Friday, November 23, 2012

I'm Moving!!

Hey everyone,
Big News!!

I'm moving the ole' blog  over to Wordpress, so from now on I'll be posting at

The blog has a whole new name- Live Simple Natural
and a nice fresh look, but all the same content is there.
I'd love it if you'd join me! :)

Why am I moving? This morning when I was writing a post, I ran out of room on blogger and picasa web albums and decided to upgrade my look and space to wordpress. It's just a lot nicer and more professional looking. I love it!
Some practical stuff:
If you're following in Facebook, you'll notice that the name of my FB page has changed as well, but you don't need to re "like" the page- everything just switched over. It's so nifty what technology can do these days! ( I feel old...)

If you're following on email, you still should receive updates as well. If not, please let me know and I'll try to fix the problem!
If you're following on google, you will have to re-sign up to follow I think, because only blogger uses that platform, I believe.

So, come on over and see the new site!

Live Simple Natural

Twine-Wrapped Vases

Happy Black Friday!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families and friends-
We had a delicious, fun Thanksgiving with my family and afterwards played Just Dance 2 on the Wii. Oh, my goodness, that was SO much fun!

I've been trying to make the most lately of the storage capacity of our bedroom, which takes some creativity.
The room is long and skinny (it used to be the back porch)  and it fits a dresser, bed, desk and that's about it. It's really cozy and there's a window looking out to the cow field which I love!

My sewing table is right in front of the window so I can take peeks at the cows grazing lazily around in the field while I sew away.
We have kind of made the windowsill into a bookshelf/storage for art supplies/whatever else ends up there and we had paintbrushes and some other things stuck into mason jars and it looked kind of mumble-jumble.

I wanted to prettify the space, so I took some twine we got at the thrift store and wrapped it around the jars. I may have a fetish for twine. I love it!! My mom gave me the huge roll of twine, and the smaller one is from the thrift store.


Cute, rustic decorative jars to hold all of our odds and ends. And lavender.

It looks SO much better.

I didn't even hot glue the twine, I just tied it around the top, then wrapped the twine around tightly, working down to the bottom of the jar, then used elmer's glue to hold the other end down.
So if you have some mismatched containers holding stuff that you'd like to make look prettier, get some twine and get wrappin!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Squash Enchiladas

I've come across a few recipes for squash enchiladas in the past couple of years, and my first thought was
 "Really, Squash? In enchiladas?? Weird!"

Everyone I've shared the idea with seems to have the same reaction, with varying degrees of horror and/or "Ew gross!"

But, I'm here to tell you- squash enchiladas are actually really good.
They are surprisingly filling and the sweetness of the squash balances really nicely with the flavors of peppers and garlic and my personal favorite, cumin.
If you have an abundance of squash that you don't know what to do with and are so inclined to try new foods, here is a recipe for you!

Honestly, I've made them different every time, using whatever ingredients I had on hand that I thought would taste good. This last time I made them I liked it better than last time, so I'll share the current favorite recipe. :)

Squash Enchiladas
By Becca Swan
Makes 6 enchiladas

1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup corn kernels (I cut mine off the cob but feel free to use fresh, canned or frozen- whatever you have)
2 cups winter squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
shredded cheese for sprinkling (cheddar, monterey jack are especially good)
6 flour tortillas
2 tbsp taco or enchilada seasoning (or your own favorite blend of spices that include cumin, paprika, chili powder, etc.)
sour cream (optional)
Enchilada sauce or salsa (enough to pour over the top of enchiladas)

Heat a pan on med-high, put cooking spray in it or use around 2 tbsp olive oil to grease it.
Add onions and garlic, stir and cook til onions are translucent.
Pour in squash cubes, add salt and pepper, cook for around 5-10 minutes, til the squash starts to soften. Reduce the heat to medium if need be, to keep the squash from burning.
Add rice and corn and seasoning, stir and cook til warmed through.
Remove from heat.

Assemble your enchiladas.
In a 9x13" baking dish, place tortilla, layer squash mixture, cheese and sour cream (if desired) down the middle of the tortilla. Roll tortilla up and place so the loose ends are under the enchilada. Repeat until your pan is full.
Drizzle salsa or enchilada sauce over the top of your enchiladas, then sprinkle some more cheese over them for good measure. :)

I used tomatillo salsa this time and MAN was it good! It added a really nice tang to the dish and I highly recommend it if you like tomatillos. If not, stick with regular enchilada sauce or salsa.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, til cheese on top is melted and slightly browned.
Enjoy with a nice salad or chips and salsa.

