A New Year!

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The New Year is upon us. And even though time as it relates to the numbers on a calendar is a manmade thing and problems don’t just go away, troubles will still arise, and the grass won’t magically be greener just because one number changes and we buy a new calendar, I do love a new year! It is a season filled with renewed hope and refreshment as the days roll over to a seemingly blank slate.

I love a brand spanking new datebook or planner.  I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with knowing that we have completed half a year of schoolwork.  I love looking ahead at what we have yet to learn in the coming year.  I love that the days stop getting shorter and start {slowly} getting longer.  I just flat out love that “day 1” feeling, where so much seems achievable!!

Hoards of people take this opportunity to make lofty resolutions to do better in the coming year.  We all want to be better, do better, try harder.  But I have always loathed these New Year’s “resolutions”.  To me, it seems like an excuse to put off making a change until January 1, when in reality, we can start right now, today, ANY day! Resolutions tend to inspire us for 5 or 6 weeks at BEST before the NEW wears off of the New Year and they become a distant memory. Who really remembers their resolutions from umpteen years ago anyhow? I would venture to say that a microscopic amount of the billions of resolution that have been made have actually become life-long habits. Don’t set yourself up for failure like that!

So. Even though I don’t care for resolutions, I do LOVE setting GOALS.

Now, you might be saying: “What’s the difference?”

Well, a resolution is more of a broad statement…

I want to:

  • lose weight
  • eat healthier
  • work out more
  • go on more dates with my spouse
  • be more intentional with my kids
  • give up ____ (insert vice here)

But if you never really work out and your resolution is to work out “more”….work out one time and BAM, resolution achieved.

A GOAL comes with more instructions, or a road map, so to speak.

We’ve all heard of SMART goals….right?

SMART goals are

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Time sensitive

To break that down, lets use the example of losing weight.

  • Specific:  I want to lose weight
  • Measurable: I want to lose 10 pounds
  • Actionable: HOW will I lose this 10 pounds? I will work out 3 nights a week, walk around the block after dinner every night, drink 80 ounces of water each day, and follow The Whole30 diet.
  • Realistic: I really would like to lose 30 pounds, but 10 pounds is an achievable and realistic place to start.
  • Time sensitive:  I will lose the 10 pounds by June.

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Year In Review

For us, each year in late december my husband and I sit down with last year’s goals in hand and go over how we did.  Typically, it is not super stellar, but we can usually cross at least a few things off the list!  We review our past goals and see which ones we accomplished, which ones we still need to work on, and which ones we can just toss altogether.

 

Make the Most of Your Time

Next, we map out his vacation days.  Since he has one of those “real job” things, he only has so much time off, and we try to stretch those PTO hours as much as we possibly can.  We like to take an annual trip with my parents, he takes off for every birthday in our family of 5, we like to keep a few days hoarded away “just in case” (which he can roll over to the next year if unused), and the remaining days we can sprinkle throughout the year as needed.

 

Break It Down

Next we discuss goals broken down by category.  Some ideas on what these categories might include are:

  • Faith
  • Financial
  • Family
  • Homeschool
  • Professional
  • Health
  • Homestead
  • Organization

I’d like to add that we do this on the computer rather than on paper.  It’s just easier to organize it that way without having to erase.

 

Individual Goals

Last we talk about individual goals, for ourselves and for the kids.

Some examples of our individual goals include how many books we each want to reading the coming year, how many times a week we want to work out, how many blog posts I want to get out each month…one seemingly simple goal I have for myself this year is to try my hand at making homemade vanilla…something small and easy, but it always feels so good to cross something off a list and this is something I’ve been putting off for years!

We talk about what programs we think the kids should be involved in and if anything needs to be dropped if things are spread too thin.  They want to do basketball, soccer, ballet, gymnastics, tae kwon do, piano lessons, violin lessons, Wild Explorers Club, co-op classes…I’m sure I’m missing some things…but my point is it adds up quick. I am not one of those taxicab moms who spends all week shuttling the kids to activities, and with 3 kids, time is a precious commodity!  We try to do as much as we can in our own home, and we are super blessed to have little recreation center here in our tiny town that offers many of the things I just listed.  We end up only traveling for maybe 2 things each week and I am thrilled at how we have been able to keep the in-car time so low thus far!

