Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

A few days ago we took a trip to the local pumpkin patch. I’ve never been there, and I have to say, I was impressed! It was so much more than just a pumpkin patch. There was a pumpkin jump–which is basically a massively huge piece of plastic material (the same that’s used for regular bump and jumps) buried into the ground and then filled with air using large air compressors. This thing is impressive. There was also a petting zoo, a huge hay slide, and a non-Halloween themed corn maze.

Pumpkin Patch!
Pumpkin Patch!

 

Pumpkin Jump
Pumpkin Jump

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This was a huge, friendly horse! He also had fine culinary taste, because he kept trying to swipe my pumpkin spice latte!
This was a huge, friendly horse! He also had fine culinary taste, because he kept trying to swipe my pumpkin spice latte!
Finding our way through the corn maze.
Finding our way through the corn maze.

It was a wonderful day, and a great, fun way to take a look at a working farm.

Elderberry Syrup in My Tea

I’ve been feeling a little run down for the last week, and I’ve also been consuming entirely too much dairy for a person with a casein intolerance (which is the most obnoxious thing ever). So yesterday, I basically felt horrible. My digestive system was going haywire and I was worn out. To top it all off, this morning I woke up with a sniffly nose and my chest felt heavy. So what’s going on? Well, I haven’t been taking care of myself. I’ve been eating a bunch of junk, despite my resolution to eat clean.

Yesterday was the final straw. I’d already decided to do a detox the beginning of this week, and I woke up this morning feeling determined. I’m not a huge fan of the word detox. It makes me think of crash diets and drinking nothing but grapefruit juice for days. That’s not at all what I’m doing. You can take a look at it here. If I feel run down, I do plan to add in some lean meat at dinner.

What’s my next step to feeling better? Elderberries. These things are amazing. Now, I’m not a doctor, and I’m not giving you medical advise, but take a look here and here to read some information on the immune-system-boosting power these little berries have.

What do I do with elderberries? Well, you don’t want to eat them fresh–they will make you horribly sick to your stomach. Luckily, I didn’t find that out first hand. I make syrup out of dried berries and, when I’m starting to feel sick, I drink two teaspoons in my tea four times a day. It’s yummy, and last time I had a cold, I was better in three days. Nice.

Here’s Monterey Bay Spice Co. Elderberry Syrup Recipe. They have it posted on a YouTube video, but I wrote it down so I don’t have to watch it every time I want to make it:

1/2 Cup Dried Elderberries

1 Cinnamon Stick

5 Cloves

1 tsp fresh grated ginger or 1/2 tsp dry ginger

2 cups water

1 cup raw, unfiltered honey

Combine the elderberries, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, and water in a small saucepan and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain the mixture, and then when cooled to warm, stir in the honey. The original recipe has you cook the honey in with the berries, but I prefer to add it at the end.

Quick side note – Monterey Bay Spice Co’s website is herbco.com and not spiceco dot com. Trust me, you don’t want to accidentally type in the wrong one. On the upside, I realized I needed to take a look into our family security settings, which apparently were not working. Ha ha ha….oh.   

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

I have two novel manuscripts that are underway–one’s at sixty thousand words and the other is at thirty-three. I have dozens of ideas scratched down, and another dozen short story ideas. I have wanted to be a writer since I was in seventh grade. I even did a correspondence writing course shortly after my son was born. I have never finished a manuscript. Not one.

Check out NaNoWriMo for yourself! Just click the picture.

Three days ago I took the scariest leap ever. I signed up for NaNoWriMo. Starting November 1st, I have one month to start a new fifty thousand word manuscript and finish it. Thirty days. More accurately, I will have thirty evenings. During the day I have children to educate, feed, and entertain. Can I do it? Yes, I can. Will it be the newest big thing? Will it immediately be swept up by a large publisher? No, I really doubt it. That’s not the point though. The point is to finish. Good intentions and good follow-through.

Sugared Butterscotch Cookie with Sea Salt – Ultimate Sugar Cookie Quest

I have found the perfect cookie! Unfortunately, by the time I was done tweaking the recipe, it was no longer a sugar cookie. It was a sugared butterscotch cookie with a sea salt sprinkle. It’s just lovely though, even if it doesn’t fulfill my sugar cookie hunt.

Butterscotch CookiesRemember the Amish Sugar Cookie recipe I posted at the beginning of my Sugar Cookie Quest post? Well, this is the recipe I started with. The original cookies were good. They were very good–but they weren’t the ultimate sugar cookie. They had a pretty good texture, even if they were a little on the soft and crumbly side. They were pleasantly sweet, but maybe just a little bland. I’m going to give the original recipe 4 out of 5 stars. Were they worth my time? Yes. Will I make them again? No.

