Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Growing Things

We're planning a garden this year and I'm excited. I grew up gardening. We've had a garden on and off, but having 3 spring babies over 5 years, my gardening involvement was limited.

Still, I couldn't wait for us to finish making garden beds. We had a few herbs growing experimentally in a little strip outside the front door. I threw a packet of lettuce seed out between the herbs and watered them a time or two.

It came up and it's growing day by day. My kids love to give me the lettuce report. I had to stop them from pulling up--and eating--all my baby lettuces.

There's something about growing veggies themselves that makes kids want to eat them. This morning we read about the Garden of Eden and I asked them to describe their ideal gardens.

Elizabeth (8): "My garden would have a silver and golden wall all around it and lots of flowers inside, with a secret gate. There would be a pink sparkly mail box and a castle in the middle."

Silas (5): "I don't know."

Sarah (3): "My garden would have a pink sparkly couch in the middle. And carrots and celery. When the rabbits came to eat the carrots, I would shoot them with a BB gun! And there would be a fort around the outside to keep bugs and rabbits out."

A side note: My computer's on the blink, so posting may be light for a few days!

Chewy Oatmeal Bars

Recently I was looking for a good all-around cookie…somewhat nutritious, makes a lot, fast and easy, not crumbly…And this recipe fit the bill. Plus, they are man-pleasin’! I adapted it from one I found online and I’ve been really happy with the results.


Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Bars

1 1/2 c. coconut oil OR 3 sticks butter (Billy and I like the taste of the coconut oil better, but butter works fine too)

3 c. brown sugar (if you are really going for healthful sweets, I’m sure rapadura or sucanat would work just as well)

3 c. whole wheat flour

3 eggs

1 T. vanilla

1 T. cinnamon

1 1/2 t. soda

1 t. salt

3 c. old fashioned oatmeal

2 c. raisins

Cream oil or butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in oats and raisins until well mixed. Mixture will be very stiff. Turn mixture into greased jelly roll pan and pat evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool, cut into bars.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Who Says?

Who says you can't play outside in a skirt...

with rubber boots...

A creamy skirt and black rubber boots...Do you think the fashion police will get us?


...Making your home a place that sustains you and your family is one of the most important jobs you can do. Times are tough, there are all sorts of things going on in the world that are difficult to understand, but if you make your home a place that comforts, a place where you can relax and be your true self, a place where your children feel safe and warm, a place where you show your family the joy of living simply, then you are doing a really significant and essential job that takes the hard edge off the outside world. So when you shake open the sheets to make up that clean bed, when you set the table with knives and forks, water glasses and a flower in a cup, when your beef stew and dumplings is slowly bubbling away welcoming your family as they come home with the smell of home cooking, when you sit with your tea, when you sweep the floor, when you sew or knit or cook, I hope you find happiness in your home, because I know it's there. You might not have discovered the mother lode yet, you might just be picking up fragments every so often, but keep at it and you will be rewarded.

Read the rest of this wonderful encouragement at Down to Earth.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cottage-y Pillows

Sweet things for the house often turn up in the most surprising places. One place where I often find inexpensive, pretty household items is the dollar store. How convenient that it's just seconds from my house!

A few weeks ago I was in need of extra pillows for guests. At the dollar store, I found these cute little things for just $5 each. My house is mostly traditional, but I'm a fan of cottage decorating...So a pretty pillow is the perfect way to sneak in a little cottage flair!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Simple Homemade Chicken Soup

Cheeseslave is hosting Real Food Wednesdays this week with the theme of bone broth recipes. Having grown up making foods from scratch I thought everyone knew how to cook a basic soup. like this one. The other day when I was talking to a friend, I realized this isn't the case. So here's my contribution! Hope it's helpful!

Simple Homemade Chicken Soup

1 roasted chicken (free range if you can get it--I can't so I use what I have)
6 stalks celery
6 carrots
1 onion
2 potatoes
1 small bag frozen green beans (or fresh green beans)
salt and pepper to taste

Debone chicken and refrigerate meat. Use bones to cook stock according to Nourishing Traditions or one of the great recipes available online. Strain out bones.

Now you have lots of delicious, nourishing stock!

Chop onions, carrots, and celery into pieces as large or small as you like. You are doing this because you want to cook your harder veggies first--they take longer. I like to cut my onion fairly small and slice the carrots and celery in slices about 1/4" thick.

Bring stock to boil (I start with at least a gallon) and add the veggies you've already chopped. You want the broth to be cooking your veggies at a nice steady boil, but not a violent rolling boil. Medium heat should do it. They should be done within 30 minutes. You want them crisp-tender at this point, like crispy stir fried veggies. Truthfully, I just boil away until they are done. Check your soup periodically to make sure your stock is not all boiling away.

Cut potatoes into 1 inch chunks and add to soup. Add green beans. Add chopped fresh garlic to taste...Or I use minced garlic from the jar. I don't know if that is NT kosher or not!

Continue cooking till the potatoes and beans are soft. Add meat.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

My kids beg me for this soup when they are sick. Turns out chicken soup really is good for what ails you! It's great to keep broth and cooked chicken in the freezer for quick soups...When I am sick and unable to take all the time to make stock, debone chicken, etc. it's nice to be able to put it together quickly!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dairy Free "Ice Cream"

::~Oops! The only picture I have is the strawberry version! We can imagine it's chocolate, right?!~::

The Nourishing Gourmet is having a carnival of healthful chocolate desserts in honor of Valentine's Day. This was a popular post when I first ran it, so I thought it would be worth posting again.

This one is a great alternative for those who must avoid dairy or who don't have access to raw milk from grass fed cows--or in my case, both.

Peel and freeze a bunch of very ripe bananas. I freeze them on a cookie sheet so they don't stick together and then tranfer them to a ziploc bag.

When you're ready to make the "ice cream," chunk a couple frozen bananas up and blend in the blender with a little water or rice milk or whatever liquid you have on hand. Just pulse it slowly till it's nice and creamy, and I promise you, it will have the exact consistency of soft serve ice cream. You can eat it plain...Add a little vanilla...a glob of nut butter...a few frozen strawberries (as pictured)...a spoonful of carob powder...Lots of possibilities.

Of course, since this is a chocolate/carob carnival, I will advocate the carob version! Some nut butter and carob powder really compliments the banana flavor and gives it a nice rich smoothness. I haven' t tried it with cocoa powder but I would like to some time. It's been soooo yummy every way I've made it.

I was amazed at how good it was. We served this to friends one night, and they later told me that their freezer is now full of frozen bananas, too. You don't have to be a health food nut to enjoy this.

Washcloth Giveaway Winner

Oops! I forgot to draw for the handknit wash cloth yesterday! I'm sorry!

The winner is Jennifer who blogs at Strangers and Pilgrims. Congratulations, Jennifer! If you'll email me your snail mail addy I will send it right away. If I don't hear from you in the next few days, I will draw for another winner. So don't forget to let me know! :)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Carnival of Simple Craft

Welcome to the Carnival of Simple Craft! I'd love for you to join me in sharing about easy, beautiful things to create. The rules are flexible--Just post about a simple craft you've made. It can be as elaborate as a tutorial or as simple as a picture of something you've created. The one guideline is that it should be easy enough for a beginning crafter, or one like me who doesn't have a lot of time. I've posted a journal tutorial, which you can see below.

One last thing: Please link back to the carnival in your simple craft post! Thanks!

Carnival of Simple Craft up Shortly!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Journal Tutorial

This journal is an easy, inexpensive, pretty craft that also makes a great gift. My girl and I made this one for a birthday party a few weeks ago.

Here's what you'll need:

A blank composition book (10 cents at back to school sales)
scrapbook paper in one or more colors (50% off at Hobby Lobby)
Scrap fabric (stash)
opaque trim, such as ribbon or ricrac (stash/cheap at Big Lots)
ribbon for ties (same as above)
6 large buttons (stash)
Glue--preferable some kind of paper glue, a glue stick, and hot glue...Although I'd encourage you to use what you have to make it work. It's not about perfection!

But wow, that is a lot of supplies. Maybe I didn't choose the best craft for a simple craft. It's not hard if you can make it through my instructions. Hang with me!

