Friday, September 30, 2011

Another Food Bank Blessing

Another blessing we received from the food bank last week was fruit. They got pallets of fruit. They had two of Braburn apples which are my favorite apple, one of Golden Delicious, three pallets of limes, 1/2 of very ripe pears, and a large pallet of apple/plum mix. They had so much they needed help getting it out to people.

Along with the yogurt, I delivered fruit to everyone. However, I was in the walk-in fridge for awhile loading up and was freezing. For about six months, I have been searching for some large coats that the workers and volunteers could wear into the freezer when sorting. Our local scouts had a coat drive a week ago around our neighborhood. I had an idea. I contacted the scout leader and asked them to save some larger coats for us to use at the food bank. Last night they delivered a bag of coats.

I selected three that I thought would be the best for that use and today, I painted "FOOD BANK" on the back in white paint. I figure no one would want to walk around town wearing those coats so they would be left at the food bank to be used in the freezer and walk in fridge for sorting. I will donate some gloves for the pockets. I will be grateful when volunteering for the people who donated those large coats.

Perhaps it was one of your reading this post. If so, "Thank You!" for you donation. I will put some hooks on the end of the large shelving units and hang them there tomorrow.

It is always nice when I can pay back in some small way the kindness of the workers and volunteers that helped me at the food bank while I went through my divorce. I am blessed.

I took some of the excess fruit home and dried it. I took it back dehydrated giving each employee and volunteer some. I am always glad when things can be used and enjoyed rather than thrown out.

I am blessed to have the food bank in my life. I have great friends there.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dehydrated Yogurt - Nuts and Cranberries

Ok, so I tried something similar to the dehydrated pickles this week. The food bank (I volunteer there on the board) had 6 pallets of yogurt delivered and had no way to give it all out. When this happens, they call me and ask if I can help give it away before they have to throw it away or give it to the pig farmers.

I went down and have filled my car about 4 times in the past week distributing it to neighbors and friends. I was telling my sister about this when she mentioned that she had attended a class where they dehydrated yogurt. I mentioned this to my friend Julie whom I have mentioned several times on this blog.

She had a bit more time than I since her kids are raised and gone. She tried it and brought me some over. She used the fruit leather trays and put a tablespoon sized dollop on and flattened it some. The result was interesting. It had the texture of rubber but the taste of yogurt. I liked the taste but not the texture. That was the consensus of all who tried them.

I had the thought that perhaps if the yogurt was placed on something like pretzels or almonds that they would taste better. I had some raw almonds and some dried cranberries that I thought I would try. I dumped a hand full into the yogurt and stirred it in. I then placed them onto the fruit leather tray spaced apart so they wouldn't stick to each other. I let them dehydrate over night and by mid day, I had yogurt covered almonds.

They turned out OK but the yogurt cracked on them so they didn't look very pleasing to the eye and the cranberries having some moisture dried sticky and are the dark colored one's on the tray. I doubt my kids would even try the cranberries. I ate all the almonds just because they were there but I didn't think they were exciting enough to put energy into making. The yogurt covered nuts they sell must have yogurt flavoring in white chocolate or something because mine didn't look or taste anything like the store bought variety.

I would suggest that you try it as you may like them more than I did. I also am a bit leery of the dehydrated yogurt drops being left out as they have dairy in them. They would probably be fine but I put them in the fridge just to be safe. If you come up with a better way to do it or maybe try a different type, let me know. I used Greek yogurt that is growth hormone free.

Thanks to the companies and the food banks for sharing the excess. My friends, children and neighbors are grateful!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Family Life and T- Shirt Quilt for Princess Number 2

This past few weeks have been fun but busy. I have been working with Prin
cess number 2 on her t-shirt quilts. She doesn't want to put it together yet until she has finished her mission and gotten all the shirts she may want to put on her A quilt.

I cut the shirts into squares and then sewed the extra pieces onto the squares so that all the squares will be ready to sew together when the time comes. Which is also nice as we have one little stack of squares rather than bins of shirts.

