The Strategic Homemaker

learning to follow the Father, care for the clan, and redeem the resources

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A new kitchen!

Well, folks, life is showing no signs of slowing any time soon, so blogging is still on the back burner not likely to happen. But, I am doing really really well. I say with the Psalmist: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

A random post to show the before and afters on the new kitchen. No time for commentary; I’m just going straight to pics. For some before and afters of the dining room from long ago, see here.08-IMG_1135


Okay, really quick commentary. Problems to note with original kitchen were: 20 inch stove, no hood at all, little counterspace and outlets, strange old fan through the wall, beat up linoleum, and carpet just inside back door (it was gross.) and until a year and a half ago, there was a wall with cabinet between it and the dining room.

The wall:




Beautiful new kitchen. Problems solved. and my own special desk. We didn’t do much ourselves, so it cost a lot, but we hopefully increased the house value by the same amount. (The dining table is not back yet, because we are waiting for the new poly on the floors to cure longer. ) I am enjoying it a lot and putting it to work. Hooray!




I’ve since filled up the open shelving.





Entering a New Phase

Not sure if anyone is still reading this…my bad on not posting in 6 months, but we are entering some new phases around here. A phase of big kids not taking naps, a phase of planning serious kitchen remodeling [we finally have the house mostly furnished!], a gardening phase, and perhaps the biggest change:

We’ve been getting all our background checks done, and will hopefully be certified as a host family by April. Safe Families is different from foster families in a few ways, including that the child’s parents retain custody and voluntarily request help, and the kids’ stays average a month. It is through Bethany Christian Services rather than through the state, although the state is in cooperation with Safe Families and can refer parents to them. You can read more about it here:

All that to say that I have re-prioritized my time, and Facebook and blogging didn’t make the cut. And at the rate things are going, I don’t see myself getting back to it for a while. Actually, even my sewing machine is currently banished to the basement . If you know me, send me an email or give me a call sometime. and I’ll try to keep sending out real Christmas cards.

Au revoir,



Fridge Finds: What’s (Really) Cooking, Part 6

It’s my week to share  my meal plan (I think I’m the last to post in this blog party, btw), and in keeping with my post on grocery splurges, only one of the planned meals contains meat (Zuppa Tuscana), although we’ll probably get 6-8 servings out of that–so 2.5 meals. This photo and plan were actually from a couple weeks ago–but this is pretty typical. It was right when the cold weather started me on a soup kick. Thank goodness I started this post back then, because the third trimester has me requiring a nap every day, which has seriously cut down on productivity.

Anyway, here’s the fridge:


–Top shelf: leftover coleslaw, ricotta cheese, bowl of pomegranate seeds (in the back–you can’t see it), leftover spaghetti sauce, carton of cream, leftover toddler milk

–Second shelf: Milk, juice, eggs, tiny amount of leftover chicken noodle soup

–Third shelf: leftover spaghetti bake, Italian sausage, plain yogurt

–little drawer: cheddar cheese, mozzarella, cream cheese

–top drawer: kale, delicata squash, apples

–bottom drawer: apples and carrots (I made an apple cake and a lot of applesauce)

–door: butter, parmesan cheese, garlic, ginger, leftover chicken broth, condiments

and here’s the meal plan–

Spaghetti Bake with Coleslaw. I don’t have a recipe for this, but basically I mixed cooked spaghetti with ricotta  and parmesan cheese, eggs, oregano, basil, salt and pepper, and topped with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella, then baked. I was planning to have salad with it, but then realized the green ball I thought was lettuce was cabbage, hence the coleslaw. Coleslaw recipe below.

Zuppa Toscana: except I’m going to be adding more potatoes and kale and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and leaving out the bacon bits.

Refried Bean tacos (Cheddar cheese and plain yogurt are the only thing in the fridge to contribute to these–TSH is picking up some lettuce and tomatoes from our farm share on Thursday, and the pintos, stuff for tortillas, olives and onions are in the pantry.)

