Thursday, July 30, 2020

What I Learned About Homemaking Living Abroad ~ Part 1

"As cold waters to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country."
~ Proverbs 25:25

Living for several years in a small foreign country with a struggling economy taught me many lessons about homemaking. Since moving back to the State's, I realize how my thought process has changed in many areas. Here is a list of 12 random, home-related things I gleaned while living abroad (and in no particular order)...

1. New Isn't Necessarily Better

This particular lesson shines in the subject of furniture. Most of the newer pieces sold in affordable stores are made up of particle board or MDF. Furniture made up of these compounds tend to wear down quicker due to the elements (were more susceptible to mold where we lived) and began to come apart with frequent moving. Plus, they can't withstand heavy loads and began to bow even though they are quite heavy themselves. I have also since learned that products made with particle board and MDF emits formaldehyde into the home - the very place you nurture to be a safe haven!

Furniture made with solid wood can be passed down to generations and is long lasting. Because of this, the locals would rather buy used furniture from auctions or estate sales rather than purchase from big box stores. The quality is what they were looking for. Money is scarce and long term use is most important. They want something they can pass down to their children as furniture is considered a family legacy. 

Older wood furniture pieces have amazing bones. Most often they are very beautiful while boasting intricate carvings, ornate hardware and oftentimes glorious beveled glass! A helpful test to see if the quality of used (or new) furniture is good (besides the overall shape and appearance) is to look at the drawers. Is there dovetailing on the sides (this looks like a tongue-in-groove puzzle where the two sides of the drawers meet)? This shows quality craftsmanship. 

When re-establishing our home, we opted to buy all used furniture (and to be honest, the budget also dictated this!). There was no way we could afford brand new solid wood furniture to last us a lifetime but thrift shops and Craig's List (and family members who were cleaning out storage units!) provided many affordable options for us that we also found visually appealing. Here in America I was amazed at the prices of solid furniture at Salvation Army Stores, Goodwills and Re-Stores. My foreign friends would be in shock at the vast assortment and budget friendly options!

If you are thinking about replacing your old but solid wood furniture, you may want to consider re-staining it, re-painting it, replacing the hardware to better suit your style or re-upholstering it as what you have is probably excellent and will be cherished in the years to come! I personally love the painted white look so any sturdy frame is fair game for our home making it less challenging to frugally furnish.

2. Repair When Possible

When something would break on our neighbor's farm or home, the first reaction would always be "repair". To purchase brand new was almost un-thinkable. If you remember the picture of the kitchen strainer I broke a few years back, my hubby fixed it with a piece of wire (this is the mentality of a non-consumer society). Handcrafted repairs reigned in the homes. Obviously, replacing broken parts from the manufacturer and so forth was routine. Knowing a good mechanic and repairman was gold. Everything that can be fixed was fixed until it couldn't be.

My Bosch mixer gave up the ghost while living out of the country. There were no retail stores even slightly nearby nor online shopping like we know in North America. Hubby took a look at it and it seemed like the transmission was the culprit. What to do? This was not an inexpensive part. We had to really weigh out the pros and cons (how old was the machine, was there a lot of life left, how much to buy brand new and have it imported, etc.). I used that machine daily to shred, blend, knead and slice. Perhaps in the old days I would have just replaced it. But at the time every penny counted. We decided to replace the part ourselves and hope we had troubleshooted accurately. And glory hallelujah it worked! We spend $150 instead of $500.  

Here in America there is Amazon which delivers right to the door. There was no such thing where we lived. But what a convenience it is to simply type in a model number and find the parts and have them delivered the very next day! I do hope you take advantage of this possibility in your household.

3. Buy Good, Cry Once

When our neighbors finally had to replace something in their home or homestead, we were shocked to find that they purchased the very best quality when it appeared they had very little income to part with. The thought behind this was, instead of nickel and diming themselves to death, they were going to do it right the first time. Second, if they were going to replace something, it meant that it is something absolutely necessary for their lifestyle. They would not be spending money on anything frivolous to begin with. Thirdly, because of the importance of their purchase, they wanted to make sure that what they bought was going to last. They would check for plastic parts verses metal parts, where the item was made and if that country was known for good workmanship in that specific niche. Could they find replacement parts? These factors were all considered when making a purchase. Nothing was done lightly. They were spending hard earned money and they wanted to be prudent. They had very little but what they did have was "good".