First we are going to trace and cut a strip for the contrasting paper on the front. You can skip this step if you are going to use just one paper to cover the whole front. You don't have to use 2 papers, you know. I trace on the back of the paper because it looks neater and shows up better for cutting.

You are just making a strip. It doesn't have to be the whole width of the book. Your goal is to make sure it's the proper length.

Cut the strip however wide you like. Mine was about 3 inches, I think.

Make sure it's the right size.


Glue it on.

Trace around the edge of your notebook to get the right size and shape for your contrasting color.

Again, it shouldn't be big enough to cover the whole book. You want to leave enough room for the brown paper to show, right? Unless of course you decide to do the easy thing and just use one color instead of two.

Cut it out and glue it on!

Cut a piece for the back. We used the same brown as the brown strip from the front. It tied it all together nicely.

Glue it on.

Cut a strip of fabric to cover the ugly black binding. Fabric has more give than paper and will hold up longer. The strip should be 1 3/4 inches by 9 3/4 inches.

Carefully glue it on. I used Elmer's glue. Fabric glue would probably work fine too.

Here's a wonky picture of the lettering I printed for the front. "Journal" and then a quote:

"Writing is the best way to talk without being interrupted." Jules Renard

I find that's a really good quote for chatty little girls!

Cut out your words--I used pinking shears but you don't have to. Affix them to the book wherever you'd like.

I hot glued buttons to each corner of the "Journal" piece because I thought it looked cute.

So as not to burn my fingers, I pushed them down with a plastic knife.

Then cut a piece of opaque ribbon or trim. This is velvet ribbon, but ricrac is my favorite. The idea is to cover up the raw edge of the fabric that you used to cover the binding. Yeah, we covered something ugly and now we have to cover that. It's crazy, but it works.

I hot glued it on. Fabric glue would probably be a better choice, or even Elmer's glue might work.

I did just a bit at a time and used the plastic knife again. No burnt fingers!

Cover the seam on both front and back of the journal, and trim the ends so they don't hang over.

Now I need to do what Pioneer Woman does since she is so cool. See this blank space?

Imagine there is a picture of me hot gluing the ribbon ties and buttons on. This is the one thing I really needed pictures of that I didn't get. Basically if the ribbon is kinda wide, I pleat/fold/bunch it up so that the button covers the entire end. Since the ribbon I used is sheer, I glue the ribbon and button on at the same time. We are using the button to cover up the raw end of the ribbon. Brilliant, hmmm? Does that even make sense?!!!!!!!

Knife again! Push those buttons down!

Now it's beautiful. And I just accidentally deleted my final picture.

So I could go back and re-do the whole tutorial, or I can be content with it as it is, since I hope it inspires you. The possibilities for this little project are endless.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Few Thrifty Crafting Tips and a Winner

Jen is the winner of the teapot paper giveaway! Congratulations, Jen! If you'll email me your snail mail address I will get it off to you right away.

Recently I read a post by someone who wanted to craft but found that it was "so expensive." I could spend ALL our money on crafting supplies, but as it is I spend very, very little on my hobbies. Here are a few crafty tips that might inspire you.

Get on Hobby Lobby's email list. Weekly you will learn about their sales, and they frequently include a 40% off coupon for any non-sale item. Their sales are great!

Hand in hand with above, wait for sales. This may be obvious, but do you know how much scrapbook paper you can get for $5 if you wait till it's 50% off? A lot!

Join Freecycle. I often see craft supplies being given away.

Shop thrift stores. Recently I have seen knitting needles, fabric, yarn, embroidery hoops, and other items for sale at my local thrift store.

Make sure other people know you enjoy crafting. I'm not saying to fish for giveaways, but if people know you love to craft, they will often unload their excess on you. Sort through it and get rid of what doesn't work.

Big Lots ribbon. Big lots sells generous spools of ribbon for $1 each. Their craft aisle is tiny but yields great rewards.

Buy small quantities. Almost anyone can shake out their change jar and buy 1/4 yard of fabric or a spool of thread. If you can only afford a small amount at a time, you'll be surprised at how quickly it adds up. Soon you'll have an overflowing stash and you'll have to find someone with whom to share.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Red in the Kitchen

I've never been a red person. But lately I find myself craving cool, cheerful colors. Especially in the kitchen.

