Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making Vinegar smell GOOD

We don't get a lot of snow here, but when we do it's kind of a big deal. Yesterday, and last night especially, we had a storm system blow through that brought some serious winter weather. It started snowing at about 6:00 pm last night and it hasn't stopped for more than a few minutes at a time.

It makes for some pretty pictures, and some fun to play in too.

We have some mad snowman skills, I tell you what.

Onto other things, I found a recipe for orange vinegar to clean with on Pinterest, so I've been following everyone around making sure they don't throw out their orange peels. You put some peel into a mason jar, fill it with vinegar and let it sit for a couple weeks. Then you strain it and mix it with water in a spray bottle. More on all of that when it's done, but here it is now working away:

It's already turning orange and smelling like oranges. Apparently, the vinegar will leach out the orange oils and when you use the vinegar for cleaning you'll get the benefit of not only the scent but the oils as well.

I think it's a great idea for using up orange peels that would otherwise just get thrown out (or composted or dehydrated here lol). I'll keep you updated on this promising looking stuff!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bits and Pieces

We aren't unlike all of you in that we have periods of our lives that get VERY busy. Right now we seem to be smack dab in the middle of a busy spell. You see, when we purchased our house, we knew it needed a complete remodel. Every wall had to have new drywall, texture and paint. All new windows and doors. Every single piece of trim had to be replaced, as well as all of the floor coverings. The kitchen had to have new appliances, cabinets and counter tops since they were barely functioning and sanitary the way they were. We put in a wood stove and took out the really expensive oil furnace. We added a deck and re-built the porch. We completely tore down the old bathroom and a really strange room that had no entrance except from the outside of the house. We turned these into a new bathroom and a small bedroom/office/schoolroom. Some of these projects are still in the works some are completed and some we have yet to start.

The good news is this: we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If we work really hard, spend every extra minute that we have working on the house we just might, MAYBE, have all the interior work finished before summer gets here.

We won't know what to do with ourselves if we don't have the house to work on!

Here are a few shots from around my house today.

This tree is going to be loaded with blooms this spring!

We've had a dusting of snow the last few days. It's pretty but it's C-O-L-D out there this morning.

Man tracks! (and bird tracks too!)

My living room has turned into a paint booth. Pair of closet doors I need to prime today, we primed the other set last night.

Room in progress. By this weekend it will be COMPLETE! YAY!!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Homemade for the Homestead Medicine Chest {Lip Balm}

I don't know about you, but as a family of 6 we can really go through the lip balm in the winter. Our house has wood heat and even with a kettle of water on it our house feels really dry inside. I've been looking for a reason to make some lip balm and since my last tube just ran out, today was the day.

The process is simple, the ingredients cheap and the time very little for a HUGE end product. I think this recipe would make 15-20 tubes of lip balm. That's more than enough to use and to share or give as gifts. The initial investment on some of the supplies will be a bit more, of course, but if you are planning on following my Homestead Medicine Chest posts, we'll be using basically the same supplies for most things. How's that for multi purpose?

Some I did in tubes....

Some I did in tins....and then I ran out of tubes and tins and used whatever I could find to fill up!

Like this small Altoids tin. Baby food jars, small glass jars, anything you can get your finger into to get it back out will work.

I used the recipe I found here and it worked great!

Lip Balm

1 oz beeswax
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Spearmint oil
1 teaspoon honey

In a glass measuring cup, add your beeswax, olive oil and honey. Put it into a saucepan and carefully pour water into the pan until it comes up past the level of the oil and beeswax in the measuring cup. Put on the stove on low heat and stir until it melts completely. The beeswax doesn't really melt into the rest of the stuff, so just stir it in well. Take the cup out of the water, add the spearmint oil and and stir. Quickly pour into your containers.

A couple quick notes: her recipe calls for 1/2 oz bees wax, but in her comments she says she uses 1 oz because she likes a firmer texture. I agree, and to be honest I might add a tad bit more next time I make it myself.
She also calls for peppermint oil and I used spearmint....that's because when I did a search for "menthol" (one of the main ingredients in name brand lip balms) the search returned with some information on menthol. Here is what I found and I ultimately chose to go with Spearmint as opposed to peppermint because of the kids. Were I making this just for Kevin and myself, I would have used peppermint and decreased the amount to 1/4 teaspoon. Spearmint contains .05% menthol as compared to peppermints 40%, keep that in mind. Just an option for you because I know my girls complain that brand like Carmex and Chap Ice are too "spicy" feeling for them. Use what you feel is right for you!

