans in the windows to pull cool air in and hot air out of the house, and we open nearly every window and door to facilitate cross breezes. During the day we close up the house to keep the heat out, usually between 7 and 8 AM, depending on the outside temperature, humidity, wind, and cloud cover.. The exact time is based on our perception of what the weather is doing outside. If it is warming up and the humidity is high, we close up right away. If the morning coolness lingers, we "stay open" longer. The longer you live without AC, or minimize your AC use, the better you will be at making this kind of judgment.

We open up the house when it seems as thought it is starting to get warmer inside than outside. We open the doors and windows on the very shady north side and shady southeast side of the house before we open the doors and windows in the southwest corner of the house, which gets the most sunshine.

We sometimes run a small window fan in a window that pulls air that has been cooled by our shady trellis during the day, but we keep the rest of the doors and windows closed.

These ventilation decisions will vary from site to site, and also people have different definitions of comfort. In the beginning you will want to experiment to find the right combination for your own particular situation, which is influenced by the design and construction of your dwelling and the microclimate of its site. But this does work.

4. Keep the air moving around inside. We use ceiling fans and rotating fans to create breezes in the house during the day and the night. Moving air can knock ten degrees off of the apparent temperature, so fans can add considerably to indoor comfort. They can also be used in conjunction with conventional air conditioning. With breezes inside, you can set the thermostat temperature higher than would be the case without the fans. Box fans are good for use in windows, but for other indoor uses, they are inefficient and usually noisy, rotary fans are better. Variable speed fans will help you get the right amount of air. Right now, as I am revising this essay, it is 5:08 PM, Central Daylight Time, in Oklahoma City, 91 degrees outside, the heat index is 96 degrees, yet I am very comfortable. A fan is cooling me with a nice breeze.

5. Insulation and weatherization help moderate indoor temperatures in the summer too. Minimizing leaks will help you keep your cool inside.

6. Ventilate your attic. We did this during our third summer without air conditioning, and it added appreciably to the indoor comfort level.

7. Minimize heat buildup inside the house. If you have a dishwasher, don't use it or at minimum don't use the heat dry at the end of the cycle. Take cool or lukewarm showers, rather than hot steamy showers. (If you aren't using AC, you won't want a hot shower in the summer anyway.) Check your electronic equipment. Many devices such as "instant on" televisions draw current all the time, and thus create heat. Plug them into an electrical outlet strip and turn it off and on with the switch on the electric outlet strip, and thus eliminate the "hot plates" adding heat to the indoor climate. Don't use the clothes dryer, hang your clothes on a line outside to dry. If your neighbors ask what you're doing, tell them you are using your "solar clothes dryer". If you smoke, do so outside. Turn your computers off when they are not in use.

One of the biggest contributors to indoor heat and humidity is cooking, so during the summer, we cook outside, on the porch. I set up a "summer kitchen" on our shady front porch (on the north side of the house). This consists of a small two burner camp stove, and a conventional backyard gas grill. Both are hooked to 20 pound propane bottles, and seem to be fairly thrifty with their propane consumption, especially the 2 burner camp stove. To use a 20 pound bottle with such small stoves, which usually run on a small one pound or so bottle, you need a special adaptor, sold at most propane and outdoor supply stores. We also have a large gas ring (advertised as a "turkey fryer") for boiling larger amounts of water. When I make pickles in the summer, my boiling water canner fits it perfectly, and it brings the water to a boil much faster than the natural gas stove in the house. A little roller cart, bought at a garage sale, completes the setup. I have a cast iron skillet with a cover, it makes a fine "Dutch oven" so that the gas grill becomes an oven for baking casseroles or biscuits. I do the prep work in the regular indoor kitchen, load everything onto the cart, and roll it out onto the front porch for cooking. When I cook outside, and see the large clouds of smoke and steam rising from the pans, I am reminded about how much heat and humidity cooking contributes to indoor atmospheres.

Cooking outside also makes sense for people with air conditioning, because the AC will have to work hard, and consume energy, and thus cost you extra money, every time you cook a meal.

8. If you are using no air conditioning at all, try to stay out of air conditioned spaces. I am most uncomfortable when I come home from my "perfectly" air conditioned office. But on my days off, when I generally stay out of air conditioned spaces, I am more comfortable. You body does acclimate itself to your surroundings, whatever they may be.

9. If the heat becomes oppressive, dowse your head, arms, and feet with cool water, or take a cool shower, or (my favorite) go outside and dowse yourself with a water hose. Keep a spray bottle of cool water handy, and give yourself a spritz of cool water every once in a while.

The title of this little essay is not a joke. Life is a joy, and I don't miss air conditioning, ESPECIALLY when I open our electric bill in the summer. The gentle breezes from fans inside the house are refreshing, as is going outside and spraying myself (and others) with the water hose. Abandoning or minimizing your air conditioner habit is a way to increase the quality of your life. As with any other movement towards sustainability, do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Summer 2003, updated and revised May 2005


HEARTH AND HOME QUESTION -

With the skyrocketing prices of food, utilities, and gasoline what, if anything, are you doing differently to make ends meet in your household? What money saving measures do you and your family practice on a regular basis in order to combat high utility bills?"

If you don't mind me sharing them in a future issue of HEARTH AND HOME, please send your answers, tips, thoughts, and ideas to me at:

proverbs31heart@yahoo.com

Please put MONEY SAVING TIPS on the subject line. Thank you!


