Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Adding to the Garden

A couple of weekends ago we finally had a break from the heat. The high was 89 instead of 90 something!! So, we decided to finally get busy on a project that we had been put off due to the extreme heat - adding to our garden.

We already have one raised bed and the rest of our garden was a flat bed. Now that we have pulled up most of our summer plants, it's the perfect time to add a few more raised beds. The new beds will fit in the same space as our flat bed area. But, because we won't need rows, we will be able to plant more crops in a smaller area. (Don't worry, I hate over crowded plants - vegetable or otherwise) Here are some before and after pictures.

Here is our original raised bed and the beginnings of a long narrow bed. We left our tomato plants because they are still bearing fruit.

It's coming along.

Finished with this one! We built around an existing sweet potato plant and it's doing great! This longer bed we were able to build using landscaping timbers we already had. Actually, my husband did it. I had no part in the building of the raised beds. My part was to keep Caitlin out of his way. For the other two beds we had to go buy more timbers, thankfully they were on sale!


And the second, smaller bed with new soil and compost planted with collards. So far we have the long 16' bed and one of the 8' beds done, we've added some wonderful soil and compost mix, and planted some of our fall crops. We've got one more raised bed to go. After the last bed is finished we will add mulch to the pathways. The garden is looking so pretty! And organized too!

And of course our little gardener had to help Daddy water the garden. She had fun splashing in the mud puddles too!

Monday, August 30, 2010

CSN Giftcard Giveaway Ends Tomorrow

Don't forget to enter to win a one-time use $50 Giftcard to CSN Stores. All entries close tomorrow at 11 EST. I will select a winner through random.org Wednesday morning. Good luck!

Featured Post on Creating the Hive

Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you know about a neat site I discovered recently creatingthehive.com. It's a great place to connect with other crafters and artists. And if you're like me, a great place to snag some ideas. I recently joined and uploaded this blog. Although this blog isn't about crafting, I will post some crafty things if I feel it is environmentally friendly or helps me save some money, or both.

Arts & Crafts blogs, shows, directory, ideas

Anyway, the one crafty post I did about crocheted bags, is a featured article on Creating the Hive today. They change up their featured articles often because there are so many members on this site with way cooler stuff than my bags. But I am excited to be chosen!

If you like arts and/or crafts, need some ideas, or would like to share some ideas. Check them out - creatingthehive.com

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Friday Recipes - Amazing Ribs

This past week I made the best ribs I've ever made. Maybe because it was completely from scratch? Previously, I'd just coat them with whatever bottled BBQ sauce I found in the store. And most of the time they would turn out over done. This recipe, however, uses a homemade dry rub and homemade BBQ sauce. The ribs turned out with a little bit of a spicy crust from the dry rub but the meat was still juicy and not over done at all. And the BBQ sauce slathered on top was SO good! I've got to start taking pictures! This will be a do or die recipe for my family if we want ribs from here on out. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Amazing Ribs
2 slabs pork spareribs (about 3 lbs each)

Dry Rub:
4 tsp black pepper
4 tsp salt
4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sugar

BBQ Sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced & grated peel
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, mix dry rub ingredients. Sprinkle over ribs and rub into meat with fingers. Coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place ribs in a shallow roasting pan, fat side up. Cover with foil & cook for 1 hour. Turn ribs over and continue cooking for 30 - 40 minutes or until the meat is tender.

To make the BBQ sauce, heat oil in saucepan and add onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 25 minutes.

Brush ribs with sauce. Return ribs to oven, uncovered, and cook for 10 minutes or until glazed and browned turning ribs once.

Cut ribs into separate portions and Enjoy!


24TRenderingLard

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Budget, Budget, Budget

We are in the last part of the month and budgets everywhere are feeling the pinch. It's hard living on a limited budget and requires financial finesse and sacrifice to make it work. It makes me think about what I can do to further cut back. Like all of us, we each have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to handling money. I think knowing yours is vital to correcting any financial shortcomings. Personally, my biggest weakness is boredom. If/when I get bored, I find myself going to the grocery store, or going to pick up that unnecessary thing that's been on my mind lately. It's not a good thing. However, what I am good at is budgeting and living by my budget. How does that work if I'm a boredom shopper? Let me explain.

