Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Applesauce Day...

If you know me well, you will probably have heard about Applesauce Day. It is an annual event--first a bit of history.

When I was a child my sisters and I helped my mom can tomatoes, peaches and a variety of other produce. She told stories of when she was a child how Grandpa would put the old canning stove under the tree in the back yard because it was cooler that way. I wish I would have asked if it was electric, gas or a wood stove.

At any rate, they would wash the jars in the back yard in tubs of hot soapy water in preparation for canning. It was a lot of work! [We just put the jars through the dishwasher.]

[Top, apples cooking; below, my son Dusty milling the apples. He put cooked apples in the top of the hopper, cranks the handle and like a miracle, the applesauce comes out the front while the peels and seeds go into a bucket to compost.]

When canned goods first started appearing in stores my Grandma and her friends thought that only lazy people would buy canned fruits and vegetables. I mean, who would do that when you could can your own? How times have changed since then.

At any rate, through the years Mom and I canned applesauce. When we moved to Kentucky in 1992 Mom and Dad would bring apples down from Michigan [on their way back down to Florida] and Mom and I [with some help from Dad and a bit from the kids] would can applesauce. We used archaic equipment and it was really hard work.

[Various friends and family cutting the apples--before you can cook them, they need to be quartered and the blossom end cut out. With back to camera, daughter in law Molly, to the left Jenny and daughter Kate, and new recruits Karen at end and Tricia in foreground.]

This continued till the year my dad died. Mom started to decline with Alzheimer's and she went to live in Michigan permanently-no longer making the treks down to Kentucky with apples. The first year she was not coming I was kind of depressed. I mentioned this to Bob--I mean it is kind of like when someone dies and they won't be at Christmas anymore--except we hadn't celebrated Christmas with my parents for years. But, when fall came, and Mom and Dad weren't there to help me do applesauce, it was really, really hard for me.

[Friends Bethel and Kenji put more applesauce through the mill.]

Bob said, "Maybe you need to modify the tradition. Make applesauce with our kids to carry on the tradition." That was good advice, except our kids were not interested at that time. Too young.
[Jenny and Kate with youngest daughter Violet in foreground, Kenji with son Kai on floor, our son Dusty [back to camera] and daughter in law Jen in Living room.]

So, I called up my friend Jenny who now has 5 children, but I think she and Keith only had two back then, and asked if she wanted to come over for "Applesauce Day." She did. That first year I think we canned about 60 quarts, split them and called it a day.

[Karen and my daughter Kari putting the applesauce into jars, ready to process.]

Since that day in 2001 the tradition has grown. This year we canned 7 1/2 bushels of apples, yielding about 62 quarts and 112 pints, plus we ate a LOT. So, here are some photos of applesauce day 2009.

[ Photos: Karen and Kai tasting the sauce. Isaac to right eating some applesauce too. #2- Some of the completed applesauce, #3 Keith reading to his three youngest kids. As you can see, applesauce day is a family event! I think it would make Mom and Dad smile.]

Take care,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Soap in a Sweater...

I learned how to felt soap so that it comes encased in its own little wool sweater. It is a wonderful way to exfoliate and also makes hand washing fun for kids. And you know what they say about hand washing...

I thought I would show how I make it. First I make homemade soap, then I get some wool I bought from family farms in Michigan and Wisconsin. I like the Michigan Merino wool better than the Wisconsin NZ Corriedale wool, but they both are fun to work with.
I start with soap, hot water, a textured felting mat and wool.

I lay some of the wool down, then wrap it around the soap. I usually wrap it one way, then I go the other way, then one more wrap the original way.

Now it is all wrapped.

I carefully drop it in hot water to sort of "set" the wool so it I can see if it is even.

Once it is all wet, then I put it in a section of a nylon that has been cut to size.

This is to keep the wool in the soap. I dip in hot water, twist the nylon tight and then I start to rub the soap on the felting board.

Then I apply friction [yes, felting soap is done via the "armstrong" method]. I rub it over and over the board, which is like a ribbed scrub board. After about 10 minutes, the soap is done. I dip it once more in the hot water, then blot and let dry.

Here are some I finished today. The pink are bubblegum soap, the blue are lavender and the green peppermint. My hands are very wrinkly and smell great! Felting soap is GOOD CLEAN FUN!

