Thursday, October 29, 2009

Homemade Christmas - Project: What Are Those?

What are those old, ugly, beat up things and how could they possibly play a part in your homemade gift giving this year?

They are old, ugly, beat up, metal tv trays and cookie sheets. And just wait until you see what we're going to do with them. They turn out so cute!!! So go digging around in your cabinets for your old metal cookie sheets, you're gonna need them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Making Your Own Baby Food

I know, you’re probably thinking what’s wrong with buying baby food? I know that’s what I was thinking when a nurse gave me a handout on the subject during my discharge after having Bug. Why in the world would I make baby food when there’s so much to choose from at the store?

I continued this thinking until it was time for Bug to start eating baby food and I looked at the beautiful rainbow of colors that lined the baby food aisle…and then I looked at the nice little sticker on that baby food. I don’t think so.

I haven’t openly admitted that I’m an El Cheapo, but it’s probably easy to figure out. So here it is…I’m an El Cheapo, especially when I could make the same thing myself. So the research began on how to make baby food. And everything I read sounded surprisingly easy. So I tried it and it’s surprisingly easy.

I take the food of choice – peas were on the menu for today – and I make in bulk. I started with two bags of frozen peas in my steamer on the stove. I steamed the peas until they were tender and bright green. Aren’t they pretty?

I then blended until they were the right consistency. If I need extra liquid, I use the leftover water from steaming since it has all of those good vitamins. I then spoon or pour into ice cube trays and freeze. When they’re frozen solid, I dump them into a zip lock bag and store in the freezer. When I’m ready to use, I pull out a few cubes, place in a microwave safe bowl and defrost them.

This is how I make pretty much every kind of baby food. Here are some exceptions:
  • Meats – Cook in the crock pot until cooked through, puree with broth until correct consistency.
  • Squash - Roast in the oven until fork tender, puree with water until correct consistency.
Seems way to easy, right? It is. Give it a try.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good Morning to You Too!

It's Monday! I'm certainly not anywhere near as excited about this as Daisy seems to be. She was up and ready to go this morning.

So we'll pass along the greeting to you as well and wish you all a great week!

Friday, October 23, 2009

I’m Getting Sick – YUCK!

It’s creeping up on me slowly, but all of my attempts to ward it off are starting to be overtaken by this next cold that I feel I’m destined to get. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I ran out in the rain yesterday morning wearing only flip flops on my way to milk Daisy. Oops.

In true form of my self-reliant nature, I’m not a big fan of taking medicine. When I feel a cold creeping up on me I have several natural remedies that I try and try again before finally resorting to the medicine cabinet.

  • Here are a few of the natural remedies that I use prior and during:
  • Vitamin C tablets
  • Hot Tea with lemon and honey (The acid in the lemon clears your throat and the honey soothes it.)
  • Orange Juice with honey (I gave this to Bug the last time she got a sore throat/cough and it calmed her cough.)
  • Vick’s on my chest and under my nose. If the cold has really settled in my chest, I put the
  • Vick’s on my chest and then put a warm towel (I heat it in the microwave) over my chest and then drink the hot tea.
  • Vick’s on the bottoms of my feet and then socks (This is for a cough. I have no idea why this works, but it does.
  • Homemade chicken noodle soup
I’m not sure why some of these work, but they seem to help so I’ll keep using them. If you know why they work, I’d love to know.

What natural remedies do you have when you’re sick?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homemade Christmas – Recipe: Chai Tea Mix

This recipe for Chai Tea mix tastes like warm pumpkin pie in a mug. Yummmm!

1 cup dry milk powder
2 cups powdered creamer
2 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups unsweetened instant tea
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cardamom

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Blend 1 cup at a time in a food processor or blender until mixture is the consistency of a fine powder.

Put mix in a jar or container of your choosing and add the following tag:

To serve: Stir 2 heaping Tablespoons Chai Tea Mix into a mug of hot water. Serving suggestion – add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy!!

Coming soon, I’ll be showing you how to decorate your jar to make your gift recipient feel extra special.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Homemade Christmas – Project: Paper Ball Ornament

This homemade ornament is both simple to make and very pretty.

What You Need:
20 – 2 inch Circles
Glue Stick or Glue Dots
Bead (Optional)

  1. Cut out 20 – 2 inch circles. You can use card stock, pictures or old Christmas cards. You can cut the triangles out with scissors, but a 2 inch paper punch sold at craft stores will speed up this project tremendously.

