Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stone Soup ????

No Stones in this Soup , but everything else you can think of that is good in a soup can be added to this recipe. This is for those times when you need something filling but have little cash or your just looking for some comfort food on a rainy or cold day.
 It can also be a nice way to get friends and family together by donating their favorite foods to be added. Much like the Fable Stone Soup , make in advance and throw a dinner party or have a small gathering. Let them know the ingredients are for a Stone Soup Dinner , your sure to get all kinds of donations. The recipe can be doubled for larger amounts and no one will go home hungry.
Now I am all for making things from scratch but there are times you simply can't either due to a lack of funds or supply. Recently I went to the store to do my regular grocery shopping and they had frozen mixed veggies on sale .99 cents a bag , what a deal and I was tight for money so of course I bought 4 bags. I knew I had potatoes at home as well as onion and tomatoes. Yep you got it , veggie soup was the plan. It's filling  , healthy and cheap , not to mention the leftovers can be frozen or canned. I live as simply as possible and learning to use what you have is a huge part of that. Using what money you have and making it last as well as using what you already have to make ends meet along with your talents , skills  , imagination and determination.
This soup is best made in the morning and let simmer until dinner time. I like to serve mine with corn bread and honey butter , but alone or with bread , crackers or salad it is a comfort food that is great for rainy / cold days or just a simple way to get everyone fed.

Stone Soup :

Large Stock Pot
3-4 bags of frozen Veggies / Canned may be substituted ( 4 Lg. or 6 Sm. )
1-2 onions , peeled and diced
6 large potatoes , peeled and diced
2 large cans tomatoes , dice if needed
1-2 Tomato Sauce
1 Can Kidney Beans
3 squares Beef Broth ( Add only if not using meat )
Garlic / fresh or powdered
Italian Seasoning / Dried
Dash of Nutmeg
Red Pepper ( Optional )
Meat if Desired
Small Pasta if desired

You can add other ingredients like mushrooms , green onion or what ever you have that would make a good soup.

Place all ingredients except for the pasta in stock pot. Measure water into empty cans and add to the mix. If needed add more water stir and add seasonings to taste.
If using meat , cook the meat then add the rest of the ingredients , why dirty more dishes?
 To add  pasta simply cook the pasta and add  *make sure you do this no more then 15 minutes before serving or the pasta could turn to soft ( Pasta can be made in advance , simply rinse and store in air tight container or baggie in the Fridge add 5 minutes before serving ). The pasta can be cooked in with the soup itself but be careful , the pasta can turn to soft and you will need to keep an eye on the amount of liquid since the pasta will absorb some of it ( be sure not to do this no more then 15 minutes before serving ). The reason I bring this up is due to the fact this is a make ahead meal. If started in the morning as recommended and simmering all day your pasta will easily break apart after cooking most of the day. So I strongly recommend cooking the pasta separately and adding shortly before serving , no more then 15 minutes before. If you don't add the Pasta this make ahead meal is ideal for busy days , it can even be made days in advance and reheated. Presto Dinner is served.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Money Matters

Money does matter but does it matter as much as you think? We need money for food  , clothing , housing , electric and so many other things simply to live. But is it as important as the love you have for your family? Of course not  , we all know this but when things get hard as they are now in this economy it is easy to loose sight of this.
Living more Simply means making some sacrifices this is true. But it is so worth it in so many ways. I would like to share a few things with you to help ease the burden of the financial mess our Nation is in. You see I have been thru this before , as a child I was homeless for a time and didn't even know where our next meal was going to come from. Many people were in the same situation , we lived in rest areas and would bounce around while our parents tried to find work. And even then we were a blue collar family so we were never well to do and had to think and work hard for what we had. So I do know how to survive in most any situation , but things and times change. It isn't as easy as it once was to go out and get your dinner. Even if you live in an area where you can go hunting and fishing you have to come up with the money for the permits and so on. Growing your own food can be an issue as well since many people live in HOA's and if not many live in an area where it isn't allowed or there are so many rules and guidelines it is to difficult or if like me you simply have very poor earth to work with.
There is hope though. Let's face it we have to work with what we have. If your reading this you are able to access the internet and can get some coupons to help with the cost of food , household supplies and more.
One of my favorite sites is Coupons.com there are many more out there but most have the same coupons so once you find one you like and works well for you check in weekly for offers and coupons to help save some cash. Also look into brand name sites , many have offers you can sign up or directly through them and Some even have Facebook pages that you can get coupons from. I am not an extreme couponer I enjoy life to much to spend hours and hours a day cutting coupons. But they are a useful tool so use them when you can.
You can also grow some of your own food indoors. The Topsy Turvy  Planters work well for tomatoes and you won't get into any trouble with you HOA. Herbs are also nice in this device but let's face it we are more concerned with filling our bellies then flavoring our food. You can also use planters outside if the soil is to poor for growing. This is the method I use and I usually don't grow anything between June and Sept. since we get brutal heat here in Florida. There are always farmer's markets as well and you can get some pretty good deals if you are willing to haggle a little or even purchase foods that may need to be eaten right away or preserved ASAP.
The thrift stores are booming these days. Here's the problem with that , they know your going to go there and so they have boosted the prices on everything. I went just this weekend and I was shocked at the prices , much of what they were selling was in poor shape to say the least and yet the prices were as much as something I could get brand new at another local Department Store Chain. So does it really pay to shop thrift stores? It depends on what your looking for. In my opinion I would rather buy new and pay the same as the used. It only pays to shop thrift stores if your going to save money , but if your looking for furniture you may actually get some good deals at the thrift store. But stay aware , shop around just like you would even in a good economy. Just because it says THRIFT STORE doesn't mean your getting a good deal.
I do like to craft.....LOL That's an understatement to say the least , but even I know that sewing isn't always economical. If I am spending more for fabric then it costs to buy it already made I'm going to buy the already made and if need be I can alter it as needed. If you do sew I recommend singing up for any promotions you local fabric store may have. JoAnn's Fabrics has a monthly flyer you can sign up for and usually has 40% off coupons in them and sometimes more.
And Finally reuse what you already have. If it needs repaired see if it is cost effective to do so. Hand-me-Downs are a great way to stretch the money but be sure it's something they are going to wear. You can always turn a hand-me-down into a one of a kind with simple little changes and they will actually wear it. Freeze Left-overs. These make great meals on nights when no one wants to cook. Simply store in a Micro safe dish that can go from freezer to micro and Bam you have a cheap and easy dinner. There are so many ways to save if you get creative.
The thing to remember is that no matter how tight things may get or how hard it may seem there is way to survive. I am currently working on craft ideas for the upcoming Holidays to help everyone still enjoy themselves while living as cheaply as possible. Please be sure to share your money saving tips by commenting and telling us how you and your family MAKE A PENNY SCREAM.....LOL