RECIPES -

OVEN-BAKED CHICKEN STRIPS

1 cup flour
4 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3-pound bag of chicken tenders, defrosted and rinsed
1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 c. olive oil

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a ziplock bag. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, and shake to coat. Pour oil in metal pan with edges (I use my pizza pan) and rotate to cover bottom. Lay chicken out in a single layer and bake at 450 degrees, turning once about half way through, until browned and juices run clear.

POPPY-SEED CHICKEN

(A family favorite!)
 
3 lbs. chicken, cooked and cubed
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 stick butter
2 cups sour cream
2 T. poppy seeds
1 stack Ritz crackers
Mix chicken, soups, sour cream, and poppy seeds. Pour into a large baking dish. Crush crackers over top. Melt butter and pour over top. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

RANCH DRESSING
 
(This whole jar of ranch is only 1.75 grams of fat and 255 calories!)

1 cup Oikos plain Greek yogurt
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch mix,
1/2 cup low-fat or fat-free milk.

Whisk together, pour into an air tight mason jar, chill 1 hour before use. Perfect consistency and tastes better than bottled.
 
TOMATO BASIL PASTA

(This is one I really want to try!)
 
Pasta, Tomatoes, Veggie Broth, Olive Oil, and Seasonings (details below) -Throw it all in the pot, INCLUDING the uncooked pasta, and cook! - Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. The starch leaches out of the pasta and makes a rich, warm sauce for the noodles. The other ingredients cook right along with the pasta.

12 ounces pasta
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid
1 large sweet onion, cut in julienne strips
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
2 large sprigs basil, chopped
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth (regular broth and NOT low sodium)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese for garnish

Place pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, in a large stock pot. Pour in vegetable broth. Sprinkle on top the pepper flakes and oregano. Drizzle top with oil.

Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, stirring pasta several times to distribute the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.

 
MARINATED CUCUMBERS, ONIONS AND TOMATOES
 
3 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, sliced and separated into rings
3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving

 
EASY PEACH COBBLER
 
(My mom used to make this a lot!)
 
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 large can of peaches
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients, except butter and peaches together. Melt the butter in an 8x8x2-inch cake pan in oven. Pour batter over the melted butter, then top with fruit. Add juice accordingly to how moist you want the cake. Bake at 400 degrees until done. Approximately 25 to 35 minutes.

FRUIT WITH MARSHMALLOW DIP

1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium firm bananas, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
3 to 4 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
1 to 1-1/4 cups flaked coconut, toasted
1 jar (6 oz.) maraschino cherries, drained
1 cup seedless grapes
 
Drain pineapple, reserving 4 teaspoons juice (discard remaining juice or save for another use); set pineapple aside. In a bowl, combine marshmallow creme, mayonnaise, vanilla and the reserved pineapple juice until blended.

Roll banana chunks in orange juice concentrate, then in coconut. Thread bananas, pineapple, cherries and grapes on skewers. Serve with dip. Yield: 6 servings (about 1 cup dip).

JUST FOR FUN -

Our youngest daughter recently surprised us with an unexpected, several day visit. It was so good to see her and spend time with her. I wanted to share a couple of the things we did while she was in.

1) We visited Big Sugar Creek State Park near Pineville, Missouri. Basically, all that's there is a walking trail, but the park is near the Elk River which is beautiful! Here are a few shots of our recent visit there:
Big Sugar Creek State Park - Ozark Chinquapin Trail

Big Sugar Creek State Park - Ozark Chinquapin Trail

Big Sugar Creek State Park - Ozark Chinquapin Trail

The Elk River
 
The Elk River
 
2) Our oldest daughter introduced our youngest daughter to MasterChef, with Chef Gordon Ramsay, which lead to a bake-off in our oldest daughter's kitchen in hopes of turning out the perfect Molton Lava Cake...which they did...

"The dish that makes chefs on Master Chef quiver in fear...perfected by sister and I.....MOLTEN LAVA CAKE."
~ Amanda Coonce 
To read more about Amanda's obsession with MasterChef now you can read the post that she posted on her own blog in which she talks about it. You can do that by clicking HERE.


FOR NEXT TIME -

Last month I asked for canning recipes and tips, but I didn't get one response. It's not too late though! We've got a whole canning season ahead of us, so, if you don't mind me sharing your tip or recipe in a future issue of HEARTH AND HOME just send it to me at:

proverbs31heart@yahoo.com

Please put "CANNING TIPS AND RECIPES" on the subject line. Thank you so much!


To get us started, I'll share one of my very own all-time favorite canning recipes...

REBECCA'S OWN APPLE BUTTER RECIPE

2 quarts summer apple pulp
5 cups sugar
2 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/2 heaping tsp. ground cloves

Put all ingredients in a pan. Cook about 15 minutes; stirring occasionally. Put into jars. Hot water bath for 20 minutes. Makes 5 pints.


Well, Ladies, that's it for this time. I pray that you all are having a lovely summer. Stay cool, enjoy time with those you love, and walk in the blessings of God!

Until Next Time...
~Rebecca


 

1 comment:

  1. wonderful post packed full of fantastic info.!!!

    i will come back again this week-end and reread every detail.

    Marriage is an ongoing relationship that always needs a touch from God. The best to you,
    d

    ReplyDelete