Friday, October 19, 2018

My Vegetable Garden 2018


What's more homemade than home grown vegetables?

This year I decided to try again at growing vegetables.  I hadn't grown any since we lived in our old house.  And my success there was minimal.  I think we had some soil issues, too much shade and a proliferation of pill bugs.  After a couple years there I stopped trying.  

But with our new yard and more sun, we had a mildly successful year.  I will definitely do it again next year.  For the fist year I decided to keep it simple.  I planted one hill of summer squash, two hills of zucchini, six tomato plants and two hills of cucumbers.  I threw in a few green beans but the bunnies demolished those before my husband got the fence up.

I dug my garden the old fashioned way.  And perhaps the stupid way.  The day before I put my garden in I helped my friend with hers.  Pitchforking two gardens two days in a row resulted in a very sore arm and hand.  In the future I will keep this in mind and perhaps invest in some sort of tilling tool.



One of the best things I think I did for my garden was to cover the fresh dirt in cardboard and newspaper.  To ensure it didn't just fly away, I covered it with brown cedar mulch.  Due to that I had barely any weeds.  I'm talking just a few tufts of grass poking out from in between the seams.  I will definitely do this technique again.  My mom does this and I saw it on Pinterest. If your garden is not immense, you should give it a try for sure.

My yellow squash didn't produce a whole lot of great fruit.  That could be for many reasons, but I did see squash bugs in the flowers.  One zucchini plant did quite well, but the other only produced a few zucchini.  The tomatoes produced well, but I was hoping for a bit more.  I had six plants and probably 7 or 8 tomatoes from each plant.



Next year I want to fertilize better.  I went with some Pinterest tips and used coffee grounds and eggshells.  And while my garden did ok, I am sure with more nutrients it could have done even better.  I think this worked well for the cucumbers and tomatoes, but my squash did not have high yields as I mentioned

Just the other day I took in the last of my green tomatoes and put them on the windowsill.  Frost has arrived and frozen green tomatoes aren't that great.



I'm sad I have so few pictures.  I'm not sure what I was thinking!  Next year I'll be sure to take more.

You might also like:
Summer Squash Casserole
Zucchini Sticks
Herb Roasted Green Beans

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Strawberries!



Strawberry season has come and gone but we made it out this year in June to enjoy the delicious fruit.  By the time we arrived one of the fields was already picked out.  Fortunately for us, the farm opened a second field.  We picked the small but very sweet Jewel variety.  While I liked these candy-sweet berries, I will admit disappointment at not being able to harvest some bigger fruit with a little more tang.  



My husband and kids holding the fruits of our labor


It was a seasonably hot day and I made sure to cover the kids and myself in sunscreen.  These past few years I've also been wearing a hat.  I used to be very self-conscious about it, but I soon realized no one really cares and I hated my head burning.  My hair is not super thick and even 15 minutes in the sun can result in a painful burn.  I found my hat at The Green Dragon, an open air flea market I had heard about in some of the Amish fiction that I read.  That was a fun find.



Here I am with my kids.


It was a fun day all around with sweet, fresh strawberries, strawberry doughnuts and strawberry cheesecake ice cream.  We will be back again next year I'm sure!



This strawberry cheesecake ice cream was so good!  The stripe of jam running through it was absolutely amazing!


Using some of the strawberries we picked, I made a small batch jam.  You can find it here.



These strawberry donuts were just too hard to resist.

Click here to see where we picked strawberries this year.  We go other places some years but this place is by far the most entertaining.  


You might also like:
Low Sugar Small Batch Strawberry Jam
The Pumpkin Patch
Brookfield Orchards


Monday, August 13, 2018

Lower Sugar Small Batch Strawberry Jam




The day we went to the strawberry patch I knew I wanted to make some jam.  But I also knew I didn't want to make a whole lot of it.  In the past I've made far too much and we just don't eat it very often so I feel like it goes to waste.  But I still wanted some jam.  Just the right amount of jam.  One jarful of jam.  And I googled the word jarful.  It's a thing.


If your jam gets foamy you can scrape it off before you dump it in the jar.

I needed to find a small batch recipe.  So where did I turn?  If you have read my blog for even a little while you might have already guessed.  I turned to Pinterest of course.  There were several small batch recipes and they were all very similar.  I opted to use the basic bones of the recipes I saw, but halve the sugar and replace the rest with granulated Splenda.

The result?  A wonderfully sweet jam with half the sugar of many recipes.  We all enjoyed it very much.

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Lower Sugar Small Batch Strawberry Jam

Ingredients:

1 pound or 3 3/4 cups fresh strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup granulated Splenda 
2 tablespoons lemon juice

First wash and drain your berries.  Then remove the stems.  Next, slice the strawberries and add them to a medium sized pot.  

Stir in sugar and Splenda.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring continually, then add lemon juice.

Boil (and keep stirring!) until jam reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  If you don't have one, it takes about 15-20 minutes of boiling.  If you don't quite get to quite 220 the jam will be fine, just not as thick.    

Shortly before your jam is ready take a clean jar and fill it with hot tap water.  A heated jar is less likely to crack when filled with hot jam.  Dump the water out just before you add your jam.  Once your jam is at 220, add it into the warm jar using a wide mouth funnel.  Put a lid on it and let it cool on the counter.

Once the jar is cool put it in the refrigerator and enjoy it within 2 months.  

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The recipe came out great and I loved that I could easily sub in the Splenda.  The recipes I saw did not recommend Splenda but I wanted a lower sugar recipe.  I knew that I could not use all Splenda if I wanted the same sort of consistency so that's why I opted only to sub in half.

TIP!  You can try using granulated stevia if you want to avoid artificial sweeteners. 

TIP!  Use thawed frozen berries instead of fresh.  Just measure them before you thaw them.

Let me know if you like jam or if you try this recipe in the comment section below.  


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Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Strawberry Pie







Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Mysterious Creatures Birthday Cake




What do you get when you combine an alien, Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster?  A mysterious creature cake, of course!  

I asked my son what he wanted to do this year for his birthday.  My husband and I offered a variety of ideas and what he really wanted was an at-home family and family friend party.  Nothing fancy.  We could do that!

For weeks I asked him what he wanted his cake to be.  He had some very lofty ideas that I wasn't sure I could pull off.  His number one suggestion was the Himalayan mountains.  Seriously?  I told him to think of something else.  A bit defeated, I think, he asked for repeat cakes, like a nature cake or perhaps a Minecraft cake again.  I told him we could do the nature cake if he really wanted to, but I knew he wasn't very excited.

So, the morning before his party I got up early, as I always do, and after a coffee and some quiet time adjusting to the new day, I got on Pinterest.  I had to find something he really liked.  Not finding any great ideas initially, I stopped, closed my eyes and listed in my mind all the things he really likes. Mysterious creatures!  That was it!  Now I had an idea. 

I wasn't sure if I would find any actual cakes but I typed a few different things in the search bar, hopeful.  Lo and behold there was something.  One thing to be exact.  And I knew he would like it!

Usually I leave my son alone in the morning to wake up slowly, but this morning I asked him right away if he would come and see the new cake idea.  He was excited and this is the result!

You can find the original design here.  I made it close to the original with a few adjustments.  And I am not sure who the original designer was because there is only a link to a picture.




I used two boxes of cake mix to make this cake.  The bottom layer I made in a spring form pan using one whole chocolate cake mix.  This time I used Betty Crocker, but any cake mix or homemade cake will do.  The top two layers are Betty Crocker yellow cake.

After cooling the cakes on the rack and trimming off any uneven bits, I put down the chocolate layer and covered it in green frosting.  I got this color with a mix of leaf green and moss green gel food coloring by Wilton.  I then outlined the eyes and nose of the alien with a toothpick and filled them in with black frosting.  Usually I make my own black frosting but this time I bought pre-made black in a squeeze tube because Walmart was out of black gel food coloring.  The tube was so easy and the color was great.  I may do this again in the future.

The recipe I use for all of the frosting except the black, you can find here.  It's the best one for decorating.  It is a very rich recipe and one I use only for special occasions, but it works so well!




As I said, the top two layers are yellow cake.  They were made in pans of two sizes, I think a 10-inch and an 8-inch, but I'm not exactly sure on that.  Either way, one is bigger than the other, but neither is as big as the spring form pan that I used for the bottom layer.

After I frosted the bottom layer and piped in some dots for an outline, I placed the larger yellow cake on top.  Next, I mixed up some of my vanilla buttercream with cocoa powder and brown gel food coloring.  The mix of food coloring and cocoa made just the right color.  I spread it over the entire second layer.

I did not want to put the fur on my Sasquatch yet because I knew it would interfere with frosting the top layer.  So I placed the next layer on top and frosted it with a layer of light blue frosting.  I used Wilton Sky Blue.

I didn't like it because it had no texture and didn't really look like water.  Referring back to the original I saw they piped on waves.  I tried that and hated it.  So I opted to dye some frosting a shade darker and sweep it on to look like waves.




Once the waves were done, I was ready to give the Sasquatch some fur.  I used a grass tip for this and piped it on starting at the base of the blue cake, making long strands down to the alien.  




Next I piped some eyes, a nose and a mouth onto my Sasquatch and piped a border layer at the base of my loch.  I let it sit that way overnight before I added on Nessie.  I didn't want to have the Loch Ness Monster topple over and ruin the whole thing.  

To make the Loch Ness Monster I simply used pre-made fondant from Wilton.  The night before I put it on, I shaped the fondant like play doh and tried my best!  I put some toothpicks in the bottom of the fondant and draped it over a cylinder and hoped it dried properly.  It did.  I think it looks like more of a snake, but it works!  They eyes I made by creating indents and piping on some white and black frosting.  Right before the party I stuck Nessie on using the toothpicks I had inserted into the fondant the night before.




So there you have it.  If you don't know what to make for your 13-year-old who likes mysterious creatures, here you go!  It's really not too hard!

Comment below if you like to make creative cakes for your kids!  Or maybe you have a question.  Leave it below and I'd love to help!


You might also like:
Minecraft Birthday Party
The Best Buttercream Icing
Rose Cake
Shopkins Birthday Cake

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Chunky Stripe Double Crochet Blanket




It took me around six months to finish this one, but even with the relentless knot behind my shoulder blade, I was determined to press on.  And I finished it!  What do you think?  I was a little hesitant about adding the gray in with the nice, bright pink and teal, but I think it looks good.  This time I decided to go with big chunky stripes, each making up a quarter of the blanket.

Overall this blanket took 8 regular sized skeins of yarn.   And besides the months long breaks I took, it really does work up quickly.  Click here and you can see the great yarn deal I got at Michaels.  This blanket cost me less than $15 to make!  I was itching to use this bright and cheery yarn for a project last fall and just before this summer rolled around I finished it up.  I think that's pretty good yarn turnover time!  Just ask a friend who knits or crochets.






I do have a question to ask of any fellow crochet bloggers.  How do you photograph your blankets?  I've tried several different ways and I just don't love any of them.  I found it difficult to take pictures of a blanket with stripes this big.  None of my pictures really portray how warm and cuddly it really is.  If you have any suggestions, leave them down below.

Here is a link to the pattern I used.  It's a pattern that doubles up on the yarn holding two strands and using them as one strand.  This time I used Craft Smart yarn in turquoise, white, fuchsia and gray.  Instead of switching out for the stripes on that pattern, just work two whole skeins (holding a strand from each and crocheting as one) of yarn then switch to the next color.  If you browse my page I'm sure you can see this is one of my favorite patterns!






Now I'm off to make a hat and figure out what I'm going to enter in the fair this year!


You might also like:

Fall Haul
My Favorite Granny Afghan So Far!
Watermelon Candy Strip Afghan

Monday, April 9, 2018

Orange and Honey Melt and Pour Soap



I made this soap a little while back and wanted to share it with you. It's a simple project that only takes 10 minutes to make once you've gathered your supplies.  This is my second melt and pour soap recipe and I don't think it will be my last!  

I found the recipe in one of my many cookbooks, Holiday Gifts From a Jar.  It was a weird place to find a recipe for soap, but I'm glad I found it while I was flipping through.



As is usual, I made some adjustments to the original recipe.  While I'm sure the recipe would have come out great, I wanted to work with what I had.  I knew this soap wouldn't fail with the small adjustments I made, so I wasn't concerned with the outcome.

In the end, it came out great!  It was one of the smoothest and sweetest smelling soaps I've made so far.  You can scroll down to see my recipe.

This is a DIY product that I use daily.  Some of my recipes and attempts at homemade items fall by the wayside, but not this one!  Orange oil is said to be harsh on sensitive skin but I've found this product to be perfect for everyday use.


Orange and Honey Melt and Pour Soap

Ingredients:

12 ounces clear glycerin soap base
1 Tablespoon honey
15 drops sweet orange essential oil
Soap mold (found at most craft stores)

Slice soap base into chunks and place in a microwaves safe bowl.  Microwave on high 1 minute.  Stir.  Repeat, heating at 30-second intervals until soap is liquid.  Do not overheat but be sure soap is completely melted.

Quickly pour melted soap into soap molds.  Set aside and let firm up about one hour.  Remove from molds by running a knife gently around the edges of the bar. 


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This recipe made four bars using this soap mold from Michaels.  In my first soap making attempt I was not a huge fan, but this time I had better luck.  Practice makes perfect, they say!




You might also enjoy Nice and Spicy Melt and Pour Soap.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Paper Crafting Fun

My husband loves the color blue and woodworking.  This card captures both!

Ok.  I know this post is not timely at all.  And that's basically internet sin.  But just because I'm behind the eight ball doesn't mean I shouldn't share this fun craft!  Save it for next Valentine's Day or use the idea and modify it for Easter or any special occasion.  It's totally customizable!

My friend recently became a demonstrator for a popular stamping company.  Admittedly I've never really gotten into the paper crafting scene.  I've made a few cards here and there and even tried my hand at scrapbooking very briefly, but I've never invested in the necessary supplies or gadgets to keep it going.


This is a front view of my daughter's Valentine.
The heart and sentiment are stamped onto card stock.
This is a side view showing the paper sleeve that
I slid over the box.




















My friend always had so much fun making cards, though. Thinking it would be a good time, I told her I'd host a party and we'd have a fun night of making cards and having coffee and snacks with the ladies.  Good plan, right?

On the day of the party she brought enough supplies for everyone to make three cards and a box.  I actually ended up making two boxes (to which I added Dove Chocolates) and one card.  She had extras!  They turned out very cute and I think my kids and husband agree! The boxes held four or five Dove chocolate hearts.  

These are not your traditional red and pink valentines, but projects tailored toward the recipients.  My daughter's favorite color is green and my son loves gold.  My husband loves blue and woodworking.  As you can see I tried to incorporate a little of what they like in each Valentine.



My son's Valentine

At the party I purchased some supplies and so far I've made a few cute cards.  Stamping is more fun than I thought it would be.  If it turns out to be something I enjoy regularly, I'll post my creations here on the blog.  For now, you can enjoy my three little Valentines.



Leave a comment below with any tips and tricks if you are a paper crafter.



Friday, March 16, 2018

Pompom Bunnies



I got inspiration for this cuddly Easter craft here.  There was, of course, a pin that led me to it.  Pinterest rocks!  Although our bunnies aren't quite like the others that inspired them, I think they are darling.  And my daughter is getting so good at crafting!  She made the white one.  Adorable, right? 



To begin this kid-friendly craft, you'll need to make two pompoms.  First you wrap a bunch of yarn around a piece of cardboard.  Just when you think you wrapped enough, wrap some more.  Trust me.  You don't want small, sad pompoms.  



Once you have wrapped a whole bunch of yarn around, slide another piece of yarn into the space and tie it off.  Then pull the whole bunch completely off the cardboard and snip the circle in half, being careful to avoid your tie-off yarn.  Now start snipping and trimming until you get a pompom you like.  Click here for more detailed instructions on making pompoms.


Once you have made two pompoms, one slightly larger, hot glue them together.  Next, cut out some felt ears and glue them into place.  Finish it off with some googly eyes and a felt or foam nose.  

Voila!  


These are great for the kids!  Of course there must be hot glue supervision, but the rest is no fuss!


Pompom Bunny

Supplies
  • yarn
  • small piece of cardboard
  • felt for ears and nose
  • googly eyes
  • hot glue
Make pompoms according to instructions above.  (Alternatively, you may purchase pre-made pompoms.)  Glue the pompoms together.  Cut out ears and nose from felt.  Glue ears behind the smaller pompom then affix the eyes and nose.  
*I elected to exclude whiskers, but you could easily add those on with more yarn or fishing line.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Health and Beauty Roundup





Here's a post highlighting my health and beauty favorites.  Scroll down to see what you can make or use today!

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Make Your Own Deodorant
I've been turning to this DIY deodorant for about ten years now.  Think of that.  I've been saving my armpits from aluminum all that time!  It's the only deodorant I've used that doesn't irritate my sensitive skin.  Bonus: it works!




















This mask is great for moisture and detoxification, especially at this time of year.  Super simple and easy to prepare, this mask won't let you down.


















Click above for an easy DIY project that you can put together in minutes.  This easily customizable project is great for everyday use or unique gifting.  Give it a try!

























Click the link above to see my favorite beauty product. This one is not a DIY, but I love it nonetheless.  It's a staple I turn to every day!


























This post does not focus specifically on health and beauty, but I'd be remiss to exclude it.  Look at numbers 8 and 9 for ideas on how to treat athlete's foot and sunburn.  This is good stuff!



















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