Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Plantain Salve for bug bites/stings, cuts, sores, pimples, burns +

Plantain is very common, and easily recognizable, often found growing out of sidewalks and other common areas.  You likely have your very own in your back yard, unless you treat your lawn chemically.  What many folks regard as unwanted weeds, is a goldmine of natural medicine in reality.  You will want to be selective in choosing WHERE you get your plantain from of course for this usage.  Look it up in your field guide or under google images and you'll be on your way.

Simple Green
Plantain Salve

12 oz. jar of Vaseline
2 handfuls of plantain leaves
1 large or 2 smaller aloe leaves,
sliced and crushed

Heat Vaseline on low, only
enough to liquefy. Carefully
drop the plantain leaves into the
liquid—it will quickly produce a
mass of thick foam. Add the aloe.
Let simmer until foaming has

Pour through strainer.
Pour back into Vaseline jar. Let
cool. Mark container and store
on shelf. It is easy to make and
works on bug bites, stings, cuts,
sores, pimples, burns, and more.

Garlic oil for ear infections/aches

I have tried these solution for relief of common childhood ear issues.

Make some garlic oil by crushing a clove and letting it sit in an a few tablespoons of slightly warm oil for a couple minutes. Strain ALL of the garlic out, and I lay the child on his side in my lap to administer a few drops of oil in his ear. He continues to lay there for a few minutes.

A garlic poultice can also be made to place on the outside of the ear Fold a paper towel around a peeled clove or two, and crush with the bottom of a jar. Then run hot water over the poultice, squeeze out the extra water, and hold the warm (NOT HOT) poultice to the side of the child's head while reading a book aloud to keep him distracted. Keep it there 5 minutes. Make sure there is at least two layers of papertowel between the garlic and your child's skin.

Home made chest rub

coconut oil
peppermint oil
eucalyptus oil

Add drops of the two essential oils to the coconut oil until it smells somewhat like Vicks.  We do not use Vicks due to the petroleum content, and the satisfaction of using my own recipe to heal.  Yes, quality oils are an investment, but you use very little per batch so in the "end" it works out well.

note:  oils are used at no stronger than 4% essential oil to a carrier oil. 4% works out to be 2 teaspoons essential oil to 1 cup oil,  or 1/2 teas essential oil to 1/4 cup carrier oil. That would be the STRONGEST you would want to make it, for a toddler you may want to make it weaker.

When the kids had a nasty cold, I would spread this on their chests, back and generously slather on the soles of their feet, followed by cushy socks.  The feet's ability to absorb is tremendous.  

Garlic Oil Ointment Treatment

This is a remedy I have used for almost 5 years now.  The original recipe I can no longer find in the original place I had found it.  Because of that, I am posting it to my blog so that it can be found and used, rather than lost.

Goot is a garlic oil ointment that uses 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 3 tablespoons of finely minced garlic.  Make sure to use high grade coconut oil, I usually get mine at Choice health.  The cheaper grades at Walmart and the like are in my opinion, not suitable for medicinal purposes.  Goot is antibiotic, antifungal and antimicrobial. In addition, it can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream by topical application and is safe to use on sensitive areas.

Simply warm the oil very slowly to only slightly warm, just enough to melt it to a liquid.  If it is too warm, the heat will kill the healing properties in the raw garlic.  Remove from heat source and add the minced garlic.   Put in storage container.  If it is cool in your home, it will solidify and be ready to use at any moment.  I make small batches at a time so it never lasts long.  Keep plenty of oil on hand and garlic and you will be well prepared.  Go a step further and learn to grow your own garlic ;0)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope your hearts are bursting at the seams with joy this season.  Today our children at home opened their gifts bright and early.  Our family celebration, though, will be tomorrow as my daughter is arriving from MA.  I am starting to get excited.  Girls seem so much different than boys, don't they?  They are so unique and special, but in very different ways.  A lot of what I do goes un-noticed it seems when it comes to my boys. The girls really noticed and looked forward to the little things, stuff the boys don't seem to notice or care about.

However, I wish to keep at it.  I want them to be used to beauty and loving details so that they will seek it out on some level when they are grown.  I guess I am saying I want to set a certain standard.  I am NOT a perfectionist, no where near one, and I am not all that creative nor competitive.  So I am not talking about a standard that will make a nightmare for someone down the road.  I am just speaking of love, attention, and care toward things that give an extra special feel to a home, tradition, or celebration.

But I digress....
I was talking about our Christmas.  Our mantle is decorated very cute.  It's not quite what I wanted to achieve being our first few months in our new home, but it's well on the way.  Now that we can settle and stay, we can add to it each year until we have a cozy little wonderland.  ;0)

Our new pup sure puts a damper on things, too, as he chews, pulls and knocks down everything within reach.  Since he is a labrador, it won't be long before everything is in his reach.  We will be enrolling in puppy Kindergarten REAL soon and I absolutely cannot wait!  I hope to get some help with this biting especially.  It's unbearable, and getting his attention.  I find it hard to get his attention.  The way I feel in having dealt with him for 3 weeks is I am thinking I have gotten myself a somewhat dominant dog, not agressive, but dominant.  Not perhaps the best choice with a house full, but I am confident with a lot of work and dedication we will get thru puppyhood and enter into a fulfilling life long friendship with this sweet dog.  I want him to have a full and rewarding life, so it is imperative that he accept his role as bottom dog of our pack.  Imagine the life of a dog, loved by all due to his good manners and able to come everywhere we go, welcomed by all.  That is what I want for him.  NOT a lonely life of being left alone when we go on a family outing or in a kennel when we go away because he is too unruly.

