Tuesday, April 15, 2014


The bad news is that this will be my last post on this blog. It has been fun sharing by life through pictures and stories on here, but it is time to move on. The good news is this is not the end. You can still follow my crazy adventures over on my farm blog. It  has simply become too complicated to keep up two separate blogs. I was making the mistake of double posting both here and there and now I have a big mess. So now I am going to work towards integrating both blogs into one, possibly moving to a new blogging platform, and hopefully making it easy for you to subscribe to either my more personal posts, my more farm related posts, or both. Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you will enjoy the farm blog just as well.  Come visit it at: http://engells-simplegiftsfarm.blogspot.com/

My little boys helping plant hazelnut bushes this spring.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Winter Blog Update

It has been a little while since I have posted anything. But I have some good excuses, really I do. First off we have been down in California visiting my family and we were having way too much fun to post anything! Secondly I am not sure what I am going to do with this blog and have been avoiding posting until I get it figured out. You see I have two blogs. One for the farm and one more personal. Well I have been happily going along posting to both of them and often double posting to both of them. Uh-oh, little did I know that was a big mistake. Apparently duplicate content can negatively affect how your sites show up in search engines. Thanks to my friend Gretchen I am now aware of the error of my ways, but I am still not sure what to do about it. I might keep both blogs separate, but delete the duplicate posts or I might try to merge the two together and only have one blog. Oh the agony of deciding! I am still undecided, but decided to go ahead and post for now.
So as I was saying we went down to California for a visit with my family. It was such a relaxing and refreshing time for us after our crazy, busy year of farming. The sunshine and sea breezes were just what we needed. While down there we relaxed, visited family and friends, played games, went to the beach several times, went window shopping in a couple of cute villages, went out for coffee, stayed up late watching movies, took the boys to the zoo, sat on the back porch, visited farmer's markets, and just relaxed.
I also turned 30 years old while down there. It is hard to believe that I am that old already. I had a very nice birthday. Andrew took me out for breakfast and I got crepes, my favorite! After that we went shopping in San Luis Obispo. We didn't buy anything but had lots of fun looking in all the shops downtown and going to the mall.
Now that we are home I am feeling motivated to get back on schedule and get organized. Spring will be here again before we know it, I'd better get ready for it!

My amazing sister playing two games at once. Hand and foot
with us and Uno with David

The boys had a horse ride on Misty, my old pony.
Blood Oranges are so beautiful

Drinking Tea with Aunt Melissa
The table on the back porch set for a tea party.

Two Cute Boys!

Looking at the parrots at the zoo.

Watching little animals at the zoo.
Looking at the Sea Elephants

Watching the Sea Elephants
Sea Elephants laying on the beach

At Morro Bay

Playing in the sand

Digging in the sand

Toes in the sand

Running in the waves

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Simple Safe Household Cleaner

Having children has made me reevaluate many of the things I do around the house. When it comes to cleaning my house I only want to use products that are safe and non-toxic. I don't want my kids or even myself around all the harsh and toxic chemicals that are in conventional cleaning products. I have been pleasantly surprised by how simple and easy it can be to make many cleansers myself. White vinegar is one of my favorite all purpose household products. Recently I discovered the idea of soaking leftover citrus peels in it and using that as an all purpose cleaner. It works great in the kitchen or the bathroom. It cleans up my greasy stove nicely and is great on my cabinets, mirrors, etc. I have made it with orange, lime or lemon peels, and they have all turned out great. They each add a pleasing scent to the vinegar plus they have great antibacterial properties and help cut grease. The last batch I made with lemon peels and added a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. I think you could make several combinations of citrus and herbs depending on what you wanted. Many herbs have their own antibacterial properties and with a little research you could decide which ones you wanted to use. The process to create this cleaner is so simple!

What you will need: glass jar, any size you want distilled white vinegar citrus peels of your choice a few branches of fresh herbs if desired spray bottle strainer and funnel

Method: Simply place leftover citrus peels in the jar. Gently press down and cover with vinegar. Screw on a lid and let sit for about 3 weeks. Strain vinegar into an empty spray bottle. Use full strength on surfaces such as greasy stovetops or dilute with half water for cleaning mirrors.

Here are a few herbs you might like to add:
Thyme - has antibiotic and disinfectant properties
Sage - effective on germs and also has many anti-fungal properties
Rosemary - anti-microbial properties
Lavender – disinfectant, antiseptic, natural antibiotic properties
Peppermint - antibacterial properties
Cinnamon Sticks - anti-fungal and anti-microbial

Lemon peels and fresh rosemary in white vinegar

After sitting for 3 weeks simply strain into a spray bottle

The finished product!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Baking Gingerbread

 Baking cookies and treats is always a special activity to enjoy this time of year. The other day the boys and I made some fun gingerbread cutout cookies. We have all sorts of fun cookie cutters; including a snowman, snowflakes, a train, and even a hummingbird. I made a small batch of dough because while baking with little children is fun, it can also be quite a challenge- and a mess! I certainly didn't want to spend all day or have it take so long that everybody got grouchy. It was just right. We had enough dough to cut out a couple of each shape and we ran out just as the little fellows started getting tired of it. When the cookies were baked we set them aside to cool (and to take a break). Later in the evening we all sat down and painted them with powdered sugar icing. When I was younger and didn't have children I would have wanted them all to be artistic and perfect. Needless to say I gave that ideal up a long time ago, which is a good thing because now I can do things like this for fun and not worry about it.  David had lots of fun spreading the paint on his cookies, Matthew had one to munch on, I made mine as artistic as possible, and we even got Andrew to paint a few!

Two Happy Little Boys
A Train!

David Ready to Paint Cookies

Cookie Icing

David; Proud of his cookie!

The Gingerbread; All Done

Saturday, December 07, 2013

10 Degrees Outside

It is about ten degrees outside. I have absolutely no desire to go out there. My ideas of perfect activities on such a cold day includes reading books on the couch, making crafty things, and drinking hot chocolate. The boys however think otherwise. David keeps begging to go out to play, while Matthew brings his boots over to me every few minutes indicating that he wants me to put them on him. Finally I reluctantly bundle them and myself all up. The snow pants, the coats, the hats, the gloves, the boots. It takes at least ten minutes to get everyone ready for what I know will probably only be about five minutes of outdoor fun. It feels like such a chore. But when we finally make it outside it is worth it. It is worth it to see the sparkle in their eyes, the rosy glow on their cheeks, and the smile on their faces. Even though it does only last five minutes before they are cold and ready to go back inside.


Friday, December 06, 2013

Paper Lanterns

Paper Lanterns
On these colder, darker days of winter we need to do all we can to brighten and cheer our homes. I love the cozy glow of the fire in the woodstove and the soft radiance of strands of white lights hung around the house. Something I saw several years ago at someone's house was a strand of origami paper lanterns. They were so lovely. And so simple. All it was, was a set of origami boxes/ balloons on a strand of white Christmas lights. I already knew how to make the little origami boxes/ balloons so I decided to make myself a set. The first set I made was actually a bit expensive because I went and bought two packages of fancy origami paper. This time I only spent about five dollars, $2 on a strand of twenty white lights, and $3 on a 100 pack of colorful 6"x6" scrapbook paper. Scrapbook paper is ideal for this project; it comes in just the right size, a variety of beautiful colors and patterns, and you can get a whole book of it for a few dollars. It is a simple project to do. It only requires some time and quite a bit of paper folding. During a movie is the perfect time to do it. If you want to make a set for yourself, here is how.

Start with a strand of 20 white lights and a pack of 6"x6" scrapbook paper

Take out one sheet of 6"x6" scrapbook paper
1. Fold paper in half diagonally
2. Open up and fold diagonally the other direction
3. Bring the corner of the triangle up to the center point
4. Bring the other corner up to form a square

5. Open paper up so inside is facing you
6. Begin to bring the two creases on opposite sides of the paper together
7. As they come together it will form into two triangles
8. Flatten and place on the table

9. Bring the two corners up to point. Flip over and do the same for other
two corners, forming a square.

10. Fold two corners of square in, meeting at the center,
repeat on other side.

11. Next fold free corner and tuck into previously folded corner.
Repeat for all four.

12. Pull open slightly. Find the end with the hole and gently blow
in a puff of air until the balloon inflates.
13. Insert white light into the hole. Jiggle gently until it is on securely.
Now make 19 more and you have a whole strand!

The Finished  Light Strand

Pretty Lanterns Hanging Above My China Cabinet

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Winter Morning Breakfast

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Scones
We have been putting a new roof on our house the last few days. There are multiple reasons we needed to do it before winter; including the fact that moisture was getting in through some areas and that we are building an addition on the back of the house and wanted to tie the roof into that. So it has been a little bit of a rush against time to get it all done before the weather turns nasty. This morning I was up early helping Andrew blow insulation into the attic space so he could get the blower back to Spokane in time to not have to pay another day of rental fees. It was very cold and crisp out this morning. There was a thin covering of snow on the ground and thick crystals of frost on everything.
I decided that fresh baked scones and a steaming cup of coffee would be the perfect breakfast treat after working outside on a cold winter morning. Scones are so quick and easy to whip up and I love making them in different flavors to suit my mood. This time I made peppermint chocolate chip scones. It seemed very wintery and festive. They turned out delicious and were just the thing along with a cup of coffee to warm us up.

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Scones

Makes 8 scones

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon. salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 1/2 tablespoons cold butter
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 -1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add chopped cold butter and cut in with pastry cutter or hands until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add egg, milk, and peppermint extract. Mix until just combined. Add chocolate chips. Knead until dough forms into a ball. Flatten dough into a circle on a floured cutting board. Cut into eight triangles and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 12- 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm with a cup of tea or coffee.