Friday, January 19, 2018

Egg Freshness Dates

'Why didn't I think of this before?' was the thought that popped into my head. Don't tell me you don't talk to yourself. I know better. Everyone does even if it you don't say it out loud. Don't feel ashamed. Scientist say smart people talk to themselves and in fact I'm doing that as I write. It helps stimulate my memory, clarify my thoughts, and helps me stay focused. Talking to yourself does this for everyone so you should try it. Maybe your brain sometimes gallops off down the road leaving you in the lurch like it does to me. I just hope yours isn't a race horse because mine is and boy can it run.

So don't be surprised if you hear me muttering. Oh whoops, squirrel, we were talking about eggs. 'Whoa pony, whoa! Get back here.' I thought I had this egg organization business worked out. I stacked egg cartons in the refrigerator with the oldest on top and the newest on the bottom but they did not always stay that way. In part because I'm not the only one with access to the refrigerator. 

Have you ever stared at six dozen egg cartons wondering which ones are the oldest? Your eyes glaze over and the stress level builds. 'Which ones should I scramble to feed back to the chickens? I need to save at least a dozen.' Because if I have this many eggs, I've been too busy to use the bumper crop creating egg noodles, souffles, angel food cake and the like for the freezer. I'm doing well just cleaning out the refrigerator. 

But which eggs are fresh? I'm not dissolving 2 Tablespoons of salt into 2 cups of cold water and testing 72 eggs for freshness. If the egg sinks to the bottom, they are suppose to be fresh. If they float towards the bottom at an angle they are getting old and if they float, then it is throw them out time. Great experiment for the kids but even they are not doing 72 eggs for me.

So I devised a plan--

  • Number the egg cartons 1 to 4 and stack accordingly. The number 1 egg carton being the oldest. That surely would do the trick.  But sometimes household members just put eggs away in whatever carton had an empty slot. And sometimes I got confused too as it was too complicated.

    Plan B --

  • I asked everyone to put the eggs on the counter in order that I would be the one to put the eggs in cartons and into the refrigerator. The eggs sometimes sat for two days on the counter cluttering it up before the task got done.
The stress mounts each time I remembered that one day on the counter equals one week in the refrigerator so my newly laid eggs just got two weeks older in the two days they sat. Clearly not the answer to the problem.
So after much frustration and time had passed, my brain finally came back to the paddock. Why don't I number with a pencil the day of the month on top of the eggs. Duh!!, I put dates on the eggs when I put them in the incubator and I mark X's and O's so I know to flip the egg from side to side if I'm not using the electric egg turner. So what took me so long to think of this? It's Captain Obvious! It's brilliant!
  • I know exactly the age of each and every egg if I put the eggs away right after collecting them instead of two days later. I need to delegate more. The kids could do this.

  • Even if the eggs don't get put in the refrigerator in the right carton, I still know the age of each egg and every egg. And this takes such a short amount of time to do. 

  • This way I can count at any given time how many eggs were laid a certain day. My record keeping would not have to be done that moment in time when the eggs are collected. Lately it has not been done at all.
I've got to say I LOVE this method. It is such a stress load off my mind. Okay, yes, I stress wa...y too much about things. But don't you think this will work?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Knife Storage

Ignore the nails in the picture. My husband hung the boards before removing them.
My lovely set of Christmas knives sat on the counter for a week and a half in there boxes as I pondered about the best way to store them. I have several different gadgets to do so but none seemed right for this expensive set. I definitely did not want to do it wrong as I'll never get another set like these in my lifetime. "As my dad says, do it right or don't do it at all." He was not talking about perfection just correct. So I pondered and researched.

My concerns were:
  • The best way to store a knife and not dull it in the process.
  • A way to store knives that does not scratch them up.
  • How to keep them sanitary. 
  • How to keep them dry.
  • Safety for me.
THE ABSOLUTE WORST WAY TO STORE KNIVES IS IN A PILE IN THE DRAWER. Not only is it not safe because you reach in and can get cut by the other knives but the klink against each other dulls their edges and nicking the handles. 

