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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Prince's Pine, A New Plant For Me

The other day when I was walking out to the mailbox, I noticed a patch of greenery growing under a pine tree.  As I looked closer, I saw it was a plant I hadn't noticed before.  I don't think it was there in other years.  You would think I would have noticed if they had appeared before.

I had no idea what these plants were.  I downloaded an app called MyGardenAnswers.  It is an app where you can take a photo of a flower with your phone, submit it and supposedly the app will tell you what the plant is.  I tried it, but I got no results.  I looked online at several flower sites but I couldn't find the answer.  My next step was to post the picture on a nature facebook group I belong to.  A kind person identified it for me.  It is called Prince's Pine (Chimaphila umbellata).  He said "It's a native species of relatively high conservatism that prefers drier wooded habitats. It most likely arrived through natural dispersion or may have been present in the seed bank."  I was so excited to discover something new. They have spread quite a bit, and I am hoping they will come back every year. Wikipedia says it is a small perennial flowering plant found in dry woodlands, or sandy soils. Perennial means it should come back every year.  It has green leaves year-round, and it receives a significant portion of its nutrition from fungi in the soil. By keeping the green color,  they should be easy to keep track of.

Some Indian tribes used to boil Prince's Pine to treat tuberculosis.  It also has some antibacterial properties they used to treat infections.
It is also used as a flavoring in candy and soft drinks, particularly root beer.  I picked some leaves and they didn't smell like anything unless the oils need to be extracted somehow. Interesting but I won't be using it for flavor or medicinal purposes.  I will just enjoy the plants and the flowers.

The plants are spreading this summer.

I was waiting to see if the the little buds were going to bloom into a flower.  Today I went to check.  They are just starting to bloom into a small little unique flower.  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hot Air Balloon Crew is a Great Summer Job

We can all remember our first job.  These jobs serve two purposes.  It is a way for a young person to earn some extra money either to save for further education or to save for a special item.  The other purpose is to reinforce what you DON'T want to do for the rest of your life.  I worked in the hot kitchen of an A & W root beer stand.  I didn't have the fun car hop job, but instead worked in a small area with a grill and warmers with barbecue and hot beef.  It is probably the reason I don't like confined spaces or being hot.  At the same time I worked as a cleaning lady in a nursing home.  I had to wear a uniform which was a yellow dress with sensible shoes, and I had to wear my hair in a bun. Quite the look for a 18 year old.   Cleaning in a nursing home has some challenges which I won't go into, but needless to say I can still remember the smell of the toilet bowl cleaner.  Wait!!!  Summer jobs are training for what you don't want to do for the rest of your life, but that is exactly what it was.  I was training to be a wife and mother and didn't even know it.

My husband washed dishes during his high school years and became very proficient at it.  I am always so happy when he practices his skills in our kitchen.

Our two oldest grandchildren are going to be sophomores in high school.  They each have their first summer job.  Our granddaughter is doing filing at a local car dealership.  She is enjoying it, but I am quite sure filling hamburger buns or chasing turd balls under beds wouldn't be for her.

Our grandson has the best job of all.  He obtained a job on the crew of a hot air balloon company.  Last week we observed the process.  He will never forget this experience.

The trolley picks up the riders and the workers.

They proceed to the launch site.

The equipment is unloaded and set up.



With a big powerful fan the inflation process begins.

The propane flame heats the air.

Pretty soon the balloon is inflated.

The riders get into the basket.

Then it's Up, Up and Away.

At this point, as the hot air balloon disappeared into the horizon, the balloon crew packed the equipment into the trolley.  We waited to follow them.  The trolley tracks the balloon, and I imagine they are in communication at all times.

We spotted the balloon across the lake.

Then the landing begins.  This time it was in a field.

The crew had to pull the balloon into the proper position.

Deflating the balloon.

It is amazing to me how quickly they can pack up the balloon and put it away until the next flight.  I don't know the technicalities of the flight, but I imagine it is complicated and mostly depends on the wind and weather.  I did notice that they put up small test balloons to see the wind direction and probably other things.

