Tag Archives: frugal

Scented, Non-Toxic Play Dough Recipe

Scented, Non-Toxic Play-DoughDo your kids have those days where nothing is interesting, anymore?  Mine too. This morning, my youngest told me mournfully: “Mom, your phone doesn’t work, the iPad doesn’t work, and the dvd player doesn’t work. There’s nothing to do!!”

Oh my goodness. Child, mama will find you something to do! 😀  So after lunch, I pulled out my stained recipe, and punched up some play dough.

Trust me, once you make this easy recipe, you won’t want to spend another dime on the boughten stuff! This makes 2+ cups (maybe 3 cups?) of dough, and it smells so good, and is so soft and fun to play with. My kids LOVE the homemade version. They love picking the scents, too!playdough

What’s great about this recipe, is the fact that it uses only 4 simple ingredients. The only one I have to specially buy is the drink mix. But it is very inexpensive, so I buy a 10 pack and keep it around for sudden play dough urges.


You can use any type of flavored drink mix  to scent it with. The recipe calls for 2 envelopes, but I have scraped by with one, if I don’t have two of the same kind. Note: if you mix 2 kinds of drink mix, your play dough may turn out brown. :)

The process is quite simple: First, you mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Then, you set that aside for a minute. Put the water in a large kettle, bring to a boil. Once the water boils, remove from heat and add the dry mixture. Stir well.
The dough will look terrible for a bit, but use a sturdy spoon and keep stirring!playdough

Once it starts forming a ball, turn it out on a clean, dry counter, and start kneading.
CAUTION! The dough will be very hot at this point! Be very careful or wait till it cools a bit. Don’t let it cool completely, though, or it won’t get nice and smooth.

playdough

I gingerly start kneading it with my hands (stand mixer with dough hook might work too!). After 3-5 minutes, it becomes very soft and smooth. If there is still small specks and lumps in it, you can either knead longer or just give it to the kids. Once in a while, mine doesn’t quite get smooth, but my kids still love it! :)

playdoughplaydoughplaydoughplaydoughplaydoughplaydoughplaydough

So there you go! A large ball of play dough for mere pennies. Scented, non-toxic, and child-friendly.

Here are some cookie cutters that would be fun to use with the play dough! My kids have a big basket of cutters.

We keep ours in a zip-loc bag for several days up to two weeks and it stays nice. Usually they play with it like crazy for about a week, then someone leaves it set out for a night, and it dries out! I would guess it would keep several weeks in an air-tight bag or container.

TIP: Make several batches to give as gifts. Any kid will enjoy it!

 

Scented, Non-Toxic Play Dough Recipe
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Easy recipe for scented, non-toxic play dough.
Author:
Recipe type: Craft
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 pkg flavored drink mix
  • 3 TBL oil
  • 2 cups boiling water
Instructions
  1. Mix flour, drink mix, and salt in a bowl. Place water in a pot, bring to a boil. When water boils, add oil and dry mix. Stir vigorously till it clumps together. Turn onto a clean, dry surface, and knead for 3-5 minutes, or until smooth and soft. Caution!! Dough will be hot!!
  2. Store in a airtight container or ziploc bag between uses.

 

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My Journey of Faith, part 8 – the end.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:25-26

My Journey of Faith part 8 the end

In my last Journey of Faith post, I told you how I overcame discouragement and loneliness. And how we found out that my husband would lose his job in a few weeks…

It was early January, cold and snowy. We were living in an old, drafty farmhouse that was hard to heat. (we had moved from the trailer house into a farmhouse in the country, in October) We put a blanket over the staircase, moved the kids’ beds downstairs, and heated only the living room and kitchen. Propane was costing us 450.00 every 4-5 weeks to heat our house – it was eating up our small budget too fast. I remember at one point wondering how we were going to survive the winter without begging for money!

But I learned once again that God never fails His children! He is always faithful to supply our needs. We trusted Him, Cliff worked hard, I tried to be as thrifty as I could, and we always had food to eat. One time a man came to church – just a visitor – and after church he took Cliff out to his vehicle and gave us bags and boxes of food. Produce, mostly, and some dried beans. All from his garden! He said he had ‘way too much garden veggies, and wanted to bless someone with it! As far as I know, he never came back to church – I am certain he was an angel. :) We ate squash, potatoes, carrots, beans, and many other good vegetables for weeks. Sometimes there would be an envelope in our mailbox with a little cash in it. I wish I knew who felt prompted by God to give – we never asked for money or talked about our finances. I would like to thank those dear saints for being sensitive to the Holy Spirit in their lives!

