Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The cat in the tree and a frog on the loose

   This year we were able to get the tree up Thanksgiving weekend. The kids enjoyed putting the ornaments on and of course eating a candy cane or two. Unfortunately the cat thinks it is her personal play land. In the past two weeks between Vincent and the cat I have had to throw away 10 ornaments and move all that is remaining to the top half of the tree. Thankfully I have not gone all out  on decorations yet. I do dream of a perfectly coordinated tree but hey, the homemade ornaments have so many memories attached to them.
To top off the tree problem, I found a North American Tree Frog the day before Thanksgiving and we decided to keep him in the empty aquarium until it warms up again. I never even knew we had tree frogs in this region.We set up his tank and got him crickets. Being a tree frog he loves to climb. Well I guess he decided to climb right on out of the tank the other day and no one  thought to tell me till this morning! I pray he will turn up and not in the mouth of the cat or dogs and certainly not under someones foot.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

As a kid I would never touch a sweet potato. It wasn't until my late twenties that I got brave enough to try them. Love at first bite, the problem is is that they were completely slathered in fat and sugar. I started experimenting with them until I found a way that even my husband and kids will eat them willingly. This is my absolute fave!

  • One large sweet potato
  • Juice of one lime
  • Olive oil
  • Cracked salt & cracked pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Skin and slice your sweet potato in to fat fry size wedges. Toss with the juice of one lime and about two tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with cracked salt and cracked pepper to taste. Spread into a large greased casserole dish. Place in oven and cook for about 35-45 minutes, stirring every 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are soft and are starting to blacken on the edges. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Upcycled craft with coffee bottle

My mother is an avid scrapbooker and is always going to these retreats where you can do a weekend crop. At the latest one a friend of hers passed out these Halloween themed glass bottles filled with candy coated chocolate.It is made from an upcycled glass Starbucks coffee bottle with the top cap painted black. She added a ribbon around the top and attached a charm to it. The front label is made from stamped card stock and affixed with double sided tape.
I can see so many possibilities for this. Baby showers, Wedding favors, Valentines day, etc.. I will be doing a few of these for the teachers this year for Christmas for sure!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crochet Owl Ornament

I am looking for another quick project again and I came across this cute little owl ornament pattern at the Lion Brand Yarn web site. You do need to sign up with them to have access to their free patterns but there are plenty of them so it is worthwhile. Here is the link to this pattern http://www.lionbrand.com/patterns/L0256AD.html?noImages= . I am thinking that several of these in different colors would make a cute mobile for a baby's room.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Homemade chicken stock

     I ordered this book Making It Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World by Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen a few weeks back off of Amazon. I am thrilled to add it to my collection of how to books as it is filled with a ton of useful information. One of the things in there is how to make chicken stock and I have to say I was previously clueless to this. I always make whole chickens in the crock-pot but thought the leftover juice was just to fatty to keep. While I still have to try their recipe I am now making my own stock for soups and stews my own way.

First I wash and clean out the cavity of the chicken and pat it dry with a couple of paper towels. Here I put it into my 4 quart crock-pot with some onions and carrots that I had on hand. I sprinkle it with a poultry season blend and pour in about 1 cup of water. Cover and let it cook for 6-8 hours on medium until it is cooked through.

 After my bird is cooked all the way I pull it out and set it aside to cool. I will remove the skin and shred the meat to use in soup, stews or casseroles. I usually get at least three meals from this one roaster chicken.

I put the bones into a stock pot with about six cups of water and add anymore celery or carrots that I have left to it. I will simmer it for about 30-45 minutes and  strain out all the bones. This broth is used to make my dogs their soup with. I can add some cooked veggies to it later. They love it over their dry kibble. I refuse to by any canned garbage for them.

Now I pour all of the juice that is left in my crock-pot through a mess strainer to remove all the cooked veggies, fatty pieces and any bones that may have fallen off. Gross I know.

