A Piece of Work, Care Packages, Gifts

4th of July in a Box

This last deployment was the first time my husband was ever deployed over 4th of July. Usually he was getting ready to leave around that time or hadn’t quite gotten there yet. This past year, he was supposed to return stateside the end of July.

I remember getting strict instructions not to send anything to him the last month of deployment. He was worried he wouldn’t get it before he left for home. When it came down to it though, he teasingly stated, “Well I already know I have a 4th of July package coming.” He did not.

I’m not one to disappoint though. So I wracked my brain and scrambled to put together one EPIC 4th of July care package. The only problem with sending a care package with this theme is… what the heck do you put in it?

You can’t send fireworks, that’s a BIG no no. You can’t send family. These men are already surrounded by patriotism. They bleed red, white and blue. They are over there for our freedom and understand the price of it more than most. It doesn’t get more 4th of July than that.

So I got creative.

What can I send that’s LIKE fireworks? What can I send that is patriotic that they may not have and may be of use? What can I send that would give them some FUN?

The answer was this:

The cap would keep him cool and I knew a lot of his civilian clothes to hang out in were getting stained with the red African dirt so this gave him some more shirts as well. I knew they didn’t have many coolers to keep their drinks cool for their BBQs, so I sent them one for the occasion. As for the Pop Rocks… it was the only legal form of fireworks I could think of to ship.

To decorate the box I purchased:

I lined the box with Black Construction Paper (*side note* for those of you who don’t know this, priority flat rate boxes are the way to go). Then I dispersed the firework stickers throughout. Last, but not least, I poked holes through the interior flaps of he box and strung the firework sections I’d cut off the stringer through them so that it would look like fireworks popping out when he opened them.

Enjoy fellow military wives!

A Piece of Work, Gifts

Herb Infusion

I don’t know about you, but I’m on a fairly tight budget. Between building a house and having this thing called a homestead, not to mention that my husband is from a larger family, we try to save money where we can. That being said, I do my best to give gifts that will be truly appreciated and used by the receiver.

Gift giving has always been one of my favorite things to do and I’ve prided myself in giving good gifts. So no way was I going to compromise my reputation and not still find quality gifts. In my opinion… even if you don’t cook, someone in your home probably does and we ALL eat. So I’ve found homemade, from the homestead, gifts to be a great hit with our family. I mean just think of all the possibilities!

The first homemade homestead gift we gave was herb infused extra-virgin olive oil and Serrano pepper infused apple-cider vinegar. All we had to buy were the dispensers! At first I thought that may be a little costly, but I was able to find some reasonable ones with good quality.

The supplies I used for each set is as follows:

2 Oil Dispensers

-2 Sprigs of a Dried Herb of Your Choosing

8 oz Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (may substitute other oil as desired)

8 oz Apple Cider Vinegar (may substitute other vinegar as desired)

– 2 Dried Serrano Peppers

(Optional: May substitute Serrano Peppers for 2 other dried hot peppers or 2 sprigs of dried herbs)

To assemble the gifts, remove the spouts from both dispensers. Place 2 sprigs of dried herb in one bottle and 2 dried Serrano Peppers in the other. Pour extra-virgin olive oil on top of herbs until the oil is 1 inch below the top of the bottle. Repeat this process with Apple Cider Vinegar over the Serrano Peppers until the Apple Cider Vinegar is approximately 1 inch below the top of the bottle. Place both spouts back on the bottles.

Let both sit at room temperature for 2-4 weeks (may be left longer) for the flavor to fully infuse the liquids. Present your homemade gift in a gift basket or with dispensers tied together with a seasonal bow.

*Note: When using Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, a film may appear floating at the top of the liquid and get thicker. This is the result of the “Mother” in the raw Apple Cider Vinegar and is a normal phenomenon*

A Piece of Work, Drink it Up, Kitchen Projects

Fermented Tea

I had never heard of fermenting tea until my sister-in-law came to visit us 2 years ago in Colorado. I remember walking into the quaint homeopathic store in Manitou Springs, Anna’s Apothecary, and immediately hearing my sister-in-law’s voice raise with excitement as she noticed they had kombucha. Of course, she insisted that we all have some.

