Thursday, June 12, 2014


While most men will cringe at the idea that crochet is a modern pioneer skill, I would argue that it involves skills that are as old as time.  In ancient days, men wove their own fishing nets.  Basically, they used a type of crochet.  We see pictures on Pinterest of cutesy potholders and children's bonnets, but crochet is a very useful pioneering skill.

Okay, I have to admit that when I did a Pinterest search of "man crochet", I got a lot of fruity pictures.  But if we are talking survival skills, a knowledge of crochet can really come in handy.  My own grandfather was taught to crochet as a young child and made socks for his family.  He passed that knowledge to one of his granddaughters, but I don't think anyone else in the family learned from him.  If you are in a survival situation, I'm sure a new pair of socks would be valuable!

When I was a kid, I heard about a pro-football player who did needlepoint.  At the time I thought it was very funny.  Admittedly, I think because he was smashing the stuffing out of guys in his day job everyone gave him slack for doing needlepoint.  But who decided it was a woman's hobby?

I'm currently in the process of learning how to crochet.  It's actually not that difficult, and when you get the hang of it, it can be very relaxing.  Try watching some online videos.  I bet you can learn too.

I have seen some projects that people did that used other mediums than yarn.  You could literally tear up old clothing in to strips and crochet it to make a blanket or rug.  Don't overlook the benefit of crochet for modern pioneer living!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Saving Energy/ Cooking Rice

Many years ago, a church friend and her husband relocated to China, so insisted that the company move their food storage with them.  I'm sure this was a huge expense for the company, but they did it anyway.  After a few years in China, they were relocated to another country, but realized how impractical it was for them to move all of that food a second time.  So this friend decided to give away her food storage before leaving China.  She spoke with a Chinese liason and asked him if she could give the food to some of the men who were doing repairs in her apartment.  She wondered what kinds of food would be best to offer them.  She had a lot of dried beans and wondered if they would like them.  The liason answered and told her that the best food to give them would be her stored rice.  He explained that beans take a lot of energy to cook.  Men such as these could not afford the gas to cook the beans.  Rice takes much less energy to cook.

I've thought of this experience many times over the years and have decided that the Chinese really are the masters of living with very little.  Most Chinese stir fry vegetables over a very high heat.  This causes the vegetables to cook very quickly, using less energy.  If you find yourself in a true survival situation, unless you have unlimited energy source, consider cooking foods that use less energy.  Stick with foods like potatoes, rice, and fresh vegetables.  


Put one part white rice, and two parts water in a pan.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and cover.
Simmer for 15 minutes (don't take off the lid during cooking time.)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Make it Do, or Do WIthout

Have you ever heard this old saying?

"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

I think in America, because of our affluence, we have become a "throw away" culture.  It's always amazing to me to see what kinds of things people throw away.  Many of them are perfectly good, it's just that the owners got tired of them, or wanted a newer, more stylish model.  In some cases, even thrift stores are picky and won't accept anything that isn't in pristine condition, even if it still has a lot of life left in it.  But often, just a coat of paint, or a good cleaning can make something usable again.

I have a neighbor who has a talent for fixing things up.  I think part of the reason she is good at this is because she is a very detail oriented person.  But she also grew up in a family where she was taught how to repair things.  I think this is a dying art.  I remember one time we went to a garage sale together and she saw a rocking horse.  It was the kind that is suspended from springs; do you know that kind?  She has a little boy, and thought he would really like playing with it.  But the problem was that it was made for a little girl.  It was purple and pink with girly details.  So my neighbor got to work with some spray paint.  Not only did she spray the frame, but she used newspaper to mask certain areas of the horse and sprayed it like a paint pony!  Honestly, I don't think a factory could have made it nicer!  She even found a small gold star that she glued to the halter.  Being a horse person herself, she knew that if a horse has a white leg, then the hoof of that leg will be a lighter color.  So she painted the hoofs according to the color of the leg.

At one point we had a bed at our house that had an ugly headboard.  It was that really blackish color of wood, and I just didn't like it.  I gave it to my neighbor.  She repainted it a different color, and made it look like a ship captain's bed!  See, I could have done the same thing, I just didn't have the vision.  I'm not sorry I gave her the bed, I'm just sorry I didn't have her vision.

So what do you do with things you don't want anymore?  How about turning old clothes in to a quilt, or a braided rug?  Or how about using the fabric to make children's clothes?  I'm not saying we should hoard everything, but think before you throw.

And in addition to thinking before throwing, think about how you might give a second life to things.  Can it be repaired?  How much money will you save if you repair it instead of buying new?  There is a lot of charm in things that are used.  Don't fall prey to worldly covetousness that tells you that if it isn't new, it isn't good enough.  Learn to recognize that there is charm in something that has been used.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Homemade Pesto

After my last blog about pizza, I wanted to post this recipe for pesto.  I learned this from my neighbor who makes her own pesto all the time.  I have to say that there is no exact recipe, but  you really can't mess it up.  At home in the States I grow my own basil, so it's convenient to make pesto.

Homemade Pesto
Fresh basil (about two "handfuls)
About 1/2 cup of walnuts  (unless you want to be all highbrow and use pinenuts.  ;)
About 1 cup of fresh parmesan cheese
2 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste
Olive oil

Combine all ingredients in the blender.  Add just enough olive oil to incorporate the ingredients.  You will need to adjust the amount of the olive oil depending on the thickness of the pesto.  If your pesto is too thick, add a little more oil.  Blend until smooth.  I would try to use this up within 2 weeks.


