Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Favorite Cheeseball

Every party needs a cheeseball! This is my favorite one that I make for the holidays and any other festive occasion. It's perfect for a New Year's Eve Party. It hasn't occurred to me to take a picture of a cheese ball but this one I found on Google Images looks just like mine.

Favorite Cheeseball

8 oz. Cream Cheese
1 1/2 c. shredded cheese
1 pkg. dried or Chipped Beef
4 green onions, finely chopped
chopped walnuts

For the cup and a half of shredded cheese, I like to use 3 or 4 different kinds, like Cheddar, Swiss, some other flavorful white cheese and a tablespoon or two of Parmesean. The Cream Cheese needs to be soft enough to mash it all together with a fork. I buy those little 89 cent packages of thinly sliced Chipped Beef and chop it into tiny pieces - one package per cheese ball. Mix everything but the nuts, shape into a ball and then roll the ball in the chopped nuts.

Wheat Thins, Townhouse or other crackers that are lightly salty and don't have strong flavors of their own are best. If you're feeling ambitious, try my home made Wheat Thins (Nov. 3rd post). They're pretty quick and easy!

I hope your Christmas has been wonderful and your New Year is safe and filled with friends and good memories!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Christmas Gift Ideas

Do you have a little artist in you? Well, even if you don't think you do, try one of these out and surprise yourself! I think sometimes we think we don't have a certain talent, because we've never done it. One Christmas we tried some new ideas and found out there were talents lurking in our family that we didn't know we had!

Paint a flower pot
This flower pot was decorated by my youngest, Daniel, when he was 7. He gave it to his Grandma for Christmas and she put a nice plant in it. Decorate your pot with a picture or scene or flowers. If that's beyond your artistic abilities, paint bright colored stripes around the top and polka dots on the rest! When you're done decorating it, brush or spay on a clear coat to protect your paint from water and wear. This would be an attractive way for someone to grow fresh herbs in their kitchen window!

Paint a Shirt Design
Choose any shirt, and decorate it with craft paint. To show how simple your design can be, here's some that Nathan made for his brother Jacob and his dad. Click on the photo to see the detail better. It's just a very simple graphic design that anyone can do. He also put the little spiral sun graphic on the front of the shirt, up on the left side. Again, you're only limited by your imagination!

Draw a Picture
Jacob discovered a new talent! At 9, he had never really tried to draw anything significant. I took a pretty vase I have, sat it on the table, gave him some good sketch paper and a box of colored pencils, and challenged him to draw the vase. This is what he did. He surprised himself! I'll bet that if some of us just sit down and give it a try, we can do much better than we thought we could. Even if it's not perfect, I'm sure most of our family members or close friends would cherish a gift like this - one that we put our own self and effort into! I know Grampa and Grama cherish this picture from their grandson!

These gifts can be made for very little cost, and still mean a lot more to the recipient than an expensively purchased gift. Besides, we all need a little creative outlet. It's a great way to alleviate some holiday stress! So get out your pencils and paint brushes and have some fun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Reliant Self has won an AWARD!

Wow! I unexpectedly went out of town on VERY short notice this past week and have not had a chance to post. What a nice surprise to return to! Thank you Terria of Daily Good for honoring my blog with this award. Daily Good is a wonderful blog I have been following where Terria shows us ways to do greater good in our world and all the ways that other good people are making a difference, with links to their sites, and lots of other useful information. Please check it out!

The Best Blog Award rules:

To accept the award, you must post it on your blog along with the name of the person who has honored you with it, and include a link to his/her blog. Then the hard part - choose 15 other blogs from all the wonderful blogs that you have discovered and would like to honor with the same reward. Remember to contact each of the bloggers you choose and let them know you have awarded them. Include a link to your post with the rules so they will know what to do!

When I have chosen the 15 blogs that I would like to pass this award on to, I will post them for all you to check out and hopefully appreciate them like I have!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Self-Reliant Health - Echinacea

It's that time of year - lots of sweets and lots of sickness. Sugar immobilizes your white blood cells. They are your internal army; the guys that attack and kill the invaders, build better immunity and keep you healthy. We are exposed to germs and bacterias every day. If there is no defense in place to keep fighting them off, or a weakened defense, then the invaders over-take us.

