Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ghostly Spools

After making the jack 'o lantern spool craft, I wondered what other Halloween decorations I could make with the plethora if wooden spools into house. I came up with ghosts. The instructions are the same as for the pumpkin spools: you'll need white acrylic paint, a black sharpie ( or black paint if you've a steady hand ), modpodge and twine. 

Begin by painting the spools white and allow to dry. You may need several coats. Then draw on desired ghost features and apply one coat of Modpodge. When dry, thread one spool  onto the twine and knot the bottom. Make sure the knot is large enough to hold the spool. Then spread the remaining spools and make a loop at the top. My ghost decoration is only five spools long, but a longer one could be a lot if fun.

Ta da!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wild Grape Jelly

It's amazing what you can find if you just open your eyes and look around a little. While on a walk on the trail with my husband and son, we saw what looked to be wild grapes.
 My daughter and I returned the next day to pick all that we could reach. Some vines grew much too high while others were too far in the brush.
 We ended up with a nice haul! After soaking the grapes in water and vinegar (weak) to kill the spiders (gross!) I drained and rinsed them. Then I sorted the grapes while watching television. I learned something, too: it's always important to remember you have a bowl of grapes on your lap when the phone rings, especially when you have light carpet.  Luckily, I had some carpet cleaner hiding in the cabinet. 
Then it was time to make jelly! After cooking down the grapes and smashing them (using a recipe from and then draining the juice, I ended up with about 4 1/2 cups of juice. I had to add a little water to obtain the required 5 cups, and then made the jelly. The recipe made 7 half-pints of jelly.

The jelly turned okay, but when I bought pectin, I didn't know there was such a thing as low-sugar pectin. After I got over having to add SEVEN cups of sugar, I resolved to be sure and buy the low-pectin next time, or not use it at all.

No-pectin jam is possible, because I also made blueberry-elderberry jam and just did the spoon test to see if it had jelled.  Not sure I'll do that again, because sorting elderberries is extremely tedious, and I only got 1 1/2 half-pints.  It certainly makes a nice gastrique!

I'm really enjoying this canning thing, and now that I have 9 gallons of Bartlett pears in my kitchen, I'm ready to make some more jelly!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wooden spool craft

I don't know about anyone else, but I have about a bajillion wooden spools just floating around my house, so I'm always on the lookout for a good craft using those things. A couple if days ago, my wish was granted. A blog I follow posted a craft on Facebook and of course I took note. 

I put my own spin on the craft, taking it a little farther than just havering a spool sitting around.  

First Levi and I painted the spools orange, let them dry and then I drew on faces with a black Sharpie. Finally, a coat of Modge Podge and this is the result:
I liked the way the spools looked stacked together on the twine. Levi wants a pumpkin necklace, so we may do that today. 

Another idea is to paint the wooden spools green and turn it into Frankenstein's monster, or really any  creepy thing you can think of!  

I love Halloween and fall crafts!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Elderberry Syrup for Strengthening Immunity

I found an elderberry bush on my  neighbor's land, and after securing permission (he had no idea what it was, actually cuts it down every year), the kids and I began picking.  At first I was thinking jelly, but didn't think I had enough berries for that, so then I did some browsing and came up with elderberry syrup.

Elderberry is known for its medicinal properties, both in the flower and the berry. Next year I will pick some flowers, but for this year, it's the berries.

The berries after rinsing.

Sorting--taking off stems, tossing yucky ones. Very tedious.

Finally in the pot! I used 2/3 cup for this.

My helper adding 3 cups of water. Now to simmer until reduced and then we'll strain out the berries add 1 cup of local raw honey once the liquid has cooled. The honey will make the syrup palatable and also add more good stuff.
Finished product! It will keep 3 months in the fridge. It tastes pretty good, I think. My kids complain, but it the syrup helps strengthen their immune system, then they'll just have to deal with it. It could be worse, like, cod liver oil, you know? I try to give the kids 1 teaspoon daily.   Some are more willing than others.


Monday, August 26, 2013


I've aways been interested in foraging edible weeds and living off the land. This year I discovered that our neighbor has an elderberry bush. Excitement! Elderberries are amazing in so many different ways--the berries as well as the flowers.

I've picked a few and had grand plans to make jelly, but there's no way I'm going to come up with the huge amount of berries needed, so I'm going to make elderberry syrup, which is a cold/flu preventative and treatment for those illnesses.  The syrup is taken daily (1tsp for kids, up to 1 tablespoon for adults) for prevention and every 2-3hrs for flu symptoms. 

Combined with the Master Tonic languishing in my cabinet, the elderberry syrup will significantly add to the natural medicines available for my family. 

Pictures and tutorial soon!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Childhood's End

The end of summer is near; Autumn beckons. School begins in four days, the kids have their backpacks ready to go, the meal plan for lunches is in the works and all is well.

Thursday  Em and I went to the high school to find her classes and talk to a counselor about graduating early. 

We got in and she received her new heavy schedule so she can graduate her Junior year, plus about 3 credits she'll need to do online.

