Friday, March 30, 2012

Favorite Blog Friday #1

It's Friday and I'm throwing another new thing at you! Fridays I'll be doing Favorite Blog Friday! Each Friday, I will pick a blog to feature and share some of my favorite things that they've done. This way if you've missed something or not visited the blog, you can see what they have to offer!

For my first blog site, I'm sharing the goodies from Rural Spin

What attracted me Rural Spin for starters was the about page: 
I’m a gardener, cook, writer, weaver, soap-maker, cheese-maker, horticulturist, anthropologist, ecologist, and more. I’ve studied and practiced home and garden care traditions since I was 10 years old, and I’m finding that many of these skills are quickly being lost or have gone the way of the covered wagon

 I could not agree more! I say this a lot of the time and have spent the last few years and most especially this last year trying to recover skills I had as a girl and have since forgotten how to do. 

Why should you take some time and check out Rural Spin? Well, for starters, there are a myriad of posts of various subjects. Like: 
Edible Plants. Here there are links to learn about Edible Winter Bark

Or a post on Cattails

Or Sumac!

There are also posts on gardening, like this one about starting seeds. Which by the way had several helpful tips in it! 

There are also other great bits of info like How to Collect and Maintain Wild Yeast Sourdough, or about the various Ingredients in food preservation. For you health nuts out there, there is even a great post on a more natural way to Keep Germs at Bay!

There is also a great post on The Feeding of Poultry for you chicken people out there. There's even stuff for the preppers/survivalists out there with great info on Seed Banks and 15 Ways to Paracord! For the foodies out there, several great recipes like Cheap and Decadent Chicken in a Pot, or one of my favorites, Easy Homemade Ricotta and even some seriously amazing things like, Decadent Mixed Citrus Marmalade!
Seriously look at that and tell me your mouth does not water!! 

The Rural Spin Facebook page is filled with even more goodies that are found like woodworking information, garden goodies, herbs, recipes, etc. So, after reading this post and checking out the blog and Facebook page, if it's not one of your favorites, take two marmalades and call me in the morning! ;)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Apple Pie Chips

Nothing extravagant this week, just something really simple! 

What we call:
Apple Pie Chips!

First thing you need to know is how to dehydrate. Sounds scary if your a dehydrating newbie or you don't own one but, here are at least two things I can tell you about dehydrating. 
One, it's really not in the least bit complicated.
Two, you don't need an actual electric dehydrator to dehydrate. 

Here are a bunch of links that give you info on how to build a solar dehydrator: 
Here is a TON of instructions on how to build solar dehydrators of all shapes and sizes!
If you're sketchy about some of these people, here's a few from some people that you can trust: 
And's video on the big ones. 

Don't have the resources for big ones like this, no problem! 
I've researched a bit and ended up using this method for a little while. You can use a corrugated piece of metal as a bottom piece. Followed by a screen, framed out of wood. Make sure your screen is set toward the bottom of the frame though to prevent any food from sticking to the material above. Cover the screen with a black or dark fabric. Cover the fabric with an old window. (Why do these instructions remind me of the,There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A -insert noun here- books?!) Making sure that your window is completely covered! My only word of advice for this method is this, choose your "screen" material carefully! Not all material is really food safe. Second word of advice, WASH THE SCREEN!! I have seen people do this and not wash it.....I may have done the 50s housewife thing and actually gasped! Third bit of advice, BE PATIENT! Your food may not always dry as fast as it would in an electric dehydrator but, it will dry! Just remember what takes 8 hours or so in a dehydrator, may take a little longer in the solar dehydrators. Also keep in mind that you're a slave to the weather as well. 

