Tomato Soup Goodness

 A few years ago I discovered homemade tomato soup. Let’s just say that we have never bought another can of Campbell’s since. This soup is so good and so simple. It’s so simple that even my nine-year-old daughter can make it with a little supervision and help. It really doesn’t take much longer than opening a can, emptying it, and adding milk or water to it, but the taste is about one hundred times better. Plus as an added bonus, I know what’s in this soup – every ingredient is pronouncable and no MSG. So here is how we do it.

First, you open a large can of tomatoe pieces. For us that is one of the jars we canned last summer. You dump it in your soup pot and mash the tomatoes up. We use a stick blender, but anything that mashes them will work. Sometimes there is still some little chunks, but that’s okay.

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my lovely assistant

blended tomatoes

blended tomatoes

Then we add chicken stock. Mine is usually frozen because I forget to  take it out in time, but it melts. 🙂 Next  we add water, a small can of tomato paste, honey, parsley and dill weed.

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frozen chicken stock

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adding honey

Now you can add milk with flour mixed in to thicken the soup or as we did today just cream. I left out the flour because I was keeping this THM diet-friendly. Next comes butter and salt. As soon as it’s all heated through you’re ready. Like I said simple, simple, simple. When you taste it though, it is so delicious you will never want to buy canned tomato soup again.

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lovely, delicious goodness

soup

So Many BOOKS!

My husband bought me 97 books today! I am so excited, and I haven’t even looked at them all yet. How is this possible? Seventy-five bloggers have come together with 97 of their books. They are worth $640 but this package is being sold for $29.97. As well, there are five e-courses and $140 worth of bonus materials and offers. The topics cover everything from beauty to budgeting to homeschooling to motherhood to recipes to health and fitness and more. If you’re frugal this is an outstanding offer.

I have spent my day downloading books, changing diapers, downloading books, checking schoolwork, downloading books, fixing meals, downloading books…I think you get the picture. I am so excited. I can hardly pick which book to start with – they all look so good.

Here are some of my favourite titles so far…Easy Peasy Chores (please if anything can help with chores, sign me up), Healthy Homemaking – One Step at a Time, iPhone Photography (I’m really curious about this one), Just Making Ice Cream, Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert, Pursuit of Proverbs 31 and Not a DIY Diva. These are just a few that I can hardly wait to start reading.

There are several blogs where you can buy this bundle from. I’m going to link the blog that I purchased from. This blog is also having a giveaway for a Kindle Fire. The sale is only until May 4th so don’t hesitate. Check it out and then get a bundle for yourself. You will not regret it.

Essential Oils

Friday again! They seem to come so quickly. We had another good week. We’re inching ever closer to being finished with school for this year which is always exciting. The weather if slowly starting to warm up and it has been nice to get outside and into the sunshine. I love walking when the weather is nice and walking with a baby snuggled in the wrap in front of me is even better.

walking with my oldest and my youngest

walking with my oldest and my youngest

This year I have a goal of learning how to use essential oils to aid my family in being healthy. Happily for me one of the blogs I follow is offering the opportunity to learn about essential oils one oil at a time for the next ten months. This is an online course on Facebook and it’s free – so good for our health and good for our wallet. 🙂

I signed up for the course this week. It starts in May with the first oil being peppermint. I’m excited to start learning about these oils. A couple of years ago a friend tried to get me interested and I just felt too overwhelmed. I’ve come to the place though where I’m very interested and eager to learn. If you’re interested in signing up here is the link.

So how about you? What have you done this week for your health or your family’s health?

Square Foot Gardening

It’s that time of year when I really start getting the itch to get out in the garden. Admittedly it wasn’t very strong last year, but that could have been due to being in my first trimester. Anyway, I’m excited this year and thinking about it a lot.

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Planting day is always exciting.

Our garden isn’t very big, but we hope to expand it a little this year. We have one box that is 8 feet by 4 feet and a spot along our fence that is about 18 inches by 6 feet. This spring my husband has said that he will build me another box.

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Our expert bean planter – he does it every year!

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“Baby” anything is cute – even tomatoes.

