Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Grape Jam!

Finally I have time to post pics of our grape jam processing - I will have to post about why it took me so long later!


Of course this is how they start out - fresh picked from our own organic vines right out my back door!





We got around 41 pints of Grape Jam from three types of grapes



Here are the pretty purple grapes!



These turned out a more "rosey" color- they are the best though! The orangy colored grapes are more of a "juice" grape, but Andy wanted to try jam from them first since juice always gives less of a yield. They taste good as jam, but they look sorta bad, so we call that our "Ugly" Jam!

We had a ton of fun with this project and it was lots easier than doing jelly - plus we kept the added nutrients in the skin of the grapes. 

Hope that you are all having a terrific week !

Merit K 


Monday, July 26, 2010

From Our Garden...

The Ivy is growing some roots so I can transplant it.

I love Ivy - it always looks so fresh to me!


Our Bluberries have done pretty well this year. We have 18 bushes most of which are about 3 years old now. We have frozen about 2 gallons of berries and I can't even tell you how many we already ate!



Yellow Tomato - I love these things!



These are a little "ugly" from the uneven rains we have been getting, but they taste delicious!

My next craft project:


I have had these drying out in the garage for ages. My hubby is a very patient man! He drilled the holes for me and I will dig out the dried seeds and then prime and paint them for birdhouses. Riley, my 11 year old, helped to drill them out, so one has a bigger  "entry way" than the others, but that way we will accomodate several types of birds. Hopefully, we will attract my favorites- Bluebirds!

We are getting ready for a sale this weekend, so my project is on hold while I clean out closets and drawers for donations to our 4H Club for the yard sale, but I can't wait to get started on this!

I am wondering if I can find a good paint that doesn't have a lot of fumes or residue.

Suggestions are verrrry appreciated !

TY - Merit K

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Friend Can Even Give you A Spider...

OK... well she really gave me these lovely flowers from her garden along with the cutest, little green garden SPIDER.


The spider has since escaped into my house somewhere, unless the cat ate it when she knocked over the flowers the other night!

Thanks for my flowers Laura, and for all the excitement they have brought along with them :)

On another note, I have noticed that I have posted a lot of pics of my Kitchen table and so I pledge to try and include others areas of my home and the outdoors in future blog postings so that you won't get sick of seeing my favorite green checked tablecloth all the time! I really do love it though- it is so cheerful. My other favorite Tablecloth is a red gingham one - maybe I will post a pic of that one later-lol!

I really love my kitchen!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Sour Dough Starter That Ate My Kitchen!


Here is a picture of a "summery" flower wreath that my gal made me!

I have had a busy week. I keep meaning to blog, but life is getting in the way!

I love to bake, in fact I bake all our bread , and I love to try new recipes, but it just so happens that I am lethal to sour dough starters. My friends are so sweet - they just keep supplying me with new starters after I kill one off!

I recently let a starter that my friend gave me last year die a slow death. I had baked with it rather regularly because it made a great cinnamon bread and the kids loved it for breakfast. But as the weather gets hot, I tend to use the oven less and thus the dough was forgotten.

Last weekend I was feeling like baking again for some reason and realized I had no sour dough starter. I had no time to go and beg for starter from one of my friends who bakes, so I decided to try my hand at making my own starter.

I have tried this before, without success, but I decided that was the past and I would try again!

So I carefully followed the recipe and then threw in some other ingrediants that sounded good  :) and a little extra yeast and then set it out on the counter to let it grow the yeast I needed to make a good, lasting starter!

I proceded to get the kitchen spotlessly clean and was about to relax at the computer and blog (brag!) about my accomplishments that day, when my youngest came downstairs to ask me what was all over the kitchen counter!

Here is what I came up to see:



Well, actually that was taken after I started to clean it up, but you get the idea! That starter was all over the place. I calmly cleaned it up and put it into a HUGE bowl so that it couldn't escape again.

