Sunday, November 24, 2013

Laundry Gift Set

Well, as usual, life has been a little crazy around here. It's deer season, so the hubs has been gone a lot, we had the yucky stomach flu come through our house and my four year old had surgery to fix a couple of hernias. Told you it's been crazy! 

On top of all that we are getting ready for the holidays. I am doing a theme of "A Homemade Christmas" this year, so I've been busy crafting. I'll blog about that later when I have photos of everything. So, on top of the regular holidays that everyone is preparing for, I also have a mother turning 60. We are planning a surprise party for her. And I have a child turning 5! Like I said, life has been crazy! 

But, I have managed to get some more listings in my Etsy Shop. There's this really cute sheep print, as well as, some other farm prints I have listed before.



There is something totally new though! It's one of my homemade Christmas gifts that I am giving this year. I think it's such a cute gift I thought others may like to purchase it to give to someone they know. 

It's a natural laundry gift set...


You can read more about it in my Etsy Shop.

I hope the beginning of your holiday season hasn't been as busy as mine. Do you ever have a theme for your Christmas gifts? 



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Homegrown Pumpkin Puree - A No Waste Halloween


If you are anything like I used to be you probably buy a few pumpkins to set our as decorations. You probably carve one or two with the kids and then, they sit on the porch until the day after Thanksgiving only to be tossed into the garbage due to rot/soft spots/uselessness. 

Then you march on down to the super market and buy a can (or two) of pumpkin puree to make a pie. 

Well, that's what I always did. I was always told that making your own pumpkin puree was SO hard and SOOO time consuming that you might as well just spend a dollar on a can of puree. 

I am hear to tell you the truth. It is NOT hard. It may be a little messy, just like carving a jack-o-lantern is, but it is NOT very time consuming (especially if you do this on a rainy, cool fall day that would be spent indoors anyway).

The other truth about homemade pumpkin puree...

THERE IS NO COMPARISON TO STORE BOUGHT PUREE! 

What you will need:

At least one pumpkin (they say the smaller ones are better for pies, but you can use any size)

A blender or food processor (I used my Cuisinart hand blender)

Freezer bags (number will depend on how much pumpkin you are pureeing. I used quart size bags to store 2 cup portions.)

And that is it! So simple! 

So, like I said, "they" say using small pumpkins is better for pies, but this is the monster I first pureed...


Ha! Not very small, right? 

I chose this pumpkin because my husband's uncle grew it and he says these are the best type of pumpkins for pies. Through all my online research I could not figure what type of pumpkin this is, but it is pale in color compared to a normal orange pumpkin.

First, pre-heat your oven to 375.

To start the process you will first cut the pumpkin in half and clean out the "guts". This is so much easier than making a jack-o-lantern because you don't have to clean it out through a small hole. I only took a couple of minutes to clean this big one! 

I kept the seeds in a bowl and later roasted them. Stayed tuned for that AWESOME recipe soon! 


You will want to then cut the halves into half, making quarter size pieces like above. You can make them smaller if you need to for your oven. 

Then put as many as you can on 1 or 2 cookie sheets. I put them with the skin down. This way they do not loose all the juices into the oven and the pumpkin ends up being much more moist. 

Bake them in your 375 degree oven for roughly 45 min before you check the tenderness. Once they are fork tender they are done. The time will vary with each pumpkin. You want it to feel like a sweet potato that is ready to eat.

Once they are done, let them cool. Do not burn your hands! 

When they are cool use a metal spoon and start scooping and scraping all the flesh off of the skin. Put the pumpkin pieces in a bowl. They will look like this...


I pureed numerous pumpkins on this day. Some of them needed some of the juices drained while others needed water added to them during pureeing. Use your judgement to determine what yours need. 

I kept mine at the consistency of baby food. I've made a lot of that in my life, so that's all I can relate it too :) 

Like I mentioned before, I used my hand blender.


And pureed my pumpkins.



And pureed my pumpkins. 
LOL! Just kidding! It took just a few minutes per batch. 

When it was at a consistency I liked I just scooped 2 cup portions into quart size Ziploc bags. 