I noticed the flight we witnessed seemed to fly really low.  I don't know if that was by design or was dictated by the winds.  I am just glad I witnessed from the ground and not from that basket. I have never claimed to be brave.  I agree with the motto of the balloon company, but I just want both of my feet on the ground.

The motto of the balloon company.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Special Mother's Day Surprise

Happy Father's Day.  Even if it's a made up holiday, it is still nice to honor all fathers and father figures.  My husband got his token gift which he picked out himself.  It was a 26 piece screwdriver set he found at Costco.  Now all his screwdrivers will be in one place.  A place for everything and everything in it's place.  Something we have been striving for.  Today we went to a breakfast on the farm with some of the family and then later almost everyone came over for ribs, sweet corn, mashed potatoes, 7-layer salad and strawberries on pound cake.  I think all the father's and mom's for that matter had a good day.

I can't remember what I bought for myself on Mother's Day, but I'm sure it was something I wanted or needed at the time.  We aren't much for surprises, but I may have to change my mind.  I can't even convey how surprised I was last Mother's Day.  I have been waiting to blog about this surprise gift.  My daughter also gave one to my sister.  I didn't want to spoil my sister's surprise because she did not receive hers until recently.

It all started in April.  My daughter asked if I had any recipes hand written by my mom (her grandma).  I didn't think a lot about it, she is a very sentimental girl.  She wanted a recipe that we remembered mom making.  Several days later I thought I should look for one.  Mom made up recipes or changed them so I couldn't really think of any off hand.  I have a whole box of recipes, but the ones I use most often are in a kitchen drawer.  I opened the drawer to see what I could find, and there on top was one written in my mom's handwriting.  I had never really noticed it before.  When I looked at it carefully, it was a recipe for her Cinnamon Rolls.  It was dated 10/21/53.  It was called Delicious Rolls so I may have thought it was a recipe for dinner rolls and didn't ever read it.  It also said she got it from a Mrs. B.  I don't know who that could be.   We know a few possibilities, but we will never know for sure.   My mother made hundreds of pans of cinnamon rolls in her life.  It was kind of her signature food.  Whenever we had a family brunch, she always made cinnamon rolls.  When I married my husband, she would make a pan with raisins and a pan without raisins for him.  To this day, we make a pan of cinnamon rolls for family breakfast meals.  They are never as good as we remembered mom making.  I had ask her to show me a few times, but she never gave me an actual recipe.  I think she even forgot she had this one.

I found a couple more recipes written in mom's handwriting and the next time I saw my daughter I gave them to her.  That was the last I thought about it.  I thought they would go into a scrapbook and that would be it.  When it was Mother's Day, she gave me a present from her and her sister.  When I opened it up, I couldn't believe it.  There, laser engraved onto a cutting board was mom's recipe.  It was a very special gift, and I will treasure it always.

This is the finished cutting board and the original recipe card with a cinnamon thumbprint included.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Make Your Own Powdered Laundry Detergent

I have been making my own laundry detergent for a long time.  When I first started it was a process that involved grating Fels Naptha soap and making gallons of liquid detergent.  Next I switched to pink Zote soap which I tried using several different ways trying to come up with the easiest method.  They all worked great for cleaning clothes, but took more time than most people have.  If the Zote wasn't grated into a fine powder, it would sometimes leave a glob on a piece of clothing.  I have blogged about several of these methods, but my last attempt has been by far the easiest.  It is mostly dump all the dry ingredients together and make sure they are mixed.  It makes a very large batch which lasts a long time.

Laundry Detergent


1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax– $4

1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda– $4

1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean– $3

2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Zote Soap– I like the pink for the scent but the white is fine. You can also use Fels Naptha or Castile soap)-$2

1 (4 lb) Box Baking Soda– Found in the cooking aisle-$1.50

4 cups of Epsom Salt-<$2

30-40 drops of Essential oils of your choice (I used grapefruit, lime and lemon)


First grate the Zote soap.  This is the only tricky part.  If you use Fels Naptha it is quite dry and grates easily.  Zote is a softer soap and clogs up the grater.  I googled it and found if you cut the Zote into pieces and put them on a microwave safe dinner plate for 2-4 minutes, it dries the soap out.  It puffs up and when it is cool, it crumbles easily.  I did it for about 4 minutes, watching it very carefully.  It took longer because my pieces were a little large. To crumble it, just put the cooled pieces in a food processor/blender.  It made a fine powder which I added to the other ingredients.

