Friday, December 21, 2012

Random Kitchen Information

Rather than buy brown sugar I buy molasses.  Add it to crystalized sugar, and you have brown sugar.  It is true - just read the bag of brown sugar you just purchased.

Cumin is the key ingredient in taco seasoning.  I never buy packaged taco seasoning instead I use this approximate recipe (I rarely measure, just guess).  As long as I have cumin it tastes like tacos!  1t salt, 2T Chili powder, 1t cumin, 1t garlic powder/clove garlic, 2T paprika.  Sometimes I add oregano.

Teriyaki sauce can be replaced with 2T soysauce, 2T apple cider vinegar, 2T honey.

Baking is my favorite way to prepare bacon.  It stays flat so it stacks in sandwiches nicely, plus I love the finished taste and texture.  Lay it on a  metal cooling rack in a pan (single layer), or if you have a crisping pizza pan that just happens to fit perfectly on top of your deep dish pizza pan you can lay your bacon on it.  It sometimes helps to coat the pan before placing the bacon to avoid sticking.  Put it in a cold oven, turn on your temperature to 400 and bake for about 20 minutes.  I have tried it with a warm oven and it does not work as well.

I like to make a large batch of bread dough in a 5 gallon covered pail and pop it into the fridge.  Similar to the 5 minute artisan bread books.  The 5-minute doughs tend to be wetter doughs so you do not have to knead them... however, for my basic bread recipe, I make it the same way whether I am baking that day, or prepping the dough for use throughout the week.  Make your dough per the usual directions, only rather than letting it rise in a warm place for 1 hour or so (first rise), put it in your bucket and put it in the fridge.  Want fresh baked bread, reach into the bucket and pull out a hand-full.  My loaves usually start with 20oz of dough.

That is all for today!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pumpkin Waffles or Pancakes

This recipe first came to my attention on pinterest.  It is such an amazing place to browse food, and craft ideas.

It linked to the recipe here:

I made these for the first time in the evening after everyone was in bed, pre-made breakfast for the next morning (hubby does not like running the waffle irons).  As usual, I did not follow the recipe exactly, nor did I take the time to complete all the steps as thoroughly as the author.  After taste testing most of the first batch, I made a second batch that same night so the kids would have breakfast.  I do not have a belgian waffle maker, but I do have 2 antique irons.  In my irons it takes 3 - 5 minutes per waffle.  The second time, I made them as pancakes.  I should have used lower heat so they cooked through or thinned the batter, instead I just flattened them down after flipping.  They were loved both ways.

INGREDIENTS My alterations are in red
makes 4 round “Belgian” style pumpkin waffles
Click here for the metric version of the recipe.
• 1/4 cup light brown sugar 1/4 cup white sugar with about 1t molasses
• 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
• 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 50-100% Whole Wheat Flour
• 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
• 2 tsp. ginger  We did not have ginger - I threw in a mystery spice (long story - it was cloves or nutmeg or allspice or?)
• 1/4 tsp. cloves
• 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg dried powdered
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup whole milk   whey - the first time it was vanilla whey, so the second time I added 2t vanilla
• 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin  1C fresh pumpkin or squash
• 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and warm  Olive oil
*Grated and lightly packed into the spoon, use 1/2 tsp. Grated and loosely scooped, this is about 1 tsp. of nutmeg. If you have to use pre-grated, dried nutmeg, use 1/4 tsp.
1. Lightly oil the waffle iron with vegetable oil  I always melt butter and brush it on, and set it to the desired temperature.
 The first time I did the extra work of 2 - 8, the second time I just threw everything in the food processor and mixed.  My blender is super weak or I would have use it instead.  I would have mixed it all with a hand whisk, but my pumpkin was a little frozen still so I ran it through the processor first.
2. Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk together to break apart the cornstarch. Add the remaining dry ingredients, and whisk to blend. 
3. Separate eggs: yolks go in a medium sized bowl and whites get set aside in a smaller bowl.
4. Add pumpkin and milk to the egg yolks. Whisk to blend and set aside.
5. Whip egg whites with a hand mixer on high until stiff peaks form – about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes. Set aside  the author must have a supper powered hand mixer, because after 5 minutes mine weren't peaked so I just dumped them in - impatience runs great in my blood.
6. Pour melted butter into the yolk/milk/pumpkin mixture. As you pour, whisk to combine.
7. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix them together until just combined. A little lumpiness is fine. That will smooth out when the egg whites are added.
8. Slide the whipped egg whites out of the bowl and onto the mixture you just prepared. Gently fold them in until no white bits are obvious.
9. Once the waffle iron is heated, you’re ready to pour the batter! In my Presto FlipSide waffle maker, cook time is exactly 2 minutes 30 seconds.  My thin/crunchy waffle iron cooks in 3 minutes, my thicker puffier iron cooks in 5.