I labeled them with the year and where the pumpkin came from, as well as the portion size (in case I forget).


I like to label where they came from so I can compare tastes. Then I will know which ones are worth pureeing next year. This monster came from my husbands Uncle Tom. He grows them every year and lets us all pick them out to take home. We LOVE his pumpkins! 

Lastly, stick the bags in the freezer and use when you are ready. 

Use them for pies.

Use them for breads and muffins.

I am going to try pumpkin oatmeal! 

I hope you enjoy your pumpkin pureeing! 

Comment below on your experience. 

And Happy Fall 'yall! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Homemade Candied Walnuts


As a part of our mission to live off the land and be as self sufficient as we reasonably can, we harvested the walnuts off our land.

We have just 3 acres and 3 (that I know of) walnut trees. And an UNBELIEVABLE amount of walnuts! 

This was the first time I have harvested walnuts. My husband watched his father and uncles do it growing up, but it was also a first for him. I used to think of walnuts as the giant annoying balls in the yard that left black stains on everything that touched them. But now, with my new mindset, I saw food. I mean seriously, do you know how much we eat store bought nuts? 

So, we started by collecting them. The kids loved this part, especially the younger ones. We went into the yard with a 5 gallon bucket and picked up all the walnuts we could find. We had to do this a few times over a period of about 2 weeks. It took that long for them to all fall off the tree. And yes, we had to wait for them to fall. Our trees are really tall. 

So, after we collected a few bucket loads I dumped them in the driveway. This works best on a gravel driveway since the colors can stain. Then we drove over them for about a week. This gets all the green outer coat off the nut, cleans them quite nicely and allows them to dry for a while. 

After they were clean we collected them again; this time off the driveway. And I left them in the 5 gallon buckets a few more weeks. 

After weeks they finally look like walnuts! 

Then it was FINALLY time to get crackin'. Literally, we had a lot of nut cracking to do! 

We borrowed my in-laws walnut cracker, which was a Godsend! 

It's probably an antique, but it sure works!

After all the cracking was done I had about 10 cups of nuts per 5 gallon bucket of shelled nuts.

And so... I made my very first batch of candied walnuts.

Mine are homemade and homegrown, but yes you can of course, buy your walnuts and candy them at home.

Recipe:

1 1/2 cups of walnuts

1/2 cup of sugar

A sprinkle of salt

What to do:
Prepare: Preheat the oven to 350. And spread a lay of wax paper out on a cookie sheet.

Toast the walnuts: Lay the walnuts out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (not the wax papered cookie sheet, but a plain cookie sheet. Toast the nuts for 7-10 minutes. Check them frequently and occasionally try one to see if they are done. You don't want to burn them! Once they are done, pull them out and let them cool.

Prepare the sugar: While the nuts are cooling, put the 1/2 cup of sugar in a sauce pan on medium heat. Once the sugar starts to melt you will want to stir  it frequently, then continually.

Candy the walnuts: Once the sugar is completely melted and is an amber color you can add the walnuts. Stir them pretty quick as the sugar will solidify very fast. Once the walnuts are coated you can put them on the wax paper. You will need to use two forks to spread them apart. They will clump and they will harden quickly. I had to actually brake some of mine apart.

And there you have it. Your own homemade candied walnuts.

They are delicious and addictive. You will be sure to make more!

These make excellent gifts. Just put them in pretty little jars and give to teachers, mailmen, family and friends.

Enjoy. And please comment below and let me know how your candied walnuts turned out.





Thursday, October 24, 2013

640 Loads of Laundry?!

So, as you all know, we are trying to live as naturally as we can. In an effort to do so I have made our first batch of homemade laundry detergent and I am here to share my experience and recipe with you. 

What's the 640 loads of laundry you ask? That's how much laundry I can do with one batch of detergent, that's right, one batch!

I have been researching recipes and ways to wash our clothes naturally for a while now and I kept finding one recipe after another that made 1-2 mason jars of detergent at a time. That's like 16-32 loads. That is not going to cut it in the house! Our little family of 5 produces a LOT of laundry! We are outside in the yard, garden, camping, hiking, fishing, etc. everyday. We get dirty!

