Friday, November 28, 2014

Homemade Christmas Gift Idea: Chalkboard Table for Kids

With the Thanksgiving holiday behind us, we are moving on to Christmas in our home. Today the tree goes up and the Christmas decorations come out and a little Christmas music will be playing to get everyone in the holiday mood.

Every year I like to make a few gift for my family. I don't make them all, that would completely overwhelming to me!! ~smile~ But I do pick out a few gifts each year to make.

I made this gift last year for my granddaughters. It was super easy. Chalkboard paint is easy to use! It was the first time I'd tried it and was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was and how quick the little homemade gift went together.

I found the idea from this website:  

I am fortunate enough to have an IKEA not far from me. As far as I know the items listed for this table (and chairs) could be mail ordered as well. However, any little table would work. It could be an end table (as this was) or a child's table. Little children chairs could be found pretty easily as well (locally or online).


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Updates from the Homestead

It's been a busy month. So much happening... our family Thanksgiving and birthdays for my kids...

My oldest son, Richard, turned 32 on the 16th of this month. I can hardly believe this! I was 18 when I had him. The moment the doctor laid him in my arms my whole entire life changed.. in an instant. He's grown to be a wonderful man. I love him... the picture here is one of him when he was in the Army. He spent 5 years in the Army. Two deployments... one to Cuba for a year and one to Iraq for 15 months. I'm very proud of him. He is currently finishing up his degree in Computer Software Engineering..

My daughter Sierra also celebrated her 19th birthday on the 23rd. She is such a sweet young lady. I love her so much and am so proud of her. This is a pic of her and her best friend (they've been friends since they were born as her friends mother and I have been best friend for 20 years) .. Sierra is on the left.. ...

My daughter, Emily, and her husband are moving to California. Her husband got a new job there and she will be working remotely for the same company she's currently working for. They are super excited. I'm a little sad, but very happy for them and this amazing opportunity. And the plus side.. my hubby and I will have a new vacation destination!

Lastly we celebrated our Thanksgiving as a family on Sunday. It was just wonderful. We had 7 of our 8 kids with us (one daughter was not able to make it as she currently lives on the East Coast). There were spouses and grandchildren, my son's girlfriend and family friends. There were 17 of us in all.

This was a family pic taken on Sunday...

Praying you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Day celebration!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How to Roast a Turkey

In case this is your first Thanksgiving turkey...  :)


I am sure a lot of you reading this already know how to cook a turkey.  But I also know that many ladies have never done it before.  I was in my late 20’s before I cooked my first turkey.  My grandma or mom or mother in law had always done that part.  When I went to cook my first turkey I was reading lots of cookbooks and talking with my mother to learn.  It is not like we have the opportunity to practice turkey roasting too often! 

I thought I would just share from my own turkey roasting experience how I have done it.  There are lots of ways to do this and tips, etc..  and I am sure I won’t cover them all but will share what has worked for me. 

First is the actual buying of the turkey.  I typically have purchased frozen turkeys.  The week before Thanksgiving you can find turkeys at the best price of the year.  In fact I usually take advantage of these great prices and buy another turkey or two for the freezer. A mini Thanksgiving dinner at another time of the year is actually kind of fun.   A couple of years ago I bought a fresh turkey from Costco and it was good too.   

If you buy your turkey frozen you will need a few days to let it defrost.  Do not sit it on the counter to defrost.  The outside of the turkey will start to spoil before the center has completely defrosted.  This is especially true for bigger birds. I put my turkey in the refrigerator to defrost.  Two days ahead of time for a small turkey (say 12lbs or under) and three to four days for a bigger turkey.   

The night before Thanksgiving I open the turkey up and wash him and remove the giblets.  I put those in a bowl and put them back in the fridge.  The next day I boil those with some salt and use the broth for my gravy as well as cutting up the giblets to add to the gravy.   I rinse the turkey off in cool water making sure he has defrosted completely.  I put him in a large roaster pan, cover him up with plastic wrap and put him back in the fridge until the next day.  

I also make up my stuffing the night before.  Don’t put the stuffing in the bird the night before to save time.  This can once again cause spoilage.  After I make the stuffing I store it in the fridge.   

On Thanksgiving morning I pull the turkey out, preheat the oven, remove the plastic and stuff my turkey.  I find the easiest way to do this is to set the turkey in my clean sink and use a big spoon (or my clean hands)  to spoon in the stuffing.  Then I set the stuffed turkey on my roasting pan.  I melt a cube (we call them cubes here in my parts.. some call them sticks) of butter and if it is a big turkey I melt 2 cubes.  I take a brush and brush the top of my turkey with this melted butter.  Cover the bird with foil and put him in the oven to start baking.  

