Six Simple Tips for an Allergy-Free Picnic

 

Party Trays

A durable and reusable helper for parties, picnics and barbeques.

A picnic should be a fun gathering of family and friends where everyone can relax and have a nice time together. However, for many people attending a picnic can cause stress and panic. No, I am not talking about the dreaded conversation with your awkward uncle or the pressure from grandma to find that special someone. I’m talking about coping with the spread of dishes put out for meals.

For many, the serving table full of its tasty fare, chock-full of traditional picnic dishes can cause stress. In a time when there are so many fad diets, intolerances and medical needs involving food, there are many people that can’t just eat what everyone else is eating. At our typical family gatherings there are folks with food allergies, diabetics and vegans all needing to eat. So here are six simple steps we always use to help everyone have a nicer mealtime. Continue reading

Quick, Classic Treats for New Year’s Parties

Savory and sweet popcorn seasonings from Lehmans.com

Five different popcorn seasonings are available at Lehman’s in Kidron and Lehmans.com.

You’ve been invited to an impromptu New Year’s party/potluck. What do you take? Check out these three fast, easy and fun ideas.

Savory Popcorn
Consider spicing up your popcorn with some savory flavors! All you need are our true-tasting popcorn seasonings. Choose from Zesty Cheddar, Buttery Jalapeno, or White Cheddar (we have Caramel and Movie Theatre Butter too). Pop your corn, toss with the seasonings while hot, and serve. Be ready with our Stainless Steel Popcorn Popper to make more. You won’t believe how fast the popcorn will disappear! Freshly popped corn makes a great change from typical party snack of salty, greasy chips. Continue reading

Let’s Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling!

Authentic Solid Brass Sleigh Bells

Handmade, with a full, rich tone, these brass bells on a leather harness strap are available from Lehman’s in Kidron and at Lehmans.com.

I always wanted to have a horse and cart. The idea quietly thrilled me. Whenever I would catch a driver and his trusty mare in a movie or documentary part of me felt a tiny ache. It seemed like the perfect pace to take part in the world. Slower than a car, faster and gentler than a country stroll, and unlike seeing the world on horseback you could bring along a few friends and pack a picnic lunch as well. What could be a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in pleasant (or even snowy) weather? Only two problems with this dream. First, I didn’t own a horse or cart. And secondly, I had no idea how to drive a horse and cart. This does not a teamster make… 

 
So I let this dream sit on the shelf in a tiny box I knew I couldn’t open. Horses and carts were for movie extras and county parades, not for everyday people. I had a station wagon that smelled like wet dogs and the idea of someday parking a horse cart next to it in the driveway seemed as realistic as a space shuttle. 

Continue reading

Lehman’s Hacks: Christmas Canning Jar Craft!

Beeswax tealights, Ball® canning jars

Lit with tealights, the jars really sparkle! Find tealights and jars at Lehmans.com.

The first thing we did was look at Pinterest.

In retrospect, that may have been a mistake.

After all, we’re writers and editors here at Country Life, not semi-professional crafters.But we had a great time making our “disco ball jars” as writer Sarah christened the project, and we hope you will too.

Continue reading

The Mystery of the Teal Pumpkins

When you see this poster, you'll know there are safe treats!

When you see this poster, you’ll know there are safe treats!

I am not usually a bandwagon jumper. I like to go along with the crowd enough to fit in but I did not do the ice bucket challenge, succeed at posting 3 thankful thoughts a day or any of the other social media movements.

I tend to be practical, to take direct action, to try make the world a little better for others. So why am I in the craft store stressing about teal paint?

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has launched a campaign to create an inclusive environment for food allergy children at trick or treating. They are encouraging families to paint a pumpkin teal if they are going to offer a non-food treat. (The poster is downloadable, by the way.) Continue reading

Michigan Apples Keep Judy Hustling

Bushel baskets available at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Bushel baskets available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

I was a busy bee over the weekend. Bought a bushel of mixed apples grown right here in Michigan, and made applesauce and apple butter. Sounds so simple with so few words, but it’s actually quite a lot of work, even though I significantly changed two labor-intensive steps.

