Monday, December 31, 2012

Post-Holiday Recovery!

It’s December 31… Christmas is now behind us. We spent 9 of the last 11 days with friends and relatives. We had lots of visitors, cooked and ate lots of food, talked, played games and watched a couple of Christmas movies. We really enjoyed spending time together with our loved ones. We also exchanged gifts. We generally try to downplay the “gift” aspect of Christmas for our kids, trying to focus their attentions on the giving end of things more than the receiving, but they do still get a fair amount of gifts from their very generous grandparents, aunts and uncles! By the last round of visitors, we were swimming in a sea of legos, toy cars, books, clothes, art supplies, craft kits, etc, etc! My kids, of course, are thrilled to have all these new toys, and I am thrilled, too, as occupied kids are happy kids!

But… once all the wrappings were cleared away, the relatives were gone and the last gingerbread cookie had been eaten, we entered the “Where to Put the Stuff” phase of Christmas. I actually don’t mind this part, as it gives us a good reason to clean and organize our toy storage areas! I have posted about organizing kids stuff before (see here and here) and in those posts I mentioned our rule about getting rid of old things as new things come into the house. With five children sharing two small bedrooms, this is absolutely essential! This year, we had one large bag and two boxes of stuff to donate, and two bags of stuff to toss. From there, we switched up a few storage bins, reorganized a few things, and found places to put the new stuff. I’m pleased to report that we now have everything tidy and organized once again!

December 31 also means that we are preparing to say goodbye to 2012, and to welcome a New Year, full of promise and hope for health, happiness and prosperity. Now is the time to think about the Blessings of the past year, and to make plans for the future.

Happy New Year to all! 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Solstice, 2012

My family enjoyed a lovely Solstice together last night! This is a very special celebration for me, for several reasons. First of all, I love celebrating the changing of the seasons... it makes me feel connected to our Earth and it's cycles. Second, from the moment we change the clocks in October, I look forward to the Solstice, when finally the days begin to get longer again, minute by minute, each day. I also love taking the time to think about how our ancestors have celebrated the Return of the Light for thousands of years. This dark time of year is a time of reflection, appreciation and togetherness. Here is how we celebrated last night:

We started by placing some ice lanterns we made onto the front porch at dusk...
Our front door, with our Solstice Ice Lanterns

Our Ice Lanterns

For some of our lanterns, we froze some evergreen into the ice. 

Then, we came inside and had a nice Solstice Feast! We were joined by my parents who are visiting from Florida for the holidays. We had candles lit in all the windows, and on the table.
Our table, set for our Solstice Feast

We planned to have a fire out in our fire pit after dinner, but torrential rains all day soaked our firewood, so we just stayed inside, and enjoyed some hot chocolate and spice cupcakes. It was a lovely evening spent together with Family! We are now looking forward to celebrating the rest of the winter holidays... Christmas Eve, Christmas and the New Year. The next several days will be spent cooking, baking, finishing up last minute gifts and enjoying the company of those we love.

Blessed Holidays to you and yours!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels!

 Look what we made this weekend! Some delicious chocolate-dipped pretzels! They are such fun to make, and they are great to give as gifts for the holidays. These are so easy to do, that even very young children can help.

We kept this project simple... we melted a milk chocolate and white chocolate in the microwave, and started dipping, using a spoon to make sure they were well-coated. Next, we just set them on parchment to set. Then, we made them "fancy" by drizzling the milk chocolate ones with white chocolate, and the white chocolate ones with milk chocolate. If you want, you could even add sprinkles to make them really festive. We chilled ours for a few minutes to make sure the chocolate was really well set, then we wrapped them up in cellophane bags from the craft store.

These are nice small treats to give to teachers, the mailman, etc. They also make a festive addition to larger treat baskets (maybe along with some homemade hot chocolate mix, too!)