So, I think that was an easy foray into making some home remedies. No one thinks about it, but even lip balms are loaded with unnecessary and sometimes scary ingredients. At least when you are making your own you are controlling the ingredient quality, the ingredient content and you can add any special things you want. You could replace some of the olive oil with coconut, sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, avocado oil. You could add a little vitamin E if you wanted....a different essential oil (just please be sure to buy them from a website that can tell you if they are ok for lip balms. Some are not.) or leave it exactly as it is and still have a fantastic lip balm at a fraction of the store bought price.

Sounds good to me!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Just Pretty

 I saw these flowers in the store yesterday and thought they were lovely so I got them. It's something I rarely do, buy something like flowers that just die and are considered to be a waste of money by most frugal people.
But here they are, cheering up my dining room in the middle of a cloudy, ugly winter. They make my heart sing out to see them there, and although I know they won't last all that long, I will enjoy them every waking minute they are here!

If you need some cheering up from the gloomy weather as well, here are some pictures you can have to put on your desktop, or use as wallpaper, or whatever.

Happy Valentines Day from Me to You <3

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentines Day Crafting~ Day 1

Because my girls are home schooled, I try to do all the "class parties" that they would have if they were in public school. 1) because they are fun and 2) because we get to make tons of crafts and nothing motivates them like the promise of a craft project. I try to choose crafts that they can all do, with a couple special ones just for the big girls to do during nap time.

Our first project was a hanging heart string. Basically, you cut out a BUNCH of hearts in whatever size and color you want, glue them to a piece of yarn and hang them from the ceiling. But.....they way you glue them is a little different. I used it as a lesson in patterning, but you wouldn't have to do that.

To get started, cut a piece of yarn to your desired length. It doesn't matter what color it is, you aren't going to see any of it, or if you do it won't be much.

Cover one side of a heart completely with glue. Lay it under the yarn and center the yarn down the middle of the heart.

Take 2 more hearts and fold them in half. Matching the folded hearts with the flat heart, press one side onto the glue. Hold down the other 2 sides.

Cover the sides with glue and stick them together.

When they have as many hearts on each string as you want, hang them from the the ceiling, light fixtures or make a really long one to use as a streamer!

This was a great craft. The girls needed to properly use scissors, glue and they had to practice precision as well as patterns. That's a lot of learning and skills to pack into one fun project.

I now have 5 of these hanging from my dining room light above our table, they are pretty stinking' adorable :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Breakfast Bars

Breakfast for me and the girls is no big deal, we're always home and can make whatever it is that we want. My husband, however, is often up very early and on his way to work before he gets a chance for breakfast. When I saw these breakfast bars on Pinterest, I had to track them back to the recipe at Smitten Kitchen. And then I had to make them~ oh, I'm glad I did!

They are simple to make, can be frozen and are really delicious. They make a great breakfast on the go, the girls have loved them as snacks and they are easy to transport if need be. Slightly sweet, but not overly so, they taste like eating a cookies and fresh raspberries. If you choose to make them ahead and freeze them, the bar gets a little softer but not so much that they become soggy.

Raspberry Breakfast Bars
ever so slightly adapted from Baked: New Frontiers In Baking

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl and mix them up well. Add the butter and either 1) use your mixer to make loose crumbs 2) use a pastry blender to make loose crumbs or 3) rub the mixture with your fingers to make loose crumbs or 4) you could toss it all into a food processor and whiz it up until a loose crumb forms. Totally up to you. Put a piece of parchment paper or foil in the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan and spray it with non stick spray. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the crumb and press the rest into your pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.

While that is cooling.....

Raspberry Filling:

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (12 oz) package of unsweetened frozen raspberries
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In a bowl combine all of the ingredients and toss them so that they all combine. Spread over cooled crust and top with reserved crumb mixture. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, turning every 10-15 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting. Make 12-14 bars, depending on size.

These are reportedly good for about 2 days, but we didn't have any left by that time! I did freeze one to see how it would do and I was impressed, next time I'll make a double batch and freeze most of them for later.

