LAUNDRY – Wash on Monday, she said.

Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday.” Okay, ladies? Who said that?  Caroline (Ma) Ingalls! Remember reading the Little House series?  For Ma and other pioneer women, each day had its own proper chores.

Choosing specific chores to complete on certain days isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it tends to make things a bit more manageable as a homemaker. But I must admit that the thought of doing laundry for seven people just once a week does NOT sound ‘manageable’ – it sounds exhausting! A few years ago, after finding the item “laundry soap” on my grocery list far too often, I stopped buying it and began making it. I found it rather easy to do and a real savings financially. Here are two recipes for laundry detergent that I have used. One is for a liquid soap and one is powdered. The ingredients for both recipes can be found at Meijer and other big box stores. Even our local Spartan stores carry many of them.

Liquid Laundry Soap

This recipe makes 6 gallons. You’ll need a large container!

1 bar FelsNaptha soap   (grated)

1 ½ c. Arm and Hammer Washing Soda

1 c. (heaping) Borax

1 oz. essential oil (optional)

Instructions: Grate the bar of soap. (I purchased an old cheese grater from a second hand store and use it solely for my laundry soap. You could use the one you have in your kitchen, just wash it really well before using it on your food!!!) In a large pot, put 12 cups of water in with the grated bar soap. Set it on the stove over medium/low heat and stir occasionally until the soap is melted. Add the Washing Soda and Borax. Stir again. Add 8 cups more of water. Stir. Put this mixture into your large tub/bucket. Now add 2 gallons plus 12 cups more of water and (if you want) some essential oil. Mix well. Put the cover on it and let it sit for 24 hours. Stir one more time. You’ll see that it’s gel-like in consistency. Now it’s ready to use… ½ c. per load.

Powdered Laundry Detergent

1 bar Castile Bar Soap (grated)

1 c. Arm and Hammer Washing Soda

1 c. Borax

Instructions: Grate the bar of soap. (I purchased an old cheese grater from a second hand store and use it solely for my laundry soap. You could use the one you have in your kitchen, just wash it really well before using it on your food!!!) Add the soap and Washing Soda and Borax together. Mix well (in a blender if desired). Use 2 T. per full load for washing. (I like to wash with hot water – to quickly dissolve the powder – and rinse in cold.)

FYI – The powdered version is quicker and easier to make… my kids can do it on their own. And the powdered version is easy to take with you when traveling, etc. On the other hand, the liquid version doesn’t need to be made nearly as often and is the more economical of the two. (Just remember to make it ahead of time… it needs to sit 24 hours after making it.)

I usually tackle the overflowing baskets of dirty clothes in our home a couple of times each week (not just on Mondays!),  and I’m thankful that I have the luxury of using a washing machine rather than a wash board when it comes to keeping them clean. I’m also thankful that I can make the detergent we use and save $$$$ in the process.

Spoons Card Game

Need a quick idea for something you can do all together tonight? At home? Around the kitchen table?

Below are the instructions for a simple card game called “Spoons”. Hope it’s a hit!

Spoons Card Game

What You Need:   *Deck of cards    *Spoons (one less # of players)

Instructions

1.The object is to collect four cards of one kind (four twos, four kings and so on) OR to collect a run of four (four cards in a row – for example, a 2, 3, 4, and 5)…and not to be the person left without a spoon. To begin, place the spoons (one fewer than the number of players) in the center of the table within grabbing reach of all players. Each player is dealt four cards. The dealer keeps the deck.

2.The dealer picks a card from the deck and then either keeps it and discards one card from his hand OR simply takes the one he drew from the deck and slides it facedown to the player to his left. That player takes it, and makes the same decision – to either keep it and discard one from his hand or to simply pass that card on to his left.

3.Each player in turn does the same, as quickly as possible. Each person should have four cards in his hand at all times. The player to the right of the dealer places discarded cards in a pile to his left (the dealer’s right) to be used by the dealer when the original deck is used up.

4.Play continues until one player has four of a kind or a run of four, at which time he takes a spoon from the pile. He may steal the spoon as secretly as possible, continuing to pass cards until someone else notices. Or he may grab his spoon, creating a mad rush for spoons at the table.

5.The player left without a spoon has lost the round. If you like to keep score, that player is given the letter ‘S’. As players spell S-P-O-O-N-S, they are out. The player left at the end is the winner.

P.S. If you’ve got a real large group, you may want to add an extra deck or two of cards… and just one spoon less than the number of players.

P.P.S. If you’ve got a real rowdy group, plastic spoons may be the safer option.

P.P.P.S. No – I don’t recommend changing this to a game of forks. Or knives. Now go play!

Good Evening

Evening. The ‘after’ hours. After work. After school. After dinner. It’s quite common to greet someone with a friendly “good morning”, but do we ever consider what it would take to have a “good evening”?

The days are so full of occupation for most of us, from early morning till nightfall, that whatever the real home-life we make, we must make in the evenings.” says Rev. J.R.Miller, D.D.  You mean between 6pm and 9pm? Real home-life should be our focus in the ‘after’ hours?  But there’s so much left to do! Homework. Practice. Dinner. Sort the mail. Check his planner. Go to my meeting. Return phone calls. Laundry. Internet. Favorite sitcom. Bath time.

Originally published in 1882, Miller goes on to say that “It is one of the misfortunes of our time that the home is being so robbed of its evenings by business, by pleasure, and by society.”  Did he say ‘robbed’? The home is in a hold up? It is being stolen from? Have the noble, charitable, even religious things that we’ve signed up for, gotten involved in, helped out at, actually ‘robbed’ us? He asserts in his book Home-Making that “It were better that we should neglect some social attraction, or miss some political meeting, or be absent from some lodge or society, than that we should neglect the culture of our own homes and let our children slip away from us forever.

That seems quite severe. The neglecting our homes and letting “our children slip away from us forever” part, I mean. Seriously, most of us are just doing the best we can with what we have. And if we’re honest, we were (until a few minutes ago) feeling as if we were doing a better job at it than some other people. So let’s
try to keep things in perspective. Is he actually saying that by being overly committed, over involved outside of home, that we may lose what, in fact, is most important to us? Our family?

Leaving_home : Girl in school uniform holding school bag Stock Photo

How will those who go out of our doors be affected in later life by what they remember of their early home?” he asks. How many nights each week are we running the roads? Going to games? Attending meetings? How many nights are you just “home” together? What would your kids say about your evening schedule? How about your spouse? If life was “so full of occupation”130 years ago that families needed to be encouraged not to “neglect the culture” of their own homes but to instead focus on the hours they had together in the evening, how much more should we heed that advice in the hustle-bustle of today!

When we think of the importance of the evenings at home it certainly seems worthwhile to plan to save as many as possible of them from outside demands for the sacred work within.” Okay. Let’s go over that again. A purpose was just stated for that time set aside at home in the evenings. Plan to save, he advocates, for the sacred work within. Yes, there it is again. That need to be intentional! To not just let life happen to you. To PLAN.  What sacred work is Miller speaking of? The work of interacting as a family in a way that will have an influence in eternity. The work of tying heart strings to home so that the stronger influence is there, not in the world outside your front door. “Of course it will take time.” he says. “Something must be left out of life if this is to be done. But is there anything else in all the round of life’s calls, and even its seeming duties, that might not well be left out for the sake of anchoring our children to their homes?

Memories are intangible and yet most valuable. They are what we carry with us from times past. “We are fast moving on through this world.” Miller continues. “Soon all that will remain of us will be the memories of our lives… No other work that God gives any of us to do is so important, so sacred, so far-reaching in its influence, so delicate and easily marred as our home-making.” What a humbling thought. The role we have been given is significant and sobering.

With that weighty reflection, I’ll leave you. Good evening, I say.  Let’s do what we can to have a real good evening… at home, with family, being intentional, making memories that can be cherished for years to come. “Whatever else we slight, let it never be our home-making. If we do nothing else well in this world, let us at least build well within our own doors.

Good books read aloud,

times of play and laughter,

games around the kitchen table,

music to fill the rafter.

Memories shared as a family,

cheerful conversing with kin,

that’s what’ll be remembered

when your life is at the end.

Overwhelmed by Gratitude

Have you ever been totally surprised? I mean…blown away? Ever been given something completely unexpected?  Undeserved? With no strings attached?!?  We have been. And it’s difficult to put it into words.