Book Giveaway Results!

Kelly is the winner of Sunday With Stevie! Congratulations, Kelly! Email me your snail mail address and I will send it right away.

Carnival of Simple Craft Delayed

::~azaleas in vintage aqua pitcher~::

This week has hardly gone as planned. Wednesday afternoon, my 22 year old brother broke his neck in a car accident. When you hear "broken neck" of course you automatically fear the worst. However, we received excellent news from the neurologist yesterday. He will be in a brace for several months, but full recovery is expected. We are so thankful to God!

In light of that, all my preparations for the carnival fell by the wayside and truthfully flew right out of my mind until Erica mentioned it this morning. OH DEAR!!!

So the carnival is delayed until Monday. That will give me time to finish my tutorial and figure out Mr. Linky--two things I was supposed to do over the past few days. I apologize. This is my first carnival and I hate to change it up...But obviously more important things have taken precedence. Thank you for your patience!

P.S. I will draw for Sunday with Stevie in a little while. I haven't forgotten that!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Nourishing Foods, Limited Options

On one hand I feel like a very beginner to the notion of nutrient-dense cooking a la Nourishing Traditions. On the other, I've been doing this to some degree all my life.

I grew up on a large hobby farm. My parents loved the country life and they felt it was a good way to raise kids. It was! Many nights we sat down to meals where we'd grown/cooked/preserved almost everything ourselves...Raw milk, fresh raw butter, homemade yogurt, garden veggies, grass fed beef, free range chicken and eggs, wild fruit at times. Once we even grew our own wheat for fresh homemade bread. We were amazingly healthy. I didn't go to the doctor from the time I was four till the time I had my first baby at age 22 (with the exception of a tetanus shot at age 12).

Now I live a different life. I live in a neighborhood outside town. Although I want to garden this year, I'm limited in how much food I can grow myself, and I live in an area that's a virtual wasteland for natural living. The only cow share farm in the state was shut down, I understand. I don't know of any CSA's and it's over and hour to the nearest health food store. (Is it coincidence that we also have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates and one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation?)

So at this point in my life, feeding my family healthfully is a challenge. Even if you have very limited options, I'd like to encourage you to make healthy steps too.

One thing almost anyone can do is make slow-cooked bone broth. I can't get organic chicken right now, so I use what I can with the goal of doing better as I'm able. I use it to cook rice and beans and make chicken soup. My kids beg me for this soup when they are sick. I crave it myself. It truly is healing!

My parents raise a grass fed beef for us yearly. We arrange slaughter so we can pick it up when we are home for the holidays. Do you have a friend, neighbor, or family member who might allow you to pasture a beef on his property for a reasonable fee? If they are local, perhaps you could have a part in taking care of the animal if necessary. Think outside the box.

A rural neighbor has been furnishing me (off and on) with bright-yolked brown eggs. I hear a rooster crowing early in the morning from another direction, so I know other neighbors have chickens too! Drive around in the country. Go slowly...You just might spot a "fresh eggs" sign or a chicken tractor in someone's yard. You might find someone who's willing to sell you fresh eggs.

Square foot garden in your flower bed or grow something in pots. You can grow a lot of lettuce in a big flower pot!

Don't be discouraged by lack of opportunity. Do the best you can with what you have, and don't allow debilitating worry to take over when you can't do as well as you'd like! Remember, "A joyful heart is good medicine!"~Proverbs 17:22

Check out more awesome tips at Real Food Wednesdays, hosted this week by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Giveaway: Handknit Wash Cloth

This sweet little cotton wash cloth was handknit by me in just the right colors for Valentine's Day! It can be used as a wash cloth or a dish cloth. It's super soft, but has great scrubbing power! Just leave a comment to be entered. I'll draw a name Monday.

Remember, I have two other giveaways still open: teapot paper and a vintage children's book.

And the Carnival of Simple Craft is Friday!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tidy House Rules

One of my words for 2009 is orderliness. My little family needs lots of work in this area! Yesterday I made a poster for the refrigerator with our Tidy House Rules. It said:

1. A place for everything and everything in its place.

2. Don't put it down, put it away.

3. Leave every room better than you found it.

Cliches? Maybe. But cliches often come into being because they are true!