Friday, August 31, 2012

Drying Bell Peppers

Our bell peppers did well this year! We were able to pickle them along with blanch a bunch of strips for fajitas and future pizza toppings. Once I had adequate amounts of those on hand, I was eager to store this next harvest without taking up any more of our dwindling freezer space or using any more precious jars.

It was time to bring out our Excalibur Dehydrator! While my first attempt at drying brought me mummified blueberries, I had high hopes for this venture (When you invest in something like thi$, you NEED to figure it all out!).

My desire was to store some chopped and dried peppers for the autumn/winter months which would flavor soups and pasta sauces. The thought of tossing in some "already prepared" vegetables into a simmering pot on a cold day brought a smile to my face. Daydream is over, let's get to work!

First, wash all of your produce. Second, find any capable chopping hands in the area and put them to good use.

Our dehydrator has nine trays and we were able to fill up six of them with our garden bounty.

Next, we placed all the filled trays back into the unit and set the timer for the allotted time which depends upon the area you live and the humidity. The dehydrator manual provides that information.

When the peppers were finished, I poured them into a recycled spice container. You can see how much they shrunk down. All six trays fit into this 6 ounce bottle! It is great on storage space to think that there are over twenty bell peppers inside! Amazing.

I am saving all my used spice containers and trying to buy the same brand for uniformity. My dream goal is to have a row of prepared, dried goods procured from our garden. I also pasted on a label which provides the approximate yield amounts. If a soup calls for one bell pepper, then I simply drop in 1/4 cup of the dried flakes. 

The other fun thing about using these containers is that there is already a spout for measuring large amounts one one side.

The side with holes is perfect for sprinkling into foods should you want just a dash of flavor to liven up a recipe.

To reconstitute: Place equal amount of boiling water to your amount of dried vegetable. Soak from 10 minutes to 2 hours depending on how soft you need them to be. You could also toss them directly into soups and sauces as they cook (which I do a lot of the time) but they may not be as tender or flavorful.

I am including my clip art in case you are interested in drying some peppers yourself. You could probably do something similar in an oven if you haven't a dehydrator.  This is excellent to add into many savory dishes such as pot pies, pasta sauces, pilafs and autumn stews. Happy harvesting! ~JES

"In all labour there is profit…"
~ Proverbs 14:23a

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Make Your Own Baby Burp Cloths ~ Easy to Sew {DIY}

I received burp cloths like these as a gift with our firstborn and loved them to pieces. Let me tell you, they were always in use. I couldn't have enough of them for baby was always full of "fun"! These cloths are very easy to make and if I can sew them, you can too (trust me)! 

These burp cloths are meant to be draped over mother's shoulder after baby has been well fed… the rest is history. Flannel is wonderfully soft for wiping up baby.  Here is how you make one:


First, you need to make your pattern. Tape two pieces of regular sized paper together (side by side) in order to make a larger piece of paper (or you can use an old piece of wide wrapping paper). Now, fold that large paper in half and place my printable pattern on the fold where indicated on the printable and cut around the line (leaving the folded area untouched).

Your final pattern should resemble the picture above (you will have to write "place on fold" as indicated on photo onto your pattern). Time to sew. Do you have your fabric ready? I use a patterned fabric on one side of the cloth and used plain fabric for the other side but coordinating fabrics are really cute too.

Fold your flannel fabric in half and place your pattern on the fabric making sure to pin the pattern  "on fold" where it indicates. You will need to cut out two flannel pieces of equal size of either the same or coordinating fabric.

Now, lay the "right" sides of the two (already cut) flannel pieces together (on top of each other).

Pin around the edges leaving open an area at the end as described in the next step.

Leave a slot open where the straight area on your pattern is (on one end only). Do not pin or sew there. This is where you will invert the piece back to the right sides (later on) so make sure your hand can squeeze through the opening.

Next, sew the two pieces together around the edges with a straight stitch (except for the area where we left the opening). Remove the pins as you go.

Now that the sewing is done, turn the fabric inside out by placing your hand inside the little "hole" you left open.

You are almost finished! Time to get the iron…

Iron the burp cloth so it lays nice and flat making sure to get around the edges so that the shape appears nice and neat.

When you get to the opening, carefully tuck the opening fabric into itself (ironing in place may help) and pin in place (to close the hole) as shown in photo below.

Once the area is pinned, it is time to sew the final seams around the entire edge of the cloth.

I use the zig-zag stitch to complete the project but you can use a fancier stitch if you have a fancier machine. 

All done! You may want to iron it one more time.

Disclaimer: There are many ways to further embellish the project. Sewing just isn't one of my strengths as you can see from the final product… For you seasoned sewers, excuse me if I insulted your intelligence with my "baby step" directions :)

These soft cloths should keep mother and child cozy and clean. I think they would make a lovely gift, too. Here are some free printable gift tags for boys (girl tags will be coming soon). You will find the printable pattern for this easy project HERE

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."
~ Psalm 139:14

Monday, August 27, 2012

Apples in Autumn ~ A Unit Study

It's very enjoyable to start off your school year with a unit study. The Bible, science, history, language arts, geography and math are incorporated here for an autumn inspired apple study. If you have a week or two along with some of the resources listed below, you will be wondering why you haven't "picked" this topic before… After all, it's as "American as apple pie"!

