Friday, December 31, 2010

Are YOU Ready?

It's hard to believe that 2010 is already drawing to  a close.  On this day last year, after having several problems during her pregnancy, the doctors decided to put Amanda into the hospital and induce labor.   Little Ellen was born shortly before midnight and she is one of many blessings we are thankful for this past year.   God has been good! 

Now, it's time for me to look ahead to 2011.  I had planned to use our time off for the Christmas season to get a reading list prepared for Ferrell and actually look through what had been done and what needs to be completed this next semester.  Guess What?  I didn't get any of that done.  Guess What?  I still haven't!  Guess What?  School starts Monday!   I know that I won't get much done today, because we'll be leaving with the band at 4:00 this afternoon headed to New Albany for a singing there.  I may be able to work on it a little bit tomorrow, but since we'll be leaving with the band on Sunday morning headed to a church in Iuka for their morning service I will be spending a big part of tomorrow preparing food to carry with us to meet the needs of family members with food sensitivities. 

While I am looking forward to the New Year, I am really not ready.  How on earth I could let it slip up on me is beyond comprehension, but it did.  Oh well, I guess we will start out with the basics next week and hopefully I will have time Monday to do some review and preparation.  We'll see.

As for the rest of my plans for the New Year?  Well, I really haven't made any.  I don't do New Year's Resolutions and while I do have some ideas for things that I would like to accomplish this next year, I haven't taken time to really sit down and think them through.  I think that I will take some time this upcoming week, (when everyone else is back to their normal routine) and work on my goals for the upcoming year.   It will be easier when everyone's work schedule is back on track and when we have a routine.  I am able to focus much more clearly when we have a daily routine in place.  Even when it gets disrupted (which it does regularly), it is still much easier when I know what SHOULD be going on.  Are YOU ready for the New Year? 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not for the Squeamish

I've mentioned before that people quite often think of me as being a little strange.   Well, for the most part they are probably right, but my strangeness is one of those things that I can live with just fine.  My most recent "strange thing" has been rendering deer tallow.   My son-in-law, Alan,  killed a deer the other day.  He took it to his Dad's to skin and cut it up.  While they were in the process of cutting up the deer Alan made the comment to his Dad (jokingly) that he should bring all of the fat to me so I could use it in making soap.  He told me that the more he thought about it the more he realized that if he brought it home to me I would probably do just that.    So guess what?   Alan arrives home that evening with a bucket of deer fat, which he presents to me with a proud smile.  Well, I don't know about anyone else, but if my dear son-in-law brings me a gift of deer fat, then of course I'm going to put it to good use :)   I've never rendered fat before, but decided that it couldn't be that complicated and of course it wasn't.  Here's a picture of some of  my recently rendered deer tallow all ready for soap making!

I guess I should have put a warning that this post is not for the squeamish.  I understand that not everyone get's excited over a plate of  fat, but for me I'm thinking that's one soapmaking item I don't have to buy.  I don't use animal fat in all of my soap products, but I do use it in some of them.  It's relatively inexpensive and readily available which is a big plus for me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day

It was such a blessing to be able to have my whole family together, including my parents, this year.   We ate, opened presents, ate, visited, ate, enjoyed showing off our presents, ate, I think you get the picture :)    In spite of colds, croup, and an emergency room visit, our day was pretty great.  Maybe it was due to the chaos, but we didn't take very many pictures this year.  I thought I would post a few of Rachel with her Princess tent.
This is me sitting in the Princess tent with Rachel.  She wasn't happy until everyone had a turn sitting in there with her.

Uncle Caleb had a turn in the Princess tent with the girls!

Can't forget Uncle Heath!   The look on Rachel's face makes it worth all of the contortions it took to get in there.

This is a hat and scarf set I made for Rachel.  I tried to get a picture of her wearing it, but couldn't keep her still long enough for a good shot :)

Poor little Ellen was feeling really bad so we only got the one picture of  her.   She did enjoy playing with the wrapping paper later though.  

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Desperate Times


Have you ever heard the expression that "Desperate Times call for Desperate Measures?"  Well, this is one of those times for me.  I woke up yesterday morning with an extremely sore throat and by early afternoon I was running a fever and had a really bad headache.  This is not the time of year that I want to be sick (really I don't want to be sick anytime of year, but especially not this time of year) and combine that with the fact that my youngest grandaughter has an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist in Tupelo on Monday, well, let's just say I don't want to be sick.  Since Amanda has asked me to go with her to Tupelo I decided that I need to attack whatever this crud is, (and fast), because I know that I don't need to go into this clinic of child heart patients while running a fever, coughing, and sneezing.  If it had not been the weekend I probably would have gone to the doctor, but since it WAS the weekend I searched through all of my herbal remedy books and searched the internet and here's what I've been doing. 

