Friday, May 31, 2013

Taco and Rice Casserole Recipe

After suffering from non-stop headaches during the first part of my pregnancy, I finally went to my midwife and explained my problems. She believes I need more proteins in my diet and handed me a paper on adding proteins to my diet and mixing proteins to creating whole proteins. Following the list of ingredients, my 16-year-old daughter and I created this delicious casserole.
  • 1 cup white rice, cooked
  • 1-1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1.25 oz. taco seasoning
  • 15.5 oz. can black beans
  • 24 oz. jar traditional or meat flavored spaghetti sauce, divided
  • 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Cooking Instructions
Prepare 1 cup white rice according to packaging instructions.
  1. Cook ground beef in skillet. Once meat is browned, add taco seasoning and blend meat and seasoning. Remove from heat.
  2. In 2.5 quart casserole dish, mix together ground beef, rice, black beans, dry milk, all but 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce, and 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese.
  3. Top mixture with remaining spaghetti sauce and cheese.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
Serve casserole in a bowl, on lettuce, or make it into a wrap.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fostering Words

I gawked at the box of my newly opened present. It was two shades of blue, and it was what I always wanted. I quickly carried the box upstairs to my bedroom, tore open the box, and set the present on my youth-sized desk. My new typewriter sat there, the center of perfection, amongst the scribbled papers, the scattered pencils and broken crayons, and the stacks of children’s poetry books piled along the edges of the desk.

I immediately began to practice typing. My mother had an old school typing book that she lent to me, and I click-clacked each day after school. I began typing up my homework pages and, eventually, I got around to typing up my favorite poems from all my piles of books. I’d decorate the poetry pages with crayon images, making my own personal books to tuck away for a rainy day.

It was my mother who suggested that I make a typewritten book using my own poetry. I began writing poems about my cat, my favorite animals, and the hurt bird I had found and tried to save. After I thought I had written a poem about everything possible, my mother showed me books of artwork. There was M. C. Escher, Monet, and Rembrandt. “How does each painting make you feel?” my mother asked. More poetry flowed out of my child brain. I imagined the chaos of black and white birds flying in all directions, running through fields of flowers, and what it’s like to have my mother read stories to me at night.

My school librarian soon learned that I was writing poetry. She began teaching me how the writers market works and how to submit poems to magazines. She also began handing me books to read. “These are my favorite stories,” she said as she handed the stack to me. There were books of short stories, mysteries, historical novels, and folk tales. I read them all and returned to the library eager for more inspiration.

Soon my poetry began to take the form of short stories. I wrote stories through the eyes of my pet dog and I wrote scary stories about my mother’s parrot that liked to attack my head whenever he was let out of his cage. “There’s a story around every corner,” my mother told me. “Keep your eyes and your ears open.” I began writing stories about the kids I knew at school. I listened to other children talk at the playground and created fantastical dramas around they chatted about.

By the time I was sixteen and living on an old farm built in the 1800s, my mother began steering my writing in a new direction. “Write about what you know,” she sagely told me. But what did I know? I looked around me but could not figure out what I could possibly write about that other people did not know. Being a teenager, I took my life on the farm for granted. I canned fruits and vegetables, baked fresh bread and desserts, weeded, pruned apple trees, and made my own no-cost craft projects from all the things around me.

One day I fiddled around with the pruned branches from the apple trees. I twisted the thin twigs into wreaths, I tied five sticks into a star, and I clipped hand drilled some of the thin branches into beads. My mother walked over to where I was working and asked me how I made each item. “Write it all down,” she said. I did as I was told, writing down each step for making each item. When I was finished writing out the craft instructions, I realized I found a new love: writing to teach people how to make nature crafts.

When my seventeenth birthday arrived, my mother handed me a large, wrapped box. I tore the paper from the box and looked down on the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on. I ran upstairs, carefully removed my present from the box, and set it on my childhood desk. The word processor was a vision of perfection amongst the stacks of schoolbooks and homework papers. I plugged it and listened to its electric hum. I was in love all over again.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Make a To Do List

Do you keep a to do list? Here is an method to keeping a simple to do list that does not require a lot of time in the making.

Why Make a To Do List

You wake up in the morning, drink your cup of coffee and head in to work. You do only what is expected of you and the morning and afternoon pass you by in a haze. By evening, you find yourself back in your car heading home. When it is finally time for bed, you look up at the ceiling, thinking back on your day, and realize you have accomplished nothing.
To do lists are a nudge. They help you get your act together, get things done, and they inspire you to work towards your personal and professional goals.