 

When It Doesn’t Go As Planned

2016 has admittedly been a “ran-over-by-a-truck” year and I could not be happier to see the last of it come and go.  I feel like this year has aged me 10 years, physically.  And emotionally, well, I’ve probably cried more this year than the rest of my life combined.

Our 2016 goals were pretty great and we were excited to accomplish so many things when we wrote them.  Our categories were Financial, Family, Homeschool, Side Business, Faith, and of course our individual goals.  We paid off some debt that we wanted gone, we took some great family trips.  We started teaching the kids to ride bikes. We served at several mission opportunities with the kids. I started blogging. But the majority of our goals were left untouched and unachieved due to wave upon wave of unforeseen circumstances.

There were so so many valleys that we dealt with this year, but I won’t go into all of that at this time.  The biggest and most obvious has to do with Papa, which you can read about here.  That consumed the first half of the year. Then in mid August, all 3 of the kids and I were involved in a wreck at the hands of a drunk driver, and it has consumed the remainder of the year.  Life just hasn’t been the same since that day.  I went through some extremely heavy emotions for about a month after it happened.  The “what-ifs” circling through my head and the feeling of being completely victimized.  I have had 3 doctors appointments a week on top of physical therapy.  Six appointments a week between the 3 kids.  I have had to pre-make dinner for the family and squeeze in the bare minimum of homeschooling 3 days a week for the past 5 months before running out to yet another appointment. Oh, and did I mention that our doctor is an hour away? Constant pain. Babysitters. Legit PTSD. Insurance claims. Rental car fiascos. Having to explain it all to the kids. The whole thing replaying over and over again in my head. Anxiety. My goals were suddenly extremely unimportant and were replaced with “just make it through the day”. I have felt like the candle has not only been burning from both ends, but that is has been scorched, struck by lightning, stomped out, and, well, ran over by a truck…a drunk one.

So the past year has not played out quite the way we planned, but we have given ourselves grace when it comes to our goals list.  The lack of check marks on it is frustrating, sure, but we are about to be handed yet another year to try again.  If you don’t cross them all off, that’s okay. It is OKAY to give yourself grace when things get completely off track! Don’t overthink it and just do the best you can.

 

Release the Micro Managers!! (has anyone seen the Lego Movie??? We are slightly obsessed)

It’s a balancing act.  I like having a plan and having things laid out for me, but I do not thrive under micromanagement. For 2016 I wanted to read 12 books.  Thats 1 a month.  Totally doable, right? Well I broke it down to reading 10 pages each night to achieve my goal.  By the end of some days I would feel exhausted and not be thrilled with the thought of reading.   Even when I could barely hold my eyes open I felt that I HAD to squeeze in my 10 pages or I would count it as a FAIL.  A few nights I would dread it so much that I would just skip it.  Then I would feel like I had to read the accumulated amount of pages from the missed days and it just became a HASSLE! Reading is supposed to be ENJOYABLE! But with it hanging over my head like that it became more of a chore, a box to check, an action item I did begrudgingly, if at all. Somewhere between February and March I just completely gave up on it.  So that didn’t work for me. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t work for you. It is just a good example of how getting TOO specific can get tedious.

Not everything has to be subcategorized down to the atom.  In 2015 I decided that I wanted to stop drinking coffee.  I didn’t make a plan of attack or list out the ways I was going to avoid the beverage.  I just…..(wait for it)….stopped drinking it.  At first I made myself hot tea to curb the craving for a warm drink, but after maybe 3 weeks I didn’t miss it one bit.  I went an entire year without it just to prove to myself that I could do it.  Now I drink it occasionally, but not always.  It isn’t forbidden, but it isn’t an addiction anymore.

 

Make It Known

Making your goals known can be a huge help.  Make sure your spouse knows what you are working towards and tell them ways that they can help keep you accountable.  Blog about it.  Post it on social media – I always enjoy keeping up with a good success story – post your progress! Write out your goals and put them in a place where you will see them frequently. Accountability partners are great too.  Ask your friends if they have similar goals that you could work towards together! If you want to lose weight, see if you can find (or start your own) Biggest Loser challenge with prizes that will motivate you even more. Several years ago a circle that I casually ran in was doing a wellness challenge with some pretty substantial prizes.  I decided that I wanted to win…to prove to myself that I could, to win the prizes, and honestly…I kind of just wanted to beat everyone else.  Oh, and yeah, be healthier too….

