Saturday, November 7, 2015

Drying Herbs and Vegetables

Already the trees are brown and the garden is dying down.  But before it's all gone, I pulled seeds off the basil plants for next summer's garden, and picked the leaves to dry and use during the winter.

To dry herbs, wash them and put them on a paper towel on a plate and microwave for 1-2 minutes.  They go from fresh and green to...
Shriveled and crunchy.  It takes more leaves than you'd think to end up with a shaker full of the dried leaves, but the smell and flavor are so much fresher than the ones from the store.

A friend gave us a grocery bag of jalepeno peppers.  They dry theirs and save the seeds to sprinkle on pizza.  I recently purchased a food dehydrator and put it to the test with these.

These jalepenos shrink just like the herbs do.  I wasn't sure what to do with them and just dried them yesterday, so I haven't tried this, but my research says you can grind them into powder like cayenne or rehydrate them and cook with them like dried tomatoes.  I like the idea of grinding them into a powder and shaking them into all kinds of dishes.

Have you dried peppers?  You can also string them up and hang dry.  Some Ristras are sewn with a needle and others are tied together.  Most of the ones I saw online were tied - possibly to keep the heat off your fingers.  If you're cutting peppers, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.  But if you get the juice on your hands, soap them up and rub a stainless steel spoon on your fingers and then rinse.  Sounds ridiculous, but it removes strong odors (like fish or onions) and the heat from hot peppers. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Creature Comforts

If you follow this blog you'll notice that I haven't posted in several months.  My amazing, wonderful husband passed away in July and the past months have been nothing short of horrific. It is always sad when someone dies, but this was much more than anything I'd ever experienced.

I began reading grief books to help me cope.  Some were helpful and others not so much.  But one short article struck a chord with me.  "Get yourself some creature comforts."  It said.  When you are going through so much physical and mental stress, grief, and pain, it does help to baby yourself.

I've always been the one to say, "take care of yourself, or you won't be any good for your family."  Even in the best of times, women take on more than we should to make sure that everyone in the family is taken care of.  Consequently, we need to take care of ourselves.  Do something each day that gives you pleasure, rest, or recharges your soul.  Don't feel guilty about taking a bubble bath or reading in bed or spending time alone or working on a hobby.   Take a few minutes for yourself each day.  You won't regret it and neither will your family.
When the children are small, this is sometimes hard to do, but I remember looking forward to going to the grocery store when my children were little.  For an hour each week, my husband took care of them, and even though I was still doing a chore that had to get done, I was alone and it was quiet.  For an hour, no one was crying or needing to be changed or played with or pulling on me or whining to be held.  Don't get me wrong, I loved being with my children, but we all need a little down time once in a while.  It's therapeutic.

For the past few months have needed much more than that.  I invested in one of those memory foam mattress toppers.  It has helped my aching body by taking a little stress of the old joints.

The older I get, the more important comfort is in anything I purchase: shoes, underwear, soft textiles, and furniture.   Now I will be forging ahead with a life that is unrecognizable to me, but I will be doing it with a good night's sleep.  My life has had more twists and turns than a corkscrew, so I never know what to expect.  My advice to you is to get yourself some creature comforts and don't feel guilty about taking a few minutes for yourself each day.

Friday, June 13, 2014

What to Do When You Need A Large Recipe Card File

I love to cook and over the years, my cook book selection has grown to be quite large.  We recently moved and I realized it was time to do some paring down. (There is nothing like a move to let you see how much junk you've accumulated!)   I had kept many of the cook books around for years, but only used one or two recipes from them.  It was then that I decided to put the recipes I liked on recipe cards and get rid of some of the books.

One day I was in Target and looked for a recipe card box, but didn't find a single one.  While browsing in the household section, I noticed a square napkin holder.  I'd already picked up a couple of packages of 4 x 6 inch index cards, and when I tried them, they were a perfect fit for the napkin holder.
I cut dividers from some old file folders and began the arduous task of writing down all the recipes I had stuffed in various folders, cook books, and drawers.  When I put them in the holder, the support bars made them sit crooked. 

What to do?  A piece of black craft foam in my craft stash was just the solution needed to level off the bottom.

Often, I couldn't remember in which cook book the recipe I wanted was located.  The card file is much handier than having to look through several books and small enough to stay in the kitchen rather than the book shelf.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vacuuming Without Electricity



If you live in an area that loses power when there is a storm, you probably already have a carpet sweeper.  They require no electricity and very little effort to use, but they pick up crumbs and threads from carpet.  A carpet sweeper won't clean as deep as a high powered vacuum cleaner with a beater bar, but will pick up anything on the surface of the carpet, making you feel much better about your rugs when you can't use the vacuum cleaner. 

