Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Is Here! 

For the last several years, I have felt like summer was over before it started and I felt like we had squandered it. Since I homeschool four kids, I really need a nice long summer to recharge for the next year. The kids need it too. But, we've been so busy the last couple of summers, I felt like it wasn't a break at all. This summer I want it to be different. I want to run around a lot less. I want to be intentional about making memories, having some good old fashioned summer fun, tackling several cool projects I've pinned on Pinterest, and accomplishing things around our homestead that sorely need doing.

Here are a few things that are on my list:

  • Saving up for a sewing machine and then learning how to make a simple quilt like this one:

  • Making ice cream and lots of it! This is one recipe that caught my eye. We have some lactose intolerance in our family and I have found some neat dairy-free recipes to play around with in my new Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. Woohoo!
  • Signing the kids up for the summer reading program at our library and spending many hours enjoying their wonderful air conditioning while we look at books together.
  • Camping out under the stars and breaking in our new canoe at the lake. Yay!
  • Spending lots of time in Yosemite.
  • Practicing with my new camera and maybe even taking an online class I've had my eye on.
And, as for some of the things we need to get done around the homestead:

  • Renovating the chicken coop and yard for these guys:
  • Fencing off a yard for the dogs.
  • Working on growing some fresh veggies and fruits for our family.
 I do have some other things I hope to accomplish, but I won't beat myself up if I don't get it all done. I want to enjoy this summer!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sprucin’ Up the Deck for Summer

It’s 91 degrees here today and I am finding myself using my deck more and more. We just had it put in last summer and it’s like a whole extra room. I had no idea we would use it so much and really consider it more living space. I love sitting out there every morning drinking my chai latte reading the Bible and whatever book I'm working on at the moment (today it was Beautiful Outlaw which is SO good!).

 I haven’t done a whole lot with it yet except put some furniture on it which I got from one of my best friends who moved to Spokane recently. It’s fun having these visual reminders of her on the deck – every time I sit on my porch swing I think of my good buddy. We also scored an amazing deal on a gas grill last year. I’ve wanted one for so long, but they are not cheap! But, last year my husband was at the right place at the right time. The place was Home Depot and the time was after one was damaged or returned (not sure which). The friendly Home Depot guy told my husband that it was only missing two wheels and other than that it worked great and did he want it for $75? Uh, yeah!!! 

So with these basics, I started adding a few pots here and there which have sat neglected since early spring. I had some beautiful primroses in these, but they have seen better days. Here is a picture of my sad pots…

So I headed out the home improvement stores and our feed store (which has the most beautiful plants!) and bought a few things to just start getting the deck ready for the season. I also found some really, really pretty flowers at Rite Aid of all places including a gorgeous day lilly. Who knew? I wish I had bought more, because when I came to my senses and went back to get another, they were gone. Oh well. Anyway, here are some pictures of my efforts so far…old plants pulled out, new plants put in, everything freshened up!

I planted wave petunias which are supposed to cascade down the sides of the pots over the summer. I also added some color to the grill area and the table and check out that sunset!

Oh…and I had some great company, and entertainment from this guy…

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Husband's Favorite Dinner Gets a Healthy Makeover

My hubby loves, loves, loves Shepherd's Pie. No, this is not a dish that is very unhealthy to begin with, but I tweaked the usual recipe to keep inline with our healthier eating habits. This couldn't be easier and even my pickiest eaters went for it (healthy modifications and all).

I started by browning a pound of locally raised ground turkey with some diced onion. Then I got my organic carrots and potatoes boiling...

After the ground turkey had browned, I added about 1 1/2 cups of water and 2 Tbsp give or take of arrowroot powder to thicken the water and juices from the turkey to make gravy. As soon as it was as thick as I wanted it, I added organic peas and corn as well as the carrots I had cooked. 

Next, I mashed my potatoes,  flavored them with some nice sea salt and tarragon, then layered them over the meat and veggie mixture.

Served with some banana muffins I made, it made a relatively fast and very yummy dinner.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Easy Non-Toxic Air Freshener

But, first...I am super excited to say that I got a new camera! Woohoo! No more crummy, washed-out, poorly-lit photos. Yay!!

And now for the air-freshener. This is the epitome of easy projects. I saw this simple, all-natural air freshener on Pinterest recently and had to try it. I had everything I needed on hand, including the cute little jar.

All you need for this project is baking soda, essential oil of your choice and a small jar with a lid. I had a few of these small, squat jars (I can't remember what size they are - maybe a pint?) and they are really the perfect shape and size for this project. 

Just fill the jar approximately 1/4 full with baking soda...

Then add several drops of essential oil - I used about a dozen drops give or take. In this batch, I decided to go with lemon - it's one of the most economical oils and shoot, it just smells purdy. Lavender would also be a really nice scent to use as would geranium. How about cinnamon in the fall or around the holidays? 

I mixed it around a tiny bit and then screwed on the lid. After that, just take a hammer and nail and make several holes in the top to let the scent escape.

Then, I added a ribbon to dress it up a bit...

And put it in the bathroom to try out! It smells really nice and I'm hopeful the scent will last quite a while. Of course, to refresh it, you can just add more oil or dump it and start over when you feel like a new scent. Cool!