Well, back to the lay-off… When we heard that we’d be out of a job in a couple weeks, we honestly were stumped. What does a person do who gets laid off in the middle of winter with literally no savings, no college degree, no nothing?!

We prayed.

God answered our prayers in a powerful, amazing way!

My sister and her husband used to work on a ranch near Cheyenne, WY, and we used to visit them there. Through them, we learned to know a young man who ran cattle on a couple ranches in WY. Well, when we were considering what to do for a job, Cliff remembered that young man, and decided to call him up.

When Cliff asked him if he had any job openings, the man answered: “Yes, I just leased a new ranch this month and need a another guy to help run it. You can start next week.”

We were blown away! God had lined up the perfect job for us at the exact time we needed it. I tell you, friends, God does things like this all the time. We aren’t special or anything. But I have trained myself to see God’s hand in everything. You can do that too. Write it down. Or tell someone. Don’t say: “Well that was pretty neat!” and forget about it. Notice when God works a miracle for you. Praise Him! Thank Him!

 “…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Matt. 6:8S

So on Monday morning, Cliff packed a sleeping bag and a suitcase and drove up to Wyoming to start his new job. I stayed in CO and started packing. I packed up all our belongings as best I could between caring for three little ones. (the kids were 1, 3 and 5) On Saturday, Cliff came home and we loaded most of our belongings into our trusty pink horse-trailer and headed north.

On Monday, I took the kids and drove down with the truck and trailer for the final load. My sister came along to help, since she was visiting for awhile. She helped me clean the house and pack up the remaining things.

Ranch life was good. Cliff enjoyed the work, the salary was better than we had ever enjoyed before, (that’s not saying much, but while you won’t get rich on a ranch, at least you have a house!) and we all loved the wide open spaces of Wyoming!

Three short months after we moved to Wyoming, our faith was tested in a very different and difficult manner. Our youngest child, Andy, was playing near the irrigation canal and drowned. It was by far the most trying circumstance we had to face. But as always, God brought us through that, too. I am thankful for the grace of God that is give in every situation. I did struggle quite a bit with guilt over Andy’s death. Then I had to learn to graciously respond to people’s ignorant but well-meaning comments. Each part of the trial forced me to lean on God more, and dig deeper in His Word and His wisdom.

If you want to read the story of Andy, you can find it here. Andy

That was ten years ago. We have been living in Wyoming and working on ranches and we still like Wyoming! :) It is our favorite state, despite the brutal winters and mosquito-laden summers.  We  lived on that first ranch (the X-Bar) for 4.5 years, then moved to a ranch north of Cheyenne for 5 years, and currently we are on a ranch in the mountains west of Laramie.

Our children are blessed to grow up in this wonderful ranching community, learning to rope and ride and care for animals. Cliff still enjoys ranching, he also owns a small leather business on the side where he makes saddles, chaps, and other gear for working cowboys.

After our son died, I started reading about foster care, and slowly my heart was drawn to the amazing work of being a safe place for kids who are removed from their homes. After 5 years of my reading and dreaming, we were licensed as a foster home, and received our first placement in May, 2015. Foster care was never Cliff’s dream, but he supported my dream. After 7 kids coming through our home, I can say the honeymoon period is over, haha! but I still have an incredible burden for these kids and this work. Even when it is the hardest, I am reminded how precious each child is to our God, how much He cares about them.

Our life looks so much different than I ever thought it would, but God’s plans are always best. So many things He said “No” to, and that was best. Then He said “Yes” to many wonderful things that I could never have dreamed of! I am learning to take each experience from His hand of love, and be thankful.

If this series has blessed or encouraged you in any way, I would love if you leave a comment and tell me why! :) Thank you to all who have replied to my stories and encouraged me to write it.

If you missed a post, you can find them here:
My Journey of Faith part 1

My Journey of Faith part 2

My Journey of Faith part 3

My Journey of Faith part 4

My Journey of Faith part 5

My Journey of Faith part 6

My Journey of Faith part 7

My Journey of Faith, part 6.

My Journey of Faith-6

 

We lived in Missouri for 5 years, and had many experiences, good and bad.