After a couple of days on the counter, I figured that I better feed the stuff so it didn't die on me again. So right before I went to bed, I "fed" it and put it into some pretty canning jars again. I love the way that looks sitting on the counter. It is just so "homey" !

Well I had just settled in with a good book, when my hubby came into the room and asked me what on earth I had done in the kitchen! You guessed it, the stuff went crazy again! So I cleaned up my counter and the starter went back into the "prison" bowl!

The next day, I decided it was time to use some of the starter up and make some bread. So I mixed it all up. That bread rose like a champ, so I punched it back down and I put it into the bread pans. I felt so happy that all the craziness had been worth it!

Guess what - It wouldn't rise! Grrrr - I baked it anyway and no-one will eat it except me 'cause it looks flat. They are so spoiled!  

It tastes good, but it is obviously very upredictable to work with sour dough. I have to get the hang of it though because it is almost time for the Fair and I would love to enter a good loaf of sour dough!

Anyone have any good tips for me ????

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review of "Molly's Money Saving Digest" for August


Storing Summer’s Bounty

Sometime last year, I found out about a great free e-newsletter and website with lots of money saving tips. I have enjoyed receiving Econobuster’s “A Minute with Molly” in my email, but I have been so busy lately, that I have been procrastinating on checking into the full digest version.

Now I do not know about you, but I have found that once I get busy, I get more disorganized and once I get disorganized, it is not so easy to pay attention to the budget! And once I am not paying attention to the budget, it is very easy to go over the budget!

Recently, I realized that I need to get back to some money saving techniques, but I have just felt unmotivated!

Then I got an opportunity to review the August Digest for Econobusters, so I jumped at the chance.

I set aside some of those tasks that have been keeping me so busy that I could not focus on my family’s financial well being as much as I would like, and sat down with the August issue of Molly’s Money Saving Digest.

It turned out that this ezine was just what I needed to get me moving again! I hope my review will help you know if you could use the type of information included in this publication as well!

“Molly’s Money Saving Digest” is a Monthly ezine that focuses on helping you to save money.

Not only does the Digest contain money saving ideas, it also includes time saving recipes and organizing tips that suit my lifestyle much better than some of the glossy magazines available, which are mostly advertisements anyway.

I found that the recipes are not too time consuming and do not include a lot of “exotic” ingredients that will be difficult to find and pricey. I love the way the “grocery shopping list” is listed in the digest so that you can easily add to your shopping list what you will need to try the recipe.

The August articles include: directions for freezing fresh produce to enjoy later, using a dehydrator, canning, making bread and shopping/couponing information that anyone can use. The ezine is very practical, but I also enjoyed the ideas for decorating my home beautifully and frugally.

The articles are well-written by people who are also interested in living a simple life so their tips on frugality are very doable! They also include additional resources and links that I can “click” to go right to the information which saves me more time!

My favorite thing in the Digest this month is the “Freezer Inventory” page that I can print out to help me keep track of what is in the freezer. Since our family grows and raises a lot of our own food, I really need to get (and keep) the Freezers organized.

There is a lot of fun, free stuff that goes with the Subscription ($3.95 per month) including e-books from TOS. You can also sign up for the free newsletter for more tips and ideas.

http://www.econobusters.com/

There are a number of other convenient ways to purchase Molly’s Money Saving Digest here at the Old Schoolhouse store including the Subscription and “Back Issues” or just order the August issue so you can check it out to see if you love it too:







I really got motivated this month by reading Molly’s Digest and I hope that you will check it out too!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Natural Pest Control


While we were on our vacation to the Creation Museum in Kentucky, they had several workshops and presentations, including one of our favorites from Ron Dudek about "Carnivorous Plants"!


We learned about some of our NC native plants including pitcher plants and the venus fly trap.

We were thrilled, because at last we knew how to care for the venus fly trap plants. I always have been fascinated with them, but never wanted to buy them, because I just knew they would always die. Now, thanks to Ron, I know that they like peat moss and perlite only and distilled water only and you can only activate their 'trapping mechanism' 5-7 times before it runs out of energy and dies without 'food' (meaning bugs!)




