Friday, August 31, 2012

I don't buy.... Vegetables in the Summer

 We certainly have been enjoying the produce from the garden! It made me think about how little food we have bought over the summer.

We don't usually manage to not buy any veggies at all over the summer but it does come pretty close. We start with eating lettuce, radishes and peas and then go into eating beans, kohlrabi, zucchini and cucumbers and then we get to the place like now where we are enjoying not only many of the ones listed about but also tomatoes, corn, broccoli, eggplant, tomatillas and more. We are still looking forward to enjoying carrots.

  To avoid buying we do sometimes eat whatever is in season quite a bit and have a little less variety than I might prefer but I think it is worth it.
What are some benefits of eating what you have straight from your garden?
  • You save money. The amount of produce we get from our garden is worth far more than the seeds we put into it. Naturally there is a fair amount of work involved too but I consider that my exercise program and one I much prefer to working out on any machine.
  • It is great quality. We use good natural seeds and avoid any herbicides or pesticides.
  • It tastes wonderful! Nothing has to be picked far before it is ready and then shipped 1,000 miles to get to us. We pick it at its prime and enjoy it right away.

I do think it is fun to figure out how to use new vegetables (like eggplant is a new one for me this year) and new ways to use "old" vegetables like zucchini.
Not long ago I decided to treat us to some homemade onion rings and then decided to try dipping some thin slices of zucchini in the batter too and frying it. It was pretty yummy. Here is a recipe for batter for onion rings.

 Our garden has done fine this year. We have eaten quite a lot out of it and canned somethings as well but if we just had our garden we wouldn't be putting up a whole lot of stuff for winter - there just isn't that much extra of more things. My parents garden is a different story however! They have big gardens at their place and it is harvest time right now! They have put a bunch of stuff in the freezer themselves but this week Mom wondered if I wanted beans to can, corn to freeze and apples to make into applesauce (besides also sending over even more cucumbers and zucchini!) - I said yes- I pretty much never turn down good food like that.

   The last three days the kids and I have canned around 63 jars of beans, applesauce and salsa (part quarts and part pints) and we put away 30 large containers of corn away in the freezer. I still have another 5 gallon bucket of apples to process. We are very, very blessed! (and very, very tired!)

  Do you eat a lot from your garden? Is harvest time a busy time for you?

I am linking this to Frugal Friday at Life as MOM

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A rug for July (and yes I am a little behind!)

This is a crocheted rug made out of old plastic grocery bags. I try to mostly bring my own cloth grocery bags these days but we can still at times get a stock pile of plastic bags around here. I also used various other plastic that came our way this year such as the wrappings from a bunch of poinsettias at Christmas time.

 These rugs are rather fun to make since you are turning something that truly feels like trash into something that is useful. I plan on using this as a camping rug - to set just outside our tent to wipe our feet on so that hopefully the tent will stay clean. Being plastic it makes a good outdoor rug.

 To make it I simply cut strips from the bag, tie them together and then crochet it just like I would a rag rug. To see how I make a normal rag rug you can go here.

If you want to see more of the rugs I have made this year you can go here.

I have seen other ways to make plastic bag rugs which also look rather neat. If you don't know how to crochet perhaps you would like to make a woven one ( using a homemade cardboard loom) or an even more professional looking woven one or a cool looking square crocheted one.

I hope you have fun if you give it a try!

Now to see if I can get another rug made and posted about for August before it is over! :-) I did make a couple of rugs and even taught a rug making class but they were like other ones I have already posted about so I need to make a different one - I have a plan - I just may not have enough time as we have a bunch of canning and housecleaning also on the to do list!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A highly entertaining bathroom cleaning demonstration

My Audience - Don't they look excited? Not!
 Lately we decided that it was high time to update the kids chore chart. When I wrote it I think Megan was around 2 and 4 years later all of the kids are far more capable than they were when I wrote the old one.

