Monday, December 26, 2011

Felt Car Mat

Well, where have I been? I have been busy sewing hats for my boys, nieces and nephew and making this awesome felt car play mat for Chase for Christmas. I didn't want to post it until after Christmas because my kids sometimes check out my blog too. Anyway, this was so much fun to make and very time consuming. I didn't end up completely finishing it. I told Chase when he opened it up that this is our work in progress and that maybe each weekend we can add something else to it so he would feel like he was creating it too ( way to cover up not being finished ! LOL). So here are some pictures of it with some of his other "car things".

How funny is that? Even my other boys were having fun playing with this!
Who would have thought that four older boys would spend over 4 hours playing with this too! Gotta love it!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Great Example of Priorities - This family gave up christmas gifts to build their food storage

Adapted from Utah Preppers

For Christmas this year, we decided to forgo gifts and add to our dry-pack food supply. With access to a dry-pack canner through the local unit of my Church, I decided the most cost effective and efficient route this time would be to buy in bulk and do the canning myself at home. I purchased all of the food and supplies from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Home Storage Center in Sandy.
We were able to get everything we wanted except wheat which they were out of until the first of the year. I will be going back in a few weeks to finish off that part of the order. I did learn exactly how much will fit in a 4Runner, although I had more than the traditional blind-spot to worry about on the drive home. For this round, I canned rice, sugar, pinto beans, black beans, white beans, potato flakes, dry milk, dried onions, apple slices, and both quick and regular oats.
The nice thing about the Home Storage Centers is that they have everything you need to complete the project including the cans, lids, oxygen absorbers, and boxes. They even had a temporary clip that you can use on the bag that holds the oxygen absorbers since they cannot be exposed to the air for longer then ten minutes or so or they will go bad.
Dry-pack canning is really very simple—you fill the can up, drop in an oxygen absorber (except for sugar), put the lid on, seal it, and then label the can so you know what’s inside—but I learned a few things that helped me get more efficient after the first day. Instead of repeating each of those steps for each can, it is much easier to do thirty cans or so in a batch. Set up a long table next to where you have the canner mounted and then set up thirty or so empty cans. You can then open one of the bulk bags and pour across the cans filling them all in turn, without bending over or having to pick the bags up and setting them down again and again.
You’ll then want to tap the cans on the table good and hard several times to get the food to settle, topping off as needed until the can contains is much as possible. I learned that with most items, if I fill the can until the contents are heaped above the rim and to the point of overflowing, they will usually settle down nearly perfect, leaving just enough room for the oxygen absorber and the lid. A few of the lighter items like flour and milk really compact though and you’ll need a cup of some sort to scoop extra and top off the cans. For the items such as apple slices, onions, and potatoes that come in a box, I found scooping the contents out with a plastic pitcher to be the most effect method.
I didn’t bother with labels for the cans and boxes, even though you can get them for free with your purchase from the Home Storage Center; I simply wrote on the cans with a black Sharpie. I then loaded the cans into cardboard boxes that I also purchased there six at a time and labeled the box as well. Obviously the more hands you have the faster the work goes but it is something that can easily be done solo. The only real possible obstacle I can see for some would be lifting and transporting the twenty-five pound bags. If you can get your hands on a canner, I would definitely recommend this approach.
So much does this cost? Was it worth the effort to can it myself? Using the price sheet, let’s break it down.
436 cans @ $0.40/each = $136.08
436 lids @ $0.11/each = $35.64
436 oxygen absorber @ $0.07/each = $22.68
72 cardboard boxes @ $0.56/each = $33.04
3 bags oats, regular @ $10.40/each = $31.20
3 bags oats, quick @ $10.40/each = $31.20
25 bags wheat @ $6.05/each = $151.25
15 bags rice @ $15.90/each = $238.50
12 bags sugar @ $10.50/each = $126.00
4 bags pinto beans @ $12.65/each = $50.60
5 bags pinto beans @ $14.35/each = $71.75
3 bags white beans @ $14.35/each = $43.05
3 bags potato flakes @ $28.05/each = $84.15
5 bags dry milk @ $44.45/each = $222.25
1 box dried onions @ $69.15/each = $69.15
1 box apple slices @ $64.95/each = $64.95
That’s $293.2 for supplies and $1184.05 for food and a combined total of $1477.25. We roughly purchased for 3.5 adults for one year. Let’s compare that with off the shelf options. Emergency Essentials has three packages: Ultimate, Premium, and Traditional costing $2,399.95, $1,549.95, and $799.95 respectively for a single adult year supply. While the each of these contains significantly more variety (dehydrated fruits and vegatables, drink mixes, pancake mix, etc), you can see that there is significant savings in doing the packaging yourself. Even if we go with Emergency Essentials basic package, it works out to be $11.11 per can whereas mine was $3.30 per can. How much did you spend on Christmas this year? Sure, I’d rather be eating the gourmet meal found in Emergency Essential’s Ultimate package, but this does show that there is no excuse for not having a year’s supply.