I think with a little variation you could make these in many different flavors.
  • Blackberries with orange or lime zest and juice
  • Blueberries with lemon or lime zest and juice
  • Strawberries with lemon zest and juice
  • Mixed berries with lemon, lime or orange zest and juice
We've really enjoyed these and I can't wait for fresh berry season to come around so I can make them with berries from our garden!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Menu This Week

Hello, and welcome to another episode of "What's For Dinner?" This week we have some new recipes to go along with our tried and true ones. In no particular order our menu this week is:

  • Homemade fruit on the bottom yogurt with granola
  • Bacon, eggs and toast
  • Baked oatmeal
  • Pancakes
  • Homemade raspberry breakfast bars
  • Corn dog muffins, carrots and apple slices
  • Pita pizza and steamed veggies
  • Grilled ham and cheese, pickles and banana
  • Leftovers x 2
  • PB&J and banana smoothie
  • grilled cheese with pizza dipping sauce and oven baked onion rings

  • Buffalo chicken pizza and salad
  • "Wendy's" chili and cornbread
  • Chili burgers and french fries
  • Fish tacos and Mexican Rice
  • Baked chicken, twice baked potatoes and steamed cauliflower
  • Chicken noodle soup and dinner rolls
  • Biscuits and gravy, hash browns and eggs
  • Cherry pie
  • Hot chocolate cake (I never got around to making it last time)
  • Brownies
  • Coffee Cake
Snacks are always yogurt, fruit, veggies and granola. I'll be making more granola bars this week and sharing the recipe for the chocolate version.

It's going to be a great week!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Layers Of Love Cherry-Choco Trifle {And a Surprise}

I'm getting so much use out of my Lucky Leaf Bake Your Heart Out recipe book. Everything I have tried has been fantastic and won rave reviews from my taste testers!

When Lucky Leaf asked me if I wanted to participate in another recipe review and giveaway, I jumped at the chance. With February containing Valentines Day I just knew the Layers of Love Cherry-Choco Trifle was the perfect recipe to test out. Turns out I was right! The girls and I had so much fun making this together and it was definitely simple enough to let them help~ not that you would ever be able to tell how easy it was by tasting it!


Before we get to the recipe, I wanted you to get a chance to see some videos of other Lucky Leaf recipes in action.

Chocolate Cherry Cake with Run Ganache

Lucky Stars Ginger Spice Apple Tart

And, lastly, Bake Your Heart Our With Chef Amanda Cook (tips)

Why don't you head over to Lucky Leaf and give them a like on Facebook as well? There is always something tasty to look at over there on their wall!

Layers Of Love Cherry-Choco Trifle

1 (18.25 oz) box chocolate cake mix, prepared
1 (4 serving size) package instant chocolate mix, prepared
1 (21 oz) cans Regular or Cherry Pie filling (I actually used strawberry and it was AMAZING)
2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
Chocolate curls, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake mix according to the directions and bake in a 9x13 inch pan. Let cake cool completely and cut into 1 inch cubes. Prepare pudding mix according to package directions. Chill at least 30 minutes. Place half of cake cubes in a 3- to 4- quart trifle bowl. Spoon one can of Lucky Leaf cherry pie filling over cake; spread 1 cup pudding over the cherries and top with half of the whipped topping. Repeat layers. Top with chocolate curls, if desired. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.


The most generous Luck Leaf is offering YOU a chance to try out some of their wonderful fillings. One winner will receive a package including:
  • Lucky Leaf Premium Pie filling
  • A copy of their all new Bake Your Heart Out recipe book
  • Crisp Mix
  • A potholder

What a fun giveaway. I LOVE Lucky Leaf and I LOVE my readers and I LOVE that one of you is going to win this package.

To enter to win, tell me~ What is your favorite flavor of pie? Don't like pie? No problem! Tell me what sweet treat you love the most and you'll be entered to win. US residents only, please. Comments will be closed Sunday, February 13th 2012 and a winner will be announced Tuesday, February 14th 2012. Please leave me an email address with your comments so I can contact you if you win, thanks!

Good luck!

*Now for the fine print: Lucky Leaf provided me with product, however, the thoughts and opinions are always mine*


And the winner is:
I like Strawberry and Rhubarb pie!!!!
By Louise.S
Congrats Louise.S!!! Please email me your full name and shipping address at

Thursday, February 2, 2012

{Cheddar Bacon Biscuits}

As much as my family enjoys bread and butter or a dinner roll with meals, I like to provide variety with our meals. Brown bread, steamed bread, artisan bread, sourdough, soft bread sticks, buttery biscuits. They all make an appearance at our table depending on my mood and how crunched I am for time.

Biscuits are one of the quickest ways to get bread on the table. It takes me less than 5 minutes to mix the dough and about 12 minutes to bake them off. That's nice :)

For our lunch today, I made my standard biscuit, but spiced it up a little with some extras, bacon and cheddar. Paired with some freshly made butter these were a delicious, simple lunch. We had some carrots and apple slices and cold glasses of milk to finish it off. It's safe to say that these are VERY kid approved!

Cheddar Bacon Biscuits

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled

In a mixing bowl, add the flour, salt and soda. Using a pasty blender, 2 forks or the paddle attachment on your mixer cut in the shortening until it looks like course meal. Add the milk, cheese and crumbled bacon. Mix until just combined, the dough may be slightly sticky. Drop by spoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet (I spray mine with non-stick spray) and bake in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

And that's it. Slather them up with butter or leave them as they are, either way they are delicious!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Seed Catalog Mania

We have received no less than 25 seed catalogs this year. Some of them were garbage and went right into the trash, some took some farther looking into to decide they weren't for us and a few we just knew instinctively were going to make us happy. The companies, all of them, really outdid themselves this year with the beautiful photography and descriptions of their seeds. Well done!

Last year we proudly supported an Oregon company, Territorial Seed, and bought all of our garden seeds from them. We had a very poor germination rate and a very, very poor performance from those seeds that did germinate. I've heard nothing but good things from others about Territorial Seeds, but we are choosing not to spend our dollars there this year.

This year, the bulk of our seed will be coming from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They can be found on the web at and they publish a beautiful full-color catalog that I can spend hours looking through.

For our garden this year, we want our garden to not only produce the vegetables and herbs that I will use in the kitchen, but also some of the feeds for our animals. We're planning on planting some beets, turnips and carrots for our cows to eat this winter as well. On a side note, when we took all the apples off of our little apple tree in the front yard last year, there was a whole bunch that were too small or too damaged to use in the kitchen. We took those to the barn and have been using them as treats for the cows and horse all winter. We are just about to run out.....that's pretty good!

Getting back to the garden. We're going to do something (or at least attempt to do something) that we've never done before~ start all of our own garden plants from seed. Because that is our goal, I'm trying not to make the garden to ambitious so we can try and keep up with all of the sprouting work. Whew! I'm tired already just thinking about it. :)

Here is our wish list for this year:

  • Tomatoes- canning, slicing and paste varieties.
  • Onions- green and storage, as well as a few reds for fresh eating and salsa making.
  • Peppers- bell, jalapenos, Anaheim, banana and paprika varieties. Maybe something else if a special one catches my eye.
  • Cucumbers- pickling and slicing.
  • Melons- watermelons, cantaloupes and a couple specialty varieties.
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce- head, leaf and a baby green mix
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini
  • Winter squash-pumpkins, acorn and ?
  • Herbs-both cooking and medicinal
That's the short list at least. We may add a few special things as we look through and get ready to place our order. I do know that I would like to try ground cherries as well as green, yellow and orange tomatoes this year. We will see.

I canned quite a bit of produce last year and was absolutely horrified at how quickly we blew through it. My efforts are going to be tripled this year and I'm determined to go into fall and winter with not only a freezer full of beef (and hopefully a hog as well), but also a pantry full of wholesome goodness.

I encourage every one of you to plant something this year. A tomato in a pot, a squash plant in your flower beds in the front yard, or an acre of vegetables and flowers. Whatever it is you decide to do, DO IT! It's good for you~ providing excellent exercise and an excuse to go outdoors. It's fun and rewarding. It's a life lesson in hard work and a lesson in where food comes from for our children, It's famly time and a time to be together, or a time of peace and solitude. It's more than life, it's a way of life, a good life.

Join me this year in making more space green spaces filled with edibles to nourish your mind, body and spirit!