I put my bowl into the fridge over night so all the fat can rise to the top. In the morning you can easily scrape the fat off with a spoon.
Underneath the fat is your stock. It will be a thick gelatin and your spoon will stand up straight in it. This is what I thought was fat also. This stock is filled with vitamins and minerals that are easily digested and so good for you. I divide this up into about 1.5 cup freezer containers and will later add it to my soups. I add my flavors later because I make several different soups and I don't want the flavors of them to be changed by my stock. Now I know!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The small things we often miss

Today we had the opportunity to catch this leaf bug sitting on the fence.  I love these moments that nature presents to us. They are all to easy to miss though because many times we just don't slow down enough and just be. The simple things in life are never bought.
I hope this guy is preparing for the winter that will be here before you know it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

On My mind....Green Tomatoes

I can't believe that it is already October and my tomatoes are still green! It was such a cool September for us with lots of rain so these babies need to get some warmth. This weekend I will attempt to cook some of these up with onions and get them canned. They taste good on cheeseburgers. If I can get to them I will post the how to.
Now go visit Rhonda at Down to Earth to see what is on her mind. http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Easy crochet dishcloth pattern

I have had the itch to do some crocheting lately but I don't have the time to sit down and work on a big project. Since I could use some new dishcloths and washcloths for the tub I decided to work on these. This is a very easy project that can be done in about an hour or two.
1 ball of Lily® Sugar’n Cream cotton yarn
Size 5 mm (U.S. H or 8) crochet hook
Ch 26.
1st row: 1 hdc in second ch from hook. 1 hdc in each ch accross. Turn. 25 sc.
**2nd row: Ch 1. Working in back loop only of each hdc, 1 hdc in single loop of each hdc accross. Turn. 25 sc.
Repeat last row until work measures approximately 7in square. Fasten off.** 

Your cloth will end up with a ribbed texture to it. Nice and simple.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What legacy will I leave behind

My reason for staying home
This past week and a half feels like we were sucked into a black hole of sorts. September is just about over and I cannot account for the time lapse. I guess that is normal when you are in mourning though.
It is funny where your thoughts go during a time like this. You begin to think more about your own life and the legacy you will leave behind. Will it be a good one or riddled with all of those what if's?
I keep thinking of the role I am playing in my families life. It is almost thirteen years ago now that I made the decision to stay home and raise my children. At the time someone told me that due to my decision I  would never make anything of myself and I was going to become a nobody.
That thought was the pea under my mattress that kept me up at night. I wondered how such an evil thought could even exist.I decided to take that pea and plant it, but instead of nurturing it with all of those negative feelings I gave it love.
 I have created a loving home where my children can always feel safe. I am teaching them to be loving and giving even in the face of adversary. I want them to know that they are a part of this planet and are not entitled to anything but should give thanks in all they receive. I want them to grow into loving adults who will know how to give back. I want them to know how to be loving wives and a husband by seeing how my Husband and I treat each other. There is so much more that has grown out of that pea that words cannot express. I hope my children will see this as my legacy to them.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On My Mind.....

 My Mother-in-law passed away this week. It has been a roller coaster of emotions for my husband. She was only 66 but she has been in pain from severe arthritis for the last several years. She went in the arms of her daughter. When it comes my time I can think of no better way to go than in the arms of a loved one.
Now visit Rhonda at Down to Earth to see what is on her mind: http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On My Mind.....Garage sale find

I am taking part in "On My mind" with Rhonda over at Down to Earth. She has an amazing blog so when you are done here go ahead and click on the link at the end to visit her.
I took Vincent for a walk to the Post Office today and on the way home we came across a garage sale. I found this fabulous polyester fabric dating back to the late 70's.  There is almost two yards of it and I got it for $.50. At first I was thinking that I would turn it into a bed for the dogs seeing that doodlebug destroyed yet another one. The thing is is that when I went to pay the woman told me how painful it is to part with all the fabric she put out.Now I know there is no way I could turn this into a dog bed/chew toy. 
Come spring time we plan on giving Gianna and Tia our bedroom and giving Vincent Gianna's so we will be doing some redecorating. I had already planned on finding a yellow and gray bed-set for Tia so now I'm thinking how perfect this will be. I am going to turn it into a duvet cover for her existing comforter. I already have a bunch of dark gray fabric that matches perfect with this. I have never done a quilt of any kind so this will be another one of those teach myself projects.
Now visit Rhonda at Down to Earth to see what is on her mind: http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-my-mind_15.html#links

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homemade Grape Jam

About two weeks ago my next door neighbor informed my daughters that her grapevine was filled with grapes that they could pick. It isn't a big vine by any means but they were able to pick just enough grapes for me to make a batch of grape jam. This was my first time making jam of any kind and I have to say although it was time consuming it was easy. There is something so organic and beautiful to making things from scratch.
 Here is what you will need:
    • 2 quarts grapes
    • 6 cups sugar
    • 3 pint or 6 half-pint canning jars
    • new lids and bands
Cook grapes in enough water to cover for about 20 minutes. When the grapes are soft press through a seive or food mill to remove the seeds.

