Apple Picking + No Sugar Applesauce Recipe

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My grandad had a small apple orchard when I was growing up.  I remember picking the apples, mostly to secretly feed to his cows.  He’s been gone for almost seven years, and with no one to tend to the orchard, the apples are pretty funky and are mostly food for the bears and deer that outnumber people in Highland County, VA.  Anyway, in an effort to recreate that activity with my own kids, we decided to visit my best friend for the weekend in Brevard, NC and take our children to Skytop Orchard located in nearby Flat Rock, NC.

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I have to say, this was quite the operation and much bigger than I expected.  You can buy pre-picked apples or venture out into the orchard to pick your own.  We grabbed our empty apple baskets, a wagon, and a map outlining where the varieties of apples were growing, and went to it.  It didn’t take long for the kids to fill the baskets, and then they played on the playground while two of the adults stood in line to get the apple doughnuts.  YOU MUST GET THE DOUGHNUTS…trust me.

When we got home, I made some super easy applesauce that is amazing.  I researched some recipes, but they all added sugar, which I think is completely unnecessary.  Here is how I made mine:

Ingredients:

4 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and quartered

1 cup water

Cinnamon to taste (I just sprinkled some on top)

1 tsp lemon zest

Dash of salt

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat an simmer for 20 minutes.  Mash or process in food processor, depending on how chunky you prefer your applesauce.  Enjoy!  Sorry I don’t have pictures…I was too eager to eat it!

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Laundry Detergent Recipe

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Wow, have I been a slack blogger!  It’s no coincidence that my last post was July 2nd, and our surprise mini-donkey, Pearl, was born on July 9th…what a ride!  It is time for me to get back into my blogging grove, and I can think of no better way than to share my laundry detergent recipe with you!  I have tried many different natural commercial detergents, but come back to this one time and again.  This recipe makes enough to last my family for FOUR MONTHS, providing significant savings!

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Ingredients:

2 bars Fels Naptha soap

2 cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

2 cups Borax

I shave the bars of soap with a cheese grater, then place all of the ingredients in my food processor until it is a powder-type consistency.  

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For one load of laundry, you only need to use TWO TEASPOONS of the powder.  It works in both conventional and HE washing machines.  Enjoy!

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How to Cut a Pineapple

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For a long time I was intimidated by this spiky fruit.  I don’t know if it was all of the episodes of Psych I’ve watched or if it was the fact they were on sale at Earth Fare, but recently I bought one.   When I got home, I grabbed a knife and cutting board, watched a how-to video on youtube, and my world is better for it.  Here’s how:

First, cut off the top and end:

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Then, slice down the sides.  You may have to slice again, as there will still be some remaining divots, or you can use the pointy side of a veggie peeler to dig them out:

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You now have a pineapple cylinder.  Now, cut into slices of your desired thickness:

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Then, take the end of your knife and cut around the core of each slice:

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Push out the core:

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If you wish, cut your pineapple slices into chunks!

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Yum!  Now you have a big bowl of sweet snackin’!

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Easy Remedy for Equine Rain Rot

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We had an extremely cold, damp winter and spring.  This left our mini-donkey, Macy, with a rain rot issue.  From what I understand, rain rot is bacterial.  I diagnosed her after discussing her symptoms with someone who has had horses for many years, and after viewing photos posted online.  She had a large patch of fur that was missing along her “Jesus Cross” on her back, and her skin was scaly and nasty looking.  In my research, I found there are two home remedies that people swear by. One is by using a bleach and water mixture, and the other is Listerine and water.  I decided to go with the Listerine because I like to start with the least harsh treatment possible and because it made sense to me that if it is bacterial, Listerine may be effective due to its antiseptic properties.

OK, so here is the picture of her rain rot before I treated it:20140622-215336-78816353.jpg

All you need is a spray bottle, Listerine, and water.  I did a 50/50 mixture of Listerine and water.20140622-215655-79015165.jpg

I sprayed it on twice a day for about a week, and then brushed her.  After each brushing, I sprayed down the brush really well with the solution and let it set in the sun, because the bacterial will stay in the brush.20140622-215654-79014070.jpg

It worked wonderfully.  I began to see improvement within about two days, and here is what it looks like after two weeks:

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Her fur has grown back…good as new!