  2. Mark an equilateral triangle on the back of each circle.

    a. For a 2 inch circle, each of the three sides will be 1 ¾ inches long.

    b. I made my triangle in Word by clicking on insert/shape. I chose the triangle and then drew the triangle while holding the shift key. Holding the shift key will give you an equilateral triangle.

    c. After you have a triangle on your page, right click. Click on "Format AutoShape." On the "Size" tab select “Lock Aspect Ratio” (toward the bottom) and then change your width to 1.75 inches. Click "Ok." You can now print and cut out your triangle.

    d. I traced my triangle onto an old milk jug and cut it out so that I would have a stiff pattern to fold against and not have to trace onto each circle.

    e. Questions??? Just ask me in the comments.

  3. Fold each circle along the triangle. Warning: If you choose to use pictures, make sure you fold half of the circles with the point at the top of the picture and half with the point facing down. If you don’t, half of your pictures will be upside down.

  4. Begin with the first five circles, attaching the folded circles together at the flap. When you finish, you will have the dome that will create the top or bottom.

  5. Repeat step 4.

  6. You now have 10 circles remaining. Attach these the same way as in steps 4 and 5 except you are now creating a tube instead of a dome. To do this, take the first circle and make sure that its triangle point is facing up. Attach to the next circle with the triangle point facing down. Continue to attach the circles in this alternating pattern until you have used all remaining circles and the tube is closed. It will look like this.

  7. Attach top dome to flaps of center tube.

  8. Tie bead to end of ribbon and tie a loop at the other end of the ribbon to be able to hang. Feed the loop end through bottom dome up through the top dome.

  9. Attach the bottom dome to flaps of center tube.
Ta da. You’re finished.

More Ideas:
1. Cut circles out of pictures.
2. Cut circles and then have your children color on them. What Grandma/Grandpa wouldn’t love that?
3. Use cardstock that coordinates with your Christmas tree or home decor.
4. Create several ornaments of different sizes to use as a mobile in a child’s room.
5. Print birth information on 5/10 center tube triangles and give to new parents.
6. Attach mistletoe to ribbon prior to stringing through and hang in the doorway.
7. Use in place of bow on top of a package.

Have more ideas or need some help? Please let me know in the comments below.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Meet the Babies

I would like to introduce the newest babies on our little farm:

The chicks…these are more egg laying chickens. Aren’t they cute? They are only a few days old here. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they are actually pretty.

Mr. did more research and these breeds (Welsummer, Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island) are supposed to be better layers than our current hens. I don’t know what we’re going to do with all of these eggs.

And these are just the cutest little things I’ve seen in a long time…

I mentioned our rabbits briefly here. We brought Buck and Zoe home at the end of March. They are Satins. They have an extremely thick coat that is unbelievably soft.

Zoe had these babies at the beginning of October; they are two weeks old now. I can’t believe how big they’ve gotten already.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Homemade Christmas – 10 Week Challenge

Can you believe it? Only 10 weeks (70 days) until Christmas. I knew it was coming, but I hadn’t given it much thought until a couple of days ago when I was reading my friend Christina’s blog where she brings up the subject of Christmas shopping.

Unlike Christina, I have already started shopping. My yearly goal is to be finished with shopping by Thanksgiving and be able to spend the month of December baking and just enjoying the time of year. Besides, it never fails, I forget something or someone else forgets something and this way I’ve built in a huge window of error.

Since I was a little kid, some of my Christmas gifts have been homemade. I know some people feel that this is cheap, but I believe that time is the most precious gift you can give someone. And making something for someone takes time.

My challenge to you this Christmas season: Give one more homemade gift this year than you did last year. If you bought every single gift last year, you have it easy – one. Just one gift should be homemade or at the very least, buy something that someone else made.

During my 10 week challenge I will be posting frequently on the topic and be giving you step-by-step project instructions, recipes, practical ideas and timelines to keep your homemade Christmas gifts on target for the big guy’s arrival.

Your first step is to create a list of your gift recipients. Be detailed. What do they like/dislike? What advantage do you have over this person? Are you a stay at home Mom with plenty of time on your hands, but your oldest sister is a mover and shaker corporate type with not a moment to spare? Your advantage over her is your time. Is your Mom a far superior cook than you, but can’t bake if her life depended on it? Write it down.

"The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value."
- Charles Dudley Warner

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

“Not the Same Milk”

This profound statement came from Bug milliseconds after the first taste of goat milk touched her lips. It was followed with “Gross, nasty, I don’t like that milk.”

Daisy is 1 ½ and Lilly is 6 months old. Daisy is currently fresh, which means that she has milk from her kidding this past spring. Lilly has never kidded so she has no milk, but she is Daisy’s companion. Goats are herd animals, so I learned that one goat is a noisy goat and one that tries to escape.

