Monday, February 27, 2012

Created for Work


Created for Work: Practical Insights for Young Men
Available at one of my favorite stores, JM Cremps

First a word about JM Cremps. I LOVE their products! Totally focused on the interests of boys, they are well stocked in gear for camping, geocaching, fishing, woodcarving....the list goes on. This past Christmas I purchased all of The Boy's gifts from JM Cremps. I was introduced to this family-run company last year at the MACHE Homeschooling convention when I stumbled across their booth. Dad, Mom and sons were running the booth. I was impressed not only by their products but also by the way this family worked together. Last year the Star Tribune wrote about this family and their journey to starting a family business. You can read the article here


Last year I also stumbled across the book "Created for Work" by Bob Schultz and decided to add it to our curriculum. Each week The Boy and I would read and discuss a chapter of this book. God had his hand in this decision as the timing was perfect. Isaiah (The Boy...he's quickly outgrowing his nickname) was beginning to become quite interested in the characteristics necessary in becoming a godly man. I loved this book and so did The Boy....so much so that he was determined to work. Last Spring he began working occasionally for my father, who has his own woodworking company, Urns by HTW.

This fall my parents and I discussed having Isaiah work more. I decided work was an important part of his homeschooling. The Boy does his "work study" two days a week. In the six months that The Boy has been working with my dad, I can see that he has grown so much. My dad has taken the time to teach Isaiah useful skills but has also taken great care in using this time to talk with my son about business, money, God and the importance of working hard to support your family.

Here Isaiah is cleaning around the corn burner. He says that he gets this job because he can fit in those tight spots easier than grandpa. He also has the job of filling the corn burners which is done by filling two five-gallon buckets with corn from the corn crib and carrying them into the workshop. The Boy is very proud of his bulging biceps that he's earned from this work. 


The Boss/Mentor


The Apprentice learning to plane wood













I am so thankful that my son is learning good work ethics from my dad. I am also thankful that my dad can teach Isaiah some skill that I am not equipped to teach. Isaiah has dreams of taking over the woodworking business and following in his grandfather's footsteps. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Monkey Bread


Before I begin mixing ingredients, I turn the oven on to 350, put half a stick of butter or 1/4 cup coconut oil in my cast iron skillet, and set in the oven to melt. I also start topping in a sauce pan on low heat using:

1 stick of butter
3 T. brown sugar
 ~Stir occasionally while the mixture melts.


While the oil is melting in the oven and the caramel sauce is cooking on the stove, I mix:


1 3/4 cup baking mix
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup coconut oil


Remove skillet from oven and pour butter/oil into the baking mix/milk. Stir well. 


Coat hands with a little baking mix (this will only help a little bit...this is a gooey, sticky mess) and roll dough into little balls (a bit smaller than a golf ball). Drop the balls into a bowl of cinnamon-sugar....roll around to coat and place sugar coated dough balls into the skillet (which is already well greased from melting the butter!). Fill skillet. Top with caramel sauce. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. 


Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Carefully turn skill over on top of a large plate. YUMMY! 


I'd show you a picture but the kids gobbled these up before I even had a chance to grab the camera. They even like rolling the balls despite the mess.


Tested and tasted in the kitchen of Laurie's Little Sprouts.
Approved by my little monkeys.animals,anime,monkeys,primates,Manga style

Friday, February 24, 2012

One Hundred Jars of Baby Food on the Wall......

.....One hundred jars of baby food. Take one down, pass it around. Ninety-nine jars of baby food ....

Baby Food Hell
Vintage Ad from Cruzine

What does one do when a friend drops off ONE HUNDRED jars of baby food? It's time to get creative. As you may have gathered by past postings, I love free stuff. I also love the challenge of making free stuff useful. I'm already dreaming of the things I'll use the little glass jars for but first I must find some uses for the food. I do have Princess (daycare baby girl) who will eat up some but she's nearing the stage of eating "normal" foods. I sent a bunch home with Princess and will keep a stock just for her but she'll never eat her way through this pile. 