  • Three children were born to us, a girl – then two boys.
  • Cliff’s dad passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 45.
  • We built a small house mostly by ourselves. It was on my mother-in-law’s property.
  • Cliff started a small rock-laying business on the side.
  • Then he started a leather tack business in our living room. (still going today!)
Building our tiny house! 2005

Building our tiny house! 2005

It was during this time that I grew a lot in the areas of patience, self-control, and unselfishness. Not that I am perfect by any means, (!!!) but the day-to-day responsibilities of being a mother and a wife taught me a lot.

Making ends meet when we lived on $400-500 per week, struggling to pay dental bills and vehicle breakdowns and appliance failures. Thanks to my naturally thrifty nature, and my mother’s example, I often made 20.00 last for a weeks worth of groceries for the two of us. The babies were always breastfed and the toddlers – well, you know how little they eat! :)

Our little family back in 2005.

Our little family back in 2005.

We ate a lot of beans and potatoes, and Cliff shot a deer or two every fall. Often neighbors would give us extra deer they’d shot. One fall we bought a pig and butchered it. That was a huge treat! I cured the bacon myself, to save on butcher house costs. It was great! The Lord blessed us tremendously during that time. I found a man who had lots of grapevines he didn’t use, so my friend and I would go pick bushels of grapes and can the juice. I bought ‘seconds’ of apples and peaches and canned them. I had a generous neighbor who gave me her extra green beans to can, and corn to freeze.

My sister and her husband; Marcel.

My sister and her husband; Marcel.

One year we went on a vacation to Idaho to visit my sister and her family on a ranch. When we got back, my garden was destroyed by the neighbor’s goat herd! I felt pretty defeated, but we made out ok. It was a lot of work gone, though!

I gave birth to several of our children at home, and midwives are not covered by insurance, even if we would’ve had it. (we didn’t) We paid for years for our babies. ($4,000 was a common rate) With one of our sons, we were blessed to be able to trade work towards the cost of the delivery. Cliff worked on their house in the evenings, in trade. (The midwife was a friend, so we were very thankful.)

I say all this – not for pity – but to share the goodness of God who never leaves us, and always provides for us! Always!! Along with learning to be a mother, I was learning to trust God. It was hard, financially. We were always tight. But I grew up like that, so it wasn’t new to me. In fact, I didn’t know any other way to live.

Such a good daddy!

Such a good daddy!

It was difficult having 3 babies so close together, too. Each time, I got pregnant when my baby was 11 months old. So the three of them were all 21 months apart. At one point I had a 3 year old, a 1 year old,  and a newborn! I get quite sick when I am pregnant, so there were many days where I would lie on the couch, nauseated, while my toddler(s) got into mischief. I had two babies in diapers, twice.
As a kid, I had always been my dad’s right-hand-man, so to speak, and never did get along very well in the house. So the transition to a full-time homemaker was a learning curve. The constant stream of dirty dishes, the constant exhaustion from being pregnant and having toddlers, the ever-needy children, the endless laundry and cooking that needed doing… it all wore on me.

My first two babies.

My first two babies.

Cliff and Andy.

Cliff and Andy.

I loved being a mother, but I had to learn to pull on my big girl boots and just do it. My mother was very practical, and she raised us to have emotional control – which I am ever so thankful for! I knew the only thing to do was get up and do what needed doing.
I can tell you; you don’t need afternoon wine, or chocolate, or me-time, or girls’ nights or anything else our self-inclined society tells you. You need a reverent fear of God and His Word. You need to take control of your thoughts and put to death your selfish desires, and do what needs doing. “I die daily,” the Scripture says. (1 Cor 15)
Death isn’t fun! Death isn’t easy! Death is hard and painful. But the result is sweet acceptance and submission to God’s will. In my case; the raising and nurturing of a family. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with me-time and chocolate. Those things have their (limited) place. But please don’t turn to things to replace what God wants to do in you. He will mature you and grow you in ways you never knew possible, if you are willing to be purified. Seek God, above all! Read His word daily. Die to Self, live for Jesus. God is able to give you ALL you need, I can assure you.

When our 3rd baby was very young, our church went through an upheaval. Due to uncontrollable (by us) circumstances, we were left without a church. It was the first time I felt a bit lost and betrayed. We wanted to serve God, and know Him. Why would He jerk out the church from under us? Why would He leave us hanging, so to speak? I was confused. I wanted to move to Pennsylvania to a church where some of our friends were. I didn’t want to look for another church! I sure didn’t want to sit alone. But sit alone we did – for a while.

