Thursday, August 25, 2011

Morning Tidbits

My husband often asks me, "Whatcha thinking about?" Hmm...I always have to think about it. Lately I've changed my usual answer of "Oh, nothing." to "Well....first I was thinking about the kitchen that I need to clean but then I started thinking about the pickles I made but then I starting wondering what is ready to pick in the garden which made me think about the weeds I need to pull which made me think that I need to get The Boy to work which led me to wondering if The Boy is going to provide me with grandchildren someday. I'm really looking forward to being a grandparent. That's what I was JUST (meaning in the time frame of 2-3 minutes) thinking about. And what were you thinking about?" My mind wanders often. I'd like to think this is normal (Please don't message me if this is not normal. I'd rather stay misinformed.). Here are just a few places that my mind wandered to this morning.
  • Early morning wanderings can lead to inspirational discoveries. I started by visiting Smockity Frocks to read the book review on Large Family Logistics by Kim Brennema. I know, I don't have a large family however I do if I include my daycare family. A little different dynamics but I'm still caring for multiple kids over 50 hours a week so I figure any book that can organize a big family can probably help me. After reading the review I had to check out Brennema's blog which led me to another good site. And then another. And then another. After a bit of blog hopping I ended up at The Time~Warp Wife. And I'm glad that I did. Good stuff filled with reminders and inspirations for me as I try, but often fail, at being a godly wife and a help-meet to my husband.

  • Soap into lye? Or is it lye into soap? This stumps me every time I make soap which means I need to make soap more often. This is what I found:
     Never pour water into lye. Always pour lye into the water. (slowly) If you pour water onto lye it can cause a violent reaction. 
I have a deeper understanding of my son when, after reading directions such as this, I have a strong urge to find out what "violent reaction" means. Fortunately, unlike my son, I can walk away from this urge.
  • August is allergy season for me. When my eyes are watering and my noise is twitching uncontrollably there is nothing better than a HUMONGOUS sneeze. I don't hold back because the harder, bigger and louder the sneeze the better I feel. Unfortunately my husband doesn't understand the relief this gives me. The other night, after a big sneeze, he looked at me with disdain and said, "OWW...that hurts my ears." The child in me wanted to retort, "Cry baby!" Funny how we I go into a defensive mode when criticized, ready to throw darts back at the sender. I bite my tongue instead of waging war. Solution? I don't know....maybe I need to respect my husbands sensitive ears and either hold back when I feel the need to sneeze or run out to the garage and "sneeze my head off". Or maybe I could just move him into the garage during the month of August. (tongue in cheek)

  • TONGUE IN CHEEK. Ok, I knew what tongue in cheek meant but I wanted to look it up for fun. Occasionally my son questions the meaning of various figures of speech and sometimes I have a difficult time giving a specific definition. So now I'm prepared for this one if he happens to ask. Plus it's kinda cool to learn a little history of phrases.
Compliments of Wikipedia
Tongue-in-cheek is a phrase used as a figure of speech to imply that a statement or other production is humorously intended and it should not be taken at face value. The facial expression typically indicates that one is joking or making a mental effort.[1] In the past, it may also have indicated contempt but that is no longer common.[2] By 1842 the phrase had acquired its contemporary meaning similar to "take what I am saying with a grain of salt", indicating that a statement was not meant to be taken seriously.[3][4][5] Early users of the phrase include Sir Walter Scott in his 1828 The Fair Maid of Perth.

  • Homeschool Mission Verse
I've read about the importance of having a home school mission statement but have never bothered doing one. I know I want to school my son because I am able. Why would I give someone else the responsibility of teaching my son when I am capable of doing so? As I continue down this homeschooling path I become more and more convinced that this is God's calling on my life. I believe that I have a God-given responsibility to teach my son. So as long as I am able, and as long as I have my husband's blessings, I will continue to homeschool my son. I stumbled upon this verse today and have decided that this will be our mission verse!