Every month, my husband and I write down our expected expenses. Then we add to it some vague expenses we know we might have. For instance, I might budget $50 for "Kid" expenses. This category could cover diapers, infant tylenol, kid shoes, anything related to our daughter outside of food. I can't really know exactly what I'm going to spend on her this month because I don't know for sure if her feet will grow that much this month or next; or if she is going to get sick and need that tylenol or not. So, it is a vague expense. I also make sure to budget for savings. If we don't budget for savings, it might not happen. I also have unnecessary expenses sometimes like clothing when I don't REALLY need it. (This is one of the spending areas I am working on.)

I am a very visual person and I will remember all month long how much we budgeted for each category and how much we've spent and is left over in those categories. Of course I check on these budgets frequently just to be sure where we are at. Well, because we have some vague expenses and some unnecessary, I work with it. When I get bored, I suddenly remember that I have $x left in the kid budget and I can go get whatever for Caitlin and I do. I'm still in my budget restrictions, but I really didn't need to spend that money.

So, I am now working on reducing my budget to the absolute necessity. It's really hard because I'm a planner and I also don't like going over budget. My natural urge is to plan for the worst and build in a cushion. Mint.com is really helping me with that. It's a neat website that pulls in your checking, saving, IRA, 401K, and other account information and shows you your full financial picture in one place. You can set up a budget and keep track of it on the site too. When you log in and look at your transactions you can label each one into it's own category and it shows you how much you have spent in each of the categories you budgeted for. Then you can look at your spending trends across several months or years. I need to use this feature more to help me budget better.

We are also going to try the envelope method of using cash for certain expenses. Our bills are paid online, so I don't need to worry about that part. Our grocery budget is the first thing to go to the envelope. Eric and I agreed on a certain amount of cash to take out each week and we have committed to making that money last for all food for the week; not just groceries, but meals out too. If we can make that work for us, we may add other envelopes later.

Regardless of your income, I think we can all do better by budgeting, budgeting, budgeting and then most importantly living by that budget. I am going to try to reduce some of my budgets to absolute necessity. It's going to be a total mind-set change for me, but I'm going to try it and see how I do.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Organic Meat

I have been thinking a lot about organic meat lately. I've seen many of you talk about it in your blogs. I know it's better for you because the animals were eating grass instead of grain, they lived a better, free-range, type life, they weren't injected with steroids, and all those yucky things can't be passed on to me and my family. But I waiver at the thought of the added expense. There's no denying it, organic meat is more expensive.

Well, a few weekends ago, I spent some time talking with a wonderful lady from Wilkerson Farms at our local farmers market. We talked about the difference between grass-fed and grass-to-grain, which is what they have. If you don't know, grass-to-grain fed cattle get grain before slaughter which effects the taste of the beef. Many people feel that grass only fed cattle taste "gamey" or "wild". The little bit of grain the cattle get before slaughter takes that "wild" flavor out. We also talked about the movie Food, Inc, which I haven't seen yet, and the chemicals used to preserve the meat. She told me that commercial non-organic meats are dipped in ammonia to preserve it. YUCK!

Even though I was hesitant to buy any of the expensive meat, I did. That stuff about the ammonia totally grossed me out. I bought two packages of ground beef to try and see if the flavor was so much better as said the hype. I made hamburgers out of it last week, and I did taste a little difference in flavor, but not much. Maybe that was the grass-to-grain thing? Or maybe it's because I grew up on deer meat which many people say taste "wild," but I don't notice?

I still feel that organic meat, vegetables too for that matter, are expensive. I choose not to buy it in the stores. But what has gotten me interested is the packages you can get from Wilkerson Farms and I'm sure from any other cattle farmer too. You can buy an entire side of beef, 1/2 a cow, or half a side of beef, 1/4 of a cow, at one time. They will have it cut into steaks, roasts, stew beef, and ground beef for you. Half a side of beef would keep my family eating beef for an entire year. And because it's a package deal, the pricing isn't that bad. We would have to buy another chest freezer to fit it all. But anyway, this is something I'm going to think hard about. It is financially reasonable and better food.

