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My banner project
I have some favorite tips... all around the web. I thought I give you a little taste of a few of my favorites this week! Hope you find something you can use!

Probably the most eclectic mix of ideas you will find from decorating tips to cleaning... I think there is always a faster, easier and more economic way to be found for any project but why reinvent the wheel?! Thank you to all the blogs I am featuring for your awesome work! (click on the pics for the link)

I made a BANNER and posted about it Here. I wish I had thought of this neat little tip for printing a banner... the way I did it was WAY harder!! Click on the picture and get Shanty @ Chic's awesome tip!
This idea saved me on a dresser project which will be featured in an up and coming blog! It is super easy to do ... with family friendly and easy to find materials!  Thank you Frou FruGal!
No blog tips I share would be complete without something from Kimberly over @ Serendipity Refined... and don't just stop at this post... she has good idea after good idea!
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From My Home Redux
Sometimes you can't just throw the hole kitchen out and start over with new. I love this idea because it is a fix anyone can do to update their cabinets for less money than it would take to remodel! You can find this at her Blog My Home Redux
We just bought a micro-fiber couch and though it hasn't had any mishaps yet... I have saved this link! It is amazing how she was able to clean hers up!! This is for all ya'll with kids or pets! Thanks 551 East!
Gorgeous DIY stamped tea towels! I have already ordered myself some flour sack towels!!! These would make great gifts for the Holidays!! Thank you Centsational Girl
These are some of MY favorite homemade cleaners! Hope you will try some of them! Things can be family safe, earth friendly, and clean!!
A little Country Girl Chic for you! How to turn one old farm table into two wonderful tables for your home!
There is nothing better to this country girl than a tidy pantry... I know.. Im a freak... but I love these DIY labels! Thank you Ellinee Journal for all your great label ideas!

...and here Ellinee Journal does it again with Halloween Printable Labels!! 
Last but not least... an amazing chair tutorial!! This is WONDERFUL! Road Kill Rescue.... You rock! ... and don't you just get a kick out of her blog name??
 
 
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My fellas like it hot ... I am thinking it has even become a way of seeing who is tougher! When my Mama had a whole bunch of these beauties left over, I jumped at the chance to pickle, dry, and roast some peppers!

Pickling in very easy! Drying seems to have a little trick to it, and roasting peppers to freeze is time consuming but oh so worth it!





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Place on a cookie sheet
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In the window

Drying Peppers

We decided to experiment a little with our drying process because drying peppers in the oven makes my eyes burn and I cough like a crazy woman!
It has to be a well ventilated space, warm, and dry!
First we placed them on a cookie sheet. So, we stuck ours in the back window of the car my husband wasn't using. We rolled down the windows and are letting them dry. So far so good. It takes days to dry them...so Ill post an after pic when that happens.
Make sure you flip them over once or twice a day!

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Start with a bowl of peppers
Pickled Peppers... Pickled Peppers... Pickled Peppers... Pickled Peppers... Pickled Peppers... Pickled Peppers... Say That Ten Times
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WEAR SAFETY GLOVES
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Jalepenos and Hot Wax Peppers
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In the jars
I use 2 cups pickling vinegar to 1/2 cup of water. In each jar I added one clove of garlic, a couple peppercorns, and 1/2 tsp. Coarse Sea Salt (per jar). I sliced the wax banana peppers as well as the Jalepenos. I left the cherry bombs whole. You can can them green or red. :)
Sterilize your jars and lids according to manufacturers directions. Place your vinegar and water in a large cook pot and bring to a boil. Fill your jars with your peppers leaving 1/4 inch space. Ladle the hot vinegar into jars and fasten lids. Water bath according to your altitude.
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Vinegar and Water
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Water Bath

Roasting Peppers

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There is nothing I love better than roasted Anaheim Chili peppers. They are mild... with just a little bite of hot! I am not a hot pepper girl! It is a little challenging to roast them, and my favorite method  of preserving them is using the freezer. I will caution you to ONLY store them in glass jars because if you store them in plastic ... it will permeate your ENTIRE freezer and everything will taste of chilis! Though these are mild, I still recommend using plastic gloves when working with them as they burn my hands! Use caution!