Last year I let the children pretty much “have” the garden because I just had no energy for it. That was not necessarily a bad thing. They enjoyed it. We planted four tomatoes plants, zucchini, pumpkin, watermelon, green beans and carrots. The tomatoes and zucchini and beans were so-so which was disappointing because I was really looking forward to having zucchini in the freezer. The watermelon never developed and I forgot about the carrots. I had planted them around the tomatoes and somehow forgot they were there so they probably died from overcrowding, poor things. But the pumpkin was fun. We had three pumpkins. So we’ve had mashed pumpkin in the freezer this winter for making muffins. We also roasted the seeds! Yummy. It was fun watching the pumpkins grow and turn from green to orange.

When we lived in the country I had a huge garden which was actually beyond my scope but I was enthusiastic…until I met tomato worms. It seemed like there were fifty for every plant give or take a couple. I was too squeamish to kill them myself so my oldest so who was about nine at the time would fearlessly hunt the garden spearing worms as he found them. He told me later that he really didn’t like doing it but he wanted to spare his mommy. Awwwww – what a sweetheart.

Anyway, after my huge garden I learned about square foot gardening and haven’t looked back since. It is so easy. I love how organized it makes my garden. I can easily reach into every part of my garden with hardly moving from one spot. And I can do companion planting. You know “Carrots Love Tomatoes“, but you do need to remember that you’ve done this. 😉 Basically you divide your garden into square feet and then plant accordingly. So for instance, I know that I can put one tomato plant into a square foot or sixteen radishes or four beans. This is the definitive book on this way of gardening…

So this year we’re going to do tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkin and green beans again. I’m also thinking about doing potatoes in a container. I tried it before and failed, but I’ve been doing some more studying and think I want to try again. I’ll let you know what we do and give updates over the summer.

Our garden can’t possibly cover our needs for the year, but it gives us enjoyment and helps the children appreciate some of the work that goes into getting our food. And for what we still need there is always the local farmers’ market.

Do you garden? How do you do it? What do you like to grow?

Why I enjoy my Kindle…

So I’ve tried and tried to figure out how to talk about my Kindle in a healthy, frugal way. Not sure if I’ve nailed it, but here goes.
A couple of months ago I casually mentioned to my husband that I thought a Kindle might be nice to own. I wasn’t even sure how much I would like to read from one, but I had been watching my daughter using hers and thought there might be some benefits. A couple of weeks later as I was getting into our van there was a package on my seat. It turns out that my oh-so-sweet husband who loves to surprise me had bought me a Kindle! It is a new model called a Kindle Paperwhite. Wow! Let me just say I. love. my. Kindle! I cannot believe how much I use this little device. You see I have a confession – I am addicted to reading. I have been ever since I learned many years ago. Not only that I have to have muliple books on the go at once to match whatever mood I’m in at the moment. The beauty of the Kindle is that I can have these books all in one place, and even better Kindle remembers exactly where I stopped so I don’t have to try to remember various page numbers anymore.

I’ve been able to download most of my books for free thanks to this web site. I’ve downloaded quite a few children’s books which have already proved useful to keep a restless toddler happy or give a tween something to read on a long car ride when I wasn’t using my Kindle.

Another thing I love about my Kindle is that due to its light I can read in the dark. My husband like to go to sleep listening to the radio. I prefer to read myself to sleep, but haven’t been able to for a long time (read “since I married”). Now I can! Although I have to admit that I’ve only done this two or three times so far since the honest truth is is that most nights I fall into bed and fall asleep almost instantly. Eight children have a way of helping you go to bed tired. 🙂 But I can use it in the car at night.

I like being able to slip one small device into my diaper bag and know that I have a book for almost any mood that might strike me while I’m out if I find myself with a few minutes to read. A lot of my reading these days (read “since I’ve had children”) is done on the run. I rarely have time to sit for an hour and read like I did before I had children. In spite of that I read dozens of books a year by reading in five to ten minute segments here and there. Kindle has just made that easier.

I’ve also been able to exercise my sewing skills by making a cover for the Kindle. It works pretty well, but the wheels are already turning in my head for how I can make another one that would be better AND have a spot to keep the charging cord.

So thank you, Hugo, for making my life easier and more pleasant. And if any of you are thinking about getting a Kindle I would say go for it. I still enjoy reading “real” books, but I’m also using my Kindle every day. So I would say that Kindle has been a healthy choice because it saves my brain space for remembering other, more important things. It saves me time by always being readily available. It has saved me money – I’ve read lots of books for free. It has given me a fun thing to do with my toddler when he’s restless, and I have to keep him quiet.