Combine pulp and sugar in large sauce pot. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to gelling point*. As the mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from heat and skim any foam that has formed. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

*To test jam for jelling point place a small amount of the hot jam on a chilled plate; set plate in freezer until jam is cooled to room temperature. Gently run your finger through the jam, if it separates then slowly returns to its original form, it is ready to process.

Friday, September 9, 2011

September is here

Here September is again, it seems to come a little quicker each year. The kids are back to school and the nights are getting chilly. It is even starting to get dark out before 8pm. These are the days that you have to start wearing layers because it is cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon. I do like the change in the weather, Fall is coming!
It is time to start to put the garden to rest, but first I need to get the garlic in. The perennials need to be cut back and the hostas need to be divided .Soon we will be able to go to the farms for the pumpkins and apples. The leaves will soon start to change and the lawnmower can be stored for the winter.  I love the smell of the leaves that are on the ground and the sound of them crunching when you step on them. These are the simple pleasures of life, we need to take the time to slow down and relish in them because they are also fleeting moments.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Farmageddon the Movie

I am a big believer that as American people we are losing more and more of our freedoms. One of those freedoms is the opportunity to obtain fresh and healthy foods from small family farms. These small farmers are under constant attack by big Agriculture and our Government. There is a movie coming out called Farmageddon and I feel that everyone should take the time to check out the web site and watch the movie. The link is http://farmageddonmovie.com/film/. Times are a changing folks!

P.S. Remember what happened to millions of Soviet peasants who opposed Joseph Stalins collective agriculture program!
In 1929 he ended private farming and transferred all control over the land, animals and equipment over to the government. As punishment for the peasants resistance Stalin sent about a million families into exile. Due to the destruction of the animals and grains, millions died from starvation.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dyeing fabric with Dylon

 I discovered Dylon fabric dye about six months ago. My favorite pair of jeans were pretty faded, and I wanted to get a little more life out of them. Having never dyed anything before, I wanted to be able to do it in the machine; my problem was that my machine is a front loader. I couldn't find anything in the stores for that.

Doing a search, I came across Dylon fabric dye. Dylon is sold on various internet sites for the front load washing machines. It worked like a charm. Since then, I have ventured into doing it by hand. I am able to get these little packs at my local JoAnn Fabrics store.

In order to dye about 1/2lb of fabric, you will need one 1.75oz packet of dye. Next, you will need warm water, a measuring cup, 4Tbs salt, rubber gloves, a large bowl or stainless steel sink large enough for the fabric to move freely, and something to stir the fabric with.

1. First, dissolve the dye in 4 cups of warm water. Keep stirring until completely dissolved.

2. Add 4 tablespoons of table salt and enough warm water to submerge fabric and for it to be able to move freely while stirring.

stir fabric well

3. Add your fabric and stir continuously for 15 minutes. Continue to let it soak for 45 minutes while stirring every 5-10 minutes.

rinse with cold water

4. Rinse under cold water until water is nearly clear. Wash fabric in warm water and allow to dry away from direct heat or sunlight.

ocean blue
5. Enjoy your newly revived clothing. This color reminds me of the ocean waters in Maui. Now, if I could only replicate the smell of all those flowers!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Cicada

I found this cicada today outside my back door.  He must have just come out of his shell today. I thought his colors were beautiful. When you looked close at him he seemed to have a gold shimmer. I tried but just could not get that captured in the photo.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beauty Secret