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gluing Gifts

With the onset of the Holidays approaching , I have started preparing. However there is always a last minute gift that needs to be made. We all know what I am talking about , that last minute gift you either forgot or may have even come into your life at the last minute. If your like me you don't like leaving anyone out , I mean it's the Holidays everyone should get something special. Without having to take out a loan. This economy isn't going to allow for that and I don't know about you but I certainly can't afford to break the bank as it were this holiday season. I have always admired the 1800's in regards to this. Most gifts were in fact handmade items that people sometimes would work on all year. So I do feel that making gifts and things for the holidays to be a Simpler means of living and a Simpler way to teach our children some much needed values in today's society.
All to many times we get caught up in the madness of shopping and in fact most people would rather have something you took the time to make as a gift. It's more personal and filled with the love and compassion you have for your fellow human. But in this economy it is and can be difficult to think of ways to express how you feel , right? Wrong , this simple craft idea is one that has been used for centuries and in times of financial difficulty it has been a life saver. Decoupage , we all remember doing it when we were little so why not? Almost anything can be decoupaged and turned into a beautiful treasure for men , women , teens and children. One of the reasons I love this so much is the fact it is so simple and children adore this crafting project. If they are old enough to use scissors and glue alone they can make their gifts in secret which really adds to the joy of creating and giving their gift.
So what do you need to decoupage? Do I need special glue , paper or more? No , all you need can usually be found right in your home on any given day. White glue , magazine's  , scissors , something to decoupage and imagination. Any other odds and ends you would like to add such as ribbon , fake flowers or glitter can all be added once your basic project is dry.
Gather your supplies. Paint or treat the wood before
beginning if you like. I prefer the raw wood look myself.
For this blog we are using a little wood box I purchased some time ago for about a dollar , most craft stores have these for around that amount so when I have a little extra money now and then I purchase a few for just such an occasion. But you could use a sturdy shoe box , a composition notebook ( can be turned into a journal or diary ) , almost anything that the glue can adhere to well can be decoupaged. 
Use a small dish for glue the glue is easily washed out.
I prefer magazine's for the pictures I use in my decoupage since the paper is perfect for this. It isn't to thick or thin and the color's are nice and bright. There's always a magazine laying around my house but if you don't have one don't worry you don't need to go out and buy a new one. You can find them at your library for little coinage and at times for free. Your going to be cutting them up anyway so why spend 4.00 or more for a magazine? And most of us know someone who has them just ask if you may have a few , I have found people have no issue with this since it helps to reduce their clutter.
Sponge Brushes Work well but are not needed.
 Lightly spread glue onto back of your first Picture.
White Glue is usually something we all have in our home for one reason or another. I do have to tell you Elmer's is best. The other brands are watered down and simply don't work as well. If need be you can always add a tiny amount of water to the Elmer's but I have never needed to do this. Once the glue dries it will be clear so do not freak out , as long as you are keeping the layers of glue thin and allowing it to dry completely it will be fine. 
Apply to your Item to be decoupaged , smooth.

Depending on how you wish for this to be used will depend on placement
of the pictures. This one is for a Jewelry Box , if we change the position
and Place the lady's head towards the handle can be used as
a child's purse.
Now to get cutting , keep in mind the person you are making this for. What do they like? What kind of interest's do they have? Once you have this figured out you can start searching and cutting your pictures , this will be the most time consuming of the entire project. You can cover as much or as little as you like. Much of the old fashioned decoupage would cover the item entirely , overlapping the pictures to create something unique and stylish. 

Continue adding any pics you like in the same manner.

You can use the side of your glue bottle to smooth out any air bubbles.
Gently work the bottle back and forth over the pic to be smoothed.

Seal with a top coat of glue.
This can be done as many times as you like
As long as you let each layer dry before applying

Milky finish on wet. Once Dry it will be clear.

Once dry add you own special touch. Beads , ribbons  and anything you like.
These can be added with a glue gun or super glue.

