Thursday, January 29, 2015

Recycling Glass Bottles for an Indoor Garden

I am a sucker for plants... I can't resist their happy faces, and each year, more and more of them find their way into my home.  I've bought several plant stands to put all my plants on throughout the years at garage sales and wherever I could find them.  Sometimes my kids complain that my plants take up more room and get more attention then they do... lol!  Of course we know that's not true... but I'll have to admit, I do enjoy helping things to grow, and also the gentle beauty that comes with having indoor plants.  Here in north Idaho, there are really no plants that can survive outdoors/indoors, and so each spring and fall it takes a lot of work to bring my plants outside for the spring, and then back inside for winter.  

Recently, some of my plants began to show just how happy they were - in fact they were becoming so overgrown that some of the pots were tipping from the weight of the ivy plant  as it grew. 


I have several different varieties of ivy and all of them had really become prolific!


Every week when I watered my plants I would think - I really need to do something about this... but that time never came... and things continued to get out of hand.


I honestly do not know what this particular plant is called.  It was given to me at a yard sale, and it has continued to multiply at an amazingly crazy fast rate.  It seems to like the low humidity here in Idaho, and the differences in temperature in our house doesn't seem to bother it either.  We heat with wood stove, so at night the temps dip down into the 50s until we get the fire back going in the morning, so there is a big temperature difference for these plants to deal with.  Most ivies and indoor plants prefer consistent temps, but that is not available in this house!

But I digress.  At any rate, my plants were taking over the house, literally.  I had trails of ivy climbing everywhere.  Problem was - what to do with them?

Just a few days ago, I was cleaning out some drawers and amazingly - the answer to my dilemma just fell into place like clockwork!  I discovered all these glass bottles that we have been saving (for what, I don't know - I just hate to throw away glass!).  And when I found a whole drawer full of glass bottles - ding-ding-ding.... lights and bells went off in my head as to what these bottles would be perfect for!


I found my scissors and got busy trimming back my overgrown ivies and stuck them in these glass bottles with some water!


I've found that it is best to let ivies grow in a bit of water and have access to sunlight after you trim them up, and then once they've rooted, you can go ahead and transplant them into their very own new home.


Just don't ask me WHAT I'm going to do with all these green ivy plants once they root?  OH MY!

However, one thought is that I will probably be calling quite a few of my friends up and asking if they want ivy starts, lol!


The ivy starts fit perfectly into the glass bottles after being cut to about 8" long or so.


Here is how I would cut the ivy stem in order to have it successfully regrow a root in water.  I would cut it at an angle just above the next leaf shoot.  In this way, the cutting will be able to root and then successfully be transplanted into its own pot.

In about a month or so, or maybe even less.... I will have a LOT of ivy shoots ready for a new home. Any takers out there - you'll be welcome to have your own ivy shoot... just let me know :) And... if I should still end up with more than enough of these ivy plants .... I know I have plenty of pots (from yard sale finds) to put them in, and it will give me an excuse to find another plant holder to display their pretty leaves.  After all - one can never have too many plants, now can they?  LOL!

At least I have found one consolation in this... I found a great use for all those glass bottles we have been saving - all for an indoor garden... who would've "thunk" it!  I'm sure by the time I get all these ivy starts into their own pots, I will have more ivies chomping at the bit, needing to get pruned up.  I'm just glad to have "killed two birds with one stone" by finding a place for my ivy starts while recycling the glass bottles into new temporary homes for the plants!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tea Bags and a Curling Iron ....

I'm sure you're wondering what possible connection there could be between a tea bag and a curling iron?

I would have never put the two in the same sentence either... at least not until today!

You see, I discovered that I can make my very own tea bags!  Yes!

Do you know how many boxes of tea I've got stashed away in my drawers... .. suffice it to say...  I'll be drinking tea for a long, long time!

But... there is something about being able to mix and make your very own herbal tea, which is something I've been interested in for a while.


I decided to get creative with all the bags of tea, and herbs I've collected from my garden and from different places, and create my very own herbal tea mix!


I used loose-leaf herbal teas and herbs and combined them together in three different jars... I made a "black tea" jar, a "green tea" jar, and a peppermint tea jar... which are three of the most common tea bases I drink.



Now this is where things get a bit unusual... I brought out my curling iron as the heating element to seal the tea bags that I had filled with my herbal tea mixture.



