Stuck On You

My kids love glue. I think all kids do to be honest. We like painting with it, pasting with it and, on occasion, putting it on our hair and skin and adhering glitter, paper, or anything else we can get our little hands on  to ourselves, much to the dismay of mother’s bathtub drain. So, I found a way to make our own about a year and a half ago from Sustainableecho, and it works great on pretty much everything – including wood and knick knackery (if you don’t say anything to Dad, he’ll never know – so SHHH!!). Here’s how we do it!img_0781

1 c. Flour

1/3 c. Sugar

1 1/2 c. Water

1 tsp Vinegar

 

Stir flour and sugar together in saucepan. Whisk in 3/4 c. water until a thick paste forms. Whisk in last 3/4 c. water until smooth. Put on medium heat stirring constantly until thickened. Stir in vinegar once desired consistency is reached. I use a small wire sieve over my funnel when bottling to keep out any big chunks. If your mix is super chunky near the bottom, just take the back of a spoon and stir it through your sieve mushing it through.

Let cool and craft!img_0783img_0784

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Conquering Mt. Laundry

Absolutely everyone has to do laundry, and those of us with children know that either you’re doing it every day, or like me, you are faced with a mountain of it each and every weekend. With the price of laundry detergent being insane, and my having SOO much of it, I switched to homemade about a year ago, and I am never looking back. I love it! It’s gentle for tender little skin, and it works great! I found my inspiration at DIY Natural, where they break down the cost and savings in making your own, and have very minimally tweaked the recipe for my family. I do also use vinegar as my fabric softener, and it works fabulously – I had to quit using the commercial softeners when I started doing DH’s laundry as it has something in it that made his man flesh very very angry at me, so I was thrilled to find how well vinegar works without agitating him.

You will need: img_0845

1 bar of soap – I prefer Fels Naptha (0.97/bar), but have used Ivory and Dove before – any bar of soap will do.

2 gallon containers

1 1/2 c. Borax

1 1/2 c. Washing Soda

Large Pot that will hold 2 gallons OR 2 large pots that will hold a gallon each

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Start off by grating your soap into your pot (grate the whole

Soapy Water Stage

Soapy Water Stage

bar into one pot; even if you’re using two separate ones you’ll be cooking everything up in one). Add a gallon of water and heat over medium high heat stirring occasionally until all of the soap has dissolved. The finer you grate your soap, the faster you’ll get through this. You’ll have what resembles and is soapy water at this point. Stir in your Borax and Washing soda. I heat mine to a boil stirring almost constantly, I don’t think boiling is necessary, but you need to heat it long enough to make sure the Borax and Soda dissolve, otherwise you will have gritty detergent – I’ve had this experience and it works fine, but it does have a tendency to not rinse out as well if it’s gritty.

 

Once you have everything cooked down, (you’ll want to divide your detergent equally between your two pots if you need to use that method) add in your second gallon of water and stir it all together well. (Divide the water equally between your pots).  Once it’s all mixed, remove from the heat and let stand over night or at least for a couple of hours. The reason behind this being, that as you can see, the mix is going to solidify, and if you bottle it right away, you’re going to have a heck of a time shaking a gallon of solid gel and squeezing it out. img_0849Once set, I just run my hand mixer through it for a minute or two on medium speed and then bottle it.

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I use the recommended 1/2 c. per load in my high capacity for an extra large load.

* A note on bottles – I used to use milk jugs, but they are thinner, and since you will eventually have to give these guys a shake, I have switched over to the thicker vinegar jugs whose handles won’t crack when you shake them 🙂

A Healthy Nibble Rather Than Kibble

I ran out of dog food! And I really don’t feel like spending $30+ this week on some dry chunks. So, of course, I’m making my darling boy some home made food with absolutely no mystery ingredients. The rest of us are on real food only, why should he be any different?

Firstly, I have made my darling homemade food before, but this was tweeked a bit to take into account the fact that he tends to get a bit.. ahem.. chunky in the winter. His last vet visit put him at 10 pounds over his healthy weight, so this time around I worked on bulking up his food with a few more vegetables and a little bit of fruit to give him more fiber and help keep him fuller.  I think I may be switching to this completely in the winter months from here on out as I have yet to find a low calorie dog food that I think is worth a darn, and he absolutely loves this, so if it does indeed help him shed his lazy pounds it may become a staple in our household. I will happily let you all know if this food does the trick.