I started the morning with a baby food smoothie. Yes, I did and yes, it was yummy, despite the weird combo that I choose. One small jar of spinach/carrot combo, one small jar of banana (c'mon, who doesn't like banana baby food?), and one small jar of blueberry applesauce. I topped off my baby food with one raw egg, a little blob of homemade yogurt, a splash of milk and some chia seeds. Unlike yesterday's spinach-beet smoothie (which was more chunky than smooth), my baby food smoothie was just that. Smooth. Yummy and full of fruits and veggies.


While drinking my smoothie, the kids and I made a quick bread (using my baking mix) with one jar of banana baby food and one jar of applesauce baby food. Although the bread was good, next time I'll add another jar or two of banana to give the bread a more banana-y flavor. 


I also found that a handful of jars were just past expiration. These will get fed to the chickens. I'm sure with the new snow on the ground they will be happy to get some "produce"...even if it does come from a jar.


There are about 10 jars of baby food "meats". Princess makes a funny face and sometimes gags when I try to feed her these. I feel like I'm torturing her by feeding her the pale pink puree so pooch lucked out. Cooper, the dog, is very happy that no one wants the baby food meat. He is nuts over beef with beef broth. It's his favorite.


Applesauce Baby Food? Well it's just like regular, big-kid applesauce....only in a much smaller container. We had three jars with lunch. Applesauce can be eaten "as is". Blueberry banana will sweeten my morning smoothies, pears and bananas can be added to quick breads. The fruits will be easy to use up. 


Vegetables on the other hand...hmmm....peas? green beans? Ew. I don't know. Maybe I can hide a jar in the meatloaf I am making tonight or I could add some of the veggies to a batch of homemade dog food.  Hiding vegetables in entrees will need an extra dose of clever creativeness. Time to pull out my "Sneaky Chef" cookbook. I'll update if I come up with anything brilliant. 


Carrots will be used to make carrot cake, carrot quick bread, and carrot muffins....or accompany an apple in my blender for Apple Carrot Juice. 


I've already used (or given away) approximately half my stock. That leaves approximately..........


Fifty jars of baby food on the wall, fifty jars of baby food....







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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quick as a Cricket Lesson

Lessons on the fly, because that's how I do things. I start every fall with big dreams of structured, daily lesson plans for my preschool kiddos. And every year around mid-October I realize that daily life creates many more opportunities for learning. I like to talk (I know, most of you are shocked at this), so we talk. We talk a LOT at Laurie's Little Sprouts. We talk about colors when we're coloring, when we're eating (because fruits and veggies naturally lead to color conversation) and when we're looking at the colors in the sky. We talk about letters. We sing. We read. We play. WE bake. We create. We learn how to treat our friends with kindness and respect. We learn manners. So what's left? Not much. I don't think I need a lesson plan or a big planner full of lesson plans in order to teach. So the other day I was really excited about where our day took us. I couldn't have planned it any better.

 I am fortunate that the Early Childhood program in my community offers literacy bags to local daycare providers. Every two weeks I get a new literacy bag filled with approximately three books. The bags often include a Putumayo World Music CD. Sometimes it includes learning games or some sort of manipulative. Last week our literacy bag contained "Quick as a Cricket", a book that I loved reading to my son when he was little. While I was reading the book to the daycare children, The Boy entered the room and exclaimed, "Hey! I remember that book!" I love that. The book also came with little stuffed animals. A little strip of Velcro is attached to the back of each animal so that they can be used on a story apron or story board. I don't have either so I improvised. 

I dumped out the animals onto the kitchen table and the kids played with them during the first reading of "Quick as a Cricket". After I read, we discussed the animals that each of the kids had and we talked about our favorite animals. See, once again TALKING.

During the second reading each child received an equal pile of animals. As I read they'd hold up the animal in which I was reading about. I intiated this by reading, "I'm as quick as a cricket"....(pause).....(no response)........"Who has the cricket?" Finally, a kiddo would reply with excitement, "I HAVE THE CRICKET".  I would set the book on the table so that the child could match up her animal with the book. The kids had so much fun with this very simple activity. The kids were learning listening skills and didn't even know it. 