Be sure to check back soon for some Halloween Ideas. Crafts , Food and Games.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Menopausal Monster

 How I see The Menopausal Monster
courtesy of Monsters by Kristen
It occurred to me the other night that my Emotions had taken full control of me. And even though I am fully aware that the Menopausal Monster has taken up residence , I did not realize that it had taken over. Now please keep in mind this Monster is not tamed or controlled easily and since I am trying to live a Simpler Life I am not into the prescription drug option. Not to mention we simply can't afford health insurance , we have to eat , pay rent , pay car insurance , buy gas and the list goes on and on. So treating the symptoms are a bit of a hit and miss. There's so much info. out there that is easy to get lost in it all.
To many people are still in the frame of mind that this Monster doesn't show it's face until a woman is in her 50's I am here to tell you this simply isn't true. Just as when a young woman becomes a woman is different so is the Monster waiting to come alive. Women as young as 40 have been known to have this creature take up residence and control their lives. So please don't think that you are safe until you reach 50. Get prepared now , many home / natural cures are recommended early on.
Also to the family members of those coping with this creature , they may have your loved one crying at the drop of a hat or they may all of a sudden have extra energy they have never had before. They may get freezing cold and then burning up within a matter of seconds. It is different for every woman and the list is much to long to post here. Just keep in mind this is NOT THEIR FAULT. They are being controlled by the Monster within and need your love , support and understanding.
Now I have tried vitamins and for a while they worked pretty well , but I am still searching for something to help with the emotional roller coaster I have been on for about a week now. I would love to evict this evil creature and am still trying to find some home treatments that actually work.
Here are a few things I will be trying. If you or someone you know has managed to Kick the Menopausal Monster out or at least control it please share your methods with me. This creature is driving me nuts....LOL

Sunflower Seeds : These are said to help boost estrogen

Vitamin D : This is supposed to help with the Mood Swings ( I will def. be taking more of this!!! )

Meditation and Breathing : Something I should be doing anyway but will add to my daily routine

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hurricane Season / 10 Helpful Tips To be Prepared

I wanted to post my next blog about Stamping but I think that will have to wait since we are facing our first hurricane of the season. As most know I live in Central Florida and we have Hurricane Season every year. It amazes me so many are never prepared , not that I myself have not faced issues with Hurricanes. During 2004 we had 3 hurricanes hit all within a months time , so as prepared as I was it still wasn't enough.
I would like to share some simple tips with you as well as remind you of some of my previous blog posts to help those who may have to deal with the current hurricane. It could miss Florida but why take the chance?
#1 Never Wait!!!! You should be preparing year round. When you go to the store if you can afford it and it is on sale buy it. Simple things like batteries , bottled water or even candles ( never throw out your used candle wax you can remake candles by going to a previous post about how to make and recycle candles ). You would be surprised what a difference this makes in the aftermath of the storm.
#2 Freeze Water!!!! You are going to need it. Not only will it help in keeping your food cold and safe to eat but it can be melted to drink should you need it. See my post about making ice to save some money and recycling your soda bottles , milk jugs and more.
#3 Stock up on non perishable foods!!! You can purchase year round canned goods  , or as in one of my posts you can Preserve  your own , Including Meats. Having these are a life saver since no matter how much ice you make it will go quickly.
#4 Oil / Hurricane Lamps. I have grown up with these even when not living in Florida so I always have at least 2 in my home. The oil can be purchased over the year as well and stored for years so it is a must have in my opinion.
#5 Laundry : Most people don't think about this until they no longer have power or water in some cases to wash their clothing. I recommend doing your laundry daily and keeping it caught up until the all clear is given. If by chance you find you need to wash , your tub should be full of water. Take what you need and wash your clothing in the sink or a bucket if need be. Do only what you need to save on water and to keep from hurting your back.
#6 Simple tools are a must have. An Ice pic , Can opener , Screw drivers , Hammer , Saw and any other tools you think would be useful. During the 2004 hurricanes we had a hatchet and since we ran out of Charcoal we went out and found what dry wood we could and chopped it up to cook on. You will need to be creative in a time of crisis so keep that in mind when preparing for or dealing with a hurricane.
#7 Have Large Buckets or other containers on hand. During the 2004 hurricanes we were without water for over a week since we had a well. So I took large plastic containers , the deeper the better , and caught water from the rains we delt with that followed the hurricanes. We used this water for bathing and cooling off.
#8 If you don't already have one get a grill. This is going to be needed not only for cooking but if you need to sterilize water due to a lack of bleach. As I stated before you can use wood should you run out of Charcoal.
#9 Bug Repellent : You can make your own or purchase it but what ever you do make sure you have some on hand. You could be without power for a long period and the nights and rains are going to produce the bugs. Believe it or not basil can help repel bugs as well as dryer sheets. Yes Dryer sheets so if by chance you find you have nothing else go to your laundry room and get them out. Or make your own well in advance , here is the link to a Friend's Post regarding Natural Insect Repellent.
#10 My final tips are to get a list of things you will need. Many news stations offer these for FREE every year. Seal your belongings in plastic bags , have your evacuation items ready and make sure you have planned for your pets. Many shelters DO NOT allow pets. Get what cash you think you will need out of the bank and fill gas cans if possible but store them safely!!!! ( Charge ALL ELECTRONICS!!!! Things like your cell phone and lap tops will help you to keep in touch and provide some entertainment. Most can be charged by using your car battery but be careful not to drain your battery)
To be perfectly honest with you in my opinion there is no reason you shouldn't be prepared. If you live in an area that gets hurricanes you should be aware that the it is possible and likely one will hit at some point or time. Please stay Safe and Aware of your surroundings at all times. Power lines will be down all over DO NOT TOUCH THEM OR TRY TO DRIVE OVER THEM!!!!! In fact if you Don't need to be on the Road STAY HOME!!!! The roads may be flooded as well so unless you really have to don't go out driving. These are things I always keep in my home year round and think of when I hear that a hurricane may hit our area. I hope they help and encourage you to get prepared and stay prepared.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life in The Fast Lane

