Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cacao Nibs



Here is an excellent recipe using cacao nibs. My daughter says that the first thing you taste in the cookies is the butter, then other ingredients. The last thing you taste, is chocolate. Interesting! The cacao nibs are chopped cacao beans, from which chocolate is made. Cacao is a purer form of chocolate, having not been processed with alkali. The effect is much more satisfying when you want chocolate, because you don't feel the need to eat 24 cookies. The taste is so special and rich, you don't need as much. Organic cane sugar or other types of natural sweeteners, such as date sugar, etc. should work just fine in this recipe. Look for cacao nibs in your whole foods stores.






Cacao Nib Drop Cookies Recipe
Interesting Notes
This recipe was part of the Milwaukee Spice House newsletter from April 2005.
Modified from "The Joy of Cooking" by Irma S. Rombauer & Marion Rombauer Becker.
Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup roasted cacao nibs
Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream the butter, then gradually add both sugars and beat until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together and stir in with other ingredients. Stir in the cacao nibs last. Drop the batter from a teaspoon, well apart, on a grased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes. Let cool before serving. Enjoy!
Helpful Hints
Try substituting cacao nibs for chocolate chips or nuts in your favorite recipe.





http://www.chocolate.com/articles/assorted-chocolate-facts.html

(Picture: Te Cafe Y Chocolate, by Consuelo Gamboa from Allposters.

Quote from a candy blog: "never ask why cover anything in chocolate ... we cover things in chocolate because that’s what sets us apart from animals"

For those requests about cacao nibs, you can order them from http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/roasted-cacao-nibs This is where Lillibeth got them.

There is an article here about why you should only buy organically grown chocolate: http://www.mercola.com/blog/2006/jan/20/why_is_dark_chocolate_good_for_your_cardiovascular_system

Monday, April 23, 2007

Reasons We Need Orderly, Clean Houses

I realize that most people do not have these elegant rooms, but I chose the pictures because they depict orderly and clean rooms. It is always good to hold before us a picture to aspire to, especially in this day and age when people do not often have the privilege of seeing the homes of other people.
















Photo from www.magnoliahall.com

We need to clean up and beautify our homes to
1. Prevent injuries: Falling over toys, things sticking out on kitchen surfaces, or other objects are the most prominent causes of injuries.

2. Maintain health: Keeping kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms etc. sanitary promotes good health and prevents the spread of bacteria.

3. Increase optimism: A disorganized, messy house makes everyone depressed, especially the homemaker.

4. Teach good manners and appreciation: If it doesn't matter where we put things, or how clean our homes are, family members will not have the right kind of respect for posessions and will have even less respect for one another.

5. So that our homes have a fresh, lovely scent. No matter how many sprays and home scents you buy, the house still has to be clean, first.

























The Window Seat by Lidia Dinner from www.allposters.com

We need to have clean, orderly and beautiful homes, because:

1. You will be prepared to call at the spur of the moment and have someone come over for a cup of tea or a heart-to-heart.

2. You won't be embarrassed if someone comes by unexpectedly.

3. You will free your mind and time for other things like catching up on sewing and correspondence, or some other creative work.

4. Cleanliness and order diffuses worry and anxiety. There seems to be less commotion and upheaval in families where everyone takes care with their possessions, puts away shoes and coats, keeps toys in a separate room, and generally looks after things. One lady I know who is now a great-grandmother said to me, "We lived in a small house when our children were little, so I let them play in the living room with their toys. But, half an hour before their father came home, they had to remove them all. I did this out of respect for him."

5. We need clean, orderly homes so that we can find things we need and not have to go out and buy them again.
























Victorian Lady 2 by John O'Brien from www.allposters.com

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Home Work



I thought these paintings were interesting because of part of the bio of the artist (see the end). Isn't it interesting that ordinary housekeeping could also be the subject of an artists brush? I mentioned something like this when we had the online broadcast about homemaking, saying that it would be a very good influence to surround our daughters with good posters of women doing worthwhile work at home, cast in a favorable light, instead of letting them be constantly exposed to posters of rock stars, and other stars that have contributed very little to making marriage, home and family, more secure.