After the second reading, I pulled out a few of my animal magazines and instructed the kids to make their own "Quick as a Cricket" animal collages. As the kids looked for pictures of animals, we discussed what characteristics or temperaments that each animal may have. We talked about if we'd ever felt quick as a cricket or as loud as a lion. (Hey, not only are we talking but we're learning language skills and the use of descriptive words!) The kids worked on their scissor skills, as well as their gluing skills (why do they always want to put the glue on the wrong side?). 
Crazy like a monkey.
Busy as a beaver.
Kiddos decided that seal looked happy.


Although I did a little guiding, I tried to get the kiddos to think of descriptive words for their animals. Sometimes a lot of guiding was needed. The more examples I gave the easier it was for the kids to start shouting out ideas. 


A day or two later, while reading the book, I'd let the kids fill in the blank as I read "I am as quick as a ......." or "I am as strong as a _____". This not only helps in listening skills but also memory. Besides the kids love seeing who can respond quickly and correctly. They like to talk just as much as I do. Hmm. Guess I'm a good teacher. Of talking. 


Anyway. One book and we had fun, fun, fun. I love "going with the flow" kind of teaching. 




Note ~ I found that Lakeshore Learning sells both the book and the matching animals.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Power of FIZZ

Have you ever made a model volcano erupt? 
The kids LOVE it. Even The Boy, who has seen many mom-made volcanic eruptions, still loves the excitement of waiting for the fizz. The simple concoction of baking soda and vinegar is also a magical cleaning combo.
A couple of weeks ago I was rushing around the kitchen (like that's a surprise) and accidentally dropped the coffee filter basket (full of moist, used coffee grounds) on the floor. I pulled out the vacuum which picked up most the grounds but a brown stain remained on the carpet. I wish I had taken a before and after picture however it wasn't until the carpet started fizzing that I even thought about blogging this. I mean really, this is just every day life at my zoo. I just sprinkled baking soda on top of the stain and carefully poured the vinegar. Then watched the fizz. It's an exciting part of my day. I get really excited when the fizz turns coffee brown as it lifts the stain from the carpet. Pretty cool. After the fizz stopped, I blotted with a kitchen towel. Repeat if necessary.


Stain on the ground. Baking soda on the stain. Vinegar on the baking soda.
And the green grass grew all a round....wait. wrong song.


Today I cleaned my coffee maker using the old vinegar trick. I filled the water reservoir with vinegar and let it brew. After it was done brewing I sprinkled baking soda in the toilet and poured in half of the hot vinegar from the coffee pot. I let the fizz fester a moment and then scrubbed with a toilet brush. The remaining vinegar I poured into the baking-soda-filled-sink-drain. One pot of vinegar cleaned the coffee pot, the toilet and a sink drain. That's a multipurpose cleaner.


Baking soda and vinegar fizz also removes urine from couch cushions. Same principle as the removing carpet stains.The magic fizz will lift the stain...and the smell...to the top of the cushion. Sprinkle the offensive spot with baking soda, top with vinegar, watch it fizz and blot. Repeat until all urine smell is gone. The smell of vinegar will disappear once the cushion dries.


Who knew that the combination of two simple household staples could be powerful allies against dirt, grime and stains. The fizz is just a fun bonus.






Posted on Homestead Revival's Barn Hop and The Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Heart Candy

So easy and amazingly yummy......and probably full of high fructose corn syrup (I have purposely avoided reading the ingredient list on the back of the sweetheart package).

I used my silicone heart "muffin" pan (I've gotten my use out of that thing!) for this treat.

Measurements are approximate since I didn't measure.

1c. of Sweetheart Conversation Hearts (I crushed about 1/2 of them)
5 oz. of almond bark


  • Fill the bottom of each muffin space with sweetheart. 
  • Melt the almond bark
  • Pour melted bark on top of sweethearts. (I did not fill each space...only filled to an inch or so)
  • Let cool (being impatient, I put mine in the freezer)
  • Pop out of the pan and enjoy.  


Food Love

I show my love with food. I don't know if people appreciate this kind of lovin' but I sure enjoy cooking for those I care about.