Place the Chilis on a baking sheet and place under the broiler in the oven, carefully watching for them to brown and bubble. It is ok if they get a little dark! Remove from over carefully and flip them over and broil the other side. Remove from oven. 
Some people like to then place them in plastic bags to steam... but I am worried about the plastic melting into the food and leaving residue...yuck! So, I place them in a glass or stainless steel  container and cover them. I used plastic this time as I had loaned out my glass container which has a lid! Make sure it is covered tightly so the peppers can "sweat." I leave them there at least ten minutes. 
Remove the plastic and give them time to cool down so they can be handled. Then carefully peel them. The skin should come right off! 
Cut the tops off, slit the pepper in half. Lay it open and with the flat of a knife scrape out the seeds!
Your peppers should look like the picture above. Drizzle olive oil over them and mix.
I didn't have small jars, so I had to figure out a way to use what I had. I like to have smaller portions of peppers, so I am hoping by layering wax paper Ill be able to pull out smaller portions. Most of the time I just load the oil covered peppers in the jar, seal with a lid and freeze! It is as easy as that! 
 
 
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I like making things for my home if you already hadn't guessed that. With my daughter and I being chemical sensitive and having so many allergies and struggles with our lungs, we set out years ago to eliminate toxic chemicals and cleaning items from our home. Recently I mentioned on my Facebook Page that I create a cleaner for my home which smells lovely! I had a surge of interest on what things I use to safely yet effectively clean our home.

As I test out new ideas I will share them with you here... so please check back

Safe Silver Cleaner

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Place This +
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this in a
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This +
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Stainless steel pot
Place the dirty silver in a stainless steel pot with about a half a cup of baking soda, a piece of aluminum foil, hot water (be safe) and let it sit. Viola... clean silver without the toxic cleaner :)
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This +
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Essential oils
No... I am serious... vodka makes a great cleaner :) I mix the cheap stuff with a little essential oils for hard surfaces which need to be disinfected! I place it in a spray bottle and clean my counters and hard surfaces with it! Seriously... your house will not smell like a distillery! :) People balk at this but not using things like bleach... go figure! :)

Drain Cleaner

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Baking Soda with
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Apple Cider Vinegar
Mix right in the sink and let it go down the drain.Fifteen minutes later flush it with hot water!  If you do this on a regular basis you should not get clogs...not I said "should not"

Window Cleaner

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White Vinegar
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Distilled Water
I add half distilled water and half white vinegar to a spray bottle to use as a window cleaner! Go a step further and use old newspapers in place of paper towels... or better yet use a squeegee!

Tub Scrub and Cleanser

I add about 5 cups of Borax, A box of baking soda, 10 drops of GSE and essential oils of my choice. I love using lemon and lavender, orange and lavender, lemon and peppermint, and even lemon, lavender, and orange. I guesstimate the amount but I would say a 10 drops of lavender, and ten drops of a combination of other oils! Always test your surface so you do not damage it and wear gloves if you are not sure if you are sensitive to the oils. I wear a mask so as not to breathe the powder when I sprinkle it. Mix in a stainless steel bowl with a stainless steel spoon!  I also recommend getting a cheese container to sprinkle it out of!

Dish Washer Detergent

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Your basic ingredients
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Label in a glass jar!
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Mix in a glass or stainless steel bowl
I have found since we have a lot of minerals in our water, this particular recipe still requires I use a rinsing agent such as the Lemi Shine. I am still experimenting with recipes and Ill post a new one if I find something better!

1 cup borax
1 cup super washing soda
1/2 cup epsom salt
1/2 cup citric acid
1/2 cup lemi shine

Add White vinegar to the rinse compartment.

It only takes a tablespoon of this cleaner per wash!




