Monday, August 29, 2011

Boasting Homeschoolers

Today I met that mom. That homeschooling mom I hope I never come off to be. To be fair though, she wasn’t actually the mom, she was the mom’s “assistant.” Yeah. I know. Anyways. I originally thought the lady was either grandma or just an older mom with still some little ones in the nest.

While waiting for our little ones to finish up a make-up class in gymnastics, we went about small talk as all moms do during this time. Honestly, I started this whole thing. If I could only go back and hit “rewind.” I noticed a girl of about ten doing some copy work beside me. Being that it was ten in the morning, I could only assume that she was homeschooled. The four other children surrounding this lady only reinforced that this family was probably homeschooled. (Isn’t it funny how we fall prey to stereotypes?)

So I asked, “Are you homeschooled?” And here begins the cat and mouse chase. Or could have anyways. This time, I decided, I’m not falling into this battle. I’m going to try to ease right on out. But she wouldn’t stop! Ahhhhh!

"She (insert Mom’s name) does so well with the children.”

“The four year old even writes the whole alphabet.”

“He’s potty-trained and he’s only two.”

“They do so good picking up they’re toys and are such a good help to their mom.”

“Yesterday me and the four-year old went out to pick beans. Because they have a garden you know. She was so excited to help.”

And on. And on. And on. I simply smiled and said, “Really.” And “that’s so good.” Friends…if I ever go on like this to you. Please slap me in the face and tell me to shut up.

Nothing has changed me more from being the competitive person I am than having children. I have even considered unschooling my children just to get away from the hoopla of the pressure placed on us by society. Having children I have learned that each and every child is different in each and every way. They all have strengths and weaknesses that are different from every other child, even the ones in their own home.

Seriously. I get so tired of the “let me one up you” nonsense that goes on between mom’s of young children. Let me preface by saying, I get tremendous support from what I like to refer to as “veteran moms.” They are so encouraging in saying that reading to them right now is enough. Read them good books and take them outside. Teach them good habits and obedience. Worry about the other stuff later…when you have to. Whether your child knows his alphabet at two or five…when they’re seven…it really doesn’t make a difference.

But just around the corner is that mom. You know her. The one who can’t wait to tell you her two-year old can count to 100, is beginning lessons in Latin, and they spend an hour a day doing creative crafts. Oh wait, and they were potty-trained at 18 months. The one who loves to make you feel…not good enough.

So, it is now time for confession, I’m going to let you in on some things. I don’t care that my 2 year old is not potty-trained. I haven’t even attempted it because I don’t want to…I’m tired. And, again, I don’t want to. My near four-year old doesn’t know how to read because I haven’t taught her to and because we spend our days doing other things…like playing and sometimes watching Dora. Gasp! Just the other day I was so impressed that Lily knew about stamps and the post office. How? Team Umizoomi taught her about it. My daughter is so cultured she can sing songs about hot-snot-sundaes and the gaseous affects of beans. And I taught them to her! Much to my chagrin, my kids laugh when they pass any kind of gas…while they’re saying “excuse me” of course. And often the only way I can get my kids to pick up their toys without their father threatening them is to tell them I'm going to suck them up in the vacuum. Actually, now I don't have to tell them that because as soon as they see the vacuum come out...they start scrambling. Even the two-year old.

In conclusion, Moms, stop bragging and competing with each other and start supporting each other. I’m not like you and much of what comes out of my children’s mouths may absolutely shock you…as it does me. Reality is, if I were a fly on the wall in your house, you, too would be embarrassed by what I saw. Be real and…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blueberry Jam

Several weeks ago, I posted about our wonderful day picking blueberries. At the bottom of that post was a recipe for blueberry jam topping.

Another recipe I have used to preserve the blueberries was simply blueberry jam. It is very easy! I did change the recipe up a little and used less sugar.