To use, wet and rub. The wool will continue to shrink as it is used, so when the soap is all gone, you will have a little wool scrubby left.

Soap in a Sweater

Take care,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nominate your favorite Homeschool Blog...

For a Homeschool Blog award. Go here for more information.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cheap Natural Deoderant that really works!

If you are a bit scared by aluminum in your deodorant and want something that really works, is easy to make and inexpensive, I have a recipe for you.

You only need three ingredients:
  • baking soda
  • corn starch
  • coconut oil

I like organic virgin coconut oil because it smells like fresh coconuts, but even the cheap coconut oil found in a plastic container at Wal-Mart in the oil section is fine.

The Basic Recipe is:

6 T coconut oil
4 T baking soda
4 T corn starch

Melt coconut oil in the microwave, stir in other ingredients. Put in a small container and rub on under arms. [May need a bit of water on your fingers when you do this. I find if I put it on right after a shower, I am good for about 24 hours]. This is not an antiperspirant but you do not smell with this deodorant.

If it irritates your skin, you can use the following instead:

Mild Formula:

5 T coconut oil
3T baking soda
6 T cornstarch.

The thing is, the baking soda is mostly
what inhibits bacterial growth, so it is what stops the sweaty smell. And, the baking soda might be irritating. So, you want to use a bit less, but not so much less that it doesn't work.

I found that it was irritating the first couple of weeks, so I alternated with my regular deodorant, but after my body got used to the homemade stuff, it didn't irritate any more. I have been using this for about 6 months. Some folks say it is because it is drawing out a bunch of toxins at first, but I am not sure that is true.

Let me know if you use it, how it works. Personally, I LOVE it.

Whether aluminum is good or bad for me, I am not sure, but I feel better with this all natural product.

Take care,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Need Chocolate? Want something quick and easy. Here are 22 ways to dress up a brownie mix. I gleaned these ideas from the Sonlighter's Club forum several years ago and put all the ideas and comments into one document. Easy to find if you have a chocolate emergency.

How to Dress Up a boxed Brownie Mix
To one brownie mix--add:

1 Peppermint Prepare as usual - but put half in pan, line it all with unwrapped peppermint patties, then cover with remaining mix - bake as usual. (May bake batter the regular way, then cover with Andes mints when you take it out and when melted spread them for frosting)

2 Extra Peppermint Make brownies, but add 1 tsp peppermint extract. Then as soon as you take them out of the oven, put Andes mints on top - cover the whole thing if possible - let them melt, then spread out with a knife. They are awesome!

3 Brownie Sundae I love to serve make your own brownie sundaes for company desert. Brownie, ice cream, choc sauce, whipped cream, nuts, etc. It is always a big hit.

4 Toffee Prepare mix as usual - but put half in pan, line it all with Hershey Symphony bars, then cover with remaining mix - bake as usual.

5 Peanut Butter Cream Cheese… You make a brownie mix but on a pizza stone (my consultant used parchment paper for quick clean up). Bake & cool. Mix 1/4 C peanut butter w/ 8 oz cream cheese and 1/2 C brown sugar. Top the brownie with it. Chop up a few Reese's PB cups (or some such thing) and sprinkle over the brownie. Add sliced banana, cool whip and chocolate syrup.

6 M&M Recently, we have started sprinkling M&Ms on top of brownies before baking.

7 Chippers- Add chocolate chips, mint chips, toffee bits, etc.

8 Butterscotch If it's 'regular' cheap brownie mix, add one box fudge pudding mix, stir in butterscotch chips. We make triple batches and use a full bag of butterscotch chips.

9 Maple Instead of water, use 1/2 water, 1/2 maple syrup. Ohh-- those are scrumptious! I still use nuts in this one.

10 Peanut Butter and marshmallow Make the mix, half in the bottom of pan, sprinkle peanut butter chips across, then sprinkle mini marshmallows across and carefully put the rest of the brownie mix on top. OH what a nice gooey surprise!

11 Mississippi Mud Pie Mississippi Mud Pie. Brownie for the bottom, good coffee ice cream (I like Breyers), drizzle with chocolate sauce or hot fudge topping (I prefer the latter), sprinkle some chopped nuts and a few dabs of whipped cream (I like real whipping cream, whipped with a drop of vanilla).