Ensign - August 1996
Random Sampler Section
Church members living near a Church-owned cannery are encouraged to participate not only in welfare canning sessions but also in family canning programs. The focus of the dry-pack canning program is to give greater assistance to families and provide more opportunities for them to obtain and store a year’s supply of basic, life sustaining products.

Members are invited to set up an appointment through their ward or stake canning specialist (your priesthood or Relief Society leader can tell you who this is) to use the equipment at their local cannery to dry-pack food. Canneries have more than a dozen products available to can at a nominal cost, or you can bring your own food and pay only for the cost of the cans.

Many stakes also have access to dry-pack canning equipment that can be checked out for individual use at home.

Dry-pack canning is an effective method for storing dry foods. Bulk storage foods such as wheat or beans are placed in large metal #10 cans, along with a packet that removes oxygen, then sealed without further processing. Food that is stored this way has an extended storage life and is protected from moisture, insects, and rodents.

The following basic food storage items are available at dry-pack canneries:

*Apples slices, dried

*Oats, rolled

*Beans: pinto, pink, great northern

*Onions, dry

*Puddings: Chocolate, vanilla

*Carrots, dry

*Cocoa, hot mix

*Rice, white

*Flour, white

*Soup mix

*Fruit drink mix



*Sugar, granulated

*Milk, non-fat dry


Not all food storage items are appropriate for dry-pack canning. The following types of items do not store well in cans because of moisture or oil content. However, their shelf life can be extended by storing them in sealed containers in the freezer:

Barley, pearled


Cereal, milled-grain Nuts, roasted or raw

Cornmeal Rice, brown

Flour, whole wheat Yeast

Additional products that should not be home dry-pack canned include these products, which are best stored in their original containers and rotated frequently:

Baking powder

Baking soda


Mixes w/leavening, Oil such as pancake or biscuit mixes


Sugar, brown

For more information, contact your regional welfare agent, Church-owned canneries, local bishops’ storehouse, or stake and ward canning specialists.

Bring the Dry Pack Cannery Home

Dry Pack Canning w/ Photos

LDS Cannery: The LDS Cannery is a great place to dry pack commodities. The new facility in is a walk-in facility with no appointment necessary. Other facilities may require an appointment, so call first. Each facility has everything you need to dry pack: bulk products, cans, lids, oxygen packets, labels, and boxes. From my experience, it is best to work in groups of at least 2-4 so that the process moves more quickly. It is ideal to use the LDS cannery facility if you don't want the mess at home, you live close by, and your schedule is flexible. Be advised that you cannot buy commodities elsewhere and then bring them into the cannery.

Dry Pack at Home: Did you know that the LDS Cannery has dry pack canners that can be scheduled for home use? You can schedule the canner for about 3-4 days and have the flexibility of canning at home. Dry packing at home is ideal if you'd like have your kids help, if your schedule conflicts with the dry pack facility hours, if you'd like to do a little at a time over several days, or if you have product at home that the LDS cannery is currently out of. Here in Kansas we can check one out from our stake or from the dry pack cannery in KC.

Photos: Here are some pictures of our latest dry packing experience, done at home:

Step 1: If you want to dry pack at home, you need to prepare by buying commodities in bulk. Prices are great at the LDS cannery, but you might find cheaper product elsewhere. Gather the items ahead of time. Be advised that not every commodity is suitable for long-term storage due to high water content or oily components.