I decided that I wanted goats because of research that I stumbled on, which led me to more and more reading on the subject of milk and its nutritional benefits (more on that later). When I stepped foot on the farm where we purchased the goats, the closest I’d come to a goat was my hand through the fence at the zoo. I’d never milked anything and I’d never tasted goat milk. But I was convinced that this was a better choice for our family.

All of my research said that goat milk does not have a “goaty” or “off” flavor if handled properly and is actually quite comparable to cow’s milk….Wrong!!!! My first taste – yuck! What did I do wrong? I was bummed and back to research mode. I already knew that it must be chilled very quickly in order to kill off any “yuckifying” bacteria.

Through trial and error and a fortunate accident, I can say that it finally tastes good. There is still a slight difference in flavor from cow’s milk, but one that is very easy to get past. I’ll spare you the trial and error and get to what has worked:
  • I milk into a stainless steel pail.
  • I cover the top of the milk pail with a sack flour cloth that is rubber banded in place, so I’m milking into a “filter.”
  • I come inside immediately and poor the milk through a filter into pre-chilled quart jars.
  • I then put my jars into a gallon ice cream bucket that has a semi-frozen solution of 50/50 vodka/water. The alcohol doesn’t allow the mixture to freeze solid, but it’s still at a frozen temperature. I can’t take credit for this idea, but I also can’t remember where I found it.

The fortunate accident came one day I had to leave the house immediately after milking so I put the ice cream bucket with quart jars of milk in the refrigerator. This was the first milk that we had that just tasted like milk. The milk actually froze slightly – in the refrigerator. Wow!!

Through this method, I can chill milk from 85° to 40° in about 30 minutes. Which I’ve learned classifies it as Grade A milk.

And the best part of all of this is Bug will now drink the milk by itself, without so much added chocolate that it completely negates the benefits of drinking milk.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I Think it’s Time to Dust

Yep, that’s my dust.

I am a creature of habit; plain and simple. I have a schedule/list for everything, including cleaning. It has its advantages but there is one big disadvantage: my house rarely gets dusted. How, you ask. It’s really quite simple.

I clean on Mondays. I pull the sheets off the beds and while they’re washing, I vacuum the entire house. I then clean the bathrooms, sweep the floors and then mop. And what’s left? Dusting.

Just last Monday, I looked around my house and said this house is gross, I have to clean. What was I referring to that was gross? The dust. Did I start with dusting? Nope, I pulled out the vacuum. And guess what happened? By the time I got the whole house cleaned and was ready to dust, I got sidetracked. Before I knew it, it was Wednesday and then Friday and I finally had a chance to dust. But I didn’t because I thought, it’s almost Monday; might as well wait. And there you have it.

And because I wait so long I can’t dry dust because there’s just too much. I have to use a spray to be able to capture all of those nasty little dust particles. I can’t seem to find the time to dust, but I have time to make my own dusting spray…go figure.

It’s very simple: 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice. Combine in a new spray bottle. Don’t forget to label the spray bottle so you know exactly what’s in it when you finally find the time to use it again. Shake well before each use. It doesn’t take very much and I’ve found that it’s much more effective to spray the rag instead of the furniture.

My dusting cloths are also very simple: Mr.’s old t-shirts. It seems his t-shirts multiply and it just so happens that they’re about to jump out of his drawer at the exact same time that I need more dust rags. And since I don’t dust very frequently, the few that I take from his drawer seem to last me quite some time.

When I find the time to dust, my furniture loves it. The olive oil feeds the wood and it looks like new. If all else fails, you have the recipe for a great base for homemade salad dressing.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Where did the phrase “Mother Hen” come from?

You got me. Where? I can tell you it didn’t originate from our chicken coop.

For today’s class, I must bow my head in embarrassment and say that I did not do my homework. And because of this, we had a very grim day on our little plot of 5 acres yesterday.

I had no intention of another chicken post today, but I have to share what we learned while the lesson is still fresh in my head. What I didn’t mention yesterday when talking about our 11 egg-laying hens is that we also have 2 week-old Cornish Cross chicks. These chickens are bred for meat instead of eggs, which means that they will only exist until the first weekend of November.

Since they are bred for meat, they grow Fast and the 32 little balls of fluff outgrew their brooder. After much thought, Mr. boarded up the bottom row of nest boxes so that the baby chicks couldn’t interrupt the hens. This allowed them free run of the coop, but still gave them access to their heat lamps and chick starter food. On Thursday evening Mr. let the baby chicks out and checked several times through the evening and first thing yesterday morning and all was well.

