Thursday, March 29, 2012

when singin' the blues no longer matters

Once upon a time, long before I had the life that some might call "rich," I dreamed of another life.

On Broadway.

A long time ago, I used to sing. Not well, but well enough to be asked to perform at weddings (because the budget was tight and I sang cheap) and funerals. (The funeral career ended early after being asked to sing next to an open-casket where the eyes of the deceased were not closed all the way.)

I envisioned myself looking and sounding like Etta James, Rosemary Clooney, or Billie Holiday.

I wanted to draw the crowds of Celine Dion.

I even spent many hours practicing my poise in front of the mirror.

I never quite mastered the poise.

In reality, I look like a crazed woman and sound a little like Kermit the Frog. I sing for parties of one. More if I can hog-tie them to keep them from running.

While I can carry a tune, I never had the sultriness of a blues singer. Or the sex appeal. In fact, most days one would be hard-pressed to even realize that my singing voice is one of a woman. In high school, I was officially a second alto. Most days though, I sang tenor, sitting among the pre-pubescent boys who hadn't yet reached their vocal maturity. On a good day, most of those same boys sounded less like boys and more like Minnie Mouse. Great if we were at Disneyland, not so great if we were singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at a high school concert.

Even though the only thing that remains from my Broadway dreams is my stage name, Kimber Leigh, I still can belt it out with the best of them.

Usually not in key.

And usually with the wrong words to "At Last" and "My Funny Valentine."

I'm evolving as a performer though.

Out here, in the open field, the girls don't really care if my name was never in the bright lights of Broadway.

In fact, they don't care for the blues at all.

They're John Denver fans.

I can do John Denver.

At last, I've arrived.☺

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Homemade Spring Cleaners, Part 2

Sometimes in my zest for all things new, I forget to make note of where I find these "new" ideas. Like now. While researching natural cleaners and jotting down everything that sounded good, some of my notes got all jumbled.

Meaning, I didn't make note of the source.

So, if either of these are your recipes, please forgive me. Please also note that I love you. Forever.

And you can write that down to help you remember who loves ya baby.

Today, I'm talking cleaners again. Not just any cleaners, but of the all-purpose and garden variety. Why? Because they work. Because they are non-toxic alternatives to a very toxic world. Because someone went to all the trouble to post the recipes on the world wide web for all to enjoy. And because they smell really, really good.

I've been using my own version of an all-purpose cleaner for a few years now. While it works well enough, sometimes it takes a couple of extra squirts of the spray bottle to completely get a mess cleaned up. Maybe my initial ratios were off. Or maybe I forgot to add something. Or maybe I am just afraid of unleashing too much elbow grease on the mess. (Sometimes I don't know my own strength.) Whatever the reason, I've been searching for a new and improved recipe.

Houston, we have a winner.

~All-Purpose Cleaner~

2 Tb. white vinegar
1 t. borax
1 c. hot, filtered or distilled water
1/4 c. liquid peppermint castile soap (like Dr. Bonners)
20 drops sweet orange essential oil

Mix vinegar and borax into the hot water. Stir well to dissolve. Let cool.

Pour into a 12-oz. spray bottle. Add castile soap and essential oil. Replace the spray nozzle and gently shake to mix. Use on kitchen and bathroom counters.

~Produce Wash~

1 c. filtered water
1 c. white vinegar
1 Tb. baking soda
20 drops of grapefruit seed essential oil

Spray on produce. Rub all over for approximately 1 minute. Rinse well under running water.

(This one smells amazing!)

Next up~Hair "conditioner" and a homemade bleach alternative. And I do know where at least one of those came from!☺

Monday, March 26, 2012

Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

Spring has sprung and Bourbon Red Fred is feeling kind of randy.

That's turkey talk for he's in the mood.

And because we currently have 3 frisky toms, we decided it was time to get our turkey nests up.

Just in case the girls were feeling the love too.

My Mister and I got to work, converting some old wooden boxes we already had.

My Mister used the portable band saw.

He handed me a hammer to pound out the old nails.

My Mister used the skill saw.

He had me fetch some wrenches.

I went on strike.

My Mister promoted me to chief of the staple gun.

 I did so well, he then trained me on the band saw.

While he pounded out the "oops" staples.

 Between the two of us, we managed to knock out 3 turkey nesting boxes in record time.

Which included most of the hours featuring daylight.

Adding shingles.

Turkey nests are mounted on the outside of the coop.

A little straw and it's Home Sweet Home.

After all that work, the hens spent the remainder of the day hiding out in the blackberry brambles.

