Thursday, 29 December 2011

Making It

Making instead of buying - a goal for 2012. 

 One of the indulgent products that I love but won't buy anymore is this shower/bath product from YonKa.  I like to put a little bit in the bottom of the tub and plug the drain when I take my shower.  The water smells heavenly and the oil moisturizes my feet as they soak.

I saved the bottle quite a long time ago, when I used up the last of what I had on hand.  I finally got busy and experimented with a homemade solution.

Castor oil and essential oils have done a pretty good job of replicating the bath oil :)  I used rosemary, lavender and a tiny touch of eucalyptus.   It lacks lather, but as I never did use it for that purpose (instead using my homemade soap), I can live with out the bubbles.  Next time, I think I'll try using castor oil infused with calendula or lavender flowers...

One of my small indulgences, filled with an incredibly easy, simple and inexpensive homemade solution - success!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas Love...

So thankful for these wonderful times spent with family, at home :)

                                             handmade crafts galore...

                                            playtime (Christmas style)

    elving!  Homemade jams and soaps given to those who least expected it :)   We challenged ourselves to repurpose and we re-used all the wrap/cards we received last year - success!

                                         games played late into the night...

cozy naps in the warm sunshine (of the people variety, too!)...

 Mom's china, so that she could be here, too... and Grandma's pink glass at the centre.

 hand embroidered linen, just because Christmas is the time to bring it all out never mind the need for a pressing - the wrinkles won't be remembered.

                                                     dapper young men and

                   lovely young ladies playing Christmas Carols all day for Mama...

 my favourite childhood decoration, still playing and still turning after 43 years of magic

                      dear Grandma to join in the love and fun - 91 and going strong!

                   camera shy daughters who helped with dishes without being asked...

                   Daddy home to do fun stuff with...   robots out of beer cans (?)

                Grandma's famous Christmas Snowball dessert  mmmmmnnnn.....

and her just as famous, delicate and fluffy pumpkin chiffon tarts ****swoon***

These are the things that make Christmas memories...  the people, the fun, the food.... the good times shared.  Love is in the way that we live, not in the gift we give.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

28 Months (Part One)

While I dream of producing EVERYTHING we consume here on our land, at this time, it isn't yet feasible.  Baby steps.

During the last 28 months, we have drastically changed how we live and eat.  We are not purists and we have not "arrived".  We are simply doing the best we can each day, while challenging ourselves to do more and learn more each year.  There are still old habits to break and a great many sustainable solutions to find.

This land of ours was barren when we arrived in September of 2009.  Literally bare, save a few potentilla shrubs and a perimeter tree line.  The ground was hard, dry and covered with drought stricken, chemically treated grass.

It has been a HUGE undertaking to establish a large (fenced) garden, a small orchard, soft fruit canes/plants and suitable, rotational hen accommodation all the while raising 5 kids and renovating our home ourselves.  Wow.  That's a lot of work in 28 months.

While we do have a long way to go, in 28 months, we have done all of the above and this means that NOW instead of shopping weekly at the store for ALL the food to feed 7 people, we:

* grow and store approximately 90% of our vegetables, buying only occasional items.  Our "cellar" stores should last us until April, I figure.

* grow a respectable portion of our fruit (our fruit trees and soft fruit canes/plants are still young, but we hope that the yield will increase over the next few years).  What we can't/don't yet grow, we source through local means (freecycle, u-pick).  We also support a certified organic farm in the Okanagan to buy stone fruit.  A friend goes every year to holiday and bring a truckload of organic goodness back from that family farm.

* source ALL of our pastured meat through local producers (friends with a small hobby farm, Serben Free RangeIrvings Farm Fresh)

* source our organic heritage wheat in bulk through Gold Forest Grains.  I can't get much more local than this - he's a stone's throw away...

* produce all of our own eggs

* make our own cultured dairy products (we are hoping, wishing and waiting for raw milk to one day be legalized in Canada as it would be our preference)

I look to many people for information and guidance in this endeavour, largely Kevin Kossowan and Throwback At Trapper Creek.  To both of you, I send my thanks and humble gratitude.  I am a student with much to learn.

Part 2 to follow...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

In The Kitchen

Sauteed veggies and Fava Beans incorporated into a pasta dish.