12 Peanut Butter Mix your brownies as normal and pour in pan. Melt a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter in the microwave and pour over the brownies. Use a butter knife to marble the peanut butter through the mix. Bake as usual. Enjoy~ mmmmmm

13 Cheesecake Mix 8 oz. softened cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/3 c. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla until smooth. Add some mini chocolate chips if desired. Now make your brownie mix, spread half in the pan, dollop on the cream cheese (spread as best you can) then dollop on the remaining brownie batter. Swirl through with a knife, then bake--like 10 or 15 minutes longer than usual.

14 Cookie Dough Add a cookie dough layer on top. 1 cup flour, 1/2 c butter, 1/2 brown sugar, and a 1 tsp vanilla and 1 cup chocolate chips. I think you could use this like a frosting after brownies are cooled or put it on before baking.

15 S'Mores A box of brownie mix, then put a package of chocolate chips, some marshmallows and crumbled graham crackers on top and bake a bit longer. It really DOES taste like S'mores, especially if you let the marshmallows brown a bit.

16 Turtle Sunday, I made some vanilla ice cream and topped the warmed brownies with that, Smucker's caramel sauce, and chopped pecans.

17 Cinnamon Once, in middle school, we dumped in a little box of red hot candies. Cinnamon! Yum

18 Dense If you like dense brownies (which I really do) mix the batter with a big spoon, just until mixed (try to get the least amount of air in there). And bake it for the minimum amount of time, so it is a little soft still.

19 Oatmeal Brownies Quick Cooking had a recipe for Oatmeal Brownies that I make quite often.
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1/2 c flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 c butter, melted
1 c M&Ms minis or chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped walnuts, optional
Combine, set aside 1 cup for topping, and put remaining in greased 15x10 pan. Spread prepared brownie mix on crust, sprinkle with reserved topping, and bake 350, 25-30 minutes. The crust doesn't always cover the bottom of the pan, maybe a 9X13 would work better. We love this recipe. Enjoy!

20 Dessert w/ Pudding Bake the large 9x13 box...I use a round baker. scoop out center and chop into pieces, combine 1/2 c cold milk, 3 tbsp instant coffee, 3.4 oz pkg of instant vanilla pudding and 12 oz cool whip. Fold in brownie pieces and spoon back into crust.

21 Almond Add some almond extract

22 Mocha Substitute coffee for the water.

I hope you enjoy this list. If you would like me to send you a PDF chart with these in a easy to use chart format, just send me an email.

Take care,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chicken Soup--It's good for you...

Sometimes I feel like the classic overbearing mother: "Eat your chicken soup, it will make you feel better!"

Well, this chicken soup is full of garlic, cayenne and other virus fighting ingredients. Here is the recipe. It makes a lot, so be sure you have big pot! I got this recipe off of the Sonlighter Club Forums. Thanks Chloe!

In a large pot:

1 whole chicken
20-30 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Tbs salt
3-4 thyme sprigs
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
3-4 fresh Rosemary sprigs
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Place chicken and other ingredients in a soup pot and cover with water or chicken broth . I used water and then added a some vegetable bouillon and some concentrate chicken stock to it. Cook (covered) on stove top until chicken starts to fall apart. Remove from heat. Strain out chicken and stuff and set aside until cool enough to chop. When cool chop chicken and toss the herb leaves and chicken bones. Reserve broth for next step.

Heat in large pan: [I used my electric skillet]
2 tbs olive oil

Add and saute till the onion is transparent:

1 large onion (coarsely chopped or sliced)
1 fennel bulb (sliced thin)
1 leek (sliced thin)
4-6 stalks of celery (coarse chopped)
1 bell pepper (coarse chopped
1/2 lb. carrots (coarse chopped)

Add and simmer for 3-4 minutes then add to strained chicken stock:
1/2 C white wine {I used Chardonnay}
salt and pepper

Then add:

8-12 oz frozen green beans
8-2 oz frozen peas
1/2 C chopped parsley
1-2 cans chopped tomatoes with juice [I just chopped one tomato]
chopped chicken

Cook till tender. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder or maybe more chicken stock to taste.

You may want to add chopped zucchini, cabbage or any other vegetables you have. I added 1/2 Cup pearled barley as well. If you want you can add noodles to make chicken noodle soup. Put them in the boiling soup about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Raw unpasteurized almonds anyone?