Last I heard, the tom's found them.☺

Thursday, March 22, 2012

busyness and bliss

Over the last few days, we've been gettinerdone

That's farm talk for we're on a schedule and have a lot to do. Shchedwal if you're from England. I'm not sure how the Europeans say gettinerdone though. Probably sounds much more refined with an accent. Although Larry the Cable Guy has an accent and no one would accuse him of being refined. Or from England. Is he even from America? Just what kind of accent does he have anyway? Hmmm, something to ponder...

Last spring we took full advantage of the millions of dandelions that covered our property. The years previous, we spent most of our waking moments trying to rid ourselves of the weed that turned our lush green grass into fields of mustardy yellow. Then we heard about dandelion wine. We also heard about fritters, salads, and coffee, but they got us with the word wine.

Besides, that's what us country folk do. We make stuff, with equipment.

Our first batch yielded only 4 bottles.

Okay, that's a lie. Our first batch actually yielded 5 bottles, but as new winemakers, we had to sample the product. It's the least we could do for our future guests who may desire to imbibe with us. Now we wait with our buckets ready for the first glimpse of yellow to blossom...

This weekend we'll be bottling our first batch of strawberry wine. All 6 gallons of it...

well, 5-3/4 gallons of it anyway.

 For the sake of honesty.

My grandmother has been staying with us for the past week. At 86 years young, she is still as sharp as a tack. She was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's and moderate kidney disease, but that's not what brought her here this time. She had gout in her foot with a massive infection that decided to wander up her leg a bit. Stubborn woman that she is, she thought just keeping a positive attitude would make the gout go away.

I must take after my grandfathers side...☺

Even though Grandma has been spending most of her days with her foot propped up on a pillow, we've recently put her to work.

And let me tell you, reading The Lion King to a little 3 year old great-great granddaughter is hard work.

Especially when that same little 3 year old wants Gramma to use different voices for each of the characters. Correct voices. With feeling. Before this moment, Great-Great Gramma had never even heard of The Lion King.

Great-Great Gramma took a nice long nap after that.

With 12 people now living under this one roof, I've been cooking up a storm. Most days I'm happy to spend extra time in the kitchen, but while I'm still trying to figure out what I can and can't eat, it can get very overwhelming pretty quickly. In fact, I spent an entire day quietly crying in the kitchen, the whole time blaming the onions that I wasn't chopping.

It's nice when my family understands.

It's even nicer when a daughter who didn't know about my onion episode shows up with grain/gluten-free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes, just because. (These are made with black beans~and they were DIVINE!)

Finally, we are officially on Spring Break. And even though we've put away the school books for the next 10 glorious days, the learning hasn't stopped.

Maddie wanted to learn how to take "pichurs" with Nana's camera.

Good thing I ducked or this would've been one of those "artsy" type pictures of my mid-section.

And the bliss continues...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homemade Spring Cleaners, Part 1

According to the calender, spring has officially arrived. Of course, not everyone is enjoying it. Those of us in the Pacific Northwest have been battling the most bizarre winter in years. 

We've actually had snow. 

More than once.

I live at a lower elevation than some of my family members, but according to them, they've had several inches of snow in the last couple of days. Since they're a shady bunch over on there on the other creek, I'll have to take that with a grain or three of salt. And a little vinegar.☺

Speaking of vinegar...

Because I've given the calender instead of the relatives the benefit of the doubt, my spring cleaning has officially begun. My dust bunnies have been multiplying like, well, bunnies. And if you've ever had bunnies, you know what I mean! (We did once. Started with 3 females and let them run wild because they were so cute hopping around the farm. Woke up one day to about 30 cute little bunnies hopping around the farm. A few months later we were up to about 100 cute little bunnies hopping around the farm. And in the orchard, which no longer had any bark on the trees. Never saw a single jack rabbit before we had female free-hoppin' bunnies. Who knew?)

But I digress. Again.

Vinegar. It is good. You can clean with it. Mix it with some other stuff and it actually smells less like vinegar and more like cleaner. Which is a very good thing. 

Did I mention that it's cheap? 

Since you already know that I'm obsessed with Pinterest, you should know that I'm equally obsessed with homemade cleaners. And I've been pinning like crazy. Then I try my pins out. Some of them aren't worth the time it takes to press the "repin" button. But others. Well, let's just say that my dust bunnies are on the run.

