Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter Sunset

I call it a winter sunset but it is more like spring.  We went to a nature center nearby and took a hike through the path  just as the sun was setting. It was beautiful.  Plus with the temperature was in the 40's last night. It was rather warm for this time of year. 

The temperature kept climbing all through the night.  We topped out at 60 degrees today.  Which is pretty amazing for January 31st.  The temps will slowly go back down over the next several days and I am sure winter will once again come back to us. 

 I love the red sky behind the dark trees.  What sharp contrast with the little
 bit of snow still left on the ground. 

Happy winter or spring.  Whatever it may be in your neck of the woods!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Soft Scrub Update

It has been a little over a  week since I first made and used my soft scrub. I have  learned a few tips when using it.  The first thing I learned is I need to make sure I rinse it off well.  I think it might be the vegetable glycerin in it.  But the next day when I was walking in my bathroom the floor felt sticky.  And the toilet seat felt sticky when you sat on it.  I have a bad habit of not rinsing off my cleaner well.  Even when I bought cleaner my bathroom floor always felt sticky.  I just took a wet cloth and wiped down those surfaces again and then it was no longer sticky. 

So the other day when I cleaned my bathroom again.  Yes!! I cleaned my bathroom two weeks in a row!! That is a record for me.  Don't Judge me!  I hate cleaning and the bathroom is no exception.  And when I was using those toxic cleaners I was lucky to clean it twice a month.  I spot cleaned, especially around the toilet (I have 2 boys need I say more) and kept things looking clean.  But I only thoroughly cleaned (shower, tub, walls, floor, etc.) a couple times a month.  So anyways, when I thoroughly cleaned my bathroom the other day I made sure I rinsed the soft scrub off well. Plus I think I was using way too much.  You really don't need a lot of soft scrub.  And if you use a sponge it makes it last even longer.

I have been using it to wash off my kitchen counters, my stove top, and I cleaned my fridge with it.  Everything looks so clean has the antiseptic properties of the peppermint and as a bonus my house smells like peppermint and not cleaner!!  I have not even used a quarter of  my soft scrub yet.  And I have been cleaning a lot with it.  So now that I am have learned  how to clean with it and  how many things  I can clean with the soft scrub.  And how long it is actually lasting.  I am starting to think it truly is cost effective.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Whole Wheat Blueberry Bagels

I have been making this bagel recipe since I was Junior High.  I took yeasts breads in 4-H and this was one of the recipes.  Bagels were something new to me at that time.  I grew up on a dairy farm.  We did not buy fancy things like bagels.  I quickly fell in love with these bagels and started bringing them to eat during my track meets.  The popularity grew and soon I was making double batches of them every Friday night.  I supplied the bagels for the track team and they would bring the cream cheese!

I have altered the recipe in many ways to make different types of bagels.  I also altered how I form the bagels from the original recipe. 

First dissolve 1 package of active dry yeast in 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water.  Add 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups bread flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Beat vigorously.  Add in 1 cup dried blueberries.  I used the blueberries I dried in the summer. See my post on Freezing and Drying Blueberries

Next add enough bread flour to make a soft dough.  This can be anywhere from 1 to 2 cups.  Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic.  Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise until double in size.  This can be anywhere from an hour to 2 hours.  When it is cooler out my bread tends to take longer to rise.  If I have been baking a lot my kitchen warms up then my dough rises quicker. 

After the dough has risen to double in size, punch down the dough and divide into 12 portions.  This is where I changed the recipe.  The original recipe said to roll the dough into a 10 x 12 inch rectangle.  Cut int 12 strips, 1 x 10 inches.  Then you were to form each strip into a circle and pinch ends together.  I used to do this but as I got older I started forming each portion into a ball.  Then poke your finger through the center of it.  Then I stretch the dough out to form a ring.  These make a nicer looking bagel and they don't fall apart when you boil them.  Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Cover and let rise 20 - 30 minutes. 

Bring some water to boil in a large pan.  Drop a few bagels at a time into the boiling water and simmer for 4 minutes.  Drain the bagels and place on a greased baking sheet. 

Bake the bagels at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes.  Beat 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon  of water.  Brush the bagels with egg white mixture.  Return to oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. 

These are slightly smaller than the ones you buy at the store in  a package of 6.  If you want them to be as big as the ones you buy in the store or the bakery divide the dough into only 8 portions. 

They taste great right out of the oven.  And normally don't last too many hours after I make them.  If you have any left by morning cut them in half with a serrated knife and toast them up.  With a little butter or cream cheese they make a great breakfast.  The blueberries plumped up in the dough.  It is so fun to cut one open and see all the blueberries in them!!

