Handprint Tree Project

I got this idea last week while sitting in the lobby of Easter Seals.  They are having an auction on crafts and paintings done by students and faculty, and inspiration hit me while viewing all the paintings sitting out on display.  I believe an entire class used their handprints to make the tree.  Since Mother’s Day is just around the corner, I began thinking about ways that I could incorporate this idea into something simple the boys could help me with at home to use for future gifts.

I was doubly excited because all the supplies were on sale this week at Michaels.  Yay for me!  Anyway, we ended up making two pictures.  Eli had a lot of fun helping me paint and would constantly beg me to paint more while we had to wait for a layer of paint to dry.  Haha!


Strawberry Jelly

So happy that I finally learned how to make strawberry jelly!  My kids LOVE PBJ sandwiches so we go through quite a bit of jelly in this house. 🙂  It’s nice to know that I now possess the skills to make my own whenever needed instead of bumming off of my mom or sister.  Hahaha!

Not only is this jelly wonderful for every-day use but it also makes a fabulous gift when needed.  Any type of homemade food item is always a welcome gift but especially if it is neatly pre-packaged in a convenient jar.  Add a little decoration to the top (i.e. material, ribbon, etc.) and you are ready to gift it.

My sister and I added up the total cost of all the ingredients we purchased to make several batches of regular jelly and freezer jam (24 pints jelly; 18 half pints freezer jam) and discovered that each pint cost approximately $2.53.  This was not including the price of lids or jars since we already had those in our canning stockpiles.  We purchased a total of 4 strawberry flats = $60; sugar and pectin = $23.49.  Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly cost $3.18/pint.  So in one afternoon of canning we saved $21.45 plus get to enjoy the wonderful taste of “homemade” jelly without all the added preservatives and corn syrup.  I’d still make homemade jelly even if it ended up costing more than the store stuff for the taste alone!!  Hands down the BEST!

For one batch of jelly (4 pints) you will need:

  • 5 C. cleaned, washed pureed strawberries (approximately 4 quarts or 1/2 flat)
  • 4 T. lemon juice
  • 1/3 C. fruit pectin (powdered) [or 1 box]
  • 7 C. sugar

Add 5 C. pureed strawberries to a large pot.







Add 1/3 C. or 1 box fruit pectin (powdered).







Add 4 T. lemon juice.







Stirring constantly, bring to a roiling boil.







Add 7 C. sugar.  (It helps if you have this already measured out in a bowl so you can add it quickly to the boiling pot.)






Stir constantly.  When it reaches a roiling boil, set the timer for 2 minutes and continue stirring.







After the two minutes, remove from heat.  Skim off the foam from surface.







Pour into cleaned, sanitized pint jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space.









Clean the edges with a clean, wet cloth to ensure there are no cracks or chips in the jar and no food is left on the surface.  Place heated canning lid on each jar and seal with band.






Place upside down for 5 minutes after which time turn right side up and let rest for 24 hours before removing bands and storing.






Part of the todays completed work to be divided with my mom and grandma.







All the kids enjoying a special movie after lunch while we finished up our work in the kitchen.

Hahaha!  Elise is soooo ready for a baby brother or sister!!!!  She can’t get enough of loving on her baby cousin. 🙂

Carrot Muffins a.k.a. “Morning Muffin Magic” or “Morning Glory Muffins”

Here’s a great little muffin packed with good stuff from over at joyofbaking.com.  Probably my favorite ingredient was the coconut because it gave the over-all taste an extra “wow.”




In separate bowls, mix together your dry ingredients and liquid ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 C. flour
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 C. coconut
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 C. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Next fold liquid mixture into flour mixture adding carrots and apple







Stir just until moistened.  (The more you stir, the harder your muffins will turn out.)







Spray your muffin pan and divide batter evenly into 12 cups.  Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  (Mine were completely done in 20 minutes.)






Cool and enjoy!







Fresh from the oven with a little melted butter.  Yumm-O!!!







My official taste testers chowing down on their muffin.  Needless to say, they LOVE these and were begging for more. 🙂






I think it’s funny that Eli still doesn’t believe me when I tell him he ate vegetables.  Hahaha!







After they cooled completely, I placed inside a FreshSaver bag and vaccuum sealed it so they will still be extra fresh for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Don’t really like having extra gadgets around in my kitchen, but I must say that this little device is AWESOME!  Here’s a link to print a $10 coupon at coupons.com.