I worked my tail off for 3 months.  And guess what?? I got 4th place out of something like 600 people. I should probably do that again…..

 

Do It!

Skip the resolutions.  Go grab yourself a piece of paper or sit down at the computer and list out the categories you want to focus on this year.  Think about it, talk it over with your spouse or your friends.  Get those ideas, dreams, and goals scribbled down and slap it up on the fridge where it is in your face every day. And just START! Do what you can each day and little by little those check marks will start to appear!

 

Recommended reading to help get you started:

 

Have a real, good year!!

~Robbi

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Where I’ve Been

Grief.

It’s something you never really truly understand until you experience it personally. When someone suffers a tragedy, you gently pat them on the shoulder and vomit up some stock phrase like “sorry for your loss” or “I’m praying for you”…perfectly nice intentions, but chances are that that grieving and broken individual is mentally scratching your eyes out through their thin smile. Or maybe that’s just me…

If you’ve followed my blog at all you may have noticed that I started this shiny new blog, posted several entries, then fell silent for MONTHS. Not something I ever intended to do, but something had to give.  I wanted to get THIS POST out there before I started writing again and honestly, I have avoided finishing it.  I have been working on this for over 2 months, trying to get it just right, and each time I come back to it, it is so emotionally draining and defeating that I just put it away.

Allow me to explain…

2016 has been an ocean of trials for us so far. 

There have been illnesses, too many to count…and just when we would think everyone was healthy again and it was okay to step out into the world without spreading the plague, someone would wake up covered in vomit.

Our beloved, old black lab, who has occasional seizures went from 1 seizure a month to 1 a week.

My dad found out he had cancer and went through surgery to remove it. 

We had several trips to the E.R. 

Mr. Dave left work in an ambulance. 

Two broken toes. 

The list goes on and on…all of this on top of homeschooling AND having an infant AND building a house…but honestly I could manage all of it. We just kept chugging along through the sea of body fluid and tears, hobbling on our fractured little piggies. 

Then the big blow came. The one I couldn’t manage. 

My grandpa. Papa. Cancer. Chemo. Dementia. Hospice. 

It happened so fast. 

My life was immediately whittled down to the bare necessities…like making sure the kids had semi-clean clothes and some sort of food in their bellies. I stopped writing and I made the conscience decision to not give any explanation because I didn’t want the distraction of people sending their condolences. I am admittedly an “I can do it all myself and I don’t need or want any help” type of person…I don’t like unsolicited advice. I’m not big on sympathies.

One Sunday morning we were awoken at 4:00 a.m. by a call that Papa was in the ER. Mom and I flew out the door and sped through the sunrise to get to him over an hour away. He was in the hospital for 9 days, came home on his 80th birthday, and shortly after went on hospice. My mom never left his house until the day he died. 

I’ve lost loved ones before. But this was so different. It’s hard to explain how much he meant to us. To me. If you didn’t know him, how can you understand that he was so much more than just some old man. 

I learned so much from him just by watching his actions through this whole terrible ordeal.  He never complained. Never told us he was in pain. He never wished it away. 

That’s how he was….He didn’t blabber just to hear his own voice, didn’t use a lot of fancy words. He never boasted. Never wanted to be the focus of attention. Never wanted for much – just to trade knives with his buddies and go fishing once a week with his son. Never, EVER complained. He gave the best hugs. I always joked that I was his favorite grandkid. I’d ask him who his favorite was and he’d say he couldn’t say, then he’d be quiet for a second, and then he’d matter-of-factly say “Robbi” and give a little giggle. He had friendships that lasted 75 years. He was always so good to the kids – reading them books, sharing his snack with them, acting so very impressed when they showed him anything new. Everyone loved him so much.   

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It is so odd to be writing about him in the past tense. 