(Painting: "Sun, Moon, and Flowers" by George Leslie)

However, if women want once again to have domestic life portrayed in a lovely way and promoted by the culture, they must get back to acting the part more seriously. Every thought and every action must be analyzed as to whether or not it is worthwhile or beneficial to the woman and the family. Women can spend decades in retail work, and yet lose their families. Women can be successful in show business, and yet leave a trail of grief around them because they did not spend the time necessary in the home to secure the loyalty and love of their families.

You may wonder, "What does neglecting the home and housekeeping have to do with a broken home?" The house being neglected is a very serious problem, because people do not want to stay in a place that is too disorganized or unclean. Making a bed up in fresh sheets and adding a pretty cushion, or ironing a shirt and hanging it up, shows love and consideration for your own people in your own home. Families tend to be more irritable when the home is not in order. They aren't as optimistic or healthy or happy when they can't find things and when nothing is clean.

There are now shows on television that show before and after's of people's homes where the trash was not disposed of for months and years. This is a shameful reflection on the homemaker. This can also be the result of trying to work outside the home, and neglecting the inside. There are also jobs that women take upon themselves that take up the time they need to keep house.

We have said before, here, that a woman needs to have the time to concentrate on her home, and if she is distracted by other projects that have nothing to do with housekeeping or homemaking, she will find it harder to really do a good job.























(Painting"This is the Way We Wash Our Clothes" by George Leslie )

It would be great if everyone had a mother that was a good example, and had good homemaking habits bred into them from an early age, but there is still no excuse. Today, we have available to us many wonderful books and films, and even classes that we can attend, that show us how to care for our homes and families. Even online, there are a great number of video clips which demonstrate everything from washing dishes to baking bread.

There are also some nice sites that show the inside of real people's houses, to give you inspiration. I like the current home on this site http://theoldpaintedcottage.com/cottagemonth.html because I noticed the floors were bare, and that is one of the lessons we learned in trying to streamline our homes (see the article below called "The Streamlined Home." "Mantel of the Month" here is nice http://www.enchantedtreasures.com/mantel-of-the-month/?month=4&year=2007 is inspiring because, if you don't want clutter around you, there is a way to have those little things you like to keep, all in one place that is up and out of the way, if the collection is on a shelf or mantel.

(The above paintings were created by George Dunlop Leslie1835-1921. The London-born son of painter Charles Robert Leslie achieved his aim of painting "pictures from the sunny side of English domestic life". His speciality was bright paintings of girls doing household chores. He studied at the Royal Academy where he exhibited his work annually from 1857. In 1868 he became an associate of the Royal Academy, and eight years later an academician.)

The Dover book company has many books about the interiors of the Victorian era. Two particular books, Victorian Ornaments and Designs , and Architecture, Interior Design, Period Style Photographs of New York Interiors at the Turn of the Century, show real photographs of the rooms of various homes of the period. It is interesting to see how they used various things to embellish the home--things like panels of lace, scarves, plants, and such.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Soup's On

Here is a recipe for soup from your kitchen. While I make it by "eyeing" the amount, or placing a handful of this or that, for the sake of precision, I'll use measurements.

In a medium sized sauce pan, place two tablespoons of oil or butter and heat til it begins to bubble.

Then add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion.

Fry them until they are transparent, but not too well cooked or carmelized.

Put in 1 cup of tiny cubes of potatoes.

Pour enough water, approximately 1 cup, to just cover it, and then put on a lid.

Bring to a boil and boil until soft.

Then, take a masher and mash the potato mixture until somewhat fine. Its okay to leave some bits and chunks.

Now add fresh chopped tomatoes and again, bring to a boil, and mash some more.

After this, pour in 1 cup of half and half, or heavy cream.

Then sprinkle over the mixture about a fourth teaspoon of Italian Seasoning or Basil, and another 1/4 teaspoon of dried parsley.

Add about 1/4 or less of sea salt.

Bring to a boil again, and serve in small bowls. This serves 4 adults, but is so delicious that you may want to make the recipe much larger.

What tastes good with this? A toasted cheese and turkey sandwich. Just butter one side of Italian bread and put in a fry pan which has been heated on medium heat.

To this add a slice of cheese or some grated cheese, and layer over it a couple of slices of roasted turkey. Put another piece of bread on top and butter it. Then when it looks like the cheese is melting, flip it over to the other side to toast.