Then one day, Cliff was talking to his cowboy friend (my sister’s husband) on the phone. When he hung up, he asked me: “How would you like to move to Colorado and work for Marcel on his cattle operation?”

Of course I wanted to! They talked some more, and I wasn’t sure if it would work out. Maybe August, they said?
It was July, and I had the prettiest garden ever. The tomatoes were just starting to ripen when we got a call. Marcel (my bro-in-law) was taking a trip and needed someone to watch the cattle while they were gone. Could we come out in a week?

Cow country.

Cow country.

Well of course we could! We packed up our belongings and stuffed them into the front of the horsetrailer. We packed the truckbed and minivan full, too. There was just enough room for three carseats. We loaded our horse into the back end of the 4-horse trailer, and headed out one evening. Like any parent of small children – we knew if we travelled at night, they would sleep a good portion of the trip. Since we had a 5 month old baby, we knew it would be best if he was sleeping a lot of the way, since we both had to drive.

I drove the minivan and he drove the truck & trailer. We drove all night, stopping once for a short nap-break for me. I was so tired. I fought sleep so bad! When the sun rose, we were in CO and the scenery had changed. So that was better. I stayed awake pretty good for the rest of the trip. We pulled in to my sister’s place before noon, and I was sleep-drunk. But the babies were awake and hyper by then, so I sat in the cool grass and watched them play. The dry desert air of Pueblo was invigorating!

We lived in Pueblo for 9 months. Cliff rode and did care on yearlings with his brother-in-law. I thoroughly enjoyed living close to my sister, for the first time since I’d been married. We did everything together! We went shopping, canned peaches, did laundry, even went on a double date once, when our men found a sitter for our assorted toddlers!  😀 It was a special time in our lives. I had missed my family, and this living-a-mile-apart was so special.

Cowboys roping and doctoring a yearling.

Cowboys roping and doctoring a yearling.

Round-pen work.

Round-pen work.

It wasn’t easy… as inexperienced ranch hands, and working for a small outfit, we didn’t earn much at all. (1,200/month, plus free housing) The cost of living was higher in CO than it had been in MO. Gas had skyrocketed to over four dollars a gallon, and we were still driving junky vehicles that broke down a lot. Those nine months were the toughest, financially, that we have experienced, to date. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that it was hard. But you know what? God is a good Father. Often, just when money was due, we somehow got the money. We were given food and hand-me-downs, and we never went hungry. Again, I learned that God always provides, that He will always take care of you.

Horsey rides are the best! (Jenni)

Horsey rides are the best! (Jenni)

Your faith can grow in these situations, more than when you are ‘sitting pretty’. But let it be known that being poor is NOT romantic! I have had several people in my life, different times and places, ask me “how it feels?” And, that they think it would be kind of sweet and fun to be poor… “Just working hard together!” “Growing in faith!”

Huh.

Please don’t tell me that lack of money is somehow desirable. All that tells me is you’ve never tried to decide whether to pay your electric bill or buy food. You’ve never gone 6 months with the same razor because you couldn’t afford a new one. That you’ve never looked in your purse and scraped together enough coins to buy a jug of milk. There is nothing – let me repeat – NOTHING romantic about being poor. If you think there is, you probably haven’t been poor enough! 😉 It is definitely a faith-builder, but I would never ask for poverty.

Cowboys

Now I want you to know – we enjoyed life! We weren’t trudging along, depressed and worried constantly. We had our worries and troubles, almost daily, but we were living and working on a ranch, and that was our dream! We worked and played and went to church on Sunday. We didn’t eat out, go to movies, or heat all our bedrooms, but we lived just fine.

Country roads...

Country roads…

Speaking of church… at this time, we were attending my sister’s church most of the time. Not because we were particularly drawn to it, but because it was convenient. We visited several other churches in the area, but nothing really caught our attention. We didn’t know what God had for us.

We prayed about it, and sometimes I felt discouraged, because it seemed like we wouldn’t ever find a church that was right for us. We wanted something with life and vision. We didn’t just want to go to church on Sunday – we wanted to be part of a church family, one that wanted to follow Christ passionately! We kept looking.