Also, the girls had "Barbie Day" at school and then "Patriotic day." It was fun for them to dress up. I am also busy shopping for Princess number 2 getting her ready to go on her mission to Taiwan. So, I thought I would share this information as I have also been fighting a cold for the past few days. I usually fight them off before they get set in but it has been a very busy few weeks and I haven't been taking the best care of myself. Lesson learned in a hard way. I can't remember the last time I had something like this.

Forgive the short post but know I am working on lots of things... Trying something new for tomorrows post. I hope it works out well as it is something I like so I will share soon.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Twist to Two Favorites

I posted in the past about my potato salad. I usually add apples that are getting a bit older and probably wouldn't be picked up to eat by anyone but aren't "bad" yet. I get compliments each time I make it. This past week the food bank had overages on fruit and yogurt so I ended up with a case of pears. I dehydrated most of them but thought I would try adding some pears to my potato salad. So, I added it and it was really good. The pears did get a bit soft on the second day as they were "ripe" pears but it was really good.

Here is a link to the original potato salad.

The second thing I made this week that we added a new twist to was my black bean and vegetable salsa. Here is a link to the original salsa. This year I added something sweet. I put in nectarines off my tree. I have had others add mango's but I didn't have any but my daughter and friend that were visiting mentioned that it could use something sweet so I thought the nectarines are about the same sweet and texture as well as color as mango's so I tried it. It was a hit. We ate it for days. I just wanted to share that information with you as it gives some great options. Now is a great time to make them both with garden veggies.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Home Made Hard Shelled Taco Shells

A few months ago I found a weird looking metal thing that I could only guess was a hard shelled taco mold. I have been super busy, as you can see by reading my posts, over the last few months but I have wanted to give this taco maker a try.

Last week I figured the day had come. I got some turkey burger and made the taco meat with that and some of the girls wanted refried beans instead so I got those things cooking and heated up a pan of oil.

I got corn tortillas and while the oil was heating up we cut up the tomatoes and grated the cheese etc for the toppings.

Once the oil was hot, I put a corn tortilla into the maker/ shaper and dipped it into the oil. I did a big mistake as the pan was not deep enough to account for the bubbling and the hot oil spilled over and caught fire.

It was a good lesson for my girls as one wanted to throw on water to put it out. (Watch this short video about why you don't do that.) I learned many years ago when I was about her age that it will explode the grease if you do this. My younger sister did that in our home when my brother forgot he was making french fries and the wall caught on fire.

I woke to screams of "Fire" and was wearing a t-shirt and underwear only to be find myself face-to-face with my younger brother and his friends. I quickly threw on some pants and used a towel to put out the fires that had caught on accross the kitchen when she threw the water on the oil. It had exploded and caught all our macrame plant holder on fire and I was putting those out after I got the wall flames out. She was lucky to have escaped being burned.

We were blessed that day and the other day. I showed the girls how to either let the oil burn down if it isn't in danger of starting the house on fire and is a small amount of oil or how to use a damp towel or baking soda to put it out if it is small.

We talked about the fire extinguisher which is in the bottom drawer accross the kitchen. I dated a fire fighter who was upset that it was on the fridge where the children couldn't reach it so from that day on, it was in the bottom drawer in the kitchen. If you need one for your kitchen make sure it puts out all types of fire and not just one or two types.

That was a bit of a tangent but probably a good one for information as it is a reminder of fire safety.

Once the fire was out, we continued making the shells. I would dip them for about 1 minute until they were golden brown. I then dumped them out and let them drain on a pile of paper towels. The first one was a bit over done but I got it down after the first one. I used the first one to hold the other hot one's open and stacked them like they come in the container so that I wouldn't have to hold them open.

I searched online and other people make them without the taco maker mold and just use tongs folding the corn tortilla in half once it is half done cooking and then when they take it out, they just hold it in that position until it has cooled.

We ate them just as you would regular tacos and I have to say I really liked them more than store bought. Some of the girls thought they weren't as good but I think if I had make them more crispy by turning up the oil they would have liked them more. My only issue was the pan was small.

