Spring on the farm

Well, it has been quite a while since I have written anything…years?  Life has definitely gotten in the way, and it has been great!  My girls are now 8, 6 and 4 (wow, time does fly by!) and we have a mini-farm, or homestead, if you will.  Most of my writings will likely center around faith, family and farm, which pretty much sums up life around here.

So, spring has sprung around here in the animal world.  Goat milk, goat milk, everywhere is goat milk!  We have had three sets of twins born this spring here at the farm, which means, lots of goat milk to deal with!!  We love it, and so do our animals.  I have started making cheese (mostly Chèvre), and it is delicious, especially on graham crackers.  Yum!  We also have lots of chickens that have started laying this spring.  I am so thankful for all the delicious and healthy food that our farm provides my family.  God has truly blessed us here.  I’ll have to get some pictures of everything posted soon.

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope to get better at this and get to it more often.  Have a great spring!

Natural Red Velvet Cake–with beets! (No Red No. 40 here)

My husband’s favorite cake is red velvet.  Since he was one of the “birthday boys” at the party last night, I thought I would try to make a homemade red velvet cake, or rather, cupcakes, from scratch.

Now, I have never been a fan of artificial coloring or flavoring.  But ever since I started really paying attention to what foods we eat and trying to focus more on feeding my family “real” foods, I have steered clear of as many artificial flavorings, colorings, etc. as I could.  Well, if you’ve ever looked at a recipe for a homemade red velvet cake, you’ve seen how much red food coloring is in one of those cakes.  My goodness!!  A whole bottle of it, really?!  Yep, most call for 1-2 oz. of the stuff.  Yuck!

Being the researcher that I am, I set out to find a way to make a “natural” red velvet cake that would be yummy and still have the look of red velvet.  I realize that bright red color might not be as vibrant in an all natural cake (you know, the color that stains everything it touches), but perhaps there is a way to get a red color naturally…?

So, I googled “natural red velvet cake recipe” and got lots of hits for cakes made with, get this, beets.  Yep, that’s what I said.  Beets.  You know, those red roots that taste kind of like dirt but have a beautiful bright red color whenever you cut into them (they also juice quite well, I must say).

Do you remember whose cake I said this was?  My husband’s…the man who eats no vegetables other than potatoes, corn, and the occasional salad.  Oh, and ketchup.  He considers that a vegetable, too.  Crazy, I know.

So how was I going to convince him that a cake made with beets might be good?  Now, in case I haven’t already mentioned this, we bought a juicer several weeks ago.  We’ve been juicing up a storm (off and on), and have ventured into juicing beets a time or two.  He didn’t mind the beet juice (luckily), so when I mentioned a beet cake, he didn’t gag.  He didn’t even make a face.  He looked at me and said, “Sounds good.”

What?!  Was that my husband?  I couldn’t believe my ears.  Surely I didn’t hear him correctly.  But I was going with it!  Beet cake it was going to be.

Now, the quest for THE beet cake recipe.  How to get the brightest red color without sacrificing taste and without having to run all over town to get any special ingredients.

Here’s what I found out from my search:  the pH of the batter affects the brightness of the cake–brown with a hint of red, versus red-ish brown.  The acidity from adding lemon juice helps with this.  I know, sounds pretty nerdy.  But hey, I am a true nerd at heart, I guess.

I finally settled on a recipe from bakecakery.com.  Instead of a cake, I decided to make cupcakes instead–that way I could taste one the day before the party and if they did in fact taste like dirt, I could make something else if need be.  Luckily, the cupcakes were delicious.  They were moist and no one at the party could tell they had beets in them.  The red was more of a hint of red, but still, they were yummy.

Here are a couple of pictures.  First, here are several of the cupcakes left over from the party (sorry, the picture didn’t turn out quite like I’d hoped…).

And a picture of one cut in half.  If you look really close, you can see a hint of red on the icing and at the bottom.

I think I will put more lemon juice in it next time (only put about 1/2 T since I goofed and put twice the amount of balsamic vinegar…working late at night is not my forte these days!).   You couldn’t taste any lemon or vinegar at all, in case you were wondering!

What crazy natural recipes have you tried lately?

God uses our children to teach us…

I hadn’t had time to check my emails lately (been getting ready for a family birthday party this weekend), so finally today I was able to catch up a little bit.  Normally, I just skim the emails I get from Family Life, but today I felt I needed to open the email and look at the articles in it.  Lo and behold, there was an article titled Avoiding Mama Burnout.  How appropriate for me these days.

There were 10 things to do in order to avoid mama burnout.  Of these ten things, I could relate to probably 8 of them.  Here’s the one I found most insightful:

“Remember God chose your family. God has given us these exact children in this exact birth order with these exact personalities, not merely so that we can raise them, but in order for them to be His tools in our lives to grow us up into the women He has created us to be. He gave us that strong-willed toddler, that child we just don’t “get,” that one with disabilities. Every child is a gift from God and He will use each one in our lives for good if we let Him. It’s helpful to ask, God, what are you teaching me through this special child of mine? God is full of mercy and full of grace. And He is always faithful.”

This season in my life may have its challenges, but I need to look to God and ask Him what He wants me to learn from all of this.  This season is full of His blessings, if only I’ll open my eyes to them.

Am I Maximizing My Mornings?