You can get one for around $30 and here's the best part.  Kids love to use them.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Coping in the Modern World

Unemployment    Health Care    Government Corruption    Devalued Dollar    Depression

The politicians all say the economy is improving.  From my perspective that is wishful thinking on their parts.  Everywhere I look, I see people out of work, work hours shortened, insurance woes, and skyrocketing living costs eating up declining incomes.  Apparently, politicians think if you work at McDonalds or receive unemployment you have no incentive to find a better job because you have all the money you need.  I'd like to see them survive on that.  I have friends in other countries who are going through the same things.  It seems the only way to insure you can survive is to own your own business.  At least you can't be fired if your name is on the door.

I recently started a part time job (the only one I could get since I'm over 40).  It is with a financial planning company who helps senior citizens get their affairs in order and hopefully arranged so they can live comfortably.  We see many older widows who have resorted to house sitting, pet sitting, and driving others to doctor appointments for a few extra dollars.  People regularly call the office hoping for help with just day to day living needs.  One woman wanted someone to come vacuum her house once a week. 

As a Christian, I believe we should help people and would have a hard time charging someone to do something like vacuuming.  Where are her friends, family members, and neighbors?  Still, most people don't really know their neighbors these days.  I wave when I see them and say hello, but in four years of living in the same house, it hasn't gone beyond that.  People don't like to admit they need help and in many cases would rather hire someone to vacuum than to inconvenience their family or friends.

Here's a challenge for you.  If you are able or if you have teens who need to learn to serve others (I think that is a valuable lesson), volunteer to help an older person.  Do it with a smile and don't accept pay for menial tasks.  Just visiting with an older person a few minutes a week is something they look forward to.  The youth can't see it now, but when they are older, they will understand all too well.

Here's a perfect example of what I mean.  I am from Arkansas and one winter day just before Christmas, my father was coming home from town when he noticed a car that had slipped into the ditch.  He was in his pick-up truck and had chains in the back, and stopped to see if he could help.  The people in the car were from Detroit and had come to visit family for Christmas.  After he pulled them out of the ditch, they tried to pay him.  He said, "No.  If I were in the ditch, you'd have stopped to help me."  Of course, the visitors were astounded that a stranger would stop in the first place and then refuse pay on top of it.  A few months later, he ran into the same people out in town.  "Remember us?"  They said.  "You stopped and pulled us out of the ditch."  He remembered them and said hello.  "We were so impressed by how people are around here that we moved here!"

So here's what I get from that true story.  Treat people like you'd like to be treated.  One day you will be old and may need help getting out of a ditch or need your house vacuumed.  Help others, and remember, it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Living with Organization

It's that time of year again, when the frenzy of cleaning and home organization articles start.  Everywhere you look are photos of perfectly organized homes with coordinating colors in baskets, hooks, pegboards, and gorgeous containers.  Each one looks like a shelf at Bed Bath and Beyond.

I would love to have every shelf and cabinet in my home look like this bathroom cabinet.  (  Daunting cleaning checklists for daily chores, seasonal tasks, and special tasks are everywhere.  It makes my head spin just thinking about all that work. 

Here's how it works at my house.  I take everything out of the pantry, wipe off the shelves and start putting it all back:  canned goods on one shelf, baking supplies on another, beans, rice, and pasta on another.  When I'm done, I stand back and admire all that work that lasts about 3 days.  Then my schedule gets busy, company is coming, I go to the store and buy all the food I need to entertain them and suddenly there is no more room on one of the shelves.  So what do I do?  I put it on the wrong shelf just to have it out of sight and pretty soon the whole system is shot.

My life is hectic, as is yours and most other people's lives, and since I don't live in Pleasantville and since I work and just signed up for some online classes, plus have a lot of other obligations, I have more to do than keep my house looking perfect.  Some people have that clean, make it look effortless, keep it organized gene.  My mother has it, but unfortunately, I don't.  It's a real effort to keep things in order.  I have many interests and lots of supplies and materials for each of them.  I get a lot done each day, but things are usually not in perfect order.
creative space organizing

I have a friend whose home is always spotless.  She works, yet her laundry is always done and nothing is ever out of place.  I feel like a failure when I'm in a perfect house like that, but the reason her house is always immaculate is she has no hobbies.  She doesn't cook, sew, craft, garden, scrapbook, or do anything that ever makes a mess.  Her free time is spent watching a movie or reading a book.  There is something to be said for not making messes, but I'm a creative person to the max.  There is almost always a project in process somewhere in the house and I really cook.  Last night I made ribs, greens, lima beans (because in our area I couldn't find black eyed peas), and cornbread for New Year's Day.  I made a spice rub to put on the ribs and oven baked them.  They turned out super tender and delicious.

While the ribs baked, I fashioned new handles and a knob for a popcorn pan that has been passed down for generations in my family.  It's a seriously ugly pan and the handles and knob were crumbing, so now it has new red handles.  I know most people would have thrown it out, but it has history and makes the most amazing popcorn you've ever tasted. 
I once designed my ideal house on paper.  It had more space in storage, cabinets, and closets than in living space.  I'd love to have a big room to sew, craft, and paint in; something organized and pretty as well.  It would be great to have a designated space for all that fun stuff and not have to constantly be clearing off the table so we can eat, only to drag it all out again after the meal.  We all have dreams and that is a good thing.

