Monday, January 23, 2012

Simplifying life 3

Today I wanted to share one of the things I do weekly to make my life just a little bit easier.

I used to make giant batches of pancakes or waffles and freeze them but the kids always took the giant batches as a right to eat as many as they wanted in one sitting. So I decided that it would be wiser to make an appropriate amount of them instead. So to make my life easier and have my own mix ready to go.

Like I said in my other posts I don't buy prepackaged foods any more. There are to many other ingredients that I don't want in my food.

I have two different mixes because I like spiced pancakes and waffles. I also have one for biscuits that has no spices in it.

I use about 2 cups of mix per batch of pancakes and about 3 cups per batch of waffles. I will include the recipe for each.

Pancake & Waffle Mix
6 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
6 Tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 TBSP sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger

Sour Milk
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vinegar

Pancake recipe
2 cups mix
4 TBSP melted butter
1 egg
1 1/2 cups sour milk (Or buttermilk can be used here)
combine all ingredients and allow to sit for 5 minutes before pouring onto hot griddle.

Waffle recipe
3 cups mix
1/4 cup oil or butter (melted)
2 eggs
2 cups sour milk
combine all ingredients and allow to sit for 10 minutes. You will see the batter sort of puff up and grow this will be when it is ready to use in your hot waffle iron.

For Biscuit mix (can also be used for dumplings like bisquick)
6 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
6 TSP baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 TBSP sugar

To make biscuits
2 cups mix
1/4 cup butter softened
1/2 - 3/4 milk
Mix butter into dry ingredients and keep it crumbly add in enough milk to pull together and either roll dough out to be cut up with a biscuit cutter or drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake in a 350* oven for 10-12 minutes.

These are my simple mixes I keep in an air tight container on my counter. I usually go through both batches in a week but we also do not buy cereal any longer. I do make granola in the summer and we do eat hot oatmeal or cream of wheat. I make my own packets of  "instant" cereal as well. I will share those soon.

You still have a little time to get in on the Give Away The Drawing takes place on February 9th.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Simplifying life 2

Home made laundry soap is one of the simplest things to make. It costs next to nothing and is safer for the environment, less toxic for your body and good for your wallet.

For me this was one of the first things I did because of allergies. I have severe allergies to most chemicals. I break out in hives and get migraines from scents. I started making my own laundry soap about 8 years ago. From time to time I have bought some of the hypo-allergenic laundry soaps, but I can make it so much cheaper that it makes no sense for me to spend 3 or 4x's as much for the same product.

What you need for laundry soap:
1 box washing soda (NOT baking soda!)
1 box borax
1 bar fels naptha soap

1 bottle to mix soap in and 1 to store dry soap in.

Fragrant soap:
I have used rose water or a variety of essential oils.

Using a cheese grater (preferably one that is just for soap) grate the bar of Fels Naptha soap. Pour both the borax and the washing soda into a mixing bowl and add the grated soap bar into this mixing well. For a liquid soap pour 1 cup of dry soap into a 1 gallon bottle. Add water to fill bottle and shake well. You can then add the scent 1-3 drops of essential oils for a 1 gallon bottle. Or in place of regular water use rose water.

For cleaning I use:
Castle soap, A few drops in a sink full of water will clean an entire room.

Lemon: I have not found much that lemon doesn't help with. A little lemon and baking soda cleans flat surfaces, and stubborn food stains on pots and pans. Plus it will clean brass pots like nobody's business.

Vinegar: You can mix vinegar and water with lemon in a spritzer bottle to deodorize a room. The vinegar will dissipate and as it does it takes the stink with it. Of course white vinegar also is a natural fabric softener, so put 1/4 cup in the wash in the fabric softener holder and your clothes get deodorizer and are naturally softer. There is also the wonderful no streak clean that it leaves behind on mirrors, windows, and flat top cook stoves.

Baking Soda: as mentioned in the other two you can clean a lot of things with this. I also like to sprinkle it on carpets and sweep it in, Then after an hour I vacuum the floor well. The room is refreshed and the carpet is cleaner.

Hydrogen Peroxide: That's right, regular over the counter peroxide. I use this to clean stains like blood out of clothes or even off counters. Animal blood sometimes will stain counter tops and a few drops of peroxide will bubble up and dissolve the blood proteins.

For the dishwasher I always just use borax & washing soda. Then I saw this post and am now going to make my own single use packets that can be found on this blog.

These are the cleaning products I use. You will notice there is no bleach listed, nor is there any ammonia listed. Both of those products are highly toxic and I do not use them.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Out and about

Today is Monday and I am about to take my children off on an adventure around the lovely town we live in. We must return library books and check out new ones as well as stop by town hall. So I wanted to just take a moment to remind everyone that they have plenty of time to still get in on the giveaway!