If that idea leaves you a little on the fence, you can also dehydrate certain foods in your car! I know it may sound odd to some but, there are thousands of links all over the internet where people have been doing it for years. I myself have even done it BBB (Before Big Bertha - yes my dehydrator has a name!). My word of advice here is this, please keep food safety in mind here. Make sure that it is a food that will dehydrate faster than it will mold! Yes, if you're not careful with what food you put out there and the temps for day, it can mold! I know because.....well, I may have learned the hard way! Yeah, I'm one of those you may have to beat with a baseball bat to get through this thick head! Another tip that no one told me but, I found a bit useful, was to cover the food with a cheesecloth. Several times I found a few uninvited flying or crawling friends on my food. So, I used a cheesecloth over the top and it still worked well! That was something else I learned, if they smell it, they will find a way in! 

The biggest thing with dehydrating....make sure your food is actually dry! I picked up this tip from a lady who knows her way around a dehydrator like nothing. You set aside the pieces of fruit or whatever you're dehydrating and let them cool. After a while, cooling on your counter or table, you can go back and check to make sure they're dry. For a safety check, you can place them in a plastic bag and sit on the counter for at least an hour if you're a newbie. If at that point, there is condensation in the bag, they're not done and need to go back in! It would be a shame if you went to all that hard work and sealed product that was not dry and you lost the whole batch. So, make sure that it's dry before storing. 

Alright, enough about dehydrators already and get one with Apple Pie Chips, right?! :) For this post, I'm going electric though.

They're pretty easy, I mean SUPER easy and all the experienced dehydrator peeps know this already. First let me say that I kind of go against the fundamental nature of a dehydrator with my Apple Pie Chips. Meaning I do not fully dehydrate them! I know, for shame!
Here's what you need: An apple corer, a peeler (or in my case my handy knife), apples of your choice, cinnamon and sugar mix and a bowl to hold your peels. A fruit tray will also be helpful but, you don't need one. Sorry for the um, not "proffesional" looking picture but, I'd already started and got a little bit of help from my youngest too - hence the lid in the apple peel/core bowl!)
  • I pick a sweeter apple but, not too sweet. Like a Gala, Fuji or Braeburn for this usually. Though I am partial to Red Delicious apples myself and have used them on occasion as well. You core and you can peel them if you want to. Keep in mind a lot of the nutrition is in the skin. If you peel them, save the skins to dehydrate later to use in teas, pies, breads, etc. 
  • After cored and peeled (if you choose to do that), you need to slice them. anything over 1/4" is going to take ages to dry really and their drying process is already an all day affair. So, try to keep them a little thinly sliced. 
  • It's pretty simple, combine cinnamon and sugar to your liking. Kind of like you would to make cinnamon toast or cinnamon and sugar doughnuts/donuts (you say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe). 
  • Combine it into a medium sized container. Something with a bit of a high wall on it. You will need quite a bit of it. I didn't measure really but, if I had to guess, I'd say all in total I may have had about 2cps of finished cinnamon sugar combo but, I also had about 6 or 7 apples to coat too.
  • Next, you simply put your slices in the container and give it a few swirls. If using a plastic container or enlisting the kiddos, you could use a plastic container, so you can put a lid on it, while they give it a shake! (I know, I admonish the use of plastic but, sometimes I can close my eyes!)
  • Once thoroughly coated, spread out on your trays and dehydrate. If you have one with a temp gauge they're even better! Simply set dehydrator at 150 degrees (65 C) for 1 - 3hrs then down to 130 degrees (55 C). 

  • How long they will take depends usually on the thickness of the slice and if your dehydrator is temp controlled. I recommend checking them at the 2 or 3 hour mark and then again about every hour or so. 

Yes, I forgot my trays! I paid for this dearly when it came time to remove them! 

Here's why checking them is so important. You've not only coated them in sugar which kind of caramelizes on the apples but, their moisture is being drawn downward as well, so the bottom of those apples are going to be nice and gooey! I try to help it "goo" evenly by flipping them but, you don't have to do that. I'm just a bit obsessive! :) What makes these extra yummy, is that in a days time or so, you will remove them, not fully dehydrated from your dehydrator! I know what you're thinking but, I did warn you, it goes against the principle of a dehydrator.