Pretty cool isn't it!  I just let the heat from the curling iron seal the top of the tea bag closed after filling with one of my tea mixtures.

You can buy tea bags to be filled in different places online.  You can shop around for the best deal or for what suits your purposes, but there are several places that offer these refillable tea bags.


After heat setting the tea bag, I was eager to taste and see!


You can see how plump and happy this tea bag was and no sign of tea leaves trying to escape!



One of the things I included in my herbal tea mix were some rose hips.  I became interested in rose hips after learning how high they were in vitamin C and what an easy way it is to add extra vitamin C to your diet.  You can read more about rose hips and the great potential they offer at www.herbwisdom.com.  I've included a short excerpt from the Herb Wisdom website where you can go and read more about rose hips:

Rose hips are the best source of vitamin C; they contain 50% more vitamin C than oranges. A single tablespoon of the pulp gives an adult more than the recommended daily allowance of 60 mg. They can be eaten raw, after being put through a blender, or soaked in water overnight and then cooked in the water for about half an hour. Because of the high vitamin C content they are an excellent immune system booster, and are often used as a supplement to prevent or treat a cold. The pulp from rose hips may be used in sauces or made into jelly.

So you can see just how beneficial rose hips are to the immune system, and that is why I added them to all of my herbal tea mixes.  This makes it easier to get all the good things I like to drink in hot tea, all in one great place! And...  I found out that I could gather my very own rose hips in my yard from all the wild roses that grow everywhere!  That will be a project I look forward to doing next fall!

It is really nice to drink a nice cup of hot tea knowing that you gathered or played a part in mixing all the herbs in the tea you are drinking.  With all the flu and cold bugs hanging around this time of year, I find that drinking hot tea really helps to boost the immune system very much.


And since we've been having this kind of weather the past week or so - heavy fog that just shrouds the air for days on end now... kind of dreary, with the snow melting slowly away, and mud/ice everywhere...


... a nice cup of hot herbal tea while I look outside at this foggy scene over the past several days has helped to boost not only my immune system, but my spirits :)

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Monday, January 26, 2015

What to do when natural home remedies don't work

This has been a somewhat difficult weekend here in our household.  Our family is generally very healthy, and even if a bug comes along - with natural home remedies, we are usually able to kick it to the curb!

Not this time, and that was in spite our best efforts!


Because this is generally the "cold and flu season", I like to have different home remedies on hand when a bug should show up.  Recently I was given a recipe for homemade "Vicks" rub and tried my hand at it.  The recipe used soy wax mixed with olive oil and several essential oils - menthol and peppermint.


The recipe made enough salve to fill up three small 4 oz containers.  I had just made the salve here, and it was still hot in the jars, and had not "set" yet.  But it smelled oh so good... just like the Vicks rub you can get in the stores!  It worked wonderfully too.  We applied it behind ears, and on the bottoms of our feet, and could feel the effects right away, a wonderful cooling and fresh sensation.


The next project on my to-do list was to make a healing cold tea.  I used black tea leaves, echinacea, rose hips, cinnamon, and dandelion leaves.  I covered the tea leaves with water, and let it simmer until half of the water had simmered down, and then added 1/4 cup honey and Thieves essential oil (from Young Living).  This made a Cold Tea concentrate that I bottled and stored in the fridge, and added to any cups of hot tea we have been drinking.


Homemade elderberry syrup is always a staple in my refrigerator during winter months, and I would add this to the hot cup of tea, along with the Cold Tea concentrate to drink.


The combination of the elderberry and the Cold Tea Concentrate were pretty amazing together.


While I was in the kitchen preparing all these home remedies... Annie and Missy were not far from the action.  Missy still doesn't care for the camera, she looks so sad when I start to take pictures of her, but she has really become a happy little soul here in our home.


Annie was playing camera shy too... she didn't especially want her picture taken today either, lol!


Missy knew that our son wasn't feeling too great and crawled up into his lap to snuggle with him.  I think she was "glad" he was sick, as it gave her a chance to snuggle.  She has become a real snuggle-bug!


Here is Annie watching from a distance.  She would like to be a lap dog, but because of her size, it just isn't possible, and she always looks so sad when our cat would crawl into my lap and would act jealous about it.  Now, she has more reason to be jealous - with Missy being able to crawl into our laps and soak up all the attention!  Poor Annie!  She still gets lots of love from us, but ... it doesn't help the sad face she has sometimes when she sees the cat or Missy in our laps!


At any rate, even with all the home remedies that usually work for colds, sore throats, and ear pains... this was one nasty bug that refused to leave.

All this week we were treating my son for a sore throat with salt water gargles, honey, and oregano oil. One evening when his sore throat had gotten pretty bad, he took a bath with Epsom salts and essential oils - peppermint and eucalyptus and that seemed to help with his sore throat, and we thought we had the "bug" beat.

However, the next morning, while his sore throat was gone, he began running fever and his ears began to hurt.  So we continued to treat him with the Cold Tea concentrate, menthol salve, and with hot water steam baths. We also applied some of the menthol salve I had made, and that seemed to help some.   But... despite our best efforts on Friday evening, the pain intensified severely.  My son called out to me that he was in extreme pain.  When I ran in to see what was wrong, he had blood coming out of both his ears.  That was a scary sight!

So, I got a hot rag and applied heat to both his ears until the pain eased off, along with a dose of ibuprofen.  Having been through this once before with our son many years ago, I knew that both his eardrums had ruptured from the infection.  And, simultaneously, he lost hearing in both his ears.  I now had to holler at him for him to hear me.  We were able to get the pain eased off, and the bleeding as well, but I knew that a trip to the doctor was imminent.

We got an appointment for him Saturday morning at a local clinic to see a doctor.  When she looked into his ears, she said she couldn't see his ears at all, only pus and blood.  It was a very nasty, horrible infection, and definitely with both eardrums ruptured because of the infection.  She put him on penicillin that also included a drug that would fight against any superbugs, after I told her that our best efforts with natural antibiotics had failed, when usually they would work.  She also gave us a prescription for antibiotic ear drops as well.

Later that evening as we continued with the antibiotic treatment, the ear pain began to wear off, and the fever went away.  Sunday morning, he was doing much better without fever and pain, but still unable to hear.  From our experience before with a burst eardrum, we know that healing of the eardrums can take a while and that temporary hearing loss can take a while to resolve.

So... suffice it to say that even though we truly believe in using natural remedies as much as possible, there comes a point in time to say that you need the expertise and wisdom of doctors and medications. We are not folks who run to the doctor for the smallest little problems, but we are not against seeking out the help of doctors when our best efforts to heal through natural methods aren't working.

I considered the fact that my son could suffer permanent hearing loss if this infection did not quickly get resolved, and that was something I did not want to happen.  So, a trip to the doctor was in order.  We will also have to make a trip back to the doctor to confirm that the ears have healed, and that hearing has completely returned.

Just dealing with my son over the last few days not being able to hear words spoken in a normal tone has been a little scary - like dealing with an elderly person! We are having to yell at him for him to understand us.  We are praying that his hearing will be completely restored in a few days.

While natural healing methods work most of the time, there are times when we must seek higher help.  I sent out a text to several people to pray when his eardrums were bursting, and in a few minutes, the pain eased, and the bleeding stopped, and I thank the Lord for answering those prayers instantly!  Now, we are believing that through faith in the Lord, and the help of doctors and modern medicine that complete hearing will be restored to our son's ears.  :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Milling Our Own Whole Wheat Flour

Some time ago, we purchased our own flour mill.  I had done some research on grain mills, and decided that the WonderMill was the most economical for our budget, and purposes.  


I've really enjoyed how wonderful it is to make flour from wheat berries that we have purchased in large bulk from Wheat Montana.  Wheat Montana is located not too far from where we live, and my husband will stop there as he passes by on business trips, and pick up the bulk grains that we need. This has been a great savings for our family.

One 50-pound bag of red or white wheat berries costs $23.76 at the store in Montana.  When you consider that you get about 1-1/2 cups of flour for every cup of wheat berries this means that you are getting 75 pounds of flour for the price of 50 pounds.  That is a pretty good deal!

Here is how the pricing works if you buy the wheat berries on the floor from the Wheat Montana Store:

1 50-pound bag Praire Gold hard white wheat berries = $23.76

Multiplying 50 x 1.5 = 75 lbs flour

75 lbs flour divided by the cost ($23.76) = 0.3168 cents per pound of flour!

