Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thieves Oil to the rescue

I had never heard of Thieves Oil until this past year. I started dabbling in essential oils and making cleaners. I heard this word come up several times. So, the best resource I found for easy DIY instructions was Ma & Pa Parker's Sustainability Blog. There is some history to Thieves Oil that you should look up. It's interesting. It helped the robbers of Medieval times fight off the plague so they could rob the dead without getting ill and dying.

 You can find the recipe there on their blog. I had to make some variations because of what I had.

Thieves Oil (My substitutions to the side.)

1 lemon peel (20 drops Lemon EO)
4 Sprigs of Rosemary (I grew mine this year)
4 Cinnamon Sticks (18 drops Cinnamon EO)
1/4 cup Whole Cloves
7 drops Eucalyptus EO

Bring 1 Quart of water and all of the hard items to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir Often. Strain into Quart Jar and add the Essential Oils. The picture of mine above is after I have used it several times.

What can you do with this? I use it to mop with and fight off nasty flu and germs. I pour a little (1/4 cup) into some hot water to mop with. It smells really good because of the Cinnamon and Cloves. If it is good enough to kill the plague, it should work for everyday flu.

On Ma & Pa's blog, they tell how you can use it for a General Purpose Cleaner, Glass Cleaner (mixed with vinegar), Wood Cleaner (Polish), and Laundry Additive. Make sure to find out how to mix these things before you use it. Some things can be damaging if not known how to properly use.

Friday, December 23, 2011

DIY Foot Soak

I haven't been to get a pedicure in 2 years. Last few times I went, they cut me pretty deep or injured me somehow. I decided to just pamper myself at home.

I used a large dishpan and filled it half-full with really hot water. I put about 1/4 cup Epsom salts, 1/4 cup baking soda, a few drops of Rosewood Essential Oil, and a small handful of dried Rose Petals. It was super relaxing. By using Epsom Salts, you will absorb Magnesium through your skin. See more benefits here at SaltWorks.

I got to soak my feet and watch some TV at my couch. How cool. I put all of my pedicure tools in a small bucket so they would be available while I was soaking. Don't forget to have a towel handy! I finished up with some great Shea Butter Lotion for my feet, cuticle oil, and some fuzzy socks.

So, I saved myself $40 dollars plus Tip. I will probably never go back to a Nail Salon for a pedicure.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Curry Hot and Sour Soup, a crock-potting tale

Perfect day today for a good crock-pot soup. I wanted to try and make a Hot and Sour soup because I had never made one. I also love curry and Thai. Mix of 2 recipes. Fabulous.

I am so excited to say that I have now cooked Tofu. Shame on me for not doing it sooner. And after watching Forks over Knives, thank you Michelle, I feel proud.

Here is a basic run-down of how I did it. It happened throughout the day, but I will spare you all the scatter-brain details.

Curry Hot and Sour Soup

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • carton of chicken broth
  • 3 TB Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 TB Soy Sauce
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 TB Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp chopped Jalapeno
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/4 cup or handful of shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 box firm tofu, bite sized cubes
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1/3 cup wild mushrooms (frozen or dried for my area)
  • 1/2 can Bamboo Shoots, drained
  • 1/2 can Water Chestnuts, drained
  • -----------------------------
  • 3-4 green onions, green tops
  • 1 TB chopped cilantro

I started off with frozen chicken breasts and dumped a carton of chicken broth over it. I let it cook for a few hours (probably 4) on high. After awhile, you can see it boiling and know it needs to be pulled out to cube or chop up. If you aren't worried about cloudy broth, which I am not, I throw the meat back in to cook with everything else.

Then, I started adding everything in as I chop it. No need for too much prep. I added the 2 cups of water, the Red Wine Vinegar (Rice Wine Vinegar may be more traditional but that is what the Cooper Cupboards had), Soy Sauce, Curry Powder, Brown Sugar, red pepper, jalapeno, carrot (I wouldn't have peeled them if they were organic), celery, red bell pepper, cabbage, garlic, wild mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. Let that cook up for about 2-3 hours. Depending on how hot your crock pot gets, you will want to monitor that.

Throw the last few ingredients in at the last and let it get good and hot. The flavor of the cilantro really adds a flavor punch mixed with the curry mix.

