Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Recipe/Tutorial: Gummy snacks

One of the goals of doing our spending freeze this month was to see not only how much money we will save, but ways in which we can make permanent changes. One of our main grocery items are fruit snacks...the kids love fruit snacks, the husband loves fruit snacks, they're great to toss in my purse and they're great for the car or on the go. It's easy to justify the purchase because they're just so convenient, but during our spending freeze, these have been a no-no. So, I came across an idea for homemade fruit snacks. Unfortunately the initial recipe I found called for something called Clear-Jel which we don't have locally. Instead, I had jello, gelatine, or pectin to work with so I searched for recipes based on that. 

One thing I learned: there are a MILLION tutorials/recipes out there for these, and it was very overwhelming when I was searching. Also, most of these specified that they were for fruit snacks. However, the recipe I'm about to share, and the recipe that seems to be out there the most, is absolutely NOTHING like fruit snacks to me, these definitely resemble gummy candy to me, hands down. They are tasty, but the consistency is definitely more like gummy worms or gummy bears. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely cannot STAND chewy food like gummy worms, but the flavor was yummy so I ate one anyway. 

The things you will need are:
1. A small pot
2. One 3 oz package of Jello-any flavor
3. Two .25 oz packets of unflavored Gelatin
4. 1/3 cup of water
5. A candy mold or pan of some sort

So first, start with your Gelatin and Jello:

Add your 1/3 cup of water to your pot and turn the stove on to a boil. I added my gelatin and jello *before* the water was boiling and then brought it to a boil. It looks like this: 
You want to boil it until it's essentially dissolved, so it should take maybe five minutes. I didn't time, I just decided when it really started to liquify it was done.  

Once it's done, you go ahead and add it to your mold. 

All I had on hand was a Jello mold of Phineas and Ferb, so these were going to be on the larger side. However, you can use candy molds, or you might be able to find some other fun molds on Amazon or at the thrift store. Some say that silicone molds are easier to use, but I lightly sprayed my mold with Pam and had ZERO sticking problems-these popped right out. You can also use a regular pan and cut these in to squares when hardened if you choose. 

Okay, you want these to set nicely, so leave them alone for about 20 minutes minimum. We sampled our first batch of these after about 30 minutes and they were perfect. We made a second batch and let them sit overnight and they were still really good. 

This is the finished product: 
Yes, Perry the Platypus is featured here because he just so happens to be my favorite character...
Like I said, these are rather large because of the mold and they are *very* chewy, very much like gummy worms. This recipe apparently has a tendency to "melt" if you sprinkle it with sugar *or* stick together if you put them in a bag, but I had no such problems. Try at your own risk, I suppose? This would be FANTASTIC for the gummy worms recipe using straws that I'm sure everyone has seen on the internet ;)

I will definitely be making these again, but I am on the hunt for a smaller mold in order to make these more cost effective. I'd love a recipe for non-chewy fruit snacks so I'm also on the hunt for one of those. I've also heard that with this recipe, you can use your fruit roll tray from your dehydrator. I'd rather make fruit leather though, so perhaps I'll do a tutorial on that later...who knows! 
Monday, January 20, 2014

Free Entertainment-HitBliss

My husband and I committed to doing a spending freeze inspired by Ruth over at Living Well Spending Less. The premise behind the challenge is to eliminate unnecessary expenses throughout the month. She provides several printables and some extra challenges or things to focus on while doing the challenge, but it seems really flexible in that you can create your own terms if something doesn't work for you. My husband and I took the basics of the challenge and then added a few of our own stipulations: we still budgeted for food and fresh fruits/veggies, and this also includes a little bit of money for eating out. All other spending was to be eliminated. So, even though our microwave broke on day 1 of the challenge, that meant *no new microwave*. Yeah, we're serious about this!

Doing the challenge has been interesting. We are now 19 days in to the challenge and have had many times when it would have been so much easier to eat out/buy that toy/purchase those clearance Christmas decorations, but we're persevering. It has also caused us to get a little crafty regarding entertainment, and one of the things I wanted to talk about was something I came across called HitBliss. 

Hitbliss is a program that you download to your computer and earn money for watching commercials. Once you have money in your "account", you can then use that money to purchase TV episodes or movies from Amazon or from HitBliss. It sounded a bit "too good to be true" so I made sure my antivirus software was working and my payment information for Amazon was deleted. I then watched a series of commercials and had earned around $3, so I purchased an episode of a popular TV program. It directed me to the Amazon page and viola, the episode was mine to watch! Several commercials and about $40 later, we have rented several movies, purchased an entire season of a popular TV series, and all for zero out of pocket. 