If you buy a typical bag of whole wheat flour in the store, it is generally going to cost you anywhere from $3.69 buying Gold Medal whole wheat flour to a higher end flour  - King Arthur (my favorite before beginning to buy our own wheat berries) at $5.95 lb.

So, now that we are buying our flour in wheat berries like this costs it costs us $1.58 for 5 lbs, and if buying Gold Medal flour it would be $3.69 or $5.95 for King Arthur.

Or let's look at it another way:

75 pounds store bought whole wheat flour x 0.96/lb (cost averaged) = $72.30
75 pounds fresh ground wheat flour x 0.3168/lb = $23.76

This is a savings of $48.54 - not too shabby!


Besides .... even beyond the huge cost savings - there is something so exciting about grinding your own wheat, and using that wheat flour to make homemade goodies!

When my husband brings home the bags of wheat berries, this is what they look like.


The next step in the process is taking the wheat berries and storing them in manageable containers so that they are easily accessible, yet will not be open to the air.
 

I put them in ziplock baggies like this one.


The next step is to put the ziplock baggies into larger plastic containers with lids, which can then be stacked in a storage area.  This is a process that I use whenever I can purchase large amounts of food items in bulk, such as salt, sugar, beans etc.  We also use mylar bags that we also use if we buy large enough amounts that we know we won't use in the next 2-3 months.


So, what I have done with the wheat berries is separated out about 25 pounds of wheat berries that I know we will use in the next 2-3 months and put them in ziplock baggies, and into the plastic storage containers.  The remainder of the wheat berries are put into mylar bags for longer storage, and sealed. and also placed into the plastic storage containers.

If you are looking to purchase mylar bags, they can be found in many different places, one source is listed here:  http://www.mylarbagsdirect.com/busimyba.html  I honestly can't remember which website we used to purchase our mylar bags, as we did it several years ago.  However, you could do a search on mylar bags and oxygen absorbers and shop around for the cheapest price.

Another secret that we've learned in stocking up on bulk foods is to go to the local grocery store bakeries, and ask them if they will sell you their used 5 or 7 gallon buckets.  These buckets are food grade (most have had eggs or icing in them), come with lids, and most grocery stores in our area sell them for 1 or 2 dollars, with the lids!  This is a great way to be able to buy food in bulk when it is on sale, and then store it safely away from light and oxygen.


Here is a peek at my Wondermill from the top.  This is where you add the wheat berries that it will then grind into flour.


The Wondermill has different settings on how fine you want your flour, whether you want it pastry-grade, for breads, or coarse.  This is very handy depending on what kind of flour you need, you can simply mill it for the exact purpose you are using it for, and in the exact amounts.  This means that your bread, pastries, cookies, pies, etc., will be about as fresh as they can be, and the difference in taste is really remarkable!


The setting I used for my flour today was between the bread and pastry setting.  I wanted the flour pretty fine, because I was making sourdough bread, which tends to be a heavier type of bread.  You see though, just how wonderful the flour looks when the Wondermill has finished grinding the berries into flour.


And a peek of the final product of my efforts this past weekend - homemade sourdough bread made with the freshest and finest of ingredients - fresh home ground white wheat berries :)

I hope you enjoyed this post of how easy it is to mill your own flour, how much money you can save, and what an amazing difference milling your own flour makes for your family.  :)

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

This-n-That .... make up the Spice of Life!


A dear friend of mine who is a demonstrator with Stampin Up has a blog that I visit often to see what she has been busy creating.  Recently she was posting pictures of six different cards she had made with some new products from Stampin Up!  She had a contest where you could visit her blog and comment on each card she made, and be entered into a drawing.


Lucky me - I was a winner!  It was so exciting to win these beautiful cards all handmade by Jeri.  Stop by her blog if you want some great inspiration to make your own handmade cards - she does incredibly awesome work!!


Recently my friend R was at my home, and wanted to try her hand with some of my sourdough.  She tried a recipe that I found for Sourdough Peanut Butter Cookies from the Cultures For Health.com website.    These cookies had an interesting almost cake-like texture, and may have turned out better in had they been made in a cookie bar or cake form.  At any rate, they tasted very good, and disappeared quite quickly!

Later in the week R & Z as well as their family came over for an evening of fellowship.  R & Z have their own blog, if you are interested in visiting it here.  :)


R & Z like to try different ethnic foods, and this is something I have not done much of.  My family tends to lean towards tried and true southern comfort foods most of the time.  However, they were telling us about an amazing Thai Coconut Chicken Soup that they have prepared, and after hearing about it, I asked them if they would consider making it for us. So we decided to do just that this past weekend, and they prepared a beautiful salad to go along with the soup.





Wow - all we can say is wow!  It was so awesome!


I think I caught some of us licking the bowl clean!  It was that good!  I don't have the recipe, because it was prepared with a little bit of this and that... but those kinds of foods are the best!  I do know it was a potato based soup with coconut milk, and cilantro added along with some Thai spices that included curry! Having never had a soup like this before, it was a real treat!


My contribution to the meal was homemade sourdough bread that I had made earlier in the day.

We shared a wonderful evening of fellowship, good food and prayer, and it was truly a memorable time together.  Thanks R & Z  for sharing your culinary delights and expertise with us :)

And so... this is just a little bit of this-n-that.... that makes up the spice of life around here lately.  :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes

I wanted to share a post with an update on Missy, the stray dog my son brought home a couple of weekends ago.  Our thoughts were to find her a new home as we weren't prepared for a new dog yet.

Well, the update is that...  she's still here!  Several people predicted that she would be, and they were right.  Not that it hasn't been without its share of problems though!


Annie has had to learn how to share.... her favorite spot in the house... is now being co-bedded with little Missy.  I don't think she is real happy about it, but she is still being a trooper!


Missy has decided that she and Annie should have all things in common, even the bed!


I told the dogs it was time for a hike.  It's kind of dangerous when I tell them that.  They both get so excited that it is hard to get their collars on and get them out the door without getting all tangled up!


I told them both to sit, and you can see them both here ... sitting... but watching each other carefully just to make sure the other one didn't get out the door first!


Missy actually is very obedient when I tell her to sit, and she waits until I tell her "let's go" as well.  I am really impressed with how well she listens to me.  Someone must have spent some time teaching her.


However, on the walk,  things get a little wild.  Both dogs want to see everything at once, and don't want to share.  They are both very strong, and want to pull in different directions.


I have to stop every few minutes and take a picture, mainly because I need to give my arms a chance to rest!  The dogs have learned that when I stop to take a picture, they need to sit.  We have been working on that, and they are getting better at it.


So many sights and smells await the dogs as we walk.


If Annie sniffs something, then Missy rushes over to sniff it, and it becomes quite a battle to keep the leashes from getting tangled!  Sometimes I feel like a ballerina, switching, turning, looping, swooping... you get the picture, lol!


But, all the work to take the dogs on a hike is always worth it when I get to see such beautiful scenes like this one.


Missy intent on something... you can see how strong her little body is!


There was such beauty in the gentle snow covering the trees.




Annie peering down the trail...


The heavy snow had made many of the branches sink low to the ground.  As we walked, some of the branches hung so low that we had to duck under to pass through.


A winter wonderland!

Annie heard a chipmunk chattering at them.


Even though I resisted letting her chase after the chipmunk, her joy at being in the woods was contagious!


Truly magnificent!




The chipmunk followed us through the trees, and continued to aggravate the dogs.


Oh the hope in Annie's heart about getting her wish to chase the chipmunks, lol!


Here you can see what I mean - two dogs = two heads turned two different directions, which means my arms going two different directions trying to hold onto these rambunctious souls!


Aren't these two quite a pair!  They look kind of funny together, with Annie towering over Missy, but Missy makes up in temperament what she lacks in size!


A glimpse of the far distant mountain shrouded in snow and fog.  I always enjoy a view of the mountains wherever I go to hike.  There is just something so glorious about them, that leads my thoughts in praise to the Lord... as I'm reminded of the verse in Psalms 121 "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help, my help cometh from the Lord... " and this verse causes me to always feel thankfulness in my heart for the beauty the Lord has created around us to enjoy, and worship Him for!


I don't know if Annie and Missy were praising the Lord with me at the view of the mountains... but I choose to think so :)


May your day be blessed with reminders throughout your day of the beauty of the hope we have in Christ the Lord, and may you exalt Him as you go and be reminded through each little touch of His love expressed around you, just how blessed we really are!