Valentines Menu:
Homemade Wheat Bread
Roasted Red Potatoes with Mushrooms
Roasted Asparagus
Baked Salmon in an Orange Sauce
Brownie with Ice Cream and Homemade Chocolate Sauce



My new favorite bread recipe is from Gwen's-Nest, the only thing I substituted was whole wheat flour. This bread is so easy and makes the best pizza crust! I'm not even going to bother giving you the directions for this bread because Gwen does it better. Check out her recipe here



I LOVE oven roasted potatoes (skillet potatoes). I rarely make them the same way twice. For last night's meal I quartered the potatoes, tossed the potatoes into a pan of boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes...just until potatoes are a little tender - easy enough to poke a fork into but not too soft. I find that the potatoes cook a little more evenly when I boil a bit before putting in the oven. At this point I strained the water, put the potatoes in skillet (I love my cast iron for this job) and coated with Wildtree Tuscan European Dipping Oil (grapeseed oil), sprinkled with sea salt, pepper, and garlic. Baked for 20-45 minutes. I checked the potatoes occasionally and added more oil when needed (when the bottom of the pan was dry and the potatoes were getting stuck to the pan). I also added some mushrooms that I had dehydrated last fall. I also make these potatoes with chucks of sauteed onions and peppers.


Salmon is my favorite fish. I think I could eat it every day. Last night I decided that I needed to finally try a new (new to me) Wildtree product and cracked open a bottle of Outrageous Orange Sauce. About an hour or so before putting the salmon in the oven, I marinated it in the refrigerator with 1/2 cup of the orange sauce. After marinating, I coated a baking pan with Wildtree Zesty Lemon Grapeseed Oil and added the salmon along with the sauce. Baked at 350 for 30 minutes. I loved the flavor.

I used Wildtree Zesty Lemon Grapeseed Oil on the asparagus also. Fresh asparagus spears were drizzled with oil and the juice of half a lemon, sprinkled with coarse sea salt, a little pepper, a little parsley and some minced garlic. Baked at 350 for 15-20 minutes.


And finally, dessert! I mean, what says I love you more than chocolate? Luckily my husband loves chocolate just as much as I do.
Heart-shaped Brownies were made with a few adaptions from The Nourishing Home's Decadent Brownie Recipe. Here's how I made the brownies:


Decadent Brownies 
1 1/2  cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
1/2 cup unsweetened *fair trade cocoa powder 
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp pure vanilla extract (except I decided to "eye ball" this and accidentally poured in much more....maybe 2 T. This mistake actually made the brownies REALLY good!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Very lightly grease 9x13 cake pan with coconut oil. 

Cut the butter into chunks. Then, place the butter chunks into a small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and the cocoa powder. Stir until the chocolate chips begin soften. Then, remove from heat and continue stirring until the chocolate chips are completely melted and the mixture is well combined. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, add the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Whisk together until well combined. Then, slowly whisk in the cooled chocolate-butter mixture, using a rubber spatula to get all of the chocolate mixture out of the saucepan.

Next, add the dry ingredients to the wet while whisking vigorously. our the batter into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle about a scant 1/4 cup of chocolate chips evenly across the top of the batter. 

Bake for 20-30 minutes.

After the brownies had cooled I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to "cut out" my brownies. 

I was hoping to top this with homemade ice cream but I ran out of time. Store bought will do. My homemade chocolate sauce (similar to "Magic Shell" but tasting much better) topped the brownie and ice cream. 

Chocolate Sauce:
Melt one stick of butter and 1 cup of chocolate chips. Tada. That is it. Store in refrigerator. 


So my Valentine boys were loved up last night with food. I don't know about them, but I loved it. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day



The ultimate Valentines gift, the ultimate gift EVER is Jesus Christ, a gift from our loving, heavenly Father.


I know that Valentines "stinks" for a lot of people. You may be alone - widowed, divorced, never wed. You may feel unloved. You maybe in a marriage that leaves you feeling alone and unloved. 


