Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In preparation for this Holy Week

Our sacrificial lamb without spot or blemish (thanks for the idea Angel).

Some Easter books laid out to read during quiet time.

Making palm branches...
May your week be blessed as we look forward to Resurrection Sunday.

Monday, March 29, 2010

All Natural Fruit Roll-Ups

All Natural Fruit Roll-Ups

The other day I made some of these and they were pretty good, a little on the tart side, so I might add some sweetener next time, like honey. :)

What I did was take some of my homemade applesauce and some strawberries from last years garden that were in my freezer and blended the two together.
I then spread that mixture in a thin layer on the mats that fit inside my dehydrator.
135* for about 8 hours and you have some yummy snacks!
Sorry no pictures this time. I will snap some next time around.

I plan on making some more with applesauce and cinnamon, strawberries and bananas and so on.
Use your imagination and make up some easy, healthy snacks.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sunshine Marmalade

I recently came upon a Three Citrus Marmalade over at Little Homestead in the City and made it.
As I was making it I felt that the name could have been changed to Sunshine Marmalade because it was so bright and cheery colored.
Wishing you the loveliest of weekends.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Picture Perfect Spring Day

A little reading
A little cloud watching
A little frisbee throwing
A little silliness
A lot of sunshine
Glorious. Glorious Day...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Raised Beds

Oh, those acts of service... swoon. :)
Raising my raised beds.
2 down, many more to go.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Signs of Springtime...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pinewood Derby

Congratulations to my Eli and his car SpeedMaster for winning FIRST PLACE in the Tiger Den in his pack and then winning FIRST PLACE again in the Tiger Den at the District Races!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Candle Dipping

For the longest time now, I have wanted to dip my own candles.
A: I love learning new skills
B: I enjoy burning candles frequently, but buying 'good' candles are pricey.
C: I want good candles, not the dollar store variety.
D: Beeswax candles burn clean and smell sweet like honey.
E: Learning how to make candles just adds to my list. My list is a mental list I keep of things I wnat to learn to do for myself and/or my family.

So I gathered my supplies.
You need some type of double-boiler.
You need your wax.
You need wicking.
You need somewhere to hang the candles.

Melt your wax in your double-boiler.
This can take a while unless you have the wax cut up in smallish sections.
You want your inside pot to be a bit tall so you can make longer tapers.
The shorter the pot, the shorter the candles will be.

Next, measure your wicking and double it with an extra inch or so. You are going to fold it in half and dip two candles at a time.
Make sure your place to hang the candles to dry is tall enough also, so your candles don't hit the counter-top.
Now begin dipping.

There is no easy way around it, it takes a while and every little bit adds up to the final product... so you just have to keep at it.
Dip it, hang it, dip it, hang it... over and over til you get the candle you are looking for.
You once and a while have to stop and form or pinch off, those parts can be a bit tricky... but that is all
part of the learning experience.
When you have achieved what you are looking for...
Then in the evening, it gets even better...
Simply beautiful!
I have my all-natural beeswax candles in my etsy shop right now if you are interested in having some in your home.
Have a lovely day!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kombucha Tea: Part 3

Alrighty... by the magic of blog-a-vision we are now a week later and ready to bottle up our Kombucha!

I brought my jars out of my closet and snapped a pic of the mushrooms floating in the tea.  They almost look like a Jellyfish!  They can float, they can sink, they can rise all the way to the top.. it is all fine!

As you can see, this one floated to the top of this jar.

A healthy culture. 

Ok, now what I do is take the tea and run it through a strainer and collect any gunk that forms in the tea, little bits of the yeast.  It isn't going to hurt you to drink it but it is NOT pleasant.
I strain it into a large measuring cup that has a spout for pouring...

Here is a picture of some of the collected yeast that is strained... it is a bit like a glob of mucus... Yes, I know it is gross! But remember the good qualities, plus you are not drinking this part!

Now I place a funnel into our bottles... I got these from a place that sells the stuff to brew your own beer and wine.  These bottles are GREAT because they are resealable so there is no need for new corks or new caps!
I fill them as full as I can get them.

I have 10 beautiful bottles of Kombucha ready for the second brewing stage.  I had 12 but I broke one and one is loaned out.  I also have almost 8 cups of Kombucha left over that I don't have bottles for.  I am thinking about buying another case of bottles for Shannon for Christmas, he loves the stuff!

