Cranberry Apple Kale Salad Recipe with Lemon Vinaigrette

Cranberry Apple Kale Salad

By Andrea Green, Contributing Writer

Does your family enjoy kale salads? Try serving them this family friendly recipe for Cranberry Apple Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and I bet they will!

Kale seems to be the “hot” superfood of the day, doesn’t it?

My family’s love affair with kale has grown over the years.

We started out hiding it in smoothies as a way to get more veggies into our diet. Sure it turned our smoothies green, but with lots of fruit, we got all of the benefits of kale with none of the taste. That suited our daughters just fine.

Then we graduated to kale chips. If you have not made a batch yet, the taste really is just like a potato chip. At our house, kale chips are inhaled the minute they get pulled out of the oven.

Finally, we have graduated to kale salads. This happened about the same time I discovered baby kale at my Costco. Of course, now the mainstream grocery stores also carry kale in all its varieties as evidenced by the “Kale Corner” at my Safeway down the street.

Kale Corner

If you have been reluctant to serve kale in a salad, look for baby kale. It eliminates the tough stem and the flavor has less bitterness than many of the other kale varieties.

Combining the kale with sweet fruits is a throwback to our kale smoothies. The sweetness of the fruit pairs perfectly with the kale.

Cranberry Apple Kale Salad Recipe with Lemon Vinaigrette

Salad

4 cups baby kale
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 sweet apple, chopped (gala or fuji work well)

Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Toss kale, apple and cranberries in a large bowl. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients. Toss the salad with vinaigrette to combine.

Once you’ve started adding kale salads to your meal plans, you might want to try adding one of these recipes:

Apple Quinoa Kale Salad Recipe
Bacon, Butternut Squash, Kale Salad Recipe

What’s your family’s favorite way to eat kale?

Getting Your Healthy Kitchen Under Control with Freezer Cooking {65+ Recipes}

Getting Your Healthy Kitchen Under Control with Freezer Cooking

By Jami Balmet, Contributing Writer

I don’t know about you, but I just feel overwhelmed sometimes when it comes to making healthy meals for my family. After a long day of blogging, cleaning, housework, laundry, bills, and chasing down my very active twin boys, I just don’t have the energy (or the time) to put into making delicious and healthy meals from scratch every night. I know that real food and home cooked meals are the most nutritious way to bring up my kids, and family time around the dinner table is invaluable - but what do you do when you are exhausted and already feel overwhelmed with everything else you do?

Freezer cooking. These two simple words have transformed how I run my kitchen. I think my husband would agree the process has vastly improved the meals we eat! I began freezer cooking (or once a month cooking) before we had kids and we lived in a small apartment with a teeny tiny refrigerator and freezer. But I made it work (see how I used to do freezer cooking) and now that I have a larger refrigerator in my kitchen and a chest freezer, my love of once a month cooking has grown even more.

To give you a head start so you can jump right in to freezer cooking, I’m going to cover the basics (with some resources for digging in further) and a roundup of amazing freezer cooking recipes. Real food, healthy cooking has never been so easy!

The Basics of Freezer Cooking

Decide on a Method

When someone says that they do “freezer cooking” this can be done numerous ways. In fact, no two homemakers probably do freezer cooking exactly the same way. And as you will see, often we adapt multiple methods of freezer cooking. But here are a few of the basic methods for freezer cooking:

Cook Once for a Full Month – This is the method of freezer cooking that I first fell in love with. It’s the concept that you take one day and do all your grocery shopping for the month (or most) and do a full day of cooking 20 to 30 meals to last the entire month. This is a great option for those really busy times in our lives like when you are having a new baby!

Make Double Batches – As I’ve gotten more comfortable with what freezes well, I’ve started doing this more and more. When I’m making a lasagna for dinner, I just go ahead and make two. We enjoy one for dinner that night and the other one goes into the freezer for another day. This works great for those of us who have little kids running underfoot and a full day of cooking just sounds like torture. This way, you already have all the ingredients out and you just make a double batch.

Just Make the Staples - I’ve also adapted this method of freezer cooking and couldn’t survive without it!  When I make dried beans in my crockpot, I will cook 2 or 3 big bags at a time. When it’s done, I divide the beans up into smaller bags and freeze them so I can pull soaked, homemade beans out whenever I need them! This also works well with rice, shredded chicken, beef for tacos and burritos, and more.

Hunt for the Deals

Shop smart, and you can find amazing deals on your food for freezing cooking. Once a year, my local natural foods store has organic, free-range chicken fryers for $5! So I go early and buy as many as I can get my hands on. Then I come home, shred all the chicken, and package them up into 2 cup packages and away they go in the freezer. This way we have frozen, shredded chicken ready for last minute meals. In the long run, it saves so much money.