Japanese Chilcken & Egg on Rice

Made this recipe last night.  It was super yummy!  I of course did not follow the recipe to the letter, mostly because I did not have some of the ingredients.  My modifications are in red.

Found the recipe here:
  • 2 cups white rice 2 C brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil Olive oil
  • 4 chopped scallions a small amount of green onions
  • 1 cup chicken broth 1 C water plus a bullion cube
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots skipped
  • 2 cups baby spinach chopped collard greens
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 4 chicken cutlets, cut into strips 2 C of chicken thigh pieces
  • 5 large beaten eggs

How to make it

  1. Cook the rice (for a total of 4 cups of cooked rice).
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped scallions green onions and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the shredded carrots and baby spinach collard greens and stir until the spinach has completely wilted. Actually I put the collards in with the green onions and sauteed then added the broth.
  3. Stir in the sugar and soy sauce. Add the chicken and simmer for 3 more minutes.
  4. Pour the eggs over the chicken mixture and simmer until the eggs are cooked through, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. I think I actually had it cooking in this last phase longer.  Maybe more like 20 minutes. Serve the mixture over the cooked rice.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Afraid of Something for Far Too Long

My son is in wrestling for the second year.  It is a group of K-5th graders in a very short 4-week introductory session.  It gives the kids an idea of what wrestling is about, gives parents an inexpensive activity for the kids to try and find out if there really is interest. Last year my daughter also participated but chose not to this year.  We are hoping for dance lessons.

During a wrestling game called "Sharks" boys are grouped by height in rows of 7 - 10 boys.  The smallest starts the game wrestling the next boy in line.  Whoever gets the first take down wins and takes on the next in line.  There was a boy (I will call him John) who had been hurt during one of the matches, he is probably one of the older kids.  I did not see how he was injured.  I only saw John fighting with himself to hold back the tears.  One of the other boys (Mikey) reached out to comfort him, but was slugged for his efforts.  This surprised me.

My previous interactions with John had been only positive.  During practice they often ask the parents to help out.  I try to watch what they are learning closely so that I can help during practice and later at home with my son.  John had been unexpectedly polite when I was helping them learn some of the moves they were practicing.  I thought "what a good kid".

When John slugged him, Mikey appeared a little hurt by John's response, but seemed to put it behind him.  Mikey even tried to get another friend to see if John would accept comfort, but his attempts were shaken off as well.

Why refuse to accept comfort?

It was during wrestling practice that I was reminded of something from my childhood.

When I was a kid, my school had a swimming pool.  Everyone had swimming as part of the Phy.Ed. curriculum.  I even had swimming lessons outside of school days.  There was one day during a free-swim period that I dove in.  It was too shallow for me to have been diving or my technique was off.  Whatever it was, I hit my head and found myself disoriented on the bottom of the pool for a moment or two.  The memory does not include me breathing in any water or having to be pulled out by someone else.  As I recall, I shook it off, got out of the water and continued through the rest of the swim time.  To this day though I avoid putting my head underwater if I can.  I still adore swimming but cannot get past the fear and panic that overwhelms me when underwater.