When to Write Your To Do List

When I wake up in the morning, I am mostly groggy. It isn't until after I get the teenagers off to school and the baby fed and changed that I have a moment to sit down for a breather. This is my moment to prepare my thoughts on which task I am going to complete first, it's not time to figure out what tasks need to be completed.
To make the most of your mornings, write your to do lists the night before. After a long day, you know what needs to be done the next day. Your mind is full of "I must get this done and I didn't have time to get to that." Seize the moment and work on your to do list. When you get up ad moving in the morning, you will have a basic plan or formula for the day to follow and complete your tasks.

Break Big Tasks Into Little Tasks

Sometimes looking at a big task can be self defeating. If you plan on writing a book, for instance, don't put "write a book" on your do to list. Break it down to "Write chapters 1 and 2 of book." When you break huge tasks down into small, obtainable amounts of work, you will be able to complete the tasks. Eventually, you will have your book written, done step by step, and it will be ready for editing.

Add Color to Your To Do List

I like to hand write my to do lists. It keeps the lists personal and forces me to think through my long term goals. One trick I use when working on my to do lists is to keep a red pen by my side. If I am going to write something down that must be completed tomorrow, I write it in red pen. For example, "Vet appt. for cat" is something I must absolutely take care of in the morning. I wrote it in red so that it stands out on my list. "Get carpet cleaned" can wait a few more days so I write it in black or blue pen. The carpet can wait because I am not expecting company any time soon and it doesn't look bad. I can have the carpet cleaners come out on a day when I don't have a lot of work to do.

Keep It Simple

I've been keeping a basic to do list for nearly thirty years. I've tried many methods of making a to do list, from computerized to do lists to prioritized to do lists. I have found that the more complicated my to do lists become, the more time I waste in making them. Time is very precious to me. Keeping my list simple and on plain note cards saves me on time and I still get the same amount of items done as I do using the fancier to do list methods.

What Not to Put on To Do List

Yes, it is fun to be able to scratch things off your list, but let's be realistic. You don't need to write "take a shower" and "brush teeth" on your to do list. You are, hopefully, going to do these things without having them on your list.
Certain things you do each day are habit. Washing, grooming, and picking up after yourself should already be a habit. However, if you are learning a new habit, place it on your list for the first week or two until you have developed the new habit. For example, I needed to start remembering to bring my camera with me everywhere for photograph opportunities. I like to stockpile photos for future articles. In spite of my desire to take more photographs, I would always forget to grab my camera as I headed out the door. To train myself, I started using my to do list as a reminder: "leave house, take camera" was my reminder. After roughly 2 weeks of reading, writing, and remembering this reminder, I was able to train myself to leave the house with my camera. The reminder was then permanently removed from my to do list.

Monday, May 20, 2013

How to Start Your Own Virtual Pet Site

Study Virtual Pet Sites

Nearly a decade ago, my eldest daughter discovered the joy of playing virtual pet games. She would spend hours each week feeding, caring for, and taking her virtual pets through role playing games. She also saw virtual pet sites come and go. Some grew larger, and some of the virtual pet sites crumbled from internal fighting.

Listening to her talk about the fun and troubles of playing on these sites made me take a closer look at virtual pet games to see how the good ones survived and how some seemingly great ones fell under the pressure of maintaining an interactive website.

Before you decide to start your own virtual pet site, do your own research into the sites available. Play each one. Make notes about what you like and don't like about each site. What are the good ideas on each site. What annoys you. Read the forums and see what other game players are saying. Pay attention to their complaints.

Virtual Pet Site PHP Script

To start a virtual pet site, you will need a basic script, or layout, for the game. has a Virtual Pet Game for sale. At this time, the script is inexpensive - under $100. You customize the look and feel of the virtual pet game. You design your own pets, enemies, foods, choose attacks and defenses. The script includes an adoption center, a penny store, message board, post office, items shop, clubs, auction center, health center, and more.

Choosing a Domain Name

When choosing the name of your pet site, you will need to take domain name availability into account. You will want to get a .com domain name because most people are accustomed to typing in .com as opposed to the other domain name extensions.

Is your domain name available? Do a domain name search to see if your chosen pet site name is available. If it is, great! If not, you will need to spend time choosing a new name for your site.

Choose an Overall Look and Theme

One of the hardest parts of creating an original virtual pet site is finding a unique look. You will want to follow an overall look for your site. Start broad - will the pets be cute, weird, pretty, or scary? Could they be flower pets, vampire pets, fuzzy pets, 3-eyed pets, or pets from mythology?

You will also want to create a backstory for your pets. Do they come from a distant planet? Are they endangered fur babies, hiding from a pack of hungry monsters? Why do they need people to adopt them?

What do the pets eat? What is each pet's strength and weakness? How will the pet do battle? How will it defend itself?

A lot of planning goes into creating the plot and look of your site. It is one of the most crucial steps in creating a virtual pet site because it is the first thing that will draw users to your website.