 

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Homemade Vanilla Extract & Infused Sugar

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If you are going to attempt any homestead-ish type of project, vanilla extract is by far the easiest and most gratifying thing to undertake.  Homemade vanilla extract is so much better than the fake stuff you buy in the grocery store, and making it yourself is a huge money saver.  I have seen a 4oz bottle of “real” extract for $16 in the health food store.  And here’s the cool part…this homemade extract lasts TEN YEARS in your cabinet!  Vanilla extract and vanilla infused sugar make excellent gifts, so you need to get it started soon for Christmas. You only need three things:

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A Mason Jar

3 Madagascar Vanilla Beans (or beans of your choice)

1 Cup of Vodka (I prefer not the really cheap stuff)

First, cut your vanilla beans up the middle, lengthwise so the “meat” is exposed, leaving about 1/2-1 inch still in tact at the top.

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Then, place them in the mason jar and pour the vodka over them.  I always triple the recipe because I give a lot away, so I use 9 vanilla beans and 3 cups of vodka.

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Place jar in a dark place, such as a cabinet or pantry, and give it a shake once a week or so. You can begin to use the extract after about 2 weeks, but I wait 6 months for full extraction before taking the beans out and running the extract through a mesh strainer.  If I am using it before the 6 months, I just stick my measuring spoon right into the jar, I don’t worry about straining it.  I bottle it for gift giving in these amber bottles.

And here’s the best part, then you take the beans out after they are fully extracted and place them in a lidded container and pour regular white sugar over them.  Within about two weeks you will have vanilla infused sugar that seriously smells and tastes like heaven.  The spice shop I frequent sells this sugar for $6 for 4oz.  I put the sugar in these mason jars, and together with the vanilla extract, it makes a really unique gift.

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Summer Chopped Salad Recipe

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Ok, there are a million ways to make a delicious chopped salad, but this is my favorite.  Something about the avocado and salami makes me crave it.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 avocado

1 ear of fresh corn

1/4 pint of grape tomatoes

1 brocolli crown

4 oz salami

6 oz deli turkey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Cut the avocado into chunks, cut the corn off of the cobb (do not cook it!), cut the grape tomatoes into quarters, finely chop the brocolli, and chop the salami and turkey into small chunks and mix it all together.  If your avocado is really ripe like mine was, it sort of disappears and almost makes a “dressing.”  Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice on top and mix again.  This will make two large servings and saves well in the fridge.  It could also easily be modified to your taste.  I really, really hate raw corn and raw brocolli, but somehow it all works mixed together.  Enjoy!

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How to Make a Flower Pot Tower

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I am trying to figure out as many natural ways as possible to deter mosquitoes from our outdoor living areas.  I love the pungent flowers of marigolds, and fortunately mosquitoes hate it, as well as other annoying pests.  Today I completed a decorative little project that only took about 30 minutes start to finish and will hopefully keep the little bloodsuckers away.

Materials I used:

1 piece of rebar

1 large clay flower pot (with hole in bottom)

4 smaller clay flower pots (with hole in bottom)

1 large bag of soil mix (I used compost)

6 marigold plants

 

First, I drove a piece of rebar into the ground right beside my patio:

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Then, i slid a large clay flower pot onto the rebar, all the way to the ground:

1st pot

 

Then, I filled it with soil and slid the second pot onto the rebar and kind of tilted it to the side.  I would suggest overfilling the pot with soil, because as you add the pots and compost, it will get pushed down quite a bit:

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Continue to slide the pots onto the rebar, tilting to the side (alternating) and filling with soil.  Then, you can plant your flowers.  I also think this could make a great small herb garden:

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Little Lessons In Mindfulness

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This is an old blog post from about five years ago on a previous blog I had that focused on my counseling practice.  I ran across it and thought it fits right in with our season of seeking simplicity.  Enjoy!