He is doing great on his housetraining, though there are accidents still, and he sleeps in our bedroom on the floor atop his little doggie bed.  He's great with that.  Just the biting and chewing the house up...oh and having to  keep the cats and him apart.....ugh!  I'll keep ya posted on him and post pics as he grows, he's too cute, but camera shy for sure.
Back to Christmas..... ;0)

Today I am making cinnamon rolls and all the things that my sweet daughter misses about home.  Spiral sliced ham with brown sugar glaze, turtle pie for dessert tomorrow night, oh and peppermint hot chocolate--can't forget that!  Things that are particular to our family and she doesn't get elsewhere!!  We will be splicing wires and relighting the tree especially for her arrival (dog clean chewed thru one strand and throughly pulled a lot of them as well) She made such a point of missing and wanting things that it perked me right up and made me excited again to prepare for it.  She is also excited to meet Coopersaurus (puppy Cooper's nick name, and quite fitting!).  I was even able to borrow a small cheap camera.  Not the greatest pics perhaps, but better than my Canon Rebel with NO FLASH.  One day I WILL replace that, I really really will! 

I wish you all the peace and joy of Christmas, to overflowing in your hearts as we reflect on the miracle of Christ's birth and the hope and peace that brings to all who believe.  It would be very easy to be depressed and despondent this year, with several loved ones gone, and being in a new place where we are away from friends and family, but when reflecting on Him and what He's done for us and what that means I can't help but be thankful and joyous. I wish you all a blessed, adventurous and meaningful new year!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ringing in a little Christmas Cheer

Christmas is coming and you've got a million things to do! We're here to help. We have 101 Easy Ways to Decorate for Christmas. These ideas are all quite simple, but they'll will give you lots of quick, easy, inexpensive ways to add some Christmas cheer to your home.

1. Create a charming display of teddy bears dressed for the season. Gather together three or more teddy bears and arrange them on a table or on the floor in a corner. Dress the bears with touques, scarves and mittens. Place candy canes in their hands or tie bows around their necks. You can even wrap up some small, empty boxes with Christmas wrapping paper to place in the bears' hands.

2. Make simply bows from Christmas print ribbon and pin them to your curtains.

3. Display a collection of nativity scenes from different cultures.

4. Hang a collection of Christmas stocking on your mantle, a shelf or the wall (even if you don't stuff them). The more the merrier.

5. Revisit your childhood. Cut snowflakes from white paper and hang them in all of your windows.

6. Use red and green 3-dimensional fabric paints to trace simple Christmas patterns (like stars, bells, Santas, stockings, etc.) on a white tablecloth. Click here to print out our basic Christmas shapes.

7. Buy a clear plastic shower curtain. Use a hot glue gun to attach Christmas decorations to the outside of the curtain. Don't use breakable ornaments - instead, try small wooden or plastic ornaments (remove any hooks), bows, garland, etc.

8. Dress up your house plants - hang small Christmas ornaments on them.

9. Tie a red ribbon around a tall, slim drinking glass. Fill the glass with candy canes and display on a shelf or side table.

10. Fill a small glass bowl or decorative Christmas bowl with small cones and display on end tables, shelves, buffet tables, etc.

11. Purchase plain green or red place mats and attach Christmas ribbons, bows or small wooden ornaments with a hot glue gun.

12. For quick ornaments, hang Christmas cookie cutters with ribbon. Hang them on your tree or in a window.

13. Decorate plain red, white, green or gold candles with 3-dimensional fabric paint. Draw stars, bells, angels, snowmen, etc. If you make a mistake, let the paint dry and peal it off, then start again.

14. Create a cookie wreath centerpiece for your table. Just arrange Christmas cookies in a wreath shape right on the table cloth. No need to attach them to anything 'cause everyone will want to nibble at them. If you like, place a pillar candle on a small plate in the center of the wreath.

15. Pile a collection of Christmas books on a side table.

16. Purchase an inexpensive mail box. Spray paint it red or green. Use craft paints to add simple Christmas shapes (use our patterns), or attach store-bought ornaments with a hot glue gun (make sure your ornaments will be able to stand up to the elements).

17. If you have a large, bare outside wall, try this simple idea. Cut a Christmas silhouette from a piece of plywood (a silhouette of Santa, a snowman, etc works well). Using screws, attach your silhouette to a short post that you can drive into the ground. You'll want the silhouette to stand right a ground level several feet away from the wall. Position a spot light on the other side of the silhouette so that it will shine on the silhouette and project a large shadow on the wall. We've seen this done with a silhouette of Joseph leading Mary who is sitting on a donkey. It's beautiful.

18. Wrap indoor Christmas lights around a railing or banister. Secure periodically with tape. Be careful to tape down the electrical cord so that no one trips over it.

19. Add color to a room with vases of red and white flowers. Use roses, carnations, mums, daisies, etc. Or, float the flowers in large crystal or glass bowls.

20. Wrap an assortment of medium to large sized boxes with Christmas wrap. Attach ribbons and/or bows. Pile the boxes in a corner from floor to ceiling.

21. Sew scraps of Christmas print fabric into a patchwork tablecloth. Simply cut your fabric into square pieces and stitch together. Hem the entire cloth. Sew ribbon the edges, if you like. Make smaller cloths to cover end tables, night tables, TV trays, shelving, etc.

22. Cover an end table or a shelf with white paper. Arrange cut evergreen boughs on to cover the table top. Place tall tapered candles in glass candleholders here and there on the table top. Before lighting candles, be sure that the greenery is not close enough to catch fire.

