Hand and Heel Scrub

This scrub is perfect for buffing your heels and keeping your hands moisturized for the winter months.

You can make this in about 5 minutes total.  Very economical and a little goes a LONG way.

I posted how we make ours on my Facebook page and see my step by step pictures of the Teen making a batch last night here:  Hand and Heel Scrub

It’s literally 3 ingredients:

1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil

Honey (until your desired consistency)

Mix all together, store in an air tight container.  Use in the shower by scrubbing on heels and hands and rinse.  Apply a daily moisturizing lotion and you can keep the dryness at bay!

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Making Maple Syrup

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We tapped 2 maple trees in our yard this year to collect sap.  This is a super fun project for the kids.  They get off the bus and run to the buckets to see what has dripped in during the day.  This Syrup is the best you will ever have!!

IMPORTANT NOTE:  keep in mind it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.

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In 4 days we collected 6 gallons (after losing a gallon to a bucket falling off the tree because of the wind).

Today I decided to process what we have so we can prepare over the next few days to boil a few more gallons before the season is over.  The best time to collect the sap is when the days are sunny and above freezing temperatures yet the night is below freezing. The season may be short or long.  You will know it’s over when the sap stops dripping from your tree.

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We bring the sap in and pour it through a mesh strainer lined double with cheesecloth.  This filters out the impurities.

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You are left with clear pure sap.  The best way to store it is to keep it in cold temperatures until you are ready to boil it.  I store it in the refrigerator.

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When you have enough to boil, fill the pot and bring it to a rolling boil.  NOTE:  this throws off humidity and will fill the whole house.  I open a few windows and don’t mind the humidity as it feels tropical!

The sap will boil down and each time add more to fill the pot using all the sap you have collected.  I started with 3 gallons in our bucket and boiled 6 gallons over the course of 6 hours.  I also scoop out the foam every once in a while.

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The sap will begin to turn a light amber color.  When you get to this point it’s important to continue boiling until the syrup begins to foam.  That is when you know it’s ready.

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It’s a darker color and will thicken.

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Remove from the heat and strain again through the cheesecloth into your mason jar or container you are using to store it in.

You can cover it tightly after cool and store for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.  You can also can it (I personally have never done that but there are directions all over the internet).

Our 6 gallons yielded 1 pint of syrup but the tween queen had to have a separate container she could eat with a spoon before I could get it all in the jar for a picture!

INSTRUCTIONS:

Collect sap

Strain through cheesecloth and store in the refrigerator

TO MAKE SYRUP:

Fill a large pot with the sap and bring to a boil

When it boils down keep adding the rest of your sap until it’s all in the pot

Continue boiling stirring once in a while and removing the foam when needed

Test to see if it has turned a light amber color after it has boiled down the final time

Continue boiling until the sap is beginning to boil and foam, is darker in color and is slightly thicker

Remove from heat and strain through cheesecloth into the container you are storing it in

Let cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months

Storing Berries (Flash freezing & Refrigerator storage)

When any berries or fruits are in season it’s a scramble to get them at the best possible price for two reasons. First because they are wonderful to eat/snack/cook with after a long winter and second because you can freeze or can them so you have wonderful fresh natural fruit for the whole year!!

Our local grocery store had buy 2 pints of blueberries and get 3 free. That is 5 pints for the price of 2!!!! Of course I bought 10 as that will hold us through the year with pies and frozen berries for yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, and blueberry syrup for ice cream.

Here is what I do with our berries to keep them as fresh as possible in the refrigerator and how I store them for the winter in the freezer:

FLASH FREEZING: Wash the berries and remove all stems. Pat them dry with papertowels or a non lint dish cloth. Lay them on a cookie sheet and let them air dry so they are not wet. Once dry place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove them and store them in freezer bags. They will not stick together so you can grab as few or as may as you will need and will be perfectly sweet when you remove them to use.