I needed a way to make a lot of detergent at one time because lets face it, I have more important things to do than make laundry detergent every few days. 

This recipe will give you (if you have a front loader) 640 loads of laundry for a little more than $5! 
(the cost will be less after the first time when you don't have to buy a bucket.)

Here is what you will need...

1 five gallon bucket with a lid

1 bar of Fels-Naptha Soap 

1 cup of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda 

1/2 cup of Borax 

4 cups of water + more water to fill in the bucket

(Each one of the above items costs around $3. You will have a lot of washing soda and Borax left over, but there is an endless list of ways to use them. They are all found in the laundry aisle).


First you will have to shred the bar of Fels-Naptha. A cheese shredder works just fine. While you are shredding it you can put the 4 cups of water in a sauce pan on the stove on medium heat.


Here is what the soap will look like when it is shredded... Be sure young children know they cannot eat the soap! (I had to tell my 4 year old 2 times that it was NOT cheddar cheese and she could NOT eat it!)


Now, add the shredded soap to the hot water. You will need to stir very often and will do so until the soap dissolves. 

In the meantime, between stirring, you can fill the 5 gallon bucket half way with hot water. 

When the soap dissolves completely pour it into the 5 gallon bucket of hot water. Also add the cup of washing soda and 1/2 cup of Borax. 


Stir all the ingredients in until the powders have dissolved in the 5 gallon bucket. 


Then fill the rest of the bucket with more water. Stir again to mix the soap with the new water. 

Now put the lid on the bucket and let it sit overnight. 

It will turn to a thick gel and will separate a little from the water. I had about 1/2 inch of water on top of my gel in the morning. Stir again. (this time was a little harder to stir. I ended up using a whisk and being elbow deep in the bucket). 

Then you will fill a container (it could be a jar, an older detergent bottle, whatever you are going to keep the detergent in while using it) 1/2 way with the "gel". Then fill the second half with more water and shake well.

Here is what mine looks like. 

(Please excuse my unattractive old jam jar. It's just one of the many ways we reduce, reuse, recycle)

I put it in front of the window, so you can see it's a little lumpy. I believe this is totally normal, but it may work better with hot water. I used room temp water. 

It takes 1/4 cup per load in an HE front load washing machine and a bit more in a top loader.
You will have to shake the detergent before each use because it does separate. 

And that is it folks. The time it took me was about a combined total of 45 minutes and I now have enough detergent for 640 loads of laundry! The best part is... it's natural! And I know I am not poisoning my family with harsh chemicals. 

I will keep my 5 gallon bucket of "gel" in the basement and refill when needed. 

As a side note I will mention that a lot of people think they need to add a scent to their homemade detergent. I think the smell of the Fels-Naptha is very pleasant. But you may add a few drops of an essential oil if you would like your clothes to have a different scent.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

For all the Moms

I felt like writing today (an old past time) and since my life is consumed with kiddos, this is what I came up with...



Monday, July 8, 2013

Our Homeschool Room

In the state of Missouri the law states that the homeschool year begins July 1st and ends June 30th. I'm not sure why it lasts an entire year and not 9 months like public schools in Missouri, but I have figured out that when you homeschool EVERYTHING IS SCHOOL. That may sound crazy, but suddenly everything we do is now a learning experience. Dance class and swim lessons are now like P.E. and art class would be in a public school.

I talked to a few homeschool moms in Missouri and they all told me they follow the public school schedule, despite the "law" saying the school year is to begin on July 1st. But, since we are undecided as a family on whether or not we are going to homeschool, we started school on July 1st. This is allowing us 6 weeks before the public school starts for us to decide...homeschool or public school.

This has been one of the hardest decisions EVER! The hardest part? I have one kids begging me to stay home and homeschool and another begging me to send her to school! It seriously feels like my heart is being torn in two directions!

So, the last week of June was spent setting up and organizing our homeschool room. It is also the kids play room, but since most of our toys are educational it works out well.

Enough talk! Here is the room...


We found these cute old desks on Craigslist. They were actually from a little Christian school that was closing.