23. Use pliers to bend coat hangers into a simple wire-frame tree shape. Wrap a string of outdoor Christmas light around the frame, attaching with electrical tape or duct tape. Stick the decoration in a flower bed or on your front lawn.

24. Hang mistletoe everywhere. Use false or fresh mistletoe.

25. Wrap your doors in Christmas wrapping paper and attach large bows make from fabric or purchased at your local craft store.

26. String a ribbon from one end of a wall to another. Attach the ribbon to the wall (at each corner) with thumbtacks. Clip Christmas cards to the ribbon with clothespins. If the ribbon is too long, the weight of the cards will pull it off the wall, so tack it here and there with more thumbtacks.

37. Purchase a large glass plate. Paint the underside of the plate with gold craft paint. Dry. Place the plate on a table and fill with several white or off-white pillar candles of varying sizes.

28. Make basic sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies. Before baking, make a hole toward the top of each cookie using a straw. Bake and cool. String a ribbon through each cookie and hang them on your Christmas tree.

29. String popcorn, cranberries, cereal, beads, etc. and hang the garlands everywhere.

30. Make some old-fashioned tree decorations. Wrap nuts with aluminum foil; use a needle and thread to stitch a thread through the foil for hanging. Glue ribbon to pine cones for hanging. String popcorn streamers. Make paper chains. Cut snowflakes from white paper.

46. Add a few drops of food coloring to white glue. Put the glue into a squeeze bottle or icing piping bag. Draw simple Christmas star outlines on waxed paper. Pipe glue onto the paper, following your drawn outlines. Dry. Peel glue ornaments off of the waxed paper and hang in windows with thread or ribbon.

32. Cut pictures out of old Christmas cards and create a collage by gluing them onto a piece of poster board. You can frame the poster board if you like or simply hang it on the wall.

33. Wrap a lampshade with translucent Christmas tissue paper. Put the paper on the outside of the lamp shape, overlapping the edges just a little and tape the edges down on the inside. Be careful that the tissue paper doesn't come too close to the light bulb or it may catch fire.

34. Replace your fish tank background mural with a piece of Christmas wrapping paper or a collage made out of pictures cut from Christmas cards.

35. Twist garland or popcorn strings around railings or banisters and secure here and there with tape.

36. Using a glue gun, glue candy canes, side-by-side (standing on end with their hooks at the top) to the outside of a terra cotta pot. Tie a red ribbon around the pot. Place a small poinsettia inside the pot or fill the pot with wrapped candy.

37. Tape a doily to the outside of a glass canister or clean glass mayonnaise jar. Spray the outside of the container with artificial snow. Dry. Remove the doily. Fill the container with cookies, candy, ornaments, etc.

38. Remove your favorite pictures from their frames. Wrap the frames with Christmas wrap and replace the pictures.

39. Make a gingerbread house. They make wonderful centerpieces or decorations for any table top.

40. Use scraps of Christmas print fabric to create quick sachets. Place two pieces of fabric right sides together. Pin a paper pattern of a Christmas shape to the fabric (use our basic patterns). Cut the shape out of both layers of fabric. Stitch the fabric layers together all along the edge, leaving a one inch gap. Turn the sachet right side out. Fill the sachet with potpourri. Hand stitch the gap closed. Place your sachets in a basket by the front door so you can hand them to departing guests (meanwhile, they'll fill your entryway with wonderful scent).

41. Use a child's Christmas pop-up book as a centerpiece. Just open the book up to a desirable picture and place the open book in the center of your table.

42. Hang a large December wall calendar on your wall. Count down the days to Christmas by gluing a brightly-colored bow on each passing day.

43. Tie five or six cinnamon sticks into a bundle using red ribbon. Create a bunch of these bundles and display them in a bowl or on a plate. Or, tuck bundles into nooks and crannies on shelves and table. They add a nice scent to your room.

44. Pull out your old toy trains. Run the track around the perimeter of the Christmas tree.

45. Paint the inside of a glass white to simulate milk. Display the glass along with a plate full of cookies and a hand-written Santa's wish list. It looks great if you take a bite or two out of one cookies.

46. For easy Christmas tableware, tie red, green, or gold ribbons to the stems of wine glasses or the handles of cutlery.

47. To make a decorative cookie plate, glue cinnamon sticks and whole cloves to the edges of a large plate.

48. Cut pictures from Christmas cards and Christmas wrap. Decoupage the pictures to the inside of a serving tray. Be sure to cover the entire surface of the tray. Once all the pictures are in place, cover the entire inside surface of the tray with one or two more layers of decoupage medium.

49. Screw small hooks into the ceiling and hang indoor Christmas lights from them.

50. Print your favorite cookie recipe on Christmas stationary (or print it on a white piece of paper and have it photo copied onto Christmas stationary). Roll each recipe up like a scroll. Tie the scroll with ribbon. Place the scrolls in a basked by your front door so you can give them to departing guests. You could also bake up a batch of cookies. Wrap each cookie separately in plastic wrap and attach one cookie to each scroll with ribbon (string the ribbon through a hole in the plastic wrap).

51. To add a lot of color to a room quickly, use red or green towels, blankets or even scraps of fabric as throws for your chairs, couch, tables, etc. Large pieces of polar fleece make great, cuddly throws.

52. Display colored glass ball ornaments or even beads in bowls instead of hanging them on your tree.

53. Wash and dry half a dozen small jars (it's better if they're all different sizes and shapes). Fill each jar 2/3 full of water and add a couple of drops of red or green food coloring to each jar. Stir. Place one sprig of evergreen in each jar and display the jars in a group on a table or line them up in a row on a shelf or window sill.