Chapter Book/Read Aloud Title Suggestion: A biography chapter book about Johnny Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed, christened John Chapman was one of America’s first pioneers who had a love for God and His creation. Fall is the perfect time to share this heritage of history and sweet science to your children at the same time. 

Suggested Picture/Reference Books: A True Book About Apples by Elaine Landau,  How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman, The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons, How do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro, Apple Fractions by Jerry Pallotta, Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson, American Tall Tales Audio CD featuring Johnny Appleseed by Jim Weiss

I would suggest reading together from the chapter book for 1/2 hour a day and choosing one picture book per day to read as well. (The books are just suggestions and you may use whatever you have available to you.) Then, have the children do some of the listed activities below (or any you come up with) each day according to their abilities.  Include all work separately in a notebook/binder or composition book for each child. Don't forget to let them decorate their own covers with pictures of apples, stickers or clip art! Encourage them to be creative.  By the end of a few weeks you will have a nice collection of "apple scrapbooks" to cherish as an educational keepsake.

Is the forbidden fruit an apple?

Bible/Family Discussion: Read the story of Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 1-3). Many people associate the forbidden fruit with an apple. Why do you think that is? Read this article from Answers in Genesis to your family and discuss the information together (Here is another article to read for discussion if you are interested in this topic). Do you still think it is an apple? Now is also a good time to discuss obedience with the children.

Bible/Science/Research: Where did "adam's apple" get its meaning? Have older children research this and report back to the family with an oral presentation of the information found. 

Bible/Penmanship/Character Building/Art: Read aloud the following Scripture and discuss the meaning. Have older children copy the verse in their best writing making sure to include all the proper punctuation. Younger children can illustrate the verse. 

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
~ Proverbs 25:11

Bible: Discuss with your children the saying below. What Bible verses reaffirm this message? This is a great time to discuss good company verses bad company.

"One Bad Apple Spoils the Whole Bunch…"

Bible/Penmanship/Character Building/Art: Read aloud the following Scripture and discuss the meaning. Have older children copy the verse in their best writing making sure to include all the proper punctuation. Younger children can illustrate the verse.

"Keep my commandments, and live;
and my law as the apple of thine eye."
~ Proverbs 7:2

Science/Nature: Read together, How do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro and have the children draw and diagram the inside of an apple.

Science/Nature/Art: Read The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons.  Have your children draw what an apple tree looks like in each of the four seasons. 

Science/Nature/Art: Read A True Book About Apples and have children draw a picture of an apple blossom, color it and label the parts. An older child can also do some research and write a short report about the art of grafting.

Science/Basic Skills/Math: There are many varieties of apples. Go to the grocery store and have your children write down all the different kinds that they see and what color they are. Have older children alphabetize the list when they get home. Older children can also write out the price of each apple and average out how much we pay per pound for them.

Science/Nature: Discuss with your children the various products that are made with apples (cider, vinegar, sauce, etc.). See how many they can come up with. Have the older children record them on paper in list form.

Spelling Word Suggestions for Younger Children: (Give words at beginning of unit and test at the end.)
  1. apple
  2. seed
  3. tree
  4. core
  5. stem
  6. fruit
  7. branch
  8. orchard
  9. autumn
  10. harvest
  11. blossom
  12. grafting (vocabulary word)
Copywork/Language Arts: Read the "Apple Song" to your children. Have them copy a few lines each day of the apple poem below in their best writing while paying close attention to punctuation. Older children can also make up their own poem about apples.

Apple Song

The apples are seasoned and ripe and sound,
Gently they fall on the yellow ground.

The apples are stored in the dusky bin,
Where hardly a glimmer of light creeps in.

In the firelit, winter nights, they'll be,
The clear sweet taste of a summer tree!

~ Frances Frost

Language Arts/Grammar:Print or copy off the poem above for the students to use for this exersize. Have them circle the nouns in red crayon, circle the verbs in blue crayon and circle the adjectives in green crayon. If they aren't aware of these items yet, now is a good time to start with nouns.

Language Arts/Bible: A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things, usually by using the words "like" or "as". Proverbs 25:11 (shown above) is a simile. This would be a good time to explain to your children what a simile is. Can they think of any other similes in Scriptures or popular sayings?

Language Arts/Word Game: See how many words your children can make in three minutes using the letters in the words, "apples in autumn".

Language Arts: See if your children can come up with quotes pertaining to apples. Discuss together what each one means. For example:

"Apple of my eye…"

"Apple doesn't fall far from the tree…"
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away…"

Language Arts/Basic Skills: Have an apple tasting party like Marjorie Priceman suggests in her book, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. Teach the children the meaning of adjectives (descriptive words) when tasting each variety such as "sweet", "tart" and "crunchy". An older child can record the results of each apple and the words that best describe the flavors in a chart form.

Geography: After reading, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman. Print out a blank world map and have the children color all the countries in different colors that were visited in the story. Older children can label the countries and add the capitol cities.

Geography: Have your children study the map above of the apple-growing states. Have them make a list  showing which states grow apples by comparing this map with a physical map. Ask them if your state grows them? How about a neighboring state? Do they know what area is called the "Big Apple"?

History/Art: While reading about Johnny Appleseed, have the children draw a picture of what they think he looked like. Surround the picture with words that describe him. Older children can do more research and write a report about his life.

American History/Legends: Listen to the audio CD, American Tall Tales Audio CD featuring Johnny Appleseed by Jim Weiss (perhaps one story a day). Discuss the meaning of tall tales, truth verses exaggeration. Can they think of any other examples of tall tales in history?

Buy at

A Bible Belonging to Johnny Appleseed

"A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t."
~ C.H. Spurgeon

History/Bible Discussion: Pictured above is an actual Bible owned by John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed). Discuss the beauty of this photograph with your children. What do they think about this picture? Read the Spurgeon quote (featured above) to them and discuss the meaning together.

History/Geography: Read Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson. Print out a map of the United States and have your children draw the route that the original pioneers took traveling with the apple trees from Salem, Iowa to Portland Oregon (noted in back of book). Older children can also label some of the rivers and canyons on the map that were mentioned in the book.

History/Science: Read about Isaac Newton and what the apple had to do with the theory of gravity. You can find a short story about it here for free at The Baldwin Project. You can read a bit more about gravity here  and there is also an easy apple experiment relating to gravity here

Craft/Family History: Make an family "apple" tree craft with the children. At this time tell some special family stories about your ancestors.

Nutrition/Home Economics: Discuss the saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Why are apples healthy snacks? Have your children create a nutritional chart about the apple.

Home Economics/Math: Make a large batch of applesauce together, making sure that the children do all the measuring.

Home Economics/Math/Service: After reading How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman, make an apple pie together. Have the children do the measuring (and weighing also if purchasing apples at the grocery store). Another idea is to have your children double the recipe to strengthen their math skills and teach them the beauty of giving. The extra pie can be taken to someone in need of some cheering up.

Math: Read Apple Fractions by Jerry Pallotta and do an informal math lesson using the examples the author presented in the book. Cut up the apples and see if your child can guess what "fraction" they are about to eat.  Whoever guesses right may dip their apple in peanut butter  :)

Apples and Oranges by Paul Cezanne
"When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God-made object like a tree or flower.
If it clashes, it is not art."
~ Paul Cezanne

Art History/Picture Study: Do a picture study on the apple inspired artwork of Paul Cezanne. He created dozens of paintings featuring the apple such as Still Life with Apples,  Still Life with Apples in Bowl and Still Life with Apples, Bottle, Milk Pot (children should notice this painting is with brighter colors). Explain to your children that he was a French artist (can they find France on the globe?) and known as a "post impressionistic painter" which according to Wikipedia means these painters used "vivid colours, thick application of paint, distinctive brush strokes, and real-life subject matter, but they were more inclined to emphasize geometric forms, to distort form for expressive effect, and to use unnatural or arbitrary colour."  Have children study a painting a few minutes a day and point out different details to you such as what colors they notice, what objects are painted and what mood does the artwork put them in? At the end of the week, have older students record their observations on paper in the form of an art review of their favorite apple painting. Don't forget to paste a copy of the artwork on your paper for extra enhancement.

"With an apple I will astonish Paris."
~ Paul Cezanne

Art: Have your children try painting a still life of apples using whatever kind of paints you have available. Have them prepare the apple display "Cezanne" style (in a bowl with a cloth, basket, etc.). Have them draw the picture first and then fill it in with paints.

Arts/Crafts: Create a fingerprint apple tree.

Foreign Language: Memorize how to say "apple" and "tree" in the foreign language you are studying.

Extra ActivitiesEnchanted Learning Website has loads of apple activity sheets for the picking! Print out the ones that are age appropriate for your children and add them into your notebooks.

Field Trip: Go apple picking (perhaps there is an orchard near by or a family who owns a tree and doesn't mind sharing). There is a wonderful area in California called Oak Glen that offers apple picking along with a lot of historical fun if you live in the area.

Field Trip: Go to an apple festivalHere is a list of dates and times of festivals spanning the entire United States. Don't forget to take pictures and scrapbook them inside your apple notebooks.

"Keep me as the apple of the eye,
hide me under the shadow of thy wings…"
~ Psalm 17:8

This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sHomestead Barn HopAmaze Me MondayMonday's MusingsMarriage MondayTitus 2sdaysTitus 2 TuesdaysRaising HomemakersMake Bake CreateWise Woman Link UpWow Us Wednesdays, Wildcrafting WednesdayThe ScoopCoffee and ConversationSo Much at HomeHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeHearts for Home ThursdaysGrowing in Grace ThursdaysHome Acre HopFrom the Farm Blog HopFarmgirl FridayFront Porch Friday Blog HopSimple Meals FridayCultivate NourishingSimply Natural SaturdaysClever Chicks Blog Hop and the Fabulous Fall Linky Party. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. Originally shared as guest post at Deep Roots at Home.