This is actually very little effort-they do put up a ticker that you have click on or press the enter button every few minutes just to ensure you're actively watching the commercials. It's brainless and money accumulates quite rapidly. Most TV episodes on Amazon are around $1.99 each, and movie rentals for 24, 48, or even 72 hours range from $2.99-$4.99, even the latest new releases. So, for around 5-10 minutes, it is very easy to accumulate enough money to pay for at least one movie rental. 

I highly recommend HitBliss, and I am not affiliated in any way I'm just a very satisfied user! Check it out, rent some movies, and enjoy!
Sunday, January 19, 2014

DIY Breast Pads

One of my newly acquired skills last year was learning how to sew. My wonderful husband bought me a sewing machine for Mothers Day and I was excited to make plenty of blankets and burp cloths for baby. One of my must-haves after a baby are comfortable, effective breast pads. My sister-in-law had given me some cotton ones after Hannah was born that were just wonderful. Unfortunately I had given those away with my breast pump before we made our bare bones move to Montana. I figured there had to be a way to make my own, so I sat at my sewing machine and got to work.

Since I was still a newbie with sewing and understanding different fabric and their benefits, I asked at my local fabric store which material would be best for such a project. I was told that flannel is soft and absorbent, and fleece would probably help with preventing the breast pad from leaking. I wanted an extra layer of protection and was told that I could indeed do two layers of flannel, but even basic flannel is quite spendy...I needed a cheaper option. Enter the $5 pack of microfiber cleaning towels from the automotive section at Walmart. These were large and cheap...I did a little bit of research and found out that microfiber is extremely absorbent and is used in cloth diaper kits as well as other projects, but should never be used directly on the skin, as it will definitely dry out your skin. So, for this project, using a microfiber cloth to add a bit more absorbancy to the breast pad is perfect. 

First you want to select your material. You need *maybe* half of a yard each of flannel and fleece material. I already had the fleece on hand from when I made a blanket for my niece, so I cheaped out and just used that.


These are the microfiber cloths I got from Walmart-a pack of five for $5

Once I had my fabric all selected, pre-washed, and ironed, I began cutting the circles out. What I did was take a CD, trace a bunch of circles on to the material, and used my rotary cutter to cut the circles. I ended up with this: 

I cut enough circles for 12 sets of breast pads, or 24 total breast pads. Then I layered the material like this: 

So, each breast pad has one circle of fleece, then one circle of the microfiber cloth, and another circle of the flannel. When you are assembling the pads, place the flannel face down, then add the microfiber, then add the fleece face up. They come out looking like a little fabric sandwich:

Sew the pads with a regular straight stitch as close to the edge as possible. Trim off any excess, careful not to snip any stitches. If you wish, you can go back over the straight stitch and do a zig-zag stitch, but I have not found that to be at all necessary. Toss these in the wash and you have a finished product!

These are a little rough around the edges, but they are so incredibly comfortable! They are soft, absorbent, and cute. I have no problems with leakage and wash them with my regular laundry. I'm not the best at sewing and I'm still getting my feet wet, but this sure does beat those plasticky disposable breast pads!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Why the hate?!

I was pointed to an article discussing how children from smaller families are MUCH better off than children from larger families. The article is such a piece of garbage that I refuse to link to it, but I suppose I will if enough people express interest. It's full of ugly stereotypes and criticisms about large families, and the comments are brimming with ignorant thoughts as well.
When I am personally attacked or questioned about our decision to have five children, I can somehow let it roll off my back...but if something like this comes to my attention, my insides burn with the fire of a thousand suns-I just cannot let it go I get so upset by it! This "author" stated, among other things, that children from large families are left to their own devices, do not even have basic necessities, do not engage in extra-curricular activities because the parents can't afford it, and are forced to raise their younger siblings. Does it happen? Sure, I'm sure it does. But the author backs up what I consider opinions with supposed "research" confirming her facts. How do you refute that? What was really irritating is that one woman had commented how she grew up in a small family and had all these issues, to which the "author" commented that it was nice that her parents had the sense to stop having kids, she was much better off, and to give her parents credit because "they tried". Um...why the hate? I mean, this person was spewing what I consider *utter hate and loathing* for large families, going so far as to say that we live on a different planet and that we're not human.What was equally as disturbing was another commenter talking about how her mother, a child from a small family, had a large family herself and was a wonderful parent. The author's response was really rich, suggesting that the only reason her mom was a good mom to many kids was because she herself was from a small family and therefore received all the love and attention and devotion of her parents-I took it as her suggesting that people raised in large families couldn't be good mothers. It's one of those "darned if you do, darned if you don't" with this "author"...if you come up with a situation that discredits her opinion or "findings" she finds a way around it. That frustrates me to no end.
I've heard my fair share of criticism about having a large family and reasons why people shouldn't have more than one or two kids, but I have *never* in my life felt so hated...and I don't even know this person. How do you respond to such ignorance and intolerance if/when you're faced with this kind of thing?