Update on Blog Activity

I just added this comment and thought to add it to a post for those who may be interested –

Thank you very much Rosemary for the link back to the blog here! I have been spending most of my blog time at http://therunninggarlic.wordpress.com where I actually just reposted this laundry soap recipe. The blog was accepted on Blotanical so I am excited about that and tomorrow I will be joining in a Blogger Event to meet other bloggers around the world. Pop on over and join the fun! Joy – there is a email signup there. Thank you all!!!

Published in: on January 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Yummy Bread and Salt Dough Decorations

I do believe I am finished making apple recipes for a while – the most recent is this Apple Pie Bread.  I made 4 loaves and froze 3 for future eating.

apple pie bread

Beat 1/2 cup softened butter and 1 cup sugar with an electric mixer.  Add 1/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk* and 2 teaspns baking powder.  Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspn vanilla.  Add 2 cups flour and beat until combined.  Stir in 2 cups shredded, peeled apples (about 4 medium), 1 cup chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup raisins.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  There is an optional streusel nut topping which I omitted for calorie stake.

*To make 1/4 cup sour milk, place 3/4 teaspn lemon juice or vinegar in a glass measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 1/4 cup total liquid; stir.  Let mixture stand for 5 minutes before using.  Recipe was discovered in Living the Country Life, October 2009 issue.  It’s Yummy!!

Today I had some time and I made up these Salt Dough Ornaments.  I added 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 teaspn oil and 1 cup warm water.  Roll out the dough 1/4″ thick.  Use cookie cutters or make your own design – make sure to add a hole for hanging ornaments.    The final step was adding egg white brushed on the tops of your design.

using egg white You can see the difference  here – the white star has no egg white on it while the other 3 do and you end up with a golden color.  I also added some food coloring to some of the dough, used acrylic paints on some others and glued (use water to attach one piece to another) some.

asst dough decorations  You can clearly see the white pieces have no egg white applied so if you want that golden color, make sure to do this step. 

heart and bfly

I also added scent and am curious to see how they hold the smell.  Right now the whole house smells like the cider apple scent I used so time will tell if it stays with the ornament and how long.  I have purchased candle and soap scents from Bitter Creek and am very happy with the service and product.  I added a tablespoon and then baked at 250 degrees for about an hour.  The directions I was following had no baking time listed so I kept checking and finally the pieces felt hard – I may experiment upping the temperature and having them bake quicker next time.  The last step I need to complete is adding a coat or two of varnish so they last for a long time.  You can see the possibilities with these decorations – you can design baskets with fruit or flower vases adding different layers or glue the pieces to existing baskets or wood signs…….I wonder if varnishing will seal in the smell; will have to experiment.


Published in: on November 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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Pressed Flowers and Apple Rings

Just recently we celebrated our parents 50th wedding anniversary and I made bookmarks for everyone in the family and everyone at the party.  On the front I had the dates, Happy 50th Anniversary and a picture of Mom & Dad.  On the reverse side I had all the kid’s names and listed out all the members in each of their familes … laminated the bookmarks and was thrilled at how they turned out.  I went a step further and used pressed flowers (real flowers I had flattened and dried in a phone book) and made these nifty bookmarks …


I typed up a saying for the back on these.  Any type of personalization can be added; names, dates, birthday wishes, etc.  Use them as favors at a party or wedding or send individually to your favorite people in a card.

PF Bookmark Laminated pressed flower bookmark

I used a Fiskars paper punch on the corners to give the bookmarks a classy look.

fiskar paper punch

In a previous post I mentioned an apple pie filling I made and since it still is apple harvest time, I did purchase lots more apples.  This time I decided to make Spiced Apple Rings and once again I used Ball’s Blue Book for the recipe.  My only dilemma was I used the wrong type of apples – they were somewhat mushy.  I need to study up on the correct apples to use for preserving and baking purposes.  The Jonathan I used for the apple pie filling was right on – the apples remained firm and the taste was excellent.  For the rings I used Cortland and although they have a great tart taste, the firmness wasn’t there (had I known, I would have used a different apple).  If anyone has a recommendation on which apples to use, I would greatly appreciate it.  I will show you the steps for the Apple Rings – first I cored all the apples with this apple corer (great product, worked very easily).

cored apple Cored apple which I then cut into thin slices ..

cut up cored apple

I placed all the cut up slices in a mixture of water and lemon juice so the apples wouldn’t turn dark as I was cutting the remainder.  I made up a bag of spices to use for the syrup – 4 cups water & 4 cups sugar and I added a few drops of red food coloring.


Cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice tied in cheesecloth and removed before canning the apple rings.

canned apple rings

They tasted Great – and these rings did hold up fairly well.  I have a bowlful that is more like chunky applesauce that I will refrigerate and add to oatmeal and/or ice cream in the next few days.  I will be on the lookout for the firmer apple …. the book did suggest using several different varieties at one time.