Wherever you are in your life know this, YOU ARE LOVED! Your heavenly Father loves you so much that he sent his son, Jesus, to live the life of a man here on earth. While Jesus walked the earth he suffered, like you have suffered. He hungered, like you have hungered. He was rejected and persecuted. Finally he died (and rose again!) for your sins. Why? Because HE LOVES YOU!


God can fill you with love, hope, and peace....if you allow him. 

Want proof?

John 3:16 For God so LOVED the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 5:8 ...but God shows his LOVE for us in that while we were just sinners, Christ dies for us.

Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great LOVE with which he LOVED us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved!

John 4:9-11 In this the LOVE of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is LOVE, not that we have loved God but the HE LOVED US and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

This is only a very small fraction of the verses that can be found in the bible regarding God's love towards us...towards YOU! Don't believe me? Need to read more?  Go to biblegateway.com, put "love" in the search box, and click search. In the New International Version of the bible there are 686 verses that include the word "love". 

God loves you and doesn't want you to be alone. He wants to be part of your life. Let him.

May you be filled with Christ's love today!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine Schmalintine

Spring Heart
How does one handle special days such as Valentines while still maintaining frugal and minimalism ideals? I'm really stumped. February and March are usually the months when I'm at my cheapest. I've begun saving up for the taxes that will need to be paid in April, I'm tightening my money belt after spending too generously over Christmas, not to mention that I'm still focusing on my financial goals for the new year.


For the most part I am not a card giver. Not only do I think cards are a waste of money but they are also a waste of resources. For birthdays I save a tree by giving a gift (in a reusable bag) and skip the sappy card that usually does say "it" right anyway. So a card just seems out of the question. I find it absolutely silly to spend $2 (often more) on something that is going to be read and then thrown away (hopefully in a recycle bin). Really, what is the point in that? Now if the recipient lives miles away that would justify a card. If the recipient lives in my house can't I just give him/her a hug and say, "Happy Valentines. I love you so much!"


How about a gift? I suppose I could make some lotions, soaps, and the like but my family already has free access to my "goods". Chocolates? Like we really need that (ok, yes I do need chocolate although I don't NEED chocolate....I'm sure you know what I mean) . A cute red and white stuffed animal?In my opinion stuffed animals are on the top ten list of useless clutter. Flowers? Almost perfect (I love flowers) however my son doesn't want a bouquet of daisies. Plants? Even better than flowers and something my son WOULD appreciate but my husband probably would not. A special dinner? Yep, Hubs would love that.


Yesterday I received a Valentine from my grandmother and of course I had nothing for her (one of these years I will remember that she ALWAYS has a Valentine for me). Today my mom showed up with a box of chocolates (which by the way are so yummy that I retract my earlier statement on chocolate) and a card. When I mentioned to my daughter that I'm not really good at buying valentine gifts I got an eye roll and a, "Yeah, I know." Really? I'm hurt. Hmm...I'm feeling like a bit of a scrooge here so I'm giving in and tonight I will be going shopping. Everyone might get a plant (with the exception of Hubs)....along with a homemade card. I have markers and construction paper. I also need to make a menu plan for my main man.


How do you show the special people in your life that they are loved and important to you without compromising your budget or minimalism (spell check won't allow me to write 'minimalistic'...is it not a word? I think it should be) ideals? Or do you let your ideals slide as proof of your love?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Time Savers



 Last fall I realized that it was time for a new computer. My old computer was too slow for blogging and surfing for new ideas. After much debate, I settled on a laptop, and I'm so glad that I did. I love the mobility. Now when I find a recipe the computer goes with me. No more running back to the computer in the other room to see what step comes next. No more wasting paper to print up recipes. The other day I found that it's even useful to watching educational videos while I'm doing something else. Pandora can also follow us to whatever room we are in for a dance party (my kiddos like to dance).

Above I'm making a "Master Baking Mix" while watching a video on....something. Hmm. Beekeeping? Gardening? I don't remember. The Master Baking Mix is also a time saver. The dry ingredients are mixed in bulk and can be used to make pancakes, waffles, muffins, quick bread and biscuits. Having it made up ahead of time will save me time in the kitchen later.