Making Money from Virtual Pet Sites

When you first open up your game for business, you will want to make everything free for a limited time to draw in users. You could also give credits to new users accounts so that the users can get accustomed to the game and buying items in the stores.

After the initial giveaway, the website will earn an income from users buying items in the store. Many of these types of websites allow users to fund their virtual pet account with money from

Other source of income can include advertising banners on the website. If you carefully created your characters, you can develop a marketing plan that includes real life toys of the pets. There's also the possibility of selling t-shirts related to the virtual pet site or allowing people to put their pets on mugs and other items and having them buy items featuring the pets the users adopted.

Avoid the Pitfalls

From observation, one of the biggest problems with poorly run virtual pet sites is infighting.If you are planning on starting a virtual pet site you must know how to react to other people's criticisms and verbal attacks in an adult and nonjudgemental fashion. Arguments carried on in forums is a major turnoff for many users. People play these sites for relaxation, not to read flamewars.

Another problem area is money. Some virtual pet sites charge way too much for the items sold in stores. Many children and teenagers play these games and it is their parents who will occasionally allow the kids to put a few dollars into the virtual pet account. If the pet items cost too much, parent's won't fund their kids online gaming and your pet site will lose users.

Finally, there is a constant need for fresh content. Users want new items for their pets and new pet designs all the time. Successful pet sites put out special seasonal items for their users. They also created limited edition items and pets and holiday items. Be prepared to create new items all the time to hold user interest.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tips for Hiking with Dogs

Want to take your dog out hiking? Follow these tips to make your hike a fun and safe adventure.

Dog Friendly Trails

There are many trails that allow dogs. If you do not know whether the trail you want to hike allows dogs, check online or call the park. Trails that do not allow dogs are usually posted at the trail entrance. If there is no way to contact someone who knows whether the trail allows dogs, you may need to stop by the trail first, without your dog, and read the postings at the entrance. Also, take note as to whether or not you see other people hiking with their dogs.
Avoid taking your dog to any trail that does not allow dogs. Be aware that some people deliberately go to trails that do not allow dogs because they are allergic to or fear dogs. Those people have every right to hike and enjoy a trail, just as you have the right to take your dog to a dog friendly trail and enjoy your hike with your fur partner.

Leash Your Dog

The number one rule when hiking trails with your dog is to keep it on a leash. Dogs generally love to be outdoors and getting exercise, but they also need to be kept safe. Keeping your dog on a leash will keep your fur companion safe from chasing wildlife, such as bears, and from getting injured on the trail.
The leash used for hikes should be sturdy. A leather, one inch wide leash is probably one of the best types of leashes you can get for your outdoor adventures with your pet. The leash should be about 8 feet long, allowing your dog some room to sniff around, but not enough length for him to get himself into trouble. Leash length is also important because it should allow you to be able to secure it to a tree in case of an emergency and when you need your dog to stay in one place.
Leashing your dog is also important if there are other people on the trail. Small children, for example, can become frightened by a large dog walking towards them. Adults will complain to the park manager if a dog is running amok. Also, keeping your dog on a leash will allow you to make sure he doesn't eat anything along the trail that may cause him stomach problems.

Bring Water

Just as you need water while hiking, so does your dog. Allowing your dog to drink from streams and lakes without first purifying the water may cause diarrhea and stomach problems. Bring drinking water for your dog. How much water you bring along for your dog depends on the size of your dog, the temperature outside, and how long you will be hiking. For example, if you are only going for a short, one mile hike with a small to medium sized dog, you will probably only need to bring one extra water bottle in your backpack. A longer hike will require more water. If you plan on hiking all day, consider getting water purification tablets.
Let your dog have a drink whenever you feel the need to drink water. If it is a hot summer day, you may want to give your dog some water every fifteen minutes.

Dog Packs and Food

If you and your dog are hiking a small trail, you may want to bring along a few biscuits for your dog. If you will have him out walking for longer than an hour, bring along some dog food.
Since you will already be carrying heavy items in your backpack, consider getting your dog a backpack of his own. You can train your dog to carry a few of his own items, such as his food. You will also want to place a small pocket knife and tweezers in his pack in case he gets something in his paw or a tick needs to be removed.

Be In Charge

Dogs are pack animals. In order to be a good dog owner, you must take charge and be the leader. Dogs are wonderful companions to take on hikes, but it is your responsibility to make sure your dog behaves himself. You need to:
  • Train your dog not to bark at everything.
  • Prevent your dog from leaving your side if you decide not to leash your dog.
  • Prevent your dog from chasing wildlife and people.
  • Clean up after your dog.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ways to Change Your Life Today

Bring about positive change in your life right now.

Clean Your Living Space

Dirt, clutter, and disorganization in the home reflects what is also going on inside your head. In turn, it affects your thoughts, creating a downward spiral of low self esteem and a feeling of being unable to break free from your troubles. To make the first step towards changing your life today, clean up your room, your home, or your apartment. Make the place sparkle and you will feel great afterwards.