  It wasn't that the kids were only doing chores that were on the chart but those were the only ones that they did very automatically and sometimes I was feeling overwhelmed by all that needed done as well as feeling frusterated with myself for not fully utalizing all the energy at hand (namely in my children!). I also have wanted to make sure that all of my kids are fully trained in running the house and sooner rather than later.

  Anyway... When writing up our new chore chart we made it so the upstairs bathroom would be cleaned more often (it was needing that!) and that more people would share that chore. Previously Mara was cleaning the tub and shower (which is continuing to be her chore) and Jonathan and I would rotate at cleaning the rest of the bathroom. Now we have each of the 3 younger kids cleaning it once a week (basically every other day).

  When I had Aaron do it one day however I realized that he really needed some training as his finished job was not very good. Jonathan was also needing some reminders on how to do it well and Megan needed training too. Mara is now cleaning Ken's office (including bathrooms) so she figured a cleaning demonstration would be useful to her as well.

   When I announced that there would be a cleaning demonstration I wasn't exactly greeted with excitement. So I announced that I would be highly entertaining. They were pretty sceptical.
 I figured I had work hard to put on a good show. They figured a would probably need a microphone (This is Ken's toy- given to him one year as a joke after him having fun playing around with one - just being silly- at somebody else's house. He generally doesn't let anybody else use it- which makes it very special- but I was able to use it for the demonstration) so I used it which slowed me down greatly but added to the amusement of the show.
 We sang. We were silly. We had fun. And.... My children have a better understanding of how to clean a bathroom.
Getting out of their "seats" (the tub) for a better view of scrubbing the sink.
I am willing to spend a little extra time on fun and silliness in order to have a job done well. I wonder what I should demonstrate next?

Do you have cleaning demonstrations? Are they highly entertaining? I would love to hear your tips on how you get your children invovled in keeping your home looking nice.

Cleaning demonstrations work for me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Having a long term vision and being patient

Mara making yummy cooked apples from some of my parents apples.
Just cut up apples, add a bit of water, honey and cinnamon and cook until soft.
 This is a fun time of year for those striving to "live off the land". There is harvesting to be done and we enjoy eating all sorts of fresh veggies and fruits. Though it is a time of excitement over what did grow well often there can be a little disappointment or discouragement over what doesn't do so well.

  I have had a few things this year that caused me to be a little discouraged and sometimes I am tempted to compare my results with somebody like my parents and wonder why my stuff doesn't seem to grow as well. When thinking about that I did have a little reality check which encouraged me to be patient and work hard to prepare for better success in the future.

 For example:
In comparing with my parents....
~They have lots of apples and other fruit like plums that they have been able to enjoy off their land.
This year we had a few raspberries, a few grapes and 2 apples (though one got 1/2 eaten by some animal).

The difference? My parents have been faithfully planting fruit trees since I was a child. They haven't had success with every single tree - I remember some getting eaten down by goats that got our of their pen when I was little- but they now have a large orchard (even here in our zone 3 area) and they get a nice amount of fruit every year.   I do have some fruit trees planted and yes I did get a tiny sampling this year but we have only lived here 7 years. We have had set backs too but gradually if we keep working at it we will eventually be able to pick a bunch of fruit as well. When planting fruit trees we have to have a long term vision!

~My parents plants grow huge and don't seem all that affected by a dry summer (even though my dad rarely waters). My plants a very affected (and stunted) when I don't water them often enough and it looks like the corn crop is almost non-existent.

The difference? I do have sandy soil to start with where theirs is more of a sandy loam but the other thing is that they have been building theirs up with goat manure and such for many years now. I have done a little of that during the few years we have been here but I need to work on it a lot more. Good soil is quite essential for good crops!

  We all have different climates and soils to work with but if we want success I think one of these biggest lessons we need to learn is to have a long term vision, don't get discouraged and work hard now (improve soil, plant fruit trees, etc) so that we can reap the results in the future.

   What is something that you see as very important to do early on (such as planting fruits trees) in your homesteading so that you can reap the benefit later on?