Dal Nirvana and rice. This is our favorite lentil dish. I asked TSH how lentils can be a comfort food, and he said he thinks it’s the cream, not the lentils, but whatever. It’s good. If you can’t eat dairy, you could probably substitute the cream with coconut milk or cream.

Carrot Soup and bread. The first time I made this, TSH was impressed that he liked it, because he “did not have high expectations.” Anyway, I make it when I have an excess of carrots.

The additional recipes

Tangy Cole Slaw Dressing (originally from the Taste of Home Cookbook. Use half a cabbage, plus whatever vegetables you want, all shredded or finely cut, and mix dressing ingredients together before pouring over vegetables. This gets better if it has a little time in the fridge to soak up the dressing.)

½ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon paprika

Tortilla Recipe (if you have a little extra time, these are really good. I substitute 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon coconut oil for the half cup plus shortening in her recipe.)

Let me know if you make any of these!

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Fridge Finds: What’s (Really) Cooking #4

This week’s installment of fridge finds is from Elissa at Winding Down with the Whiteds. Elissa’s husband was in grad school the same time as us, but finished a couple months before TSH, and they moved across the country. Then a few months later, we moved to a completely different part of the country. We are now nearly as far from them as we can be in America. Our best hope for meeting again is back in Blacksburg. Alas. 😦

They have a toddler as well–apparently this is a trend among my friends–so are all about quick prep meals, which I definitely appreciate. Check out her meal plan!


Nearly every time I get on Facebook, there are a couple posts in my Newsfeed with links to articles saying some kind of food to avoid, something I should be making from scratch, some political cause I need to take up, some thing I should be doing to save the earth or my family. Last week there was an article trying to get me to convert from paper to cloth toilet paper. I was like, “Cut me some slack, People!” [Besides, I’m not convinced cloth toilet paper actually helps the environment–especially if you have a large family and have to run extra loads of wash.]

I am bombarded with messages about how I should be using my time and concerns. While it is obvious I can’t do it all, some days I don’t make it past cleaning up toddler accidents and getting food on the table.

The message of which I need to remind myself is that Jesus said ONE thing was necessary.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10, ESV)

The one thing that is necessary for me to spend time doing is listening to Jesus.

The other message of which I frequently need to remind myself is that Jesus said one thing was NECESSARY.

I can’t prioritize other things above time with God’s Word every day and expect to get a “Well done!” at the end. If I do prioritize other things, they may be done in vain anyway.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127, ESV)

We obviously have responsibilities to work hard and take care of our families, but if you put Jesus first, He will take care of the details, and you will get done what you need–what He wants you to get done. Also, it won’t necessarily be the same as what He has other people doing.

So next time I see a Facebook or Pinterest post telling me what I should be doing or concerning myself with, whether it’s good or not, I’m hoping I’ll remember what Jesus tells me is most important, and make sure to put first things first.

Am I the only one who needs this reminder, or is anyone out there with me?


Top 10 Things I’m Excited about in Rhode Island (and some newcomer observations)

1. TSH’s 8 to 5 job.

What!! Who knew these even existed anymore, especially for people with PhDs? Going to be a nice change of pace from the past few years :).

2. Our own house.

(Hopefully). We’re working on it, and I’ll keep you posted. We may or may not be hoping for one with a large fenced-in back yard, and a Del’s frozen lemonade shop about a 1 minute walk away.

3. Nearby Coastline.

This isn’t called the Ocean State for nothing. Several houses even in our price range boasted a less-than-one-mile walk to water. Of course, Florida still wins for best beaches and most sunshine (Yay, Florida!), but I’ll not turn down any type of ocean.

4. Cool cities nearby.

NYC is three hours, Boston is one hour. Other nearby destinations include Martha’s vineyard, Newport, Cape Cod, and pretty much any New England state.

