Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I know I haven't posted much in awhile. Sorry about that. My daughter's been having a lot of doctor appointments and my weeks get busy without me even trying! I really need to slow down a little. I've been reading on the Progressive Pioneer blog and she has started to physically write her blog posts to a friend who then scans them and posts them onto the blog. I really admire that.

I do love to write and receive letters in the mail. I have a good friend that I've corresponded with mostly through the mail for 4 years and it's been a lovely experience. She just moved to Scotland for school and so now I'll be receiving post from there! I think that's pretty exciting. Not nearly as exciting as an e-mail from Scotland. And no cool stamps either.

I hope to post more things soon.

My Camera!

Oh joy! I finally got my camera in the mail after a nightmare of it being defective and the seller not sending it back to me and refusing to communicate and finally getting my money back and buying another camera and waiting and waiting for it to come in the mail... Whew! I'm so excited! Beautiful pictures, here I come!!! :-)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beets & Pictures

I got a sweet deal on beets at the farmer's market a couple weeks ago. I finally got around to canning them yesterday. There is something so beautiful about a jar of pickled beets sitting there sparkling in their fuchsia-colored juice. It makes me happy. :-)

On a different topic...

I am a big fan of taking my kids' milestone pictures myself. Not only is it free to take the picture yourself (no sitting fees!), but you can print as many as you want and you own complete rights. (A big tip even for photographers with little experience - take the pictures on a cloudy day! That way you get the best lighting without needing any fancy lights. Not to mention no one is squinting in the sun.)

My first attempt was an autumn one of my son at 10 months sitting in colorful autumn leaves with a small bright orange pumpkin in his lap. It's one of my favorite pictures of him. I've only done this with my kids, and have never attempted a family portrait this way. However, this past weekend we discovered a great and thrifty way to get family pictures done. It's by no means a new idea, but it was new for us. A couple from our church wanted to get family pictures taken, and I mentioned that we did too. So, we arranged to take each other's family pictures!

Photo by Ryan Faggard

We went to the beautiful field across the street from where we live and snapped some quick photos before the sun went down. It was pretty chilly and our poor kids were getting shivery by the time we went back to our house for hot cocoa. I am very pleased with the photo results and now I have pictures to send out for Christmas! Hooray!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Homemade Spanish Rice

Okay, so maybe you already make Spanish Rice at home. But I have to admit something. For a long time I was dependent on Rice-A-Roni Spanish Rice. It was easy, tasted fairly good, and it was convenient. We always added black beans and diced tomatoes to dress it up. Well, finally, finally I decided to branch out and make it from scratch. (I'm doing it one recipe at a time.)
As soon as it was cooking I knew it was far better than the boxed stuff. It smelled amazing. And when I tasted it - oh my goodness! Rice-A-Roni can't touch this stuff! So, here you go. I'm sharing the good stuff.

Spanish Rice
(Adapted from a Simply Recipes recipe.)

2 Tbsp. olive oil (can use up to 1/4 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced (I used a huge tablespoon of pre-minced garlic)
2 c. medium or long-grain white rice, uncooked
3 cups chicken stock*
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup diced fresh or canned tomatoes
A hand-sized hunk of leftover roast or rotisserie chicken, chopped (optional)
1 cup black beans, rinsed if from a can
Pinch of oregano
1 tsp. salt

In a medium skillet brown the rice on medium-high heat. Next throw in the onion and minced garlic and saute, stirring frequently until onions are soft - about 4 minutes. 

In a separate saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, chicken (optional), black beans, oregano, and salt. Add the rice to the broth. Bring to a simmer again. Cover. Lower heat and cook 15-25 minutes, depending on the type of rice and the instructions on the rice package. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes. 

Serves 4 to 6.

*I usually cook my chicken breasts or thighs in water to keep them moist and then save the brothy water in a container in the fridge. This is a really simple way to make your own broth without having to buy a whole chicken and boil the carcass with veggies and herbs and stuff (which I do too, and it's so yummy!). And you don't ever have to buy broth or stock. Nice!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

No-Shampoo Update

Back in September I tried going shampoo free by using only baking soda and vinegar for about a month. Here is my report:

1. Baking soda did seem to clean, and it left my natural oils in my hair. The problem is, is that my hair is naturally oily, so this oil built up until it was a bit ridiculous and kinda gross. I washed my hair about every 3 days. This might have been part of the problem? Not sure.

2. At least for me, it was a bit difficult finding the right proportions of baking soda and how often to use the vinegar rinse. I ended up using too much baking soda and it built up on my scalp. Maybe I didn't rinse well enough? This could be an issue for people with thick hair like me.

3. Using too much baking soda also left my scalp feeling itchy. I used a few drops of tea tree oil in the vinegar rinse and it seemed to help. However, using one too many drops made my hair really, really greasy. In fact, I had to go back and wash my hair again it was so gross. A better alternative for itchy scalp is a raspberry tea rinse, but I didn't have any raspberry tea at the time.

4. The apple cider vinegar rinse is awesome! I was surprised with how it left my hair feeling so soft. This is something I will be continuing to use instead of conditioner. I could only use the ACV rinse now and then, though, because it made my hair too greasy when I used it every time.

5. I did supplement my hair-washing with some organic shampoo. I used this about once every 10 days. I'm not sure if this hindered my hair "going back to its natural state", but in my case I seemed to need it.

Needless to say, I will not be continuing washing my hair using baking soda. I might try it again sometime in the future, but for now I am using the rest of my organic shampoo, and then I will be trying out a recipe for homemade shampoo using glycerin and chammomile flowers. I'll let you know when that happens and give you the recipe!

Applesauce and Other Things

I'm sorry I haven't been as diligent in posting lately. My life just got a whole lot busier as now I'm in charge of activities at my church. In 2 weeks we've had a Trunk or Treat, a service activity and coming up this Friday we have a talent night. On top of that my kids have had a few unexpected doctors appointments and with only one car, we've gotten stretched pretty thin! Whew! I have some new plans for my blog, so stay tuned. I just need to be able to sit down and do it.

Anyway, awhile back I canned about 18 quarts of applesauce. I have to report that it is now all gone! I had no idea that my 3 year old and 8 month old would eat it so quickly! It was like they inhaled it while I wasn't looking. My toddler begs for it every day. I really am grateful that he begs for applesauce and not something else. And since we don't put sugar in it, it's even better!

We went back to Larriland Farms to pick more apples, which I finally canned yesterday, but I only got 6 quarts out of that. What am I going to do? There's no way 6 quarts will last very long. It has been an interesting experiment in learning how much we would really need of one thing to last a year. I think I would need about 100 quarts of applesauce to last until next apple season. You really do need a whole cellar or basement to store enough food for your family.

Here are a few ways we go through applesauce so fast:

- We put it on pancakes and french toast, drizzled with a little bit of pure maple syrup.
- If a recipe calls for oil, I replace half of the oil with applesauce for a lighter recipe.
- Eat it in a big bowl with a spoon.

Today I also opened up a jar of blueberry jam that I canned this past spring. Mmmm! It was delicious and like a taste of the sunny day we picked the blueberries. I have to say I am very protective of my blueberry and raspberry jams. They are definitely something that we savor slowly, especially since we only have about 4-6 half-pints each!

Happy November! That wonderful time of Thanksgiving is coming upon us with the wonderful comfort foods of the holiday. If you're lucky, I just might share my mom's wonderful cornbread stuffing recipe...
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