I am linking to Homestead Revival

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Finding ways to please God

My goal in life is to please God. That is first and foremost. I don't always do that perfectly (unfortunately far from it!) but that is what I desire. I always appreciate scriptures that help me understand a little better what does please Him. This scripture that I am sharing today is one of those.
"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." Ephesians 5:15-21
  We do live in a time when there is a lot of evil (as was also the case when this was first written) we need to be careful and wise and not waste time. Christians have work to do!
 We need to let the Spirit fill us and work through us and we need to share that with others. A challenging instruction here is to always give thanks for all things. That is a reminder that we don't see the big picture. God can use anything for the good and we need to thank Him in every situation.
  I find these verses encouraging- I hope you do too!
One of the beautiful lakes in MN. We had fun exploring Glenwood on Tuesday evening this past week.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Simple Blessings

 I just wanted to share something I have really been enjoying lately- A hollyhock blooming!

Growing up we had a lot of hollyhocks at our place. I love their tall cheerfulness and then enjoyed it when my mom showed me how to make little ladies out of them blooms - something that she had also done when she was a girl. For sometime I have wanted to have them at my place. I don't know how many times that I have planted them from seed and I had even tried buying plants. The seeds would sometimes come up but there would just be this tiny little plant and then it wouldn't come back again the next year. It seemed that I just couldn't get things right for them.

 Then this year one of the little bitty plants from the year before came back. I was so excited!! I was eagerly watching it grow along the side of my house and then one day Ken was out weed eating as he likes a neat looking yard (as do I) and Mara and I discovered that he had cut down the hollyhock. He doesn't know much about plants and I had just had it growing beside the house (not in a special bed) so he thought it was a weed. It was an accident and I certainly wasn't mad but I did almost cry. We checked though - and though he had cut off the top there was still a bit of the plant left and so we had hope.

  And it grew! For the last month now it has also been blooming. This flower was long awaited for and I am enjoying it immensely! Thank you God for simple blessings!
Are you enjoying the simple pleasures that God has provided in your life today?

Friday, August 24, 2012

I don't buy..... Honey

I know most of my regular blog readers already know this but something that we have been able to stop buying in the last couple of years is honey! It isn't that we aren't using honey - we actually use way more than we ever did before but we are keeping bees now and they produce enough honey that we don't need to buy any and we are even able to give it away as gifts.

  You might wonder if keeping bees is actually a way to save money. Last year I had to buy all of the equipment as well as the NUCs of bees so we did put quite a bit of money into it- around $500. That year was a good honey year for us however and we got over 300 lbs of honey from our 2 hives. Now if I would have bought that from the store (Raw and local honey which is the best for you) I would have spent well over $1,000. So for us even in our first year we were able to spend about 1/2 the amount on supplies that it would have cost us to buy that much honey. Now to be honest we wouldn't have bought that much good honey simply because it wouldn't have been in our food budget but we are very thankful to have been able to get it in a cheaper (and more educational!) manner.
  This year we only spent a little over $160 (buying bees as we did not overwinter them last year) and though I almost don't think we will get as much honey as we did last year but I do think we will get quite a bit again. This winter we are going to try to overwinter some of the bees so hopefully we will be able to cut our costs down even more.
 This week we did harvest some of our honey. I harvested 2 supers and we got over 55 lbs. That was a pretty good start as we have quite a lot more supers to do still and they also have more time to make honey as well. It is so fun to have a bunch of sweetener put away to use for the winter!
Last year harvesting honey ended up being lots and lots of work as the extractor that was made for us was hand cranked. This year my Dad found a drill (which I do need to pay him back for so that will add some more expense to the honey project but it is well worth it) which we are able to use to turn the frame that holds the frames. Harvesting just sped up a whole lot!
 Beyond the savings on good honey we are also getting greater pollination for our garden from the bees which causes us to have better harvest especially on things like cucumbers and peppers. We are noticing a difference too so I am pretty happy about that!
 Have you ever thought about raising bees or do you do it? I would love to hear your thoughts or questions.
By the way... our results may not be normal. We have been extremely blessed - even when others around us have thought it was a bad honey year (last year).
 I am linking this up to Frugal Friday at Money Saving Mom.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I Don't Buy.... Make-up

Sorry that I have been slacking on this series - and then this post isn't even on Friday but rather late Saturday night- Oh well!