Gotta go get ready for work.  I'm seriously going to try that Spring Cleaning 365 Day plan where you work on organizing a specific area for at least 5-10 minutes a day.  I think I can find that much time, but you never know.

Life goes on, no matter how clean or dirty your home is and the really important things are the people and relationships in our lives, but I still want my home to be clean and organized.  It's a challenge, just like the rest of life.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thieves Oil

The story goes that during the middle ages, there were four grave robbers.  The black plague was killing off people in droves, but these grave robbers never caught it.  They were given leniency in exchange for telling how they avoided contracting the plague.  The combination of essential oils they used came to be known as Thieves Oil.

This oil mixture is antibacterial, antiviral, and prevents infections.  You can clean with it, and kill mold, viruses, and bacteria with it.  It is good for purifying the air and boosting the immune system. 

You can make your own by infusing olive oil or any carrier oil with a mixture of cloves, lemon, cinnamon, rosemary, and eucalyptus.  You can also purchase it ready made.  I've done it both ways.  My homemade version had a slightly different scent than the purchased one, but that may have had to do with the proportions of ingredients or the type of carrier oil used.

I purchase Plant Therapy oil on Amazon.  The scent is lovely - something like a Christmas candle.
Some of the ways to use Thieves Oil include:
Cleaning and Disinfecting:  Use 1 drop per ounce of water in a spray bottle.
Air Freshener:  1 drop per ounce of water in a spray bottle.
Massage:  Use 1 drop Thieves Oil to 4 drops of carrier oil.  Never use Thieves Oil on the skin without diluting it.  Massage it into the bottoms of feet to boost immunity and at the first sign of a cold or flu.  Massage lower back, neck, and ears for fatigue or aches and pains.
Diffuser:  Use 15-20 drops and diffuse for 15 minutes to kill germs in the air.  This is great to do if you are sick.  It gets into your respiratory tract and kills germs in the air and air passages.
Hand Sanitizer:  Mix a few drops in the hand lotion in your purse.  Use it like you would one of the gel hand sanitizers.  It's much less drying and smells wonderful.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gift Shop Home Scent

Gift stores and candle shops all used to have a wonderful scent that I couldn't pin down.  It was a woodsy spicy scent that drew me like a moth to a flame.  It has been a long time since I've smelled the elusive redolence, but I happened to throw some things into a pot to simmer today and BINGO!

If you are tired of the traditional orange, cinnamon, and clove variety of simmering pot, give this one a try.  It's wonderful.

To a pot, add :  2 Tbs. dried Rosemary
                         1 lemon, sliced
                         3-4 bay leaves

Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer.  Add water as needed.  The magic is in the bay leaves.  This lemon had been zested, so you don't see much yellow and much of the fragrance is in the peel, so it would be even better with a fresh lemon.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Yo-Yo's and Pearls

The first time I made a yo-yo, I was hooked.  They are such fun to make and add texture and flare to bags, clothing, placemats, bedding, and anything else you want to put them on:  book covers, electronic covers, head bands,... the possibilities are limitless.  Most of the time they are made from cotton fabrics, but I've had it in my mind to make this for a long time. 

This is made from a heavy cotton fabric.  Since most yo-yo's are made in colors, I thought it would be fun to use a solid and make them look dressy.  Thicker fabric makes a larger hole in the center of each one.  My intention was to find black faceted beads to put in the center.  I looked several places and struck out.  That's when I saw these big pearls.

So the lowly yo-yo that came about as a way to use every scrap of fabric during hard times, turned into a very elegant evening bag, loaded with texture and style.

What do you think?  The zipper pull has a black cord and a big pearl dangling off it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Home Keeping Recipes

A few months ago I was in an airport and spied this gorgeous book.  It had blank pages and the design on the front is William Morris, a particular favorite of mine.  The book is small and I couldn't resist.

It sat on the book shelf for a while.  I knew it had a special purpose, but I hadn't yet determined what that would be.

During those months, I began making homemade cleaning supplies, experimenting with essential oils, and even making a few beauty products.  Little scraps of paper, post-its, and random notebook pages with recipes written on them were building up; but then I realized the purpose for this beautiful book.

I haven't posted many of these recipes, because most of them came from other blogs.  I've tried many recipes.  Some worked and some didn't work so well.  I kept them anyway because I've found from moving around that some things work in hard water and not so well in soft, and vice versa.  Since I've moved twenty times so far, I figured they might come in handy before long.

The ones I really like are highlighted so I can find them quickly, and the book is divided into categories: cleaning products, natural pest repellants, and beauty products, to name a few.

If you want to put your home keeping recipes in a book, find one that is beautiful and "sings" to you.  If you are like me and clean only because it is necessary, not because you enjoy it, every little thing you can do to make it more pleasant helps.  Writing the formulas in a pretty book, scenting them with your favorite essential oil, or buying sponges and rubber gloves in your favorite color all make cleaning less of a chore and more of an aromatherapy experience, and make it more likely that you'll do the tasks needed to keep your home clean.

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