If you missed the earlier posts, you can find them here:
My Journey of Faith part 1

My Journey of Faith part 2

My Journey of Faith part 3

My Journey of Faith part 4

My Journey of Faith part 5

Balsamic Chicken Recipe

Balsamic Chicken

I bought a family-sized package of chicken drumsticks on sale, and wanted to make them tasty and yet easy. Right now I have 3 kids I am homeschooling, a 3 year old, and an infant, so I don’t have much time to peruse cookbooks or experiment. I wanted a new fun flavor, though, so I came up with this simple marinade, and it was an instant hit!

I didn’t take time to let it marinade – it was close to lunch, so I just popped it in the oven right way. But marinating it a few hours would only improve the flavor, I’m thinkin. I baked them for most of the time in a normal oven, but the last 30 min or so, I turned on the convection roast feature in my oven, to get the skin crispy and brown. If you don’t have that feature – just turn on broiler for a few minutes – watching closely so it doesn’t burn.

Balsamic Chicken
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • One family pack of drumsticks. Or a full 9X13 pan of preferred chicken pieces.
  • 3 TBL soy sauce
  • 3 TBL Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place chicken in a baking pan. I used a 9X13 cake pan. Chicken shrinks when baked, so squish it in there tight!
  3. Mix sauces and spices together and pour over chicken.
  4. Bake, covered, at 325 for 2 hours.
  5. Optional: broil the last 10 minutes to brown the skin.

 

How to make photo albums.

how to make photo books online

I am going to share with you the way I get my photos out of digital storage and into my house. I’ve had many “how do you make these beautiful books?” questions, and today I am showing you step-by-step how I do it. I am not a techy person, so if I can do it – you can too!

Technology is an amazing invention, but sometimes it gets in the way of tangible memories. For instance, how many SD cards, thumb drives, or discs do you have laying around with 1,000’s of photos on them?

I know.

Problem is, we all think that we will ‘someday’ get them printed. Well good luck with that! 😉 Life gets in the way of doing the work. Plus we’re not quite sure how, or where, to print them. Aren’t photo albums outdated anyways? Why not just put them on a digital photo album? Oh yes. Scrolling through a couple thousand photos on your laptop – with relatives and friends hanging over your shoulder – is so exciting! Right?!

Let me tell you, my kids have enjoyed so many quiet hours, paging through our photo books. It is fun for them (and everyone else) to pick up a photo album and look back at  the previous years. I like to keep them on in the living room in a visible spot, so guests can entertain themselves. They are great conversation starters, too!

I will walk you through how I do it, and then give you a few extra tips later. Don’t be overwhelmed by the length of this post – I just give detailed instructions. If you are familiar with copying/pasting photos, it will be a breeze! :)

Here you go:

1. Soon after the beginning of the year, (I do it in January) go back through the previous years’ photos on your computer or phone roll, however you store yours. You do have them uploaded, right? 😉

2. Go through them with a pen and paper, writing down the number of each photo you want. Try to pick only the best ones. You really don’t need 5 photos of your new car. One will suffice. (You’ll thank me later!) I have my photos organized by month, so I do it one month at a time. You do whatever works for you. I realize not everyone has as many photos as me! I have a photo addiction.

3. Once you have the numbers written down, go back and select the ones you chose. I have mine on a Windows desktop — sorry I haven’t figured out the Mac photo thing yet! Anyways, to select multiple photos, you hold the Control ( Ctrl ) button down as you select the ones you want. Once they’re all highlighted, right-click on one of the highlighted photos, and ‘Copy’.

4. Start a new folder for the book photos. Title it appropriately; 2015 Book, or something. Now paste your copied photos into that album. Repeat until you have the best photos from your whole year into that folder. Now go through it and make sure you really need 469 photos! :) If there’s a few you can cut – do it. Whew! The hard part is done! Even if you have to take a day or two for a break, you now have the best sorted out. Just like yearlings ready for market.

5. Go to an online photo printer like Mpix, Snapfish, or Shutterfly. Sign up for a free account, and upload your photos. If you’re tired of working on photos by now – use their autofill method. If you are like me – spend another couple hours placing the photos just perfectly with the correct captions for each! Save it when you’re finished. No – save it after each page is done! I hate losing work!

Frank getting ready to help gather cattle.

Frank getting ready to help gather cattle.

Extra tips: 
Ordering:
You can go ahead and order it at this point. But I like to sign up for their emails and wait on a discount code. I have never paid full price for an album yet. Not sayin’ they aren’t worth it – they definitely are! But when you are on a cowboy’s wages, you learn to be frugal.