As a family, about four weeks ago, we received a total surprise…that blew us away…and was completely unexpected and undeserved. And it came with no strings attached!  We didn’t win the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstake. We didn’t have the right key for that brand new Ford Escape sent in the mail. Oh, no. This gift was even better than either one of those – or any other random winning you may be imagining.

And here’s why it was the best kind of gift.  It was something that was done specifically for our family; it filled a very specific need, and it was done by people that truly love us! And then, as if to heap blessing upon blessing, other needs have been met by different parties since that first joyful event last month.  And…it’s difficult to put into words.

How do you say “thank you” for gifts that are so graciously given?  How do you respond when you feel so overwhelmed?  When you know that others have invested of themselves, their time, and their resources….for your benefit? A simple “thank you” is a start, but it hardly feels like enough.  I have prayed smiling and have shed tears of joy at the way God is providing so abundantly for us. And our hearts desire is to live in a way that shows our gratitude.

Being the receptor of sacrificial love gives you a feeling of smallness that is both beautiful and healthy. In this self-focused world, when you either succumb to the path of advertisers or battle the temptation to bend to your natural will, it is refreshing and humbling to see people step forward with straight back and joyful heart to spotlight others rather than themselves. To give generously and graciously expecting nothing in return. To bless others because they recognize how they themselves have been blessed. To live openhanded. It is, indeed, stunning to see such abundant generosity. And it is overwhelming.

Why? Because we are totally undeserving… and yet we have been given the opportunity to experience, first hand, grace. And we are overwhelmed with gratitude.

As a Christian, I can tell you that this is all a part of another story as well.  Living in a way that shows our gratitude because of what’s been done for us has its roots in a spiritual realm.  Because of the love and sacrifice of my Savior, Jesus Christ, I was offered a gift that has blown me away. And it, too, was totally unexpected. His offer of free salvation is amazing and hard to describe and understand, because it is so undeserved. And like my family’s response to the gifts we’ve recently received, my response to His gift is difficult to put into words. But I am, indeed, overwhelmed with gratitude. And my desire is to live in that way: Generously, graciously, and openhandedly — showing my thanks!

Zucchini Queeny

What is the one veggie that most gardeners, year after year, find that they have too much of? Zucchini!  If you have some in your own garden (or if a friend, relative, or neighbor have gifted you with their surplus), you probably have a few “extras” in your refrigerator right now, begging to be used!  Tired of zucchini cake, zucchini bread and zucchini muffins? Here are two yummy ideas (and neither one are “desserts”!).

Zucchini Sauté – you’ll need zucchini, onion, tomato, black olives, butter, shredded cheese, garlic powder, salt, and basil.  Here’s the how to: Sauté about a ½ c. chopped onion in ¼ c. butter. Then add 3c. shredded zucchini. Cook 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle over this ½ t. dried basil (or 2 t. fresh, minced), ½ t. salt, and 1/8 t. garlic powder. Layer with 1 c. diced tomato, 2 T. olives and 1 c. shredded cheese and then cook  4-5 minutes longer (with a lid on). Serve immediately. It’s delicious!  Don’t be afraid to make changes as desired.  If you don’t like olives, leave them out. If you want fewer calories, use less butter. Dairy allergy? Eliminate the cheese. Any way you fix it, I think you’ll find it scrumptious!

Zucchini Casserole – you’ll need zucchini, garlic, salt, onion, pepper, tomato sauce, cooked rice, oregano, ground beef, cottage cheese, egg and parmesan cheese.  This recipe makes a 9 x 13 pan. You’ll need to bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Putting it together is simple. Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl: 8 c. zucchini (sliced, chopped and blanched), ½ t. minced garlic, ½ t. salt, ½ c. minced onion, ¼ t. pepper, 8 oz. tomato sauce, 2 c. cooked rice, ½ t. oregano, 1 lb. cooked ground beef, 1 c. cottage cheese, 1 egg, and ¼ c. parmesan cheese.  Mix the ingredients. Put them in a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake. Enjoy!

Looking for a challenge? If you find enough new ways to use that long, narrow, smooth, dark-green summer squash, you might just earn yourself the nick-name “the Zucchini Queeny”!

This post is dedicated to a lady from my hometown – Sue Keehne.