Perhaps many of these concepts are already being employed by many of you but I thought I would share them just the same. I know that in my younger years I used to think that frugal meant buying the cheapest thing but I don't feel the same way about that now.  I used to think that "brand new" had a longer life-span but I can see that isn't necessarily the case. I used to think repairs weren't worth the time and effort but if you are buying "good" in the first place then they absolutely are. What about you, what have you found to be helpful from your experiences with the topics above? Part two is shared HERE. Happy homemaking!

Monday, July 20, 2020

How to Make "Floral Cleansing Grains" ~ A Delightful DIY for Your Skin

"These flower-packed cleansers gently exfoliate your skin, leaving it feeling soft and smooth. Cleansing grains can contain a wide variety of ingredients, from ground oats, nuts, seeds, rice, beans, powdered milk and clays, so there's a lot of room for creativity when making them..."

A bright and beautiful Monday morning to you all! Today I am excited to share that all-natural skin care can be a frugal but beautifully floral endeavor! You can tap into your creative feminine side without tapping into your bank account. 

With that being said, I am excited to share four variations of Jan's recipes (with her permission) featuring floral cleansing grains from The Big Book of Home-Made Products for Your Skin, Health & Home. I am also going to share my variations of what I created based on ingredients we already have. That is most of the fun (and frugal part) -- being resourceful with what you have! Ladies there are so many possibilities! You can always make an assortment of "flavors" and store them in small jars according to the seasons and what is growing in your gardens. 

To begin, this is really too simple not to do! All that is necessary is to grind all the dried ingredients together in a (well cleaned out) coffee grinder until finely powdered (I actually used our high-powered blender to process mine). 

Keep in mind that you can always double the recipes (and so forth) since there isn't anything in these that will go rancid quickly (except if you use the brown rice, nuts and/or seeds -- I would use that up within 3 months). The shelf life should be about a year if you store them properly in an airtight container to keep them fresh and dry.

Jan's Recipe Combinations:

CALENDULA OATMEAL (very simple blend - suitable for all skin types)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. dried calendula flowers

YARROW & GREEN CLAY (helpful for oily and acne-prone skin)
  • 2 tbsp. rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. dried yarrow
  • 1/2 tbsp. French green clay

CHAMOMILE ROSE (enriched with milk and suitable for more sensitive skin types)
  • 2 tbsp. rolled oats
  • 1/2 tbsp. milk powder (cow, goat or coconut)
  • 1/2 tbsp. dried rose petals
  • 1/2 tbsp. dried chamomile
  • 1/2 tsp. rose clay

LAVENDER & BLUE CLAY (gently polishes all skin types)
  • 2 tbsp. white or brown rice
  • 1/2 tbsp. dried lavender
  • 1 tsp. dried cornflower (or use more lavender)
  • 1/4 tsp. Cambrian blue clay

To use, remove any makeup and splash your face with warm water to dampen your skin. Place 1 to 2 teaspoons of the grains in the palm of your hand and mix in with a bit of water until you form a paste. If you want to be extra-fancy, you can use another liquid such as coconut milk, aloe, hydrosol, yogurt or witch hazel to form the mixture.  Gently apply and rub the paste over your skin and onto your face and throat. Rinse well with warm water and follow with a moisturizer if desired. 

When I asked Jan if these can be used on a daily basis verses a weekly basis, here was her answer... 

"It will depend on your skin type and personal preference. Some people find them helpful as part of their daily skin care routine, while others may want to use just once or twice per week. (Personally, I use just once or twice a week on my dry skin.)"

Alternatively, you can use these floral cleansing grains as a face mask by leaving the mixture on your skin for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing off.

Since I don't have any of the interesting clays she mentioned, I am making all my recipes without them. Here are some of the combinations I have created based on her ideas! I also made bigger batches because I like bulk supplies! It's the pantry builder in me 🤎 I also made fancy names as it is the romantic in me.  

