Natural Grape Juice

Grape is one of my favorite flavors. Only too bad for me, most of the foods out there with grape flavor are artificial. Yuck. Can’t afford that. No more grape-flavored Jolly Ranchers or suckers for me. All I see is the purple tongue shudder can you imagine what it looks like inside?

So what’s the solution? The real thing! Grapes, of course! But it has to be concord grapes if you want the real flavor. Don’t know what concord grapes are? No worries. Just read on.

Concord grapes are wonderfully rich in nutrition, so I’ve narrowed down all the great reasons for you to be eating concord grapes. But do your research on this amazing fruit.

  1. Great source of “purple” food to include in your diet
  2. Increased immune strength
  3. High in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C
  4. Packed with antioxidants and polyphenols
  5. Promotes a healthy heart

Well, lucky for me, it’s concord grape season here and I have a big bucket full of concord grapes outside. It’s time to make grape juice. This grape juice tastes great, has probiotics, and it’s just like drinking grape soda…only much better.

And the carbonation…need I say more?

If you’ve got your water kefir going, this is a great way to start experimenting with flavors. If you’ve got lots of concord grapes, this is a great way to use them up.

Natural Grape Juice

What you need:

1-gallon glass jar
8 cups water kefir (already drained)
Concord grapes (the amount depends on how strong a flavor you want)


  1. Clean the grapes off of the stems and place them in a blender.
  2. Blend the grapes quickly. You don’t want to blend them too thoroughly because you’ll have a really hard time straining them out. The bigger the pieces the better, but you still want to break the grapes apart.
  3. Pour the blended grapes into the glass jar and add in water kefir.
  4. Close the jar with a lid and let it sit on your counter for 2 days.
  5. After two days, strain the grapes out and pour the juice into bottles.
  6. Let bottles sit on the counter for 1-2 days until carbonated. Then transfer to refrigerator.

Enjoy! This is such a delicious beverage and so much better than a who-knows-what’s-in-that can of soda. No feeling guilty drinking this!

Life Lifehack

Living Thoughtfully

I had a huge garden harvest today. It felt really good to know I produced all this wonderful, fresh organic food for my family. After rinsing off my veggies, I started to look around the house. Am I living up to my “living as naturally as possible” ideal? I know I can still improve in so many areas. I thought it would be fun to try and figure out all the things I already do and then make a list of things I hope to do soon. I would LOVE comments on this post. What do you do in your home that is not on this list??? Maybe I can motivate you and you can motivate me!!!

Things I already do:

  • grow all my organic veggies
  • anything I have to buy- organic only
  • compost all food & yard waste
  • buy only organic dairy products
  • buy only antibiotic-free meat & sustainable fish
  • purchase only organic and socially responsible coffee
  • use all-natural make-up and beauty products
  • natural health remedies
  • eat local when possible
  • recycle everything I can
  • 100% recycled toilet paper
  • use cloth napkins
  • solar panels on the house
  • no air conditioning
  • use cloth shopping bags
  • low flow toilets and showerheads
  • no pesticides in the yard
  • use only natural cleaners in the house
  • buy organic food for our pets
  • run laundry/ dishwasher during non-peak hours
  • read the ingredient list for everything I buy
  • drive a clean diesel car
  • natural laundry detergent
  • do not use plastic to store food or cook in
  • use a whole house water filter
  • shop at consignment stores
  • use cast iron pans
  • use no or low VOC paint
  • save lids, toilet paper rolls, etc for kid’s crafts
  • unplug any appliances when not in use
  • reuse wine corks (I am creating a huge cork wall for a message board)
  • reuse jars as glasses or storage containers
  • only charge computers, phones, etc. at night
  • reusable water bottle
  • purchase 100% recycled printer paper
  • waste-free lunch for the kiddies

Things on the To-Do list:

  • rain barrel
  • bake all my bread
  • take a canning class
  • chickens!!!

How the right kitchen tools can easily save you time

I guess I’m a lucky person in some respects – I tend to get home from work at 5:30pm and I have the whole evening to decide what to cook, go out and get the right foods and then prepare it while still settling down to dinner at a reasonable time. Unfortunately in the current economic climate this is simply not an option for many people, and as a result it leaves many people looking for ways to really reduce the amount of time that they have to spend in the kitchen.

Although you can’t always make food cook quicker, you can improve its chances of cooking well by having the right quality cookware in the same way that you can decrease the preparation time by having the right kitchen tools. Although these might cost a little more, good quality kitchenware will generally last and it will help you to cut down the time you spend in the kitchen – adding hours back into your day.

