Thursday, July 12, 2012

Frugal and Fun!

     So, the last few days I have been reading lots of information on the web about making your own shampoo, conditioner, hand and body wash, dishwashing soap, dishwasher detergent, and laundry soap.  Yesterday, I made my first batch of laundry soap using common household cleaning products.  Today, I made the dishwasher detergent.  I will have to update as to how these products measure up to the store bought brands, but I think I will be pleasantly surprised.

Laundry Soap

1 4 lb. box of Borax 
1 4 lb. box of Arm and Hammer Super Washing soda (not to be confused with regular baking soda)
1 4 lb. box of Arm and Hammer Baking soda
3 bars of washing soap (examples are Fels-Naptha, Zote, or Kirk's Castile)

Empty the contents of all boxes into large container for mixing.  Using a cheese grater to thinly grate each bar of soap.  I used Fels-Naptha brand and found it to smell really nice.  Then mix together all ingredients until blended well.  This cost a total of about $12.00 and will wash approximately 150 loads of clothes using 2 tbsp. per load.  Some reviewers said that 1 tbsp. would work, but I am going with 2 since I have a tendency to really overfill my washer.  I have a frontloading machine and found that when I set the soap dispenser to the powder setting, no residue was left and no clumping of the soap occurred.  Also, some reviewers suggested just putting the powder into the barrel of the washer.  I also filled the laundry softener reservoir with distilled white vinegar.  The clothes came out clean and fresh although not particularly scented.  I may add a bit of essential oil onto a small cloth to toss in the dryer for added fragrance....

Dishwasher Detergent

1 c Arm and Hammer Super Washing soda
1 c Borax
1/2 c Kosher salt
20 pkgs. of unsweetened lemonade mix

Combine all ingredients into a container and shake well to mix.  Use 1 tbsp. per dishwasher load. 
This cost $3.12 to make.  I used a 24 oz. Mason jar with a dispenser top I made using an old salt canister.  This amount will do 48 loads of dishes at a cost of $.07 a load!  The savings compared to the brand I normally use will be a difference of about $.25 a load.  That really adds up over time!  It is recommended with this detergent that vinegar be used in the rinse aid spot or by pouring some into the tub of the dishwasher.  Other people recommend sprinkling a product called Lemi-shine onto the floor of the dishwasher.  I was unsuccessful in finding this product at several grocery stores today, but will continue my search.  Since I have hard water, I think this will be a necessary addition.

Here is my pretty finished dispenser:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Garden Delights

As I said yesterday, I have been busy in the garden.  Below are pictures of a few of my favorite things blooming right now.

French Hollyhocks


 Provence Lavender


Sunday, June 24, 2012


Well, I have fallen off of the haiku wagon and haven't written one in months.  17 syllables, 3 lines, seems so easy but I think I just got bored with them and lost inspiration.  A friend has encouraged me to pick it up and not worry about not completing my goal of one a day.  I think I will.

I have been on summer break from school and both jobs and it has been wonderful!  I have tackled some obstacles in my home.  The mudroom, the storage room, and an infrequently used theatre which have been holding rooms for everything in transition in or out of the house, as well as anything that doesn't have a normal home.  I have also done a lot of weeding, planting, transplanting, composting with llama poo, and mulching.  My yard looks pretty awesome right now!  I even made a new and improved compost bin.  Finally, I have even had time to try some new recipes and make a few crafts.  It has been a much needed break from things I have to do and much needed time to do things I want to do!  We also took a week's houseboat vacation with some friends to Norris Lake in Tennessee.

Here are a few of the recipes I've tried...

Low-carb Layla's Hamburger Cabbage Stir-fry

Duck and Goat cheese pizza

This is my take on a favorite from Expressions Wine Bar (no longer in business).  My hubby bought some free-range duck and roasted it and this was the perfect solution for leftovers...

Whole wheat pizza dough rolled out to make a thin crust
brushed with olive oil and a little pesto sauce, fresh chopped garlic, rosemary, oregano and salt and pepper
added dried cherries, sliced red onion, mushrooms, goat cheese, duck slices, and mozzarella
Baked at 350 for about 18 minutes.  It was wonderful with a good glass of red wine!

I'll add more photos of crafts soon...
It's time for me to grab a glass of wine and go watch my chickens dine before it is their bedtime.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Long overdue blog update. I have given up on posting a weekly bird project and a weekly recipe for the time being. Way too busy right now and doing the nightly haiku is all I can muster the extra time (and energy) for these days. I did make a new lemon cake last week, which I will probably post sometime in the future, but for now I just have to post these haikus so I feel like I have accomplished something in the past month or so!