Here are my first two winners. And trust me, these are gold...even if these don't technically have vinegar in them.☺


3 Tb. peppermint castile soap (can use unscented)
25 drops tea tree essential oil
distilled water
14 oz. spray bottle

Fill bottle 3/4 of the way full of water. Add castile soap and tea tree oil. Top off with more water. This is great for cleaning the toilet seat area and bathroom counters.

~Sink Cleaner~

Empty Parmesan cheese can with lid
baking soda
15 drops lemon or grapefruit seed essential oil 

Using a wide mouth funnel, pour baking soda into can. Add essential oil and replace lid. Shake it up and use to clean the sink. Use straight vinegar to clean stainless steel faucet.

Make sure to label all of your homemade cleaners or you'll end of with a bunch of bottles of whoknowswhats.

Next up...All-purpose cleaner (with vinegar) that fizzes and a produce cleaner that smells good enough to eat!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

another one bites the dust...

Anyone who knows me, knows that the only time I ever consider running is when I'm running away from something. Usually a cow. Or a rabid neighbor dog. Sometimes my children. The point is, if I'm going to lose weight, my strength is going to have to come from something other than running.

Like food. 

I do food well. And usually for no other reason than I just like it. A lot.

After all the health issues that seem to be plaguing me of late, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I may have limitations on what I can eat, but I can certainly control the amount of what passes between these lips. 

And I can have a little fun while I'm doing it too.

I've had a lot of great advice ranging from doing the GAPS diet, to going low carb, vegetarian, and even vegan. What I decided to do was try a modified Paleo-ish diet. (I haven't eliminated dairy~that would leave me with absolutely nothing to eat in the morning!) I hesitate to use the word diet because that's not really what this is. This is about getting healthy. It's about finding foods that not only I can have, but my family can enjoy with me. 
Because nobody likes to cook 2 separate meals each night. Least of all me. 
And don't even get me started on cross-contamination. After "accidentally" kissing a crumb-covered baby and swelling to the size of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon, toast has been banned from the upper level of the house. I look like a chicken with it's tail feathers on fire every time a glutenous utensil or baby gets within 6 feet of me.

It's not pretty.

But, for all the work it's been, my tail feather area is actually shrinking. So far I am down 13.5 pounds. (!!!!!) I'm singing Queen's hit "Another One Bites the Dust" every time I get on the scale.  Even better is that the inflammation that has plagued me for what has seemed like forever, is gone. I have normal thumbs again. The only time my body hurts is when a certain 3 year old pounces on me without warning. And I've only really missed bread twice. 

Before kissing the babies.
Finding new recipes has been a challenge. Since beef, eggs, fish, and shellfish are off-limits, my meat protein can only come from chicken and turkey. A new favorite is a chicken and grape salad wrap. 

It is what my gluten-free dreams are made of.

~Drunken Chicken Lettuce Wraps~

~The Players~

1 large chicken breast (bone-in)
olive oil for the pan
1/2 cup white wine (whatever you would drink)
1 c. red grapes, quartered
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/4-1/2 cup good mayonnaise 
sea salt & pepper, to taste
red leaf lettuce, washed and dried
Rinse the chicken breast, pat dry. Sear both sides of the chicken on a lightly oiled cast iron skillet; approximately 4 minutes each side. (I place a cast iron bacon press on the chicken while it's searing~a smaller cast iron skillet would work too.) Add 1/2 cup white wine and cover with a lid. Place in a preheated 350F. oven and bake until done; about 30 minutes. Make sure the chicken is no longer pink. Allow to cool enough to handle.

Shred cooled chicken. If you used a full-sized breast, you should have about 2-3 cups of chicken. Add grapes and onions. Stir in Dijon mustard. Add 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and stir in. Continue to add mayo until you reach the desired amount of moisture. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully drop about 1/4-1/3 cup of salad on each lettuce leaf. Wrap as you would a burrito, being mindful to fold the bottom up before rolling up the side. Refrigerate any salad that you aren't going to immediately consume. Makes 8-10 wraps.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

a birthday celebration

First birthdays come but once in a lifetime.

Except for mine. I celebrate each year, twice. Therefore, I am only 22 years old. But this isn't about me. This is about her.

Miss Emily Jane. Newest member of the 1 year old club.

There were presents.

Some of the presents were winners.

Some were just confusing.

There was a big sister... lend a helping hand when needed.

Thank God for big sisters.

There was cake.

And ice cream brain freezes.

But mostly, there was love. 

Happy Birthday Doodlebug. You are so loved.♥

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

whose glass is this?

You hear it everywhere. 

"Go green!" 

"Be eco-friendly!" 