We have several other projects in the works this week... Can you believe it's just one week until Christmas Eve?!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

When the weather outside gets chillier, there is nothing better than coming inside to a nice, warm cup of hot chocolate.  Sometimes I get all fancy and make fresh, homemade hot chocolate from scratch… heating up the milk slowly on the stove… whisking in sugar and cocoa and a dash of vanilla… stirring patiently until it’s ready. Mmmm-mm! But then other times, I want to just use a mix, so I can just add water and start sipping. So each year around this time, I mix up a couple of jars of homemade hot chocolate mix, to get us through the cold winter months.

I decided to start making my own mix a few years ago, after reading the label on some packaged stuff. It contained things like corn syrup solids, hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors… Yikes!  I looked for some recipes online, and have been making my own ever since. Sometimes we make up a few extra jars, to give as gifts at the holidays. This is especially nice if you wrap it up with some cute mugs and some cookies or other treats.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
(makes about 3 pint jars)

6 cups of dry milk
¾ cup of good quality cocoa (Do NOT skimp on the cocoa. Seriously. Good hot chocolate needs good cocoa. My favorite is Ghirardelli)
1 cup of sugar (I use organic raw cane sugar)

Pour everything into a large, deep bowl. Use a whisk to blend together thoroughly. Scoop into jars. 
To serve: Use 4 heaping teaspoons for each 8oz. cup of hot water. Stir until dissolved. Top with whipped cream or marshmallows, if desired. 

Jars of Hot Chocolate Mix... ready to gift!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Making Holiday Wreaths

So last post I shared our candle-making adventure, and I promised to tell about our wreath-making, as well. It's taken me a little while to get this post up, as I've been spending every spare moment knittingknittingknitting like a madwoman, to finish all the gifts I'm making in time for Christmas! But I promised myself I'd get the wreath post up before the end of the weekend, so here we go!

Our wreath-making supplies:
Evergreen branches, clippers, florist wire and ribbon.
I love making our own fresh evergreen wreaths for the holidays! Sometimes we make them fancy, using different types of greens and adding in some pinecones, faux berries, etc... and other times we keep them simple. This was one of the simple years. We just used some fraser fir branches which we'd cut from the bottom of our Christmas tree, and finished it up with a pretty bow. The process for making holiday wreaths is the same as for the herb wreaths we like to make, but on a larger scale! Greens can usually be found for free at many tree farms and lots. If you can't find any free greens, you might be able to find bundles of greens at garden centers this time of year. Any kind of evergreen will do... fir, spruce, pine, juniper, or a mix of a few. It's best to use branches which are fresh and soft, as they are easier to work with, and your wreath will last longer. Here is our front door wreath:
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Making Beeswax Candles

One of the things we made to give as Christmas gifts this year was beeswax candles. What a fun (though, I will admit, messy) project! We did both dipped and jar candles... the dipped ones came out a bit lumpy and odd, so we'll keep those for our own use... but the jar ones came out lovely! They smell so nice when they burn... light, natural and clean.

This was our first attempt at beeswax candle making, so we learned a few things about what works and what doesn't. One thing that I will change next time is the type of wick we used. I had read that hemp cord makes a nice wick, but I found it difficult to work with. It took a bit of effort to straighten it out and get it ready to dip, and it was hard to keep it straight. Next time, I will purchase ready-to-use candle wicks at the craft store, I think. Another thing we learned is that it's very important to cover EVERYTHING that is potentially in the path of the wax with newspaper. We did a pretty good job with this, but there were a few spots here and there where we had to clean up wax drips. Here is a little overview in photos of our adventure!

Beeswax, shredded up and ready to melt. This was the hardest part, grating the beeswax, because you need a lot of it. Next time, I may use beeswax pastilles instead of a block.

Ladybug stirring the wax, after we microwaved it to melt it. 

Noodle and Ladybug, dipping wicks into the wax. We poured the melted wax into a quart jar, and set the jar in hot water to keep it liquidy while we dipped. We did have to re-melt it a couple of times.

Our lumpy dipped candles, in progress. We used a pole balanced on chair backs to
hang them on., with newspaper underneath to catch the drips.

When we didn't have enough wax left for dipping, we poured the rest into little votive holders with a wick in the middle. This was much easier than the dipped candles, and they came out much nicer. The hardest part was keeping the wick straight while the wax hardened. 

