Homemade Goodness

Homemade Goodness,
in edible form,
in a doable way ...
So, a friend of mine has a blog that I follow,
and off her blog I found another blog that had this post.
Of course I had heard about making your own nut butters.
But somehow the thought had never really occured to me
that I could do it MYSELF.
I tend to think that "everyone else" does these type of things ...

But, it looked so cute and pretty simple!
So, I decided to try it last weekend and make some for
two wonderful friends of mine that I would be seeing on Saturday.

homemade double roasted honey nut peanut butter

First, buy your nuts. I bought them at Aldi. Roasted, not salted.
(Hence, how mine were "double roasted" as well)
I think I had about 3 cups total.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Spread nuts on a foiled-lined cookie sheet.

I microwaved 1 1/2 Tablespoons of honey and drizzled over the nuts.
(I wish I had sprayed my foil w/ canola oil, though - next time!)

Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Pull out and cool.

Into the food processor they go! (Hint, I did read that this will NOT work
in a blender ... so don't attempt that)
And ... turn that baby on and let it go!

First, the nuts break down into a meal,

Then, the oils SLOWLY start to break down,

and the mixture clumps up a bit.

When mine got to this point, I added 1 more Tablespoon of warm honey
and about a 1/2 T. of salt (I eyeballed it - as always!).

Scrap down and keep processing!
Don't give up ... I promise eventually you will be rewarded with gooeyness.

And then suddenly, you'll look, and yay! Peanut Butter.

Taste, sigh, smile.
And then scoop into a container, jar, etc.
Either save for your family, or give as a gift!

I am excited to make more peanut butter, and try
other nuts as well. You could make all kinds of combinations!
And ... you still have time before Christmas, in case you're looking for a
last-minute, homemade, and universally liked gift!


Better Late Than Never

This isn't a tutorial post.
Or one with a delectable recipe.
And you won't find any coupon tips today.
No deep thoughts on motherhood.

Just a brief reflection ...

Last night we pulled out the last of our Christmas decorations to put up.
Lo and behold ... last year, I had picked out fabric, bought it,
even cut it out - and still the pieces for Reuben's stocking were
quietly folded away in a plastic bag.

At first I was dismayed at myself. How could this be? = )
And then I began to think back ...
My youngest was a whole 9 months old last December.
Still nursing like bananas while refusing to crawl or scoot himself
I loved (and still do!) him to pieces,
but that sweet child was DEMANDING!
I remember so many feelings washing over me as I cared for him:
Overwhelmed. Tired. Guilty for feeling Overwhelmed and Tired.
And so I sat the fabric aside ... reminded myself that a 9 month old
really has no idea of what stockings are about or should be filled with ...
and took something off my "to-do" list for the holidays.
And it felt GREAT!

One year later, it was no problem to stitch it quickly up last night
and allow it to join the other three.
And although my first thought was somewhat of glee
"my life is a bit more 'free' feeling this year!"
I realize that is extremely selfish and self focused.

So, after asking for fogiveness for that first sinful thought,
I believe that I was reminded (as Jeni posted earlier)
that maybe "doing" should be put aside for more important things.
Last year I was forced to do that in order to care for my family ...
And this year hopefully instead of being forced,
or feeling forced to set things aside -
May I enter into the season excited to grow relationships;
to spend time with Jesus;
to teach my children why Christmas comes each year;
to serve others and give out the love of Christ,
and let the "doing" lay aside.


One idea for simplifying the gifting process and keeping Christ central in Christmas

I read this idea for Christmas gift-giving last year (You can read the whole blogpost here) and have been thinking about it ever since. The parents decided that they would give their children three gifts, representing the gifts brought to the newborn King by the three wisemen: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

"Frankincense was used as incense in the temple of the Israelites" so this gift is something that will help your children grow deeper in their faith and spiritual walk.

"Myrrh had various medicinal uses" so this gift is something for their physical well-being/body. "The category is wide here--especially for girls. The last few years we've given them clothes, but we've also given bubble bath, lip gloss, nail polish, etc."