A surprise chocolate chip muffin smiley face greeting a morning breakfast eater

An afternoon spent baking some goodies (muffins and cookies) and some goodness (breads and ham and lentil soup).

All the while admiring my new Freecycle find - a set of vintage Le Creuset cook wear in excellent condition.  

I am thankful... oh yes, indeed!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Role of Maintaining Things in Simple Living

My Grandma was a thrifty woman, but she always bought the best of everything.  Her closet was filled with good quality classic clothes, supple leather shoes and lovely handbags.  She didn't own excessive quantities of anything but what she had was of the best quality she could afford.  She kept her leather goods well polished and her clothes meticulously cleaned and mended.  She hand washed her undergarments and hung them all to dry to save the elastic from "going" early.  Each item lasted for many years of faithful service due to her thoughtful, careful attention and because she opted for classic styles, nothing ever looked outdated. 

I'm embarrassed to admit that when I was younger, I used to (privately) scoff at my Grandma for taking such meticulous care of her things.  It seemed a pointless waste of time to me and I was guilty of thinking that it was cheaper to buy less expensive things and replace them when they broke.  I was wrong.  Not only is it NOT cheaper, but that way of thinking is wasteful and very bad for the environment.

This leather purse has served me faithfully for 5 years.  It is sturdy, well made, durable and practical.  It was not cheap, but the feel of the leather, the heft of the zippers, the quality of the stitching, the design, and the general workmanship all indicate that I bought a handbag worth the $150.00 that I paid for it.  Nothing is broken or damaged in spite of this purse being in steady, near daily service for 5 years.  It looks like I just bought it.

Yesterday, after noticing that the leather looked a bit cracked and dry, I invested 15 minutes of maintenance into my purse (Grandma style).   A good clean out and vacuum, some leather conditioner and a buff was all it took to make it look new again (see above).

                                       BEFORE the "spa treatment" :(

I'm confident that my purse will serve me well for many years to come.  Besides, who can argue with the math?

$150.00 divided by 10 years of service = $15.00/year

A wise investment, indeed :)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Savour The Season

I'm constantly amazed at how the simplest things are what make special memories.  As we inch closer to Christmas, the children reminisce about their favourite memories of Christmases past...

baking and decorating cookies
building gingerbread houses
going for drives to see the pretty lights
walking down Candy Cane Lane (an street of elaborately decorated homes in the city)
gathering natural items to decorate with
making gifts by hand
addressing cards and greetings together while sipping hot chocolate
delivering surprise gifts
doing a big (many day) puzzle together
playing board games
looking through all our old photo albums
playing Christmas carols on the piano

The countdown is on (tomorrow is Christmas Eve!) and so I'll say goodbye to this space for a while so that I can fully savour this wonderful season with my family :)

May you all enjoy this holiday season to its fullest with those you love by your side...


Monday, 12 December 2011

The Blues...

The seeds for these "Blue" potatoes were given to me by my neighbour back in the Spring.    He's been gardening organically for 40"ish" years across the road and he never buys seed potatoes.  He collects different varieties over the years from friends and fellow gardeners and he always saves his own seed every year.  He never saves varieties that don't grow or store well here.

He simply calls these his "Blues" but he's not sure of the official name as he's had them for so many years.  I'll simply call them Gorgeous.

I left the peels on, chopped them, tossed them in local cold pressed canola oil, seasoned them well and roasted them.  They were divine and they stayed purple through the cooking process.

Such a treat to have a large store of fresh potatoes on hand ~ these are just one of the many varieties we grew and I think we've got just enough of everything to last until late Spring.  

All that work has paid off :)

Nutcracker "Sweet"

Saturday was magical.  I attended a matinee performance of The Nutcracker Ballet with our daughter Paige and my future daughter in law, Kelsey.  Neither had been to the ballet before and both will go again :)

Much dramatic play has been seen and heard yesterday and today - all in the theme of The Nutcracker!

Tea anyone?

Friday, 9 December 2011

Apple Cider Vinegar

I love it when I can find a natural product that works and when that natural product does double or triple duty in the home, it makes me really happy.

