in praise of fruit cake

Sorry I haven’t written lately. Been working hard on creating a plan for our future!

When you read the title you cringed – admit it. Perhaps the joke about using it as a door stop was recalled. Maybe you even remember seeing it on the Christmas table at your grandmother’s house, dreading the moment she would ask if you had tried some.

I love fruit cake! Let me rephrase that, I love the fruit cake my mother makes, and since then, my sister and I have learned to make (although my hubby still says ick because he’s a ninny). There is a disconnect between the reality of great fruit cake and its legend.

I have had some of the fruit cakes that have the candied fruit peels or other candied fruits. I have had some of the fruit cakes that are buried beneath brandy or rum. I have had the strange tasting fruit cake that comes in a box from the rack at the grocery stores that has barely enough fruit to call it fruit cake. Given this rundown of the average fruit cake, I understand your trepidation about fruit cake.

My favorite cookbook “Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook” has a recipe for fruit cake that when you separate the name from it, doesn’t look that bad if you like candied fruit. It even has a option of “or snipped mixed dried fruit”. That is the main key – dried fruit instead of candied fruit. Another problem is the spices – not everyone enjoys the Christmas combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.

How many of you like Lara Bars? How many of you love a chewy granola fruit and nut bar? How many of you adore trail mix? Let me introduce you to the real fruit cake. Its calorie content just about matches the Lara Bar. I’m baking some now to add into my healthy eating as a daily snack because it is a great mix of fruit and nuts.

img_4902This recipe I got from my sister, who modified it slightly from my mother, has dates, almonds, walnuts, raisin, cherries, whole wheat flour, honey, eggs, orange juice, orange zest, baking powder, and salt. Sounds good doesn’t it? Today I enhanced it even more. I added in oats, sunflower seeds, apricots, and prunes – I left out the cherries because I didn’t have any. Look at it! It looks like trail mix or granola before you bake it. I bake it in loaves, but I wonder if I could do it like bars, then cut them into portion sizes – just like a granola bar. Portion sized ready to eat!

I asked my mom about the recipe at an inconvenient moment. They were out RVing across the country. No recipe because who makes fruit cake in an RV. She is not sure where she got the original recipe – maybe a magazine, but she altered it and played with the recipe. She switched it to whole wheat flour and dried fruit instead of candied. She also prefers orange juice to brandy or rum. I come by my desire to alter recipes naturally. She also pointed out that it should really sit in the fridge wrapped in orange juice soaked cheesecloth at least 1 month to help it truly come together.

So here is the recipe for those of you who are now dying to enter the realm of Fruit Cake aka a wholesome fruit and nut bar.

1.5 cups almonds (mom prefers whole – I used sliced)
1.5 cups walnuts
(substitute 3 cups nuts of your choice – I added sunflower seeds to the other nuts)
2 cups dates
1 cup raisins
1 jar cherries (mom like adding maraschino for color and moisture)
(substitute 3.5 cups dried fruit of your choice – I added prunes and apricots to the other fruit)
1 teaspoon orange zest (I used 5 drops orange essential oil)
3/4 cup flour (we prefer whole wheat – I’ve never had this recipe any other way)
(not in the recipe but I added 1/2 cup old fashioned oats)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix together the above ingredients then add

3/4 cup sugar or honey (I prefer honey)
3 beaten eggs
2 teaspoons brandy, rum, or orange juice (mom prefers orange juice)

Mix together well.

Line 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper. Press into pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1.75 hours. Once cool, remove from pan. Soak cheesecloth in orange juice, brandy, or rum. Wrap around bread, then wrap in tin foil. Age in fridge 2-4 weeks. My sister and I can never wait for it to age.

Welcome to the world that is what I call fruit cake – or fruit and nut bars.

Link-Clicker’s Paradise 11/9/16

The morning after election Tuesday I did not want to read any more about the election and individuals celebration or mourning. Instead I pulled my Facebook feed into Pages Feed (setting found on your left sidebar near the top if you are using a computer browser).

Then I started clicking:

Gluten Free Scottish Oat Scones

Slow Cooker Recipes

12 Days to a Simpler Holiday Season

Almond Joy Oat Bars (Soft & Chewy!)