Tapas and music
A Madeleine Peyreoux show
In our living room

We took a joy ride
An old-fashioned Sunday drive
up on the parkway

Overwhelmed by stuff
I have to do while on break
So, is this a break?

Breakfast with Jimmy
at Early Girl Eatery
So very yummy!

Sequins and sparkles
The costumes shimmer and shine
They dance in my mind!

My night spent alone
All quiet and confusing
Filled with bad T.V.

I delight in the
pink blossoms of cherry trees
falling like raindrops

Good Irish blessings
with corned beef, cabbage, and beer
and good friends so dear.

Family returns
There's time to enjoy the yard
Full of spring beauty

Chickadees sing sweet
songs of springtime
flitting through the trees

The sky turned purple
mountains majesty aglow
with each lightning flash

The bees swarm around
the pink cherry tree blossoms
buzzing a spring song

The chicken coop is
coming right along, so long
not much more waiting

A trip to Charlotte
for shopping at Ikea
Swedish smorgasbord

I begin the test
answering essay questions
that rattle my brain

The test is over
A few hours left for me
for wine and T.V.

Venus and Jupiter
and the moon shine bright tonight
such a lovely sight

Girl's night at Connie's
Up too late on a school night
Much laughter and wine

Almost ready for
laying hens and farm fresh eggs
to fill my new coop

Another birthday
42 and still counting
in my blessed life

A birthday party
I celebrate with good friends
I am so lucky

Three sweet little hens
Came to live with us today
Please be happy here!

"Cluck! I laid an egg"
said the big black hen proudly
and then came two more...

I can't help but feel
This place is not right for me
So what is my place?

They say all is well
that ends well, I hope that's true
When truth is hurtful

Enjoying the breeze
By the weeping cherry tree
Troubles far away

Dark clouds hunker down
Buckets full of rain falling
The earth runs away

A morning for birds
Chickadees, finches, titmouse
A woodpecker, too

Special time with Tripp
in Asheville at CityMac
and the music store

April 8th, Easter
Hunting for candy-filled eggs
in the flower beds

My hands are filthy
From working in the garden
Such satisfaction

Meeting followed by
meeting a long day at work
Still time for dessert

Off to Gatlinburg
for a spring break getaway
smokey mountains call

A big turkey struts
A young black bear looks for food
Spring in Tennessee

On this day I hide
pretending to be away
not answering life

A birthday party
for Ellen with lemon cake
we celebrate life

Four small bird eggs wait
for mother bird to find them
nest tossed in the wind

Spring break is over
counting down to summertime
five, four, three, two, one

A glass of red wine
as I watch my chickens dine
Life at its finest!

The steady drizzle
Cool rain on a gray day
makes my head cloudy

The week flew by but
not today, such a long day
Ready for Friday

Wise words Dr. Suess
The Lorax movie tells all
Listen to the trees

Sweet discovery
The chickadee eggs are safe
Mama bird found them!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Week 9/10 update

Another two weeks since my last post....although I have been faithful to my goals, I have not been faithful to my posting. As of yesterday, I am officially on Spring Break, so hopefully I will get back on track with weekly postings. At any rate, here goes my chronicle from the last two weeks.

Haiku #56
Sunday, sweet Sunday
Some time away from the books
Time away from life

I am on the way
To a better place inside
There's no need to hide

When the eye twitches
You must see that stress abounds
And send it away

An extra day to
celebrate in 20-12
leap year

Thursday, happy day
The weekend is on the way
Almost time to play!

A cold, gloomy day
After yesterday's sunshine
Makes me want to hide

A birthday dinner
for Cathey in Saluda
at Purple Onion

Chicken noodle soup
the ultimate comfort food
when you're feeling down

Monday, oh Monday
After a weekend off
Decidedly Off!

Meeting and dinner
Happy Birthday dear Dianne
Never Blue loves you!

A very, long day
Kids and teachers are ready
for Spring Break next week...

No music playing
I miss my boy, Tripp, guitar
No noise, no life, no!

The wind whipped-it's March!
Roaring in like a lion
But how will it end?

Recipe from last week was Chicken Noodle soup, a Weight Watcher's version, mind you, that was really awesome and I ate it all week!