Where to start?!!
Start with one year and spend 30 min per day going through them and marking the ones you like, uploading them, and placing them in a book. 30 min per day will get a year done in less time than you think! And just think: a few days of this and you will have a nice album to enjoy forever! Just stick to it. You are an adult. You can do things you don’t enjoy. 😉

I’m so behind I’ll never catch up!!
See, I know how discouraging it is! Let me advise you: keep at it until you are caught up. Do one year per week, or whatever, then let that frustration remind you next January to get right on it! :) You can do this! You just have to sit down and do it for a few days. I missed last year, so for the first time, I have 2 years worth of photos, plus a Florida vacation, multitude of brandings, and miscellaneous events to catch up on. I’m predicting it will take 4 books to catch up. Yuck. Next year you can bet I will get it done in January!

It will break the bank to buy all the books I need!
OK, calm down. Remember I said wait for a coupon? Well, many of these are ‘buy two get one free’, or something like that. And they send a couple per year. So here’s what you do: You make them all right now. DO NOT WAIT. When you get the coupon email, you often have 3 days to use it. You will always be busy those 3 days. So you do not stop till you have made all your books and are 100% caught up. THEN you save them in your account, and wait to purchase till you have a coupon code. I mean, how easy is it to log in, select the book you want, and checkout? But if you think you will wait till you have the coupon, to make the books… well, you won’t do it. Trust me, I know! I let a lot of coupons go unused the past two years, because I didn’t have a book ready, and didn’t have time to make one! So learn from me. 😉

Phone photos
Phone photos actually print off ok as long as they are small. Don’t try to make a phone photo an entire page spread. OK is a relative term… of course they aren’t very great quality, but if the phone photo of your child kissing mama is the only one you have – by all means include it! 30 years from now you will be glad you did. Bonus: if you have mostly phone photos, you can fit a lot more in a book! 😉

Isn’t Snapfish awful quality?
It’s not Miller’s Lab, that’s for sure! But hey, I am not rich enough to pay premium prices on photo books. Sometimes you have to sacrifice quality to get the job done. Don’t worry what people think. It’s better – a thousand times better – to have a finished book in hand, than to be snobby about quality that you will never afford. We are a ranch family – we don’t make a lot of money. (and no, this blog makes no money either!) So far, my friends who look at my books are always surprised when I say they’re made at Snapfish and Shutterfly! I am not endorsing or reccomending any site in particular – just telling you what I have done. Hey, if you only do Chatbooks, at least that’s something! (I will probably unfollow you on Instagram, but do whatever works for you! 😉 ) NOTE: I am more and more dissatisfied with the ‘cheap’ photo printing places. I guess getting quality prints does spoil a person! But I still say – do whatever you can do. 

Cost?
Depends on how many pages, what size book, etc. I usually do the 8×11 books with a 50% off coupon, so they run around 15$ each. (on snapfish) But sometimes I make a 11×14 which is really nice! The coupons usually specify page count, like 20 or something. Pay attention to fine print.

Here is a Shutterfly code: https://invite-shutterfly.com/x/1Y1MYX This will get you a free 8×8 photo book. Plus I will also get one if you use this link. 😉 (new customers only)

OK, I need to get back at it – I still have 2 books to make…
Let me know if I forgot something, ok?
And tell me – do you get your photos printed?

Easy Pizza Sauce

pizza sauce

Pizza sauce is a staple at our house. We use it for our Saturday night pizza, but also for spaghetti, tater-tot casserole, etc. I love to can my own, but I haven’t been able to save my tomato plants from the deer for years, now. So I have to buy it. But I am a very frugal grocery shopper! I dislike paying a lot of money for staples. So I came up with my own frugal alternative.

I have a Sam’s Club membership, (worth it just for staples, when you have 4 growing kids!) so I buy the large cans of tomato sauce (6 lb 10 oz) and add my own seasonings. I am notorious for just throwing stuff in, but since a friend wanted this recipe, I did measure this time, and I think it’s pretty close. :) But it is very adjustable. Add more or less of any spice you like  – make it how you like it.

pizza sauce

I just stir it all together and then ladle into jars (leaving a 1 inch headspace or more) and store in the freezer.

The can of sauce costs 2.77 at my store, and the spices are minimal. It makes about 4 normal size pasta jars full. I usually spread it between 5 jars, though, so the sauce has room to expand as it freezes.