To me, Christmas just isn't completely Christmas without the holiday treats that we only eat at this time of year! But we can still give our bodies all the help possible. Eat the sweets sparingly. Sugar on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Sugar and alcohol absorb into your system directly from the stomach. That's why they affect us so quickly. Everything else we eat has to go through the entire process of digestion, then absorption through the intestinal walls into millions of little capillaries until they are all channeled into the large renal artery that goes into the liver where the blood is purified before it carries the nutrients out the other side and distributes them throughout the body. (Whew!) So sugar hits your system hard and fast and literally paralyzes your immune system for as long as 24 hours. With all the new viruses and flues going around in addition to the common ones, that's pretty risky.

The good Lord has also provided us with many natural and healthy aids to strengthen and help our bodies in their fight for health. Echinacea is one of the most common and most easily accessible. Echinacea is a perennial with flowers that range in yellow, orange, pink or purple. It is also known as the Purple Cone Flower. Echinacea is native to North America and is easy to grow. I had some growing in my flower garden for several years and didn't know what it was. Medicinally, the entire plant is used. You can find it in just about any form: encapsulated, tincture, tablet, or bulk in either powdered or cut and sifted form. I keep capsules and tinctures on hand, but my preferred method of use is as a tea. I buy it in bulk (cut) and steep it in hot water. Add a little honey and you have a soothing tea that is absorbed quickly.

Many studies and laboratory tests have been done on the use of Echinacea. It is often referred to as an immune builder or a natural antibiotic. It helps to break up and expell mucous, which removes the best place for unwanted microbes to live, proliferate and spread. It's effectiveness can be increased when used with other herbs, also, depending on what kind of illness you are dealing with. I came across a study years ago that said the combination of Echinacea, Licorice Root and Thyme made a potent immune builder. I made a glycerite of the combination and gave a little daily to my children during cold and flu season. We got far less sickness than friends and neighbors around us and when someone did catch a cold or flu, it seemed to be mild and short-lived. It is a wonderful herb to decorate your flower garden with and learn to use. The day may come when we have only our own knowledge and resources to rely on in times of need.

We have used Echinacea for many years and reaped the benefit of this wonderful plant. When we first feel something "coming on", we take some Echinacea with a couple of capsules of Myrrh, and 9 times out of 10, we feel fine by morning. It helps our body to fight off the invader before it goes wild and we avoid the sickness. My 3 teenagers have never been to a doctor for any illness. Being self-reliant with your health saves a lot of money! I hope you all keep some Echinacea on hand, eat wisely, sleep well, and enjoy this wonderful season in good health!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Give the Gift of Preparedness

I was in Costco filling my cart not long ago, and an elderly woman pushed her cart up next to mine. Without looking at me, but focused on the same bulk food items I was perusing, she began quizzing me about my awareness of the state of things in the world. It was a little amusing at first, but I immediately recognized, and appreciated, her desire to spread awareness and incite an interest in others towards being more prepared. When I engaged her in the conversation, she enthusiastically bombarded me with a whirlwind synopsis of her opinions, storage inventory and bomb shelter schematics! She followed me to the check-out and continued warning and instructing me until I was out of sight. A true preparedness crusader!

Although most are not quite as energetic as her, I am amazed at how often others bring up the topic of being prepared and storing extra food and other things. It's quite comforting to know that I may not be the only one on the block with an extra bag of beans! Christmas is the perfect time to give the gift of preparedness and peace of mind. Especially when so many of us are struggling against the crumbling economy and our dollar only buys a fraction of what it did a few years ago. You may be surprised at how grateful friends or family may be to receive a gift that eases their load and worries a little.