 Master Baking Mix from 30 Day Gourmet's, "The Freezer Cooking Manual"
20 c. flour
3/4 c. baking powder
3 T. salt
1 T. cream of tartar
12 c. sugar

This mix can be stored in the freezer.

I love "The Freezer Cooking Manual". It gives detailed instructions on how to plan, shop and prepare for once a month cooking. When I first became interested in freezer cooking, I borrowed this book from the library.** After using it for a month, I decided this was a book that I wanted to add to my cookbook shelf. Although I've never found a free Saturday to devote to filling my freezer with meals for the month, I have used this cookbook often to do my own stockpiling of freezer meals. Last summer I was teaching my daughter how to cook for the freezer. We picked three freezer meals for one week and quadrupled each recipe. We had three different meals for dinners that week and stocked the freezer with six  nine (this why I let a program teach my son math) meals. Often when I make a batch of chili or spaghetti (because these freeze so well and are quick, easy meals to prepare) I double or triple the recipe.

Freezer cooking is so EASY and saves so much prep time. Less prep time in the kitchen results in less stress when your family says, "Ma, what's for dinner?" Less stress means a happy mama.


**Part of having less in my life is resisting the urge to buy books. The last time I was at Barnes and Noble I found several books that I debated on purchasing. Instead I wrote down the titles in a note on my cell phone. When I returned home I went to my libraries website and requested the books. My book shelves are full so I must be choosy on to which books "deserve" a place on my shelves.


ADDED 6/27/2012: Baking Mix RECIPES

Friday, February 10, 2012

LESS in 2012 ~ Less Commitments

A game of Dominion.

One year ago I was overwhelmed with commitments. I was a Cub Scout leader, Women's Bible study co-leader, I was also involved in two different bible studies, and I was trying to fill my calendar with home parties to promote my Wildtree business. At night I'd rush out the door as soon as the last daycare kiddo were picked up. Later I'd rush home after my activities, exhausted, only to find the that the kitchen wasn't cleaned up during my absence so I'd angrily do the dishes, pick up the house and often times go to bed mad. The verbal conversation in my head was, "Can't my family see that I am busy. ALL.THE.TIME? Why can't they help?" until one day, at my breaking point, I prayed. And I prayed. I prayed until the verbal conversation in my head changed. Suddenly I wasn't trying to "fix" my family but I knew I needed to fix me. I learned that I can't expect my husband to have the same priorities (regarding household cleanliness) as me. I learned that even though my husband encouraged my extra-curricular activities, I was making the choice to be so busy. I learned that if I was so busy and so stressed out something needed to change because I wasn't ministering to my family, which should be my first priority.

So after learning to switch my thought process I prayed some more. I prayed that God would help me discern which activities needed to be removed from my calendar. I prayed a lot about this and I asked others to also pray. I LOVED scouts, I LOVED all my bible studies, and I LOVED Wildtree and the thought of making more money but to what expense? No longer was I looking at the empty days in my calendar and trying to fill them up but now I was looking at the calendar and deciding what could go.

I gave up Scouts. Although this was something I didn't want to give up, it was the one thing that I knew I needed to give up. The Boy was moving from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts and I was convicted that Boy Scouts need male role models, not mommies. I wanted my son to learn the attributes of being a Godly, courageous, resourceful man and I knew he'd learn this better from like-minded men and boys that were also on the journey of becoming Godly leaders. So God led us to a FABULOUS homeschooling Boy Scout troop. I miss "my" scouts but I know, without a doubt, that I made the best decision for my son.

I started to pray about the bible studies that I was involved in. One bible study is a made up of a group of couples and we rotate hosting each week, meaning once a month we didn't have to travel. Not leaving the house saves time that would be spent traveling. Also this was an activity that we did as a family. While the adults studied, the kids would play and The Boy loves these fellow homeschooling friends. So Monday night family bible study stayed.

Sunday night bible study is made up a group of local women, all who were strangers to me when I began three years ago. The benefit of this study is that it meets every other week just a few blocks from my house so again, little traveling time. It also meets on Sunday nights which is a quiet night at our house. I could easily feed the family, clean the kitchen and head to bible study and still be home to have a little family time before bed. I decided to keep this study because it involved little time commitment, yet it helps me to grow in my faith and gives me time with other women.

