Wednesday, February 23, 2011

clean spots, open spaces, and restoring sanity

"in this, the two thousand eleventieth year of our Lord, you, oh woman, shall restore order to thy dwelling place and sanity to thine husband. you shall harness the strength of thine offspring and put up all the things that are down, vanquish dust from sill and floor, and clear clutter from thine corners. henceforth, you shall breath a sign of relief and live in peace."      from the gospel of erin, chapter four, verses five thru seven

my husband had a much deserved freak-out last night. for many days and weeks he has stayed up late working on our kitchen remodeling project AFTER spending a full day at his job. he arrived home to kid messes upon life messes (fairly normal for our homeschooling life) upon construction messes and somewhere throughout the evening became thoroughly frustrated. there are plenty of times that i choose to leave the housework for another day, but i'm especially bad at this when i'm in the middle of a sewing project. i had my own freak-out last week...and cut off all my hair (not with the dramatic "legends of the falls" conclusion) but i will tell that story later. sometimes the chaos we have chosen builds up and one of us explodes. luckily, we do not often have bad days at the same time.

so, on the heels of andy's disappointment, i canceled school for the day, we skipped our strings class, and got to work. serious work. kirby, jeremiah, mary, nathan, and michael were ready to help. the boys chose the window washing cloths and the girls chose the dusters. michael (buble) sang while we worked. the first few rooms came back together fairly quickly. out-of-place items found their ways home, and all unnecessary things went away. everyone was helpful, with the exception of nathan who ended up being given the job of jumping in place to help control his energy. :) as we went along, construction messes began to subside and the resulting empty spaces began to make the house feel more normal. the long buried radiator in the diningroom resurfaced and quickly regained its status as favorite place to sit...i know i'll be eating breakfast there tomorrow morning. the kitchen got some much needed attention from the vacuum cleaner, boxes and bags and unneeded tools were removed, and all the drawers and cabinets are now saw dust free again. i even found the chairs in my bedroom!

with all the lovely updates we have done, there are now four toilets to scrub and four sinks to scour. today, i did the bathroom cleaning, but with children watching so they would know what would be expected in the future when i say "go clean your bathroom".

all the trim will be painted late this evening after we return from a prayer meeting, and we'll be ready to start tonight without any other prep. painting the ugly blue out of the kitchen will make that room feel more finished. once laundry is finished tomorrow, everything should be clean...until it all gets messed up again. :) sanity is returning to the meschke household. i think we're all ready for it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


i cannot cook much right now without enlisting my crockpot, but this evening i pulled out the waffle iron and whipped up some oatmeal goodness. the recipe is my own creation...

erin's oatmeal waffles

6 C quick oats
1 C wheat flour (white or gluten-free mix will work as well)
1/4 C brown sugar (or you can add agave syrup or other liquid sweetner to the wet ingredients)
2 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt

whisk together dry ingredients. then add:

2 C plain yogurt
4 C milk
6 eggs
1 T vanilla

stir together, then mix in 1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted.

allow the batter to rest while the waffle iron heats up...the oats will soak up some of the liquid. makes about 32 6" waffles (16 batches through my small belgian waffler).

this recipe is also wonderful for just have to add a bit more milk.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

sometimes only cookies will help...

there are times in life when nothing is going quite as i planned it...or things are just plain overwhelming. it is at these times that i embrace my inner food-is-comfort self and bake something. my stove/oven is currently sitting in my dining room and not my kitchen so there is no baking to soothe my nerves/hormones/bad attitude. last night i decided that even though i could not bake i would still make cookie dough. it was good therapy. now i just have to be sure you all have my fool-proof recipe, out of which you can make at least ten different cookies.

erin's basic cookie recipe

2 sticks of butter
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar

cream butter and sugars until smooth...3-5 minutes. then add:

2 t vanilla
2 eggs

mix thoroughly. then add:

1 t baking powder
1/4 t kosher salt
2 1/2 C flour
1 bag of milk chocolate chips

blend again until all is incorporated. bake at 325 for 8-10 minutes. take out of oven when still a little underdone and they will be wonderfully chewy when they are cool.

a few alterations...

 reduce flour by 1/2 C. add 1/2 C cocoa powder, 2 C unsweetened shredded coconut, 1 C sliced almonds, and substitute white chocolate chips.

 reduce flour by 1/2 C. add 2 C quick oats, 1 t cinnamon, and substitute mini semisweet chocolate chips. OR just stop at the oats for a good oatmeal cookie.

 reduce flour by 1/2 C. add 2 C quick oats, 1-2 C dried cranberries, and substitute white chocolate chips.

 add 1 C peanut butter to butter and sugars. add 2 C quick oats. keep the milk chocolate chips OR trade them out for m&ms.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

happy valentine's day!