Cut into fourths and serve on a plate with the bowl of soup.

You can adjust this recipe to what you have in your kitchen. For instance, today, I used the butter, onion, brocoli, carrots and cream. I added a pinch of nutmeg.

The Streamlined Home

Some families have a problem with housekeeping because they cannot see any progress from one end of the day to the next. They may start out picking up and cleaning everything but by the end of the day, everything is a mess again. I tried an experiment regarding this, during the weekend. I first observed the things that I was having to pick up every day, or all day, over and over. Then I looked around to see how many magazines, books, papers, and projects were on every surface, including the kitchen cabinet tops, the tables, and other surfaces like mantels, tops of bookshelves, piano, and so forth. Then I observed the floor. It was not bare, but strewn with things that had been temporarily set down, and managed to remain there permanently.








(By the way, the small photos you see here are from the home decorating section of Butterick patterns online.)

My daughter and I decided to end her frustration with books and papers, which seemed to dominate her home, by putting them all in a book room. Every single item that was a book or a paper, including the telephone directory, was put in this special book room. When I say room, I'm not saying that a person needs to sacrifice an entire room for this, but at least have a section of a room where all the papers and books go, no matter what.

The only paper that was left out was a shopping list, a message pad for the phone, and the small church directory, where she also writes her other favorite numbers.

We decided that nothing was to be put on a surface or table unless it was beautiful and gave us peace. No clutter, therefore, would be allowed, and because putting things down, here and there, or not putting things back after using them, can be a type of addiction, we made a rule that at the end of the day every surface had to be clean.

The three rooms we streamlined were: the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room. If we could maintain these three rooms throughout the weekend, then we would move on to the bedrooms and bathrooms.

After all tables and tops of things were cleared, we arranged pots and vases of flowers and greeenery, picking our bouquets from her own yard. She had tulips, rosemary, heather, hyacinths and ferns, all which made splended bouquets. We put them in various jugs and glassware that made wonderful vases. We searched through her fabric collection and found pieces that matched the bouquets, to fold and place under them.

Another rule we made was that the floors had to be plain and uncluttered. Nothing could rest on the floors except the furniture. Children could not come in and play with a dozen tinker toys for awhile and then abandon them and let the mess lie there for days and days, only to add to it more messes in the form of leggo or bridge building. With a baby in the house, it was important that we not trip over anything, so toys and shoes all had a box they were kept in.

At the end of the weekend, we were pleased that there was no longer the problem of having the same mess twice in the day. The paper problem seemed to have been conquered. However we knew that we could never again allow even a receipt or a piece of mail to be temporarily put down on a surface if we were to ever get control of our homes. Her mother in law provided her with a wall shelf that held keys, mail, wallets, cellphones, lists, etc. and this was most helpful.














I phoned my daughter a few days later and pretended to be the house inspector. I asked her three questions:

1. Are your floors bare? (no clutter, no toys, no shoes, no papers)

2. Are your surfaces bare except for the vases we placed there?

3. Are you maintaining those three rooms we cleaned?

I found that not only had she EASILY maintained those three rooms, but that the success she was having, gave her the energy and enthusiasm to tackle the other rooms, and enjoy doing it as well.

When you have been sitting somewhere, make sure when you leave that area that you pick up after yourself. Don't leave a magazine or book or a blanket and a pillow and your shoes and socks, a potato chip bag and a can of pop lying there. Remove the evidence!

Two other important things had to be established: The laundry had to be caught up, and we had to see the floor of the laundry room, and the dishes had to be done.

If, after cleaning the kitchen, someone wanted to use a cup and get a drink, and then set it aside to drink from again during the day, I suggested that if the sink were clean, she put the cup inside the bare sink. That way, it does not become clutter and will be out of sight. When you have a family of 6, that type of thing can become an eyesore.

During the day, even while relaxing, she could sweep her eyes around those three rooms every now and then and look for "culprits" or things out of line. You almost have to be a fanatic, at first, when you begin to have new habits. Later, though, you will be on automatic pilot.

You won't even be aware that you are maintaining your home, if you develop these habits. You don't need to constantly remind everyone that you are working, and gasp in exhaustion when you do. You just develop these automatic habits, and the family will follow. The young ones will have to be told what you are doing, so they can follow along, but you will eliminate the need to lecture in frustration, over a messy house, if you will make these habits part of you.