I have a food press, one of those cone-shaped dealies with a wooden pestle. It’s hard work to press apples with their peels, cores, seeds and stems through it, and you’re constantly cleaning out the scrap. I also have an attachment for my Kitchen Aid that will separate the scrap from the apple flesh, but I didn’t want to dirty more dishes. Continue reading

Fall’s Deep Cleaning Solution

Black Bucket

Inside or out, The Black Bucket does the hard work! At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Every season, we deep clean at our house. It’s mainly because I have allergies, and because we share our space with four cats. (Yes. It gets interesting.) One of the best cleaning “solutions” I use is one that my grandmother and my mother taught me: a solution of water, vinegar, and baking soda. It’s easy to make, and I put together enough for a day’s work–a couple of gallons all together. It doesn’t really “keep”, so make it every time you need it.

Generally, I make it in a plastic bucket. Granny always said not to use a metal bowl, because it might discolor both the paste and what you’re hoping to clean. Only mix this in plastic or non-reactive glass or ceramic.

It works well on hard plastics like porch furniture, outdoor toys, and pool toys too. We used it on vinyl screens too. Don’t use it on metal screens–the vinegar can promote rust! I speak from personal experience here…and replacing a few metal screens in my time. Continue reading

Make the Most of National Waffle Week(end)!

Amish Wedding Pancake and Waffle Syrup

Make breakfast sweeter and more flavorful! Our unique, locally-made syrups are perfect for drizzling onto flapjacks, waffles, oatmeal and more. Choose your favorite or try all

There’s nothing like a fresh, homemade waffle. And our friends over at King Arthur Flour have reminded us that this IS National Waffle Week, with some recipes and yummy-looking photos. But what’s even more important than the waffle? That’s right–the waffle maker. If you have the right waffle maker, your waffles are guaranteed to be scrumptious, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, no matter the waffle recipe. Don’t waffle about–make sure you know which one is perfect for you! We’ve gathered ours here, to make it easier than ever for you to decide. Continue reading

Who Needs A Weed-Eater? Scything Caesar Creek 1

 

The snath is the wooden handle to which the scythe blade is affixed. Both are available at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio or at Lehmans.com.

The snath is the wooden handle to which the scythe blade is affixed. Both are available at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio or at Lehmans.com.

“The old man, holding himself erect, moved in front, with his feet turned out, taking long, regular strides, and with a precise and regular action which seemed to cost him no more effort than swinging one’s arms in walking, as though it were in play, he laid down the high, even row of grass. It was as though it were not he but the sharp scythe of itself swishing through the juicy grass.”

                                                   — from Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

If you have ever been curious about scything and wondered if it might be for you, consider treating yourself to reading Anna Karenina, chapters 4 and 5. The description of hay-making with scythes, the sounds and smells and feel of it, is wonderful. For those of us who enjoy closeness with nature and the feel of working outdoors, it is enchanting

That’s what did it for me. I purchased a snath handle and two blades from Lehman’s and made hand-haying my goal.

Lesson #1: It takes a bit more planning than that to start a hayfield.
Not to worry. I’m working out a plan for the hay. But a few weeks ago I had a more immediate need.

Caesar Creek runs through a beautiful farm property adjacent to mine, on which I have permission to ride my horses around the crop fields. The part where I have been riding is a large field, over 100 acres, with the creek making up almost half of its boundary.

View toward the boundary creek.

View toward the boundary creek.

It was a boundary to me, anyway, because it was impenetrable. High, steep banks made most approaches impossible on horseback, and the wooded vegetation on both sides was deep, dark, and full of nettles — painful to both horse and rider.

Then one day, on a long ride down a local country road, I discovered the actual back side of this property. It was so much bigger than I realized!  And the most beautiful and tranquil parts of it were on the other side of the creek, a maze of rolling, picturesque crop fields linked by decades-old paths through wooded glens.

I just had to find a way to cross the creek.

This is just a small portion of the huge nettle patch that I had to get through.

This is just a small portion of the huge nettle patch that I had to get through.

Lesson #2: Nettles cannot be bargained with.
These weren’t just nettles. They were uber-nettles — tall, dense plant-warriors, ready to sting at the slightest disturbance.

But then I realized they had taken over so completely that little else grew in the woods surrounding the creek – a uniform population, with tender, juicy stalks that wouldn’t bother my scythe one bit.

