Free Dishcloth Crochet Pattern

I'm over at my crochet blog Little Monkey Shop today with a free crochet pattern - You are my Sunshine Dishcloth - to celebrate NatCroMo - National Crochet Month.

Crochet Dishcloths are an excellent way to simplify your kitchen. They are eco friendly too - can be used over and over and don't fill up our landfills like paper towels.

It's important to crochet your dishcloths using cotton yarn. Acrylic or other synthetic yarn don't absorb liquid very well.

Mother's Day and then the wedding season are right around the corner. A stack of handmade crocheted dishcloths make a heartfelt gift!
Please visit my Little Monkey Shop blog for this free dishcloth crochet pattern.
If you don't crochet, handmade dishcloths are ready to ship on my Etsy shop Little Monkey Shop.
Please comment - what's your favorite way to simplify your kitchen?

The #1 Consideration for Purchasing Garden Seeds

  As tired as I am at the end of fall gardening seasons, come springtime, I'm anxious to get started again!
I recently went through all my seeds to see what I had and what I needed to order. You can save seeds for several years, but the germination rate goes down each year. I threw out a few seeds I had with 2007 written on them!

I order seeds from several different places - High Mowing Organic Seeds, Seeds of Change, and  Johnny Seeds.

Image courtesy of posterize at

My friends Dori of The Red Feedsack and Andrea of Keeping it Cozy like to order their seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for their beautiful cut flower garden.

The most important consideration in ordering seeds is that they are Organic, Non-GMO seeds. As High Mowing Organic Seeds puts it:

"Genetically modified crops are created by adding genetic material from one species into the DNA sequence of another species. The result of genetic modification by laboratory methods is a combination of genetic materials that could not occur naturally."

 Image courtesy of amenic181 at
 Long-term effects of genetic modification of our seeds and foods are largely unstudied. Safety assessments (which are not required by the FDA) have almost exclusively been conducted by the same companies who market GMOs. For this reason, more than 60 countries around the world now require labeling of GMOs.

 Image courtesy of Lavaview at
With the widespread availability of genetically modified seeds to large row crop farmers, the possibility of cross pollination - and therefore contamination - of an organic farm or garden is an ever increasing possibility. Therefore non-GMO seed sources need to be re-verified on a regular basis. This is an important consideration in deciding where to buy your seeds from.

If you want to know what you are eating, plant yourself a garden after considerable thought and research  as to what seeds you are planting.

Then support those seed companies that do it right!

Please leave me a comment with where you buy your seeds and what's in your cart.

Simple Ideas for Dates with your Honey

Photo by Stuart Miles
Sometimes we make a resolution that's really hard to keep - like having a committed date night every week with our spouse. Often time and finances get in our way of keeping this goal alive.
Dates with our spouse are very important! It has been said, "Our kids will one day grow up and move away, but our spouse is here to stay." So we need to keep our marriages alive!
Dates don't have to be time consuming and hard on the budget. Here are some creative and simple date ideas that we have discovered over the past few years.
Our Time - Specify a short amount of time one evening a week that is time for the two of you to spend just talking. You don't have to go anywhere or buy anything. We usually pick a time after dinner to spend 30 minutes together. The big kids are cleaning up the kitchen and someone is watching the little guy. We shut the door, sit on our couch, and talk about what ever is needed at the moment. It's nice to also share a chocolate bar for dessert while we talk. If it's pretty weather, we'll go sit on the front porch. If you only have little ones, pick a time after they are in bed. It's nice to know that you will have his/her undivided attention for at least a few minutes.
Image courtesy of satit_srihin at
Go for a walk - another free idea and includes getting some needed exercise. We have a long driveway and so several times a week when the weather is nice, we take a walk up and down the driveway. It's easy to walk and talk. We usually leave everyone busy in the house, but sometimes we put the little guy in the stroller and take him with us. When we didn't have a long driveway, we would walk around the neighborhood or go to a park.
Even a walk down a snowy driveway can be a nice date time. It's usually quiet and serene.
The local McDonald's - or any other simple fast food place - we don't actually eat there, but you can if you want. The point being a close place that doesn't require spending a lot of money. We live out in the sticks, so besides driving 45 minutes to a coffee shop, our next best choice is the local McDonald's. We order ice teas, find a table out of the way in the corner and sit and talk. It takes about 15 minutes to get there. We stay 30-45 minutes talking and then drive home. So, at most, we are gone from home 1.25 hours and have spent less than $5. We have older children that we can leave our little guy home with, but if you don't, find a friend to swap kids with once a month for an hour or so. It's worth it!
Image courtesy of sSerge Bertasius Photography at
Even a quick local desert shop is a nice, budget and time friendly option for a date with your honey.
You don't want to wake up one morning twenty years from now and realize you don't really know your spouse. Making the effort to find even a short amount of time on a regular basis to spend with your honey will be well worth it now and for the future.
Please share any other creative ideas you and your spouse have found for working in Date Time while also raising children.

