Saturday, September 4, 2010

day 228: kayla is off to africa!

Today is a celebratory day for the Reishes—and I wanted to share it with our readers. Today our missionary girl takes off for her first assignment—as a health educator with the Assemblies of God World Missions (specifically with Global AIDS Partnership—GAP). I have written before about Kayla’s calling (at home as we read aloud as a family) and her preparation, but I wanted to get savvy today and attach a picture and paste an excerpt from an earlier post.

We have no idea how each conversation, each lesson, each ounce of compassion, each modeling of godly character, each decision that we make affects our children. I beg you not to underestimate everything you do in your home, everything your home stands for, everything you instill in your children. It ALL matters.

I wanted to share with our readers a little about Kayla and her upcoming mission work. I think Positive Parenting 3*6*5 readers will especially be interested in how Kayla first felt her calling to missions twelve years ago—while our family read aloud. And how did it begin and grow? Through her father challenging her to minister at home first—and to trust God to give her a future ministry. It is an amazing testimony that we thank God for continually.

Kayla with Mom and Dad at her missionary commissioning service in Springfield, MO in March--just before her six month itineration began.

Twenty years ago (when Kayla was only four years old) we began reading about missionaries, evangelists, and other godly people who “counted all but loss for the sake of the gospel.” We told Kayla that she was destined to do great things —and she believed us.

Not only did she believe us, but she also acted on that challenge throughout her childhood and teen years. When Kayla was thirteen, she was called specifically into missions as our family read aloud from a challenging book by Philip Yancey. About that time, Ray questioned Kayla about her future, what God was showing her, what she thought she should be doing, who she was going to minister to, etc.

She told him that she was going to be a missionary to Central or South America.

Ray questioned her further: “No, I mean now. Who are you going to minister to right now in your life?”

Kayla thought for a quick moment, looked up at Ray and said, "Right now, my ministry will be Mom."

Kayla had already been the most diligent child I had ever seen, but now she pressed in even harder. She would get up early, before anyone else was up, work in the kitchen, do dishes, fix breakfast. She never tired of it; her “ministry” was not just a passing phase. And she continued this—her ministry to her family has never ended.

Fast forward a few years later and Kayla found herself ministering to homeschooled students through speech, debate, Spanish, writing, and science classes she taught. She, along with her sister and another teen girl, wrote a newsletter for young girls for six years (and earned the money herself to mail it out—she didn’t charge the girls and wouldn’t let her parents pay for her ministry!). Kayla taught and preached at the young adults’ services on Sunday evenings for a couple of years, then she joined a Spanish church for a couple of years to further her Spanish speaking skills—and help those people right here in her own community. She continued to serve in many capacities--holding weekend retreats, mini seminars and workshops; speaking at homeschool conventions; helping us raise and train her younger siblings, and much more—all in an effort to “minister where she was planted” until her time came to “go out into all the world.”

Here we are, ten years after she was called to the mission field and practiced on this mission field known as home, and she has completed the degrees that she felt she needed in order to serve God in medical missions—RN, BSN (nursing), and BA (biblical studies). (She received her associates of nursing first so that she could work as a nurse while getting the other two degrees—and graduate debt free.)

And she is ready to go—as a health educator with Global Aids Partnership, developing materials, going into existing missions to help missionaries learn how to reach out to those affected by AIDS, and training pastors in other nations (especially Africa and Central and South America—she knew she would get there someday, even when she was only thirteen!).

Friday, September 3, 2010

day 227: overview of “mega cooking” –the “cycle” method part ii of ii

Details of our freezer cooking cycles:

1. Crumbled cycle—these recipes are all made with crumbled ground beef. Thus, we started the morning with a couple of skillets and one full time “beef cooker” (the person frying the meat). All of the meals we did on “crumbled beef” day had ground crumbled beef or turkey in them. These recipes included, but were not limited to, the following: lasagna, spaghetti sauce, chili soup starter (condensed chili that just needed broth/tomato juice added to it on serving day), taco meat (tons!), sloppy joes, hamburger stew, enchilada casseroles, pizza burger cups, and more. (We did TONS of casseroles when the older kids were little—now my “guys” are more “meat” men, and we do fewer casseroles. This was an economical cycle—and I still use many of the “meaty” ones often today.)

2. Shaped cycle—these recipes are all made with shaped meat (chicken, beef, or salmon that is shaped into patties, balls, or loaves) or pieces of beef. They include, but are not limited to, the following: meat loaves, meat balls, ham loaves, salmon loaves, salmon patties, Florida steak, swiss steak, master beef cube mix (to be used in stroganoff and beef stew on serving day), pizza burger patties, flavored ground beef patties, beefy-vegetable soup starter, shredded beef (for casseroles, noodles, Mexican, bbq, etc. just to have on hand), etc. This has a lot of “company” recipes in it—things that I liked to have to use with guests or for carry-ins, etc.