“I came; I saw; I scythed.”   — A. A. Jones

I studied an aerial map to figure out where I should start making my path to the creek.

Then I had to decide how to get there with my nettle-neutralizing gear and enough energy left to do the job. The starting place was at least a mile from my house through fields — too far to walk and still be a threat to the nettle population when I got there. The nearest road would put me within 200 yards, but there was a bog in between — also no good. I decided packing everything in on horseback was the best way to go.

Scythe BladeI chose the shorter of my two scythe blades, designed more for weeds than hay.

The snath handle was the biggest transportation challenge.

My solution was to attach a banjo strap and sling it over my shoulder.

One banjo strap, and my snath is ready to go!

One banjo strap, and my snath is ready to go!

Everything else fit in my cantle bag on the saddle, even the carefully-wrapped scythe blade. I was all set!

Lastly, I used my favorite knot from my youthful days as a wrangler to secure a lead rope safely around my horse’s neck. This would make tying up quick and easy once we were on the trail.

With my sensible 17-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse mare loaded and ready to go, we headed out to the site.

Safe from flies, and with green to graze, my Tennessee Walker waits for me to conquer the nettles.

Safe from flies, and with green to graze, Robin, my Tennessee Walker waits for me to conquer the nettles.

My first order of business was to knock down enough nettles to give my horse a comfortable place to stand under a shade tree, at the edge of the woods. Then I removed her bridle, attached her fly mask, loosened the saddle, and asked for her patience.

Minutes later the scything began in earnest, and I didn’t stop for two hours. I didn’t mean to go that long without a break, but I found myself hooked by the same almost Zen quality that comes with playing golf.

Once I got my technique down, nettles dropped right and left.

Once I got my technique down, nettles dropped right and left.

For me that means initial frustration, followed by working at it too hard, followed by more frustration, until I am about to give it up for good, then I finally relax and … Thwack!  The golf ball sails, and I can’t wait to do it again.

I kept trying to remember all I had read about proper scything technique, but it was difficult to apply in the moment. When I would notice myself struggling, I realized I was making choppy strokes, all arms, and the cutting was difficult. So I would take a breath, and then swing smoothly with my body, letting the blade do the work. And voila! The nettles cut like soft butter.

Oh yes, I kept going.

After two hours I had made it deep into the woods, well out of sight of my horse who grew nervous and whinnied for me. That’s what reminded me to take a break. After checking in with the The Boss (her name is Robin) and rehydrating, I went back in to make a final push to the creek, which was now almost visible. I went straight for the sound of water, ready for this job to be over.

A perfect bank for crossing Ceasar Creek!

This looks like a great spot to cross, but the bank is way too steep!

After another 20 minutes of work, I realized I was about eight feet too high. I had come out on one of the creek’s many steep, high banks. I retraced my path and continued cutting parallel to the creek another 50 feet or so until the contour looked more promising, and tried again. This time I came out at a small step-down bank opening onto a wide sand bar — perfect!

I went back for my horse, and we tried out the new path. A few tree limbs needed to be cut, but it was passable.

Once we were in the creek, I took a few minutes to survey the other side — only steep, high banks in sight.

Now aware of how tired I was, I would leave it for another day to find an exit from the creek on the other side.

Look for the second installment of Scything Caesar Creek on Wednesday, September 3.

The Wheels On The Bus…

Ecobags lunch sack at Lehmans.com.

A blank, recycled canvas! Ecobags Lunch Sacks are fun to decorate, and are washable, great for allergic kids. At Lehmans.com or Lehmans in Kidron, Ohio.

Where did time go? My  baby girl is suddenly five years old and getting ready for her first day of kindergarten. Wasn’t it just yesterday I held her in my arms and sang the song with her- soon she will be stepping on the bus.

I had hoped that she could be a carefree lunch eater and able to participate in every pizza party- but that is not her reality. Around age one she was diagnosed with milk, egg, wheat and sunflower food allergies. While we were hoping that she would outgrow them by now, she still has reactions to all.

So along with the normal supplies there will be an Epi-pen and care plan for the school follow. I hope that she will not carry all my fears and worries, but that she can find a safe balance of being cautious and being normal. Continue reading