Homemade Drano

I’ve been putting off picking up some Drano at the store these past few weeks because I don’t want to spend the money on something that smells absolutely horrendous and is so expensive.  Of course, this means that I had to swallow my guilt every time Tim would take a shower and I could hear the moans of disgust along with sounds of sloshing.  Ugh!

I caved in today thinking I would actually make a special trip to the store and have the shower drain all fixed before Tim got home from work.  But before I packed up all the kids and grabbed my wallet, I thought about seeing if I could find a homemade recipe online.  To my complete joy, I found a simple one that had rave reviews.  Oh happy day!!!!

While the littles were down for an afternoon nap and Eli was content watching a special DVD, I tackled the…DRAIN.. (eek!, eek!, eek!)

Drain De-Clogger Recipe:

  • 1/2 C. baking soda
  • 1/2 C. vinegar
  • 1 gallon boiling water

Carefully siphon all the baking soda down the drain.  Pour in 1/2  of the vinegar, covering the hole so the fizz is forced down, not up (omit this for toilet, please!).  Add the second half of the vinegar, following the same procedure.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes or so, and then flush with an entire gallon of boiling water.

It was eating away at some nasty stuff inside the drain the evidence of which is shown floating around in this picture.  Blah!  After the second application, I heard a sort of popping noise and saw bubbles float to the top of the opening before everything kind of got sucked down.  I felt all giddy inside not because of chemical fumes but from feeling like a mad scientist getting to perform some freaky experiment.  It’s not every day that I am allowed to let the kid inside me loose.  This would have to rank up there with my memories of days gone by when I would make mud pies behind the lilac bush in front of my parents’ home in Chicago.

Rinsed everything down with the boiling water thanks to my handy-dandy hot pot.  Hee hee! 🙂  Not bad getting a wonderfully clean drain without the terrible smells and for FREE!!!!  Oh yeah – happy dance, happy dance… 🙂

Tea Tree Oil – Powerful Stuff!

I love ordering products from beeyoutiful.com.  I was hooked several years ago when I ordered the company’s SuperMom vitamins.  Unlike your typical prenatal vitamins, the SuperMom vitamins came with an extra ingredient that makes all the difference in the world to me – Spirulina (blue-green algae).  I used to take blue-green algae while I was in school since it helped drastically with my ADD.  Whenever I had a big test coming up in college, I would triple that mornings intake to help keep my mind clear and focused.  If you don’t believe me about the difference it made in my concentration, just ask my mom to show you my high school report cards.  I went from having an F in Algebra 2 to an A after being on the herbs for a short time.

Okay, well to get off my rabbit trail… 🙂  Beeyoutiful.com also sells essential oils and other herbs.  This was my first time to purchase any of the oils from the company, but I really wanted to try making more homemade anti-bacterial cleaners.  I was blown away when I read all that the TTO can do!

Here’s what it says under “Product Description.”

The great Tea Tree Oil healthcare rule-of-thumb: “Use this instead…”Instead of many health care products in your medicine cabinet. Instead of most cleaning supplies in your cupboard.

One of the most versatile and user-friendly essential oils, tea tree oil is distilled from the melaleuca alternifolia tree which grows only in a small area along Australia’s east coast. Beeyoutiful’s Tea Tree Essential Oil is 100% pure, pharmaceutical grade oil and provides generous amounts of terpinen, the active ingredient responsible for the oil’s amazing antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal abilities.

“Instead” for Minor Injuries

Replace your first aid spray and anti-bacterial ointments with tea tree oil for cuts, scrapes, infections, irritated hair follicles, blisters, boils—even acne. It’s safe for use on broken skin and can be used without diluting. A drop or two is all you need to disinfect and heal.

On minor burns and sunburn, add TTO to Vitamin E oil or aloe vera gel for soothing relief. This combination makes a refreshing aftershave, too, and, unlike most store-bought lotions, it has no dangerous chemicals to soak into your skin.

“Instead” for Skin Conditions

Instead of toxic wart remover, apply TTO regularly onto both plantar and seed warts. Since warts are caused by a virus, TTO’s anti-viral characteristics go to work, dissolving most warts within a few weeks. If you shower in a dorm, campground, or other public facility, consider spritzing your feet and freshly shaved legs with a mixture of water and a few drops of TTO to prevent warts. And be sure to treat your razor with TTO before shaving.