"Consume less!"

When I talk about consuming less, I'm not just talking about groceries or garbage. While it may seem all noble and environmental-ly , I do it for totally selfish reasons.

Less dishes.

 In our house, we stopped using regular glasses for drinking. It seemed like we were having to buy new sets every other week for all the accidental slams on the counters or floors. Now we use good old fashioned pint canning jars. It's been years since I was able to can anything in a pint jar, so now the hundred's we have waiting around for our nest to empty are being put to good use. They're cheap and I never have to worry about the glasses matching each other. (Because these are the things that keep me up at night.) Problem is, since all the glasses look alike, no one knows which one is theirs so the dishwasher ends up being filled with nothing but pint jars! 

You may have seen the drink bands for sale that are being used to identify glassware. I first saw these on Pinterest, but am now seeing them everywhere. It's a great idea for sure. Each person gets their own personal color, wraps it around their glass, and for the rest of the day, gets the privilege of not drinking someone else's backwash. 

Personally, I think the person who invented these bands deserves an award of some kind. We should name a constellation after them or declare May 3rd a holiday in their honor. (Not that May 3rd holds any significance, it's just open and I need a day off between St. Patrick's and Independence Day.) Seriously. If someone invents something that saves me time at the kitchen sink, they deserve their own holiday.

Here's my issue...there are only 6 in a package and that package costs more than $9. 

Call me cheap (not really, it messes with my self-esteem), but that's too much money for a family that has to buy 2 packages for this plan to work. Great idea, but I squeak.

My solution? How about purchasing a multi-colored rubberband ball at the local dollar store for...

wait for it...

a buck. 

That would be 4 quarters, 10 dimes, 20 nickels, or 100 pennies.

 We assign a color to each child and that's the band that goes on their glass. At the end of the day, the bands come off and the jar goes into the dishwasher. One jar per person. (For the adults, we use 2 bands.) And of course, because I'm so excited about all the extra time I'll have somewhere other than the kitchen sink, I write it down and put it for all to see.

Lest they forget...

Now, what am I going to do with all that extra time?☺


Monday, March 12, 2012

when life gives you lemons...

It's no secret that I love lemons. It may be due to the fact that I can't grow lemons in my neck of the woods, but I'm willing to bet that even if I could, I would still love them. 

Lemons are my Zen. They elevate my mood when the rainy days start to wear on me. Aromatherapists use lemons to help people purge feelings of imperfection and to build up confidence. Lemons boost the immune system, are used as an antiviral, an antidepressant, and an antiseptic. They decrease indigestion and can stop bleeding. Inhaled, the scent of lemons has been shown to reduce blood pressure and used on the skin is helpful in the treatment of blackheads.

That, and I really, really love them.

When I go grocery shopping, lemons always have a way of finding their way into my grocery cart. It doesn't matter whether I need them that week or not. I'll find a use for them even if it's just to decorate the kitchen table. (Okay, that only happened once and the blue fuzz that grew on them kind of ruined the whole color scheme thing I had going.)

Here's a few ways I like to use lemons~

*Mix the juice of 1/2 lemon with 2 Tb. olive oil for a natural wood furniture polish.
*Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a 12 oz. plastic spray bottle. Add 3/4 cup white vinegar and 1 tsp. unscented castile soap. Fill remainder of bottle with water. Use as an all-purpose cleaner.
*Mix equal parts lemon juice with olive oil for an easy vinaigrette. 
*Squeeze lemon juice onto fresh fruit to prevent browning.
*Place juice of 1 lemon into a microwavable bowl with 1 cup water. Microwave for 1 minute. Clean inside walls of microwave with damp towel. 
*Add lemon juice to water for a refreshing change. Add a little sweetener and you have lemonade. Better yet, try lacto-fermented lemonade for even more health benefits.
*For coughing: Squeeze juice of 1 lemon into cup of hot water. Add honey. Drink. Helps calm the cough and break up any phlegm.
*Flavor baked goods with lemon zest, or replace vanilla with lemon juice. (This is especially good in sugar cookies☺)
*Disinfect cutting boards by rubbing 1/2 lemon all over the board. Let set for 5 minutes. Wash as usual.
*Use lemon juice when cooking fish, or in a marinade for meats that will be grilled. The acid in the juice helps to break down the toughness of the meat. (I also add olive oil to the marinade.)

When I purchase lemons, I usually do it in bulk. If I don't have an immediate use for the lemons (it happens), I'll juice them for later. Here's how...