I’m looking for new kitchen cookware – where can I start?

So you do want to cut down time in the kitchen, but you aren’t quite sure where to start off! Well it can be difficult working out exactly where you can save time in the kitchen, but purchasing some good quality implements can go a long way to ensuring that you are put firmly in the right direction and some of the popular purchases you might make include:

  • Good quality kitchen cookware. The cookware you have is perhaps one of the most important elements of your kitchen and if you want to cook food efficiently and ensure that you are able to generate the heat that you need for your food to cook well and cook it evenly, then it’s crucial that you do have the right quality cookware to enable you to effectively complete this task
  • Good quality kitchen knives

Preparation is key and if you are the type of person who likes to prepare their food as quickly as possible then having high quality kitchen knives which can easily cut through any food that you might have is a great way to ensure that this food is adequately prepared and ready to go when you need it.

Although many people are reluctant to spend money in the kitchen, especially during such a tough economic time, if you are looking to achieve a good work/life balance then chances are you will be looking to cut down any additional time that you do spend in the kitchen and investing in good quality utensils can help you do to this.

DIY Life

Habitat for Humanity: Learning and Giving Back

I am concrete, detailed learner, so playing around and figuring things out on my own does NOT work for me. I need a lot of hand-holding and specific step-by-step instructions. Naturally, I am drawn to classes, manuals, and the “watch others and imitate” method.

One day when I was researching local classes online, I browsed the Habitat for Humanity site and clicked on “Volunteer”. There under the list of events was a special day designated as “Women Build.” This seemed like a great opportunity to pick up some handy-woman skills, at the same time do something nice for others. Win-win!

I was a bit naive about what Habitat for Humanity was all about. I thought it was something that you did on a church mission trip, driving to the Appalachians for a month and building one house in the middle of nowhere. In reality, there are Habitat homes and developments almost everywhere, often in the middle of developed cities and neighborhoods. Chances are there is one within 30 minutes of you.

It was an interesting day and I met a lot of really nice people. However, there was a lot of standing around. I’m sure the site managers are used to their regular volunteers coming in, picking up their tools, and getting to work without needing many directions. We, on the other hand, were a room full of women – many first-timers – who had no idea what to do or how to do it. I learned that to fit in at this particular site, you need the confidence to step right in and not wait to be told what to do (definitely not my strong point).

But there were a lot of things I did learn on my first day of volunteering for Habitat:

  • Drilling a concrete drill bit with an impact driver into the concrete foundation of a house makes your entire body shake for 15 minutes afterward.
  • Carrying insulation in shorts and a t-shirt makes you itch. A lot.
  • Snakes can pop out of dirt piles at very inopportune moments. There are no pictures of this because I was too busy running away and screaming like a 6-year-old girl.

Most of all I learned that Habitat does not give their homes away, but sells them to hard-working and deserving families who, for one reason or another, have fallen on hard times and truly want the opportunity to turn their lives around. They have proven employment, attend classes on financial management, and are required to log hundreds of hours volunteering with the construction of their own home and others. On the day I volunteered, there was a Habitat couple there who are homeowners in the community. They met their hourly requirement MONTHS ago, but still show up every weekend to build because, according to the husband, “I can’t sit on my couch looking out my window at other people helping when so much has been given to us.”


I also learned that giving back is about so much more than showing up on a worksite for a few hours one day and hammering a couple of nails. I’ve got a long way to go before I can say that I’m a committed volunteer, but I’m looking forward to going back.

And next time, NO SNAKES.


All About Cold-Sores

They are nasty. And guess who has had the pleasure of getting them periodically since birth. Yes, I know, it’s terrible. But after many failed attempts at different products and recommended remedies, the good news is that I can share with you what works out of all the “stuff” that’s out there.

First, though, let’s understand what exactly a cold sore is and what causes it. A cold sore is a painful blister around your mouth that gathers pus and can easily spread. You might also know it as a fever blister or the herpes simplex virus (this virus is contagious). They are annoying, they hurt, and they don’t look good.

If you look online, they’ll tell you that the cause of cold sores is a virus. Well thank you, that sure helped me a lot. I’m not any closer to understanding how to deal with these sores. Since the virus is contagious, you shouldn’t be kissing anyone who has a cold sore unless you want one too. They say that the virus isn’t curable, but I guess you never know. I like to avoid using finalizing words. But for now, what if you already have the virus? What do you do?