I have always loved this song and felt it was perfect for this blog post. Some may not know this song it is by The Eagles and is actually about something totally different then what I am using it for which is a useful title to lead into this post.
All that being said , I have been thinking about my next blog post and felt I would share a few things with you. My life has always been full of unexpected things coming up in my life. No matter how I try to plan things out things always change. I don't mind or dwell on it most of the time but there are occasions when even I tend to get over whelmed and simply need to take a break. My breaks last anywhere from a few days to a few months depending on how stressed I have been and what has been thrown my way by life. I think we all deal with things in our own ways and once rested we are able to get back into the game. Life has a way of pushing us to far and to fast. Hence the title Life in the Fast Lane.....LOL
I have found simple things like crafting , sewing or just cooking a new dish to be very helpful in dealing with many of the stresses I face. They also in their own way force me to slow down. 
With the approaching Holidays we are preparing to make many things , I know life is going to snowball quickly and I will be posting like crazy with tips , tricks , recipes , patterns and so much more. I also know that I will find myself thinking I will never finish or be able to keep up. So I wanted to share a few things I think may be helpful to anyone who may be going thru the same things in the coming months.These are simple little stress relievers that you can make yourself for yourself. 

Foot Rub Ointment :

You will need a micro safe bowl , some sort of small jar , essential oil and petroleum jelly.
Scoop out the amount of petroleum jelly you wish to melt and place in micro safe bowl. Heat slowly , you don't want to boil it just get it warm enough so that it will become liquid. Once completely melted add a few drops of your essential oil , be careful not to over do it with the essential oil. Mix and pour into your clean jar and let sit until it becomes solid again. This is a wonderful treat your tired  , sore or cracked and dry feet. This holds it's scent for a very long time and will last. I have actually used this as a perfume on occasion.

Scents Matter : 

You don't need an oil burner to relax  , simply cut and apple into slices and add some cinnamon to a cup or two of water and place on the stove. Heat to boiling and simmer to fill your home with a lovely , relaxing scent. You could also use lemons or oranges by cutting the peels in strips and boiling , the essential oils will start to disburse and fill the house with a stimulating scent.

Bath Salts : 

You will need some Epsom Salt , sea salt or rock salt and essential oil. 1 cup of Epsom salt 1 cup sea or rock salt and 20 drops of essential oil. Mix well and store in an air tight container.

The Eyes Have it : 

Ok so we all know a cut up cucumber on your eyes is relaxing and good for your skin. But did you know you can use diaper ointment or hemorrhoid cream as well? Yes ,I know it sounds terrible but it does work. Just a small amount under your eyes will help with dark circles and puffiness when your tired and believe it or not it actually feels good to.

These are just a few inexpensive things I do from time to time to give myself a boost and just relax letting the things of the day take a back seat if only for a moment or two.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Homemade Bug Spray

Garden Spray can cost a fortune these days. One big problem most don't understand is that we have thrown everything at these little critters and in time they have become immune to most products on the market. Of course let's face it most of it is bad for US as well so the thought of making our own with ingredients we know only makes sense.
Now there was a time I was a great gardener however once I moved back to Florida I have done little gardening , I had one decent one for a time but then the hurricanes came and that was the end of that. We ended up moving and I haven't been able to grow a decent garden since. No room , to many pets and the list goes on and on. I do have a few potted plants growing in an effort to teach my 9 yr. old , but it is mainly herbs and some marigolds.
Our biggest problem being spider mites , the plants we have growing now don't seem to be bothered by them. But we have tried to grow tomatoes and things and the mites have gone crazy killing everything. I was given this recipe to use but by the time I got it , it was to late. I will be trying again once the weather cools off.
I have been told this is a tried and true recipe and used for many other things around the home such as cleaning laminate flooring , combs , brushes and more. So feel free to experiment and see what works.

1/3 c rubbing alcohol
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup bottled water
2 drops Ivory dish soap

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Candles / Recycling

There was a time people didn't just throw things in the garbage , they would in fact recycle. Now they didn't consider it recycling they considered it surviving and saving money. So why throw it out if you can in fact reuse it? Companies such as Wal-Mart have made it all to easy to say throw it out we will just get another , they do this by filling your head with the idea it is easier to pay a little cash to get something new then to simply reuse or recycle what you already have.
Candles are the topic for this post and are very recyclable and reusable. I will show step by step how you can in fact save money. Now I know many love the scented candles and they are nice and can be homemade as well but this time we are going to be focusing on the usefulness of candles and the basic concept of making them. Keep in mind if you use scented wax from any old scented candles it will in fact hold the scent , some will burn the scent a second time. So be careful in mixing to many different scented waxes it could lead to a very stinky candle.
Any candles you have that you are thinking of throwing out can be turned into new candles , they may not be fancy or the most attractive candles but if you are like me and live in an area prone to power outages these can be a life saver. I am never without candles and haven't bought candles in years. How? I make my own by recycling the ones I have used , on occasion I do have to purchase some new wax but it is more cost efficient then buying them from my local retailer.
Size Ranges as well as color.
Crayons are also a great money saver in this process , since color is a must. I mean how boring to make plain white candles? So we save any and all used and broken crayons , some are better then others. I prefer the Crayola for my candles , the other brands simply don't work as well.
Wicks , these used to be made of just about anything they could find from horse hair to old cloth ripped into thin strips. I like to use plain old simple twine., cotton twine works well and much cheaper then purchasing pre-made wicks.
Once you get the hang of it you can do two or more at a time. This also depends of the Width of your can , the wider the can the more candles you can make at one time by simply knotting your wicks to a stick / dowel and dipping them all at the same time. For the purpose of this Post I am doing only one.

This is a wonderful project to do with older children age 8 and up , With adult Supervision! And Please Keep in Mind These Candles DO DRIP! So please make sure you burn them appropriately!

