Friday, April 30, 2010

Craft break!

Nothing very exciting happening garden wise today. We spent most of the day raking grass out of our newly tilled garden area. So I thought a craft post was in order. (A wheelbarrow full of sod and sand just doesn't inspire but Martha does.)

Martha Stewart's craft encylopedia has been out for a while but her new book on sewing and fabric arts is new. Costco is selling both for around $20 each. (A better price than other retailers.)
I'm hoping for some rainy spring and summer days to work on some of the great skills listed.

Even my son found some projects and skills he would like to learn. Crafting isn't just for girls. I'm hoping he gets good at tin punching and woodworking. I want a pie safe!

I also picked this little goody up at the store today. It's filled with a lot of fun projects to fill those long summer days with. My favorite type of quilting to do is hand applique. I love to sit outside in the shade of our maple tree and work on it.

Speaking of quilting... Coming in May... The Homestead Blessings ladies will add another DVD to their wonderful collection of Arts... THE ART OF QUILTING! I've already pre-ordered my copy. You can head on over to Franklin Springs Family Media to check out a preview and to pre-order.

Sorry for the late post today. I usually post in the morning before the day gets going but I needed to do other things this morning so I'm posting now that the day is over. My goal is to post everyday so even though it is late I'm still posting.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vacation projects coming along

Yesterday we got our cool weather crops planted. We have three different types of leaf lettuce growing in wine boxes on our back deck. We like to keep the lettuce up by the kitchen for easy access. (We are a family that eats a lot of salad.) We also like to keep the wild rabbits out of it and they won't come up on the deck.
The wine boxes are free: The DH brings them home from work when they're available. We use them for storage, decoration, book shelves, and when using them as planters we drill a few holes in the bottom, fill them with potting soil and they're good to go.

We also planted spinach in planters up on the deck. The big pot is from last year's Costco tomato plant. We've become very big on reusing things to keep gardening costs down. The strawberry pot in the background is still empty. Not sure what we're going to put in it. I do have some nasturiums that would work well there. We were going to outline the garden with nasturiums (they provide pest protection- I guess animals/bugs don't like the smell) but they need to be watered sparingly. We water by autotimer that gets the entire garden for a good length of time so I'm afraid the nasturiums would not be happy. But besides being a pest deterent, Nasturium flowers are also edible. They go great in salads, imparting a slightly peppery taste and brilliant color. Having them up on the deck would provide easy access for salad picking and provide a good show of color.

Here is our newly tilled expanded garden (complete with frost- which is why we have been starting seeds in the green house). We have an awesome neighbor who just invested in a bright, shiny red, brand spankin' new rotitiller. He was kind enough to offer to till our previous garden spot a couple of weeks ago and kind enough to let the DH borrow it last night to break the new ground for the expansion. THANKS JIM! Today we get to pull out all the sod, rake it and pile more compost (from the pile on our driveway) on the section. I mentioned up above the nasturiums that, now, won't be lining the garden but we still plan on planting radishes around the perimeter for animal determent and putting up Ivory soap on wooden dowels every couple feet or so around the perimeter. This works on keeping pests (deer) out of the garden. We don't want to spend money on a fence and found that the smell of the soap does indeed keep them away. (As evidenced by the eating of our squash and pumpkins last year that stopped once we put the soap "fence" up.)

Ahhh... here is my lovely new picnic table. My DH is one of those annoying types that can watch something done once and then go do it perfectly. He watched a woodworking show on building picnic tables and decided to build one. He watched the show, sketched a plan, wrote a supply list, bought the stuff and then built it. It took him all of three hours with basic tools. (Much to my DH's dismay we do not have a woodshop.) Guess who's eating lunch outside today! And Dinner! Still a little too cool in the morning for breakfast.
Okay, gotta start my chores for the day! Have a good one!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Finished Greenhouse and more gardening

We eat a lot of pistachios in our house. They are a healthy snack and if you buy them unshelled it takes a while to eat your snack so you can't just scarf them down. This helps stretch out your snack and help you with portion control. Afterward you can compost your shells or you can use them for pathways in your garden or do what we are doing and use them for flooring for our greenhouse. We will just put them in as we have them and cover up the dirt and grass.

Our garden getting layered with 3 cubic yards of compost. (A combination of manures, plant material and clay) We had it delivered from a little local nursery. It was much cheaper by the truck load then by bags. You might be wondering about the clay in the compost but we are very pleased with it. Our soil is essentially sand with a bit of dirt thrown in for color. The clay will help the garden area retain water rather than it just draining straight through the sand.