 The topic that I am addressing today of something that I don't buy is concerning makeup. This is one of those posts about something I never have bought (except some bright red lipstick one time to use in a play) but somethings I have read recently got me thinking about this subject so I decided I would go ahead and write about it.

  There are a number of reasons why I don't buy or wear makeup and none of them would cause me to look down on you if you wear makeup. They are personal decisions of mine and they work for me.

Here they are quickly:

  • I wasn't raised around makeup. My Mom never wore it nor did most of the women that I was around a lot while growing up.
  • Make-up costs money. I don't personally see any need to spend our hard earned money in this area. I have other priorities that are more important to me.
  • Make-up wearing takes time. Time is precious to me and I don't feel any need to use any of it for the purpose of wearing make-up. Obviously that is just a personal priority as I will spend time to fix my hair (though I don't spend a lot of time on that either) or figure out what I am going to wear that will look nice.
  • It can be bad for your skin. According to what I have read makeup is often loaded with chemicals that can be bad for your skin. Even if that isn't an issue I read that if you don't have the right type for your skin or leave it on to long it isn't good. I guess it can clog your pores. I don't have any personal experience here but it doesn't make wearing it attractive to me.
  • I have never wanted to feel like I needed to put "my face on" before I was able to see somebody. I know many people don't feel that way but I have heard that expression from some.
  • Neither Ken nor I care for the look of a face with a lot of make-up. The glamour look simply isn't what we consider beautiful. I do know many women that wear make-up simply that look very beautiful but I feel content with my look without it.
  • I don't like the way it feels or smells. The one time I was given a makeover I was not at all impressed.
Some of my reasons are rather silly but I guess that is just where I am at on the issue.
 The reason that I started thinking about this subject was because of a study that I had read about. In the study they had people look at pictures of women that had them with a variety of amounts of makeup - starting with no makeup, then a little, then a bit more and ending with the "glamorous" look. They asked the people to rate them concerning Attractiveness, Competence, whether they thought they were Trustworthy and Likability. In every category the pictures with makeup scored better.

  When I read that it really rather bothered me at first- the idea that people would judge me concerning my natural face and think me not very trustworthy, competent or likable bothered me. (The attractiveness issue didn't bother me so much as I do think our country has been trained to think that makeup is beautiful). I have decided not to worry about it and it hasn't caused me to change my ways but I do hope that those of us that don't wear makeup can start to change the puplic's impression on this account! In my reading I also came across some writings that mentioned women being told they had to wear makeup in order to keep a job that they already were working at quite successfully. That doesn't seem right to me.

Anyway... today was just some random thoughts on makeup wearing. I am sure I have saved a considerable amount of time and money by not wearing it. If you do wear makeup I hope you realize that I am not putting you down- it just isn't something that I want to do. I hope you wear it only because you or your husband likes it and not because you feel like it is something that our society demands.

Some make-up-less faces. I am not positive that nobody has any on but mostly we don't anyway.
  One verse that I think about when I am considering anything that has to do with how I look is this one:
1 Timothy 2:9 and 10
"Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness."

 My understanding of these verses is that the way we look shouldn't be what makes people be impressed with us or think we are special - what should be the most prominent in our lives is the fact that we do good things for others.

What are your thoughts on makeup?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lilla Rose Flexi Clip {Review and Giveaway}

Mara and Megan wearing their lovely flexi clips
 A while back I was excited to receive an e-mail from Kallie, a reader of my blog who is also in independent consultant for Lilla Rose a company that sells beautiful hair things. Kallie wondered if I would like to review one of their flexi clips and then also host a giveaway here on my blog. I excitedly said "Yes!". I was familiar with how beautiful  Lilla Rose clips were but had never tried one out for myself.

I went to the web-site to see which ones I liked (pretty much all of them!) and to figure out what size I would need. I decided a small would probably work best for me at least for ponytails and half-ups. I have found I can also make it work for a tails up style but it is not big enough for something like a French roll. They have a nice guide for sizing and styling which helps you to choose which one is right for you.