Don't be shy...

and remember, if you don't have any of these dried herbs on hand, you can always go outside and forage for some and dry them yourself. 

Now, it's time to prepare some pretty things! Grind all the ingredients together and you have yourself some all natural beauty products!

Jes's Recipe Combinations:

  • 1/4 c. rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. dried calendula flowers
  • 1 tbsp. dried chamomile flowers

  • 1/4 c. rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. powdered milk
  • 1 tbsp. dried hibiscus
  • 1 tbsp. dried rose petals

LAVENDER POLISH (I will use this as a once-a-week face exfoliator) 
  • 1/4 c. white rice (I choose the white rice for the longer shelf life)
  • 1 tbsp. dried lavender

These would also make a fun gift! Place the handcrafted floral cleansing grains in a pretty jar, tie a cute small wooden spoon around it, and attach the instructions with a sweet ribbon. Or, use the darling test tubes and corks like Jan has done (pictured in the second photo above). This is a great project for recycled baby food jars as you can have a fun assortment all labeled with your different floral creations and all lined up lovingly in your bathroom cabinet!

Lastly, congratulations to Karen for winning the "Beloved Book" Giveaway! If you signed up, don't despair as we have FOUR more giveaways to go! In the meantime, you may be able to find this book at your local library or it can be purchased on Amazon.

Now to ask you a question... Based on what you currently have in your home apothecary, garden and pantry, what recipe combinations can you whip up that would work lovely on your skin? Just to give you a head-start, calendula, yarrow, rose, lavender, chamomile, sunflower, passionflower, hibiscus, jasmine, geranium and elderflower are all beneficial for the skin. I would also love to hear some made up names for your creations! Happy wildcrafting!

Monday, July 13, 2020

June 2020 Newsletter

"Anne pinned her narcissi on her hair and went to the lane gate, where she stood for awhile sunning herself in the June brightness before going in to attend to her Saturday morning duties. The world was growing lovely again; old Mother Nature was doing her best to remove the traces of the storm, and, though she was not to succeed fully for many a moon, she was really accomplishing wonders."
~ Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Hello dear reader! Here we are with another monthly newsletter in which I talk about books I have read, things I have watched, projects I have been working on and any other ponderings which really don't fit into its own post! Its been a busy few weeks and I have much to do! I have been working on some creative projects that I have been thoroughly enjoying and I hope to share them with you all soon (but not quite yet)! I also have a lot of paperwork to process this week for our family business so this homemaking chit-chat (based on the reflection of the month before) might be a bit rushed... but deadlines must be made! 

June was a productive month in the garden and harvest kitchen! It was pickle making time! I was able to put up some fermented pickles (shown above) and deli style pickles (which are pictured below).

I also prepared and froze 24 quarts of turkey stock/bone broth for the freezer. I had been saving up produce scraps in a bag in the freezer. When we made a turkey, I took the leftover bones, etc., and added in the saved scraps. Now we have a nutrient dense liquid which will be good in rice and soups in the autumn/winter.

Also, if you ended up enjoying our Zucchini Quiche recipe, you may also be interested in this variation if you are still going squash-strong... I know we are! Simply follow the original instructions except replace the mozzarella cheese for shredded Colby-jack cheese and add 1 cup of cottage cheese (for added protein and a bit of a flavor change). It is easy for me to serve this once a week during garden season and keeping ingredients a bit different helps out sometimes. 

If you haven't yet shared your "STRICTLY FROM THE PANTY RECIPES" with us (meaning no refrigerated/freezer items involved)-- please do so :) I am hoping to combine all the ideas into a printable that we can place in our Proverbs 31 Preparedness Notebooks. I think this would be a wonderful resource in difficult times!

Last month we enjoyed watching the new rendition of The Call of the Wild. I have always loved the Alaskan landscape and adventure films featuring it (and this one didn't disappoint). However, I just wished the ending would have been a bit different... perhaps they will consult me on that the next time 😉.

I also enjoyed reading "The Big Book of Homemade Products for Your Skin, Health and Home" by Jan Berry. It is such an informative and lovely read full of pretty pictures! We are currently doing a giveaway on this book which ends in 3 days. Feel free to enter for your chance to win this charming book! 