Work on preventing the cold sores from forming. I noticed that I easily catch cold sores if I am cold (you get the shivers), stressed, or especially when I sweat and then cool down quickly. For example, the other day I was running errands outside with just a sweatshirt on. I definitely should have been wearing a coat because it’s very cold right now. I shivered a couple of times and wasn’t my warmest. Then, I was walking barefoot on the cold tile in my house later that evening. Sure enough, in the morning I had a cold sore. This is just an example of things that can trigger the virus to appear. It can be different for anybody.

There are two steps to quickly healing a cold sore. (And by quick I mean in just a few hours if you catch it in the beginning stages.) You need to burn the sore and nourish your lip. The cold-sore from the above experience was gone in a few hours but I had the scab for a few days.

Before we go on, you should know by now that I don’t post anything on this website unless I have tried it myself and have had experience with it. I consider myself an expert in cold sores. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve gotten since I was a child and it was only in the past year or so that I have been able to pinpoint what works.

  1. Oregano Oil
  2. Swedish Bitters
  3. Elderberry Syrup
  4. this First Aid Cream

As I already mentioned, you want to burn the cold sore and then hydrate your lip. The reason is that this sore is contagious. So if you get the pus anywhere else, you will most likely spread it. Burning the sore will cause it to drain and scab over. Nourishing the sore means hydrating it and keeping it from cracking and bleeding.

Swedish Bitters is the most effective way to burn your cold sore unless you are very brave and use the oregano oil. The oregano oil has a much stronger burning sensation than Swedish Bitters, and I still recommend Swedish Bitters because I have had more experience with it. This tincture sucks the pus out and quickly creates a scab. Next, I like to rub elderberry syrup on it. Sound weird? It works! I don’t completely understand why, but placing elderberry syrup directly on the “wound” seems to speed up the healing process. Lastly, after you wash off the elderberry syrup, rub the cold sore with the First Aid Cream. I prefer this cream because it numbs and readily hydrates any cut.

Well. There you have it! I hope my downpour of information and experience will help you deal with your bout of cold sores. If they are not avoidable, we can at least learn to quickly and efficiently deal with them.

Let me know what works for you or if you’ve tried the same things or something different. I’m interested to know!


“Swimwear for moms”?

I got a press release today from the folks at Lynnina, a new swimwear manufacturer founded by Lynn Werner, who is described in the release as “a California-based mom who wanted to create a chic swimsuit alternative that delivered style, coverage, and comfort”. Lynnie’s debut swimwear line “features boardshorts in a variety of colors and prints, with complementary mix and match tops…that ensure that unsuitable suits never get in the way of a cool dip on a hot day or splashing around with your kids at the pool.”

I sooooo want to support Lynn and momtrepreneurs in general, but oh sweet Lord, these suits are FUG. Check them out:

If Mom’s Jeans were swimsuits, I’m afraid these would be them. Even these cute, skinny models look dumpy in them. Bleech. No. Freaking. Way.

Even though I do it all the time, it makes me sad that the word “mom” is so often associated with the pejorative. Ugly jeans are “mom jeans”, big ‘ol, unsexy minivans are too “mom”, etc. I know there’s this whole “hot moms” movement, complete with books and television pilots and skinny celebs who grace the covers of Us Weekly looking Victoria’s Secret runway-ready an hour after giving birth, but you know the female image that comes to mind when “mom” is uttered isn’t JLo. More like Patricia Heaton’s character on “Everybody Loves Raymond”.

Just the other day, I was in the workout wear store Lucy with Momtourage member Dana, and she was encouraging me to try on a pair of Lucy pants that she loves. They were cute and quite comfortable. However, they gave off a “this is as put together as I could get today – some workout wear/exercise clothes” vibe to me that I immediately associated with “mom” – and not in a good way. When I asked Dana if they were too “mom” she was like, “Um, I’ve got news for you, Chels – we are.” True, but does that mean we have to sacrifice attractiveness/style because we have kids? I refuse.

I know my body’s not the same as it was before I had kids, and thankfully, there are some pretty hot-looking Miraclesuits and Spanx swimwear options out there. But this crap? Kinda feeling like it’s an insult to moms everywhere. Lynn, honey, give us a little more credit! Or at least some better colors and patterns.


My Perfect Mother’s Day Menu

So Mother’s Day is a whopping 2 days away, and other than a family BBQ in the afternoon (no different than any other Sunday, really), we have no plans. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Why? Because I’m in charge, of course, and it’s been the last thing on my mind. I plan my birthdays and those of everyone else in this household, so I shouldn’t be surprised — but I’m drawing a blank. I have no idea what I want to do, although I could list upwards of 10 things I don’t want to do, like laundry, dishes, nap time, and bath time.