 I have this drawer model of knife storage that I've loved. The only problem is if I shut the drawer too hard. The knives shift out of their slots and jam the drawer shut. It's a real joy to get out of that mess. I'm being sarcastic of course. But this has been my favorite storage method except.
  • The knives can shift and lock the drawer shut.
  • The knives are stored with the blade edge down which dulls the edge slightly each time as you slide the knife in and out.  
  • It scratches up the knives a little.
This was not going to work for the new knives.
Kirk gave me a brand new knife block but it has some of the same problems. This open design is better as there is less friction against the knives and is not enclosed so a thorough cleaning can be done which is good but I just don't like the way the knives flop a bit in place so this option is out.
My mind began to wonder if a magnetic strip might be the best option but my old one scratches knives. That is when I began wondering if they did not have one with the wood on the outside and magnets on the inside. They do!!!

What I found was a well crafted knife magnetic board by Kurouto.
 The magnets are strong as you can see by how many knives the 12 inch boards holds. The only draw back is there is not a variety of sizes of boards. The boards are well crafted and the wood is beautiful so it makes up for it.
  • They hold the knives conveniently and safely.
  • The wood boards can be easily cleaned and are fastened with the key hole method so can be remove quickly from the wall if need be. 
  • They don't dull the knifes edge in storage.
  • They are pleasing to the eye.
  • They keep the knives dry. If I don't dry them well enough, they will air dry. 
Now I need to order food grade oil suited for knife handles and for the knife boards.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Is It Safe to Reuse Egg Cartons?

Should you reuse egg cartons from the store? Are they safe? I'll admit, I've accepted cartons from well-meaning friends and neighbors and stored my own farm fresh eggs in them. But there is this nagging feeling that makes me question - "Is it safe?" Especially as I sort through the containers to try and find ones that are not stained from dripping eggs whites passing across them to the fry pan. Or from broken eggs shells once stored inside. Most times this pickiness leaves me with a bag full of fire starter instead of storage containers.

So when our daughter found hard plastic egg cartons, and on sale too, I jumped at the opportunity to leave used egg cartons behind.
Then comfortable with my decision, I did some research on just what a risk I had been taking. What I found scared me.  
·       Salmonella is one such bacterium and it can remain alive for weeks lurking in a used egg carton.  
·       You can be a salmonella carrier without symptoms and pass the disease on to others.  
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 79,000 cases of foodborne illness and 30 deaths each year are caused by eating eggs contaminated with Salmonella.
  •  For this reason Israel Health Ministry issued a ban on used cardboard egg cartons for arts and crafts in their schools and day cares.
Thinking twice yet?

So what about Styrofoam egg cartons? I saw that some on the internet felt they were safe to reuse because they were sterilizing them. But is that enough? Styrofoam is porous and lightweight foam. This porosity helps maintain heat and cold but it also is perfect for harboring bacteria.

Apparently if Salmonella is given time to form a biofilm in the Styrofoam then sterilization is not enough. If not, then yes, you can reuse the cartons but there is no way for those of us without training and the equipment to know if sterilization is enough. The simple answer to those who would bless you with the offer of used egg cartons is, "No, thank you." or use them as a fire starter. They work great!
(Did not type this post in capital letters. And it does not show up as such in my draft. Do what is up with that. I will be switching one of these days to the new site and this should not happen.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What I Learned in the Oncology Office

So what is it like to visit an oncology advisor? She or he asks questions, lots and lots of them.

  • First and foremost what your family tree looks like cancer wise. They look at the different lines.
  • What country of origin is your family lines from? Different countries tend toward different types of cancer.
  • At what age did the cancer occur. Those in their 50's and younger are of greatest interest. The earlier onsets are more compelling towards a genetic connection. 
  • Location is critical. Cancer in the same place in the body over and over in the family tree. 
Our family has several people with melanoma skin cancer but since all of them had it in places exposed to the sun most and all spent extensive time outdoors; it was ruled out as a family connection between the cases.
  • The cancer has to be of the same type in the same organ.There are four kinds of thyroid cancer but if a family has 2 or more different kinds like ours does then it is not likely genetic related.
  • They look to see if the cancer is related to a dominant gene. If dominant then it will pass on with only one parent having it. Other types take both the mother and father with the cancer gene. In the case of the Cowden's Disease, a rare genetic disorder, it passes on to 50 % percent of the offspring. So that is a clue also.
 Since I have a daughter with breast cancer. I qualify for genetic testing. Her genetic testing did not come back as a genetic cause for cancer so I have very little chance of having a genetic predisposition to breast cancer. Still, insurance will pay if you are a direct relative; mother, father, child, or brother or sister. I choice not to be tested.