Since my parents and siblings are as interested in being prepared as my husband and I are, we often give storage items to each other for Christmas. Here are a few ideas of things someone on your list may appreciate...
  • The holidays are one of the good times of the year to take advantage of sales. Since many baking and cooking items are on sale during the holidays, it's a great opportunity to stock up on vanilla (not imitation), nuts, aluminum foil, baking powder, seasonings, roasting bags or hot cocoa mix.
  • Give a nice Dutch Oven and include a few "lumps of coal", i.e. a bag of briquettes. When the power is out, a good Dutch Oven can still produce a wonderful gourmet meal.
  • A bucket of honey is a sweet gift. Find a good bulk source and pay half or less what you pay per pound for the small containters in the grocery store. You can get a good deal if you buy 5 or 10 buckets and give one to each family on your list.
  • A water purifier - one Christmas my mother gave us a "Big Berkey" water filter. It requires no electricity and doesn't need to be hooked to a faucet. It filters and purifies a couple of gallons of water at a time.
  • Give someone a 72-hour kit.
  • Give a water storage barrel to a family.
  • Give a bag of wheat and a hand grinder.
  • Give a radio that runs on solar power, batteries or hand crank.
  • Give First Aid kits for a car or home.
  • Give a food dehydrator.
  • Give some Heirloom seeds to someone who loves to garden.
  • Give any food items. Buy in bulk and save lots of money... a 25 lb. bag of rice, beans or oats, 50 lbs of wheat, a bag or #10 cans of powdered milk, a case of canned peaches... Or give some "luxury" items that they may not be able to buy very often, like a large jug of pure Maple syrup.
  • Give a nice tool kit for home or auto repair to someone who doesn't have one. Maybe a college student or young couple just starting out.
  • Give some gardening tools and book on gardening.
  • If they have propane heat, give a gift card for a tank refill.
  • Most people don't know that you can pay utility bills in advance. If someone is struggling, pay a month or two in advance of their gas or electric service.
  • Give a gas coupon at a local filling station.
  • Give some warm blankets or a quilt.
  • Give a camp cook stove and some fuel for it.
  • Give a fire safety ladder to someone with a 2-story house.
  • Give some flashlights and extra batteries.
  • Give a solar oven.
  • Give some nice work gloves.
  • Give a tent or other camping supplies.
  • Give a heavy-duty snow shovel and set of jumper cables.
You get the idea. As you consider each person or family you care about on your list this Christmas, try to think of something they would appreciate that will benefit them in some way.
Help them to be a little more prepared for the hard times that we are in, and the even harder times that seem to be on their way.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gifts - Christmas Tic-Tac-Toe

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! My entire family traveled to Washington to celebrate with my sister and her family who have finally moved into a beautiful new home they've worked on for 3 years! We were grateful to all be together.

Christmas is only 3 weeks away! I love this time of year. One of my most favorite Christmas memories was the year we gave all home-made gifts. My boys were still pretty young - it was several years ago - but luckily I took a few photos of some of the gifts we made.

One of the funnest projects was the Tic-Tac-Toe games. For the board, our neighbor used his scroll saw to cut out the basic shape. We sanded and painted them. Some we made out of salt dough. The playing pieces were all made out of salt dough.

My oldest son made a pond with ducks and frogs for the playing pieces. We sewed simple draw-string carrying bags from extra material we had on hand.

My second son was a little younger and had trouble making frogs so he made brown ducks and yellow ducks. They each drew out on paper the size and shape they wanted the board to be for the pond.

My youngest son, who was only 7, made green and yellow apples on a red apple board. A simple round ball of dough, slightly flattened on the bottom and a little piece pressed into the top for a stem. One game had a wooden board and the other playing board he made from salt dough. We drew the lines on with a permanent marker.

Of course, the only limits to what you can make is your own imagination! You could make frogs that sit on a lily pad instead of a pond, bugs on a leaf, little cars on roads, flowers on grass, stars and moons on a night sky, buttons on a shirt, eggs in a nest or fruit on a tree! They really are easy to make and come to life when you paint them.

The basic Salt Dough recipe is:

2 c. plain white flour
1 c. table salt
3//4 c. water

Knead the dough until it is smooth and doesn't stick to your hands or other surfaces. If it is still too sticky, flour your hands and the kneading surface and mix it a little more.

Adding a drop or two of cooking oil will give your dough a little more stretchiness. Some people add a small amount of Elmer's glue or dry wallpaper paste powder. A tablespoon of lemon juice will help to make the finished product a little harder. You can experiment with it to find the recipe you like. We just used the basic recipe.

If you want to color your dough first, add some acrylic paint and mix it in. Food coloring works really well, if you can mix it without coloring your hands! You can also color it with cocoa or instant coffee or spices that have a lot of color, like curry. After the dough is dried, you can paint it with just about any kind of paint you want.

The sculpted dough can be left to dry naturally, which can take a couple of days for thicker items. The oven method only takes a few hours but you have to be careful not to dry it too quickly, or too hot, or your sculptings could bubble or crack. Set the oven to no more than 200 f. (or about 100 c.) All sides have to dry and it has to be dry clear to the center of the thickest parts.

Salt dough is making a comeback as a popular craft medium again and is a great way to make Christmas gifts that are personal and fun. You can make refrigerator magnets, Christmas Tree ornaments, a pencil holder, a small plaque, wreath or other decoration to hang on the wall, or any knick-knack to sit on a desk or shelf. It's a fun project for adults or kids and costs very little. When you make a creation, you are giving a little of yourself to someone you care about!

Here are a few ideas from others (taken from Google Images):


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