It was some time after this incident that I was standing in line to dive into the deep end with a group of classmates.  We had to dive.  I was scared.  I knew how to swim.  I knew how to dive.  I just remember standing there wanting to run away or cry.  I may have been crying, but I do not recall.  A friend reached out to comfort me.  Instead of opening up, accepting the comfort, and confessing my fear, I pushed her away.  I did not want anyone to know I was afraid.

Watching John and Mikey interact made me wonder if I could have let go of my fear all those years ago if I had just confessed it to someone else.  Naming something and saying it out loud to someone usually is the very thing needed to move past it, get over it, and live a full life.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blue House Garden

I would like to build Blue House Garden into something amazing. A business that fully carries our family. A venture that serves as an example to others.

I watched a video recently about building a business. I will sum up the main point as: Find your passion, package it perfectly, and find a give-away to get them interested. This is a great concept, even if I have over-simplified its core. I am trying to sort out what that means to me and Blue House Garden, to figure out what Blue House Garden is, which direction to take it, where it wants to go, or where I want it to go.

First I need to revisit our family mission:
We wish to live well on God's land, being good stewards of his creatures, plants, and soil. We wish to raise our children healthy and strong - physically, mentally, and emotionally. We wish to be independent of the economic tide. Work well, play hard, create beauty.

Then I need to address the question of which passion, which packaging, which give-away.

Among my list of passions is Wholesome Foods: Growing, creating, baking, and selling of wholesome foods make me happy. I love being in the kitchen and attacking a recipe mad-scientist style.

Side questions:
When does a recipe become your own? The writer in me wants to attribute recipes to their source. Where do all the "new" recipes come from published in the new cookbooks (even ghost cookbook writers must get it somewhere)? Are they just slight modifications from the original? Do they change one ingredient, or even just relabel it and call it their own?
I was given a newspaper clipping of a cracker recipe this week. I was missing one ingredient, and contrary to my usual methods, actually went and purchased the one ingredient instead of substituting. I also did not make the other usual modifications I like to make to recipes. Had I made these modifications, would it then have been my recipe, and not needed a reference? I did use a different method for one step. Does that make it mine? If I explain in a different way, does that make it mine?

These questions swirl in my mind as I consider what Blue House Garden is going to be. What direction I will take. I can imagine myself one day having a book. Perhaps a guide on how to be a homesteader. Perhaps a cook book with the tips, tricks, and twists I use in most of my cooking and baking. Maybe a combination of both. Maybe a story, with the recipes, tips, and guide rolled in unexpectedly?

What can I give for free to encourage my customers to want more? We usually have samples at our farmer's market stand. Most of the time that works well. What else can we do?

An article I read this week spoke of a family that had an open door policy one night per week, everyone was welcome to "Taco Tuesdays". It helped them get to know the neighbors and their kids friends.

What if Blue House Garden instituted Tasting Tuesdays. Every Tuesday at dinner, the doors are open to everyone, and anyone. Come try out the latest recipes, tour the farm, meet the goats. It might help with word of mouth advertising. It might show people a little more about who we are. It might encourage people to buy the product because they were getting a small taste.

Things to ponder...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Whens the last time you read this story: Genesis 18 - 19

I am not a Bible scholar.  I am simply stopping to wonder about stories from my childhood.

Genesis 18-19 for the full story. 

The story of "No one righteous"

“The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

The characters:
Abe.  A nice guy.  One of those nice guys who feels he needs to defend others.  Talk down about a friend and he will defend their honor - even when he agrees completely with what the arguer is saying.
The Visitors.  A group of 1-3 men. Abe recognized them as messengers/angels/prophets.
Lot.  Headstrong.  Always wanted to have Abe's approval but never felt he could live up to his standards.  Lives in a nearby city instead of raising sheep with Abe and his family.
Lot's Wife & Daughters.  They love the city.  They hate that Lot tries to keep them separate from the rest of the city.


The Visitors show up on Abe's property.  Not many people came to see him, so when they were there he immediately told them he wanted to throw them a party.  Food!  Let me make you food.  They said sure.

Having served them some of his best - family secret recipes, fatted calves, fresh bread - he stood near by being a good host.

"FYI: Your wife is going to have a baby by next year when we stop by again." says the first visitor.