Before long I received a fun little package in the mail and she sent not only one for me to try but also one for each of my girls (she had told me to send their sizes and she would see what she could do). The clips were beautiful and we were quite excited about giving them a try!

She sent us....
Plumeria Flower in size small for me. In this style I did a half up but also twisted up my hair some for a fun look. This worked beautifully- was easy to do with the flexi-clip and it stayed in great and was very comfortable.

 A Native Filigree Flexi clip in size Medium for Mara (Mara has pretty thick hair!) In the picture above I used it to fasten the bottom of a style done with rolled sides and then finished off with a fishbone braid.

and an Etched Lily with Amethyst in size extra small for Megan (my little girl who still has fine hair).

Here are some things that I truly love about these clips:
  • They are beautiful. Not only do we think so but I have received many compliments since I have been wearing mine.
  • They are sturdy. I had wondered about this but they look very well made and we have given them as heavy of a workout as we could in the time we have had them and they look just the same as when we got them. The way they are made and the two parts attached together impressed us.
  • They are easy to use. I had no trouble quickly figuring out how to put them in mine or my girls hair.
  • They are comfortable. We have worn them all day without really noticing them at all. They also do not get tangled up in your hair like pony tail holders can.
  • They are versatile. Not only can I use them instead of hair elastics, barrettes, bobby pins, or plastic combs (the one item can work in all those different instances) but they can also be used to hold your scarf in place and add decoration and more. You can see other ideas for using them on Kallie's facebook site.

Lilla Rose does sell more than flexi clips (though I believe those are there most popular product), they also have many other lovely items for the hair. I encourage you to check out their website and have fun looking at all that they offer.

Would you like to try to win a free Lilla Rose product of your choice? (up to $16 value).

I thought you probably would!

To enter the giveaway please leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite Lilla Rose product or design. You can go visit the website here to figure out what you like.
In order to enter this giveaway you must not have won any Lilla Rose giveaway in the last 6 (six) months. 
This is open to blog readers from anywhere. Please be sure to leave you e-mail address so that I can contact you should you win. This giveaway will close in 2 weeks on August 29, 2012. So please hurry and enter before that!

I did also read that if you are left-handed you can mention that and they can send you a specially lefthanded one.I am left handed but the ones we got don't really have an upside down so it didn't matter- It would on some varieties however.

If you have any quesitons about these and would like to contact Kallie, you can e-mail her.

Disclaimer: I was given products by an Independant Consultant for purposes of reviewing but I was not otherwise paid for doing this review. The thoughts written are my own- I am truly impressed with the product. :-)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Saving energy while cooking

Over the years I have done a little experimenting with not keeping the burner turned on for the whole cooking time but simply letting the heat that has already built up in the pot do the final cooking. That has worked pretty successfully with rice and other things but I have noticed that even though it cooks it will also start to cool down which is not always desired.

 A while back I read about the Wonder Box Cooker which is a way to cook things by just bringing it to a boil (be it rice, meat - about anything) and then sticking it in this insulated compartment.  There is instructions for making one and I had hoped to do that but hadn't gotten around to it. I also wondered where I would store something like that as my kitchen and dining room storage is already filled to capacity.

  Recently while my in-laws were here we were wanting to go out to my parents for a while in the afternoon and be able to stay out there and basically just get home in time for supper and have supper pretty much ready and waiting. I had also just been canning so I had my pressure cooker still sitting in the kitchen. I decided to bring my brown rice and wild rice mixture to a boil and then wrap the pan in a towel and place it inside the pressure cooker in order to keep all the heat contained.

It worked beautifully. We were gone about 3 hours and came home to well done and still hot rice.