They were yummy and I plan on doing them again. I suggest you may want to have a little fire talk with your family and show them the video link above, show them where the fire extinguishers are located and how to use them, replace the batteries in the smoke detectors and maybe do some first aid demostrations on burns. Here is a post I did on healing a burn.

Also, you need to shake up your fire extinguishers at least once a year as the powder residue settles in the bottom and gets firm causing it not to work as well. Just tap the bottom of the extinguisher with a rubber mallet gently to loosen the powder and then shake it for a few minutes.

Lets just hope that none of us need the information!

Friday, September 23, 2011

T-Shirt and Shorts Quilt of Comfort

A few weeks ago I blogged about my sister getting an industrial sewing machine from my best friend. (See here).

While I was there, my friend gave me a bag of clothes to go through for my girls and pass along to my niece if we didn't use them. I went through but my girls are a bit taller than her girls so we weren't able to use much other than a few tops. My niece is a bit smaller but her mother doesn't like her wearing tank tops or shorter shorts. I was going to have her send those items to a good will store.

That night while I was asleep, I woke up with the idea that I needed to make a quilt for my friends daughters out of the clothes we weren't able to use and have my sister help sew some of it on the girls grandmothers sewing machine. I mentioned the idea to my sister and she wasn't sure how much time she would have to help on the project.

I told her I would do most of the work if she would just bind the quilt so that we could tell the girls it was sewn in part on their grandmothers machine and made by their "aunt" out of their clothes.

I was busy scanning thousands of photos and getting ready for the family reunions I was doing. The quilt wasn't on the front of my mind. However, God had different plans. He let me know strongly one night that I needed to cut out the shirts. I kind of wanted to ignore the feeling but soon gave in even though I was busy with other things. I cut out the quilt squares and had my daughter stay up a little late helping me with where to place the squares so that they didn't clash with each other.

I had it placed out and felt that I needed to get it sewn. I watched two old movies and sewed the top together. I got a call early the next morning from my friend. The girls father had died. They had been divorced for 14 years and the girls hadn't seen him in awhile but it was still such a shock and great loss for the girls. I thought perhaps that God had inspired me to make it so they had something to cuddle in that was made with love and sewn on their grandmothers machine.

I had the quilt laying out to bind for days but with the reunion coming, I was going to leave it for the next week. As we were loading the car, I felt really impressed to have my daughter go and pack it up even though it was unfinished.

I did the reunion last weekend and got back to my sisters about 5:30 and was quite tired. We had driven to her house very late the night before. Every one of my girls fell asleep within minutes of getting there. I tried as I put my feet up but couldn't fall asleep as tired as I was. I rested for about an hour before I felt the thought, "You've had a rest and now you need to finish the quilt and deliver it."

I got up feeling great. I finished cutting the back, pinning the binding and tying the quilt. My sister then sewed the binding edge on the girls grandmothers machine and we drove it to my friends house.

My friend took one look and exclaimed how cut it was and how she liked that I put part of her purse on one of the middle blocks and how cute she thought it came out.

She informed me that the girls father had a t-shirt collection from the time he was young and that one of his sisters suggested that the girls make quilts out of the shirts. She said she wasn't sure she wanted that constant reminder and wasn't sure how they would look. Because of the quilt I made, she now felt that it could be cute and that she thought it may be good for the girls.

I told her how strongly I was impressed to get it done and not to leave it for the next trip to her city and how I woke with the idea in the middle of the night. Only one of the girls was at the house but she literally went through each quilt block telling me who the clothing belonged to that we used to make that square.

I told her how much God must love her and how I was sure her grandmother was watching over her father and how I woke to the idea of making the quilt. I told her it probably wasn't a big deal in the long run and she told me it really was.

My friend said her girls were "fighting" over who would get to keep it. I told my friend it was for her and we would make the girls each one if she would come for a visit some weekend and bring the the girls fathers t-shirt collection.

They are excited about it now and are looking forward to each having their own t-shirt memory quilt.

