Wednesday, April 24, 2013


The boys and I were playing outside a few weeks ago when we noticed a sparrow family making a nest in one of our birdhouse gourds.  The paint was peeling, but they were happily piecing together sticks to make a humble abode on this nice spring day. 

We just had to take a few pictures.

Inside the gourd, with wonderful organic "mood" lighting.

Outside, looking in.

We can't wait to watch our new feathered neighbors this summer!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dried Cinnamon Apple Chips

Feeding kids can be a grueling process.  We don't always have an inner compass that guides us to the right kind of snacks.  Sometimes, we get nutritionally lost.  I have reached for the over processed food on occasion and feel guilty about it.

I want fast and healthy snacks...

Preferably ones that don't involve a microwave or plastic baggies.  I found this simple recipe for making cinnamon apple chips from the daycare food program I use.  This snack is easy enough and as an added bonus-  I couldn't keep the children from devouring these sweet treats.  I had to ration the chips to ensure my oldest had enough slices to take on his winter camp out.   

To make these Apple Chips you will need:

1 pound sliced, cored apples about 1/8 inch thick

Here is how you bake them:

Spread the apple slices onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets or a dehydrator rack.

Be careful not to overlap.

Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 250 degrees for about 2-3 hours in the oven, rotating them once or twice.  If you use a dehydrator, use the fruit settings and dry for about 6 hours.

They will be done when they are slightly pliable, but will crisp up when cool.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature until served.

Do you have any recipes that you dehydrate?


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Conscious Box Review

Eeekkk!  Look what I had waiting for me at the Post Office!  My Conscious Box!

We recently ran a Conscious Box giveaway on the blog.  If you aren't familiar with the company, they deliver Earth friendly products right to your door.  I loved the concept behind Conscious Box and eagerly awaited my shipment.

I was immediately impressed by the website and array of products that they offer.  I loved the fact that you could choose gluten free or vegan products.  I have several friends who are gluten free and know the difficulties of finding lotions, shampoos, and foods that won't interfere with their health.  I can only imagine the difficulties a Vegan would encounter trying to find products that support their ideology (at least out here in the Middle of Nowhere, Nebraska). 

The site showed products you could order, but Conscious Box also offers a subscription service where you receive a box of goodies every month for $19.95.  (This is what I was given to review and I personally ordered their Earth Day mystery box, but I haven't received it yet.)  Our giveaway was for a FREE 3 Month Subscription worth $59!

The box was a little small, but I wasn't sure what I would be receiving when I ordered.  Some of the best things in life come in small packages, right?  I decided that the size wouldn't damper the fun of opening the box.  I was a little shocked to find another box nestled snug inside the first box, but I would rather have a sturdy shipping container than all of my purchased goods floating along conveyor belts in a Kansas City or Omaha mail processing center.  Plus, the cardboard could be recycled or converted into crafting material.

Once I opened the second box, my eyes were greeted with samples and products from companies that take a more natural and planet conscious approach.  The items were attractively packaged and Conscious Box included a discount card, inserts, and coupons in addition to these received items:  hand soap, laundry detergent, deodorant, lotion, baby food, dietary supplements, snacks, and more. 

Some of the samples were small, but several of the products were larger in size.  I was impressed to receive a nice bottle of lavender laundry detergent, a bar of deodorant, full size baby food items, and a nice bar of soap.  The chocolate covered greens were a little out of my comfort zone, but I bit into it anyway.  After all, it was covered in chocolate!  It wasn't bad, didn't taste too "healthy", and the children willingly took pieces without uttering a complaint.

Overall, opening the box was a lot of fun and very interesting!

I could see how a monthly subscription would be entertaining and a great way to try new products.  I spent nearly 30 minutes going through the contents, sniffing and tasting as I sorted.  I enjoyed reading a lot of the products I received were made in the United States and they offered me a viable option to help my family live a more "green" lifestyle.  I will definitely be looking into other products and offers from Conscious Box in the future.

If you would like to try Conscious Box for yourself, they offered our readers a 25% discount for any monthly  Conscious Box subscription.

Use code: LOVELIFE

Sign up HERE to get a subscription with your discount:

And Winter Hangs On...

The calendar says it's April, but I must have bought a faulty calendar or else Mother Nature is confused, VERY CONFUSED.  Winter finally appeared and is now refusing to leave.  Tonight we are supposed to get another 5 inches of snow and ice-  so I dedicate this wordless Wednesday post to the endless winter that has frozen and refrozen Nebraska.  Happy Shoveling! 
A trip to town to pick up my oldest from his winter camp out.  Yes, he was camping in a tent during a blizzard, but in my defense it wasn't snowing when they left on Friday evening.

 Winter has me stuck in a rut...

This is a small sample of some of the remaining ice from a storm last week.  Hidden under a few inches of snow was a layer of ice and about 3 inches of sleet/hail.  I won't even mention our power outage fun...

Is winter still hanging around your neck of the woods?  How are you coping?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Reusable Buffet Markers

I love buffets and potluck dinners, but it's nice knowing exactly what food you are scooping on your plate. 

Is this rice and cheese? 

Is this chicken or turkey? 

Is this gluten free? 

Which one has the mushrooms in the stuffing?

You know the drill...

I enjoy surprises as much as the next person, but I have discovered a fun and simple way to mark your buffet items.  This will take the guess work out for your company and add a little character to the table.  I am going to use this during our Easter celebrations, but I think it would also make a fun addition to a Mother's Day Brunch, Spring Bridal Shower, or a Summer Picnic.

I used metal garden markers that I scored at a garage sale last year.  I didn't know what I was going to do with them at the time, but I finally found a purpose.  I took a dry erase marker and wrote the names of the dishes on them and labeled the gluten free ones.  If I made a mistake, I just wiped off the writing and tried again.

I stuck them in the casserole dishes and I was done.  No more surprises at this buffet!  After the dishes were all cleared-  I washed the stakes in sudsy water.  They are waiting to be used again and again.

Do you have any unique ways to use garden markers?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pull Apart Garlic Bread

I was browsing through the Taste Of Home cookbook when I found this fun recipe for pull apart garlic loaves.  I love it for two reasons:

1.  My family LOVES garlic bread.

2.  The lady who submitted this recipe was from Bartlett, Nebraska!  GO BIG RED!

Needless to say, these are easy and well worth dragging out the mixer.  If you fear kneading dough, you could use premade frozen dough from the grocery store.  The smell is amazing and the kids couldn't wait for supper tonight.

I tried it two different ways, but used the same recipe:

This one was smaller for the younger children-  It resembled monkey bread. 

The second loaf was made from small "rolls" that lined the pan.  These pulled apart nicely and created a nice presentation.

To make this easy bread, you will need:

2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 cups warm milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon shortening
2 teaspoons salt
6 1/4 - 6 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup melted butter
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons garlic powder (I used minced garlic, because that is what I had on hand)

In your mixer, activate the yeast in the warm water. 

Add milk, sugar, shortening, and salt. 

Stir in the flour and mix with a dough hook (or knead if you like) for about 6-8 minutes.  You will want the dough to form a soft ball.

Cover and let rise for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.  Some people grease their bowls first, but I just let it rise in the mixer covered with an old flour sack towel.

Knead or mix again for a few minutes.

Cover and let rise for another hour.

Divide the dough into small balls. 

In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, and parsley.

Roll the dough balls into the butter mixture.

Place in a greased bread pan.

Pour the remaining butter over the balls.

Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.  The dough will double in size.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. 

Cool for approximately 10-15 minutes and remove from the pans.

Serve warm!