Gold is precious, so this is your opportunity to give them something they've really wanted.

I don't know for sure whether we'll do it this year, but I do like the way it simplifies and organizes the gifting process; it narrows down the field without making it too narrow. But what I liked most is how it provides a constant reference point back to the story of Christ's birth, which is why we celebrate Christmas in the first place!


J.O.Y for the Holidays

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed, but the holiday season is upon us!  Stores are stocked with lights and decorations, everyday a new catalog comes in the mail reminding me that there are only X number of shopping days left.  Even the blogs I read are full of wonderful recipes, schedules and ideas for making this the best Thanksgiving/Christmas ever!

And I am feeling.......overwhelmed.

It's my fault, I admit it.  I, all too easily, get sucked into the utter madness that takes over people this time of year.  The madness of trying to do too much in too short of time, the madness of being the "perfect" hostess, the madness of finding the "perfect" gift for everyone on my list, and even the ridiculous family madness.  I find that in a season that is supposed to be all about Joy and Peace, I struggle to find any.

As I was pondering this the other day (a.k.a - wallowing in self pity that I couldn't stop the holidays from coming) I remembered our, one and only, house rule.  In everything we do, we are to have J.O.Y.  You may have heard this before, but it stands for Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.  I began to think about all the things that stress me out during the holidays and realized, though they may be packaged to look like they are giving and self sacrificing they are mostly just my selfish pride.  I want to be the perfect hostess so people will say "Oh look how nice her house looks, Oh my, this turkey is divine!"  I want to find the perfect gift because I want to be seen as clever and resourceful.  (Me, me, me, pride, pride, pride.)

So now as Thanksgiving and Christmas draw nearer and nearer I have armed myself with these verses.

Jesus 1st:  Galatians 1:10 - For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

Others 2nd:  Galatians 6:10 - Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Yourself last:  Matthew 6:33 - But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

If I am seeking His approval and His righteousness every day, everything else just seems terribly unimportant.

So bring it on, unnecessary holiday nonsense, this year I will truly be CELEBRATING the birth of my King and thanking Him everyday for His gift of Himself to me!  Oh, and I may have a little turkey too, I've heard it's divine.


Handmade Gift Exchange

I was skipping around blogland today and ended up at Craftoholics Anonymous reading about burlap. I decided to check out her recent posts and I found one titled "UNITED STATES Handmade Gift Exchange." This looks like such a great idea and so much fun! Check out the details here, but you have to hurry because you only have until November 10th to sign up!


Dark, Leafy Green - Part 1 ???

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been inspired to get more veggies on the table, in more creative ways. This, week, I decided to put Kale on the menu. Now, as far as I can remember, I have NEVER served kale since being married to Eli! One, I have been a little nervous tackling "greens" that I'm not very familiar with. Two, Eli has continually professed a dislike for most dark greens ... his experience with them has not been good, and he used to feed them to his pet iguana - that's what he believes greens are good for! So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I informed him we were going to have a kale salad when our friends came over for dinner Monday night - AND, that the salad had butternut squash in it. Two strikes again me.

But, he agreed to give it a whirl. So, why not?

According to Wikipedia , kale has strong antioxidant properties, and is very high in beta-carotene, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Closer to the cruciferous family (think broccoli), kale is also believed to stop the growth of some cancerous cells.

And this website lists the nutrition facts for one cup of chopped, raw kale as being 33 calories (4 from fat), with 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein. Pretty good if you ask me! The recipe I used came from a magazine article I had clipped asking three chefs to create a dish with peanut butter. I love all things with peanut butter ... so figured this might be a worthwhile first try!

Roasted Squash and Kale Salad

Peel, seed, and cut 1 butternut squash in 1 inch chunks. Toss with 2 T. olive oil, 3 T. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. sale, and 1/2 tsp. pepper; bake for 25 min. Cool. Toss with 1 lbs. thinly sliced kale and 1/4 c. thinly sliced red onion. In a blender, puree 2 tsp. soy sauce, 1 T. fresh lime juice, 2 tsp. sesame oil, 1 tsp. sugar, 2 T. peanut butter, 2 T. minced ginger, and 1 T. water. (I used my mini food processor). Drizzle salad with dressing and serve.

Overall, we really liked the salad. I mixed in some cut up lettuce - because kale is pretty bitter and I wanted our first try to be the best it could be! Also, the grocery store I shop at was out of butternut squash, so I substituted a sweet potato. I would eat it again! And our guests and Eli all claimed they enjoyed it! So, give it a try!

Now I might find another one to try next week ...


Reusable Snack Bag Tutorial

Supplies Needed:
  • Reusable Snack Bag Pattern (Make as many as you like, but please don't sell from this pattern.)
  • Outside Fabric (patterned material of your choice)
  • Inside Fabric (I used a polyester shower curtain, I have also used PUL on bags that needed to be waterproof.)
  • Velcro
  • Thread

1.  Cut 2 pieces from each of your fabrics.
2.  Place the outside fabric "right" sides together, then place the inside fabric "right" sides facing out. Like so...
3.  Take one layer of the outside and inside fabric folding down your top edge once, and then again sewing along the fold to make a finished hem.  Do this with both of your pieces.  I like to iron my fold and then I don't have to use pins.  Okay - I never use pins.  (Sorry Gwam.)
4.  Place right sides together and sew along the bottom (opposite end from the hem you just added).  Only stitch the bottom for now and not the sides.
5.  Now attach your Velcro right under the hem, at the top of each side, lining it up with the stitching.  You can really place the Velcro wherever you want, but I like how the stitches line up this way. I usually single stitch and zig zag around the Velcro.  This may be overkill, but my kids like to open and shut the bags incessantly, and I thought they would hold up better this way.
6.  Now it's time to stitch up the sides and trim any excess from your seams (is that the right word here?)
7.  And last, but not least, flip your bag right side out and topstitch around the edges.  Again your probably don't have to topstitch if you don't want to, but I thought it would make it a little sturdier and look a little cleaner.
And VOILA one finished Snack Bag.  

I hope this was easy enough to follow.  If you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will get back to you.  These can either be wiped out by hand or thrown into the wash.  And depending on what material you use for the inside you can decide whether or not you want to put it into the dryer.  

Happy Snacking!!


It's a Girl!!

We have a new baby!  Sarah, one of our regular blog contributors (and my Sister-in-Law) just had a little girl this morning.  We have been anxiously awaiting her arrival, and now she is finally here!  Sarah did amazingly, and both she and baby are doing great.  I am one proud Auntie and Sister!

Milena (Mil-LAY-nah) Jane
8lbs. 6oz.

Zephaniah 3:17
The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

p.s.  I see that I will be posting this on top of something that Sarah just wrote.  Please scroll down and check it out!

Master Baking Mix

Everyone should have the More-With-Less-Cookbook! But if you don't, I thought I would pass along one of my favorite recipes from it. This Master Mix recipe has come in very handy and I was eager to whip it up again while looking forward to the busy days ahead (should baby ever decide to actually grace us with his/her presence!). I like it because it is a great combination of convenience and control: I can throw this mix together and grab it when I quickly need to make something, while still knowing that good stuff went into it. Quality doesn't have to be sacrificed for the sake of time-saving!

Master Mix:

8 lbs. 4 lbs.
Sift together 3 times:

5 lbs. 10 c. flour*
3/4 c. 6 T. baking powder
3 T. 1 1/2 T. salt
1 T. 1 1/2 t. cream of tartar
1/2 c. 1/4 c. sugar

Cut into the consistency of cornmeal:
2 lbs. 2 c. vegetable shortening**

Stir in:
4 c. 2 c. dry milk powder

Store in covered container at room temperature.***

Changes I've made:
* I typically make the 4lb. recipe and use 5 cups white flour, 4 cups whole wheat, and 1 cup flax seed.