Blueberry Jam

  1. Take 9 cups of crushed (and washed) blueberries and 6 cups of sugar and mix together. I only use about 4 cups of sugar. (You can use a potato masher to crush your blueberries while it heats.) 
  2. Heat until all the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to gel.
  3. Using your funnel pour the jam into your jars.
  4. Place lids on.
  5. Process in a hot water bath for approximately 10 minutes.
And that would be all for this year! Hopefully, you'll get to join me next year when I take a stab at pickles!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Canning Green Beans

Welcome back to the canning series! For us, this is the biggy. We can more green beans than anything else. And these crazy little beans have given me more anxiety than any other vegetable or fruit that we have preserved. Remember how we use Granny's methods for canning a lot? Well, not one single friend of mine that also does food preservation cans green beans the way we do. So, I must announce a disclaimer. DO.YOUR.RESEARCH.

This is a method of canning that is NOT typically accepted. I had to really think and discuss over this method with my husband. Apparently, there is a bacteria on low acidic vegetables that if not killed at the proper temperature can cause botulism. That's right, botulism. I looked it up to see the symptoms. That did not aid in my anxieties over using this method of canning. The temperature that needs to be reached to kill this little varmint can supposedly only be reached in a pressure canner. (Which, as I mentioned before, I particularly don't care to have around three small children.) My husband and his entire family, however, could take much offense to this. Since they've been doing it this way for years and no one has yet to contract said botulism. After much discussion and angst, we decided it was OK. Besides, this is how my Russian friend did it in Russia and well, for some reason, that gave me assurance.

Again. Make this decision for yourself understanding there are recommendations that it is not safe. (Wow, I can't believe I'm saying that.)

But's easy after you break your beans! Simply...

  1. Break your beans and cut off bug bites.
  2. Wash them three times to remove any dirt and to catch any missed bug bites.
  3. Pack your jars and add one tsp of salt.
  4. Add hot water leaving about 1/4 inch headspace.
  5. Wipe your lid to ensure no debris will inhibit the sealing of the jar.
  6. Do a hot water bath for 3 to 3.5 hours. (This is why we use the contraption below rather than our stove.)

Now, another reason The Franklin family has not suffered from botulism could be the time we cook the beans before we eat them. My crazy, northern neighbor mentioned boiling her beans for 10 minutes one day and I thought she just told me she flew back from Mars. how I do it...and they are oh so yummy good.

The Right Way to Cook Fresh Green Beans

  1. Rinse your beans to remove that old salt.
  2. Place them in a large pot and fill with water.
  3. Add one beef bouillon cube.
  4. Add one heaping spoon of butter.
  5. Add one slice of bacon or a big piece of fat back.
  6. Cook for several hours. (Around five over medium heat.)
  7. Don't forget to add more water or you'll burn the beans!
  8. Before serving, add a little salt to put at the taste of country perfection.
Now, if anyone ever thought I might be healthy... myth...debunked.

(Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants though.)

Disclaimer: AGAIN, I take no responsibility for how you choose to can your green beans should you use this recipe. I am not a professional. Check with those government guys for the health standards.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Canned Jalapenos

Finally, I make a gradual step back into the canning series. I’m hoping to get these flipped out fast over the next couple of days.

When slicing your jalapenos, be sure to wear gloves. Nate slices ours since I am nursing Anna. He did it barehanded and woke me up at three in the morning complaining of his left arm burning. Silly me thought he was having a heart attack. It wasn’t until the next day he suggested it might be the jalapenos. So, wear gloves if you don’t want your hand to burn.We use pint and half pint jars for our jalapenos but divide a recipe for quarts. (Again, we have a small amount of people actually eating some of this food we’re preserving.)

