homemade

Leaving a Fingerprint- Sweetberry Farm

How is it I've lived in the Austin area for twenty years and never heard about Sweetberry Farm? How did I raise my children here and never take them to pick fresh strawberries? Within an hour's drive from our home is a family owned working farm where  customer service  is 11 on a scale of 1 t0 10 and children and adults cover the property carrying boxes filled with bright red , hand-picked berries .

Sweetberry Farm is located 1.2 miles outside of Marble Falls, Texas and as we drove onto the property, there were people swarming the acreage. We quickly spotted the Welcome booth , headed in that direction and made it know that we were visiting  for the first time. In a couple of quick minutes a young man explained the process,'Grab a box, head out to the fields and start picking. When you're through, bring them back, we'll weigh them and you pay for what you picked.'

 

 

We did just that!! Other pickers were young, old, teens and babies in strollers. People laughed and started up conversations with strangers.Everyone, relaxed in the blissful surroundings.

When we were done, we moseyed over to the picnic area, located under a grove of mesquite trees and unpacked our sandwiches. Off to the side of the picnic area were several goats, all accustomed to the Farm's guests and after purchasing mini containers of feed  made quick friends with the brown cuties. We closed out the afternoon with homemade strawberry popsicles and ice cream!

Not only is the Farm providing family entertainment in the spring, but they've also got a full lineup of activities in the fall. The autumn lineup includes hayrides, a pumpkin patch, face painting, Sweet Berry Express,  and let's not forget the homemade pumpkin ice cream!!

This is an aerial view of the Texas Maze, four acres of nature's corridors that guests explore, using a map traveling from destination to destination. There's fun to be had year around for the entire family!

Making memories is a way to leave a Fingerprint in your family, your community and the world. Memories are moments when we share a laugh or a tear and memory makers can be married, single, tall or short. Look around and find someone who could use your Fingerprint on their life.

Click for more information on Sweetberry Farm.

Strawberry Farm is also on Facebook.

The Busy Woman's Guide to Healthy Entertaining

By nature, I am definitely a Martha and not a Mary.  In this familiar Bible story, we learn that Martha stayed busy cooking and cleaning to ensure everything was perfect while hosting Jesus in their home.  She became angry with Mary who did not help her and chose to sit with Him and enjoyed his company.    (Luke 10:38-41) If not careful, I can pack so much into one day and stress myself to make everything perfect, especially when it comes to entertaining. There was a time, when I like Martha, would stay in the kitchen preparing everything while my family and guests enjoyed the company of each other.   Stress would sometimes get the best of me as I pondered over having the most delicious menu and providing options for our health conscious guests. I soon realized I had to find a way to enjoy entertaining, which I love to do, and make it work with everything else going on in my life.

When desiring to host a party, I sometimes see two things that can happen to busy women

  • Stress out which can lead to over eating
  • Give up because it feels impossible.

 When you have so many things going on in your life, hosting a party can feel impossible.  I remember early in my marriage when my husband and I wanted to have a party, I thought I had to provide everything and my menu had to be something new and creative every time.  I soon realized that most people want to bring something, even if it is something minor.  Asking for assistance with the minor details allowed me to take things off of my “to do” list.  I also learned that I have a few staple recipes that my friends and family love and look forward to having. There is no need to invent the wheel for every event.

To simply host a party stress free the healthy way, put in a few simple steps.

  • Discover a new technique to manage your stress.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It is no secret that some women tend to overeat or eat things they normally wouldn’t when faced with stressful situations.  Establishing a daily quiet time or exercise routine, is one way to find balance and control and not allow food to be your outlet.  Even if you can’t exercise as much as you normally do during the holiday season, don’t give up completely.  Set yourself a new schedule so that you are able to maintain some kind of sanity.  For example, if you normally exercise 30 minutes a day, change it to at least get in 15 minutes instead of giving up all together.

 

  • Keep your menus simple and semi home made.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 For example, take a ready made salsa and add to it. One of my favorite’s is Walmart’s Peach Pineapple Chipotle salsa, www.walmart.com/ip/Great-Value-Peach-Pineapple-Salsa-26-oz/10324682.   I love to add a can of black beans and corn and serve with Triscuit Thin Crisps for healthier options, www.nabiscoworld.com/Brands/ProductInformation.aspx?BrandKey=ritz&Site=&Product=4400000539. It makes a large quantity and guests love it.  For a quick semi homemade desert, take a store bought brownie mix and make your own icing.  To make it even more delectable, add your favorite       chocolate                    candies into the mix.  Do you have left over Halloween candy?  Freeze them and pull them out when you are ready to bake.  Be sure to have to go boxes ready for your guests so that they are out of your house along with the temptation to over indulge.