** vegetable shortening is a hydrogenated oil/trans fat, so I try to stay away from it. Instead of having it in there, simply add in oil or applesauce to your mix when actually in use.

***When using whole wheat, keep your master mix in the refrigerator, as that is supposed to help the wheat maintain its wholesome goodness better. This may or may not be true, but I say might as well do it...

This is what my 4lb batch looks like.


Pancakes or Waffles
(serves 4- who only needs 4 waffles?! actually, this is nice because most of the time I'm just making them for my two Littles, so I don't feel like much gets wasted, and if I have a bigger crowd I just multiply. This is my favorite way to use it because waffles always make a morning feel "special" and a nice break from the usual! Jeni, I thought this might come in especially handy for you all and your Saturday Gatherings!)

Beat together in a bowl:
1 c milk
1 egg
2 T to 1/4 cup oil if you didn't already add shortening to your mix

stir in:
1 1/2c. Master mix.
- sometimes I thin this out a little more with water too.

Coffee Cake
serves 6
Bake at 375 for 25 min.

Preheat oven
Beat together in a bowl:
1/3 c. milk
1 egg

1/4 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. Master Mix

Stir until well blended. Pour into greased 8" baking pan. Combine and sprinkle on top:
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 T. butter
1/2t. cinnamon
1/4c. chopped nuts (optional)

Bake 25 min. serve warm.
I did make this one a while back, and it came out alright, although a little dry and needing just a little more sweetness.

Biscuits (next on my list to try)
makes 8, bake at 450 for 10 min.
Preheat oven
Combine in bowl
1 1/2 c. Master Mix
1/3 c. milk

Add milk all at once, stirring 25 strokes. NOT 24, NOR 26! 25 shall be the number! (sorry, just struck me as funny and very specific- wonder how they came up with 25 as the magic number)
Knead lightly on floured board. Roll 1/2 in. thick, cut and place on ungreased baking sheet.

- use as topping on casseroles, cobblers, meat or vegetable pies or wherever biscuit dough is called for.

Makes 12
Bake at 425 for 20 min.

Preheat oven.
Beat together:
1 egg
1 c. milk
2 T. sugar

3 C. Master Mix

stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Spoon into greased muffin pans and bake.

add drained fruit or chopped, dried fruit, or chopped nuts.
-or bake as fruit bread using 5x8 greased loaf pan and bake 40 in. at 350.

Replace 1/3 mix with with quick-cooking oats or all bran cereal.

Happy Baking/Eating/Simplifying!


T-shirt Skirt Tutorial

I just finished my second t-shirt skirt and I am sad that it is now fall and I will have to wait until spring before I can wear it!! Here is a long thorough tutorial for this very EASY sewing project!

I started with a XXL men's t-shirt that I found for $1.50 at a local bargain store (Bargain Depot in Lawrence, KS...I love this place). You want to make sure that the t-shirt is plain with no logo/writing on either side.

1) Wash the t-shirt.

2) Turn the t-shirt inside out before you start cutting (this is a very important step).

3) Cut the t-shirt just below the neck opening.
4) Unfortunately, I do not have a template for cutting out the skirt. I cut my t-shirt to the following measurments: 24" long, 24" bottom hem and 20" top/waist. Note that you use the bottom hem of the t-shirt as the bottom of your skirt, so you only make 3 cuts (2 sides and the top).
5) Pin sides and sew a 3/8" (or 1/2") seam.
(If you slip the skirt on at this time it will most likely fit big, but you will be adding elastic to the waste and that will make it fit...I promise)

6) To sew the casing for the elastic waistband you will fold the top down 1" and pin. I used 3/8" elastic, so I wanted my casing to be 1/2". I sewed around the waist at 1/4" and 3/4". Make sure you leave about an inch open so you can insert the elastic. In my photos you will see a piece of black/white fabric...I used this as a "tag" so I know which is the back of the skirt.
7) Thread the elastic. I do this by hooking a safety pin to one side and feeding it through the casing.
8) Try the skirt on and pull the elastic through until it fits the way you want it to. Cut the elastic and sew the ends together with a zig zag stitch. Tuck the elastic back into the casing and sew the casing closed, being sure to backstitch and secure the casing.