Even though it does not look like anything genetic is the cause of our daughter's extremely early onset of her type of breast cancer - (14 years difference between her and the next youngest case at the Tulsa Cancer Center of America). Her four daughters are advised  to start screening 10 years younger than their mother's onset of cancer.  That is the counsel for all who are directly related.

With any genetic relation cleared away, my thoughts turned to why someone gets cancer. The oncology councelor said most are random cases, meaning one here and there.

  • Factors leading to it are environment. Living in an air polluted city or water contamination.
  • Diet (  An alkaline diet is super important along with high levels of vitamins in the foods we eat, and lack of chemicals). Surprisingly protein is super important also as there are several amino acids you can not find anywhere else except meat. The meat needs to be grass fed etc. and not in large portions.
  • Products used. (Shampoos, deodorants, lotion, after shave, laundry detergent, etc. ) 
  • Work exposure like welding with aluminum or a farmer with fertilizers and pesticides to name just a couple that elevate your toxin levels.
  • Level of stress as it changes the body from alkaline to acid which is a welcoming environment for cancer. 
My first question posed to the advisor was why does the risk of cancer go up so much after you are 57 years of age. Her answer was that it is an accumulation of toxins that builds up in the body and the immune system becomes impaired. Consider the fact that over 5000 preservatives are used in our foods. They rarely reach the label. During the 1980's  and early 1990's they were saying that the average child ate 45lbs. of preservatives a year. You know it is far greater now. Since much of the toxins we ingest are stored in our fat, then imagine the amount that compiles over a lifetime. The amount of  garbage we eat, the polluted environment we live in, and the hazardous things like cigarettes we purposely choose to bombard ourselves with and it is a miracle any of us are alive.

There are two types of toxins, water soluble and fat soluble.
  • Water soluble toxins are flushed out easily by the kidneys and blood.
  • Fat Soluble must be converted by the liver to water soluble. These include pesticides, preservatives, food additives, heavy metals, pollutants, plastics, and other environmental chemicals. 
 Overwhelm the bodies system and toxins begin to be stored in fat cells.This clogging of the lymph nodes, digestive system, liver, blood, and kidneys and cancer surfaces.

One thing I learned the hard way is that toxins going in damage the body and coming out too. I've had some detox done for dangerous heavy metals done by a doctor under the guidance of a leading toxicologist. It had to be done very, very slowly to not cause too much damage to my kidneys and liver. It was super rough. Mine was a combination of things blocking my natural detox system. Does my body work up to par, no. So Kirk and I are working on a daily program to help flush our bodies of imperatives.

But back to genetics. The geneticist our daughter and I spoke briefly with said cancer is hitting up to 20 years younger each generation. So if grandmother had breast cancer at age 60 then her daughter will probably have it at 40 or 50 and her daughter much younger than that. Which tells us of the levels of toxins that is going up with each generation. A large number of toxins pass through the umbilical cord and there are now babies born with cancer. A year or two ago there was a nine year old girl in Utah diagnosed with breast cancer. She would not even have breasts at that age. 

1 in 3 people have diabetes or are prediabetes.  1 in 3 women will get cancer and 1 in 2 men. Nearly half or our population has heart disease. Those numbers alarm me. The saddest thing of all is that we are asking for it. We can not pass the blame on as it is in the genes because it only give us the predisposition toward it. It does not determine whether we get it or not. We do that. And yes, the advisor said much of the damaging behaviors are taught by parents whether it is smoking, eating heavily processed foods, or not getting enough sleep. Sleep is the most effective tool in lowering cortisol numbers which if high turn the body to acid.