No-Bake Peanut Butter Oat Bars Recipe

Peanut Butter Chocolate No-Bake Granola Bar Bites

(No Bake) Healthy Breakfast Cookies

In the Garden: What to do in November

Easy and Easier: Slow Cooker Mexican Lasagna

5 Easy Extracts for Flavoring Baking and Cooking

What makes you happy in the midst of turmoil?

Link-Clickers Paradise 10/25/16

In pursuit of wool dryer balls I know I must clean, comb/brush, and felt my wool. And so here I go to discover the wonder of of it all.

I’m going to overwhelm you on this one.

Guide to Processing Wool. I was so excited to find this piece of information. It has gotten me to a point where I know so much more about processing wool and I’ve only read the first 4 pages.

ehow’s guide to felting wool. Simple, but interesting to see it needs to be worked for at least 10 minutes.

simple wikihow felting tutorial This actually shows the small balls to use for¬† jewelry and I totally want to make these. There’s that pesky 10 minute comment again.

Youtube flat felt tutorial. Interesting. 20 minutes? Wow! Starting to think I don’t have enough patience to make these dryer balls. I now know why everyone starts with roving – fewer steps, less time.

Frog & Count This actually is a how to clean wool. The ultimate problem for reading the internet is the continual link-clicking. Every time I click a link I am sleuthing my way through miles of information, each clue bringing me closer to my goal or further away depending on your perspective. I will need to revisit this site.

Combing wool with homemade combs. Sigh more sites that need further perusal.

Washing wool. Really people tell me to stop clicking already. So much to learn, so little time!

Wool processing. I’m noticing these web pages that seem old or dated. Not modern. Does that mean I’m old for wanting to do these things?

Pretty needle felted items. And it’s past my bedtime.

Felt. OK, I’m getting tired of this search – are you? I think I learned what I needed on the first 2 or 3 items. However, I will stay the course, maybe I’ll learn something vital!

More felt. I am interested in this site – they taught a kids group. I wonder if there is more to discover here.

Washing wool. Very detailed.

A site that appears more modern and talks about washing wool. Must explore more – later. It is getting so late.

Mother Earth News and how to make a felted rug. I love this magazine but for money reasons do not receive it in my home. Fortunately all their content appears on the internet! A treasure trove of old-timey fun. I am totally doing this rug method next time we shear our sheep!

Spinning daily site – to explore later.

Anoka fiber works. I was reminded of this by a fellow sheep fiber fanatic in our area. What a great resource. I still haven’t made it to their site, but I hope to soon.

Well kids. What have we learned today? I am easily distracted by interesting links – yes. I think I will be able to finish my wool dryer balls quite effectively soon.

Making It From Scratch: Wool Dryer Balls II

I really, really, really want to make wool dryer balls – have you noticed that yet? I have heard from people that they would “totally buy them from me” if I could only figure them out. Motivation! There is a demand; I MUST fill the need.

Problem #1: I do not have roving.
Roving is wool in a pre-yarn state of existence. It occurs after raw wool has been gently cleaned and brushed. From what I can tell, the fibers all go in one direction and are magically joined into a beautiful rope-like structure which can then be spun into yarn. Discovery #1: there are also many other pre-yarn states like rolag which is usually what is made when hand carding. However, all the dryer ball instructions start with roving or worse – an old wool sweater.

Problem #2: I do not have carding brushes.
Carding brushes are the instruments used to straighten out the wool and make it soft, fluffy, and I assume, formable into roving or rolag. From what I have seen of them, they are 8″x4″ and come in a set of 2. I have seen them for sale, but have not yet had the funds to purchase them. Discovery #2: Roving is not made from hand carding brushes, it is made with a carding drum. Sigh.

And yet, I am determined to overcome these hurdles and make my own dryer balls by forming my wool into something closely resembling roving. It may be an imperfect union. But where there is a demand; I MUST fill the need. Here is what I did.