After he has baked for about an hour I use my trusty turkey baster and baste him with the melted butter that has drizzled to the bottom of my pan along with any other juices that have also accumulated. 

I continue to cook and baste for the required amount of time.  The closer I get to the finish time the more frequently I baste.  I also take the foil off for the last couple of hours so the turkey can brown nicely.
Now for some specifics: 

Temperature to Bake a Turkey:  
325 is what I have always done
How Long to Cook:
If your turkey is stuffed:
8 to 12lbs  about 3 hours
12 to 15lbs  about 4 hours
15 to 18lbs about 4 ½ hours
18 to 24lbs  about 4 1/2  to 5 hours
If you don’t stuff your turkey you can subtract about anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour off the above times.  
However my experience has been that this is a rough estimate. I have had it take longer or shorter..  Your very, very best guide will be your thermometer.   

The temperature of the whole turkey, no matter where you put the thermometer (but not touching bone) should read a minimum of 165 (and that includes taking the temp of the stuffing).  I actually like it when the temps are a bit higher than that say..  180.   

I also wiggle the drumstick and it should move very easily.   When the turkey has finished cooking, take it out of the oven and let is sit for 15 to 20 minutes.  This will give you time to make the gravy and mash the potatoes.
I hope you all have a wonderful day of good food, family and much thankfulness.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Menu Monday!


The weekend was so busy with lots of family here and celebrating our Thanksgiving dinner that my weekly menu was not even on my mind. But I managed to get one put together so I can do some grocery shopping... the week does march on!

Leftover Thanksgiving dinner

Turkey soup, dinner rolls, salad

Crockpot pork chops, brown rice, salad


Enchilada bake, tortilla chips & salsa, salad

Split pea soup w/sausage, biscuits, salad

Cream cheese chicken casserole, rice, salad


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving Planner!

Are you hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year at your home?  If you are, this list might help you to be a bit more organized.   

I'll be hosting my family's Thanksgiving meal on Sunday the 23rd.  We'll have about 16 people here including grandchildren.   Being prepared with good planning is a must!!  

3 weeks ahead of time
 Figure out how many people will you be serving and how big of a turkey you will need.  To calculate this, you need to figure about 1 ½ lbs of turkey per person.  So if you are feeding 8 people you would need a turkey that was about 12 pounds.  I usually buy them bigger so I will have leftovers. 
Write out guest list
Plan out menu
Gather recipes
Write out grocery list
2 weeks ahead
Buy turkey (if buying frozen ones)
Make dinner rolls and freeze.  I like to freeze them before baking.  I shape them into rolls; lay them out on a tray and flash freeze them.  On Thanksgiving Day I bring them out in the morning to defrost and rise. 
If your guests are contributing to the meal let them know what you would like them to bring.
1 Week Ahead
Clean out your fridge to make room for the added food items
IF you have not bought your turkey yet, they should be on sale this week. 
Do your grocery shopping of staple items you will need for the meal
4 to 5 Days Ahead
If your turkey is frozen you need to put it into the fridge to defrost now.  A turkey will take anywhere from 2 to 6 days to defrost depending on its size (figure one day for every 5 pounds of weight). 
Buy any fresh and perishable items you will need
Make cranberry sauce and refrigerate
Make salad dressings and refrigerate
3 Days Ahead
Clean your house
Get out and ‘good’ dishes or bigger serving dishes and get them washed
2 Days Ahead
Wash table linens
Get out your roasting pans, thermometer, turkey baster and make sure they are clean and ready to go
Wash and chop up veggies for stuffing and side dishes and put in refrigerator
Make pie crusts, roll them out, and put in pie plates. Cover each one with plastic wrap and put in fridge
1 Day Ahead
If you are making mashed potatoes for the crockpot you can make those up now and store in fridge. Tomorrow you take them out and put in the crockpot on low in the morning.
Make stuffing and refrigerate. If you are stuffing your turkey do not do that now, wait until right before you put the turkey in the oven
Assemble side dishes
Assemble any jello type salads
In the evening pull out your turkey, clean it and make sure it has defrosted and put back in fridge. Remove giblets and refrigerate
Set the table in the evening if desired
Assemble and bake pies
Thanksgiving Day
Put some Christmas music on (this is our little tradition ~smile~)
Stuff turkey and put in oven at appropriate time (or if you have a roaster oven you can bake the turkey in there leaving your oven for heating up side dishes and baking dinner rolls)
Put the giblets in water with a little salt and let those simmer. You can use the broth for gravy and the cooked and chopped giblets can also be added to the gravy
Pull out dinner rolls and let them defrost and rise
Set the table if you did not do this yesterday
Put the mashed potatoes in the crockpot
If you have a second crockpot you can put the stuffing in there to warm (if you are not stuffing your turkey.  I always stuff the turkey and have leftover stuffing in a second crockpot)
When the turkey has finished cooking, pull it out
Put the side dishes in the oven to bake (if you did not bake the turkey in a roaster oven)
Bake dinner rolls
While the side dishes are heating up and rolls are baking, make gravy
Take a deep breath
Light some candles
Freshen up
Greet your guests
Enjoy your meal and give lots of thanks the Lord for his blessings and bounty in your life