*A little side not here, because I can just see the old pros noticing that I'd forgotten my tray covers here. You will need a cover for your trays or all that gooey goodness is going to end up in the bottom of your dehydrator! If you don't have a tray liner, you can always use parchment paper! Lay over your tray and cut to size. *

When you remove them you don't want them, feeling necessarily like an apple. You'll feel that they begin to loose some of their water but, with the sugar coating them, they're still a bit soft. The sweet apple flavor has intensified in them....when you bite down into one that is ready, you won't have something that fully crunches in your mouth but, it will not wilt or be too soft either. If done properly, they will be a bit crispy, from the sugar but, the apple itself will have shrunk in size and be soft and pliable. I encourage you to check on them though because if dehydrating is new to you, you'll begin to know how they feel as they slowly loose their water. You could try and get them to a normal crispy apple chip state. I've never had a lot of luck with that myself though, which means that though everyone loved them, these almost dehydrated ones are the most popular. I have people that even offer to pay me for them when made like this! The point of that long ramble was to make sure you check them regularly. Which trust me, once you take a bite, at some point, even I, the one who really doesn't care for sweet things or too many candies, had NO trouble trying a few out. I mean, what chef doesn't sample their product?! So what if you have to test it a couple....ok, three....alright, alright more than 3 or 4 times but, in my defense it was like eating mini apple pies and sugar is addicting and.....yes I'm in my mid 30s going on 13! :)

I hope you try them, and you like them. I know all of the neighborhood kiddos, including their parents cannot get enough of them! My family fights over them too. They are definitely a nice treat to have after a dinner or as a snack and other than a little time in the beginning, you can walk off and forget them! Which is huge if you're doing dinner, homeschool/homework, laundry, etc.! Not to mention that you get the deliciousness of an apple pie without turning on the oven during those hot summer days!

Trust me when I say any working family, any picky eater and any sudden guest popping by is going to love them! Heck, they're a nice treat just for yourself at the end of a day too!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Simple Sunday #1

I've decided to do something on Sundays called, Simple Sundays.

I think it's important to remind yourself of the small, simple things in life. Take pleasure in these simple things, sometimes we all forget that and I found over the last year or two, that more often than not, I kept letting those simple things fly right by me! So, when I redid the blog, I wanted to pay homage to those things that I had taken for granted. Hopefully it will also remind you all, that even though you may be living paycheck to paycheck, you still need time to be thankful for the little things. Once you start to see them, you realize how beautiful your life really is!
What's simple this Sunday? Picnics! Yes, picnics! I know, almost unheard of a lot of the time anymore. Especially if it's not a large gathering of people. A small picnic though, might be just what the whole family needs to recharge their batteries! 

Things like dino sandwiches can make most little ones happy!

For other's, it's their favorite olives or being able to dip they're chips in ketchup even when they're not at home!

Or for moms, it could be having a lid on that little section of ketchup that is guaranteed not to get all over the lunch bag! ;) For others, it's being able to be a little independent and help out or choose what they'll be eating outside.

Simple picnics are great! It doesn't just mean eating.....there is laughter.

 There has to be bubble blowing if your kiddos are little!

There is rolling in the grass, which can ensue. Maybe not so great for allergies but, often times a bit amusing!
Maybe some pretend time.....I had to make this "attack dog" turn into a puppy with some kind of magic was that or get attacked! Let me tell you, that when this one pretends to be a dog, he means it! Unless you want a nice, long lick alongside your cheek, you find anyway possible to NOT get licked!

You can learn how to defend the universe. And which faces are the best to show that you mean business!

 Then there is some general horsing around....

Which may eventually lead to some parent kiddo bonding by going for a walk!

And of course, checking to make sure the bad guys aren't following you!
The point of this long, picture filled post is that no matter how hot it was out, how tired I was, how much patience I didn't have that day, it was a day I'll never get back and I spent it wisely! I'll never regret not mopping the floors, not answering that last email, running those errands that I had to do the next day; not a single bill crossed my mind, nor how I was going to afford gas for some appointment, or if I had enough food to finish the week, nothing that a one income household would normally worry about. Nothing was more important in that hour or two than just the picnic and walk.

I loved it so much, we finished the day with snow cones, sitting out front, watching the sun go down together! :) 

They may not remember it when they're all grown up but, I will carry it with me always!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I know this may seem like an alien concept to some. It did to me at first as well. I mean really, what year is this, right? That being said, the point is - what year is this?! It's 2012 for pete's sake, why does one even have to consider what must seem like an ancient, archaic form of earning your way in life? Well, let me give you all some reasons why bartering in this modern day and age is actually beneficial and not so middle ages!

1.) Gas - if I haven't mentioned it enough on FB, the price of gas is already at a severely steep price for the working family or one income family.
2.) With the rise in gas, comes the rise in the prices at your local grocery store. Just look at the price of flour, of rice even. The basics, the things that the modern family came to think of as cheap has now almost tripled or quadrupled in price in the just the last year or so alone! Look at flour, bread or even peanut butter!
3.) Utilities, if you aren't lucky enough to live fully off grid, then you had to have noticed the rise in your utility prices as well. Sure you can turn that heat up a down a few degrees, or set the air up a notch before it goes off. You can live by candle light for a few nights a week but, ultimately it's not always going to give you that extra cash at the end of the month.
4.) Extras - what if your car breaks down? If you're like most blue collar families nowadays, you're living paycheck to paycheck. This leaves no room for a radiator to die on you, or your intake manifold to bust!

Bartering can offer you a little leeway where you may need something. It can give you a little more cash at the end of the month. Case in point, like mentioned above, lets say your intake manifold goes on you. You have $42.75 in your account. The labor alone for a job like that is more than you've got sitting in the bank. If you barter with your cousin's neighbor, who's a mechanic for his services, he may allow you to pay half of the fee he'd normally charge for, or he may simply charge you for parts! All because you could provide him with hand made blankets to give his family, or a lot of baked goods that will last him through a week, or he may require you're services as a master gardener and he needs help with his garden.

I got into bartering by complete accident myself! My boys' father used to bring the breakfast burritos I'd make him to work, along with the cinnamon apple chips and apple pie chips I would make for him. Next thing I knew, one of the guys who worked with him was also an apprentice electrician. He came to me one time and asked me if I could give him a weeks worth of breakfast burritos, would I be willing to exchange his electrical services. Heck, why not have an electrician at your beckon call, right?! Then another guy wanted the apple cinnamon chips I made, another one wanted banana chips, and so on. Despite what you may think, mechanics don't make a whole lot sometimes. So bartering services was born!

So here's the basics I think you should know in case you consider doing this, things I had to stumble into the hard way.

1) Determine what services or items that you can provide. Think you can't provide anything? What about laundry for your sister, the computer engineer? Or house cleaning for your neighbor the school teacher/coach? You can darn, sew or patch clothes for the chef down the street. Do some gardening, babysit, cook, etc. There are a hundred things you can do to barter items or services!

2) Determine precisely what it is that you want in return for your services. You can't just tell the mechanic, I want my car fixed. That could lead to all sorts of things that bartering for a few breakfast burritos will not cover! :P  You could ask for a tune up, your fuel pump fixed, etc.

3) Find people to barter with. In particular, there are groups I've seen even on Craig's list devoted to bartering. Friends, neighbors and even family members are more apt to barter too!

4) Be specific about what you're services entail. If the electrician guy says, "a weeks worth of breakfast burritos", to me, that means maybe 5 burritos. One for each business day. To him that means 2 a day and since he works 6 days a week, that's 12 burritos. Handing him 5 would've felt like a rip off to him. Or for example, a photographer friend of mine barter services with a company. She ended up having to use an entire "roll of film" and the touch ups and re-takes took over a week. That was not what she'd signed up for. So, be specific when talking bartering with people.