I couldn't get enough of it. The flavor was so good. It was definitely the best comfort food I have had in awhile. This was too spicy for my 17 year old daughter, and too weird for my picky 13 year old son, but my little buddy D ate this right up and kept saying "Bite Bite" after each bite. He really dug the broth.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Scented Pine Cones, Orange Slices

Several weeks back, we collected pine cones from the yard and set off to make scented pine cones and other holiday items. I used my dehydrator to dry these orange and lemon slices. I added cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. I then mixed up some essential oils and painted the pieces with a paint brush. I closed them up in this tin canister. They will be ready in a few weeks, Right about time for holiday decorating. You could hang these on a Christmas tree, attach to a package with the tag, spread in a decorative bowl, add with potpourri. Ready in 4-8 weeks.

We filled this basket up with pine cones. Then, I did the same for the pine cones. We got a few pieces of cinnamon sticks to throw in there with them. We made up our oil blend and painted each pine cone. Put it all in a big trash bag. You can shake it every once in awhile. This may help to distribute the scent.
 My tips for you that I learned was "Wear Gloves." Pine Cones will stick you. Also, this helps with not getting the strong oils on your hand. Your house will smell good when you make this.

My mom used to keep scented pine cones in a canister before the holidays. I went in search of how to do it.  I found a quick article on SnowDrift Farm. Change it up however you want.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Who can resist the curing table?

This is the funnest part of making soap. The curing. It is a pretty slow process, but you get to see your soap turn into a nice looking bar. In the beginning, sometimes it looks pretty scary. Colors change. Fragrances change, sometimes not for the best. You never know how it will really turn out until the very end.

The soap you see above was cold process and then oven processed. It will be ready in 4 days. This soap was made many days ago.

No one can resist walking by curing soap and touching it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Buffalo Wing Jerky - Dehydrator

I really enjoy some homemade jerky. Once you get used to eating it, you never want to buy any from Wal-Mart again. Our friend (Jonathan) told my husband a few years ago that he started making some Buffalo Wing Jerky. Mmm You don't need any exact measurements to make jerky. It tastes awesome if you just follow basic instructions and add what you want.

First, you need to get a roast. Really any roast will do. You need to cut off any major fat so the leaner the better. The last roast we used was a Rump Roast. It is usually around $10.Cut it across the grain if you can. The pieces that are cut across the grain will fall apart more easily. The ones with the grain will be tougher to chew. To each their own.

I cut my meat with a cheaper electric meat slicer that I picked up from Wal-Mart one holiday. You can get it at Amazon as well. It folds up and is pretty easy to use. It is a booger to clean because it does come apart into about 4 pieces. You will find little pieces of meat in cracks, but it does come clean. If you keep your box, it stores nice in a closet.

Slice up your meat. I like to get a cookie sheet out and just lay the slices on it. After I get done, I take some sea salt and sprinkle the mess out of it. You want to be able to see it. Now this is optional, I like to add a few splashes of soy sauce and lemon juice. Soy sauce is salty and lemon juice seems to help break down the meat. I also like some cracked black pepper on mine. I put it all in a big bowl and dump half of a bottle of Frank's Wing Sauce on it. You can get this about anywhere now and Amazon.
Very Important - Wear Gloves. I use some spiffy black gloves like they use in the hair salons. Sally's Beauty Supply. Coat the meat until it is red. I mix it around. There is so much vinegar in this sauce that it does seem to break down the meat's toughness. Let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, put the meat in the dehydrator. Don't let the pieces touch or you won't get as good of air circulation. I am using an older Nesco Food Dehydrator. I realized that I may need to upgrade mine soon because I can't do a whole batch of jerky at a time. It has 4 trays counting the bottom one.

I encourage you not to throw away your small little pieces because they are yummy. If you have little tidbits, just put them in there. They will help you gauge when the meat is getting done without wasting a big piece.

After it has started cooking for a few hours, your house will start smelling nice. After about 4 1/2 hours, you will notice the meat changing drastically. Your small little pieces will be crispy.
This picture was taken after a few hours. You can see how it started drying nicely.

Your jerky will take anywhere from 6-10 hours to get done depending on how thin you sliced your meat. I check on my jerky every hour after I start taking pieces off. The only real problem we have with making jerky is that I can eat it all as it comes ready. This jerky can be stored on the counter because it is dried!!!

Optional ideas: Before I started cooking with the Frank's sauce, I did it other ways. I never made a bad batch of jerky so just experiment. I sometimes add about 1/4 cup of Dr. Pepper or Coke on the meat. The fizzy helps the meat get tender. If you like your jerky a bit sweet, you can add some brown sugar on the meat when marinating it. Get wild crazy and make some Jerky!

This is a great idea for Holiday Gift Giving.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Why Store Bought is not always the Best

Picture is not enhanced. iPhone pic.

