Monthly Archives: November 2009

Chore chart 2009-10

Here’s this year’s chore chart!  There aren’t many chores on my chart – I try to keep it to the basics.  This year’s chart is similar to last year, but with a couple of notable changes.

  • Laundry – done for a month at a time – A
  • Bathrooms – done for a month at a time – B
  • Breakfast preparation and wash dishes after Shabbos – done for 2 weeks C/D
  • Dinner preparation – done for 2 weeks at a time – D/C

I put an initial next to each chore to represent a child.  These four chores are rotated between the oldest four kids, currently ages 10, 13, 15, and 16.  It’s set up so each child has one chore for a month, and they complete each rotation every three months.  The breakfast and dinner preparation rotates after two weeks, so that the kids who are doing these jobs reverse with one another mid month.

We go through the complete cycle three times a year, meaning that each child has laundry and bathrooms three times, and meal prep for each of the two meals six times.

I used to say the bathrooms had to be done every 2 – 3 days, but now it’s daily since I saw that it was getting stretched to every 4 or even 5 days when someone missed their chore.  It’s quick when done daily and the bathrooms don’t have a chance to get very messy, even if the person in charge misses a day.  I now recommend to the person in charge of laundry that they do at least 1 – 2 loads daily, but it’s up to them.  As long as everyone has clean clothes when they need them, they can do what they want.

  • clear table after every meal – E
  • sweep floor after every meal, thorough sweep of entire main floor once daily – F

These two chores are rotated between ds7 and dd9.  (In addition I sweep the kitchen a couple of times a day, because with all of the food prep once a day isn’t enough.)  They rotate every two weeks.  They also are each responsible to take down the laundry from their rooms and one other location in the house, and between them take down everything.  Again, this used to be done every 2 – 3 days and now I ask them to do it daily.

This year, I’m on duty for dishes and lunch preparation.  The kids were all very happy when I offered them this option, since they dislike dishes.  Dishes are honestly a challenge since there are three meals being prepared a day, along with three large loads of dishes/pots.  It’s easy for them to get discouraged since the sink isn’t empty for long before it’s getting filled up again, but I don’t mind it.  I get my break once a week, since on Motzei Shabbos one of the kids do the dishes, and this lets them remember how lucky they are it’s only once a week. :))  When I do dishes, I also wipe down the stove and counters every night.

That’s it for the scheduled stuff.  We do quick daily clean ups, and big clean ups for Shabbos, but we do it as a team and there aren’t fixed jobs.  At those times, when I see something that needs to be done, I ask someone to do it.  Sometimes, like yesterday, I’ll set the timer for 5 or 15 minutes, and tell everyone to do pick something to do in a given area, anything they want, and do it before it goes off.  Seven people (kids ages 7 and up and me) can get a lot done in fifteen minutes, by working together! Yesterday in the living room we got walls washed, blinds wiped down, bookshelves straightened up, all the surfaces cleared, and the floor swept in the living room. It’s fun to do together, and there’s no pressure – I don’t question the job someone picks, expect them to work at a certain pace, or check how they’ve done it.

The kids are responsible for cleaning their rooms daily, but their idea of cleaning and mine aren’t always the same.  :)  Still, something gets done!

There are a number of other miscellaneous chores that I do a little bit at a time.  Not quite daily, but it probably averages to every day and a half.  You know, all those jobs that seem too small to schedule but if not done leave your home looking only half clean?  That includes the regular schedule of re-organizing various areas of the house, like the linen closet, basement, storage room, etc.  The natural state of things is to come undone, not stay done.  :)

Five of the older children also have a daily job with the littles.  Dd9 puts ds2 in for a nap, ds10 puts ds3 in for a nap. Sometimes this includes reading them a book, usually not.  Dd15 puts  ds2 to bed at night, ds16 puts in ds3 at night.  Dd13 gets up very early (she likes to finish all of her work for the day before breakfast) so she dresses the two of them and luckily for them, she enjoys taking them out for a morning walk; that’s why she’s not on the naptime/bedtime schedule.  (I wouldn’t ask her to dress them or take them for a walk, only to give them a drink or fruit to hold them over until breakfast.)  Putting a child in to bed is a very fast job; I made it official this year so I don’t have to worry who I asked to do what – I try to keep things fair and this ensures I’m not asking the same person every day to do all of the work.

I find that this keeps things running smoothly, without any one person feeling overwhelmed by his jobs or the expectations of him.


