Blackberry Season at a Close

The berries are finished for the season.  A big “Thank You” from Quarter Amish to all who made this year a success. Thank you for stopping by and we hope to see you again next season.  We sold many pounds of berries, goat milk soap, lotion bars, berry jam & syrup, and produce.  If you have requests for future offerings please let me know.  We also value constructive criticism.  If you have suggestions for improvements we would love to hear those too.

Next year I will contact everyone who asked to be notified when red raspberries are ready; and I’ll send another notice when the blackberry season begins.  If you did not get a chance to leave your contact information feel free to contact me through the comments.  I will be happy to add you to the list without sharing your information publicly.

Thanks again!!


Posted in activities, DIY, food preservation, for purchase, gardening, PYO berries | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade Tomato Sauce is Easier than you Think!!

Pony Express tomatoe variety

These are perfect gems for making tomato sauce.

What can you do with these?  Roma tomatoes are great to eat fresh like apples, slice onto sandwiches, toss into salads, saute with garlic and olive oil and maybe a few other veggies, or prepare and preserve to use throughout the year.  They are versatile and easy to grow in a garden or  container and can be found in your grocery produce aisle, frequently at a reasonable price.  While tomatoes are only in season in Indiana during July, August, and September, they can be preserved and eaten the other 9 months too!  We love tomatoes in our house and I make sure to have plenty on hand in one form or another.  I grow traditional globe shape tomatoes, specifically Jetstar and Supersonic, along with Pony Express Roma’s and Juliet grape tomatoes.  I use all types to can but do prefer the Roma’s for sauce making.

I find canning tomatoes makes the most sense for me.  While others spend hundreds of dollars a year buying tomato sauce, paste, diced, seasoned, or whole, I walk to my canning storage area and select tomatoes ready to use in a variety of ways: whole, unseasoned sauce, juice, soup, salsa, chili, pizza and spaghetti sauce.  I do grow about 75 tomato plants in my garden, but you don’t have to grow that many to take advantage of preserving some for later use.  I generally make different products each year depending on my supply.  Last year I made tomatoes with okra, stewed tomatoes, chili, pizza and spaghetti sauce, along with my staple of whole tomatoes.  This year I am canning whole tomatoes, soup, and sauce.  I often dehydrate tomatoes too.  We love tomato and herb bread hot out of the oven.

Whatever your situation, I encourage you to give canning tomatoes a try.  Canning is a simple pleasure everyone should try at least once in their lives.  You may find you enjoy canning and share a belief with countless others, including myself, that it is worth every second of time it takes to accomplish. If nothing else, you will develop a respect for what it takes for a product to go from ground to table.

I am going to share a recipe that may be adapted to meet your tastes or storage area.  Use seasonings you and your family prefer and cut the recipe in half if you find it too big to manage as listed.

Seasoned Tomato Sauce

yields 14 pints or 7 quarts

45 pounds of tomatoes (a bushel of tomatoes weighs approx. 53 pounds)

6 cups chopped onions

12 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons seasoning of your choice (oregano, basil, Italian spice blend)

6 bay leaves (optional)

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 1/2-2 1/2 Tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup salt

1-2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

lemon juice or citric acid (for use with low-acid tomatoes)*

*For effective canning high acid tomatoes are recommended because high acid aids to prevent spoilage.  If you are unsure about the acid content, simply add 1/4 tsp per pint or 1/2 tsp per quart jar to ensure success.

Wash tomatoes thoroughly and drain.  Do not use cracked or spoiled tomatoes!  Remove core and quarter.  Blend tomato quarters in batches and pour into a large stock pot.  For the full recipe, you will need a canner-size stockpot. Add the onions and garlic to tomatoes and cook on medium high heat.  When the sauce has reduced by 1/3 add the oil, salt, sugar and seasoning.  Simmer and stir frequently to prevent scorching until reduced by half.