Apple Cider Vinegar saved my sanity and my health this week!  Our kids came down with a nasty stomach bug the other day and to ward it off I took my usual 1Tbsp ACV in 1/2 cup of water, every 30 minutes until the symptoms abated.  It works wonders to head off a stomach upset if taken at the first sign of tummy troubles (rolling stomach, nausea, etc).  The taste is rather unpalatable, so I plug my nose and drink it down quickly preferring that short term unpleasantness over 24 hours of being sick to my stomach.

Each time I took it, my stomach was "informing" me that I was well on my way to getting sick.  I was worried that I had waited too long to take it, but as I was tending to and cleaning up after 3 VERY sick kids, I just couldn't get it in me any sooner.

Long and short of it, I have avoided the illness and now that the kids are well again, I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief.  I can't imagine being the only adult home with 3 sick kids and me coming down with that nasty bug at the same time.  Nightmare at Little Home In The Country!

I also use ACV mixed with water and essential oil for a natural hair rinse and it works really well ~ no conditioner needed.

I know I'm not using ACV to it's full potential in my home - please share what you use it for and why :)

***********************UPDATE ~ FEBRUARY/13 *********************

See this post about using apple cider vinegar to treat sore throats - it works a treat!

Thursday, 8 December 2011


As Homemakers, we have tremendous influence.  Used effectively, with honest, good intention, this influence can affect our families in truly profound ways for the rest of their lives.  It's both humbling and I dare say downright sobering to bear daily witness to the power of this influence.   As Homemakers, we see it live and in "real time" each and every day.  

One of the things I love most about my job is the ability to use this influence to comfort my family in ways that aren't always tangible.  While I can't eliminate discomfort from our lives (nor would I necessarily want to),  I certainly have great influence over the many things that my family experiences on a day to day basis.  

The way we view our role, the way in which we carry out our work, the attitude we choose while doing it, how we handle problems and even our seemingly small, insignificant daily decisions influence each person living in our home.  Our families are literally marinating in our influence. 

Really think about that for a minute.  

I am the marinade that my family is soaking in.  

That's a lot of power.

We can CHOOSE to use this power of influence in many different ways, but the ultimate challenge is to use it well and for the good of the family.  

Case in point:

Mondays are challenging for us.  The return to the weekly routine after a weekend of leisure can be a difficult transition for our children (and us, too).  When Kelly leaves to go back to work (out of town), it's always on a Monday.   In general, around our place, Monday = blech.  

I have a few ways that I make Mondays a little more enjoyable and they effectively influence opinions about this first day of the week regardless of the reality of the day.

1)  Starting Monday's school day with art or hands-on activities help everyone look forward to the start of a new week instead of dreading it. 

2)  Baking "Monday Cookies" each week which are something to look forward to once we finish with our day's schoolwork.   

3) Mondays are Linen Wash Day.  The kids make their own beds all week long, but on Mondays, I wash the sheets and in the late afternoon, make up their beds nicely and turn down the covers.   Come bedtime, the room is dimly lit, the blinds are drawn and favourite dolls and stuffies are placed just so atop cozy flannel sheets and down duvets.  Bedtime is SO much more appealing when the room is inviting as it is on Monday evenings :)

* Reece is recovering from a cold, so pardon the towels on the floor to catch the moisture from the humidifier...

One of the ways that I challenge myself in my role as a Homemaker is to "dissect" our days so that I can identify problems or methods that aren't working well.  Influencing outcomes is really just finessing and altering our days to net a better result.  There are limitless methods and no one single way is right for everyone.  What may work now might not work next week or next month and that's what keeps our jobs interesting and challenging ~ responding to changing needs.

How are you using YOUR influence in your home?  What family/household challenges have you been able to overcome by strategically using your influence to net a better result?  Do share!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

That Makes Three

Should have pressed it before I put it on, but this apron got put into immediate service this afternoon :)   Striped fabric upcycled/repurposed from a baby wrap that I used 7 years ago for our 5th child.   I had to seam it down the middle to make a piece large enough for the skirt, but it's not very noticeable due to the forgiving stripes.   The coordinating star fabric was a small scrap leftover from another old quilting project.  It feels really good to be using up fabric from my stash to make things that I really NEED.  I would have preferred the straps to have been backed in the star fabric but there wasn't enough yardage so I made do with what I had - stripes.