Here goes:
Week 9-Link

Here are my projects from week 9 and week 10...

week 10

Week 10-recipe is an oldie but goodie, Kima:

I made this tonight using sweet potatoes and frozen peas instead of green beans. I have actually never made it with green beans. You can also substitute ground turkey or soy crumbles if you would rather not use ground beef. I however, prefer organic lean ground beef as opposed to ground turkey (ick!) and so does my family. I always serve it over rice pilaf. It is a delicious Middle Eastern dish.
We had a wonderful evening listening to Madeleine Peyreoux and cooking together-kids and all...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Week 7 and 8 Update

It's been two weeks since I've posted, although I know that no one really noticed. LOL! I did do the recipes, the creative challenges, and all the haikus, but I haven't had any free time to post. It has been a horrible week...nothing happened to me or my family personally, but close associates of mine had some horrible, scandalous stuff happen which has essentially left me feeling quite betrayed and in a state of despair. Thankfully, it was an easy weekend for school work which allowed me time to go out to lunch and a movie with my family. A much needed weekend day off from the chaos and such that is my beautiful life.

Haiku Update:

The winds have died down
But the temperature is
Bitter and spiteful

I need to slow down
Life is rushing past too fast
Make the moments count

Chocolates, flowers
Feelings of love in the air
Happy Valentine's!

Reprieve from winter
Warm sunshine, gentle breezes
A hint of springtime

I worry for her
Secret now told for all ears
I hope I can help

Friday night party
Dinner with friends at the Chets
Blowing off some steam

Reading and writing
Testing and posting about
Poetry, that's life.

The rain falls and falls
My brain refuses to write
This essay kills me

Oh, a day off work
Such a gift to the weary
Time to get caught up

Tender and juicy
Between two slices of rye
Delicious Reuben

You must be kidding
So many lives are ruined
So how can this end?

Sadness and despair fill me
How to get through it?

We walk like zombies
Our reality turned
upside down, we're lost

Cannot understand
It couldn't ever make sense
So, was it worth it?

Last week's recipe was black beans and brown rice...delish! This is where I got it from!
And week 7 craft, was a graphic I downloaded from the Graphic's Fairy website and played with using glitter.

This week's recipe is "Cabbage Soup". I used the version as a base, but added in celery, mushrooms, and red, yellow, and orange peppers, too. I am really in need of getting back on my Weight Watchers plan come Monday (I've been overeating due to stress) and I thought this soup would help me along.

Also, as a tribute to the spiritual nature of crows, that are often thought of as harbingers of death and doom, I used this beautiful photo from this website and added a quote I found about them here....
The quote says, "Even in the midst of darkness, we have the power to touch the light." That is going to guide me through this next week!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week 6 Update

Consistency...that is the key to success. Making things habitual, or should I say, making good things habitual. Even when I have nothing left to give, I have managed to eek out a little more time to try the new recipe and to create a little something. Cooking and creating are two things that bring me such joy and help me to feel like I am doing something just for me. I even took a wonderful bubble bath tonight and oh, did that do wonders for my aching bum and back. Sitting in a chair in front of a computer all day is not my cup of tea!
At any rate, here is my haiku chronicle for week 6.

Haiku #36
Superbowl Sunday
Patriots versus Giants
I don't care who wins

Stretched out on the couch
With a cat lying on me
I've no choice but sleep

Target shopping trip
Spaghetti dinner with wine
Good movie, good night

Waiting patiently
For the snow that just won't fall
I NEED a snow day

Oh, I love Thursday
I'm almost to free day
My get to play day

I am up too late
Thanks to friends who wouldn't go
Such a fun problem

The wind huffed and puffed
The snowflakes flew round about
With no place to go

Recipe of the week was a bit of a hodge-podge method of making Chicken and Pastry, the ultimate in comfort food for a blustery Saturday.

I browned 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs in a bit of olive oil and then removed to a plate.
Next, I sauteed about a cup each of diced yellow onion, celery, and carrots and a clove or so of garlic in the juices of the chicken and oil. I also added a sprinkling of thyme and turmeric. When the veggies had softened, I added 6 cups of low-sodium, fat free chicken broth and put the chicken back in the pot to boil for about 20 minutes. After that had cooked, I whisked in Wondra flour to thicken the broth up a bit. I rolled flat and then sliced refrigerator biscuit dough into strips and then placed the strips on top of the broth. Last, I covered the stew and cooked it for an additional 15 minutes. Final step was to let it sit covered for about 10 more minutes. I am not sure my family loved it as much as I did, but I thought it was divine. Next time I plan to make my own pastry with whole wheat dough.

and finally, my little Valentine themed bird art

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Week 5 Update

Whew! Another hard week at work and with school...took a 16 hour long exam this weekend, so I am wiped. I did, however, manage to try a new recipe this week, (although my hubby kindly cooked it for me) and did a very quick sketch for my "creativity" project. As long as I am consistent, I won't beat myself up for it not being a very involved process.

