June 27, 2011

Best of Old House Kitchen: Strawberry Pretzel Salad

I got this recipe from a good friend back in Maryland. It's one of my favorite fruity desserts. If we call it a salad it's automatically healthy, right? ; )

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

2 cup crushed pretzels
3/4 cup melted margarine
3 T. sugar

Mix and spread in a 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes.

Cream layer:
8 oz. cream cheese -- softened
8-10 oz. Cool Whip
1 cup sugar

Mix together in a stand mixer until smooth. Spread over (cooled) crust and place dish in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes or until chilled.

Strawberry layer:
2 cup boiling water
2 small boxes strawberry jello
2 10 oz. boxes of frozen strawberries (thawed). (I usually used sliced strawberries that we picked in the summer and froze in syrup -- about 2 1/2 cups.)

Boil the water, add jello and stir until dissolved. Add the strawberries and stir. DO NOT add cold water like the jello directions instruct. Carefully pour over the cream cheese and place in the fridge to chill. (About 3-4 hours.)


June 24, 2011

Bathroom Mini Makeover

I had a fun day trip in May with my BFF to Shipshewana, a local Amish town that is where you go for some cute decor and some yummy food!  I bought several clearanced and half price things because I'm a cheap frugal kinda gal.  I bought things I liked, not knowing where it would all go, but a few made it into the bathroom mini makeover.  I also repurposed several things around the house that worked, too.  Hubby and I made some new towel hooks so that was the main source of inspiration.

The burgundy plaid shower curtain was bought on an after Christmas deal for $6 a few years ago!  I have left it up.  It sort of goes with my decor.  I'm looking for something a little different, though, but haven't found anything that fits my budget yet.  Until then this will work.  The star above the shower was bought on sale at a shop in Shipshewana (recent trip).

I bought this print in Shipshewana last summer for $9.  It was a 75% off deal!  Woo hoo!  The shutters were given to me from a friend (they were wood grain)...I'll share how I revamped them in another post some time.  The little pip berry star I had elsewhere in the house.

I bought the black basket for a few dollars in a craft store bin and sprayed it black.  (It holds my curlers...yes, I own curlers. Sadly, I rarely use them.)  The wreath was one that was in the bathroom by itself, but I added the black star in the middle of it.  The wooden towel rack holds several towels!  Not as many as we need, but it works for right now.

The soap bowl, cup, and star votive holder were bought for a little bit of nothing from a shop in Shipshewana (the recent trip).  I have hand made soaps in it made by my friend Kelly and for sale over at the Mercantile

I have some fun things to share with you that I'm working on for the dining room, but they're not quite finished yet.  I can't wait to share them!

What are you working on around your house?  Any mini or major makeovers happening? Please share!

June 20, 2011

Peach Jelly -- without a canner!

I bought a bunch of peaches last week. I made two Creamy Peach Pies, some peach jam, and a couple of gluten free mini peach cobblers (for my mom). (Don't get super excited...I haven't conquered gluten free cooking...the crust part was Gluten Free Bisquick.) So the peaches that were used for the jam and pies were peeled and pitted. I saved them! Did you know you could use them for something else? Yep. I'm super frugal. I happened upon the idea in an Amish cookbook.

Here's what I did. Don't worry, I won't bore you with a picture of every. single. ingredient, but I will share with you a few pics that are helpful. *wink*

Tools needed:  medium pan for making peach skin juice, large pan for making jelly,  medium large pan for boiling jars, smaller sauce pan for boiling lids and bands, wooden spoons, hot pads, towels and dish rags, ladle, canning jar funnel

Peach Jelly
4 cups peach juice (see below)
1/2 tsp. butter
1 package of pectin (I really like Kroger brand!)
5 1/2 cups sugar
canning jars, bands and lids (new lids!)

Get your jars in a boiling water bath to sterilize or you can put them in the dishwasher and run it on sterilize, but I think that uses a lot of electricity.