Step 2: Estimate how many cans you'll need, which is based on the pounds of product you have. Here are some estimates to guide you in your planning:

Wheat, rice, sugar: 4 cans per 25 pounds
Beans: 5 cans per 25 pounds
see a complete list here

Step 3:
Buy your #10-sized cans & other supplies from the LDS Cannery. Don't forget the metal lids, oxygen packets, labels, and boxes. You will need one oxygen packet for every can, except those cans that contain sugar (it turns the sugar rock hard). Six cans fit into a box (called a case). The LDS Cannery gives out free labels. Get one for every can and one for every box (that way each case is labeled on the outside).

TIP: Spend the time to calculate before you go to the cannery. That way you'll know exactly what you need and how much.

Step 4: The canner weighs about 40 pounds, so two people should lift it. I got it out of the tub on my own, but it was a battle. It is secured to the countertop with two C-clamps. Use a double-folded towel to prevent damage to the countertop.

Step 5: Fill the cans within 1/4 inch from the top. You don't want to leave the oxygen packs out too long because they are activated after about 30 minutes. So, get the cans all ready for sealing and put the oxygen pack in at the last minute (remember, no oxygen packs for sugar!)

Step 6: Seal and label each can. I let kids help fill the cans, but an adult should use the machine.

Step 7: Label the box with a product sticker, the number of cans in the box, and the year. If you have a case with, for example, 3 wheat cans and 3 sugar cans in it, use a sticker for each product. That way you'll know how many of each you have in the box.

Tip: if you decide ahead of time where and how your boxes will be stored, you can put the label in the correct spot. It helps!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Low Fat Tex Mex Chicken and Rice Casserole

I've been trying to eat a little healthier at home this season, because of how much I pig out at holiday gatherings.  I love casseroles, but so many of them are filled with a lot of creamy soups and butter.  I found this recipe and thought it would be a good alternative to my usual casseroles.  It was full of flavor and still had some cheesy goodness (you still gotta live a little, right?!).

The leftovers are also great reheated and wrapped in a tortilla!

Low Fat Tex-Mex Chicken and Rice Casserole
(Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens)

1/2 c. chopped onion (1 medium)
1 Tbl. olive oil
1 package (6.9 ounce) chicken-flavored rice and vermicelli mix
14-ounce can chicken broth
2 c. water
2 c. chopped, cooked chicken
1 c. chopped, seeded tomato (2 medium)
3 Tbl. canned diced green chile peppers, drained
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp.  black pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1.  In a saucepan cook onion in hot oil over medium heat until tender.  Stir in rice and vermicelli mix (including seasoning package); cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Stir in broth and water.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes (liquid will not be fully absorbed).

2.  Transfer the rice mixture to a large bowl.  Stir in chicken, tomato, chile peppers, chili powder, basil, cumin and black pepper.  Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish.

3.  Bake, covered, in a 425 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Uncover and sprinkle with cheese.  Let stand about 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice


*Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Recipe
I found that pumpkin pie spice is SUPER expensive at the store and you only get a small amount. I came across this recipe at $5 Dinners to make your own Pumpkin Pie Spice . . . and it worked perfectly! It is much cheaper to make it yourself than to buy it.

1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
Place all ingredients in small, sealable container and mix together. Use as directed in recipes that call for pumpkin pie spice.
Store in a dry place, up to 6 months.
Makes about 3 Tablespoons.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Make your Own Hot Chocolate - Great Recipe!!

  • 6 1/2 cups powdered milk

  • 1 (5 ounce) package non-instant chocolate pudding mix

  • 1 cup powdered chocolate drink mix

  • 1/2 cup powdered non-dairy creamer

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • Directions

    1. In a large bowl, combine powdered milk, chocolate pudding mix, chocolate drink mix powder, creamer, confectioners' sugar, and cocoa. Divide the mixture between two 1 quart jars. Seal, and decorate as desired. These can be stored in a dry area for up to 3 months.
    2. Attach a tag with the following instructions: Hot Cocoa: Dissolve 1/3 cup cocoa mix in 1 cup boiling water.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Cafe Rio Flour Tortilla Recipe - Fabulous and Easy