Each kids has a cube with her workbooks, folders and notebooks. These kinds of cubes can be added onto allowing parents to add a cube when a new "student" begins homeschool.


We hung a "clothesline" to display work.


We hung a Melissa and Doug Magnetic Calendar which allows us to see if there is a special event each day and it allows us to do the "weather" each morning.


And of course, our map of the United States. My oldest is crazy about maps!  I found this one at the dollar store (along with the alphabet border!)


We also added a rocking chair for a comfy place to read.



And we cannot forget the wild, all over the place baby who needs attention and play time too! There are plenty of things for this little one to explore and learn in our homeschool room.

If you are beginning your journey into homeschooling in Missouri, I would start by reading Missouri's Homeschool Law


A little advice if you are currently setting up your homeschool area...Check the Dollar Stores first! They have SO much stuff for teachers and lots of things you can use for teaching and encouraging learning! And they are CHEAP ($1 each!)

I'm no expert on the subject of homeschooling, but feel free ask any questions or leave comments!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Things Old...

I am a sucker for all things old. I think they have so much character, especially when compared to new things. So, when we took our trip to Colorado and went on the old scenic railroad (train ride) I couldn't resist capturing all the old signs.

I am pretty sure the train station is original, like from the old western days. And it may be the only thing worth visiting in Chama, NM, but it was a pretty cool place. It was like stepping back in time. A slower time, when everyone wasn't constantly in a rush. And let me tell you, it was a good thing they weren't in a hurry because the train ride was about 6 hours even though by bus it was less than 1 hour drive.

Honestly, the ride could have been cut in half and still been just as cool, but I'm still happy we did it.

And I got to photograph these cool old signs at the station.







These images are copyrighted to Exposure Photography. If you are interested in purchasing any prints to frame or canvases to hang please contact me via email. We can set up a transaction through my Etsy Shop.

I LOVE criticism! Feel free to comment!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

De-Schooling to Homeschooling

Homeschooling is something I have thought about and talked about for a long time. And now I am beginning my journey into homeschooling.

My oldest child is 6. She went to public school for kindergarten. She went for the entire year and I swear at least once week I would say, "Ugh! Just one more reason I should homeschool!" Don't get me wrong, there was nothing terrible that happened, I just didn't like a lot of what she would hear and learn from other kids, I didn't like the way the school handled a lot of situations, there were all kinds of nasty sicknesses going around and I MISSED MY BABY!

To start out I will say that I went to public school. I think they are great. I also grew up in a suburb outside St. Louis with one of the best public schools in all of Missouri. Every once and a while I actually think about moving back just so my kids can go there. But, I LOVE where we live now, in rural Missouri and we just built our "forever" home, so I'm not going anywhere!

My biggest reasons for wanting to homeschool...

1.) Our public school has a LOT of wasted time. I'm pretty sure my daughter didn't learn anything after 11 am, so I hated sending her away for 7 hours everyday. It felt pointless.

2.) We live in rural Missouri. We do NOT have a great school district, although it's not terrible. We also live far from school and my daughter rode the bus. (I drove her for the first few weeks, but it's hard to do with all the kids when it's such a far drive so early in the morning and in the middle of nap time.) The bus she was riding was the "bad bus." She is too young and innocent to see and hear the things that were happening on that bus.

3.) It may sound crazy, but my 6 year old still naps. And needs to nap. Five days a week she didn't get a nap and she was SO hard to deal with when she got home from school. She wasn't the sweet little girl we always knew. She was so tired she was mean to everyone.

4.) It kind of goes along with the last reason, but there was no time for extra curricular activities. Normally kids take dance, play soccer, etc in the evenings after school. My daughter was so tired we didn't have any time to do anything else. We finally signed her up for soccer this past spring. Her practices started at 5:30 and she would fall asleep on the way TO practice. It was terrible!