Other skin ailments helped by TTO include eczema, seborrhea, and psoriasis. Apply oil directly to affected areas or mix with aloe gel or grapeseed oil. For psoriasis, add TTO and a cup of sea salt to a warm bath and enjoy the soak.

Use tea tree oil on chicken pox and shingles (both caused by the same virus). TTO applied directly and regularly will minimize infection and reduce scarring, and its anti-viral capability may speed healing as it soaks through the skin into the bloodstream. Also add a few drops plus a cup of oatmeal (blended in a blender) to a warm bath for soothing, healing relief.

“Instead” for Hair and Scalp Problems

De-clutter your bathroom from multiple hair care products, too. Massage TTO into the scalp to help both dry and oily hair problems, plus dandruff.

Treating the scalp with tea tree oil also prevents or eradicates head lice. To combat a serious infestation, first coat the scalp and hair with full-fat mayonnaise, then cover with a shower cap for at least 30 minutes. This smothers the hatched lice. Then wash well with TTO-infused shampoo. TTO can also be applied directly to scalp and hair with no worries about the insecticides that come in over-the-counter lice treatments. (Continue to look for nits while treating—they’re easier to see when hair is dry, and in the sunshine or under a bright light. Check the entire family and treat bedding, couch pillows, etc., by adding TTO to the detergent in your washing machine.)

“Instead” for Personal Hygiene

You won’t need an extra trip to the store for expensive vaginal yeast infection treatments. Here’s how tea tree oil can help: Take off the top half of a tampon applicator to expose the tampon. Then soak the tip in a lubricant like KY jelly, olive oil, Vitamin E, cocoa butter, or aloe gel and add a couple of drops of tea tree oil. Replace the applicator and insert. Change regularly to a newly treated tampon until a few days after symptoms subside. You can also prepare a sitz bath or soak in a shallow, warm bath with TTO added to relieve itching and pain. And—washing underwear in TTO-treated water provides added protection.

Treat jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ringworm with anti-fungal tea tree oil. Unsightly nail fungus responds well to TTO, too. Apply undiluted, or for ease of spreading, add it to a small amount of olive oil or aloe gel. Along with an internal anti-candida program, this will help these problems to stop recurring and will make you healthier in all respects.

“Instead” for Colds and Respiratory Ailments

Skip the cough syrups and cold medicines (many of which are being recalled for dangerous side-effects). TTO is also an expectorant and beneficial to the whole respiratory tract. To reduce colds and bronchial distress, mix a few drops of tea tree oil with olive oil and spread liberally on the chest and throat. You can also produce a steam inhalation treatment by mixing TTO in a bowl of 6 to 8 cups of boiling water, covering your head and the bowl with a towel, and breathing deeply (eyes closed) for 10 minutes. TTO can also be diffused in a vaporizer or aroma lamp to open airways and disinfect the sickroom.

Ear infections and resultant pain can be treated by adding a drop of TTO to a little bit of warm olive oil. Put this mixture directly into the ear, and use a bit of cotton to keep it from dribbling out. A hot water bottle or heating pad will provide extra comfort until the oil can attack the infection and reduce the painful swelling. The cold treatments noted above also help ease painful ear symptoms.

“Instead” for Oral Health

You’ll smile easily when you feel cold sores, mouth ulcers, and toothaches healing with natural tea tree oil. Apply 2 times daily as soon as you feel a cold sore coming on.

A drop straight on a sore inside your mouth (use a cotton swab to apply) every 2 hours will take the place of pain killer and disinfectant medicines normally used. For a couple of minutes after treatment, avoid swallowing the saliva that follows.

For a toothache or infected tooth—especially where a root canal is needed—mix TTO with water, swish well, and regularly (do not swallow!), or combine with a bit of aloe gel and apply straight to the affected area. Disinfect your toothbrush with a drop or two every week. Rinse it well after a few minutes.

“Instead” for Outdoor Challenges

Enjoy the great outdoors without fear of bugs or toxic bug sprays. Mix TTO with lotion or olive oil and spread over the skin. Or apply directly, especially to your pulse points, for an effective flea, tick, and mosquito repellant. Don’t forget to put it on your clothing, too. Use a spray bottle full of water and a few drops of TTO. If you forget and are bitten or stung, apply tea tree oil straight to the bite to disinfect and reduce swelling. A tick will loosen its grip when TTO is applied, and a few minutes later, it should come off readily with a gentle tug from tweezers.

