Monday, April 27, 2009

Care Calendar

I was recently introduced to CareCalendar ( This web site is designed to bring churches, neighbors, extended families, friends, co-workers, etc. together to help loved ones who are in the midst of a life challenge. These challenges may often be temporary, such as the birth of a baby or recovery from a minor surgery. Or, they may be ongoing such as a young widow with small children or someone caring for a relative with cancer or Alzheimer's .
CareCalendar is designed to help your organization's leader coordinate meals, lawn care, child care, errands, housekeeping, financial needs, etc. of families experiencing a life challenge.
CareCalendar has password protection which allows only members of your group access to your loved one's needs. This web-site also contains an "update" link, where the family or individual in need can post needs, updates, prayer requests or praise reports. These updates are also password protected.
CareCalendar is a tool that will greatly reduce the time needed to coordinate care from your group. CareCalendar sends reminder e-mails, notifications and family updates to those who have volunteered to meet specific needs.
CareCalendar was designed and is operated by the Bortel Family and is donor supported. There aren't any membership or monthly fees to use CareCalendar. The Bible instructs Christians to help and care for one another. In today's fast paced society, it is often difficult to find someone who has time to manage and coordinate efforts needed to help those in need. Also, in today's economy, it is often impossible for only one family to meet the needs of another. However, with CareCalendar the management of volunteers and needs becomes streamlined and by several families pooling their resources, needs that once seemed to be impossible to overcome, become manageable. I hope you will click on CareCalendar ( and see all the wonderful tools this web-site has to offer your organization or family.

Recipes To Share

This week I have two delicious, fast and easy recipes to share. The first, Spinach, Orange & Pecan Salad w/ Honey Vinaigrette Dressing, pictured at the right, was inspired by the 5 lb. of spinach we harvested from our garden last week.
Spinach, Orange, Pecan Salad w/ Honey Vinaigrette Dressing

6-8 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 110z. can Mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 purple onion, thinly sliced & separated into rings
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/4 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh OR 1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper

Place spinach leaves in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with Mandarin oranges, purple onion rings. Top with pecan halves. Add all dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until combined well. Drizzle over salad, serve immediately.

The second, Cracker Candy, is not my recipe at all, but comes from my dear friend, Mrs. M, over at Evening Shade and Morning Latte (, please click on the link for her easy to follow recipe. For my version, I was out of saltine crackers, so I substituted graham crackers and took the liberty of sprinkling finely chopped pecans over the melted chocolate. I then proceeded to refrigerate as directed in Mrs. M's instructions. This treat was a HUGE hit at my house and I urge you to try it for your family.

Are You An Accidental Home Educator?

As a home educator, I often hear many parents comment that they don't think they would be able to home school their children. Often times, they assume that I am a very intelligent or academic person, by the way, I'm not. I'm actually a VERY average person.

I've found that most parents who think they would not be capable of home schooling are already doing so by accident. If mom, dad, grandparents and older siblings consistently do any of the following with your children, then you could be what I have come to personally refer to as an accidental home educator. Yes, you may send your children to a public or private school 5 days per week, but how much supplemental education do your children learn or have a need to learn from everyday life within your own family? Below are a few photos from a week of school in our home. As you view these, ask yourself the following, "Could I do what this family does? Am I already doing what this family does? If so, why am I allowing my children to be indoctrinated with non-Christian values (public school) 5 days a week, 6 - 8 hours per day?"

Homework OG and EJ doing their seat work. EJ is in 1st grade. He is able to complete his textbooks and workbooks within 1.5 - 2 hours per day, 4 days per week. OG is in 4th grade. It takes her about 3 hours per day, 4 days per week to complete lessons in 8 subjects. Even when JP was in high school, he was able to complete ALL his subjects (5-7) per year in 4 hours per day, 5 days per week. In home school, our children do not experience the common distractions that occur with 20+ other students. Because of the lack of distractions, our children are able to finish their seat work during class time thus, no extra homework.

Accidental Home Educator, Continued

Athletics, Fun and Friendships OG up to bat at last Tuesday's softball game.
EJ at batting practice, before last Monday's baseball game.

Why would a 10 and an 11 year old WANT to ride the train at the the fair? Because as my dear friend, Mrs. P, commented, "Because no one's told them they are too old for it." With "no one" being teachers or peers.

Three buddies waiting for the train.