First~I wash then zest the lemons. To save the zest, place in dehydrator on lowest setting overnight. Or preheat oven to 150F., turn off, then place cookie sheet of lemon zest in oven. Leave overnight. Store zest in jar and use in favorite recipes.

Second~place a mesh colander over a pourable measuring container. Squeeze juice into bowl, but through the colander. (Meyer lemons have a lot of seeds.)

Pour lemon juice into ice trays; cover with plastic wrap and freeze. When frozen, remove from tray and place in freezer bags. Each cube equals approximately 3 Tb. of juice. When needed, just take out as many cubes as needed and allow to thaw in a cup on the counter. (Microwaving the juice destroys all those delicious vitamins that make lemons so very special.)

This method works well for oranges and limes too!☺

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Homemade Dryer Sheets

In a perfect world, my dryer would be unplugged full-time. For now it gets a May-October vacation. (Weather permitting.) When the sun is shining the laundry dries on a clothesline. When it's raining, we have indoor racks to hang our wet clothing on. But with 11 people in the house and only so much floor space (we even have suspended racks from the ceiling), the dryer gets it's fair share of service.

A couple of years ago, we switched our chemical-laden fabric softener for white vinegar, but I've had a difficult time parting with the dryer sheets. Yes, I use a "natural" brand from the health food store, but these are expensive and too easy to leave off my grocery list. Sadly, sometimes I succumb to the pleasing aroma of vanilla & lavender wafting down the laundry aisle.

Not anymore.

A couple of weeks ago my middle son decided to help me out by throwing in a load of laundry on his own. Never mind that this son has never washed a load of laundry in his life, he wanted to help. (I'm finding myself gritting my teeth as I type this~the memory is still too fresh!) This helpful son placed 12 pairs of jeans (12!!!) in the washer, went downstairs and grabbed an unopened bottle of store-bought detergent, filled the soap dispenser with the highly scented detergent, added Oxy-Clean, then filled the fabric softener dispenser with the same smelly liquid detergent before turning the machine onto the delicate cycle.

Here's what went wrong.

1. Our washing machine holds 6 or 7 pairs of full-size jeans, tops. Any more than that, the machine doesn't agitate. He knows this as the washer repairman knows us by our Christian names. All of us.

2. I make all of our laundry soap, which sits right next to the washing machine. You know what it is by the sign on the front that says "Laundry". BTW, up til now I thought my son could read.

3. The store-bought laundry detergent has been down in our garage for 2-1/2 years. Yes, years. Never opened, and hidden behind the Murphy's Oil Soap...buried under 2-1/2 years worth of garage dust.

4. There is a "How to do laundry" page taped to the cabinet door above the homemade laundry soap. For jeans it says, "No more than 6 pairs of jeans at a time. Always wash on warm. Press the heavy duty button. NO FABRIC SOFTENER EVER."

About 10 minutes after my son started the load of jeans, the family (who was watching t.v.) started complaining of headaches and sore throats. I kept sniffing the air and asking who fell into the perfume bottle. We traced the source of smell back to the laundry room and the machine that had bubbles about to spew like a volcano erupting.

I realized two things that evening.

1. The chemicals in laundry products are toxic. Once we found the source, opened the windows, and rinsed the now 2 loads of blue jeans, the headaches and sore throats disappeared. So did the bubbles.

2. My son can't read as well as I thought.

So now the store-bought laundry products are lying in the garbage can, destined for the local landfill. I wish there were some other place for them, but that's the best place I could come up with. My laundry soap can is newly filled and my supply of vinegar has been replenished. And the dryer sheets that I had already run out of? I now have an unlimited supply of reusable, non-toxic, and scented to my perfection dryer sheets. And I didn't pay a dime for them.

Here's how~

Cut an old cotton towel into strips 4-6 inches wide. Pinking shears work best.

Not pinking shears here~I'm a quick learner and switched over after the first strip.

 Cut the strips into squares. I ended up with about 25 squares.

No need to cut the selvaged edges.

To use: Add 3-4 drops of favorite essential oil to cloth. Toss in dryer.

 Homemade dryer sheets can be used up to 3 times before they need to be thrown in the washer. Just refresh with more drops of oil. My favorites are lemon, lavender, and grapefruit. Smells like summer, even if I do have to resort to using the dryer.☺

Emmie and her attempt at becoming a real-life Smurf.
Looks like it's time for another load to go in...

This post is linked to The Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop.

Since I started using this method, I've found that these work much better when the dryer sheet is wet. Add the essential oil to the wet towel, then toss in the dryer. I still love these!!