Dish gloves

Does anyone else use dish gloves and absolutely just love them?

For the longest time, I thought dish gloves were worthless. Why would anybody bother with them? Every winter, my hands get extremely dry and chapped. They get so dry at times that just making a fist makes my knuckles crack and bleed. Putting lotion on helped a little, but not enough to really stop the problem.

Then I tried dish gloves. What an improvement! I couldn’t believe how much longer it took my hands to get as dry and chapped as they once were. My hands are still dry and I still forget to put lotion on them often enough. My mother-in-law reminds me frequently to keep them moisturized so they’ll look nicer. :O) But just having dry hands vs. having hands so dry they crack and bleed. . . the dish gloves have been wonderful.

Stephen bought me a new pair tonight because the old pair had a hole in it. They didn’t have the large size I asked for, so he bought medium. I’m glad he did; they actually fit better than the larges did (and I thought the larges were the right size). It’s so nice to be able to wash dishes again without worrying how much my hands will hurt when I’m done.

Do you use dish gloves? Do you love them, and use them constantly, use them occasionally, or not at all?

Homemade body butter

Lately I’ve been experimenting with beeswax to find a good recipe for body butter. So far, I’ve made a type of balm that is wonderful for dry skin. I like it for my skin, but it also works well as a diaper rash cream.

Saturday afternoon, I made up another batch since we were almost out. It smells faintly of honey, which I absolutely love. It also dissolves into the skin pretty quickly, without a greasy feel. The only thing I’d like to change is the texture. When it first cools, there’s a pretty hard top layer. After you use the top layer, it’s a nice creamy texture. I just can’t seem to figure out how to keep it creamy throughout the whole jar.

This time, I took pictures along the way.

Just after adding the olive oil to the beeswax. The oil was cooler than I realized, so it actually caused some of the wax to solidify for a moment.

After the wax has melted again and mixed with the oil. The darker stuff in the bottom is actually honey that hadn’t been rinsed out of the wax completely. It will not completely dissolve in the double boiler. If you want to add honey to your mixture, it must be stirred in as the product cools.

Poured into jars to cool. One jar is for me, the other is for the changing table.

Once the jars are almost cool. The one on the right is more solid than the one on the left for some reason. It hardened into a beautiful yellow balm.

The last time I made it, the wax was a lot lighter colored. I really think I prefer the darker yellow – to me it’s just prettier for some reason.

It’s been a lot of fun experimenting. I don’t have a recipe I’m 100% thrilled with yet (due to the hardening on top), but I’ve been really pleased with the results. Most of the recipes I’ve found have been good places to start, but it’s been more fun to make changes to devise my own.

Bobbin winder

I mentioned yesterday that I was considering getting a bobbin winder since the one on my machine decided to quit working.

Last night I was able to pick one up at Hobby Lobby. The 40% off coupon they had was a nice help!

The bobbin winder was a wonderful purchase – it’s so much faster than either of my machines ever were. I’m thankful I got it!

Price Books

I’m going to interrupt my coupon series here to blog a little about a price book. It’s not absolutely vital to couponing, but it is such a HUGE help that I wanted to include it at this point. A price book is valuable whether or not you use coupons though – so hopefully this post will be a help to someone.

A price book is some sort of document or book that contains current prices for items that you normally buy – at each store you shop at. You can see at a glance where it’s cheaper to buy something. For instance, sugar might almost always be cheaper at Aldi, but it’s on sale this week for less at a different grocery store instead of Aldi.

You can do them digitally or on paper. I’ve done several different ways.

The simplest way is probably a blank notebook. A lot of places say to give each item one page, but I never needed that much space for any one item. Half a page would probably be plenty. You write the item at the top of the page, and then write down the brand, price, size of object (like 5 lb package, 12 oz, etc), the store it’s at, and the date. The reason you put the date is so you can start to learn sales cycles and so you can see if a price may be outdated or not.

I’ve tried typing a master list and then printing it and putting it into a 3-ring binder. It worked ok for a while, when I kept up with it. I even tried keeping the master list on my hard drive, but didn’t keep up with that very well either. I’d forget a few times. . .and I found I didn’t do a very good job keeping up with them at all.

Then when my husband got a new PDA for work, he gave me his old one. I was looking for other software online for it, and came across a program called HandyShopper. It’s only for Palm OS at the moment. It’s a list maker and price book all in one, and it has completely changed how I do my price book. Now, when I mark items on my shopping list, it gives me a total based on the prices that I have in the database. I can see how much things should cost before I even get to the store. Not only that, I can select a specific store and see exactly how much I can expect to spend at each specific store. For a tiny little freeware program, it has helped immensely.