5.) The last reason is actually one of my biggest reasons. My daughter is very smart. Yes, I'm sure all parents say and believe their child is smart, but my daughter is just extremely smart. When her school tested the kindergarteners mid year she was number 4. There were 12 kindergarten classes with about 20 kids each. You can do the math. So, when the kids are in a class with 19 other kids the class has to move at the pace of the slowest child. It doesn't seem fair. I understand that there may not be a better way, but it's still not fair. So, aside from learning to read, my daughter literally did not learn anything at school. I know she can learn so much more and she already does...when she's home.

I hope I'm not rambling too much. I'm kind of just putting my thoughts down right now. I'm actually still trying to justify why I want to homeschool. One day I am 100% sure that it's what I want to do. Then the next day I am second guessing myself.

The first step in the journey is to "de-school" her. And with talking to her she sounds like she is totally on board. What we have decided to do is try it. If it works and we all like it, we will continue. If not, we'll go from there. In Missouri the homeschool year starts July 1st. I have the month of June to prepare and we are starting homeschool on July 1st. That will give us 6 weeks before the public school begins to try it out. In the meantime we are "de-schooling" our daughter. And I can honestly say in the week she has been home she has already changed for the better.

To prepare I am researching like crazy. I am finding local groups with other moms I can talk with. I am researching curriculum and their reviews. I am finding free online printables. I am coming up with a daily and weekly schedule. I am creating weekly themes and topics of study. I am pretty much spending most of my free time figuring out how to homeschool.

I am making a list I will post soon. A list of some curriculum I have purchased and some websites I have found useful.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Red Light, Green Light...Talking to Kids About Nutrition

Anyone who knows me knows that I am always concerned with nutrition. I am very in to "real" food. I do not like to eat or let my family eat anything artificial. 

That includes artificial flavoring, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils and any other "foods" that are made in a lab. I'm really not sure I can call these ingredients food, but this purpose I will. 

So, I came across a Facebook page a couple weeks ago called "100 Days of Real Food". I had to click and find out more. I am very impressed with their success and having over 400,000 followers on there Facebook Page

I turns outs it started as a blog written by a women whose family took a 100 day challenge to eat nothing but "real" food, no processed foods, which is what we try to do every day. Her blog became so successful she now has a team working for her! That's amazing to me! Actually, a dream! 

So, long story short, I liked their facebook page so I could see more of the real food updates and information. Yesterday I saw that the women did an assembly at their local school, which was teaching kids about food. And she has a blog post about talking to kids about food in a way they understand. 

I really liked this since I have 3 little girls who I am always trying to teach how to make healthy choices and the consequences of making bad choices. 

100 Days of Real Food's blog post inspired this project for me to do with my girls. And they LOVED it (mostly because of the cutting and gluing), but all reasons aside, they loved it! 



Here's how it works...(How I told my kids)

Red light foods are foods you want to say "STOP" "EEEEW" "We NEVER want to eat that"

Yellow light foods are foods that "you can eat some times, but not very often". They may be natural, but not very healthy due to high calories, high fat content, or high sugar content (natural sugars of course).

And

Green light foods are foods that "are so healthy you can eat them anytime of any day"

Here's what you need....

A stack of old magazines
scissors 
glue
3 pieces of paper
Red, yellow and green markers



My kids, who are ages 5 and 4 by the way, flipped through magazines cutting out all the images of food they could find. 

In the mean time I colored a red circle and wrote "red light" on one piece of paper, a yellow circle and "yellow light" on another piece and a green circle...you get the point. 


When the girls were done cutting I had them each pick up one food item and tell me which category it should be in, then they glued them on the page. 

They did REALLY good. I am one proud mama! 

We did have a little trouble with yellow light foods. It's a little complicated because of a few reasons. 

1. I know kids want to be kids and I do allow them to eat cake at birthday parties and other events, so cake and cupcakes became a tough item to place. I would like them to be red light foods, but I have to choose my battles. My kids' cakes are all natural, homemade:)

2. I make healthy versions of most foods. You will notice the cookies on the yellow light page. That's because I make amazing oatmeal raisin "cookies" that are more of a power "bar" than a cookie. So, again, they were a little confused about cookies. They NEVER eat store bought cookies.