Wednesday night Women's Bible Study, was held at my church thirty minutes from my home, meaning that with bible study and traveling time I was gone from home for three hours (usually 4 hours because since I was in "the city" I would usually stop to do some grocery shopping before heading home). I had learned so much from the five years that I was involved in this study and developed friendships with wonderful women. That was the toughest choice. As I prayed about this decision I realized that my stress level due to all my activities was preventing me to experience spiritual growth. I was no longer being feed by Women's Bible Study....and not because they weren't "feeding" me. I was too burdened to fully experience it. I miss the study and the women, but like scouts, I've come to realize that I made a good decision which has not only benefited me but also my family.

My Wildtree business hasn't grown and I don't pursue scheduling parties...and I'm ok with that. I still love Wildtree and am open to an occasional tasting party but for my own sanity and for the sake of my family, that is about the most I can commit to.

So I started last fall with a few less things on my plate and I am now noticing the blessings. My goal for LESS in 2012 is helping to remind me, when I'm trying to fill up my calender (a bad habit of mine), to have less commitments. Less commitments means less stress, less bitterness, less exhaustion and this less has given me more. More TIME, more family time, more fulfillment, more happiness. Most nights we are able to sit down together, have dinner and read the Bible (we are reading through the Bible this year). I LOVE this time. The other night, after the dishes were done, we played a game of Dominion. My son was THRILLED that we played his favorite game with him. I'm so glad for God's guidance and that he taught me that ministering to my family is just as important, if not more important, than ministering to others.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

CHEESE

I've attempted mozzarella on two separate occasions and both times I experienced failure.  After the second failed attempt I put my rennet tablets away and hadn't thought about making another attempt. Until now. FINALLY! SUCCESS! And I can now share with you how I did it. Also this becomes a permanent record for ME in attempts that I can once again replicate yesterday's cheese success (this is admission to my poor memory). 
Ingredients:
1 gallon milk 
1/8 t. calcium cloride
1/2 a rennet tablet (dissolved in water)
2 t. citric acid (dissolved in water)



Warm milk on low to med-low heat on the stove. I do this on low just in case I'm distracted (this is a common occurrence) from the kitchen. I'd hate to burn a whole gallon of milk! 


While the milk is warming, add calcium cloride and citric acid. Stir frequently to prevent the milk from burning at the bottom of the pan. (I had helpers with this part)


Once the temperature reaches 88 degrees, add dissolved rennet tablet. Stir for 30 seconds. Raise temp to 105 degrees (at this point I turned up the heat a bit). 


As soon as the temperature reaches 105 remove from heat. Leave for 20 minutes.


And this is what it should look like ->->
 
20 minutes later......
Strain (I used a strainer lined with cheesecloth) ~ SAVE THE WHEY(liquid)
Press the excess liquid out of the cheese.
Heat in microwave for one minute 
Sprinkle the cheese with 1 t. cheese salt (I used organic sea salt)
"Fold" the cheese....over and over and over again, pressing out all the whey, until the cheese in shiny.
The cheese was extremely warm so I wore my rubber gloves to help with this step!



Press, fold, squeeze. Repeat. And REPEAT....my arms had a good workout.
.
TADA! A little whey mess is left on my cutting board but I had to snap a picture before my helpers and I dug in. BEST.CHEESE.EVER! It will be used on our Friday homemade pizza.


In case you're wondering what inspired me to try cheese again ~ 
part of my "LESS in 2012" includes less or no food ingredients that aren't "real". I've been buying organic cheddar cheese that's white (no food coloring) and even though it is the best cheese that I've ever tasted, it is spendy (hence the desire to make cheese at home). I also buy only blocks of cheese and shred it myself as I've been learning that shredded cheese is not good. 
Here's what I read at Food Renegade. Wood pulp? Eww...