The Zote soap pieces look like this after they are microwaved.

Next mix all ingredients together in a large bucket.  I used a big 5 gallon bucket and it filled it about 1/2 full.

Use 2 -4 Tablespoons per laundry load.

This detergent dissolves completely even in the little detergent drawer.  The clothes get very clean and smell wonderful.  I am going to toss all my other detergent recipes and make this from now on.  It is so easy and inexpensive to make.  My cost is around $16 for the entire batch.

By adding the epsom salt you won't need any fabric softener either.  The clothes are very soft.  I used to make my own dryer sheets.  I cut reusable towels to fit my container.  Then I mixed a bottle of cheap hair conditioner, 1 1/2 cups white vinegar and 3 cups of water together.  I poured the solution over the towels.  I used one per dryer load and when I took out the dry laundry, I put the dry sheet on the bottom of the pile to absorb more liquid.  It worked great, but I don't even use them anymore.  My clothes are soft without it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Decision On Camping-NOT TO CAMP

This is a followup to another blog I wrote.  The blogs title was "To Camp or Not to Camp, That is the Question".

I now have an answer.  NOT TO CAMP

I tried so hard to like it, but I just can't.  As I mentioned before, I love being outdoors in nature.  I love sitting around a campfire with friends and cooking meals outside.  There is nothing better than a foil meal with a pudgie pie for desert.

What I just can't do is live in such small quarters.  The fascination people have with tiny houses just boggles my mind.  The thought of that makes me hyperventilate.  I need to breath and I can't breath in confined quarters.  Even the campgrounds are too confining.  Some people call it cozy, I call it stifling.

So now, two years later, we are selling our 1988 motor home.  It is old but in very good condition.  Hopefully someone else can enjoy it.  The people we purchased it from loved it so much and only gave it up because of health reasons.  My husband is building a fire pit area at our house so I can enjoy the outdoor life and still have access to my comfy bed and a bathroom I don't have to back into or pump out.  To each his own. 

For anyone interested, I can send more photos or more information. 

There are really lovely scenes from the campground that I will miss.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Make Your Own Toothpaste

I think I was a pioneer woman in my former life or a chemist.  In this life the chemistry part was squelched by my high school chemistry teacher.  I will just say that our personalities did not gel.  As many of you know, I am constantly combining ingredients and messing around with making healthy foods and products.  I have written about many of these experiments.  Some are complete failures, but others I make over and over again.  At the end of this blog, I will list some of my favorites.  Thinking about it, I realized I haven't posted the recipe for homemade toothpaste.  It is a product that needs some getting used to.  Visually it looks like gray cement and the taste and texture are different from the toothpastes we are used to.

If you have ever read the label on the toothpastes we have all used for years, you will see all the ingredients.  The first is usually a form of fluoride.  The toothpaste manufacturers claim fluoride is necessary to prevent cavities and gum disease.  They even put fluoride in city water supplies or give fluoride tablets to kids who have well water.  I am not going to go into the pros and cons of fluoride because the web is full of information on this subject.  I recently read that many brands of bottled water are taken from city water supplies that have fluoride in them.  I personally try to avoid fluoride.  It is based on an experience from when I was young.  My mother had an aunt who had a lot of joint pain.  She was older and was told she just had arthritis.  She read an article about the side effects of fluoride and started buying spring water.  Within a short period of time, her symptoms got so much better.  At that point, my parents began buying spring water and therefore the fluoride controversy has been on my radar for years.  More and more information has come out about the dangers of fluoride, and I have tried my best to stay away from it.

Other ingredients listed on a popular brand of toothpaste are glycerin, hydrated silica, sodium hexametaphosphate, propylene glycol, PEG-6, water, zinc lactate, flavor, trisodium phosphate, sodium gluconate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium saccharin, carrageenan, stannous chloride, xanthan gum, titanium dioxide, and blue 1.  I don't want some of these ingredients in my mouth.  Trisodium phosphate is used for cleaning walls.  I think hydrated silica sounds like wet sand to me and some of the other ingredients I have no idea about.  