    3 c. flour
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    2 tsp. baking powder
    3/4 c. shortening
    3/4 c. very hot water


    In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together. Cut in the shortening with your fingers or pastry cutter until the flour is crumbly. Add the water and mix until the dough comes together. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in bowl, cover with a slightly damp dishtowel and let sit for an hour. Divide the dough into 5-6 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball (if you are making soft taco sized tortillas, divide it into 10-12 pieces). Preheat a large skillet or pan to medium-high heat. Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll a dough ball into a thin, round tortilla (if you want it perfectly round, get a large round plate or serving platter, flip it upside down over the dough and cut out the circle). Place into the hot skillet, and cook until bubbly, golden, and no appearance of doughy-ness, about 1 minute (DON’T OVERCOOK.. remember these are supposed to be soft flour tortillas, you don’t want them to be crispy); flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side. Place the cooked tortilla in a tortilla warmer or on a large plate, covering with a slightly damp towel. Repeat with remaining dough.

    Candied Popcorn


    12 cups popped popcorn

    1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk

    1 (3 oz.) package cherry or other flavored gelatin


    HEAT oven to 300ºF. Line large shallow roasting pan with heavy foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil.

    REMOVE all unpopped popcorn. Pour popcorn into prepared pan. Keep warm in oven.

    COMBINE sweetened condensed milk and dry gelatin in medium saucepan. Heat and stir over low heat until mixture is slightly thickened and bubbly, 4 to 5 minutes.

    POUR mixture over popcorn. Stir gently to coat using a long-handled wooden spoon. Bake 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Carefully turn out onto large piece of lightly buttered foil. Cool. Break into pieces or clusters.

    I found this at the Eagle Brand website!

    Dehydrate Your Own sliced Potatoes- Successfully!

    Home Dried Potatoes
    Potatoes (an amount you find manageable)
    Metal vegetable blanching basket, or French fry basket
    Colander & Mixing Bowl which is larger than your colander
    Paper towels
    Several cookie sheets OR Food Dehydrator & trays or racks
    Vegetable Oil Cooking Spray
    Peel desired amount of potatoes and slice into rounds 1/8 inch thick. (Peeling is optional- there are important vitamins and minerals stored in the potato skins, but they look nicer peeled, so choose according to your personal preference.) This can be done quickly with a food processor or slicer. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Put potato slices into a vegetable basket and plunge the basket into the boiling water and wait for the water to return to a boil. Once the water is boiling, start counting off 8 minutes of blanching time. While potatoes are blanching, set up a large mixing bowl in your sink and fill it with ice water. When the potatoes have blanched for 8 minutes, plunge the basketful of potatoes immediately into the ice water and let them sit there for 15 minutes. Spread the blanched potato slices in a single layer between paper towels and blot them dry.
    If you are not using a dehydrator, spray cookie sheets with vegetable oil spray (do not use regular cooking oil); if you are using rimmed baking pans, spray and use only the upside down bottoms of these pans to prevent scorching near the pan's raised rim; if you are using Teflon cookie sheets, there is no need for spray. Spread potato slices on the prepared sheets or pans as close together as possible but in a single layer. Place cookie sheets on oven racks and turn the oven on to its very lowest temperature. (between low and off) Keep the oven door ajar so that the air can circulate freely and let moisture escape. Make sure that the temperature never gets so hot that your hand feels uncomfortable when held in the oven. This is necessary for thorough drying.
    If you are using a dehydrator, place potato slices on racks which have been prepared with vegetable oil spray, placing potatoes close together, but not touching, so air is allowed to circulate between them. Turning is not necessary on vented racks. Dry according to manufacturer’s instructions, or until potatoes are brittle, somewhat translucent and are not at all pliable. If you have solid racks, follow the same directions as for turning potatoes dried in an oven:
    After 1 hour, turn all the slices over; then turn the slices over every 30 minutes. Drying time will depend largely on your own oven, but you should begin checking for doneness at 3 hours. The potatoes are done when they become brittle, somewhat translucent, and are not at all pliable. Their color should be pale white with a tinge of yellow; do not let them become brown or even dark amber in color. Some potato slices will dry faster than others, so check every 15 - 30 minutes for slices which are done.
    Let the dried potatoes cool thoroughly, then store for up to a year in glass or plastic jars OR plastic bags at room temperature in a cool, dry place.
     **You can use the instructions from your favorite pre-packaged potato mixes to cook or reconstitute your dried potatoes, or you can use the recipes below to put together your own mixes for your home-dried potatoes.
    2 Tbsp. Flour
    2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
    1 tsp. Onion Powder or 1 Tbsp. Crushed Dried Onions
    1/8 tsp. Black Pepper
    Combine the above ingredients to make 1 package of sauce mix and seal it in a small zip baggie, removing as much air as possible. When making several mixes to store or give as gifts, multiply this sauce mix recipe and store in a jar until ready for use. 6 Tbsp. Sauce Mix is equal to 1 x the above recipe.
    Yield: 3 cups or four 3/4 cups servings
    Scalloped Potato Mix in a Jar
    3 cups dehydrated Potatoes
    1 package (6 Tbsp.) Sauce Mix
    1/3 cup Nonfat Dry Milk
    Place these ingredients into a one quart jar, making certain the sauce mix and dry milk are first placed into small zip baggies, then sealed with the air removed. Place the potatoes into the bottom of the jar, then add the baggie of mix on top. Place lid on jar and store in a cool dry place until ready to use. Attach the following instructions for later use, or for gift giving:
    Scalloped Potatoes
    3 Tbsp. Butter or Margarine
    2-3/4 cups boiling Water
    Pour the potatoes into a medium size ungreased casserole and sprinkle the sauce mix on top. Dot with butter; stir in the boiling water. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until tender. If you are cooking something else at a lower temperature in your oven, adjust the baking time; at 350 degrees bake 40 to 45 minutes; at 325 degrees bake 50 to 55 minutes.