The start of our no dirt potato garden. The cardboard is down and we have the straw to put the potatoes into. I had already purchased some seed potatos and the DH picked up some more but with the increased size of our garden we need to pick up even more. I'm a firm believer that you can never have too many potatoes. We are big potato eaters and if stored properly they will last a very long time.

Our garden is in the backyard and there wasn't a way to get the delivery truck any closer to it then the front driveway. So here we are filling our little Red Flyer wagon (from when I was a child) with compost. One child would fill, one would travel the wagon back and forth and another would rake the compost out on the garden. I weeded while all this was going on, occasionally helping a tired child and the DH started a heck of a lot of seeds in the greenhouse.
Our neighbors helped us out by loaning us their "Big Blue" wheelbarrow after they came home from work. They had a good laugh watching us travel back and forth with the wagon. A wheelbarrow is on our list of things to obtain but we haven't got there yet. I'm hoping to find a good one at a yard sale.

This is what three cubic yard of compost looks like. Doesn't look like much until you start hauling it. I took my oldest with me to my youngest's well check just as the compost was being delivered. She was dismayed to find the pile still there when we returned, even though everyone had been working on it for the hour we were gone.

Here is a video of our finished greenhouse and the seeds and plants we have started!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Family Exercise

Bikes, bikes and more bikes (and a trailer for the little girls)

Reagan and Taylor: along for the ride

Our family has gotten on the "health" band wagon. My husband got motivated to loose the extra weight he's been carrying around for years (89 lb loss so far) and to do that we've changed eating habits and added daily exercise to our routine.

Spring has been fun. Now that John and I have gotten bikes we go for a daily ride in the country. It burns calories and is wonderfully relaxing at the same time. I look forward to it and the kids really enjoy it too. We also plan on adding hiking to our exercise program and of course when Lake Michigan warms up- swimming.

The added bonus of this new lifestyle has been all the extra energy we have to work on homesteading projects. We are expanding our garden (leading to more canning, cooking and maybe a little extra to sell), built a top bar beehive to start working on keeping bees (which will lead to our own honey, beeswax, and candlemaking), built a greenhouse (great for seed starting and later seed saving), and the DH plans on building our own picnic table so we are able to say bye,bye to the indoors for the spring/summer and spend more time outside. Time to disconnect from the T.V. (Except for Biggest Loser- of course. Gotta keep the weight loss motivation going.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Is it Lavender? Is it Sunflowers? NO! Its...


Last year's lavender pot holding last season's spent basil plants- roots and all.

Harvesting seeds from the seed pods is delicate work. Especially for my husband's man hands.

Each one of these little pods holds at least 2 or 3 seeds.

And all those little seeds went into an old sunflower seed packet. I don't think we'll be confusing tiny basil seeds with large sunflower seeds.

We let our basil go to seed at the end of last year. The hope was that it would self seed. Well, it didn't. Those little seeds stayed locked up tight in their little pods. They needed coaxing out by hand.

I pulled out the plant material from the ground and plopped it in the first container I found that was big enough. (A lavender container.) And last night my DH patiently opened up each little pod and freed the basil seeds. (They are tiny little buggers.) Where did these seeds go? Well, we could have been all Martha Stewarty and make our own little seed packet but no- the DH poured them into a just emptied sunflower packet and relabled it.

Now all that's left to do it get the seeds in the ground. (Or a starter pot in the greenhouse.) I have the perfect spot for them in my little herb garden. Can't wait to start using it in my cooking. I might just have to drop by the local nursery and get an already started plant to tide me through.
I'm hoping these little seeds grow. It will be our first venture into seed "saving". Our chives just reseed themselves every year. We haven't had to do anything with them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

God's Plan For Us

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31:27

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Proverbs 31:27
I love that my "career" is serving my God, husband, family and home! What a blessed life- doing what God created me to do.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Healthy Homestead Lemonade!

We buy our lemons in bulk from Costco

The Boy wants to be a chef so he's usually the first to volunteer for kitchen duty. We use a electric juicer but non-electric work just fine too.

With all this great spring weather we're having and all the yard work we've been doing it's nice to take a break and sip a tall, cool, glass of fresh, homemade lemonade. It's so easy to make that I have assigned the task to my children. It's yummy and there are no artificial colors or flavors.