Weekly menu plan

Here’s the plan for this week; breakfasts are supplemented with fruit and milk, lunches and dinners are supplemented by some kind of vegetables.  The vegetables I started fermenting a week and a half ago (sauerkraut, ginger carrots, pickles) are basically ready and we started enjoying them tonight.  I try to serve some every night for dinner, to promote good digestive health.  Plus they look and taste good!  (The pink sauerkraut looks especially pretty.)  Tomorrow morning I’ll be doing my mid month vegetable shopping and then I’ll be set for the next couple of weeks.

Sunday- lunch – meat stew; dinner – turkey gravy, stuffing, pink sauerkraut, fermented pickles, steamed broccoli and carrots

Monday – b- banana peanut butter shakes; l – eggs; d – turkey soup

Tuesday – b- carrot cake bars; l – twice  baked potatoes; d – turkey soup

Wednesday – b – yogurt, grainless granola; l – quinoa casserole; d – cabbage meat soup

Thursday – b – buckwheat crispies; l – fermented bean dip, crudites; d – CORN (clean out refrigerator night)

Friday – b – polenta

Today my ds3 was looking in one of the raised garden boxes and told me he saw a mushroom.  I wasn’t paying much attention, and a few minutes later he came to me with a mushroom sized turnip in his hand!  I was planning to pick up bunch of turnip greens today, and when I bent over, I noticed that at the base of all the plants it looked like large white marbles.  It was the turnips!  I’ve been seeing the gorgeous lush greens but this was the first time I saw them; it was very gratifying!  I  think they were planted too closely together and were pushing each other out of the ground.

So we thinned them out a bit and I spent quite a while checking the greens.  I did it when the baby and toddler were sleeping so though it was technically tedious, I found it very relaxing.  As I kept finding tiny little bugs, I showed them to my kids so they’ll know what to look for.  I would check at a leaf, and if I saw a bug(s), pass it to one of them and ask them how many they could find.  Some of the bugs are so small that they’re hardly bigger than a couple grains of sand. Ds7 got very good at it and was a real help.  I had half of the turnip greens sauteed in butter with my eggs for lunch, the other half will be sauteed in coconut oil for the turkey soup, and the baby turnips will be added in to the soup whole.

About six months ago I bought a bunch of nuts, including 25 lb of raw cashews.  The cashews were vacuum packed and I didn’t want to open them since I didn’t have an available container for them.  (The other nuts and nut flours I’ve bought in bulk came in boxes.)  Finally today we opened them, found and labeled a container for them, and then soaked twelve cups of cashews (they’re in the dehydrator right now).  I’m thinking I could use these to make my own cashew butter, in addition to snacking on them and adding them to dishes.

Tonight I have six pounds of buckwheat soaking.  Tomorrow morning I’ll dehydrate them so they can be served as buckwheat crispies for breakfast later in the week (and the rest will keep for another time).  I keep finding more and more ways to use my dehydrator – it’s becoming indispensable.  Last week I soaked a bunch of buckwheat with the intention to sprout it, but it got forgotten when a pot lid was put over it, and grew mold.  A nice addition to my garden compost.  :)  Maybe I’ll leave some of this out to try sprouting.

I also started two pounds of pintos soaking.  I’m planning to make a fermented bean dip for the end of the week, and starting the soaking now will give me a couple of days for them to sprout, and then a couple of days to ferment.

We’ve been experimenting the last week with a few variations of snack bars.  None of them use any kind of sweetener (only dried fruit or banana), all are very filling and tasty. The ingredients for them all are very simple and basic.  The carrot cake bar will be a new experiment, and unlike the others, will have a grain in it (millet). I asked ds16 to put together a couple of batches of two kinds on Friday, and though when he finished making them, he thought the Larabar mock-up was a failure, today they tasted them and everyone loves them.     So far I’ve been using the bars as snacks, but there’s really no reason not to serve it for breakfast – they’re packed with nutrition!

I’ve personally been grain and pretty much starch free (ie, no potatoes, yams, corn, peas, winter squash – all things that are gluten free and okay for everyone else in the family) for about three weeks now (except for Shabbos, but even then it’s minimal).  I’ve known I would benefit from this for three years; I’ve wanted to do it for two years.  I had to hold off on this for the last couple of years due to a specific circumstance (not financial and not family related), but that has finally changed and now I’m enjoying eating this way.  It takes thinking about food differently, but practically speaking I just make my meals very simple- fats, proteins, veggies.