I’ve recently started (unofficially) the Hello Mornings Bible Study from Inspired to Action, titled Run To Him.  The idea is to start your day off by spending time with God and then doing some form of exercise so you are ready to begin your day…instead of waking up to you children, wake up FOR them.  What a novel concept!  Now, if only I could put it completely into practice.

Last week the scripture was Psalm 1.  I really enjoyed learning more about how God promises to provide for me when I delight in Him, in His laws, and meditate on His word day and night.  You know, that’s really hard to do, especially when you only get 3 hours of sleep at a time each night, but I’m trying.  Anyway, I’ve been praying that God would give me a passion to delight in Him, that I would yearn to meditate on His laws and He would help me put His words to memory.  I find that when I pray this, I do have more desire to study His word, to spend more time with Him.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?!

This week the focus is on Psalm 4.  My God will answer me when I call.  He fills me with peace and joy.  I can put my trust in Him.  I am looking forward to the rest of the week and what God will reveal to me each day as I look further into this passage of scripture.

Goals for 2012

I typically do not have New Year’s resolutions.  Although, my freshman year in college I did resolve not to eat chocolate for a year and did it.  I know, crazy, huh?!  Guess that just shows I have a stubborn, uhm, I mean determined side.

This year I want to be different.  But how?  Over the past year I have been very intrigued by what we eat and how that affects our bodies.  Specifically, I am trying to eliminate processed foods from our diets.  Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t still eat our fair share of cheese-its and cereal, but I am trying to make a more conscious effort to cook things from scratch and eat at home.

For starters, I try to make our bread myself.  I finally invested in a mixer and boy has it gotten a work out.  We bought the KitchenAid Artisan mixer and have been pleased with it so far, although we have only had it a few months.  Before that, I was kneading by hand.  I don’t mind that, but it certainly is much easier using the mixer for that task!  I have not tried grinding my own flour, yet.  Believe me, I’ve thought about it a lot.  Perhaps in the next year I will take that plunge…  One of these days I’ll try to put together a post for my whole wheat recipe (it does have about a cup of unbleached all purpose flour).

We also purchased a juicer for Christmas.  Boy, is that ever a great way to get some nutrients into your body!  My husband is not the most diverse of eaters, so I am excited to know that he will drink many of the vegetables he will not venture out and eat.

Since about summer of 2010 I have been on a quest to minimize, if not eliminate, toxins from our home in the form of cleaning solutions (homemade soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant–I’m still learning wordpress, so I’ll have to add links to these later, as I would love to give credit to those who inspired my craftiness).

So, my “goals” for this year include a continuation of these things (continuing to make a loaf of bread a week, make my own cleaning agents, get extra nutrients into my family by providing fresh juice on a regular basis) and the addition of a couple more that will help me to grow spiritually and physically.  Here goes…

  1. Make a loaf of bread a week, for sandwiches, toast, etc.
  2. Continue to make my own deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and laundry detergent.  When possible, make soap (this has not been a priority for me lately, but I hope to get back to this).
  3. Start my mornings off with time in God’s word before my family gets up.
  4. Do some sort of exercise, even if just for 10 minutes, each day.
  5. Purchase whole wheat foods, if possible (pastas, breads, crackers, etc.)
  6. Learn how to do this blog thing…learn wordpress!

Okay, that’s pretty much all I’ve got for this year.  I know, it doesn’t seem like much, but I’m thinking baby steps.  With three little ones at home and going back to work in April, I don’t want to set myself up for failure!

What are your 2012 goals?

Productivity with little ones…

How can you be productive with little ones underfoot…

I am not the most qualified person to be writing about such things as the title of this post.  However, as a mother of a 3 ½ year old, a 1 ½ year old and a 3 month old, I find great excitement in the possibility of learning how to be productive while at home with my three beautiful girls.  Since I am still nursing my youngest, I do spend quite a bit of time sitting and reflecting on what all I “should” be doing, or rather, what all I have to do when I get up out of this chair!

My oldest daughter loves to help, although her idea of helping sometimes is not quite in line with mine.  Nevertheless, I do try to find ways she can help me in whatever I am doing.  This seems to make the task much more doable and keeps her from acting out because she wants my undivided attention.  Whenever I do have her help, I have to keep in mind that time cannot be of the essence.  I have to throw the clock aside and just embrace the fact that we are spending precious time together, and that is what is important.  The task being completed (such as making dinner) is just a by-product.

While my oldest daughter and I are busy (typically in the kitchen), my middle daughter has mostly just enjoyed being able to play by herself without being bossed around by her big sister.  However, this seems to be changing a bit here lately.  Whenever she sees her big sister helping mommy, she is very quick to state, “My do it, too!”

I am still learning how to involve both of my older girls so we are productive while spending time together.  It is difficult, but I try to get something done in the mornings while they are eating breakfast.  That way they are occupied at the table and I have a few minutes to focus on getting something started, such as a loaf of bread, or perhaps washing a load of clothes.  Luckily, the 3 month old still sleeps a lot and is fairly content to play on her mat in the floor while mommy takes care of dinner, laundry, or whatever the small task may be at the time.

I find that I have to take on small chunks of something, one chunk at a time.  I do not have large blocks of time to do things, so I have to spend my time wisely.  Hopefully, over the next three months I will be able to start getting my mornings off to a productive start by spending time with God first thing in the morning and doing some form of exercise, even if it is just walking up and down the driveway a couple of times before my girls are awake.

How do you do it?  I’d love to hear how you get things done with little ones underfoot!

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