16 oz of fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
8 cups water
sugar to taste (we like to add about a cup)
Cut lemons in half, juice, strain, pour into pitcher
Add water and sugar, stir
add ice if desired and garnish with extra slices of lemon

You can also use limes in this recipe. Make limeade or lemon-limeade.

Gotta love other people's junk

Garage sale season is so much fun. We scored at a neighbor's sale. I went over just for the heck of it on Thursday. (I'm a Nosie Nellie who always has to check out the neighbor's stuff.) I came home with two white ceramic mugs and a floor puzzle. ($2) Then the kids went over with their money and found three beanie babies. ($.30) Friday I sent the DH over to look at the bikes they had. We came home with one men's and one woman's bike. ($20) Today we went over to get a sprinkler they had and came home not only with it but with a beanbag and digital camera too. ($7 for all).

I'm very pleased with our purchases. I've been on the look out for a camera for my 13 year-old daughter for at least a year and we've been mulling over purchasing bikes for DH and I since October. If I had paid retail prices for everything we'd have spent around $350 so I think $30 was a darn good deal.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I'm a killer!

A dandelion killer.

The DH asked the the kids and I to pick all the dandelions in the yard in an effort to stop their seeds spreading and erradicate the herb from our yard. Notice I said herb, not weed. I am personally pro-life when it comes to dandelions. They are a pretty and useful flower. I don't understand the suburban man's lawn fixation. Why must you only have one type of grass growing in your lawn and why in the world would you want to spread poison all over it to stop useful herbs from growing. Freedom for herbs!

Alas my DH is one of those men. He does not want anything but grass growing in his lawn. He cringes at the thought of ripping out the lawn and planting something as ridiculous as... food. Anywhoo... as a submissive wife... the kids and I went out and picked everylast flower and stem we could find. Luckily we did not have to dig up the roots- we'd still be digging when the first snow falls next winter.

After we were done I noticed my neighbor/landlord went out and spread chemical poison- ahhh- fertilizer over the yard. Sigh. Silly-minded men and their lawn egos.

If you want to read up on the GOOD that are dandelions go here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cooking For a Crowd- Inside Out Turkey Cheese Burgers!

These are a great healthy option to serve at your next cook out.

Inside-out Turkey Cheese Burgers (Serves 6- enlarge as needed)
2 lbs of ground turkey
1/4 cup of ketchup
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 oz slice of cheese per pattie

Homemade hamburger buns or other favorite hardy bread
Lettuce leaves
Tomato slices
Any other topping you and yours enjoy!

Mix turkey, ketchup, mustard and garlic powder in a bowl until combined and press into 12 medium, thin patties. Place cheese on six of the patties and then top with remaining patties. Crimp patties shut. (Do this well so no cheese escapes when cooking.) Cook patties with desired method (We grill or pan saute) until cooked thoroughly- about 5 to 7 minutes per side.

This recipe is a family favorite. Everyone likes it! It is quick, easy and healthy. I have my ten year old son mix these up. We finish the meal with a great salad or vege platter and fresh squeezed, homemade lemonade!
Head on over to Life In A Shoe for more Cooking For A Crowd Ideas!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You might be a red-neck if...

You pay your children one penny for every fly (in the house) they kill this spring and summer. (Body required for proof.)

You bowl with toliet paper tubes and a "model earth" ball. (Earth supplied by unfinished science lab experiment.)

The toiliet paper rolls still have scraps of t. paper on them.
Good times with the Lewis Clan.


My son just spilled an entire large container of sugar all over the kitchen floor. I think he'll be scrubbing it today!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Good Old-Fashioned Taffy Pull!

The final products: Strawberry and Watermelon Taffy (With a few molded chocolates thrown in for good measure!)

Before that we had to cut and wrap the taffy.