Let Go of Junk from the Past

Sometimes we hang on to things that bring us bad memories or things that bring about depression, sadness, or anger. Items from a former love, a parent or grandparents, or even a former best friend can hold you down emotionally. Now is the time to get rid of those items. Throw them away. Grab a box (or boxes), pack up the items and donate them to charity. Stick old love letters into the paper shredder and take them out to the trash. Getting rid of hurtful reminders helps us let go of the past. There's no need to hang on - let it go. We are only harming ourselves when we hold onto things that we cannot change.
Get rid of unused items, as well. Hobbies that you've lost interest ing, a collection of books you have never read and never will read, or a box filled with travel trinkets - get rid of them. Sell them, give them away, or donate these items to charity. Remove the clutter from your life.

I Love You

Stand in front of the mirror, look deep into your eyes, and say it. Go ahead, I dare you to do it right now. I love you! Sing it, shout it, whisper it, dance to it. Tell yourself that you love you every morning when you wake up as part of your routine and you will begin to see your life take a positive turn. That is because you are raising your self esteem, and high self esteem leads to success in pursuing your dreams.

Make a List

Sit down in a quiet place with just a pen and paper and make a list of 50 to 100 things you want to do before you die. Keep chores off the list. This is a list of wants. It can include things like write a book, make a movie, climb a mountain, or visit a country. Next, set the list aside for a few hours. Come back to it and read it through. Decide at that moment to choose one thing on you list to accomplish and begin to set it into motion. If you have decided to write a book, begin by creating a work area in your home. Get the supplies you need, the research material, or grab a notebook and pen and start playing around with ideas.

Write a Mission Statement

When creating a business proposal, people write one or two sentences that describe the purpose of their business. What about the purpose of your life? What is you mission statement? What do you feel your purpose is here on Earth? Write a mission statement for your life and tape it to your desk, your refrigerator, or by the bathroom mirror. Once you have your life's mission statement, you will be able to find ways to fulfill your mission statement.

More Things You Can Do Right Now

  • Read a self help book.
  • Write a list of all the things you think you can't do, such as "I can't whistle," and then, one by one, prove to yourself that you CAN do these things.
  • I love life. I love being alive. Repeat these two sentences to yourself throughout the day.
  • Make a solid plan to quit a bad habit. Research ways to quit online.
  • Don't know what to do with yourself? Go to the library and browse. Something will catch your eyes and inspire you.
  • Sign up for a class. It can be a cooking class, tax preparation class, or a self help class. Anything that sounds interesting to you.
  • Join a local club. Hiking and walking clubs are great, as a card playing clubs, magician clubs, and so on. If you can't find a club that interests you, start your own.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Less Work, Better Income

Do you want to work less and earn more? Learn how to cut back expenses and find new skills that could earn you a home income.

Rethinking Your Lifestyle

We used to call it going back to the basics. These days it's called unemployment and making ends meet. Whether you are choosing to lead a simpler, more fulfilling life or you've been forced into this lifestyle through job loss, there are ways to still earn money and, in the end, have a larger income.

The Numbers

How much does it cost you to work? Many people don't realize just how much it costs to work outside. If you've never sat down and looked at your numbers before, now is as good a time as any. Calculate your yearly work expenses by adding up:
  • Taxes taken out of your paychecks
  • Car payment or transportation costs to and from work
  • Cost of gasoline to and from work
  • Extra car and travel expenses (tolls, car repairs, maintenance)
  • Car insurance, registration, and emissions
  • Clothing for work and dry cleaning expenses
  • Work related food expenses (all the food you purchase because you work and can't prepare it yourself)
Subtract the above amount from your yearly salary. Write down what you have left in living income.
Now, figure out how much you are spending to live the way you do. Calculate the following living expenses:
  • Mortgage or rent
  • Property and school taxes
  • Electricity
  • Telephone (land line and cell phones)
  • Heating costs
  • Grocery costs
  • Dining, travel, and entertainment expenses
  • Non-work clothing
  • Credit card expenses
  • Miscellaneous bills
Subtract the above amount from your living income. Do you have any money left over or are you in the negatives?

Do You Really Need That?

Looking at the cold numbers can be disheartening at first. What you need to focus on now are ways to cut back and improvise. Some things to ask yourself:
Do you really need cell phones and a land line? Land lines are less expensive than cell phone, but cell phones are more convenient if you are going to be on the road.
Do you have to go out for dinner every night? Entertainment and dining out expenses can be cut back immensely by learning to cook at home and throwing little family parties. Dress up for dinner, have an outdoor barbecue, or play some fun music to eat to.
How many pairs of shoes do you actually need? Do you really have to have the latest fashions in clothes?
Can you live without the television on? Does your television have to be so huge? Think of all the electricity you are using when you have the tv on all night. Think of all the other things you could be working on and finishing if you weren't planted in front of your television.
Does your computer really need to have all the latest bells and whistle? What do you use your computer for? If you're just using it to cruise the internet or for keeping track of bills, you don't need to keep buying new computers.