I pulled out a tuft of wool. By tuft I mean a clump loosely the size of a salt shaker. I carefully pulled out tiny yarn sized bits, then split those in half, letting the ends cling together so that I had a double length of wool that was soft and filmy. I added these bits to a flat line which I built up to be about 24 inches long by 2 inches wide and maybe 1/4″ thick with all wool generally pointed horizontally. I staggered the wooly bits so that they would overlap. Then I carefully rolled it like pigs in a blanket (or should I say lambs in a blanket) and ended with something slightly resembling roving – yippee. I carefully wrapped these roving-like pieces around a wad of wool. I built up my wool balls this way until they were almost the size of softballs. I was uncertain if this would work so I did not make them actually as big as softballs and as I progressed they were closer in size to baseballs. These were then stuffed into old nylons, and separated from each other by rubber bands.

With two rows of lumpy caterpillar looking things complete; I added them to the dirty laundry bags. I was desperate to give this a try, but our washing machine was on the fritz, which meant a trip to the laundry mat. Running to the laundry mat is always a complicated endeavor. First it must be timed just right in the day because of school and work scheduling as well as other errands to be paired with this trip into town. It also requires ransacking the entire house top to bottom for all possible dirty laundry. Then all the laundry is sorted by color (we do 3 batches, Black/Red colors, Blue/Green colors, and whites) and stuffed into feed bags. Farmers life note: feed bags make great laundry bags, trash bags, and sometimes snow sleds.

Once ready to wash, I put them in hot loads with the colors (no bleach please). Then dried them. Pulling them from the dryer and peeling back the stockings was so exciting. They now appear to be dryer balls, but the light color ones did not felt (the way wool compacts and hold tight as it is washed and agitated in hot water) as much as they should have. The dark brown ones firmed up nicely, but they are not even baseball sized, so clearly I must do more, and I wonder if I were to wash the light color ones again if they would firm up more. Maybe if I wash them enough, they would firm up completely and I could just keep adding layers until they reach the proper size like a big ol gobstopper of wooly goodness?

Whatever they are, I think they are so pretty. I brought one to work to keep on my desk and have been dropping cedar wood essential oil on it. It is a lovely thing to pick up randomly and toss in the air and that smell, so peaceful.

I feel I am one step closer to fulfilling my dream of being the go to gal for dryer balls. For where there is a demand; I MUST fill the need.

Check back to see the thrilling conclusion in part III – or is it?


Link-Clicker Paradise 10.4.16

I love knowledge seeking. I am not always the best at implementing this new knowledge but I love to seek it. I like to watch as it piles up on the dining room table and slowly spreads to the kitchen counter, and fills the “Room of Requirement”. I enjoy collecting pages and links and bookmarks. Before online pin boards, I had 3-ring-binders full of pages I printed, copied, or clipped from magazines.

Because I know you will love clicking links as much as I do; I have decided to collect links where you can access them with me, and I can find them again. We can all claim together that it is in pursuit of knowledge and pretty things-while wasting hours online and letting the dishes and science experiments pile on the counter.

Today’s search brought to you by a pursuit of calm!

I will say up front that this is based on a straight up GoodSearch* list result and I did not filter out any nonYL oils. I get no benefit for posting these links and they are not endorsed by me (maybe I should look into getting credit for the links). If you want to help me out directly you can go to my essential oil site (this link will take you to young living oils, and because it is my link, if you order under me I get the benefits – plus we can be friends forever because you are now part of my team!), or come to my open house the first weekend of the month, or someday – buy from my online store (someday I will have things for sale online).

Let the link-clicking goodness begin! lists 3 oils found to be calming lists 21 commonly used oils lists 3 oils for animals & humans 13 oils to calm & relax

A quick tip for link-clicking. After performing a search, I will “Command” click all the links in the search (not the sale ones on top though). By holding command then clicking; it opens these links in a new tab but stays on the search page. Once all the links are clicked I can then close the search tab and visit all the sites. In case it matters, I browse in Firefox on a Mac. These tips may not work for you, but may be adjustable to fit your situation (pcs use Control) . 5 oils for stress relief instructions to create a 4-oil relaxing blend lists 15 popular oils top 10 oils for anxiety a blend for calming children This was not in my original search, but it lists 5 plants for bedrooms to help with insomnia. Very helpful! I am attending a class this weekend called Succulents & Oils – new post idea? Combining the right plants for the right amount of sunlight to be able to plant in bedrooms to use to diffuse oils!