Haiku #29

Treasure family
Life is too short for regrets
So take time to play

Haiku #30

Monday means order
Another chance to start fresh
Reclaim your purpose

Haiku #31

January has
Come and gone, setting us on
A shiny, new path

Haiku #32

Music and dancing
The sounds of laughter and fun
Joy for everyone

Haiku #33

On this winter's day
in 1976
I lost my father

Haiku #35

Falling Star Malbec
Beet salad and fish tacos
The place-Never Blue

Haiku #36

Hours and hours
My work is not yet finished
Must rest and renew

Recipe of the week was "Shrimp and Cabbage Lo-mein"
from the March 2008 Everyday Food magazine.

and here is my very basic creativity project for week of 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Week 4 Update

Haiku #22
All I need is time
Tick-tock added to the clock
Then what I could do

Haiku #23
A Chinese New Year
We celebrate with udon
For longevity

Haiku #24
A bright, sunny day
Such reprieve after the rain
Makes my spirit soar

Haiku #25
Polaris reaches
For the sickle blade crescent
Of the waxing moon

Haiku #26
The fog envelops
Shrouding the woods from my view
Cloaked in mystery

Haiku #27
A great piece of art
Opens the mind and the soul to

Haiku #28
To work all day long
Only to discover more
To do tomorrow...

Recipe of the week was from the January/February Weight Watchers magazine. It was called Lemony Linguine with Sausage. I liked the flavor, but didn't care for the sausage (as I don't each much meat and ground turkey just grosses me out!). I will make the dish again with some other form of protein.
Since I could not seem to access the recipe from the Weight Watchers website, I'll post it for you:
Lemony Linguine with Sausage
1 9 oz. package linguine ( I used whole wheat organic)
1/2 lb. Sweet Italian style turkey sausage (removed from casing) ICK!
1 sliced shallot
2 tsp. of EVOO
1 9 oz. bag of baby spinach
1 lemon
Boil pasta until al dente, drain, and reserving 1/3 c of the cooking water
While pasta is cooking brown ground turkey, approx. 5 minutes, then remove and drain
Add shallots to oil-you may need to add a touch more, and cook for 2 minutes, then add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add back in the sausage and mix in the pasta, 1/3 c of the cooking water, and the juice of one lemon. Allow to cook together for an additional 3-5 minutes. Serve with lemon zest.

Last but not least, my bird creativity project for the week is here:

This was created by making a collage paper and then cutting the bird and it's wing from a template that I found here.

Almost a full month of posting and actually living up to my resolutions! Yay! With my crazy school work schedule on top of my regular work schedule cooking and crafting are a bright spot for me and I am so glad I am "making" myself do them because I feel so alive when I do!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 3 Update

Haiku #15
A good brew, a nap
The simple pleasures of a
Sunday afternoon

Haiku #16
A lone crow flies by
Screeching to the world below
"Look at me, so free!"

Haiku #17
The trees bend and sway
To the music of the wind
Nature's song and dance

Haiku #18
Logs crackle and pop
A blazing fire warms hearts
As we gather 'round

Haiku #19
Such uncertainty
Life throw punches like Ali
Mohammad, that is

Haiku #20
A good and true friend
One of life's most precious gifts
Treasure it always

Haiku #21
Read and study hard
Then put the books and papers
Away and go play!

My bird creativity challenge of the week:
I was inspired by these pretty little birds on wire wall hangings from World Market.

My recipe of the week was, once again, out of the pages of the January/February Everyday Food magazine. I made Spaghetti Squash Gratin. I will be honest and say that I didn't get to make it yesterday as planned because we had unexpected company come by (and bring dinner), so it ended up being a fun friend get-together. I did make the recipe this morning and just ate it for brunch. I don't think I'll make it again, but it did give me some good ideas on how to make pasta based casseroles with spaghetti squash. Also, I used a piece of leftover cornbread mixed in with the bread for the crumb topping. I have never purchased anchovies before, although I do like them, so this was good for trying something different at home.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Week 2 Update

Okay, so the final haiku for this week is...

Haiku #14:
Saturday morning
A cup of coffee before
The world is awake

Bird Project for Week 2:
An attempt at drawing a nuthatch in pencil and chalk

And my new recipe for the week, is once again straight out of the January/February edition of Food magazine. The recipe is for Rustic Chicken Minestrone. I have yet to try it, but here is the photo of it cooking....smells yummy!

I have had a very pleasant day, thus far. It started with sleeping in until 8:00. Wonderful! I never do that, even on the weekends. Then I got up and had coffee all by myself for a little while before the rest of the family (and the kids who were sleeping over) got up. I have piddled around the house doing little odds and ends, worked on my creativity challenge project, and then got started on the soup. I am still in my pj's and am getting ready to go get back in bed to read for a little bit. If I fall asleep, so what? The world, and all the stuff I need to be doing, will be there waiting for me when I crawl back out from under the covers.

Happy Saturday!

Haiku Digest Week 2

Haiku #8:

A light misting rain
Leaves a heavy fog behind
So mysterious

Haiku #9:

The rain keeps falling
Dripping endlessly down, down
On the cold, wet ground

Haiku #10:

The ground smells of earth
Rich, moist and fertile-like spring
Not January

Haiku #11:

Thunder, lightning, hail
Torrential rains, gusts of wind
A gray, stormy day

Haiku #12:

Colorful pastels
Fiery pinks, orange, purple
Glorious sunrise

Haiku #13:

The moon hangs ripe, low
Like a fruit waiting to be
Plucked by God's own hand

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week 1 Update

Whew! What a hard first week. Starting back to work on Monday right after New Year's Day was a little difficult. I really needed one more day to get organized for the work week, but that didn't happen. I read and completed a few assignments yesterday and still managed to get in my new recipe and my creativity challenge.

The recipe I tried was from this month's Everyday Food magazine. It was a simple roasted acorn squash that turned out to be delicious. Here's the recipe.

and for my "Bird themed Creativity Challenge" I decided to use a pretty 12x12 scrapbook I've had laying around and do four 3x3 sized projects to fit on each page so it will basically be a month's worth of projects on each page. Below you will see week 1 and my special word of the week.

Haiku 7

Haiku #7-

A gentle breeze blows
The tree branches reach for me
Come outside and play

Friday, January 6, 2012

Haiku 5 & 6

Haiku #5-
My soft, warm bed calls
Bring a book and rest your head
Sweet dreams are waiting

Haiku #6-
Heavy, gray clouds rest
On tired, old mountain tops
Waiting for nightfall

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Haiku 3 & 4

Haiku 3:

Golden hued sunlight
Drifts behind the mountain tops
Sets the sky on fire

Haiku 4:

Glistening moonlight
Stars twinkle in the blackness
Night calls heavenward

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Haiku 1 & 2

Haiku #1-

Mild New Year's Day
Brings bluebirds to my window
My heart fills with joy

Haiku #2-

Glistening snowflakes
Take flight on the winter wind
Swirling magically

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

As it's always a good idea to verbalize your intentions and goals for the New Year, I decided to do it here at "Tales From My Nest".
It's been a long time since I have posted on here. Just to fill you in, 2011 was a tough year for my family in the financial respect. As a result of my husband's business being very slow, it was a blessing that I had two sources of income. I also decided to go back to school to get my K-6th grade teaching certificate, so starting in August I was not only working two jobs, serving on a search committee for our school's new principal, heading up the Parent-Teacher Council, and taking two online classes. Needless to say, Christmas break was a welcome one. It gave me time to ponder what is really important to me, what has worked, and what needs to be improved upon. Here's what I determined:
  • I like being busy and am actually quite organized and efficient when I need to be.
  • I am tired of thinking about food all the time and for considering food to be "good or bad" or my eating habits to be "naughty or nice"
  • I really want to hang out with my kids more
  • I miss my husband and having date nights
  • I miss doing arts & crafts projects
  • I must make more time for my friends and family

Therefore my intentions and goals for 2012 are reflective of all of those things. Here's my list:

1-To add more movement to my daily routine
2-To quit weighing myself daily
3-To create one thing each week, my theme is "birds"
4-To write one haiku every day
5-To try one new recipe each week
6-To zone clean my house

Some of my sources of inspiration in 2011 were:
Sarah Ban Breathnach's book, Simple Abundance
Mireille Guiliano's book, French Women Don't Get Fat
Misty Mawn's mixed media art book, unfurling
and the make something 365 blog about the book, Unstuck

As a result of all of this, I hope to blog again in 2012. My plan will tentatively be to share my haikus in a weekly re-cap, if not daily. I also plan to post photos of my 52 bird-themed projects. I am also working on the preliminary stages of a notebook that will help women organize their homes and lives, freeing up time for their personal interests.

Having said ALL of that in my lengthy post, I wish the blog world a healthy and prosperous 2012!