Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Free Unit Studies for Your Homeschool

"Education would be much more effective if its purpose was to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it." 
~William Haley

We love doing unit studies in our homeschool! We find it kindles an interest to learn. When children are given stacks of "living" books, activities and ideas about a certain subject, that subject comes alive! And anything that may have seemed dull at first glance suddenly becomes interesting! Here is a list of the free unit studies that we have prepared on this blog. Even if you have a curriculum, sometimes it is fun (and even necessary) to change things up (with a unit study in between) to avoid monotony. These would also be fun to do in the summer at a slower and enjoyable pace.

You may also be interested in our World History Series:

Creation Study (History of the World ~ Part 1)
Noah's Ark and the World Wide Flood (History of the World ~ Part 2)

For more information, visit our article "What is a Unit Study".

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Strawberry Patch of Posts

"Mrs. Elton, in all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet and her basket, was very ready to lead the way in gathering, accepting, or talking — strawberries, and only strawberries, could now be thought or spoken of. — “The best fruit in England — every body’s favourite — always wholesome. These the finest beds and finest sorts. — Delightful to gather for one’s self — the only way of really enjoying them. Morning decidedly the best time — never tired — every sort good — hautboy infinitely superior — no comparison — the others hardly eatable — hautboys very scarce — Chili preferred — white wood finest flavour of all — price of strawberries in London — abundance about Bristol — Maple Grove — cultivation — beds when to be renewed — gardeners thinking exactly different — no general rule — gardeners never to be put out of their way — delicious fruit — only too rich to be eaten much of — inferior to cherries — currants more refreshing — only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping — glaring sun — tired to death — could bear it no longer — must go and sit in the shade.”
~ Jane Austen, Emma

In honor of strawberry season, here are some posts from the past which pertain to this favorite fruit of mine {titles are linked}:

  • How to Freeze Strawberries
  • Raw Strawberry Refrigerator Jam
  • Strawberry Honey Jam Recipe
  • Strawberry Honey Jam (No Pectin Recipe)       

  • two round mason jar labels
  • two gift tags
  • one garden gift tag
  • three round strawberry "scrap" pieces
  • two rectangular strawberry "scrap" pieces
  • twelve strawberry bunting flags

"We are to walk about your gardens, and gather the strawberries ourselves, and sit under trees;—and whatever else you may like to provide, it is to be all out of doors— a table spread in the shade, you know. Every thing as natural and simple as possible."
~ Jane Austen, Emma

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Make Your Own Seasoning Mixes ~ Free Printable Recipe Kit

"She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar."
~ Proverbs 31:14

As I had mentioned in an earlier post, with more and more loved one's going gluten-free, I have had to re-evaluate our pantry. While it is obvious which bulk foods contain wheat, the sinister products that sneak up on you are the seasoning mixes. Even if you aren't trying to avoid gluten, think of a future guest (I almost used taco seasoning on my mother who is gf). Also, making your own seasoning mixes is frugal and healthier (no MSG's, GMO soy additives, anti-caking agents, weird chemicals, etc.). Not to mention, you can chose more quality ingredients such as replacing table salt with sea salt, sugars with a less processed brand (or eliminate altogether) and organic ingredients if your budget allows.  We are sharing the six seasonings we use most often in our home along with printable recipes, labels and directions to paste onto your jars.

Here are the basic ingredients you will need in order to make all six seasoning mixes for your pantry. I prepared an approximate pint of each but larger families may want to make a quart. Or, once you know what recipes you like, then you can double them and so forth. We also live in a humid climate so I don't go larger than pint sized jars or they will quickly cake up on me.
  • arrowroot powder (cornstarch and/or tapioca starch would work also)
  • basil (dried)
  • black pepper (ground)
  • cayenne pepper
  • celery seed (celery salt would work too if you reduce salt in recipe used)
  • chili powder
  • chives (dried)
  • cumin (ground)
  • dill weed (dried)
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • onions (minced)
  • oregano (dried)
  • paprika
  • parsley (dried)
  • red chili pepper flakes (crushed)
  • salt (we use sea salt and/or himalayan pink salt for a healthier seasoning)
  • sugar (we used organic sugar but you may omit altogether on certain recipes)
  • thyme (dried)
  • turmeric

Italian Dressing Mix

1/4 c. garlic powder
1/4 c. onion powder
1/4 c. sugar (we used organic) (monk fruit also works here!)
1/2 c. dried oregano
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 c. dried parsley
1 tsp. celery seed
1/2 c. salt (we used sea salt)

Blend all ingredients together in a blender and store in an airtight container. 