Rather than feed ourselves or stand up for ourselves, we are willing to destroy ourselves. I hear it all the time. I don't want work that hard. I'll just buy this inferior product that is killing me and play Russian Roulette and hope my number does not come up. Seems harsh, well, the truth is harsh.

We fill our lives with stress.  One area we are working especially hard on right now as stress is not going to go away so we will have to change how we deal with it.

This has my husband and I thinking -- really thinking. We have made plans to change what we eat and how we live. It will be a long process as a change of habits and thought patterns does not come quickly. It has motivated Kirk to get the greenhouse up. We will make changes though. We can see clearly that our lives depend on it.

As an interesting note and motivation, there are societies that have never heard of cancer or Dementia and Alzheimer disease. Why? They eat a healthy diet of garden to the table and they detox. There diet has lots of natural foods cultured like kimchi which is awesome for the digestive tract. One group gathers and drinks tea each evening from a plant that is a known detox. Antioxidants are naturally in their diets and foods are eaten the way they are meant to be. They live in a cleaner environment with clean habits. And they exercise.

Simply put, they earn their good health. We could do well to learn from them before we kill off the human race.

This is not to say that we should not have great compassion for those who are suffering for there goes everyone of us. We all make mistakes. It is through those mistakes that we learn if we do not put the blame upon others for our misfortunes. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Week Overview January 1 - 9

 Two of the granddaughters are home today with a fever version of the flu.
I thought this year I would give you a glimpse into my world and help you to understand my challenges to balance living in this modern world while trying to capture a lifestyle of days gone by. Also why it is so worth it to try. This last week was especially challenging and enlightening. I met with an oncology advisor yesterday and learned my families risks and my own of developing cancer.  

Cancer is the hot topic in our family as we lost my brother-in-law the end of November to bone cancer. Before this was my own cancer scare. Then our daughter had a complete hysterectomy the day after Christmas and this past week they announced that her two non related breast cancers had metastasized to both her ovaries and her uterus. Here we thought she was done fighting cancer. The last battle took up the entire 2017 year. Today she is in Tulsa at the Cancer Center of America where they are running diagnostic tests to see the extent of the spread and outline the fight ahead.

While we were wrestling with this dark news, we celebrated our oldest granddaughter turning thirteen and one of her sisters turning nine. Since their mom was struggling with post surgery issues, I hobbled up to the plate, literally because I'm sure I broke a little bone in my foot slamming the front door into it as I rushed headlong out to catch the Fed Ex truck before it left. I can be such a klutz when my adrenal levels are low. A gal at church asked if I swore? The question took me by surprise as I can honestly say I never even thought about doing so. All those Sunday School lessons must be doing me some good. I'd better keep going. 

Our nine year old loves mint and chocolate, so thanks to inspiration, I remembered a ice cream cake I used to make on Christmas for our kids. It was a huge hit with everyone.

 It is so simple to make. 
  •   Crunch between your fingers half a package of mint or regular Oreo cookies onto the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch cake pan. I like to use glass. 
  •  Then put two- one and a half quarts of mint ice cream on the counter to soften slightly. If you are a chocolate loving family like ours, be sure and buy the kind with the chunks of chocolate swimming inside - it is so... good!
      You need to be able to spread the ice cream on top of the           crunched Oreo pieces. I used one container of ice cream and half of the other but if you want it tall, then add both.
  • Crunch the rest of the package of Oreo cookies over the top and freeze solid. 
  • When the cake is slid, put a jar of fudge ice cream sauce in the microwave and soften enough to make it pourable. Drizzle over the cake. Return to freezer or serve. It was a huge hit and now we are thinking of other combinations we might do to make another ice cream cake maybe for Valentines Day.
Rebellion set in as life big time messed up my plans for this year  so I've introduced Rebel Fridays. I do something that is lasting and lifts my spirits for a lasting period of time. I think the gray looks awesome but the little girls aren't too impressed yet. The same could be said about lots of our remodeling so far until we explain where we are headed with it or the person sees the project near completion and then surprised how well it turned out they rave.