So Andy bought me two! Like a proud new mama, I took pictures of them when we got home. If you look carefully, you can see that one of the leaves is closed on a tiny fly! We were all so excited - we must have ten pictures of these plants :)

Well, they should have plenty of bugs to keep them healthy around here and I am enjoying my new "All Natural Pest Control" !

The Creation Museum trip was a great educational and fun vacation and you can find out more about the plants as well as the "expert" on carnivorous plants here:



Have a great week!
Photobucket



Monday, May 31, 2010

Lobster Network Review- Homeschool Tools You Never Thought Of!


The Lobster Network






The Lobster Network is all about connecting you- connecting you with the items that you need and connecting you with the people who need the items that you have. Whether you want to sell, buy or give away, the Lobster Network is a great tool to help you in your Homeschool!

LobsterNetwork.com


It is totally FREE to join the network and it is easy too. I joined and set up two separate groups for our Homeschool Support Group (T.E.A.C.H. Home Educators!) to use very quickly. We are using it as a way to track our lending library. Our Librarian can easily see who has borrowed an item and anyone can view the listing to see who has the item they need and when it will be returned.




We are also using it to set up a "barter" type system wherein those members of our group who have a service or item to trade, can let everyone know what they have and what they need. This is perfect for many in our group, because we have quite a few self-sufficient types, crafters and Homesteaders!


We are just beginning to use the network, but so far it is going well and our members are starting to join up as we get the word out to them, so that they won't miss out on all the great "stuff" people want to give them trade or sell.

Our Homeschool Group is very pleased with the service we have received and we are excited that this resource was created by a Homeschooling family and is available to us at no charge!


Imagine the possibilities for a great venue like this ...



Thanks Lobster Network!





MeritK

Light Speed Video Learning Review


Cerebellum is a company that provides lots of great tools for parents who decide to Homeschool for the High School Years. They have different lines of DVD materials available including video study materials for the Advanced Placement Exams. These DVDs include a quick review of the material the tests will cover and a workbook on DVD that you can use from your computer to practice for the AP test.

Our family was asked to review the "U.S. Government and Politics" AP Exam Prep DVD and share our ideas and opinions with you.


The DVD was a great way to review and study the material that students will have covered prior to using the DVD and the Digital Workbook that is included with it. The material is presented in an interesting way. The "lecturers" are young people (actors) who are giving the information quickly. It moves right along with 30 topics briefly covered in 30 minutes. The Light Speed Home Video Learning DVDs all include test taking tips as well which will help to prepare your student for taking the AP Exams successfully!

We thought this was a bit dull, but the subject matter was the issue (all those endless dates to memorize-sigh!), not so much it's presentation!  We have looked at a few Test Prep programs this year (ACT etc), and it is my ninth-grade daughter's opinion, that the DVD was better than only having a workbook.

I looked at the College Board's website to see how the subjects covered coincide:

You can see that the Cerebellum Corp. obviously took into careful consideration the topics that should be covered and it looks to me as though the material they covered on the DVD would adequately inform your student of what will be required of them on the test. 

The DVDs are available at the Cerebellum Corporation's website here for $49.98 (but they are $10.00 off right now!):



Homeschooling Teen Online Magazine

Many Homeschooled Teens like mine, find the time to pursue a particular talent or interest and "Homeschooling Teen" magazine may give them the opportunity to hone their skills and interest in writing. Some Teens are not naturally inclined toward writing but might be motivated by being 'published' and by seeing how their review or article could be of interest and help to others.

Check out this great resource for Homeschooling Teens- by Homeschooling Teens!

http://homeschoolingteen.wordpress.com/subscribe-its-free/

They accept informative articles, creative writing and even cartoons.  I love to see creative resources and opportunities like this for Homeschooled young people. Go ahead and sign them up for the ezine and let us know if your teen decides to send something in to the magazine so that we can be sure to support their efforts!

Have a wonderful week - MeritK