Will I make the Sugared Butterscotch cookies with sea salt again? Absolutely! The recipe is posted at the bottom of the page, using the Amish Sugar Cookie recipe as a starting point. Let’s get started!

Mix your dough, roll into 2 logs, and then refrigerate for about an hour. After that it's time to cut your cookies!
Mix your dough, roll into 2 logs, and then refrigerate for about an hour. After that it’s time to cut your cookies!
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You need these. Yum.
Pour them into a bowl. You don't want to stick your hands into the bag after they're covered in cookie dough.
Pour them into a bowl. You don’t want to stick your hands into the bag after they’re covered in cookie dough.
Roll the dough into balls, roll the balls in sugar, and then decorate with the chips. This is tedious. Make your kids do it....kidding. No, I'm really not.
Roll the dough into balls, roll the balls in sugar, and then decorate with the chips. This is tedious. Make your kids do it….kidding. No, I’m really not.
Sprinkle with a touch of sea salt...
Sprinkle with a touch of sea salt…
Done! Now you eat one, and then you eat ten more. It's fine--the recipe makes about five dozen!
Done! Now you eat one, and then you eat ten more. It’s fine–the recipe makes about five dozen!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I used coconut)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (I might add a little more next time)
  • 1/2 bag butterscotch chips
  • sugar
  • sea salt (optional)

1. Cream your butter, oil, and sugars together. Add in your eggs and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, blend the flour, soda, cream of tartar, and nutmeg. Gradually mix into your wet ingredients.

2. Divide the dough in half. Form two logs, and wrap in cling wrap. Refrigerate for about an hour.

3. Set your oven to 375 degrees F. Cut an inch-thick slice off one of the logs. Cut into four equal pieces, and then gently roll into a ball. Roll the ball in sugar, and then place on a cookie sheet. Do not press the cookie flat. Decorate the cookies with butterscotch chips. You could also mix them into the dough if you prefer. If you like, you can sprinkle each cookie with a little sea salt.

4. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the bottom. Be careful not to overcook–do not let them brown on the edges. Let the cookies sit for 1 minutes, and then transfer them to cooling racks.

Soy Christmas Candle Tutorial and Deck the Halls Fragrance Recipe

Christmas will be here before you know it. Make these candles now, and your house will smell amazing all through the holidays!

These are the candles I used to sell in my Etsy store before I decided to turn my business back into a hobby 

What you need (everything not labeled can be found at Candle Science):

3 ll.5 oz candle jars – I used these – but you can find some similar at Candle Science if you want to order everything from one place. Be warned – you might have to change the wick size and pour temperature if you use a different jar.

1.5 lbs Ecosoya Advanced Wax

3 LX-22 Wicks

Liquid Candle Dye (Optional)

1.5 oz Deck the Hall Fragrance Blend (Recipe Below)

Glue Gun

Candle Making Supplies – check out my post here for more info

 

Deck the Halls Fragrance Blend Recipe:

.8 oz Candle Science Blue Spruce Fragrance Oil

.4 oz Candle Science Cranberry Marmalade Fragrance Oil

.3 oz Orange Essential Oil (you can get this at most local health food stores)

 

Directions:

1. Glue your wicks into each jar. Set them in a place where they can sit for at least 12 hours undisturbed.

2. Place your wax in your candle pot or bowl and place over boiling water. Once the wax is starting to melt, add 6 – 10 drops of blue liquid candle dye, and then add 4 – 6 drops yellow dye. Add more if you would like it darker. Stir often.

3. Once your wax has melted, insert your thermometer and gently stir your wax until it reaches 185 degrees F. Remove from heat.

4. Immediately add your fragrance oil blend. Stir gently for two minutes.

5. Once your wax has reached 125 degrees, slowly pour it into your prepared jars, reserving some to top them off later if needed. Set your reserved wax aside for now.

6. Let the candles sit for twelve hours. If you notice frosting (swirling on the top of the candle), or if the top has cratered in, reheat the remaining wax and top off the candles with a thin layer of remelted wax. This almost always takes care of both problems.

7. Trim your wicks, and wait at least another 12 hours before you burn your candles. Enjoy!

 

Book Review – Wild About Rocky Mountain Birds

We love Wild About Rocky Mountain Birds: A Youth’s Guide to the Rocky Mountain States, by Adele Porter.

There’s a story behind this book. When we went to Denver to check out the zoo and aquarium, we stopped at a little rest stop in Eagle, CO. While I was in the restroom, my hubby took the kiddos out of the car to look at the boxcar they have there. Unfortunately, I left my keys behind when I hopped out, and Jake accidentally left his in the ignition. He locked the car.  It started raining. The kids had left their jackets in their seats.