Do It Yourself

How much money do you spend on having someone else do, make, or grow it for you? Living on less, but having more takes effort. If you have a family, have each person learn new skills. By learning new craft and homesteading skills, you may also find different ways to earn an income from home.
  • Learn how to sew, knit, or crochet. With any of these skills, you can make your own clothing and, if you're good at it, you can start selling items online and at flea markets and craft fairs.
  • Learn the art of bartering. You may already have items in your home that are worth something to someone else. Research bartering online and barter your way to a better lifestyle.
  • Learn plumbing, cabinetry, and flooring. With even the basic skills and knowledge in these trades, you can save yourself a lot of money in repairs.
  • Learn how to cook and bake. Not only do you cut back on your food bills, you also eat healthier. There are also many people who have started successful bakeries, restaurants, and catering businesses from their homes.
  • Grow your own food. Where I live, many people supplement their pantries with homegrown vegetables and fruits. Many people are also willing to trade fruits and vegetables for other items.
  • Shop at thrift stores for clothing. You can find excellent buys at the thrift shops and with a little creativity, you can make your own exciting fashions out of yesterday's clothing styles. Thrift shops are also great for Halloween outfits and costume ideas for the kids.
  • Crafts of all kinds, from pottery to wood working, are excellent skills to learn. The items you make can be used at home, sold from your front yard or online, and used for bartering.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tips on Starting a Small Home Business

Planning on starting a home business? Read as many tips and how to articles as you can find.

Know Yourself

If you know yourself, your strengths, weakness, likes and dislikes, you will know what type of business to start. Let's say you have strengths in computers and social networking, but your accounting skills are low. You will probably be great at marketing your business, but you will need to either learn more about accounting, get software to help you with it, or hire someone to keep the books. You also like to make videos. Knowing this, you could consider starting a small video production company making how to videos and marketing them on social networks.

Make Goals

What is the big picture? What is your ultimate goal that you want to accomplish with your business? Write this goal down. Next, break down your main goal into small steps - the steps you will take to attain your goal. Doing this will keep you focused on your main goal while bringing yourself to follow and complete all the small steps necessary to reach your goal.

Check Out the Competition

Go online and visit the competitions' websites. Make notes about each business: your likes and dislikes. Are they doing anything that you could incorporate into your business plan? Is there anything you would avoid doing in your business?

Read Business Startup Books

If you don't have the money to invest in a set of good small business startup books, visit your local library. Check out and read every book they have on running a business as well as anything they may have related to the business you want to start. The more you learn about running a small business, the more prepared you will be when you are setting up and running your work from home business.

Stand Out from the Rest

When you study other businesses like the one you are going to start, think of how you can make your different better, make it stand out more, and make your business unique.If you're going to start a lemonade stand business, how is your business going to be different from all the other lemonade stands? Will you be offering more varieties of lemonade, such as a lime or orange lemonade? Will you be serving the lemonade in unique cups that stand out from the clear plastic cups your competitors are using? Will your employees be dressed in a certain way or behave in a certain way? Make your home business different from the rest and make that difference noticeable.

Stay Focused

Starting a business and planning out a home business is very exciting, but you need to stay focused on the main objective of your business. Getting distracted and dreaming up different avenues you can take with your new home business is great, but for startup, stick with your basic business plan. Don't take on too much early on. Slowly build up your business. As your main business grows, your business can begin to expand into other areas.

Hire Great People

When it comes to hiring an employee, choose someone who is right for the job. If the employee is going to interact with your customers, make certain that he is a likable person who is mindful of the customer's feelings and disposition. You will also want someone who is familiar with the work or, if you will be training, someone with the enthusiasm to learn. Avoid hiring friends and family just because you like them. The quickest way to ruin a friendship or create stress in a family is to discover that the person you hired is very different in the workplace than what you expected.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Collecting and Restoring Antique Cast Iron Cookware

Buying old cast iron cookware is a great way to build up your cookware. What's more, the cast iron cookware you use today can be passed down from generation to generation as long as the cast iron is well cared for.