inspired by my friends at at the table, i went to the dollar store with a mission. i had run out of time to do the cute barrette valentines the girls gave last year, and with jeremiah and a few other boys attending the neighborhood valentines' tea this year i had to come up with some good unisex gifts...without the usual sugar high. :) this is what we did...

next year i will be stealing my nephew's valentines...but for now, we will call this good. and good night. :) hope you have a LOVEly day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

cinderella begins

it's official. i have begun sewing. i was convinced i would start this weekend, but saturday turned into a holding pattern for a trip to home depot and by the time all the delays were out of the way the day was too far gone. :) this time around, i am going to try to capture the process, so here is step one: sketches and fabric.

one and a half costumes finished this evening...mostly while on the phone with a dear friend (for over two hours) who put up with the machine noise while we talked. :)

Friday, February 4, 2011

mortification is a motivator

mortification is probably too strong a word. when i arrived home yesterday evening from a full day of errands, a NWCT show, and three ballet classes, my company was carting dirty dishes to the basement. granted, things have been less than orderly in my house since the kitchen remodel began, but the plain fact is that i had not prepared for this company to come. perhaps this is a sign of his place in our life. OR perhaps i have just gone completely crazy because, though i had thought about his visit numerous times this week, i did not remember to clean. thankfully, he is a good friend and graciously delivered flowers to my table and then ridded it of the aforementioned dirty dishes.

in light of all that, today will be full of cleaning, organizing, and otherwise decluttering of my home. already the dishes have been washed (yes, some of them were a couple days old. ya wanna make something of it?), the fireplace has been de-ashed, all out-of-place things have found homes, the downstairs has been vacuumed, the laundry has been started, the table was wiped down, and my email inbox got a thorough looking at. there is still compost to take out (you should see the piles of decomposing vegetation), recycling to attend to, and the laundry all needs to be folded. my room is a terrible mess, intensified by the fact that that is where all of the dishes and drawers from the kitchen are being stored. there is a pumpkin rotting on my front porch, that should also make its way to the compost pile, but if i set foot outside i will be confronted with the weeds that need pulling. perhaps by lunchtime, calm will be restored...or at least the mess should be more under control. :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

laundry soap recipe

it cost around $30 for me to get all my supplies, about 20-30 minutes to make the soap, and took a year and a half to go through it all. for a family of 6. with a husband who bike commutes and does lots of dirty house projects. with FOUR kids. seriously. about $2/month to wash all the myriad of laundry that comes down the shoot.

you will need an empty 5-gallon bucket with a lid. like an old CLEAN drywall mud bucket or something. just giving you warning so you don't get into this recipe and figure out you don't have a big enough container to mix your laundry soap. :)

erin's laundry soap
2 - 4 lb boxes baking soda
2 - 3.75 lb boxes washing soda (i buy arm and hammer washing soda, it's a yellow box...and it is IMPERATIVE that you buy washing soda)
1 box borax (i think there was only one size available)
1 container dye-free oxi clean (the round container with the lime green lid)
9 bars fels naptha soap

start by grating the bars of fels naptha soap. this is most easily done with the small grater attachment for a food processor. i grate three bars at a time and then empty the bowl. after all nine bars are grated, i put the blade back into the food processor bowl and make it into a finer powder. this extra step is worth it...i have done it without the extra processing and the soap doesn't work as well.

next, if you want your laundry soap scented, add 40 drops of essential oil (i like to use lavendar for laundry) to each of the boxes of baking soda.

now, start dumping boxes and grated soap into the 5-gallon bucket. once everything is in the bucket, put on the lid tightly and start rolling/shaking/etc to mix the soap. andy picked up the bucket and gave it some really nice shakes after he heard me flopping it around. :)

use 2 T (1/8 C) to 1/4 C per load. you really don't need very much. this soap is high-efficiency washer safe. i have been using it in my kenmore elite calypso machine for almost two years and have had no problems.

for whites, sheets, or other grimey things, i add 1 C of white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser to help get out any additional residue. you can scent your vinegar by adding 40 drops of essential oil to a 1 L bottle of white vinegar...the cheapest (and best) fabric softener you will ever use. you can whiten by adding 1 C of lemon juice to your bleach dispenser. get rid of bed bugs and dust mites by adding a couple drops of eucalyptus oil to the detergent.

happy washing. :)

in sickness and in health...

being that this is the season for all things germ-infested, i thought it fitting to put down some of my time-honored principles for staying healthy and remedies for getting well. you must note up front that this is one of my MANY soapboxes, and will have to forgive me if i belabor the point. at the heart of it all are two things:

1. i believe God made our bodies in an amazing way.
2. i believe He gave us things to eat that help those bodies function properly.