50 Pounds Of Strawberries

stress

Hi everyone!  This is Eva, Jennifer’s daughter and the oldest of eight siblings.  I volunteered to write the Fruitful Friday post today partly because I was an active participant in this week’s topic – preparing and freezing strawberries.

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We’ve picked our own strawberries for several years, although there have been a few years when we’ve bought them in bulk when they go on sale.  This year was one such year.  My dad brought home fifty pounds of strawberries and my mom and several of my siblings set to work preparing them for storage.

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Instead of canning the strawberries, we freeze them (although we did make and can our own strawberry jam a few years ago).  The first thing we did was take the strawberries out of their containers and dump them in the (clean) sink.  We sprayed water over them and then started quartering them.  My sister, Elisabeth did most of the quartering and we all pitched in (taking turns) to cut the tops off for her.  As the strawberries were quartered, she tossed them in our salad spinner.  Since they were still wet, she would spin them when the bowl got full and they would dry off almost perfectly.  When my mom was given the salad spinner years ago, she thought it wouldn’t be much use – since then we have used it for strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and, of course, lettuce.

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After the strawberries are dry, we put them on cookie trays, the boys take them down to our big freezer.  The next day, we take the trays out of the freezer and transfer the fruit to large freezer bags (which are then put in the freezer – obviously).  We’ve stored forty pounds of strawberries this way.  Even after enjoying fresh strawberries almost every day, we still have about half a year’s supply.  Over the months we’ll use the berries in hot cereals, muffins, yogurt and many other things besides.

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 So what did you do, health-wise, this week?

“This is the way we wash our face…”

Body Beautiful

So this one is for my sister Joy who was asking about body care products that are healthy. I also include cheap. I’m cheap or frugal however you want to say it. I’m also lazy. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on products I buy for myself, neither do I want to spend a lot of time on cleansing, rinsing, moisturizing, etc.

Let’s start with our face since that’s generally what people see first when they see us. What if I told you that there was one product that could do it all?! And do it for less! Well, to be clear it’s one product after you put it together. You do have to start with a minimum of two products, but I think we can all handle that.

This is called the “Oil Cleansing Method”. Yes, you read that right – oil to clean your face. As counterintuitive as this may sound oil can clean oil from your face. The problem with commercial cleansers is that they strip the oil from our face. Then our skin works overtime to make more. So not only do we have to pay more for another product after cleaning – moisturizer – because our skin feels dry, but we also are doing our skin a disservice. You can read more about all the nitty-gritty details here, but in a nutshell here’s how it works.

You start by pouring about a quarter size of oil in the palm of your hand and then fulling massaging that into your whole face. The next step can be done in a couple of ways. For both methods you need to saturate a wash cloth with water that is very warm but still comfortable for you to touch. You can then gently wash away the oil after it has been on your face for a couple of minutes or if you really want to relax do this. Get comfortable, put the cloth on your face and let it sit there until it cools. Then repeat the process until the oil is gone. It takes about 3-4 times. That’s it! This will remove make-up as well. One product that cleans, refreshes and moisturizes.

Most people do this at night, and it’s a nice way to end the day. I also use my blend in the morning after a shower. I probably only use about a penny-sized amount to moisturize my face. My skin feels a little oily for a few minutes as it absorbs the oil, but then it’s great for the rest of the day.

So what are the oils that you use? The oil that cleanses is castor oil. It can usually be found in pharmacies in the laxative section. This oil is quite strong and you don’t need a lot. Also, it’s very drying so we need another oil with it to nourish our skin. I use sunflower oil, but if you look here you can find a list of other oils you could use.

Find a small bottle. I used an empty hand lotion bottle that I cleaned out. Fill it 20-30% with the castor oil and the rest with the oil(s) of your choice. Cap it and shake to mix. That’s it! You now have something to clean and moisturize your skin that has been made to suit your needs. If your skin is a dry type use a little less castor oil; if it is oily use a little more.

The castor oil cost me $4.50 and I used about half of it. The sunflower oil cost me $4 and I maybe used 50 cents worth (probably less – this is a very rough estimate). So for less than $3 I now have something to clean and moisturize my face that will last me four to six months depending on how often I use it.

Your skin may need a couple of weeks to adjust to this new way of doing things. Be patient and ride it out because it WILL be worth it. Your skin will be happy and so will your wallet.

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the ingredients – all two of them!

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castor oil added

sunflower oil added and ready to go