You are looking at a plate that has some dried Rosemary leaves on both sides. The one on the left is Store Bought. That is McCormick's Rosemary Leaves. I admit that it is a few years old, but it was air tight and has not changed that much since I bought it. To the touch, it was dry and brittle and crumbles when you pick it up. I could probably crush it to a powdered state if I gave it a good try.

The pile on the right is my home grown Rosemary. I cut about 4-5 long sprigs of it, tied it in a bunch and hung it upside down inside a well-ventilated (poke holes in it) paper sack. I just clothes-pinned it to a hanger. I hung it up for a few weeks. It was that easy. When your leaves are dried and ready, they will just pop off the stem really easy.

I cannot get over how the color of my leaves are drastically different. I will definitely dry some more soon. This is probably all I will use in a year, anyways. I tasted it, and it tastes more flavorful than the store bought. I got this glass herb jar at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Animal Petting

We went to the Four States Fair in Texarkana last night. Baby D enjoyed it a lot. Our favorite part was petting animals.

This is D petting a small deer. It was very soft. There were tons of little goats, a few big tortoises, caged llamas, and a small deer roaming around. I was shocked to see how tame it was. This is D's second experience with goats. He loves them.

Thank you to Becka for sharing these pictures with me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pressure Cooked Boiled Peanuts

I love Boiled Peanuts. I started eating them when I moved to Georgia for a short time. That is also where I fell in love with Hot Wings. Yumm!

How to? Soak the peanuts in cold water for a little bit before, maybe 20 minutes or so. Drain the raw peanuts, found in your local grocery store. Put them in a pressure cooker. Add a cup of salt if you want it salty and 2/3 cup if less. Cover with water and you can fill about 2/3 full. Cover with lid and bring to pressure. Cook at pressure for at least 45 minutes. Turn it off and depressurize. Let it sit and cool in the water. If you take it out of the water early, they will shrivel up a little and not be as tasty. That will give it more time to soak up the salt. You can tell that the peanuts will sink in the water after they have set for awhile. After a little bit, you can drain them in the sink in a colander.

Storage: I like mine cold, the best. Put them in a Ziploc bag and they will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks. You can also freeze them.

Variations: You can add Tabasco in while cooking if you want them hot.

No Pressure Cooker? No problem. You can boil them on the stove for 2-3 hours.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I soaked the oats

I made this recipe, and it turned out fabulous. I soaked my oatmeal in buttermilk that I made last week when making butter. I used this recipe from this blog below:

Baked Soaked Oatmeal Recipe from Kelly the Kitchen Cop

This is the picture from her site. I did not take any pictures, shame on me!

The only differences I did were that I added some prunes in with my raisins. I also added some peaches with mine along with the apples. I kept the fruit measurement the same. Super yummy!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Butter and Whey

Yesterday, I made butter again. It's pretty easy because I make it in my Blender. I used the large container of whipping cream. I let my butter rest on the counter top for half an hour. The jar beside it is the buttermilk it made. Last time I had some of this buttermilk, I made pancakes with it. Maybe some buttermilk fried chicken is in my future. I have a great recipe from the cookbook "From Elvis' Kitchen to Yours."

Since the butter was washed with cold water, it has some water in it even after draining. It will seep out for a bit.

After all of the extra water seeped out of the butter, I finished it. I use two spoons and mix it around while adding salt. I put some in a container for the fridge and made 2 small logs for the freezer. :)

Later, I wanted to make some whey because I read that you can soak brown rice in it. I put yogurt in a cheesecloth lined strainer so that the whey could drip off of the yogurt. I saw this here at The Nourishing Cook.

After a few hours, it slowed down enough to change it to hanging suspended. I put a larger piece of cheesecloth around my ball of yogurt so that I could bring all four corners together and tie it up. Then, I tied it to a wooden spoon that was sideways across a big jug. Do not squeeze the white glob. Just let it drip out slowly.
After it set out all night at room temperature and dripping. It was done. It made cream cheese and whey. Pretty cool! I started with half a container of yogurt (16 oz). It made around 6 ounces of cream cheese and a little jelly jar of whey (plus 4 TBSP you can't see). I used StoneyField Organic Plain Yogurt.

The cream cheese will last for one month refrigerated, and the liquid whey will last for 6 months refrigerated. I have already used some of my whey while making Kimchi (another new adventure). I found a good quick use for my cream cheese. I was dying to try it out.