This skirt took me about 1 1/2 hours to make (not including washing the t-shirt) but I was doing a lot of measuring, writing instructions and taking photos. This skirt is super comfy and very simple, but you could dress it up with some freezer paper stenciling, which I think I will do once I decide on a design.


Reusable Snack Bags

We have been trying to cut back on the amount of consumable products that we use around our house.  It started with cloth diapers and has found its way into almost (I'm still a little wary of cloth toilet paper) every area of our home.  We aren't trying to make any sort of "green" statement, but if you don't consume it, you don't have to rebuy it.  My new favorite non consumable...(insert drumroll)
...the reusable snack bag.  Okay it doesn't take much to get me excited.

It takes merely minutes to sew up, uses very little material (I used fabric scraps, an old pillowcase for the outsides, and an old shower curtain for the insides. ) and they are much cuter than a Ziploc bag!  Since is has a waterproof lining we can throw in fruits and veggies as well as dry snacks, but I'm thinking we are in a snack rut.
Anyone have any snack ideas?  I prefer the healthier variety, but any suggestions would be great!
Though Micaiah looks pleased with his veggie chips here, he later told me they tasted like frogs.  I'm guessing that's not a good thing.


Book Review

Maybe no one else out there is like me ... I love to have veggies at mealtime! But, I struggle with making them in new and creative ways. They tend to get roasted or steamed in simplicity, dabbed with butter and seasoned. Not that cooking them like that is wrong! But, sometimes I stare at a bag of frozen corn or peas and wonder if there isn't something else that I could come up with. Something tasty, something different.

Enter Fast, Fresh & Green, by Susie Middleton. I checked this out from the library on a whim after I read a review of it in the local paper, probably close to three months ago. The article reviewed around four different cookbooks, all written around veggies and local produce that was available during harvest seasons! This one struck my eye, so I requested it from the library ... waited another month before it was my turn ... and have devoured it since then!

I have been so impressed with all the recipes that we have tried so far. Middleton breaks up her cookbook into eight different cooking methods for veggies, but I usually see what's on sale, look up that vegetable in the index, and go from there! Here are some that we have tried:

- Roasted Broccoli Florets with Two Dipping Sauces
- Sweet Potato mini-fries with Limey Dipping Sauce and Spiced Salt
- Gingery Braised Brussel Sprouts
- Corn Saute with Chile and Lime
- Crushed Red Potatoes with Scallions, Pancetta, and Sour Cream
- Big Bowl Spinach and Snow Pea Salad with Cashews
- Stir Fried Carrots with Ginger, Lime, and Cilantro

We've loved them all ... and although they may sound a bit "froofy" or something, most of the ingredients I have had on hand and the recipes come together quickly. It has definitely upped our intake of veggies on a regular basis, and gotten us out of a "tried and true" mindset! Not that I don't love those tried and true whip it up quick meals/dishes, but something I really want to step outside of what I always fall back on.

Anyway, if you need something on your Christmas list (looking ahead), this might be a fun book to request. And yes, I still have the one from the library ... so if you request it now, you'll be stealing it from me! I confess that I am hoping to get it as a Christmas gift myself rather than buy it now!


I Need Your Ideas

As I am on a kick in terms of baby projects ...
I could use a little creative input!

I have this fabulous piece of fabric that I bought quite a few years ago. It has the alphabet in blocks with animals and fun pictures. I bought it in a long enough length so that I have the alphabet three times over. Originally, I thought I might make Jonah some type of blanket/pillow that had his name on it. It's obvious that never materialized!