So let's dive right in and get our tools and ingredients together. First your tools : Empty and clean can ( the taller the can the longer your candles) , Wicks ( Cotton twine )  , Wax ( old used candles or some Paraffin Wax ) ,Old pot for boiling water ( This needs to be large enough to hold the water and the can with the wax in it ) , Wood Skewers or Popsicle stick , Scissors , Coat Hanger , Crayons for Color and some Music ( This does take a little time and effort so the music is to help pass the time )

Supplies and some pre-made candles.

#1 : Fill your empty can with any wax you choose ( Fill to top if you want a nice long Taper , Careful not to boil the Wax )

In Order to fill you will need to add wax as it melts.

#2 : Place Filled wax can in Pot and fill half way with water.
#3 : Place on burner and heat to a slow boil , melt wax fully and reduce heat to low once melted.

#4 : While waiting for the wax to melt cut your Wicks , leaving enough extra to hold while dipping.

#5 : Once wax is fully melted add your crayon color and melt.

Stir to mix the color.

#6 : Once all is melted dip the wick , you may want to use a wood skewer or popsicle stick to push it down into the wax to get it coated  , you can smooth out the candle as you dip with your fingers. Be careful not to burn yourself and be gentle the wax is still warm and fragile.

For this Tutorial I only filled the can half full.
#7 : Lift and cool for a moment or two then dip again and again letting cool a bit in between each dip. Once a good base has been made you may want to dip half way into the warm wax to build a wider base for your candle.

First Dip.
#8 : You will see the candle start to take shape with each dip. Once it is as large as you would like Take the candle and tie or clip it to your clothes hanger to let cool completely.

I used my old filing cabinet to tie off and cool.

#9 : These are fashioned after the old Taper candles , you can melt the bottom a little and place on a glass or metal candle burner or in a taper holder as long as you don't mind the wax dripping onto it.

This was for picture purpose Only. This is Not a Candle Holder!

** Here's a Tip in cleaning your holders. You can boil some water in your old pot used to make the candles and place your holders in the boiling water for a few mins. lift out with tongs and pot holders. Wipe with an old cloth and you will have a nice clean holder to use again. **

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mad Mommy Rampage

(These are NOT my pics , they are Pics from the Net I thought you would enjoy that go well with the Post )
It sounds funny but it was the only title I could think of for this particular post. Any stay at home mom or dad for that matter I am sure can relate. Now this is not me just going on and on as to how hard it is to be a mom. You will find useful tips and tricks to help get you thru your day. At least I hope they will help....lol
This blog post started because I got up one morning and had at least 50 things to get done in one day. At least that is how I viewed it , and since I am mom no-one else's opinion on this mattered. So I got started first the house needed picked up and straightened , then dishes needed tending to , then start the laundry and change the sheets , the dog needed a bath and trim. Let me stop there as you can see the list is growing and growing with each letter I type and the dog bath and grooming is never an easy chore since he hates the sound of scissors let alone the clippers. After bathing and grooming him I realized I was getting no help , I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs HELP!!!!!! But I knew all to well it would do no good. So I went on to get to everything else like fold the laundry  , get another load in , make the beds , vac. the floors , make husbands lunch , pay bills and find time to do the things I actually like to do ( yea right this is going to be as easy as changing a babies diaper in a public restroom BEFORE they installed those tables ).
However , I did manage to find a little time for me or else I wouldn't be able to type this blog now would I? I used my lunch break / 45 mins. to get this written. See I DO get to have a free 45 mins. here and there , from time to time , on occasion.
The real issue I think is we expect to much of ourselves and so do our family members. Now they can't be held totally to blame , I mean we expect so much of ourselves it is only natural they would as well. Here's the thing when you find that you have no time to shower or even eat then you have taken on to much. Of course that seems like my day to day and is perfectly normal right???? Hahahaha , NO it's not normal or right.
I have a 22 yr. old son living with me and a 9 yr. old little girl as well as a husband. The men have jobs and the 9 yr. old is just to little...... Or so I have been told over and over. My husband works in the heat 10 hours a day to provide for his family so I have no real issue there , he cuts the grass and deserves to rest when he can since he only gets 1 day off a week , I can also understand my son working his tale off as well but not in the heat and he gets 2 days a week off from work. Being 22 though seems to have given the right to us my home as a flop house and nothing more , no rent , no chores. Now before I get one single comment about how this is my fault I am aware of it thanks for sharing : P If you keep reading you will find why I can say that with no regrets. Now as I was saying, the 9 yr. old bless her heart tries to help as much as she can......hahahahahaaaa.... She wants me to think that so she doesn't have to do as much or anything at all , she doesn't realize I already raised 3 children and know how this game is played. Here's one tip I use with my 9 yr. old , see I told you it wasn't all complaining. Tip #1 kids think we are stupid make no mistake there. When you ask them to do something and they half do it stay as calm as possible ( Calm? I myself am menopausal so this is a huge challenge for me ) and let them know it is only half done or improperly done. Then tell them they will never again enjoy life until it is......LOL In other words , no T.V. , no going out , no computer , no friends , NO LIFE!!!!!! As parents we have to remember we have the power , you know like He-Man said " I HAVE THE POWER!!!!" Of course many times this doesn't work when they get older so new tactics have to be thought of. Yes I said tactics , I don't know if you have noticed but once they learned to walk and talk you are at WAR!!!! ( Disclaimer : No I don't actually believe that , it as a joke , seriously people? ) It can and does at times feel that way.
Tip number one only works if you actually use it and there in lies the problem , we don't. Well why don't we? Are you kidding me have you tried to live a day in my shoes or lack there of? We have all had days like that , days where you simply want to get things done so it is easier to do them yourself. Less stress and worry and it is done in an amount of time that makes sense.
I don't expect my kids to be robots or do things that could put them in danger , like letting a 9 yr. old clean the oven. But simple chores like helping with the dishes or cleaning her room are within her age range and not much to ask. The 22 yr. old could clean his own bathroom and his own laundry , now he tries he just works so much......hahahahaha , that has to be the funniest thing I have ever heard. Here's Tip #2 if you have a grown or almost grown child living with you give them their space. That's right give it to them and let them keep it as nasty as they would like so when their friends come over they can see just how truly AWESOME they are. I can't tell you how many times my son has come home complaining about how nasty some of his friends rooms and things are. Then he gets straight to work cleaning realizing just how gross his room and bathroom are.
As for spouse's mine being a husband , are another story. Only you know what will work , I once left his clean folded clothes on the bed hoping he would put them away. So much for hope in my house , he simply moved them to a chair in the bedroom and they were there for almost a month! Are you kidding me???? I work to you know , I know for a fact not one of these people living in this house could do what I do daily and I don't get a day off once a week , I don't get any time off. I work 365 day s a year 24 hrs. a day!!!! Even when trying to sleep someone or something , like one of the dogs needs something. I don't think I have had a full nights sleep since my first son was born 27 years ago. I make your lunch and serve it to you , I make your dinners and serve them to you , I clean your clothes and fold them , I pay the bills , take care of the children , and on and on . You can't even put your clothes away???? Tip #3 if you are married and that person works extremely hard to support you and the family let things like this slide. They aren't worth fighting over if you really don't want to do it and are hoping they will , leave it there and in a year or 2 they might actually do it :)
All things aside I wouldn't trade being a mom for any other job out there. I have tried many different jobs and the only one I am any good at is being a mom , and it's not as bad as all that. It is like any other job you have good days and bad , it's no one persons fault it is just life in motion. No one said life was fair or that it would be easy as a matter of fact I don't know of anyone really saying anything except to go out and live life to the fullest.
So I hope you got a bit of a laugh out of this post and it helped to assure you that you are not alone in this , we all go thru these things daily. But by laughing , sharing and understanding we can in fact get thru it. And our families will still be in one piece .....HAHAHAHA ( wink , wink )