There has been a little confusion, I am not giving away the apron in the photo, but one in the same style with your choice in fabrics. Now the choice is limited to what I have in stock at this moment and I will be giving you ample time to make your choice. Of course since I am making that item after the drawing is finished it will take at least a week to complete and mail off to you. The other two items however are already completed and will be mailed as soon as I get your mailing address.

To be entered into the giveaway please go comment on this blog here and tell me you would like to be entered to win.

Have a fantastic Monday everyone.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I was just sitting here thinking its been years since I spent a whole weekend reading.

I used to love to spend days curled up in a chair or on my bed reading... back before I was "mom". I spent hours with my friends in books and had a wide imagination. I worked and when I got off work I came home showered and curled up in bed with something hot to drink and a good book. I would pull all nighters reading and have to work all day just waiting to get home to my book.

Then I had kids. While I still loved reading I needed sleep! Sleep is important when your a mom. Sometimes nothing else is as important as sleep. Then as my infants became tots I wanted to instill a love for reading too so I read to them. Not great big novels but picture books with stories and pretty pictures to capture their attention.

Now the kids are older and The Bookworm and I share books often. I still don't get a whole lot of "days off to read" like I used to get when I was a teen, but those days are coming far more frequently then before. I often feel like I don't ever have the time to devote to just reading for days at a time. To dive in and forget everything else around me. The truth is my children are all old enough to fend for themselves. They entertain each other and themselves well and know how to prepare their own meals. Why not take a day off? dive into a book and come out only for a brief moment to answer a question or greet my loving spouse? Pop food into the crock pot in the morning and take a day off!

So this weekend has been about me. Finding things I love to do and doing them. I spend so many hours a day taking care of everyone else around me that I often forget to pamper myself. I forget to nourish my mind with something other than random school facts or things we are learning in the homeschool front. I find myself forgetting about me, and thinking only about who everyone else see's me as.

This weekend I have done yoga for me. I have sat and read for hours on end for me. I am enjoying my weekend of pampering ME. What do you do to take care of You?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Caramel Popcorn without the Corn Syrup

As part of my every day diet I refuse to eat anything that has HFGC (other wise known as High Fructose Corn Syrup) as well as any other form of corn syrup for that matter. When making Caramel corn 95% of recipes out there contain corn syrup as a main ingredient.

After searching the interweb for what felt like days, but was really probably only 20 minutes, I found this recipe on ehow. It seemed to be a great start so I went with it, making modifications along the way.

Pop 4-5 cups of popcorn in an air popper if at all possible. Place in a large bowl for mixing. Grease a large cookie sheet to place the popcorn on when its finished.

In a pot place:
1 cup sugar
4 tsp dark molasses
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp baking powder (leave out while boiling)

with a wire whisk stir this mixture until it comes to a soft boil. I do not happen to have a candy thermometer so I just eye ball it for the next 5-8 minutes stirring with whisk constantly. In the recipe I found it says 8-10 minutes, when I went 10 minuets with the next batch I had complete disaster! the caramel became a powdery solid once the baking soda is added. Once the caramel has come to a boil and cooked the amount of time it needs to take off the heat and add the baking powder. The caramel will foam and bubble and then go down. Pour over the popcorn and stir around trying to coat each piece of popcorn. Place popcorn on buttered cookie sheet and wait at least until its room temperature to enjoy, usually about 10-15 minutes. 

Bringing ingredients to boil.

After adding the baking soda

The finished product

Friday, January 13, 2012

Give Away

Come One Come ALL! Enter the FREE giveaway today! Tell me which item is your favorite for an extra chance to win that item! You *MUST* comment directly on this blog, or have commented on the first one to be entered!

I am giving away 3 items that were hand made by me.

Item one:
A half moon Apron like this, but in your choice of fabric:

A funky pair of earrings that are completely adorable:

A relaxation mask in adorable Cherries fabric:

To enter all you have to do is comment on this blog. You get an additional entry for sharing this giveaway on your own blog, or any social networking site as long as you come back and post a link to this blog post.

The drawing takes place on February 9th, Giving you plenty of time to enter, and share. Everyone who has already entered via the first blog will still be counted, You just are now able to enter today via this blog post too.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Simplifying Life

I have been on a mission for many years now to cut back spending, simplify my life and enjoy the little things. This isn't always easy with the fast paced, spend, spend, spend world we live in now, but it is possible.