Monday, November 17, 2014

Menu Monday!


This week will be busy! I have shopping and prep to think about for my family's Thanksgiving dinner and a couple of sewing projects that I need to make progress on if they are going to be finished by Christmas! A planned out menu is a life saver on busy days. How is your menu looking this week?

Hot roast beef sandwiches, salad

Homemade pizza, coleslaw

Mexican chicken casserole, tortilla chips & salsa, salad


Teriyaki pork chops, brown rice, green beans

Chili, cornbread, salad

Our Family Thanksgiving Dinner


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hot Process Soap Making – New Video!

Making soap is fun and rewarding. It can be scary to start out but once you do it you realize how simple it is. And you realize how useful it is! I know my family and I could never go back to store bought soap.

In this video I'm showing you how to make hot process soap in a crockpot. There are 2 ways to make soap. One is called Cold Process and the other Hot Process. Here is the difference...

CP - This stands for Cold Processing. This is a soap making method. This is the method I use for making soap to sell. It involves combining your liquid/lye mixture with your oils and stirring until you reach trace (as defined below). Then pouring the mixture into molds. In a day or two you unmold, cut the bars and let the soap cure anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks depending on the recipe.

HP – This stands for Hot Processing. You follow the same procedures as CP but instead of pouring into your mold you keep cooking the soap. The soap is heated and cooked all the way through to the end. After you remove it from the mold you can cut the bars and pretty much use them right away.

I think hot process soap making is easier for the home soap maker, and you have usable bars of soap much sooner.

I use my older (like 20+ years old) crockpot for making soap in. In my opinion you do not need a separate crockpot for making soap. I've used this same crockpot often for soap making and for cooking in. When you are done making soap, you have soap, which is what you use to clean your crockpot with. It is entirely up to you if you want a dedicated crockpot for soap making. 

The Recpie..

Crockpot Hot Process Soap
18.9 oz coconut oil
30.8 oz olive oil
14.2 oz palm oil

20 oz water
9.2 oz lye

2.5 oz fragrance oil
And here is my video and below the video is a list of websites that you can use to find soap oils and lye.


Don't forget to sign up to my You Tube Channel

Soap Making Supplies:

Majestic Mountain Sage

Soaper’s Choice (oils only) 

Sweet Cakes Soap Making Supplies  

Milky Way Molds 

And for Lye...

Bitter Creek Candle Co. 

Texas Natural Supply 

Lehman’s Soap Making Supplies   (look under “Personal Care”) 

The Boyer Corporation (this is where I buy my lye from) 

Snow Drift Farm  

The Chemistry 

If you are interested in learning how to make cold process soap I have an ebook wit step by step directions and pictures...

Hand Made Soap - A Step by Step Photo Tutorial

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Striving for a Heart of Gratefulness

This is a repost from last year..  but my feelings are still the same!!  Be grateful, be thankful for all of God's blessings..  the big ones and the little tiny ones..  God's love is everywhere when we take the time to look and see them.. 

Thanksgiving always means to me a time to stop and give thanks. I’ve seen many lists on the things people are thankful for in their life. I have my own list as well. But I have really been contemplating something beyond this. I’ve been contemplating and thinking about a heart of gratefulness.

How is this different you might ask? Well I’ll share my thoughts. In my mind a true heart of gratefulness goes beyond my list of what I’m thankful for. It is a deeper meaning that I am going to strive for in my life. I looked it like this.. if you were walking through a desert of heat you would be so thankful, deeply grateful for every drop of water you had. If you stood next to a huge lake, water would be taken for granted. How many things in my life do I take for granted? 