I would laugh too.  A baby at my age.  Really?!  Seriously, after all these years and longing - now you give me a kid.  I finally feel like I was settling into my everyday life. I already have the son of my maid to raise as my own. Plus there are a few other servant's kids I love like my own.  Now you want me to raise one of my very own?  Ha!  I have to lay down after preparing the fatted calf for you - I don't have energy for a kid.

"FYI: Abe, as long as I'm dropping bombs - how about this one.  The place Lot lives - always asking you to visit - we're going to destroy it.  No biggie right?  Weren't you just saying last week how horrible of a place it is." says the second visitor.

Abraham was one of those guys who was constantly trying to get Lot to move back for this very reason.  He knew the place was horrible.  He had heard the reports.  But his instinct was to defend the very thing he disapproved.

"You must be mistaken," Abraham said.  "There's gotta be at least 50 righteous people down there - you wouldn't want to destroy 50 righteous people - right?"  Then they heckled back and forth over numbers.  Finally, Abe got to the true question, what he really wanted to ask, for the sake of 10 people, you won't destroy it.  They said, sure, if we find 10, no problem.  10.  Just 10 small people they said, we will spare a whole city if we can find 10 righteous.  Abraham breathed a sigh of relief, Lot would appreciate not having to move.  Surely they will find Lot's family righteous.  Just Lot, his wife, daughters, son-in-laws, house servants - that's at least 10.  Abe wanted to always believe the best in others.

Jump forward.  The visitors get to Sodom.  Lot sees them and invites them over.  He knows the city, the new guys look like upstanding "good guys", really don't want to get them into trouble, they really don't need to know what the "night life" is like.

Only, everyone throughout town heard about the hot new guys. They started talking it up, getting all excited for a party.  They show up at Lot's house.  Lot is the newest member of the town.  Kinda an outsider.  Kept to himself.  How dare he ruin their fun by keeping these guys to himself.

Guys try to break down the door, Lot says no, how about my virgin daughters.  Seriously.  This is not the statement of a "righteous" man.  Lot starts getting pushed around.  The visitors intervene, make everyone blind (maybe this is where the old parental warning comes from "do that too much and it'll make you blind").

The visitors start rushing around, packing up Lot's belongings for travel.

"Time to go.  Do you know anyone else in this town we should take with us."  Lot runs outside to the blind guys - the two who are engaged to his virgin daughters - they think it's a joke, roll their sightless eyes, and go back to horsing around with their friends.

Finally, the visitors are dragging Lot and his wife and daughters out of the city.  Run to the mountains they tell them.  Get away from this disaster or you will be destroyed too.  

"Um sorry can't we just run to that little town on the outskirts?" Lot asks. Lot again looking for the easy out.  Trying not to be inconvenienced.

One minute he's keeping the men of the town from taking out the cute visitors, then next he's complaining that he has to run away from the danger.  Not exactly an upstanding righteous man.

The Bible doesn't actually say what The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was even though it is often taught as a specific moral lesson.  It only says that they had grievous sin and there was no one righteous.  The Bible repeatedly tells us there is no one righteous, because we cannot achieve righteousness on our own.  It was not the events recorded in Genesis that made the city be destroyed.  It was the historical lack of righteousness. The decision was made and the double check to see if there was any righteousness was just protocol for Abe and Lot's sake.

That is my take on what I read.  Read it yourself without judgement and see what you discover.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Happy Cooking Accidents

Goat's Milk Vanilla Cheese

Occasionally I follow a recipe, but omit a critical step. For example, I was following a recipe for vanilla ice cream I had found on the Rennet bottle.

The missed step would have produced a yummy custard type dessert that I could freeze. However, I did not notice this step until after I had created this: Vanilla Cheese. The taste of vanilla ice cream, but the texture of cheese curds - squeaky vanilla cheese.

I have since this accident made the ice cream, and it is yummy in its frozen form (someday I need to get an ice cream maker so we can have nicer textured ice cream - but we love the frozen chunky stuff in the mean-time.