If you prefer plain bagels use all bread four.  You can also add a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 cup of raisins and make cinnamon raisin bagels.  The options are limitless.  I use this recipe as a base and make all sorts of bagels.  If you use all bread flour they will raise a little higher.  Whole wheat flour does not rise as high as a high gluten flour.  Let your imagination run wild and have fun making your own bagels at home!

Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Freezing Bananas

I love bananas.  But I like them when they are at that stage where they still have green on the peel and are just turning yellow.  Once they look like this I don't like eating them.

So the I have a few options.  Let them go a couple more days and make banana bread or dehydrate or freeze them.  I like banana bread and if I only had a couple of bananas left I would have made some.  But I had most of the bunch left.  I already have some dehydrated bananas so I decided to freeze them.  It is pretty simple.  Just peel and slice up your bananas.  I lay them on a aluminum foil lined cookie sheet.  Pop into the freezer and let freeze until thoroughly frozen.

Once they are completely frozen pop into a bag and put in the freezer.  I use them in smoothies.  Smoothies are healthier than juice.  You have all the fiber still in your fruit.  I blend the frozen fruit with a little juice, rice milk, and honey.  The kids love these smoothies and they are healthier than eating banana bread!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Absorbent Dish Towels

My dish towels are getting to the point that they won't dry anything.  I think most of them I have had since I got married twelve years ago.  I have a bunch of them but everytime I try and dry off the table it seems like I wipe and wipe and wipe and then wipe some more and the table is still wet.  I needed more dish towels but I did not want to buy any.  I had made a few of these dish towels up a while ago and I was going to give them out for Christmas gifts. That didn't happen.  I did not have enough made out to give to everyone so I just kept them for myself.  I started making some more after Christmas and finally decided to try one out.  I loved it.  I could not believe hor absorbent the towel was.  I don't know if it is the cotten craft yarn or if it is they way that it was crocheted up. 

The pattern is from Lion Brand Yarns.  The pattern is for the Dorthea Dishtowels.  Click on http://www.lionbrand.com/ and type in pattern number 80704AD. 

The towel pattern is a single crochet, double crochet, repeat across.  It gives it a waffle weave feel to it.  I like to try and get a clean towel out every day.  So far I only have 4 of them done.  The blue and green one I have used and already washed and dried.  It still looks brand new!!

They make up quite quickly too!  Although if you are using lily sugar and cream balls it does take a 2 balls of yarn.  So I buy 2 of the main color and use scraps for the stripes!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Home Made Gift

I have been wanting a potato and onion bin for a long time.  I kept seeing them at craft stores and kept telling my mom who always was with me that I wanted one.  Well I guess the hints finally sunk in.  Or she finally convinced my dad to make me one.  They gave this to me for my anniversary.  Ok it was for the both of us but mainly for me. 

When they gave it to me it was unfinished.  The pattern showed to stain the sides and paint the top.  I do a lot of painting so they left it unfinished so I could make it how I wanted it.  I sanded it up a bit and then stained it with a golden oak stain.  Once the stain was on I decided I liked it too much to add any paint to it. 

Even though it is made out of pine the golden oak really brought out the grain in the wood.
It is just so pretty.  The bottom drawer is used for onions.

The top hinges open and is for your potatoes.  The pattern said you can drill holes in the back to help with air circulation.  I will see how the potatoes keep.  If they tend to go bad too fast I will drill holes in the back.  Right now it seems to be loose enough to allow air in. 

I just love how it turned out and it looks great in my kitchen.  Now all I need is a wooden trash can to match!!  I might have to hint about that for a long time too!!  I love hand made gifts.  They are the best!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Home Made Biscuit Mix

A while ago I stopped buying pancake mix.  I found a good recipe for pancakes and waffles so I always make them from scratch.  The next time I make pancakes I will post on that.  The other night I was making a recipe that called for Bisquick.  I hardly ever buy that and I knew I had seen a recipe for it in one of my Taste of Home magazines.  So I went online and found the recipe.  The Taste of Home Recipes website is a great tool.  I use it a lot when I can't remember what magazine a certain recipe is in.  It saves me time searching through all my old magazines looking for a recipe.  Each recipe tells you what month, year, and magazine it was in.  Sometimes I print the recipe off or just quickly pull out that magazine and get the recipe.  It lists recipes from all their different magazines.

I found the recipe for  Biscuit Baking Mix in one my Quick Cooking Magazines.  I love making my own mixes.  You know what goes in them.  You can make them fresh.  And they are so much cheaper!