I took my afternoon stroll to the coop to check for eggs and to peek at the little balls of fluff and I was met with a very grim discovery. The hens killed 7 of our baby chicks. They pecked them to death. So while I’m now very unsure where the term “mother hen” came from, I now understand the phrase “hen pecked.”

OMG!?!? I was in pure shock. The remaining chicks were huddled into two different groups – one in the brooder, one freezing outside the brooder; but both trying to protect themselves from the hens who were still lurking about. They were scared to death and even though living, they all have battle scars. As of this morning, we have not lost any additional chicks, but only time will tell how many of the remaining will survive.

First chance I had last night, I hit the internet and searched for this very topic. I learned that you cannot put chickens together until they are approximately the same size and even at that time, you should watch closely to make sure everyone is getting along. I also learned that hens can turn on their own baby chicks and attack them.

I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined the sheer morbidity of what I saw yesterday afternoon. Another lesson learned and countless more to go.

As for the hens, they are very glad that I discovered what they had done instead of Mr. While I was unbelievably upset about the situation, Mr. has a much bigger temper than I have and he admitted that had he discovered it, we may have had chicken soup for dinner last night instead of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Which Came First – The Chicken or the Egg?

The answer to this age-old question remains largely unanswered, but in our case, the answer is the chicken.

I knew they were coming. It was inevitable. Mr. threatened to order chicks from our local farm supply store for many years in a row, but never actually did it. Despite my protest…to put it nicely, I am not a fan of birds. This was the year for chickens.

I even tried to redirect and made the suggestion that we should get rabbits instead of chickens. He must have misunderstood me…ha, ha – he heard rabbits in addition to chickens. So after he finished the “Hilton” of rabbit hutches and filled it, Mr. set out to build a chicken coop this spring and spent many hours researching the best egg laying breeds.

He finally settled on New Hampshires, Red Stars and Black Stars; they arrived at the end of April. They are supposed to be cold weather hearty and produce a good number of eggs when they reach approximately 20 weeks old.

Unfortunately, these first eggs aren’t what you’re used to seeing from the supermarket…they are tiny to start out. What we didn’t know is that they aren’t tiny for very long. In fact, not only do the hens start producing eggs that are much larger very quickly, they also start laying double yolk eggs, which are downright huge.

Mr. was correct in the breeds that he chose…they have become egg laying machines. These eggs are just from yesterday. 9 eggs out of 11 hens – not bad at all.

Who wants breakfast?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How It All Began

I remember very clearly exactly when my DIY nature was turned up a notch. Bug was around 8 months old and we had just purchased foam letters and numbers for her to play with in the bathtub. I put her in the bathtub, added a few letters and numbers and showed her how when wet, they stick to the side of the bathtub. Moments later, they were of course no longer on the side of the bathtub, but….yes…IN HER MOUTH.

I know, you’re thinking that’s what babies do, what’s the big deal? My panic attack came from the fact that earlier that day I cleaned the bathroom and bathtub – with chemicals. And I thought to myself, I know I rinsed the tub when I was finished scrubbing, but did I really get all of the chemicals off the surface? Did the foam letters suck up chemical residue and now it’s in her mouth?

I couldn’t stand the thought of even the remote possibility of a trace amount of chemical entering her body, so the foam letters took a backseat until I could clean the bathtub…again. Isn’t that a treat that I have to clean the bathtub of the item that I used to clean the bathtub? What?

My search began for homemade, natural cleaners. I learned that the most basic ingredients are all you need to clean pretty much anything in your house: vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, olive oil. Am I cooking or cleaning? That question brings up an excellent point: If these ingredients are safe enough to put in my recipes, any leftover residue from cleaning is also safe. I was hooked.

My bathroom cleaner now consists of a spray bottle filled with 50/50 vinegar and water. For those of you who don’t know, the smell of vinegar is gone as soon as it dries. And for added kick in the bathtub/shower, I scrub with a Magic Eraser. I will admit that I have not found a recipe for my toilet that I feel does the job, so a store bought, chemical cleaner is employed for that job. And yes, children get to an age when they like to play in the water in the toilet and for that I say…toilet locks and YUCK!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thank you, Thank you!

I have arrived on the blog scene, but before I go any farther, I must give credit to the ladies that got me this far.

Thank you so much to my friend Billi Lou at Walnut Street Weddings who encouraged me to get started. Her words of encouragement are what turned this idea in the back of my head into reality.

Thank you also to Christina at Sugar Sweet Designs. She has been awesome to work with during the creation of my blog template and I love it!

Again, Thank you very much!!!