I am grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who cares about each of us and that he strongly reminds me of the things he needs me to do and also that he sustains me in being able to have the strength to do them. I am grateful that I listened to those still but strong impressions he sends. I wish I were better at acting on them before he has to send stronger impressions but I am getting better at understanding those feelings and pray that I will always be willing to help Him in whatever way He needs me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Dehydrator ='s a Wonderful Day

A few weeks ago, my last dehydrator decided it had given its last heat. The fan still worked but no heat makes the fan fairly useless. The saddest part is I have about 4 non-working dehydrators in my garage because I have burned them out in the past year. As you can see from my past posts on dehydration, I dehydrate most anything. If you type dehydrated into my search at the bottom of the page, many posts will come up.

Because of this, I go through lots of dehydrators as I use them weekly. I keep them once they burn out for the trays. To buy new trays for a dehydrator runs about $10 - $12 a tray. If you buy the inserts for smaller fruit or for fruit leather you can add anther $2-$4 each.

My favorite dehydrators have been the Vita-Mix and the American Harvest. American Harvest is now Nesco. I have tried probably most of the dehydrators out. I don't like the trays so much on the harvest master but I like the way they dehydrate. The fruit is soft even when dry and doesn't usually brown.

I liked the trays on the Vita-Mix and I like the way they wash. However, American Harvest /Nesco is sold locally and I have 8 trays already from my last dehydrator along with the mesh and fruit roll-up inserts and a cover so I went to the local Ace Hardware store to check prices. I was surprised when the local store had them at half the price on Amazon or from a direct distributor. The Garden Master Dehydrator I purchased was $90 and the same one on any site I checked online was over $140. Here is a link to the one I bought.

It has a digital readout and a timer so if I have to leave, I can set the timer to shut it off. Just a month or so ago, I was in a hurry and left my dehydrator on when I left and had to call someone to come in and unplug it while I was away.

I took in the trays from my large American Harvest and one of the small trays from my other American Harvest and they both fit the units on sale. That meant I had 12 trays for the large 1,000 watt machine. If you are thinking of buying this unit be sure you get the top mount and not the bottom mount. The bottom motor unit has heat coils and can dry up to 30 trays at a time. However, if juice drips down, the unit can sizzle and burn out the heat unit faster

This is the reason I wanted the top mounted heater/fan. I called the company about fixing the old units I have and they said they fix anything for $10 but you have to pay shipping both ways. It would cost me $30 - $40 to do that. I got a new unit that fits all my trays for $90. By buying the new unit I got 4 more trays which added to the fixing cost, it would have cost me the same to buy 4 trays and fix the unit so it only made sense to buy a new unit as there is no guarantee on a fixed unit but there is on a new unit.

Be careful when buying this if you choose to buy it because the bottom mount and the top mount have the same sku number and I looked at the top mount heat unit with the digital timer on the shelf and it said "Garden Master" so I found a box on the shelf that said, "Garden Master 1,000" watt and bought it. When I got home and took it out of the box, it was a bottom mount. When I took it back to exchange it, they only top mount they had was the display unit. I bought it and when they scanned the boxes, they came up the same.

The top units cost the store more than the bottom units so that is why they had more of the bottom mount even though they were selling them for the same price.

I have been using it for a few days now and so far so good. I'll share a bit more tomorrow about what I have been doing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beach Blast Bunko Reunion Part 3

I explained how to play bunko this week. Today, I will share how to pick winners in a large group.

Each person counts up their score such as: How many Bunkos? How many wins? How many losses? How many extras? Then, we give each item a number value.

You multiply the total of Bunkos times 5. For example, I have 3 bunkos so my score so far would be 15 points. Then, I had 10 wins. I would multiply all wins by 4 points. So, I would add 40 points to the 15 from my bunko score and I would have 55 points.

Then, you take your extras and multiply them by 3 points. So if I had 4 extras, I would add 12 points to the 55 points above giving me 67 points. However, now you take all your loses. Lets say I had 6 losses. I would multiply them by 2 which would give me 12 points. Because the points are from losses, you subtract them from the total. So, I had 67 points but I subtract the 12 points from it which gives me 55 points for my total.