Ok, this is what you do now.  Place the bottles or jars or whatever you store it in, back in a dark storage area for 5 more days... ***I used to not do this step...*** I do now because it makes  a HUGE difference!!!!
While in the storage for the second brewing the Tea becomes bubbly, like soda or champagne and mellows a bit... It really makes a tremendous change!
So make sure you don't forget this step.
Now you are ready to start the process over again!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kombucha Tea: Part 2

Well, here we are at part 2! How to make Kombucha Tea!!!
Oh I also wanted to let you know Kombucha is said Kom-boo-cha
We used to say it differently so I thought you might not know either!

Step 1
You have to start with a HEALTHY shroom.  You can order these from different sources, some can be quite pricey too, so watch out.  

Don't be alarmed at the sausages you see on the side of the shroom, you will not have these, they are just my fingers!
AND the brown stuff... NO BIG DEAL!!! This is just the yeast that grows!! SO don't freak out!

Step 2: Brew the tea
For 2 gallons, I use 6 regular size black tea bags and 4 green tea bags
You can use all black tea or all green, but we like the mixture!
Now this is important!
Use a Stainless Steel pan, not a nonstick or any other type of pan. Only Stainless for this...

Step 3: Prepare your jars, I use 2, 1 gallon jars and you want to put 1 cup of sugar in each! Now, don't worry about the sugar, this is what the SCOBY feeds on!

Pour your tea up in your jars and stir to dissolve the sugar!
Let this sit until it is lukewarm, you don't want to put your mushrooms in until it is lukewarm because you will kill all that healthy bacteria if you put it in too hot!

Once your tea is cooled then you want to add a mushroom to your jar and add about 2 Tbsp. of Tea from your last batch of tea. 
Now, take a linen napkin and use it to cover your jar and then put a rubber band around the mouth of the jar.
Stick this in a cool dry place (preferably NOT in the kitchen, because you want this to be away from the smells and heat from the kitchen) and leave it undisturbed for a week to 10 days!

Now you have Part 2 done! In a week you will have some nice tea to bottle, AND new Scoby's to share!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kombucha Tea: Part 1

Good Morning! I am up and at it this morning with our Kombucha! But I wanted to take the first part of our tutorial and talk about Kombucha, what it is and what it does!

I headed over to Wikipedia for some "scientific facts" about Kombucha... they are as follows...
This is WHAT Kombucha is...
Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented by a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a "kombucha colony," usually consisting principally of Bacterium xylinum and yeast cultures. It has gained much popular support within many communities, mentioned by talk show hosts and celebrities. The increase in popularity can be seen by the many commercial brands coming onto the retail market and thousands of web pages about this fermented beverage

This is WHAT the SCOBY, the culture or the Baby is....
The culture contains a symbiosis of yeast species and acetic acid bacteria, mostly Bacterium xylinum. Species of yeast involved vary, and may include: Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Candida stellata, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Torulaspora delbrueckii and Zygosaccharomyces bailii. The culture itself looks somewhat like a large pancake, and though often called a mushroom, or by the acronym SCOBY (for "Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast"), it is clinically known as a zoogleal mat.

This is the History of the Tea...
The recorded history of this drink dates back to the Qin Dynasty in China (around 250 BC). The Chinese called it the "Immortal Health Elixir," because they believed Kombucha balanced the Middle Qi (Spleen and Stomach) and aided in digestion, allowing the body to focus on healing. [citation needed] Knowledge of kombucha eventually reached Russia and then Eastern Europe around the Early Modern Age, when tea first became affordable by the populace.

The word kombucha, while sounding Japanese to foreign ears, is a misnomer when applied to this beverage. In fact, Kombucha (昆布茶) in Japanese refers to a tea-like infusion (cha) (actually, more of a thin soup) made from kelp (kombu), usually served to patients in convalescence. The Japanese refer to 'kombucha' as k�cha-kinoko (紅茶キノコ), which literally means black tea mushroom.

The Process of making the Tea....
The process of brewing kombucha was introduced in Russia and the Ukraine at the end of the 1800s, and became popular in the early 1900s. The kombucha culture is known locally as chayniy grib, (чайный гриб - 'tea mushroom'), and the drink itself is referred to as grib (гриб - 'mushroom'), "tea kvass" or simply "kvass", although it differs from regular "kvass" which is not made from tea and is generally fermented only with yeast and not the other bacteria which ferment tea to form kombucha.