I do the same thing with fresh produce. When peaches are in season we will buy them 100 pounds at a time. We wash them, cut them into quarters and freeze them for the long winter months. They go great in kefir smoothies. Then we have fresh, organic produce all year round for rock bottom prices.

65+ Healthy Real Food Freezer Meal Recipes2Know Your Limit

Two months ago we moved into our first house. We got a great big refrigerator/freezer from my mom and bought a chest freezer for our mud room. Now I have ample room to buy food in bulk and freeze, freeze, freeze! But just three months ago, we lived in a small apartment and I was taller than our fridge … enough said. I didn’t have room to store 30 pounds of meat, 100 pounds of peaches, and a full month’s worth of meals.

So I had to be selective with that I froze. Some months that meant we cleared out the freezer and had 20 meals ready for that month. But other months it meant just having the staples like shredded chicken and beans stockpiled in our freezer. Start off slow and as you learn what your freezer can handle, you can dive in further.

Do Some Research

One of the beautiful things about the Internet is that so many other homemakers are willing to share their secrets and what they’ve learned. I’ve compiled a more thorough resource list for freezer cooking, but here are a few to get our started:

Once a Month Meals Whole Foods Menu – I tried out Once a Month Meals years ago, before they had a whole foods menu. I really like it, but at the end of the day I like to cook our family’s favorite dishes. If you are new to freezer cooking and want to give it a try, OAMM are an easy way to try it out. They give you a full month’s worth of menus planned out, printable recipes, and even your shopping list! I do know that part of their website is now a paid membership, but I think it can be worth it.

Money Saving Mom – Crystal Paine posted a mini series on freezer cooking and even has some free printables to help you plan your cooking. She also has an eBook on freezer cooking that you can get for free when signing up for her newsletter!

Life As Mom – In a great series that goes beyond just the basics of freezer cooking, Jessica Fisher covers shopping for freezer meals, cooking with kids, how to keep track of your meals, and more.

Intentional By Grace – Leigh Ann Dutton quickly covers the basics of freezer cooking and moves on to great topics such as organizing a freezer meal swap, yummy recipes and more.

Pinterest – Of course, this is my favorite resource! I’ve created a freezer cooking Pinterest board with all these resources, recipes, and much much more. Follow my Real Food Freezer Cooking board and start browsing Pinterest for awesome recipes.

65 Freezer Meal Recipes

*Please note: As with most recipes, I scan the ingredients before making it because often I’ll substitute whole wheat flour for white, honey or maple syrup for sugar, etc. So a few of these recipes below are not completely “real food,” but with a few tweaks I know they will turn out great!

Breakfast

Easy Morning Glory Muffins

Sourdough Pumpkin Waffles

Cherry Maple Muffins

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes Recipe

Asparagus & Bacon Quiche

Whole-Grain Banana Pecan Muffins

Freezer Friendly Breakfast Burritos 

Apple Butter Muffins

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

Apple Peanut Butter Muffins

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancake 

Lunch

Hamburger Vegetable Soup

Bean and Cheese Burritos

Wholesome Tuna Salad Sandwich

Cafe Rio Shredded Pork and Cafe Rio Creamy Salad Dressing

Chihuahua Chili

Homemade Chicken Salsa Pockets

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Green Rice Casserole Recipe

Dinner

Mexican Chicken Chili

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Queso Fundido

Crockpot Balsamic Glazed Drumsticks

Honey Lime Chicken

Irish Shepherd’s Pie

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Lasagna Casserole Recipe

Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef

Making a Freezer Kit

Slow Cooker Mexican-Style Shredded Beef

Crockpot Lasagna

Slow Cooker BBQ Cranberry Chicken

Cajun Chicken with Sausage

Homemade Frozen Pizzas

Homemade Croutons, Shredded Chicken and Recipe for Red Sauce

Simple Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Slow Cooker Asian Pot Roast

Honey & Spice Glazed Pork Chops

Crockpot Beef Tips & Gravy

Italian Lemon Chicken

Shepherd’s Pie

Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken

Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Slow Cooker Chicken & Gravy

Chicken in Marinades

Beef Mexi Rice Recipe

Slow Cooker Green Chile Pork Tacos

Soups & Stews

Sausage & White Bean Slow Cooker Soup

Rustic Chicken Slow Cooker Stew

Slow Cooker Fiesta Chicken Soup

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew

Crockpot Chicken & Dumplings

Snacks/Sides/Desserts

Freezer Friendly Pizza Dough

Mama’s Frozen Biscuits

Savory Muffins

Homemade Flour Tortillas (that you can freeze!!)

Homemade Yogurt in the Slow Cooker (that you can freeze!!)

Savory Crescent Chicken Pockets

Fried Rice

Best Ever Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bake Bars

Homemade freezer biscuits

Homemade Bone Broth

Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge

Have you ever done freezer cooking? What method do you follow? 

Weekend Links

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Links for this week:

What Some Christian Single Guys Said About What Kind of Girls They Are NOT Looking For @ Visionary Womanhood

Why Slowing Down is Paramount if We’re Ever to be the Body @ A Holy Experience

Homemade Corned Beef on Rye @ GNOWFGLINS

How to weed out the lie that you are not beautiful @ Lisa-Jo Baker

I Choose Slow @ nesting place

Cheesy Cauliflower Cakes @ Heavenly Homemakers

Emphasizing beauty in your homeschool @ Simple Homeschool

Making Home a Haven: When You’d Rather Do Something Else @ The Marathon Mom

What are the sweet, simple things in your life that bring you joy?

Savory Enchilada Pot Pie (GF, DF)

Gluten Free Enchilada Pot Pie

By Kelly Smith, Contributing Writer

Enchiladas were a real favorite of mine before I went grain-free and recently, after a little whining about how much I missed them, my brilliant 11-year-old son asked a simple question, which eventually led to this awesome recipe.

“Mom, why not just make them without the corn tortillas, like a casserole or something?”

I know I’m a little biased here, but seriously, this kid is a genius! Not only is this savory Enchilada Pot Pie perfect for those who are grain-free, but it’s also a delicious alternative for anyone who loves the rich, satisfying flavor of enchiladas without all the fuss of stuffing and rolling them.

Enchilada Pot Pie Close
Topping the enchilada-style stew with a mock-cornbread muffin (or gluten-free corn muffin) gives them a corn-like flavor and texture, as well as that classic “pot pie” look for added appeal.

Enchilada Mise en Place
P.S. This recipe comes together in a snap if you soak and cook the beans in advance, prepare the enchilada sauce ahead of time (if using homemade), and pre-chop the veggies by scheduling a weekly prep day. With these steps in place, this meal literally comes together in 30 minutes or less. And be sure to check out the recipe note below for how to maximize your time to get two meals in the time it takes to make one. Yay!

Enchilada Pot Pie (Grain-Free/Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free)

Ingredients

1 batch of your favorite grain-free mock-cornbread or gluten-free cornbread muffins
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely diced yellow onion (1 small onion)
1 cup diced yellow or red bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1 medium zucchini, diced
1-2 teaspoons minced jalapeño pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups shredded cooked or roast chicken
1 1/2 cups soaked and cooked black beans (or one 15 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cups mild enchilada sauce
Optional: Fresh cilantro and lime wedges

Method

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and onion. Sauté until onion begins to soften (about 3-4 minutes). Then add the bell pepper, zucchini, jalapeño and garlic. Continue to sauté until the onion is translucent and lightly golden brown.

2. Next, add the salt, chicken, black beans and enchilada sauce. Mix together until thoroughly combined. Cover the skillet and allow the mixture to gently simmer about 5-10 minutes, until the zucchini reaches desired level of tenderness. Remove from heat and keep covered.

3. Make cornbread muffins of choice, following the recipe instructions. Once the muffins are done. Place the skillet of enchilada stew back on the burner and warm over low heat.

4. To serve, evenly divide the enchilada stew among 4-5 bowls and top with a cornbread muffin (or two). Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro and lime wedges, if desired. Absolutely delicious! Enjoy!

Recipe Note: This enchilada stew is perfect for freezing. So why not maximize your time and make a double batch? Serve half now and freeze half of the stew for later. That way, you’ll have a delicious dinner ready to go – just thaw the stew overnight in the fridge, warm and serve with leftover cornbread muffins.

Enchilada Pot Pie CloseUp

Menu-Planning Made Easy! (Plan to Eat Review & Giveaway)

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By Jessica Smartt, Contributing Writer

Maybe you’re like me, and the Plan to Eat logo is a familiar friendly ad from your visits here to Keeper of the Home. I’ve been curious what Plan to Eat is actually about, and jumped at the chance to review it.

I was pleasantly surprised!

Plan to Eat

I knew Plan to Eat was a digital meal-planning site (pretty smart of me to figure that out from the title) but to be honest, I had a few reservations.

Even though I’m a blogger, I’m not a natural computer whiz. It takes me some time (and gives me a headache) to do anything new online, since nothing comes easily.

I was shocked at how user-friendly the Plan to Eat site is. It’s almost … fun.

For one thing, adding all of your recipes to the site is a lot easier than I imagined. If the website is a “major” recipe site (Allrecipes, Food Network, Epicurious, and a few others) the recipe actually imports itself. One click from your toolbar, and boom. There are the ingredients!

If the website is a foodie blog or smaller site, it’s still easy. You manually enter ingredients by copying and pasting into the Plan to Eat recipe box. Even this “longer” step takes less than a minute. And if you’re like me, you make the same 20 to 30 meals over and over. Once it’s in the site, it’s there!

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Then comes the really fun party … the meal planning.