Once you have a total for everyone, we lined them up by tens starting with the highest numbers. We had some players with negative numbers which meant they mostly lost.

If we had two people with the same number, we put dots on the bottom of the chair before the game started and wherever they ended up, they looked at the number on the bottom of the chair and whoever had the lowest number won and got to pick a prize first. I thought we would have more with the same numbers but actually we could have rolled a die and the person that rolled the highest number would win. That would have been easier but we learn from each thing we do.

I had people go up in groups of five to pick prizes. If I had lots of children the same age in a group, I would let an adult go to pick a prize first and separated the children so they wouldn't fight over prizes.

I took anything for prizes. I figured there were all ages from infant to 80+ so I put it all out. My daughters thought there were things I shouldn't take because they were things they wouldn't want. Here is a photo of two things my daughter thought wouldn't be taken as prizes. Actually, my cousin and his wife were thrilled with the berry bowl and "Real Salt" I am always talking about in my food posts.

You really do need prizes for all ages. I bought lots of games, puzzles, shirts with cute sayings, beach towels, food, bags of cookies or home made treats. I probably had 300 prizes. I wasn't sure how many would show up but it worked out well.

We did a piniata at the end and used it as a bribe to keep the kids in the main room of the building we used to host the party. They were great and enjoyed the piniata with all the candy and prizes.

Lastly, I'll share about the decorations. I found clearance sand buckets for $0.50 and bought a bunch in different colors. At a different store I found flip-flops for $0.50 and bought several matching colors of these. I bought the shell Leis and put enough for everyone at the table draped over the buckets. I put the buckets on luau platters and sprinkled them with polished rocks and put little crabs and other items like Tiki's and little beach balls on the tables as center pieces. I then placed the flip-flops on somewhere or sometimes in the bucket to make them look cute. In the end, I gave away all the flip-flops to family.

I placed the suckers I made (see here) in a circle around the buckets and they enjoyed eating them while they played bunko. I had a Hawaiian CD playing for ambiance and in all, it was a great reunion and everyone asked if we could make it an annual event! I am all for that!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beach Blast Bunko Reunion Part 2

I have played bunko with my 11 friends for about 16 years. The game is simple and played like bingo. You roll three dice and count each time you roll the number you are on. If I were on one's and kept rolling one's I keep throwing the dice. If I am rolling one's and don't get a one, my turn is over.

If I am rolling for one's and I get three one's it is a bunko. If I am rolling for one's and I get three of any other number, it is called an extra and counts as five points toward the 21 points needed to win that round otherwise each number rolled counts as one point.

If you roll a bunko, the round ends and you move onto the next number and in the case above, you would now be rolling for twos.

You change partners each round. Usually, winners move and losers change places so that you have a new partner each time. There are four people in each group of three dice. You are partners with the person diagonally across from you. Points are scored between you and your partner. Whichever partner group gets to 21 points first, ends the game for the whole room.

You then mark on your score sheet either a W if you won, a L if you lost or a WB if you rolled a bunko. Occasionally, someone will roll a bunko on the first roll before the other players on the table have had a chance to roll. Each person on the table needs to have at least one roll for the game to end.

If the teams end up with a tie, each of the four players in that group have a roll off and get to roll the dice for one more roll each. Whichever team gets the most points during the roll off, wins that round for that table. If someone has called a bunko already and there is a roll off and someone rolls a bunko during that roll off, they also get a bunko. However, if someone after them also rolls a bunko in the same roll off, they will mark their sheet with a LB for loser and bunko. It is rare but it has happened a few times.

Also, if you roll a bunko, you can keep rolling the dice as long as you get the number for which round you are on. For example, you are rolling for twos and roll a bunko for that round which would be three twos. You call the game for the room and then you can keep rolling as long as you keep getting twos. There have been a few times when someone has rolled two bunkos in the same roll. You mark your sheet with a WBB at that point.

When playing with my friends, we have 6 prizes. Most bunkos, Most wins, Second most wins, Evens (same number of wins as loses), extras, and losses.