    3 cups dehydrated Potatoes
    1/3 cup Nonfat Dry Milk
    1 package (6 Tbsp.) Sauce Mix
    1/4 tsp. Black Pepper
    1/2 tsp. Salt
    1 tsp. Beef Bouillon Granules
    Place above ingredients into a quart jar, placing milk, sauce mix, pepper, salt & bouillon granules into a small zip baggie, which will be placed on top of potatoes in the jar. Place lid on jar & store in a cool dry place until ready to use. Attach the following instructions for later use, or for gift giving:

    Skillet Meat & Potatoes Casserole
    Brown 1 pound of ground beef in a skillet, and drain off excess fat. Stir in 2 3/4 cups water and the ingredients from the jar. Heat to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer stirring now and then, for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
    Yield: 4 one cup servings
    Skillet Meat and Potatoes Casserole Mix in a Jar
    Basic Sauce Mix
     2 Tbsp. Nonfat Dry Milk

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Motherhood Is Not a Hobby

    “Many voices in the world today marginalize the importance of having children or suggest delaying or limiting children in a family. My daughters recently referred me to a blog written by a Christian mother (not of our faith) with five children. She commented: “[Growing] up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood. … Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get.” She then adds: “Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”7
    Having young children is not easy. Many days are just difficult. A young mother got on a bus with seven children. The bus driver asked, “Are these all yours, lady? Or is it a picnic?”
    “They’re all mine,” she replied. “And it’s no picnic!”8
    As the world increasingly asks, “Are these all yours?” we thank you for creating within the Church a sanctuary for families, where we honor and help mothers with children.”
    Elder Neil L. Anderson, “Children”. October 2011 General Conference.

    Awesome Homemade Granola Bar Recipe - MUST TRY! Kids Fav!!

    I've been searching for a good granola bar recipe, and I have loved this one! I hope you all enjoy it!

    4 1/2 c rolled oats (regular, not quick)

    1 c flour ( I like to use whole wheat flour)

    1 tsp baking soda

    1 tsp vanilla

    2/3 c butter, melted

    1/2 c honey

    1/3 c brown sugar, packed

    1/2 c mini chocolate chips (raisins, craisins, other dried fruit, whatever you like!)
    Combine all ingredients but the chocolate chips (or whatever you are putting in). Mix and then add the chocolate chips in and mix again. Press into a greased pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 18-22 minutes. Enjoy!!