Recipe for Canned Jalapenos

  1. Mix 2 cups of water and 2 cups of white vinegar on the stove to simmer. Do not boil…just simmer.
  2. Pack your jars with your jalapenos and use a non-metallic spatula to go around the side removing any air-bubbles. (Remember, I'm not sure if I do a good job of this...I mean how do you know you've removed air bubbles?!) 
  3. Add a clove of garlic to a pint jar of jalapenos. (For a quart add 2 cloves and for a half pint add 1/2 clove.) Aren't you glad I'm doing the math for you.
  4. Add 1/8 tsp of pickling salt to a pint jar of jalapenos. (For a quart 1/4 tsp for a half pint...I do smaller than a pinch since I don't have a tsp that measures 1/16.) 
  5. Once your liquid mixture is simmering, use your funnel to assist you in pouring the mixture into the jar. Fill your jar up leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
  6. PUT ON YOUR LID! (Edited so Tony C doesn't lose his peppers.)
  7. Using a water bath canner or a large pot, place your jars in the boiling water and ensure the tops of the jars are covered by one or two inches of the water. 
  8. Once the water begins to boil again after the jars are placed in, process for 15 minutes. 
  9. You can safely remove jars with the special jar tongs I showed you in the first post.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Canning Tomatoes: An Alternative

As I mentioned yesterday in my introduction to food preservation, we can our food a little different then some other folks for various reasons. I apologize that I don’t have a video or any flashy step-by-step photos of how we go about doing this. Canning season makes for a busy season and since I’m already in a busy season with little ones…you get no photos of the actual process.

Let me begin by saying this is the second year we have grown tomatoes and the first we actually preserved them. Last year we realized we had an unusual issue with our tomatoes that caused us to have to remove them from the vine before they are ripe. We now know this condition is referred to as bottom end rot. We hope to remedy this next year by placing a Tums in the dirt when we plant our tomatoes. It is caused by a lack of calcium. Another remedy if you find yourself with this problem is to take your almost empty milk jug, fill it with water, and use that to water your tomato plants.

A few of our roma tomatoes ripening in the window. We use a variety of tomatoes. The big one you see is a German tomato and is wonderful on sandwiches and biscuits!

Even though we were struck by bottom end rot again, we were able to allow our tomatoes to ripen in the window and still preserve some of them.

An Alternative Way to Can Tomatoes
  1. Wash your tomatoes.
  2. Using a large pot, begin to boil water. (I use a large pasta pot with the strainer in it.)
  3. Use a sharp knife to “core” your tomatoes. Remove the stem and any “green core.” Granny says this will ruin your tomatoes if you don’t remove the “green.” She doesn’t know why; that’s just what her mother told her. Make an “X” with your knife on the bottom (blossom end) of the tomato.
  4. Fill your clean sink with cold ice water.
  5. Once all your tomatoes are cored and ready, dip them in the boiling water for about 30 seconds.
  6. Now move them to the cold water. If you used a large pasta pot, simply remove your strainer and dump them in the sink.
  7. Your tomato skins will now easily pull away from the tomatoes.
  8. After your tomatoes are peeled, cut your tomatoes in half to make sure you have removed the core. Be sure not to confuse the green core with the “meaty” white part of your tomato, aka, the flesh. (Nate kept doing that and was throwing half the tomato away!) The core, if there is one, will be a teeny, tiny speck of green.
  9. Cut your tomatoes into small pieces in a large pot. Granny taught me how to take my hands and squish them up even more once you are ready to cook them. (I find it therapeutic for some odd reason.)
  10. Now you are ready to “cook your tomatoes down.” Place your tomatoes on the stove and cook them over medium heat. You can cover them, but be sure to vent them so they don’t collect too much extra water.
  11. The amount of time you cook your tomatoes will vary depending on the amount of tomatoes you have. Granny says, “Cook them HOT, until they fall all to pieces.” I have found that for a larger amount of tomatoes I will cook them for about 45 minutes to an hour. If it is around one quart or a pint, 30 minutes is usually sufficient.
  12. Once your tomatoes have “cooked all to pieces,” place them in the jar you wish to preserve them in with 1 tsp of salt per quart. (1/2 tsp per pint)
  13. Wipe the outer rip of your jar to be sure no debris will interfere with the sealing of the jar.
  14. Place your lid on and tighten using your band.
  15. Set your jar aside and within an unspecified amount of time you will hear the jar seal from the heat of the cooked tomatoes.