As ye therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:6-8

After reading this verse I immediately thought, "YES! That is why I want to teach my son!" I want Isaiah to be ROOTED in Christ, BUILT UP in Christ and ESTABLISHED in faith. This is my mission for him and for me this year. I am giving this year of schooling completely to God and praying that I keep my eyes on HIM so that I am able to follow HIS will for us as well as His will for Isaiah's education. 

This is only a fraction of my wanderings this morning. I'd share more however some thoughts have been forgotten and truthfully, most are just not very interesting. Let's see.....ok, here's a few more. What should I make for dinner tonight? How can I improve my compost bin? Hmm, I wonder what I should make for dinner tonight? How should I rearrange my garden next year? What's for dinner tonight? Oh, I can't wait to move my chickens home. Yep, stuff like that. Now I better go figure out what's for dinner tonight. Or maybe I'll just order pizza and spend the afternoon menu planning.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My New Favorite Hobby

If I had known how fun it is to experiment with canning my excess, I would have started years ago! There is so much satisfaction in seeing my jars filled with different vibrant colors of fruits and vegetable all lined up on the kitchen counter. You know how I have this habit of looking at things and asking, "Can I make it?"... well, now I'm looking at "stuff" and asking, "Can I preserve it?" I am having a blast with my new experiments! Here's what I've canned this week:

Apple Pie Filling, Apple Juice, Clementines, Orange Marmalade, Strawberry Sauce, Sweet Dill Pickles,

Sweet Dill Pickles

6 cups sugar
4.5 cups water
3 cups apple cider vinegar
6 T. sea salt
1 heaping cup of dill

  1. Sterilize jars. (I used 6 pints)
  2. While brine is heating up, slice cucumbers (a bunch. I didn't count...maybe 6-10 cukes), fill jars.
  3. Top cucumbers with brine. Leave a little head space.
  4. Tighten lids and turn upside down. Leave overnight.
  5. DONE! It's that easy!

Oh My Darling Clementines
Bunch of Clementines
3 cups Sugar
7.5 cups Water
  • Sterilize jars. I used quarts because I was out of pints.
  • Pack jars with peeled and sectioned clementines. Because I was scared a quart would be too much for a week of clementine eating (after going to the work of canning, I want to avoid any waste), I didn't pack the quarts full.
  • While packing the jars bring a simple syrup (3 cups sugar and 7.5 cups water) to a gentle boil. This filled 4 quarts.
  • Hot Water Bath for 15 minutes.

Orange Marmalade makes 5 half pint jars
12 clementines
2 lemons
4 cups water
4 cups sugar

  • Slice and dice lemons and clementines.
  • Add a few slices of peel if you wish.
  • Bring water and fruit to a boil. Turn heat down to med and and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add sugar.
  • Gently boil for 35 minutes.
  • Pour into hot, sterilized jars.
  • Hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Strawberry Sauce ~ I had a bunch of strawberries (maybe a pound or so) that needed to either get eaten up quickly or "put up". Since we had a load of clementines and apples to eat up, I decided to make a couple jars of strawberry sauce. I sliced up the strawberries, added a little water (about 1 cup) and a little sugar (about 1/4 cup) and brought it to a boil. Mushed up the strawberries a bit and filled two pint jars. Finished the canning process with a hot water bath. The strawberry sauce will be a great addition to smoothies, a bowl of ice cream, waffles or shortcake.

Apple Pie Filling (makes 5-7 quarts)

14 lbs of apples

5 cups sugar
1 cup cornstarch
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
2 t. salt
10 cups water
3 T. lemon juice
  1. Peel and slice apples (don't throw away the peeling or the cores. I'll tell you what to do with those later!)
  2. While sterilizing jars mix the pie filling ingredients and bring to a gentle boil, stirring often.
  3. Fill jars with sliced apples
  4. Top with sauce/filling.
  5. Tighten lids
  6. Hot water bath for 20 minutes.
I was short one jar so I filled a freezer bag (after letting the sauce cool a bit) with the excess apples and sauce. The contents look to be too much for one pie so I will probably use it for an easy apple crisp!