3. Shredded chicken cycle—these recipes are all made with shredded chicken. (We used to cook whole chickens and spend the day before cooking day shredding it all, but after too many bones turned up in casseroles for my comfort level, we began buying boneless, skinless chicken breast and chicken thighs for this.) These recipes include, but are not limited to, the following: chicken noodle casserole, chicken lasagna, chicken tetrazzini (sp?), bbq chicken, hot chicken sandwich filling, chicken enchiladas, chicken taco meat, shredded chicken in broth (to use for casseroles, noodles, chicken-rice soup starter, Mexican, etc., just to have on hand), etc. This was an economical cycle that stretched far for our growing family.

4. Chicken breast cycle—these recipes were all made with whole chicken breasts or chicken breast tenders. I didn’t use this as much many years ago (too expensive) as I do now with chicken breasts so inexpensive most places today. These recipes include, but are not limited to, the following: chicken corden bleu (sp?), grilled chicken breasts, marinated chicken breasts, chicken parmesan, sour cream chicken breasts, oven fried tenders, bbq chicken breasts, Monterey chicken breasts, grilled tenders, and more. This is a yummy cycle, but like with the “shaped” one, the entrees require a potato/rice type of side dish, as opposed to lasagna, enchiladas, etc. that are more “all in one.”

6. Side dish cycle—these recipes have been evolving over the years. The first “once a month” cooking book that I used recommended not freezing potatoes (other than potato skins) or macaroni/thicker noodle as they become grainy when frozen. (Lasagna noodles do not, though…weird.) Thus, I didn’t have a large repertoire of side dishes for a long time. Now, the rule of thumb is “if ‘banquet’ or ‘Marie Callendiers’ (sp?) can freeze it, you can freeze it too.” My newer sources have mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, and more in them as freezer dishes. This cycle contains or formerly contained (depending on the stage of experimentation I was in!) the following: twice baked potatoes, hash brown casserole (made with frozen hash browns), cream cheese mashed potato casserole (made with instant mashed potatoes), mashed potatoes, vegetable medley, veggie-rice casserole, broccoli rice casserole, rice pilaf, Mexican rice, broccoli soup, scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, parmesan noodles, baked bean casserole, three bean bake, scalloped corn, green bean casserole, white sauce balls (for making white sauces for ham loaves/salmon loaves and cheese sauce for veggies, etc.), and much more.

7. Dessert cycle—I did this off and on through the years. More often than not, I just tried to make extra of anything I was making, so things would be in the freezer and ready. Some of these things included un-iced cakes that could be used for cake or for things like layered desserts, etc. or cookie dough, pies, etc. Quick breads freeze very well, so we often froze zucchini, pumpkin, carrot, applesauce, apple, and banana breads. Cookie dough balls were awesome to have on hand, as were 9 x 9’s of bars, etc. that could be pulled out and used for gathering, pot lucks, for kids to take to things, etc. We are trying to cut back on the boys’ (and mine!) sugar, so we don’t do as many of these as we used to.

Tomorrow and the weekend: reviews of “mega cooking” resources and some recipes to try!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

day 226: overview of "mega cooking"--the "cycle" method part i of ii

day 226: overview of “mega cooking” –the “cycle” method part i of ii

Yesterday I told about how we began the “freezer cooking” lifestyle twenty years ago. I say "we" because it has truly always been a family affair. The kids and I used to have “big cooking days” once every five weeks in which we would put an entire “cycle” of meals in the “new meals” freezer—while we were using the dishes out of the “old meals” freezer. It isn't uncommon at all for Ray, the kids, and I to gather in the kitchen for half an hour or little more and whip up six bags of sloppy joes or four pans of chicken enchiladas, etc.

A word about cycles: I broke our mega cooking (that’s what we call it today—sometimes we do freezer meals; sometimes we cook in bulk for a banquet or gathering for our daughter’s disability ministry; sometimes we cook large amounts to give to others in need; etc.) down into cycles:

1. Crumbled beef cycle

2. Shaped cycle

3. Shredded chicken cycle

4. Chicken breast cycle

5. Side dish cycle

6. Dessert cycle

Pros to the cycle method:

1. You can do whatever cycle is on sale at the time. This helps the budget tremendously as you just buy all of the type of meat that is on sale—and do all of that type at once.

2. You are using one method overall. With the crumbled ground meat cycle, you cook and cook ground beef or turkey and use that in all of the recipes. With the shredded chicken, you shred up mountains of chicken and use all that. By not mixing methods, things go very quickly. (For example, you are not browning ground meat and shredding chicken all at one time.)

3. It is efficient. I have always looked for ways to work more efficiently in our home and now in my writing career. The “cycle” cooking that I created is an efficiency expert’s dream.