Ginger root tea (ginger is a warming herb and helps stimulate the immune system as well as increasing blood flow.  It's also helps settle the stomach.  I usually add a little bit of peppermint (fresh or dried to my ginger root tea. )

Cinnamon tea (soothing to the throat, decongestant, and also a warming herb)

Cough Syrup (made with licorice, mullein, and thyme)

Raw onion and garlic (I made a salsa using fresh tomatoes, raw onion and raw garlic with lime juice, salt and pepper to eat with tortilla chips.  I ate the WHOLE thing by myself.  Needless to say my family is staying far, far away from me:)  Onion and garlic both have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties so I figured they would be good, but I cannot stomach the garlic tea.  It's much easier to eat this way.  Also, I boiled a potato with onion, mashed it up and added raw garlic to that.)

Garlic Foot Bath (Several cloves of garlic chopped into a small pan of water.  Bring to a boil and let steep for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Pour into a shallow pan and soak your feet for about 30 minutes.  I don't know if  the garlic had anything to do with it or if it was just the hot water, but I began to feel better in a short period of time.)  (The foot bath is supposed to help draw out lung toxins.  It's also good for athletes foot.  Just thought I would throw that in there :)

I don't know if what I have is just a brief sinus thing that would be gone within a day without doing all of this or not, but since the flu and strep have been making rounds through our church I decided to take action.  Today, my sore throat is almost completely gone and I have no fever.  I'm still drinking the teas and also eating some raw onion and garlic.  My head congestion is gone and my nose isn't running.  The only real thing I have going on today is that after eating all of the raw onion and garlic, as you can imagine, my stomach isn't feeling all that great.  Nothing major and ginger root seems to be helping that.   Anyway, it looks like, unless I get worse over the course of today, that I will be able to go with Amanda  to Tupelo tomorrow.   Maybe it's all in my head, and maybe these things didn't help as much as I think they did, but I feel better and that's all that counts.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Simple Cough Remedy

I thought I would share a couple of the simple "home remedies" that we have been using to help fight against colds the last few months.

Cough Syrup

1 quart water
1 tbsp. licorice
1 tbsp. mullein
1 tbsp. thyme
1/4 to 1/2 cup rice syrup, fruit syrup or honey.  (Honey is not recommended for children under 2 years)

Bring all ingredients except syrup to a boil, remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.  Strain.  Return to heat and simmer.  While warm stir in syrup or honey.  Let cool.  Give 1 tbsp. as needed.  Store in fridge.

If you have it you can add slippery elm or rosehips too.

We put a little of this in a cup of juice for the girls and it seems to help with their runny noses and coughs.  They just sip on it all day.

Cinnamon Tea

4 sticks cinnamon
4 cups water

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.  (The longer it simmers the stronger it gets.)   We use this for a sore throat and mild congestion.  (It also makes the house smell wonderful)

Always make sure when using home remedies that you aren't allergic to them or taking any medicines that will not mix well with the herbs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Plans & Preparations......Finally!

For some reason this year, I have, for the most part, NOT had the Christmas Spirit.  I don't mean that I'm not grateful for the birth of our Savior, or that I don't know the real "Reason for the Season, but that I just flat out have not had the energy to focus on all that goes along with it.   In the past we have always decorated within a day or so after Thanksgiving, but this year I seriously considered not decorating at all.  I might not would have if it had not been for little Rachel's excitement whenever she would see someone elses decorations.  I just couldn't let her come to "RoRo's" house and not have a tree.  So we finally decorated this past week. 

Usually by now I have already done a lot of baking and menu planning for Christmas Day, but so far I have done NO Christmas baking and have only today figured out (sort of) what we'll be having Christmas morning.  I still have all of my gift wrapping to do, but have thankfully finished all of my shopping (I hope).    I am praying  that somehow I will get a mysterious burst of energy today and will be able to do the gift wrapping and that while I am wrapping I will begin to feel a sense of excitement that will carry over until Christmas Day.  That could happen, right?  Well, anyway, here's a look at our simple Christmas Day Menu.


Ham & Bacon Quiche
Mini Ham & Biscuits
Cinnamon Rolls
Cranberry Bread
Sausage Balls
Applesauce Muffins
Spiced Cider


Potato Soup
Tortilla Chips
Ham or Turkey Sandwiches


Chex Mix, Pudding Cookies, Haystacks, Brownies, and Fruit

As I mentioned in a previous post, we just graze for most of our meals on Christmas Day.  I put the food out and everyone helps themselves whenever they get the notion.  It makes for a much simpler and relaxed day for Mom. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Christmas shopping is now complete! Well.....almost!

I am happy to say that my Christmas shopping is now complete!  Well, not completely complete, but so close.  I have been slipping the last two years.  Up until then I would always have all of my Christmas shopping done by August with the exception of a few stocking stuffers and  a few homemade gifts.  The last two years though, I just cannot seem to get it together.  Thankfully, I finished up the last of my "necessary" Christmas shopping online yesterday.  I will probably still pick up a few little things here and there and since I also have a precious grandaughter with a birthday coming up at the end of this month, I'm looking for a few bargains for her special day.