When I was first married I used to make pizza, but frankly it was terrible!  Over the years I have learned that I need to use better ingredients, and I have adjusted the use of the dough.  (For some stupid reason, I used to use ground beef....)  I have it figured out now and I want to share with you what I have learned!  Why spend a lot of money on take out pizza, or going to an expensive pizza parlor when you can make it good at home?

The dough recipe was given to me by my brother.  When I first started using it, I didn't have pizza pans, so I made one big pizza from a jelly roll pan.  Now I realize that was too much dough for that size of pan.  It was more of a pizza cake....   This recipe makes three rounds.  It's such an easy recipe that I have it memorized.

Pizza Dough

In a large mixing bowl (I use the large tupperware bowl) combine the following:
3 Cups flour
1 tsp. salt

In a separate bowl combine:
2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast (I think that's one packet...I measured once)
1/2 cup of very warm water

Note:  When using yeast, if you use too hot of water you will kill the yeast.  But it needs to be pretty warm.  If you could wash dishes in it, it isn't too hot.  :)

When using yeast, always start it in a separate bowl so that you can "proof" the yeast.  This means that you are basically testing it to make sure that it is good yeast.  If it starts to bubble and the water turns cloudy, then your yeast is good.  When all of the yeast in the bowl has started to react, then you can add it to the flour mixture.

Make an indentation in the center of the flour mixture.  Pour in the yeast mixture.  Add one more cup of very warm water.  Stir until the flour is incorporated and the dough follows the spoon.  Now knead for a few minutes by hand.  You will probably need to add a little more flour so that the dough won't stick to your hands.  Knead until the texture is smooth and elastic.

You knead by folding the dough in half and pressing down, then fold in half again and press down.  Repeat this until the dough is smooth.  By kneading, you are causing glutein from the wheat flour to form.  Glutein is the substance that binds the bran.

Leave the dough in the bowl and cover the bowl with a clean, dry cloth.  Let sit until double in size.  That means that the circumference of the dough ball doubles.

While the dough is rising, prepare your other ingredients, and grease the pizza pans.  When the dough is double in size, take one third and put on the pizza pan.  Grease your hands slightly and begin to form the pizza by hand.  I used to roll out pizza dough until I saw this method on tv.  It works much better, and is less mess.  Repeat with the other 2/3 of dough.

Here are my favorite pizza recipes:

No science to this.  I buy inexpensive spaghetti sauce and spoon some on the dough.  Next spread a layer of mozzarella cheese.   Lastly lay out a layer of sliced pepperoni.  Bake about 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the pizza is golden.

Make a pepperoni pizza, but add chopped onions and bell peppers, chopped mushrooms, olives, etc.

Southwest style:
Instead of spaghetti sauce, spread barbecue sauce on the dough.  Top with cheese, shredded cooked chicken, and thin red onion slices.  After it is cooked, add fresh chopped cilantro

For the sauce, combine pesto sauce with a little olive oil.  (Try growing your own basil and making pesto from scratch!)  Spread on the dough.  In a bowl, combine one chopped tomato, and one chopped red onion.  Add a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  (about a tablespoon each)  Mix well and put on top of the pesto sauce.  Top with chunks of feta cheese.

Try this some weekend!


While living in China, I have had to make pancakes from scratch.  What I have learned from this is that I like homemade pancakes MUCH more than the mix kind.  And I have learned that it doesn't take much time to whip them up.  Why go to the expense of buying a separate bag of pancake mix when you already have all of the ingredients to make them from scratch?  Try this recipe, and see if you don't agree that they taste better.  I honestly can't remember where I got this recipe from.  It may be from Pinterest.  But it's the recipe I always use.  I'm giving it to you exactly as I copied it.


Combine the following:
1 1/2 C. flour
3 TB sugar
1 3/4 TB baking powder
1 tsp. salt

In a separate bowl combine the following:
1 1/2 C milk
3 TB melted butter (I use oil because of the cost of butter here)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Add dry mixture to liquid mixture.  It will look a little ubble, and it really spreads out after you put it on the pan.
For Buttermilk pancakes:
Add 1/2 tsp. baking soda.  Decrease baking powder to 1 tsp.  Substitute buttermilk for regular milk.

(Note:  as a substitute for buttermilk, add a teaspoon of vinegar to a cup of milk.  You will immediately see the milk curdle.)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Grocery Store Vegetables

American grocers have found the perfect way to preserve their vegetables, while forcing the buyer to have to buy more frequently.  In America, we have water sprinklers installed above the vegetable bins.  They are set on a timer to automatically spray the vegetables frequently throughout the day to keep them fresher.

The advantage to the sprinklers is that food doesn't dry out as quickly.  It keeps leaves moistened, and also keeps foods cooler.  Sprinklers do help keep some vegetables longer.

The disadvantage to sprinklers is that they can actually cause foods to spoil quicker.  Cilantro is a perfect example.  If cilantro is wet when it is put in to the refrigerator at home, it will quickly spoil and turn black.  Potatoes and onions do not last long in moist environments.  Clearly, there should be two different sections at the grocery store; one for items that need to be wet, and one for items that need to be dry.  But usually, grocers place all items under the sprinkler, except for the potatoes and onions.  This makes the food look appetizing in the store, but causes it to spoil quickly at home.

My suggestion is to take the vegetables out of the bags when you get home and let them dry out.  Then put them inside ziplock bags to store in the fridge.  You will find that your vegetables last longer!