And before that we had to pull taffy...

and nap...

and pull taffy...

and pull the taffy somemore!
We made taffy at our ladies Titus 2 meeting at church Saturday. We had a great time learning to boil the sugar to the right temp and cool it and color and flavor it and then pull it (twenty minutes of pulling) to the right texture. It was a great activity to bring all ages together.
Our church rents meeting space from a local Christian school and in order to use their commercial kitchen for candy making we needed to have a state certifide food safety person present. My husband happens to be certifide, through Costco, and volunteered not only to attend and be a presence but to help as well. He pulled a lot of taffy for us ladies. He even had blisters on his hands at the end.
The ladies were able to take home baggies of candy to share with the rest of their families to most of the men and boy's delight. The men like the fruits of our "practical homemaking" endevours.
We have these "Far Above Rubies" meetings every one to two months on Saturdays and hit different aspects of homemaking. We have studied gardening, bread making, cheese making, crafting,canning and frugality. We have picked strawberries and made jam, made pumpkin pie from pumpkins- not a can, and much more. Next month we are going to a farmer's market to see what's fresh and local in our area and learn to prepare meals from scratch with that abundance.
This is a good time of skill learning and Bible study. (It's great to learn skills but we also believe that the reason we learn this skills is to glorify God and so we learn his Word at these meetings too.) Woman of all ages are encouraged to come so we can train up our daughters in these skills that our Feministic culture tells us are worthless. If you have questions on how to start one of these groups up at your church, drop me a comment.

She speaks softly...

...but carries a big stick!

This is Taylor's current favorite play thing: The stick we keep in the sliding glass door track.

Monday, April 19, 2010

86 lbs and counting!

April 2010

September 2009

I am so proud of my husband, John. He started watching the Biggest Loser late last summer for the first time and he got motivated by it. He saw people his own weight (345 lbs at the time) losing weight through good old fashion diet and exercise. He decided that if they could do it, so could he. He knew he wouldn't drop the weight as fast as they do on the show (Where they have little else to do but exercise all day.) but he would do the same things at a pace his schedule allowed. I am proud to say that at this point (28 weeks since we started.) He has lost 86 lbs! On the "Ranch" on Biggest Loser a lot of people lose this in 14 weeks so I'm very proud that it only took him double.

John (and the rest of us- its a family thing) exercises about one hour a day, five times a week. In the fall we walked and did exercises in our yard (as a family), during the winter we bought three Biggest Loser work out videos and did those and now that it is spring we are walking, biking and jogging.

Diet wise... John avoids sweets and junk food/food with empty calories. He watches his fat intake and counts calories. He has learned to make healthy food choices and control his portions. We avoid fast food and most of the industrial stuff called "food" at the grocery store and opt for real food. Fruits, veges, chicken, turkey (instead of beef- it's leaner) fish, brown rice and whole wheat pasta, home made from scratch everything as much as possible. We eat well and he is never "starving". Grocery shopping is also quicker these days as I can skip almost all of the aisles in the store and just shop the perimeter.

I usually have some homebaked goodies for the kids and I (or Oreos... I'm weak, what can I say.) But if John wants something "snacky" he eats pistachios (the kind in the shell as it takes time to shell them and that slows down the eating and makes the snack last longer.) or he eats sugar free jello at only 10 calories a serving or chews sugar free gum at five calories a stick. We don't usually like to partake in sugar substitutes- they'll kill you quicker than the real stuff- but during his weight loss we allow those couple things.

The whole family is really enjoying our new healthy life style. The kids still complain about the exercise videos, though. We are looking forward to hiking and walking and maybe even rock climbing or other things we've never done before. We even included all our newly learned knowledge into homeschool lessons. The kids can look at a plate of food and know about how many calories they are putting in their bodies. This helps them to make right choices.

I'm sure there is more I can say but I'll let you all ask questions if you have any. (Oh... I've lost 23 lbs doing this and trimmed up my waist and built muscle. I actually look good in short sleeve shirts and have calf definition once more in my legs, not to mention having more energy.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

God's Plan For Us

Genesis 2:15
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Isn't it interesting that what the Lord made for Adam was a garden- not a city or office cubicle. Notice too that God didn't put man in the garden to lounge about but to "work it and take care of it."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Off To Candy Making Class Today

I'm busy gathering supplies for the candy making class I'm teaching today for my church's ladies group. Here's hoping nothing catches on fire! Just kidding! Anyway since I'm crunched for time this morning and morning is usually when I blog, I thought I would post a few pictures from this just past Easter. We celebrate Easter as the glorious ressurection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but the celebration does have its fair share of candy!

Just a sampling from one child's basket.

The family portrait where the BOY isn't doing something silly. (Death threats from Dad do wonders.)

Understand my son's personality?

Think you got that personality yet?

We spent Easter with family friends. Here is a mix of some of both family's kids. Notice the grass and lack of heavy clothing. It was super nice this year as opposed to the Easter we spent with them two years ago where everything was covered in 1/2 a foot of snow.