Next post, I will share one of our other holiday crafts... making wreaths!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pre-Christmas Busy-ness!

There hasn't been much blogging going on this past week or so, because we've been quite occupied with Pre-Holiday Preparations! This is the time of year when all of our "free" time is spent preparing for the Winter Holidays! We've been making lists of cards to send, gifts to make/buy, and things we'll need for our winter holiday celebrations. We've made wreaths for our front and back doors. We've been making lots of gifts... handmade candles, knitting and crocheting hats and scarves and such, and a few other fun projects. We've done some shopping (including purchasing our annual "Toys for Tots" donation) We've started wrapping. We've begun boxing up some outgrown things to donate. There are still many more gifts to make, menus to plan, and things to do. We try not to leave too much till last minute, as we like to make sure that the week leading up to Christmas is relaxed and fun. We like to spend that last week celebrating the Solstice, baking, and doing fun family activities.

In the coming days I will be posting about some of our projects in detail. I'm especially excited to share our adventure in beeswax candle making! It was our first time, and we really had fun with it! Until then... Happy Monday, everyone!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Handmade Christmas Tree

At the tree farm!
Once the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten up, I'm ready to start thinking about Christmas! My favorite pre-Christmas activity is going to get our tree. Each year, my family heads up to a local tree farm to cut down the perfect tree. There are few things that make me happier than watching all the children decorate our tree, the bigger ones helping the little one reach the high branches. We put on Christmas music, have cookies and hot chocolate, and enjoy spending time together.

Some of our handmade ornaments:
Twig-and-hemp stars, pinecones painted with glitter,
and painted salt clay dough ornaments.

Last year, we decided to try decorating our Christmas tree with all handmade ornaments, just for fun. We went for a walk in the woods to gather pine cones, twigs, and sprigs of juniper. When we got home, we gathered up some hemp cord, ribbons, cinnamon sticks, glue, glitter and paint. We mixed up a batch of salt clay dough, and set to work, spending an entire afternoon together, making ornaments. We also strung cranberries and popcorn, and cut out some paper snowflakes out of coffee filters. That tree had such special meaning to us, as every ornament was handcrafted by our family. The kids enjoyed the handmade tree experiment so much, that they asked if we could do it again this year! So, of course, we did!

So once again, the boxes of our old ornaments remain in the basement, and our tree is decorated entirely with ornaments made by our family. I LOVE our Handmade Christmas Tree! I can't stop smiling when I look at it! It may not be the fanciest tree ever, but as I sit here admiring it, I see the joy and creativity of my children, and that is more beautiful to me than anything.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving (in pictures)

Some appetizers... cheddar twists, polenta with sage butter sauce
and  a cheese tray

The table is set

A closer look at the centerpiece

Five of my reasons to be Thankful.

A glass of wine out by the fire after dinner,
while the children ran around the yard.
I wish I'd gotten a picture of the sun setting over the lake... it was lovely!

Back inside for dessert... pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream
and spice cookies

We are ending this day full of delicious food, and full of Gratitude for our many Blessings. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

DIY Thanksgiving Table Decor

It's now the night before Thanksgiving! There has been much pre-holiday busy-ness going on around here today... cooking up some dishes ahead of time, baking cookies and pie, and one of my favorite things... putting together the Thanksgiving Centerpiece!

I have to admit, I get far more excited than I probably should about the centerpiece, and quite honestly, my family would probably be just as happy if I just threw a plastic tablecloth on the table with one of those tissue-paper and cardboard turkeys. But I LOVE getting out the fancy linens and making the table look truly festive. I try to do something a little different each year, but there are a few things that I do go back to again and again: I like to have flowers, I like to incorporate fall-ish things like gourds, acorns and leaves, and I love to stick to the glorious color palate of the season... golds, deep reds, oranges, and browns.

This year, I found some gorgeous fall flowers at Trader Joe's (which were also really cheap!) I added in a few dried hydrangeas from my own garden, too. I arranged them all in a simple glass vase, but decided to make it look more "rustic" by covering the vase with twigs tied together with some hemp string. I also decided to make use of the plate of gourds and mini-pumpkins I have had on my table all season (we got most of them from our Farm Share back in October) The gourds will just be arranged around the flowers on the table, but I decided to do something extra-special with the mini pumpkins... I turned them into little tealight holders!