Another day I decided to try the process on cooking beans. I pot beans and water in the pan and brought them to a boil and then turned it off and let them set for one hour (the quick soak method). Then I drained the water, added fresh water, brought them to a boil again and then stuck the pot in my towel/ pressure cooker unit. After a few hours they were done. They weren't super soft done but plenty done. I did then mix them with other chili ingredients and again brought them to a boil again and we were ready for supper.
This method is very nice especially if you need to leave home- you don't have to be concerned about any heating elements being left on and you can still come home to all cooked and hot food.

I am hoping to try using this more but I thought I would share my successes so far anyway. I hope it works well for you too should you care to try it.
I am linking this to the Homestead Barn Hop at Homestead Revival

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Busy Bees

 Amy at Homestead Revival is holding a Bee Party so I thought it would be fun to join the party with pictures of my hives.  The picture above and below I took today. The bees are doing pretty well and producing a lot of honey (one hive more than the other obviously!). Last week I checked them and added one more honey super each. Those were my last empty supers so I think I need to do some extracting this week as the bees are still busily making honey!

 After I took a picture of the hives I walked down to the garden and happened to see this bee collecting nectar from the catnip. They really love the catnip plants that I have. We named one of our hives Catnip Castle and that has turned out to be a very appropriate name.

Here are a few other pictures from the year:
 When I first got them (this is my second summer of raising bees but I didn't overwinter them last year because of our cold climate. I do want to try this year so any cold weather overwintering advice is much appreciated!) at the end of April. I bought nucs.

 A hot day in July! (Above)
A sweet treat! One of the frames had honey comb sticking way out on it and I couldn't resist stealing some. We do still have a bit of honey left but not a lot, this summer we have run low enough that we don't really bake with it anymore, just use it in other ways. I am looking forward to harvesting the honey! Harvesting should got fast compared to last year as my Dad found a motor for the extractor.

  This summer I have dealt with a few more stings than before (once when I squished a bee accidently with my wrist in a place where I had only one piece of fabric and another time when my jeans were to tight and 3 stung through them on my thigh) and they have reacted more than before but I am still very much enjoying the beekeeping adventure. God has certianly blessed us with bees that are good producers too.

I love to hear any stories, tips or questions you might have concerning beekeeping.


I am rather fond of purple! I really enjoy about all the shades that there are of that color. Today has been a day of enjoying purple for me so I thought I would share it with you.

First off, I chose some purple/lavender items to wear to church this morning and then Megan came out holding a couple of dresses in different shades of purple, wanting me to choose which one she would wear. After she dressed in purple we asked Mara to please join us so she did. At church a couple of other ladies were also dressed in purple.

This afternoon I went out to the garden to turn the sprinkler on and take some pictures and I started to notice all the different purple things that we have growing. Here is some (but not all!) of the purple things around here:

 An eggplant flower. I have never grown them before this year (as I my experience eating them was not all that wonderful) but this year I was given some plants and they are growing well. I think I might have to grow them often just because of their beauty.
 An eggplant.
 Bean flowers and beans with purple stripes.
 Purple cabbage
 Purple stalks on my indian corn.
 Purple radish flowers.

 Purple flowers that Megan has in her garden. (I don't remember what they are.) Updated: Blog reader, Emma says they are Anise Hyssop which does sound right. Thanks Emma!
 We have some grapes turning purple.
 The balloon flowers are blooming beautifully right now.
 Creeping Bellflower.
 A late blooming (and unique blooming) hosta named June.
Megan and I- dressed in purple.

I was thinking about Bible verses that would go along with purple and I came across this one in 1 Peter 2:9-12. It doesn't mention purple but it does talk about royalty- who usually dressed in purple. 

Here are the verses:
"But you are a Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a People for God's own Possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a People, but now you are the People of God; you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation."

 I love how in these verses we are reminded of who we are as Christians- We are special, God has set us apart and has a special job for us but we are also reminded of where we came from- we  were in darkness and we weren't anything special but through God's mercy he has made us special.  Then after confirming who we are we are told how to live. We are to live in such a way that people who see us will glorify God. What a wonderful life we are given!

This verse is a great reminder of our focus in life and I hope that when I see purple I can be reminded of how through God's mercy I am now Royalty- and that I would act in the way that He wants me to.


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