Do-It-Yourself

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Ramblies from my Path of Life

Life for me has been kind of random as of late.   Mentally and physically preparing for the birth of my 4th baby, which should arrive in 4 weeks. I am preparing room in my for heart for this little baby that just kicks and kicks and I can’t wait to hold that slimly little baby close to me.

Mother's Day 2014

Birthday weekend

I turned 40 last week.  We partied, thanks to my hubbs, mom and sister who were scheming behind my back.  My mom and sister prepared such a delightful brunch for the guests my husband carefully thought thru to invite; some really good girl friends and some older woman who have spoken into my life. I was so humbled by their presence and kind words!  They offered me life!

A gathering of Friends

A gathering of Friends

My mother and sister with me at the celebration

My mother, sister and I  at the celebration

The green beans are up and the 50 tomato plants look great.  This is all thanks to some dear folks from church who found out we were not going to do a garden this year and asked if they could share  our garden space.  Why “Yes please, we would be happy to share our garden plot and the work load.”  I am so thrilled about this opportunity.  It’s just a small way I am seeing Jesus care for us!

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I need these babies, last year I froze 55 qt bags and I have 2 left.

My deck which was barren and simple was transformed when my mother and sister showed up with presents to make it a lovely, oasis. They strung lights and what not.  A place where I want to go have my quiet time at.  My husband bought me a beautiful bistro table complete with red pillows and  umbrella.  We love to sit out there and enjoy the quiet and I have been fortunate to have a few friends over to sip coffee with me, it’s  just a respite from the daily

hold rums of living!

IMG_2388 All 100 blueberry and 45 black raspberry plants are in.  My hubbs, boys and I did it one day.  I hurt for days after wards and felt like I could sleep for a whole week post berry bush planting.  But they are in and we hope to produce a lot of healthy small berries out of that patch for years to come.

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CJ just happy to mix the peat moss, water and dirt!

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I have been crafting a bit, rare occurrence these days.  I forgot how wonderful a hot glue gun smells.  I used to use mine all the time, when free time was more plentiful.  Just that smell takes me back, it’s a smell of days gone by.  It was all so odd how it took me back.  Last week I also  finally took down a few remnants of Christmas, (red berries that were still pretty and Christmas cookie jars) whew was I ever behind this year!!!

IMG_2378Fire fly’s and little boys are such a wonder to me.  My boys loose all track of time when they set there hearts on catching fire fly’s.  They remind me to linger just a bit longer.  The other night, in the rain they are climbing on rails with nets and what not because they wanted to capture the firefly on the window all the while they had already been given orders to get there jammies on.  They really were not being defiant, they were just lost in the wonder of light.  When I stop and look at the world through their eyes, it causes me to want to slow down just a bit more!

Our special company!

Our special company!

We happened upon a local, reasonably priced U-Pick strawberry patch this summer and have picked well over 100 lbs of strawberries.  Let’ s just say my husband has passed his love of straws onto his boys!!

Angel food cake, whipped cream and fresh straws! Yummo!

Angel food cake, whipped cream and fresh straws! Yummo!

I am using lots of paper plates these days.  I have given myself permission.  Sometimes it’s in the giving of permission that you realize it really is ok.  That I am not lazy, but it is a coping mechanism to survival.  I want to live life well and not feel like I am constantly in a squeeze.  So part of that is using paper as I finish out this 3rd trimester pregnancy, and work on  umpteen freezer meals (will share a post in a week or 2 about freezer meals) for when baby #4, and homeschooler #1 need my attention and all of us need to eat!

I still dream about business, it’s amazing to me how it side wipes me every now and again.  I love it that ‘HOPE’ is kept alive by these little side swipes.  The Lord keeps bringing people into my life to remind that HE really did place that dream in my heart.  I will run into old customers, job opportunities (even though I am not willing to lay down these moments with my babies for those opportunities) and people who want to pick our brains and draw from our experience.  It all just happens in the oddest of places but out of that HOPE  is kept alive in my soul.  I wonder if there will ever be a ‘release’ in my heart to do another business or what it will look like? I have many dreams and many more questions but for now, we will plant 30-50 each of peonies and hydrangeas and see what kind of LIFE they will bring to us and just maybe a business opportunity?   Peonies have got to be the prettiest flowers there are.  This lovely bouquet came from my friend Sarah.  They have come and gone but I still wanted to share their beauty.