Health Benefits of Kombucha...
The health benefits of Kombucha tea may also aid the body to alleviate a wide spectrum of ailments and conditions; from the mildest indisposition to the most serious diseases.

These include: Arthritis pains, intestinal problems, digestive disorders, kidney stones, high cholesterol, chronic fatigue, asthma, bronchitis, migraine, eczema, headaches, constipation, diabetes, rheumatism, anxiety, dizziness and insomnia. Problems associated with advancing years, such as high blood pressure, poor eye sight, arteriosclerosis and gout, may also be helped by Kombucha's anti-aging properties.
 Kombucha's Health Properties

I will be back shortly with Part 2 of Kombucha and How to make the Tea!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I got worms

I got worms (the name of Harry and Lloyd's pet store... Dumb and Dumber... remember?? Sorry, I couldn't help myself) :)
First off vermicomposting is
Composting + Worms = Vermicomposting
Many of us have a compost pile already.  Compost is a wonderful way to recycle your leftovers and enrich soil for your garden.  With Vermicomposting you are doing it even more so.  The worms multiply they shed and they create a worm tea, which is a beautiful organic fertilizer... but that comes later.
First off, let's talk about how to set up your worm farm... small scale.  We are going to be moving our worms to a bathtub soonly, but for now we are using just a plain ole rubbermaid tote box.
Then once you get your tote, drill or cut some small air holes.
Then you want to take shredded paper, newspaper, cardboard and get it moist.
Next, fill with some good soil.  Now you want this place moist but not soggy, you don't want to drown your little fellas. Sorry, I don't have a picture of adding soil.
Then your worms...
You know that you have really started to change when you go online to buy worms rather than shoes or clothing... Here is what my worms looked like when they arrived.
"You mean to tell me you BOUGHT  worms???" A question from my sister Yes, I did buy these worms.  You can't use just any ole worm for this, you want a composting worm, and red wrigglers are just right for the job.  You can't just dig up worms in your backyard for this one.
Here is a close up shot, just for your enjoyment.
Nice, eh?  That is 1000 of those little guys.  
Now what do you feed them???
Anything that was once alive... fruit scraps, veggies, dead plants, paper, hair, the lone sock you find in your dryer, eggs and so on.  Be sure to limit citrus peels and onions, they are quite strong.
Our little guys are getting an old sock and some dead flowers, oh and an apple core...
It is better to cut up the food that you are giving them, it helps them to break it down faster... but I am just eager to see that sock go from a full sock to no sock... so that is why I left it in one piece!
Bon appetit

You want to dig the food down in there with them a bit, and stir them up when you feed them.
Also be sure to keep the farm humid and moist.  Don't let them dry out, a spritzer bottle would be a good thing to have on hand.
Finally take some sheets of newspaper and lay them across the top and moisten them, it helps to keep them down in the bin, so they can do their job. 
Then you can add your lid, and voile you have your worm farm!!!
When I transfer them over to the bathtub, I will make a new post with pictures on that too. 
And that is when I will be able to share with you about worm tea!!!
Have a great day friends!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Making your own maple syrup

Put down the Aunt Jemima... :)
Step away from the High Fructose Corn Syrup.
I have a way for you to make you own 'almost' maple syrup.
It is tasty and it is frugal and it is much better for you than your conventional imitation syrups.
Maple syrup is the way to go if you can get the real deal, but for us, that is PRICEY.
So we opt for making our own.

Get a medium pot and add 2 cups of sugar
White, brown, cane juice crystals, sucanat, whatever you like or have on hand.
Most of the time we use sucanat.
Now you need 1 cup of water.
Pour the water and your sugar in your pot and cook over a medium/low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
Once this happens take the syrup off the heat and add a few drops of maple extract.
That's it!

Now this makes a thin'ish syrup and sometimes my children request that it be a bit thicker. When those times come along, I take a bit of arrowroot (about 3 Tbsp) and mix it with just a tad of cold water. Have this waiting for when your sugar and water begins to boil, once it does, add your arrowroot/water mixture and stir quickly.
If you go this route then of course, make sure you don't add your flavoring until AFTER you bring the syrup off the hot stove. You don't want your flavor to evaporate. :)

Just another item you can make for yourself. I LOVE that. :)