This post was shared on Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine Crayons

A couple of weeks ago I bought a heart shaped silicone mold at Hobby Lobby. My intentions were to use it in making Valentine candies.........
                  and then I saw this great idea on a crafting blog. 
I started at the bottom of our crayon bucket, that's were all the broken, misfit crayons hide, dug out the misfits and if any labels was left, I peeled it off. The crayons were too hard for my little helper to snap into pieces so I snapped and she arranged. If you want to be more "controlling" of the color combinations, you may. I just went for the eclectic look, not being too concerned about complimentary colors or using all valentine colors. Besides, I had used most of my Valentine colored crayons in last weeks Melted Crayon art
The silicone molds are a little flimsy so to avoid melted wax all over my oven and/or stove, my carpet or more likely me (because that's the kind of thing that happens in my kitchen), I placed the mold on top of my baking stone and turned the oven on to 250 degrees.
While our crayons baked...or more accurately, melted, we began making cheese.  I lost track of time due to the cheese-making but I peeked in on occasion. I think it took about an hour or so for all the crayons to melt. Once this happened I removed it from the oven (mold AND baking stone because you remember what I said about flimsy...and things that happen in my kitchen) and let it cool on the counter. As soon as the wax seemed hard (30-45 minutes...again I lost track of time), the crayons popped right out.

Aren't they purty? 


The shiny white spots are actually the color of silver!

These silicone stuff is the bomb. I wonder if it would hold up to candle wax? I'm thinking heart shaped candles would be pretty cute.


Thrifty Thursday Linky Party at LivingWellSpendingLess.com!Polly Want a Crafter

Monday, February 6, 2012

Frugal Cleaning


Basket of cleaning supplies


BAKING SODA (mega bag!)
WASHING SODA
BORAX
FELS NAPTHA
VINEGAR
RUBBING ALCOHOL
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE


Add another bar of Fels Naptha and a few more gallons of vinegar and I'm covered for the year. 
Cost of cleaning supplies (including laundry soap): Less that $40 a year

The borax, washing soda and fels naptha, until now, have been used exclusively for laundry soap. Although I have rubbed stains with a wet bar of fels naptha before throwing the piece of clothing in the wash. I have also started to use borax in my "soaking pail" for cloth diapers. In a pinch I will use equal parts of washing soda and borax as a dishwasher det

Baking soda is used for almost anything! Scouring my sink, removing stains from my white counter tops, removing stains from carpet, removing urine stench from couch cushions (preschool nappers...need I say more?), carpet deodorizer, armpit deodorizer, shoe deodorizer, etc.

Vinegar can be used for drain cleaner, coffee pot cleaner, removes spots from glassware, and like baking soda, it also removes urine stench (removes the stench even better when used with baking soda).

Peroxide is not only used to clean cuts but also cleans countertops, removes stains and fights moldy showers.

Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol is used as a disinfectant and can also clean windows and remove ink stains.




Participating in the Homestead Barn Hop!

Also shared in the Spring Cleaning Challenge



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Valentine Crayon Art

 I was hoping that my painters tape would hold up to leave a cool heart in the midst of the melted crayon. Unfortunately I think the tape lost some of it's sticky factor and didn't hold up. Next time I will try contact paper.  I used a "pancake mold" to make the template.
 Crayons were glued to the top of the canvas with a hot glue gun. We used an assortment of reds, pinks and purple.

 After the wax began seeping behind the tape, we tried holding the pancake mold to the canvas in hopes that that would save our heart but in the end I decided to ditch the heart. Another obstacle we faced was a dysfunctional hair dryer which preferred running on the low setting. Occasionally high setting would kick in for approximately ten minutes before reverting again to low. The low setting did not give enough heat to melt the crayons. It took most of the afternoon of running the dryer on high for ten minutes, letting the dryer cool off for twenty minutes and beginning the cycle again.
 The daycare kiddos loved holding the hairdryer and watching the wax melt.

 Finally........

Not exactly what I was hoping for but not bad for our first try. 

Materials used:
Crayons in pinks, reds and purples pulled from 3 big boxes of crayons
Canvas
Hot glue gun
Hair dryer
Painter's tape/heart template/knife



Polly Want a Crafter