Grief is so confusing. I want to remember him and honor his legacy, but I also want to shove everything that reminds me of him in a dark corner because thinking about it all and knowing I’ll never see his smile again on this earth, thinking about everything he went through, it’s just too gut wrenching to even handle. I have mostly chosen the latter method. When I see something with his name on it or see a picture of him or remember something he did, I can literally feel the weight of my heart inside my chest. I want to shake something and just scream…I want to beat the ground with my fists. I want my kids to know him. I visited his grave recently and I could hardly stand it. I wanted to lie down on the ground that covers him and just sob. I couldn’t breathe. 

I don’t want to talk about it. What is there to say? Nothing. Hugs and flowers and sweet things people say dig it all up and scatter it all right there in front of my face. I don’t want to hear sorry for your loss. I don’t want a side hug. I don’t want you to say “my condolences”, “my sympathies”, “you are in my prayers”….those are empty words and they are a slap in the face to a grieving person.

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is the one who sings songs to a heavy heart” – Proverbs 25:20

I mostly just want to be numb. To kind of hover in this blank space and not think too much. At least then I get to be the one to decide when to dig it up and let it out. But I don’t want to be dismissed either. He was huge to me, a legend, an icon, a patriarch. Don’t think that I should be “better” because it’s been 3 whole months. I’m not depressed. I’m sad. I’m grieving. I’ve got to figure out how to live without one of the most beloved pieces of my life. 

The most heartfelt sympathy I have received was almost nothing at all. The day after the funeral I ran into a friend who had just lost her dad in a tragic accident. She bent down, hugged my neck, and just whispered “I know.” And we both just sobbed. Nothing more.

Another dear friend drove an hour and a half with 4 of her children to sit in the back of his funeral.  She never knew him, never met him, but she knows me.

This song says it perfectly…

Nothing changes the situation. Absolutely nothing can be said to ever lift this grief. So please don’t try.  The best thing anyone can do for a grieving person is to just be present. Cliches like “they’re in a better place” or “everything happens for a reason” are just salt in an open wound.  Like the song says…just sit with me in the ashes here…and pray…there is nothing else.

I have the hope of Jesus Christ and I know Papa is in Heaven. I was there the instant he was taken up. I felt it. I. KNOW. IT. With all my heart, I know it. He was saved in his final days, and that is a BEAUTIFUL thing. But I’m still so selfishly sad. I’ve never been so positively certain that anyone was in Heaven, but still I grieve. I saw Jesus give him his last breath here and somewhere deep down in my being I felt him take his first breath in Heaven. Can you fathom how achingly sweet that is? Because I couldn’t. Not until I saw it. I wanted so desperately to be there with him and for him when he passed. And I was! I was. 

I was. 

Me. What an honor. I’ll carry it with me forever. My mom, my uncle and aunt, my two cousins, and me. That man had two hands and I got to hold one. 

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So.  That is where I have been. Things are still crazy. The grief is still overwhelming. The house has been built and we have made the move. Boxes and piles are still looming everywhere. My parents left last week after being here for almost SIX months. And we have poison ivy and sinus infections….

But now that we are in the new house, VBS is over, and my parents are gone, we are slowly settling into a “new normal”. Blogging won’t be a HUGE priority for a while I suppose. But I will do what I can. 

I am grateful for the time we had with him, but selfishly I will always want more. I never dreamt of him not being around. I got to be his granddaughter for 34 years. I am grateful for that. I am grateful he was ours. 

“I loved him and he loved me. And Lord I cried the day he died, because I thought that he walked on water.” ~Randy Travis

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Here I Raise Mine Ebenezer…

At the start of the new year our pastor challenged our entire congregation to devote one word to 2016.  This word would be your focus for the year and your filter through which every choice, every decision, every move could be ran through.  He gave us a week to think on it and to pray about it and we were to come back the following week and write our one word on a piece of paper that we would collectively hold up at the end of the service.

I thought about it a LOT.  Perhaps DISCIPLINE would be a good word, as the kids have been struggling majorly with obedience.  Or GRACE……since the kids have been struggling majorly with obedience…

I didn’t want our word to be cliche; I wanted it to be original and meaningful.  But everything I thought of was boring and superficial.