Easy Pizza Sauce
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 can tomato sauce (6 lb 10 oz)
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 teaspoon onion powder
  • 5 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced (or 2½ teaspoons garlic powder)
Instructions
  1. Mix all together.
  2. pour into 5 jars.
  3. store in freezer.

 

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Choke Cherry Jelly

chokecherry jelly recipe

August is chokecherry season around here! We like chokecherry jelly, and since the fruit is free, I try to make it every year. Some years if I am busy, the birds get the berries first, crazy things!

I enjoy canning. It is a lot of work, especially for some things, but I enjoy it anyways. Looking at those rows of jars…hearing the ‘pop!’, it makes me happy. And it is beautiful. Always make beautiful things. Life is too short to live ugly.

I moved to a ranch house along the creek bottoms about two years ago, and this place is loaded with choke cherries. They grow in my yard and along the bridge over the creek. I had never tasted or used them before we moved here, but I quickly decided that I will not let any free food go unused…least of all fruit! So. I perused Pinterest, recipe books and Google for a chokecherry jelly recipe. And I found some. Problem was, they all are different, and some don’t work right. Finally I found two and kinda combined them to come up with my own that is pretty much perfect. At least in my opinion. :)

The method is pretty easy, actually. At least the way I do it.

First, have your kids pick the cherries. :)

Some are bit red yet… normally try to pick them a little blacker. But around here it’s a race with the birds to pick them first! 😉

Then you wash them. I stir them around so the leaves and junk can come to the top. Then I scoop the trash out with my spoon.

Drain. You will notice there are some green berries in my bowl, and the tiny stems are all still on. Its OK. They really don’t matter. The pioneers used a certain portion of green berries in their jam instead of pectin. I don’t recommend that route. I tried it and was sadly disappointed.
Put in a large kettle and fill with water till the cherries are just covered.

Simmer about 30-45 minutes, or until the juice is dark red. I confess I have never timed this. I’m bad about cooking by feel…

Drain the juice in a large bowl,

Wow! The kids an I picked about 4 gallons, and got a gallon of juice! I see lots of jelly in my future… If you don’t have time to make it into jelly right now – you can store the juice in the fridge a few days.

You should have your jars and lids ready before you start the jelly process…

Then you pour 3 1/2 cups juice into a large kettle. It will boil up considerably, so make sure the kettle is big enough.  One commentor informed me that this was because I should have put a teaspoon of butter in my juice, to keep it from boiling over. So I do this now.

Add the lemon juice and pectin. Stir. Bring to a boil.

When the juice is boiling, add the sugar. Bring to a rolling boil (boiling so hard you can’t stir it down) and continue to stir as it boils for 2 minutes. (This is where it will boil up and up and up. I boiled over two kettles of jelly on my stove. Please don’t be that stupid. Burnt on jelly is HARD to clean off. )
When the 2 minutes are up, you can skim the foam off if you like. It doesn’t have to be skimmed off, but looks prettier/clearer if you do.

Then you ladle it into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.

when the jars are full, wipe the rims with a clean cloth. (They might not seal if they have jelly splatters.)

Place a lid on each one…

…and a ring. Tighten to fingertip tightness. In other words, just tighten them with your fingertips, don’t use all the force in your being! :)

Place them in a hot water bath. The boiling water should be about an inch over the jars.

The water in this canner is not deep enough! It should be over the top of all the jars.

Bring the water in the canner to a boil and let it boil for 5 minutes. If you live above 3,000 ft sea level, you need to check your county extension to see what the recommended processing time is for your area. I live at 6,000 ft, and I need to process them for 10 minutes.

Then you remove the jars to cool. If the jelly isn’t set, I recommend not disturbing the jars for at least 24 hours. The pectin takes time to work.

Last but not least, stand back and admire your hard work!

And go make some room on your shelves for some yummy jelly!

Note:: This picture is of a double recipe. One recipe yields about 5 pints.
4.9 from 9 reviews
Choke Cherry Jelly
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3.5 cups chokecherry juice
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine
  • 1 pkg dry pectin (1.75 oz)
  • 4½ cups of sugar
Instructions
  1. Pour juices in kettle.
  2. Add pectin, stir.
  3. Bring to a boil, add sugar.
  4. Boil and stir for 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, skim.
  6. Ladle into jars.
  7. Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes.
  8. Cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

 

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