Cons to the cycle method:

1. If you do not have other “cycles” in your freezer at the time, you will only have one type of meat made up ahead of time. You either have to eat all “ground beef,” for example or just use your freezer meals twice a week and cook from scratch the rest of the time. (See “crazy” note below!)

2. It is not as exciting as planning many varied entrees—but I always preferred efficiency over variety!

Crazy note: I have to admit how I started the “cycle” cooking! I bought and bought ahead for weeks—from all cycles. Then, I took a week off from school and cooked two weekends and all week, practically day and night, and did all the cycles—one cycle per day—in one week. Thus, I had a freezer full of six months’ worth of dishes (assuming you don’t use freezer entrees all the time, which we did not, though we used them often) to eat from—and another freezer that I added “new” ones to as I did each cycle each month. At the end of the six months of using the first set, I had another six months’ worth. It was craziness, and I don’t recommend it. (Remember—I LOVE projects! LOL!) However, it was incredibly rewarding. Thereafter, I just kept adding to the “new freezer dishes” and used the “old freezer dishes.” (Note that some do not keep freezer dishes that long; we didn’t have trouble keeping them frozen for that long.)

Tomorrow—details of each cooking cycle. Thanks for joining us as we organize our homes and lives!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

day 225: freezer foods—“once a month cooking”

Twenty years ago this month I had our fourth baby—Colic Kara. (She screamed day and night non stop (except when she was nursing or asleep in my arms) for three months, not kidding!) Prior to her birth, I got a hold of a book called “Make-A-Mix Cookery.” This book, and my three hundred cans and bags of harvest that year from our garden, got me started on the concept of “mega cooking,” “freezer cooking,” “once a month cooking,” or “dinner’s in the freezer.” It began with that “mix cooking” book (which had mix recipes to replace boxed mixes, plus some freezer meat mixes, etc.), then I starting trying out different freezer entrees, etc.

Soon I was a freezer cooker---before one of the first books, “Once a Month Cooking” ever came along! As a matter of fact, I had been working for a few years on organizing my recipes for a potential freezer cooking book when that one came out. (I could never have done it because I am not a detail cook—when I have too little of something, I just throw in something else…I hate the task of figuring everything down to the teaspoon or pinch.)

Now twenty years later, we have used this concept over and over and over again—for weddings, graduations, showers, gifts, helping families in need, and, of course, for our own family. Our children can all do it to a large extent, and we always think in terms of bulk or cooking ahead whenever possible. Ten years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for us to have one to two hundred freezer entrees or sides in the freezers.

Fast forward ten years later, and time is a precious commodity since I write, teach cottage classes, homeschool, and am deeply involved in our young adults’ lives. So when Kayla was home itinerating for her first full time mission post this summer, she cooked up a storm for us and left us with over a hundred entrees and side dishes.

This post is in answer to those who have asked what, exactly, to you cook ahead and freeze? I will paste Kayla’s list below—and hopefully, I will figure out how to get my recipes posted. (Right now, when I take them from my freezer cooking program to word or blogspot, the formatting gets all messed up.)

Here you go:

*5 Florida steaks

*7 creamy hash brown casseroles

*5 Swiss steak

*5 ham loaves

*4 mashed potatoes

*3 broccoli rice casserole

*3 vegetable garden dinner

*2 broccoli soup

*4 herbed rice

*4 rice pilaf

*4 hamburger stews

*7 Grandma’s meatloaves

*8 lasagnas

*4 shepherd’s pies

*3 crock pot enchiladas

*4 salmon patties

*4 onion hamburger patties

*4 meatballs

*4 taco meat

*3 sloppy joes

*4 cooked, ground hamburger

*6 braised beef cube mix

*4 bags grilled chicken breasts

*2 Mediterrean chicken and rice

*4 crispy chicken tenders

*3 crunch ranch chicken

*2 marinated chicken breasts

These are all in various stages of preparation. For example, the meat loaves and ham loaves are totally uncooked. We just pop them in the oven. The salmon patties and grilled chicken breasts are cooked and ready to heat and eat (like you would buy in the freezer convenience section). Others are semi-cooked, like the braised beef cube mix has been partially cooked and will be finished when it is made into stroganoff or stew. Etc.

It’s so convenient—and so fast to do two or four things at once instead of one. That is a good way to get started if you would like to try your hand at it. Just another thing we found to help organize our home and make things run more smoothly. I highly recommend it.

Tomorrow—some links for resources for “cooking ahead.” And then a few recipes…then back to other organizational techniques.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

day 224: organization—personal organizational strategies: each day starts the night before part ii of ii

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”

                                 Winnie the Pooh
Here are just a few ways that we have implemented this or heard how others have:

1. We start the next day’s laundry the night before. (We do one or two loads a day now; we used to do two or three loads per day.) The “little laundry lad” (many years ago it was the “little laundry lady”) starts his first load any time during the evening the day before. If it is a “fold up” load, he even puts it in the dryer before bed. If it is a “hang up” load, he leaves it in the washer and in the morning, runs it through rinse again then pops it in the dryer.* This way we have a jump on the next day’s laundry. (It’s even better if his fold up load is in the dryer dry and his hang up load is in the washer, ready to re-rinse and move first thing!)