5) It's always good business practice to get things in writing. I don't always use this when I barter to be perfectly honest but, if what I'm doing is going to last a while or with someone I don't know well. You are correct if you think I am definitely putting it on paper!

Bartering can be a live saver when you've got little to no money and it can also open whole new avenues of friends, products and a way of life. For example, I never would've thought of raising chickens before, until I began to barter. This couple houses my chickens and provides me with eggs from my egg layer when I'm in town. The times I won't make it there, she sells the eggs in part for the chickens' room and board. She's a true, experienced canner so she provides me with the good canning things when I don't have the time or enough product to can and in turn, I give them dehydrated product. If I hadn't bartered with them, I never would've gotten to raising chickens! Now, I don't pay for eggs, nor will I pay for chicken meat for a long time, all because I fell into bartering.

It's something to think about this the next time your low on cash and in need of services from someone.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Grandma's Family REALLY Ate on St. Patrick's Day, Plus a Lot of Great St. Patrick's Day Links!

Alright, this may sound strange but, I really dislike jumping on the St. Patty's Day bandwagon but, there are a lot of goodies out there that are too good for me to let pass by! That being said, don't cringe when I say this and hear me out before you riot on me....corned beef, while technically an Irish dish, is not really what my Irish immigrant, ancestors ate, or yours really. I mean if you were to trace the history of it, it would date back to Ireland and all but, it is not what everyday Irish people typically eat! Alright, alright, don't get your knickers all twisted!  ; 0)  I've got the mother of all St. Paddy's Day post for you to make up for my heresy! I will also offer you some true Irish dishes and what it was that our ancestors were really making instead of corned beef! I promise, it will be worth it!

So, I'll ease into this and share the fun stuff first! I love this St. Patrick's Day party from Creative Juice! It's just fun, bright and cute and I could easily see my boys having a good time with this. There are a ton of free printables at this link too!

Speaking of printables, I know I shared this on my Facebook page but, this is so jammed packed full, I'd be brain dead to not share it again! 60 FREE printables at that link! It would take me ages to try and find all of them there. Hani is my hero!
There are also a lot of printables here at Including Drawing Your Own Leprachaun  or a Shamrock Wish Mobile or even this hat! If printables won't hold your children's attention, they also have crafts here!
If you need something a little more inventive and natural, check this wreath out from Patty's Make It Monday! It's just gorgeous!

Now, that we're in decoration and party mode, you can't have a party without drinks of course! 
This one is from Kamiko over at The Beachside Baker. I so want one of these! 
You can find some more great drink ideas from Craftomaniac, whose Shamrock Juice I shared on my FB page. There is also Carolina Heart Strings' Irish Mint Julep if you need a more...sturdier drink! ; )

Now onto the food. I know that Cheryl from Tidymom shared an amazing post she put together earlier this week and I would be remiss if I did not share it here. That being said, I was careful to make sure that the things I bring you here are not the same by any means. She still has some incredible things over there!
First up on my green day foodie list is of course Diane's doughnuts from Created by Diane! I've got another goody from her a little later in the post! 

Continuing on with the fun stuff, check An Affair from the Heart's Irish Cream Cheesecake. I mean who doesn't love Irish Cream Cheesecake?! Not green enough or mint enough? How about Chocolate Chocolate and More's delicious looking, Grasshoper Pie?
Too green? Then how about Diane's Mint Chocolate Cake? The inside alone is truly AMAZING! You have to take just a minute if you have not yet and check it out! Alright pies and doughnuts-- or is it donuts, anyway, if neither of these appeal to you, Bridget from Bake at 350 made these delicious Hint O Mint Cookies you really have to check out! 

Alright, now onto the main courses! I figure I have to have it somewhere, so here's a Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup
The next two recipes come from one of my favorite sites for Irish food, Your Irish. It's more like what my grandmother used to make! Here's a great Irish Potato Soup from there. Then there is their Irish Poundies, JUST like grandma used to make! 