How fun was that? Do you feel calmer? More able to focus? Or are those pending tabs distracting you from finishing this post? Maybe this was not a good idea. Maybe this will only lead to trouble. Close those tabs now. You do not need to be as distracted as me. You need to stay on my site and read my posts!

What will you do with this new information? I’m working out a blend based on these oil ideas. Once I finish them I will post my recipe, and even offer them for sale-maybe.

*Goodsearch is a search engine powered by Yahoo. It donates funds to whatever organization you goodsearch for. I goodsearch for MACMH a children’s positive mental health education organization.

Making It From Scratch: Wool Dryer Balls

It is 9:02 pm and I am staring at a blank website page. At the top of my screen there are no less than 20 tabs open and I just picked up my phone for one last search.

I am a link-clicker. I am an idea-sleuth.

There seems to be a gap in the knowledge pool (or my search engine is holding out on me). There are no truly from scratch ways to make dryer balls. Very important stuff – right?! All tutorials start with roving. I do not have roving. I have baa-baa black sheep 10 bags full of lovely lanolin-smelling raw wool.

I find myself in this situation more than I like. Yes you can find everything on the internet. Unfortunately the general public’s step one is not where I find myself: drowning in the passion of a new project with no idea how to reach the shore of completion.

When searching for something “from scratch”, I do not want to see the first ingredient is in a can, package, or otherwise made by someone else and do not get me started on bread flour or pastry flour.

My first idea was to stuff a bunch of wool in two socks, tie it in each, and send it through the washing machine. Once washed I just left the wool in the socks and let them merrily tumble through a month of dryer loads.

Until now, when I really want to have many dryer balls to share with friends. So I took off the sock (I am still uncertain where the second one is – perhaps it has joined the merry millions on the lost sock island).

Look it worked (almost), if you are unmotivated want to make your own dryer balls – just stuff a large handful of wool in a sock, then wash and dry it.

If, however, you are looking for a way to impress your friends with your wool-bally prowess, you will want to read my follow-up post! Which will be the result of at least 40 more internet tabs as I attempt to discover the secret first step.

Eve’s Oils

Less than 1 week to plan the perfect party, while fighting a household full of colds, and canning all the tomatoes? Sure? While I am at it maybe dryer balls would be fun to make from the raw wool still in bags in my attic cupboard and maybe I can research all the home made oily-gift recipes and limit myself to only 10 I really want to make. I should try to make some of my favorite recipes but substitute oils for other ingredients. How about a Soda Stream recipe for Mountain Dew using oils to flavor? Maybe?

My lovely friend Callysa has been singing the praises of Young Living Oils for months. I went to a few Make and Take parties she was at and enjoyed the roller bottles and sprays I brought home. But the decision had to wait. There were no funds.

Finally, I was able to submit an invoice for a freelance graphic design job and plan that when the check arrived I would order my premium starter kit.

We opened the box as a family; slowly over the next few days, reading information as we went. And when we plugged the diffuser in that first time, it was heavenly!

Callysa, all fired up from a convention, mentioned her goal to have 3 parties. I thought, sure why not, I’ll host. What will our theme be she asked innocently? Ha. Recipes researched, information read, ideas pondered, lists made, shopping trip to Axman to dream, still not sure what we will make. Girl-child comes in the door with a drippy nose. Boy-child complains of sore throat. Toss a coin to see who gets the diffuser tonight. More recipes, ingredients, commentaries read. Boy-child wins the toss and chooses Lemon and Thieves.

So here we are, one week away, and while it is extremely last minute, there is going to be:


Oily Make & Take Party
at my home on
Saturday, October 1, 2016
at 1:00 pm and
you’re invited.

Can’t make it to the party, but interested in purchasing oils, or joining the club?

Here’s my link (I get rewards for your purchases):

Shop or Join Young Living with me!