Why Use Cast Iron

Cast iron pots and pans are the most durable cookware you can get. What's more, if you search around at yard sales and flea markets, you can get used ones for very little money. There are numerous more reasons to buy, collect, and use cast iron cookware:
  • Cooking in cast iron adds iron to your food. This is great for people who suffer from anemia. However, people who are supposed to refrain from ingesting iron should avoid cast iron cookware.
  • Cast iron pans are great for browning meat. Hamburgers and steaks become caramelized when cooked on a hot cast iron skillet. Cast iron also distributes heat more evenly than other pots and pans.
  • Durability. Cast iron cookware will not only last you a lifetime, it will be used by your children, grandchildren, and, if taken care of, your great-grandchildren.
  • Cast iron pots and pans can be used on the stovetop as well as in the oven.
  • When camping, bring along a cast iron skillet for making pancakes over an open fire.
  • Cast iron pots and pans can be used on old fashioned wood cooking stoves.
  • Skillets can be used on the barbecue grill.
  • Hang cast iron pots and pans in the kitchen for decoration.

Buying Used Cast Iron Cookware

I have 13 cast iron skillets of all sizes and a cast iron dutch oven. They are all either hand me downs or ones I bought at yard sales. When searching for used or old cast iron cookware, you will want to follow these simple rules:
  • Plan your yard sale days. Go to each yard sale as soon as it opens up.
  • The same for flea markets - get to the flea market at opening time.
  • When you see a cast iron skillet or any cast iron cookware, examine it for rust. Rust can be cleaned up, but the cost of the item should reflect the condition of the skillet.
  • Examine the cast iron cookware and make certain there are no cracks or nicks in it. If it has a crack, it is worthless unless you just want it for decorative purposes.
  • When you go to lift the cast iron cookware, remember to lift it with both hands. Cast iron cookware is heavy and you can hurt your wrist if you use just one hand.
  • Some cast iron skillets will have there size stamped onto the handle. If the size is not shown, measure the cast iron skillet across the top, not the bottom, for the currect size in inches.
  • Cast iron cookware can be bought online. Please be aware of shipping prices as cast iron is very heavy.
  • If you want new cast iron cookware, visit the online store of the last US maker of cast iron cookware, Lodge Cast Iron Cookware.

Remove Rust from Cast Iron Cookware

Boil Hay
A relatively old fashioned method for getting rid of heavy rust in a cast iron dutch oven is to fill it with hay. Next, add water up to the brim. Boil for a few hours to remove the rust.
A quicker method is to just scour the cast iron with steel wool. Usually, a light scour will do the trick. Dry and season the cast iron immediately afterwards.
Salt and Oil
Another easy method to get rid of light to medium rust on cast iron pans is to coat the bottom with vegetable oil and then warm the pan on the burner. Remove from burner and add about a tablespoon or two of salt to the oiled pan. Using bunched up paper towels, scrub the pan with the salt. When finishes, wash the pan off in hot water. Dry and season.

Seasoning Cast Iron Pots and Pans

When my two teenagers were small, I hated cleaning and seasoning the cast iron skillets I had. I eventually stopped using them and packed them up. Several years later, I unpacked my cast iron cookware and began a regular routine of caring for the cookware. I've even collected more cast iron cookware to add to my collection because food is so much more flavorful when made in cast iron.
To season your cast iron cookware:
  1. Use a paper towel to rub on a light layer of vegetable oil, lard, or shortening onto the cast iron cookware. Use a clean paper towel to take off any excess oil - you don't want oil pooling inside your pan.
  2. There should be two racks in your oven. On the bottom rack, place a sheet of aluminum foil across it. This will prevent oil from dripping off your pan and onto the oven.
  3. Place the cast iron cookware upside down on the second shelf in the oven, overtop of the aluminum rack.
  4. Bake the cast iron cookware for 30 minutes at 450 degrees F.
  5. Repeat this process several more times to create a strong seal.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to Sell Eggs from Your Small Farm

Learn how to sell farm fresh eggs from your home or stand using inexpensive methods that work.

Eggs for Sale Sign

In the farming community where I live, there are many places for me to buy eggs, and I have probably stopped at nearly every egg stand I could find in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The first thing that attracts me to these chicken egg farms is the sign.
When driving, the signs that attract me attention have a white background and bold, black lettering. Most of the eggs for sale signs are painted on a wood board. The best lettering is roughly five inches in height. Almost all the signs are hand painted and legible.
The signs read, "Eggs for Sale." They are short, simple, and easy to read while driving.


I already know that since I am stopping in at someone's home they will not accept credit cards or cash, but I do like to know how much they are selling their eggs for. One of my biggest peeves with people selling eggs from their small farm is the fact that they do not post the price outside. I want to know if I have enough change to buy a dozen eggs or if the farm is selling organic eggs at a much higher price.
On some of the eggs for sale signs, I've seen a smaller sign hooked underneath with the price per dozen eggs. This way, potential customers know how much cash to have on hand before walking up to your door.

Parking Space

Is there parking? Is there space for people to pull out or turn around? If you live along a busy road, you will need to create a turnaround area for your customers. People do not want to park along the shoulder of the road and risk opening their car door with oncoming traffic. You will lose a lot of customers if you do not provide ample parking and turnaround space.