Floors

I use a variety of methods to clean my floor! For daily easy cleaning I have a Bissel Floor Mate. I add hot water and a few drops of essential oils. I do not believe this is manufacturer recommended so do so at your own risk. I will say I have used my cleaner safely in this manner for three years with no issues! Make sure you test an area of your floor so you do not damage! For disinfecting or deep cleaning we bought a floor steamer recommended for our type of flooring. Steam is a GREAT germ killer but use all safety precautions recommended for your cleaning machine!

Laundry

1  Bar grated Dr Bronners Castile Soap (DO not use regular soap as it will be too sudsy!)
1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Wash Booster

1/2 cup vinegar for rinse cycle ONLY

I have an HE and have had no issue using this mixture but use at your own risk.


I use very little per load! Like a 1/4 of a cup 

Safety First

Please do your research on all listed ingredients and do not take my word as authority on anything. This is not meant as a recommendation but only an example of we use as a family. Check with your health care provider in regards to allergies and safety. I have seen a lot of concern over the use of BORAX. Please note Borax is NOT Boric Acid!!

A great article I found on it's safety and use can be found @ http://www.crunchybetty.com/getting-to-the-bottom-of-borax-is-it-safe-or-not



ALWAYS use safety precautions such as eye protective wear, face mask, and gloves when mixing :)

 
 
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Donut Peaches
You will need 
4-6 pounds of peaches
3-4 cups of organic cane sugar
ground cinnamon and ground cloves
butter (optional)




With the left over peaches from canning, I decided to make a small batch of peach butter. Im afraid I do not have an exact recipe... but Ill do my best to explain my process! I am sure there are exact recipes on the web somewhere! :


You can learn how to prepare your peaches HERE. I explain how to blanch, peel and pit your peaches! 


Once you have your peaches peeled and pitted, you can do one of several things. I took 2/3 of the peaches and I blended mine on the very lowest setting of my vita mixer and pulsed the peaches until smooth. I then, by hand, smooshed (very technical term there) the remaining 1/3 by hand as we like a few chunks in our peach butter! You can also use an old fashioned apple sauce strainer.


I think I had about 4-5 pounds of peaches. I added 4 cups of sugar, but I only added half of that at first... tasted it and then added the rest as needed! I placed the peaches and half the sugar in a cook pot with cinnamon and ground cloves. I added more cinnamon as I cooked until it tasted as I felt it should! :) I told you I wasn't using measurements on this one! 


I brought the mixture to a boil and then reduced the heat. I added a couple of table spoons of butter.  I let the mixture cook down until it was the correct consistency which took about 2 hours. 

I then ladled the peach butter into hot, clean and sterile jars and placed the sterile lids on according to the manufacturers directions. I hot water bathed them for the correct amount of time for my altitude! Viola!
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Beautiful canned peach butter for winter! Yum!
 
 
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On our way back from the cowboy's occupational therapy appointment, early this morning, we came across a vendor, from Idaho, selling peaches. My early years were spent running through the tall grassy fields and building forts under the pines in Georgia, where much of my family still lives. There isn't a summer of my childhood I do not remember there being peaches in one form or another... jam, preserves, cobbler, etc. There were endless summer days of chasing lightening bugs, "helping" my grand dad churn home made ice cream, running through clean sheets on the line, being and knowing I was loved and protected by a wonderful family clan. The smell and sight of peaches take me back to those days and all the feelings they invoke are lovely. 

I could snap pictures of peaches all day
The variety of this peach is called "Donut Peaches" 
They are flat, sweet, and have an white flesh
I decided to can these and make a little peach butter! Canning peaches is fairly simple and there is nothing like the taste of peaches you preserved yourself in the middle of a snowy winter's day. I cannot wait to enjoy a taste of summer in the midst of winter!
After washing my peaches, I blanched them in boiling water, in order to make it easier to peel the skins. It doesn't take long to blanch and you do not want to over do it and cook your peaches!
I blanch mine right in a strainer so I can lift them out and place them directly in ice water to cool them down. Once iced, I transfer them to a bowl and begin peeling all the skins off. 
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I place them in an ice bath in my sink
The peeling should be pretty easy... though they are slippery! After I have an entire bowl of peeled peaches, I start placing them in sterilized jars! I then make a 30% sugar syrup mixture of honey, sugar and water. You can find a basic recipe online easily or in a canning cookbook!
I think peaches are just so beautiful
Once you have cut up your peaches and placed them in the jars, ladle the hot syrup over. Make sure you leave 1/2 inch head space. Take a butter knife and gently place in the jar to help the air escape... add more syrup if you need. Wipe off rims with sterile wet cloth, place lids and rings, and hot water bath according to your altitude. You can find info on hot water baths online!
Remove from the bath after the correct amount of time and then allow to cool. You want to make sure each jar seals before you place in your cubbard! 
Enjoy those peaches ya'll! 
 
 
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Yum!
When my youngest, Lil' Bit, was really tiny she thought strawberries were actually named strawbabies... it was so cute we have called them this ever since. I have made strawbaby jam almost yearly for 12 years. It is a household favorite. If you have never made your own jam, I highly recommend it. There is nothing more wonderful or sweet than opening up a jar of love and goodness on a winters day that you created in the middle of summertime. It is like capturing a little bit of sunshine and sharing it with your family. I was thinking I would not have any chance of canning any this year, and then I saw my friend from over at Serendipity Refined was making jam and I thought I should at least check locally for strawberries and wouldn't you know I found some? (You should really click on her name and check out her lovely page!)

My sweet mom has made many types of jams for years, and my grandmother before her. I even remember watching strawberry jam overflow down the stove and across the floor at my grandmothers... it is one of my earliest memories. Knowing now what  sticky mess that would have been to clean up, she handled it gracefully :) ... more gracefully than I would have! If you don't want to make jam yourself, my Mama makes it and sells it on Etsy and it is heavenly. You can purchase it at Paula Jeans Garden.



It is super important to have the proper tools. Back in Montana I have a Pressure Canner and a Water Bath Canner, but of course we haven't brought those things down yet. Luckily I keep my other items with my regular kitchen supplies. So, I improvised! The most important item for me is the tong tool you lift the jars out of the hot water bath with... I am notorious for burning myself! You will need a pot for cooking the jam, a canning pot, ladle, spoon, collander, jar tongs, jar funnel, jars with lids and rings, cutting board, large bowl,glass and other measuring cups, and knife.


The other really important thing for me is to have really quality ingredients. For a batch of jam you will need several items:

Clean, sterile jars with lids and rings (follow manufacturers instructions for prep) You want your jars to be hot when you ladle the jam in!

Strawberries (5 3/4 cups) I prefer to find organic. Tops removed. I chop half and crush half I like chunks of berries in mine :)
Sugar (7 cups) again, I use organic and I pre measure it out so it is ready to add when the time comes.
Lemon Juice (1/4 cup) organic please :)
1 Box of Pectin My mom orders it in bulk, so if you do a lot of canning it is a good way to go. 

Tips:
Do not double recipes
Do not alter recipe amounts
Crush berries by hand and not in a processor
ALWAYS hot water bath jams and jellies
Adjust processing times with water bath for high altitudes I live at 6100 ft so I had to increase my water bath time fifteen minutes. 

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Make sure you rinse and drain your berries
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Go organic... it is good for your family!
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Pre Measure the sugar before cooking.

Wash your strawberries and drain. Cut off the green tops. Many recipes call for crushing all the strawberries. I just chop half into small pieces and crush the other half with a potato masher. I personally like some chunks in my jam and have not noticed any change in the outcome of my recipe! Sometimes no matter how well I follow the directions, I end up with Jam which will not set... no matter... I just call it syrup! :)


Step One: 
Combine lemon juice and strawberries in your cook pot.
Step Two:
Gradually stir in the pectin and bring to a full boil on high heat! Stir that baby constantly... you do not want it to stick. Please keep safety in mind paying particular care to keep small children and pets away! 