Mix together 9 cups of flour with 1/4 cup of baking powder and 1 tablespoon of salt.  With a pastry blender blend in 2 cups of shortening. Keep in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Use this for any recipe that calls for Bisquick.  To make biscuits mix together 2 cups of mix with 1/2 cup of milk with  a fork.  Pat dough onto counter about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut out with biscuit cutter.  I use a 1 1/2 inch cutter and get 18 biscuits.  If you use a larger cutter you will get less.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 15-17 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Even my picky eater loved these biscuits.  It is so easy to make a quick batch for breakfast.  We ate the left over biscuits for lunch with creamed turkey. Yum!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Home Made Soft Scrub

After my last escapade cleaning the bathroom with the toxic cleaner I have been searching for a recipe to make an all natural cleaner.  I found this recipe and was eager to try it.  I used to buy soft scrub all the time but I did not like the fact that it had bleach in it.  It was so rough on my hands. 

I had the baking soda but I needed to pick up some liquid castile soap and vegetable glycerin.  I kept forgetting to buy some.  Yesterday I stopped by my local health food store and picked some up.  I was kind of scared when I saw the price of the castile soap and glycerin.  One of my reasons to switch to home made cleaners was to save money.  I was relieved when I got home and looked at the recipe again. It only took 1/2 cup of the castile soap and 4 teaspoons of the glycerin.  I figured out that my total cost was about $3 for a batch. The recipe makes 2 cups of soft scrub.  So it is comparable in price to the kind you buy at the store.  But with one great benefit.  No chemicals or bleach. 

Here is the recipe for  Soft Scrub.  To Make it you mix together 2 cups of baking soda with 1/2 cup liquid castile soap and 4 teaspoons of vegetable glycerin.  Add 5 or more drops of essential oil of your choice.  (Try Lavender, Tea Tree, Rosemary, or Peppermint.)

The liquid castile soap that I bought already had peppermint essential oil in it.  So I didn't add any more essential oil.  It does not take long to mix up. 

Spoon into a jar with a lid and label it.  This pint mason jar is filled to the rim. 

To use scoop some out onto a sponge and clean away.  Rinse off and dry.  I used the soft scrub that was left on the spoon to clean off my stove.  I used what was left in the bowl to clean half of my bathroom.  I was surprised at how little I actually used to clean my entire bathroom.  And My bathroom smelled like peppermint.  One of my kids walked by and commented on how nice the bathroom smelled.  What a huge difference from the last time I cleaned the bathroom. The website I got the recipe off of suggested to spray with diluted vinegar on tough stain areas.  I used some vinegar in the shower but that was it.  The toilet, sink, and floor all turned out sparkling clean just using the soft scrub.  I cleaned the bathroom yesterday and it stells smells like peppermint today!

I am linking to The Country Homemaker Hop

Monday, January 16, 2012

12 Days of Christmas in Beads

I decided to put the yarn down for a while and pick back up a project I have been working on for years.  I think I started these 3 or 4 years ago.  I love working with the Mill Hill Beads.  They are a small glass bead that comes in all sorts of beautiful colors.  You can stitch with them just as you would yarn. 

This project is a set of 12 ornaments.  Each one is based on the 12 Days of Christmas.  Once they are stitched they are cut out and then gold thread is overcast  around the edges.  They are stitched on 14 mesh plastic canvas.  They are very tiny holes.  The beads are stitched on using a continental stitch.  You come up one hole, string the bead on and go back down the hole diagonal and above it. 

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Two Turtle Doves

Three French Hens

Four Calling Birds

Five Golden Rings

Six Geese a Laying

Seven Swans a Swimming

Here are all the ones I have done so far.  I still need to cut out the last four
and stitch around the edges.  I have started the 8 maids a milking.  I am excited
about this one because it uses the most colors.  Some of these only used 4 or 5
colors which got a little boring.  It is fun to begin stitching and see the
picture unfold as you work up the ornament.  They are stitched in a row starting at the bottom.
They actually work up pretty quickly because you don't have to change thread whenever
you change colors.  You stitch one row at a time and the color changes are done by the
different color beads.   I am hoping to actually finish these this year.  The only thing with this project is it is not portable like yarn.  Beads are hard to do just anywhere.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Peppermint Marshmallows

 If you have left over peppermint candy canes from Christmas turn them into a fat free snack that can be eaten straight or put in a cup of hot chocolate. You will need 8 regular size candy canes.  Take off the wrappers and crush.  You should yield about 1/2 cup of crushed candy cane.

Put the candy cane in a small sauce pan.

Add to the pan 1 1/3 cups of sugar and 2/3 cup of light corn syrup and 1/8th teaspoon of salt.
Bring to a boil and cook until all the candy pieces are dissolved.

While that is cooking dissolve 2 packages of unflavored gelatin in 2/3 cups of cold water.
I do this right in my Kitchen Aid Mixer.

When the candy cane mixture  has come to a boil and the candy canes are dissolved take off the heat and add to the gelatin.  Start your mixer on slow speed and gradually increase the speed until you have it on high speed.  This normally takes a couple of minutes.  Mix for 13-15 minutes.  Start the time when you first turn on your mixer. 