To make these, just just out the top of the pumpkin just as you would for a jack-o-lantern, then scoop out the seeds and strings. Then just place a little tealight inside. If you want to get extra-fancy, you can try cutting little holes or slits in the sides of the pumpkins, but I decided to just keep mine simple.

In addition to the centerpiece, I also worked on a few other things for the table... like these napkins! I just tied each one with a little piece of brown raffia, and tucked in a pretty sprig from an azalea bush in our yard.

I am very excited to see how it all looks together when I set the table tomorrow morning! I am also very much looking forward to spending this special day with my family, giving Thanks and enjoying the day together.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Thankful" Craft

As I mentioned in the last post, Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday! While we should, of course, be Thankful for our Blessings every day of the year, Thanksgiving time serves as a good reminder to stop and take stock of all of the good things that we have in our life. Each year at this time, I like to make a list for myself of all the things I have to be grateful for. It’s good to look back to this list from time to time, particularly when having a “poor me!” kind of day (which we ALL have sometimes, don’t we?) Seeing all the good things in my life written down in black and white really puts things in perspective. 
I like to encourage the rest of the family to take stock of their Blessings as well, so each year during the week before Thanksgiving we gather together to make a Thankful Banner. We have done this craft together every year since the children were really little! I cut leaf shapes out of card stock or construction paper, and we all sit around the table and write things we are thankful for on the leaves. When all the leaves have a Blessing on them, I tape them along a string of raffia to make a pretty banner. We often end up having some nice discussions while working on this together… the process of this project is just as wonderful as the finished product.

Another bit of Thanksgiving craftiness we’ve begun planning is our Thanksgiving table centerpiece! I’ll be sharing that project with you next post! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Countdown to Thanksgiving!

It’s just one week until my very favorite holiday… Thanksgiving! I love that we have an entire holiday which is all about counting your Blessings and sharing a meal with the ones you love. No commercialism, no marketing… just Thankfulness and Togetherness… what’s better than that? We have been preparing for this special day by planning our menu, making shopping lists, and preparing to do some Thanksgiving Day crafts and projects (come back in the next few days for more on this!)

Speaking of the Menu… as vegetarians, we get a lot of people asking us, “But what about Thanksgiving?! What do you eat for Thanksgiving if you don't eat turkey!?" Well, I'll tell you, we eat LOTS of things! I will say one thing we've never had is Tofurkey (though I'm not knocking this quintessential Vegetarian Thanksgiving staple... I know it's a favorite of many!) When we plan our Thanksgiving menu, we think “harvest” foods, things that reflect the warm flavors of Autumn, with a nod toward a few “traditional” foods that may have been served at the first Thanksgiving (though usually with a modern “twist”) Squashes and other autumn veggies, bountiful grains, warm spices... that sort of thing. In the weeks leading up to the Big Day, everyone in the family puts in requests for special dishes they would like to have for our Thanksgiving feast, and we plan our menu together.

This year’s menu will be:


Cheese Tray: cranberry goat cheese, cheddar, grapes, assorted crackers
Polenta with sage butter


Lentil Loaf with vegetarian gravy (a family favorite!)
Mashed potatoes
Spiced butternut squash
Green beans almondine
Maple carrots
Garlic kale
Apple-raisin stuffing
Whole grain crusty rolls
Cranberry sauce


Pumpkin Pie with fresh whipped cream
Spice cookies

Mulled Cider

Though all of us here at The Homestead are very much looking forward to gathering around the dinner table, we're also really excited to just have some uninterrupted time to spend together... we'll have all five kids at home at the same time! The Man of the House is planning on starting up a family football game, and I'm hoping for a nice walk together after dinner. We all have so much to be Thankful for.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sunflower Treats for Birds!

We've been a little bit busy around here this fall, so we're a little bit behind schedule doing fall yard-and-garden clean up. As of this weekend, we've got most of the vegetable beds cleaned up and ready for their winter rest (with the exception of one bed which still has some hardy kale growing) and we've finally gotten around to cutting back all the rest of the perennial beds.

But what I really want to talk about today is Sunflowers! I LOVE my sunflowers. They are one of the first things we sow outside in the spring. We water and weed and watch and wait for them to sprout up, and for their sunny faces to reach toward the sky from mid summer into early fall. By mid fall, the blooms are all spent, and it's time to harvest the seeds. We harvest some seeds for our own use by wrapping some of the "mammoth" sunflower heads in cheesecloth and hanging them in the house to dry out. The cheesecloth is important, as it catches any seeds that might fall out as the flower heads dry. But we also always hang several of our sunflower heads outside along our back fence as a special treat for the birds. It's a cheap, easy way to feed our feathered friends. We love to watch all the birds who come around to feast on the seeds.

In addition to all of our yard clean up, we are also planning and preparing for my FAVORITE holiday... Thanksgiving! There will be several posts coming up on that topic, so stay tuned!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Baking Soda: Miracle in a Box!

 I am not kidding when I say I could not live my daily life without baking soda! Seriously, this is one of the most amazing substances on Earth. Not only is it used as a leavening in nearly all cake and cookie recipes, but you can also use it for a variety of other health, beauty and household purposes. Here are 25 things that you can do with this miraculous substance!
  1. Brush your teeth… a paste of baking soda and water will clean your teeth, remove coffee and tea stains and freshen breath.
  2. Wash your hair.
  3. Make your own homemade deodorant
  4. Use as a gentle but effective scouring powder for sinks, tubs, stove tops… anywhere!
  5. Bake some soda bread.
  6. Make a cool erupting volcano.
  7. Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply to bee stings and insect bites.
  8. Put some in a bath to relieve the itch of poison ivy and other skin irritations.
  9. Use to scrub away stuck on food from pots and pans.
  10. Add a teaspoon to a glass of water to make a mouthwash/gargle to freshen your breath
  11. The above mouthwash is also good for relieving canker sores.
  12. Sprinkle in your sneakers to eliminate odors.
  13. Keep an open container in the back of the fridge and freezer to minimize food odors.
  14. Use it to clean your toilets… sprinkle some in, scrub and flush.
  15. Clear a slow drain by putting in a half-cup of baking soda, then pour in some vinegar. Follow by flushing  with hot water.
  16.  Make Laundry Soap.
  17. Cure heartburn by drinking a glass of water mixed with ½ teaspoon of baking soda.
  18. Use as a fruit and veggie wash.
  19. Freshen rugs and carpets by sprinkling them with baking soda, let sit for an hour or so, then vacuum.
  20. A paste of baking soda and water can be used to remove water rings from wood furniture.
  21. Sprinkle in the litter box, to keep it smelling fresher.
  22. Use as a hand scrub to remove garlic and onion odors.
  23. Remove coffee stains from cups and coffee makers.
  24. Freshen up your garbage disposal with baking soda… pour some in, and flush with warm water.
  25. Remove food odors from plastic containers by soaking in a baking soda solution.
  Do you have any favorite uses for baking soda not mentioned here? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's Election Day!

Today is Election Day, and I am so grateful to the women who came before me, who worked hard and sacrificed much so that I would have the right to vote today. I think many of us take this precious right for granted, but it's important to remember that just a couple of generations ago, women did not have the option to cast a ballot. I hope that today all of you will exercise your right to help choose our next leaders.

We are looking forward to wrapping up our work day this evening, so we can put on the TV and settle in to watch the election results roll in. We've been studying the election process with our homeschool Civics Club, so the children are almost as excited as I am to watch the coverage. We're going to make a party of it... Ladybug is making star-shaped sugar cookies, and I made these:
The Man of the House has dubbed these "Presidential Parfaits" which I think is as good a name as any! They are made of yogurt, strawberries and blueberries. Festive, no?! In addition to enjoying our Patriotic snacks, I'm looking forward to watching the democratic process in action tonight, and to sharing it with our children.

Don't forget to Vote!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Herb Wreath

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had a HUGE herb harvest this year… plenty to dry for teas and cooking over the winter, with enough left over for some fun herb crafts! So after smudge sticks, Ladybug and I tried our hands at wreath-making.

There are a couple of ways you can do this project. The easy way is to buy a wreath frame from your local craft supply store, and just arrange your herb sprigs on that. But, I didn’t feel like purchasing anything new, so I decided to just work with what we had on hand: A pile of herbs (rosemary, sage and lavender) some scissors, and some florist wire.

 First, I made a small bunch of rosemary, and wrapped the end of the bunch together with florist wire. I added another bunch on top of the first, attaching the middle of the top bunch to the bottom of the first, so it overlapped. I kept doing this until it was long enough to loop around into the size wreath I wanted. Next, I secured the bottom of the last bunch under the first bunch, to make a nice circle. From there, I began to layer on some sprigs of sage in the same way, but just lashing them onto to rosemary. I finished by just tucking in sprigs of sage and lavender until the wreath was nice and full. I thought about adding a little raffia bow, but decided that the herbs were pretty enough on their own. I love the way this wreath smells, and I love that all who come in our front door will be greeted with its delightful scent!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Harvesting Herbs and Making Smudge Sticks

Bundles of catnip, sage and rosemary, hanging to dry

Yesterday we harvested the last of our herbs for the season. Our house is now filled with little bundles of herbs, hung up to dry for use over the winter. We have catnip for the kitties, mint and lemon balm for teas, plus lavender, sage, oregano, rosemary and thyme.  Our herbs grew very well this year, so in addition to all we have drying for our own culinary use, we also gave some to the neighbors and set some aside for making smudge sticks, wreaths and other crafts.

So after we hung up our bundles of herbs to dry, Ladybug and I set to work on making smudge sticks. Smudge sticks are bundles of herbs which are burned to make fragrant smoke. Smudge sticks are used to “cleanse” your space of negative energy, and also they make your home smell nice! Traditionally, smudge sticks are made from white sage and cedar, but you can use other herbs, as well. We made ours with sage and lavender.

To make, start by gathering a few sticks of your herbs, roughly 4-6 inches long, into a bundle. We started with lavender in the middle, then added sage around the outside. Tie one end of the bundle together very tightly with cotton string. Next, wrap the string tightly around the whole bundle, all the way down to the other end. Tie off the end with a knot. Let your smudge sticks sit for a week or so before using, to dry out a bit.
Finished Smudge Sticks!

Today, we’ll be using more of the herbs to make a fragrant wreath for our front door. We plan to use rosemary, sage and lavender. Pics to follow, tomorrow!

But first, we are going to take some time on this crisp, fall day to go for a family hike at a local reservation.  We are looking forward to spending some much-needed time in nature!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Homemade Dish Washing Liquid

Although most of our dishes are washed in our dishwasher, we do have a lot of things that need to be washed by hand… pots and pans, large serving dishes, some china pieces, etc. To get the job done, I use my own homemade dish washing liquid.  It’s easy to make, inexpensive, free of chemicals and it works. All of the ingredients for this are on my Simple LivingShopping List.

Mama’s Homemade Dish Washing Soap

1 cup of water
½ cup castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s baby mild unscented)
1 Tbsp vinegar
5 drops of essential oil

A note about the essential oil: I like to use rosemary oil for this… but lemon, sage, lavender or tea tree are all nice too… use whatever you like!

Mix all together in an empty squeeze bottle or soap dispenser. Use as you would use any other dish washing liquid. Keep in mind that this soap will not foam up the way that synthetic dish liquids will, but it still works great! 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Soup

Happy Halloween! In honor of this Pumpkin-y day, I decided to share my recipe for easy vegan pumpkin soup. This is a favorite go-to recipe for this time of year. It’s perfect for an Autumn Potluck, as it is quick and easy, yet looks and tastes impressive. I also like to serve it with a salad and some crusty bread for a quick, satisfying, weeknight dinner.

Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Soup

1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups of cooked pumpkin (you can use either fresh or canned)
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 cup of light coconut milk
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp curry powder (use more or less, depending on how spicy you like it!)
Salt to taste

In a soup pot, cook the onion in the olive oil until soft. Stir in the spices, then add the pumpkin and stock. Simmer for a bit to let the flavors blend. Puree in a food processor or blender, then return to the pot.  Stir in the coconut milk and salt to taste. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Carving Pumpkins and Weathering the Storm

Yesterday, we carved our Halloween Pumpkins! Though when I say “we” I mostly mean “the children.” Now that they are older, they like to do most of it themselves! I just get to supervise, and sometimes I’m allowed to help clear out the “pumpkin guts,” as Monkey really hates that part. Usually we carve our pumpkins outside on the patio, with a fire going in the fire pit, but the beginnings of Hurricane Sandy forced us inside this year… so we spread newspapers out on the kitchen floor and got down to business. 

Busy children.

 The Jack-o-lanterns are cute and all… but my very favorite part of Pumpkin Carving Day is the roasting of pumpkin seeds! While there are lots of recipes online for fancy seeds flavored with tamari, spices, etc… we prefer to keep it simple: We wash the seeds in a colander, then spread them on a lightly oiled cookie sheet, sprinkle them with a little salt, then bake at 350 until golden brown. We’ve been eating them by the handful all day today, but if there are any left I will add them to the trail mix I plan on making later this afternoon.

We will need those snacks, as we are hunkered down in the house while the rain and wind pelt the windows. Hurricane Sandy is making her presence felt here on the east coast. But as the storm rages outside, all is peaceful here inside. We are grateful to be warm and safe in our home.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Mom... you need LABELS"

Today when I was mixing another batch of my natural hair stuff, Noodle decided that the bottles should have labels... so he made some for me! Cute, no?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Homemade “Sweet Dreams” Bubble Bath

Sometimes, by the end of a long, busy day, the young ones in the house get a bit cranky, and they need a bit of extra soothing before bedtime. OK, I’ll admit that sometimes this goes for the older ones in the house, too! I think the very best way to soothe a cranky child (or adult) is to put them into a warm, soothing bubble bath.  We have a special “bedtime blend” bubble bath that we pull out for just such occasions! It is scented with lavender and chamomile to calm and relax, and it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin.

“Sweet Dreams” Bubble Bath

Add two cups of water to a quart jar. I use water that has been boiled and then cooled. Add ½ cup of unscented liquid castile soap, 1 Tbsp of vitamin E oil, 10 drops of lavender oil and 5 drops of chamomile oil. Cover the jar and GENTLY swish to mix.  After it’s mixed, you can pour it into an empty bottle to make it easier to dispense, if you wish. To use, pour a little under running water as you fill the tub.  Keep in mind, this will not get as foamy as synthetic bubble baths, but it still gives you enough bubbles, along with that soothing fragrance.

One word of caution if using this with very young children: It is NOT tear free, so it’s a good idea to keep it out of your little one’s eyes. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Season Board and Nature Shelf… Autumn

Back in August, I showed you our DIY Nature Shelf project. At that time, our shelf was scattered with beach rocks and seashells, summer flowers and a robin's egg shell. But as the season has changed, our shelf has changed, too. The special treasures of late summer have been tucked away to make room for things of early fall and now mid-fall. As we are out and about on our daily adventures, we collect pretty things to add to our shelf. Noodle has especially enjoyed collecting acorns this year! A few times I have found a few in his pockets at the end of the day, which always makes me smile. Here is what our shelf looked like as of this morning:
On our shelf: Colorful leaves, preserved in beeswax (see note below); a small bowl of acorns; an unusual rock; a jar of mums, snipped from our plant outside and a cute little pumpkin.

Note about the leaves on the shelf: the how-to for this project can be found here.

I love the way the shelf changes day to day, depending on what we find! But always it is a reflection of what we have been experiencing out in nature, brought inside to enjoy. Each item has a memory attached.

Here is the whole wall where the shelf is, with our Season Board, too. 

A close-up from the board: What Noodle thinks about when he thinks of Fall :)
 I really like this spot in our homeschool area... It reflects the way our lives change along with the seasons, and it just makes me happy!