5. Excellent restaurants.

Not only have I spied McCormick and Schmicks, the seafood place whose cookbook I got at a white elephant gift exchange a year ago, but the Melting Pot, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and Flemings are currently less than 5 miles away. Outside of chains, there appears to be some serious ethnic cuisine of the Italian, Indian, Thai, Japanese, and Mediterranean varieties. My mouth is already starting to water.

6. Possibly being able to have foster kids.

This is something we’ve wanted to do for a few years, but have yet to have legally acceptable bedroom space and plan to live in the same state for long enough. Maybe this will happen here!

7. Attending BSF.

I mentioned this before, but I have officially signed myself up for BSF up here, and am looking forward to studying the book of Matthew and having some multi-age fellowship.

8. The CSA I have lined up for the summer.

I am a sucker for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and I really am looking forward to the vegetable and meat share we’ll be getting starting in June. Basically, it prevents me from becoming an angry person, which may or may not tend to happen when I try to garden and Bambi eats 23 tomatoes.

9. TSH’s 8 to 5 Job.

Did I mention this yet? And that he gets weekends off too?

10. Family Zoo Membership

Yay for the zoo being 10 minutes away. We get a bring a guest free, so come visit!

As a bonus, here are my first week observations on Rhode Islanders:

1. No one uses their garage for their car, even in the winter. They view garages as storages, and owners of two houses we looked at cut into the back of the garage making it too short for a car anyway. In the words of one realtor we met, “If you put your car in the garage in the winter, then you’re soft.” and “How will people know you’re home if your car is parked in the garage?”

2. A seriously high percentage of houses have pools. Not quite as many as Florida, but definitely higher than Virginia. This is interesting to me, since I am expecting about 3 months of swimmable weather here per year. Maybe I’m too “soft.”

3. Del’s frozen lemonade stands and Dunkin Donuts are on literally every other block.

4. We have not met a single unfriendly person yet, and TSH and I have been expecting it since this is some of what we heard about New Englanders. Way to disappoint, Rhode Island! They do all have accents. TSH walks around practicing his New England accent on the word “Boston.”

5. We have seen several Newfoundland dogs, which I had never seen in real life before. They are big! A lady and girl walking theirs let PG and I pet it.

What do you think? Is there anything I should know about Rhode Islanders?


Top 10 Things I’ll miss about Blacksburg, Virginia

1. Friends

From about our second week in Blacksburg, we had friends who rejoiced with us, mourned with us, and who we felt comfortable calling to ask for help at any time of day. I am really going to miss dropping in at these girls’ houses, although thanks to a private blog, we’ve done well staying in touch through at least one year of dispersion. Here’s a small sampling of them from last summer.


2. Blacksburg Christian Fellowship

Also, from about our second week, we were blessed to be part of a wonderful church. Really going to miss them, and hoping God provides another great one up north!

3. Hokie Football season

I generally don’t even follow sports–except Hokie Football. They are just my team. I was even friends with two former longsnappers. I’m not sure people up north will appreciate the maroon and orange colors that now make up all my clothing.

4 and 5. Cheap gas and internet

Due to Kroger points, I paid $2.80/gallon for the last tank of gas I got before we left (originally $3.20). Also, the internet bill is almost certain to go up from $15/month. bummer.

6. The Starlight Drive-in theatre.

This is just a fun and cheap place to go in the summer, and there aren’t too many still around.

7. Berry picking in friend’s yards.

I have gotten mass quantities of free raspberries, blackberries, wineberries, blueberries, black heart cherries, and muscadine grapes the past four summers. Sadly, I’m guessing that’s not going to happen this year.

8. Steppin’ Out

I love this local artisan street fair, and I like seeing so many people I know at it. RI has some fun festivals, but I’m guessing I won’t run into all my friends at them.

9. Kroger

Finally when I got in the Kroger coupon groove, we’re moving to a place that doesn’t have one. going to have to start from scratch. Also, no joke, I always run into at least two people I know at Kroger–benefits of a small town.

10. Fall in Blacksburg

(…and the rest of the weather, to be honest–You get every season, and they are all mild.)