2. We do not leave dishes to be washed tomorrow. We run the dishwasher after dinner and the dish person the next day just has to unload it and load the breakfast (and last night’s ice cream!) dishes in it.

3. Everybody goes through the house and picks up his or her things before going to bed. We do not have to start the day tomorrow with messes from the previous day.

4. If we have to get up earlier than usual the next day, we adjust our bedtime accordingly. This has had various levels of success—as it is easier said than done. But generally speaking, if we are doing something the next day that requires our getting up one to two hours earlier, we try to get everybody to bed an hour earlier or so.

5. If we have some place to go the next day, we get the things out, bags packed, etc. the night before and have them ready to load or already loaded. This has eliminated so much early morning hassle on “going away” days.

6. If we need a packed lunch for some reason the next day, we pack it and put in the fridge (the entire cooler in the extra fridge in some ways).

A huge part of being organized in home management is warding off problems before they start—seeing potential problems and solving them immediately (or even ahead of time). Starting today last night is one way we have found to do this. There are probably many things that you already do to make tomorrow better—think about these and see if there are others that might help your family, as well.

*We don’t iron much here. I have taught the kids to move hang ups directly into the dryer when the washer is done spinning, then to pull them out of the dryer when they are still hot, shake them, and hang the up. Eliminates most ironing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

day 224: organization—personal organizational strategies: each day starts the night before part i of ii

A good tomorrow starts with a good ending of today....

When we had a houseful of little kids, we always had a routine of being sure there were not dishes in the sink, toys lying about, and other “clutter” all over the place before we went to bed. It was the beginning of our practice of thinking of tomorrow as starting tonight.

I remember another family we were visiting with after church about that same time stacking all of their dishes, etc. on Sunday, saying that the wife would clean things up the next day as they did not like to “work” any more than they had to on Sunday. Ray commented that we always work hard for a few minutes on Sunday evening to be sure “Donna has a good Monday.” He ended his explanation saying that it is like “getting the ox out of the ditch” and “doing good on the Sabbath” that Jesus described when he was talking about working on the Sabbath. Ray said that he doesn’t consider it work but considers it “ministry” and “doing good” to be sure that Sunday night’s mess does not become Monday morning’s downfall.

That is just one of many examples of how we have implemented the idea of looking at tomorrow as starting tonight. The practice of thinking that tomorrow starts tonight has helped us in many ways through the years. It is a mindset that what I do tonight (getting to sleep at a decent time, picking up, having things ready to get out the door for tomorrow, etc.) makes or breaks tomorrow.

Join us tomorrow for practical ways we have practiced the “tomorrow starts tonight” guideline—and how much it has helped us in our family’s life.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

day 223: organization—personal organizational strategies: the abc’s of organizing tasks

I have been describing the process of creating a “daily” work list and a “weekly” work list to ensure that the things that need done on a constant basis get finished. Today I would like to introduce another organizing strategy that is not an uncommon one—and is one that works well for executives and housewives alike: the abc’s of getting things done.

Once my children started getting older and helping with household chores more and more and my littles started becoming “biggies,” which meant there were not so many little ones with so many needs, I found that I could actually branch out to other things---PROJECTS!!!

Then I adopted the abc’s of task organization. In addition to my “daily and weekly lists,” I had other things that were specific to that week that needed done—prepare for a family get together, order curriculum, plan for the school year, set up a field trip, mega cooking (freezer meal preparation), seasonal cleaning and organization, etc.

Each week I would create a list of things that I wanted to get done besides my constances. Then I would place a letter before each task:

A—really needs done this week

B—would be nice to get to this one

C—not happening but it’s fun to write it on the list!

Many years later, I still do this—I do it for our ministry, my tutoring service, my writing/editing, school, household, everything. I know that things with deadlines that week must have A’s in front of them—and must be done that week. B’s, of course, would be nice to get to, but sometimes they just do not happen. C’s, well, I don’t really do C’s!

Anything left on this week’s list gets moved to next week’s list—and a higher priority letter usually gets assigned to them.

This method solved the problem of my endless “to do lists.” I could write as many things on that list each week that I wanted to—I would prioritize the entire list with abc’s, and it would be just fine when I didn’t get to some of them (or many of them).

When I look at my “to do” list, I know to look for the A’s—and dig in. I know that I must get those done before moving onto B’s. I know that these are true priorities for this week. I do not look at an endless list of things to do that I cannot complete. Truly, organizing can be as easy as a-b-c!! Smile….