Then one morning I was sitting in the school room reading my morning devotional, sipping a cup of hot tea while the kids played trains at my feet.  The word EBENEZER literally jumped off of the page at me.  Charles Spurgeon’s English is not the easiest to understand sometimes, and I wanted to know more about this word.  So I did what any intelligent, resourceful, homeschooling Christian mother would do – I took out our copy of Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary and dove in………..

….just kidding….

I Googled it.

I immediately thought that it was a perfect fit for our one word.  In a nutshell, it means “here by Thy great help I’ve come.” In 1 Samuel 7:12, Samuel raises a stone and names it Ebenezer as a thanksgiving to the Lord for his help and provision. Throughout the past several years, things have inexplicably fallen into place for our family in ways that we could have never imagined, and certainly could not have orchestrated on our own.  We have physically felt the hand of God pulling the strings for us.  This doesn’t mean every little thing has swung our way.  It means that even in times such as my husband’s 4-month unemployment 2 years ago, we were covered in so much grace that I never once felt doubtful or afraid.  This word is a year-long reminder to look up, to just be thankful and to give Him praise for His provision.

One such thing that has come together so imperfectly perfect is our family’s DREAM of building a house.

We always knew that we wanted to build a house. We like what we like and we like it exactly like we like it….or something like that.

But building a house was kind of one of those things that you always talk about, always dream about, but never really do.  Although I knew that God would put us where we were supposed to be when the time was right, it felt like we were going to have to wander for 40 years before that ever happened.  It has always been very important to us to build a firm foundation and lay down solid roots for our family. We want a place that the kids can build memories in and come back to years later. We want a home, not just a place to live.  And we wanted to get cracking on it before the kids started developing long term memory so that {God willing} their memories could all be in this one house.

We loved our first home, but it was in an area that we knew we could never raise a family in. Our second and current home is a 160+ year old farmhouse. I had always dreamed of living in an old farmhouse, but unfortunately actually living in one brings to light the multitude of problems that such a house holds…if it hasn’t been restored properly, it’s just bad bad bad, and this house is FAR from done properly.

We looked at houses for years. YEARS!! We flipped through Zillow daily. We had a realtor that we dragged across 3 counties to show us properties. Nothing was ever right. I had a floor plan in my head (and on paper) and I wanted it to look a certain way on the outside. If we liked the outside of a house, the floor plan would be terrible. If we liked the floor plan, the outside would be ugly, or the location would be bad, or the basement would be wet, or the property taxes would be too high…..we were so jaded and picky that we knew we ultimately needed to build. But property is EXPENSIVE. Any property we liked would be way out of our budget…well, we could afford the property but would be living in a tent because there would be no money left to build a house!

I prayed and prayed and prayed.  Not for a dream house, per say, but rather for an end to this limbo that we have felt like we have been living in for a decade.  One day I randomly checked Craigslist, as I had done many times before, but this time in particular I saw a property that I had never noticed before. 4 acres with a pond and a pole barn, right in the area where we wanted to live….and it was AFFORDABLE!

We went out to have a look and it was great! And {added bonus} one of our favorite families lives right down the road! This is literally a friend who is my homeschool mentor. They are such an inspiration to us and we will be able to see each other’s houses from our porches!….(when the corn is down of course).

We started the purchasing process and Mr. Dave found someone to turn my floor plan sketches into buildable blueprints. A good friend of ours from church owns his own construction company and agreed to be our general contractor. And then I find out that the gal I teach Sunday school with just-so-happens to be the daughter of the owner of the lumber company that we are buying most of our materials from….things started falling into place way easier than we could have ever dreamed.

We had hoped to break ground before the New Year but the weather wasn’t cooperating. It rained and poured for 2 weeks and the whole area was flooded – the worst flooding these parts have seen since 1993…we were bummed about the delay, but God gave us what we NEEDED and not necessarily what we wanted to show us some issues that needed to be addressed – the very place were the house was staked to go was literally a swimming hole.  We moved dirt around and were able to raise the ground about 3 feet to avoid water issues in the future.

After the waters receded, they dug out the basement and poured concrete for the footings before the temperature dropped to single digits.

The whole process is amazing and terrifying. I think that my biggest fear is that this is what we have wanted for so so long…in just a few months it will finally be ours…what if it’s not like we pictured in our heads? Or what if it is just like we pictured in our heads but it doesn’t actually work for our family? What if I left something out..what if it’s not perfect?? We can’t change it! It’s like your whole life you dream of something and when you finally get it, what do you dream about then?

So here we go!! I look forward to sharing every step of this journey with you all.  Our prayer for this home is that it will be a place of welcoming and hospitality. A place where people want to come for a bonfire, or coffee, or play dates, or fishing, or fellowship. A place where our kids feel at home, at peace, grounded and loved. A retreat for us and above all else – a place where God dwells. A place where life can be lived abundantly; where adventure, exploring, experiences, learning and love are everywhere.

And you better believe that there will be a stone in the front yard with the word Ebenezer inscribed on it!!

~robbi

Homemade tortillas

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A good recipe should look something like this…

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Dirty, flour stained, greasy fingerprints, worn and marked all over from years of perfecting your method.  I don’t write out each step when I jot down a recipe, I just make notes on the ingredients and the rest is really in my head.

I have tried several different tortilla recipes over the years.  They were all generally good, meaning they tasted good, but some would fall apart, or be too crunchy, or wouldn’t cook right. These homemade tortillas absolutely take the cake.  They come together in just a few minutes and cook up soft and warm and so super tasty.  All of the ingredients should be staples to keep on hand in your pantry, so you can make them at the drop of a hat. Give them a try! Scoop up some warm homemade refried beans and a big dollop of sour cream and you’ll never go back to store bought, I promise!!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour (I do organic white whole wheat but you can replace 1 cup with all purpose flour if you like)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil (solid form)
  • 3/4 cup water

Combine flour(s), salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Cut in your coconut oil with a pastry cutter (a fork will work just as well).

Mix in the water and knead until combined (by hand, no need to dirty the KitchenAid).

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Divide evenly into 12 pieces.

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Roll each piece into a ball in your hands.

Grease a griddle or skillet with coconut oil, just enough so the tortillas won’t stick or burn, but not so much that they are frying in standing oil!  I use a paper towel and smear it around just like I’m greasing a baking dish.

Roll out the tortillas between 2 pieces of parchment paper…I spent many a night rolling them out on a floured countertop until I had this little epiphany…using the parchment paper is SOOOOOOOO much easier!!!! There is no huge floury mess everywhere, NO cleanup, and no flour burning on my griddle and smoking up my house….sooo…..you’re welcome. You can also use a tortilla press, if that’s your bag…but for me, well – this was one of the only 2 things I asked for for Christmas and DANG was I disappointed! It’s just another thing in my kitchen to take up space.  It only has ONE use, so I’d rather not have it making extra clutter when I can just use the rolling pin I already have on hand.  Boo. Hiss. Oh and it made the tortillas too small and too thick for my liking. TORTILLA PRESS FOR SALE: CHEAP!

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Okay, back to business…now that you have a few rolled out, throw those puppies on the griddle.  I like to work in batches, rolling out a new one as 2 are cooking, and throwing a new one on as a finished one comes off.

When the tortilla starts to “bubble”, its time to flip! It only takes about a minute per side. You want them SOFT, so don’t leave them on so long that they start to crisp up.

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Create a little stack of deliciousness as they come off because it’s a cute thing to do.  Use immediately or store in a Ziplock bag until you need them.  REMEMBER: there are NO preservatives in these bad boys so they are only going to last a few day in the fridge! Multiply the recipe and freeze in freezer bags for later!

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Enjoy!!

~robbi

 

No-Bake Cookies

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We got to goat-sit for some friends yesterday. I wanted to take some goodies to them (the friends, not the goats) but I only had about an hour before we had to leave. Mr. Dave has been asking for no-bake cookies since Christmas so I decided to whip some up so he could have a few and we could take the rest to our friends.

Here is our family’s tried and true no-bake cookie recipe. It comes together in about 15 minutes!