Apple Pie Filling and Apple Juice

Using Apple Scraps
As I peeled and cored apples for my pie filling I tossed the scraps into a big stock pot, topped it with a little water and let it simmer on the stove. Soon my stock pot was overflowing and I had to get another pot. Two pots of scraps simmering on the stove took up too much space as I needed a burner to make my pie filling and another burner for my hot water bath. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed as I looked at the chaos - stove filled with big pots, counter space consumed with a big tub 'o apples as well as jars and lids.

As I debated my plan of action, I thought about how long I wanted the scraps to cook (a LONG time) and decided to pull out my handy dandy crock pots. My scraps filled TWO large crock pots. I turned the crock pots to low, added a little water and a few sprinkles of cinnamon-sugar, a forgot about them for the rest of the day. OK, I really didn't forget about them because every time I walked into the kitchen I was was welcomed with the wonderful smell of baking apples. Mmm.......

Before I went to bed, I turned the crock pots to "warm". In the morning I turned the crocks off and let them cool for an hour before dumping their contents into the "Squeez-o". My intent was to make apple sauce but my scraps had something better in mind. There was more liquid than sauce. Approximately 12 quarts of scraps, which would have just been thrown to the chickens, was turned into 3 cups of applesauce and 3 quarts of apple juice/cider..and the chickens still got scraps. The kids enjoyed churning the scraps through the Squeeze -0 so much that we kept feeding the scraps back through. When I was finally ready to clean up the mess, I had about a half gallon of scraps left to give to the chickens. Next time I cook up my apple scraps I will attempt to make apple cider vinegar.
Pot of juice and the sticky Squeez-o-matic mess
The only recipe that I've taste tested is the sweet dills. YUMMY. My dad liked the pickles so much that he picked a bunch of cucumbers for me and said, "I think it's time to make some more pickles." I'm anxious to try the rest of my goods!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quest for Natural Deodorant

I've been on a quest that may seem a bit strange to most. For over a year I have been on a quest to find deodorant. My journey began with the simple desire to use a product that was not filled with chemicals, chemicals that have been linked to Alzheimers and breast cancer. I've tried many avenues and suffered from many failed attempts. My first homemade product worked great for a week and then my pits began to itch as a rash developed. I know now that I am sensitive to baking soda - it makes my head "tingly" and makes my arm pits burn.

My next attempts took me to the Au natural aisle at the local food co-op. Kiss My Face ~ patchouli scented worked well, however it was so painful to apply to freshly shaven pits that I had to skip deodorant on shaving day. Tom's Crystal Confidence didn't leave me too confident as it only worked on lazy days, meaning that any sign of perspiration meant a bit of a stink (or in all honesty, VERY stinky). I may be low maintenance but I still don't want to smell bad. I've read numerous accounts of success with apple cider vinegar (mixed with water and applied with a spray bottle), but this didn't work for me either.


Finally! I got the combination right!

I was sure that Lafe's Natural and Organic Spray would work...but it didn't. A month ago I was thrilled when I found a spray deodorant made in the kitchen of a woman who lived under 30 miles from me. Her woman's line is a powder but her men's deodorant  is a spray and smells GREAT....until I wore it for longer than 2 hours. I really, really, really wanted this one to work because the combination of essential oils makes it smell soooo good. I think I'll keep it around for a body spray.

One afternoon last week, on a day that I'd spent the morning canning in a hot kitchen, my daughter walked past me and exclaimed, "EW, MOM! Are you wearing deodorant???" I knew it was time to try something new. That afternoon during nap time, I experimented with my original recipe. I knew I needed to back off on the baking soda. I mixed 3 T. of cornstarch, 1 T. of baking soda and 3 T. of coconut oil. Because of the lack of baking soda, it doesn't harden but is the consistency of a lotion. I've been using this for one successful week. No smell! No rash! My quest has ended. :)

UPDATE: Unfortunately my body REALLY doesn't like baking soda so even my "reduced b.s." deodorant even cause me to rash. During my no poo challenge I had found that baking soda left my head itchy. Most people have great success with baking soda "shampoo" and deodorant. Unfortunately I don't. I have resorted to using Lafes Natural and Organic. Although it doesn't work great, it works good enough. My next experiment is using magnesium to reduce body odor. I'll let you know how that works. Any other suggestions for me to try? 