If you have people in your family who are skeptical about the squash enchiladas, you can always make a pan of chicken or beef enchiladas as well; that's what we do since my kids and my brothers are not fond of squash at all. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pressing Cider

It's halfway through November already, and getting cold and dreary and decidedly fall/winterish around here.

We had a few hard frosts and it even hailed one day. No snow yet, but it sure is getting cold!

On Saturday, my Great Uncle Gaylord invited us up (he lives next door) to have a cider pressing party and boy was it fun! And COLD! I never knew apple cider could be so cold and delicious!
None of us had really pressed cider before (besides Uncle Gaylord and my Dad) so we all got to learn how.

First, you get some apples.
These are from Gaylord's apple trees. They're "organic" in that they don't have pesticides used on them. :)

From left to right: Ellie, Dad, Ethan, Uncle Gaylord and my youngest brother Scotty

Dad helping Ethan turn the crank on the press

Uncle Gaylord cracking jokes. :)

You put apples into the hopper of the cider press and turn the wheel and it shreds up the apples into a kind of pulpy mess. That falls down into a pressing crate thingy (see how much I know about cider pressing?) and when it's full you slide it over to the press. You put a lid on the pressing crate and then turn the crank to exert pressure onto the crate, which squeezes the cider out into a canning pot.

Tim taking a turn at pressing the cider

Scotty bein' himself. ;)

Then, when the pot is full, you move it over to the straining table and pour it through a strainer. (Or a clean pillowcase, which is what we used.) Squeeze the juice out of the pillowcase and then ladle it into jugs ( a funnel is very helpful at this point!) and Bam! you have apple cider. 

We just leave it raw, we don't pasteurize it or anything, although you have to freeze it if you want it to stay good because it will turn and start fermenting in about 5 days if you don't freeze or can the extra.

What did we do with the leftover smashed apples? Feed it to the cows, of course!
Once the cider was pressed out of the apple bits, we took the pressing crate over and pounded the top out of it, letting the apples fall into a wheelbarrow.

My brother, Brian, pounding out the lid and the apple bits into the wheelbarrow

 Then we dumped the apple bits in the cow field and let the girls have a nice little treat. The kids loved having the cows so close! The cows weren't as excited as the kids. ;)

The cider is SO good! We drank it right as it was dripping out of the pressing crate, into our cups and it was cold and sweet and delicious. 

The weather was frigid too- somewhere in the upper 30's so we had to keep running inside and warming our hands at the woodstove so our fingers wouldn't get so cold they didn't work.  Mine actually got so cold they couldn't bend at one point, so I had to take a break. Squeezing that cider through the pillowcase was a chilly job!
We ended up getting around 12 gallons of  cider, which is more than we expected. We've been enjoying it immensely- warm, cold, putting it in muffins and bread and using it in gravy.  We're saving some for Thanksgiving too, to drink in fancy cups with dinner. :)

I'll be back tomorrow and Saturday with some recipes - it's been a while since I posted any so I'm giving you two- Squash Enchiladas and then Apple Cider Pumpkin Spice muffins!
Have a fabulous Thursday.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Trip to the Mountains

A few days ago my parents had to go over the mountains to pick some elk meat that my dad had dropped by the processor after getting his elk last month, and the kids and I got to go along. We'd been cooped up in the house for a few days and were starting to go a little stir crazy, so this was the perfect opportunity to get out of the house and have a good time.

On the ferry deck


The view from the ferry towards Everett

Ellie looking carefully down at the water

The tallest mountains had a dusting of snow on them. :)

We had so much fun!
We picked up the elk meat at Owen's Brother's, then went and visited Teanaway, which is a valley just over the ridge from Cle Elum. It's gorgeous, and I grew up camping there with my family nearly every year.

There are a bunch of ranches with cute farmhouses and pretty barns, gorgeous views of the mountains and  more often than not you will find wild turkeys, deer or elk grazing in the meadows along with horses or cows.

At the campground we got out and explored and it was so much fun to see the kids have fun running around playing where I spent so many fall days riding bikes, climbing trees and swimming in the river.

The fall leaves were just gorgeous!! 

Teanaway River

More pretty yellow leaves

The kids found a bouncy log and had fun playing on it 

We walked across this log to get to the other side of the river.
 The kids thought that was SO cool!
I thought it was a little scary, but still cool. 

This is "The Shoe Tree". For whatever reason, people have been putting shoes on this tree for probably 20 years.
 It's just a big tree at one of the campsites that's become a novelty. :) 

We headed for home as the sun sank behind the hills, looking forward to next spring when it's warm enough to go camping again and to experience the beauty and adventure Teanaway has to offer. :)