While the marshmallow is mixing prepare your pans.  Mix together 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 1/3 cup cornstarch.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Dust with the powdered sugar mixture.  Do not throw out the rest.  You will use this on top of the marshmallow and to toss the marshmallows in after cut.  I made two batches so I prepared two pans.

When the marshmallow starts forming into a fluffy thick marshmallow it is time to take it out of the mixer.  You want it thick almost like a royal icing.  If it runs off the beaters the marshmallow is not ready yet.

Spread your marshmallow into a pan.  If you can't get it to spread real well that is ok.  Dust the top of the marshmallow with the powdered sugar mixture.  Now you can use your hands to push the marshmallow into the pan the rest of the way.  Sometimes I can actually get it spread without using my hands and sometimes I have to add the powdered sugar mixture first.  Dust the top of your marshmallow with the powdered sugar mixture and let sit until it sets up. 

When you are ready to cut the marshmallow up you can pull the entire marshmallow right out of the pan.  Then cut into squares.  I normally cut these into squares for myself.  This time I made them for the girls at church.  They used cookie cutters to cut out shapes.  After they are cut put them in a bag with the powdered sugar mixture and shake to coat.  This will keep the marshmallows from sticking to each other. The girls had a blast cutting out their marshmallows and eating them!! I would have taken pictures of them cut up but my hands were covered in powdered sugar.  Plus with 7 girls between the ages of 6 and 9 we had powdered sugar everywhere!! 


I am  linking to The Country Homemaker

I am linking to Homestead Barn Hop

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Natural Muscle Rub

I have been working out a lot lately.  I have been alternating between running on my treadmill, doing a wii fit routine that includes yoga and strength exercises, and doing a rowing work out on my row machine.  All this activity leads to tight sore muscles.  I normally have tight calves anyhow.  And 2 summers ago I actually tore my calf muscle down in my heal.  So I really need to make sure I keep my calves stretched out.

I used to use something like Bengay or an off brand muscle rub.  But those smell so bad and you have to really wash your hands afterwards and avoid touching anything after you use it.  I tried this recipe for muscle rub several years ago.  I massage it onto my calves and hamstrings before exercising and especially before running.  You can actually feel your muscles heat up from the different blend of essential oils.  Sometimes when I am very sore I will add some of this blend to my bathtub and soak in the tub. 

This blend is specifically for inflamed joints and muscles.  It will help with the inflammation and is great to use after you exercise to.  Rub it on anywhere you have soreness, inflammation, or tightness in your muscles.  The oil helps moisturize your skin too which is great this time of year.  Here is the recipe.

For every 2 tablespoons of oil add
10 drops of Chamomile
5 drops Eucalyptus
3 drops Lavender
7 drops Peppermint
5 drops Rosemary

Use any type of carrier oil you prefer.  I normally use apricot kernel oil.  Make sure you use pure essential oils.  This may seem like it is a strong ratio of essential oils but that is why you feel your muscles heat up.  You want it that way.  I normally make a quadruple batch of this and put it into a bottle.  I normally put a label on everything I make even if it is just for me.  Or I would never know what is in each bottle. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mittens From Old Sweaters

I love the Bella Mittens I knitted for myself earlier.  They are stylish and the wool mittens do keep your hands warm.  But when the weather drops down below freezing the wind blows right through them and my hands are still cold.  They are great for weather in the 40's and low 50's.  But if I want to stay warm in the bitter cold that I am sure will be coming some time this month I needed something a little warmer. 
So I took some old wool sweaters.  I did not have any so I went to the thrift store and bought them for a few bucks a piece.  Make sure your sweaters are 100% wool or they won't felt.

Next step is to felt the sweaters.  This is done by washing the sweaters in hot water.  I put them in the washer and washed them in my home made Laundry Soap. I did this for 2 washer cycles. When the sweaters came out they went from men's large and extra large to something that would fit a toddler.  The argyle looking sweater did not felt.  It said 100% wool on the label so it either wasn't what it said or it had already been pre-shrunk. 

I cut off the sleeves and cut them down the seam.  Then I cut the front and back apart and laid them flat to dry. 

I enlarged a kids mitten pattern to fit my hand.  When I laid the pattern on the felted sweater I put the bottom up against the ribbing.  This will be flipped up after sewn.

I sewed the mittens together.  I sewed the seam down on the ribbing so when it was flipped to the outside the seam would not be noticed.  Then I sewed a button on using Persian wool yarn. 

These mittens are super warm and thick.  I will be able to play with my kids in the snow with these!!!  I saved the left over felted wool to use for other crafts.  I still have the gold and gray sweater to use.

I am linking to the Homestead Barn Hop