TO KEEP IN THE REFRIGERATOR:: Place the berries in a large bowl with a teaspoon of white vinegar and cover with water (you do not have to remove stems unless you want to). Let sit for about 4 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Place them in an airtight container laying them flat on a papertowel. Use a papertowel in between each layer. Place top on. These should hold your berries in the fridge much longer than if you just place them in there in the containers they came in.

Strawberry Jam (canning instructions too)

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This morning was dedicated to making our years supply of strawberry jam as well as a few for gifts and a few to sell.  I will tell you how I make it along with how I can it.  Some people think canning is so intimidating but it is actually very easy and quick.  There are only 4 MUST have tools….1) jars and lids  2) funnel 3) grippers 4) 2 large pots.  My son does not like big chunks so I crush my berries 1 cup at a time by hand so they are smaller pieces in the jam.

You should always make your own jam when the fruit is in season.  There is nothing better and it’s all natural!!

Note:  there are directions all over the internet for canning and the pectin has directions in the box also!!

To make cooked jam for canning:

5 cups crushed strawberries (wash, cut the hulls (green leaves) off, and crush in a bowl ONE cup at a time)

7 cups sugar (you can use alternative’s with no sugar pectin) We use Sure-Jel Pectin.  Always works and yes it’s a bit of sugar but you can cut back on it by adding a little extra pectin from a second box if you want and it’s so delicious you won’t care!!

Get a 1/2 full stock pot of water almost boiling

Fill your sink with the hottest water you can (you can use boiled water from microwave if need be) and keep jars, lids, and rings in it

Fill the 2nd stock pot with the 5 cups of crushed strawberries and add one box of pectin

Bring the berries/pectin to a full rolling boil stirring constantly it should boil even as you stir

Pour in the 7 cups of sugar all at once quickly

Keep stirring and bring back to rolling boil.  Boil for 1 full minute

Remove from heat and skim off any foam (light pink foam you will see).  You can leave foam but it doesn’t look pretty in the jars.  I keep the foam in a separate bowl and when finished I cover with plastic wrap and we use it as jam also keeping it in the fridge.

Remove a jar from hot water, wipe it dry and fill using the funnel and a ladle.  Fill just to the top where it meets the rim leaving 1/2 inch space to top of jar

Continue until all the jam is in the jars

(TIP:  if you have a little left over and don’t want to start a new jar put it in the foam bowl!!)

Wipe the top of the jar and around the rim where the lids screw on if it dripped at all

Dry the lids and place them on the jars and then dry the rings and tighten until just tight

Turn heat up on the water stock pot

Carefully place the jars in the water bath with the grippers making sure the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water

Bring to a slow boil and let boil for 10 minutes covered

Remove from water using grippers and place on a towel to set overnight (you will hear popping sounds when the lids seal)

After they have set overnight touch the middle of the lid to make sure it is not sticking up and has been sealed.  If it did not seal you can still use the jelly but keep it in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

When sealed you can store in a cool, dark place for 18 months

That’s it!!  Some of my tips:

1) Always make one batch at a time.  Do not try to do 2 batches at a time.

2) Clean everything in between batches so you are ready as soon as the batch comes out of the water bath

3) Jam should have fruit pieces in it.  If you want bigger pieces don’t crush as much

2nd batch

2nd batch

last year jam

This is the last jar from last years batch I just opened today to make toast for my son

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prepare strawberries

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fill stock pot 1/ way with water

mushed 1 mushed5 cups sugar rolling boiljars hot jam funnelgrippers filled and ready to can going inboiling

 

 

Strawberry Fields Forever…..

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Today was our picking day.  I started taking my kids when one was 3 and the other was 1.  It used to be just mommy and kids time.  Then as the children got older they always told friends about going and would ask if they could come.  Now it’s grown into friends and friends parents who come along.  Today we had 3 families and 2 kids who came along while their parents were at work.  I don’t like to take credit where it’s not due but 2 families today never went picking until their kids met my kids 🙂  I am very good friends now with both of these women and enjoy spending time with them when I can.