TTO mixed with baking soda is a good and inexpensive home remedy for poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac itching. It’s a bit messy, so you might need to cover the treated area with gauze.

“Instead” for Good Health in How You Clean House

Toss those toxic household cleaners! Mix a few drops of TTO with 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of borax. Mix in a spray bottle (12 oz.) with warm water, and you’ve got a safe, refreshing disinfectant.

Does your dishwasher have an unpleasant smell? Add a couple of drops of TTO to the soap dispenser along with the soap. And a few drops in your garbagedisposer will freshen it up, too—a good idea when company is coming!

We could go on about the many uses for Tea Tree Essential Oil, but you get the idea. When in doubt, just try it.

Safety Information: Can be used neat, however it’s best to do a patch test first. Limit usage to the problem area, and avoid the surrounding skin. Do not massage directly on or below a varicose vein.

Beeyoutiful’s Tea Tree Oil is 100% pure, steam-distilled from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, and mixes well with many other essential oils. Well-known for its antiseptic and germicidal properties, Tea Tree Oil has been used therapeutically by the aboriginal people of Australia for centuries. Even though Tea Tree Oil has a long history of use therapeutically, it is a relatively new addition to aromatherapy. Despite being the new kid on the block, Tea Tree Oil has become a staple for many aromatherapists around the world because of its versatility and wide-reaching benefits.

Blends well with: Basil, bergamot, citronella, clary sage, clove, eucalyptus, germanium, ginger, juniper, lavender, lemon, marjoram, myrrh, nutmeg, oregano, peppermint, pine, rosemary, rosewood, tangerine, thyme, and ylang ylang.

Impressed yet? 🙂  I know I still am! Hahaha!  I would love to get the crushed grapefruit seed, lavender and lemongrass oils because they too have many wonderful, beneficial household uses that are safe.  However, I have to take baby steps at this because I don’t want to spend a lot of money and then change my mind about making my own cleaners, etc. at home.

Here’s what I did end up making with the TTO and Eucalyptus (which I already used to help with the boys’ breathing problems so I had it on hand).

With just these ingredients, I was able to make my own dish soap.  It doesn’t foam up like store-bought soap, but it does a great job at cleaning and leaves the kitchen sink smelling fresh – NO CHEMICALS!

Just reuse your empty cleaning containers with your homemade cleaners.  Here you see I filled the Dawn bottle about 3/4 with one recipe of the homemade version.  The Lysol bottle contains my homemade anti-bacterial surface cleaner.

I went ahead and wrote down the needed ingredients and measurements onto the backs of each bottle so when I run out, I don’t have to dig around for the recipe. 🙂

The anti-bacterial sanitizer shows for one recipe, but to fill the bottle about 3/4 full, I doubled the recipe.

The next time I make the dish soap, I’m going to replace the baking soda with Borax.  (I had a little trouble getting the baking soda not to react with the vinegar when mixing together.)  🙂

Happy 6 Months & Happy 2 Years!

I can’t believe how big my little guys are getting!  Isaac turned two last Thursday and Adam is now six months today.  Aahhhh!!!  I really have been spoiled with Isaac’s slow development because I was able to enjoy having a “baby” a lot longer.  The contrast is almost too much for me when I look at Adam’s baby days compared to Isaac’s.  I blink and Adam grows and changes by leaps and bounds.  No wonder I’ve been stopped lately by women every time I go into a store with the same question, “Are they twins?”  While Isaac is taking his time growing, Adam is rapidly getting closer to being a toddler. 

I laugh at myself because with the boys getting bigger and three of my friends at church being pregnant, I start to get the “baby itch” again. Bah hahaha!  I know, I’m totally insane for even THINKING about having another baby right now.  I can’t help myself!!  While some women hate every moment of their pregnancies, I love being pregnant!  Of course, this could all have something to do with the fact that I never actually get to enjoy an “entire” pregnancy to its fullest since all my babies like to come really early. 

Well the Lord knows what plans he has for us and whether or not a new baby will be in our distant future.  🙂 In the meantime, I am doing everything I can to savor my baby boys for as long as I can. 🙂 So happy 6 months, Adam, and happy 2 years, Isaac!!

We celebrated Isaac’s birthday a little early with his cousin Joshua while my mom was down for a visit that way she could celebrate with both boys.


Adam’s 6-month photos.