I'm on a roll and between the aprons and some gift sewing, I've hardly left the sewing room of late!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Another Apron

So easy to add to the collection when you have figured out the pattern on the first one, no?

This cheery yellow apron was sewn from fabric in my stash.  The yellow chenille was from a set of tab top curtains that I bought in the Spring at the thrift store for a few dollars and the cotton print was leftover from an OLD quilting project back in 1996!

While I love the look of the apron, it was a royal pain to sew.  I should have known better than to mix fabrics like that but I couldn't stop myself because I LOVE chenille.  It was a challenge to work with and it took me as much time to sew this one as the first.

The third apron is going lickety split however - no need to refer to the instructions and the ease of sewing fabrics of the same weight makes it a breeze compared to this one.

I'm addicted and aiming for the top - 7 new aprons!  Mama's rockin' the house....

OH YEAH!  :)


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Meet Emmaline

I've had this pattern sitting in my sewing room for way too long.  I swooned over it every time I saw it but with our focus strictly out of doors for the past 6 months, there was no time for sewing until now.

I'm in dire need of a little sweetness in the apron department ~ all mine are stained, worn thin, faded and frumpy.  I'm all about dressing for success and baby, this will do just fine...  halter ties at the neck, completely reversible, sweet sashes, good coverage, comfortable, substantial and just plain adorable!

I fell in love with this vintage look fabric at a 50% off sale and it was just the kick in the pants I needed to bring Emmaline into my life.  It's trimmed and lined with coordinating fabrics from the same line ~ "Sewing Room Social".  Isn't that a sweet name?

It feels SO good to get back to the sewing machine after such a long hiatus and equally good to make something useful and attractive for myself.  Look out Emmaline, there won't be much rest for you, we've got a lot of cooking and baking to do...

Monday, 28 November 2011

Bon Voyage, Ian!

Ian just left for Australia.  

The tears are flowing but I'm smiling.  

I thought it was just yesterday

that I welcomed him into my arms and held him close...

...but it wasn't. 

  What a fine man he has become.  Strong, independent, caring, thoughtful, loving and adventurous.  We are so amazed that at the tender age of 18, he organized and saved for his own international travel.  For many, the dream would have stayed a dream and never taken wings.

I'm a jumble of emotions... excited, anxious, worried, supportive...  

What a strange combination of feelings.  

We had a lovely turkey dinner last night with our whole family together. It was the best feeling to have my family all at the table one last time before Ian left.  I'm looking forward to the day that he comes home and we can all sit together again, listening to Ian's travel tales long into the wee hours of the night...

...until then, safe travels my son.

We love you and are so proud of you!

XO Mom and Dad

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Winter Crafting

These winter days have us all in the mood for a little crafting :)  

I'm working on a few sewing projects (top secret - shhhh!!!!) 

 Megan and Reece found an ingenious way to create winter scenes in canning jars using marshmallows and icing sugar.

           and Paige worked on decorating candles for the table with coloured beeswax....

                                 Lincoln?  Well, he just looked handsome :)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Flo Flo's Grandma's Almond Butter Cookies

Oh my...  is there anything more delicious than a decadently rich, buttery cookie that absolutely melts in your mouth?

This is the cookie that EVERY child of mine requests EVERY year.  This is the recipe that wills people to call you (usually with a mouth full of cookie) to beg for the recipe.  This, my friends, is THE "go to" seasonal WOW but easy cookie.

This cookie is loaded with butter so it's not something we make all through the year.  We save the recipe for Christmas so that we have something special to look forward to!  Because Ian is leaving for Australia on Monday, I made him a batch now so that he doesn't miss out  XO

Flo Flo's Grandma's Almond Butter Cookies

1 lb soft butter (no substitutes and do NOT reduce quantity)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp almond extract (do NOT omit!)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda (bicarb)
4 cups white flour
red glace cherries

Preheat oven to 300 deg.   Cut whole glace cherries in half and leave them cut side down on a clean tea towel or paper towel to drain while you make the dough.  Cream butter and sugars.  Add eggs and beat together.  Add remaining ingredients and beat until just blended.  Don't overwork the dough or the cookies will be tough.   Roll into walnut sized balls and place on un-greased cookie sheets.  Press half of a glace cherry (cut side down) into the top of each ball.  Bake 12-14 minutes or just until barely starting to turn light brown around the edges.  It's VITAL that you don't over bake them, as they are meant to be chewy and tender, not brown and crispy.  Leave the cookies to set for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before you move them to a cooling rack or they'll fall apart.