Now let me tell you why I don't think you need pens and papers and such in every room and all over the place. You don't need all your books out. You don't need your peanut butter and bread out. You don't need any thing to be convenient because this will only encourage sloth. Human beings are supposed to be different than animals at a trough. Trough living means that everything is just poured out there and no one has to open a door and bring out a cup, or get out ingredients to make sandwiches and then put them back. It is like grazing, when we leave everything to be convenient. Civilized living is not built on convenience but inconvience, in a lot of cases. We might think it is okay to have post it notes all over the place but it would be better to have one spot to go and look for our information. So, while I was negotiating some neat-nik changes in my daughter's house, we were also trying to train ourselves to get things out and put things back, which greatly distinguishes us from creatures of lower living .

Finally, to give you a real lift, here is a charming thing to make with almost no money. http://oldfashionedliving.com/holidays/maybaskets.html Since I've seen this, I've changed my basket-giving techniques to almost all home made.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Roses for Wednesday


I noticed on some of the art-poster sites where you can get paintings for your slide shows and blogs, websites, etc. that there is also
a little "print" icon. This means, I suppose, that it is apparently alright to print these things, for your own use. (I'm always worried about copyright) This is called "Pink and Yellow Roses" from Allposters. .
To add to the previous article about moods: I've heard the common expression that people have "good days and bad days," and of course, we all realize that life is part good and part bad. However I think we can exert a great deal more control over moods, because our days can be good or bad depending upon what we put into them, and how we handle the wind and the waves that come our way. As I said in the online homemaking conference, when we are faced with insurmountable duties, we can either have a break down or we can roll up our sleeves and tackle whatever needs to be done. If you are alone, a breakdown doesn't seem so harmful, but if you have other people around, depending on your leadership, you might, like many of our forebearers, have to put on a stiff upper lip. When my daughter gets overwhelmed by housework, she calls me on her cell phone (her husband got her a head set so she could use her hands while phoning), and we talk each other through some of these messes. The tasks seem to go faster when you are talking to someone!
If you think your moods are being effected by your over all health, check out
http://v.mercola.com/blogs/public_blog/Are-Antidepressants-Ever-Necessary--9354.aspx
You can also sign up for the newsletter, which keeps you updated on the things to avoid that are dangerous to your physical and emotional health. Keep in mind that there is a big difference between "medical" care and HEALTH care. Good health will have a great deal to do with the emotions, and involves things like adequate rest, food as close to nature as possible, peaceful living, good water, and many other things. These kinds of things do not require insurance or a great deal of money.
(Note: in reading Dr. M.'s articles, be aware that he often starts with an article about conventional medicine at the beginning of the page, and then posts his comments afterwards. You might end up thinking he agrees with a lot of the liberal views in the medical articles, but read the entire page and you will see how he refutes some of these claims.)


Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday Morning

Many people experince feelings of gloom and moodiness on Mondays. Perhaps it is a result of the frenzied activities on weekends, followed by a severe let-down on Monday. Whatever the cause, here are some cloud-breakers for you.



Everyone who is human experiences let-down feelings. That in itself can be reassurring. One day I was not feeling particularly enthusiastic about life, and so I thought I might as well catch up on my Bible reading.

We have a little weekly chart in our church bulletin that shows the daily reading schedule, and that day it was 2 chapters in the book of Numbers.

For those of you not familiar with the Bible, the book of numbers is a tedious counting of the tribes of Israel when they left Egypt and journeyed to the Promised Land. The chapters I was reading were very mundane and boring, and yet I knew there was a reason to be reading them, so I read them.

I commented to my daughter afterwards, that even though the words had no particular impact on my life, or meaning to me, or in fact, did not inspire me to do something better, a special feeling of calmness came over me when I read them. We both began to bounce ideas off each other as to why that should be so. After all, we were interested in solving our problems of getting things done on time, looking after children, shopping the best bargains, making adequate meals, keeping the house clean, and helping other members of the family in their endeavors. I tend to read things that help me understand my life and my role, and the book of Numbers dealt mostly with numbers.

