Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Christmas Ornament Exchange & More November 4, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,family,holidays,old fashioned — ourprairiehome @ 9:05 am
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On Facebook, I am hosting a Handmade Christmas Ornament Exchange.  It has been so much fun making the ornaments to mail out to the swap participants.  Mine are all crocheted.  I went onto the Ravelry website and did a search for free patterns and found a plethora of ideas.  I have always loved the look of old fashioned handmade ornaments.  Each year, I try to make a new decoration or other item to add to our collection.  Last year was the first time we had an actual Christmas tree.  It is a small tabletop style, but in our home, that works for us.

I have been busy crocheting a lot this year.  Nearly everyone will be getting something crocheted or otherwise handmade.  One new aspect is that both of the kids will be able to make gifts this year.  I wasn’t sure if our son was going to be able to do it but found some neat ideas for crafts that both kids can make.

I wanted him to make something a little more personal for his Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists though, so designed an ornament for him to make each of them.  He is learning sign language, so that will be incorporated into his project for them.  I don’t have pictures at this time because the camera I was using doesn’t work anymore.  I will try to post a picture tutorial later though if my husband is able to take pictures for me to upload.

Here is one idea that is a very simple one to make.  I am using the air-dry modeling compound made by Crayola for this project.

“I Love You” Clay Ornament

Make a tracing of your child’s hand on a sheet of paper.  Carefully cut it out.  This will become a pattern for your ornament.  Roll out the modeling compound to 1/8″ thick.  Carefully use a knife to cut out the hand print pattern from the clay.  Fold the middle and ring fingers downward so that the clay hand print looks like the sign meaning “I love you.”  You may need to lightly dampen the folded fingers t make them stick to the palm of the hand.

Next, using a small plate or bowl, cut out a circle that is slightly larger than the clay hand, from the 1/8″ thick clay.  This will become the base you attach the hand print to.  Lightly dampen the back of the hand and place it in the center of the ornament base.  Press just firmly enough to make it stick well, but not enough to flatten the hand too much.  You want the dimension of the sign language gesture to remain clear to see.  Using a straw, make a hole for hanging the ornament at the top center.

Let the clay dry thoroughly.  You can speed up the process by placing it on a wire rack in a warm oven, if necessary.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully if you attempt to dry them in the oven.

Once completely dried and hardened, you can have your children paint their hand print ornaments.  Use a permanent marker to write their name and the year on the ornament once the paint is dry.  To give a shiny finish, you can spray the ornaments with a glossy clear coat of spray paint.  After the ornament if finished, thread a ribbon through the hole and tie the ends into a knot.  Enjoy!!!

Another fun idea that Little Miss is making is a crocheted garland.  She is just learning to crochet and wanted to make a simple decoration for the tree.  So, she is crocheting a long garland using the basic chain stitch.  I will be teaching her how to add beads to her garland as she crochets.  It is really simple.

Beaded Chain Stitch Garland

This is a perfect first project for a little child to make.  There is no gauge or specific hook size.  All you need is the crochet hook, a smaller steel hook that is small enough to thread through a bead’s hole, yarn, and the beads.

The distance between beads is up to the person making the garland.  On our little tree, the beads will be about one bead every 1.5″ of stitches.

Begin making the chain.  When you reach the point where you want to add a bead, carefully remove the crochet hook.  Using the steel hook, thread a bead onto the hook.  Next, grab up the loop of yarn with the steel hook and slip the bead off of the hook, bring the yarn through the bead’s hole.  Set aside the steel hook and place the yarn loop back onto the crochet hook you are using to make the chain stitching.  Continue chain stitching until you are ready to add another bead.  Repeat this pattern until the garland is the size you want.  That’s it!  A very simple garland that a child can make successfully.

There are so many handmade decorations and gifts that kids can make for others.  By teaching them from an early age to hand-make their decorations and gifts, you are not only teaching them a craft/skill, but are teaching them to give of their time and talents.  It is something that will benefit them for many years to come.

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Gift Idea: Spa Basket October 7, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,holidays,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:56 am
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I love the responses that I get when people find out that I ma working on holiday gifts and decorations. Some think it is too soon to think about, while others think I should have started long ago. For those on the fence of this issue, let me put a perspective on it. Each year there are numerous blog posts about people going quietly nuts during the holiday season. They become stressed out and are freaking over the littlest of things. Often, they are stressed over the gift purchases. I have to wonder, “Why do they do this to themselves each year?” If you started this week and made/purchased only 1 gift item each week, you would have 12 bought by the week of Christmas. Now, let’s imagine that I decide to crochet a hat for the two kids and my 2 young grandsons. I can crochet a hat in a couple of hours. Yes, some are faster than I am but I am also homeschooling my kids. I could easily make a hat a day and have 4 gifts made in a week. Here is another easy and fun gift for the women in your life. Now, for those who don’t crochet or do crafts, you can easily buy all the items in this gift, but it would also take less than a week to make it all. Here is the spa basket gift idea with links to any necessary patterns or instructions. Use masculine scents and colors to make this for a guy.

Crocheted Basket

Lavendar Soap for the ladies

Coffee Bean Soap for the guys

Bath Salts

Crocheted Face Cloth

Face Scrubbies

Nicely Scented Candle

As I already stated, you could buy the items and put the basket together, or make them yourself. Either way, this is a nice gift that can be done within a week.

Enjoy!

 

Common Sense Diet December 18, 2013

Filed under: cooking,family,simplicity,Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 8:19 am
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It seems lately that I keep seeing posts on the social networks about one diet or another.  Fad diets have always been around.  I have found though that if you follow common sense, many diet issues can be avoided.