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And finally, as I prepare for baby #4, I am amazed at the growth in my soul. I remember being so overwhelmed about ‘all the stuff’ that was not getting done when I had  baby #1.   I have learned to let go of things that really weren’t quite as important as I deemed them to be.  Not that they didn’t have value in our home but I think that as I am preparing my heart for baby #4 and I see all the things that may not get done;  like my kitchen floor not getting swept every day or the house not perfectly picked up or a blog post that is 4 weeks past due, I realize that there is more of a settled peace in my heart today then there was 6 years ago when I was adjusting to baby #1.  Jesus is inviting me to press in, to walk this path with a new sense of rest.  I would never have thought this possible but I am learning that this life, our journey is not so much about our circumstances but it is about pressing in and embracing what may seem to be  schedule irritations.   I am finding this quote so amazingly true!!   “The More You Love Your Decisions, the Less You Need Others to Love Them.”

Whatever the hard is that your wanting to run from or fighting to press into, I trust that you can find the place deep in your soul to accept what you need to and  walk your journey with ‘grace!’

BLESSINGS!

Dawn

How to make your own Taco Seasoning

What prompted me to figure out how to have a large stash of this taco seasoning on hand?  It was the cost of little packets, always feeling like I was running out and most importantly monosodium glutamate or MSG. MSG is a chemical compound found in a lot of food.  It’s also masked as Ac’cent in the spice aisle at any grocery store.  Suffice to say, it’s not good for you.  I am just surprised at how many food  items that you would never suspect have MSG in them.   It pays to read labels!

Here is the simple recipe and you probably have most of the ingredients in your spice cupboard.  You just might not have the quantity you need to make a full batch.  Make a half batch for starters.

TACO SEASONING

7 tbsp chili powder

5 tbsp onion salt

5 tbsp cumin

3 tbsp garlic powder

3 tbsp paprika

2 tbsp sugar, optional

cayenne pepper (to taste)

Mix together all the above ingredients. 

Yields 2 cups for a fraction of the money you would normally pay for several packets and it lasts a long time. 

Use 1-2 tbsp seasoning to season 1 lb of meat.  Add more or less to your liking.

 

Crock Pot Apple Butter

We did an experiment this past weekend.  We made 2 crock pots of apple butter.  One with homemade apple sauce that was no longer pretty (I tried to can apple sauce with too little sugar in it, I think) and the other with fresh quartered apples.  My favorite was the one with fresh quartered apples.  I am sure it was in part though to the fact that it had more sugar in it while it was cooking down.  Who doesn’t like sugar now?

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As my kids and hubbs sat around the table Saturday afternoon eating warm apple butter straight out of the crock pot on homemade bread that magically appeared from the freezer, my middle child said, “Mom, I like fall-aday (I think that’s fall and Saturday in the same word) can we have this all the time?” Why, yes son I would love to make fresh warm apple butter for you every fall if that is one of those ‘sweet memories’ you will take with you in your back pack of life.   He’s also the same son who at 3 years old loves fresh baked pumpkin pie. I have no idea how that became a favorite because I don’t make pie very often but son of mine I am happy to oblige!

Side note: you might like apple butter on homemade bread with a slice of cheese on top. That’s how my hubbs likes it. 🙂

The beauty in both of these recipes is you can adjust it to the items you have on hand

Recipe #1

We used 17 apples 🙂 half small (don’t know what kind they were) and half large yellow delicious, because that’s what we had on hand

2 cups of sugar

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Cut up all the apples with the peelings on.  Throw them into a large crock pot (if you don’t have a large one, cut the recipe in half) and add the above ingredients.  Turn the crock pot on high with the lid off for 6 hours.  Stirring occasionally.  At the 6 hour mark, reduce the heat to low and place the lid on.  When the apples have completely cooked down and have this nice golden brown color you are ready to blend your applesauce in the blender.  It makes for a super smooth consistency so if apple butter should not be super smooth to you, you will probably not like this recipe but you have options. :-).  I blended my apples while they were still piping hot, rinsed my pint jars in hot, hot water, heated up canning lids and then filled the jars with the steamy hot apple butter.  Sealed them up tight and turned them upside down and with out even realizing it, I had just canned apple butter. I didn’t start out thinking I would can some, I had thought that I would make it to give away as gifts this fall but then canned apple butter down in my pantry is such a pretty thing.  So glad I did it that way!  Yields: 6 pints.

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Recipe # 2

2 quarts of applesauce (it was lightly sweetened when I canned it but not very sweet 🙂

1 cup sugar

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

Place in crock pot on high for 3 hours, with lid off.  Reduce heat to low and place lid on.

Add the 3 hour mark add:

2 cinnamon sticks, broken up

1 tsp whole cloves

Place these into a coffee filter or cheesecloth, tie it up with some thread and throw into the apple sauce mixture.  You don’t have to place it in a coffee filter but it is so much easier to clean up if it’s in a filter (you will have to fish out all those little cloves and they are hard to see).

