Monday, September 29, 2014

'Tis the Season: Homemade Apple Sauce

My Facebook newsfeed has been filled with friends' posts about their apple-picking adventures since the middle of September.  We never made it to the orchard, but I managed to do what I consider the next-best-thing: 

I made my first batch of homemade apple sauce!
I bought a big bag at the grocery store of Gala apples that came from local growers.  I chose my recipe from the blog of Ree Drummond, better known as the Pioneer Woman.  It looked quick and used simple ingredients:  just apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, apple juice, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Peeling the apples was the lengthiest part of the process, since I don't have a nifty apple peeling machine.  (I might have to track one of these down for next fall!) 

As I was doing it, I remembered something from elementary school:  You say the alphabet while you are peeling around and around the apple, and try to get one long continuous peel.  Wherever the peel cuts off early, that's the letter of the last name of the man you will marry!  Based on my luck, it's amazing my husband's last name doesn't start with a "B"!  You can see all the little chunks of peel in my photo...not too much of a continuous peel to be seen!
All of the ingredients spent 25 minutes cooking together in a big pot on the stove, getting softer and softer, smelling more and more fabulous.
I finished by pureeing it all in a blender, and was ready to serve the most delicious hot apple sauce I have ever tasted in my life.
My girls are used to unsweetened store-bought apple sauce, and found the homemade version a little too sweet for their taste.  (Crazy coming from kids, right?)  But I'm sticking with this recipe, because it tasted truly amazing! 

Many thanks to the Pioneer Woman for introducing this great new recipe into my repertoire!

Happy Apple Season, y'all!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Creating in the Kitchen: Homemade Elderberry Sryup

I have been singing the praises of elderberry syrup to anyone who will listen for almost two years now.  My children and I have been taking our spoonsful of syrup dutifully, and I have found that without a doubt, we are getting sick less often, and our symptoms have been milder and faster to disappear.  I'm not much for presenting the science behind it all--I will leave that up to you to web search if you are interested--but suffice it to say that elderberry syrup fights colds and flu, which makes it pretty timely for you to consider right now as fall approaches.

I have been dishing out somewhere around $24 a bottle for the Gaia Herbs brand at my local Martindale's Natural Market, and just a couple dollars less once in awhile for Nature's Way Sambucus.  (The Gaia brand is a thick syrup that has to be stored in the refrigerator, and the Nature's Way brand is a thin liquid that can be left in the cupboard.  My kids tend to like the Nature's Way brand better, and a bottle lasts us much longer, but I have this gut feeling that the Gaia brand might be more effective.) 

Though expensive, I have always thought it was worth the money not to be laid out with three-week long colds, as I often have been in the past.  And when I add up the money spent on Sudafed, throat lozenges (sometimes two or three bags full during a single cold!), and saline nasal spray, I realize that it's almost as expensive to get sick as it is to try to prevent it with elderberry syrup.

With my current campaign to reduce costs around the house, though, I wanted to try my hand at making my own homemade elderberry syrup.  I am pretty excited about the results, though I will have to check in with you after cold and flu season to let you know if the homemade version is truly as effective as store-bought.
Elderberries simmering with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. 
That's not a plastic spoon, by the way; it's called Moboo--molded bamboo!
I found several web sites with recipes for homemade elderberry syrup, and I recommend to you the web site Wellness Mama, and her blog post from three years ago.
In order to follow the Wellness Mama recipe, I purchased a pound of dried elderberries from Rose Mountain Herbs, paying a very reasonable $13 for the product and a very unreasonable additional $10 for shipping.  Add to that the over $7 I paid for raw honey at the grocery store, and I was starting to have second thoughts about the cost- effectiveness of this project. 
After straining out the elderberries, I left the syrup in this bowl to cool
before adding the raw honey and filling my bottles.
However, making this first batch of syrup barely made a dent in my one pound bag of berries (only 2/3 of a cup worth), and I ended up with four bottles of syrup!  (I just reused bottles I had saved from the Gaia brand syrup.)

So, I will continue to sing the praises of elderberry syrup to you if you complain to me of colds or flu this fall and winter, and I just might add the suggestion that you tackle the DIY version.  It makes me feel a little like a pioneer woman when I can make something like this for myself rather than buying it off the shelves!

As an added benefit, the house smelled awesome while it simmered!

I highly recommend that you take a look at the recipe at Wellness Mama, and give elderberry a try as your preventative-medicine of choice this cold and flu season!

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You know I'm not a doctor, right?  I'm a wife, mom, and crafter, so if you have any medical questions about elderberry syrup, you are not going to want to take MY word for it. 
Talk to your doctor!

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Did you know that I also make my own deodorant and household cleaner?  I am taking this "detoxifying of body and home" very seriously; it's just been a slow road!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Simply Handmade: Upcycled Magazines and Washi Tape Stickers

There are a few little paper crafting projects that I've done over the past couple of months, but never posted about, so I thought I would share them now.
When I came home from my Hawaiian vacation in June, I brought back as much paper ephemera as I could gather--maps, brochures, free magazine publications, and postcards.  Maps always figure prominently into my homemade envelope-making, so I set to making some Oahu-themed envelopes upon my return.
One of the magazines I picked up, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten and can't seem to track down online, is filled with Japanese writing.  I couldn't resist turning several of its pages into handmade envelopes, reinforcing the edges with kawaii tape from the Panda Love Shop on Etsy.

That same magazine featured a kawaii cartoon character scattered throughout its pages that caught my attention.
I had no idea what the little guy was meant to be, but my younger daughter took one look at him and said, "Oh, it's a little island!"  And I do believe that she is correct.  I cut out the island character wherever he appeared in the magazine, glued the magazine squares to adhesive paper, and created stickers that I can use on postcards and envelopes.
Speaking of stickers, I ran across a blog post on Moment to Live For (another link found via Snail Mail Magazine), in which blogger Sabine created a colorful dot notebook using washi tape stickers.  Her process is very simple, and clearly illustrated in her post:  She adhered two rows of washi tape onto wax paper, and then used a paper punch to cut out circle stickers, which could then be peeled from the wax paper.
When I made my washi tape circle stickers, I laid the rows of washi tape on adhesive-backed paper, punched out the circles, and then took the backing off to reveal the adhesive sticker back.  Sometimes I layered three different tapes, and sometimes I used a heart punch, rather than a circle.
Sabine stuck them all over the cover of a fairly plain Kraft-paper style notebook to really liven it up.  I confess that I just laid all of my creations on top of a notebook to see what they would look like, but didn't actually stick them down.  I've been using them on envelopes and postcards instead.
So there are a few very simple paper crafting projects that have made their way across my studio table over the past couple of months.  I feel like I need some sort of catchy tag line now, like, "Get on out there, and play with some paper!"