Well today’s experience was not our best…it’s about a week later than when we normally go so picking was not as fast as you had to search for the nice size berries.  It was also about 84 degrees in full sun with 80% humidity.  My son and his friend picked a quart each.  My daughter who is the best helper picked one quart then went to the truck for some water to drink, stubbed her toe on a rock and cut it pretty nastily.  It bled everywhere as toes do.  So her and the boys sat in the truck with the air on for almost 40 minutes while the rest of us picked.  But it’s done and we have the berries we needed.  Our strawberry plants at home are just starting to produce so we will have another 5 or more quarts in a few weeks.

As soon as we got home the kids grabbed a pack and headed out the door to play in the tree fort and eat their strawberries. They mark the quarts they pick with weeds so they know which is the one they want to eat.

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Tomorrow is something called Kidz Biz set up in our town hall and my kids have a karaoke booth so I will not be “jamming” until Sunday. For now I have the wonderfully sweet smelling strawberries in the fridge.

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Canning Cherries

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These are little bits of summer stored to help us through the cold winter.  These are bing cherries canned in a light sugar water syrup.  All natural and perfect to strain and use in yogurt, oatmeal or pour the juice and the cherries over vanilla ice cream, angel food cake, or vanilla pudding.  They are great in smoothies and right out of the jar as a snack!!  This is so easy and you can have cherries, crisp and fresh all year long this way!!  In the winter when my children bring some to school as a fruit their friends hound them for some.

Here is the way to make your Cherry Pitter (a must have and you have what you need to make it)

You DO NOT need special equipment to can.  I will post about that in another post.  As long as you have a big “spaghetti” size pot, you are good to go!!  New to canning go here or here to see directions or check youtube.
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How to make our family CANNED CHERRIES:

Fill a spaghetti pot of hot water 1/2 way, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer

In a another pot bring 6 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar to a bowl (you can reduce for less sweetness)

Choose the size jars you are going to can in, lids and rings

Sterilize them in the dishwasher or you can fill your sink with hot water when the syrup is ready and keep all hot pulling one out at a time to fill and placing back in hot water (standing up with water below rim) until ready to add all to the hot water simmering)

pit cherries and stuff them into jars (you can do as many as you like as it’s simple to make more syrup if needed) leaving 1/2 in headspace at top of jar

fill with hot syrup leaving 1/2 in headspace at top of jar

tap jar lightly on potholder to remove bubbles

place on lid and wipe jar around the top

place on right and tighten slightly (You do not have to make sure it’s super tight)

place in hot water standing up to keep them hot until putting into simmering water

once all jars are filled, place in simmering water making sure the tops are covered with 2 inches of water

bring water to a rolling boil and process for 20 minutes

remove and let cool listening for the lids to make a “popping” sound when they seal

once cool, run your fingers over the lids to make sure the  middle is “sucked” down

store in a cool, dark, dry place for a year

FREEZING CHERRIES — you can freeze cherries also which is way cheaper than buying them frozen in the store.  First wash and clean the cherries.  You can pit them or leave them whole.  Dry them and lay them on a cookie sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Remove and place into freezer bags and store in freezer for up to a year.  These are great in smoothies or ice cream and you can make another cherry pie if you need to!!

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Carrots (container gardening)

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I mentioned I would share my first experience trying container gardening for some of our vegetables.  I am so impressed with how well the containers are doing.  I tried containers for peppers, lettuce, potatoes, and carrots.  So far everything is taking off perfectly.  These are great ideas for the person with limited space.  Now there is no excuse not to grow some of your own food 🙂

My carrots are coming in great.  Here are the before pictures through today.  I planted these on May 8th.  I usually do 3 to 4 plantings of carrots so the second set is going in this weekend.  I like to space it out so not everything is ready for harvest at once.

carrots3   Second container I planted

CARROTS this was the picture on June 4th.

So get to the dollar store of garage sales and pick up some large containers and a bag of soil and get planting!!!