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  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa
  • ½ cup crunchy peanut butter 
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2½ cup oats 
  • 1 cup coconut (I like to do about ½ cup shredded coconut and ½ cup flaked coconut)

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Mix butter, milk, sugar and cocoa in a large sauce pan and heat over medium high heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add peanut butter, coconut oil, vanilla and salt and stir until well mixed. Fold in oats and coconuts.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the refrigerator until hard.  You can drop them in blobs for cookies or spread evenly across the sheet and cut into bars once they are cool and solid.

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So that’s it.  Seriously super easy.  A great treat to make in the summertime so you don’t have to turn the oven on and heat up the house!  (too bad it is currently 9 degrees here…)

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Enjoy!

My Medicine Cabinet

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One of my kids woke up sick today. I am usually really surprised when one of us gets sick. We have some pretty darn good immune systems compared to most. I do a lot to make sure we all have a colorful diet, get lots of vitamin C and probiotics, and steer clear of typically germy situations. I do NOT like my people being sick.

But germs happen. No matter how cautious you are, no matter how many times you wash your hands, no matter what essential oils you diffuse in your home…sooner or later someone in your family is bound to catch a cold, a bug, a virus…

When that happens at our house, the drugstore is the furthest thing from my mind.  I go to the doctor for childbirth and broken bones…that’s about it.  Prescriptions and over the counter medications tend to just mask symptoms rather than actually healing the body, and yes, the pharmaceutical companies want to create customers not cures….there, I said it.

So we take a more natural approach.  We aren’t hippies or anything, it’s just better…and better for you!

People come to me quite a bit for advice when they have a sick little one. It typically starts out wanting to know what oils I could give them to help battle a fever or other illness. And while yes, oils are amazing at boosting the immune system and cleansing the body, that is not ALL I do to help my family stay healthy. (Although I DO love helping people, it really isn’t fair to just always expect me to supply the whole neighborhood with *free samples* of oil every time someone has a sniffle…it’s time to get your own, people!!)

My best advice to anyone is that you NEED TO KEEP some things on hand!! You need to prepare NOW if you want to be successful when the inevitable strikes.  When your child falls ill, you can’t exactly run to Walgreens for bone broth and Thieves oil. And experience has shown me that you probably won’t be willing to run to the store for an organic chicken to boil for soup and some vitamin C-loaded pineapple and kiwi for smoothies. You CAN, however, seem to find the time to run your kid to the doctor and then to the pharmacy for prescription drugs and over the counter meds….but I digress. 

So here I will list my staples and how to keep them stocked in your pantry…

1.Bone broth – this is the real deal. Make some soup. It’s good for your immune system and for your soul. The broth is made by boiling the bones of an organic animal (chicken or beef bones). You can pressure can the broth and have a stockpile on hand and ready to go.  If you don’t have a pressure canner, you can freeze it.  I’ll get a recipe post up and link it here as soon as I can!

2. Essential oils – Thieves, Raven, ravintsara, peppermint, lavender, tea tree, Purification and lemon are my top choices for helping the immune system and general feelings of cruddiness.  If you don’t know where to get these, let me know and I can get you going.

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3. Organic frozen fruit – it is ridiculously easy to grab a few bags and throw them in the freezer to have on hand. Throw them in the blender and make some immunity-boosting smoothies for everyone in the house! Pineapple, kiwi, and spinach and/or kale are a must.

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4. Local honey – great for sweetening those smoothies but also a spoonful eases sore throats and just does a body good!  If you aren’t blessed like me to have a friend with bees, you can get this at a local farmers market.

5. Probiotics – you can buy these in liquid form and just keep in the fridge, or you can just make a habit of having organic whole milk yogurt or kefir in your families diet. (Steer clear of anything with a television commercial or anything that says “low fat”.) These can be thrown in those smoothies as well. Available at health food stores, just ask for help.

So that’s seriously it. Illnesses rarely last more than 1 day around here.

Two things not on this list are plenty of water and rest! Your body needs to recharge itself. Let it rest! And drink up as much as possible to flush out toxins and all of the gunk hanging around. And for goodness sakes, get some organic orange juice….the REAL stuff, not from concentrate….there should be one ingredient in it and that is oranges. 

If you heal the body and don’t just treat or mask symptoms, your immune system will only make itself stronger! 