Directions: To prepare dressing, whisk together 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 1/3 cup oil (grapeseed or olive oil are good choices), 1/4 c. water and 4 tbsp. of the dry mix. You could also experiment with different vinegars to get different flavors.

Italian Seasoning Mix

1/2 cup dried oregano
1/2 cup dried basil
1/4 cup dried parsley

Optional Herbs to Add into the Mix:

2 tbsp. dried thyme
2 tbsp. dried rosemary
2 tbsp. dried sage

Directions: Use like you would any Italian seasoning mix. Herbs are so good for you so feel free to use liberally! :) We add this onto our pasta sauces, pizzas, roasted vegetables, etc.

Ranch Dressing Mix

2 tbsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. salt (we used sea salt)
2/3 c. dried chives
2/3 c. dried parsley
1/3 c. dried dill
1/3 c. garlic powder
1/3 c. onion powder

{Notes: This mix should be shaken well before measuring each time to evenly distribute the herbs and spices.}

Directions:  To make a ranch style dressing (we love to dip our pizza crust into this), mix together 1 1/2 tbsp. ranch mix with one cup of mayonnaise and either one cup of kefir, buttermilk or homemade plain yogurt (I mention homemade because it is runnier).

To make a ranch style dip, add one or more tbsp. of mix to one cup of sour cream until you reach the  desired flavor or visit HERE for my updated recipe that I now prefer!

Seasoned Salt {Lawrey's Copycat Recipe}

2/3 c. salt {we used sea salt}
3 tbsp. sugar {we used organic}
2 ½ tsp. paprika
1 ¼ tsp. turmeric
1 ¼ tsp. onion powder
1 ¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 ¼ tsp. cornstarch or arrowroot powder

{Note: The good part about making your own seasoning salt is that you can replace the generic salt with a healthier alternative like sea salt or himalayan pink salt.  You could also eliminate the sugar altogether though it may change the potential "Lawrey's" taste.  Adapted from this recipe.}

Directions: Use like you would any seasoning salt. We especially love this on our meats, fried potatoes and baked french fries.

Chili Seasoning Mix

1/2 c. cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca flour
1/4 c. chili powder
3 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. Herbamare or seasoning salt
2 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. sugar (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined or use a mortar and pestle (or blender) to yield a finer spice mix.

(This recipe is from "This Fox Kitchen" which is no longer available online.)

Directions: Use 2 tbsp. of mix per pound of ground meat (this may be too spicy for children, you can reduce the cayenne or red pepper flakes if need be).

Taco Seasoning Mix

6 tbsp. chili powder
3 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. black pepper
6 tsp. salt *
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

The original recipe I used is no longer available online and so now I use my sister-in-law's version which is quite good (and is adapted from Mel's Kitchen). Simply mix all the ingredients together in a jar.

* My sister in law actually puts in 3/4 cup of pink salt because then she doesn't need to add salt to her recipes but everyone cooks different and I wanted to point that out. It would make it more of a "taco seasoning salt" blend.

Note:  If you would like a thickener, you can add in 1/2 c. cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca flour to the mix.

Our printable includes the recipes and labels for the six seasonings (borrowed from our "Seasoning, Spices and Such" label set). Unfortunately it doesn't include a few of the recipes because they were found online when I first put it together and I didn't feel right printing their recipes out. But I do include the labels for all of them.

It also shares instructions for the mixes so that you don't need to look them up each time you prepare them. I affixed mine to the back of each appropriate jar.

It is so satisfying to add usable items like this to your pantry at a fraction of the cost and with all natural ingredients! I store the bulk seasoning in jars and refill my spice containers as needed. You can also find spice jar lids for your mason jars here if you like. Happy homemaking ladies!

For our "Make Your Own Seasoning Mixes DIY Recipe Kit Printable", visit HERE.You can either print them out on plain paper, cut to size and affix to your containers with glue (or decoupage) or print them out on sticker paper and cut to size. If you choose the first route, you may want to place a piece of packing tape or clear contact paper over each label to protect them.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Blessing$ of Old Fashioned Work ~ Part Three

She cuts the lengthy lawn with strength and purpose, in straight, orderly rows. The green grass spurts from the machine and the aroma is fresh and earthy. The dew has slowly evaporated but her shoes are still wet with the heavenly waters. 
Though she sweats, she smiles. 
She does contribute to the income, in these old fashioned ways, by "working willingly with her hands".  
No need to hire a gardener. No need to purchase a gym membership. 
She "works out" at home... and for the home... 
She is a "keeper at home".