Do any of you buy your meat directly from the farmer? Do you get it in bulk? Or do you forgo quality meat because of the cost?

Interested in buying directly from the farmer, but not sure where to find them? Localharvest.org has a great search option to find local farmers in your area. Check it out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Crocheted bags

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some really crafty things you can do with old t-shirts, making yarn for crocheting and making cloth diapers. Well, I finally finished my crocheted bag!! I won't go through a tutorial because the site I learned from, Craft Passion, has a wonderful tutorial. I did change a few things though and you can read about them below.

As you can see, my bag is very patriotic in red, white, and blue. This was not intentional. The pattern I used said to use two t-shirts. I needed four. I completely used up all of my red t-shirt yarn and knew I was going to have a problem. Thankfully, my hubby suggested the patriotic theme. Then the white ran out, next I used all the blue, and had to find another white shirt I could cut up for the drawstring and shoulder strap.

Secondly, I misinterpreted the pattern. Which really wasn't all that hard to do since this was my first time crocheting an actual thing and not just learning stitches. When the pattern talked about working in rows, I thought it meant linear rows and somehow developed this heart-shaped bottom. It's supposed to be round because I was supposed to work in circles. Oh well.

The heart bottom is actually kind-a cute if you are just looking at the bottom. Looking at the whole bag though there is a dimple along one side.

And my last change from the pattern is the shoulder strap. The pattern suggested a simple rope of chain stitches, but I thought that was too thin, so I added a second row of single stitches to widen the strap. I really like the wider strap, but I made it too long. So, I tied a little loop in the top to shorten it a bit.

I got so excited about crocheting, I went out and bought some yarn to do another bag. I'm all out of t-shirts. This time I worked in circles and it turned out perfectly!! Because the yarn is smaller on this one, the bag is smaller making it perfect for a make-up bag or gift bag instead of a purse.


See, I've already put some gifts in one of the bags! Oh yeah, I was really, really excited and made two of the small bags. I think I'm going to try and make these small bags for every lady in the family to hold a small gift at Christmas. They are just so cute and I'm so happy that I was able to make something that looks good!

Now, I want to continue my t-shirt up-cycling and make some cloth diapers following Natural Violet's pattern. But, I've used up all my extra t-shirts because I purged them all before I knew about these fun ways to reuse them. Anybody want to donate your old t-shirts?? I'll be happy to take them off your hands. :)

Happy crafting!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Recipes - Chicken Casserole

I love casseroles and one pot dinners! They make my day so much easier. Here is another recipe I grew up on. This is a total comfort food for me and easy to make. This dish is so filling and makes great leftovers too!

There are some store bought ingredients, stuffing and cream of chicken, but you can substitute for your own homemade versions if you want.

1 whole chicken, boiled and boned (reserve broth)
1 pk Peppridge Farm herb stuffing mix
1 stick (1/4 cup) butter
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
2 cups of chicken broth

Cut chicken up into small pieces. Melt butter and toss with stuffing mix. Grease 13 x 9 inch pan. Layer half of the stuffing mix into the bottom of the pan, top with chicken, chicken soup, broth, and the second half of the stuffing mix.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove foil at the end to brown the top of the casserole.


Enjoy!

24TRenderingLard

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Cost of Your Health

Don't worry, I have no intentions to talk about the Health Care Bill or the national debate about it. What I mean by the cost of your health are those things that we do everyday that affect your health and well being. Sometimes being frugally-minded can be a detriment to your health.

Looking at our budget and savings, I suggested to my husband that I get rid of my gym membership. After all, Caitlin was having a hard time being left in the daycare area and I just haven't been going as regularly because of it. My husband acknowledged that it would save some money. But then he was quick to ask, what was more important, that $45 a month or my health? Wow. I love my husband! Not only was he valuing my health over a small monthly savings, but he was also showing wonderful insight (whether he knew it or not) into me as well.