Ever since I was a kid I loved makeup. When I would go to my Grandma Jonas' house she would let me play with it. I would always have to put on that blue eyeshadow, lots of it, and red lipstick. I would pretend to be one of those playboy bunny girls with a pink outfit and high heels. I would play that I was married to Shawn Cassidy and we lived on a farm and feed chickens all day or that I was being rescued be Luke Skywalker. Can you imagine what kind of movie Star Wars would of been if Princess Leia would of been running around in  a pink playboy bunny outfit?
Well lets fast forward to today. I still love my makeup but just in muted tones. I never did get to don the blue eyeshadow fad. The problem is that as I grow older it seems to do weird things by the end of the day. I end up looking  like the person depicted in Edvard Munch's painting The Scream instead of one of those girls on the front of a harliquin book. Not that I look like one of those girls anyway, but I can still imagine can't I?
The Scream
Do to this issue I started looking into makeup primers. I never could bring myself to purchase one though. They are very expensive in my opinion and I would always equate how many gallons of milk or gas I could buy for the price of one of those small bottles. Well last week I learned a little secret that the beauty industry does not want you to know about. There is this product by the makers of Monistat. It is called Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder Gel. It has all the same ingredients as one of those expensive primers but it only cost me $5.99 for 1.5 oz. at Target. I may have been able to get it cheaper elsewhere but Vincent does not shop well at all so when I found it I bought it. It does work well so if you are in the market for a primer and can't get over the sticker shock give it a try. Then come back and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Along came Pipsqueak

My Sid
 Back in January I lost my cat Sid. He would have been 19 in April.  When I got him he was six weeks old and fit in the palm of my hand. He grew to a whopping 25 pounds in his prime, all muscle by the way, and approximately 26 inches in length not including his tail.

He was a formidable cat no doubt. He was with me during my single days when it seemed that the weight of the world was always coming down on me. I worked two and three jobs so I could have a roof over my head and put myself through school. He was always there waiting for me at the door when I came home.
  Later when I got married he was there with me even though my husband was not to fond of him. Tony later grew to like him even though they were always competing for my attention. There was that birthday party incident though that almost ended in Sid's demise, he had to go stay at my brothers for a few months. Each time I came home from the hospital with each of my three children he was waiting for me at the door.
He was always waiting for me at the door, for me to wake up, for me to get out of the shower, etc. In a way he was my first child. I was there with him when he went. Even though it broke my heart I wouldn't of had it any other way.
Since then Gianna and Tia have been begging us to get a kitten. I was able to put it off for a while by telling them we had to wait to move. That didn't happen so the begging began again. You see back in June when we had all that rain my sister-in-laws neighbor found a bunch of kittens who were drowning in a puddle. Their eyes weren't even open and they had their umbilical cords still. There was one who almost died on more than one occasion. They called her monkey.
When the girls went over there they would take care of Monkey and bottle feed her when no one else could get her to eat. They were good with her and were determined to see her live.  They did a great job.  Last week Monkey turned 8 weeks old and needed to find a permanent home. That is when the pleading really began. We broke, even though I don't think I am ready yet. She is so cute though.
They changed her name to Pipsqueak because she is so tiny. She was the runt of the litter. They are taking good care of her and holding up to their end. This is going to be their memories of loving an animal that they helped to save. They will be good ones. She is growing on me, and of course I will love her too.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In the Garden

This year I only planted a few items. I was hoping to move and didn't want to waste my time or money. I put in some cabbage, basil and sugar snap peas. Somehow I also got a potato plant and tomatoes, they must have lingered over from last summer. I almost lost the basil plant to a soccer ball and the snap peas just can't take this years heat. Over all though everything seems to be coming along fine.A few years ago I put in some oregano and purple coneflower. Both of these have spread out quite a bit. Unfortunately for the oregano Vincent is able to tromp through it due to its location. It is a hardy plant though so it should do fine next year.
purple coneflower
oregano in bloom

I can't wait for some ripe tomatoes. It isn't summer without making bruschetta and now that I know how to make my own crusty bread it will be all the better. Also, as soon as I get a couple of cabbages that are big enough I will be making some Serbian cabbage rolls. I learned how to make this from my friend Lilly this past winter. Watch for the recipe.