Fortunately, the rest stop has a cute gift shop. We went in the gift shop to ask if they had a phone book we could borrow to call a locksmith. The lady there, who might be the sweetest woman ever, waved her hand and told us she’d call the sheriff to come unlock it for us. My husband and I exchanged a look. You know the one–right, that’s gonna happen. Well, you know what? It did happen. About five minutes later he showed up, smiled, and let us in our car. I will never forget it. We were ready to stand around, in the rain, for possibly hours waiting for a locksmith to open up our car for an outrageous amount of money. Nope, not in Eagle.

While the kids and I waited, we browsed the shop and found this little treasure. Actually, I just wanted to buy something because she’d been so nice. It wasn’t until we were headed back to Junction that I realized what a find this book really was.

Okay, that’s the story, now about the book. It’s completely devoted to birds in the Rocky Mountain region, which is nice. We have a few bird books for our homeschool collection, but we didn’t have one devoted to birds in our area. The birds are arranged in these categories: Alpine Tundra and Subalpine Forest, Montane & Parkland ForestsGrasslands, Cliffs, and Canyons, and Wetlands, Rivers, Lakes and Shores.

 

Each bird gets its own two-page spread. On the left page is a large closeup picture with small tidbits of information surrounding it. On the right, there is information about the bird’s diet, life cycle, habitat, migration, nesting, location, and any other little facts the author decided to add at the bottom.

The best part? It’s written for kids. It’s full of information, but it’s bright, fun, and easy to read. The book disappeared not long after we got home, and a few days ago I found it in my daughter’s room. She had taken it to look at every night before bed. That’s not bad for non-fiction!

While I was writing this post, I found out Ms. Porter has wrote several Wild about Bird books! Here are a few more:

 

 

Help me out! Which soap?

I’m getting ready to start several batches of cold process soap for Christmas gift giving. They will each have to cure for six weeks, so I need to start very, very soon. The problem is, I can’t decide what to make! Help me decide which three to make. Here are the choices:

How to Can Apple Butter and Free Fall Canning Label Download

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been canning like crazy. I bought a 36 lb box of apples along with my regular basket from Bountiful Baskets with the intention of canning applesauce. 36 lbs of apples ended up going a lot farther than I thought it would. I’ve canned applesauce, sliced baking apples, and apple butter. Today I’m going to show you how I can apple butter, and I have a free download for my Fall Canning Label at the end of the post.

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Apple Butter Recipe (from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving)

Yield: 6 half pints (I got 8)

Ingredients:

4 lbs apples – I used Gala

4 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 tsp cinnamon – I used two generous teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice instead

1/4 tsp cloves – leave this out if you’re going to use a spice blend.

Step 1: Prepare your jars and lids

If you’re new to canning, check out Ball’s Intro to Canning Guide

Step 2: Prepare your apples. I like to peel and core my apples before I make my butter so I don’t have to use a food mill later. It’s less messy, and I’m a little lazy…

Step 3: Add your sliced apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon (or spice blend) to a 4 or 6 quart sauce pot. Mix it all up, cover with a lid, and set on medium low heat for about thirty minutes. Stir a few times to make sure the apples are all cooking evenly.

AppleButter

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Step 4: Once the apples are very soft, you can either transfer them to a blender or food processor, or you can use an immersion blender to puree them. I used an immersion blender.

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Step 5: Turn your heat down to low. Cover your apple butter and let it slowly cook down. Stir it every once in a while, and make sure to keep the heat at low so it doesn’t scorch. This time, mine was about the right consistency after 45 minutes, but I’ve had it take several hours before – it just depends on your apples. The consistency is about right when it mounds up on a spoon.

Step 6: Fill your jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rims, secure your lids and rings, and then process for ten minutes, adjusting for your altitude. (If you don’t know how to adjust for altitude, take a look at the Intro to Canning like I posted above.)

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Step 7: Let your jars of apple butter cool for at least 12 hours, and then check the seals. If they sealed well, you are ready to label them!

TwoInchFallCanningLabel
Click the image above for the free download. For personal use only.

This is a 2″ label, and it fits nicely on the lid of a standard canning jar. Once you download the file, you can visit Avery’s Design and Print Online Website to print it out. Here’s the link to their 2″ round label template.