Accidental Home Educator, Continued

Hands on Science McIntosh Rose - this rose grows in the salty marsh lands along the south east Texas coast. It has a very strong fragrance that can be detected several yards away. Saltwater marsh located in San Jacinto, Texas.

EJ excitedly holding a non-poisonous baby hog nosed snake. This guys is named for the shape of his nose - it looks similar to hog's. The shape of it's nose enables it to dig, like a shovel, and burrow into the ground and under brush.

Even OG eagerly handled the snake. Mom, of course, was only interested in looking - not touching (hee, hee).

Bird of prey - the majestic Falcon. He is a keen hunter and nearly as fast as a bullet when diving for prey.

Accidental Home Educator, Continued

Living History (historical reenactments)
When Texas declared it independence from Mexico, Texas and Mexico entered into war for Texas' independence. Being severely outnumbered, the Texans had lost all the important battles for it's independence, most notably the battles at Goliad and the Alamo. After these two battles, in particular, General Santa broke the gentleman's rules of engagement and slaughtered the Texan soldiers. Only a handful escaped his brutal executions. In the weeks that followed, General Santa Anna had pushed the Texan army and settlers into south east Texas. The Texans were cornered at San Jacinto. Texas' General Sam Houston and his army knew the battle they were about to enter was "do or die". Texas' independence hinged on victory or defeat in this battle. Fortunately, for the Texans, the victory's at Goliad and the Alamo fed General Santa Anna and his army's arrogance. This arrogance led way to carelessness. Texas' General Sam Houston saw an opportunity to overtake the Mexican army by surprise - during their afternoon siesta. General Sam Houston had decided to use General Santa Anna's own tactics against him - the Mexican army had attacked the Texans numerous times during the night, the most famous of these battles was the Alamo. Shouting, "Remember Goliad, Remember the Alamo!" Texas soldiers came over a rise and descended upon General Santa Anna and his men who were enjoying siesta and completely unprepared for the attack. Although greatly outnumbered, in only 18 minutes the Texans won the battle at San Jacinto and General Santa Anna was captured. Texas had won it's freedom from Mexico.

Battle of San Jacinto Reenactment - General Santa Anna and Mexican soldiers

Texas settler with oxen and cart.

Texas settlers camp as they were pushed, by the Mexican army, east toward Louisiana.

Texas settlers cooking potatoes over hot coals.

Accidental Home Educator, Continued

Amimal Husbandry - The Hen House (science and active living history) Anyone who has livestock knows that keeping their housing clean is an important aspect of maintaining healthy animals and food products. This is a task we perform on a regular basis.
Last week, EJ eagerly helped me clean the hen house. He removed the soiled hay from the lower nesting boxes and helped me rake and shovel it into our wheelbarrow, which was then dumped into the compost bins. After a couple months of rain and turning, this animal bedding and waste will become excellent fertilizer for our garden.

One of our Henny Penny's calling her roommates to come see the clean fresh hay.

EJ was a big helper and I think he performed an outstanding job filling the nesting boxes with fresh hay. OG cleaned out the feeders and filled them with fresh feed.

Accidental Home Educator, Continued

BOTANY in the Garden (science & active living history)We harvested nearly 5lb. of spinach last week. Note: If your spinach begins to wilt in the hot sun before getting it into the house, don't fret. Fill your kitchen sink with cold water, plunge the spinach into the cold water, agitate, remove to a colander to drain. I then remove the excess water by spinning the spinach leaves in a salad spinner. Finally, I place the spinach in a Debbie Myers Green Bag, along with a folded paper towel, squeeze out the excess air, close with a twist tie and refrigerate. Within a couple hours I have crisp, crunchy fresh spinach.

It looks like it's time to harvest and dry some garlic chives and oregano.

A photo of our spinach and lettuce patch. When I harvest spinach and lettuce, I do not pull the plants out of the ground. Instead, I use a pair of scissors and cut the leaves, leaving the base of the plant. My spinach and lettuce then grow new leaves and I again, have fresh salad green within a couple weeks.

Our green beans are coming along nicely. These are Mr. B's favorite.

Our yellow squash and zucchini are looking good. I pray they continue doing well. The last couple years I've lost all varieties of squash right before the first harvest.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Retail Industry Pay Increases?