Also, remember that everyone's body chemistry is a little bit different and will react differently for the deodorants the I listed above. Read labels, avoid parabens and other toxic chemicals........and find what works for you!

Shared on Delicious Obsession's Traditional Tuesdays

Friday, August 12, 2011

New at Wildtree

  Wildtree - simple. healthy. natural.
  I became a Wildtree representative a year ago because I LOVED that the company was providing products that were free of artificial junk - preservatives, colorings, GMO's, high fructose corn syrup......all the things that I was trying to avoid. I just found out that by this time next year, Wildtree will also be boasting a ORGANIC title! On August 15th, Wildtree is adding a few new gluten free products. I've only tried the muffin mix. I added a cup of blueberries and it was FABULOUS! I've tried other gluten free mixes and they all seem to have a funny taste....not always bad, but different. The muffin mix didn't taste "funny". The true test? My picky daycare kids...and the muffins passed the test.

Here's what I read in my Wildtree news: "Wildtree's GF (gluten free) is not just ANY GF...and here's why: You can walk into just about any market these days and get GF products, but are these products GOOD FOR YOU? Many have preservatives, and so while you may be within the boundaries of what you can eat, you may be putting fillers into your body...and that's simply not healthy! Wildtree's is different in that all of our GF line contains ancient grains--like millet, teff, sorghum, amaranth and quinoa. These ancient grains are WHOLE grains and provide protein, B Vitamins, Iron, Fiber and Folate."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fun at Laurie's Little Sprouts

Pirate Week and Beach Bash

Fish in the Sea

Beach Bash Snack

Fish in the Sea

4 - 3 oz boxes of Berry Blue Jell-O
Swedish Fish (or gummy sharks/fish/etc)
Clear cups
  • Mix 2 boxes of Jell-O with 1 1/2 cup of boiling water, stir to dissolve.
  • While water is boiling, add ice to 1cup of water to make 2 cups. (I found it easier to fill my two-cup measuring cup with ice and then adding water)
  • After jello is dissolved, add the ice water. Stir until ice cubes are melted...or if there is a couple unmelted floaters, spoon them out.
  • Fill cups to create first layer of the sea.
  • Allow jello to set (otherwise the fish will sink) for about 30 minutes. The jello doesn't have to be completely set but just enough to support the weight of the fish.
  • While the jello is setting, mix the last 2 boxes of jello in the same way as the first.
  • Add this to the cup for the top layer of the "sea".
  • Put in frig for 1 hours or until jello has set.
I was able to fill 13 cups with this recipe however next time I may not fill the cups as full as the portion was just a little too big for my littlest sprouts.

 Captain Black Beard reading "How I Became a Pirate"
My friend, Marcia, who is a preschool teacher, came to visit one afternoon. She came in full pirate uniform (including a mascara beard!) and used her best pirate voice......the kids were mesmerized! After reading to the children, "Black Beard" sang some songs, taught us some fun parachute games and even provided us with a treasure hunt.  ((THANK YOU, MARCIA! YOU ROCK!))
Beach Bash Sun Visor Craft
During beach week we drew pictures in our homemade sand, had water play and made foam sun visors.

Homemade Sand used during pirate week to bury our treasure and used as a "drawing" surface during our beach bash.
4 cups dried/used coffee grounds (not just good for compost piles!)
1/2 c. salt
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour

I was amazed at how much the kids loved this very simple project. 