    **this is a basic recipe. . . if you like other things, try putting them in and make it your own recipe! Nuts, seeds, coconut, peanut butter. . . the options are endless!**

    Here they are pressed into my pan. I made a double batch the other day and fit it in this pan. It makes them a little thicker, so I just cut them a little smaller

    Once they've cooled off for a few minutes, cut them up to your desired size. They are VERY filling, so keep that in mind, especially if you have young kids.

    Once they have cooled completely, I like to wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store them in a big ziplock bag. You can also use the snack size baggies to put each one in. What a yummy and healthy snack your kids have to come home to! (And yummy for mom, too!)

    Homemade Lemon Lavender Oatmeal Soap

    You first have to get the water really cold. We used ice to accomplish this.

    Then we added in the lye crystals slowly while mixing. We did this outside with gloves on as you have to be very careful when working with lye crystals. The mixture gets very hot very quickly.

    While the lye mixture was cooling, we melted the fats in a big pot on the stove over low heat.

    Once we got the lye mixture to the right temperature, we slowly mixed it into the melted fats and then used a stick blender get it to trace. This took us around 10 minutes, but I also didn’t have a clue what I was doing and my sister had to coach me a lot on what it meant for the mixture to “trace”.

    We finally got it, and then we added in the essential oils, oatmeal, and lavender and poured it into the soap mold to cure (the mold was a cardboard box with a plastic trash sack in it!). I left it on the kitchen table with a piece of wood and a blanket over it for two days and then cut it up tonight. It needs to cure for a few more weeks and then it will be ready for use.
    I cannot tell you then sense of accomplishment I felt from cutting up the bars of soap tonight! It’s hard to describe, but there’s just such a deep feeling of fulfillment from putting forth the effort to make items from scratch. And I can’t wait to actually use the soap once it’s ready!

    Saving Money - Great ebook, check it out - May put $ back in your wallet!

    Great Example of Making Your Own Mixes

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Awesome Water Storage Racks

    The images show the resulting racks after 2 days of construction. The most time consuming aspect was cutting the wood to the proper sizes.

    (Some of you may arrived at this page from another source. The plans are posted online, with a brief description HERE. )
    Fully assembled racks with loaded #10 cans and barrels full of water.

    Assembled racks, without cans and with unfilled barrels. This was done to test the layout and make any final adjustments before the water was added.

    Close up of the can shelves and how the lands were created.

    Hose bib detail.

    This shot shows the shelves and the various methods to ensure cans are kept linear and do not roll off/out of the shelf

    Food Prices To Double By 2030!

    If this site and many others online haven’t inspired you to put some effort into building a well-rounded food storage supply and learning to use it, I think this article on the global food demand will add some encouragement.
    I found it scary initially, but then thought, “Isn’t this why we’re trying to be diligent about preparedness?”  I still feel faith instead of fear will keep us fed.  Be consistent and organized with planning your food storage, and continue to improve your supply week by week.

    Preparing for a Spring Garden

    garden in late winter = blank slate
    garden in late winter = blank slate
    It is never too early to prepare for a spring garden.  Whether you are planning your first garden or are an experienced gardener, fall and winter offer time for reflection and forming new habits.
    If you are making a new garden or bed, lay out some newspapers or cardboard now in the spot you wish to create the new garden.  They will compost into the earth over the winter and prevent weeds from cropping up.  You can turn them under or build a raised bed right on top in the spring.
    Composting is a perfect activity to start in the fall.  Build a simple bin and place it in an out of the way area in your yard.  You could also start up a vermicomposting bin inside.  Keep a bucket on your counter for vegetable scraps and get into the habit of collecting and dumping those in your compost regularly.  Outside bins also need brown matter.  Instead of subscribing to leaf collection, add those to your bin. You will be rewarded with black gold to add to your garden beds in the spring.