One thing that we came up with was that in reading the book of Numbers, even though it didn't seem to have the drama or instruction or wisdom in it that other books have, it was at least, the truth. There is something quite calming about truthful words, even if they aren't like light coming out of the clouds on a gloomy day. When days are besieged by nervousness and unforseen problems, reading something that has no drama or problems in it, can soothe the pounding heart. I have a few books that are mainly pictures, along with little sayings, that have a similar effect.

And so, we both discovered that when you feel moody and let-down, good reading material, good art, and good words, are essential cloud-breakers. Behind every cloud, there is sunshine, of course. Every "blue-period" has a purpose.

Sometimes human beings just need to sit still and read something calming. It reminds me of one time when I was feeling particularly tired and a little "down" and someone told me about a marvellous vitamin that would give me more energy. I declined, saying that I really didn't want more energy because then I would do more things, and be even more tired.

Sometimes the cloudy moods are for the purpose of resting. At such times, it might be helpful to take a scented bath and wear a pretty dress, listen to lovely music, and buy a bouquet of pretty flowers. Many people say they cannot afford fresh flowers, but if they would look at the amount they spend at coffee shops, fast food restaurants, fizzy drinks (which can add up to as much as $30.00 a month sometimes) they can afford 12 stems of roses from the grocery store at about $11.00. These can last quite a few weeks and give such a lift to the homemaker.

Knowing that others feel these things makes us more aware of what we could do to pick them up emotionally: a basket of pleasant things, a box of tea things to make their own personal afternoon tea, or, how about this: make your own personal book on tape by reading something that the recipient would like, on tape or cd. (Please don't ask me how to do this. I haven't learned how to make a cd myself yet).

Another thing that I have observed that prevents the cast-down feeling is a way of eating. Sometimes, in an effort to get a lift and get out of a down mood, people will eat lots of cookies and sweets and breads. It makes them feel great, but the next day is almost always a let-down day. Those kinds of simple-carbs can lift you up temporarily, but will let you down the next day. So, a way of eating that involves regular meals, not too heavily loaded with starches, will prevent hunger and desperate type binges. Regular meals keep the blood sugar level at a normal high, and prevents the terrible let down feeling that can result in moroseness, negativism, and sometimes even anger.

( continued)

There are several things that I do that will invariably life my spirits and relieve me of any sadness or worry.

I get dressed up as if someone important were coming to see me, or I were going to see them. I get my house in order by picking up clutter, dusting, putting things in different places to make a new look, and bake something that smells good. I air out my house. I listen to good music. Most of the time when people are feeling down, the physical senses, such as sound, sight, and smell, are not being used. I get a small box or basket of things ready to take to someone, or write a letter. I find a way to make something "do" without spending money. I have inexpensive clear lights (the kind that people buy at Christmas time) which I leave wound around shelves and tops of cabinets. These tiny, sparkling lights can be used year-round, and they give a different kind of indirect lighting that improves the mood.

Years ago I eliminated all the reading material from my library that had anything depressing in it. From then on, I was careful what I read, and I noticed that I was not as susceptible to down feelings or low moods. I don't buy the women's magazines that do not celebrate true womanhood, or watch the shows that do not promote marriage, home and family. I only read and watch what really gives me a lift. I surround myself in the color and the things that make me smile.

For those who really need a lift outside the home, go here http://www.thevictorianparlor.com/main.html, or here for those who live near Mornington, Victoria, Australia http://travelactivities.news.com.au/activity/WDME101/?categoryid=11&fromdate=2007-04-07

Painting: "Summer's Day in the Flower Garden" by Robert Payton Reid

Robert Payton Reid (1859-1945) was an Edinburgh-based artist. He trained in Edinburgh and then in Munich and Paris in the 1880s. He travelled extensively through Europe during his career. His paintings of landscapes and figures reflect his widespread travels and awareness of issues of the day.

My friend, Lisa, has a wonderful article about rising up from sadness and loss (whether it be the death of a loved one or unforseen misfortunes, etc.) here http://countryvictorian.blogspot.com/2007/04/to-everything-there-is-season.html on her beautiful blog. Her writing is like a beautiful painting. Be sure to click on her blog title and read other articles like the one called "Lead a quiet life" here http://countryvictorian.blogspot.com/2007/02/until-we-meet-again.html

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