What age to start giving chores?

>>Since, I am a self-taught homemaker, I am not sure the best time and chore to start with for my children. At what age do you begin to assign chores? Is there a typical first chore you give them?<<

Basically I look for things they can do from the time they are a young toddler (about 15 months) – usually this is a small piece of something someone older is doing.  They can put dirty clothes in a hamper, and carry one item to the laundry room.  They can pick up items from the floor and put them where I tell them. They can put their cup or plate in the sink (if you lift them up or take it from them when they get there).  When they are very little, this means me walking with them to where it should go, but they learn quickly and know that their dirty clothes go in the clothes hamper, so soon they start doing it with minimal prompting.

None of this practically speaking makes your life any easier.  In fact, it will take more effort than not involving them- and that’s why most parents don’t have kids who help out in the house!  Be that as may, this is how I help my kids develop an understanding and a positive feeling about participating in the home tasks that need to be done.  I’m not so official around here that I assign very little children with chores.  What I try to do is make helping out an integral part of their lives.  When I see something they can do – and this is usually something very small – I give it to them with a big smile and an attitude of “oh, lucky you, you get to help!”  (And since I know some of you are wondering, if they refuse, I give them another big smile and say, “Yes, Mommy!”  This gives them a model of the response I want to see.)

Kids will copy you, so sometimes they end up doing jobs that I wouldn’t have thought of giving them, and doing it well. Recently, for example, ds2 was watching me clean the walls.  He ran to get a rag from the rag drawer, went to the bathroom to wet it, and started vigorously wiping the area that I was cleaning.  So I let him do it by himself, and he did a great job.

I don’t expect much until they are much older in terms of the final result.  What is important to me is them feeling good about helping out and getting the message that their help matters and is appreciated.


Pecan Pie Crust – grain free

The beauty of nut crusts, besides being gluten and grain free, is that they taste great and are easy to make.  I liked this recipe because it’s very uncomplicated and has only a few ingredients.  This is the recipe that I used for our pumpkin pie, and the baking times below will reflect that.

Pecan Pie Crust

  • 1 c. pecan meal (or any nut meal that you prefer)
  • 2 T. melted coconut oil
  • 2 T. honey

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  While it’s heating up, mix the ingredients for the crust until thoroughly combined.  Press into a greased pie pan and pour the filling on top.

Put the pie into the oven, and immediately turn the oven down to 375 degrees.  Bake at 375 degrees for fifteen minutes, then turn down to 300 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes, until the pie is almost set in the middle.  Remove from oven.

This was good served warm and cold.


Pear Crisp – Grain free

>>Would you be able to share your recipe for grain-free pear crisp, and the pecan pie crust? I’m trying to cut down on flour and grain products as well, and it’s challenging to adapt my favorite recipes to this new way of eating.<<

I can relate to the challenge of adapting to a new way of eating!

The pear crisp was more of a concept that I tried out than a recipe, so I don’t have exact measurements.  It’s the kind of thing that will turn out however you make it, though!  Here’s what I did:

Slice up a bunch of pears, and put them into a greased baking pan.  Pour thick coconut cream (or dairy cream) over the sliced fruit and mix so the pear slices are thoroughly coated.  In a separate bowl, mix coconut oil, ground nuts, shredded unsweetened coconut, and some spices – ground cloves are good with pears.  This will be the topping; sprinkle it on top of the sliced pears.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until the pears are soft and the topping is crispy.

You can use other fruits for this, also.  The main difference would be in the spices you use.  If I were using apples, for example, then I’d use cinnamon and nutmeg. Summer fruits like peaches, apricots, and plums would also go well with cinnamon.

I made the coconut cream from scratch that I used for this; I’ll share the process sometime in the next couple of weeks.  If you can’t find kosher coconut cream, you can boil down coconut milk until it gets thick and rich.  How long you boil it down will depend on how high fat the milk that you’re using is in the first place.  You can also make this dairy by using heavy cream instead of coconut cream, and using butter instead of coconut oil for the crumb topping.

My family is used to less sweeteners than most, so I didn’t add anything to this.  But if your family is used to more sweetness, then you’ll probably want to add something to enhance the natural sweetness of the pears.