Normally, I sit with my spiral notebook, straining my brain to remember our favorite recipes, digging through the same recipe sites and copying down the same ingredients.

With Plan to Eat, you literally just drag a meal from your recipe box to the day of the week you plan to eat it. Like I said … almost fun.

From there, you can make a shopping list, also insanely easier than what I’ve been doing. The shopping list is organized by aisle according to your favorite store.

From there, you can either print your shopping list, or view from your mobile device. No more scribbled-out, illegible lists on crumpled paper. Just view it on your phone, and even check off items as you go.

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What’s the bottom line?

Yes, there is some upfront work involved to set up your recipe box. But in the long run, you save so much time and mental energy. These are golden commodities to moms, of course.

I feel that for a busy mom (and what mom isn’t?) who cooks nourishing meals at home and wants to streamline the time it takes to plan meals and make a grocery list, Plan to Eat is basically a no-brainer.

If you’re fond of your spiral-notebook system (like I was) and skeptical that you’d use Plan to Eat, you’re in luck. Plan to Eat offers a free 30-day trial to all. You have full capabilities to fiddle and plan for a whole month’s meals.

Three Keeper of the Home readers will win their own FREE one-year subscription to Plan to Eat!

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Disclosure: This giveaway was generously sponsored by Plan to Eat, and is open worldwide. All opinions expressed are my own. Giveaway ends March 20 at noon.

The Wonderful World of Herbs (Herbal Academy Review & Giveaway!)

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I’ve loved herbs ever since I first started learning about them.

We try to avoid pharmaceuticals as much as possible in our family, and beyond eating real, whole, nourishing foods and avoiding toxins and chemicals as much as possible, we use herbs (and other supplements) to boost our health and treat illnesses, as much as possible.

My study and love of herbs began about 5 or 6 years ago, and since that time, I have gradually built a small library of herbal resources, read about the history and science of particular herbs to build up my own knowledge, found recipes for simple salves and tea and tinctures and began to make my own, and slowly but surely, herbs have found their way into our go-to remedies for health and healing.

In some ways, I’ve found it to be easier than what I originally thought. Starting small, with just a few tried-and-true remedies or picking one or two herbs to learn about has been a great way for me to begin to wade in to the vast ocean of information on herbs.

At other times, it’s more complicated. There are just so many different herbs out there, and the uses can change depending on what the health need is and what part of the plant you’re using (leaf, stem, root, etc.). There are also herbs with which you need to use more care in certain seasons (for infants, pregnant women, etc.) and some which need to be used only in moderation or for shorter periods of time.

Then there are methods of preparation to learn … herbal teas, infusion, decoction, infused oil, salve, syrup, balm, tincture, etc. Each one has its uses and benefits, and learning how to make each one properly and knowing when to use it requires a little bit of know how.

Now, I am a firm believer that anyone can use herbs. You don’t need to be a certified herbalist. You don’t need a drawer or cupboard full of 30-something dried herbs at your ready.

You just need to be willing to learn, read up a little, and start small.

Try just one or two herbs. Use them as simples (on their own, not mixed with any other herbs). Find ones that suit the particular health needs that you have and give those a try first before expanding into anything else. See a naturopathic doctor or a herbalist and allow them to guide you and prescribe something, to let you try without having to do all the research yourself. It doesn’t have to be difficult.

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But I know that some of you, like me, want to learn more.

You want to delve deeply into the science and study of how herbs have been used traditionally, and to understand more about them through the lens of modern science. You want to have a solid grasp of a wide range of herbs, and be able to choose which ones to use for a particular need quickly, without having to stop and do a lot of research.

You want to comfortably and confidently make all or most of your family’s herbal products in your own kitchen, so that you know exactly what’s in them and how fresh they are (not to mention the money you’ll save).

This fall, I was invited to try out a new online herbal academy, and take their Online Intermediate Herbal Course for a test drive.

It’s approximately a 1-year course, offered by the Herbal Academy of New England. A brick-and-mortar school in Boston, they now offer online courses, with materials and videos put together by their extremely experienced and passionate team of instructors and contributing writers (which includes trained herbalists, botanists, physicians and more).

So who is this course for? Well, from my understanding and based on what I’ve done and seen of it so far, it’s for those who already have at least some level of interest and knowledge of herbs, but really want to increase that knowledge and put it into practice.

Each of the 10 units gives you a lot of reading material, practical charts to teach you new terms or show how to use specific herbs or put together dosages, tutorial videos to demonstrate particular recipes or methods, many recipes and ideas for you to try and experiment with yourself, and quizzes to test your retention and understanding of the knowledge.

In case you’re wondering, it’s not meant for those who want to become an actual, certified herbalist. There are longer and more detailed courses required for obtaining that certification. Rather, this is meant for the person that wants to have the practical skills and knowledge to use herbs, teach others about herbs in casual ways, learn to add the use of herbs to the work they already do (for me, this adds to the study I’ve done in nutrition and natural living, complementing it well for my writing purposes).

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In their words, it’s a “doorway into the wild and wonderful world of herbalism.”

I’ve started on Unit 1 this month (I had to wait until we were home and slightly settled after our big trip), and so far, I’m loving it. The intermediate course is a perfect level for me… not way above my head, but challenging me with plenty of new information and ways of understanding how herbs work.

I’m already feeling inspired.

This unit, I’ve chosen to practice my herbal skills by making a Headache-Ease Tea (actually, I plan to make the tincture version, too, but it included herbs I need to special order, so it will have to wait until next month).

During our year-long travels this past year, I struggled with a lot of headaches, partially due to the physical stress of travel, carrying a large backpack, working at my computer without a proper chair or desk much of the time, etc. I have tried to use some essential oil remedies as well as taking calcium/magnesium, but often they weren’t enough, so I would resort to painkillers (which I hate using unnecessarily). I’m interested to see if this tea will help instead.

Even better, if this particular tea blend doesn’t do the trick, I’ll be learning the skills to tweak the recipe and add or subtract herbs depending on what I think my needs are. That’s something I haven’t felt especially competent in up until this point (though I’ve tried), and I’m eager to grow in that area.

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Curious what the full course includes?

Unit 1: Why Herbs And How They Work
History; Herbal Healing Philosophies; Homeostasis; Overview of Body Systems; Systems of Energetics, Actions and Constitutions; Medicine Making Review; Side Effects and Safety; Creating Formulations

Unit 2: Food is Medicine
Kitchen Cupboard Herbs; Vinegars; Oils; Honey; Edible and Medicinal Plants; Foraging; Wild crafting; Plant Savers; Gratitude and Ceremony

Unit 3: Digestive System
Alimentary System Overview; Digestive Health as Foundation of Health; Imbalances of the Digestive System and Herbal Remedies

Unit 4: Immune System
Building Immune Health; Prevention; Common Disharmonies; Creating a Materia Medica

Unit 5: Nervous System
The Central Nervous System; The Peripheral Nervous System; The Enteric Nervous System; Stress; Headaches; Sleep; Herbs

Unit 6: Cardiovascular
Anatomy of the Heart; Blood Pressure; Cholesterol; Heart Strong/Heart Health; Herbal Therapeutics; Diet; Glycosides; The Energetic Heart

Unit 7: The Liver
Anatomical Overview; Liver Health; Liver Imbalances; Herbal Treatments; Bitters

Unit 8: Respiratory
Breathing; Asthma; Lung Imbalances; Herbal Tonics; Natural Remedies

Unit 9: Urinary System
Kidney and Urinary Health; UTI; Herbs

Unit 10: Children
Common Discomforts; Formulas and Recipes; Which Herbs are Safe; Dosing

Would you like to take the course for yourself?

Enter for a chance to win: One free enrollment for the Online Intermediate Herbal Course (valued at $360!)

Bonus! Herbal Academy of NE is offering the KOTH readers a discount for the course! Receive 15% off when you use the code “HOME15″! Expires at the end of March 2014.

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Disclosure: The giveaway was generously donated by Herbal Academy of New England, and affiliate links are included in this post. All opinions expressed are completely my own. Giveaway ends March 19 at noon.

The All-Natural, Eco-Friendly Way to Dry Laundry (Homestead Drying Racks Review & Giveaway!)

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One of the most delightful things about living life abroad this past year was that, almost everywhere we traveled, I had to line dry my laundry.

How is that delightful, you ask?

What sounded somewhat like a chore at first quickly became a cherished, ritual, liturgical part of the day.

Walking outside and breathing in the fresh air.

Stopping and quieting myself from whatever I was doing or surrounded by in the house.

Methodically, soothingly, picking up one piece of laundry at a time, feeling its pleasing dampness, giving it a brisk shake, and settling it on the line or rack in neat rows.

Thinking quiet, meditative thoughts, mouthing prayers, humming a song.

Catching whatever rays of sunshine could be had on the nicest days.

Satisfying myself with the clouds or trees or birds or what-have-you on the overcast days. There’s always something lovely to be seen.

eco friendly way to dry laundry giveaway

Laundry as liturgy, and so much more.

We’ve been home for one month exactly, and my spirit already craves these outdoor laundry pauses. I am eagerly awaiting our move into our new-to-us home this weekend, where I will pull out my gorgeous wooden drying rack with eager hands and set it up near a window on the rainy days (we’re West coasters… we get a lot of those this time of year) or out on the lawn on those rare and precious sunny ones.

The everyday liturgical act of laundry hanging isn’t the only reason to choose to hang-dry your clothes and linens.

There’s also the fact that:

  • You can use the sun as the best natural bleach ever.
  • It will save you money on energy costs.
  • It just saves energy in general, never a bad thing for those seeking a greener lifestyle.
  • It’s easier on your clothes and will help them to last longer and look nicer.