It wasn't until later that I realized that graduation junior year means graduating next year. Next. Year. Say what?  That doesn't seem right at all.

As my girls have gotten older, there are some things wonderful about being able to have a conversation that doesn't revolve around Minecraft or Legos (little boys, obvs) but with all of that there are things I'm not too keen on.

Boyfriends.  Now, I'm not saying I dislike the boys, because I don't. What I don't like is the realization that Mom is no longer #1. My girls are on the threshold of their own lives, a life in which they will leave me and their father behind and live it their way. My time of raising them is nearly finished.

It's an exciting time for them, and for me, also. They have opportunities that I never had, especially with all the moving we have done and the larger schools. They definitely have received a better education than I did.

 There have been some hard conversations with both of our girls, moments that you *know* that if you'd been told when you became a parent that this moment would come, you'd have second thoughts.

Sometimes parenting really sucks.

Most of the time, though, it's great.

Like when school starts and my house will be clean again, at least for a short time!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Get Your Dirt On

Things I really feel dumb about buying:

*Zucchini (I don't buy this at the store anymore, so I only eat it during the summer)

*Potatoes (this is my first year of growing a bunch.)


Really, is there anything dumber than buying dirt?  I don't think so.  Yesterday I dragged Tom out to Menard's and bought three cubes of dirt. Yes, I said cubes. Instead of those unwieldy and bulky gigantic bags of dirt that weigh fifty pounds, there are now cubes of dirt. Awesome, yes? But still dumb.

Today the plan is to fill the two raised beds with the dirt and plant my fall garden. I bought beets, kale, turnips and radishes from Baker Creek.  I've not done a fall garden before, so I am excited. Not so exciting are the butternut squash vines trying to smother everything.  I shouldn't complain, though, because it's food.

I've already pulled out the spent broccoli plants and one of the zucchini that was being destroyed by the squash bugs. Those things are really annoying!

Raised bed ready for planting, sharing space with the surviving cucumber plant.

One  of the many volunteer butternut squashes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Anything you can do, I can do

Since moving to Chicagoland, I have really struggled with fear of driving on the interstates around here. What if I get lost? What if Iget a flat tire? What if I can't do it? And on and on. Silly, I know, but sometimes fear can get the best of us no matter how ridiculous or dumb it seems to others. Fear is subjective, not objective. Fear is personal, irrational (sometimes) and once you conquer it, fear can shrink and make you wonder why you let something like driving on I-80 make you so nervous.

Granted, no one likes to drive on I-80 in the midst of semi trucks and idiot drivers (there are a lot of them in this area, trust me).  The first time I drove to Naperville Amtrak station to pick up my daughter after her visit to friends in Galesburg, I was a nervous wreck.  The entire week before D-Day I was consumed with worry and my stomach felt sick. Yes, I prayed (a lot!) but I never allowed the Holy Spirit to comfort me and take away  my worries, until the day arrived. With my oldest daughter  beside me and the boys safely at a friend's house, I headed out, white-knuckled but fairly calm.

And guess what? It was okay. Everything was okay. Even despite a couple of wrong turns in Naperville (stupid GPS) we still made it to the station and even found a place to park, not an easy task, let me tell you.

I did it.  And today I did it again. I had to drive to La Porte in order to close a bank account, and it was an hour long drive. I could have avoided the interstates, but as Emily said, it would be good practice to follow the GPS. So I did.

And guess what? It was okay. It was fine. No problems at all. I didn't even have sore hands when we got home!

Saturday morning I will again be heading to Naperville with Emily, and this time, it will be okay.

I know I can do it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

And....she's back

I've really neglected this spot! I always have good intentions, but then life gets in the way and posting on here slips my mind.

Summer has been awesome, as it always is. I love the hot weather! I get such a sense of accomplishment seeing everything I planted grow and produce, and I don't even mind picking off all of those Japanese beetles. The ugly grey squash bugs, though, are something altogether different. I don't want to touch them. So gross!

The three boys spent 10 days with their grandparents at the beginning of July. They had a blast, but it was hard for me at first. For a day or two I could only wander around, at a loss. It was so quiet and the house stayed clean. Amazing!  Once I got used to the quiet and the fact that I didn't have to do all that mom stuff constantly, it was nice. I was able to work on my book and really make some process on it. Go me!  

Now I know what parents with only 2 kids (teenage) experience. Wow! Easy street for sure.  Ha ha, no , not easy, just different. 

I missed my little boys, though, and I wouldn't want to be without them.

At Navy Pier

Friday, March 22, 2013

Finding Balance

There should be a balance to being Mommy and being Wendy; I know this. But finding it is proving somewhat elusive. Mostly the Mommy part wins, leaving Wendy disgruntled and sometimes resentful. Not cool. When Wendy wins, the family suffers. Not cool either.

So what's the answer? How to find this? 

I don't know, but I am working on it. Trying to become more organized in the kitchen which will free up some time to do other things besides meal plan, make snacks and clean the house.