adversely, when we are not consuming things to aid our health or ARE consuming things that are not healthy, our bodies can become impaired and subsequently unable to fight infection or disease.

my knowledge on this subject has been gleaned over many years. through conversations, numerous books, web searches, and at-the-end-of-my-wits efforts to gain or maintain health in myself and my family. we have dealt with everything from strep throat and croup to chronic constipation, ear infections, ringworm, yeast imbalances, and fungi. the more i learn, the more convinced i am in the path we are taking. that confidence is reassured by times that we stray, eat unhealthy for a time, and end up sick.

in general, we are an incredibly healthy bunch. each year there are a few runny noses and coughs passed around our house, but rarely any major sickness. nathan usually ends up with one or two fevers, but this is mostly because of his love of all things carbohydrate rich and the fact that some of his good food is occasionally left on his plate (or more typically, bowl).

i must acknowledge that for all my efforts, if it weren't for the grace of God we could be an unhealthy mess. i am grateful that He has put people and resources in my path to learn the things that i know and do the things that i do. enough's a run down of what i do.
  • we eat an all natural, mostly organic diet. as many organics as i can justify and afford. if there is an ingredient in a packaged/canned food item that i have chosen to avoid or cannot pronounce, i will probably pass. when we first started down this road that meant giving up things that i grew up eating...things that were my comforts: jif peanut butter, cream of mushroom soup, velveeta, soda, etc, etc. in our house there is no high fructose corn syrup, no MSG (or the other names for msg, found here:, no hydrogenated oils, no soy products, no known genetically modified foods, no meat treated with hormones or antibiotics, as well as no dairy products from cows treated with rBgh or rBst. we consume a LOT of onions and garlic. i make a LOT of soup, year-round. we go through a LOT of good-quality, plain yogurt (nancy's, if you're lucky enough to be near eugene, oregon). our bread is all either sprouted grain (from nature bake or dave's killer bread -- at the company store it is CHEAP from the freezer!) or homemade. we are also fortunate to live near bob's red mill and all of their great products.
  • we limit intake of white flour and sugar...most of the time. admittedly, we like our desserts. too much, on occasion. however, if i ever see signs of sickness, those are the first things to least for the sicko.
  • we take high-quality supplements. organic fruits and vegetables have a much higher nutrient content than conventionally raised produce, where the soil is depleted and replenished with only three major nutrients. there are times when i choose conventionally raised produce...because i have no organic option, because the organic option is out of financial reach, or because i'm supporting a local farmer. when i do this, i am usually careful to be aware of their pesticide/spraying practices. there are a lot of small time farms that are cultivating their crops in an organic way but cannot afford to be officially certified...these are the guys i want to find. back to supplements...we supplement because, despite my best efforts, we still need to. try sometime to add up all nutritional content in all of your food and see if you can hit all the marks. it's very hard. so, we supplement. to prevent deficiency which leads to sickness or disease. i trust and my "arsenal" is filled with their products.
  • environmental toxins are almost completely absent from our home. we use almost no commercial cleaners...seventh generation dish soap and an all-natural orange cleaning spray that is almost gone and that will be replaced with something i mix. i make laundry soap (recipe in a future post, i promise). there is a bottle of bleach in my laundry room for dire needs, but mostly i use white vinegar or lemon juice for normal whitening purposes. cleaning is done with vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, borax, and essential oils. we scent our home with vanilla coffee beans and frequent baking. :) homemade sugar scrub is used instead of soap and lotion (with the exception of my safeguard-loving husband). we have a natural shampoo, but i am committed to trying out apple cider vinegar rinses for hair. skin is your body's largest organ and it readily absorbs chemicals...especially in and just after a shower. i have yet to give up antiperspirant/deodorant, though i have tried a number of natural deodorants that i have not liked. antibacterial soaps do to your skin what antibiotics do internally...they kill the bad germs along with the natural, good flora your body has to keep itself healthy. we are exposed to germs all the time and, as long as we are being kind to our bodies, our immune systems are strong enough to fight it all off.
  • we live cold...and hot. our thermostat hangs out around 63. overnight it is allowed to dip to 55. germs don't seem to thrive in our home and i think the temperature has something to do with that. the "hot" part comes in if ever a fever strikes. i do NOT give medicine to break a fever. it is there for a reason and i do my best to make children comfortable while the fever is doing its job. wet washcloths are a great help, as is "sweating" -- the practice of wetting a pair of cotton socks, putting them on your feet, and putting a dry pair of wool socks on top. go to bed and wake up in the morning with the socks dry and many toxins pulled out through your feet. i don't understand all of how it works, but since i learned about sweating from my friend beth i have done this on numerous occasions with the same, satisfactory (sometimes incredible) results every time.
  • rest is very important! my kids get a good amount of sleep. my 4.5 and almost 6 year old still take naps nearly every day. we have had a long-standing tradition of "everyone naps on sunday afternoon." in the more recent past we have had to belay these naps for errand running and evening commitments, but this habit WILL be back in our house. we ALL need it.
with all that said, right now there is a cough going through my kids. the biggest reason for this is our current diet. andy is remodeling our kitchen, so i have not made granola since before christmas, nor have i been making eggs or oatmeal (our other breakfast staples). after a few weeks of eating boxed cereal for breakfast and not having the ability to cook normally, no one has kicked this cough as quickly as they normally would. on top of that, my blender is also broken, so our get-well-soon smoothies have not been around to aid the immune system. lunch and dinner have been likewise impaired, and we have ended up with a lot of easy meals that haven't helped keep us well. anytime we are sick, i can trace it back to our diet. all the kids took turns getting sick in iowa, in big part because we eat so differently while there. no offense to the family, we love you and will visit again, but it happens every time we go.