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Gradually Adding Pectin
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Bringing Pectin to Boil
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Add pre measured organic sugar
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Bringing to a boil
Step Three, Four, Five and so on: Add sugar and stir in so it dissolves. Return to full boil and boil for 4 minutes. (or follow your pectin package instructions which is your safest bet). Remove from heat.  Spoon off the foam which has settled on top.  Fill the hot sterile jars using a ladle and jar funnel. Leave a 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe the rim and threads with a clean damp cloth... you dont want all your hard work to be wasted by accidently leaving food on the rim :( Adjust the lid and bands... not too tight! Place in boiling water canner and follow instructions for how long to process in your altitude (which you can find Here.)
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My pot only holds five... sure made me wish I had my canner here!
Once you have processed your jam in the hot water bath for the allotted time, remove them from the hot water bath and allow to cool 12-24 hours Once cool make sure each other the jars sealed by pressing the center. If the lid compresses or pops up and down... place in the fridge to eat right away or reprocess in the hot water for the same allotted time. 
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Strawberry Jam with the rain hitting the window outside
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"Strawbaby" Jam is the best winter treat!
I wish you could see how messy my kitchen and clothes were! No matter my good intentions I end up with it every where... went to comb through my hair before bed last night and discovered I had even somehow gotten it in there! Hope you will try to put a little taste of summertime for your loved ones! (pst...those left over strawberries make great daiquiris ...you do not have to add alcohol... it is a refreshing treat after a day of canning!)
 
 
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I have been craving beets. No clue why... and no, there is not a little one on the way. Last week at the Farmer's Market in Missoula, Montana I had the sole goal of getting some beets! I asked my mom who was committed to organic and homegrown practices as she knows the farmers there well. I carted my beets nine hours home to Wyoming!
 
In all honesty this is the very first time I have ever made pickled beets on my own! I got online and typed in Southern pickled beets and immediately thought "Why didn't I ask my Mama?" Every recipe I saw had cloves or cinnamon or some weird other spice... I did not grow up with spices in my beets! Thank goodness for moms! I got the recipe and got started!

5 pint size jars

6 bunches of beets

2 pints of vinegar
1 pint of water
2 pints of sugar
(for the vinegar "syrup")

Stainless steel cook pot
Canning water bath pot
Ladel
knife 
cutting board

I had a bit of vinegar "syrup" left over! The ratio is 2 parts vinegar, 1 part water, 2 parts sugar. Go ahead and get your syrup mixed and cooked on medium heat (until sugar is completely dissolved) so it is ready when you are ready to add it to the jars. Also make sure you have sterilized your jars per the manufacturers instructions and have them ready. 

First clean your beets removing the tops and long root. Place in pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes or until beets are slightly tender. 
Carefully peel each beet...Now way to make beet peelings look anything but messy! Try to be careful not to peel too much of the beet off :)
Cut the beets into whatever size you prefer for serving and eating. As you can see beets are a messy messy business so protect your counters and clothing. Next add beets to the jar. 
Ladle vinegar syrup into the jars leaving a half inch of head space. Wipe all the vinegar and juice with a wet clean cloth and place the lids on. 
Place jars in hot water bath (canning pot) and process fifteen minutes. Because I live at 6100 ft in altitude I am required to add 15 minutes to my water bath times. Make sure you research this properly for your altitude... for safety. 
As you can see canning beats is easy. I hope to encourage you to try your hand at canning if you haven't as of yet. It is very rewarding and for me a great amount of fun. It also makes me feel connected to my southern heritage and all the women in my family I spent time with as a small child as they cooked and canned. It takes me back to a time of love and warmth, a time I hope my children will look back on in their child hoods and feel the same as I do. 
 
 
I really love canning, learning how to make things like people used to, and general homestead type practices. This blog will incorporate information I have gathered about homesteading, animal husbandry, survival information, and many other eclectic ideas I cannot seem to fit anywhere else! Happy Homesteading People!