"He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand:
but the hand of the diligent maketh rich."
~ Proverbs 10:4

When considering the bountiful blessings of old fasioned-labor, we mustn't forget the sweetness of $avings, especially in todays challenging economy. Taking some tasks into our own capable hands might be a financial incentive for those who are struggling. Not only will you receive the benefits and satisfaction of a job well done, health for the exercise it provides, but you are also rewarded with monetary compensation. Instead of money going out, you have kept it "in".

It is ironic how we pay a gardener to mow our lawns because we have no "time" to maintain them. Yet at the end of the day, many of us "spend" the time and head out to the gym to exercise. Some pay out funds to sit inside a sauna to sweat. We rely on indoor machines and equipment in a stale room while the mower, hedgers and clippers could have provided physical activity the old fashioned way, in the fresh outdoors, in manageable daily doses while being productive and economical at home.

"It has been said that the best cure for hard times is to cheat the doctor by being temperate; the lawyer, by keeping out of debt; the demagogue, by voting for honest men; and poverty, by being industrious."

In the same way, growing your own vegetables will save you a pretty penny! There is also the task of washing your own car, cleaning your own house, cooking your own meals from scratch and the labor list goes on.

"The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing:
but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat."
~ Proverbs 13:4

Perhaps we should consider going back to "work at home" and reduce the excess spending:

A weekly lawn service can cost between $65-$90 for cutting, leaf blowing, hedging and shrub trimming.

A monthly fitness club membership averages $35-40 per month.

A car wash costs on the average of $5-15 for a basic service.

Using the clothesline instead of a dryer will also offer significant savings.

This totals at least $200 per month and doesn't include half of what is spent in many homes on "old fashioned labor".

"Simple industry and thrift will go far toward making any person of ordinary working faculty comparatively independent in his means. Almost every working man may be so, provided he will carefully husband his resources and watch the little outlets of useless expenditure. A penny is a very small matter, yet the comfort of thousands of families depends upon the proper saving and spending of pennies."

"Washington and his lady were examples of industry, plainness, frugality and economy - and thousands of others of the wealthy, labored in the field and kitchen, in older times, before folly superseded wisdom, and fashion drove comon sense and economy off the track." ~ The Royal Path of Life, 1882

The old fashioned way of working with our own hands makes "cents" in many ways! Not only does it bless the bank account, it blesses you with health and the sweet satisfaction of a job well done.  Dear ladies, when you labor at home, you are contributing to the family income! Being a keeper at home is a beautiful, noble and rewarding profession. Let us not forget the benefits that come from your dedicated hands and the advantage your home has financially because you invest your time and energy into it!

"The noblest man of earth is he who puts his hands cheerfully
and proudly to honest labor.
Labor is a business and ordinance of God."

{See part one part twopart threepart four and part five of this series.}

*Note: I realize that many of you are in challenging stages with many responsibilities, specifically those caring for little children or with an illness. I am suggesting and encouraging these opportunities for women who have the extra time, have become sedentary or are in financial need. 

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 2sdaysTitus 2 TuesdaysRoses of InspirationTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays, Wildcrafting WednesdayCoffee and ConversationSo Much at HomeHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeHome Acre HopFrom the Farm Blog HopFarmgirl FridayFront Porch Friday Blog HopAwesome Life Friday Link UpSimply Natural Saturdays and Clever Chicks Blog HopThank you lovely ladies for hosting these.  Some of the laundry paintings are by Charles Curran.  Source of information for monthly fees. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Make Your Own ~ Decorative Apothecary Jars {DIY}

“Style isn't what you have---it's what you do with what you have.” 

When we first started our Create Your Own Home Pharmacy ~ Art of the Apothecary Series, I had mentioned there would also be some crafting projects. Without further adieu, may I present this make-your -own-apothecary-jar tutorial. The possibilities are endless with these fun and useful jars! They can store herbs, favorite tea blends, laundry room sundries (such as soap, clothespins, etc), decorative items from nature (like sea glass, pinecones and such) and dry goods in the bathroom. Whatever you desire! And they are so easy and practically free to make!

To begin with, you will need some jars (recycle, recycle). If you want to make a set of three, it is nice to have three different sizes. I also tried to use three different kinds. The first jar was used because of its larger size (quart size) and the second jar had a wider opening than the first to give it an identity. The third jar was chosen because of its hexagon style while also being a bit shorter than the rest. You could also use the exact same kind of jar and line them all up, nice and neat, for an apothecary store look. 

1. You will need some cast-off drawer/cabinet knobs. I used some old ones that came with our house which were dull, rusted and quite ugly. Some glass ones would be divine (but I was after thriftiness)!

2. Using a thick nail and a hammer, drive the nail through the center of your jar lid to make a hole (sorry I don't have better step-by-step photos, I made these with my daughter and didn't want to drop everything to get good pictures).

3. Once hole has been created, place knob through the hole and firmly screw them onto the jar lid to keep it in place. If you are handy, you could probably use a tool to cut off the excess screw. Note: A shorter screw would be better (and invisible) but I just used what I had on hand! :)

4. Paint your refurbished lids to match your decor and let dry. 

5. All finished, just place on your jar! 

There are many ways you can decorate these sets (Think pink lids and sparkles for a girls room while holding rubber bands, hair clips and ribbons)! You can also leave your jars plain or attach some pretty labels like we did. 

If you want to use the same antique set that we used, you will find our free printable below. Thank you to the Graphics Fairy for the antique images! We affixed our labels with a good old fashioned glue stick (you could also use decoupage). 

We placed cotton balls, bandaids and q-tips inside our jars making them a bit of a first aid station and beauty area in the bathroom.

The best part about this project is that it didn't cost us a dime. The jars are recycled and the knobs were cast off from our cabinets. The paint was found in our homeschool craft area. The only thing that costed a few cents was the printer ink and swipe of glue. 

These are so versatile, frugal and fun. You can prepare something for the schoolroom such as a jar set for markers, glue sticks and crayons. In the sewing room you can feature buttons, threads and ribbons. In the bathroom, you can store your homemade bath salts and bath powders. And in your home apothecary, you can simply store your dried herbs. Can you see yourself making something like this and to what purpose? To use these vintage perfume labels, simply visit HERE! You can either print them out on plain paper, cut to size and affix to your containers with glue (or decoupage) or print them out on sticker paper and cut to size. Happy creating! 
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 HomesteadFrom the Farm Blog HopAwesome Life Friday Link UpFive Star Frou Frou FridayShabbilicious FridaySimply Natural Saturdays and Clever Chicks Blog Hop. 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).

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Gluten-Free Pantry and Provisions ~ Free Printable Labels

"You should just see our pantry. It's a sight to behold."
~ L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

As many of our friends and family members are finding out they are gluten-intolerant, I noticed I am adding different foods and flours to my pantry. Because of this, I prepared an additional set of labels for some of the newly acquired items (we are sharing this printable below if you are interested).

Though challenging to think of appropriate meals in the beginning, you will eventually succeed and have some great go-to recipes that everyone will enjoy. Besides the obvious meat and vegetable combinations, here are some basic pantry staples that our family finds useful to have on hand:
  • Brown rice spaghetti is delicious and the possibilities with pasta are limitless (our favorite is from Trader Joe's).
  • Corn tortilla chips is another excellent item to stock as you can prepare impromptu salsas and bean dips for a gluten-free guest.
  • Corn tortillas are also very versatile and freeze well. With those, you can prepare enchiladas, soft tacos, tostadas, and fried tacos for a meal using either chicken, beef or budget friendly beans (Can you tell we like Mexican food?).

We have found that keeping an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend in our pantry is also very helpful. Simple Foody shares how to make your own five pound bag in order to cut down on costs. We have been making it with good results although we substitute half of the brown rice flour for white rice flour in her recipe.

Being hospitable and stocking your pantry go hand in hand. It is such a blessing to your loved ones when you can conveniently prepare food for them when they enter your home. Just as the grocery stores now have a gluten-free section, so does our pantry!

Are you gluten-free or any of your loved ones? Do you have any tips or recipes to share? This is all new to me and I would appreciate any information you can offer. We have a few recipes to share soon as well as our new favorite and convenient {gf} pizza crust mix-in-a-jar.

For our gluten-free pantry label additions, simply download and print the free PDF file HERE. You can either print them out on plain paper, cut to size and affix to your containers with glue (or decoupage) or print them out on sticker paper and cut to size. If you choose the first route, you may want to place a piece of packing tape or clear contact paper over each label to protect them. For our complete set of "Basic Pantry Labels", visit here (which doesn't include this gluten-free page). You may also be interested in our "Nuts and Seeds" labels and our matching "Seasonings, Spices and Such" set.  I invite you to subscribe to this blog (located on the sidebar) to get updates and access to future homemaking printables.

*For those who were asking where I purchased my red lidded pantry jars, they were found at a local hardware store. Here is the closest I have seen like them on Amazon. Hope this helps!