My good friend has a healthy living business she runs out of her house. She homeschools her 6 kids and also does nutritional counseling.

At any rate, she has been able to get in on a large bulk purchase of raw, unpasteurized almonds. These are also organic--no pesticides have been sprayed on this farm for at least 15 years--though they are not certified organic. Raw almonds are extremely healthy for you since they still contain living enzymes which benefit your health. Almonds available in stores have been pasteurized [heated] which destroys the enzymes and the health benefits.

She is buying these almonds by the hundreds of pounds, but is making them available to others in 20# increments. The cost is only $5 per pound [$100 for 20 pounds]. If you want to split an order with a friend or two, that is fine, but she will only take orders in increments of 20#

Deadline to place your order is Oct 15th. Payment is due in advance. Anybody can order. She can ship in the US for $15 for each 20# lot that is ordered.

If you have questions, email Erica at

You can go to Supermom's Health to see what else she carries.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Let's Talk Compost-Black Gold for the garden...

Let's talk composing. I started a compost pile nearly two years ago and I wonder why I didn't start it years earlier. I think it is because we have a VERY small backyard and I thought it would smell and attract raccoons and possums and possibly mice or rats.

Composting does not smell or attract critters and it takes up very little room.

I often have great ideas when I dream and then, because of my drafting experience, I am able to put my ideas onto paper fairly easily when I wake up. This is kind of bad for my husband Bob because my dreams usually mean projects for him. It is funny, but I feel like I am magic sometimes--because me dreams become reality.

So, I dreamed this basic compost bin for our small yard. It is 4 ft by 4 ft and has three sides. The fourth side is open and faces the back of our property, so I can easily walk around to turn the compost or shovel it out, but from the front it looks OK. The design allows for air circulation. We did not sink the posts, there is really no reason to. Because of the weight of the treated boards and the 4x4 treated posts, the mere weight of the bin keeps in firmly in place. However, if we wanted to move it, we could easily relocate it.

To make compost it is best to start with leaves, grass clippings, hay and/or straw and then add household waste. I don't put in any meat scraps. You could, but it might smell or attract animals. The general rule of thumb is only vegetable matter, no pet waste unless the pet is a vegetarian like a rabbit or goat.

We compost paper packing material, cardboard egg cartons, egg shells, vegetable peelings, cores and such, left over rice and noodles, coffee grounds and tea leaves [including filter]old bread or crackers, etc. You can even compost drywall, but I have not done that. I try to stick with yard waste and kitchen vegetable waste. There are a lot of websites that tell what you can compost, but found this one particularly helpful.

A little tip for composting cardboard things like egg cartons, is to rip them up and then toss in a large bucket and add some water [if practical]. Soaking cardboard for even 5 minutes helps it to decompose faster. Then I just pour the soaked cardboard and water on top of the pile. I also crunch up the egg shells before I toss them in. I don't put in banana peels because they seem to take forever to decompose, but pumpkin shells and watermelon rinds seem to decompose pretty fast, especially if you break or cut them up a bit first.

Another plus for composting is that garbage cans don't smell even in the summer because there is no kitchen waste them.

I have a nice turning fork to turn my compost, but you could use a shovel. It is important to turn your compost pile often. I usually turn it a couple of times a week and always after I add something like rice or noodles--I don't want to attract critters--so I always cover anything I think might look like a buffet!

I only have one bin, so when the compost turns into a nice rich dirt I need to put it to one side of the bin so I don't keep putting new kitchen waste on top [You really don't want to have huge chunks of egg shells and watermelon rinds in the compost when you put it in a flower box or spread around your landscaping]. I put finished compost on one side then put new material on the other side. Ideally, two-three compost bins or a bigger one with two-three compartments would be better.

If you have more than one bin, when you think it is close to being done, then start another with new scraps and bits--keep turning the first pile till there are no big chunks and it is a nice dark, rich material, then scatter around flower or vegetable gardens, put in flower boxes and so on. I put a couple of inches of compost in this flower bin--no other fertilizer--see how great they look?

You can see my compost is full of worms--which is what you want. I don't turn my compost as often in the winter because it freezes, but I do keep adding material.

I love my compost pile. I tell my little nephew it is a "worm farm." Lots of fun for kids and adults, and it lessens our impact on our land fill and gives me rich dirt for free. Amazing stuff! Like turning your garbage into gold.