Not too pretty, but I made a quick cheese ball. I had a seasoning packet of Hombres Garlic Onion Chipotle Dip Mix. I didn't make much cream cheese with my half-batch so I just used half of the packet. I mixed in 2 TBSP of my homemade butter and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. I rolled it in a ball. I should have just stuck it in the fridge for a bit so it would firm up before I rolled it in the green onions and chopped roasted pecans. I was in a hurry and just forgot. Put it in the fridge and chill for a few hours and then it's ready to eat. It was super tasty and way spicier than I suspected. Ugly but good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Soap Journey - The curing and cured

For a few months now, I have started making soap. Real soap! The last few batches, I have stepped out of the norm and tried something new. Room Temperature Method. No heating oils and using thermometers. I use the heat of the lye to melt the hard oils. Worked perfectly.

My Citrus Honey Beer Soap is ready and cured.

My utility room has been smelling good while this soap was curing. It has citrus, citrus peel, touch of sandalwood, honey, and dark Guinness Beer in it. I wondered how much of the beer you would be able to smell once it cured. It doesn't smell like bathing in beer. The beer is good for your skin. If anyone wants the recipe, I will post it. I had to trim this soap because I had ash form on it. 

This last weekend, I made a new batch of soap. It seems to be around 4 pounds. I used a 5 pound mold from It was a Shea Butter and Coconut Milk soap with a great light fragrance of Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey. This has Calendula petals mixed in.

I unmolded the soap after 24 hours. I then let it sit on the counter for another 24 hours before I cut it.

It will sit for 4 weeks and cure. It will lighten in color and shrink as the water evaporates from it.

My next adventure is that I am going to make soap in PVC pipes instead of the wooden mold. It should make nice round bars of soap. I plan on making Lavender Oatmeal Goat Milk Soap. I am going to grind up lavender and oatmeal to put in the soap. I am going to use 3 inch pipes and cut them down to around 12 inches. They are thick enough to withstand the heat during saponification.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

My HE machine (which is a total piece of moldy crap, don't buy one) handles powdered better than liquid. So, I made Powdered Laundry Detergent. You can, too!

This is what the finished product looks like. Beautiful and Cheap! It made more than this. I had been using it for over a month before I decided to take a a picture. A Tablespoon at a time. It will last.

Ingredients (In the laundry section at Walmart):
  • 1 grated bar of Fels Naptha Laundry Soap (grated with cheese grater), some may say 1/2 bar
  • 1 cup baking soda (this is probably optional but I think it is good)
  • 1 cup washing soda 
  • 1 cup Borax
  • Optional Essential Oils. I put in after it was mixed up. I used some Peppermint, Bergamot, and Tangerine. I am still working on what would be a great scent. The Fels Naptha bar also has a bit of a smell.
How? Pulse grated soap and dry ingredients in a blender or food processor. I did it in a Ninja! I put a combination of about 45 drops of essential oil in mine. Keep in mind that the Fels Naptha laundry soap bar has its own smell so make sure your smell and its smell will blend. You can also use Ivory if you want. Stir. It is done.

How much to use? I use a small wooden scoop for my HE machine. That is 1 Tablespoon. Supposedly, you just use half of what you normally use for a HE Machine. I think that 1 Tablespoon works good for my loads. Homemade Laundry Detergent is low suds anyway. I would suggest to use at least 1 Tablespoon for no matter what kind of washer you have.

Why these ingredients? Fels Naptha laundry soap is good at fighting stains. Baking soda is good for fighting smells and removing stains. Washing soda is also good for removing odors and removing dirt. Borax cleans, disinfects, softens water, and deodorizes. There you go.

Lesson Along the Way. One thing you will notice when making your own laundry detergent is smell. We think store bought laundry detergent is good when it leaves your clothes smelling a certain fragrance. That is not true. By putting 45 drops of essential oil in my detergent, it has a fragrance. Once the clothes are clean and dried, it does not still smell very strong of that fragrance. That lets you know just how much fragrance is in store bought detergent. That can't be that good for you.

Home School Stuff for Sale

I have recently listed a few things on Ebay. Attention: Home Schoolers. Going August 25th!

*SOLD* Teaching TextBooks Grade 7 Math

RocaWear Size 8 Boys Shorts

Nike Air Jordan Flight 23 Boys 6Y

I have a whole set of 7th Grade Moving Beyond the Page I will be listing in the next few days.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Snowdrop clawhammer banjo

Finally, after 2 years, I have recorded another banjo video. I just got back from Acoustic Music Camp in Arlington, TX. It was my third time to take from Dan Levenson, otherwise known as ClawDan. He is amazing and my banjo hero. I have quite a few bad playing habits so just know I didn't learn those from Dan. :)

This song is called SnowDrop. Tuning GCGCE. It is a tune that i first heard Mary Z Cox play. It was the song that made me want to learn the clawhammer style. It took me a few years to play it up to speed, but here it goes.