 

  •  Stick to familiar recipes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have two or three “signature” recipes that I know will be a crowd pleaser.  I can prepare them with little thought and my guests always look forward to having them. Mindless eating and sampling while cooking quickly add up to unnecessary calories. By sticking to your “staple recipes”, there is no need to sample.

As healthy busy women, we do not have to give up entertaining. With a few simple steps, we can be the “hostess with the mostess” and relax like Mary and enjoy our company.

 

Simple Chocolate Icing

Melt 3TBS of cocoa or 3 squares of Hershey chocolate (left over Halloween candy)  and 1 TBS of butter.  Stir in 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar, a dash of salt ½ tsp of vanilla and 2 TBS of milk.  Mix with Blender and spread on cool brownies.

 

 

Organic Cleaning: how to spring clean your home the chemical-free way

Spring is in the air and while I don't daydream about cleaning I do love a clean, fresh-smelling home! I grew up using several "homemade" cleaning products and in the process saved money, didn't harm the environment, and didn't harm ourselves! All you need is a few key ingredients (most likely already in your pantry) to get you started with greening your cleaning.

Go put on some Beatles, Elvis, or whatever gets you motivated, throw open your windows and have at it! You're home will be smiling in no time!

No-Streak Glass Cleaner 1/4 cup undiluted white vinegar, 1 quart water. Divide into spray bottles. Dry with a sheet of crumpled newspaper or a coffee filter.

Tile and Grout Paste 1 cup water and 3 cups baking soda mixed into a paste works great for cleaning tile and grout. Use a toothbrush to scrub the paste into grout.

Furniture Polish Mix 1 cup lemon juice with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp water; lightly apply to furniture using a soft cloth. Let sit for a couple of minutes, then buff.

All Purpose Surface Cleaner Mix together equal parts white vinegar and salt. Scrub surfaces with a natural cleaning cloth.

Here are a few recommended books with tips on "Green Cleaning" if you're looking to dive deeper:

Mrs. Meyers Clean Home

Green Cleaning

Better Basics for the Home

Family Holiday Traditions and Starting Your Own

Growing up, my (very large) family had more Holiday traditions than you could count! There were just things we ALWAYS did. Starting with pulling out all of the Christmas decorations and putting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving to homemade pizza and "It's a Wonderful Life" with a fire in the fireplace on Christmas Eve to everyone getting an orange in their stocking to remember the year during the depression when that's all my Great-grandparents to afford to get my Grandpa and great-aunts and uncles. These things remind me of family and home. As we grow and changes take place - people moving away, we may have moved ourselves or started families of our own. Maybe this year you're not able to make it "home" for Christmas. It's important to be able to adapt and make this Holiday Season one to remember. Here are a few Holiday Traditions I've had and ideas I've come across that may be a good fit for you!

  • Have a tree decorating party with family or friends! Put on some Christmas tunes and have some appetizers and hot cocoa to snack on
  • Take a drive to find the "best" and "worst" decorated houses
  • Attend a Christmas Eve church service
  • Gather friends and family to check out local Christmas parade or live nativity scene
  • Have a Chirstmas movie marathon with all of your holiday favorites like: It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th St, Elf, Christmas Story, Charlie Brown Christmas, and White Christmas.
  • Volunteer a few hours at a local hospital, orphanage, or nursing home. There is a great resource called "Holiday Project" that hooks up volunteers with organizations that need extra help around the Holidays! This is a great way to help kids (and adults alike) remember that the Holidays are about more than their Christmas list.
  • Give PJ's to your immediate family on Christmas Eve. This makes for great Christmas morning pictures when everyone comes down in their new, comfy PJ's!
  • Read the Christmas story from Luke in the Bible or "The Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve.
  • Cinnamon rolls and a quiche on Christmas morning (along with a big pot of coffee!!)
  • Have a battle of the sexes boys vs girls game of charades, pictionary, or gestures
  • Make different Christmas cookies and decorate them with kids (if you don't have any of your own - borrow some - they make the whole processes fun :)
  • Create homemade ornaments.