Each time you roll the dice and get three of the same number but not a bunko, you make a mark on the score sheet showing you got one extra. At the end of the game, you count up your extra's.

If there are two people with the same amount of bunkos, wins etc, they roll off with one dice and whoever has the highest number on the dice, wins the prize.

Those are the basic rules for Bunko. It isn't very difficult but as you can see by the photos, people have fun playing it. My uncle had all wins and my nephew had all losses. The great thing with normal bunko is that there is a prize for the biggest loser!

I will have to wait until tomorrow to tell you how I scored the group bunko. I had to try a few ways to figure out how to make it work with a large group but it did work and was fun for all.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beach Blast Bunko Reunion Times Two

It is quite late and I am quite tired as it was one of my busiest weeks in some time. I had a great weekend of fun with family. I started emailing cousins a few months ago on both my dad and mom's sides of the family. I planned both reuinions on the same day so that my siblings would only have to come one day and I would only have to decorate once, drive all the prizes once, and have to cook once.

I had some car trouble but ended up getting it jump started, got to the auto parts store, the prizes loaded into the car during the rain and ended up having one of the suburban doors close on its own clocking me in the head quite hard while I was loading the car! You would think someone didn't want me to go to the reunion!

Because of all that, we didn't leave until very late arriving in the city of the reunion during the middle of the night. On the way up, we passed two people walking in dark clothes in the rain on the highway. I pulled over and it was two older teen boys. I asked if that was their car broken down and the told us they didn't have one and had been walking for hundreds of miles from where someone dropped them off. They had no bags, luggage, food etc. They wore shorts, hoodies and shoes. They asked me for a ride but I had the car packed to the roof. They then asked for water. I gave them waters and all the dried fruit I had just taken off the 12 dehydrator trays. It was about 2 in the morning. I noticed the mile marker and called the police to notify them. I was worried they would be hit it was so dark and they were almost invisable with the rain.

We offered to let them use the phone and they said the person they were going to visit didn't have a phone. They weren't from our state and had no one to call. Because they had no luggage, I asked them where they were sleeping and they told me they hadn't slept. It almost seemed to me as if they were runaways. They were respectful and kind but it was cold and they were wet. They were not anywhere near any towns, cities or even farms.

Because of that event, we started talking about how blessed we were to have a car, parents that care, family and friends that are also blessed. Having them share with us and support us.

We talked about how many people don't have any family and no support from others. We also have friends and members of our faith who support us and we could call for help. It was so sad to us that these boys had no one to call.

I think it was a good event to show us what matters the most before we put on our reunions. It made me appreciate what is really important.


Tomorrow, I will share about how we played Bunko and made it work for large numbers. It was a fun day!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Duct Tape Craft - Shirt

My daughter made this shirt years ago for Duct Tape clothing day at school. She just took a t-shirt that she didn't wear and used that as the base for the shirt.

She then started layering the tape up the shirt all the way around. She went up and up until she reached under the arms and then she made "straps" to make it look like a shirt over a shirt using the t-shirt as the base.

She put a design on the front. To make it fit on the sides better so it wasn't riding up at the waist, she slit the sides so that it would allow for sitting etc.

Looking back and as some issues we have had, I will make suggestions for a better design.

The first problem is that it is really hard to get on and off. It is so tight now that some of the girls can't get it on. This could be solved in a few ways but when I tell you the second problem, you will probably vote for my main suggestion so you don't either of these problems.

The other issue is that it is a "plastic" shirt so it doesn't let you breath. This has made for a smelly shirt. The girls get so hot they have to take it off. I don't know how it would wash so my main suggestion would be. Just decorate the front of the shirt. This allows for your body to breath and also allows for the shirt to stretch and makes it fit better and allows you to take it off without having help.

The other option is to make a slit down the side and slip it on that way and just use a stripe down the side. You could even make the stripe a different color down the sides.

Other than those issues, this shirt is now on the fourth child. We spray it heavily with body spray before using it and you can't wear it long as it feels like you are wearing a plastic bag.

It is fun just for effect however.