We came across this recipe about 16 years ago when our old neighbour, Florence gave us some of these cookies for Christmas.  As soon as we ate ONE cookie we KNEW we had to have the recipe!  Thankfully, Florence willingly shared it, saying her Grandma would have loved everyone baking them and enjoying them.  We have made these cookies every single Christmas since and we have given them as gifts to eagerly expectant neighbors and friends nearly every year!

When our oldest boys (now 20 and 18) were just little, they couldn't say Florence very well, so her name got shortened to FloFlo and it stuck :)  Thanks, FloFlo for sharing your Grandma's delicious cookies!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Update on Natural Hair Washing

Nearly 2 months ago, I started experimenting with using baking soda (bicarb) and vinegar for hair washing and I promised to update with my findings.  The "jury" was out for a long time as I muddled through various combinations.

Let's just say that my experiment with baking soda (bicarb) taught me one thing.  I don't like it!  My hair was really stringy and dry in spite of reducing the amount of baking soda dramatically.  We are on well water, so perhaps that was the determining factor ~ I'll never know.  I brushed my hair well, I rinsed it well, I tried everything.  Blech.

What I DID really like using was my homemade cold pressed soap!  It lathers luxuriously, cleans well, rinses well, and doesn't irritate my sensitive skin.  I usually suffer from a dry itchy scalp (especially in winter as it's so dry here) but that problem has totally resolved with the use of my soap.

Additionally, my hair seems less greasy the next day.  Using shampoo somehow stimulated my scalp to produce a lot of oil in spite of being dry and itchy.  What a weird combination!  All that is gone - I wake up to hair that is not in dire need of another wash.

Having one bar in the shower to wash hair and body with is pure simplicity at it's finest and THAT is not to be underestimated!  Easy on the budget, natural, self made so I know what's in it, and pleasant to use - what could be better?

As for rinsing, with short hair I'd imagine not needing any conditioner or rinses.  My hair is currently shoulder length and it benefits from a weak vinegar and water rinse.  I have scented mine with rosemary essential oil but you could use anything you like.  Every few days, I am using a very small amount of conditioner ONLY on the ends because they are dry from using the baking soda (bicarb).  One I get my ends trimmed in a few days, I'll probably be able to abolish that practice all together.

So, my friends, who knew the best solution is practically free and right under my nose?!   Thanks, Rhonda for a versatile and simple soap recipe - it has truly transformed how we clean our hands, hair and bodies :)

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Wee Bit Of Sewing

Another cold day, but sunny at last!

I'm still working away at the dining chairs. 6 are totally finished and 2 more covers are sewn together and ready to go.  I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel... Have you EVER seen so many staples to undo?  The black cover ALSO had an equal number of staples attaching it... why I'll never know.

                                             Now, for FUN sewing!

I made a Christmas ornament for a swap that I'm participating in at Down To Earth   I don't want to give away the surprise in case my swap partner peeks here, so this teaser pic will have to suffice.  It's made of 100% wool felt, and the trim is from my recent find at the Thrift Store.  The buttons are all vintage from my Grandmother's stash that I inherited when she moved here and decided that she would not be doing any more sewing (she's 91!).   The ornament turned out rather nicely but the trouble is... now all I want to do is sew for fun never mind finishing those blasted chairs!

This buckwheat bag for natural headache treatment is for a gift.  It's scented with peppermint oil and it does a spectacular job of getting rid of headaches.  30-60 seconds in the microwave while you drink a large glass of water (don't over heat it or it smells BAD), and a 15 minute rest with it over your eyes and forehead does the trick to chase a headache away.  It's re-usable and can be refreshed with any essential oil once the peppermint has faded. The fabric is a scrap from my stash (circa 90's), and is simply sewn into a rectangle, leaving one end open to fill, then top stitched closed.  I triple stitched the seams eliminating the chance of a buckwheat leak :)

I've got plenty of Christmas gift sewing to do, so must get busy to finish those chairs...

What are you sewing?