I do like Young Living Thieves toothpaste.  It has no fluoride, synthetic dyes, artificial flavors or preservatives.  It is quite expensive at over $10 a tube.  Making it yourself is much cheaper.  If you google homemade toothpaste, there are a lot of recipes.  I have tried several, but the one I use now is by Dr. Axe (  It is super simple to make and works great.  Last week I had a dental cleaning and checkup.  My dentist told me I did a wonderful job of cleaning my teeth and my cleaning took no time at all.  I didn't tell her I don't use the junky toothpaste she gives away, but I make my own. 

Probiotic Toothpaste

1/4 cup coconut oil
3 Tablespoons Bentonite Clay
2 capsules of Probiotics (open the capsules and use the powder)
10 drops of peppermint essential oil
A reusable toothpaste tube

Mix all the ingredients together.  I warm the coconut oil to liquefy it so it's easy to put into the container.

I purchased an awesome travel container at CVS.  It works very well for this purpose.

This is the bentonite clay powder I use and the container.

I have made a lot of homemade products over the years, but these are my top ten in case you are new to reading my blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Another Non-dairy Milk-Oat Milk

In my continuing quest to make non-dairy milk, I hit upon a good one.  I blogged about making Almond milk.

Almond milk is really good, but the downside is straining out the almond meal and it's not good for those who can't have nuts.   I have also made Cashew milk with the same process.  I soaked the organic cashews in water just as I did the almonds.  The difference is that cashews don't leave behind a pulp.  Cashews are actually a seed and not a nut.  The milk is much thicker but works great for smoothies.  It is much too thick for cereal.  I didn't try drinking it straight or diluting it, because I started making oat milk.  Oat milk is very nutritious.  It is recommended for digestive issues because it has both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.  Soluble fiber is the answer to anyone who has IBS or any other kind of stomach problems.  It is a very low residue food, it lowers LDL (known at the bad cholesterol), it slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and the release of glucose which is helpful to diabetics and it stabilizes contractions of the intestines for more comfortable digestion.  Foods with soluble fiber are safe foods and should be the first thing you eat on an empty stomach.  Insoluble fiber is necessary but never on an empty stomach and only with soluble fiber foods.  People with digestion problems can tolerate insoluble fiber better if it is cooked or chopped into small pieces.  Everyone thinks using soluble fiber products like Citrucel or Heather's Tummy Fiber is just for constipation.  That isn't the case, it is important for everyone.  A link focusing on IBS has interesting information about the misconceptions surrounding fiber.

This blog wasn't meant to be a tutorial on IBS or digestive disorders, but only about another recipe for a non-dairy milk.  Oat milk is high in protein, and it has more calcium than cow's milk.  If you are gluten intolerant, then making it yourself with gluten free oats is perfect.  It is very low in fat and has no cholesterol.

Oat Milk

1 cup oats (I use steel cut oats, but any dry oatmeal will work)
4 cups filtered water

Soak the oats in the water for a few hours or overnight.   I pour off the soaking water and put fresh water in a blender with the soaked oats.  Then I blend at a high speed for a couple minutes.  If you want to strain the milk, now is the time.  If it is blended well enough, there is no need to strain.  Now you can use it as is, add more water to get the consistency you prefer or add a little sweetener.  Some people add a couple dates when they blend it for additional sweetener.  Take a date or two, pour some boiling water over it and let it sit for a while.  This will soften up the date so it blends completely.  Dates have a lot of iron and minerals.  You can also use maple syrup.  I usually make mine plain, but it does have a different taste without sweetener.  It does not in any way taste like "real" milk, but it makes smoothies creamy and is good on cooked cereal or rice pudding. 

If you want a very inexpensive alternative to the usual non-dairy milk and can't tolerate nut milks, soy or cow's milk, this is perfect.  I have not flavored it or used it in coffee because I drink my coffee black.  It is quite thick and sticky but would be a way to get the oat benefits in different way.  I may try the coffee route, but I will probably stick to smoothies.