Thick and Creamy Hand Cream Recipe – All Natural

I’ve been doing quite a bit of canning the last couple of days, and because of that, I’ve been washing a bunch of dishes by hand. Needless to say, the soapy water has stripped all the moisture from my hands, and they are dry. Luckily, I remembered I made a batch of this awesome hand cream the other day. Did I remember to use it before my hands dried out? Uh, no – I sure didn’t. No matter, they’re feeling much better now.

Handcream2

This is what you’ll need to make 8 oz:

Herbs for infusing: I used rosemary, dandelion root, rose hips, and orange peel. You can buy these from your local health food store, or you can get them at http://www.bulkherbstore.com.

8 oz Coconut Oil

1 TBSP Beeswax

1 TSP Vitamin E Oil

Distilled Water or Aloe Vera Juice

Essential Oil – I used orange

InfusedOil

Step 1 – Infuse your oil:

Fill a jelly jar about 1/3 full of herbs, packing them loosely. As I said earlier, I used dandelion root, rose hips, orange peel, and rosemary. I would have also used calendula, but I was out. Go easy on the rosemary unless you want to smell like a thanksgiving turkey.

Melt the coconut oil and pour it over your herbs. Stop about half an inch from the top (you’ll have some leftover oil). Close your jar up and place it in gently simmering water for about 2 hours. A little waterbath canning pot works great – make sure you use the rack. If you don’t have a little canning pot, fold a tea towel in the bottom of a sauce pot and fill with water. Do not place the jar directly on the bottom – the jar will break. Or explode…

Step 2 – Combine your oil and beeswax:

Once your oil is infused, strain out the herbs – really ‘squish’ the oil out of them. You can toss the herbs now. Add the beeswax to the hot oil and stir. Please don’t burn yourself – this is hot. Once the beeswax is melted, pour the mixture into a small bar pan to cool and harden.

Step 3 – Combine your oil/beeswax mixture with the liquid:

Your beeswax and coconut oil mixture should be hard. Break it into small pieces and toss into a blender or food processor (I used a magic bullet, and it worked like…magic…) Pour distilled water into your blender – stop when you reach the top of your beeswax/coconut mixture (this will probably be about 1/4 -1/2 cup of water). Don’t go overboard with the water – if you do, your cream will be runny. Add the vitamin E oil and several shakes of your essential oil (probably about 10 – 15 drops). You can also add a preservative at this point, which is probably a good idea. I didn’t, but I’m a rebel like that. (I also use a clean spoon to scoop it out each time, so I don’t introduce bacteria from my hands.)

Step 4 – Blend it up:

It will take several minutes, and you’ll probably have to shake it/stir a few times before it’s creamy.

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Step 5 – Use it!

This is also great on elbow, knees, and feet. Actually – it’s fabulous everywhere, but my face is super sensitive and I couldn’t use it as a face cream without breaking out. Bummer.

The original recipe came from Shoshanna at bulkherbstore. You can watch her video here.

How to Stamp Soap with Gold Mica

PumpkinSoap

I’ve decided making soap is the perfect hobby. Here’s why:

1. It’s useful! We use handmade soap every single day! (This is why I wanted to learn in the first place)

2. It’s so much nicer than the stuff you buy in the stores. I’m sorry, but it’s true. We ran out about a month ago (I had planned to make some, but procrastinated a bit – go figure), and we ended up buying a few of the bars we used to buy from the store. We won’t be doing that again, even my husband hated it.

3. It creates patience. Cold process, my soap of choice, takes 4 – 6 weeks to cure. Okay, that’s not so awesome, but I deal with it.

4. It’s pretty! So, so pretty. You can layer it, swirl it, decorate the top with swirls, or….stamp it. Today I’m going to show you how to stamp your freshly sliced soap with mica.

 

What you will need:

Loaf of Cold Process Soap, ready for slicing – I used this pumpkin recipe from SoapQueen.com

Clear or Rubber Stamps

Sparkle Gold Mica (or any mica you want)

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1. Take about half a teaspoon of mica and spread it out to about the size of a quarter on your work surface. I used a cutting mat, and it worked very well.

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2. Using a sharp knife, slice off a piece of soap (1/2 inch – 3/4 inch is usually about right). Do not slice the entire loaf yet,.

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3. Dip your stamp in the mica, and make sure you really coat it. Tap off the excess. With the newly cut side of the soap toward you, firmly press the stamp into the soap. It should still be a little soft, and you want to push the design into it. Don’t be afraid to use a little pressure. Not too much though, you don’t want to ‘smoosh’ out the design. There’s a happy medium; with just a few tries you’ll have it down.

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4. Just keep slicing and stamping until you’ve reached the end of your loaf!

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Here’s a great little YouTube video from LatherBeSoaping that shows the stamping process at the end.

Have fun!