As far as ingredients go, my base has always been chicken, stock and carrots when making dog food in a pinch, but, since I did want to up this one, I used Can Dogs Eat.org   to double check my ingredients. What I ended up using was:img_0855

1 lb ground beef (I prefer using chicken for him, but it was freezer burned but not bad and I can’t throw away food..)

About 5 cups water

1 apple cored and chopped – make sure there are NO seeds if you are feeding your dog an apple

2 stalks celery

2 carrots peeled and chopped

1 med/lg potato peeled and chopped – always peel a potato if you’re giving it to your dog

2 c. brown rice – I use regular rice – NOT the minute stuff

1 c. frozen mixed vegetables – Make sure you check what is in the bag. Mine had carrots, peas, green beans and corn.

At the end I also threw in about 1/2 c. oatmeal just to absorb the excess liquid and thicken the pot.

 

img_0857 - CopyPut your water and beef into large pot (I just eyeballed my water) and bring to a boil while chopping up all of your other ingredients once chopped add all fresh produce into pot (leave out rice, frozen veg, and oatmeal). Bring it back up to a boil and add in rice. Bring to a boil again. Once boiling, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 40 minutes. Your rice will vanish. Leave it alone down there!

Once your 40 minutes is up, pop the top and give it a little stir to gauge your extra water. This is img_0858what I had going on –

I kept mine over the heat on low uncovered to reduce, but a very sad, starved pair of brown eyes motivated me to speed things along and throw in that 1/2 a cup or so of oatmeal to soak up what was left. Once my oatmeal sucked up all the extra liquid, I grabbed my hand mixer and just ran it through the pot a couple times to make sure there weren’t any big veggie chunks he could eat around.

 

And this is the resulting doggy chow!

I’m happy to say his bowl has never been cleaner, and he’s never been happier to be my little (76 lb) buddy.img_0859

Hearts on a Platter

My husband and I don’t recognize Valentine’s day – we rebel against most major holidays in general to be honest. That being said, we do have two small children who I feel should not be cheated out of a holiday just because mom and dad don’t do anything special for each other. So every year I spend the day before making valentines with the kids out of anything pink, red or white that I can dig up, and on the morning of I make them pink heart pancakes. Currently both children have colds, and so this morning I decided that I would up their vitamin c intake all around and and make orange pancakes with strawberry orange sauce. You will definitely want to start your sauce before doing anything with the pancakes especially if you are starting with frozen berries.img_0790

Strawberry Orange Sauce

3 1/2 c. Whole strawberries (if using frozen like I did, don’t thaw them, just throw them in straight from the bag.)

1/2 c. Water

1/4 c. Orange Juice

1/2 c. Sugar

Combine and stir together all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a low boil and simmer until reduced by half stirring frequently (I want to say mine took about 15-20 min from the first boil to reduce). Once reduced, remove from heat – it will thicken up a bit as it stands. This makes quite a bit, and I ended up with 1 1/2 half pint jars going into the fridge when everyone had gotten their fill. You could probably cut this in half or can the extra (I was too lazy this morning) in a boiling water bath with a 10 minute processing time.

Orange Pancakes – I start these as soon as I have my sauce stirred up and on the heat – I only have the one cookie cutter though, so the pancakes take me longer than if I was doing multiples. img_0791

1 Egg

1 c. Flour

1/4 c. Orange Juice

3/4 c. Milk

1 Tbsp. Sugar

2 Tbsp. Oil

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking sodaimg_0792

1/2 tsp. vanilla

dash salt

Red Food coloring

Oil for pan/cookie cutter

Pour some oil into a shallow dish and plop your cookie cutter in. Heat griddle/skillet. I put my orange juice and milk together in a liquid measuring cup at this point to make something of a weak buttermilk. Beat egg well. Add and beat in all remaining ingredients. I pour my batter into my

The cutter should not stick at all when you go to remove it - it should slide right off leaving this result.

The cutter should not stick at all when you go to remove it – it should slide right off leaving this result.

measuring cup that I used for my milk and orange juice to make pouring easier.  Add oil to griddle/skillet to heat – once heated place your cookie cutter into skillet (make sure it isn’t plastic!!) to allow it to heat up slightly. After about a minute (if that) pour batter into your cookie cutter – I basically just thinly trace along the inside of the cutter – just enough so that it will all coalesce into the center and fill the shape out – if you make them too thick and pour too fast they will not cook well. Let batter cook within the cookie cutter for a minute until the sides are bubbly/formed. Remove cookie cutter with tongs and place back into your dish with oil to slick it up for your next pancake. Flip pancake and cook through.

*A note on the flavor – these pancakes don’t actually have a real orange flavor – I just wanted the vitamin boost. To get a better orange flavor reduce the milk and make up for it with more juice (I would not go beyond a half and half mixture), or/and throw in some orange zest.

Top your pancakes with sauce and dig in!

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All Tied Up

So, this post really doesn’t have anything to do with saving money or being frugal, but rather is a really nifty little craft idea that will benefit both camping families, and those who lean towards being more of a movie buff crowd. My kids are always demanding “camp spots” at movie and down time during the day, meaning they want their blankets laid out just so and their pillows put exactly where their precious heads will land. Once they lay down and find themselves comfortable, the realization hits – “now that we’re laying ON our blankets, we aren’t covered up!!” And so begins the dragging out of every blanket we own. It would be cute if mom weren’t left folding queen size comforters every night of her life for an hour. While cruising pinterest once again, I spotted a no sew sleeping bag post (same idea behind a tie blanket), so of course I immediately pinned it and went back during nap to see how this fabulous item was made – the link led to a picture. That’s it. There was a url on the bottom of the photo that I followed to a site that makes doll bedding and clothing, but still, could not find instructions or even the image. Apparently I’m competitive, because I came to the point that I said the hell with that! I’ll make a better one! And thus the genuine camp spot was born! We will be using ours on movie nights, stargazing on the deck, camping and for sleepovers in mom and dad’s room on stormy/scary nights. So here’s how we made this wonderful item!
You will need –img_0768

Fabric  – 4 yd total for these kid sized units

Foam Pad – I bought the 24″ x 76″ roll and cut it in half to make two

Pillow – I got mine at Walmart for $2.50 a piece for this project

A decent pair of scissors

Total cost of materials seems to be $35 for non-licensed fleece – if you’re getting characters or licensed stuff you’re looking at around $40-$50

img_0769Lay out the fabric you want for the outside of img_0771your bag/camp spot and lay on your pad and pillow so you have your desired length left over for ties around three edges. Make sure however you choose to lay it out that you have enough fabric to do the top as well.  Once you feel satisfied that everything is just so go ahead and put down the fabric for the inside of your bag over the whole thing and cut the side that will become the top of your bag, making sure to leave enough on the side of your pad so that you can still tie it all up.img_0773

img_0772Lay the top over your bag base nice and even so all edges line up – I don’t know why I pulled this back for the picture. It makes no sense to me now. You will probably have to trim some edges, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Once you have it pretty well aligned, just go around cutting the edges into strips. You will end up cutting squares out of all of the corners, but it happens naturally as you go along if you don’t want to worry about it.

Once you have your strips go ahead and start tying double knots all the way around.  I opened my strips and tied white to blue and blue to white for each strip (if that makes sense)tying a double for each pair – one knot ends up on top of another for every strip. Just make sure at some point you decide where you want the “flap” of your bag and don’t make it so the poor kid is tied down! (That’s why I folded it down!!!) Once you get to this point just tie front to back on the single layer of blanket or pad. I found it was easier to fold back my top when I got to a point that I liked and tie up the pad first before going back and tying together the blanket portion. And that’s it!! Here’s the finished product!img_0780

img_0778You can see Thing 2’s camp spot in the back there – I just rolled it up and tied a long scrap around it. They store great! They are both behind this rocking chair in their little rolls! You’d never know unless you sat there (and it’s my spot, so it’s totally off limits!!) Happy camping!

Update 11/14/13

Since this post was published I have begun to sew velcro into the bottom of these so that they can be put through the wash without the pad or pillow – they wash fine with it, but it takes up the WHOLE washer. I also have since done a couple sewn versions. I will be posting a tutorial on that in the near future hopefully!

Orange You Glad I Cranned These Together?

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If you aren’t, just try them and you’ll be forever grateful. After turkey Wednesday, it occurred to me that I still had my left over cranberries just sitting in my freezer waiting to be used. I am not a fan of cranberry sauce at all, and actually buy them for the sole purpose of making cranberry ice. Trouble is, once again, I was left with 6 1/2 cups and no real good ideas. Until! It dawned on me how delicious would cranberry orange jam be? So I set off on my hunt to find a recipe for this dreamed of jam, and found many Christmas jams including strawberries, nutmeg and other Christmas-y ingredients that are all fine and good during the holidays, but I really wanted JUST cranberries and oranges in this one.  Fortunately for me there was a recipe out there that covered my criteria, and as a perk had vanilla in it (unfortunately it asks for a bean, which is ridiculously expensive, so I subbed extract).  While on my original hunt I had to think just what exactly I would do with this elusive jam once I made it and again, a stroke of brilliance – I’ll stuff it into orange muffins!!

Links to original recipes will be included at the bottom of this post.

img_0762To Make The Jam

(This is my exact process which is about double the original)

6 1/2 c. Frozen (or fresh) Cranberries

zest of 2 Oranges

1 c. Orange Juice

3 c. Sugar

2 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1 c. Water

I threw everything except 1/2 tsp of the vanilla into a large pot and brought it all to a steady boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until reduced – I added in the 1/2 tsp vanilla here. In retrospect, I think I could have probably saved a bit and used less had I waited until the end to add vanilla and just done it by taste to be honest. I waited for my jam to gel before I started putting it in jars, and it came out pretty solid when I opened it up to make the muffins, so I don’t think it really needs anything more than the 20 minute simmer that the original asked for. When it reached the consistency I was looking for, I just put it through my baby food processor and loaded the jars from that. The jars were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes and all came out sealed and ruby red beautiful!

To Make The Muffins img_0765

2 c. All Purpose Flour

2 tsp. Baking Powder

1/4 tsp.  Baking Soda

1 tsp. Salt

1/2 c. Sugar

zest of 2 Oranges (comes out a little over the recommended 1 Tbsp)

2/3 c. Orange Juice

1/2 c. Melted Butter (one whole stick)

2 Eggs

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and orange zest in large bowl. Stir in juice, butter and eggs until batter is evenly moist. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups only filling them half (if that) full. Make a well in the middle of your batter to spoon in jam. Cover jam with another spoonful of batter.  Bake at 350 for 30 min. Let cool and enjoy!

Links to Original Recipes:

Jam –http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Cranberry-Jam-Epicurious_1?columns=undefined

Muffins – http://allrecipes.com/recipe/orange-muffins/detail.aspx

Turkey Day (Wednesday)

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Yes, turkey day happened on a Wednesday  – in February – at our house. As a family of four on a very tight budget, I have found some tricks to keep all bellies, including the bottomless pits that are Thing 1 and 2, full and happy. Every year the week of Thanksgiving you will probably notice ridiculously good deals on huge frozen turkeys. They need to move them, and no one has time to thaw them before the big event, and unless you have a huge brood, it can be really intimidating to take on that much meat. I always try to buy two 20+ pounders on top of the bird I make for the event. I throw them in our chest freezer and they are good up to a year so long as you don’t let them thaw out – don’t worry it takes at least a week for the big guys. When we fall into a food drought , or I merely have a craving I pull the bad boy out and plan out a weeks worth of food. I stuff my bird because I was taught that it is sacrilegious not to. This also benefits you later on down the line.

If you’ve never made a turkey, fear not, it is the easiest thing you will ever do. Take it out a few days (a week in the case of the monster seen here) before you plan on making it. Rinse off and out, making sure you pull out the neck and gizzards. Throw away disgusting chemical gravy packet, but bag up and save the rest in the fridge for later. Lay it down tits up in your roasting pan and pat it dry – I don’t use paper towels, so I use a kitchen towel (a flour sack cloth to be more accurate) that I throw in the sink, pour boiling water over and wash immediately.  Pour a melted stick of butter over it and rub it all over.  Melt another stick of butter in a small bowl and throw a piece of cheesecloth large enough to cover the bird into it, allowing it to soak all the butter up.  In the mean time stuff your bird. I would give you my recipe, but I fear the fearless German women of my family might kill me if I did. I will seek approval and update at a later time if permission is granted.  Tie the legs up and sew the cavity shut – this is not a neatness contest, just make sure she’s closed up. Grab your butter soaked cheesecloth and tuck her in. Let her rest for a while, she’s been through a lot, and preheat your oven to 325. Plan on about 15 minutes per pound – this beast took 5 1/2 hours. Once preheated throw it in the oven and plan on basting it roughly every 30 – 45 minutes. If your skin doesn’t seem to be browning enough for you near the end just remove the cheesecloth and throw it back in. After the bird is done allow it to rest (I do 30 minutes) as it   helps to keep it moist.

So, make up your Thanksgiving on your appointed day (if you work choose Saturday, because you’re going to need to spend another day using up/ storing the rest). Enjoy your Thanksgiving in (insert month). I carve both breasts off the bird for lunch meat. Freeze this! I didn’t do it this time and I had to mourn losing at least 2 pounds of meat.  Save any drippings you didn’t use for gravy and store everything in the fridge.  On the next day make yourself some stock and soup. I left out the noodles and pressure canned 10 quarts that will be good in my cupboard for up to a year.

To make the stock you’ll want to grab your carcass and any other meat you haven’t reserved for sandwiches or other purposes and your neck and gizzards. Throw these into the largest stock pot you have and cover with water. (I had to do 2 batches this time around using the legs and thighs for one and the main part of the carcass for the other).I throw in 2 carrots that I scrub (I don’t peel these) and either halve or cut into three depending on the size of the carrot, 2 stalks of celery cut the same, one onion quartered, a few sprigs of parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and skim the foam. Reduce heat, cover and simmer an hour or until it is to your liking potency wise.  When your stock is how you like it remove the meat to a cutting board to cool. Strain through a cheesecloth lined sieve and toss your veggies and wilty parsley. You can jar up and store your stock for a couple of days in the fridge or allow it to cool and then freeze it. I virtually always opt to just make soup, and so I strain my stock directly into another stock pot. For soup I repeat the same ingredients, but chop them finer and increase them just a bit – 3 carrots, 3 stalks of  celery, one onion, minced parsley.  I always add in a tablespoon of my drippings in the place of bouillon here. Bring your stock and veggies to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the carrots begin to be tender. While waiting for the carrots I clean the carcass and get all the meat I can off of it – be careful you get all the little bones!  Once the carrots are tender, add in the meat and if desired or not canning, the noodles. Heat to boiling again until your noodles are to your liking and enjoy!  If you are canning, leave out the noodles and have your pressure canner and heated jars ready to fill and process with 50/50 mix of solids and liquids. I process this for 90 minutes at 10 pounds.

I also make a hot dish of sorts out of all left overs – throw everything in a 9×9 making sure your turkey is in the middle of moist stuff (potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, whatever) pour gravy over the top, cover with tin foil, bake at 350 for 45 minutes, uncover and throw it back in for another 15. My kids totally don’t realize they’re eating the same thing. I love a good hot dish! (Did I mention I’m Minnesotan?)  If you have a massive surplus of breast meat like I did this time is to make mini pot pies. Just a simple pie crust used to line a muffin tin for however many you want, fill them, cook them, allow them to cool and throw the whole pan in the freezer. Once they’re all frozen nice and solid, pull them from the pan and transfer them into a ziplock and throw them back in the freezer for when you need one. I will have to post the whole process some other time as like I said, I lost my pot pie meat this time around *expletive here*.  As far as those drippings you saved goes, anything you haven’t used for your hot dish or pot pies  I freeze. I also do this with my chicken and beef drippings  – I substitute a tablespoon of it any where that I would normally use bouillon and I have yet to have a problem with it and I think I enjoy the end result of my dishes much better.

Even if you don’t do anything but make it and freeze everything to pull out for single meals later on, who doesn’t like this?!

Ignore the table cloth please. My children had already started eating when I got around to taking this picture..

Ignore the table cloth please. My children had already started eating when I got around to taking this picture..