I just put a towel on the bottom of my pan, set the jars in, fill with water, then get them to boiling.  Turn it down to medium and get started on the jam.  They are sterile by the time the jam is ready to go in them (10 minute minimum).  Put the lids and bands in another small pot, cover with water, get them boiling and turn down on medium.

To make peach juice place the peach pits and skins in a pot and cover with water.  (I had about 15-20 peaches so this batch of juice made enough for two batches of jelly and then some.) Turn the burner on high.  Once it starts boiling, turn it down to medium/low and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.  Let it cool a bit.  (I had to wait for hubby to get back from running errands, one of which was buying more sugar for me, so my juice sat a few hours.)  Then strain the juice.  You'll need 4 cups of juice for a batch of jelly. (If you have less than 4 cups of juice...like 3 or so, it will work if you add water to it to make 4 cups, but I wouldn't use more that one cup of water.)

Place the juice, butter (keeps the jelly from foaming), and pectin powder in the pan.  See how big of a pan I use? It's a must or you are going to get splattered with very hot jelly later in the process.  Trust me, I know!  Stir it on high heat until it boils.  A full rolling boil.

Add the sugar all at once and stir.  Keep stirring until it gets to a full rolling boil like in the picture above.  You want it to boil like that for 1 minute.  (Keep stirring...you don't want the bottom to scorch.)  Then take it off the heat and set a timer for 5 minutes. During that time I take all my jars very carefully out of the water.  I use a long skinny wooden spoon and pair of hefty tongs to do this.  I set them on a towel on the counter upside down.  Then I set the pan of jelly on a hot pad right next to them on the counter.  I also set the lids and bands next to those. 

When the five minute timer is up I skim the top of the jelly.  There will be a bit of foam, but not nearly as much as if you hadn't put the butter in.  Set a jar next to the pot, put the funnel on, and funnel jelly into the jar leaving 1/4 - 1/2 inch head space.  Move on to the next jar until all are full.  (I usually have a little bit left over that goes into a jar that will go in the fridge for breakfast the next morning.)

Once the jars are all full I wipe the rims of the jars with a hot damp dishrag.  You may need more than one, depends on how messy you were filling the jars.  *smile*  Next take a lid out of the water and dry it off with a clean towel, set it on the jar, take out a band, dry it off, then screw it on the jar.  Make sure it's tight.  Set jars upside down on a clean towel.  Repeat until all jars are tended to.  Place the jars 1 inch apart.  Once the last jar is flipped upside down set the timer for 5 minutes. (This helps seal the lids.) After 5 minutes flip them right side up and in an hour or so you'll hear little pops.  Check all the lids in a few hours to make sure the lids are sealed.  If you can press on the lid gently and there's some give then you need to pop that one in fridge and use within a few weeks.  There's no need to process the jelly/jam if your jars, lids and band are sterile and hot and your jelly/jam is hot.  I know what some people say.  I have done this for a few years now and never had a problem with my jelly/jam.  And I make a lot of jelly and jam!  The instructions on the box of Kroger pectin even tells you to do it this way.  Why waste the time and energy when you don't need to? Trust me.  It works.  Enough said?  Good.  *smile*

Phew. That was a process, but let me tell you it gets easier each time you do it.  I would much rather do several batches in a row this way because it becomes like an assembly line.  When my jars are inverted for 5 minutes I take the time to wash out the pan for the jelly, wash the jars and get everything set up for the next batch.  It's so rewarding when you're done to see all those pretty little jars lined up on the counter.  I love it and I hope you do, too!

June 15, 2011

On the Line

Photo Credit
 We have a clothes line in our back yard.  I just can't use it much.  We have used it on occasion when our neighbor's horses are not in the pasture by our yard or when we're hang drying our couch's slip cover.  Our daughters are allergic to horses and since the farm next door is on the west side of our property the wind blows dander and hair our way.  On a very windy day if the horses are out the girls have to be careful where they play so they're not in direct wind of the horses otherwise they have  itchy, watery eyes, and runny and sneezy noses. Anywho...it poses a problem for me and my frugal nature.  I have come up with a plan, however, and it works pretty good so I thought I'd share it with ya'll.

I wash my clothes using THIS RECIPE in my front loading Bosch.  I think I've saved lots of dough over the last few years using this high efficiency contraption!  I am super thankful for it!  When drying lights or darks I'll pop them in the dryer (again a Bosch) on the lowest perma-press setting.  After about 10-15 minutes the beeper lets me know they are ready.  They are still quite wet, but the dryer has taken the excess moisture out of them and fluffed them enough that they won't be stiff.  Some shirts are dryer than others, but they are all still on the damp side.  I take them all out and hang them up.  I have a drying rack that's attached to the wall that can hold about 8 shirts/ dresses on hangers.
Something kind of like this.  Photo Credit

Then there's a small rod between the wall and a cabinet in the laundry room that holds about 4 shirts/ dresses on hangers.  I also have a few hooks in the hallway and another rack that I can hang up about 5 or 6 shirts in the hallway to dry.  My future plan is to have hubby put brackets on opposite walls in the laundry room so I can hang a removable rod to dry more shirts so they can be a bit more concealed in there instead of hung hither and yon in the hallway.  He's also going to install brackets and a removable rod in the garden room (a small room off the hallway that holds our pool gear, swimsuits, towels and a mini clothes line -- I'll get to that) so I can hang even more things up.

Kind of like this...but with plastic hangers.  Photo Credit

After I've hung up all the shirts I then run the rest (usually shorts or pants) in the dryer on another cycle until they are mostly dry.  A few pair may have to be draped over the chair since the waistband is damp, but they are dry in a few hours.  (I plan on having hubby make me another drying rack so I can take them out and drape those over when I also take the shirts out.)
Photo Credit

When it comes to the towels I take the wet bath and hand towels from the washer and drape them over a Wooden Clothes Drying Rack in the garden room. I usually have to open the back door to get some air flowing, but since it doesn't open in the direction of the horses we're good to go. (I can close the door from the house to the garden room so if it's hot outside the clothes will still dry, but the house will stay cool.)  Right now I'm drying washcloths, kitchen rags and towels in the dryer (it doesn't take too long) or if I have room in the garden room on my Retractable Clothes Line. 


When it comes to undies and socks, those get dried in the dryer..I don't like my unders to hang dry.  First off we don't have enough space...can you imagine how many pairs of unders I have to wash?!  And if we have company drop by I really don't want them seeing our unders.  You know? *smile* 

All of this to say that sometimes you have to get creative when you want to shave a few dollars from the budget.  This has helped our electric bill since I'm not running appliances longer than I need to (they are high efficiency but they still use electricity) and I'm not heating up the house and causing the air conditioning to run more than it really needs to.  I also get the satisfaction of "hanging out" without actually going outside in the sun and heat.  *double smile*

Do you hang outside?  Everything, including unders?  Do you hang some clothes inside?  Am I the only one?  Ferris?  Ferris?

June 13, 2011

Best of Old House Kitchen: Creamy Peach Pie

This pie won second place in a pie baking contest a few years ago. Our family loves it and requests it often in the warm summer months. (And sometimes in the cool winter months as well!)  Peaches are on sale this week so I'll be using fresh instead of canned.

Photo Credit

Creamy Peach Pie

1 can (29 oz.) yellow cling peaches in heavy syrup *
3 T. reserved peach syrup (from the can) **
3 T. cornstarch
1 cup sugar, divided
3 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk (see my substitution here)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla

2 T. butter, melted

Prepare crust (recipe here) and press into a 10 inch pie plate. Do not bake. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For filling, drain peaches, reserving 3 T. syrup. Set aside. Cut peaches into small pieces. Place in a large bowl. Combine corn starch and 2-3 T. sugar. Add 3 T. reserved peach syrup. Add remaining sugar, eggs, and buttermilk. Mix well. Stir in 1/2 cup melted butter & vanilla. Pour over peaches. Stir until peaches are coated. Pour filling into unbaked pie crust. Moisten pastry edge with water.

Cover pie with top crust. Cut slits or use small cookie cutters to cut designs in top crust to allow steam to escape.

For glaze, brush with 2 T. melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until filling in center is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Cool to room temperature before serving. Refrigerate leftover pie.


* If using fresh peaches use about 9 peaches peeled and sliced.
** For the 3 T. syrup I take a few chunks of peach and smush it up, add a bit of water and a sprinkle of sugar to make 3 T.

June 11, 2011

Have You Been...

to the Mercantile lately?  If you haven't, you should!  There are several tabs at the top (under the header) that will take you to Bath & Body, Linens, Craft Kits, Fragrance, Decor, and Kitchen Mixes.  You can pay with Visa, Master Card, Discover, or American Express thorugh Google Checkout's very secure checkout service.  Go take a peek!  Let me know what you think!  Anything you would like to see offered?

June 10, 2011

Hummingbird Nectar

We love to watch the hummingbirds flutter around our home.  We have one on the side porch window that the hummingbirds actually fight over!  My homemade hummingbird nectar must be delicious!  It's super easy!

Photo Credit

Hummingbird Nectar

Stir together 2 cups boiling hot water and 1 cup sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in 2 cups cold water and fill your feeders.  If you have any left over just store it in the fridge until needed.  Don't worry, it won't be in the refrigerator too long. Word will get around that there's a nectar party at your house! (Oh, and there's no need for red food coloring. They could care less about it!)

June 9, 2011

All Quiet on the Western Front

With most of the kiddos finished with their school year it can get quite noisy around here.  Between loud play and a little bickering here and there it can drive one's ear drums a little crazy.  This week the summer reading program started at our library.  We came home yesterday after library time and from then on it's been super quiet around here. 

There are prizes for reading for so many minutes (I think for littles it's 3 hours and for the older kiddos it's around 6 or so).  Several kiddos have already read their required reading to get their first prize...a bouncy rubbery yoyo toy. (Other prizes are books, book bags, etc.) The older kids have a prize of a ticket to win an ipad.  Hey, if it increases their reading interest for a little while I'm all for it! 

Of course some of them have figured out that if they read to their younger siblings they can get time in for them and their sibs as well!  Win win!

Summer reading programs are a great diversion from the lure of the television when one might get "bored".  If you don't have a reading program at a library in your area (most do) then I urge you to make your own guidelines and fun prizes!  I'm thinking of continuing on with some incentives once the school year starts. 

June 8, 2011

Laundry Detergent Recipe

I made a batch of laundry detergent in January and haven't had to make a new batch until today!

Here's what I do:

64 oz. box of baking soda
55 oz. box of washing soda
76 oz. box Borax
3 bars Kirk's Castille soap

I grate up my bars of soap in my Cuisinart then mix the baking soda and Borax together with it in a big bowl.  I then pour my detergent through my canning funnel on top of my old pickle jar.  I use about 1 T for each load, but if it's a light load (rarely happens around here!) then I'll use a bit less.  Sometimes I'll pour in a little extra Borax if it's a really dirty batch (like dirty, sweaty outdoor work clothes), but most of the time 1 T. will do it.

I use vinegar for my fabric softener.  Less than 1/4 cup will do just fine for a regular load.  The clothes don't smell like vinegar after they've been dried, either.

I use Kirk's Castille soap because it's a natural soap and great for the sensitive skin of a few of our children. 

Total cost: less than $10 for the bar soap, the baking soda, and the Borax.  That's less than $1.70 a month for our laundry detergent!  And figuring that we usually do about 12 loads a week that's about 3 cents per load!

*I edited this to add 1 55 oz. box of washing soda.  I found it got clothes cleaner and made the recipe go further.  Those bars of Castille soap are expensive!

June 7, 2011

As Cute as...

"As cute as a bug's ear."

That's one of my mom's sayings and I think it's so true here.  *smile*

June 6, 2011

Outdoor Summer Tour

Last week the kiddos, my mom, and I had a little friendly competition.  The front flower border needed to be weeded badly.  We broke up into two teams and in about two hours we got it all spruced up for summer!  There are a few pine shrubs, barberry bushes, and two flowering bushes that I can't identify. 

I transplanted some peony bushes last summer and they didn't do too well then, but they look better this year.

I also planted a few rose bushes and mums last year and I didn't think they had made it through winter.  They are looking pretty good!  I just need to put my weed mat down and put some mulch out there and it'll be lovely!  I also have a dream to have a stone border there in front, too, but I have to find some stones for that project! 

Meijer had a really good sale last week on hanging baskets for $5.99!  I had picked out a bunch of flowers to pot in my large pots for the front step, but just for one pot it would have cost me over $12!  So I had a wonderful light bulb moment!  I decided to put the flowers back and get a few hanging baskets to re-pot into the large pots. What ya think?

I bought some moisture control potting mix and it was worth it!  I planted some impatiens in pots with that soil the other day and they are not only doing very well, but I don't have to water them every evening!

This is the front porch.  I think I'm done decorating it, unless I can find a cheap large metal watering can to add to the decorations. (Oh and you'll notice my Americana jug of sun tea. I ran out and I can't wait for another cold glass! --it's Lipton Decaff, by the way.)

The chair was an old one from the dining set that we bought used when we were first married.  I spray painted it and the star on the door colonial red.  The white basket was a 25 cent garage sale find that I spray painted white.  I bought some red geranium bushes from JoAnn's fabrics in the spring when they were half price. On the red chair is a pot with white New Guinea Impatiens.  I am pretty pleased with the way it turned out.  Next year I hope to add more to decorate the front porch. 

As you come around the side of the house to the side porch you will find another peony bush, a few hostas, and a hanging basket.  I also have a little Americana yard stake there.  Love my Americana decor!  I hope to add some more perennials next year. 

This is the side porch.  I have some revamping to do here, but for now it'll work.  *smile*  Hubby is going to re-do our old glider rocker for me and we'll put it here on the porch. I can't wait to sit on the porch, drink my sun tea and watch the kiddos play!

I love the little bench with flowers in it.  I found it years ago and put it out every year.  The irises have really doubled in size this year!  We brought them with us from our previous house when we moved in three years ago. I plan to divide them up for next year so they can span the whole front of the porch banister!

This side flower bed is full of beautiful perennials!  Hosta, mini irises, lambs ear, and a few other things I have no clue what they are but they look great!  *smile*  Of course there's another hanging basket another Americana flag!

There's a lot of Columbine, too!  I have a few Hostas that I can't wait to divide up next spring.  I think I'll be putting more of them around the Catalpa tree.

Our Catalpa tree is home to a bee hive.  See the dark spot to the left of the bear's head?  They go in and out there.  So thankful they are there to pollinate our flowers and fruit trees!

This little chair holds an Impatien to welcome you at the back door entry.  See the dark box there to the left? That was the coal chute when they used a coal stove to heat the house many years ago.  I have a few more ideas for this little area, but they may have to wait until next year.  Maybe I could put some of my divided Hostas here?

Well that's it for now on our tour.  I have a garden section on the other side of the house with lilacs, coneflowers, a potting shed (an old outhouse converted) and all sorts of other pretties to share with you but they need some sprucing up a bit before they are camera worthy.  *smile* 

June 5, 2011

An Organizational "Do Over"

I'm sure I'm not alone when I think "Man, I wish I could have a "do over"!".  Can I get an "Amen"?!  With pregnancy, school craziness, a busy hubby and a passel of kiddos to care for and love on I find my days over with before they even start and thinking "Where did the day go?  Can I have a "do over"?".  Summer has begun and I am feeling much better.  Things aren't as put together as I'd like.  The garden is half way in.  I have more flowers to put in pots (our local supermarket had a great hanging basket deal so I'm re-potting them in my front porch pots...I know, I'm cheap!).

Photo Credit

I have closets that need to be sorted through.  There are clothes that need to be given to Goodwill, clothes that need to be rotated from one kiddo to the next, and probably some clothes that should be thrown away.  You should see my recliner in the master bedroom.  Well, I'd really rather you not see it, but just imagine the piles of clothes on it along with the cedar chest.  *sigh*  It's bad.  It's full of clothes that don't have hangers because there aren't any more to go around.  I refuse to buy more until I weed out the ones we no longer need.  Oh and I also have a tote of regular clothes that have been thrown in there to make room for the maternity clothes that I will wear this summer and also maternity clothes that have to be given away because they're so out of date or I'm just tired of looking at the same striped shirt for the 8th pregnancy. Seriously! 

Photo Credit

 As I type this the desk is a war zone.  I have some workbooks to score and grades to enter in the computer before I can officially say a few kiddos are done for the summer.  I have a few kiddos who are taking a bit longer to be done with their schooling so I have score keys, books, folders, etc. making their home on the desk.  I also share this large desk with hubby who has papers to grade and exams to score.  Along with a gob of church books, VBS material, etc., etc., taking space on the desk that could be oh so lovely.  

Photo Credit

Yes, I'm just venting.  No, I don't expect life to be perfect.  I'm just asking for a "do over" in a few areas of life and I'm hoping to achieve them this summer.

So...back at the ranch (I had a highschool teacher who would say that when things got off topic)...I plan to begin my "do over" with better time management. I've strayed from my many plans.  I'm printing out the next month's worth of the Motivate Moms calendar.  You can read a post about it HERE, along with another wonderful time management system. 

Like I always say..."It's good to have a goal!"  Right?

June 4, 2011

Sublime Slime

The kiddos got the Play-Doh bin out to play with Abby and discovered that most of it was dried out.  Not to fear around this house...someone's always thinking of something!  Rebekah found this Silly Slim recipe in a book she checked out at the library last week.  50 Nifty Super More Friendship Crafts is full of fun activities!

Sublime Slime

two bowls
two plastic spoons
2 c white glue
1 1/2 c water
food coloring
1/3 c warm water
1 T Borax
containers or plastic baggies for storage

1.  In one bowl, use a plastic spoon to mix together the glue and the water.  Add two or three drops food coloring and mix completely.

2.  In the second bowl, use another spoon to mix the 1/3 c warm water and Borax.

3.  Add the Borax mixture to the glue mixture in the first bowl.  The slime will quickly clump up.

4.  Grab the clump with your hands (eww!) and squeeze out the excess water.

5.  Divide the clump up into however many kiddos you have.  Make sure the container is air tight because it will dry out.  Wash the bowls with warm, soapy water and rinse well.

My kiddos love this!!  Warning:  it will stick to clothing.  Our 5 year old decided to sit on his.  *sigh* We already have one shirt soaking.  I don't think it will be a hard task to get it out since the ingredients are water soluble.  

Awesome facts that my children want me to share with you:
- it bounces.
- it makes bodily noises...a-hem...toots.  They had some left over play-doh containers so they put it in those and pushed down in with their fingers...voila...interesting noises.  


Goat Love

I know, I know...more pictures of the goaties.
I can't help myself!  *smile*

Pixie loves to play!

She's getting so big!  She can get up on the "big girl" play pedestal now!

"Did someone say "Food"?"  -- Skippy looooves the leaves off the walnut tree.  

She's all ears!

Licking the post. Why?  I have not idea.  Silly girl!

I love these goat girlies! 

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