You see, after Caitlin was born, I decided to walk and run around our neighborhood since we have lovely sidewalks and I wouldn't have to stroll Caitlin in the middle of the road. I thought I would use dumbbells at home, do a work out video or two - get in shape. And I did, for a whole 2 months and then I found excuse after excuse. You see, although I have been active my entire life, I've never been a good self motivator. At least, not when it comes to exercise. There are so many less expensive ways to get a good workout in everyday, but I won't commit to any long term. However, having a gym membership, paying that monthly fee encourages me to go to the gym. And what do you know, after that conversation, Caitlin started staying in the daycare area with more ease. In fact today I didn't have to wait with her for 10 minutes before leaving, there were zero tears. She did great!

Anyway, I was wondering what things are you willing to pay more for in order to have a healthier you and why?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

God and Lawncare

A friend of mine sent me this cute conversation with God in response to my post yesterday about grass. It's cute and funny, but really so true. What are we thinking?? God created a perfect world that was already beautiful and yet we go through great lengths to create something that we think is beautiful and destroy creation in the process.



GOD:
Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

St. FRANCIS :
It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD:
Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS:
Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD:
The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS:
Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD:
They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS:
Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD:
They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS:
No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD:
Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS:
Yes, Sir.

GOD:
These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS:
You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD:
What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

ST. FRANCIS:
You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD:
No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS:
After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD:
And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS:
They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD:
Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE:
'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....

GOD:
Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Giveaway Scout

I have been made aware of a neat site called Giveaway Scout. This website posts giveaways from blogs all over the internet. If you are into giveaways, whether you are the giver or the hopeful entrant, this is a great resource.

What do giveaways have to do with this blog? Well, part of being frugally minded and saving for our future plans means doing my best to get things we need and some things we don't at the absolute lowest price I can. So, if I see a giveaway for something that will be helpful to me or my family or would be a good present, I will enter it. For this same reason, I will host some giveaway and reviews of products that I believe are earth friendly and could help another family.

So, if you are into giveaways, check out Giveaway Scout to find the most giveaways that meet your needs.

Grass Fertilizers and Your Water

Yesterday I posted about mowing your lawn and environmentally friendly mowers. That reminded me about a class I took in college, Plants for Pleasure and Profit. I took it because it sounded like a fun class and it helped me to fulfill a science requirement. Boy oh boy am I glad I did! That class was so much fun, hands on, practical, and I remember it way more than most of my other classes. I still visit some the same plant nurseries we went to in that class!

Anyway, my professor talked to us about the hazards of grass fertilizer. He didn't go so far as to say don't use it, but he did say that we needed to pay attention to the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the type we buy. Run off from lawns with excess fertilizers rich in these nutrients can cause lots of problems with our water supply.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, says:
Nutrient pollution, especially from nitrogen and phosphorus, has consistently ranked as one of the top causes of degradation in some U.S. waters for more than a decade. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus lead to significant water quality problems including harmful algal blooms, hypoxia and declines in wildlife and wildlife habitat. Excesses have also been linked to higher amounts of chemicals that make people sick.

BASIC INFORMATION:


Like the human body, water bodies require nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, to be healthy, but too many nutrients can be harmful. Many of our nation's waters, including streams, rivers, wetlands, estuaries, and coastal waters, are affected by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The effect of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution for a given water body depends on its ecoregion and its sources of nitrogen and phosphorus.

So, here are some tips I've collected from several sites to better fertilize your lawn and prevent fertilizer runoff:
  • Well applied fertilizer helps the environment. What's interesting is that if fertilizer is applied wisely, it not only creates a better, thicker lawn, but that denser lawn becomes a better sponge to absorb toxic runoff before it goes off into the waterways.
  • More is not better. Remember when it comes to fertilizers, more is not necessarily better. Read and follow all instructions. Excess fertilizer that washes off lawns is wasted and harmful.
  • Use slow release fertilizer. Because its effectiveness is spread over time, the fertilizer is less likely to end up draining away and more likely to be helping the plant life you intended it for.
  • Don't fertilize in rainy seasons. Don't fertilize your garden when rain storms are forecast. The rain will push any fertilizer right off the lawn into the drainage. Applied fertilizer will have to be applied again.
  • Avoid using water-soluble, quick-release nitrogen, such as ammonium nitrate, urea ammonium phosphate, or potassium chloride. Rain is likely to wash it quickly past the root zone. Fertilize only when needed and use only 100 percent slow-release nitrogen products, biosolids and sludge- or organic-based fertilizers.