We usually have our family Christmas on Christmas Day before lunch.  Everyone (Amanda and her family, as well as my parents) come over and I have a variety of breakfast foods, along with a variety of finger foods and several crockpots of soup.  That way everyone can eat whenever they want throughout the day and we aren't spending a lot of time in the kitchen.   Amanda and Alan usually leave in the early afternoon to spend time with his family.  The rest of us just hang out together (occasionally we will have visitors) and simply "graze" for our meals.   All in all it makes for a very relaxing Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Frugal Tip

After discovering that my middle son needed to be on a gluten free diet it became necessary for me to "re-learn" how to cook using ingredients that had never been  staple items in my kitchen before.   One of those ingredients is cornstarch.  Thankfully, he is not allergic to corn so I use cornstarch to replace flour regularly if I want to make gravy, fry chicken, make cream of soups, etc.)  Well, those neat little plastic containers that the "Argo" cornstarch come in are wonderful for kitchen use.  Since we use so much cornstarch I have an abundance of those little containers and I have had a hard time making myself throw them away.  Soooo, I decided I needed to find some good uses for them.  They are great for a number of things, but I use use them mostly for storing my dried herbs and homemade seasoning mixes.  I also use them for our herbal salves.  Here's a picture of them on one shelf of my kitchen.  I have many, many more of these nifty little boxes on other shelves in my kitchen and I use them to store a variety of herbs and spices, such as:  dandelion, comfrey, plantain, peppermint, catnip, chamomile, lavender, blessed thistle, mullein, licorice, cinnamon, fennel, fenugreek, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, nettle, basil, chili seasoning, and taco seasoning, to name a few.

The openings are large enough so that I can clean the container and the label peels off very easily.  The outside surface is large enough that I can label each container with the item stored in it and usage information if needed.  They come in two sizes.  The smaller ones that I have stacked there and if you look to the right you can see part of a larger container.  I know that everyone would not like to have bright blue and yellow boxes stacked in their kitchen pantry, but for me it works.  Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, December 6, 2010


We finally got our Christmas decorations put up this evening, thanks to a lot of help from my wonderful sons.  Rachel came over to help hang the candy canes.  She only broke two, which she then cheerfully shared with her doting uncles :)  I'm not too sure that she didn't have a little encouragement to break them, since the boys had been begging me to let them eat some of the candy canes all evening :) 

Rachel was very serious about her candy cane hanging duties!   If you look closely you will see that there are quite a few candy canes on the bottom portion of our tree. 


After the frenzy last week to get everything ready for the Christmas Market Festival in Eupora, this week is starting off calm.  I finally feel rested this morning and ready to face another week :)  I guess my focus now is to get this house cleaned up and all of my craft and soap supplies packed up and put away.  Hopefully, we will have a full and productive week of school, since, with the exception of independent reading on Ferrell's part, this will probably be our last week before January.  It just gets tooo hectic this time of year with the family band (working on Christmas material for the holidays), work schedules (holiday retail sales), church activities and planning our family Christmas.    Well, it's time to get busy.  Hope everyone has a great Monday!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Market Festival

Amanda and I were invited to share a booth at a local Christmas Market Festival today and since it was our first time to have a table at an event like this we were excited.  It took quite a while to get everything packaged and labeled, but at day's end we were quite pleased with the result.  Amanda and I had a good day and are planning to attend more craft fairs in the future. 

Our table at the Christmas Market Festival in Eupora, MS.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Soap, Soap & More Soap (Gift Sets Too!)

Today has been pretty busy for me.  I have gotten behind on my soap labeling and decided that today was the day to catch up.  Amanda and I are planning to be at a local craft fair next weekend, so I have a lot to do to get ready.  Today I made up several gift sets as well as labeling all of the soap.  I still have a few more gift sets to put together to fill requests that we already have and hopefully I'll get a few more ready for the sale.   I also have requests for a few crocheted dust mop covers and soap savers so I need to get those finished as well. 

I thought I would post pictures of some our stuff.  I apologize that the pictures are a little blurry.  I guess that's what you get for being in a hurry :)

Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey Soap with Brown Sugar Scrub

Coffee Soap with Coffee Bath Scrub

Energy Blend Soap with Loofa, Lavender Soap with Loofa, and Men's Shaving Set

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey Soap

Christmas Forest Soap with Ground Rosemary
 We have a few more things ready, but the battery died on my camera so I didn't get pictures.  I'm planning to post more later.   Oh well, I think I'm gonna call it a day!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today is a special day for us here in the Baker household.  Not only are we having our family Thanksgiving meal this evening, but today is my precious daughters twenty-sixth birthday!  Not only will we be having our usual Thanksgiving feast, but we will also be having some of Amanda's favorite dishes as well.

I have learned over the years to never take our time together as a family lightly.  After seeing Amanda battle cancer a few years ago and my Dad having open heart surgery a year later, each and every day together is a blessing.   I am so thankful for a loving and merciful God that has allowed us one more year.  He is so good!