While the sauce is simmering, wash and rinse mason jars.  This may be accomplished in the dish washer by running thru a cycle, or simply wash and rinse thoroughly with hot sudsy water.  Add citric acid at recommended amounts above or add 1 Tablespoon lemon juice per pint jar or 2 Tablespoons lemon juice per quart jar. Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (distance between the product and the rim of the jar).  Wipe the rim of jars to remove any food particles which will prevent a good seal.  Boil the lids and simmer until  ready to close jars.  Adjust 2 piece caps.  Process pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes, in a boiling-water canner.  After alloted time, remove jars with lifter and set undisturbed for 24 hours.  You will hear the “ping” of the jars as they cool and the lid seals.  Before storing, check to make sure the jar is sealed.  Remove band and press on the lid.  If sealed it stays put;  if not it will pop up and down.  Refrigerate any non-sealed jars and use within 3 days.  Sealed jars should be wiped down and labeled with contents and date.  Store in a cool dry place for up to one year.

* I keep canned goods up to 4 years as long as the jar remains sealed and the product looks good.  Use your own judgement but realize millions of pounds of perfectly safe food is wasted each year because it falls beyond the expiration or sell by date.  However, If in doubt about it’s safety, throw it out.

Recipe suggestions: To use simply check the jar for a clean seal and open.  The sauce may be heated and used with pasta or in pasta dishes, baked over chicken, added to chili, cooked with rice and veggies, or any number of other delicious ways!  Be creative and enjoy.

Simmer in a large stockpot until reduced by half, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.

Simmer in a large stockpot until reduced by half, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.

Many people share with me their fear of eating home canned food.  Somewhere along the line, the general public has been led to believe they are incapable of taking care of their own needs.  I urge you to overcome this fear, follow a recipe, gain  general knowledge of home-canning practices, and begin canning the things you love most!  My family has lived on home-canned foods for over 30 years with no ill effects.  I know  exactly what went into the jars and feel great I am providing  safe, tasty, and economical meals all year long.  If you have fears, give me a shout and I will talk you through the process if necessary.

Next year I am planning a canning workshop in June to be held at Quarteramish Farm to help anyone learn this time tested process of home food preservation.  Contact me if interested and check the Facebook page for updates.




Posted in activities, creativity, DIY, food preservation, gardening, gift ideas, Health, Household, Life's Simple Pleasures, Recipe, Seasonal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easy Sandwich Spread made fresh from the Garden

onions, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes fresh from the garden, mixed with vinegar, spices, sugar, and prepared mustard. Yummy!

onions, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes fresh from the garden, mixed with vinegar, spices, sugar, and prepared mustard. Yummy!

I have an abundance of onions, cucumbers and tomatoes in my garden now.  After searching for a way to use them, I found a great recipe for a sandwich spread in my copy of Amish Country Cookbook, Vol I . It relates to our German heritage as it contains prepared mustard in addition to the vegetables.  Easy to prepare and preserve for future use. One of Life’s Simple Pleasures is preserving the fruit of your labors to enjoy all year long.

Sandwich Spread

6 large onions

6 large cucumbers

6 large sweet peppers ( I used frozen peppers from last year)

12 green tomatoes (I used tomatoes on the turn)

1 pint white vinegar

1 pint water

5 cups sugar

3 Tblsp salt

1 pint prepared mustard

5 Tblsp flour

1 Tblsp tumeric

2 Tblsp celery seed

Grind/grate the vegetables fine.  Let stand for 1 hour, then drain.  Boil vegetables, sugar, salt, and vinegar for 15 minutes.  Add water to 5 Tblsp flour and stir to dissolve.  Add to vegetable mixture along with tumeric, celery seeds and prepared mustard.  Boil until thickened.  Hot pack into sterilized jars and hot water bath: pints 15 minutes; quarts 20 minutes.  Cool undisturbed for 24 hours.  Check seals. Label contents and date.  Store in cool place.  Makes approximately 6-7 quarts.

Use as a condiment for hamburgers, hotdogs, lunch meat, chicken, pork, or all by itself with butter or cheese.  I think the uses are endless for the creative mind.


Posted in activities, DIY, food preservation, gardening, gift ideas, Life's Simple Pleasures, Recipe, Seasonal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thornless Blackberry Season Opening

Sweet, juicy, and healthy!

Sweet, juicy, and healthy!

Blackberry U-Pick Season opens at Quarteramish farm on July 17th.  Hours  7:30-7:00 daily.  Closed July 19th. Pre-picked berries are available with reservation.  Bring your own containers or we will provide picking trays.  Children are welcome to pick with adult supervision.