  • If there is a lake, pond, or stream on your property allow a natural buffer zone to prevent bank erosion and filter substances between the lawn and the water.

  • Allow the lawn to grow long to prevent runoff and erosion

  • Patch or renovate bare or thin spots to reduce runoff and erosion.

  • Use grass species adapted to your site and maintain them according to recommendations. In deep shade consider alternative ground covers or wood chips.

  • To avoid plant stress, postpone aeration or dethatching in very wet or very dry conditions.

  • Do not mix, apply, or dispose of any chemicals within 100 feet of a well. Clean up any spills on driveways, sidewalks, or paths rather than hosing into the street.

  • Read the label and follow manufacturer’s directions for any materials applied. There is no truth to the thought that “if a little works, more will work better.” In fact, using excess fertilizers or pesticides can burn your lawn. Irrigate (0.25 to 0.5 inch) after an application of fertilizer to get the material into the ground where it can be used by the plants

  • To avoid runoff, do not apply pesticides or fertilizers to soil that is already saturated or frozen.

  • Leave clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients and reduce phosphorus loading of water bodies.

  • Mulch or collect and compost fallen leaves to protect both the lawn and our water.
  • Use an organic fertilizer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Best of the Blog Hop and Top 100 Lists

Hey everyone,

I just wanted to share a couple of links with you. I have been honored to be selected as one of Rendering Lard's Best of the Blog Hop this week. Rendering Lard is one of the blogs I go to when looking for REAL food recipes. A "survivor of the American diet," she has some wonderful ideas and suggestions for eating better and healthier food.

Also, Onlinedegrees.org has posted a list of the Top 100 Green Blogs for Students and guess what, I made the cut! What an honor for my little blog! I'm nowhere near the top as number 84 on the list, but that's ok. I'm just excited that I was picked. I will definitely be scouring this list for blogs to follow.

Eco-Friendly Way to Mow Your Grass

I am inside with my darling Caitlin listening to the sounds of my husband mowing the lawn and I wonder is there a better (eco-friendly) way to mow your lawn??

The put-putting of our old push mower can't mean good news for the environment. Besides the consumption of fuel, I wonder what it's emitting back into the air as well. So, I did a quick search on the internet for eco lawn mowers and here's what I found.
The EPA's 2007 announcement that lawn mowers contribute 5 percent of our country's greenhouse gas emissions didn't shock those of us who inhale the fumes as we yank the pull-cord every weekend. Thanks in part to stricter California emissions regulations that took effect last year, manufacturers are scrambling to make powered mowers that pollute less. The machines here not only spew fewer (or zero) emissions, they're cheaper to run and quieter too—something your neighbors will like if they sleep late on Saturday mornings.
So there are efforts being made to create more earth friendly lawn mowers. Most are electric; but there are also solar powered mowers and muscle powered mowers also know as push reel mowers. So I guess the real question is what can you do with the size of your property?

We own 1/3 acre and that's just large enough that an electric mower's cable wouldn't be long enough, the push reel mower would be a lot of work, but not unreasonable. Our dream property however, with several acres would be too large to really make use of either the electric or push reel options.

The solar mowers a bit on the expensive side at nearly $700 for the one I linked to above. Maybe the answer is to not mow your grass at all. There is a really neat grass product being sold called "No Mow Grass". It is a real grass that only grows from 2 - 6 inches tall. Yes, if it gets to 6 inches high, you will probably want to mow it. But think, you will only have to mow the grass maybe once a month instead of every week!! Not only is that better for the environment because of less emissions, but you can save a couple of hours every week on yard work.

What do you do for your lawn? Is it as green as your grass? We aren't very green in our lawn maintenance yet, but it's on our radar and something we plan to look into more.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recipe Friday - Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

A great meaty finger food for get-togethers or part of a simple dinner are Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps. They are so yummy in the tummy and easy to make. I found the recipe on FoodNetwork.com, but I have found that I don't need nearly as much chicken as they call for.

2-3 chicken breasts cut up into chunks
1 package of bacon
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp chili powder
toothpicks

Cut bacon to fit around chicken chunks, wrap, and secure with toothpick. **I can usually cover 3 pieces of chicken with one strip of bacon.** Mix brown sugar and chili powder in bowl. Coat chicken and bacon with seasoning mix. Set on broiler pan so grease can drip down into the bottom part of the pan. Cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

If you cut up the meat, kids can help by wrapping the bacon and coating with seasoning! Get them involved too!

Enjoy!

24TRenderingLard

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Getting Crafty with Old T-shirts

So, I found some really awesome sites that show you how to make some great crafts out of old t-shirts. And not just those boring unusable crafts for crafts sake things, but actually helpful items that you could use everyday!

First up is a crocheted bag made with t-shirt yarn. Yep, you can make your old t-shirts into yarn and then crochet something out of it. How cool is that!

The second thing I found is a cloth diaper made from old t-shirts. I love my cloth diapers and frankly, I could use some more, but my budget is a little preoccupied with other things right now. So, this seems so perfect. We'll have to see how well I can put this together.

I probably should have started with the diaper first, but I didn't. Not really sure why. Maybe the yarn thing seemed easier? So, I'm working on the crochet bag. I've already made some yarn and crocheted the bottom part of the bag. It's been a long time since I've tried to crochet anything, so this is a re-learning experience. I'll post pictures when I'm done and let you know how it went.

Thanks to my friends at Craft Passion and Natural Violet for posting these GREAT ideas for reclaiming old t-shirts!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Upcoming Farm Tour

Ok, I'm a dork and I know it. I am so excited about this 5th Annual Eastern Triangle Farm Tour coming up on September 18 & 19. It's put on by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. My husband suggested it to me last week and I'm just silly giddy about it. They charge $25 per car to go to as many participating farms as you can on those days. You get to see different types of farms, see what they do, and learn how they do it. Check out their brochure here.

If you live in the Triangle area of North Carolina, I highly recommend going. Why do I highly recommend something I've never done before. Because it sounds like so much stinkin' fun!! I can't wait to learn more about these farms. I mean, hey, if I want to have my very own self-sustaining life, I had better learn about farming huh? It just might be an important part of the whole process.

If like us, you are on a budget and for some reason, that $25 is a lot of money, there is a way to go for free. You can volunteer to help one afternoon and you get to see the entire tour for free plus get a t-shirt. While I would love to do this, I seriously doubt Caitlin would deal with a whole afternoon of this especially since she naps from 1 to 3 everyday. Either way, we will participate in some way, shape, or form. I'll write a post about it after the tour and let you know just how much fun it was and what we learned. - If you can't tell, I have high hopes for this one. ;)

Monday, August 9, 2010

CSN Stores Giftcard Giveaway

Giveaway Closed

I just received an email from CSN stores offering one of my readers a $50 gift card good for a one time purchase at any of their online stores! Just think, $50 good on anything you want! All you have to do is enter below.

You've heard of CSN stores, right? If not, here's a little bit of info about them:

CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from dinnerware to baby gear to sofas and suitcases! What I find really neat about their sites is a little button on the top right of their websites that says "Go Green." Clicking on this button pulls up all of their eco-friendly products, making searching for an environmentally responsible product a cinch. Personally I like their All Modern store and their Cookware store. Thank you CSN for offering my readers this awesome giveaway!

How to Win:

One mandatory entry: Become a follower of Big Dreams for A Simple Life via Google Friend Connect (right sidebar) and leave a comment (including your email address) telling me you did. If you are already a follower, just leave me a comment and your email address telling me so for your entry.