We have also announced the winners of our last two giveaways. The Happy Homemaking Giveaway was won by Angel who said "her favorite thing about homemaking is making a place my family (and any visitors) feel cozy and cared for". The Happy Hostess Giveaway was won by Kim who said the special thing she does for her guests is "have snacks available as well as coffee and some fun board games". Congratulations ladies and I hope you enjoy your goodies!

We have four other giveaways lined up shortly that I hope you will enjoy! I will give you a hint on the next one. It is called the "Pretty in Pink" Giveaway and is going to be focusing on our feminine side. 💕 A few of the items are sprinkled in the picture above... 

What about you? What wholesome and lovely things have you been reading, watching and/or working on? Recommendations are much appreciated! 

Verse of the Month:

"Be strong and of good courage...
for the LORD your God,
He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
~ excerpts from Deuteronomy 31:6

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Beloved Book Giveaway ~ The Big Book of Homemade Products for Your Skin, Health & Home by Jan Berry

"Our gardens and backyards are filled with flowers, herbs and weeds that have the potential to provide many fun and useful products for home, health and beauty."

Warm and sunny greetings to you all! Today we are sharing the third of seven little giveaways I had promised for this little blog! I call it the "beloved book giveaway" because I adore an informative book packed with pretty pictures to inspire and this book does just that. This is the expanded version of the book I reviewed and gave away a few years back. It is now packed with 151 recipes for your skin, health and home. What a fun resource to add to your home library! Thank you to Jan Berry at The Nerdy Farm Wife who made this giveaway possible 💛

This "Big Book" features easy, all-natural DIY projects using herbs, flowers and other plants. I am sure if you were to poke around your front yard, you would find many botanical treasures that are useful in the home. The dandelion is one such under-rated plant and there are many purposes they boast.  Jan teaches how to turn them into lovely things! Or how about the beautiful rose? And lovely lavender? To make something from their romantic petals and fragrant buds is very enjoyable!

I don't recall if you remember the recipe I shared from the older version of the book. It is for a honey, rose and oat face cleanser. It is so easy to make and so lovely for your skin! These little projects make homemaking fun and also make wonderful gifts! All natural body products can be very expensive and these recipes can $ave a lot of money!

The chapters in the book include:
  • Nontoxic Herbal Skin Care
  • Naturally Soothing Salves & Balms
  • Exotic Body Butters & Lotion Bars
  • Easy, All-Natural Creams & Lotions
  • Garden-Fresh Bath Bombs, Soaks & Salts
  • Beautiful Bath Melts & Scrubs
  • DIY Lip Care
  • Luscious Hair Care
  • Simple Homemade Soaps
  • Herbal Home Remedies
  • Nontoxic Solutions for the Home
  • All-Natural Pet Care

As you can see, there is something for everyone! Many items from the book can be made with simple oils (olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, etc.) and staples from your pantry (oats, honey, sea salt, etc.) along with some basic botanicals (i.e., dandelion, roses, chamomile, mint).

I will be sharing the recipe for the floral cleansing grains within the next week or so (with the permission of Jan). These are pictured above and are comprised of normal homemaking ingredients (as I call them). They look so lovely that I can't wait to prepare them! There is something about the flower aspect in skincare that I find very feminine, beautiful and romantic.

This little giveaway for "The Big Book of Homemade Products for Your Skin, Health & Home" by Jan Berry will be open for the next 7 days (it ends on Thursday) and is open WORLDWIDE. You have the option to enter it in 7 different ways (pick and choose as many options that work for you!) in order to have up to 7 different chances to win! Just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below!

Note: Where it says "leave a blog comment" on the giveaway widget below, please click it as there is a special question for you to answer in the comments :) Happy kitchen-crafting and wildcrafting ladies!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Home-Made Meals Strictly From the Pantry ~ Proverbs 31 Preparedness Series ~ Please Share!