It’s not about looking at those less fortunate than I am and realizing my blessings. It is choosing every day to be honestly grateful for all my blessings. I remember something from several years ago. I was driving with my van full of children to Walmart. Now, I live in a beautiful area. It is so beautiful that is considered a National Scenic Area (The Columbia River Gorge). I’m driving to Walmart and my kids are being noisy and my mind is focused on my trip to Walmart, what I need to do after I get home, food to prepare and chores to be done. Then it hits me. It is a completely beautiful July day. The sun is shining, the sky is an intense blue, the trees and mountains beside me are a deep, rich, vibrant green and brown the Columbia River to my left is stunning in its colors and calmness. If a tourist was driving through they would have been in incredible awe by the beauty of it all. But on that day for me, up until that point, it was just how I got to Walmart. I realized that in the hectic pace of my life, I take things for granted. The beauty of God’s creation right in front of me goes unnoticed due to focus on other things. 


How many other things go unnoticed in my life? The laugh of a child, the quiet of an afternoon, the noise of a houseful of grandchildren, a cup of coffee shared with a good friend, the rain making my area so green and beautiful, the hard work of my husband to provide for us, a load of clean and folded laundry, the wood stove simmering and keeping us warm, the work of my husband and sons who gather the wood in and stack it and bring it into the house so I can make a fire and keep us warm and toasty all winter long, a pot of soup on a cold winters day, the blessings of being a stay at home wife and mother, a clean kitchen, dirty dishes (as they say it shows I have someone to cook for), a child who learns a hard concept in his/her school day, a quiet evening spent with my hubby, new toothbrushes, dirty windows that show the handprints of little grandchildren who’ve been at my house, a barn full of hay to feed my goats for the winter, and my list could go on and on, the big stuff and the little stuff. Lord may I never take any of it for granted. 


So many things go way beyond my list, it is a daily heart that wakes each morning and says, thank you Lord, I am alive today, and I have so much to be thankful for that it can bring me to tears. If you’ve ever lost a loved one or been close to losing your own life, then you know how incredibly grateful you can be to simply wake up in the morning and step into the day ready to tackle whatever God has in store. Let me live daily with a heart that is truly grateful to Lord and chose not to take my life for granted. As a Peanuts cartoon I saw the other day said, “What if today I was just grateful for everything”. That is my desire, to strive towards a daily heart of true gratefulness to my Lord and Savior. Not all days will be great days, some will be hard, some will be sad, some will try my patients, but every day there is beauty, there are blessings and there is a Lord that has blessed me with so many beautiful simple things. Lord may I never take any of it for granted.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Homemaking Challenge for November – Update

I've met most of my goals.. but the months not over yet!! The windows are still on my to-do list.

The kitchen has been given a good cleaning.. wiped down, cleaned up, etc.. preparing for our holiday baking and cooking which is coming up soon!

I wanted to get my “baking cupboard” cleaned out. It was messy, over crowded and a few items that needed to be tossed. Here was the before pic...

The first step was to clear everything out and go through it all. Then wipe down the shelves...

Then it was time to put it back....

Aww.. looks much better, easier to use and I even have that top shelf area for storage if needed.

Now I feel ready to do some baking. I've gone through my spices and other ingredients to make sure we are ready to tackle the pumpkin pies and other goodies.

My family will be celebrating Thanksgiving on the 23rd of November. Last year we celebrated a few days late so that my daughter Leanne could be home from S. Korea to join us. What I really enjoyed is that this gave my other children the opportunity to celebrate the actual holiday with their in laws or girlfriend/boyfriend's family. No issues on where to spend the holiday, and no one has to have their dinner with family missing. This year we are doing it ahead of the holiday and I plan on decorating for Christmas and getting the tree up on the actual holiday.

In any case.. there is always so much to be thankful for and I love this time of year as a reminder of the things in life that matter. For me, my family, children, love, grace, kindness, and togetherness. God is good all the time!!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Menu Monday!

Last week was just busy! We had a fun trip up north to visit my in-laws, and then busy days for the rest of the week. This week should be slower paced. For now, the menu has been planned and that is always the best start to my week. How is your menu planning going?

Crockpot pork roast, roasted potatoes, coleslaw


Chicken/spinach casserole, brown rice pilaf, salad

Chicken veggie soup, dinner rolls, salad


Hamburger/rice enchiladas, chips & salsa, salad

Chili, corn bread, veggie platter



Monday, November 3, 2014

Menu Monday!

Bibimbap (Korean meal that Leanne will be making that did not get made yesterday as originally planned)

Dinner with my in laws

Navy bean soup, dinner rolls, salad


Dutch oven creamy chicken & veggie soup, easy dinner rolls, salad

Lasagna, french bread, salad

Breakfast for dinner: Sausage gravy over biscuits, scrambled eggs, brown rice and oat waffles, fruit platter