Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Selection and Slowing Down this Season…

Summer is upon us *dreamy sigh*… Thoughts of homemade ice cream, outdoor fun with the family and stacks of books fill my heart.  Here is a list of summer inspired activities that you may enjoy this season. 
Some recipes you may consider making is our avocado salsa and some angeled eggs for an outdoor picnic. What about a batch of deli-style refrigerator pickles to go with all those summer sandwiches? When the heat kicks in, you can blend up some frugal coffee beverages!

If mosquitoes are a problem in your area, consider making your own bug-spray.

If you plan on preserving, here is a list of recipes you may want to try.

Are you planning to slow down this season? I sure am! This weary pilgrim may post once a week but no more than that during these upcoming months… She has made lots of plans with her loved ones.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Joyful Woman

The Birthday by George Harcourt

“It is supposed by some that religion makes people solemn, takes the sunshine out of their life, the joy out of their heart, the song out of their mouth. But the reverse of this is the truth. No other one in the world has such secrets of joy as has the Christian. Christ teaches his followers to rejoice. He bids them rejoice even in sorrow and trial.” 

"Serve the Lord with gladness…"
~ Psalm 100:2a

Monday, June 17, 2013

Coconut Honeybee Lip Balm

Are you a lover of lip balm? It's a part of my daily wardrobe. Ever since we made the body scrubs together, my daughter has enjoyed making natural body products. We love these soothing sticks and are pleased to share our recipe with you!

If you have never made any, you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy they are! Lip balms don't require any fancy equipment either. While many recipes are measured in volume, this one uses old-fashioned measuring spoons and will produce 3 - 4 "chap-sticks".

Simple Supplies:

To begin, pack a tablespoon tightly with shredded beeswax.

Note: It is easier to remove wax if you grease the spoon first.

Place 4 tsp. of coconut oil and 1 tsp. of jojoba oil in a heatproof glass (such as a Pyrex measuring cup).

Add in your measured beeswax.

If using a double boiler, place all your ingredients (except for the honey) in there.

If you don't own a double boiler, place your heatproof bowl/glass inside of a small pot filled with water like we did. 

Bring water to a simmer and stir mixture inside until it is clear and smooth. Remove from heat.

The next step is to add 1/4 tsp. of honey into your melted mixture.

Stir it in until smooth, making sure that the honey is completely dissolved.

Let sit a few minutes and stir one more time to incorporate the honey.

Pour mixture into your containers as soon as possible because it will start to thicken. If your mixture does thicken up before containers are filled, then simply reheat in the double boiler and re-pour.

For best results, let your lip balm set overnight prior to capping.

These make excellent gifts so "bee" creative and melt and pour your own!

Here are some of our homemade labels if you are interested.

We simply used a glue stick to apply them.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Canning 101 ~ Step by Step Procedures

So, you gathered all the supplies to "can like crazy" this summer... You have your jars, boiling-water canner and you purchased the canning kit. Your reliable recipe is ready but you don't know where to begin with the canning process?! All the terms sound so foreign and scary! I remember that feeling...

Here are step-by-step, detailed instructions to preserve foods using the boiling-water method. This post is a compilation of these two articles; Canning 101 ~ Basic Terms and Canning 101 ~ Supplies. It is meant to share (in order) the preparations necessary to begin canning high-acid foods, safe and sound.

Step One ~ Sterilize Your Jars & Prepare Boiling Water in Canner

Examine Your Jars: Prior to canning, examine your jars (especially the rims) to make sure there are no nicks, cracks or other defects that may hinder safe processing. Do not use the faulty ones. Jars that have a filmy look should be soaked and cleaned in a vinegar with hot water solution.

Sterilizing Jars With Dishwasher. If you have a dishwasher, simple place your jars inside, run your dishwasher with soap (like normal) and keep door closed until you are ready to use them (keeping the jars nice, warm and clean inside). You will need to do this at the very beginning of your canning day and time it to where the jars are hot, clean and ready when you need to start filling them.

Prepare Boiling Water in Canner. The next step is to fill your canner about ¾ full with clean water and bring it to a boil (this takes time so it is best to start this step and then begin preparing your food items). There are ridges on the inside of most canners. The lower ridge is the mark to fill up with water when you are canning with quart jars. The higher ridge is for smaller jars. If you filled the canner too high with water, when you place your jars in, it may overflow. Just ladle out extra water if this happens. Keep this simmering until you are ready to process your foods in the canner.

Note: If you have really hard water and your jars come out filmy, add 1/2 - 1 cup of vinegar to your canner water.

If you don't have a dishwasher like myself then…

Sterilizing Jars Without Dishwasher. Wash your jars in hot, soapy water, rinse clean and place them directly inside your canner rack inside the canner. Fill up the jars/canner with clean water making sure to cover the top of the jars by at least two inches. Now, put the canner on your stove to boil and let it boil for about ten minutes. When done, shut off the burner and keep lid closed (or turn to a simmer if you are not quite ready for them because you do want to start off with hot jars). Simply remove your jars with a jar lifter when you are ready to fill with your food. There will be too much water in the canner for processing so dump out half of the water that comes out with each jar and keep the rest in the canner until you get to the proper water height for processing (explained in step one).

Note: Your jars are now sterilized and your hot water is boiled and ready to use for canning so two things have been accomplished by this method. Just keep this water simmering and ready to use for the final canning of your food product.

Step Two ~ Prepare Your Jar Caps and Bands

Sterilize Caps/Bands. Wash your canning caps and bands in hot soapy water prior to using them. Lay the bands aside in a clean area.

Begin to heat your canning lids (photo above). There is a gummy substance at the bottom that needs softening. You simply place your lids in a small pot and let them simmer (at least ten minutes) until you are ready to use them. I keep mine simmering the whole time until all jars have been filled and I know I will no longer need them. You can safely remove them when ready by using a magnetic wand.

{Important Update: This step of heating your canning lids is no longer necessary, read this post for the updated canning procedure.}

Step Three ~ Fill Your Jar with Prepared Foods

Diagram is taken from Ball Blue Book of Preserving.

Once you have your food contents prepared (such as your jams, tomatoes, etc…) you will want to fill your clean and hot (aka sterilized) jars. The level in which to fill your jars is called headspace. Some recipes call for 1" headspace so you would ladle the jam up to the 1" mark shown on the diagram above. Some recipes may call for 1/2" headspace. But don't worry, each reliable canning recipe should state the amount of headspace necessary.

Step Four ~ Remove Air Bubbles

Once your contents have been placed inside the hot sterilized jars, you will want to remove air bubbles that formed. This is done by gently placing a plastic spatula between the food and the inside of the jar which should release the bubbles (see picture above). I always use a butter knife to do this though the experts suggest a plastic item since it won't scratch the glass or cause a jar to break if mishandled. Do not worry if you can't remove all the air bubbles, do your best. I rarely have a jar that doesn't seal and many a bubble have made it through the canning process without problems.

Step Five ~ Wiping the Jar Rims

Now that your headspace is proper and the air bubbles are removed to the best of your ability, you need to wipe the rim surface of your jars with a clean, damp cloth. Particles of food and liquid that get on the rim while filling the jars can prevent the vacuum seal you desire so this is an important step.

Step Six ~ Cap Your Jars (Adjusting Bands and Lids)

Once the jar rim has been wiped, get out your handy lid wand and dip it into the simmering pot of water and retrieve a lid. Place the hot lid onto the center of your jar and then place the screw band on top. Screw lid with band into place firmly (just to the point of resistance, not too tight). This is referred to as adjusting bands and lids.

Important Note: When your finished product comes out of the canner, you may get tempted to tighten lids and bands that seem loose. Do not do this as you may jeopardize the seal. You should wait 24 hours before handling your canned goods because everything will be cooled off and set by then.

Step Seven ~ Load Jars Into Canning Rack 

Now, using your jar lifter, place your prepared jars into the canning rack. Keep in mind that the racks work out well for the quart size jars but when you are using the small jars, it may be a bit of a challenge to move the rack from the counter and into the canner since the jars seem like they want to topple over (in some rack models). Just carry with caution as you place the rack of prepared goods into the canner full of hot, boiling water. Some people shut off the canner first and let it cool down a bit prior to adding the jars. I just put mine straight in and have never had any problems because the jars are already warmed and tempered.

Step Eight ~ Place in Boiling-Water Canner (aka "Processing")

"Heat processing food is essential to minimize the possibility of food spoilage due to microogranisms in sealed jars and deterioration from enzyme activity." 

~ Ball Blue Book of Preserving (Regarding the Boiling-Water Method)

Slowly place the full canning rack inside your canner full of boiling-water. You want the water level to cover your jars by at least one to two inches. You can add more boiling water if you didn't end up with enough. It is handy to have a teapot boiling with water in case this happens. Place canner lid on once the desired amount of water has been accomplished.

Once your loaded canner comes to a rolling boil again, begin the processing time. If your recipe calls for ten minutes in the water canner, wait until your pot comes back to a boil and then start the timing for the appropriate time.

Important Note: The only time you start timing right away prior to waiting for a rolling boil is when you are canning pickles.

Important Note: If you live in an altitude above 1000 feet elevation, your processing times will be different. Canning books will share charts and time increases or visit here for more information.

Important Note: Make sure that your recipe is fit for water bath canning. Low acid foods should be pressure-canned. All reliable canning recipes will share which method should be used.

Step Nine ~ Remove From Canner

(This picture shows the rack resting along the side of the pot using the ledge in the canning rack.)

When processing time is over, turn off heat. Remove your contents from the canner and place on an old thick towel (or something like it) to protect your surfaces because the jars are very hot. I usually set my rack on the ledge of the canner (shown above) and remove the jars one by one with a jar lifter (or you can carefully remove the whole rack at once). Some people let the water cool completely before removing.

Space jars a few inches apart on your surface to allow them to cool. Keep jars away from drafts while they are cooling as well. You may get tempted to tighten lids and bands that seem loose. Do not do this as you may jeopardize the seal. You should wait 24 hours before handling your canned goods because everything will be safe and set by then. If a jar does not seal, place in the refrigerator and enjoy right away :)

Step Ten ~ Enjoy the Fruit of Your Labors

I hope you enjoy preparing a stocked pantry as much as I do! It is very rewarding to see the filled jars!

Important Note: When canning, it is best to follow a recipe in all areas since the pH of the food, the way it is packed, the amount of heat penetration, processing times and jar size all have to do with safely preserving each specific food item. For more thorough information, I suggest looking into a canning resource book such as the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsMake Your Home Sing MondayGood Morning Mondays,  The ScoopTitus 2 TuesdaysTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link UpFive Star Frou Frou Friday, and Shabbilicious Friday. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them).

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Make Your Own Medicine with Honey from the - Pantry Series

Welcome to the first part in our "Make Your Own Medicine with Pantry Provisions" section of the pantry series.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
~ Hippocrates

Jacqueline at Deep Roots at Home (with a nursing background and love for natural healing) has graciously agreed to share some information from her archives that will turn your basic food storage into a medicine cabinet as well!

Raw honey is a staple in our "Essential Pantry List" and today we will learn 6 medicinal uses:

When our children were small, we developed allergies to many things because of exposure to mold. I read that local honey would help with allergies. That was the beginning of our interest in honey and bees.

It’s a simple theory that’s explained in countless books on folk medicine. Honeybees will deposit small amounts of the offending pollen in all that honey they produce. If that honey is made using flower nectar from the allergy sufferer’s locale, chances are pretty good that the pollen in the honey is the same type that’s causing your problem.

Eating honey over time just might help desensitize the body’s immune system. But believers of this theory said it’s only if the honey is raw and produced locally.

Why Raw?

Raw honey is honey fresh from the comb. It’s not pasteurized and therefore is still full of healthy enzymes. We know now that store-bought pasteurized honey is not much better than white sugar. The heat from pasteurization kills the beneficial enzymes and complex nutrients rendering them useless to the body.

(You will need to know that raw honey is more dense and will likely need to be spooned, especially in the cool months. The heating process which makes off-the-shelf honey squeeze out of a little hole also kills the enzymes and other properties, so you will have to think about using your honey slightly differently. I wrote a post about our hives and how to gently soften your raw honey for use.)

My Sweet Seven Bee-utiful Uses:

As I researched honey I was surprised to find so many benefits beyond sweetening. Here are 7 things I found beneficial to my family, but there are many more.

1. Soothing a Sore Throat

Honey is an excellent natural alternative to cough medicine as it can reduce cough and sooth that sore throat. See my recipe.

raw, local honey, helps sore throats, golden, clover, wildflower

2. Preventing Allergies

Taking 1 teaspoon of local, raw honey per day before and during allergy season can prevent your allergy symptoms. This works on the basis of “like cures like” and is the reason that your honey should be local. Local honey has a higher likelihood to contain triggers for your allergy symptoms. My son still takes a teaspoon of raw honey on the spoon before going out to rake or bale hay.

raking into windrows, hay field, big round bales

3. Acne, Sunburn, and Wound Healing

If you get sunburn, you can apply a thin layer of honey to help the skin heal. Cover and leave on as long as you can, then wash or shower and pat dry. A spot treatment overnight for acne works quickly. Place a little piece of tissue over it to keep it from getting on your pillowcase.

Raw honey is antiseptic which means it prevents the growth of disease-causing microorganisms. Used topically on wounds and burns, it reduces pain and lessens scarring.
“The data show that the wound healing properties of honey include stimulation of tissue growth, enhanced epithelialization, and minimized scar formation. These effects are ascribed to honey’s acidity, hydrogen peroxide content, osmotic effect, nutritional and antioxidant contents, stimulation of immunity, and tounidentified compounds.” ~Scientific World Journal. 2011 Apr 5;11:766-87.
4. Fight Indigestion

Take a teaspoon to help fight indigestion. An upset tummy will often settle right down.

5. Vitamin and Mineral Benefits

Honey not only naturally contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and vitamin C, but also important minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, calcium and phosphorous. Honey contains minerals and amino acids that are good for the reproductive system and stimulate the ovary’s function.

6. Constipation

When mixed with apple cider vinegar raw honey can help relieve constipation naturally.

7. Honey will keep forever without spoiling if stored properly.

We think a certain quantity of raw honey is a great thing to have on your list of preparedness items for food and medicine.


This little honeybee was slumped over and just about out of energy on chilly day this spring. I brought out a spoon with a dab of raw honey and placed it gently under its antennae. Within seconds, it snapped to an alert position and began feeding. It was there for over 30 minutes before it flew away, so I suppose this is another benefit of having raw honey on hand :)

tired honeybee eating honey,

“And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ~Deuteronomy 26: 8-9

When we honor God, He honors us… His blessings overflow! From the milk to the honey; our food is a gift from Him.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use. Using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others.

For 38 years, I have been a wife to my husband and a teacher of our children in the home. Now a new season has come, and with the blessing of my husband, I write this blog as an encouragement to myself and others. (Titus 2: 3-5) How important is this role of speaking into the lives of younger women! The habits of the home in one generation become the morals of society in the next. As William Ross Wallace said: “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”