"The wise store up choice food and olive oil..."
~ Proverbs 21:20a

(Note: It is amazing how life goes. When I reopened this blog, I perused the old articles I had prepared for future posts and the Proverbs 31 Preparedness Series had this entry next in line in the queue. I know that many people were interested in this very topic months ago! I am kind of upset with myself for not being able to post this prior to all the chaos but we will remedy this now. So, keep in mind that I typed many of the sentences prior to where we are today and I am just shaking my head that events already occurred (worldwide) that required the use of a Proverbs 31 Pantry! Our efforts dear ladies, are not in vain!)

We see that the proverbial woman laughs at the time to come or even rejoices, depending on the translation (Proverbs 31:25). I think this must be because -- instead of worrying about the future, she is proactive in the present time. Those who have been with me for awhile know I have been writing about pantries and encouraging you to put love into them for many years. This is all good and helpful! But, in order to be completely productive, I'm learning it is just as important that we learn how to make meals using food strictly from our pantry!

When we think of pantries, we often think of grains, legumes and other random foods instead of potential menus. However, a well stocked pantry can provide the means to make a complete meal if we are creative. We try and maintain a decent inventory of pantry products (aka food storage) for many reasons (here are 10). 

Recently we saw many things disappearing from the store shelves. Fresh food is something we take for granted unless we live on a farm or have a productive garden at the time. Grocery stores may not always offer what we need to produce the meals we currently enjoy. This is where I think a recipe book of STRICTLY pantry derived ingredients would be most helpful! I know there are freeze-dried meals and already prepared foods you can store but I am interested in maintaining foods we currently enjoy in our pantry (and not investing in items we wouldn't normally eat or buy). Can we make a proper or decent meal and/or snacks from scratch, from our pantry, that is somewhat healthy from "clean" ingredients, without all the food preservatives found in the pre-packaged meals? 

I am interested in and developing recipes which require nothing from the refrigerator or freezer (as that may not be available at one point or another for various reasons).

Some easy ideas come to mind such as a jar of pasta sauce + spaghetti  + shelf-stable parmesan cheese = pasta marinara.

Here are some other ideas for meals that I brainstormed up which you can make in a pinch from the pantry:

- Pasta Salad with dried pasta, canned olives, a jar of artichokes, drained canned diced tomatoes & Italian dressing (make your own from pantry ingredients here).

- Tostada shells (or dip the following with tortilla chips) layered with canned refried beans, jar of salsa, canned jalapeños, diced green chilis, canned olives and anything else from the pantry that sounds good with this combination.

- Italian Pizza (the original pizza from Italy doesn't necessarily include cheese as a topping!) using a pizza dough recipe (ingredients easily found in the pantry), top with pizza sauce (or tomato sauce with herbs), shelf stable parmesan cheese, dried herbs, olives and anything else you have stored away that sounds good.

- Homemade granola.

- Oatmeal topped with dried fruit, coconut, nuts and seeds.

- Beans and rice.

- Beans and rice burrito with homemade tortillas.

- Beans mixed with canned veggies and tomato sauce and spices and poured over pasta.

- Black beans and Spanish rice burrito with homemade tortillas.

- Flatbread with quick hummus (Blend together in food processor the following ingredients: 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 cups chickpeas - drained and rinsed*, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 6 drops food-grade lemon essential oil, and salt/pepper to taste). Recipe courtesy of Young Living Essentials Oils.

 * Tip - Don't discard your chickpea liquid! You can use it as a sub for eggs! ~ Submitted by Lana


- Basic white bread (ingredients are all in the pantry) with nut butters and/or jam/jelly.

- Tuna mixed with mayo (we keep the individual packets of mayo in the pantry for on-the-go trips) and relish and served on homemade bread or serve with chips or crackers.

- Popcorn with melted coconut oil (or your favorite oil) drizzled on top. You can also sprinkle nutritional yeast on top (very healthy addition), shelf-stable parmesan cheese or any other seasoning combination for a hearty snack.

- Trail mix with nuts, dried fruits, cereals or any type of chocolate you have.

- Bean salad with drained and rinsed beans, drained and rinsed canned, diced tomatoes, drained canned corn, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, dried garlic and any other dried herbs to make a tasty combination.