Snow Days!

The last few weeks we've had an unusual amount of snow here in west Tennessee. I love how snow makes everything look fresh and clean - simplicity at it's best!

Our beehives are rarely surrounded with snow. The bees are all huddled up inside keeping each other and the hive warm. Notice there is no snow on top of the hives.

Covered by snow, you don't see the leaves that need to be raked or any grass that needs to be mowed!

Even the children's play area in the backyard looks nice and clean. No dirt showing anywhere!

I'm not a big fan of cold, snow winters, but I do like how they make life LOOK a little more serene.
Hannah and Emma enjoyed playing with the camera while enjoying the snow, before they froze!

With all our snow - about 5 inches - we had a different type of fun than usual - 4 wheeling in the snow.
Cade getting a pull on the sled.

John getting a little help sledding down the hill. It wasn't quite steep enough.
A walk in the snow down our long driveway is a nice, if not cold, change.

While we enjoyed the change of weather with a late winter snow, someone is looking forward to some warmer weather!

Spring Cleaning: Kitchen Drawers

 I have been in the cleaning mood. Every time I think about packing our house up once it sells, I start cleaning out drawers and closets so we have less to pack.

 Decluttering is a key to simplifying!
This time I attacked the kitchen drawer I've been avoiding! I bet you have one of those too!
In this drawer I keep the cooking utensils - and whatever else gets thrown in there.
Believe it or not, I've already cleaned this drawer out once before, but apparently I left too much in it.
It's hard to find what you are looking for! And who needs an apple slicer/corer that's broke?

I started by taking everything out of the drawer and giving it a good cleaning. It's amazing all the crumbs that had accumulated!

Then I only added back into the drawer the items I know I've used in the last week.

Everything else I put in a box which I stored in the pantry. This is my step between cleaning and donating. So, if I've cleaned a little too thoroughly, I can get an item back out of the storage box!

Since cleaning day, I've only had to get one item out of this box.

I'll give myself a month or two and then take what's left in the box of extras to a donation center.

Now, every time I open this drawer and can easily find what I'm looking for, I'm so glad I spent that time cleaning out this drawer.

Next, I need to apply this to our medicine and linen closet! That may take a little longer!

What's in Your Pantry?

When my mom visited last and was helping me make dinner, she got so excited and asked if our home had finally sold. I replied, "No, why?" She said the pantry looked so bare so she thought we must be getting ready to move.
I took this as a compliment! My family and I are finally getting off the processed food diet that most of Americans are on.
The majority of what we have in our pantries are convenience items - cereals, crackers, granola bars, chips, muffin mixes, store bought breads, ...
When we take those items out of the pantry it looks pretty bare.
The real question is - "Do we need to be buying/eating those items?"
I would challenge you to look at the ingredients on the labels of most items in your pantry. Do you know what every item is? Is every listed ingredient something you want to eat or feed to your children? Will it contribute to your health and nutrition?
If not, get rid of it and make an agreement with yourself not to buy those items again.
Image courtesy of zole4 at
Here is a short list of things we've replaced our pantry staples with:
         Instead of :   Chips                              Carrots and a healthy dip
                               Cereal                              Homemade Granola
                               Crackers                          Homemade or healthy, organic crackers
                               Granola bars                   Apples/Pears and Peanut Butter
                               Muffin Mixes                 Whole wheat muffins, scones, biscuits
                         Store bought breads         Homemade bread or healthy bakery bread

What's your favorite go-to for a quick, healthy snack?

My Favorite Beef Marinade

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at
I'm over at Little Monkey Shop today sharing my favorite Beef Marinade Recipe.