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Little Doll Making a Big Impact

This is not a typical blog for me. I tend to post blogs about cooking and crafts in an effort to help teach people to live simpler lives. I wanted to share this story though to show just how something as simple as a homemade Rag Doll can do so much. I hope you like it and are able to get something from it that you can use in your daily lives.
This is dedicated to all who have to overcome trying times. I would like to thank a very special young man for bringing this to my attention , and for the love he has for his sister and mother. It took a great deal to share this story with me and let me in turn share it with you all.
I don't want to give their names to help them keep their lives private as possible. After all they have been thru I am sure you will understand.
This young man came to be my friend thru Facebook , his mother unschools him thru the same umbrella school as I do for my 9 yr. old. We met in a Facebook group for our umbrella school and became fast friends , his mother posted a link for a website he was building in an effort to help save our planet. His website is one of the links here in my blog. By going to his website and joining I found him to be very intelligent and we began discussing ideas how to help educate people to better their lives and save the earth as well.
During this time I started my Facebook group associated with my blog. He along with many other friends joined the group and started adding ideas , crafts , recipes and more. We hold a contest once a month for group members and the first was a mini rag doll. 
He informed me that he really wanted to win this for his sister. A few days later he wrote me to let me know why this was so important to him and I was so touched by his families story and his sister in particular I wrote him back to let him know I would make a special doll just for her and requested that I write a blog about him and his family.
Here is a bit of what he shared with me in regards to his family and sister :

I get my inspiration from my mom, My dad, and my grandparents, My mom showed me to love the world and care for the world, When we were living in Puerto Rico my mom would let me go outside of her store in Old San Juan and walk around, My sister born when my mother was 24 weeks pregnant, My sisters born premature because she was a victim of domestic violence, She was in a coma for 4 weeks, My sister Nathalia(RIP) died at 7 months old, She was coming along fine completely healthy but she got pneumonia, My sister has Spina bifida, Dandy walker sindrome, and Hydrocephalus, She can have a full conversation with you, she can listen to you talk across the room, Because she has better hearing than an average human, she is fully bi-lingual in Spanish and English, basically she just can't walk, and my mom started  our online store on Ebay , to help her.  Because life is not cheap with a handicapped child, Out of my website, I like to read, walk outside, learn about the government of Puerto Rico, Because I want to become Governor of Puerto Rico when I am older, I like to travel, So far the countries I have been to are, U.S.A, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic and I hope many many more, I like to think, My mom teaches me to not follow any one but to have my own way of thinking, I pretty much covered it all, If you need some more info, Let me know and I will give it to you, This means alot to us, Thank You!!!
This is the info. he sent me when I asked if I could write a blog about him and his family. How anyone could not be moved or motivated to do something to help others is beyond me. It reminds me that everyone has a story and everyone has faced hardship at some point in their lives and needs some to simply listen and care.
It is my deepest hope that all of my group members will read this and feel moved enough to take the time to get to know your fellow group members and people in your life such as your neighbors and so on. You may not know them as well as you think in respect to the things they themselves have lived thru or are living thru and coping with. In this way we can make a difference in the world one person at a time. A simple ear to listen and share or perhaps a talent you possess could be of use to someone such as sewing a special doll or perhaps a jar of jam , the list is endless and means more then you may realize in the life of some else.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Soapy Topic

Hahahaha , ok I know a bit of a silly title but I am a little silly anyway.
Ok now to the issue at hand making your own soap. For many this can seem very overwhelming since to make soap totally from scratch you will need to add lye which can be very dangerous and most don't want it in their homes due to having little ones. I can relate , I did in fact at one time make the old fashioned totally from scratch soaps. But it was bit difficult since I needed tallow , tallow is the fat from beef or any other animal ( this is melted into liquid in the soap making process). But beef works best ( little odor in the soap) , this is almost impossible to find. Most places already have contracts with other soap maker's and are unwilling to sell to a private buyer.
Calla Lily Bath Soaps

Silicone Butterfly Mold

 You can make Castile soap out of Olive Oil but that to can be a pain since good grade Olive oil can be very expensive. I will add the recipe for the Castile soap below but for now we will discuss melt and pour soap bases.
I love melt and pour soaps , they are inexpensive to make and easy as well. No lye required!!! They come in white and glycerin , the glycerin is best for your skin and if you have any allergies this is the one I recommend. The glycerin is a little more expensive but not by much and just as easy to work with as the white. Most people like the white because it gives a nicer color. There are many places you can purchase these soap bases ( My personal Favorite is Florida Soap Supplies ) either online or at your local craft store. Online is cheaper most of the time , but you do usually want to buy in bulk to get any real savings. The benefit is you'll always have soap ready to make or simply cut off a piece and use at any time. I recommend reading the ingredients of any melt and pour soap base first since many people are allergic to many different things. The problem is many people don't know what the chemical names are or mean. They are easily looked up on the net or you can always request from the seller before you make your purchase as to what the ingredients really are. Or ask specific questions regarding your personal allergy. If they can't tell you , you don't want to purchase from them.

Cupcake Soaps

Essential Oils are the best additive if you have allergies since you know exactly what they are you will know if your allergic or not. Example being if your allergic to Oranges don't use Orange essential oil. And essential oils go a long way. Most soap suppliers carry these as well as synthetic oils of all different scents. Most colors can be achieved with simple food coloring and this is the main ingredient in my Bath Crayons. Of course Bath Crayons use much more food coloring. I will include this recipe as well , out of all the soaps I make this is by far the favorite of past customers and my 9 yr. old.

To use the melt and pour soap bases all you need is a glass measuring cup , the soap base and a micro wave as well as a few molds. Molds can be made of just about anything from old plastic containers to silicone molds anything that can stand the heat of the warm soap and can be placed in the fridge til it is ready to un-mold. Scents of your choice and anything organic you would like to add such as oatmeal or sea salt.
Cut up your soap base in the amount you would like and depending on the size of you mold/s . Now this part is how I make my melt and our soaps. place cut up soap base in micro safe measuring cup , this allows for easy pouring. Place in micro wave and set timer for 15 mins. for 1 cup of soap base. Take out , stir if needed place back in micro wave at 5 min. intervals til completely melted. Add scents , color and any other additives of your choice. Pour directly into your mold/s. Let stand for 10-15 mins. and place in fridge til firm. This can take up to 2 hrs. or more depending on the size of your mold. If you are making a loaf to cut into blocks I recommend letting it sit over night in the fridge. Once firm take your mold out of the fridge and let stand for about 5 minutes , again depending on your mold. It should slide out easily with little pressure to the bottom unless you are using a formed silicone mold , these will need to have a little pressure applied to the bottom as you lift from the sides for it to release. Once out of the mold you can keep your soaps in the fridge or let stand til the moisture from the fridge has evaporated totally , then wrap and store on a shelf. There that was easy wasn't it. ; )

It seems harder then it is once you have made a few batches it is so simple you'll wonder why you have been buying commercial soaps. As promised here is the recipe for the Castile Soap. This takes time so be prepared to give it the time it needs to set. And make very sure you measure exactly as the recipe requires. Wear rubber gloves when working with the lye and some may want to wear goggles to protect their eyes. No joke Lye is not something to be played with at all!!!!

Castile Soap 

Ingredients :
52 Ounces Olive Oil
7 Ounces Lye
20 Ounces Cold Water
Scale to weigh
2 Pitchers
Wooden Spoon
2 thermometers (glass is best , candy therms. work best)
Soap Pot / Stock pots work great , non stick is NOT recommended
Large plastic container with lid / , locking lids are great

Weigh the required amount of Lye into Pitcher ( glass or plastic). Set aside.
Using the same method measure the water into the other Pitcher. DO NOT COMBINE at this point!!!
Make sure the lye pitcher is resting on a protected surface. Carefully add the water to the lye pitcher.
Be VERY CAREFUL NOT TO SPLASH the water into the Lye!!!
After adding water to the lye stir carefully with wooden spoon. If you don't stir thoroughly the lye may cake at the bottom. Place thermometer in the mix and it will have to heat from 150 - 200 degrees.
As you check the lye solution you need to measure out your fats / oils. Once measured place fats in soap pot and heat on low med.to med. heat until it reaches 105 degrees. Remove from heat.
Double check your temps on both the lye solution and the oil. You will need to cool them off because they both need to be between 95 and 100 degrees at this point. You can Place the Lye Pitcher in some cold water to aid in the cooling.
Stirring gently with your wooden spoon add the lye solution to the oil , only by stirring in this fashion can you be sure the lye mixes with the fats / oil properly.
Continue to stir until the mixture starts to cream and or leave trailings , trailings are when you lift the spoon and you can see trails in the mixture / little lines that look like trails.
Your soap should still be warm , ladle or pour carefully into your mold. Lock lid in place and wrap the entire mold insulating materials.
Place wrapped mold in a warm area and check twice a day. To do this carefully unwrap the mold and uncover the soap. You will probably notice some oil on top of the soap. Using your wood spoon carefully stir this layer back into the soap. Then replace lid and re-wrap. Repeat this every 12 hours or until the layer of oil no longer forms.
Once finished you have Castile Soap. You can remove from your mold and cut with a knife into blocks. At this stage you might want to add color or scents in order to do this you will need to shred your soap base and add the right amount of water. Heating in a double boiler.
This requires a base recipe. Which can be found in a future Blog post. Since this will take time I will allow a few weeks before posting the recipes.