The end result...with our jalapenos. The next recipe to be posted in this series!
 Note: You cook your tomatoes “really hot” to kill any bacteria and to seal your jar. We realize this is not the conventional way of canning tomatoes; this is just the way we choose to do it. It works fine for us and we have delicious tomatoes!

Being the small family we are, we can them when they are ready, sometimes only canning a pint or a half pint. We think this will be beneficial to add to soups and chili in the winter. This also helps us from being overwhelmed by all those stinkin’ tomatoes trickling in one at a time!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Lost Art of Food Preservation

For the entertainment of my old, (literally speaking), friend Tony C, for informative reasons to those beginning this process like me, and for a mere journaling of my experience, I thought it worthy to share what I have learned during my first year canning. This is something I would have never imagined myself doing…just like having three children in three and a half years. I would have laughed with Tony C at the mere suggestion. However, times and people change and here we are with canned jalapenos, blueberry jam, tomatoes, and green beans from our very own garden. (Well, not the blueberries, they came from Rabbit Eye Orchard.)

Later in this series of posts, I will share the specific ways I go about canning the above mentioned. But today, I would like to share just some basic information about how we, The Franklins, go about canning. Much of my canning know-how came from this lady…

Also know as Granny Ann. Granny Ann has been doing this more decades than I’ve been alive. She does things a little different; but, it works and for us we’ll feel it is the safest option. (More on that later.)

Here are some tools we use in canning:

  • Pickling Salt (aka, just PLAIN salt)
  • Magnetic lid “grabber”
  • Jar Tongs
  • Spatula and headspace measurer
  • Funnel
This is how we do most of our canning.

By using this method, we save a bit of money on the power it would take to complete this process on the stove and the amount of heat it would produce in already smoldering weather. And again, this is the way Granny does it. Papaw Maney actually use to can over an open fire. Imagine that. I should add that many things can be canned just using a large pot on your stove. We’ve used that method on jalapenos. The first time because we didn’t have our water bath canner and the last time because we ran out of gas! This method worked fine.

Before starting on the specific foods we preserved, here are some helpful hints that I learned this summer. Jars and bands can be reused. Flats, or lids, cannot. Each year you will need new ones to ensure your jars seal properly. I throw my lids in a pot of water on the stove to heat them while I prepare the food. I place my jars on the stove over my warmer to warm them so there will be no shock from going from cold to really hot during the processing of the food. Another way to do this is place them in the oven on a low setting. This would be ideal if you were using a lot of jars. I believe around 150 degrees is recommended. (Honestly, I haven’t taken that much precaution in warming the jars and have been fine. I’m assuming this could cause your jar to break in certain conditions.) Although I don’t know why, you’re supposed to get “air bubbles” out of the jar. I’m still not sure I do this sufficiently?? It would help if I knew why I was supposed to do this.

This leads me to “safety” issues. First, if you choose to can on your stove and it is a glass top be careful. Nana has a friend whose stovetop was broken due to the weight of canning on it. I also know of ladies who have never had a problem. Just a warning in case you don’t know. I personally err on the side of caution and choose not to can several quarts on the glass stovetop. Second, we choose not to use a pressure canner. Accidents are a huge possibility when using a pressure cooker for canning. Granny says Geneva got her hand almost clear cut off and Betty was picking beans out of her curtains months later after a jar exploded. Granny said she stopped using a pressure canner when that happened to Geneva. I did have some reservations about this at first. Especially since all my friends were using pressure canning; however, after much thought we decided what we were doing was safe and fine. I’ll go into more of those reservations when I get to how we can our green beans.

So, all that being said…I look forward to inviting you into my kitchen. Join me tomorrow when I talk about an easy option to preserve tomatoes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Missions Not Accomplished

I can remember a time when I thrived in the midst of completed projects. Whatever it may be…the attainment of my black belt, crossing the finish line of a 5K, or any such goal I may have set out to accomplish in this small life of mine.