Attitude about kids helping

A few weeks ago we had a family over for lunch, when towards the beginning of the meal the 11 year old girl looked at her mother and said, “Don’t get any ideas!” Nothing unusual or remarkable was happening and I was a little mystified at to what she could be referring to, so I asked and her mother said they noticed that several of my kids got up to serve the meal.  The daughter adamantly said she didn’t want her mother to start expecting them to bring the food to the table.

A little later in the meal, the mother was describing her chore schedule to me, and her daughter grimaced and indicated that she felt she had to do too much.  I smiled at her and told her that she would feel very lucky if she knew the chores my kids do, and then told her.  There was some kind of response at how much my kids had to do, but then my dd14 who was sitting right there corrected her and said our kids don’t have many chores at all.  It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

I do expect my kids to help out, and to do it fairly willingly, and it was good for me to hear the response of the visiting eleven year old, to increase my appreciation of what my children do and how they do it.  I’m grateful that my kids find what’s expected of them fair and reasonable, since I try to be balanced in my expectations.  But the truth is that they do a lot more than most kids their ages.  Then again, they have a lot more freedom and flexibility in their schedules than most kids their ages, so I guess it all evens out!

A big part of why they do what they do is determined by my feelings about teaching kids basic living skills.  That included cooking, baking, cleaning, laundry, child care, and general home organization.  There are other important skills, too, like money management, home repair, etc, that I consciously help them to learn while living at home (my post on teaching money management was one of those lost when the blogged was hacked a couple of months ago).  These aren’t gender specific skills – boys and girls will benefit by knowing them regardless of what roles they end up in later in life.

All of these are skills you develop by doing them – you can’t just read a book!  By the time they are twelve, I want each of them to have the skills to basically be able to run a home.  That doesn’t mean that they do run my house, but that they can do it if they needed to.  I feel it’s a true kindness to teach a child these skills when they’re at home instead of sending them into the adult world without basic competencies.  That’s probably why I don’t suffer from guilt when asking my kids to help  – I appreciate their help and it obviously makes our home life run more smoothly, but I also know that they’re becoming well prepared for life.  I bet all of you know adults who are still struggling to learn basic skills – wouldn’t it have been so much easier for them have learned it when young?

I’ll try to share our current chore chart next week for those of you who are wondering how the work in our house is divvied up.


Thanksgiving menu

Here’s what our Thanksgiving menu looked like – it was entirely gluten, grain, and sugar free, except for the two dishes my mom brought.

  • roasted turkey
  • cornbread stuffing (mom)
  • mashed potatoes (mashed cauliflower for me)
  • gravy
  • baked yams and sweet potatoes (flesh mashed with coconut oil and cinnamon and left in jackets)
  • maple pecan carrots
  • spicy green bean salad
  • fresh fermented cranberry relish
  • vegetable salad
  • cherry noodle pudding (mom)
  • pear crisp
  • pumpkin pie with pecan crust

Lots of yummy food but what was really nice was being able to share a family meal with our parents, being together with all of us in good health.  That’s really something to appreciate, isn’t it?


Fermented Cranberry Relish (dairy free)

Last night I prepared this fermented cranberry relish so it will be ready in time for Thanksgiving.  The only recipe I’ve seen calls for whey, which is a problem for us, since I’m planning to serve this with turkey and we don’t serve meat and dairy together.  So I came up with my own version.

Fermented Cranberry Relish

  • 3 c. raw cranberries
  • 1 large navel orange, chopped into large sections (try to get organic since you’ll be using the peel, or peel it and use just the fruit)
  • 1/2 c. sliced almonds, soaked and dehydrated (you can also walnuts or pecans, too – the only nuts I had on hand that were ready to use were almonds)
  • less than 1/2 c. organic sucanat – be sure it’s the real stuff (I used half of a 2/3 c. measure))
  • 1/2 -3/4 c. grape juice (you can use any juice)
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 2 t. lemon juice
  • opt – 1/2 c. dried diced fruit
  • 2 t. coarse Celtic salt

Process the cranberries, nuts, and orange sections in the food processor until they’re processed to a medium consistency (not large chunks, not liquified – somewhere in the middle).  Stir in the sucanat, 1/2 c. of juice, salt, cinnamon, and lemon juice.  If it looks like it needs some more liquid, add another 1/4 c. of juice – this will depend on the size and juiciness of your orange.  :)  If you want to add dried fruit, stir it in now.  (I didn’t – it’s sweet enough for us without it.)

Once everything is mixed well, put into a glass quart sized jar.  Press down so that the liquid rises up to the top, then add 2 t. coarse Celtic salt to the top.  (You can use any good quality salt, but I use coarse Celtic for all of my ferments.)  Cover and let sit on the counter at room temperature for two days to ferment.  Put it in the fridge after two days.

(Next time I make this I’m planning to blend up raisins and dates to see if I can eliminate the sucanat.)

Serve as a yummy side dish that will enhance your Thanksgiving dinner as well as your digestive system!

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)


Develop an anti debt mentality

A couple of days I spoke with a young woman about my philosophy towards avoiding debt, and yesterday posted something on a discussion board to another young woman already in debt a few months after her marriage.  I’ve always felt my position was so common sense that it didn’t need to be stated, but I’ve come to realize that I might be more of the exception than the rule when it comes to money management.

Here’s what I do, and what I’ve taught my kids: you can only spend money you have.  And of the money you have, it’s a very, very, very smart idea not to spend it all just because you have it.  Having it now is no guarantee you’ll have it tomorrow, so setting some money aside for tomorrow is a good thing to do.  A financial cushion (this can be a savings account, a mortgage paid in advance, a full pantry) is very helpful in weathering the storms of life, and when large unexpected expenses come around, this is what keeps someone from needing to put these expenses on a credit card.

It doesn’t really matter how much or how little money you make.  You can find people who make oodles of money who you would think have money for everything who are in debt.  You can find people living on tiny incomes who have all that they need and are entirely debt free.  It’s not about how much money you have.  It’s about your attitude towards spending, about what you think you deserve, and about when you think you need to have it.

The problem is if you have no mental limitations on the money you spend and you have a credit card, then there’s no physical limitation either.  Thanks to credit cards, a person doesn’t need to have money in his pocket or even his bank account in order to buy what he wants, when he wants it.  By developing a clear awareness that there are limitations, then it’s obvious that you’ll put something back on the shelf when shopping, do without, cut down, wait until month, etc,  if your coffers are running low.  Having this mindset means you’ll avoid unmanageable debt and the accompanying anxieties that seem to be swallowing a huge percentage of the population.


Jumping on couch

>>… more about jumping on the couch as an example.  When you take the toddler off the couch, don’t they just get right back on? How many times do you do that? What do you do next, if they won’t stop? Or if they then switch toward some other destructive behavior?<<

I do it as many times as necessary; when I decide they need to do what I said, that means being 100% ready to outlast my child.  As I said, I won’t make a request that is likely to be ignored if I know I am not able right then to enforce it.

Okay, about the couch.  I take him off. He climbs back on.  As soon as he starts to climb on, I matter of factly whisk him off.  The ideal is to watch for him to climb back on and stop him as soon as he begins, not after he’s already in the middle of it.  If you can’t get to him until he’s already jumping up and down, that’s okay, but not as effective.  It’s very important to stay calm and unemotional about this – what helps me is remembering it’s not about me and my ego, it’s about helping my child learn, it’s for his benefit.

Do this as many times as necessary.  Are you imagining this will be fifty times?  It won’t, unless you give him a good emotional reaction.  But you won’t be, since you’re staying detached and matter of fact.  You’re too boring in your response for him to enjoy getting a rise out of you, and you’re too consistent in your response for him to think he’s going to get away with it if he holds out long enough.  Feeling confident that you know how to handle a situation and that your response is going to be effective makes it pretty easy to stay cheerful and not turn this into a hugely emotional power struggle. It’s when we feel powerless that we get overwhelmed and frustrated.

As far as how to stop them, you’re asking about stopping a very young child, right?  A three year old is very small and you’re very big.  :)  You don’t have to smack kids around or scare them to get them to understand you mean what you say and they need to listen.  A twelve year old who is the same size as you is a lot more challenging, but strong parental authority works just as well  with twelve year olds.

Switching to another destructive habit: Why would a child switch from one negative behavior to another? That’s the question I would ask myself, and then deal with the root cause (usually boredom, wanting attention, or testing boundaries).  Generally kids want our positive attention.  I’m not suggesting turning yourself into the police and making your child feel you have your eagle eye on him every minute – not at all!  You should be spending lots of time interacting with him, which makes keeping an eye on things pretty natural.  And kids really love this.

Remember, it’s not about punishing them, but about building your relationship and creating a pleasant environment to spend time in together.  Spending lots of relaxed and focused time with young children, together with setting clearly defined and reinforced limits is really all it takes for them to stop the behavior.   Their needs are already being met without them needing to misbehave for it.