Local Advertising

Being a small, agricultural business, you will gain most of your customers through word of mouth and from your sign. To begin advertising on the cheap, print off flyers of "eggs for sale" along with price, location, and phone number, and post the flyers up at local grocery stores. Local libraries will also sometimes have a community board where you may be able to post your flyer. Also check local restaurants for community boards and, while you are there, speak to the owners or buyers and see if they are interested in purchasing local eggs for their business.

Selling from a Stand

Setting up a small stand, either on your property or at a local farmer's market is another way to drum up extra business for your small farm. You don't have to become a regular seller at farmer's markets, however, if you would rather work from home. Focus on when egg sales will be best - Easter.
During the Easter holiday, people buy dozens of eggs to boil and paint. There are so many ways you can take part of this yearly tradition. For example, you can have an egg painting workshop for kids at your small farm. You can also create a small website for your business and posts articles on decorating eggs, as well as how to cook the eggs.
There are just so many ways you can advertise and sell your chicken eggs that, with a little forethought and creativity, you can make your small chicken farm business a successful venture.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Make Self-Rising Flour

Make and use your own self rising flour.

What Is Self Rising Flour

The next time you are in the grocery store, take a walk down the baking aisle. You will see many different types of flours, from all-purpose flour to bread flour to cake flour. Self rising flour is also sold in this aisle. It is a flour that already has salt and baking powdered added to it. In its mixed form, self rising flour has the baking powder and salt evenly distributed throughout the flour. When used in recipes, additional salt and baking powder are usually not listed.


When you buy cake mixes at the grocery store, you are buying self rising flour mixed with sweeteners and sometimes spices. The flour in cake mixes cannot be used as regular flour because it is a pre-mix.
Self rising flour is used for many different baked goods. It can be used for cakes, cupcakes, muffins, and quick breads. Biscuits and scones can also be made with self rising flour.

Making Self Rising Flour

If you can not find self rising flour in the grocery store or you do not have the time and energy to make yet another trip to the grocery store, here is a simple recipe to make self rising flour.
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Sift the three ingredients together. Make as needed.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

How to Use Fresh Lemon Balm Leaves in Recipes

Don't know what to do with the lemon balm in your garden? Here are some great recipes and ideas for using fresh lemon balm.

Grow It and Use It

Known as Melissa offinalis, lemon balm is a very easy herb to grow in your garden, but many people do not know what to do with it once they have it. You'll notice a very strong lemon mint scent when you bruise the leaves. These tender leaves can be used in many food dishes as a substitute for lemons. Be sure to pick only the tender leaves for cooking and baking, and use the leaves immediately after you pick them so you don't lose the scent and flavor.

Lemon Balm Fruit Salad

Using all fresh, washed fruit:
  • 1 Pineapple
  • 6 peaches
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 3 oranges
  • 2 red apples
  • 2 cups seedless grapes
  • 2 pints strawberries
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup orange or grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped lemon balm leaves
Cut fresh pineapple into bite size chunks. Peel and dice peaches, grapefruit, and oranges. Core and dice apples, leaving red skin on. Add grapes whole or cut each grape in half. Cut strawberries into halves. Peel and slice bananas. Add juice and lemon balm leaves. Chill and serve.

Lemon Balm Ginger Ale Punch

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon balm leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
In a medium to large bowl, combine lemon balm, mint, orange juice, honey, water, and lemon juice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. After an hour, pour 4 quarts of ginger ale into serving bowl. Add herb flavoring. Stir and add ice cubes.

Ginger Lemon Balm Iced Tea

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Handful fresh lemon balm leaves
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger root
  • 1/2 cup sugar or honey
  • 3 cups cold water
  • Ice cubes
Steep lemon balm and ginger in boiled water for 10 minutes. Strain. Stir in sugar or honey. Combine with cold water and ice in pitcher. Serves 4.

Lemon Balm Bedtime Tea

Lemon balm makes a medium strength tea. People with mild sleep troubles will drink lemon balm tea the same way they do chamomile tea. Lemon balm tea is said to have a relaxing and calming effect. To make lemon balm tea, bring 1 cup of water to boil. Remove from heat. Add one sprig of lemon balm or about four to five young leaves, lightly bruised. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with or without a touch of honey.

Lemon Balm Daytime Tea

Lemon Balm tea is also said to help get rid of headaches and some people claim that it helps them with depression. As a daytime tea, I like to mix its flavor with black tea for both the stronger flavor and the caffeine.
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 4 young lemon balm leaves, bruised
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bag and lemon balm leaves. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove lid, remove tea bag and lemon balm leaves. Serve with a touch of honey to sweeten.