Some of the things that I have used to cut back the shopping budget are:
  1. Stop buying all prepackaged pre-made food. 
  2. Buy local produce, in season.
  3. Buy meat in bulk
  4. Remake left overs
  5. Recycle old clothes
  6. Grow your own veggies
  7. Shop with your local farms
  8. Shop thrift stores
  9. Buy in bulk, Rice, Beans, Pasta
  10. Avoid stores that sell "everything" stick to just what you need. 
I love to cook and bake but nobody wants to be a slave to the kitchen. I premix pancake mix myself, I bake my own bread with simple recipes that don't require a lot of attention or fuss. My ultimate goal is to get enough made one day each month to be able to forgo having to do it often.

I always buy meat on sale, and always in the large "value packs" or "family packs" I then divide the meat into at least two meals. I always buy whole chickens when I can find them at a good price. I rarely buy boneless or skinless chicken, It's not hard to skin the pieces and if you want the bone out own a good knife and follow the bones and viola you have boneless and skinless. Use the bones to make a healthy broth that you can freeze for use in soups and stews later.

Having leftovers go to waste is one of the top money wasters of today's average family. I keep an arsenal of recipes that turn left overs into something new. One of my families favorites is Turkey Casserole. Of course it can be used with any poultry but I don't often have left over chicken.

Remaking old clothes is something that we have recently taken into our family as a must. Old clothes that are no longer serviceable (torn beyond repair) are being stashed away to be turned into rag rugs. This was something our grandparents or great grandparents did with old clothes and it served two purposes. 1. It recycled those clothes for yet another use and 2. It helped cut down on drafts and cold in a room. But they often were made in certain colors and can be made to beautify a room as well. We have also reused old clothes to make doll clothes, pieces for puppets, and of course rags for cleaning. I should say that we always pass on clothes that are still serviceable. Clothes that children have just outgrown always get passed onto a local charity or posted for free on Craigslist.

Growing your own veggies is not hard, even if you have limited space. You could choose just a few of your favorites and grow them in containers. Learn to can or "preserve" your own food if at all possible! this is such an easy way to save some of your favorite foods for later, plus you will cut the cost of groceries even further if you can your own home grown foods. Container gardens can be just as fruitful as plots and if you are growing what you love best to eat you will eat them more often.

If you are not sure where to start when it comes to finding a local farm try Local Harvest They are one of many websites that help you find local farms. They happen to be my favorite for many reasons, one being that they allow you to search by zip code. This means that you can search them and find several within a certain radius of you. Go to the local farms and talk to them, often they know of other small farmers that may not have a listing on Local Harvest. Also check Craigslist in your area in the farm & garden section. You can often find people who may be selling just certain local foods in season. Sometimes they are just back yard farmers who have a surplus of food from their own gardens. They will often sell you what they have at a deep discount compared to what you would find it for in the grocery stores.

Shopping thrift stores is a no brainer. Most of them have some awesome finds and you can not beat the prices. I recently bought a perfect winter jacket for my Cuddle Bug who has outgrown everything lately for 1.95! That's right a less then two bucks!!! He chose the jacket himself and it fits him perfectly. In two months when he out grows it I won't feel horrid that I spent so much money on clothes that he no longer fits.

Buying in bulk is not possible for everyone. Since relocating to the east coast I have had a hard time finding stores that sell dry goods in bulk. If anyone from NC happens to know of any please pass on the info! In California I had a favorite store that I always bought my dry goods in bulk. Buying these items in bulk cuts the cost by almost 1/2. My dry goods list consists of; Rice, Pasta, Beans, Legumes, Quiniua, Flax seeds, Nuts, and all Flour.

When I say avoid stores that sell "everything" I mean box stores, IE walmart, target, kmart. Stores that sell both groceries and everyday household items. It is easy to over spend in these stores because you find something "on sale" or its "only 5.00" these items add up fast and you often don't need them. If you start shopping with intent behind what you buy you can save money. Should you need to replace towels you shop around for them and find the best sale and shop within your budget. If you are shopping for groceries only shop in stores that offer you fresh local produce and only groceries. Shop the perimeter of the store and hit and miss down the internal isles.

These are just a few of the tips I have used to cut down my family budget. I average 100.00-150.00 a week on groceries for a family of 6. This includes toiletries. The budget is on the lower side of that number more often then not.

Coming Soon...
How to cut costs on toiletries, soaps, laundry soap, and cleaning supplies.

Also don't forget to enter for your chance to win in the drawing I am holding. Give Away You have to go to that blog and comment there to be entered. Its really that simple. :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Weekly Organic Learning Report

I meant to write this on Friday and post it but, well life happened. I am sure some of you understand that all to well!

As a homeschooling mom who firmly believes that children need to be allowed to follow their own passions and dreams I work hard to see where the spark is and keep them going in that direction. It's not always easy but I do try.

This week has been one of challenge for me. My darling Spitfire has come to me and informed me that she wants more structure. I will admit right here and now that I was really hurt by this. Here I was giving her the freedom to explore everything she wants and do it all how she wants. Only to be told by her that I was doing it wrong! Well Ok, she didn't say it was wrong, only that she wants more "school work". As a few people reminded me that is what Organic learning is all about. Choosing how you learn, and what you learn. She is still following her own path, she just wants it to be more structured. This week I spent a lot of time doing some research just for the Spitfire. I am going to be using some resources online and of course printing some stuff as well as trips to the library. We do a lot of that stuff already but I am going to have to put it together a bit differently so that she can get her needs met.

One resource that was shared with me in a Facebook group is a free site called e-learning for kids this resource has subjects broken down into grade level and kids can work at their own pace. I think this will become the number one tool for the next few weeks for the Spitfire. I am sure that the Cuddle Bug will want to join her because he never likes to be outdone by her. He wants to work just as hard as she does and keeps pace with her in all things.

I also see a lot of printer ink and paper in my near future.

On other Organic Learning fronts, my hands on learner is very interested in blacksmithing. We have found several blacksmiths in our new area and he has composed emails to them to see if someone would be willing to take on an apprentice. He has books on blacksmithing and has watched a few documentaries on metal work. He wants to learn about making swords, so we are looking for this sort of thing now. He is interested in medieval times as well and the sword play there and that is another great resource.

The Bookworm is working on writing. I have given her a little push to finish and try to publish one book this year. She is going to try. She has several novels in partially finished stages and it will be good for her to see it through to the end.

This week I have spent a lot of time in groups and discussions. I have another favorite blogger to add to my growing list of homeschooling bloggers. The Innovative Educator's blogger Lisa is wonderful at providing an interesting perspective as well as tons of helpful links.

And in blogger news, Don't forget to check out my Giveaway! It's not to late to enter! entering is easy, just comment on the blog for the giveaway will give you one entry. Sharing it on your blog, or other social networking site and coming back to share the link with me will give you another entry. Its simple and you get one of the three awesome prizes I made.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Doughnut Muffins

I have had requests for the Doughnut muffins I made for Birthday breakfast.

I really like cake doughnuts but I don't have a doughnut pan so I decided to use a muffin pan. I found This Recipe. I of course adapted it because I am not one to ever follow someone else's recipe well. :) You may choose to use that recipe or try out my adaptations.

The batter recipe:


3/4 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon vinegar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup butter, melted

Batter once its mixed together


Preheat oven to 400*. 

In a medium bowl, mix sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and flour.Add the vinegar to the milk and let stand for 10 minutes. Mix milk, eggs, honey,almond extract, orange zest and butter in a separate medium bowl, and stir into the dry ingredients. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan.

Bake 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown.

While they are baking make the glaze and toast the coconut. 

1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbls molasses
3-4 Tbls water
2 Tbls corn starch

In a sauce pan combine sugar, molasses, and water on low heat. Whisk together until sugar is dissolved and it starts to bubble. Add the cornstarch one Tbls at a time whisking between additions. Allow to bubble slowly for 2 minutes stirring continually with whisk. Allow to cool slightly. 
Toasting Coconut:
In a dry non stick pan place a thin layer of shredded coconut in the pan. Cook on low heat stirring occasionally as it browns.

Place muffins on wire rack to cool as they come out of the muffin pan. Once they are cool enough to handle dip the tops of the muffins into the glaze and set on the wire rack. Before the glaze has cooled sprinkle with toasted coconut. 

On a side note, don't forget to join in the Birthday Giveaway! Go to the blog and read about the giveaway and see the wonderful prizes I am giving away. You still have plenty of time to enter and tell your friends all about it! Make sure you comment directly on the giveaway blog so that you can be entered to win. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy Birthday to me... Give away for YOU!

Today I turned 37.
And since its my birthday I have decided to do my first give away!
This morning, making my breakfast doughnut muffins.
I have contemplated giveaways many times and what better reason to give then the day of my birth?

To enter you can:
1. Share this giveaway on your blog, facebook, twitter or any other social networking site. Come back and comment with a link to the share.

2.  Comment and be sure I have a way to get a hold of you if you win. The comments must be made here on the blog, not anywhere I have shared the link to my blog.

3. If you share on multiple social sites You get more entries to win.

The Prizes:
Yes that's right there is an S on the end of that Prize, That means more then one prize.

First Prize is a custom Half moon apron made by me for you. Yes folks I am offering to allow you to choose the fabric for this apron. The apron being given away will look similar to this one:
You can choose pockets or no pockets and from any of the fabric choices I have on hand.

The Second Prize I am giving away are these cute Funky Earrings:

Third prize is a relaxation Mask in my favorite fabric because I have one made in stock: 

The giveaway will end in 37 days from today, February 9, 2012. Have fun, share with your friends and I will announce the winners in a little more then a month.