The HandyShopper database also transfers easily from one device to another. When I upgraded to a newer Palm, I worried that it would be difficult to transfer the data over. It ended up being pretty easy, and was a huge relief that I didn’t have to rebuild the database!

I’ve tried to create price book documents for people to download, but haven’t been able to come up with one that I am truly happy with. Maybe that’s because they don’t work the best for me – I don’t know. If there is enough interest in the documents, I’ll consider putting them up online to download.

Lessons in brownie making

I learned something about making brownies today. It helps if you have eggs in the house.

Except we ate the last of the eggs for breakfast this morning. Oops.

But thankfully, we have chickens. S and I headed outside to see if there were at least 2 eggs so we could finish making our brownies for tonight. There were 10. I had to carry them all with my skirt – I didn’t even think to bring the egg bucket down with us. Oh well.

Oh. My. Word. These brownies are going to be SO good. We recently switched to butter from using margarine. . .and wow. Super fresh eggs and real butter. That is the best brownie batter I have EVER eaten. The brownies are about to go in the oven right now (and yes, there is enough batter left for the brownies).

It’s a good thing there’ll be extra people here to help eat the brownies. I’d really be in trouble if that whole pan were here just for our family.

Next I’ll start the pizza. Well, after we eat lunch, that is. Then it will be ready to just pop in the oven at dinnertime. . .

It smells good in here

There’s a huge pot of apples on the stove right now, and they smell SO good!

We’re going to borrow my mother-in-law’s apple peeler, but some of the apple were so small they wouldn’t have been worth the work. So. . .we washed and quartered them and threw them into the pot. We’ll strain them once they’re cooked enough. It’s my first time making applesauce this way so I’m really curious how it will turn out.

I’m also wanting to make slow-cooker apple butter and apple peel jelly, but I’m waiting to see how this batch of applesauce turns out first.

Canning and other busyness

The beans finally started producing last week. I had been kind of frustrated about getting them in so late, but the timing ended up being fantastic. The beans started right after the squash died off.

In the end, we canned 30 quarts of squash. We LOVE squash casserole so that should make for some good eating this fall and winter. There’s still a pile of fresh squash in the house but there’s not enough to can. Maybe I should freeze it, or just can a couple quarts. There might be enough for three more quarts. I don’t know.

Last Thursday we picked two gallons of beans. Then Saturday we picked 3 1/2 more. This morning I picked another gallon – but I only got to two of the rows before I needed to come in and empty my bucket. I never did make it back out to finish picking. Tomorrow. . .hopefully. It’s supposed to be a scorcher here so I hope I can get out there really early. I’m finding muscles that I haven’t used in a long time – bending over like that to pick them. But that’s ok. A little bit of exercise never hurt anyone, and I certainly need it myself!

At the moment we have 11 pints of beans in the canner. There’s enough cut and washed in the frig to do at least that many more. It’s late though, so they’ll have to wait.

The tomatoes are doing well too. We’ve canned some juice but there’s more green tomatoes on the vine at the moment than there are red. Maybe they’ll pick up once the beans slow down. . .

There’s some zucchini in the dehydrator too. Zucchini chips are SO good. We love them, and it’s been a great way to use up the abundance of zucchini we’ve had. We filled the dehydrator, and put some shredded zucchini in the freezer, and made a double batch of cookies (we froze half – they’re too good not to). There’s still more we’ve picked as well as more on the vine. We love zucchini.

Our garden has NEVER done this well. Never. I am constantly amazed at how well it has done. But then I look back in my prayer journal and see that I prayed that God would let our garden produce well, and He has. Far beyond what I imagined. God is so good.

Then Stephen visited the neighbors tonight, and came home to tell me that they said we could pick as many apples as we wanted from their tree! They’re not planning on doing anything with them, and apparently the tree is loaded. I’m thrilled. Just the other day I was telling a friend from church that I wished I had a source of fruit to be able to put up. I love how God answered that want! We’ll need to do it some time this week too. I’m not sure when we’ll get over there, but it’s definitely very close to the top of my to-do list. Homemade applesauce is the BEST and it’s been a LONG time since I’ve made any.

Tomorrow should be interesting. I’d like to can the rest of the beans that are cut, and finish picking the rows I didn’t get to today. Picking apples would be good too. But it’s a lesson day. . .and there’s a heat advisory out for tomorrow too (supposed to be around 105 with the heat index – crazy). I don’t mind being out in the heat some but the boys don’t need to be out in it like that for long. So we’ll see.

Then on Wednesday we have an appointment, and Thursday we’re hoping to go do a triples run, and Thursday is also a lesson day. . .and it’s our weekend to clean the church. . .