We will see this week if I can duplicate the Vanilla Cheese. I want to try it on this chocolate bread my M-I-L brought over!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lent 2012 - a conclusion

OOPS! I had this ready and waiting at the beginning of April! Better late than never?!

It did not work the way I wanted it to. I did not really have a pantry challenge, although I did buy fewer groceries. I did not sell anything, although I did manage to get one particularly troublesome room sorted and organized - temporarily. I did not save any real money from the budget.

I did get my tax refund and it was enough to put away my $1,000 goal!

I do want to pass on that I have now negotiated a deal with card number 2. They are matching the terms of card number 1 almost exactly. 1% for payoff in 5 years! This is so much of a relief to me. I have begun paying the modified amount on my mortgage even though I am still waiting for final paperwork. We will see what the future holds.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Healthy Baked Doughnut

We have been picking up doughnuts at church on Sunday, and the kids eat them for breakfast during the week. I do not approve of doughnuts for breakfast before school even though I keep bringing them home.

I became determined to fix the problem. I was going to create a healthy doughnut!

While surveying the basement food storage I was struck by an epiphany.

Squash Doughnuts! For those of you who do not know, recipes that call for pumpkin can be substituted with squash without a problem.

I did find a few recipes of pumpkin doughnuts. For some reason I decided to experiment instead. Must have been the late hour!

The first time I made them, the texture great but was more like a muffin than doughnut, and the flavor was good. They were all gone within 24 hours - all 2.5 dozen of them. I wanted more spice/pumpkin flavor. I tried doubling the squash and spice, then increasing the honey to 3/4 cup. It made the batter too thin so I had to add more flour. It was a little more flavorful - especially with the honey, but the texture was more bread like.

I will try more experiments - and leave a comment on how you would improve it.

This is the original recipe from My substitutions are in red.

2 pkgs. quick acting yeast
1/4 c. water (105-115 degrees) - I used whey in place of the water and milk.
1 1/2 c. lukewarm milk, scalded and then cooled
1/2 c. sugar - honey
1 tsp. salt - I think I only used 1/2 tsp.
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1/3 c. shortening - squash!
4 1/2 c. flour - I used white whole wheat
1/4 c. butter, melted
Cinnamon sugar or sugar
In large mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, eggs, shortening and 2 cups of flour. Blend 1/2 minute on low speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in remaining flour until smooth, scraping side of bowl.

Cover; let rise in warm place until double (50-60 minutes). Turn dough onto well floured cloth-covered board. Roll around lightly to coat with flour (dough will be soft to handle). With floured stockinet-covered rolling pin, gently roll dough about 1/2 inch thick. Cut with floured 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter.

Lift doughnuts carefully with spatula and place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Brush doughnuts with melted butter. Cover: let rise until double, about 20 minutes.

In preheated 425 degree oven, bake 8-10 minutes or until golden in color. Immediately after removing from oven brush with melted butter and shake in cinnamon, sugar, or sugar. Makes 1 1/2 to 2 dozen doughnuts.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Being a reformed night owl

When I was young and carefree I would go out dancing at night. Most of the time I would get the urge between 9:00 and 10:00 pm, head out, and arrive back home after 12:00 am. I always found myself energized the following day despite my lack of sleep. I loved dancing. I loved the late nights.

Husband, kids, and a long early-morning commute have changed my options for dancing and late nights. Most evenings will find me winding down and climbing into bed between 9:00 and 10:00 pm.

Sometimes I still feel that longing. The 9:00 craving. The 9:30 restlessness. The 10:00 urge. There must be somewhere I need to be. Something that must be done. Dancing!?

I have found my replacement.


Sometimes it just means I get the munchies.

Quite a few evenings it means recipe research and experimentation. This month alone has included the following late night recipes: Fresh goat's milk mozzarella, baked healthy doughnuts, homemade yogurt and ice cream (without an ice cream machine).

We will see if this trend continues and I will post recipes soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent 2012 - a confession

4 weeks in and I have nothing saved.

I started strong. I put in the cash I received from my ride-sharer. The birthday money my mom and dad sent me. Then pulled $300 cash from my paycheck. I was excited for my big start. Only two weeks in and already closing in on $400!