green tomatoes

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scrappy Cat

Still not finished!
A few years ago I taught myself to crochet. I wish that I would have learned to knit and crochet from my Great-Grandma Nannie. As a child I didn't see the value in it, another missed opportunity. I really enjoy it and just wish that I had time to work on bigger projects.
 Back in May I started working on a crochet project using only scrap bits of yarn. My son, Vincent, loves cats so I wanted it to have an alley cat feel to it. I followed a pattern that I purchased off of Etsy.com from Ludys shop.I did modify it using a US size H hook and worsted weight yarn. Her patterns call for perle cotton thread and are very small. You
 should check out her shop if you enjoy crocheting.
Well here we are at the end of July and the cat is still missing a leg and eyes.  It took me all but 30 minutes to finish him.  Vincent is thrilled and so am I since that is one more project that I completed.  I do think that Scrappy Cat needs a garbage can to sleep in now. Maybe once the girls go back to school!
Thanks Mom!
I'm done.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Long Six Months

Today the house officially goes off the market.  We listed in January with hopes of moving to a few acres or more. We even hoped to build until we ran into one wall after another with the way they finance new construction loans. Often the home is devalued 10-30% before it is even complete and ready to convert to a permanent mortgage, not a good fiscal move.
Through the whole six months we only had three lookers. The first couple actually were probably ready to make an offer but when they got to our driveway for their second showing they changed their minds. I guess they decided to join the great exodus out of Illinois.  Although I was upset I completely understand because that is our plan too.  This state, like a few others, has decided to rape its people in taxes and there is no sign of a reversal. Illinois is on the verge of bankruptcy and its politicians are corrupt for the most part. For now I guess we are stuck.
My husband and I will still keep our dream of a home on a few acres or more and if this country doesn't follow the fate of Argentina back in 2001 maybe we will even be able to build in a few years. I have always wanted to have some chickens and even a few goats. My children need to know the importance of living more in sync with nature and how to care for the land instead of always taking from it. A little cottage farm may still be possible.
While we are here I will continue to garden and to learn all I can about self-reliant living. I just hope the world does not go to hell in a hand bag between now and then.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mason Jar Sun Tea

 A few days ago I got a taste for some sun tea.  It has been a few years due to the fact that I melted my container making it the last time and I can never seem to find large glass pitchers.  I decided to go ahead and use my Ball glass canning jars.
I put 2 cups of water and two tea bags into each jar and then cap them. After they sit in the sun for about an hour they are ready. Add sweetener to taste and refrigerate until cold. Enjoy!

after about 1 hour

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Time to imagine

A different sort of tea party

I took this picture of my two girls playing on the front porch about  three years ago.  It is one of my favorites. You see, we have not had cable for at least six years now. When we had it they were being robbed of their own imagination.  When they played it was just a reenactment of what they were seeing on the tube. It took a short adjustment for them but it was well worth it in so many ways.
We have never had to get them the latest Disney kid item of the month, or is that week now? Their attitudes come from home and not TV land. When they play it is almost always something they uniquely came up with on their own. All of these things are priceless to me and my husband.
As they grow up now I am proud to see them staying true to themselves and not following the media mindset. My prayer for them as they enter their teen years is for them never to become followers but become leaders that will stay true to their hearts.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Simple Iced Coffee

I have a weakness for coffee, especially Starbucks. That green mermaid calls to me when I am out and about. She lures me in with her song just like the legend of sailors who would follow the song only to find their ship's lured onto the rocks and they to their death. Although there are no rocks to find your demise on there is another kind of death, financial. At around $5.00 a drink (grande peppermint mocha anyone) I am not doing myself or my family any favors. My hips have also paid a price for her sweet libations. Well thanks to my younger sister I have found a pretty decent alternative.
  • Brew 12 cups of your favorite coffee. I like mine strong.
  • 3.5oz of Sweetened condensed milk.
 After your coffee is done brewing allow it to cool a bit. When it is still on the warmer side add the sweetened condensed milk and stir well.  Allow it to cool to almost room temperature and put in the fridge. After it is chilled enjoy!
I buy the 14oz can of Carnation sweetened condensed milk and divide it into little containers and freeze the extra.  You may like your drink sweeter than I do so just play with the recipe. I have not tried any flavorings yet but I think mocha is in the near future.