    Install or maintain a rain barrel.  If you do not have a rain barrel, make plans for getting one.  Our favorite local suppliers are the rain brothers.  A barrel collects free rain water you can use to water your garden.  If you already have a rain barrel, empty it near the first frost and turn it upside down to prevent burst from frozen water.  Fall is a good time to reinforce the stand.
    Ask for garden tools, books, and accessories for holiday gifts.  Very shortly I will be publishing a post about best gifts for gardeners and cooks.  I just can’t do it before Halloween.  It isn’t right to talk about xmas before Halloween.
    Read, measure, and plan.  Visit your local library and extension service website to learn about something new.  Measure your existing or perspective garden plot.  Then, plan your spring garden!  Some people like to write lists of what they will plant, others map it out on graph paper. is a good resource for making an online printable plan.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    Give Life To Outgrown Clothes ~ Make Your Own Cloth Napkins

    sewing napkins

    I'm slowly phasing out all of the paper towels and napkins out of our home, replacing them with cloth napkins and the stash of flannel in my sewing cupboard is finally getting put to good use making lovely soft napkins that the kids love to use :)

    sewing napkins

    But I started thinking about what else I could find around the house to reuse and give new life to in the form of napkins. With three kids growing like weeds there's never a shortage of to tight pajamas or ones that accidentally got snagged on something and blew out a knee *grin*. So instead of throwing them in the rag bag I dug them out, washed them all up and headed to the cutting table.

    sewing napkins

    By snipping off the waistbands and cuffs and cutting out all of the seams I was left with 4 panels. Slightly odd in shape but very usable!

    sewing napkins

    With my rotary cutter & ruler I trimmed them up so that they had nice straight edges. A few of them had ripped knees so I had to trim them a little shorter but out of my(at the time) 4 year olds pj's I was able to get a good sized 6 x 13 inch rectangle out of most of the flannel panels.

    How To Fake A Clean House - Works!! I Promise!

    An old friend calls and says she's in the neighborhood and wants to drop by in 15 minutes. You look around and wonder how to get this mess clean in a matter of minutes. The following eight steps will help you fake a clean house. Start at the beginning and do as much as you have time for until your guests arrive.
    Difficulty: Easy
    Time Required: 5-20 minutes

    Here's How:

    1. Odor Control Spray your favorite air freshener to remove any unpleasant odors. Pay special attention to the trash areas. Turn up the air conditioner, a fan, or open the windows to get stale air moving. Throw something sweet and tasty in the oven. Some women I know keep frozen cookie dough on hand for this very occasion. Not only will the house smell wonderful, but you'll have a tasty treat to serve your guests.
    2. Clutter Control Nothing makes a house look messier than clutter. Grab a laundry basket or a sack and begin gathering up items. Don't worry about putting them away. Just stow the basket or the sack out of sight until after the guests leave.
    3. Freshen Yourself In your clean bathroom mirror, examine yourself. The truth is that your guests will spend more time looking at you than at your house. If necessary, change clothes, run a brush through your hair, put on some deodorant and/or spray body splash.
    4. Living Room The place where you'll be sitting and visiting the most, needs the most attention. Since you've already removed the clutter, and made it smell nice, now all you have to focus on is tidying surfaces. Work quickly from left to right tidying each surface and removing any extra clutter. Quickly vacuum the main walkway of the floor.
    5. Bathroom Grab disinfecting wipes or a cleaning cloth and all-purpose spray. Wipe down all the surfaces quickly. Remove any clutter. Change the trash. Quickly wipe down the mirror. Make sure there is hand soap, a hand towel, and toilet paper accessible.
    6. Entryway The first thing that your guests will see is your entryway. Remove any clutter. Tidy up with a broom or handheld vacuum.
    7. Dishes If you have a few spare minutes, load those dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or rinse and stack them neatly in the sink. Take a cleaning wipe and wipe down the kitchen surfaces.
    8. Other Areas If you've finished all this and your guests still haven't arrived, keep doing small chores until they arrive, focusing only on rooms they will see. Some ideas might include, vacuuming floors, changing the kitchen trash, dusting ceiling fans, and straightening books and magazines.