One last note – I have all my garlic planted …. yeahhhh and started another blog GarlicnHerbs to keep track of the progress and to share recipes and garden tips!

That Apple Pie and The Gourds

The apple pies that I made were totally out of this world delicious!  I baked up two using the frozen apple pie filling I made a few weeks back and I plan to freeze up some more while all the apples are in season!

Homemade apple pie 2  Yum!

I brought in some gourds while we were down south and even though I read you can leave them on the vine during the winter to dry, I felt better bringing them in to dry on a rack (I am worried about the critters snacking on the gourds before they are fully dry).

Gourds down south

gourd on wire rack Drying on a rack

The wire rack will allow air to circulate around the gourds as they dry.  They will take several months and mold will form on some and it simply needs to be washed off with a sponge and water.  These gourds will dry nicely. 

On the other hand ……. When we arrived at our other home we realized frost had hit and it hit hard!  My cousin said at least 3 times while we were away and I had no idea it would; rather early this year.  So the gourds I had growing here … well, I brought them in and fashioned them around the fireplace for decoration.

Gourd fireplace

Not all of them will hardened up and be ready to craft on – the ones that weren’t done growing will rot and be unusable.  When the frost hit they were not all at the stage where they were done growing.  If they had finished this process the next process of curing would begin.  Curing is the time where the gourd hardens up and this takes several months – the gourds will lose all color and become light tan.

Published in: on October 18, 2009 at 7:10 pm  Comments (1)  
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Apple Harvest Season

Fall is the time of year when apples are ready for harvest and many farms that grow apples are inviting you in to pick your own.  Although I have never yet picked my own, I have purchased apples fresh off the tree.  This year we checked out a local Apple Fest and came home with a peck of apples.

Peck of apples A peck of apples

A peck equals 10.5 lbs. of apples – I had to decide what I wanted to do with all these apples and Ball’s Blue Book held the answer = Frozen Apple Pie Filling!  It was amazing how it thickened up as it cooked over the flame.


Apple pie filling

I will freeze these containers and make apple pie in the near future, since I can’t wait long to use them – they look sooo good (and they were quite tasty!)  I also found some great apple facts and recipes on line and I just may have to pick up another peck and make some more goodies.  This Apple Crisp was a special treat and very easy to make.

apple crisp 2 Apple crisp

Apple crisp recipe

A few more interesting Apple Facts!  Make sure to pick up a peck today and make some apple treats!

Crafts from the Garden

I have been busy crafting – luffa soap, a broom and mini gourd flowers in a vase!  All these items come from my growing efforts in the garden.  Luffa grows on a vine and can take over an area so next year I will be using the trellis idea and try to contain all the vines .. vines from the luffa, vines from the gourds and also my edibles such as watermelon and cucumber and whatever else happens to be planted in the gardens.  Luffa grows like a cucumber and the outer skin needs to dry out and turn brown before it can be peeled and the luffa inside revealed.  The seeds are then removed and the luffa can be used as is or cut into sections.  I used pieces and inserted them in soap molds along with melted glycerin soap, fragrance and color.

Luffa soap in molds Luffa soap in molds

Luffa soap Finished soaps

The soaps make a great gift and are really effective on dry skin or used on gardening hands!  They are too rough for small children or those with sensitive skin – I use them strictly on my hands and feet.  Luffa on its own is quite soft once wet and can be used much like a sponge.  I love my Luffa!! 

Next I experimented with the Broomcorn I grew and attempted to make a broom.  I did read that a nice sturdy broom will need about 60 stalks to complete, but since I only grew about 20 stalks my broom is a bit sparse.  I figure I will use it for cobwebs in the barn.

Broomcorn in basket Harvested broomcorn

I let the broomcorn dry for a couple weeks and then deseeded the upper portion of the stalks where the seeds grew.

Deseeding broomcorn

Finished broom Finished broom

There’s a shorter stalk in there as you can see but it was secured quite well along with the others.  I actually used willow branches to tie the stalks together.  At first I used twine but it wasn’t as natural looking as the willow branches (the green tie is the twine).  Willow branches need to be worked with while they are still fresh so you can bend them easily.  I added a loop for hanging …

Hook on broom

Broomcorn is also very attractive in dried flower arrangements and wreaths – I will be growing much more next year!

Broomcorn in vase Broomcorn in vase

Lastly, I had some more fun with my mini gourds.  I cut them in half and shaped some petals for flowers.  After drilling a hole and cleaning the inside, I added some color and also woodburned the tips of the petals.

Drilled gourd flowers


I used pipe cleaners for the stem and another mini gourd for the vase.  They came out pretty cool; don’t ya think?

Mini flowers in vase 2

Mini flowers in vase 3

Fun with Mini Gourds!