I’m not a doctor of any sort. The above listed items are just those that have repeatedly proven themselves to work for our family. I’m sure this list is not exhaustive of what may work for others, but again, this is what works for US! I would love to hear what works for you! 

~rs

Our Daily Bread

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When we began our journey down the more ‘natural’ road, one of the very first changes I made was to try making our own bread. The organic whole-wheat bread from the health food store was far too similar to cardboard, not to mention overpriced.

I had loved baking for years, but was always terrified of baking with yeast for some reason. Despite my illogical fears, I found an acceptable-looking recipe and decided to just give it a try. The bread tasted great, but the texture definitely took some getting used to, as it was a far cry from the light and bouncy (albeit chemically laden) store bought bread that we were accustomed to.

Baking bread, like most things, is a skill that requires patience, practice, and some basic know-how. I don’t know why I had been so afraid of baking with yeast, as it was not difficult nor was it scary.

I have not bought a loaf of bread in almost 5 years. After tinkering with different recipes, many successes and failures, and countless loaves with giant holes running down their middles, I finally came to my go-to bread recipe. When I started out making bread, I had NO IDEA what the process entailed. All I wanted was for someone to just show me how to do it, or to find a good tutorial that walked me through the process. I found this oddly difficult to find, so I will hold your hand through it if you are a first timer like I once was!!

RECIPE –

3 cups warm water
4 teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons salt
4 Tablespoons butter, softened (unsalted)
4 Tablespoons milk powder
8 cups flour (I use 4 cups organic white whole wheat, 2 cups organic all purpose, and 2 cups organic whole wheat bread flour)

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Add honey and yeast to warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes to proof.  It will get nice and foamy and bubbly.

Using the dough hook attachment, mix dry ingredients in the bowl of stand mixer (flour, salt, milk powder).

Throw in softened butter.

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Slowly add in liquid mixture.

Let the mixer knead the dough for about 5 minutes. The dough should be pliable but not TOO sticky.

Turn off mixer and remove dough from bowl. Grease the inside of the bowl with a drizzle of olive oil.

Place dough in bowl and turn to coat (the dough should be well coated in the oil as this will prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl as it rises).

Cover the bowl with a clean towel and set aside until the dough doubles in size.

Once the dough is big and fluffy, get out your bread pans and grease them.

This next step I do a little differently than most people. I have had so many negative experiences with loaves falling apart that I do NOT roll my loaves or double the dough over on itself whatsoever. Rather than punching down the dough (which could cause creases in the loaves), I turn my bowl over and dump the dough out. I gently ‘pat’ the dough flat into a rectangle until it is “punched down” (basically meaning until it is fully deflated).

Next I take a knife and cut my dough into three equal parts…I don’t know if this method is frowned upon in the baking world, but hey…it works for me!

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Place the dough loaves into the pans.

Cover with a towel and set aside for a second rise.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Let rise another 30 minutes or so, until the loaves stick up over the tops of the pans.

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Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool COMPLETELY before slicing.

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A few pointers….
~ Make sure you have the correct size bread pan!! I literally spent YEARS scratching my head as to why my loaves had big holes in them or didn’t rise enough…my pans were ginormous compared to what they should have been!! Get the right pan!!

~ Invest in a good bread knife! I spent way too long cutting my beautiful loaves into Texas Toast sized slices because I did not have the proper knife. The bread would crumble in my hands if I dared to attempt thin slices, until I came across this bow saw knife at a craft fair. I’ve never had to wash it or sharpen it. It is amazing.

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~ Let your bread cool COMPLETELY before cutting. Letting it cool is actually part of the baking process! The bread continues to bake a little as it cools, preventing a doughy center.

~ Store each loaf in a gallon freezer bag and freeze. Remember, there are no preservatives in this bread, so you don’t want to just leave it out on the counter. To thaw, just pop a piece in the toaster as needed!

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~ Save your butts!! I’ve never been a fan of the butt of the bread. My husband and kids don’t mind them at all, actually the kids typically beg for the butts as a nice mobile snack while I am slicing bread. Whatever butts I have left get saved in a ziplock bag in the freezer. When the bag gets full enough, I use those throw-away pieces to make French toast casserole! Waste Not!

 

So that’s it! Enjoy!!

~rs