Then life happened.

With gas prices were rising, we knew we had to get my 40+ mpg metro running. My hubby had a friend stop by and offered to finish up the metro for $100! It was a good price and I knew I had the cash on hand. Then there were parts needed $60. And a few more parts $40. Then the hubby reminded me of the $100 I had borrowed from the farm fund. Then the $50 for tabs and plates.

Did I forget to mention the seed sale at Menards? That used up the remaining $20.

That is why I have nothing saved after 4 weeks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Adventures toward Savings

This year for Lent, I have a very large goal.


In case you do not recognize the amount, it is the Dave Ramsey "Baby Emergency Fund." We live every paycheck by the skin of our teeth. This amount is completely beyond my reach within my usual budget. The most I had managed to save so far was $100 and that was from extra cash we received during our home insurance claim. We had to use it, and the farm cash to cover a recent car repair.

I have a strong longing for this small amount of security. Knowing I had that small $100 tucked away helped me rest a little easier. I really know I have to get this bigger fund put away.

About the finances: The husband and I had decided last summer to stop paying the credit cards and start focusing on things we needed. Clothes for the kids, school supplies, and car repairs. It was torture for me. I had freed up over $400 per month by not paying the cards, yet there was no improvement in our budget. We still seemed to only just squeek by. I still did not have an emergency fund. Instead I had the stress of credit card collectors. While they were actually very kind and respectful when they called, I knew I owed them the money. I loathe not paying what I owe. There was a small benefit to not paying. My cards were suddenly willing to talk about reduced interest rates and other work-out plans. One deal I accepted: card gets basically converted to a 5-year term loan, .99%! I am currently waiting for the paperwork from that deal to send to the rest of them to see if they will match it. I am now current on 3 cards. The other one I am working out a deal.

Knowing I need to pay my bills. Knowing I need to provide for my family. These things do not magically make money appear. Deciding I want to do the right thing and get out of debt forever does not make the bills magically disappear. What will we do to get the emergency fund in place, and continue getting the bills paid, and continue making progress on debt-free-ed-ness?

These are things I can definitely do:
1. Pantry Challenge
2. Sell STUFF
3. Tax refund

These are some silly, might try it in small doses ideas
1. Turn out the electricity (we are on a budget plan, so this really would not have any effect until next year.)
2. Sell the house, move to something tiny in the middle of the woods with acres and fields and outbuildings.
3. Sell the cars and bike to work - giggle - how long would it take to bike 60 miles?

Do you have any ideas? Add it to the comments and I will try to incorporate them.

Questions to be answered in future blogs:

What is a pantry challenge?

What is the best way to sell STUFF?

When will my tax return come?

What would it look like to go without electricity?

Why would I sell my home?

Are there any alternatives to driving 120 miles per day to work?

Here is what my last year's Lent looked like.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Adventures in Organization

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

I have always felt like I have a good grasp of the Reuse and Recycle part which leads to a nice reduce of waste in my trash can. However, it has not led to a reduce of stuff in my home!

I believe the problem started with "I love all things glass!" Then expanded to "Fancy boxes I adore!" Add to that a realization that I need to be more organized "That paper box top will work perfectly for sorting papers at my desk." or "Those cookies came in a tin, sure I will take it home, I can find a use for it." Containers for storing, containers for sorting, containers for looking pretty on a shelf... I am beginning to see myself as a hoarder of containers.

I was made fully aware of my hoarding after I made a personal declaration to reclaim my creepy, crawly, full-of-piles-of-STUFF-and-storage, cob-webby, drippy, damp, do-not-like-to-spend-time-down-there basement.