"Treasure Map"
I ordered bandannas and fabric markers from Oriental Trading Company. EASY craft that the kids loved. A couple of kids wore their bandannas all week! We completed the look with eye patches and golden hoop earrings....oh, and pirate tattoos.

Pin the Treasure on the Treasure Map
 I found this at the local "party store" for a couple of bucks. Not only did this provide a fun game to finish our pirate week, but it also was used all week for decoration.


Polly Want a Crafter

Friday, August 5, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Princess

Me and my little girlfriend

On August 5th, 1990, God blessed me with a beautiful daughter. I remember the overwhelming feeling of love, a feeling unlike any other, for my precious little princess. Does anything compare to the love that a mother feels towards her child? I remember watching her sleep and being totally amazed at this perfect little baby that was all mine. Today, as she celebrates her 21st birthday, I am taking a little photo trip down memory lane.

Pure joy.


I love that face!

Really. Look at her. SO DARN CUTE!

I remember many camping trips. Often we'd load up the car and just go. Our favorite spot was Duluth. We'd eat s'mores, go hiking and play on the rock beaches of the North Shore. Breanna would play forever ~ dancing on the shore and throwing in rocks. Breanna shared with me last year that she never liked camping....and all along I thought it was OUR favorite thing to do. Oh well, I have many precious memories of camping with my girl.
Breanna, Isaiah and Bella ~ Christmas 2006

Isaiah and Breanna, Duluth April 2011

She pretends to hate her brother, who loves to annoy her, but deep down I know she loves him. It's a love-hate relationship. Isaiah once woke her up with his toad collection. He placed five toads on her pillow before waking her. That act may never be forgiven. 

"Teasing" Grandma, "Farm" Grandma, Me, Isaiah, Breanna, and Grandma Marian
Snowball Dance 2007

In Milwaukee for Breanna's second birthday
 Aug. 1992

I remember when you were my Little Girl.  
As much a part of me as my right arm. 
My every breath and step held you in mind. 
 Then suddenly, one morning ~ you were grown. 
 I was not finished with you. 
 But, we must love our children enough to let them go. 
 But in my heart.... you will always be ~ My Little Girl.

Happy Birthday, Breanna! I love you....and you will ALWAYS be my little girl!

Breanna 1991

Breanna, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bountiful Blessings

I returned to finish my post to find that I hadn't even started it.......

Then it occurred to me that I was writing it in my head while I worked in the garden this weekend. As I rhythmically pulled at the weeds and picked the long, tender green beans, I was writing my story in my mind. I continued the writing in my mind while I slept last night. So vivid were the thoughts. And now those thoughts, those words that made many sentences that turned into a beautiful post that I just came to edit, are gone. Those words were never written down and are now only a distant memory.

Maybe those thoughts that became words, that made sentences, that filled an entire post were just too long-winded. I have a tendency to over-talk things. Maybe that post...this suppose to be a little more simple. So here's the simple version.

This week I was overwhelmed with my responsibilities and while I worked in the garden I was filled with peace. This peace came as I realized that I have much to be thankful for. I thought about each of my responsibilities and turned it into a positive. The messy house, a roof over my head. A garden in dire need of weeding, a place in which to plant. Dinner to make, a family to feed and food in which to feed them with. Busy work days, a successful business which allows me to pay my bills. As I thought of these many blessings I thanked God for his provisions.

A few of last weeks blessings:

Blueberries, prepped for the freezer and ready to make many smoothies!

Bread and Butter Pickles

Sauteed mushrooms for the freezer

Peppers, diced for the freezer

Thank you, God, for your bountiful blessings that you continue to shower upon me. Thank you for friends who share their provisions. Last week I had one friend bless me with  her excess produce and another friend brought me the most beautiful eggplants. Thank you for the garden that, even though the weeds appear to be winning, still provided me with a big basketful of green beans. Thank you for filling my cupboards each week so that I can feed my family. Thank you for sustaining me even when I feel I don't have the energy to go on much longer. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for always providing for my needs and sometimes my wants. But most of all, thank you for loving me just as I am.