54. Use children's bath crayons (for coloring in the bathtub) to draw Christmas decorations on your mirrors and windows.

55. Spray paint the outside of large, clean coffee cans with gold, red or green paint and use them as cookie canisters. Once painted, you can decorate further by using decoupage medium to glue Christmas card cutouts to the cans, or use a hot glue gun to attach small plastic or wooden ornaments, tinsel, garland, whole spices etc.

56. Using a small brush, paint the tips of pine cones with gold craft paint. Place on a rack or piece of waxed paper to dry. Display cones in bowls or vases or attach a ribbon and hang them on your tree.

57. Spruce up plain red or green bath towels with Christmas ribbon attached using a hot glue gun or ironed on with fusible web.

58. Create an easy wall hanging using a piece of sheet music for a Christmas carol. Cut a piece of red poster board a few inches larger than the sheet music and glue the music to the center of the poster board. Use a hot glue gun to glue a small sprig of artificial holly to the top right-hand corner of the sheet music.

59. Create an inexpensive set of Christmas glassware. Purchase a set of glasses or mugs and paint holly leaves and berries on the outside of each glass or mug using red and green glass paint.

60. Dress up your dinner table: cover the table with a plain red, green or white tablecloth and sprinkle with red, green or gold cut-outs from your party decorations store. Or, make your own cuts out with specially shaped hole punches and solid colored wrapping paper.

61. Turn an old blanket chest into a treasure chest. Place the chest on the floor against a wall and open the lid (prop the lid up securely if it's prone to closing by itself). Line the inside of the chest with fiber fill to create the illusion of snow. Drape strings of beads and white indoor Christmas lights over the chest. Fill the chest with wrapped presents or wrapped empty boxes. Sprinkle with gold-wrapped chocolate coins.

62. Create personalized gingerbread men as place cards for your dining table. Use colored icing to decorate each gingerbread man with a guest's hair color and usual clothing. Using icing to print each person's name across the chest of the gingerbread man.

63. Paint a terra cotta flower pot gold using craft paint. Let paint dry. Glue on plastic or glass "gems". Let glue dry. Pipe white glue in a circle around the perimeter of each "gem". While the glue is still wet, sprinkle on gold sparkles. Let glue dry. Fill pots with flowers, nuts or candy.

64. Create an eclectic centerpiece using a large glass plate. Place a collection of containers on the plate. Use small bowls, vases, candle holders, flower pots, clean ash trays, etc. Fill each container with a different type of nut or candy.

65. Purchase inexpensive plain lampshades for your lamps. Use a hot glue gun to attach fabric bows (in Christmas prints) to the shades.

66. Trim door frames, window frames and the edges of mirrors with Christmas garland (secure with tape).

67. Place 1/2 cup of whole cloves on a plate. Apply white glue to the outside of a small terra cotta flower pot. Roll the pot in the cloves so that the outside of the pot is completely covered with cloves. You may have to press more cloves onto the pot in places. Let the glue dry. Tie a red ribbon around the outside of the pot - knot the ribbon. Tie three cinnamon sticks into the ribbon (knot the ribbon around the sticks). Tie the ends of the ribbon into a bow. Use the pot as a flower pot or fill it with potpourri.

68. Decorate with mittens, gloves, touques and scarves. String jute cord from one end of a room to another and clip knit items to the cord with clothespins.

69. Purchase small bells from your craft store. Tie each bell to a piece of ribbon between 6" and 18" in length. Gather all of the ribbons together and knot together at the top. Drape the bells over a door knob so that they ring when someone enters or exits.

70. Poinsettias are a beautiful way to add Christmas color to a room. But don't just stop at one. Create a stunning display using at least six plants - all different sizes. Group them together, larger plants in the back. Tie a large gold fabric ribbon around the whole group of pots. Sprinkle the plants with gold glitter.

71. Wrap a large empty coffee can in Christmas wrapping paper (leave the top open). Place and the floor, add some water and fill with evergreen branches. This looks wonderful on its own, or you can hang ornaments from the branches.

72. Replace your usual curtain valence with a large piece of Christmas print fabric, draped over your curtain rod.

73. Tie bows around door knobs.

74. Create an easy wreath. Tear Christmas print fabric into strips (or use ribbon, instead). Wrap a styrofoam wreath with the fabric or ribbon. Hang the wreath as is, or hot glue Christmas picks, ornaments, nuts, candies, etc. to it.

75. Wrap a table in Christmas wrapping paper.

76. Purchase cork place mats or coasters, Christmas print stamps and red/green/gold stamp pads. Then, stamp shapes onto your coasters and place mats. You can even stamp shapes onto your table cloths and napkins.

77. Cut pictures of people and objects from Christmas cards. Glue each object to a magnet sheet. Cut the pictures out of the magnet sheet. Stick the magnets to your fridge. Visitors can arrange your magnets into scenes.

78. Put some color into your bathroom. Display red and green glycerin soaps, bath gels and oils.

79. Use florist wire to wire Christmas picks to railings, banisters and door knobs.

80. Make a snowman. Better yet, make a whole snow family or even a whole snow village!

81. Wrap your front door in plain white paper and decorate with a large bow. Place red and green pens by the front door and have guest sign the door as they leave your home.

82. Cut pictures from Christmas cards and pin them to your curtains or bedspread.

83. Purchase inexpensive white bathroom accessories (soap dish, toothbrush holder, garbage can, etc.). Paint holly leaves and red berries on the accessories using craft paints. Or, use a hot glue gun to attach bows, sequins, beads, buttons, etc.

84. Create an red and green display in your kitchen using a collection standard food items. Jars of olives, sun dried tomatoes, pickles, red peppers, cans with red or green labels.

85. Quick wreath: Use a glue gun to attach nuts or wrapped candies to a styrofoam wreath. Attach a large red ribbon.

86. Paint nuts gold with craft paint (use a variety of nuts of different shape). Line a large bowl or basket with Christmas greenery (artificial or real), fill the bowl wit oranges, apples and the gold nuts. Add a large red bow.

87. Display a large collection of photos from Christmases past. This makes a sensational conversation piece. Use a collection of odd frames or create frames using colored cardboard or craft foam. Instead of displaying each picture individually, you can create a collage. Use a large piece of red craft foam. Cut photos into interesting shapes (just cut around what's important in the photos). Glue the photos to the foam, overlapping them and leaving a 1" - 2" border of red foam showing. Cut holly leaves from green craft foam. Glue three leaves to each corner of the red foam frame. Cut small circles from left-over red foam (these are the holly berries). Glue them next to the holly leaves.

88. Make a Christmas bedspread. Trim the edges of a large piece of red polar fleece with pinking shears. Stitch a collection of mittens to one side of the fleece.

89. Put a Christmas screen saver on your computer.

90. Paint Christmas stars or bells on the outside of your bathtub or on your shower curtain using washable children's soap crayons.

91. Place a plate full of wrapped Christmas baking by the front door as parting gifts for guests.

92. Remove your mugs from their cup hooks and hang Christmas ornaments in their place. You can do the same thing with spoon racks or key racks.

93. Shred colored paper and use it to line a basket. Fill the basket with red and green scented votive candles.

94. Make a fresh flower garland using red carnations. You'll need a few dozen carnations. Cut the stems off just below the bud. String a length of double thread on a needle (make the thread as long as the garland you want to make). String the buds together by pushing the needle through the bud and out the top of the flower. Tie the ends of the garland together, if you wish. This garland should be stored in the fridge.

95. Decorate with giant cookies. Mix up your favorite sugar cookie or gingerbread cookie recipe. Roll out the dough. Instead of cutting into small cookies, cut out one tree shaped cookie using a knife. Don't bother using a pattern. A hand-cut shape has more charm. Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake. Cool. Cover with icing made of confectioner's sugar, green food coloring and water (no butter). While the icing is still wet, decorate your tree with peppermint candies, M & M's, jujubes, etc. Let the icing set. Your giant cookie can be displayed on a plate or you can wrap up a box in colored foil wrap and glue your cookie to the front of the box with dollops of icing. The box can be displayed lying down or standing on end.

96. Make simple Christmas puppets. Cut Santas, angels, snowmen, etc. from old Christmas cards. Paint craft stick red or green. Attach one cut-out to each stick using tape. The kids can play with these or, you can display them in a vase or a bowl. Just fill the vase or bowl with beads, nuts, candies, etc. and stick the puppets' sticks into the bowl.

97. Wrap your plant pots in red or green foil wrap. You don't even have to remove the plants first.

98. Create a display by your front door with unused boots. Assemble a group of boots and fill them with wrapped gifts or empty boxes.

99. Purchase an inexpensive glass vase (or better yet, three or four vases). "Paint" the vase with white glue and roll in red or green sparkles. Use the vase to display a large collection of white or red carnations.

100. To create an easy Christmas card display, purchase a large red bow that has a vertical ribbon attached. Hang the bow and ribbon and pin Christmas cards to the ribbon, starting near the top.

101. Paint fruit such as apples and pears with egg white and roll in gold sparkles. Air dry on a rack and display in a basket along with nuts.

Thanks Julieann for passing this great list on!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Come, enjoy a cookie!

A couple of years ago I attended a cookie exchange party and my friend, Jenn,  made some caramel apple cookies that I begged her to give me the recipe for.  They were so unique and delicous, my favorite cookie of all.  I typed it up at cooks.com and figured I would pull them out to have a cookie baking session this week. 

Another yummy cookie I am surprised to even like is the no bake cookies  My friend, Sheila, brought these last year to a cookie exchange party I hosted.  Can you believe I had never had one before?  I love the sweet and salty blend these cookies give.  There are many variations to this one, but I chose one that looked most similar.

I have never really made the roll out type of cookie dough.  I am not much of a decorator, but may try one this year.  Sounds like a fun activity for the kids to get involved in.  And some for just mommy to try her hand at as well!  ;0)

What is your favorite cookie recipe?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peppermint Hot Chocolate, a family favorite

This is a repost from a blog I wrote in 2005. Enjoy!!
If you haven't tried this, you're missing out! Since this is dh's only weekend off we are celebrating all weekend. This recipe came from a Big Y supermarket magazine they give out free. It didn't sound all that great, until we TRIED it. YUUUUMM! See the picture for the finished result.

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
8 oz. white chocolate morsels
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
-red food coloring (optional)
-prepared whipped topping
4-6 peppermint sticks or candy canes

In a medium saucepan over med-low heat, heat milk and
cream to a simmer, stirring often. Mix in Chocolate.
Whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add
peppermint extract and stir. Slowly add food
coloring, a couple of drops at a time, stirring
between additions until desired color is reached.

Pour into mugs and top with whipped topping; garnish
with whole peppermint stick or candy cane.
4-6 servings yielded

Thursday, November 25, 2010

~Happy Thanksgiving!!!~

Ah! on Thanksgiving day....
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?
...John Greenleaf Whittier

If I have enjoyed the hospitality of the Host of this universe, Who daily spreads a table in my sight, surely I cannot do less than acknowledge my dependence. ~G.A. Johnston Ross

The rain has foiled our plans to eat outside to recreate the feel of the original Thanksgiving, yet it is still shaping up to be a nice celebration.  The calm,  the smells, the absence of stress of high expectations.  This year it is just our own little family, and while that fact depressed me when comparing to times past, it is also a new beginning in a new place and I am grateful.  

With that, the bird roasting, fudge setting, and Macy's parade gracing our great room we indulge in a little known phenomenon called nothing to do.  Doing what we like.  Meandering through our celebration as the feeling strikes, truly relaxing and reflecting.  

Perhaps next year we will go to the city and experience the parade in person!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!!

It will be just our little party of 7 this year.  Normally my dad joins us but this year he is not up to traveling 5-1/2 hours as I found out this morning, and my eldest daughter is staying in MA to spend the holiday with her boyfriend's family.

I cut down my menu after receiving my dad's news today.  He usually makes the french meat stuffing which my grandmother always made for Thanksgiving and Christmas.   It was my grandfather's mother's recipe but my kids don't eat it.  Since I've already shopped twice, and I'm not going back, it is going to be off the menu this year.  I am noticing it's going to be quite easy for me to not go overboard and do too much damage weight wise.

Since it's just the 7 of us, and I don't want to get stuck with so much food and temptation this is our simple little menu.  I think it is enough for our kids since they are less adventurous in the taste bud department anyhow:

Turkey with gravy
classic stuffing
mashed potatoes
Sweet potato Casserole with pecan topping
green bean casserole
parker house rolls
cranberry sauce
pumpkin pie
granny's fudge
with french vanilla ice cream
egg nog



I am glad that God gave me the desire to have six children so that when they grow up and have spouses and children they will all have lots of family.  There will be aunts, uncles, cousins etc,...  I am sorry they never had that growing up, but I do look forward and pray for the day they do have just that.  God Bless everyone, and remember to savor these times, as things do not stay the same....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Whirlwind Weekend

This afternoon we arrived back home after a whirlwind trip down to MA for a good friend's kids' birthday bash.  I decided to go down on a Friday so I could visit with some family also beforehand.

On Friday the kids and I took a run up to the Yankee Candle flagship store in South Deerfield after a brief visit with my mom.  It's one of the two flagship stores in the country.  It's such a wonderland, and the boys were in wonderment taking it all in!!!!  I couldn't take pictures inside because I have no flash .

Later we got together with my dad and aunt at Friendlys where the kids got the royal treatment, literally.  Wow what a feast complete with 3 appetizers for our party of 9, dinners and desserts.  WHEW.  I enjoyed it with reckless abandon and just right back on my WW plan immediately after.  I don't think I did any real damage.  It was so nice to see my favorite aunt, lots of good memories I have involving her home around the holidays and such when I was young.

The next day we moseyed around a bit and around lunch time made our way to Liquori's to get the famous pizza slice!  If you haven't read the famous "slice story" you can find it here.  Actually we bought 3 cheese slices and 1 pepperoni for the 5 kids and my grandmother to share.  We were on our way to visit her.  My mom and I split a foot long sub from Subway to keep me within my points.  Then we visited for a few hours, and my eldest daughter Autumn met us there to visit as well.  Later the kids and I met my dad for dinner at Applebees.   I love how easy it is for me to stay on plan at this place!!

The next day was Sunday, so we went up to my dad's place for late morning after an early lunch on the run and stayed a couple of hours.  We watched a movie and the kids watched his canary.  He is very active and can be fun to watch!  Then it was time to head over to Jenn's for the big duel birthday bash.  The kids had so much fun and it was so great to see Jenn and her family, and the new baby I was seeing for the first time in like 7 mos or so!!!  A lot of other friends were at this party too so it was great fun!

Anyhow the weather was beautiful, sunny and in the 60's, perfect party weather!  It was camo themed, and the activities were an obsctacle course with lots of leaves and physical  challenges, there was also tug-o-war, a bounce house, cotton candy maker, pizza with wings and soda, goodie bags made with camo material squares tied up with ribbon, a tanker pinata, as well an awesome military cake Jenn made herself (man she is good!)  The night wound down with a camp fire which was great as it grew quite chilly afer the sun set.

Oh and the babies!  I got to see 3 friend's babies all at about the 7 month old stage.  And for the first time since we had moved up here 8 months ago, right before they were all born.  I got to see the two kiddos I used to babysit for, and sadly the youngest didn't remember me....boo*hoo!

sadly my flash died 10 mos. ago so as it gets dark, my picture taking is promptly ended

We left shortly after dark, grabbed a movie for the kids and back to grandma's we went.  Can you believe that I was in bed around 8:30 each night.  Granted I was up at 6, because my body is accustomed to our regular rhythm after all these years with children, but STILL!  haha

I am so glad we were able to go, and while we were gone Mike got some father/son time alone with Michael who is now 12.  They were even privileged to go to a Buffalo Bills game!!  What a big deal!  And they even had the courtesy to win the first game while my guys were there.  WHAT A TEAM!  My son was so overjoyed by the heated stadium seats...hehe  What an all around great weekend.  Now, I am ready to hibernate for the winter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

16 Candles

This weekend we celebrated Felicia's 16th birthday.  Hard to believe as it seems Autumn just turned 16 a few months ago, yet in reality she will be 19 in two months.  Two of her new friends came to share the day with her, and we made our own personal size pizzas for the activity.  There were Hawaiian pizzas made, pepperoni, and the works with mushrooms, onions, peppers and pepperoni.  It was fun.  