3. There are certain foods, such as ice cream, that I buy all natural versions of. My family LOVES ice cream (I am a non-dairy eater). So, even though most ice creams at the store are full of disgusting ingredients, ice cream in our house is a yellow food.


Green light and red light foods were a little more obvious. 

In my girls' eyes the biggest red light foods are ones that are colors that do not come from nature. They know to NEVER eat or drink anything blue, because even blueberries are not actually blue. 

And green light foods are anything that God created. 

Those categories are a lot easier for them to understand.

You can view 100 Days of Real Food's blog about red, yellow and green light foods Here.

So, how do you teach your kids about real food, fake food, nutrition, etc.? Does anyone feel like this is over your head? I would LOVE to teach about nutrition and natural foods! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Feeling Inspired

Well, the kids are officially on spring break, thanks to a couple of snow days. I am not a cold weather lover and I am dying for warm weather, yet somehow today I am feeling inspired; in an artsy kind of way. 



This is what it looks like outside my front door today. It's been snowing for about 6 hours so far. 

I am not feeling inspired to go outside! That's for sure.

But I got my Shop open today! I haven't added all of the images yet, but I'm getting there. 

Working with 3 kids at home is not easy! 

I also almost completed the kids play area in the basement today. It looks so cute. Maybe they will play downstairs while I workout now. There's still more to do in the basement...a lot more! It is still so dusty from construction. 

So, I'm thinking of adding canvases to my shop that are inspirational. I'm not sure about the laws of quoting an author. 

I was reading an article by Amy Marxkors and I just love a saying she had in it. I want it on a canvas so I can hang it. I want to see it every morning so I can wake up motivated. 

This is what it said...


I just love it, don't you?! 

I'm not sure about selling that one, since it's not my words. But, I'm pretty sure I can sell this one...It's from the Bible...


And I want this one to hang in my girl's bathroom. I want them to read it every morning as well. I think it would help them to remember what's important, especially as they get older.

What do you think? Would you buy inspirational canvases? What inspires you? 

Don't forget to visit the Shop 




Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'm Connected Again!


Wow! It felt like we were never going to have internet again! Long story short, we haven't had real internet service since we moved out of our old house in November and the only way we were able to connect was through Chad's iphone, so when Chad was out of town I was pretty much just out of luck. Sure, I could have gone somewhere to use Wi-Fi, but have any of you ever taken 3 kids to a coffee shop and tried to work? Yeah, it's not fun, trust me. 

Now that I am able to connect with everyone I am stumped. I'm sure I have a million things to say, I just can't think of them. 

I have some things to post, I just need to gather and organize my thoughts and pics first. 

Totally random post, I know. I am just excited and wanted to announce that I am connected to the world again! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Long Time No Write

My goodness it has been a long time! 

In the last 3 months our life got flipped and turned upside down.

Long story short... We started building a house last February, that's right, almost 1 year ago. In October we accepted an offer on our old house, while our new house was not finished. So, we had to live with my mother for 2 months. While we were there it was "crunch" time on the new house, which literally took up ALL of our free time. And to top it all off we didn't have Internet connection for 2 months! 

Ugh, it was terrible! 

So, now we are in the new house and it's FANTASTIC! 

In the time that I've been gone a lot has happened. (Other than moving twice).

Willow, the baby, turned 7, 8, then 9 months old.

Brooke, my middle daughter, turned 4! Wow, I swear she was just born! 

Kennedy the oldest is now 1/2 through Kindergarten! 

So, while the girls are growing up and my 2nd is now registered for preschool in the fall I have started to think about what I am going to do for ME. 

Oh my gosh, ME! I haven't thought about that in a long time! 

I think I am going to start with this blog.

If you are reading and you like what you see please become a follower! 

I promise you will like what is to come! 

So, what am I think about for me? 

 I want to make a difference in people's lives. 

I feel very blessed! I have a happy, health family, a nice place to live, my own photography business (which I also want to grow), and tons of hobbies and interests. 

I feel confident, healthy, strong and knowledgeable and I want to help other women feel the same. 

So, I've been brainstorming and I will reveal my ideas tomorrow...

So, check back with me.

And I promise, I am not going to become a self help coach!