I come from a family with a history of health problems.  My mother’s parents were both diabetic.  Common sense would dictate that I limit sweets and the foods that cause diabetics’ blood sugar levels to rise too much.  On both sides of the family there are problems with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.   Just as with the diabetic history, it is wise to moderate the amount of food that I eat that is known to affect blood pressure and cholesterol.

I began to really pay closer attention to the foods that I ate back in 2007.  Little Miss was approaching her first birthday and I was having a lot of chronic pain and mobility problems.  In fact, I was using a walker and when away from home used a wheelchair.  I did a lot of reading online to find natural means to address the problems.  I found that by eliminating processed foods, I was able to be pain-free and regain my mobility.  Fast forward a couple of years and I was dealing with high blood pressure.

Since that time, I have continued to make adjustments to my diet that has had great affect on my health.  My family has benefitted as well.  The first change was to eliminate as much processed and refined foods as possible.  the hardest to eliminate was foods containing high fructose corn syrup.  I was dismayed at how many foods contain it.  I remember hearing as a teen the idea that if you cannot pronounce or recognize the name of the ingredients in a food, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

Next step was to identify the foods that contribute to high cholesterol.  In the simplest of terms, animal products are the culprits.  If I stayed away from the animal products, then I wouldn’t have to be quite as concerned about my cholesterol levels getting too high.  I found that it also had an affect on my blood pressure as well.

Today, my blood pressure has been under control and within the normal range for just over 3 years without taking any prescription medications.  For a time, I was taking garlic capsules as a natural cure for high blood pressure.  I also took cinnamon capsules to help control my blood sugar levels.  Though not diabetic, I do have problems with low blood sugar from time to time.

Overall, our family eats whole foods, cooked from scratch, and eat lean meats sparingly.  My husband, son, and I each have lactose intolerance in varying levels.  We avoid milk most of the time.  We use almond milk or a low-fat powdered milk to help reduce the lactose problems.  I also cook eggs only when necessary.  Instead of using eggs in my recipes, I substitute them with flax seed meal mixed in water.  A tablespoon of the ground flax seed meal mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm water equals one egg.

When using white potatoes, I peel, cut, and soak the potatoes in water overnight before using them.  The potato water is cloudy and often thickened from the starch in the potatoes soaking out of the potatoes.  This cuts done considerably on the amount of starch you eat.  The starch turns to sugar in your body.  For those with diabetes, this can cause a lot of problems.  We also use sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes quite often.  They are far better for you and do not have the starches that russet potatoes contain.

Our diet is based on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.  For us, this is simply common sense.  I buy the basic ingredients and cook as much from scratch as possible.  We eat very little of the heavy sauces such as gravies.  I keep healthy snacks on hand.  We typically eat 5-6 times a day, including 3 light meals and 2-3 snacks.

For us, the way we eat make sense.  It isn’t following any specific diet but it works for us.  I am slowly losing weight.  Yes, I would love to lose it faster, but a slow weight loss will last longer.  The healthy eating habits we are developing will stick with us.  They will become a habit.  They will be a part of our daily lifestyle.  Eating smaller more frequent meals/snacks each day will help maintain energy levels throughout the entire day.  Come summer, when our garden is producing, the daily meals will include pickings from the garden each day.

Now, we eat very few packaged foods.  I find us eating them less and less as time goes by.  I also find that our grocery bill each month lowers even further with the whole food approach.

 

Learning To Crochet Idea December 10, 2013

Filed under: Crafting,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:07 am
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I have been playing around with trying new stitch patterns trying to decide which one I want to use to make an Infinity Cowl.  I am a very visual person.  I have to see a nice size swatch to get a true feel for how the pattern will look on a finished project.  So, I have been doing something that I find I am quite enjoying.  Instead of doing a small 4″ square as my pattern swatch, I am making a dishcloth.  This not only gives me a better representation of what the stitch pattern will look like, but I have a new dishcloth to use.

I have never written a pattern for crochet before, so please let me know if the directions are not clear.  Unfortunately, I have no picture at this time of the dishcloth.

Cotton Dishcloth

Materials:

Peaches and Cream cotton thread/yarn

Size G crochet hook

Stitches used: HDC, SC

Starting chain of 25 stitches.

Row 1: Chain 2 stitches, turn and HDC in 2nd chain from hook.  Continue crocheting a HDC in each chain stitch.

Row 2:  Chain 1, turn and SC (single crochet) 1 stitch in each stitch across the row.

Repeat row pattern until your work is square.

At this point, you can weave in ends to finish off the dishcloth or add an edging all the way around.

One other option to consider is to save the dishcloths (without an edging) until you have enough to stitch together and make into a baby blanket, tote bag, or some other project.  Sewing/crocheting  2 of these squares stacked together will make a wonderful potholder.

Don’t want to make a dishcloth sized pattern sample? Try making 3″ or 4″ size squares.  Once you have 6 of these, sew/crochet together to form a cube, leaving one edge open.  Fill with polyfil stuffing and close the opening.  Voila!  You have a soft baby toy.  Consider making these in a series of sizes beginning with 2″ squares to make a stacking toy of blocks.

Enjoy!

 

Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe December 9, 2013

Filed under: cooking,pantry building,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 1:32 am
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When winter storms hit, it is time to make up a batch of hot cocoa mix.  I’ve made this recipe for several years. It is not too sweet and using the non-fat dry milk makes it a recipe even those in our family with lactose intolerance able to drink it.  The recipe is as follows.

Hot Cocoa Mix

25.8 ounces dry non-fat milk
4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups cocoa powder
8 ounces powdered chocolate flavored creamer

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl or stockpot.  Place into an airtight container.

To use:  Add 3 Tbsp of mix per 1 cup of hot water.

Variation: if I have some on hand, I often add 1 large box of chocolate pudding mix to the recipe. The result is a cocoa that is a bit creamier.