The Annual List of Slightly Strange Things

For Which I am Thankful

  • I don’t remember when I have ever written so little, nor had the well of word-love run so low, but it is for a good reason. I have been learning to influence clay instead of wrestling with it. The absorption has been nearly complete some days. My sister-in-law thought I must have a lot of spare time these days and if you want to know the truth, it’s often the time between children’s bedtime and when my husband gets home at midnight that I am using for this pursuit. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t really, really badly want it. More than sleep. More than words and books for a while. I have a warm place to work, light-filled windows, a space outside the house. I am truly grateful.
  • Along with that, I am glad for an activity that keeps me humbled. “I am such small potatoes,” I kept muttering to myself when a rash of difficulties tempted me to quit trying and be normal again and sit down sometimes. I looked at my Instagram feed that ordinarily inspires me to try new things in the pottery realm and I saw all the beautiful perfection and my hardest work fell- not only short- but tipped over the edge into the trash can. It’s okay to feel small and inadequate, so here’s to the hard work of others that has brought them to excellence!
  • This has also been a summer, no, more like an entire year of more cloudy skies than sunny. Endless opportunities to rise above the feelings of apathy that threaten the spirit when there is so little that shines. This is a metaphor, of course. When I get bogged down I think of those words that it is my highest aspiration to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord.” There is no tunnel too long or hill too steep for that joy to break through in the end. I am grateful for how Light always triumphs over darkness in the end.
  • We have just come through a round of minor health issues, mostly colds and allergies. My son’s healthcare is paying for immunotherapy and my daughter’s inhaler gave her respite from the rasping wheeziness that was making her life miserable. Our sore throats were cured with hourly gargling with grapefruit seed extract (available here, free shipping today, you’re welcome) and our headaches soothed with peppermint oil. In the middle of the night when the croup cough barks out, I am glad I can plug in the nebulizer instead of boiling onion poultices. Our minor ailments remind me to be grateful every day for wellness and excellent healthcare.
  • The children and I made a startling discovery about living in our age versus when the settlers first came to America. We concluded that probably none of us would be alive anymore, with the possible exception of the first-born if he had made it through his earliest hours without oxygen and never suffered infections from cuts that required stitches, etc. My second son would definitely have died without an emergency C-section and his mother likely would have died at that time too. That would eliminate the girls’ chances to ever even be born, but if mother had lived, the first girl would not have made it past her adrenal crisis. That leaves us with father, whose life is fairly normal through careful treatment of an autoimmune disease that would have likely killed him 7 years ago when it flared really badly and required a bowel resection. Yes, we will all die someday; our times are in God’s hands. And we are grateful that we get to live! Maybe you think that a weird sort of gratefulness exercise, but you should try it.
  • I am glad these days for grammar rules and commas and language that makes sense. My children kick against the instruction, but I am adamant and they get no choice. We usually start and end our days with stories, with heroes and conquests and visions for higher things. They lap it up and then I tell them what they don’t like to hear: this pleasure of written words is why we have grammar, my children. The bulk of my reading in the last half year has been juvenile fiction. It is my favorite genre and I am over-the-top grateful to have a crew of little people who love it too. When I get too busy to read, they haul me back short with no exceptions. “But WE HAVE TO have story time!”
  • There is a craze of coloring going on around here. The small girl who never stops wiggling holds still to color. She spent her money on a set of fine-tipped sharpies and this is what she does during quiet time nearly every day while she listens to Henry Huggins or the Boxcar Children. I don’t know what this is doing in her brain, but it is a good and settling thing.
  • We have too many eggs again, every day 2 dozen of them to sell and to eat. It’s pretty nice not to ever have to haul them home from the grocery store. There is a barn full of chores for the teen son who needs things to do that take him outside pestering his sisters and moaning about grammar lessons. Aside from the tax break we receive from small scale farming, we do not come out ahead financially. We see our barn full of hungry critters as training in a skill set that may actually help our children survive some day, as well as teaching them responsibility. I remind myself to be grateful when I am going to the farm supply store for chicken feed, and it doesn’t take too much effort to feel it. Of course, there are exceptions like Sunday afternoons when we are chasing pigs instead of napping, but even those make great stories.
  • We have abundantly enough and I am thankful to report that I do not have any needs that require me to be out jostling through stores today for things I can’t afford otherwise. I may search for an online sale of really excellent sheets, but other than that, I don’t need anything. I can’t quite fathom the richness of that statement.
  • This is such an interesting season, which is what I say when it isn’t my favorite. We have stretches of days for light jackets and rubber boots, occasional flip-flop weather respites, and blitzing cold days when the children drag every warm thing they own out of totes in the attic and here we go again. But we have the gear, or we go buy it, and we stay warm. My ornamental cabbages still bloom, tenaciously happy in all weathers, and that is what I aspire to be.
  • My sons are into forging hooks out of scrap metal. For all those coats and snowpants, we now have an endless supply of hooks to hang them up. We hang towels on hooks in the bathroom. We put purses on hooks and mugs on hooks, and even our scissors have hooks where they are supposed to live when they are not under the sofa cushions. Here’s to the lowly inventions that enable us to stumble less.

That’s my slightly strange list. I compiled it hurriedly with care for your amusement and now it’s time to pack up for family thanksgiving a day late. My husband had to work yesterday, so we celebrate with turkey and all manner of good food today. Parents, siblings, fellowship, connections, support… they truly are the top of the list.

Happy thanksgiving!

Linky Love for Monday: Beeyoutiful

It’s been awhile since I did this. No, wait, there was the link for the Kitchenaid ice cream bowl just last month. Insert monkey covering eyes emoji here:

But you know me. I really like to pass on a good thing; it’s what friends do. I received an email from one of my favorite companies for herbal products and essential oils.  Beeyoutiful is having their annual summer free shipping spree  or is that free shopping spree? No, not free shopping, I guess, unless you consider not having to get into the car to get to a store, and free shipping is just sweet! The deal lasts from today, July 9, through Wednesday, July 11. The company kindly provided me with affiliate links, and I heartily endorse their products. There is a wealth of information on the website, as well as hundreds of reviews. You can do your research very thoroughly if you are a skeptical sort of person. Here are a few of my favorite products.
Beeyoutiful

This is where I get ProMiSe Blend, the essential oil that contains it all in the name. I love it, and it is 50% off for 3 days! If you have ever used Clary Sage oil for the delicate condition known as PMS, you know that it has a rather strong aroma. As in, your husband can smell it when he walks into the kitchen and then he knows what’s up with you. This blend, however, is delightful, fresh and invigorating even with the clary sage in it. I don’t think your husband will hate the smell and it won’t make you feel even more grumpy. It’s the geranium and peppermint and all the other good stuff in with the sage. And it works! Better days ahead, as they say.

Beeyoutiful makes SuperMom, the only prenatal vitamin I ever took. It’s not just a prenatal, of course, but that was when I started taking it. I never had trouble with iron levels while taking it, and I could usually tell the days that I forgot to take my vitamin in the morning.
Supermom

Then there is SuperKids, a multi-vitamin I buy for my children. When they were little, they begged for spoonfuls of the orange flavored liquid every day. There is a chewable form available as well.
Superkids

We went through a lot of Chew C as well, especially the winter that my 3 year old developed a crush on it to the point where I had to hide the bottle. I am a huge fan of preventative care when the bugs are flying through the air, but 6 vitamin C’s daily is probably in excess.

Of course, my very favorite product of all time is Berry Well, the flu-fighting elderberry syrup that has served our family so well. This stuff works! When the boys were little, I used to get the 6 bottle deal for the winter just so I wouldn’t be caught short. If our friends had flu plaguing them, I would offer to sell them a bottle from my pantry. The price ($20) never seemed too high where there were kids lying all around the living room with puke buckets beside them. This is the original of the recipe that I try to replicate when I make my own with dried berries. Beeyoutiful also sells a kit with the dried berries and other ingredients you need to make your own, if you wish to do that.
BerryWell

I can personally vouch for the good folks behind this company. One year I met them at a Mother Earth News fair, sampled the teas they were graciously handing out, and chatted for a bit before I bought a whole pile of stuff. Ha. I have also called in with questions about my order and always received stellar service.

I think you will love Beeyoutiful. Maybe you already do. What products do you love? Why not share the love and leave us a comment so we can all get it shipped free? 😉

…and that concludes my linky love for today.

 

Homemade Ice Cream in 15 Minutes

I started hankering after an easy ice cream maker a few years ago. We have a large churn type that takes ice and a few hours and makes phenomenal ice cream. It is great for a crowd, but not for a quick summertime treat. The thing I needed was a countertop version. I also needed something compact, and when I discovered that Kitchenaid makes a bowl that simply attaches to the stand mixer, I was hooked. I just needed an excuse to get one, and Father’s Day last year was perfect. It wasn’t any more lame to get my husband something I wanted than it would have been to get him something he didn’t want or need. 🙂 I figured he would be benefiting from this insight pretty often.

This is what I got:

 

It attaches by a twisting motion onto my mixer but is also fitted for the bigger models that have a lifting lever for the bowl. The whisk attachment has two sizes as well, so that it is interchangeable with sizes. Just do your research if your mixer is very tiny or very huge.

Here’s how it works. You store the bowl in the freezer. When you want ice cream, you get it out, pour in a quart of ice cream mix, and start it up. Typically it takes about 15 minutes to freeze and do that amazing expand-y thing that ice cream does when it is just about finished. It is a good practice to stand there at the bowl with a spoon so that it doesn’t expand too far out over the edge of the bowl or anything like that.

I have tried many recipes and simplified one way down to 5 ingredients and no cooking. That way I can take a sudden notion to make ice cream on a Sunday evening and it is no hassle. I will put in a disclaimer here: if you cannot stomach raw eggs, you should just skip on to the cooked custard recipes on Pinterest. I got this blender ice cream mix idea from a mom who raised a dozen children on it and nobody ever got an e.coli infection. Just be sure you use fresh eggs without any cracks.

I prefer the ice cream made with a cooked custard mix when I have had the foresight to get it ready 12 hours before we want ice cream. For a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-skirt person, that doesn’t happen very often.

IMG_20180623_181657033

The ingredients list is simple:

  • 3 1/2 cups of milk/cream/almond milk, etc.  …We are looking for milky liquid. You can be as health conscious or as fatty as you want. I used 1 1/2 cups half and half (because cream can form little butter lumps if it hasn’t been cooked into custard) and 1 1/2  cups milk.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar  …Again, you can do whatever sweetener you want. This is not sweet compared to regular ice cream. It is just how I like it, a hint of sweet decadence without the brain numbing sugar high. Sometimes I use part maple syrup, or even alternative sweeteners.
  • a pinch of salt …Trust me on this. You want a little bit of salt in there.
  • flavoring   …I used a TB of instant coffee dissolved in a TB of water. Sometimes I use vanilla or caramel flavoring with flakes of salt at the end for you know what!

Put all ingredients into your blender, or if it is broken like mine, into a deep bowl for the immersion blender treatment. (I have tried many and varied  immersion blenders. This one isn’t expensive, but it is by far the most powerful one I have owned. Bonus: it comes with a mini food processor. Make sure to keep the stick blender down against the bottom of the bowl! You have been warned. Whip up the mix until it is thoroughly blended, but not so long that it gets warm. You want the mix to be as chilled as possible. If at this point you don’t quite have a quart of mix, just add milk until you do. You can also add a bit of xanthan gum. It helps thicken and smooth the finished product.

IMG_20180623_181811675

IMG_20180623_182109553

 

IMG_20180623_182118592

This is how the beater attaches to the mixer. (Just pretend you don’t see that flour that I should have wiped off the mixer.) You pop it on, then put the whisk part down into the bowl, start the blender on low and pour in your mix. Go cook the hamburgers and toast the buns while this mixing is going on. The ice cream will be ready by the time you have the supper made. 😀IMG_20180623_182136316

IMG_20180623_192602320

Riddle: What is better than dessert?  Answer: Dessert that is coffee flavored.

How I Bought a Pile of Books Without Money: The Tale of the Shuffling Rebates

Monday: The day I share with you something outside my world. Today it all connects a little, kind of like women’s brains or spaghetti.

Way back in the annals of last year I downloaded a rebate app called Ibotta. Having heard that it is one of the simpler apps to use for saving money on ordinary household items, I decided to give it a go. The nice thing is that they give a $10 welcome bonus to you as soon as you start using the app. The minimum payout is $20, and you have to have a paypal account, but that was no problem. I scored big by doing online shopping through Ibotta over the holidays, so I was getting reduced prices from the stores, plus a chunky little rebate. That is always cause for happy feelings, yes?

It took me a little while to get used to checking the offers I wanted to use before I went shopping. It’s smart to make sure you are getting the right brand of tissues for $1 off. But hey, now you can buy the ones that aren’t scratchy for the same price as the store brands. You can’t dupe the app, though. Your purchase has to match the offer, of course.  For many grocery stores, you can link your store loyalty card to your account, then Ibotta automatically credits your account with any eligible rebates. Walmart is simple. The receipts have a handy QR code at the bottom that you scan and then apply the rebates. I learned to watch for really good ones, like $1.50 off a box of tea, able to be rebated x5 on one receipt. Stock up when it’s on sale and you get a savvy shopper sticker! Toilet paper is another one I always use. We are loyal Quilted Northern people, and so far there has been a rebate running all the time. My personal favorite is the “any” category, because it is just this nice, easy bonus. Any shampoo, any produce, any milk, etc.

Ibotta makes its cut from ads on the site, as well as by directing traffic to stores online. I have learned to place my Amazon orders through the Ibotta app. Now I get a percentage back from both the Amazon credit card and the rebates. Sweet!

Not like you want to know or anything, but when I get $20 added up, I direct it to Paypal and it is there, a secret stash of mad money until I want to do, oh, something like a Thriftbooks order. The psychology behind this thrill is probably uncomplicated and even childish, but I don’t care.

Let me show you what I got in the mail last week.

IMG_20180212_144103919

My boys took turns falling headlong into The Boys in the Boat. It’s kind of like Unbroken is the consensus. The girls and I are reading Mandy at bedtime. I really love Julie Andrews Edwards as an author. Her books are gentle, yet full of strength.

Friends, you need a Thriftbooks order coming to your mailbox. It’s February. There is time to read. You can find pretty much any book on your wishlist. I have had Jayber Crow on mine for a long time, but it was so expensive that I just savored it there, waiting. This whole stack used up my Ibotta money, but the shipping is free as soon as you get to $10, which is a ridiculously low amount to qualify for free shipping. And the first order you place through that link above will qualify for 15% off.

Now if there were some way to loop the Thriftbooks orders through Ibotta, I can see this turning into a sort of situation.

 

*These are affiliate links. If you use these sites, I get a little reward and you get a little reward. What’s not to love?