Oatmeal Melt and Pour Soap :

Melt and pour soap base , white or glycerin.
Coloring of Choice ( not recommended )
Scents ( Optional and not recommended )
Whole herbs (are ok as long as they are not astringent , grind as finely as possible)

Oatmeal soaps are primarily for skin conditions so scents and herbs are not usually recommended. I have had many requests for Oatmeal and Lavender but they will counter act each other. Lavender is astringent and can dry skin while oatmeal is a soothing agent. If you want the scent I would recommend using a synthetic scent that won't dry the skin  , it doesn't take much so it isn't as harsh as you might think being a synthetic scent. Plus most are oil based which is soothing for the skin as well.
Grind Oatmeal to a fine powder either in your blender or with a mortar and pestle. Once your melt and pour base is ready following the instructions given in the blog add the oatmeal mixing completely. Pour into your mold and proceed as normal in the blog posted above.

Bath Crayons /Melt and Pour

Christmas Train Bath Crayons
Melt and pour soap base. Food coloring. NO SCENTS!!!! OR OTHER ADDITIVES!!!!
Melt the soap base in the micro according to the instructions in the blog above. Add as much food coloring as you would like to get a nice crayon. Pour into your molds. Smaller molds work best for little fingers and they won't go crazy with them. This is easily cleaned with bleach water if you have grout that the food coloring could get into. Simply spray and wait then rinse.
Rubber Ducky Bath Crayons

Step By Step Melt and Pour :

Supplies , Molds , Scents , Colors, Soap Bases , Herbs , Scale , Measuring Cup , Plastic Spoon Marked for Soap Only

Glycerin Soap Base , Scent and Color

Cut up and Micro wave 15 mins. then every 5-10 mins til melted DON'T OVERHEAT

Gently Stir in Color Once Melted

Add Scent and Herbs if You choose

Pour Into Mold Let Rest at least 15 Mins.

Place in Fridge til Firm

The Ducky on the left is White soap base and has been finished for this Tutorial

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rag Dolls Make a Come Back

My First Rag Doll 
How many of us remember playing with a cardboard box? Or attaching cards to your bike spokes with a clothes pin? Imagination is Key to the development of a child. Rag Dolls don't promote a certain way of dressing or how your body is supposed to look or what job your supposed to have in life. Unlike store bought dolls you and your child give it personality that's what makes them so special. That and the fact YOU made them. Hand sewn or machine sewn makes no difference  , the love you put into it makes all the difference. Depending on the size of your doll will decide how much sewing skill you will need. The smaller dolls are a little more difficult for someone who doesn't know much about sewing , the larger dolls don't need as much skill unless you are into massive details. Your first may not turn out as expected and you may feel frustrated but I can promise you your child will not care about your perfection , they simply want you to hurry and finish so they can play with it. And isn't that what it's all about anyway? Nurturing the imagination of the children with little to no influence from society? Just letting them express themselves in a natural and fun way , by simple play.
Mini Doll
The pattern for this doll is a smaller doll , you can enlarge it if you like but they turn out so cute as smaller versions. I do have some other doll patterns all of which I got from the internet. There are plenty of Free basic doll patterns out there , many don't come with instructions. Which means you need to know how to sew in order to make these dolls. I am not knocking the pattern makers but it can be difficult to put something together that you have never made without some form of instruction. So on that note I am going to include some tips that were not given to me when I started making these little beauties a few months ago. One great tip is to use old clothes you no longer wear for you doll clothes , this works wonderfully with the little dolls. Remember to Recycle as much as possible and when you can , this will Save you so much money.

Current Doll / Hair in progress / Face Painted

 Here are 4 links to get you started. The first is the mini doll I used in our first Facebook group contest  , the second is the doll I am working on now. And the others are some I am thinking of making in time. The Tutorial Listed below is Awesome and The one I used to learn how to do the hair.

Doll Chamber / Mini Doll
Doll Chamber / Lg. Doll
Tutorial For How To Make Lg. Dolls / Doll Chamber
Free Doll Making Patterns
Cloth Doll Connection

* Tip #1 : Plain solid colors work best ( Muslin or Cotton ) for the body of your doll. Be sure as you sew to keep the right sides together and clip corners and curves inside the doll without cutting thru your stitches.
* Tip #2:  Leave the opening to stuff the doll big enough. A Simple Whip Stitch will close the doll nicely.
* Tip #3 : Test your fabric if you plan on painting the faces with markers or acrylic paint. Some fabrics tend to run. This should be done on a stuffed piece of fabric , the stuffing Does make a difference as to if the fabric will run or not. ( Kids love to express themselves thru art. Acrylic paints can be purchased in pen form and make it easier for the little ones to decorate their dolls)
* Tip #4 : If you are going to embroider the face do so before sewing your doll together.
*Tip #5 : Sewing in the hair can be done a few different ways. I prefer sewing it directly onto the doll. ( See Tutorial Link Above. )
* Tip #6 : Clothing sometimes doesn't come with the doll patterns. If you know how to sew some basic clothing is all that is required or get creative and go crazy. It's up to you , you could design your own as I did with my 1st doll shown above or if you don't know how to sew very well you can always use clothing from old dolls or purchase a pattern. Most doll designers sell clothing patterns for their doll designs.
*Tip #7 : Have FUN and don't stress. Most of the doll maker's you see on the net have been doing this for years. This is like anything else it will take practice , trust me I know.
*Tip #8 : Fill your doll with Love it will put a smile on someone's face but will fill their hearts knowing you filled it with love : )