Just let the yummy goodness, simmer away.  Stir frequently only if you want the smells to warft thru your house :-).  You can’t help yourself, there is something about smelling that yummi-ness that makes you want to stir it often.  Your apple butter is ready when it’s a deep, rich, thick brown.  You can also can it using the same above method I just wrote about.  This yields 4 pints.  Side note: you may want to add more sugar. I was trying to do one without using too much sugar. I like it but I am not going to lie, the above recipe that has 2 cups of sugar in it is super yummy!

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So if your wanting to bring some yummy fall goodness to your table this weekend……why not try some apple butter.

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Cheers!

Dawn

Making Yogurt

IMG_9099Making my own yogurt has been a long process in coming.  I know how to do it,  my mother would occassionally do it while we were growing up BUT the problem is I don’t so much care for yogurt.  Odd.  I know but that’s just how it is.  My son on the other hand thinks that Stonyfields Organic strawberry yogurt is great for breakfast, lunch and all snacks!  That’s all ok if I can get enough coupons that double or triple in a month’s time but sometimes it doesn’t work out so well.

 Recently a fine lady in my church (who I have been talking to about buying into her cow share so that I could get grass-fed, raw jersey milk from) said, “I can’t believe you don’t make your own yogurt” to which I replied, “I can’t believe I don’t either however it just feels like a bridge too far for me right now”.  But after tallying up how many quarts of that same said brand of yogurt we bought in July I decided that it was time I start making my own.  We purchased 12 quarts that month.  That was excessive but it can range from 6-12  months and the thing that really bothers me most about that said yogurt is that it is lowfat.  For real, my growing children need whole milk yogurt.  All that cream and fat is soooo good for their developing brains.

 So after counting the cost and realizing that I could actually afford to buy into the cow share and make my raw grass fed, non GMO,  organic whole yogurt for less money then the above said yogurt I was in.

The problem is that I am still convincing my son that the switch was a good one.  So any pointers any of you have about how you make your yogurt taste oh so yummy….I would be so delighted to hear about it! I have been pureeing red raspberries and straining the seeds. I have also tried to sweeten it with only stevia. I think that’s the real problem but I am not ready to conceede yet.  I have sweetened it with maple syrup and honey. I have added 1 tbsp of unflavored gelatin right after I poured it into the glass jars so that it would resemble a little thicker yogurt, like he’s accustomed to.  They work but I can tell that Camden is still not convinced.  I think I will compromise and put a couple of tablespoons of dye free jello in the next batch. I can get a natural gelatin from the bulk food store that is super close to my parents house. I usually stock up there. It is hard to find but I have found it at Whole Foods as well.

On to the recipe.  There are many out there but this one has seemed to work very well for me.  I have a friend who is convinced the only way to make it is using her crockpot.  Maybe someday I will switch but for now this is the recipe that I love.  Start with a beautiful gallon of milk like this.  Just look at that cream on this gallon of milk.  It makes me so happy!!

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 1 gallon of milk (any kind of milk will work)

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt with live cultures (mine came from Trader Joe’s)

candy thermometer

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Pour milk into a large, heavy stockpot.  Place a candy thermometer in the pan.  Over medium heat, cook until milk reaches 180 degrees F, stirring occassionally.  Do not allow milk to scorch.  When it reaches 180 degrees F, remove from heat and immediately set stockpot into a sink of cold ice water (that you have prepared while the milk is heating up) and cool to 112 degrees F.  Add Greek yogurt, stirring very well and make sure your culture is completely dissolved.

Pour yogurt into 4 clean quart jars.  Cover with lids and place into an ice chest that has been filled with 2″-3″ of warm water.  Set jars in the ice chest for approximately 6 hours.  If it does not set to your liking, allow it to set 2 more hours.  Note though: the longer you allow it to sit in the water bath, the stronger the yogurt gets.  If you prefer a milder flavor, remove it promptly at 6 hours.

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If you do not think you will use a whole gallon you can easily half this recipe and end up with 2 quarts of yogurt.

IMG_9020And here you have it.   Fresh breakfast with homemade maple yogurt and a hot cup of coffee!  I used maple syrup and maple flavoring to get the sweetness and flavor I was looking for. I must confess, I don’t know the amounts I put in to get the flavor I want.  It’s how I cook all the time. Always adding a little here and a little there.  Sometimes the little here and little there doesn’t turn out so good but yogurt is hard to mess up 🙂 and who cares if the ‘little here and the little there’ turns it into a nice sweet yogurt, aka, too much maple syrup?

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Today I pick up 3 gallons of that lovely liquid gold.  I hope to make 1 gallon into drinkable yogurt for the boys and make a gallon of nonfat greek/strained yogurt to use in cooking and for my THM breakfast’s.  But first, I will skim off all that lovely cream which is actually a super food and savor those swirls in my morning coffee.

Hope your weekend is lovely!

Dawn