First, I took a 5'x5' section where I like to store my canned goods. The location of last fall's near disaster. My overstocked hutch full of newly canned applesauce, pickles, and tomatoes had half-fallen down, and fortunately not crashed the jars stored on it. Once discovered the jars had all been set out on the basement floor. On top of which went all the tubs full of empty jars that had previously been stored up in my kitchen (above the window that was now a door or in the entryway that will someday be a pantry with shelves or in the pantry cupboard that was now my husband's personal tool and STUFF storage. All of these jars were shifted to the basement when we were having the siding redone, and moving the main door). Now I moved all of them again - to tables and other pieces of floor so that my 5x5 space was empty. I scrubbed it, then painted it, then moved the bottom 1/2 of the cabinet back to the space and painted it too. My lovely husband agreed to help me repair it and reinforce it for heavy use. The top 1/2 was re-purposed upstairs in the kitchen for lightweight hat/mitten/boot storage.

I was feeling motivated, so before the cabinet could be fixed we (my children were helping) started on section two. The jars were shifted again - to my husband's side of the basement (my basement has two "sides", my side - the laundry, sewing, and pantry; my husband's side - the wood stove, corral, wood storage, and furnace). Along with the jars was a stack of empty containers waiting for their chance at reuse, several storage tubs, too many lids for the number of tubs and containers, a bin of electronic odds & ends, and much more. It was humbling to see a pile like that. It really brings to light how much STUFF I keep without real need.

Section two is next to my washing machine & dryer. We moved, scrubbed, painted, and put two tables in the space where once bins of STUFF were. New useful space for laundry. Section three is the new location of our sewing machine, we scrubbed, painted, and moved the machine cabinet. (My husband will insist that I point out that the sections are actually painted different colors! Section 1 is a Lavender - the wall, the floor, and the cabinet. Section 2 is Gumball Red on the wall and under the two white tables. Section 3 is a greyish blue. Given the chance, husband will repaint it all one color. For now, I get my fun sections.) When I had the 3 sections painted and the main furniture in place it was so lovely, simple, peaceful, freeing, and empty.

Then the day came where one of my goats had a baby. The day before winter in Minnesota returned. We knew it was going to get cold fast, and we really wanted to have baby Belle survive! We have, as mentioned above, a corral in our basement. It has been used to house our first batch of puppies, our first rabbits, kittens, chickens, and now was going to be home to our new mama & baby. Have you ever tried carrying a pygmy mama goat down stairs, and tried circumventing a huge pile of STUFF just to get at a coral? I almost dropped her when I accidentally stepped on the edge of a lid. Fortunately I did not and Mama and Baby were safely in my basement.

I knew that absolutely without a doubt I had to find homes for the STUFF in that pile!

Later that evening I set to work. I took everything in that pile and sorted it. A pile in the 4th section for potting supplies. The cabinet was done, so most of the canned jars were put on the shelf, sorted by type. The empty jars were put into bins and piled in front of the shelf for further sorting. The empty container collection was piled in the laundry space, then separated into types. The bins of get rid of it stuff was piled nearby. Cardboard boxes that were broken or moldy or unusable were put in the burn bin. Now my husbands side had a clear path to the wood stove and the corral. It felt like progress.

Within the following week I managed to get the rest of the home canned foods on the lavender shelf. The potting section has a table and shelf nicely organized with some of the box tops I have kept (see my obsession with containers is not completely pointless). The laundry tables are now neatly organized with tubs for sorting colors. All the extra unorganized, do not really know where it goes yet STUFF is now out on my front porch - the current favored place for such things. I try to keep myself to one space at a time. (I MUST get to the porch before spring!)

Still on the list for the basement is painting the lavender cabinet's newly rebuilt side. Section 4 cleaning and painting. Emptying and sorting out the wall cabinets. Cleaning and painting the laundry machine area. Finding space rugs for 3 of the sections. I did not take before photos - but the first image is tonight's so far photo. Here to the right is a humiliating photo of the poor, unfortunate front porch pile of STUFF.

Even though I am a hoarder of containers I like to believe I am improving! I used what I needed to get spaces organized. I reunited several tubs with their lids. I burned unusable cardboard/wood boxes. I even put several broken containers in the recycling bin! Moving forward, I need to remember to put everything back where it belongs, to not bring home new STUFF unless I have a clear and present use for it, and to keep enjoying the appearance of lovely empty spaces!

More adventures to come!