I like to hang-dry our laundry for all of these reasons and more.

It shouldn’t have surprised me that all over the world, dryers don’t really exist. Whether we were in Argentina or France or Turkey or Rwanda or China or Australia, we hung our laundry out in the fresh air. It was just the normal thing to do.

And it works.

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Homestead Drying Racks

I’ve used a whole slew of different drying options in the past, not just over the course of this year, but in my Canadian home as well. Over-the-stair banisters, clothes hangers on shower curtain poles, backs of dining room chairs, metal or plastic foldable drying racks in my backyard, you name it, I’ve probably done it.

And in reality, it all works. But these solid, sturdy, wooden drying racks from Homestead Drying Racks are a mighty good way to do it instead.

They’re incredibly well made, something that I can foresee lasting for years and years. So many of my plastic or metal ones were a bit flimsy and all broke within a relatively short period of time.

These racks, however, are very strong and can hold a lot of weight. You could easily put large bedspreads or blankets or sleeping bags on these (their website even says you can put rugs on them!), the Homesteader size in particular. At 6 ft tall and 4 ft wide, they offer 56 linear ft of drying space and can handle the largest pieces of laundry in your pile.

I love that they’re wooden, because not only are they handsome, but they aren’t going to fill a landfill up with more junk.

Their tall V-shape is intended for optimal drying time.

They even have a variety of sizes, to suit your drying needs and the size of your family and home. I chose the largest model, because we’re already a family of 6 and we can put out a LOT of laundry in a short space of time, especially if I’m doing bedsheets.

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My 6’3″ husband holding our just-arrived drying rack, before we put it together. That’s one tall drying rack!

They also carry a mid-size rack, perfect for a small family or someone that only hang-dries some of their laundry, as well as a more apartment-size drying rack for small loads and even a tabletop size that can go on top of a counter or the top of your dryer, perfect for small items like socks and underwear!

Homesteading video bonus!

I didn’t even realize that along with my gorgeous rack, they were sending me a full set of their Homesteading for Beginners DVDs!

This coming weekend, our family is moving into our very first home of our own, after 10 years of renting. We purposefully chose to move further out of the big city so that we could afford a house with a nice, large 1/5 acre lot.

Big backyard = HUGE garden and berry bushes and a few fruit trees. And maybe some laying hens. I’m just a bit giddy at the thought of it all.

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So you can imagine how tickled I was to read the back of each of the four homesteading videos and find topics like:

  • Egg layers
  • Raising chickens and processing them
  • Root cellaring
  • A ton of tutorials in canning and other methods of preserving
  • Gardening
  • plus all sorts of other things that interest me, like soap making, cheese making, bread baking, and much more.

I think I’ll be watching these while I wait for spring to stop teasing us and just get here already, so that I can get my hands back in the dirt!

Want to win your own Homesteader Drying Rack just like Stephanie’s? Enter to win that PLUS a full set of Homesteading for Beginners DVD’s (total value of $228)!

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Giveaway ends March 19 at noon. Disclosure: This giveaway was generously sponsored by Homestead Drying Racks, and is open to residents of the U.S. All opinions expressed are my own.

3 Easy Ways to Make a House a Home (Urban Tickle Review & Giveaway!)

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By Beth Ricci, Contributing Writer 

We’ve spent the entire eleven years of our marriage traipsing around the country (and even the globe). We started out in a tiny bachelor basement apartment, with a white bed sheet hanging from the ceiling to divide our “bedroom” from the “living room.” Since then we have lived in a grand total of nine different places – a smorgasbord of apartments and houses, big and little.

It can be really tough to make a boring old apartment or a rental house feel like home, but it can definitely be done. I have found three specific things to be my consistent go-to’s for capturing that homey feeling in a new place:

1. Paint

This is sometimes not allowed in a rental, but often landlords will let you if you ask. I’ve never lived in a place where we weren’t allowed to paint. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money to paint a house I didn’t own, but I’ve often chosen to paint maybe just one room, or an accent wall, in my favourite colour.

2. Decorative accents

I love my plants and thrifted collection of blue and green glass items that lives on my kitchen windowsill, and my various African accent pieces. I love my big teal Ikea wall clock, and my thrifted brass table lamps… all of which really make it feel like my home instead of a blank slate.

3. Art prints

maps

While the first two are definitely things that I turn to, I admit that hanging stuff on my walls is my all-time favourite. I totally swoon over beautiful framed and arranged art, and Urban Tickle is an Etsy shop that knows where it’s at in that department.

They have a wide selection of adorable art prints and other items. They sent me the set of map prints that you see just above, and I absolutely adore them. They are beautifully designed, with a lovely mix of the practical (they are maps, after all) and the aesthetic, I found them a perfect home – front and centre – in the dining room.

Yup – they’re already hung up at my house for all of us to enjoy. And yes, the 5-year-old has already struck up a conversation about continents and geography. (Organic homeschooling for the win!)

What I noticed immediately when the prints arrived at my house was the words overlaying the map in an attractive and creative manner. They are designed so beautifully! I also love the warm and enticing colours that are beautifully contrasted.

When I was handling them to slip them into frames ($2.99 at IKEA for 8.5×11 frames. Gotta love it.) I noticed that the print quality is absolutely top-notch. They are obviously made to last, which is great as I foresee them having a long and happy future hanging out on my walls.

I saw many other favourites at the shop, including this adorable sun print. Perfect for a little one’s bedroom. I also love this transportation nursery art set of 3. So, SO cute.

How would you like to win a $100 gift card to Urban Tickle’s etsy shop?!

You can throw your hat in the ring for that by using the widget below. (Note: applies to paper art prints only.)

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Giveaway ends March 19 at noon. Disclosure: This giveaway was generously sponsored by Urban Tickle, and is open to residents of the U.S & Canada. Giveaway applies to paper art prints only. All opinions expressed are my own.

Making it Easier to Take Healthy Snacks On the Go! (Win a$100 Gift Certificate to Sweetbottoms Baby)

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I think every mom has her reasons behind the products she chooses for her home, but here are a few of mine:

Those reasons form the basis behind a lot of what I use with my babies and children, including cloth diapers, safe & creative toys made with natural materials, gentle skincare products, and herbal or other effective types of home remedies.

That includes what my kids eat or drink out of, and how we transport our food.

When it came time for me to choose what to review from Sweetbottoms Baby {where green comes naturally}, I knew that I wanted a few more items to along with these reasons, and to make taking our homemade snacks and drinks out more easily and safely:

My first request was for a new water bottle for 2 year old Kepler. He’s become a water fiend in recent months, and I think it’s best for all of us if he can gulp it down wherever and whenever he pleases.

grasshopper bottle

This is the water bottle we received for him. It’s a Eco Vessel Scout Kids Stainless Steel Water Bottle. I asked Beth if she could select for me a popular bottle she thought I might like, and this was her pick. I realized after that I should have specified that my little guy was only 2 (oops- my bad!), so the flip top and the fact that he can make it leak by tipping it upside down doesn’t actually work for him. He still enjoys drinking from it, I just have to monitor more carefully to help him close it when he’s finished.

However, my older kids have decided that they love this cup, it’s adorable grasshopper design, and the flip spout and connected straw are just perfect for them (they’re past that spilling phase… phew!), so they’ve adopted it. I did eye the Lifefactory Sippy Cap Glass Bottles as an alternative option for Kepler, since he still does best with a sippy lid.

The second thing I requested was reusable containers for on-the-go lunches, picnics and snacks.

picnicfood packing sweetbottom

Though my kids may not take packed lunches to school (a homeschooling perk, to be sure), we do frequently go out for field trips or errands, or simply out for a day of play in nature or with friends. Having special containers and wraps for packing lunch up easily and safely isn’t a true necessity (believe me, our journeys this year taught us a LOT about what that little word “need” means…), but they sure are nice to have.

I’m excited to use our Eco Vessel Smashbox Food Container. It holds up to 4 cups of food for hungry mamas and kids, but then it smashes down to about half the size for easy storage. My kids thought the fact that it comes with its own reusable “spork” that snaps into the lid was the coolest thing ever. I noticed they also carry a Double Smashbox, which holds up to 6 cups of food in two divided compartments, which would also be very handy.

These friendly looking green baggie of liquid are called Garden Chillers and they’re an inexpensive way to throw a perfectly-sized ice pack into any lunch of snack you’re packing up. And ALL of these products are PVC and BPA free and made with 100% food grade materials.

birdie zip reuse bag

My favorite is the Planet Wise Zipper Sandwich Bag. They are PVC, BPA, phthalate, latex and lead free, and they are waterproof and spillproof, yet the whole bag is completely washable. Our came in an adorable Chickadee design, but they had about 20 designs, including chevron, owls and rainbow stripes.

You don’t have to use these only for sandwiches, either. Right now I’m using mine for seasoned nuts, and they would also be great for fruit (dried or fresh), cookie or bars, torillas, veggie sticks, whatever.

Did I mention that having really fantastic containers to use for packing up to-go snacks makes it so. much. easier and motivating to take food from home, instead of relying on pre-packaged and no-so-good-for-you foods (yes, even the organic packaged foods– they’re still processed!), or having to spend oodles of money to stop and buy food while you’re already out.

Or enduring that painful bout of low blood sugar blues when you didn’t bring food with you, with all the whining and grumpiness that ensues. (Moms, I’m talking about us. Did you think I meant your kids?)

These containers and wraps have found themselves a happy home. They will see much use around here, that’s for sure!

group of sweetbottom products

The lovely folks at Sweetbottoms also sweetened up my review package with all of the above (plus some Hip Peas Shampoo and Body Wash that escaped my photo shoot). An adorable plate, bowl and cutlery set for my hungry little guy, all natural baby soap, a beautiful wood-and-cloth teething necklace, and gentle baby washcloths.

They also included a second kid-friendly cup, that curious green contraption, with a special plastic piece that controls the speed of the liquid to help babies and toddlers learn to drink from a cup and helps to prevent spills (it’s a trickle instead of a gush if it tips- clever!).

What other goodies can be found at Sweetbottoms?

So glad you asked.

That’s just a little taste of what they offer. Go check it out and find some fun, green products that I missed!

Would you like to win a $100 gift card from Sweetbottoms?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends March 18 at noon. Disclosure: This giveaway was generously sponsored by Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique, and is open to residents of the U.S. All opinions expressed are my own.

Organize Your Life With a ListPlanIt Subscription (Review + Giveaway!)

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By Jessica Smartt, Contributing Writer

I love organization, but my life is seldom organized. I’m an orderly person who’s not very orderly. Can anyone else relate?

Needless to say, it can be frustrating sometimes. I have plenty of excuses:

  • “I keep up with it in my head.” (Hmmm.)
  • “I’m too busy to be organized.” (Tyranny of the urgent, anyone?)
  • “Every time I get really organized, someone else/life/reality messes it all up. Why bother?”

What it really boils down to is that I haven’t found a good way to implement order into my life.

I was really excited to review ListPlanIt, since I’ve been eyeing it for awhile.

ListPlanIt is basically a massive collection of practical lists – to-do, to-buy, to-remember – all at your fingertips. You can create, edit, delete lists, and do it all from your smartphone or tablet. Additionally, there is a terrific database of printable lists to type or manually write in your items, if you find handwriting your lists to be therapeutic, like me.

List Plan It 1

How Many Lists Do You Need?

There are so many lists available on ListPlanIt. Here are a few lists I’m currently using or am excited to implement:

  • Editorial calendar for my blog
  • Baby necessities checklists (bath, clothing, traveling, nursery, etc.) for baby #3, coming soon.
  • Social security numbers, stored in their secure site. (My husband has earned his title of Mr. Patient solely on how many times he has given me his social security number. Why do I not have that thing memorized yet??)
  • Honey-do list!
  • Stocking stuffer/gift inventories – I always tend to forget what I’ve bought and hidden throughout the year.
  • Things loaned/borrowed. Brilliant idea!
  • Errands to run
  • Password tracker and keeper
  • 30 minute checklist – things I could complete in 30 minutes. How many times have I looked at the clock and thought, I should do something … What do I need to do?
  • Daily, weekly, and monthly to do lists. (Am I the only mom who could benefit from a reminder to brush her children’s teeth? Please say no.)
  • Bill expense/schedule, to see at-a-glance when all the monthly bills are due.
  • Packing list. I am so embarrassed to admit to all of you that each trip, I actually re-write the same packing list, over and over. I know, I know…

Especially with my pregnancy-brain, the idea of effective lists is becoming more a necessity than a luxury. With ListPlanIt, there is a list for every list I’d want to make, and then some. All accessible in one place!

Organize Your Life With a ListPlanIt Subscription

Better Than Paper?

See, I’ve tried something like this before. A few years ago, I got on a “organize-my-life” kick. (Have you ever had one of those?) I went to Target and bought a huge three-ring binder and mini-notebooks for all my various lists.

I was going to keep up with my lists and be organized.

I had bunches of notebooks and little sticky tabs for each list. I kept my budget, my shopping list, my to-do list, to-mail list, to-thank list, all in my massive homemaking binder.

You can probably guess where this is going. I found that binder the other day… and it was empty. The vision was there, but there were a few things lacking. For one, I had to carry this massive binder everywhere. For another, the lists just weren’t easily accessible. I’d forget which one was where, and had trouble flipping back and forth between multiple lists.

I feel like ListPlanIt takes the best of my idea and streamlines it. I have my lists, but they’re organized and portable.

Worth The Cost?

I’ll be honest: I’m someone who doesn’t like to pay anyone else for something I can do myself. And I can make a list. Right?

Honestly, no. Not like this. I love how handy these lists are to access, and how nicely organized they are. That was my trouble before; what good is a list if you can’t easily find it when you need it? ListPlanIt makes it easy to be organized.

I found myself thinking more and more that the $5 a month for ListPlanIt is money well-spent.

Enter to win

Today ListPlanIt is giving away TWO free 1-year subscriptions to their site (two separate winners!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends March 17 at noon. Disclosure: This giveaway was generously sponsored by ListPlanIt, and is open to residents of the U.S. All opinions expressed are my own.