This evening I popped in on Mrs. Kay over at The Rustic Cottage ( and found the following link to an article about Hobby Lobby increasing it's full-time employee's pay. This is such a refreshing news in today's economy. As Mrs. Kay mentioned, doing business God's way REALLY pays off. Link to article:

Friday, April 17, 2009

I'd Like to Thank ...

My dear friend, Mrs. M, over at Evening Shade and Morning Latte ( has awarded me with a "Love" Award. I hope you all will pop over and visit her blog. She always has uplifting posts AND wonderful printable recipes.
Description of the Love Award: "These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find & be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated."
The rules of this award: Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to 8 bloggers that then need to choose 8 bloggers of their own to pass the award to. Include the following text depicting the award..."Each of the following ladies, I simply love. They each have faced their own challenges in their lives & the way they encapsulate their experiences endears them greatly to my heart."
Mrs. G @ Dancing Among Yahweh's Infinite Love, (
Ginger @ Ginger's Place, (
The other Mrs. B @ Homekeepers Journey, (
Kay @ The Rustic Cottage, (
Sandra @ Diary of a Stay at Home Mom (
Crunchy Christian Mom @ A Home Grown Life (
Mrs. Hester @ Forever Student (
Sarah @ As Lillies Sewing (
Mrs. M, thank you!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

O.K., I've Had It ...

Last evening I, and approximately 9,000 other local residents, received a "town hall meeting" phone call from my congressman. Since it was April 15th, America's dreaded tax day, he was inquiring as to what his constituents thought about the new INCREASED taxes that Americans will begin paying next year on their 2009 tax filings. I appreciate and value my congressman's efforts in keeping in touch with the opinions and ideas of those he represents.

Today, my frustration does not lie with my congressman's representation of my district. It lies with the entitlement and the "Robin Hood" attitude many in our society have developed. I'll explain ... last evening a lady responded to our congressman's inquiries by stating that she is in full support of requiring "rich" ($250K annually) people to pay higher taxes, etc. This person said she believes it is the wealthy's RESPONSIBILITY to support ALL the individuals who do not earn, or even have a desire to work, an income.

My parent's divorce and other family problems placed me in the situation of growing up in poverty. As a young adult, my own poor choices caused me to live a life of extreme poverty for nearly 10 years. Even by living, so far, 2/3 of my life in poverty, never, for even a single day, have I thought or felt that it was a "rich" ($250K) person's responsibility to pay for my or my children's housing, utilities, food, transportation, clothing, health care, education, etc.

You see, I have more common sense than that. I have enough common sense to recognize that the poor and impoverished of our society do not, can not, ever provide another person with a paying JOB. When I lived in poverty, my resources allowed me to eat only one meal every other day. This enabled my children to eat two meals daily and kept me at the very slim and trim weight of 97 lbs. It was absolutely IMPOSSIBLE for me to ever consider sharing our food, or housing, much less provide an income for someone else.

Nearly 80% of American workers are employed by small businesses. Our large, "too big to fail" corporations employ only about 20% of America's workforce. It is the "wealthy" ($250K) small business entrepreneurs of our society who open, operate and manage the businesses that employ most of America. When we take away more and more of their money and resources, they, in turn, have less and less money to effectively operate and manage the businesses that provide jobs for the rest of society. As a society and as employees, we then see reduced salaries, eliminated positions and increased work loads. We, the poor and middle class, end up working harder and longer hours for less and less money.

When I lived in poverty, I worked. I worked very hard. As a matter of fact, I've previously mentioned on this blog that for nearly 17 years I worked 2-3 jobs, at the same time, outside my home to support my family. During my time in the workforce, I worked for a major worldwide corporation for only 5 years. During the other 12 years of my employment I worked for small privately owned companies. Do you want to know the sad part of that story? Never in 12 years of employment by private companies was I taken advantage of with regard to my workload or salary. The private, small business owners are the ones who paid me a fair wage and gave me a reasonable work load. It was the 5 years of employment with that major worldwide corporation that I was overworked, and GROSSLY underpaid. While working at that major corporation my pay was so low I had to work two additional part-time jobs just to get by.

The new taxes coming down the road for this year's (2009) incomes will dramatically effect 80% of America's business owners. You see, the major "too big to fail" worldwide corporations have so many legal financial shelters (aka, places to lie about and hide profits) they won't be severely effected by the new tax structure (but I assure you they will use it as an excuse to lower wages, increase workloads and eliminate positions, thus equalling even higher profits and bonuses). However, the small business owner, who provides nearly 80% of America's jobs, doesn't have the revenue or resources to take advantage of those financial shelters. Requiring the "rich" ($250K ) to pay more taxes will only trickle down to the working class. We are the ones who will pay with heavier work loads, lower wages and fewer job opportunities.