Happy Birthday Amanda!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Early Preparations

Well, I have been busy making as many preparations for our Thanksgiving meal as I can this far ahead.  Today I went ahead and made the Garlic & Leek Potatoes, cornbread for dressing, mixed the Sweet Potato Pies to be baked tomorrow, a loaf of gluten free bread, two sweet potato casseroles (for church dinner and Thanksgiving), and spiced peaches.  Everything except the spiced peaches will be in the freezer shortly.  The peaches probably won't make it until tomorrow :) 

Tomorrow I will go ahead and cook one of the turkeys, because I need the broth for some of the casseroles I'm making.  Rachel cannot have eggs or chicken so I will be making some homemade "cream of turkey" soup to use in the Broccoli and Rice casserole I'm taking to the church Sunday.  I also plan to make some for the freezer so that Amanda will have it on hand for some things she's planning.  I will be freezing most of this turkey in meal size portions to be used later for soups, stews, casseroles, turkey salad, etc.  We'll be cooking another turkey and also a ham for Thanksgiving Day later. 

I have to say that my house is starting to smell really, really good!  It's so nice to be the cook, because we all know that means we get to sample as we go along.   Rachel "helped" me with the Garlic and Leek potatoes and after we had everything mixed together she just had to have a "taste."  Her tasting led to a bowl of potatoes for her to eat while I put the rest into the pan for freezing.  I am so thankful for my precious little grandaughters. 

Things are usually so hectic around here that it's difficult for us to have a time when the whole family can be together.  I'm really getting excited about having everyone here, at one time, in one place, to celebrate Thanksgiving together.  God is so Good!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Final Decision on our Thanksgiving Menu

Amanda and I finally sat down yesterday and made a final decision about what we're having for our Thanksgiving meal.   I appreciate those of you that shared your family traditions and gave me some new ideas and recipes.  All of the dishes will be gluten free with the exception of the Mandarin Orange Cake which was requested by my daughter in honor of her birthday which happens to be November 24.  (We are having a combination birthday party and Thanksgiving celebration all in one :)  Here's what we're planning:

Cornbread dressing
Giblet Gravy
Sweet Potato Casserole
Garlic and Leek Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole (with homemade cream of mushroom soup and  french fried onion topping)
Layered Salad
Broccoli Salad
Bread (Amanda will be making bread with gluten and I will be making gluten free bread)
Apple Crisp
Sweet Potato Pie
Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie (this has always been my husbands favorite pie.  His mom used to make them for him)
Mandarin Orange Cake

I'm getting hungry just thinking about all of this "good eatin'".  Can't wait for next week to get here :)  For now, I guess I'll get to work making the things that freeze well so I won't be to tired to enjoy the food on Thanksgiving Day! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Soup & Salad Kind of Week

Due to quite a few different activities and distractions we have going on around here, I think we will be having a soup and salad week at the Baker household.  I know, I know, not much variety, but it does make life so much simpler when I don't have to spend a lot of time preparing our evening meal.  Since I have just about emptied our freezer of pre-cooked dinners (with the exception of beans), we will be having a variety of soups and salads.  Thankfully, I do have some pre-cooked ground deer and chicken in the freezer that will make things a little easier.  Hopefully this weekend I can take a little time to throw together a couple of meals for the freezer while making preparations for our church dinner and Thanksgiving next week.

Our evening meals will look something like this:

Tuesday - lentil soup over rice with lettuce salad

Wednesday - taco salad and corn on the cob

Thursday - leftover chili (from Monday) and potato soup

Friday - leftover soups  from earlier in the week and broccoli salad

Saturday - taco soup

Sunday - Church dinner

I'm planning to make enough taco soup and lentil soup to freeze for future meals.  We will also be having a variety of breads and chips to go with each meal.   I am so thankful for my three crockpots and rice cooker.  They will definitely be getting a workout this week!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Simple Little Thing

Have you ever noticed that sometimes it's the simplest things that make life easier?  Most of you have probably known about those handy little command hooks for a long time, but I have only recently discovered them.  Oh my goodness, I wish I had known about them sooner!  Amanda has used them for years and I (being the completely observant person I am)  finally noticed them and the many ways she uses them.  I just have to share pictures.

Aren't they neat?  They hold up quite a bit of weight and also come in different sizes.  When she takes them down there is no mark left on the walls!  When space is limited these simple little gadgets can make a BIG difference!  Oh, by the way, the cute little blue and white organizer in the above picture?  You can get one for yourself at  Check it out!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas Gift Sets

Amanda and I have been busy putting together some gifts sets using the homemade soaps and body scrubs that we make.  Thought I would share a few pictures.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey Soap and Brown Sugar Scrub

Coffee Bath Scrub and Round Soap

Men's Shaving Set w/camo bag

Wooden Soap Saver Set

Amanda has also been making beeswax candles and we have a few other projects in the making.  Hope to post pictures soon.   We would love to hear about any homemade gift ideas you have.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Menu

I don't know about you, but it seems to me as if this year has totally flown by!  It's really hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away!  Wow!  I'm sitting here thinking about our Thanksgiving menu and thinking that I would love to have some different side dishes this year.  Our menu usually consists of turkey and dressing, sweet potato casserole, lettuce salad, bread, greens beans (or green bean casserole), blueberry cream cheese pie, sweet potato pie, and cookies of some sort.   For some reason my family loves to have salad with their Thanksgiving meal, so I know that we will have that, but I would love some ideas for other side dishes and if they happen to "already be" gluten free that would be totally awesome, if not I'm getting good at adapting :)  I would love to hear what you're having and shared recipes would be an added bonus! 

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Great Weekend

It seems like as my children get older, our weekends get more and more hectic.  Everyone is going different directions trying to complete things that we didn't have time for during the week.  This weekend was not that way.  My husband was off work from Thursday through Sunday and didn't seem to have any projects that he needed (or wanted) to do, Heath was off Saturday and Sunday, Caleb had to work Saturday, but was home Sunday, and since Amanda's husband (Alan) was out of town for the weekend we saw a lot of her and the girls.  Murry, Ferrell, and I did take care of a few things around here on Friday, but it was all stuff that we worked on together like moving and insulating the chicken tractor and working in the garden.   Murry also took the time to help Amanda get things taken care of at her home so maybe she won't have any frozen pipes this year.  

On Saturday, Murry, Ferrell, Heath, Amanda, Rachel, Ellen, and I all went to the Vardaman Sweet Potato Festival and had a blast.  We haven't done anything like that as a family in a looong time.  I just hate that Caleb had to work.  He used to love going to the Sweet Potato Festival and entering the Sweet Potato Pie eating contest, but I guess it may be a good thing he didn't get to go, because now that he is gluten free he would not have been able to participate in the pie eating contest and that was always the high light of the day for him :)  

After we got home from Vardaman, Murry & Ferrell killed one of our roosters so that I would have it to cook this week.  They didn't really have time to take care of more than one since we had company coming that evening, but that's okay we'll get the rest of them taken care of soon :) 

Amanda and Heath's half brother has a birthday this month, so he came over on Saturday and I made him an early birthday supper.  He had requested tacos, rotel dip w/sausage, and strawberry cake.  We enjoyed a great time of fellowship with this sweet young man and on Sunday our entire family (with the exception of Alan) was able to be in our home church for services.  Our pastor outdid himself with the preaching services both morning and evening.  You could definitely feel the presence of God!  I am so thankful for a pastor that follows the leading of the Holy Spirit and I am also thankful that God blessed us with a wonderful, "family" weekend.  It was just what I needed! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Subscribe & Save

I enjoy cooking!  I've always enjoyed cooking and especially making bread.  I love the smell of freshly ground wheat and hand kneading dough has always had a soothing effect on me (yeah I know I'm strange).   Since Caleb has had to go gluten free, breadmaking has become more of a challenge.  Did you know that you can't knead gluten free bread?  No really, you can't!   Gluten free bread "dough" is more like a cake batter.   For the past year I've been grinding rice and beans to mix with other flours to make a decent sandwich bread for Caleb.  (Oh, by the way,  freshly ground beans DO NOT smell anything like freshly ground wheat, just in case you were wondering :)   In the past I've always done my bread making from scratch.  No mixes and no bread machine for me.  No sir!  It just wasn't the same.  Well, I've learned that there is definitely a time and place for bread mixes and to get a really good (taste and texture) sandwich bread we've started using Gluten Free Pantry's Favorite Sandwich Bread Mix.  It really is good.  Even my "non-gluten free" family members like it, which is saying a lot.  (Because of the expense involved most of our gluten free bread is for Caleb only, but we all have to taste anything new :)  Since Caleb has been gluten free we really haven't been eating a lot of bread.  I worry about cross contaminating if I try to make whole wheat for the rest of the family and it is a real issue, because Caleb is extremely sensitive to cross contamination.  He will be sick for days with just the slightest amount of gluten.  Since I've discovered the Gluten Free Pantry's Favorite Sandwich Bread Mix I have been making about a loaf a week or sometimes every other week for Caleb.  I usually make it and let it cool on the rack, then I go ahead and slice it up into sandwich size slices and freeze it.  That way he can take out what he needs and we don't have much waste.   This bread mix is not as expensive as some of the others we've tried and it definitely has simplified things for me.  I do still grind and make my own gluten free flour mixes to use, but I keep some of this bread mix on hand for those times when I just can't seem to get everything done.  

The thing that really helps with the cost of purchasing gluten free, ready made items is the Subscribe & Save option at  With Subscribe & Save you get 15% percent off of your product and also free shipping.  When I combine this feature with my Swagbucks gift cards I quite often get my shipment for under $5.  We are signed up with Subscribe & Save on several gluten free items and have them delivered at different times.  Some things come every three months and some things come every six months.  You can set up delivery any way you want, for us this spacing works better financially.  I have plenty of time between shipments to accumulate enough Swagbucks to make a real difference in total cost.   If you buy many gluten free items (flours, mixes or ready made snacks) you may want to check into this option.  For us it works.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Then and Now

Thought I would show everyone how much my little sweethearts (the feathered ones :) have grown since July.  Can't wait until they start laying!



Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, I do realize there are a few roosters in there and they don't lay.  For us, they serve another purpose.  Fried chicken anyone?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Twenty-four Years

My oldest son celebrated his twenty-fourth birthday today.  I am so thankful for the wonderful gift of motherhood! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Making Memories

As an adult I have very few memories of my great-grandparents and no pictures of me with them. I remember a few random things like my Granny giving me paper to draw on and letting me sit on a really thick book to reach the table and my other great grandmother (Mama Ricks) living next door to my Nannie and Big Daddy. My cousin and I would go to her house and sit with her when my family would go to Grenada to visit. Other than that I really don't remember much about them. Both of my great grandfathers died before I was born.

I am so thankful that I still have my parents with me and that my grandaughters have the opportunity to "make memories" with them and I'm here to tell you this grandmother is planning to take lots of pictures so that they can look back as adults and remember just how loved they were.

Mommy and Rachel getting a tractor ride today.

Granny and Ellen watching the tractor ride.

Rachel getting a tractor ride from Grandaddy a year ago.

Ellen needed a ride too!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Homemade Salve

I was working on some crocheted barrettes for Rachel today and managed to burn a hugh blister on my finger with the hot glue gun.   As soon as it happened I went to my "remedies" shelf and got the salve that I made this summer. 

I've been making plantain/aloe vera salve for several years now and have recently started adding comfrey as well.  Plantain grows abundantly around my mothers house so I always have plenty on hand.  I make some into salve and some into a tincture.  I also dry some to have it on hand in case I run out of the salve.  So far I've always seemed to have plenty, but this year we have been using it a lot more.  I think it's because the boys are finally convinced that it works as well as anything we have bought over the counter in the local pharmacy.  Caleb became convinced after his motorcycle accident a year ago when we experimented with some store bought antiobiotic ointments and creams versus our homemade salves.  Even though we used the homemade salves on the deeper cuts they still healed quicker than the ones we used store bought medicines on.    In addition to that, a  few months ago Heath had a cut on his hand, that wouldn't seem to heal.  It kept reopening and it was starting to interfere with his work as a mechanic.  He decided to try some of our salve and within a day he said that he could tell a difference.  Within just a couple of days it had healed enough that it no longer reopened and he was able to work better. 

Now, I fully realize that there is a time and place for pharmceuticals and we do use them when we feel there is a need.   I am also a firm believer in each person doing what works best for their own family, but as for our family, we are starting to use more and more herbs for medicinal as well as culinary purposes and are very satisfied with the results.  

For those of you interested in trying something new I thought I would share our salve recipe with you.  I'm actually posting two recipes, because I realize that some people prefer not to use petroleum products.  I have begun to use less of the petroleum jelly and more olive oil and beeswax myself.

Plantain Salve # 1

12 oz. jar of petroleum jelly (unscented)
2 handfuls of plantain leaves
1 large or 2 small aloe vera leaves sliced and crushed
1 handful comfrey leaves

Heat petroleum jelly on low until it liquefies.  Carefully drop the plantain and comfrey leaves into the liquid.  It will quickly produce a thick foam.  Add the aloe.  Simmer until foaming has stopped.  Pour through strainer into container.  If using a plastic container you may need to let it cool a few minutes, but not to long or the petroleum jelly will not pour through the strainer.  This salve works on bug bites, stings, cuts, sores, and mild burns.

Plantain Salve # 2

Fill a jar with crushed plantain leaves and comfrey leaves.   Pour olive oil to fill jar (covering leaves).  Leave it in a sunny windowsill for about 10 days, then strain.  Add 2 ounces of beeswax to 5 ounces of oil.  Melt together in pot on low heat.  You may add 1-2 drops of lavender essential oil and pour into jars for storage.  Use on bug bites, stings,  and cuts.  (This is runnier than the one with petroleum jelly).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Crocheted Hair Bows

I've been doing a lot of crocheting recently and thought I would share one of my latest projects with you.  I made these cute little crocheted hair bows with a certain little someone in mind.  I think they are just too cute! 

I've using the time when our family is watching a movie or sitting in a waiting room, etc. to work on a few projects and since Rachel is at the age right now to really enjoy wearing hair bows and necklaces (pretty pretties is what she calls them) I thought these would be cute for her.  Hope ya'll have a good weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One Advantage of Being Strange

If you read my last post you know that I've been hearing quite a bit lately about my strangeness, or at least about how strange our lifestyle is compared to others around us.  Well, I have to say the advantages of my "strangeness" quite often outweigh the disadvantages.  Today is one example.  About noon today, I realized that I had not made any effort to plan our evening meal.  Since several of us have been sick the last few weeks I have also not taken the time to plan weekly menus as usual.  So here I am at noon today, knowing that the afternoon/early evening  (from about 2:00 p.m. until about 6:00 p.m.) would be busy with errands.  Thanks to my "strange and complicated" lifestyle I was able to go to the freezer, pull out a pack of already cooked ground beef and cooked (already seasoned) beans.  I dumped them into the crockpot, picked up a bag of tortilla chips while running errands and my evening meal was done.  There is nothing like the smell of homemade chili when you walk in the door after running errands on a cool afternoon.  Yum!  I think I'll stick with being strange, how bout you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Ok, I admit it.  I'm strange.  I've always been strange and I guess I will continue to be strange to a lot of people.  Even when I was a child I liked to do strange things like hoe in the garden, feed chickens and have pet pigs (that we later ate).  As I got older I did things like "put up" jellies/jams and garden produce.  Later we had milk goats (and yes we drank the milk), chickens (for eggs and meat), rabbits (for meat), and guineas (just because I like them :).   In recent years I have done things like start an herb garden, bulk cook for the freezer, sew, crochet, learn to knit and make soap. 