Eh. Everything will get done somehow. Right now I’m just thankful for all this busyness – everything is just a reminder of how God is providing for us.

Octopus and seaweed

We got a little creative with dinner tonight. We had octopus, seaweed, and drank seawater.

Obviously my mustard-drawing skills leave something to be desired. . .

Just a couple drops of food coloring made everything so much more fun. I’m not a big fan of ramen noodles because they’re so high in sodium, but we had three cups of them. What I ended up doing was opening the cups into a mesh colander to sift out the powdered boullion. Then I rinsed the noodles a little bit before cooking them to remove a bit more of the seasoning. When I cooked them, I dumped in a can of mixed veggies (frozen would have been better but we’re out at the moment) before adding the green food coloring. Our glasses of milk all got a couple drops of blue coloring and was renamed seawater.

S and I argued the whole time I made supper – he kept trying to convince me I was cooking hot dogs. I kept telling him that no, we were having octopus for supper. It sure was fun!

Squash: day fiveish

I think it’s day 5. Guess that’s about right.

We’ve picked squash four times. So far that’s been 31 squash we’ve picked. We borrowed my mother in law’s pressure canner, and I canned five quarts of squash today. That’s not counting what we’ve eaten and given away.

It was the first time I’d ever canned using a pressure canner. It went well – but we’ll open a jar of squash soon to see how we like it that way before canning any more of it. What a waste of time and effort if we did it all summer just to discover we don’t like it! It smelled really good, so we’ll see.

S and I also picked 4 cucumbers this morning. He is REALLY excited about the pickles they’re intended to be! My herb garden didn’t survive the heat (the vegetable garden got watered enough, but the herb garden didn’t), so we’ll use the empty space in it to plant more cucumbers. Stephen’s dad’s sweet pickle recipe is phenomenal, so I can’t wait to get pickles going. If I could just figure out a way to keep the flavor but reduce the sugar in it, I’d be happy. I’m not sure though. I could maybe use Splenda but that’s a lot to use.

There are a TON of green tomatoes on the vine – I’ve come across a few interesting recipes. What I’m really hoping to can is tomatoes and peppers. My grandma canned us a bunch last year and we loved it, so I’d like to put up similar this year.

This canning is a lot simpler than I thought it was. A lot of work, yes, but much less complicated than I thought it was. Lord willing, we’ll be doing a LOT of canning this summer!

New to me homemaking tool

Recently Stephen got a new PDA for work and gave me his old one. We had talked about getting me one before that, but I was hesitant to buy one in case I didn’t like it or it wasn’t useful for me as a homemaker. They’re expensive enough that I didn’t want to waste the money.

Oh wow – they’re so cool! Mine is old – a Handspring Visor – but it has quickly become indispensable. I love it!

The date book has been wonderful for keeping track of appointments and piano lesson time changes – it is nice to have it with me when I’m out so I can double-check times more easily.

It has a Memo pad feature that I started putting my grocery list into. When I went grocery shopping, I just deleted items off the list as I put them in my cart.

A big hangup I had was how to import some form of a price book into it. There’s no software on my Palm that allows me to read Excel documents, which is what my current price book is in, and I really didn’t want to purchase software for it right now either. It doesn’t help that none of the price information is actually in the Excel document – all of that is printed out on paper and written in by hand. So it would be a lot of work to go input it all into a document and then transfer it over.

So yesterday I went looking for free software that could possibly do the job better than I knew how to. Did I ever find a winner!

HandyShopper is free, and organizes your shopping list by category and even store aisle if you choose. You can mark items you need, and then easily mark them off as you put them in your cart. It also gives you a total price for everything on your “Need” list – including tax if you set it up that way. Probably my favorite feature is that it will keep track of each item’s price – at multiple stores. No more standing at Wal-Mart, wondering if I can get an item cheaper at Aldi. You can also import items into the database from memo pad entries, so I was able to import a nine page Word document into the database in just a few minutes. I did have to reformat the Word document a little bit, but it was worth the work.

So now I have a shopping list on my Palm that has 365 items on it. And that’s just the more common items we buy – I left off some of the things I didn’t think we’d be buying anytime soon. It’s easy enough to add them later.

This is far better than what I was doing, and much more efficient. There are a few drawbacks – like most of the editing has to be done on the Palm itself and can’t be done on the computer (which would be much faster for me). Once I discovered that I could import memo though, it was faster because I could just copy and paste from my hard drive into the Palm software. I found a way around it and it works for me. :O)

It’s not for everybody, but it makes things MUCH easier for me. I’m happy!