Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mary, Mary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Most mornings, our dog Abby and I "check the garden."  
As soon as she hears me slip on my flip flops she heads straight for the back door.  Recently, Mary Grace is accompanying us on our morning checks.

Mary LOVES to garden!
It makes me so happy that we both have this love to grow things, even if she isn't too keen on eating the fruits and vegetables 
of our labor.

Who could resist picking these bright yellow beauties?
Note:  Mary also picks them when they are green. 

 I think the oranges are her favorite.  Every time she picks one, she smells it and carries it around the yard for a continued sniff or two.
On occasion, I can even get her to eat a slice!

 This girl has no problem getting dirty!
She helped plant Swiss chard, turnips, red romaine lettuce, and beets.  I'm trying to teach her how to re-grow kitchen scraps like lettuces, green onions, and celery. 
She actually refers to the garden boxes as, "MY garden!"

Since she now has taken over the outside,
 I decided to bring some of the garden inside...
A sweet little pot of paper-whites
for all my own!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Creamer Christmas ~ Simmering Spices

The last little bit of our Creamer Homemade Christmas 
are these wonderful simmering spices!
Dried oranges from our trees
A bit of dried rosemary from the garden
Cloves, Bay leaves, Cinnamon Sticks, 
and a dash of Gingerbread Spice,

This is the perfect project for little hands 
who want to contribute to Christmas gift giving.

And while she's occupied, gives this mama a little time 
to wrap last minute presents!

Close your cellophane bag with 
a simple sticker with instructions...

And they're all ready for this little elf to deliver!

May God bless you with the merriest of days!

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Creamer Christmas ~ Homemade Apple Butter

I'm not going to lie about it, I'M CHEAP!
Maybe I should say...frugal, instead.
Truth is, with five kids, the holidays are a huge financial crunch time for us.  I try to lighten the load by making homemade/handmade gifts for our friends and family.  One of the gifts I'm making this year is apple butter.

I ate tons of this stuff as a kid and I always loved it!  
It truly couldn't be easier to make. 
 You start by peeling, coring, and chopping 12 pounds of apples.  
I used a variety of Gala, Fuji, and Granny Smith apples.

This is a great activity for the kids to help out with.  
The older boys have good knife skills 
and little Mary Grace helped with the spices:

1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of white sugar
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons allspice
Just a splash of apple cider vinegar
Mix ingredients well into a large crock pot and cook on high for 8-10 hours.  Blend until smooth with immersion blender, or by hand if you like a chunky apple butter.  Fill sterile jars and process.

Your house is going to smell AMAZING!
This recipe makes 12 half pints, 
which is the perfect size for gift giving.

From left to right:  Apple Butter, Candied Jalapenos and Orange Jelly from our garden.

Sure, at first thought, homemade gifts are a great way to save money and avoid the stress of the mall.
But I hope our friends and family know that they are truly made with
So act like you like it when you open it,
and a little squealing wouldn't hurt either!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Creamer Christmas ~ Soap Making

I have always been obsessed with homemade soaps.  
For years, I have only dabbled in the 'melt and pour' types because I was afraid of working with lye. 
So after much research, I decided to dive right in and start making our own cold process soaps.

Cold process soap is not hard to make 
but it does require some equipment.
Lye will not kill you, but you do have to take precautions.
Different oils have different soap making properties 
and it's so fun experimenting and being creative!

This particular recipe I used takes six weeks to cure, 
so one weekend in early November, I had a soap making weekend to get ready for Christmas gift giving.
And while waiting overnight to un-mold the soaps, I made these big, chunky crochet washcloths to pair them with.

There is a bit of a learning curve to making soaps, 
they don't always turn out how you think they will.  
That dark chocolate beauty above is a vanilla bean soap 
made with palm, coconut, and olive oils.  
It was pure white when I poured it into the mold!  
Over time it has turned into this luscious brown...and it smells good enough to eat. 

Having only made half a dozen or so batches, I won't give any soap making advice here.  But I will tell you that it's highly addictive and I've had so much fun making, sharing, and using my soaps.
I just hope those that receive a big bar of soap and washcloth from us don't get offended and think they smell bad!

Back To Normal

I can't believe that I haven't visited this space since JULY!  
That's nuts!
Truth is, life was just freakin' insane for a while, and it seems there was one upheaval and crisis after another.  The good news is that we are finally back to normal....or what WE consider normal!
Doug and I have really great jobs right now with flexible schedules, the kids are back into their routines, and I am slowly cleaning up the chaos of the past few months.

Normal feels really good right now, my friends!

And since I can't leave this post picture free,
here is a peek into our morning celebrating 
St. Nicholas' Feast Day!

Note the flip flops.
St. Nicholas was NOT impressed!