I have been blessed to live in an area where there are others who share many of these same interests.  To me these things don't seem all that strange and I have always found someone that I could learn from or share tips with.  I have never really considered myself that "strange" or "different" until recently.  Lately, I have been told quite a bit that I do things the hard way and how much more efficient I could be if I did things the "normal" way. The only thing I can figure is that with our world changing and becoming more "convenient" with ever increasing technology my strangeness just seems to show up more.  For my part, I am totally content with it :) 

Soooo, in the interest of being strange I want to tell you about another cookbook that I recently purchased.   (I think I have mentioned before that I love cookbooks).  The one that has "struck my fancy" lately is titled "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon.  I purchased it from and I absolutely love it.  The writer includes nutritional information and the health benefits of lacto-fermented foods.  I have to admit that she piqued my interest and I have already tried several of the recipes.   If you are tired of hearing about "politically correct" nutrition and are interested in getting back to the basics, I think you'll love it too.  Go ahead, be strange, it's not so bad!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I don't know about anyone else, but I've been enjoying these beautiful, cool days that we have been having lately.  I love being outside anyway, but with weather like this it's almost impossible for me to stay inside and "on task."   Today I have been gathering herbs from my garden and getting them in the dehydrator.  I love the smell in my house as the herbs are drying.   My little herb garden has really done well this year and I have been able to get quite a bit dried and stored.  Today I'm working on peppermint, thyme, and sage.  

The more I learn about herbs the more fascinating they are to me.  Herbs are one of God's many awesome provisions for His creation.  We have been using herbs (on a small scale) medicinally for a few years now.   At first my children were a little skeptical, but it's becoming more and more common for them to come in and ask for one of my salves or teas.  As a matter of fact, my oldest son Heath had been battling bronchitis for about a week when his employer sent him to the doctor.  Now, Heath has always been my biggest skeptic where herbal remedies are concerned and I have never been able to really get him to drink any of the teas (although he has become a firm believer in the salves :).  After going to the doctor and being prescribed an antibiotic and a strong cough medicine Heath came home to recuperate.  After taking the meds for about three days and feeling worse and worse, he came and ASKED for a tea to make him feel better.  (For Heath, that is a really big deal).   I made him something relatively mild and not terribly yucky tasting to see if he would actually follow through with drinking it.  HE DID!  WOW!  I don't know if it actually made him feel better, but he drank it several times and did seem to rest better.   I've been told that a positive response to herbal remedies is all in my head, that they don't really work, but you know I've come to the conclusion that even if that's true, I'll take it.  As long as I feel better, it really doesn't matter if it's all in my head or not :)  And I have to agree that sometimes it's maybe just the comfort of sipping a hot cup of tea while snuggled under a warm blanket with a good book that makes the difference.  Either way, I'll take it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Soap, Soap and More Soap

After trying (unsuccessfully I might add), to make soap for the last two weeks, Amanda and I decided that today was the day.  After a few early morning distractions we were able to get started.  Since I have sold just about all of the soap that we made the last time, I decided that I wanted to make at least two batches.  We ended up making one batch (4 pounds) of our basic unscented soap, one batch (4 pounds) of our basic lavender scented soap, and one batch (one pound) of goat's milk soap.  (This was our first time to make goat's milk soap, so I can't wait to see how it turns out)

I know that nine pounds of soap doesn't sound like much, but for me it's a lot.  We haven't been making soap all that long and usually only make one batch at a time.  Sometimes it will be a one pound batch and sometimes it's a four pound batch.  Soapmaking, using the recipes that I have, is not complicated, but it is time consuming.  I was very thankful that Ferrell was willing to help out with Amanda's two precious daughters while we were making our soap.  I feel very good about all that we got done today and cannot wait until tomorrow to unmold our soaps and get it sliced.   Hopefully we will be able to make another batch or two of soap sometime during the upcoming week.  I've had requests for our citrus blend and I also want to try a small batch using peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils.  Since I have never used those two oils I don't know how it will turn out, but I'm willing to take a chance :)    Hope ya'll have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Accomplishments of a Hectic Week

Well, in spite of a fairly hectic week I have been able to get a few things cooked and in the freezer for future meals.  It's always a blessing to have some meals (or parts of meals) already cooked ahead of time for those really "crazy" days.    So far this week I've cooked three LARGE pots of dried beans, six pounds of ground beef (browned and ready for casseroles, chili or taco soup using the already cooked beans), soup and chili (frozen in single serving containers to be used as lunches for our "working men"), and pancakes.  I'm pretty sure that will be all that I get done for the freezer this week as we have football practice tomorrow and I have a meeting on Friday.  All in all I'm feeling like this has been a productive week.  Especially when I throw in the amount of laundry, school, and miscellaneous other tasks that have been accomplished this week :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Just Stuff

Due to the fact that things have been really busy around here lately, I just haven't taken time to post.  Amanda has recently begun selling Avon to try and help make ends meet.  Since she really doesn't want to get a part time job that requires her to be away from her children for hours at a time, we are all really hoping this works out for her.   If any of you are interested in purchasing Avon from her you can take a look at her online store at or leave a comment and we'll get you a book.  

We're also continuing with soapmaking, although lately it's been hard to find free time to make a batch.  Since school and flag football have started back, it seems like I can't get caught up.  Most of my time is spent with school, trips to town, cooking meals and doing laundry.  I have also been trying to finish up a few crochet projects that people have asked to purchase, as well as making a couple batches of sugar scrub that I had orders for.  Amanda has been busy keeping us supplied with laundry detergent and also filling orders for that as well.  We don't have a lot of "customers", but we do have enough to keep us busy :) 

Well, considering that I still have to get laundry started, supper in the crockpot and watch the girls while Amanda makes a few Avon deliveries, I guess I need to stop rambling and get busy.  Ya'll have a good week!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Homemade Baby Food

I blogged yesterday about the homemade fruit roll-ups that Amanda has been making from an abundance of baby food that she was given.  I thought that today I would blog about making homemade baby food.  Up until the time that Amanda was blessed with the store bought baby food she was making it herself.   Homemade baby food is one of those things that is very simple and it can really help with an already tight budget.   All you have to do is either choose fresh fruits and vegetables and cook them (unseasoned) until tender or use canned (unseasoned) fruits and veggies of your choice.  Drain and reserve the liquid.  Put the vegetables into a blender and process until the right consistency by adding small amounts of the reserved liquid as needed.  When the food is ready you can freeze it in ice cube trays and later place in ziploc bags.  When needed you simply take out what you need, heat and serve.  Simple!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thrifty Toddler Snacks

A family member recently ran across baby food at a really good price and purchased a fairly large quantity for Amanda.   Due to lack of storage space  Amanda decided to try making a homemade version of fruit roll-ups with some of the baby food.   After borrowing a dehydrator from my parents she took several jars of  applesauce and made the fruit roll-ups.  I have to say they were very good and really didn't take long to make.  She has plans to make quite a few more batches using more of the baby food and also some of the fruit that we gathered this summer.   

Another healthy toddler snack Amanda has been making this summer is dried fruit.   We have had luck drying apples, bananas, pears, and peaches.  Dried fruit is one snack Rachel really enjoys!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Nothing As Planned

I had great plans for the latter part of the past week, but as is quite often the case around here, my plans got changed.  I did not get to do all of the bulk cooking I had planned due to some unexpected company (which we greatly enjoyed) and some household issues at Amanda's (like waterlogged floors due to a leaky roof).    We have spent the past several days moving furniture and appliances to be better able to get to the floors that need work.  I am so thankful for sons that are willing to pitch in and help any time there is a job to be done. 

This weeks plans are to do school with Ferrell, finish Amanda's floor, get her furniture and appliances moved back into place, make goats milk soap (at least one batch), and maybe fit in some extra baking  if time allows.  Hopefully, this week's plans will work out better than last weeks plans.  We shall see!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I don't know about everyone else, but I love cookbooks.  A recent purchase of mine is a wonderful cookbook titled "Make it Fast, Cook it Slow", by Stephanie O'Dea.  I ordered this cookbook from Amazon and have thoroughly enjoyed it.  All of the recipes are for the crockpot and most of them are easy and inexpensive to make.  An added bonus for my family is that all of the recipes are either gluten free or easily adapted to gluten free.  Needless to say, this cookbook has fast become one of my favorites. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Simplifying Mealtime

One of the easiest ways we have found to simplify mealtimes is by having meals (or parts of meals) already prepared and in the freezer.  I know this is a no-brainer, but over the summer I have not been consistently "refilling" my freezer with prepared meals and now that our homeschool football season has started I am really starting to miss it.   My plan at the moment is to spend the latter part of the week taking inventory of my freezer and pantry to see what's there and then take at least one day to prepare a few meals for the freezer.  I already know that I will be making pancakes, bread, applesauce muffins, taco soup, chili, pulled pork, bar-b-que chicken chunks, mashed potatoes, broccoli & rice casserole, cheeseburger meatloaf, meatballs, seasoned beans, and lentil soup.  Some of these things I will cook before freezing (either in the crockpot or on the stove) and some of them I will prepare and freeze to cook later.   Even though it's a lot of work at the time, it is well worth the savings in time and money later.  We are not as tempted to eat out and can also better meet the needs of our family members with food sensitivities.  I am really looking forward to having my freezer full of meals again!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thrifty Toddler Fun

Recently one of our neighbors asked if we would be interested in having this swingset that their granchildren had outgrown.   So with a little bit of  "elbow grease" and a couple of new chains we have a "like new" swingset for our grandchildren to enjoy!