    1. If guests are going to spend more time in another area of your home, substitute it for the living area, and focus your time there.
    2. Disposable cleaning wipes make a good quick helper, but you can also use an all-purpose spray and a cleaning cloth.
    3. Once you've finsished your quick cleaning, and your guests arrive, don't apologize for the state of your home. Guests come to see the host/hostess, not the house. Unexpected company, especially, will understand if everything isn't perfect.
    4. Enlist the help of children and/or spouse to make the quick cleanup go even faster. One silly thing my family does is to have "practice" sessions when we aren't expecting anyone, to see if we can beat our best times.

    What You Need:

    • Air freshener
    • Large basket or sack
    • Brush, body splash/deodorant, clean clothes
    • Handheld vacuum or broom
    • Cleaning wipes or all-purpose spray and cleaning cloths
    • Dishwasher or dishwashing supplies

    Perfect Way to Reuse a Shower Curtain

    Zippy Pouch
    (adapted from hand made matters)
     Zippy Pouch,  a simple zippered pouch sewing project made out of a shower curtain. I love this idea because it can be easily carried around when empty and is perfect for carrying wet or dirty clothes such as swimwear or that toddler “accident.”

    Tutorial Repurposing Men's Jeans to Toddler Pants - Brilliant!

    I've seen a few blog posts for converting men's pants or jeans to toddler-sized jeans, but they all seem to involve a lot of seam-ripping, deconstructing and lots of sewing. I was after a quicker and easier way - I get limited time at the sewing machine each week, and I want to see results! Also, the pants I had picked up cheaply at the thrift store had an unfortunate blow-out, so I needed to work around this:

    I prefer flat-front pants (where there is only elastic in the back) as I think they look a bit snazzier, but you could erasily do this with a full elastic waist. Here's my quick and easy method to convert thrifted mens pants into toddler/boy pants:

    Materials Required

    Men's jeans or pants

    Elastic to fit in waist-band (I about 9 inches of 1/2 inch wide elastic)


    Sewing Machine

    Serger/Overlocker (optional)


    Seam ripper


    Step 1. Create pattern from an existing pair of toddler pants (preferably flat-front pants) - for a great tutorial on this, check out the one here at MADE (a fabulous blog, if you haven't check it out before!).

    Step 2. Line up front pattern piece along the fly/centre seam and the waistband of the men's pants, and trace/cut out the pattern piece (but not along the fly/centre seam, making sure you don't cut into the back of the pants!) Cut straight through the pockets, waistband etc.:

    (Note: the pattern pieces won't line up perfectly with the curve of the centre seam, but it shouldn't make much difference to the fit of the pants.)

    Step 3. Flip the pattern piece to the other side of the centre seam, and repeat, so you end up with a single piece for the front of the pants:

    Step 4. Repeat for the back pattern pieces on the back of the pants:

    Step 5. Remove any studs, labels or excess pocket material in the seam allowances that will be difficult to sew through. I removed the leather back label, the small coin pocket that had one side seam showing, including the stud. I tried to prise off the stud with pliers but ended up just cutting it off as it was in the seam allowance).

    Step 6. Pin together the front and back pieces, with right sides of the material together, in the inner leg/crotch area, and sew together. I used my serger/overlocker first (yes, I only have white thread for my overlocker!), and then sewed the seam with brown thread on my sewing machine to make sure the white thread doesn't peep through. (Note: I prefer to overlock before sewing as I'm not very confident with my new overlocker - do it the other way around if you prefer.)

    If you don't have an overlocker, do a zig-zag stitch in the seam allowance before sewing with a machine, or just sew the seam and don't worry about finishing off.

    Step 7. Cut a length of elastic approximately an inch longer than the width of the front panel, and put a safety pin in one end:

    Step 8. Thread the elastic through the waistband of the back section of the pants, pinning the non-safety-pinned end, so you don't pull it all the way through:

    Pin the elastic at both ends with a small section hanging out of the waist band (to make sure you sew through it).

    Step 9. Pin the front and back pieces of the pants together for the side seams, and sew, as per the inner leg seam (ie I serged/overlocked, and then machine sewed again). I sewed through all pocket material to create little pockets in my pants.

    Step 10. Double-fold over the hem for each leg, pin and sew with your sewing machine (or hand-sew a blind hem, if you prefer).

    Step 11. Turn your pants right-side out and admire your handiwork:

    Step 12. Find a small person to model the pants for you: