Friday, December 31, 2010


May you and yours have a safe and happy New Year!!!  Blessings to you all!  I look forward to all the wonderful new adventures that lay ahead in this fresh, new year! 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our Gingerbread Parthenon!

Yes, we are homeschoolers and what better way to celebrate some of the fun things about Christmas than to combine history with the holidays!!!  Here was our gingerbread Parthenon.  I had sworn off gingerbread for many years, but I finally found a great recipe.  Now I need to perfect royal icing.  I used powdered meringue, but the icing seized up on me so it was hard to work with.  Nonetheless, it gave our Parthenon a more authentic look (hey, you gotta look at the silver lining!).  Has anyone built anything unusual out of gingerbread?  How about some hints about icing???  I really need to take some time working on that!!!

My goal was to pipe on the column design with the icing, but grand plans usually don't work out.  Oh well, we shall try something different next year!

Christmas Debriefing

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas!  We had a great Christmas ourselves and I am now in a ponderous mood as I am developing some new strategies for the new year!  I'm settling in as the snow falls outside, and thinking about next Christmas...I know, I know...I really don't want to, but for the sake of the budget, I have to!!!  One of the things I'm going to hit hard this next year is the thrift stores (I'm a big thrift store shopper anyways, but I'm going to be more mindful of Christmas gifts).  I instituted some of that this year and my children were just thrilled and overjoyed.  Here were some of my bargains:

For my son:  I don't care what age you are because we all love Lego's and their counterparts.  I found my son three different ships made by MegaBloks.  One is the Black Pearl, one is the Flying Dutchman (both are from the Pirates of the Caribbean), and a neat viking ship-not pictured.  These ships cost around $39.99 brand new.  I paid $2.99 and $3.99 for these ships.  They have given my son hours of entertainment already.  I also found small bags of blocks at the thrift store that he added to his collection.  On top of that, for $2.99, we bought him hundreds of toy soldiers.  They aren't your average toy soldiers--they have different eras--WWII, Vietnam, etc.  He and my husband have a game they made up using these little guys and my son learns all kinds of tactical strategies!!! 

Another great thrift store bargain which my whole library is made up of is BOOKS!!!  We always hit the jackpot.  I found one of my daughter's practically brand new 39 Clues books, and for my youngest, I found five Tinker Bell books--she totally loves Tinker Bell.  The 39 Clues books are hardback and in the store retail for $12.99--I bought them for $2.99 each--and they had the trading cards in them, too!  The Tinker Bell books retail for $4.97-$5.99.  I got them practically brand new for $1.49!!!  Awesome!!!

What to do about teenagers?  My oldest daughter is almost 16 and has quite the fashion sense.  Most of her clothes comes from Kohl's or friends.  So guess what I found?  The thrift stores are chock full of name brand clothing in excellent condition.  I got her these two shirts--one is Mudd, which comes from Kohl's and the other is from H & M--hello, both name brand and under $5.00!!!

I'm not saying I'm going to get everything from the thrift store--but it certainly helps the budget!!!  Even picky children can get amazing things--you just have to take time to look!!!  So I am going to take this whole next year to find some real treasures to supplement some more.  I was really pleased with these things I found and my kids were in shock that they came from the thrift store because they were in amazing shape!!!  Give yourself some time and I will guarantee your budget will be thrilled!!!  Anyone out there find any great bargains??? 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Strawberry Jam and Bargain Kitchen Essentials

I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a private greenhouse and glean from their strawberry beds.  I came home with 25 lbs. of ripe strawberries!!!  My goodness!  I definitely had my work cut out for me because I had to attend to them right away.  I turned it all into jam because my family could not live without the sweet stuff and after many, many hours of work, I've got enough to last well into next year.  I may even have the chance to go pick more!!!  I ended up with 24 full pints and 6 half-pints!!! I am really happy with my jam stash now!! 

I've been doing a lot of thrift store hunting lately and have found some real gems!  It seems that I've been in a real stainless steel kind of a mood lately.  Our local thrift store has offered $10 off for a $10 purchase coupon per email so our family has cashed these in and I have found some "steals."  First on the list is what I call my baby stockpot.  In the picture on the right is my huge stainless steel stockpot I bought over 10 years ago at Dillard's (I think) for half-price which was $18.  It still looks practically brand new even though it's a work horse around here.  I can cook 20 pounds of potatoes, it holds 25 pounds of strawberries (that's right, I took it strawberry picking), plus I can make stock in it from a huge turkey carcass!  The one on the left is the one from the thrift store.  The first thing that came to mind when I saw it was JAM!  It's the perfect size to make a batch of jam!  It has high sides so the jam can sputter away without making me a mess!  Can you say $1.99???!!!  Oh yes, I've already used it to process all those strawberries into jam (in separate batches, of course).

My next bargain was this ginormous stainless steel mixing bowl.  I had one years ago that I had sent with my husband to a church function I couldn't attend and he obviously never made it back home with it.  I just never had the heart to spend $16-$20 on one and finally found one for $3.99!  I absolutely love it! 

My next acquisition were these Wearever AirBake cookie sheets.  I figured I was taking a gamble on these because I couldn't figure why anyone would want to get rid of them unless they weren't any good.  After a minimum amount of cleaning, we baked some cookies on them and they are great!  Can you imagine how many cookies I can bake now at once!!!?  The big one is 15" x 20" and the smaller one is roughly 14" x 16 1/2".  They were only $2.99 each.  Remember, I had my coupons so I basically got all these things for FREE!!!  These cookie sheets are totally expensive brand new...I think the big one goes for $20. 

And finally, who couldn't use a few more gravy boats.  These awesome stainless steel gravy boats were priced at $1.59 and $0.99.  I think I am so ready for the holidays now!!!

I hope all of you are finding wonderful bargains and I would love to hear all your stories of what you're preserving on your homesteads.  I have much more to come in the next few days as we are on fall break...
Blessings to you on your homesteads!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Quick and thrifty fall treat...Caramel Apples

I'm getting ready to do a huge batch of canning because I have at least 40 pounds of apples.  That number is dwindling because they're just sooooo good to eat.  So, with all the work ahead of us, we thought we would make a delicious treat of caramel apples.

We took the easy way out and bought two bags of caramels that are individually wrapped.  The bag comes with 5 sticks each for your apples.  Each bag takes one tablespoon of milk and you zap it in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes.  We coated our apples with the caramel then put chopped peanuts on the still warm and sticky caramel.  We let it set in the fridge for 5-10 minutes and then melted chocolate chips in the microwave and adorned our apples with slashes of chocolate.  We used Gala apples which are delicious as is, but when you add all this gooey goodness, MERCY!!!!!  For the price of one apple in a specialty chocolate shop, we got ten!!!  That is what I call bang for your buck.  When I was pregnant with my last child, caramel apples were all I craved.  I  haven't made these in a long time, which I'm not sure why, but they really are a great treat for the fall.  The kids are in apple-caramel-chocolate heaven!

Time to get my preserving done...till next time...Enjoy your fall treats!!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nature Study -- A Dying Pond

Another book I love to use is Anna Botsford Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study.  Over four years ago we started doing nature studies and right here in our neighborhood we have a pond.  It has been a great source of pleasure and learning for all of us.  Our very first lesson was about cattails.  We learned all about them and interestingly, cattails will inevitably be the downfall of a pond.  They will suck a pond dry and in our climate with not much rain, this pond is slowly losing its water.  It's quite sad.  We have had some great discoveries here and have seen so many birds.  Here's how the pond looks as it is slowly dying.  This picture is taken from the other side of the pond where you can now walk on what was once the bottom of the pond.

We have nesting red-winged blackbirds, the sparrows come out every spring, and there's ducks galore; it's also been a layover spot for migrating great blue herons and ibises.  We have loved this natural little spot and it's really hard to watch it dry up. What's been awesome though is that we knew this would happen because we studied it!!!  If you're looking to beef up your nature studies, I highly recommend this book.  Enjoy nature and be blessed by your surroundings!  Your children will love it!  They will learn the cycles of life and death and become acquainted with all sorts of critters.  It truly is a beautiful learning experience and is what a memorable childhood is all about!  Blessings with your study of nature!

Thrifty Weight Loss

You always hear about people with hefty gym memberships at the beginning of the year and usually by the end of summer, they are no longer going to the gym and that expensive membership has gone to waste.  Or your neighbor or friend gets that sweet piece of equipment at their house and again, it goes to waste and is used to hang laundry.  If you have beat that cycle, God bless you!!!  Because of our one income, we can't afford a gym membership and we have discussed an expensive piece of gym equipment, but we don't want it to fall into the overpriced laundry holder category. 

I'm one of those people who really has to watch her weight.  I've birthed four children and 40 is just on the horizon for me.  Fortunately, all my life, I've been fairly active so I can say that I know my body pretty well.  I know exactly what I have to do and what I need to eat and what kind of exercises I need to do.  From January to June, I lost 25 pounds for our big trip to Florida.  I took a two month break and now I've started up my regimen again so I can get rid of a final 15 more pounds.  So how can you lose weight in a thrifty manner?  Here are some of the strategies I used to get the weight off without breaking the bank that I hope will help you as well.
  1. First and foremost, the fat you have to get rid of first is in your head!  Stinkin' thinkin' has to go away.  You need to gear up mentally for what you are about to do and commit to it with all your mind.  You have to break old habits and establish new ones.  It takes me a couple of weeks to do this before I actually start working out.  I start drinking more water and start scheduling my days so I can fit a workout in.  Do you need motivation?  Go to the store and try on a nice dress.  Don't like what you see?  Now you have fuel for your fire.  It doesn't matter how much money you spend or what equipment you have or how great a trainer is...if you can't get past your mental blocks, you won't lose weight.  Do what you need to do to get mentally ready...establish new habits, journal what you're doing and what you're feeling, etc...
  2. If it's been ages since you've exercised, go to the doctor. 
  3. Start walking.  If you work all day, take a walk at lunch and eat a light lunch afterwards.  Get your body used to moving.  Hello, walking is free!
  4. If you're past that and need more, here's what I did.  Exercise dvds.  I know some of you are balking already.  I'm pretty particular when it comes to exercise dvds.  First of all, I have to like the personality of the trainer.  If I don't like the person, I can't get a good workout.  Also, I have to like the people who are doing the exercises along with the trainer.  Gorgeous supermodel types with a size 0 body and plastic smile doesn't really cut it for me.  My kids and I watch Biggest Loser every season and Jillian is by far my favorite and she has exercise dvds along with Biggest Loser dvds.  These dvds only cost $10 and you get a lot of bang for your buck.  There are usually three different levels and the more fit you get, the higher the level you can do.  Plus, you have real people exercising who really do need to lose weight and are doing something about it.  The only other equipment you need for these dvds are light handweights and an exercise mat if you don't have carpeting.
  5. Of course, you'll say, "but I get bored."  So do I!!!  So I have at least five dvds and can do different ones during the week.  Once you do these for a few months, you can move on to the next level. 
  6. Start a walking/jogging/running regimen.  Again, you're outside and it's free!!!  Do two miles or try to work up to it.  Walk a block, jog a block, walk a block.  The more you do this the easier it will become.  That first step is always the hardest.  That's why you have to get your brain on board to push your body.  YOU CAN DO IT!!!  The only real expense you'll have is good running shoes.  You could also get a good cross-trainer pair and use it for everything.  Do not skimp on your shoes.
  7. Make some goals that are reasonable.  Weigh yourself at the beginning and then I would really wait to weigh yourself again after two weeks.  Don't let that be your obsession.  Your hard work will pay off and it will take time.
  8. Now the question of nutrition:  how do you keep this thrifty???  I did not buy supplements or fancy smancy shakes or any of that stuff.  Buying fast food, pre-packaged food, fried foods, packaged snacks...all that costs more money than buying food in it's natural state and cooking from yourself the money.  Don't buy all that junk.  I made sure I ate good, healthy food.  I drastically lowered my fat intake, totally increased my fiber, watched my carbs, and most importantly, I had a few snacks throughout the day.  Eat a hand full of nuts or an apple or some carrots.  Some of these diets just go crazy on a precise measurement of this, that, and the other.  Use common sense.  Your body will also tell you when you get hungry.  Does that mean you need to eat five pounds of food? No. Eat a few nuts or a yogurt and really observe how your body reacts.  That hungry sensation will leave.  It really won't take much to satisfy you.
  9. Reward yourself.  Set up some rewards.  Maybe after your first ten pounds you can get a new dvd or heavier weights or a cute outfit to workout in.  You won't have the guilt of spending the money, plus you have a visual marker of the milestone you reached!
  10. Set up a cheat meal or cheat day.  I had a cheat meal set up, especially when I first started working out, because when you start eating more stricter, that little part of you is going to feel deprived. So on my cheat meal I could eat WHATEVER I wanted.  That gives you something to look forward to mentally if you're struggling during the week.  Once you really get working out, and have done it for a few weeks or months, you will really see your progress and the cheat meal will almost become obsolete.  
  11. What if you fall off the wagon and go crazy after a weekend of splurging???  Get over your bad self and continue where you left off.  No one is perfect and we all struggle!!! The point is to keep pressing on.  Don't feel guilty and get all dejected over it.  Just keep going...we all have times when we have celebrations and eat like pigs...hello, holidays are coming.  Just keep pressing on!
I hope this helps anyone who is starting out.  It's still a bit general, but know that you can do it.  I have to tell this to myself all the time.  It's about my health and being a fit woman, wife, and mother.  Taking control of this area of your life will spill out to every other area.  If anything, you'll feel so good and can wear thinner clothes and keep up with your kids.  Lately I've been so exhausted and I know my body really needs the exercise!!!  Good luck to you!  Remember, you don't have to spend a fortune to lose weight!!!!!
Happy exercising!!! 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blogging and Simple Living...?

I find blogging very relaxing and I love going to other blogs and seeing creativity overflowing.  I wish I had more time to devote to blogging, but I am in the middle of living my life, hahaha!  It's kind of a theme I've been seeing all over the blog world lately.  People are taking a hiatus and letting their blogs wait for them until they can catch up with themselves.  I am stunned at how much energy people can put into their blogs--they have beautiful sites and I just wonder where they find the time???  I have four kids in three different levels of school and I just am exhausted by the end of the night.  I love going to blogs where older and wiser and gentler ladies give wonderful advice about slowing down and living simply.  As much as I love the outlet of blogging, sometimes it just doesn't fit into a simple lifestyle!!!!  I guess it comes down to what stage of life you're in and what your priorities are.  I truly admire those of you out there who can "do it all."  I'm just not one of those people!

I truly believe it's priorities that lead us to a simpler lifestyle.  I think that personality may come into play as well.  I'm the type of person that can live in the middle of nowhere and be perfectly happy.  I have friends who cannot function unless they are on the phone with someone or must be in the presence of other people constantly.  I don't think those kinds of people blog, LOL!  And that's ok because we're all different and have different needs.  To me, simplicity is a calm, quiet life where I can hear myself think and not have the pull of a thousand different functions to go to.  I can say "no" and not feel any guilt over it.  I focus on my family and make sure their needs are met, whether it's food, clothing, a hug or a kiss.  I try to take care of myself and read a good book and fit in exercise where I can.  Simplicity can mean so many things to so many different people.  How do you define it???  Is it hard for you to blog while you're trying to maintain your life? 
I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Favorite books in our suburban homeschool...

It's another busy year with homeschooling.  My kids also have the pleasure of going to a part-time hybrid public school program where we get the best of both worlds.  They are mostly homeschooled, but they can take classes and test into college and go for free at the community college while still in high school.  Plus, I no longer have to teach high school math to them, hallelujah!!! My younger ones go to a one-day enrichment program every week as well so we are all over the place!!!

I would love to share some books I love and couldn't live without.  I also have some new favorites.  If I posted every book I loved, the internet wouldn't be big enough, LOL!!!  So I will highlight just a few of my faves.

These books are written by William J. Bennett.  The Educated Child is an excellent resource to see what your child should be accomplishing per grade level.  He has lots of great advice and things to look for in the education of your child.  I cannot speak highly enough about The Book of Virtues.  It is a great compilation of stories that every child should grow up with.  There are famous speeches and everything in the book deals with character issues!  We find ourselves picking this up and reading from it every now and then because it's chock full of good stuff.  I love it so much I've got a copy for each of my children!

This is another gem I turn to when I need a refreshing.  It is called A Charlotte Mason Companion.  It was written by Karen Andreola who revolutionized and brought to the forefront the teaching methods of Charlotte Mason.  I don't follow everything in the book, but it makes me sigh with relief and know that life is indeed sweet.  It is an essential for homeschoolers and educators!

We read a lot of good children's literature in my house.  I happened upon this series at the thrift store after seeing a preview for the movie they were releasing (September 24th, by the way).  I figured I would read it to see if it was worth our time.  It's fantastic!  I'm in Book 8.  We're doing this as a read aloud and finished Book 1.  It is action-packed and you will learn so much about owls.  In fact, with my two youngest, we are doing lapbooks on owls because of these books.  There isn't a bunch of hocus-pocus in this.  The only objectionable thing I could think of is that in the later books, there are owl ghosts who have unfinished business on earth called "scrooms."  They aren't evil, but I guess they aren't entirely necessary.  Also, the owl God is called Glaux...his name is used in vain just as people use the Lord's name in vain.  Other than those two points, it really is a beautifully written series and the aforementioned offenses can be discussed with your children if you find it objectionable.  The owls are noble and true and possess very good character traits.  I highly recommend this series!!!  We can't wait to see the movie which I believe is based on the first four books.

Lastly is a new edition to our homeschool routine.  This is a tall's the Timechart History of the World.  It opens up and the history of the world literally unfolds before your eyes!!!  We use it with our history curriculum and hunk of burning love (my hubby, hee hee) uses it for biblical history.  It's fascinating to see how everything lines up and it gives everyone a good idea what was going on in the world at the same time!!!

I have many more books I would love to share with you.  I'll do many more posts of other books and projects we're working on.  Have a great weekend and may a story take you far away!!!  Happy reading!

Thrift Store Pointers

You can certainly feel the chill in the air around here.  Leaves are turning, the garden is dying off, and the kids are well on their way with school.  It has been exceptionally busy since my last post.  I can barely get any time to do my blogging so I will try to be better about it. 

I have been hitting the thrift stores more frequently and have found some amazing deals!!!!  I already have a few Christmas gifts lined up.  I found three Mega Block (very similar to Lego's) ships--the Black Pearl, the Flying Dutchman, and a viking ship that are absolutely fantastic!  My son is going to love them!  I paid $3-$4 for them each, when in fact they retail for $30 or more.  I am SO pleased with finding those! Plus, I have found some amazing book deals that you just can't beat!!  I'm not sure if a bookseller or retailer donates these books, but I have found some very popular books in sets that you can't get for such low prices.  For instance, the Guardians of Ga'Hoole--I got books 1-10 for $1.49 each!  I also found four of the 39 Clues books (in hardback) for $2.99 each.  I found all six of the Warriors books for $1.49 each...all these books were in pristine condition.  I've also been looking for some curtains for my living room and found the most magnificent set for $10.  All this stuff is brand new or near can't beat the prices.  So, here are some of my tips for thrift shopping that I've acquired over the years.
  1. Go as often as you can.  You will see the new material as it comes in.  You'll know what's been there awhile and you'll get first dibs on the new stuff.
  2. If it's a fantastic deal, buy it!!!  You will totally regret not getting it because it will be gone the next time you go back!
  3. I usually don't wait for the half-price days because whatever it is I've been eyeballing will be gone!
  4. Thrift stores are wising up to seasonality--you will pay higher prices for canning jars during canning season.  Don't buy will pay almost the same price as new ones! However, if you want a cheap costume for Halloween, the thrift store is the place.  The same goes for Christmas items.
  5. Which leads me to my next tip, KNOW YOUR PRICES!!! You don't want to pay the same price for used as you would for new!
  6. Thrift stores are without question one of the best places to get name brand clothes!
  7. Never leave your shopping cart unsupervised.  I speak from experience.  People have no shame and will take something out of your cart...I've had something taken out of mine ONCE and believe me, it was the last time.  If you spent all that time finding a great deal, protect it!
These are just a few hints for you.  I love the thrift stores!  As a homeschooling family, my library has been built on thrift store books.  No one can beat their just takes a bit of legwork from you, but it's totally worth it and will save you a ton of money.  I find my oldest daughter great dresses for school dances.  The dresses are the $150+ bridesmaid dresses that have only been worn once that I get for very, very cheap!  Keep a list of what you need and keep your eyes opened!  You never know what treasure awaits you!  Happy thrifting!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reorganizing...Just Do It!!!

Ladies, you know how it is...we just keep getting more stuff!  I got a new set of pots and pans because I really needed some new ones...I still had a set that was 10 years old.  So I really needed to purge my space to make room for the new pans and that can only mean one thing...reorganizing.  Well, I went into my cabinet where I kept all my pots and pans and I dragged everything out.

Can you believe all of this fit in there???  I cleaned down the shelves and threw out things I no longer the lids to pans that have been long gone.  Now my new space was nice and clean!

I reorganized by putting all my baking sheets, muffin tins, cake dish, trifle bowl, and other miscellaneous items in this cabinet to give my pots and pans more room. 

Nice and tidy!  Now I moved my pots and pans to underneath my island and it's glorious to have them so neat.

 I really didn't know what to do with myself...actually, it got me motivated and I cleaned my kitchen and it looked so nice.  That's the problem with's infectious and you can't just stop. It snowballs from one area to another!   Hahahaha!  What are you reorganizing???  I hope you're having fun enjoying your newly reorganized space...I'm loving to the next area!!!
Blessings on your reorganizing!!!

Seasoning Cast Iron

We will be going on our very first camping trip as a family.  Many years ago, my husband worked for a sporting goods store that got bought out by another sporting goods store.  So they were getting rid of all the old inventory to make room for the new.  Everything was marked down, plus my husband had his employee discount, so we got a tent, 2 cast iron dutch ovens, and a cast iron skillet for a song!!!  Now it's time for us to use it! I haven't used the dutch ovens so I needed to season them.  Here are the step-by-step instructions that the cast iron manufacturer provided.
  1. Wash new cookware with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush.  Rinse and dry completely.
  2. Apply a thin coat of vegetable oil or melted vegetable shortening to the entire surface (including lid if applicable), both inside and out.
  3. Line the lower oven rack with aluminum foil, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the cookware upside down on the upper oven rack.  The aluminum foil will catch any drippings.
  4. Bake the cookware for one hour, then turn off the oven and let the cookware cool before removing.
  5. Store uncovered in a dry place.
  6. After use, clean using a stiff brush and hot water only.  Towel dry immediately and apply a light coating of vegetable oil to cookware while still warm.
I used melted shortening. Here's what the cast iron looks like after being newly seasoned.  The one on the right is straight out of the box and is exactly what it looks like when you start.  The one on the left is how it will look after being seasoned for the first time.  With much more use, they will turn darker and darker.

  Now I've got to learn how to cook with it!!!  I've got a few recipes and I'm going to try dump cake so we'll see how it all turns out.  I'll keep you posted on the camping trip when we get back!
Happy camping and happy cooking!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Another one of my projects this summer and hopefully wrapped up soon are the aprons I am making for my children.  I've been wanting to make them for a long time now and so the opportunity presented itself and here I am.  All the older Walmarts with a fabric section are getting rid of all their fabrics.  I missed the beginning of the 50% off by a day or two so all the quilting fabrics were gone, but I picked up a few other fabrics that will be part of future projects.  I found canvas/duck fabric and it was exactly what I was looking for to be used as aprons.  It will hold up to a lot of wear and tear so I am really, really happy with the $2.50/yd. pricetag!!!!  It is excellent material.  I've completed one and almost done with another.  I've got two more to go and this is how they will look.

This is my youngest and hers is more "fru-fru."  The daisy buttons along the top match the daisies on the edging of her pocket...too cute!!!!!  The apron I'm almost finished with is my son's.  His has black and white accents.  He can wear his when he helps Dad barbeque and with me in the kitchen.  My two older girls have their accents picked out.  It's a lot of fun and will probably go with them when they grow up.  {sigh}

Another great deal I found at Walmart was denim.  In an earlier post I showed all my jeans cut into squares ready to be sewn into a quilt.  I found the backing denim for cheap!!!  I can get moving on that once I'm done with the aprons!!!  Be warned, though.  The fabric is thick.  One or two layers are fine, but when you're dealing with seams and putting on the ties, MERCY!  I already broke two thick needles.  I think I've figured out how to negotiate it all, but as with anything, it takes a little bit of time!

What are you sewing up this summer???  I'll keep you posted with the aprons and the quilt as I finish them.
Happy sewing and blessings!!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Canning Jar Jubilation!!!

On the morning of Fourth of July, I went to the thrift store to find a little jacket since we would be spending the day in the mountains and I've lost weight that I needed to get one.  I figured since I was there, I should also look for some canning jars since I need to gear up for more canning this summer and you can get a great deal if you can find them.  The thrift store was running a weekend promotion of 50% off most items for the holiday weekend.  LET THE HUNT BEGIN was my attitude!!!  Lo and behold, I found three boxes of various sized canning jars and all three boxes were half-off.  There were 38 jars total.  A quick scan of the jars inside led my eyes to an old blue Ball jar and one with the wire-type canning lid.  I knew my $7.00 would be well worth the cost.  I took them home and didn't touch them until we got back later that night.  Upon opening the boxes, I found canning jar treasure!!!  You will not believe the jars I got and after much research, I am completely amazed at the history that I found!!!  What started me on my old canning jar journey is the four jars I found at our church garage sale.  I paid $15 for all four of them without really knowing how much the value of old jars were and what would be a good price.  I've put them on my windowsill in the kitchen.

Now after finding my treasures in the box, I have found out all kinds of fascinating little facts!  You can date your Ball jars by the writing style on them.  Here is a great website if you're interested at all about figuring out the date of your jars:  here!  It's a great site to give you info on your jars.  So, without further ado, here are some of the jars I found.

These are Ball Ideal jars manufactured in 1908.  They have the wire-type closure and use a glass lid.  The one on the left is the only jar I got with a lid so I am thrilled with it.  It amazes me to think that this glass is over 100 years old and was used for canning during WWI.  Remarkable!!!


 I actually got two blue Ball jars in my boxes.  The one on the left is much older than the one on the right.  Can you see the difference in how Ball is embossed on the glass (see the last L)?  This is how you date the jars.

I got three of these Ball Perfect Masons.  What are so different about these?   It's a bit hard to see in the picture, but these jars are not clear.  They are gray.  They are worth a lot more.  In the manufacturing of these glasses, a chemical was used and once the jars are exposed to sunlight, they change color.  That's why you have blue jars, but you can also find amber, green, and amethyst colored jars.  WHO KNEW??!!  I had no idea! 

These are Kerr jars manufactured in 1915.  Kerr is actually the company who invented the two-piece system for canning lids that we now enjoy today.  I KNOW!!!!  Fascinating!!!

This is a square Atlas mason jar.  It was made in 1920.  Square jars are also worth more!  I didn't know this!  After finding all these great gems in my boxes, I had two more boxes downstairs full of quart jars I had gotten at the thrift store a while back for pickles so I started investigating.  Three of them are Longlife mason jars and are going for $10.00 a piece on ebay.  I also found some vintage quart jars that were made in the 1970's.  Since I was born in the 70's and I'm still working, I'm going to use the jars so they should still work, HA!  I also have a jar that is a Midland Mason jar.  It was only manufactured for one year--1975.  It's worth $8-$10.  I had no idea there were so many different canning jar companies!  It is absolutely mind-blowing that these jars have survived so long!!!  Again, I am inspired by these ladies from our past who diligently put up food from their gardens, not only to survive and have food for their families, but they also supported the war efforts.  By WWII, most canning jars were standard mouth jars (not wide mouth jars) because they were conserving as much metal as they could!  I am amazed!!!

I hope this enlightens you a little about canning jars.  I was trying to get some jars to can with and now I've got my own collection of antique jars.  What should I do with them???  Hmmmm......sounds like another post down the road!

Happy canning and happy treasure hunting!!!

Love the new gadgets here...

As mentioned in an earlier post, I have another blog on another site.  However, I am really loving the new setup here at blogger and I think I'm going to start posting here from now on!  It's awesome and I finally have a blog that looks the way I want it other blog changed servers, sites, browsers or whatever the technical term is, and I'm really not that happy with it.  So, I guess this will be my blog home now!!!  Lots of posts to come...can't wait!  I used to have problems posting more than one picture here, but it seems the kinks are all worked out of the system and everything is sooooo user friendly!  I'm really pleased and look forward to blogging more!  I have to figure out how to import from my other blog...I know there's a way; I just have to figure it out!  Stay tuned!


While we were on vacation in Florida, we did all the typical things like Disney and Universal.  We also visited some not so typical places.  They were absolutely breathtaking and considered local gems!  One such place was called Blue Spring State Park.  This place is a natural manatee refuge in the winter months.  In the summer, it is paradise!  I have never seen water such a color in my life.  The wildlife was amazing.  There were six foot gars (a type of long fish) everywhere, not to mention all kinds of other fish.  I saw two massive catfish.  It was spectacular!  The water stays a constant 72 degrees year-round.  The family swam around in it, but even for Florida, it was chilly!!!  One look at this picture and you will see what I mean!

You can also see the trees with all the spanish moss hanging from them.  It was amazing!  What was strange for us coming from Colorado was all the palm trees interspersed with the regular trees...weird!!!  It was a gorgeous place and we were so happy to take this little excursion!

If you look at the above picture and see the dark shadows in the water, those are the gar.  Amazing!  It was a biological hodgepodge of everything and so fascinating and mesmerizing!  You can totally understand why the manatee hang out here!!! 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vacation is almost is in!

We are full speed ahead here on our suburban homestead!!!  Everything is pretty much planted and coming up!  This year I've planted a ton of cucumbers as I am going to can pickles this summer!!!  I'm very excited about the prospect of it! I also have a lot more squash planted as well.  Last year was not a good zucchini year and we are praying for a good harvest this year!!!  I've got some tomatoes growing...I've had to fight the weather so we'll see how they fare.  All the lettuces look amazing and the peas are coming around nicely.  I was going to plant my beans, but every year I've wanted to coat them with inoculant to get a better harvest and I can never get my hands on any.  I've finally ordered it online so in a week or so I can get started on that.

We are almost ready for vacation!  It is going to be crazy fun and I can't wait.  The kids are so excited!!!  We are doing the whole Florida/beach/theme park vacation.  I love blogging, but this isn't my main blog.  If you are interested, my other site is  I've got all kinds of stuff there, including recipes, all this fun vacation stuff, gardening, homesteading in the suburbs, etc.  I'd love to get to know more of you!  I hope you have a great weekend!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gardening and kitchen revelations

We have had gale force winds around here and I didn't get much done over the weekend.  Finally, around dinner, the winds stopped, the sun shone, and I put in all my seeds into the ground.  Ahhhh.  I feel much better now. I'm particularly excited about my French pumpkins, affectionately called the Cinderella pumpkin.  They are an heirloom variety that the carriage in Cinderella was made from.  It's a large, flatter shaped pumpkin and looks just beautiful.  I'm crossing my fingers and praying for just one beauty this summer!!!

I also decided something...instead of pining away for an expensive Bosch mixer, an expensive grain mill, and a horde of hard grain, I decided to break out my bread machine and make dough so I can bake it in the oven. I think we often times get in a rut of "I have to have..." something in order to accomplish something.  Why not make dough and then bake it in the oven???  I finally dug the machine out of the small appliance cemetery in the garage and put it to work!!! It's been in the garage because with my family of six, one little bitty loaf of bread equates to one slice per person...not exactly worth my time and effort.

So I decided I was making rolls for my family and you know what, they turned out gorgeous and delicious!  No more feeling sorry for myself because I don't have the newest, most efficient fandangled gadgets out there.  I think back to the prairie women who did it all by hand and cared and nurtured for their families amazingly well with what little they had.  They are truly inspiring and help me when I'm not feeling like I'm homesteading very well.

I hope your homestead is running smoothly!  Dust off some of those small appliances and put them to work! You just may be surprised with what you turn out!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Recycle your jeans into a quilt

Hi all. I am revamping my little blog here. I hope I spark a little interest. A project I will be working on is a massive picnic quilt made from recycled jeans. These are all the squares I have cut. They are 6 1/2" x 6 1/2". I have been collecting our jeans for years specifically for this project! I can't wait until I have it all finished! This is only the first stage so I will keep you posted on my progress. It's a great way to reuse and recycle something that we all have! Wait until I show you what I have planned for some of the pockets that weren't used!!! But that's for another post!!!
As you can see, I have many different colors and I have included seams and some decorative features, too. I've watched some youtube instructions and some people don't feel seams should be used or stretchy denim--hello, I've had four babies, you better believe my jeans stretch!!! It wouldn't be recycling if I didn't use them!!!!!! I've also included stained jeans. My husband works very hard for us so it will be included. With my family of six, we all have contributions and it will be a quilt for the family!!! What are some clever uses of old jeans that you have???