So, I am now planning to use it for 2-3 baby gifts! I have several friends at the gym that will be having babies within the next five months, and I thought this might a fun fabric to use for some of them (most of them are also being "surprised" by the sex of the baby, so I have to keep things gender neutral). My best idea, currently, is to use it for three blankets. Not cutting up the letters, just a straight up, rectangular blanket with this as the front, a soft flannel on the back. Some ribbons ties, etc. BUT, I wanted to throw this out there and see if any of the amazingly creative women who read this blog have any other ideas!

Care to share them with me?


Taggy (Taggie)

Per a request,
I am putting up the directions to create a Taggy!
As I have stated before,
it is such a fun, simple, and straightforward project!

Yesterday, I headed over to my in-laws for the morning.
My Mother-in-law had set it up for my teenage sister-in-law,
and three of her friends to each sew a Taggy.
They would get the benefit of somewhat a "sewing lesson",
time to hang out together,
and then they are donating their Taggies
to the local Pregnancy Care Center.
So, let's get started!

1) Start with two different fabrics. As I stated on a previous post, I like one side to have a little texture to it. You'll also want several different kinds of ribbon: different textures, widths, colors, patterns, etc. They don't have to match perfectly! The eccentricity of each Taggy with it's colors and ribbons is what make them fun and unique.

My two sides ...

2) Cut each fabric print into a square. The girls started with 12 inch by 12 inch squares. The past two that I have made were probably closer to 16 inch by 16 inch squares. Whatever size you chose. Then, I like to iron my edges under, to make the pinning process easier! Then, cut your ribbon into 4 inch lengths.
3) Lay your fabric squares HOW YOU WANT THEM TO LOOK. Inside sides turned inside. Turn all edges in and pin.

One Taggy getting prepped ...

4) Arrange your ribbons around the side and get the "look" you want. I had the girls do 5 ribbons on each side of their 12 x 12. For my larger one, I did 6 ribbons.

5) Fold ribbons lengths in half, slide edges in between the two fabrics, and pin the ribbons into place.

Ribbons getting pinned in place!

6) Sew all the way around the square - taking care to catch the ribbons!

All our Taggies ready to be sewn together!

That's it! Enjoy your Taggy and BE CREATIVE!

In a few weeks, we are having another "sewing lesson" and are going to be making some simple full size blankets for the Pregnancy Care Center! I'll post that as well!

Lessons in Pears

I had been wanting to can some peaches this Summer. I love love love peaches! But it just didn't work out- I was neck deep in home decluttering and organizing ("Nesting" to the lay person =) at the time when they were cheapest. So I let that idea go. Then I heard that friends of ours had a pear tree that was open for the picking. I've never been a big pear fan, but I am a fan of free, and I know that both my kids loved pear puree as babies, so off I went.

Lesson no 1: Freebies can't be chooseies. These pears were pretty small and hard, and probably not the optimal fruit (the family that owned the tree didn't have much interest in them at all) but they were still pears!

Lesson no. 2: Picking pears isn't that difficult. It's actually kind of therapeutic. What needs to be remembered is that you have to peel all those pears you picked!

Lesson no. 3: When you bring an international friend along to pick thinking that they will enjoy it since they had fruit trees at home, also keep in mind that they are observing Ramadan and have been/will be fasting for 30 days. This means they will also take less pears home with them than expected. See lesson 2 for ramifications.

Lesson 4. Take breaks when peeling pears. Otherwise your hand will cramp like none other! But if you're in the zone, you might as well go for it...

Lesson 5. Save the peels! Apparently you can grind them up and use them in place of Zucchini in Zucchini bread. I have yet to make this bread, so I can't vouch for it yet, but I have two big bags of pear peel shavings awaiting me when I finally find the time. I'll keep you posted...

Lesson 6. Pear juice is good for detoxifying, dealing with constipation, and prostate health. I did not know any of this before. Still don't know it first hand, but it was something interesting I learned off the internet.