Quick Lemon Balm Uses

  • Use tender leaves in salads.
  • Put some fresh lemon balm in the car to make the car smell good.
  • Lemon balm can be dried in bunches and used for tea, potpourri, and sachets.
  • Toss a handful of lemon balm leaves into your bath water for a stimulating bath.
  • Lemon balm can be made into an herb jelly and served with chicken or fish.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Small Home Business Grants

Is there a grant available for your small home business? Learn the truth about grant money and find out where you can apply for a grant in your state.

Facts vs Hype

There is a lot of hype about grants and there is a false assumption that grant money is free money available to anyone. The truth is, grant money is not for free. It is special funding and your business will have to meet the grant's eligibility requirements.
Eligibility requirements vary. For example, in the state of Pennsylvania, there are grants for businesses involved in state tourism, filming, energy conservation, and more, but each grant requires that the grant money be used only for certain aspects of the business such as research or marketing or construction. Your business will have to keep records of the use of the grant money so that you can show that the grant money was used in an appropriate manner.

State Grants

There are no Federal grants available for small home businesses.
Small home business owners will want to first check out the grants available to them in their state. Some states also provide small business owners with low interest start-up loans. Look into all options to help start and grow your home business.

State Websites

Friday, May 10, 2013

How Online Article Writers Get Rid of Writer's Block

Online writers face a lot of stress in their every day lives, from family issues to deadlines to making ends meet. The last thing they need is a case of writer's block.

We All Suffer from Moments of Writer's Block

Online article writers face a lot of stress. Each day is filled with deadlines. We have to keep up to date with SEO (search engine optimization), the latest news and trends, the ups and downs of our favorite keyword topics, and still write enough articles in 24 hours to ensure a decent paycheck at the end of the month. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the mechanics of writing a good online article, that we lose sight of what we would actually like to write about. Take a deep breath and step back a moment. Here's how to break free of writer's block brought on by the daily stress.

The Keyword Search

The instant I realize that I am experiencing a moment of writer's block, I quickly pull up Google's Keyword Tool. Let's say that I was asked to write an article about Christmas trees. I am completely stumped when it comes to what angle I want to take on the Christmas tree. I can't even think of a title. I go to Google Keyword Tool and type in Christmas tree. From that keyword search, I can learn what type of information people are searching for on Christmas trees. I can write an article about what kind of artificial Christmas tree to buy, the history of Christmas trees, the types of Christmas trees, and different Christmas tree decorations.

Take a Walk

Sometimes all you need to break up the writer's block is a break from your routine. Step away from the computer, grab your camera, and take a walk. Instead of thinking about writing articles, take some photographs to add to the articles you have yet to write. Photograph flowers and weeds, birds and stray cats, chewed bubblegum on the street and the crumpled piece of paper by the curb. From bottle caps to butterflies, photograph everything you see. You'll find that the act of taking photos can inspire ideas for your articles.

Take a Drive

Grab your favorite CD, get in the car, and start driving. Just getting out of the house for a bit can help you relax. Blare your favorite music and hit the open road. While the main purpose of this drive is just to relax and rejuvenate before hitting the keyboard again, be open to the possibility that the inspiration you are seeking can be around any corner. Keep a cheap digital camera hidden in your car for moments when you find your next article: a chat with a local gardener inspires you to write about her beautiful rose garden, the new cafe in town is begging to be reviewed, or a nearby playground is in serious need of updating and you want to drive awareness to the problem. There truly is at least one article idea on every street.

Do Something Completely Different

It's a blah day. You're feeling blah. Everything is blah blah. The blah is the very worst creative blockage imaginable, but there are ways to break free of it. My favorite method is to do something completely different. I may be cranky and unmotivated, but I play hard nose mother to myself sometimes and force myself to try something completely new. It can be something simple, such as making a trip to the local animal shelter and volunteering to take the dogs for a walk in the dog park (a number of animal shelters allow volunteers to stop in and walk a dog). You can do something off-beat, such as dress up as a clown and go to the Renaissance Fair. Bake something you've never baked before, visit a neighbor you've never spoken to before, eat at a restaurant you've never visited before, or stop at the library and grab a book about something you know nothing about. New experiences give you new perspectives.

More Ways to End Writer's Block

  1. Eat an orange. Some writers swear that the rejuvenating scent and taste of an orange helps them clear up writer's block.
  2. Exercise. Create a 15 minute exercise routine and use it whenever your brain starts to get sluggish.
  3. Call a friend or relative. Sit back and have a chat with someone you haven't spoken to in a while.
  4. Look through the family photo albums. Sometimes looking at pictures stirs up old memories and gives you new ideas for articles.
  5. Visit a retirement home and volunteer to talk with the residents. Listen to their stories and pick their brains on how they did things when they were kids. A lot of article ideas can come from these talks.
  6. Go to the library. Look through the books in the non-fiction section for ideas and new interests.