The Farmhouse Table Restoration

Sometime soon, I’ll write about the Kitchen renovation that drove the need for this table. For now, I’ll stick to the table. The kitchen table is the center of the family home. Especially in our house with 3 boys. Our oldest builds bridges, tree houses, clubhouses, and other stuff with his mega blocks on the table so his brothers can’t get to it.

The twins (turn 1 this month) spit out all their baby food on the table and surrounding area, and my wife and I share peaceful and romantic date-night-home dinners there…every few years :). The kitchen table we had was great. It was passed down from my grandparents to my parents and then to me. I re-finished the table and chairs the summer before our wedding, and it’s been at the center of our home ever since.

The table could last us for years to come, but I’ve always had this dream of sitting down to dinner with my whole family around a table that I built with my bare hands.

Fortunately, my wife is supportive and loves what I do so she commissioned me to build us a “new” table. We wanted a table that was warm and inviting, and sturdy enough to hold up well to years of abuse from dogs and 3 boys (4 if you count me).

I had my eyes set on a reclaimed barn wood table. I saw them in magazines, on Pinterest, and everywhere else. But, I had one problem: where I am going to get barn wood? I don’t have a barn in my backyard, no one in my family owns one, and most people that have it either won’t trade it or are happy to sell it to you for $5-$10 a board foot ($500+ just for the table materials). I kept looking though, and one day it showed up.

A 550 board foot stash of 80-year-old lumber. Rough cut Oak and Birch found in the loft of a Wisconsin barn, have never been used. I had no idea what I was going to do with all this lumber but I knew I wouldn’t find a deal like this again soon so I went for it. The guy was very nice and even delivered it to my house. So there I was sitting in my garage, literally half full of dirty, weathered lumber grinning from ear to ear. I already had 3D plans done using Sketchup so I got to work.

My design centered around a strong desire to build a table with no metal fasteners. That seemed like the manly way to go. It didn’t take long for me to realize how different it is working with 80-year-old Oak compared to hardware store oak.

Every cut with the saw was slow. After the first joint was complete, I gave up on the table saw and switched to my trusty circular saw. The entire table base was made using a hammer, a $5 chisel, a circular saw (used the table saw a few times), wood glue, and oak dowels…oh, and lots of grunting, sweat, sawdust, and sandpaper. Three days in, the table base was assembled. I was leave sanding for last…it’s messy and not nearly as fun as construction.

I had this crazy idea that I wanted the base to be rustic, full of character, and then contrasted with a beautiful tabletop sanded smooth and a high gloss finish. So I headed over to a friend’s shop to run 8 boards through his jointer and planer. 3 hours later I was down to 5 boards, none more than 3/4 thick, and most looked like….well, oak. 2 boards were stunning, but not enough to build a tabletop.

Now what? I spent two weeks considering various options: I didn’t want to bother my friend again, all the remaining rough boards were of various thicknesses and not exactly straight, and I was running out of time. I decided that I would build a “temporary” tabletop until I could afford the power tools necessary to do it “right”.

I picked 6 boards, laid them out, and joined them with pocket screws. I then spent 6 hours (3 separate days) sanding and HAND PLANING (never used one before this) getting the top of all the boards level and smooth. I rested the top on the table base and I fell in love. It was stunning. It wasn’t perfect, and I think that’s why I love it so much.

Throughout the entire build, I was reading about St. Joseph. He, too, was a carpenter, and as I worked I the table I felt connected to him. There is something spiritual about taking the remains of an oak tree God created over 100 years ago and turning it into something equally beautiful that serves a completely different purpose. God gave me the skills of a carpenter, and I hope that, through Him, I can bring Him glory in what I create.

Food review Life Recipe

A Great Sauerkraut

With St. Patricks Day around the corner, I thought I’d share with you an awesome Sauerkraut my husband discovered. It’s very delicious and yes, a bit more expensive, but ever so worth it.


International Women’s Day

So today is International Women’s Day. It is celebrated all over the world and has been observed since the early 1900′s. There have been many struggles and achievements reached by all different women in our past. Clara Zetkin, who was a leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, came up with the idea of an International Women’s Day. In 1910, she proposed that every year there should be a celebration on the same day in every country to press for women’s demands. This idea sprung from the oppression and inequality women were feeling in the early 1900′s because of hours they worked, the pay they received, and voting rights.