Lesson 7. While it would seem like a nice sharp pairing knife is the best choice, your finger tips and blood supply will thank you if you actually opt for a duller knife, much like the one pictured on the bottom.
* This is a painful lesson to learn.

*Also, all of that pear peeling will permanently stain a white knife handle.

Lesson 8. It will do the same thing to your fingertips.

* this picture was taken after washing my hands twice with soap.

Lesson 9. It's hard to take a focused picture of your own finger print.

Once the pears are peeled, there are all sorts of things to do with them!

Lesson 10. allrecipes.com Rocks! I already knew this, but it was further reinforced.

Lesson 11. I am a huge fan of pear sauce. It is seriously the easiest, most versatile thing to make, and you can sweeten or season it any way you want or don't want! It was a great starting point and confidence booster to this novice.

Feeling good, I remembered how I started off this Spring making Dandelion honey, so I thought it would be fun to end the Summer making Pear honey.

Lesson 12. The recipe didn't specify, but the pears should've been pureed down. It's not like pear sauce where you can puree it later.

Lesson 13. This is what happens to your immersion blender if you stick it in a pot of boiling honey because the pears didn't break down like you thought they would.

Lesson 14. Your blender will still work, but it probably get's teased at night when tucked away with all the other appliances.

Because it is a two+ hour process, I thought "hey, I'll just do this while I'm doing other things"
Lesson 15. Making honey is not something you should just do while you're doing other things.

Everything was going fine right up until the end when there was a medical emergency (not directly involving myself or pear related for once!) and my attention was diverted and the honey boiled for too long, turning into more of a candy texture.

Lesson 16. All those evenings of watching Chopped and Iron Chef do pay off! Frustrated at overcooking the honey, especially since it had deformed my blender, I was determined not to let it go to waste (those pears might be free but all that peeling wasn't easy!)

So I decided to experiment with ways to salvage it:
Dipping plastic spoons in and getting them a good coat. These can be used later to sweeten a cup/pot of tea.

Dropping spoonfulls onto tin foil and making little candy discs.

And towards the end, when it was getting cool enough to handle, rolling it into little balls. The pictures of these little lumpy brown balls don't look appetizing in the least, so I didn't post one, but plunk on in your pot of tea and it works beautifully!

Lesson 17. When working with hot honey, use tin foil. But once it cools, transfer it to wax paper.
*I have tried all ways of doing this- trust me, wax paper does not hold up to hot honey, and tin foil sticks to it later.

Lesson 18. Making honey and working with it is hot (on the bright side, the burns act to cauterize all those finger tip cuts from peeling!), time sensitive, messy work!

Lesson 19. Homemade jam recipes call for WAY too much sugar! You don't have to put all of that sugar in, just boil it a little longer and they will jell.

Lesson 20. Waste not, want not. I was able to put several small jars of my thick pear-supposed-to-be-honey-goo in a water bath and get them liquified enough again to use them in my jelly instead of sugar.

Lesson 21. You can make pear butter in your crock pot, but it takes FOREVER! And it will make a huge sticky splatter mess on your countertops.

Lesson 22. You can get away with not having some exact canning tools, like I just used my big stock pot, but you really should have the proper tongs or can-grabbers/basket to get them out of the water. This will save you a lot of steam burn, frustration, and fear of dropping and cracking a jar.

Lesson 23. It was a lot of work, and a lot of trying out new things (which can make me kinda tense). But in the end, I at least now have a novice's idea of how to make pear sauce, pear puree, plum-kissed-pear-jam (sweetened), plum-pear jam (unsweetened), pineapple-pear jam, pineapple pear syrup, pear-apple and pear-peach crisp, pear bread, and pear honey (in all of it's various forms) and the freezer is full of all of this peary goodness. Also, I've learned that I like pear sauce even more than I like applesauce. Warm with just a little bit of sweetness and spice, it is divine!

lesson 24: you may need a break from being in your kitchen after all of this (This has been a series of projects over the last two weeks for me- I only have one stock pot). Also, your husband may get tired of seeing pears everywhere and hearing your "ouch!es" from the peeling, heat, steam, splatter, etc...

Main lesson: it is still totally worth trying something new! And if the main ingredient is free, albeit not in perfect form (I think these pears were harder than most) then all the better because you stress out less about ruining it. Chances are ruination will happen, especially if this is a first go, but even then you can keep thinking of different ways to use things!


Proverbs 31:13

 - She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.

As Elisa pointed out in her last post it is baby season in this part of the country.  Which means lots of baby showers to attend.  At the last baby shower I went to, all the B.I.T.H. ladies were there and each brought a unique hand-made gift.  I was just so impressed with everyone's hard work and creativity in preparing their gifts that I thought I would share some pictures.  I've actually never been to a baby shower where more people made their gifts.  I wish I had pictures of them all.

Elisa's beautiful "Taggie"

Better shot of the different ribbons.
Sarah K.'s amazing monogrammed burp rags, pacifier clip, and wooden teething ring.

Sarah's adorable headband and corsage set (red and blue), white head band and retro hat.  These really need a model to get the full effect.  So here is a link to a similar set that she made for another friend.

Set of "fun" cloth diapers from me to my soon to be niece.
Here is what they look like on the inside with the soaker taken out.

This baby is set!  Something to chew on, spit on, poo on, and, of course, in Sarah's accessories she will also look cute doing it!  You guys and your creativity are amazing!  


Baby Time!

No, not baby time for me!
Thank goodness!
Errrr, I mean, just not yet.
When the right time comes ... I'll be excited -
But right now I'm enjoying all the other mommies having babies!
I'm rather obssessed with Taggies.
A dear friend from work (when I was working before Jonah was born)
made me a beautiful Taggy blanket for him.
They are so much cheaper to make than to buy.
Since then, I've worked on perfecting the look I like.

I recently made two Taggies with these fabrics
For friends with little girls on the way.
I have several other friends who are also expecting within 2-3 months.
So more will be following!
Such a simple project (which translates: Elisa can actually do it):
Two squares of cute fabric (I like one side to have texture)
with loops of ribbon sticking out all around the sides.
Use various colors, textures, widths, etc., of ribbon to make it fun.
Sadly, I forgot to take a pictures of the finished projects before I gave them away!
But, here are the colors I used in the past two,
And I can't wait to make some more in the next few weeks!


Laundry Detergent

There are many different recipes for homemade laundry detergent out there.  Just Google Homemade Laundry Detergent and you'll see what I mean (Sarah makes a different kind than I do - maybe she would share that one with us as well - nudge, nudge).  This particular one is my personal favorite for a couple of reasons:  

* It's specially concocted with cloth diapers in mind.  (There aren't any additives that build up in the cotton making it less absorbent.)

* It's really fast to make. (You can make a batch in about 5 minutes.  I tried a recipe that you have to cook and nearly lost my mind.)

* It cleans well. (My youngest daughter enjoys mud quite a bit, so this is well tested)

* You only use 1/8c. per load so it goes a long way. 

*  And though I was just complaining about this earlier, I like that it doesn't have any odor.  (I'm kind of a weenie when it comes to smells.)

Drawbacks - Some of the ingredients are a little hard to find, and the upfront cost didn't seem like much of a deal. (You have to make several batches before the savings add up.)

Homemade Powdered Detergent

1 55 oz. box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup Mule Team Borax
2 Cups Oxygen Cleaner (I use a generic brand)
1/2 cup Simple Green (found in the automotive department)
1/2 cup Calgon Water Softening Powder (if you can’t find it as a powder, use 1/4 c. of the liquid and add one box of baking soda, or add a tiny bit to each load)

I also add white vinegar to my laundry as a fabric softener.  (Don't worry it doesn't make your clothes smell like vinegar.)

So there you have it.  If any of you have any other recipes that you have tried and like.  I would love to hear them.  I hope to post soon about the "others" in my Homemade Cleaning Arsenal.