The color is so versatile and the room can change as they grow without repainting. Right now the accents will be white, black, and pink - very feminine. We have gray in our entry way to our house and people always comment how surprised they are that they really, really, like the color. I'm confident the girls will too when I'm done.
 Of course there is the weekly chores like cleaning out the ashes from the stove. A blizzard is in the forecast for tomorrow so I'd better get it done while the weather is nice.

I also have a large truck load of wood to stack. Kirk picked up kids that became sick at school yesterday and chopped firewood while I was gone to the oncology advisor. How wonderful to have such a great helpmate. It takes two to keep things a float in this wild journey of ours through life. Wild week one is done for 2018 and week two has begun.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Dishwashers are NOT for Knives

Opening presents on Christmas day is my least favorite part of the season. Not only do I hate to shop but surprises make me very uncomfortable. Social skills are not my strong point since I have Autism and how to respond to a gift gets in the way of the pleasure of receiving them.
So it was with trepidation and some major urging to get me to sit down and open presents Christmas morn. To my great delight resting under the piney bows of the Christmas tree was a practical gift, one that will last me my lifetime and beyond. It was a large set of beautiful kitchen knives. I’m still tingling with delight days later.

Knives are the most important tools in the kitchen as you chop and slice your way through three square meals a day and one comes to appreciate good ones. One that conforms to my hand, has proper weight and balance, and slices smoothly and easily, frees my mind to be creative.

 Many of you don't know it but you are using a plow horse to do the job of a cutting horse. Which is a pretty good simile for what I've experienced working in other's kitchens so I usually bring my own knives. May oldest daughter does also.

I have been blessed to have a husband who ranks a master in knife making. He understands metallurgy and forges his own blades. He also has worked 20 years with the commercial knife industry and has an intimate knowledge of products from various companies. This includes kitchen knives. Though kitchen knives are not his canvas of choice and therefore I will never have one of his creations, he knows what makes a good one. Which makes me a very blessed wife to have received this wonderful gift from him and a good friend who owns Al Mar Knives.

When you go to buy your own set of knives I would recommend that you do not buy an entire set. buy individually the knives you want. Often companies will throw in a set things you won't use and knives of varying quality. They need to move knives that aren't selling well out of their inventory in some fashion so beware. Don't look at a brand name alone for most all companies have several different lines from the low quality to medium, and then their la creme or best. When I was a kid they use to sell tool on the hardware store walls as Good, Better, and Best. They still do, they just don't label them. 

There are a few knives I use constantly in the kitchen. They are tailored best for the jobs I do most frequently. After all you would not go hunting pheasant with a 22 rifle or shoot a moose with a shotgun. So decided what you do most and buy your highest quality knives for those tasks. But before I tell you some knives you should pay extra money for, I want to impart some of the things I've learned through research about caring for knives. It was not taught by my mother who had a drawer full and I mean full of the worst cutting instruments made by man. I gave her a couple knives of better quality than what she had and she promptly ruined them. After all a good knife will not remain so if not cared for properly. So let's start there in my series about kitchen knives.
  • A knife should not be left with food on it. Slice a tomato, rinse it under hot water for a few seconds, dry it, and put it away. The alkaline or acid nature of food eats away at metal. Slice cheese, put a few drops of dish soap on the blade, place under the hot water tap, wash with a cloth, and dry thoroughly. It takes only a minute. Kitchen knives are typically stainless steel, ( “Stainless steel is an alloy of Iron with a minimum of 10.5% Chromium. ... Stainless steel also contains varying amounts of Carbon, Silicon and Manganese. Other elements such as Nickel and Molybdenum may be added to impart other useful properties such as enhanced formability and increased corrosion resistance.”) Did you catch the word enhanced formability and resistant? Knives are not indestructible.

  • Never leave a knife in a humid environment. So leave that nice sink full of warm water for your baby ducks. They are adorable splashing about. Not only is a knife at the bottom of a sink full of soapy water a safety issue as you dive in after one and cut yourself but metal and sustained humidity don’t mix. Eventually, even stainless steel will deteriorate to the point where rust is visible.

  • That humid environment no, no includes the dishwasher --especially the dishwasher. Not only do your knives end up sitting with food on them which is a bad thing but your knife remain wet far too long. The longer a knife remains wet and dirty, the more the quality of the steel deteriorates. The other problem with the dishwasher is the force of the water which clangs knives against other utensils or against the shelves dulling the edge and possibly causing chips in the blade or handle. Not so great on the dishwasher either as it cuts into the plastic. Some knife companies will say you can put their knives through the dishwasher but read further because they also state they don’t recommend it. If your knife has a wooden handle, like my favorite ones do, then remember water and wood don't mix as it cause the wood to swell and eventually the handle will pull away from the metal. For me a knife in the dishwasher just makes no sense since I run my dishwasher once a day and I use my knives many, many times a day.

  • Then there is the dishwasher soap itself. It is formulated to eat away and loosen the food on the plate. There is not scrubbing action in a dishwasher just water sprayed to rinse off the dishes and spread the soap. The soap is harsh and though the knife may be stainless steel and resistant, the soap eats away at the metal, and will greatly shorten the life of a knife. Just because you can't see the damage to a knife right away does not mean it is not being done. Much of the manipulating of metal that my husband does with the forge and hammer can not be seen except with a microscope as he refines the grain of the metal enhancing the cutting edge and strengthening the steel. Knives are not cheap and really good ones are hundreds of dollars a piece and all deserve respect.
Take a minute or two to wash your knives properly. A chef would never leave his knives for another to clean for they are the tools of his craft and he has great respect for them. As a craftsman the quality of his work depends on them. Take a lesson from the Chef's and do things right and especially don't put your knives in the dish washer.

A little side note --We just received in the mail a knife Kirk made years and years past. Oh, my, what stories that knife could tell. It was use hard, abused, and put away wet. It amazes us how well the knife held up which is a testament to its maker but now Kirk has to try and repair the damage. The knife can never be what it once was.

Monday, December 18, 2017

New Direction

Breaking News!
I am changing my blog to a new site, a new look, and a new writing style. The name will still be Easy Living the Hard Way with the basis of homesteading skills. What's new is information at the forefront. Record keeping has entered the picture. Currently, I am working on a flexible schedule for the entire spring with many posts already researched and outlines in the works. I decided to get serious.

I kept thinking that life would give me a break and I would get to be just grandma. I thought demands would change, that things would slow down and I could get serious about writing. They have not and are not likely too. What has changed is my mindset. I had a serious scare the end of November. The doctor was sure that I had a cancer that would give me three years tops. Tests thankfully disagreed. It made me think, reevaluate. Promptings led me to do research and discover a high possibility that I have a rare genetic mutation with dispositions toward benign tumors and eventually a high risk of developing cancer in certain organs. Two doctors concur so I will be visiting a geneticist soon to test for this mutation on my genes. 

The end of November I lost my sweet brother in law to cancer, a seven year battle. The message that time is not our own penetrated.  In the L.D.S. church, we talk about Good, Better, and Best. That we need to choose to do what's Best each day. We can become  entangled in doing good things but never accomplish what matters most.

I have decided that life won't be giving me a break but I can change how I spend my time. I am forming a plan for my health based on hours of research to help ward off cancer in the future. This mutation is not just about me, it affects 50 % of a family line. In the past, my medical research has greatly helped myself and my extended family and I pray this is the answer our family has been looking for. It is critical I continue researching for generations to come depend on it.

I want as part of my legacy to my family be the knowledge that I've gained. I'm call the 'Walking Encyclopedia' by family, friends, and those who have conversed with me fairly briefly. Funny how they all coin the same term. It is probably the result of my Autism. 
                                        Join me as I open the door to a new chapter in my life.
My blog, e-books, and patterns to come will be part of this legacy I wish to leave. My family has requested for quite some time in written form the knowledge I've gained through research and practical application.

I decided to share it in this new blog, in e-books, and for fun, patterns that include homesteading skills.  Come and join me to see what's new. The site will be up and running in January. More details will be forthcoming as the time nears.