Afterward Felicia opened her presents.  Her friend Bianca drew her a sketch and gave her a blockbuster gift card, and he friend Christina gave her a movie which she really liked and we watched later that night.  

Carvel ice cream cake topped off the celebration and boy was it good!  I even managed to stay within my points range on Weight Watchers with a little pre-planning.  WOOT!  

The girls walked Bianca home, then when they came back they watched a scary movie in their room.  What a fun night.  Here are some pictures:

Aiden rolling out his pizza dough
 Ryan's turn

 Felicia and her friends trying to get the dough to stop sticking!!

 The finished product

 Danny creating his dinner
 Happy diner ;0)
 Here comes the cake!

 ~16 candles~
Friends that make a birthday more special

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Looking Ahead to a New Year

November in all it's red and gold splendor is upon us and with it comes the frost and cold air which makes me want to stay closer to home.  Stocking up our pantry and craft supplies is very much on my mind.  Also on my mind is the New Year ahead.  Each year is a renewal of sorts, for we are not the same as we were last year.  Individually and collectively this is true in our little community.  We look upon things we have learned, experiences we have shared, ideals we have practiced and we are molded little by little into who we are at this moment, and we move ahead to who we will be tomorrow.

For me, finding a balance was a major shaping theme as of late, and simplicity.  Knowing and believing that I can embrace and practice what is useful and lovely without having to carry everything to a "T".  All or nothing is not a requirement in most areas, though I have struggled with that in all areas of my life. 

Simplifying is another theme for my days.  Unplugging at times, getting back to the earth, physically engaging in the world around me, art, bringing ideas to life by creating.  It's so easy with all of what the world offers to live in our heads and I find that dissatisfying and barren land which I am happily leaving.

I want more creativity in our home and exposure to experience for our children.  I am looking ahead with much anticipation of a new life.  Getting rid of lots to make room for the best.

Monday, November 1, 2010

~Simple Crafting for Christmas Part Two~

Make a lined basked here for gift giving any time.

Soap  always makes a nice gift.

You can learn to make fancy Salt Dough Ornaments with the instructions and examples shown.

Use this tutorial to make a super crinkly sounding inside baby toy yourself!

Perhaps baby would love a felt ball with bell inside for a handmade Christmas.

For an older child, these home made stilts could make someone very happy and very occupied for some constructive hour passing, and balance gaining!!!
**note on this craft:  My husband went to buy the materials to make a friend's little boy stilts for his birthday.  Well....because he could not buy the screws separately but had to buy boxes of them for each type, and apparently wood has gone up since this tutorial was published, it cost close to $75 for the materials.  EEK!  Just thought I should warn you!!  The good news is now that we have all those screws we can make additional pairs for our own children for $40. 
Here is a site with lots of hand made toy ideas from wooden block sets to all natural material dolls.

Perhaps an older child would like their very own pencil or crayon or variation of both rolled supply holder.

Try your hand at some handmade cards.  This is just a photo idea to get your ideas flowing.

Perhaps a beautifully decorated chipboard momento box is just the idea for a young lady on your list, or yourself.  ;0)

I thought this french memory board tutorial was elegant and useful.

Take a peek at this super cute ruffled shirt tutorial!

I really want to make these beautiful tree branch drink coasters.  No tutorial, just photo.  So beautiful! 

This is a simple Father's Day book tutorial, but it can be suited to any occasion.  I have done similar for my husband, and he was very touched.  

ideas & tutorials for the fellas

Just a few ideas I found that looked fun and to get the creative ideas flowing.  Happy Crafting!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Make Ahead Lasagna

using regular noodles, not having to cook them ahead!

I love this lasagna because I do not have to cook the noodles (or buy special no-boil noodles). What I do is let it sit overnight in the refrigerator all assembled so that the noodles soften. I love to make this, you can freeze it, make it a day ahead when you have a busy night, not having to sacrifice a good meal because of a busy schedule; use it for hospitality when someone has a new baby, or is ill.

I brown a pound of 90% ground beef, and add granulated onion, granulated garlic, salt, pepper, basil and parsley.

I don't measure, just eyeball it. I like a lot of spice. I use "granulated" rather than "powder" because the flavor is more pure.

I drain the fat from the beef by pouring it into an empty tin can, or into a pyrex glass measuring cup until I am done with my spaghetti sauce jar. Then I use that to dispose of the grease! You don't want plumbing issues by letting this stuff down that drain.

Slowly pour your sauce of choice (I use a 2 lb, 13 oz size jar)into your browned beef, stirring and allowing the sauce and meat to simmer for a few minutes. I mix about 1/4 Cup water in the jar and shake it, to get every bit of sauce out of that jar, adding it to the pan. Don't worry it won't be watery, the noodles will absorb it. ;-)

If you are going to pour the grease into your empty sauce jar, this would be a good time to do so, replacing the lid, and either throwing into your trash or storing somewhere to keep using until it is full.

Add 3/4 cup Ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, more spices if your prefer...I do add more granulated garlic, granulated onion, little bit of basil and little bit of parsley. Mix very well until nice and smooth.

Time to get out your 9x13" casserole pan, 2 blocks of mozzarella cheese, a bag or block of Pecorino Romano cheese (normally found in the fancy cheese case near the deli). Also, I buy two 1-lb. blocks of mozzarella, cut into medium cubes and run through my food processor. Grating myself, I save $$.

Spread a small amount of meat sauce or just enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.

We are going to be making layers:

1/2 the ricotta cheese mixture spread evenly over noodles
meat sauce

Repeat another layer as above.

For the last layer we will add:
no ricotta for this layer
a healthy amount of mozzarella

This looks wonderful, and it's so heavy to lift!!! Now we simply cover with foil and set in the fridge overnight to soften the noodles and mingle the flavors. If you prefer to make this for your freezer it freezes for future use beautifully.

Important note:When it's time to cook, let this sit out awhile to come up in temperature. Secondly, do NOT preheat your oven, on the contrary, put the dish in the oven, then set to 350 degrees for an hour and a half. The last thing you want is your cold pan going into a hot oven and shattering!!! I know, because I've done it in the past. LOL
If you are making this for hospitality, you may choose to use a disposable pan, and not worry about getting your pan back. If you are freezing, thaw in fridge overnight before cooking, and the cooking time will remain the same. ;-)

Now it's time to clean this place up!

It literally only took minutes to clean my work area. Next I will spend 5 minutes doing the dishes and everything will look as usual. Later I will make some bread.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

~Make your own mix: Cocoa edition~

Today I am mixing up a simple dry hot cocoa mix. The packets are only a dollar for 10, but I've got 5 children here, so they are gone in no time. Now this mix here is really a deal! I can make it once and have it last quite a while, no need to throw it in my cart each week. I really enjoy being able to "make my own groceries" when possible out of simple ingredients that I can stock up on. I was really into that a couple years back and have lost my gusto, though I am getting it back. I am stocking my pantry for the winter and holidays and I feel such satisfaction from that. This mix is from Alton Brown on Food Network.

Hot Cocoa

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown


5 1/2 cups dry mix


* 2 cups powdered sugar
* 1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
* 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
* Hot water


Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.

Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine. Seal the rest in an airtight container, keeps indefinitely in the pantry. This also works great with warm milk.

Another fun thing to do is top with some whipped cream and lightly dust with cinnamon or nutmeg.  My children love it when I let them have a candy cane to stir their hot cocoa with during the holidays.  What a rich treat, and it thrills them so.  

P.S. To make it easier to stay in line with my WW points I buy myself the Swiss Miss fat free packets.  It lasts a lot longer when just for one or two.  ;0)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back to Basics

A lot of things concerning the buying of this home and changes in our health insurance have been on my mind lately. I found it hard to focus. I am for the most part a calm and easy-going person, and don't let stress or worry get to me. This time, the issues were over the top and got the best of me for a quick bit there.

Today I feel a desire to just get back to the basics. Stay close to home, putter and fluff, dust and rearrange, enjoy my role as wife and mother, homemaker. I got out my big red bowl and made some very simple applesauce puff muffins for the children this afternoon. Actually I mixed up a double batch so I could make 12 muffins and also a quick bread. 2 for me...hehe One for each child's snack at school tomorrow, and one to go with their lunch as well. The bread I cut up into 5 thick slices for each of them to enjoy an after school snack.

Just now I got out my newly washed red bowl and tossed in 2 TBSP yeast, a bit of warm water and about 1 TBSP sugar. After a little while I added some oil and flour and a mix of vanilla pudding I had on hand, and stirred with my wooden sppon. Then I added some more warm water and some more flour. I kneaded it right there in my bowl. Added a little more flour until it stopped sticking to my hands so much. Then turned it out onto the counter and gave it a full knead. It felt great, and since I am experienced with bread, I know the feel it should have which helps for sure.

The funny thing about all of this is that I have a recipe I normally faithfully use, and funnier yet, a Bosch mixer in which I can mix up 6 loaves at a time. I just felt like getting in touch with the spirit of yesteryear I guess. And as I type I have a shaped loaf in a greased glass loaf pan sitting with a kitchen towel covering it awaiting its second rising. Tucked away is also a pan of cinnamon rolls. To think this stuff was once beyond me is both comical and sad. Sad to think I could have grown up and had five children before learning how to bake a bread from scratch. But wow, then I see how far I have come in the past 9 years and it's amazing and encouraging and I can let out my light-hearted laugh.

Boy there was a time I didn't think I was worth all that much, or more specifically that my role was. Boy was that a lie straight from the pit.  I am greatful the Lord opened my eyes and let me realize it from His view, and more importantly that my husband knows and supports my high calling as homemaker and nurturer. As we wives are faithful to our calling, our works will speak for themselves. As my husband sees the money I am able to save us, knows there will be a hot meal to come home to, secure children coming home to mother each day, this is very affirming. He then places great value on my role and supports me in staying home. There are natural ebbs and flows, but the homemaking spirit always calls me back and I truly enjoy getting caught up in the creative arts and savoring a quiet atmosphere as I primp our home.


Now I know somebody will be sure to think, well all that flour and sugar isn't healthy for those poor kids.  Well ya know, I used to be a health fanatic.  But guess what?  We can cook nothing but whole grains and sprouted beans and still come down with something.  Food can't be an idol.  Not only that, but mama's planned ahead for homemade cinnamon rolls with yes, white flour, pure butter, fresh cinnamon, sugar and love sure is better than a bag of Fritos or a Twinkie at the corner store, or a $1 burger at McD's.  All those preservatives are sure to kill ya.  Also I am a firm believer that sugar does not make children hyper, but rather the food colorings and preservatives are the culprit.  Just the same I am no longer a food tyrant with my children, and I thank God for that, and I'm sure my children do even more!!