I realize I make some funny faces playing. Ha! It was 100 degrees on the back porch so I guess I was allowed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vase of Flower Pens

This is just a vase full of pens. :) I made flower pens. This was something fun to do on a Friday night. It took about an hour to do all of these. Nobody will take off with my flowery girl pens now.

Materials needed: Vase, handful of pens, floral tape, wire cutters, and bouquet of flowers.
I did not cover up the grip on my pens because it feels good. You cut off the stems with flowers. I pulled off a lot of the decoration but left some of the leaves up top. I put it on the pen and started wrapping them together. I started at top. The tape was a bit sticky so I guess that is why you roll it between your fingers (to smooth down and help the sticky).

This is the video I watched. Not the best quality but you get the idea.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Garden is still going

Here is my one spaghetti squash. I planted it in a bag of soil at the beginning of season. This vine probably went 6-7 feet and a squash appeared towards the end. It has been growing for a bit. I am waiting for it to turn a good yellow and toughen up a bit.

I had surprise watermelons this year. The seeds must have been in the compost I made from last year. Surprise. Watermelons are now taking over where my potatoes were. I had them growing up a tomato plant. They get kind of wild.

I just moved the melon out of the tomato plant and laid it on the ground. I have three watermelons total. Pretty good since I didn't plant it.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

At last, a music room

This area started as a formal dining area (used once or twice). Then, when I was pregnant, I did away with it. ha! Who needs a formal dining? It turned into a sitting area. Then, I finally moved the piano out from a bad place between the kitchen and living room. I think this is my favorite place in my house now. Thank you, wonderful husband, Danny, for letting me just go music decorating crazy at times. (Getting rid of our big table for 10 was a pretty wild thing to do on a whim - but it has worked out perfectly!)

This is where the piano used to be. D loves to play the piano. This is the infamous piano bench that busted Alex's toe open.

This is where D usually ends up - playing on my piano or strumming a banjo. He loves music just as much as Grace and I do.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kids, Toes, and Tomatoes

D sure loves his Juicy Juices. Grace took this picture while babysitting him.

Warning: Graphic Picture

Poor Alex ended up in the ER on Friday evening after D pushed the piano bench over on his bare toe. Who would have thought that a standard bench without storage in it would be so heavy to split his toe open? We could not get it to quit bleeding so we had to go the ER. They cauterized his toenail to let the blood out. Then, they had to give him 2 stitches, and one had to go through his nail. Yikes!!! I made him hold my hand, probably for my sake.

Alex is a good sport. Even though he felt all cruddy, he had it in him to blow up that glove and stick it up his nose (sort of).

I had so many tomatoes this morning on the counter that I had to freeze them. In the picture above, I had already combined my tomatoes and had scored on the bottom of each one. I got my boiling water and my ice water ready. I blanched, peeled, and froze them. I got 6 small quart bags out of this. I also gave some to one of our friends last night. My 4 tomato plants have really been putting out. I am really not sure how many pounds each plant has yielded, but I bet it is over 10 pounds.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cajun Watermelon Relish

Excuse my iPhone pics. They are not the best. I have an awesome camera and no time to use it or edit photos. One of these days...

Anyway, this picture above is what it looks like when you brine watermelon rind. It doesn't take as much watermelon rind as they say in the recipes. You cut the pink off. You can tell that I did not remove every last piece. It was fine. Then, you take a handheld grater and remove the rind. You can keep removing it, and it will have a slight green color. Since this was a double batch of my recipe, I added 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of canning/pickling salt. Refrigerate for 8 hours or more. I left mine in there for over one day because I had stuff to do.

This recipe calls for red and yellow sweet pepper. When you use those colored peppers, the mixture turns out beautiful. I grew my own bell peppers this year so I used the green. It was not as pretty, but it still tastes great.

This is what my mixture looked like cooking in the pot. You can see my pickling spice cheesecloth bag in it. Yes, this is an ugly pot. I can't quit using it because it is so thick. I think it is third-hand. ha!Your house will smell pretty stout for a few hours after you do this. My girl thought it smelled good.

My recipe came from the You Can Can book put out by Better Homes & Gardens. That link went to the Amazon listing. This can also be purchased at Wal-Mart in the canning section.

I found that I had scanned this recipe in awhile back. It is in picture form. Click it to go the bigger picture.

It is very green due to the green bell pepper. 6 half pints and 1 itty bitty sampler.

On the right in the above picture is the same with the colorful peppers. I made this batch last year. That was probably Jalapeno Pepper Jelly on the left. Still, the same iphone camera.