The thought of a completed project now sends my domesticated, maternal, wifely-self into fits of laughter…psychotic fits of laughter. Going from goal driven professional to following my calling as “mother” definitely has had dramatic impact on my mental state at times. As all mommies know, the vicious cycle of laundry, meal preparation, dishes, diapers, potty breaks, discipline, naptimes, nursing, doctor’s appointments, play dates, reading time, animal care, ironing, grocery shopping, picking up toys, intervening in sibling rivalry, and list making can be…well… a bit unending. (And not to forget the fact that it’s canning season!) Completion is not a relevant term in my mind any more, as is evidenced by my reading habits.

It has been nearly four months since I have completed a book. Once a voracious reader, I took in books and devoured them in days with excitement. Not to say that I haven’t read a book in four months. Maybe five months? Prior to my youngest peanut being born, I had just finished Crazy Love by Francis Chan and John Piper’s Think and was ready for more good theological brain food. I started out with Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. I was halfway through when 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp arrived in the mail. Being the emotionally driven pregnant lady I was at the time, I stopped all other reading and rushed to the couch from the mail box to devour…the first three or four chapters. Providentially, for whatever reason, I didn’t finish and haven’t even attempted to go back. AFTER, Anna was born I decided to attempt to pick up some more reading. Since that decision was made you will find a constant array of books strewn around my home…unfinished. I begin to read D. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ Spiritual Depression after borrowing it from a friend. Unfinished. I started re-reading Pink’s The Attributes of God. Unfinished. On my end table lies And Then I Had Kids: Encouragement for Mothers of Young Children by Susan Yates. Unfinished. And as of last week I started reading Sonya Shaffer’s Laying Down the Rails, A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook. I even started reading A Quest for Godliness by J.I. Packer and guess what? Right. Unfinished. Not to mention the book I received in the mail today from the Grateful for Grace giveaway…I couldn’t help but read the first two chapters in anticipation. (The book giveaway was Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe by Todd Wilson. It looks applicable to my own life and I haven't even started homeschooling yet!) Somewhere in all that mess I DID finish Rachel Jankovic’s Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches…but it was almost like a series of blog posts so does that really count?

My Bible reading…much the same. I try to read some Proverbs and Psalms each day. It’s the only reading in the Bible that makes sense when read in bite size amounts and it seems bits and pieces of anything is all I can handle at one time. I did start to read through the New Testament and made it to Matthew 8 or 9. I also started in Jeremiah and made it to chapter 5.

But today…Nate announced he wanted to read through the Bible in 180 days. And eagerly my soul screamed, “Here is my chance! Here is my chance to finish something! Hooray! Hoo-rah!”

I simply want to finish a book that isn’t written by Dr. Seuss and doesn’t have pictures. And isn't the Bible the very best choice?!

And so begins my adventure…I’m glad I have hubby to tag along.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Still doubting...

Lately, I find myself feeling as if those chains are still tied around my feet binding me to laws and illuminating my sin. Where is my freedom? It seems that if I could find this freedom then I could find that joy that I was looking for awhile back as well. My mind races with overwhelming thoughts of my insufficiencies and I return to bondage and do not cling to the grace that has been offered.

I quickly forget that the lives of my children are in His hands and that He has a purpose for them. He has an eternal purpose that will take place despite my best efforts and daily mess-ups. Each night I lay down assuring myself tomorrow will be different…tomorrow I will take on the day differently. I will not put so much confidence in my own labors but I will have contentment in the working out of His will in our lives.

How do I live the gospel message before them when I wake up each day putting trust in myself? I’m like the disciples that walked with Jesus, “O ye of little faith.” Incredulous. Skeptical. Unbelieving. Unconvinced. Am I truly unconvinced of the grace that is offered to me? The grace that covers such a thing as my forgiveness all the way down to the grace that says He will provide me with protection from the storms?