Last night's "town hall meeting" caller mentioned that during President Obama's campaign the new taxes would effect only those earning more than $250K per year. Yes, where I and last night's caller live, $250K is a substantial income. However, in a state like California, New York, New Jersey, etc. $250K is only a middle class income. In my area of the country my current home would most likely sell for, at most, $50K. However, in California my same home, in the same condition would sell for more than $600K, in New Jersey, $400 -$500K. A $250K income is relative. It is only a substantial income if you happen to live where I do. By the way, if last night's caller ever happens upon my blog, by the end of the election campaign trail Vice President, Joe Biden, had reduced that "Robin Hood" $250K income to $150K.

$150K - $250K is NOT ultra-rich (Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, the Kennedy's, Hollywood's elite, etc.). The ultra-rich have BILLIONS and make up around only 1% of America's incomes. No, President Obama and his buddies are not going after the big guys (they might loose some election endorsements - that's not fair ... they can't go after them, their money is hidden and protected by financial shelters). They are going after the largest segment of American workers - small business owners and the middle class.

My eldest child served 4 years in the U.S. military during war time to earn the G.I. bill that has enabled him to pursue a college degree while working full-time. Why? He did not want to repeat the poverty of his youth. So far, our other adult children are following their older brother's example of sacrifice and hard work so they too will not repeat the poverty of their youths.

Have the majority of our nation lost all common sense? Our government representatives are telling us, "Sacrifice, work hard (join the military, go college, get a 2nd job, etc.) - we will then "reward" you by garnishing your hard earned income through increased taxes." This makes no sense to me! Why do American citizens think this makes sense? I am so proud of my children's work ethic and sacrifices - they should be financially rewarded for the accomplishments they will achieve- not taxed back into poverty. Yes, I know there are those who think that statement is an exaggeration, however, my congressman revealed in his "town hall meeting" telephone call the following - In order for our nation to only break even (does not include paying the interest that will have to be paid back) on President's Obama's new budget EVERY tax collected in America today will have to be doubled for a minimum of 3 GENERATIONS. Will you be able to maintain your current lifestyle when you begin to pay double the taxes you currently pay WITHOUT a pay increase or maybe even a salary reduction?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Menu Day

It is still baseball and softball season around the B house. That means this week's supper menu will again consist of quick, easy and frugal meals. Mr. B grilled quite a bit of chicken this past weekend and we have enough left over to prepare three additional meals.

I also have two wonderful sugar free recipes to share, honey banana nut bread and honey almond cookies. I hope you and your family enjoy them as much as we did.

Monday - out
Tuesday - chicken & black bean whole wheat burritos, Mexican rice
Wednesday - bbq chicken sandwiches, potato salad
Thursday - chicken fried rice, noodle soup
Friday - toasted ham & cheese sandwiches w/ sauteed onions, bell peppers & mushrooms, tomato soup
Saturday - meatless spaghetti, garlic toast, salad (fresh lettuce & spinach greens from our garden)
Sunday - crock pot sausage & kraut, beer bread

Honey Banana Walnut Bread2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup olive oil
3 eggs, beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Glaze (below) optional
Beat together the honey and oil; mix in eggs. Add mashed bananas, salt and vanilla, mix well. Sift together flour and baking soda. Gradually blend the flour mixture in with the banana mixture until the batter is smooth. Fold in the walnuts. Grease a Bundt pan OR a large loaf pan. Pour in the batter and bake at 350 degrees for 40-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Lower the oven temperature if the bread is browning to quickly. Cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes. Loosen edges with a knife, turn bread out onto a wire rack and continue cooling. Glaze: 1 cup confectioners sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1-2 Tbsp. milk. Mix confectioners sugar, vanilla and milk with wire whisk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled bread.
Honey Almond Cookies
1 1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 stick butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. almond extract
2 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. almonds, finely chopped
45 - 50 whole almonds
In a medium mixing bowl, cream together honey, butter, egg and almond extract. In a smaller bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Stir into honey mixture. When flour mixture is almost incorporated into honey mixture add chopped almonds. Mix well. Refrigerate dough 30 minutes. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the greased baking sheet. Top each cookie with a whole almond. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defned

the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform code of Military Justice. So help me God."