Our berries are big and delicious, and we are so happy to have them after the severe cold weather last winter.  Most local growers lost their crop, or at least partial crop, due to the -15 degrees below zero temperatures we experienced.  Blackberries do not like temperatures below -10 and we had several nights with colder temps.  The High-Tunnel greenhouse proved its worth by protecting our berry plants.  While no heat was provided, closing the greenhouse sides and doors raised the temperature inside a few degrees higher than outside and just enough to protect the fruit crop for this year.  Our outside berries suffered a severe fruit loss and even some plant death.    My husband did a great job planning this berry project! We are delighted to welcome pickers to our farm for the second summer to enjoy this Life’s Simple Pleasure!


Posted in activities, DIY, food preservation, for purchase, gardening, Health, Life's Simple Pleasures, PYO berries | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fantastic Blueberry/Raspberry Jam Made Easy

Fresh Red Raspberries from our berry farm.

Fresh Red Raspberries from our berry farm.

Jam is easy to make, and oh so ever rewarding.  Jam has many uses  in the kitchen and brings culinary Shangrilah during winter months when produce is out of season.  I hear frequently from people they are afraid to try, because they have never done it before…..For all you folks out there who share this sentiment: Just do it Anyway!  You will be so glad you overcame your fears and took a chance.  As this recipe bears out, mixing berries creates a wonderful blend of flavor that tastes “Oh so Good!”

You will need a large stock pot in which to cook the jam and water bath process the jars . Water bath processing is placing filled and lidded jars into boiling water for exact periods of time to process contents preventing spoilage during non-refrigerated storage.

Traditional water bath canners may be purchased at hardware stores, Walmart,  groceries, dept stores, farm stores, etc.  They are large stock pots with a lid and jar holder rack which typically holds 7 quart jars.  You do not need a canner if you have a large stock pot and a jar lifter, but if you plan to preserve your produce by canning on a regular basis,  you should consider investing in a good water bath canner.

Other essentials:

lid lifter

jar lifter

canning funnel

canning jars/lids (typically referred to as Mason Jars)

Ingredients for 5 pint jars or 10 half-pints

1 pint blueberrries, crushed

1 quart red raspberries, crushed

7 cups sugar

1 box or bottle of pectin OR follow directions for bulk pectin


Crush berries. Measure 4 cups of crushed berries into large pot.  (Add water to make 4 cups if necessary).  Berries can be crushed with a potato masher or the back of a spoon.  If you want to remove  seeds, push through a strainer with a spatula or use a sauce maker with a berry screen.  A sauce maker is very fast and can be used with other fruits and vegetables to make juice/sauce. I use a Sauce Master food strainer by Norpro.

Work the puree with a spatula or spoon until only seeds remain. It takes a few minutes.

Work the puree with a spatula or spoon until only seeds remain. It takes a few minutes.

Add sugar and pectin. Stir to dissolve sugar and pectin using medium high heat and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute.  (Rolling boil means you cannot stop the boil when stirring)  Remove from heat. Do Not Shortcut the sugar amount.  Sugar is the preservative that keeps jam from spoiling after processing, while stored in the refrigerator during use.

Remove foam if necessary from top of jam.  Pour jam into clean mason jars, leaving 1/4 -1/2 inch head space. (Head space is the distance from the product to the lid)

Wipe rims to remove any jam from jar lip with damp wash cloth. Any food residue left on the lip, or rough/cracked lips interfere with jars sealing properly.

Boil lids and using jar lid lifter, place a sterile lid on the top of each jar.  Adjust lid with metal ring band until hand tight.

Process jars for 10 minutes in boiling water bath; then remove and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. *Begin timer when the water begins to boil after the jars have been loaded into canner.  You will hear the “ping” of the lid sealing as the jars cool.  After 24 hours check each jar has sealed by touching each lid with your finger.  If sealed the lid will be depressed.  If not sealed, the lid center will pop up and down when depressed.

Label jar lid with contents and year.  If storing for extended time, remove metal band to prevent it from rusting onto the jar.  For short term storage, gift giving, or if transporting, bands should be left on jars.

Jam making is quick, easy and delicious.  I hope you give this simple life pleasure a try today!





Posted in activities, creativity, DIY, food preservation, gardening, gift ideas, Life's Simple Pleasures, PYO berries, Recipe, Seasonal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red Raspberries are the Taste of Summer

Yummy and fresh!

Yummy and fresh!

We just finished the rush of our county 4H fair!  I love fair week; and I’m glad it’s over till next year.

When we finally got back to tending the farm, we discovered the red raspberries beginning to ripen.  Looks like a great crop!  If you like these delicious gems, think about coming over to pick some for your table and your freezer.  If you don’t live close to southern Indiana, then find a berry grower near you.

Red Raspberries are easy to make into jam or pies, and even easier to freeze.  To freeze place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze until firm.  Then package in zip-lock bags or food saver vacuum sealed bags.  Label and put in the freezer to enjoy all winter long!  Red Raspberries can be used in a plethora of  delightful culinary ways; explore and relish.

Enjoying raspberries is another of life’s simple pleasures not to be denied!

Posted in activities, DIY, food preservation, for purchase, Life's Simple Pleasures, PYO berries, Seasonal | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Natural Homemade Cleaning Products are Easy to Make; Spring Cleaning Part Two


green-cleaning-graphicGreen cleaning is all the rage these days.  It seems everyone is talking about cleaning the green & natural way;  and for good reason.  I’ve been a green cleaner for many years; mostly in part to the birth of my son Ethan, who is a special needs child.   We realized shortly after his birth our household was going to change radically!  It did.  Among the many facets to consider, household safety was a primary concern. Anything harmful was either locked up or removed from the house.  I started thinking about what my Mother had used to clean when I was a young child.  I gradually educated myself about what agents worked to clean my house.

Realizing the Truth!

Realizing the Truth!

Realizing the Truth

Switching to non-toxic cleaning agents was an easy change for me because I have asthma and sensitive skin.  I admit to holding my breath, spraying on commercial bathroom and oven cleaners, then running from the room to get a breath. It took a long time to clean because I had to keep running away to get a fresh breath.  I realized anything that made me run from the room was not good for my health, so I began using baking soda and vinegar, remembering my Mom’s cleaning arsenal. These became my primary cleaning products.  I had already been making my own soap for years to prevent skin irritation.  Why couldn’t I make clean and green products to use as well? I could, and you can too!
Easy Cleaning FormulasStore each solution in the correct type of bottle for ease of use.  Label each container of cleaning solution to identify.  Create a printed label for the bottle including the cleaning recipe for quick reference.  (laminate the label or brush with polyurethane to protect the print from erasing.)  Store together in a tote-style basket with brushes, rags and sponges.  Kitchen and Bath Cleaner

  • 2 tsp borax
  • 4 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1/4 tsp liquid castile soap
  • Mix in spray bottle.  Spray and wipe clean. Rinse with damp cloth.

All-Purpose Cleaner Label and store in a spray bottle. Use for water deposits, shower stall, bathroom, chrome and mirrors. (

You can make a cleaning basket at home inexpensively and easily.

You can make a cleaning basket at home inexpensively and easily.

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup baking soda or 2 tsp. borax
  • Mix with 1/2 gallon water.

Stain Remover“Witches Brew”-This works miracles on any organic stain and is my “Go-To” stain remover.  Contains ammonia, store out of children’s reach. You will need a squirt bottle.

  • Pour ammonia  into bottle, 1/4 of bottle.  Fill the bottle with white vinegar; add a few drops of dish soap.  To use: squirt cleaner on stain and rub with brush/cloth.  Rinse with a damp cloth.

Painted or Washable Wall Covering Cleaner-This solution should be sprayed on  walls and wiped clean.

  • Equal parts water and white vinegar
  • To increase cleaning power, especially grease, add a few drops of citrus oils or 1 tsp. washing soda or borax.

Disinfectant Wall Wash  Spray walls with solution & wipe clean.  Wipe with damp cloth rinsed in clear water.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 5 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 3 drops thyme essential oil

Wall Grease Removing Paste   Rub paste on grease stain and allow to dry before brushing off.

  • Mix together equal parts of cream of tartar and baking soda.
  • Add enough water to make a thick paste.
  • May be labeled stored in sealed container.

Bathroom Mold

  • One part 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 parts water
  • Mix in spray bottle.  Spray on affected area; wait at least one hour before rinsing.

Mold and Mildew

  • Use white vinegar or lemon juice full strength.  Allow to rest for at least one hour then rinse.  Repeat as necessary.

Herbal Mold & Mildew Prevention  If mold and mildew are already present, spray and allow to rest on the area for a few hours before wiping clean. Otherwise, spray and wipe clean.  Do not rinse.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup borax
  • 8-10 drops citrus seed extract
  • 2 tsp tea tree oil

Kitchen Scouring Powder  Store in a jar with a lid or shaker jar.

  • borax powder-sprinkle on damp sponge or cloth and wipe.  Great for porcelain & fiberglass.  Removes soap scum and hard water deposits, eliminates odors.
  • Add 1/4 cup borax powder in bottom of dishwasher to enhance dish cleaning.
  • Scrubbing power-baking soda full strength makes a great scouring powder.  Mix with enough water to make a paste.  Pots, pans, tea pots, coffee & tea stains in cups, glasses, stove top.
  • Herbal Scrub-To 1 cup baking soda, add 1/2 cup dried & coarsely ground sage, 1/4 cup dried ground rosemary, 1/4 cup borax. Mix and store in shaker top container.  Essential oils can be added to enhance cleaning:  tea tree oil, citrus oil, thyme or rosemary oil, lavender oil.
  • Spice Scrub-To 1 cup baking soda add 3 tsp ground cinnamon and 3 drops orange/orange blossom essential oil.

Lemony Kitchen Cleaner

  • 1 tsp liquid castile soap
  • 1/8 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 drops citrus seed extract
  • 4 drops citrus essential oil
  • 1 tsp borax
  • Combine in a spray bottle.  Shake well before use.

Laundry Powder  Recipe can be doubled or tripled to make larger quantities.

  • 1 Cup Soap flakes (Fels Naptha bar (grated) or Ivory)
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup borax
  • Use 1 Tbsp light loads or 2 Tbsp heavy loads
  • Use 1/2 cup per wash load.  White Vinegar can be added as an effective fabric softner.

Liquid Laundry Soap

  • 1/3 bar Fels Naptha bar soap grated
  • 4 cups water
  • Mix till soap is dissolved.
  • Add
  • 1/2 cup borax
  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1 1/2 gallon water
  • Mix till all ingredients are incorporated.  Set 24 hours to gel, then ready for use.
  • Use 1/2 cup regular wash load or 1 cup heavy dirt load.

General Floor Cleaner 

  • 1 cup white vinegar mixed with 1 gallon water.  Essential Oil may be added for fragrance.

Wood Floors  Damp mopping wood floors

  • Equal portions white vinegar and water
  • 15-20 drops pure peppermint oil
  • Shake to mix.

Furniture Polish

  • Varnished wood:  1/2 cup warm water & few drops of lemon oil.  Mix and spray onto soft cloth.  Wipe then finish with dry cloth.
  • Unvarnished wood:  Mix 2 tsp olive oil with 2 tsp lemon juice.  Apply to small cotton cloth.  Wring to spread mixture further into the cloth.  Apply with wide strokes.
  • Dusting Aid: 1/2 cup Murphys Oil Soap, 3/4 cup water, 5 drops citrus oil, 15 drops cedar oil.  Mix in spray bottle and shake before use. Finish with dry cloth.

Furniture Cleaner

  • 1 Tblsp or 1 bag raspberry tea
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • Make tea and steep for 15 minutes.  Strain.  Combine all ingredients into spray bottle and mix.  Spray cloth and wipe.  Finish with dry cloth.

Window Cleaner

Mix 2 tsp white vinegar with 1 quart water.  Spray on window and wipe with black and white newspaper or microfiber cloth.  Avoid sunny days as this leads to streaking.

These are just a few recipes for cleaning solutions you can make at home that are safe, inexpensive and green.  Remember you can substitute essential oils to your preference, but thyme, rosemary, citrus, tea tree, sage, and lavender do have disinfectant qualities.  Essential oils can be purchased at retail or craft stores and ordered online.

Remember to test surfaces prior to use with cleaner, to make sure they do not damage finishes.  Best of luck with these cleaners and happy simple living!

Posted in DIY, Household, Life's Simple Pleasures, Recipe, Seasonal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Means Cleaning, the Natural Way!

Every spring I get the urge to clean, clean, clean!  Winter in Indiana means spending too much time indoors, tracking in mud, snow, dirt, and dealing with dust from the furnace running all the time.  As soon as there is even a glimpse of spring, I get ready to clean the house room by room, from ceiling to floor.  The first step is to gather the necessary cleaning essentials and then create the attack plan.

I believe in cleaning the natural way whenever possible.  I have sensitive skin, asthma, and a special needs child, so chemical cleaners do not exist in my home.  I also believe we need to be good stewards of the earth and do all we can to protect it for our children and grandchildren.  As a farmers daughter I developed a close relationship with the land.  I know if I take care of my land, it will in turn take care of me.  It is to my advantage to protect it from contamination or abuse.  With that said, I use only natural products to clean my house.  They work effectively, are inexpensive,  and are readily available at the grocery store.

Let’s begin with gathering the necessary cleaning essentials.  What do you need to clean your house?  If you are going to make your own cleaning agents, you will need containers to store them in.

  • Plastic squirt bottles, plastic spray bottles, and shaker top containers are helpful items to store and dispense your cleaning agents effectively.
  • Coffee containers with lids and wide-mouth glass mason jars are great for storing powders, pastes, and waxes.
  • Cotton or microfiber cloths are great cleaning tools and can be washed and reused again and again.
  • Rags can be made from old t-shirts, or discarded cotton items such as clothing or sheets.  Discarded towels and washcloths take on new life as rags.
  • Natural scrubbing pads
  • 2 gallon cleaning bucket
  • broom, mop, sweeper, and steam-cleaner
  • old toothbrushes, and cleaning brushes of various sizes and shapes

Essential Oils and Herbs

Essential oils and herbs have cleaning qualities as well as aesthetic  benefits. Gather a few items to begin with, then add additional items over time to prevent budget busting.

Some good essential oils to start with are: lemon, lime, or sweet orange, tea tree,  peppermint, lavender, & rosemary.

Good herbs to gather are: basil, lavender, lemon balm, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme.  These herbs are easy to grow (except lavender) and I will address growing your own herbs in a later post.  I generally use dried herbs when preparing cleaning agents but when they are growing outside, its easy to clip and use fresh when making all varieties of cleaning formulas.

Cleaning Agents-Your local grocery should have most everything you need.

  • White vinegar; I buy vinegar by the case and store
  • lemon juice
  • Baking Soda-can be purchased in 10 pound bags and stored
  • Borax-Check out 20 Mule Team Borax
  • Washing Soda-Check out Arm and Hammer’s brand
  • Fels Naptha bar soap, Castile Liquid Soap, Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • Cream of Tartar

Items found at craft or specialty stores and on-line:

  • Beeswax
  • Lanolin, glycerin
  • Diatomaceous earth-available at garden, hardware, and agricultural supply stores.  It is a powder made from the skeletons of fossilized algae and is used to kill soft-bellied insects and as a scouring powder.  Most toothpastes contain diatomaceous earth.
  • Citrus Seed Extract

The Attack Plan

I find when faced with a large project it is always best to break it down into smaller chunks.  This makes success come quicker and prevents burn-out from taking over. When cleaning the house, I clean room by room.  I prioritize by listing the most frequently used rooms first because life feels much easier when our environment is clean and uncluttered. The next step is to be aware of what actually should be cleaned. Remember to clean from top down to prevent going back over what you have already cleaned because debris fell on it from previous cleaning.

Here are suggestions of cleaning approach order.  Please remember to be aware of how to safely clean the textiles, wall coverings, furniture and floors in your home!

  • Ceilings-sweep.  Paint if you want to freshen the look.  In the bathroom I might need to remove mildew with hydrogen peroxide and water.
  • Ceiling light fixtures and bulbs
  • Window dressings-sweep, wash, dry clean or replace.
  • Walls-sweep and wash.  Paint to freshen look or touch up scratches. Replace light switch covers as needed.
  • Windows-wash inside and out including the sash. Wash screens, fix or repair as necessary.
  • Furniture-dust, sweep, steam clean, wash, & polish as necessary.
  • Room lighting-shades swept & wiped with cloth or replaced, lamp fixtures wiped, bulbs wiped or replaced.
  • Remove clutter.
  • Floors and floor moldings.

Specific Room Ideas

The Kitchen is the hub of our home and gets cleaned frequently throughout the year.  A thorough annual cleaning always makes me happy though.

  • Cabinets washed/polished.  Cleaning the inside of cabinets is done when I have the energy and motivation. Remember to gift/discard/donate  items rarely used to reduce clutter.
  • Appliances cleaned inside and out: refrigerator, dishwasher, stove top and oven, range hood, microwave.
  • Walls, back splash (especially near stove), & counters washed and polished if appropriate.
  • The sink and facets washed and polished if appropriate.

The Bathroom must be clean or I will not use it!  It gets a good cleaning every week but annual cleaning gets the walls and cabinets clean too.

  • Tub and sink; now is the time to clean and polish these surfaces.  I wax the sink and tub to make weekly cleaning easier.  It also restores the finish to a glossy shine.
  • Toilet; go the extra mile and wipe every surface.  You might think of cleaning the water tank too to remove rust and mineral deposits.  Replace the tank hardware if things are not working quite right.
  • Cabinets, mirrors, and light fixtures.  Dust, wash, polish, as needed.  Now would be a good time to go through cabinets and drawers to remove items not needed or rarely used.  Supplies can be organized into baskets, containers, and drawer organizers.
  • Old medication.  Check with your local pharmacy or police department to see if they collect outdated medications to properly dispose.  Do not flush medications down the toilet or throw away in the trash!

The Bedroom is another room that needs special attention.  This room is responsible for providing an environment that ensures peace, tranquility, and quality sleep.  Don’t forget this room on your spring cleaning binge!

  • Window coverings and windows.
  • Walls, furnace vents and air return vents.  I remove the vent and sweep the duct as well as the grate.
  • Bedroom furniture.
  • Bed coverings and mattresses.  I use a steam cleaner to thoroughly wash traditional mattresses each year, then air dry.  We have a waterbed which needs conditioner added to it each year.  While I have the bed stripped I wash the surface with a gentle cleaner then spray with a disinfectant.
  • Closets and drawers.  Now is the time to wipe down surfaces and while you have the clothes out, sort and recycle items out-of-size, or not worn for the past year.  Replace lost buttons, fix or replace broken zippers, etc.  so what you do have is usable.

The Laundry Room or laundry area should be a quick clean.  The most important thing to consider are cleaning the washer and dryer themselves.

  • Wipe all outside surfaces.  Carnauba paste car wax can be applied to the outer surfaces to provide protection.
  • The inside should be cleaned in both appliances.  Wipe the dryer drum and clean the lint catcher.  Washing the lint catcher gently with a toothbrush will remove small particles trapped in the screen.
  • The washer tub can be cleaned by running a wash cycle with the addition of borax or washing soda. Adding white vinegar to the rinse will aid cleaning.  After the completion of the wash cycle, wipe the drum with a clean cloth to remove resilient washing detergent or fabric softener.  The fabric softener dispenser also needs to be cleaned.  Take it apart and remove any buildup.  Use something that works on grease as most liquid softeners are oil based.  Washing soda is a good choice. Toothbrushes come in handy for small spaces.

Other Living Areas-Living Room, Dining Room, Family Room, Hallways and Stairwells also need attention.  Use the ceiling to floor model in these areas and don’t forget the nick-nacks, bookshelves, and pictures that adorn the walls and shelves.

The Basement also needs cleaning.  Don’t let 10 years of life collect in  your basement like me, and then be faced with a daunting task!  Look for a future post sharing my success at cleaning the basement.

Putting it all together

Gather your cleaning agents and supplies, prioritize room cleaning in order of your preference, check for suggested cleaning approaches for the textiles, wall coverings, furniture, and floors in your home; then set a time-line to get the job completed.  Don’t be afraid to enlist family members to help with the task because they live in your house too and will be responsible for the cleaning of their own homes one day.

Look for Spring Cleaning Part Two in the near future. I will provide natural cleaning product recipes to be made at home.


Posted in activities, DIY, Health, Household, Life's Simple Pleasures, motivation, Organization, Recipe, Seasonal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yummy Make Ahead Italian Meatball Recipe

Big batches are great for freezing.

Big batches are great for freezing.

Meatballs are not one of my favorite things to make, so when I do,  I make plenty to freeze for later use.   I always mix the meat and ingredients with my hands.  I don’t like the texture or the coldness of the mixture, but unfortunately I am one of those people who don’t trust anything else other than my hands to get the job done right.  It’s the texture that tells me when its mixed adequately. Some people wear plastic gloves; makes sense for people like me.

A few years ago I bought a cookie dough scoop to create uniform cookies.  This scoop works in just the same way to make uniform meatballs that cook like a dream. Add the silpat sheet to the baking tray and now making meatballs is quick and easy!

Italian Meatballs

Meatballs just out of the oven.  Use immediately or cool and package in plastic bags for the freezer.  Label and date.

Meatballs just out of the oven. Use immediately or cool and package in plastic bags for the freezer. Label and date.

3 pounds 80 % ground beef (feel free to create your own mix of ground meats)

1 egg

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup Italian shredded cheese (parmesan, romano)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp black coarsely ground pepper (I use butcher ground pepper)

1/2 tsp garlic granules

1 package french onion soup mix (or 1/4 cup bulk mix)

1-2 tsp Italian spice mix

1/2 tsp ground mustard

1/4 cup ketchup

5-10 squirts hot sauce, or flavor to your taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until meat is uniform and easily makes a ball.  Using the cookie dough scoop, or a tablespoon, spoon the meat balls onto a baking tray.  I use my standard size heavy-duty cookie sheet purchased from E & S Bulk Sales, an Amish bulk foods supply in Shipshewana, Indiana.  It cost about 7 dollars and works wonderfully!!! To make clean up easy, line the sheet with a silpat, aluminum foil, or parchment paper.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until evenly browned.

Meal Suggestions

Begin with your favorite green leaf salad, and add one of the following:

Spaghetti or fettucine with browned butter and mizithra cheese (of the Old Spaghetti Factory menu), or

Spaghetti or fettucine with red (tomato base) or white (alfredo) sauce of your choice.

Pasta is good with mushrooms, sliced sweet peppers, onions, shredded and steamed carrots or zucchini, broccoli, celery, or any vegetable of your choice.

Decide what your family size portion should be.  Remove as much air as possible without squishing the meatballs.  Label and date the package.  Pop in the freezer for a quick week night meal!

Decide what your family size portion should be. Remove as much air as possible without squashing the meatballs. Label and date the package. Pop in the freezer for a quick week night meal!



A Food Saver vacuum sealer is worth the investment, in my opinion,  if you freeze much produce or meat.  Items stay perfect in the freezer without freezer burn for months, unlike traditional freezer zip-lock bags.  As you can see however, I do use zip-lock bags for items I know will be used within a few months time. Cool the meatballs before placing in the freezer to reduce the energy needed to freeze them.



This recipe is a winner with  my family and I can now look forward to an easy and tasty meal in the near future, thanks to the packages of meatballs in my freezer.  Preparing your own food at home is such a rewarding and simple pleasure of life.  Share the process with your kids and help them learn nutritious and healthy eating styles to last a lifetime!







Posted in activities, DIY, food preservation, Household, Life's Simple Pleasures, Recipe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grains make a Wonderful Comfort Chowder

I made a great tasting chowder today and want to share it with others that love grains as much as I do!  It’s a one-pot soup that takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to prepare.  The ingredients are simple and found in most home pantries. The recipe is flexible so don’t be afraid to experiment using ingredients you have available.  It is nutritious, delicious, stores well, freezes well, and demonstrates the joy of cooking at home; one of life’s simple pleasures!

Barley, Brown Rice, Lentil, and Quinoa Chowder

Fill a stock pot with approximately 1 gallon of chicken, beef, or vegetable broth. Bring to boil over high heat.  Add 1 cup of dried barley and 1 cup of brown rice and bring back to boil.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Add 1 cup lentils and 1 cup quinoa.  Stir to incorporate and add additional water if necessary.

Chop vegetables and add to pot. Generally a cup or 1 1/2 cups each is good.  Some great ideas are: carrots, celery, onion, sweet pepper, kale, spinach, green beans, sugar snap peas, etc.  Choose your favorites and simmer until lentils and veggies are soft.  Season with salt, pepper, or spice of your choice.    Serve with crackers, bread sticks or fried bread and salad greens.

To freeze:  Cool and pour into freezer container; leave 1 inch head space.  Mark contents and date on lid and freeze.  To use:  defrost in microwave or refrigerator and heat through.

Posted in activities, DIY, Health, Life's Simple Pleasures, Recipe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment