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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sticks and yogurt

On the sticks: a prayer shawl! I'm using my remnants. I feel awful not using the donated yarn from parishioners. I'll get a picture up and list colorways once the shawl is long enough to photograph nicely.

Yogurt: I accidentally forgot about my crockpot full of milk last Wed. Instead of resting for 3 hours, it rested for 5 hours. An impromptu visit to Living History Farms made me forget. Fear of wrecked yogurt fell upon me during the five minute ride home. I proceeded with the recipe as if I hadn't left the milk sitting longer than instructed. The result? Thicker yogurt! Making a note to use the longer time.

For those of you who aren't ready to make your own yogurt, you may want to head over to fellow Iowa home school mom Darcy's blog. She's giving away Stoneyfield Farms Yo Baby yogurt, along with other Stoneyfield Farms stuff (bib, bowl, etc.) The contest ends on Sunday, July 5th at 11:59pm CST.

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Monday, June 29, 2009


from the sunday funnnies on june 14, 2009. Pickles.

Women speak of the present because they've learned in past experience not to trust men to get things done in the future.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fro Yo

The crockpot yogurt was a big success. The vanilla yogurt I made turned out well. We have about one cup of plain yogurt left, and half of that must be saved for this week's batch. Definitely making more. And I have a free milk coupon ;-)

We decided to experiment with frozen yogurt. I was nervous about the water content (it was runny enough for me to add dried milk) making large ice crystals. It turned out like homemade popsicles. Popsicles was our first idea, but we couldn't find the old Tupperware molds of my childhood. The pecan tassie pan was Plan B.

We made strawberry yogurt as usual, sprayed a tartlet pan with cooking spray to ease any trouble getting the yogurt out.

If we removed the amount of fro yo that we wanted, then let it sit a bit, you could eat it with a spoon. If you didn't wait, you could hold the yogurt and bite the tart easily.

The flavor was fine. The texture was like homemade popsicles.

I don't know that I would make this again unless one of the kids asked me to.

The recipe wasn't bad, but I prefer non-frozen yogurt. And maybe more strawberry jam.

Our strawberries are getting on the small side now. The season is winding down for us. (Our old CSA, however, just began its strawberry season.) I'll need to figure out when to move the berries. Then I can have space for non-food perennials again.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Work

Crafting with words is my latest venture. Inspired by a cousin's dh, you can now find more of my writing as Des Moines's Frugal Family Examiner at the Examiner's Family and Parenting channel. Add me as your favorite or subscribe to my articles -- you'll get alerts in your email inbox whenever I have a new article published. My articles there will be less bloggy and more newsy than what you'll find here, and much more focused and relevant to area families. Thanks for taking a look!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Perfect Yogurt

My 15yo proclaimed our strawberry yogurt recipe to be "THE Perfect Yogurt."

Make yogurt.

Slice strawberries, such as this one, and toss with sugar.

Add yogurt.

Mix. Eat. Enjoy.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yogurt Success

No real cool happening photo to share. Crock pots aren't attractive.

My crock pot yogurt turned out well! I added 1/2 c. dried milk to the yogurt the day after I made it to thicken. I had to drop my daughter off to work at the store anyway (and there were 99 cent eggs), so getting dried milk wasn't a hardship. My kids do not like chunks of anything in their yogurt, so this could be a HUGE advancement for my family.

I took some sliced strawberries, tossed them with white sugar, and let them set to get the juices to run. I strained this juicy syrup into a cup and added yogurt. The younger kids taste-tested. The older child said it smelled right but didn't want to take more than a bite. "Just not wanting yogurt right now." The younger child said it was great. They noticed that the yogurt was thinner than store-bought, but it wasn't a real big issue.

I took the remaining fruit (icky chunks in the kids' eyes) and added yogurt to eat for myself. Dairy is easier for me as yogurt, and I like the probiotic/anti-UTI protection.

Straight from the crock pot before adding dried milk, the yogurt appears to be regular, plain yogurt that you would cook with. I will attempt vanilla yogurt (our usual, non-chunk flavor) within a week. The $1 I spent in ingredients was icing on the cake.

Thank you to Simply Food, Nothing Extra for the inspiration and belief that yogurt at home is do-able. Thank you to the Crock Pot Lady for her recipe!


Monday, June 15, 2009


Mmmmmm. Sunday, I made a scratch shortcake, home grown strawberries, store bought non-dairy whipped topping. I meant to take a photo, but forgot. It was eaten with no crumbs left -- my younger two were comically eating opposite parts of the dessert.

Today, I have crockpot yogurt in the making. I am excited. This was a great deal because I got a free milk coupon at Hy-Vee. I used it to buy Heartland Dairy whole milk (met them a couple years ago, nice ministry in Missouri). Hy-Vee also had a sale for $1/carton Cultural Revolution yogurt (made in Kalona, IA). This all means that I paid $1 for this experiment. If it turns out bad, I didn't lose a large investment. I hope to mix in strawberries. There was a suggestion to add gelatin, but I don't do gelatin. Maybe powdered milk. I guess I'll just figure something out when I get there.

The idea for this came from Simply Food, Nothing Extra. Since I am a lazy person, I decided that the recipe for yogurt at their site was not for me. Thermometers and scalding, etc. Too much after just canning 7 jars of strawberry jam. The jam, by the way, was declared to be the color of jewels this evening by my youngest child. It does seem to be a brighter red, but I rarely buy strawberry jam since everyone claimed to love raspberry fruit spread the most. So I don't know if the color really is brighter than the store's jam. But it made me feel good.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's the Berries

It's almost like we hate strawberries. Really, we're just tired of them. Funny, because our last freezer bag of strawberries was half-eaten one week before our first 2009 harvest and everyone was super-excited to have homegrown berries. Now, it's a different story. Here are leftovers from yesterday, frozen in a pan. I moved them to better storage right after this photo was taken.

After the yard dried out a bit, I picked today's ripe berries and got this next photo. Despite the tiny slugs, robins, and rabbits taking snacks from the strawberry bed, we're getting plenty every day. We're going to be better about our pine needles this year (substitute for straw) around the plants and if it ever dries up around here, I'll start getting the new beds ready for transplanting. Matt's dad recently revealed that he now owns a tiller (the same one that made our north side so very nice), so we may use it. I doubt that I'll prefer the tiller to hand turning since I think the bed will be on the small size. A tiller seems pretty intense (or silly) for what we want.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rules of Life

You probably cannot read the chalkboard with its low contrast, so here I give you, from _Rural One-Room Schools of Mid-America_ by Leslie C. Swanson, the...

Rules of Life
1. Kindness to animals
2. Good manners
3. Respect of elders
4. Respect for the Government
5. Obedience
6. Patriotism
7. Wisdom of early rising
8. Reverence
9 Honesty
10. Truthfulness
11. Temperance
12. Greed and waste are evils


Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Thought I would share part of my daily life. Here you'll see the six small loaves of yummy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This rockin' dough consistently gives fabulous results. My plan is to use the grill for baking tonight. I'm finding that I absolutely have to buy flour in 25 lb. bags to supply us with two or three nights of fresh bread, otherwise, I'm at the grocer's every day. And I really don't want to spend time in the store every day. I want to be with my kids outside, at home, in a park, or someplace nicer than a store.

I also spent a few minutes outside picking strawberries. You can only get the very dark ones if you want the true strawberry flavor. Resisting the urge to go nuts and take every red-tinted berry can be hard early in the season, but is a must. Unless you like tart and sour berries. It is very clear that we need to lift and move the berries this year. We cannot easily harvest the majority of the fruit. Finding a safe, protected place is the challenge. I think I have a spot, but there is also the issue of having the bed look nice with other plantings since it is in the front yard.

I hulled and cut some berries for a Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp. My grandparents graciously supplied the rhubarb last month. Cooking Light supplied the recipe.

After I inquired a couple years ago, my grandpa got permission for the two of us to divide rhubarb from an empty lot near his place. His plants thrive in their morning light each day. Mine poke along in the shady area near my fence.

Here is this last weekend's treat, cupcakes decorated for Pentecost. The strawberry is supposed to look like a tongue of fire because I couldn't get the icing to stand up like flames. Lemonade, not lemons, my darling, lemonade.

Overall, my garden is doing well this week. We had rain for two days. My rain barrels are filled to the brim. The peas showed flowers this week and grew about a foot along the netting. Ella's squash has all come up. Her tomatoes and cukes have not. Half of my squash came up. The six tomato plants from my homeschool friend look great now that they're in the ground. Since my bush beans never had a chance against the slugs, I planted new beans among the lettuces. We'll see what happens.

One of my smaller purple coneflower plants and Ella's (my) miniature rose buds were eaten to the ground last night, but the hellebores from another homeschool friend look solid in their new pots. I am scheduled to get white swan coneflowers and white false indigo through my centraliowaplantbarter next week. I'm trying to get a few strawberry runners to take root in pots. Having small things to monitor in the yard each day has been a pleasure for me.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sewing Machine Meme

From Sew, Mama, Sew!

This is sort of fun, because I never really thought about my sewing machine much until I read this meme. I bought my sewing machine to just "get the job done." I knew that I didn't want to hand sew everything, and that I wanted a sewing machine to allow me to make things. My friend and fellow dancer Melanie opened my eyes to the possibilities of stitching during my college years.


Tell us about your sewing machine! We’ll keep a running list of Brand/Model “reviews” and we’ll publish the list at the end of Sewing Machine Month. We think this will be a great resource whether someone is searching for a first machine or looking to upgrade.

What brand and model do you have? Brother VX-1120

How long have you had it? ten years

How much does that machine cost (approximately)? $100

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)? I've sewn everything -- Halloween costumes, quilts, purses, potholders, chef hats, my dh made a bean bag chair, leotards, etc. I've never been very successful at apparel. My attempts are usually too embarrassing to wear publicly. The machine sees the most action around Christmastime.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get? I occasionally sew in manic spurts.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name? No name. It gets the job done and has never needed serious maintenance. Just a drop of oil every now and then.

What features does your machine have that work well for you? It has no bells and whistles. That is why I bought it.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine? No.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it! This is more about how I came to own my sewing machine, not the machine itself. I always wanted to learn to sew, and my mother and grandmother acted like I didn't need a class to learn. However, neither of them volunteered to teach me or make something with me. Mom offered her sewing machine, if I would have it maintenanced, but again, no offer of instruction time. After years of tracing and cutting and changing patterns to match different bodies, but not sewing, for dance costumes during college, I bought my Brother. I read through the owner's manual. It was definitely written in a different language with unfamiliar terms. My grandma's Better Homes and Garden "Sewing Book" was in the same language. Somewhere, in a culture far away, or at a jr. high school with better resources than mine, people learned words like "ease." My first project was curtains for my garage windows.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why? Yes, if you want a no-frills machine.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine? It has to matches your needs. And budget.

Do you have a dream machine? I just want something that gets the job done, so no dream machine. Drooling is poor behavior, anyway.