Caturday

Welcome Home, You

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“Welcome home you,

I know you by name

How do you do?

I shine because of you today

So come and sit down,

tell me how you are

I know, son,

it’s good to just see your face.”

-lyrics from Welcome Home, by Brian Littrell.

I have the best welcome home kitty in the world. Shadow is always so good at being right there by my car door whenever I come home. Last month I came home and the kids had fallen asleep in the car, as they usually do. It was just me and Shadow and the sunshine was beautiful.

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He is so good at being welcoming. I think its probably 80% he wants fed and 20% happy to see me…but I’ll take what I can get!

The poor guy has been out in the cold lately. Really wish I could let him in but he has fleas and such so I (ok yes it was mostly my husband, with a bit of prodding) just made him a little box, and then insulated it as best I could with newspaper.

His little “house” needs a bit of straw to make it nice but at least he has a spot to block the wind. I’m not sure if he’s using it or not but maybe he will get the hint eventually. Cats are funny about new things.

Shadow (or Begheera as my husband calls him) has a very thick coat of fur so I know he’s warmer than I think he is. Still, I feel bad for animals that are out in the cold like that 😦

There are a lot of cats around here though. They all stay outside so they’ve all made it through the cold winters somehow. I expect they have their little nooks where they like to stay and sleep sheltered from the weather 🙂

Do you have any furry friends to welcome you home? How do you keep them warm in the winter (if they stay outside)?

~Rachel

Natural Skin Care

My Top 5 Favorite Lip Balms {stocking stuffer ideas}

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Lip balm, anyone? Lip balm, to me, is life. I’m a bit obsessed, yes. But who doesn’t need a bit of lip balm in their life? And it’s a super-easy and cheap way to pamper yourself.

Or, as we scoot closer to Christmas, giving away lip balm is a simple way to bless others.

I’ve rounded up my top 5 favorite lip balms that make great little gifts or stocking stuffers for the special people in your life.

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My favs!

 

1. Aubrey Organics. Treat em Right Lip Balm, Raspberry flavor.

This is the best raspberry flavored lip balm I have ever tried. The eos Pomegranate-Raspberry lipbalm is similar but not quite as good.

What I love:

I love it that this product is organic (not vegan because of the beeswax though).

It has rose seed oil and vitamin e in addition to the 4 other oils listed.

~

This product is currently $5.03 on Amazon.


2. Burt’s Bees. 100% Natural Moisturizing Lip Balm, Beeswax.

This one is a true classic. I use quite often. I have yet to find another minty lip balm that holds a candle to Burt’s Bees.

What I love:

The flavor and texture of this lip balm is perfect. Beautifully minty, but with a touch of rosemary to give it that extra layer of flavor.

Lanolin has been added to it, which is great for chapped skin.

~

This lip balm is $8.62 for a 4-pack on Amazon but can be purchased in single at just about any store or drugstore.


 

3. Covergirl. Natureluxe Gloss Balm, in anemone.

This lip balm is a cross between lip gloss and lip balm. Although to me, it is more like a sheer lipstick.

What I love:

This lip gloss/balm isn’t as natural as most of my other lip balms, but it does have slightly better ingredients than most lipsticks..like lanolin, calendula wax and shea butter.

Plus I love the colors. I have one in anemone (coralish red color) and hibiscus (a mauve-ish berry shade).

~

I’ll tell you a secret. These are typically $9 at places like Wal-Mart but I bought mine from a discount store (Odd Lots) for $1!


 

4. Primal Pit Paste. Chai Pucker Paste Lip Balm.

This is a new lip balm that I ordered with my deodorant from Primal Pit Paste just to try it out. I’m a sucker for chai flavors and I was very pleasantly surprised with this one.

What I love:

I love pretty much everything about this stuff. It has 6 ingredients, 4 of them organic. There are no harsh chemicals, propylene glycol, aluminum, parabans or synthetic fragrances in this product. Sweet!

The texture is nice, a tad on the buttery side and the fragrance is wonderful. I’m not sure what they’ve used as fragrance but I imagine it has cinnamon and cloves, which gives off a slight tinglyness.

~

Primal Pit Paste is currently having a 6-day sale on their products and this lip balm is currently $3.96.


 

5. Smith’s Rosebud Salve.

This salve I tried for the first time 5+ years ago and it is everything they say! A true beauty classic. And versatile! A salve can be used on any dry skin, not just lips.

What I loved:

The smell is lovely and the texture is similar to Vaseline. It does work very well. The ingredients are somewhat mysterious so I’m not 100% sure what makes this stuff so awesome. I like it that this product comes in a tin or tube, because the tin is super hard to open.

Because I do not currently own any, this is what it looks like⤵⤵⤵

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photo credit: Amazon

I first purchased this product at Bath & Body Works. It is available on Amazon for $6.50.


 

Found any new favorite lip balms lately? Or have any old favorites that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear all about it, I’m always looking for more lip balms to try 😊 And, er, gift. 😉

~Rachel

Note: I did not receive compensation for my reviews of these products. I just really like them!

Books, Celebrated Authors

Marilla’s Famous Plum Preserves {from author L.M. Montgomery}

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Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on this day in history, 143 years ago, in Clifton, Prince Edward Island.

She was a brilliant author and one of my favorites. And because I am such a nerd of all things AOGG, I wanted to bring a particular aspect of the books to life.

So I will share a few of my favorite plummy quotes about Marilla’s famous plum preserves.

And why plum preserves? Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see 😉

 

Yellow Plum Preserves

The rarer of the two types of preserves was the yellow plum preserves. Reserved more for special company, and for Davey, apparently.

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“We’re to have two kinds of jelly…and fruitcake, and Marilla’s famous yellow plum preserves that she keeps especially for ministers…”

-from Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 22


 

“Anne had came home from school the previous evening, to find Marilla away at an Aide meeting, Dora asleep on the kitchen sofa, and Davy in the sitting room closet, blissfully absorbing the contents of a jar of Marilla’s famous yellow plum preserves…”company jam, ” Davy called it…which he had been forbidden to touch.”

-from Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 14

 

Blue Plum Preserves

More of the regular sort, these blue plum preserves were still fit for a king. Or even an Earl, as Anne points out. I imagine that these plums were picked by Marilla from her own tree on the Green Gables farm.

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“Your dinner is in the oven, Anne, and you can get yourself some blue plum preserve out of the pantry.”

-from Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 18


“I daresay even the English earl himself wouldn’t have turned up his aristocratic nose at Marilla’s plum preserves,” said Anne proudly.

-from Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 2


“Anne’s laugh, as blithe and irresistible as of yore, with an added note of sweetness and maturity, rang through the garret. Marilla in the kitchen below, compounding blue plum preserve, heard it and smiled…”

-from Anne’s House of Dreams, Chapter 1


So…what about Marilla’s plum preserves? Well…I happen to have some. Ok I admit it. I cooked and canned them on purpose because of the particular reference to it in the Anne of Green Gables books.

And folks, it was divine.

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Preserves aren’t jam exactly. They are thicker, with peices of fruit left unmashed. Not chunky but not smooth. Very rich, flavorful and good.

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I had a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice tea with my toast and preserves, keeping with the plum theme.

What do you think? Do you like plum preserves? Have you ever tried it? Have you ever made any particular book-themed treat?

~Rachel

Books, Celebrated Authors

Remembering Louisa May Alcott with Favorite Quotes from “Little Women”

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Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott! She was born 185 years ago *today, in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She was the second oldest of four daughters. Anna, Louisa, Elizabeth and Abigail were the four girls born to Amos and Abigail Alcott.

Louisa May Alcott wrote quite a few books and short stories in her lifetime. Little Women is the most well known of her works and is followed by the books Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

Her contemporaries were such authors as Charles Dickens (1812-70), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), Alexandre Dumas (1802-70) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-81). One of my favorite time periods for literature for sure.

Since I posted an in-depth e-book review on The Courtship of Jo March last week, I thought it would be fun to write up a simpler post full of my favorite quotes from Little Women.

Enjoy!

Favorite Quotes from Little Women

From Part 1 (Chapters 1-23)

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“Meg’s high heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable; but dear me, let us be elegant or die!”

-from Chapter 3


You don’t look a bit like yourself, but you are very nice.”

-from Chapter 9, Sallie to Meg.


I don’t like fuss and feathers.”

-from Chapter 9, Laurie to Meg.

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You’d have nothing but horses, inkstands and novels in yours,” answered Meg petulantly.

Wouldn’t I, though? I’d have a stable full of Arabian steeds, rooms piled high with books, and I’d write out of a magic inkstand, so that my works should be as famous as Laurie’s music. I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle-something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day.”

-from Chapter 13


From Part 2 (Chapters 24-47)

“By-and-by Jo roamed away upstairs, for it was rainy, and she could not walk. A restless spirit possessed her, and the old feeling came again, not bitter as it once was, but a sorrowfully patient wonder why one sister should have all she asked, the other nothing.”

-from Chapter 42

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“The boy early developed a mechanical genius which delighted his father and distracted his mother, for he tried to imitate every machine he saw, and kept the nursery in a chaotic condition, with his “sewin-sheen”-a mysterious structure of string, chairs, clothespins, and spools, for wheels to go “wound and wound”; also a basket hung over the back of a chair, in which he vainly tried to hoist his too confiding sister, who, with feminine devotion, allowed her little head to be bumped till rescued, when the young inventor indignantly remarked, “Why, Marmar, dat’s my lellywaiter, and me’s trying to pull her up.”

-from Chapter 45 (the antics of John and Meg’s twin children Daisy and Demi).


 

Have you read any books by or about Louisa May Alcott lately? Which novel is your favorite? I’d love to hear about it 😊

~Rachel

*For some reason, WordPress marked my post as 11/30, when I wrote it at 8pm on 11/29, which is Louisa May Alcott’s birthday. Not the 30th.

Caturday

Eater of tape and other things…

**11/26/17-This post has been edited. I was super busy cooking a Thanksgiving dinner (yesterday) and that contributed to the quality of the post. So here is the edited version 🙂

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I like boxes,

I like tape.

Lick, raspy lick.

Crinkle, crackle crink

In the middle of 

The night.

~*~

Stella has this lovely habit of eating random things at night. Not completely random, I suppose. Said thing must be box-like, or tape-like, or string-like for her to be interested.

 

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I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m shocked you would even think such a thing of me.
  • Licking boxes=fun!
  • Chewing tape=super fun!
  • Eating a long peice of string and freaking me out=the best!

I do not know. Why she does it. It’s not like we have tons of boxes lying around. But if she finds one and fancies she needs fed or fresh water…she will definitely let me know. This is one of her quirks. I still love her for it.

But I wish she wouldn’t do it at night. Ah well. Who needs sleep anyway? (Says the tired Mom, who dearly loves her sleep.)

I still love you Stella, in spite of your quirks 😊❤🐱

Happy Caturday!

~Rachel

Books

Book Review: The Courtship of Jo March

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Introduction

In October, I purchased the e-book anniversary edition of The Courtship of Jo March. It was written by Trix Wilkins and released in August of 2017. Before reading, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t like it when my view of a classic is altered. However, I was looking forward to an alternate ending, one that myself and other readers craved.

In this post, I will share a summary, my initial thoughts, as well as my opinion of the major characters, plot and writing style.

You may encounter some spoilers. Fair warning! 🙂

Summary

From GoodReads:

“It’s the classic story of four sisters we’ve come to love, and yet we can’t help but wonder. Why did Jo refuse Laurie? What might Laurie have done on the European Grand Tour? What became of Jo’s writing, Amy’s art, Laurie’s music? Would a school have existed without Aunt March? And could Beth possibly have been saved?

This re-imagining of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is for all who have ever wondered how things might have worked out differently for the beloved March sisters – the life Beth might have led, the books Jo might have written, the friends they might have made, and the courtship that might have been.”

First Thoughts & Background

First off, I loved the cover design on this anniversary edition. And as I started to read, I was impressed with how the book began and how well the characters almost seamlessly resemble their counterparts in Little Women

Characters (Spoilers)

The characters in this novel are very well done. They were consistent, with only a few exceptions. Trix has 100% done her research here and I was impressed.

Jo

Jo and especially Laurie had very consistent and detailed characters. I thought that Jo appeared softer and less brash, even than her adult self in Little Women.

The way Jo behaved in chapter 11 doesn’t sit well with me. Jo came off as very flirtatious, which is not consistent with the Jo I know. Maybe it was too sudden for me as well. The shift from “just friends” to something a little more seemed a bit over the top for me in the way it was expressed.

So Jo’s dress I am kind of in love with. At first I thought red was a scandalous choice, but recently researched it and found that a deep red color was highly fashionable in the 1870s. But was it entirely proper for Laurie to buy her a dress? All the same, I think it is highly romantic.

It made me smile, and think of the scene when Amy and Laurie are picking roses at Valrosa in Nice, France.

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Laurie

Laurie’s character was portrayed very well. I enjoyed seeing more of how he acted around Jo and away from her (and away from Amy as well). His motives, his speeches and everyday activities matched what I knew of him. I loved what Trix has done here to expand upon his character.

Beth

Beth’s story was beautifully done. Certain parts I wasn’t so sure about, but I did so enjoy her story.

Beth approaching Frank at the concert was not something I expected of Beth. That Beth went to the concert at all suprises me, but Beth could sometimes do surprising things. She possesses a quiet strength.

I still wondered at some of her decisions in the book. Beth was not physically a strong person and she was exceedingly shy. I wonder at the wisdom of her decision.

Would Beth have been so brave as to talk to Frank, alone, in a crowded concert? To accept his hand when Jo dissaproves and her family cautions?

Yet I do see that if Beth’s story changes, every one else’s would come apart.

Plot

As a whole, I thought that the story flowed together nicely. However, the sisters, I felt, were married too soon. Within the first few chapters, all but Jo have been married. It seemed almost too rushed and left me with questions about the husbands that weren’t answered until later.

A Favorite Chapter

There is a proposal in Chapter 6, after Laurie’s graduation, just as it is in the original.

I love the way the proposal scene happened. Much, much, so much better. It ended as I anticipated but the wording was much softer and much more satisfying. My heart didn’t feel ripped out of my chest.

Writing Style

I agree with other reviewers on GoodReads who said there was slightly more modernity here than there would have been in the 1870s. However, for me it wasn’t a deal breaker. I thought the particular instances added to the romance of the story.

On my kindle, the e-book was 243 pages long. Some of the chapters were a bit long, which made it a bit difficult for me to finish a chapter in one sitting.

Also of note is the Pride and Prejudice references tucked away in a few places, like pretty flowers hidden in the pages.

I am a huge Austen fan, as some of you probably know 🙂 🙂

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Conclusion

I really enjoyed reading this book and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. Regarding rating, I would give this book 4/5 stars.

I had mild problems with only a few parts of the book, such as portions of Jo and Beth’s stories and the longer chapters.

Overall I was impressed with the level of care and detail that is apparent in the way the characters are portrayed. There are many powerful, romantic and humorous moments which made this book an enjoyable read 🙂

~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~   ~*~

Visit Trix Wilkin’s blog here to read more about her, her book and view purchasing info for The Courtship of Jo March.

~Rachel

Blog Updates

Blogging Update #2 {goals for the winter}

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The best cure for writer’s block is to write through it. And so I shall try. Thus this blog post serves a dual purpose. Planning for the blog, and writing my way out of Stumpville.

 

Caturday

Later this month, I plan to post my November Caturday post, most likely featuring Stella.

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Books

1) Book Reviews

In the books category, I’ve found I really enjoy reviewing e-book(s) from bloggers I follow. I’ve written a review of Kate Singh’s e-book The Homemade Housewife so far and I can’t wait to add more reviews to the category.

If all goes well I should have another e-book review up next week. I’ll give you a hint: it may have something to do with Louisa May Alcott 😉

2) Celebrated Authors

A few of my favorite authors have birthdays later this month, so I plan to do at least a small post about them next week.

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Food

In the food category, which people seem to be loving lately (which is great!) I aim to make a new, slight change to my posts this winter.

I was looking at this blog, My No-Fuss Kitchen, which I thought was really cool, as she, the blogger, saves money on food by making stir fry dishes of leftover ingredients. Her dishes are also inspired in part by her Chinese Malaysian heritage. There were a lot of ingredients in her dishes that both intrigued and suprised me.

I’ve been looking at more ethnically diverse food dishes lately and really appreciating the variety and different flavors that these dishes all have.

So this winter I want to make it a goal of mine to make a variety of dishes that are more common in other cultures.

I’m excited to learn…how do people in other cultures save money on food? What ingredients are staples in other countries? What new flavors will I learn about? I’m looking forward to it.

Will you join me on the journey? I hope to post one new dish I’ve tried each month, starting in December (next month).

I will share a photo of the dish I make and make reference to the book or blog post where the recipe can be found.

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Other Categories

So *counts on fingers* Caturday, Books, Food, and of course there will be some posts in the Motherhood and Reflections category (those categories where I share deep thoughts and lessons learned).

Oh and maybe some sewing projects will make it to a post or two. Sewing is one winter indoor activity that I’m learning to love more these days.

And maybe some more Nature posts if we manage to brave the cooler air to explore outside. Can you see me tapping my fingers, waiting for my kids to get over their colds?

 

Until then,

~Rachel

 

Beverages, Food

Mama Chia {Copycat Recipe}

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Finally. I have finally concocted a cheaper version of the Raspberry Passion Mama Chia beverage my daughter and I love so much.

It was much easier than I expected it would be. I’m not sure why I kept putting it off.

I began by looking at the ingredients list.

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Already I had decided to use pomegranate juice. Odd that that isn’t one of the ingredients listed. Pomegranate juice to me tastes like a combination of juices…like a raspberry/grape/cranberry combo maybe?…so I was confident that this would work.

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Raw honey, soaked chia seeds, pomegranate juice and lime juice.

First I prepped the chia seeds. I took about 1 ¼ cups of dry seeds and poured them into a mason jar along with about 30 or so ounces of water.

I actually miscalculated the amount of water I would need initially. I filled my glass bottle (see pictures below) 3/4 full with chia seeds, then added water.

That is not the way to do it.

Chia seeds absorb a lot of water. Like 3 times as much as the actual seeds. 

So after that sat in the fridge for awhile I was ready to throw it all together.

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One teaspoon of honey was just right, once I figured out how to stir it up (stir with a metal skewer then shake vigorously).

A bit of lime juice added to the pomegranate juice added another element to the flavor that made it pitch-perfect, and just like the Mama Chia beverage I remembered.

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Rachel’s Copycat Mama Chia Recipe

Makes about 10oz (1 serving).

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup soaked chia seeds*
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon lime juice

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in liquid measuring cup.
  2. Pour into desired container.

*To make about 25oz/3c. of soaked chia seeds, I put about 1 ¼ cups dry chia seeds into a quart (32oz) mason jar. I filled the jar with water, shook up the jar and let it sit in the fridge about 24 hours.

Cost:

For 10oz of this Mama Chia brand drink from Aldi, it was $2.29. My version was only $1.28 for the same amount.

Granted, my recipe doesn’t have the same exact ingredients. But the taste is very similar and still delicious.

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Books, Reflections

Little is Much

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Turkey day approaches. In some ways I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the rush of the holiday season.

Then at other times I just want to tuck into a good book and forget about things for an hour or so. One book out of 10 in my book stack is the Lark Rise to Candleford series, by Flora Thompson.

It is a book that follows the life of a young girl who lives in a tiny hamlet (or village) in England called Lark Rise. Her community is very poor but oddly very happy. It is set in the late 1800s, one of my favorite time periods. Early on in the book I came across one of those quotes that I read over and over.

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“People were poorer and had not the comforts, amusements, or knowledge we have to-day; but they were happier. Which seems to suggest that happiness depends more upon the state of mind-and body perhaps-than upon circumstances and events.”

from Lark Rise, chapter 3, by Flora Thompson

I finished the book a few days ago and it ended with a description of harvest days and feasts. The hard work and sweat and subsequent festivity and joviality.

The scene put me in mind of another feast day, of a story told long ago.

There was a kingdom where dwelled a wealthy King and his grown son, the Prince. The Prince was to be married, to have a wedding feast and the invitations were sent. But those invited responded with scorn and violence. And so the King, enraged, did away with the violent men.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find. So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (From Matthew 22:1-10)

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I’ve always pictured this as a beautiful scene. Full of warmth and cheer and happiness. Everybody is there. Young, old, rich, poor, outcasts, knights in shining armor. Everybody. All were there. All were invited in.

And its always put me a little in mind of Thanksgiving.

The goodness, the plenty, the laying aside of differences just to be together and be happy and grateful for the blessing of harvest, and most importantly for the blessing of family.

And at the banquet scene, who was most blessed? The King was The Giver of blessings. And I imagine those who felt least deserving were most blessed. For they had nothing to recommend them to attend the feast of a King. They had little. But little was much.

This story speaks of God’s gift of salvation and grace. It is a gift of much to one who has little. Once upon a time, as a young girl that person was me.

And as I’ve gone through life I’ve seen this beautiful pattern. The times I’ve had less have been the times I’ve had more. Less in the material world. Less comfort maybe. But more room for cheer and love in my heart.

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Life gets simple. And when life is simple, it forces you to look within.

Looking in to see what you value most when you have little.

A simpler life, a shorter budget, it is a gift. So enjoy it. Enjoy your life amidst the harships. The scrimping and saving. The wondering. Enjoy your family and friends, one of life’s purest and greatest gifts. May you be blessed. And well stuffed with stuffing!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to my readers here in the U.S. 🙂

~Rachel

Yes I know it’s early yet to be saying Happy Thanksgiving but if I don’t say it now I’m liable to forget! Mom brain 😛

Desserts, Food

Gluten-Free “Toffee” Apple Crisp (no refined sugar)

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This is the recipe that I’ve wanted to make for so long. I’ve said several times on the blog that I wanted to share an apple crisp recipe.

Yesterday I thought that I had totally blew it. I made a few alterations to my mama’s apple crisp recipe and wasn’t sure how it would turn out.

It definitely did not look like my mom’s version. And before I had even tasted it I thought, “Well..I can’t share this. It looks like a disaster. I’m not even sure it tastes good.”

So here I am, eating my words. My husband (who is my greatest cheerleader) was enamored with this apple crisp. He loved it. A lot. So because of his encouragement, I am sharing this with you today.

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I began with the usual ingredients. I forgot to include the almond flour (Bob’s Red Mill brand).

I chose to use coconut palm sugar and honey because of my current goal to avoid as much refined sugar as possible. It’s important to remember that sugar is still sugar. However, coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index, which I think makes it a better choice of sweetener. It won’t give you that jolt of energy and subsequent crash if used wisely.

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Mixed together the dry ingredients, along with the honey.
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The topping turned out to be rather on the wet side and a bit sticky.

The butter for the topping sat out for a bit, which I think is what made it sticky. I usually use cold butter, but you know..blog stuff. It turned out ok though 🙂

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Right before I popped it into the oven. Made it in the evening, so apologies for the bad lighting.

The original recipe said to bake the apple crisp for 30 minutes. Mine took a little bit longer, probably about 35 minutes.

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“Oh no it’s a flop!”

The apple crisp did a weird thing where it looked soupy but wasn’t. It ended up having a nice, moist topping with perfectly chewy portions (not hard or overdone but just right) that reminded me of toffee a bit.

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Quite the opposite, thankfully.

 

Gluten-Free “Toffee” Apple Crisp

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 apples (granny smith preferred), peeled, cored and roughly chopped.
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats**
  • 1/3 cup+2 Tablespoons+2 teaspoons coconut palm sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons+2 teaspoons raw honey
  • 1/3 cup cold butter
  • 1 teaspoon+1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

**If you are gluten intolerant you probably already know to buy gluten-free oats. If you are cooking for guests this is important. Somehow I had 3 containers of the regular kind, so I used what I had since I can still tolerate gluten.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 395°.
  2. Place apples in a 9×9″ baking pan. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or more if desired) and toss.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix flour, oats, coconut sugar, honey and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut butter into small pieces and work it into the dry ingredients by hand. This topping may be a bit sticky.
  4. Add topping to apples in globs and lightly press together.
  5. Bake about 30 minutes, or until well browned.

Cost:

This recipe cost me $4.30. Not bad but not really great. Almond flour is expensive!

But if you break it down, it is only $1.08 if divided into 4 servings and 72¢ if divided into 6 servings.

But it’s so good that it probably won’t make it that far. My advice is to 100% double it if you are cooking for 3+ people.

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Beverages, Food, Reflections

Roasted Dandelion Root Tea {First Impressions}

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The foraging adventures continue! I wanted to harvest some dandelion roots this fall with the intention of making roasted dandelion root tea.

It sounded interesting. And every single source said the health benefits of the plant were numerous.

According to learningherbs, dandelion roots are good for liver health. And because the liver affects many other parts of the body, dandelion root helps with a lot of different things. (The recipe I used can be found through the above links as well.)

As livestrong mentions, dandelion root has a lot of potassium and “It also contains high levels of iron, boron, calcium, silicon [and] vitamin C.”

Super-healthy? Sign me up. I can get it for free from my own yard? I’m on it.

And so I grabbed my shovel and I wandered about outside looking for some good-sized dandelion roots. The kids were mostly good enough not to wander too far from sight 🙂

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Here are some of the largest roots from some of the biggest plants. I harvested about 7 or so roots total.
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After scrubbing, chopping and air drying the roots completely they were ready to roast.
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The finished product. I sorted the pieces and discarded the blackened ones. I had exactly 2 Tablespoons the recipe called for.
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Here you can see the difference in color.
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After simmering the dandelion root for about 20 minutes I had a very dark tea, similar in shade to coffee and somewhat similar smelling.
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I blended the liquid with about a Tablespoon butter as directed.

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And then I took a sip. I immediately made a face. It was very bitter. As I expected. Somewhat like coffee but not as…warm? Flavorful?

I had to add things to it to make it drinkable. First, a bit of vanilla, cinnamon and honey.

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It was still too bitter. More honey and a lot of unsweetened vanilla almond milk were added. And then I ended up adding a spoonful of coconut palm sugar before I was happy with the taste.

I’m trying my best to avoid refined sugar. It’s been hit-and-miss so far. But this time…victory 🎉

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Afterwards…heavy on the sweeteners and milk.

Oh my it was so bitter. But tasted rather good in the end.

I couldn’t help but think about bitterness as an emotion, as opposed to a taste.

I remember my son when he tasted cocoa powder for the first time. It smelled like the chocolate he loved but left a bad taste in his mouth.

“Grace given when it feels least deserved is the only antidote for bitter rot.”

from Uninvited, chapter 7, by Lysa TerKeurst.

But tempered with sweetness and mixed into the cookies he loved, the bitterness was transformed. It was the same for the tea. Bitterness transformed was a pleasant thing instead of a thing almost poisonous to swallow.

As I battle bitterness threatening to overwhelm me, this lesson hit quite close to home. I’m grateful for the lesson so gently revealed.

And I enjoyed my cup of tea 🙂

Any coffee drinkers out there? Have you ever tried roasted dandelion root tea? If so, what was your impression?

~Rachel

Motherhood

Havoc in My World, Peace in My Heart

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If I was a superhero, I’m pretty sure my name would be Mother Mahem. Oh wait…yeah that’s my reality already.

I’ve been feeling the pull to write about this for a week or so. People seem to like the moments of vulnerability and honesty that comes with sharing the everyday moments and struggles of motherhood.

I’ve got one for you. Actually I’ve got several. Ok I actually have way more but I can’t remember them all, and maybe that’s a good thing.

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Do you ever have a moment, a day when your kid does something and it just breaks your heart? Sometimes these things just happen and I’m like “Why?? Why me? Why this?” And I’m mad and sad all in one.

This happened to me one morning. And I get it. Out of all the things that are going on in the world, this is small. But small things can seem big at the time.

I woke up to discover a mess. It was partly my fault for accidentally leaving my sewing things out. They were all in my sewing bag but not put away. An obvious temptation. Especially tempting, apparently, were my sewing scissors.

And so a certain someone took the liberty of refashioning a few things about the house.

My daughter’s quilt (in progress project) I was able to fix. Thank goodness.

However, this

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One of the “doors” to our t.v. stand.

This was done for. As you can see, it looked a bit trashy. So instead of wallowing in despair (tempting) I decided to fix it.

I had some fabric scraps that matched just right. So I cut, sewed and ironed, pinned and sewed some more.

 

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I used a modified blanket stitch to attach the fabric.
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Finished product. Now for the fun of re-attaching the door!

And how did I manage to complete this with two little munchkins running around? I sat them down with a mountain of playdough.

They “played”, a word here which is loosely correlated to playing and tightly correlated to throwing it all over the floor. But hey, I finished my project 🙂

That’s what motherhood is all about. We take the messes, the difficult things along with all things bright and beautiful. We get through it. With our sanity intact? Doubtful. But maybe just maybe as we learn to let things go and repair what we can we can restore a measure of it unto our hearts 🙂

A toast. To motherhood. May your moments of mayhem be short and give way to deep breaths of peace.

God bless.

~Rachel

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Uncategorized

Before You Shop…{12 ways to save on groceries}

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There was a time in our not-so-distant past when our family had a very limited grocery budget. Each and every penny was dear.

I knew, just knew there were resources out there to help me. I knew that I wasn’t the only one. So I dug through the internet, and all the cookbooks and e-books that I could get my hands on so I could find some frugal solutions to bolster my courage and expand my knowledge of the art that is grocery shopping.

And what was most important to me? I wanted to be as frugal, but as healthy with my choices as possible.

I wanted to pass on some of the things that I learned for anyone who is where I was. I still practice a lot of these things, though our grocery budget is slightly larger than it was in previous years.

Plan

1. These items are at the core of any frugal meal.

  • beans
  • rice
  • canned tomatoes of all kinds
  • chicken
  • eggs
  • noodles
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • garlic
  • herbs & spices
  • frozen veggies

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2. Shop the sales and build meals from sale items. This goes hand and hand with meal planning.

3. Meal plan. I use this printable from Just a Girl and Her Blog. It’s got a newer design but it’s the same one I use. I write the sales items from local grocery stores on the back, as well as meal ideas. Then the names and dates of the meals go on the front of the shopping list.

I think of it as a game. I use a sale ingredient, good. I use it twice or even 3x or more, very good. See how many ways you can stretch the same ingredient. 

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Example: celery. I use it in chicken noodle soup, then I use it to make casserole spaghetti. I dice up the rest and freeze it for when I make chicken or beef bone broth.

4. How much do you need?

Believe it or not, when I was newly married I thought I had to follow a recipe exactly and I often made way too much food. Nowdays I will cut a recipe in half or even in fourths to suit my family.

I know about how much meat we will eat (1/2lb-slightly over 1lb, depending on recipe) and what size of pot, pan or baking dish I will need. When you know what everyone will eat, second helpings and all, you can plan better and save money.

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What Is In Season?

1. Fruits and vegetables that are often cheap and available (but not always locally in season) year-round:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • bell peppers
  • celery
  • sweet potatoes
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • apples

2. Here are some (typically) cheap, in season foods for October and November:

  • apples
  • pears
  • cranberries
  • grapes
  • kiwis
  • pomegranates
  • some citrus fruits
  • beets
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • eggplant
  • kale
  • mushrooms
  • pumpkins
  • rutabagas
  • spinach
  • squash
  • turnips

It is good to pay attention to The Clean 15 and The Dirty Dozen. But don’t get hung up on it. If you can afford organic, awesome! If not, remember you are still caring for your family by buying them good and fresh produce. Eat as well as you can afford and don’t worry about the rest.

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Shop

1. Shop the perimeter of the store.

It is typical for produce, meat and dairy products to be on the outskirts of the grocery store. This is a common tip, but still worth mentioning 🙂

2. Buy (selectively) in bulk. 

When you see something on sale that your family loves, buy as much as you can.

Example: when our favorite bread goes on sale for BOGO, (Buy One Get One free) we buy 4, sometimes 6 if our freezer space allows.

Staples of course are good to buy in bulk. My family is small and my children have tiny appetites so much of what we buy in bulk is shelf stable. Honestly lately I have not bought much in bulk.

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3. Buy and preserve favorite fresh foods.

When a fruit or veggie is in season and your family loves it, see if you can buy a very large amount and preserve it in a way that they would most enjoy.

Freezing, canning and drying are all options. This often works best if you buy as close to the source as you can. This way you can maximize your savings and get the freshest and best produce. I’ve done this with apples, plums and corn this year.

4. Know when to spend.

I know. That’s not frugal. Well no it’s not. But knowing when to spend and when to save can save your sanity, which in my opinion is priceless.

Know when to cut yourself some slack and buy convenience foods or non-sale pricier items. For me, when I was pregnant and when my daughter was a baby I let a lot of things slide. My tastes, cravings and energy all varied by day and my goal was simply to stay healthy and get out of the store as quickly as I could.

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At Home

1. Explore MYO.

I learned early on from reading frugal cook books that one of the easiest ways to save money is to make your own convenience food. That may sound backwards but let me explain.

By making your own mixes, snacks and baked goods you have created a special stash of healthy or at least home cooked food for your family. Is it convenient in the sense that it saves you time? Well, not always. But consider the amount of time you spend going to the store and shopping. Is it faster to make some cookies or to buy them?

I maintain a balance of store bought things vs. homemade. Sometimes I make my own, sometimes I buy it.

Generally I make all my own spice mixes…taco seasoning, chili powder, pumpkin spice, etc. I do make my own granola bars because it’s cheaper, healthier and fresher that way.

2. Reduce waste.

There is this awesome blog Don’t Waste the Crumbs that got me started on this. It is amazing the amount of food I waste. It is an almost continual process to brainstorm ways to save as much as I can and make sure it is all used.

Example: save vegetable scraps for bone broth.

~~~

 

And that’s a lot of what I’ve learned!

It takes practice, but it can be done. Being frugal can be a challenge, but it can also be fun if you look at it as a game 🙂

~Rachel


 

A few resources:

Grocery shopping list printable from A Girl and Her Blog

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Complete Mix Recipe Index from Budget 101

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12 Simple Ways to Avoid Food Waste from Don’t Waste the Crumbs

Caturday

A Small Furry Usurper Attempts to Overthrow King Shadow Kitty

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Caturday has returned! Last week I didn’t do a post for a number of reasons. Mostly because 1) I was tired of it and 2) the stories were getting super boring…which is why I was tired of it.

So I’ve decided to do a Caturday post I hope at least once a month. Provided I can come up with interesting stories. Because let’s face it, it’s not the cats faults that they are sometimes (ok a lot of the time) boring. They are cats. Cats like routine.

However…

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Found this guy/girl (lets just settle for the male gender for clarity) in the backyard trying to sneak some cat food. Mostly just annoyed Shadow. Because lets face it pal, my cat can take you 😜 He had a brief spat with Shadow and then lurked around.

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Watching. Waiting.

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I was able to get gradually closer, hoping I would be able to pet him. But no luck. He was more interested in Shadow’s food. Sorry kitty it’s food for one, sadly I can’t feed the whole neighborhood.

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Yes I see you!

After this picture was taken, he decided to run into the cornfield and I didn’t see him again.

But right after that another cat approached from the opposite direction. I saw him from inside and chased him off. Seriously! Scram! Haha. I do love cats but there are a lot of cats around these here parts (haha) and I’m totally not feeding them all or the husband would put his foot down. And we’d have to eat rice and beans. And the kids would not have that. Because I cannot get them to like either.

What kind of frugal mom am I anyway? The kind who keeps away stray cats, bar one so her kids and husband aren’t forced to eat unsavory food I suppose.

What about you? Any issues with small furry usurpers? How do you keep them away?

~Rachel

 

Food, Main Meal

Super Yummy Spicy Mexican Lasagna

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The first chilly days of fall have arrived! A few days ago I was really in the mood for something spicy. Maybe it was the chill of fall. Maybe it was the change of seasons that prompt my tastebuds to say, “We crave something different!”. Whatever it was, I came across this recipe from allrecipes.com for Mexican Quesadilla Casserole. It looked good but I didn’t have corn tortillas. Or some of the other ingredients.

So I improvised this and that and decided to make it a Mexican lasagna instead.

It turned out wonderful. Like pitch-perfect, 100% awesome flavor yet still easy to make perfect. And my husband loved it. So it was a must for me to share 🙂

I do not have a lot of pictures of this one. I’ll just be real…it isn’t always easy to get a picture of my food creations. I’m hungry, my family is hungry. Time is limited. Kid raising takes a lot of energy! But I am learning, I promise. And busier women than I have done more and made it work. I will keep at it.

Anyways. Enough about my blogging aspirations. Sometimes I just have to get real with ya’ll. Sometimes it feels like my blog is a stage. And I’m the performer, manager and back stage crew all combined! Any one else feel that way too?

Haha well anyways here’s the recipe!


 

Super Yummy Spicy Mexican Lasagna

*Servings: 9+

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • (2) 8oz cans tomato sauce
  • (1) 15.5oz can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
  • (1) 10oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn (GMO-free, if possible)
  • **2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 8oz shredded cheddar cheese

*This recipe can easily make a 9×9″ pan of lasagna. But there will be leftover filling. It could also be made as a 9×13″ pan, if you stretch it a bit, or as (2) 9×9″ pans (one could be frozen for later!)

**I make my own chili powder and this is the recipe I use.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a 9×9 pan with cooking spray or lightly grease with oil.

2. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add noodles and cook till al dente.

3. Mix the next 9 ingredients together in a medium sized pot. (All but the noodles and cheese.)

4. Cook beef and onion in a large skillet till beef is barely cooked through. Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup water, scraping the pan to remove any browned bits.

5. Add beef to the tomato mixture, stir and simmer for 5 or so minutes to combine flavors.

6. Layer the lasagna. Beef mixture, noodles, cheese. More noodles, beef mixture cheese and repeat, if desired. I stopped at 2 layers.

7. Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly and cheese has melted.

Cost:

Pricing this recipe proved a bit tricky as I wasn’t sure of the price of certain items. But I can say for sure that this entire recipe makes at least 12 servings for $12 or less.

I used frozen sweet corn that I blanched and froze myself, which turned out to be 46¢ a cup. I also bought a block of cheddar cheese and grated it myself which cut the cost a bit as well.

~Rachel

Awards and Tags

The Fall Tag

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Many thanks to Maggie, of the blog Dreaming of Guatemala for creating this Fall Tag. What a neat idea! Kinda like spreading Christmas cheer, but with fall. I love it. I have been tagged by T.R. Noble, of the blog Peaking Beneath 🙂 Thanks T.R.!

~~~

Rules:

1. Put the tag badge and rules in your post.

2. Answer the 10 fall-related questions.

3. Tag at least 5 other bloggers to join in the fun!

~~~

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1. What’s your favorite fall outfit?

Skinny jeans, probably with an orange shirt and my favorite long purple cardigan. I am decidedly not fashion minded, more comfort loving. I do love wearing fall colors and cozy scarves though.

2. What is the fall weather like where you live?

I live in the midwestern area of the USA. Typically fall weather begins a bit earlier than it has this year. For October, it has been uncharacteristically hot..reaching into the upper 80s earlier in the month. We are in deep fall now though. The temperature has dropped and soon I gather it will become wet and ick. But for now, we enjoy our crisp and picturesque fall. Short as it may be.

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A few years ago we went to The Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Vermont. We got to see the cider being made & it was sooo good!

3. Your favorite drink to have in the fall?

I am a mulled apple cider girl. I love it. And it must be hot! So many memories I have tied to this special drink.

4. Does your family have any fall traditions? If so, what are they?

We enjoy doing a few things. We have fall snacks and typically carve a pumpkin. I save and dry the seeds. We rake leaves and let the kids play in them. Last year I took the kids out to a farm where they got to play in a giant swimming pool full of corn, which they loved. My daughter was a baby and wanted to eat it. My son never wanted to leave. We all had a lot of fun. Sometimes we go to a festival or two as a family. Music, vendors, food. All that good stuff.

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5. What are some activities and events you enjoy going to in the fall months?

Haha so I guess I went on a tangent in the answer to question #4. (See above.)

6. What’s your favorite fall scented candle? 

Oh my so I got these wax melts from Aldi that are pumpkin brulee scented and they. smell. so. divine.

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I don’t use candles much bc I’m afraid I’ll forget about them. (I’m slightly paranoid, ok?) So wax warmers are my thing. I’m dying to try this one but my lightbulb gave out on my wax warmer. So I need to buy another. I think that’s the problem anyway.

7. Tell us about one of your favorite fall memories?

One of my very best memories I have is of my brothers and I raking leaves and jumping in them. I loved that. We all worked together. Giggling. Having fun. Mom would take our picture. It was a fun time.

8. What are some fall movies you enjoy watching?

I guess I don’t particularly have any. Although we used to always watch The Christmas Story (with the Red Rider bb gun and the leg lamp) on Thanksgiving.

9. What’s your favorite fall treat?

I love apple dumplings. I don’t eat them often. Typically only once or twice a year. And that’s what makes them special 🙂 They are so good with that warm cinnamon sauce!

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10. If you celebrate Halloween, what is the best outfit you’ve worn?

Oh boy I haven’t gone trick-or-treating or worn a Halloween costume in a long time. I can’t remember many of my costumes, or how many years my family did trick-or-treating. I remember one year my Grandma made me a Jasmine costume because I was a hardcore Aladdin fan. That was special and so thoughtful of her. I appreciate it much more now than I did then.

~~~

My tags:

I’ve decided to leave the tags open! It’s a bit tricky to decide who might want to participate. So if you want to and have not been tagged yet, go ahead! It’s a lot of fun 🙂

Happy Fall!

~Rachel

Uncategorized

healing instinct

I loved reading this post by bam, of the blog pull up a chair. I found her blog after reading her book Motherprayer: Lessons in Loving. Her thoughts on the troubling current events in the US and the world as a whole resonate with me deeply. It’s hard to make head or tail of the difficult things in this world. The world can seem dark, but it doesn’t have to be. There is goodness, and it begins with us. Take a look at her post 🙂

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healing instinct the steam tent: steaming hot water + peppermint essential oil + not-so-raggedy towel = deep breathe

if you listen to the news, and i do, if you read the news, and i do, it is hard not feel this old globe is a raw wound right now, gashed with despair, pocked with pure evil.

i am haunted, especially, by a story i read of the atrocities that rained down on rohingya women and mothers and children. babies ripped from their mothers’ arms. babies tossed into infernos. worse and worse and worse. i can barely stand to spread the poison. (it’s here, from yesterday’s new york times, written by jeffrey gettleman, a kid from the town next door, who grew up to win the pulitzer prize for international reporting.)

i am haunted too by the ghostly images coming from northern california. charred silhouettes. hillsides exposed, stubbled with blackened bits…

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Natural DIY, Natural Skin Care

Healing Sunshine Salve {with Calendula, Dandelion and Goldenrod}

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I made a lovely Autumn inspired salve yesterday and I had a lot of fun with it 🙂 Sometimes I just need to create something. You know what I mean? It’s therapeutic. And its good to invest in hobbies.

In this diy I am combining several hobbies and passions of mine. Foraging, gardening and herbalism all come into play here. Plus a bit of aromatherapy as well 🙂

Foraging: I found the dandelion in my backyard and the goldenrod in a family member’s yard.

Gardening: I grew the calendula 🙂

Herbalism: What benefits will result from the infused oils used in this salve?

Why calendula? 

-it is gentle to use on children, helps skin heal and good for inflammation.

Why dandelion?

-it is good for sore muscles and rough, chapped skin.

And lastly, why goldenrod?

-it helps heal wounds and burns. It also helps with muscle aches and arthritis pain. And most interestingly, it is said to help with winter blues.

Step 1: Harvest and Prepare Plant Materials

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Goldenrod. I hung it upside down inside a small paper bag to minimize messiness.
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Lovely brilliant orange calendula.
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Dandelion flowers. These ones I foraged from my backyard last spring.
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Ready to make the infused oils!

Step 2: Prepare the Infused Oils

Sweet almond oil allows the delicate scents of the flowers to shine, without altering the golden colors.

I filled the jars with oil. The dandelion jar got about a 50/50 ratio of sweet almond oil to extra virgin olive oil because I ran out of almond.

To make my infusion I followed the “fast way” directions as per The Nerdy Farm Wife.

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Before infusion.
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After infusion, ready to strain.
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Coffee filters with canning rings worked well.

 

Step 3: Assemble and Prepare Ingredients

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Oils ready for measuring. From left to right: Dandelion, calendula, goldenrod.
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Other ingredients: lavender and neroli essential oil blend, cocoa butter, beeswax, argan oil.
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Cocoa butter, beeswax, infused oils and argan oil measured out.

Step 4: Melt and Pour

I don’t have any pics (of good quality that is) of this part. This is a fairly fast step. Melting the beeswax will take 5 minutes or so. The cocoa butter melts within minutes and it all comes together rather quickly.

Be careful and quick when pouring. Melted beeswax can be troublesome to clean up.

Step 5: Let Set

Here are some pics of the gradual cooling process. I love the change of colors.

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Healing Sunshine Salve {with Calendula, Dandelion and Goldenrod}

Makes: 4oz

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons+2 teaspoons calendula infused sweet almond oil
  • 1 teaspoon goldenrod infused sweet almond oil
  • 1 teaspoon+1/4 teaspoon dandelion flower infused sweet almond oil/extra virgin olive oil (I used a 50/50 ratio because I ran out of almond oil.)
  • 11 drops argan oil
  • 4 drops lavender and neroli essential oil blend (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons+1 teaspoon+1/4+1/8 teaspoon cocoa butter
  • 1 Tablespoon+1 teaspoon+scant 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped beeswax

Supplies/Kitchen Equipment:

  • A medium saucepan
  • 2 glass jars, for cocoa butter and oils
  • A clean tin can
  • A wooden or metal skewer
  • An oven mitt
  • A small clean glass jar, for the finished salve

Directions:

1. Measure cocoa butter into a glass jar. Measure oils (all except essential oil) into a separate glass jar. Place the chopped beeswax into the tin can.

2. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and turn the burner on medium high heat. Melt the beeswax in a tin can submerged in the hot water. It will float so you will need to hold it with an oven mit. Stir with the skewer till melted.

3. Melt cocoa butter in a glass jar, next to the can of beeswax. Remove from heat when almost melted. (Some small peices will remain but they will melt.)

4. Add oils to beeswax. Stir and allow beeswax to re-melt before adding melted cocoa butter. Stir and remove from pan.

5. Stir well and pour quickly into prepared salve jar. Add essential oils quickly and stir well.

~~~

Cost:

It cost me $2.39 to make this salve. That’s about 60¢ per oz. The jar was gifted to me so that cost was excluded.

So yeah that sounds pretty cheap, right? But a salve like this is most cost effective when you collect the ingredients over time. All of these ingredients, minus the sweet almond oil I use for other things. I would have paid $31.33 if I bought everything all at once.

I loved it that I was able to save money by foraging and growing my own flowers 🙂 It took a bit of patience to wait for the harvest, but it was worth it.💛💙

~Rachel

All photos are my own.

Beverages, Food

Easy, Dreamy Pumpkin Spice Smoothie (without using a blender!)

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Ah fall. Fall means pumpkins. And we Americans (most of us anyways) love our pumpkin spice. Is that just an American thing? I don’t know. Hmm.

(Ok international readers. Is pumpkin spice a thing in your country? Let me know in the comments, I would love to know!)

On a whim the other day I decided to cook up a pie pumpkin. I’m not really sure why they are called pie pumpkins. It’s not like they are used expressly for pumpkin pie. Honestly I buy one almost every year…not knowing if it will be for decor or for eating.

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The pumpkin in question *cue dramatic music*

My kids decided that the pumpkin was purchased so that they could roll/push it off of the kitchen table. No. That was actually not the purpose, my dear sweet children whom I love with all my heart but also who drive me completely loopy.

So to take the loopiness down a notch I cooked it up in the oven. I thought I could make some pumpkin bread with the puree.

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Pumpkin puree! I actually cooked the pumpkin and put it in the fridge for a few days before I pureed it.

And yep I made 4 full sized loaves. That used up about 4 cups. And I still had about a cup left over.

So I made up a new drink which was totally easy and delicious. My daughter (age 1 1/2) literally goes crazy for it. My son (age 4) asks every time if it is chocolate milk and wants nothing to do with it when I tell him that no, it isn’t.

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The flavors here are so simple and yet so delicious. Pumpkin tastes a bit like cooked squash, so on its own it isn’t all that tasty. But with honey, spices and almond milk? Yum 🙂


 

Easy, Dreamy Pumpkin Spice Smooothie

Makes: 16oz

Ingredients:

  • 12oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 4oz chilled pureed pumpkin (you can make your own puree, see below)
  • 1 small spoonful honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch or two of nutmeg

 

Directions:

  1. Measure about 1/2 cup pumpkin puree into a large glass. (I use a pint mason jar.)
  2. Add honey, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir well to combine.
  3. Add vanilla almond milk and stir.

 

To make the pumpkin puree

  1. Preheat the oven to 395°.
  2. Take a pie pumpkin and carefully cut it in half with a large knife.
  3. Place cut sides down in a large baking pan. (You can also bake them one half at a time if you don’t have a big enough pan.)
  4. Add a few inches of water to the pan and cover with tinfoil.
  5. Bake for 1 hour.
  6. Remove from oven, test for doneness and cool.
  7. Scoop out seeds and stringy stuff, set aside. Save the liquid from the pan.
  8. Scoop out the pumpkin and put it in the blender. Add a cup or so of the saved liquid (eyeball it) and puree.
  9. Chill the puree.

Cost:

This is super cheap. 89¢ for 16oz. Isn’t that crazy? I will definitely be making this again!

Enjoy!

~Rachel

Caturday, Reflections

Hold On To Love

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Stella is not a cuddler by nature. One of these days I’ll get a cute pic of her showing her loving side. But it is not this day.

Today Caturday is taking a more serious turn as I reflect about the atrocities committed against humanity in Las Vegas. I heard about it from the day it happened of course but it wasn’t until recently till I saw this picture and story that the reality of it all really sunk in.

http://tribunist.com/news/man-who-covered-woman-in-iconic-las-vegas-shooting-image-is-an-active-duty-u-s-army-soldier/?utm_source=GStyle

This is my country. This happened here. These are real people that lost their lives. I can’t point a finger. I can’t blame. I won’t give attention to the whims of a madman who deserves no mention. Yes, I had anger. But there was something else..

As I read that article, saw the picture of the army soldier tenderly sheltering that woman…I thought of Him.

Of how this must break God’s heart. Of the gentle love that He has for those who suffer. Who have been through fear and pain. He holds those people with tenderness. That is what I see when I looked at that picture.

And I thought of this verse.

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He holds us in His hands. He carries us in His heart. He has great love for humanity. Not only for His church, His bride but for us all. Every person who has ever walked this earth.

And I can’t get over the picture. Because not only do I see God’s tender love, I see His Son Jesus. So willing and ready to give up his life to save mine and yours. He took my place on that cross. He loves with an everlasting love.

This post has went much deeper than I originally planned but these words have been heavy on my heart. I know that talk of God and deep spiritual things is not what everyone desires. It’s ok. I understand. But my Lord is so much a part of my life that the light has got to have somewhere to shine. I thank-you for reading 🙂

So what can I do? You do? We do? We love. We go on. Hold those close whom you love. Even those whom to love is difficult. Trust me, I know. Be kind. Kinder than necessary.

Each one of us has a gift and a purpose on this earth. And I believe our highest calling as human beings is to love.

Love each other. Even when it’s hard. Even when that person drives you crazy. In some cases discernment and common sense is needed. We are not doormats. But love all the same.

And if all else fails, cuddle your kitty. Or puppy or (insert all other animals). Because pets just seem to understand.

Hold on to love.

~Rachel