Pie/quiche crust (this recipe uses strictly pantry ingredients which you can be creative with using canned fruits or going the savory route with canned veggies).

- The same pie/quiche crust can be made into individual turnovers (hand pies) and filled with canned fruits and any savory combination of vegetables and grains that you can concoct.

- Chocolate chips or bars can be melted down and mixed with a variety of things such as dried fruits, nuts, coconut, seeds and cereals (and dropped onto a cookie sheet and cooled down) to make easy desserts.

- Easy rocky road with 2 cups of melted chocolate chips mixed with 3/4 cups of peanut butter. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of nuts. Allow to cool and stir in 3 cups of mini marshmallows. Spread in (greased or lined) square pan and refrigerate until firm.

Seasoning Mixes to make your meals more flavorful.

- I also keep a good supply of collagen in my pantry which is a great source of protein. This can be mixed into many meals to get a boost.

Meal Ideas From Our Readers:

“I make bean burgers using mashed beans, some type of tomato product, dehydrated onions, oatmeal or crackers crumbs etc fry or bake. I just add flavors that work together. The tomato sauce, ketchup or other adds some moisture and flavor the crumbs or oats help it stick together. Or look up Vegan Loaf most can be made using pantry ingredients.” - Submitted by Ginger

"In a pinch I take from my pantry a can of beans, a can of mixed veggies, a can of corn, a can of Rotel or tomato sauce, season with taco seasoning. Mix together and pour into a cute casserole dish 🥰 make a batch of cornbread dumplings (no eggs needed, use canned milk) dollop on top of bean mixture and bake until golden. I’ve heard of people keeping this thing called Velveeta in their pantry 😱 I suppose, if you must, can use as cheese 😬." - Submitted by Jenny T.

"My standard vegan chili could be adapted for your "pantry only purposes". Usually I would start by sautéing green or red peppers, onions, and garlic, but it would be easy enough to omit those and sub with granulated onion (or whatever you happen to have in your spice rack).  Basically, I add corn masa as a thickener and use chili powder and cumin with a hint of cocoa, paprika, and oregano. I then add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water or broth, kidney beans and black beans. Lentils and TVP are another good choice. Speaking of which, TVP (texturized vegetable protein) would be an excellent item for every one to have in their pantries, in terms of is very inexpensive, high in protein, and able to be re-hydrated with boiling or very hot water. We prefer our chili with mashed potatoes, but over rice or spaghetti noodles is a good option....or just served with some bread. Note: salt to taste and can thicken with anything you have on hand, like corn starch."  - Submitted by Veggie Mom

Here are some tried and true recipes from other websites which feature normal pantry ingredients and don't require eggs, milks, cheeses and so forth (and don't include things I wouldn't normally buy such as freeze-dried eggs, etc.):



Resources Shared by Readers:

A Cabin Full of Food Book by Marie Beausoleil - Submitted by Gill (more info here - great resource)

Now it's your turn! What ideas do you have? What recipes do you have?

If you have a link to a recipe, I will add it to my list above, just leave it in the comments.

If you have a recipe you can share (and have no online link), please type out the recipe in the comments and I will copy and paste it into this list. I will place your name after it if you choose to leave it.

Afterwords, my goal is to compile all these recipes and include them in my Preparedness Notebook under the "tab" Pantry Meals. Won't that be useful and give peace of mind that you can prepare for your family a decently delicious meal with what you have on hand? If I am really ambitious, I will try and share a printable of our collaborative effort that we can all print out for our notebooks.

Let's challenge ourselves to see if we can prepare some healthy and tasty meals for our families.  This is such a nice preparedness skill to have on hand in these uncertain times -- to be able to make meals based strictly off of your food storage!

There are many "ordinary" homemakers like ourselves who feel this importance and are sharing their ideas and experiences that you may also appreciate such as Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting and Patsy at A Working Pantry. I also glean much from the Preparedness Mama (though her blog is solely preparedness tips) and The Prudent Homemaker.

On a side note, I think my comments work again with thanks to The Locust Blossom for her kind help (she also is a supporter of pantry building)! Also, 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). And for those of you asking about these PANTRY CANISTER LABELS, you can find them here! 💛