The gourds that I have from this year need several months to dry out before I can craft with them, but I have some mini gourds left from last year that I finally figured out how to decorate them.  These are warty gourds and that’s what was throwing me off with the design, but I decided to use the warts (bumps) as the item to decorate the gourd – you will see what I mean …

Dried mini gourds Dried mini gourds

First I painted the gourds with orange paint all over …

Gourds painted Then I sponge painted a coating of brown over this so they would look more realistic …

Brown sponged on gourds Do this step gently since the orange paint may come off in spots if worked on too roughly – I touched it up with the q-tip after.  Let this all dry for a few hours and then design your pumpkins!

Mini pumpkins 2

Halloween mini gourds   BOO!

I also experimented with some pressed flowers – glued them “gently” on the gourd since the flowers are very thin.  Pressing flowers is simple – I put them in pages of phone books and weighted them down.  After a few weeks they were dry and ready to use.

Pressed flower on gourd

Pressed flower on gourd 2

The gourds in the backyard garden are progressing right along – Grow Grow Gourds!

Gourd in backyard

Homemade laundry soap

I love this laundry soap and it really works!  Not long ago I searched out a recipe for homemade laundry soap since I was quite disenchanted with the prices on the store bought varieties.  I actually bought the liquid type in the bottle and finally realized what a waste all those plastic laundry bottles were.  I did try to construct a “something or other” watering can for the plants but it really didn’t work.  So I decided powder detergent was a better option since it came in a box which I could recycle easier. 

THEN…I decided homemade is even better!

Three simple ingredients – 1 bar castile soap, 3/4 cup “washing soda” and 3/4 cup borax –

homemade laundry soap

Probably the hardest part of all this is grating the bar of soap – I found this GREAT grater and it works perfect!  I did try freezing the bar of soap to make it easier, but it really grated the same (it’s a hard soap).

Grating soap

The finished laundry detergent seems soooo clean!  Use 1 tablespoon for light loads and 2 tablespoons for heavily soiled laundry.  For the most part I use 2 tablespoons and the results are wonderful.  I keep a copy of the recipe (you can copy this blog post) and keep it with the laundry soap so when you run out you can easily make more.

Finished laundry soap Finished in less than 1/2 hr

Published in: on September 12, 2009 at 7:39 pm  Comments (7)  
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This Week in the Garden

I harvested up about 50 mini gourds this past week and they are so brilliant looking …

 Mini gourds    For now I will decorate the place with the gourds and share with you what I learned “last year” about mini ornamental gourds.  I purchased these at the stores during the fall and didn’t realize that most companies that sell mini gourds commercially will varnish them to make them glossy and more attractive looking.  The varnish actually smothers the gourd and it will rot within a few months.  Gourds need to dry out and varnishing holds the moisture in and doesn’t allow for this.  I did learn this after a few started to rot on me and drilled a couple holes in the bottom so the moisture could escape and the gourds survived.  They will lose all their brilliant colors after they dry and this is the time to craft with them.  You can paint, stain or dye designs of your choosing or paint back some vivid colors and the gourds will last many years!  I really did enjoy growing these ornamentals and look forward to creating some cool artwork with them once they dry out.                                                                                                                     Basket of mini gourds

Some of the Jalapenos were ready to harvest along with the Rice Pea ..

Jalapenos Jalapeno peppers

Rice pea harvest 2 Rice peas

I found the rice peas very interesting since I had never grown them before.  They were very drought resistant and dried out very quickly out in the field and they taste good!  I think they are a variety of cowpea but smaller; thus the name “rice”.  I tried to find more information on them but all I could find was Baker Creek where I purchased them from.  I did make up a spectacular soup with them tonight and will grow them again and again!  I also canned up my first batch of tomatoes with the Amish Paste Tomato that I grew.  I use the Roma machine with the attached motor and it really makes the job so much easier –

Roma food strainer  I quartered the tomatoes and ran them through the machine, then I cooked them down a bit so the sauce was thicker, added 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and a couple leaves of basil.

Tomato canning 9-8-09

Great Day …. Great Week !!

Neat stuff in the garden

August flew by and the weather was cooler than normal.   I am happy to say we did have enough water to keep the garden growing without additional watering on my part.  The lettuce did bolt and produced seed which I will save for next year spring –

lettuce seed lettuce seed

Tom Thumb corn Tom Thumb Corn

I was able to save a few ears before the deer found them and will be letting these dry to grow next year.  The location I had chosen for this corn was not good – too dry and hot and out there for the deer!  Same goes for the Tiger Eye beans …… which are really cool looking and can be used like pinto beans; in chili or cooked and mashed like refried beans –

Tiger eye bean2  Tiger eye bean

We discovered how delicious Delicata Squash is last fall so I HAD to grow some!  I harvested my first batch which I read can be enjoyed late summer and then more grow which can be harvested for the fall crop and stored for up to 3 months.

Delicata squash 8-09 Delicata squash

The sunflowers are in bloom and Beautiful ……

Still closed sunflower Ready to bloom

Sunflower peekaboo Peek-a-boo


I have posted additional pictures on my Flickr account