Additional Entries: Please include your email address on ALL entries.
  1. Check out the CSN stores and tell me me which one you will make your purchase from if you win. (1 entry)
  2. Follow me on twitter and leave me a comment including your twitter handle letting me know you did. (1 entry)
  3. Tweet about this giveaway and leave me a comment letting me know you did. You may tweet about this giveaway once per day. Just leave a comment with the link each time! (1 entry per day)
  4. Subscribe to Big Dreams for A Simple Life via Networked Blogs on Facebook (right hand sidebar) and leave me a comment letting me know you did. (1 entry)
  5. Email a friend who you think my be interested about this giveaway and CC it to me at bigdreamsforasimplelife@gmail.com and leave a comment letting me know you did. (3 entries - be sure to leave 3 comments)
  6. Blog about this giveaway and leave me a comment with the link to your post. (5 entries - be sure to leave 5 comments)
  7. Leave a comment on any of my non-giveaway posts. The comment must be relevant to the content of the post. Come back here and leave me another comment with the title of the post you commented on. (1 entry per post)

U.S. and Canada only. This giveaway is open until Monday, August 30 at 11:00 p.m. The winner will be chosen using a random.org. I will email the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond. If winner does not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen. I will post the winner when the selection has been made and confirmed by the recipient.

I am not being compensated for this giveaway in any way. See my general disclosure policy here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Recipes - Squash Casserole

With all the lovely summer squash coming off the vine, now is the perfect time for a fresh squash casserole. It's also a great winter food if you freeze your abundance of squash. Just unthaw the squash and away you go.

I grew up on this family favorite. And now, whenever my family gets together for a pot luck, someone always makes this dish and brings it to share. If your kids aren't too keen on squash, this is a great way to get them to eat some because the cheese masks some of the stronger squashy flavors.

Squash Casserole

6 medium squash
3/4 cup soda crackers
3/4 stick melted butter
1 medium chopped onion
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg

Mix soda crackers with melted butter. Steam squash until tender; drain and mash. Mix all ingredients. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 400 degrees uncovered for 25 - 30 minutes.


Enjoy!


24TRenderingLard

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Back from Philadelphia

We are back from our very last minute trip to Philadelphia. It was a very much needed get away, but I'm happy to be home again. What a whirl wind! Usually, my husband and I take a week long vacation for our anniversary and my birthday because they always fall on the same week. This year however, we have a trip planned with my parents in September, so we opted for a shorter trip just to get away.

It's been quite a long time since we drove that far, 7 hours - with a one year old. In our track and field days we took road trips like that every weekend for some track meet or another. Boy is it different when you've got a little one with you! In all reality, Caitlin was wonderful. Of course she had her fussy moments, after all we weren't exactly abiding by her normal routine, but all in all, she adapted very well. Before our trip, I asked you for some advice on cloth diapering while on vacation. I got some great suggestions, thank you. Unfortunately, because we decided to take this trip the week before we actually went, I did not follow through. I did take the cloth diapers and used them when we were in the hotel room for Caitlin's naps or in the evenings. But, during the day while we were site seeing I caved and used disposables. Oh well, I guess that goes in the book as lessons learned on taking time to plan things out.

We saw the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rocky Statue (see the pic above), Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross's house, Valley Forge, ate some cheesesteaks, tried to eat at a nice restaurant for our anniversary but was thwarted by a tired baby, and stopped by Mt Vernon on the way home. If you can't tell by our choices in site seeing, Eric and I really enjoy history and visiting historical sites. I love the stories of the courageous people who fought for our freedom and wonder what life must have been like for people in the 1700s.

What I really enjoyed most about our whole trip was a 3 hour stop we made at Mt Vernon, George Washington's home. Here's a picture of us standing in front of the house. Our first President, great statesman and General that he was, loved his home at Mt Vernon because his true calling, the thing that made him happiest, was farming his land there. How magnificent is that!! One of our nation's greatest leaders was a farmer, made his fortune as a farmer even. With all my romantic notions of living a self-sustaining, agrarian life, this is an amazingly fantastic thing to me and fuels my passion for gardening and farming even more.