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Like all moms, I have somehow developed the ability to simultaneously drive, listen to the radio, talk on my mobile phone, ration out snacks to my kids in the backseat and adjust my bra straps while sipping/spilling a cup of coffee from a regular coffee mug because all of my travel mugs have disappeared into the abyss that is my floorboard. Is this dangerous? Yep, but for whatever reason I feel like I have to do all of these things concurrently. While it seems as if I am accomplishing a lot, I do not feel like I am doing anything particularly well or with the proper concentration each activity is entitled. The reality of motherhood is that moms are constantly multitasking and almost always distracted-many times these distractions are voluntarily and by choice-mostly a result of habit and the need to feel capable of “doing it all.”

Recently I have read several magazine articles focusing on how Americans are truly a unique culture in that we believe we are not accomplishing anything unless we are doing multiple things all at one time. In one article featured in Parents magazine recently, the author, Debra Ollivier, who lived in France, explains that there is no translation of the word “multitask” to French. She went on to further explain how uncomplicated motherhood is in France-free from copious amounts of baby gear and relatively devoid of the need for multiple child-focused activities with few helpings of mommy guilt.

In another article I read a several months ago while waiting in a doctor’s office, the author decided to do an experiment where for 30 days he only did one thing at a time. For example, if he was eating breakfast, he only ate breakfast-no reading the paper or watching TV while eating. He would concentrate on and execute only one activity at a time. This sounded fabulous to me, so, I decided to adopt some of the same behaviors and perform my own mini mindfulness experiment. Since I am a multi-tasking junkie, I cannot fathom doing only one thing at a time for a full month. So, for my own peace of mind, I have settled with a daily dose of mono-tasking. I have tried to make it a point to at least once a day to take a break from my routine chaos and do one thing and one thing alone. It is surprisingly difficult to do. My first experiment was to drive to pick up my son from school- and only drive- no radio, no eating, or talking on the phone. After my initial multitasking withdrawal symptoms wore off (overwhelming boredom, fingers twitching to pick up my phone, the irresistible urge to pull into a drive-thru or switch on the radio), it was extremely relaxing to only concentrate on driving. I had two of my children in the backseat, and as I drove I took note of our surroundings and discussed with them the things we saw (OK, so I was talking to my kids while driving, but I can’t ignore them, right?). I have also started doing this while driving alone, and it is shocking how much of our environment I missed while being distracted by technology, food, ill-fitting undergarments, and coffee.

I have been applying this same strategy at home and I have begun to make it a point to try to play with my kids while doing nothing else but focus my attention on them. I am guilty of playing a game of Candyland while responding to emails and checking my voice mail messages. But, when I turn everything else off and focus on getting to the gingerbread house I feel like I accomplish so much more. The play is so much more rich and I feel like I am really playing with them. Consequently, when I wait to respond to emails, texts, or voice mails, I am so much better able to concentrate and the quality of what I do increases enormously. In a recent study conducted at Stanford University by Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass and Anthony Wagner , researchers found that people who are heavy media multitaskers (for example, checking emails, responding to texts, etc., simultaneously) were more susceptible to being distracted by irrelevant information and had more difficulty with memory than low media multitaskers. The heavy media multitaskers proved to be slowed down by the inability to ignore irrelevant information and memory problems.

So, is it really saving any time to do multiple activities simultaneously? Sure, of course it does, occasionally. And many times it is unavoidable. It is very convenient to call a friend while unloading the dishwasher or respond to emails while nursing a baby. Many times it is necessary to make phone calls while driving or check emails while catching up on a recorded television show. But, do take time to slow down and do one thing at a time once in a while. When you spend even just a small amount of time focusing only on your children or only on talking to a friend on the phone, you will be surprised at how much more meaningful these interactions are without all of the distractions. And you just may notice some of the little things that were overshadowed by all of the diversions.

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