We are proud to announce that our son JP was graduated from home school Friday, December 19, 2008. On Wednesday, April 8, 2009, JP was sworn into the United States Navy.

He will participate in the Deferred Enlistment Program (DEP) and continue working at our local pizza shop until his departure for basic training in November. Upon completion of basic training he will enter "tech school" for training as a Cryptologic Technician.

At the age of 12 JP contracted a life threatening illness. During his recovery, his eldest brother, AB, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. For the past seven years, JP has been consistently told that he'd better save money, get good grades for college scholarships, enter an apprenticeship, etc. because the U.S. military would not be an option for him. He was repeatedly told that none of the U.S. military branches would accept him due to his medical history. This has been a heavy burden for JP to carry because unlike his older brothers, JP is not an academic person. He really doesn't like text book or a school learning environment. He's never had a desire to pursue a college degree. He's always wanted to graduate high school and go to work in a trade.

A couple months ago, JP decided that despite all the nay sayers regarding his medical history, he was going to apply for the Navy and see what they had to say. After weeks of waiting for his medical records and a grueling physical, he was accepted. He is very excited about the new chapter of his life he is is embarking upon.

Mr. B and I are satisfied JP is comfortable with the direction he has found for the next four years of his life. I personally was very concerned because for JP, college would have been like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I didn't want to push and shove college upon him - I know every moment would have been agonizing and he'd most likely end up quitting. At the same time, the thought of JP floating out into the sea of life without additional education or job training was also worrisome for us. Yes, we are quite satisfied that JP has goals, direction and a plan on how to get where he ultimately would like to go in life.

I continue to stand upon the Word of God where ever my children are concerned. God has blessings and plans for each of them. I trust He will lead them where He wants them to go. If they stray, I stand in faith that it will be only for a short season. For JP God has promised the following, "And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Psalms 1:3.

The Big Reveal ...

Our bathroom remodel was completed by last Wednesday. However, we had so much going on last week I didn't get a chance to post photos of my new room! I don't have any pictures of the old, but trust me when I say it was B A D ! It was worse than the before photos of my kitchen ( ). When I moved into this home 13 years ago, to say it was a "fixer upper" is an exaggeration. But, we've somehow made it work AND the Lord has seen fit to bless us with the resources to make much needed and appreciated improvements during the past couple years. New wainscoting, light fixture, vanity, faucet, & towel ring. Our new sink base and vanity are only 12 inches deep and 36 inches wide. Our old sink base and vanity was 23 inches deep and 48 inches wide (the space is 49 inches and there was this weird 1 inch gap on the left side). The old caused one to be REALLY cramped between the toilet and the sink. It was so cramped we couldn't fully open the old sink base doors as the toilet blocked them. Now, we can comfortably fit between the two and can also open the sink base doors and drawers. It's wonderful!

We have a new rod iron and wicker drawer unit for extra storage. I LOVE our new curved "hotel style" curtain rod. Aren't our new shower curtain and window shade lovely? Our old was made of white cotton and lace. It was nice, but after 15 years (had it in our rented townhouse before moving to this home), it was time for an update.
We have so much room between the toilet and the sink we even have room for the tp holder and trash can!
Although I was pretty angry about EJ flooding the bathroom, in hindsight I see it as a blessing. Thank you EJ!
(I apologize that my photos are crooked, for some reason I just couldn't hold the camera stright.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Remodeling, Again ...

Last week our little EJ was up to some no good in the bathroom ... the ONLY bathroom in our tiny little house. Well, he ended up flooding it - really, really bad. I am sure you are pondering, "Well, just how bad was it?" Well, I'm gonna tell ya ... It was so bad that we absolutely must replace the sub flooring (located under the tile) and the sink base cabinet (the entire bottom fell out of it in pieces). Our bathroom was WAY, WAY overdue for an update so, we decided to go ahead and remodel it. I found new flooring I like, new sink base and vanity, new mirror, new light fixture, new energy efficient window, new wainscoting, chair railing, base boards and paint. I did not select a new toilet or tub since I think they are in good shape.

However, JP disagrees with me. He found the following photo of the toilet he'd like us to install. Of course this will never happen as I think he already spends WAY too much time in the bathroom. (click on photo for a better view)