George Washington's garden is surrounded by a brick wall, like many gardens of that time. I always thought that was a simple aesthetic, but what do you know, it has a purpose too! The wall not only keeps out animals, but it traps heat extending the growing season. I think I have a new idea for the gardens on our dream property!! He also had several large cold frames and of course a garden shed. I wish I had taken a picture of it. I was just so hot and tired at the time, pictures were the last thing on my mind.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but you don't want to read all that. The important thing is we are home now safe and sound and getting back into our normal routine. I have already made some bread for the week, put together a grocery list, made homemade mac 'n cheese (I'm banning the boxed stuff to see how making it homemade goes), started on all the laundry from our trip, been in the garden hoeing and weeding, and getting excited for our plans to build another raised bed. As much as I enjoyed going to Philly and site seeing, it has made me realize how much I cherish living in the country and this dream we have for our future.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday's Green Blog Hop

Once again, it's time for the weekly Green Blog hop. I really love this blog hop because it puts like-minded eco-friendly people together so we can learn from one another. I'm all about continuous learning and learning from other peoples trials, errors, and successes. So if you are interested in meeting other green bloggers, click the link below and join up.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Healing Without Medicine

Last week my little girl wasn't feeling well. She was running a high fever and just felt miserable. I thought it was teething, but the fact that she had a fever for over a day sent me to the doctor's office just to make sure nothing else was going on.

I never did take her temperature, but I know it was more than a teething temperature simply because of how hot she felt. Well, the doc took a look and said that her ears were fine, no ear infection, but her throat was red and irritated. Apparently there is some throat virus spreading around and that's seemed to be why my darling felt so crummy.

If you know anything about those little sicknesses that put us out of commission for a few days, you know they can be caused by either bacteria or virus. Bacterias can be treated with modern medicine, viruses however have to run their course.

We did give her some infant acetaminophen and ibuprofen (not at the same time of course), but mostly we had to rely on good old fashioned remedies to keep her temp down and keep her comfortable. I let Caitlin run around in only her diaper for a few days to keep her cool, gave her popsicles to soothe her throat and keep her hydrated, cool wash cloths and baths, and lots of cuddles. She didn't want to eat much and she hasn't learned to eat soup yet, so she ate lots of yogurt. Thankfully our sweet girl is feeling much better now.

All of this has gotten me thinking about natural medicinal remedies. While I haven't done much research into this yet, it is something I want to do. It feels a bit intimidating though because it is a vast subject. Maybe I'll start with things for simple colds and the like. Even though it's still summer here, fall and flu season will be on us before you know it. Maybe you can help me get started. What easy natural medicinal remedies or herbal remedies do you use?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Adventures in Homemade Shaving Cream

Noticing the dwindling shower gel in my bathroom, my husband and I decided to go back to bar soap. It's much less expensive and you can wash the washcloths instead of reusing those shower poofs that collect exfoliated skin cells - yuck. The problem with going to bar soap, for me anyway, is that I had been using my shower gel as a shaving cream as well as a cleaning agent. I could use the bar soap the same way, but it just doesn't make as rich a lather as I would prefer for shaving.

So, mingled with my recent curiosity for making homemade beauty products, this little problem gave me a great excuse to try making my own shaving cream. Notice I said try. I followed this recipe twice and never got anything resembling cream out of it. It did make a lovely soapy water that made a velvety lather when mixed, but no cream.

Not wanting to waste a second batch, my husband suggested I put the water in a Tupperware and shake it up before using to get the foam and try it that way. I really didn't think it would work, but I submitted to try it out.

It actually wasn't that bad. The foam did make a soapy lather on my legs and I got a fairly decent shave, but I have had better. So, in the spirit of not wasting, I'm going to try and use up what we have and then try again. A different recipe this time.

Has anyone else tried to make shaving cream? Was it successful?
 
Blogging tips