Whatever season of life you're in, remember to take time to count your blessings and be generous this Holiday season. Be generous with your love, your smile, your time, and the blessings in your life!

Creative Gifts that won't break the bank

Around this time of year many of us are thinking about our "Christmas Lists". As we grow up our lists change morph a five page list of outlandish gifts we want santa to bring to a list of gifts for our families, friends, co-workers, kids teachers, mailman, cleaning lady...the list goes on. Growing up with 8 siblings and huge family Christmases I've picked up a few creative and memorable gift ideas that won't break the bank.

  1. East or west - homemade is best! For the past few years I've made several kinds of fudge and Christmas cookies! They're always a hit and if you double or triple the recipes they can stretch a long ways!
  2. Annual Christmas ornaments. My Great-Gramma, Nanan, hand-painted a beautiful ceramic ornament for each of her children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren every year since we were born. I love pulling out my little box of ornaments I've received from her since I was a baby and will always treasure them!
  3. Magazine Subscriptions. Theses days there are an amazing selection of magazines available to fit every lifestyle and what a great treat to receive a little present each month of the year! Cooking, travel, running, parenting, fashion, business, knitting, gardening - the list goes on!
  4. Classic books. One year instead of buying toys that would probably be played with for 15min then shoved to the back of the closet I bought each person on my list a good book. Even the hardbacks were under $10 each.
  5. Framed memories. Print out some family photos (new or old) and frame them in cute frames found at garage sales or Goodwill that you can sand and paint. A picture is worth a thousand words.
  6. Draw for names. If you have a large group of people that usually buy gifts for each other, suggest to draw names. You can also put a $ limit on the gifts so one person doesn't leave with a $5 starbucks giftcard and one with a diamond necklace :-).

In the end, your thoughtfulness and kindness will be remembered far beyond the actual gift!

Leaving a Fingerprint-Project Linus

Did you or someone you know have a special blanket as a child? I mean the one that had to be washed on the sly so that the child wouldn't notice it had disappeared. Our granddaughter was attached to a lavender blanket with velour on one side and satin on the other. To ensure that she always felt the security of her "blankie," our daughter purchased FIVE, exactly the same!! Recently, I was working an arts and crafts show and saw  a group of ladies selling homemade quilts, pillows and  toddler mats. There was an over-sized poster of Linus (the one that carried a blanket) from Peanuts behind them, which compelled me to ask about the purpose of their fundraiser.

Anita Howe introduced me to Project Linus, a non-profit organization with chapters in all 50 states. Their mission is to provide security blankets for children in crisis. Homemade blankets made by volunteers find their homes in hospitals, shelters and child protective services. In the case of a child removed from the home and transitioned into the foster care system, the security blanket may be the child's  only personal possession.

Anita assured me if she shared her stories  of children and their "blankies" with a small group of people, she could single-handedly end a drought in a mid-sized community. She shared that one young woman who had received a blanket as a young child is currently a "blanketeer," making and donating blankets to children in need, remembering the security her blanket provided her.

My grandmother was a quilter and I have numerous  quilts that each have some significance in my life. They are all  attached to memories. I have a torn up quilt that our son used as a teenager that I won't even consider having redone because it reminds me of his adolescence.

As important as blankets have been to me, I never thought of what it might mean for a blanket to be a child's only security, his/her only possession. Kudos to Project Linus "blanketeers" for making deposits into the lives of frightened and lonely children. They are making a difference in their communities and some don't even have to leave their homes.

If you're interested in finding a chapter in your area or donating to an existing chapter, inquire at http://www.projectlinus.org/about.html

Healthy Meal in less than 30 min.

It seems to me that chickpeas are the rage. In the last three months, I’ve found numerous recipes that include chickpeas in both Cooking Light and Bon Appétitt. The Spanish word for them is “garbanzo” and they are a legume, a cousin of the pinto and kidney bean. They are low in both saturated fat and cholesterol, but high in dietary fiber and protein. I throw them in salads and make my homemade hummus with a single can that costs less than $2.00. Recently, I found a quick and easy recipe for chana masala, a vegetarian Indian meal that uses chickpeas as the center of the recipe. Recipes vary, but most of them ask for fresh garlic, onion, tomato and spinach to be combined with the chickpeas. I usually cook a pot of brown rice on Sunday and eat from it during the week. It’s a great side to the chana masala.

Very yummy, healthy and quick!!