You can't have soup without some sort of bread or roll, here's a link for Irish Soda Bread and my personal childhood favorite, Irish Potato Bread. Now, grandma and I would eat these for breakfast but, growing up, everyone on the farm would just soak up their soup with their leftover bread. So, it's ingrained in my head somewhere that you have to have bread with soup!

Finally, you want to see what grandma's family really used to make, instead of the American tradition of corned beef and cabbage?
If you follow that link, it will go into depth about the dish and I believe, though it's been a while since I've really read it, there should be a link, explaining the history of this dish!

Saol Fada Chugat
(Long Life to You)
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit 
I had to have a friend type that out so I could copy it but, it supposedly translates to Happy St. Patrick's Day! Though I do have the kind of friends that like to cause a little mayhem now and again, so take that phrase with a grain of salt!  =0)

Monday, March 12, 2012

5 Uses for Your Plastic Grocery Bags

I know that I've not posted in a LONG time. Things in real life have been.....hectic, life changing and constantly evolving this last year or so. What starts out good, goes bad and then you kind of come out the other end in an entirely different spot than where you EVER in your wildest dreams thought you'd end up. Sounds like the plot to some life affirming book or a tear jerker movie but, it was my life. So, I held on with both hands and just went along with the ride!

I homeschool my sons and so that takes up a lot of time, not to mention their therapies 2 - 3x a week can wear a girl out! That all being said, my love for life is back, my love for blogging is back and I will be making a much more solid attempt to blog like I should've been doing this whole time! I have been very active on my FB page though, attempting to find the goodies and at least uphold some form of my responsibilities to you all. Thanks to those that have held on with me, I've sincerely appreciated it!

Alright, on to blog posting! :) As the gas prices rise to about $4 a gallon depending upon where you are in the U.S. and the prices of food and supplies follows, its' extremely important to make sure that you're not wasting a thing! Everything can be used, recycled or passed on to someone who might appreciate it. So, my mother and I spent a weekend when she was here, working on plastic bags. Not exciting by a long shot but, we got downright goofy doing it!

She made me a rather large, crocheted, shopping bag! We did it with the plastic bags you get from your local retailers too! Don't get me wrong, it took a lot of bags to do this but, she did a bunch of smaller ones that I gave away with my holiday goodies in December and then this one was my gift!

So, I'm not a big crocheter really, for some reason I'm just too easily distracted to do this. Though I can do needlepoint without looking....hmmmm. Anyway, she used a P hook and then just followed a purse pattern for the bottom and then as she says, made up it as she went along! It turned out very cute and I use it all the time. For more than just groceries too. It's become my actual purse!

Anyway, it made us both want to do more things with the zillions of plastic bags we have around this world! Especially since about 12 years or so ago, my mother used to work in the front of this pretty well known, national grocery store, that I won't mention the name of, and they always had this giant plastic bag recycling containers out in front of the stores. She was taught that they just dump them in the trash cans at the end of the day! That just irks me, so this is like our own fun little project now!

In our research on fun things, here's what I've found:
1. That trying to explain to someone how to make the bags into yarn was a lot harder than it should be, without showing them! So, it took a bit but, I found that had the best picture tutorial on how to do it, the way we did.

2. That there were a LOT of great ideas out there and some were really, really cute too! Like this great coffee  holder! Which I found at It also has a bunch of great ideas at the bottom of the page as well! 

3. In keeping with the coffee cup holder idea, here is a brilliant idea from Creative Jewish Mom, on how to make these ADORABLE coasters!

4. Another great idea from one our favorite sights, great for homeschool science ideas or just general knowledge, came from once again, What a neat idea for a rug!

5. Lastly, this idea came from and it happens to be my favorite one. How cute of an idea is that?! I loved it!

Now, I believe one of those pages also links to another where you can fuse the bags together to make fabric too. I have seen this in person one time, a lady had made hers into a vest of all things! There are literally all sorts of things you can do with these bags. So, before you throw them out, think twice about what you can do with them!