to fight sickness, my arsenal includes:   (* denotes products i buy from
  • tummy tune-up*...probiotic. for the kids i break open a capsule and stir the contents into unsweetened applesauce, usually with added cinnamon, an antibiotic spice.
  • cod liver oil*...immune booster. good omega-3s to aid your body in healing itself.
  • vitamin C...500mg chewable tablets. my kids think these are a treat, so it's the one "good" part about being sick. we also take these a few times a week even when well.
  • onions and broths and soups, in salads, in everything i can put it in. sometimes onion is even grated and made into a poultice (or compress) and placed on the chest (to pull a cough or infection out of the lungs) or around the upper neck (when strep visits).
  • apple cider vinegar...mostly used topically, though it can be ingested. we have used this for hives, ringworm and shingles. yes, shingles. it made the virus come to the surface and scab within two days instead of 7-10 days.
  • berry well*...elderberry syrup with raw honey, ACV, propolis, and other great stuff. keeps almost all my colds at bay.
  • coconut, unrefined coconut oil. yes, this is potentially my favorite, though it recently has lost a little bit of ground to tea tree oil. antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial. we take this orally at the first sign of sickness. i use it on my face as an overnight moisturizer to help combat wrinkles. it was the combination of ACV, tea tree oil, and coconut oil that cured jeremiah's ringworm in well under a week -- when my dad's wrestlers were on a prescription for two weeks to get rid of theirs.
  • tea tree oil*...has helped me combat yeast problems, athlete's foot, skin irritations, and bug bites, as well as clean/disinfect the house.
  • eucalyptus oil*...especially when battling upper respiratory bugs. put a few drops (4-6) in just boiled water (with a towel over your head and your eyes shut tight) and breath in the steam. you will probably cough the first few deep breaths, but keep going. this oil is strong and kills the germs in your lungs. i also put a few drops on eucalyptus oil on a folded bandana (tied loosely around the neck) before bedtime and put a bowl of warm water with a few drops of eucalyptus oil wherever a coughing/sick person is sleeping. also good for killing dust mites and bed bugs when added to the wash or sprayed on/under matteress. this is great when used in conjunction with the next thing...
  • winter breeze vapor rub*...this is like vick's vaporub, but in a natural non-petroleum based form. we apply this to the tonsil area, upper chest, and even the feet (under the wet socks, if we're also sweating).
  • drinking tea...when we are sick or others around us are sick, this is what i turn to to keep germs from adhering to mucus that builds up in the esophagus. it's a good wintertime habit to develop. when we're sick i use traditional medicinals teas, but love the one with licorice root (my mom would hate this one!). i also make "cough-ee" a tea pot, juice a lemon adding half the zest, put a few cinnamon sticks, a few slices of fresh ginger or a few sprinkles of dried, ground ginger, drizzle in a few tablespoons of raw honey, adding in about 1/4 C chamomile flowers/leaves. pour boiling water over everything and let steep for 5-10 minutes before serving. should make 4-5 C of tea.
  • the aforementioned sweating...with the sock combination on the feet and washcloths on forehead and back/stomach/side torso (whatever is up). pulls out the toxins. really.
i hope your education will not stop here...if you go looking you can find a lot more. some resources i have appreciated and trust are:
  • nourishing traditions, by sally fallon  (i use this more as a reference guide than a cookbook)
  • the naturally clean home, by karyn seigel-maier
  • herbal antibiotics, by stephen harrod buhner
  • the how to herb book, by velma j. keith and monteen gordon
  • articles from the beeyoutiful catalog
  • searching threads on
  • reading product information at

well, to save this from being longer than it needs to be i will stop for now. if i left something out, ask a question. if you think i'm crazy, well, you can say that too. hears to a good night and good health. take care of're the only one you've got. :)