“The good Shepherd has tender care for children that are towardly and hopeful, for young converts, that are setting out in the way to heaven, for weak believers, and those that are of a sorrowful spirit. These are the lambs of his flock, that shall be sure to want nothing that their case requires. He will gather them in the arms of his power; his strength shall be made perfect in their weakness, 2 Co 12:9. He will gather them in when they wander, gather them up when they fall, gather them together when they are dispersed, and gather them home to himself at last; and all this with his own arm, out of which none shall be able to pluck them, John 10:28. He will carry them in the bosom of his love and cherish them there. When they tire or are weary, are sick and faint, when they meet with foul ways, he will carry them on, and take care they are not left behind. He will gently lead them. By his word he requires no more service, and by his providence he inflicts no more trouble, than he will fit them for; for he considers their frame.” Matthew Henry on Isaiah 40:11

Do I dare say that often I don’t feel Him gently leading me? I don’t feel the comfort of His bosom and I don’t feel cherished…

I still long for His presence…each day I come to Him in prayer pleading for His presence to be in this home. Each day I know that just because I don’t feel Him doesn’t mean He is not here. So here I go, unconvinced, sometimes skeptical, yet still praying in the name of the only One who can bring me into the presence of God. Praying for my faith to increase and repenting for when it lacks.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweet Anna

It has officially been four months since sweet Anna came into our lives. I thought you were deserving of an update.

Anna is wonderful. She just goes with the flow and deals with what is handed to her.

The other two, however, seem to have a problem with sharing.

For those of  you who don't understand such talk as that of a toddler and a preschooler, it goes something like this...

Dat my sissy.
No dat my sissy.
No. I'm your sissy and dat my sissy.
No dat my sissy.

Get the gist?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pink on The Foreknowledge of God

When the solemn and blessed subject of Divine foreordination is expounded, when God’s eternal choice of certain ones to be conformed to the image of His Son is set forth, the Enemy sends along some man to argue that election is based upon the foreknowledge of God, and this "foreknowledge" is interpreted to mean that God foresaw certain ones would be more pliable than others, that they would respond more readily to the strivings of the Spirit, and that because God knew they would believe, He, accordingly, predestinated them unto salvation. But such a statement is radically wrong. It repudiates the truth of total depravity, for it argues that there is something good in some men. It takes away the independency of God, for it makes His decrees rest upon what He discovers in the creature. It completely turns things upside down, for in saying God foresaw certain sinners would believe in Christ, and that because of this, He predestinated them unto salvation, is the very reverse of the truth. Scripture affirms that God, in His high sovereignty, singled out certain ones to be recipients of His distinguishing favors (Acts 13:48), and therefore He determined to bestow upon them the gift of faith. False theology makes God’s foreknowledge of our believing the cause of His election to salvation; whereas, God’s election is the cause, and our believing in Christ is the effect.
From A.W. Pink's The Attributes of God (emphasis added)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pink on The Decrees of God

I'm going through my second reading of The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink. I find I actually absorb the things I read the second time I read them.

The entire book is a treasure with so many wonderful thoughts on God and who He is. I'm going to share just a few quotes that really set in with me as I was/am re-reading...

The decrees of God relate to all future things without exception: whatever is done in time, was foreordained before time began. God’s purpose was concerned with everything, whether great or small, whether good or evil, although with reference to the latter we must be careful to state that while God is the Orderer and Controller of sin, He is not the Author of it in the same way that He is the Author of good. Sin could not proceed from a holy God by positive and direct creation, but only by decretive
permission and negative action. God’s decree is as comprehensive as His government, extending to all creatures and all events. It was concerned about our life and death; about our state in time, and our state in eternity. As God works all things after the counsel of His own will, we learn from His works what His counsel is (was), as we judge of an architect’s plan by inspecting the building which was erected under
his directions.

God did not merely decree to make man, place him upon the earth, and then leave him to his own uncontrolled guidance; instead, He fixed all the circumstances in the lot of individuals, and all the particulars which will comprise the history of the human race from its commencement to its close. He did not merely decree that general laws should be established for the government of the world, but He settled the application of those laws to all particular cases. Our days are numbered, and so are the hairs of our heads. We may learn what is the extent of the Divine decrees from the dispensations of providence, in which they are executed. The care of Providence reaches to the most insignificant creatures, and the most minute events—the death of a sparrow, and the fall of a hair. A.W. Pink