It was delicious.

With a faint tart flavor, a little bit of sweetness and the perfect balance of ginger, I quickly became intrigued. My sister-in-law had been drinking it, and making it, for years and I listened carefully as she talked about it so that I might learn more. After she left, Eliott and I briefly discussed making our own, but he admitted that he hadn’t loved it.

Fast-forward to me living in Missouri with a deployed husband and needing a hobby. I’d seen more and more on Pinterest about Kombucha, and tried some from Whole foods on a visit out to a friends’ home in the city. So I decided to give it a go. Fermenting tea, that is.

My first step, was to order The Big Book of Kombucha to learn what supplies I needed and how to get started. Ya’ll, I finished that book in 2 days I found it so interesting. I was also so excited to start that I’d contacted a friend I knew brewed to obtain a SCOBY and starter fluid before I’d even finished reading.

The supplies I quickly gathered in my eagerness to begin were:

After that, all I needed was the SCOBY and starter fluid I’d gotten from a friend!

It took me a while to get the hang of brewing kombucha and fermenting it, but I’ve found my perfect balance. Stay posted to learn how I brew my Kombucha!

A Piece of Work, Farm Projects

Drying Herbs

After the herbs are harvested, we take them inside where they are individually processed. First, they are rinsed with fresh cool water before we soak them in Thieves Fruit and Veggie Soak for 1 minute. We then remove the herbs from the soak and rinse all the herbs with fresh cool water again.

To remove the excess moisture from washing, we spin the herbs in a salad spinner. Each herb is spun with moisture subsequently removed from the bowl. We repeat this process with the same herb until a minimal amount of droplets present with spinning. The herbs are then laid out on a tea towel while we continue this process with each of the other herbs.

After the cleaning is completed for all herbs, it is time to preserve the herbs. There are many different ways to preserve herbs, and some of those have different methods. For instance, drying herbs.

I prefer to dry my herbs by hanging them upside down. To do this, you simply bundle your herbs into a bouquet of a single herb, or even a mixture of herbs if you prefer! After they are bundled, you simply tie some jute tightly around the stems and hang them upside down! Of note, it is important to hand them in a cool dark place, or at least out of the sun, so that as much flavor is preserved as possible.

Another drying method is to use a dehydrator. For dehydrator drying, it is best to remove the leaves from the stem and lay them out evenly on the dehydrator tray. This ensures good air circulation and allows your herbs to dry evenly. This method is quicker than hang drying and will be done in a few hours.

You can also dry your herbs in the oven! To do this you would set your oven on the lowest setting and leave the oven door cracked for air circulation. Oven drying is similar to drying in a dehydrator, in that the herbs should be removed from the stalks and the leaves evenly spaced to produce evenly dried herbs.

The last method of drying is almost a combination of the prior two with drying racks or shelves. With this method, the herbs are dried naturally on a mesh tray with the bottom open to air, as a in a shelf form or a hanging form. As in the dehydrator, the leaves will dry more evenly if they are removed from the stalk and evenly spaced along the racks.

A Piece of Work, Do It Yourself, Gifts, The Piggy Bank

Grow with Love

Photo By: Devon Garton Photography

Almost everything about our wedding was DIY and centered around nature. We both love being outdoors, love living in the country and attempt to participate in practices that limit our footprint on this world. So what better gift to give our guests than something to grow?

Initially I’d thought of giving small starts of my own African Violets. However, that was a bit time intensive and would be a bit more costly since we’d need pots. Given the fact that we were also trying to keep the wedding costs down, I preferred not to do that.

So I decided upon seeds. But what seeds? Daisies are my favorite flower and would be the centerpiece of the bouquets, not to mention they grow easily. So they were the clear choice. Now I just had to decide on a cute saying. I searched Pinterest, but didn’t find anything that I loved.

So I came up with my own. “Grow with Love.”

The next step was to actually create it. I already had an HP 4500 printer, which would work for the project. So, I only needed ink, seed packets and the seed. Oh and of course, a design. So I whipped one up. Painstakingly whipped one up, I should say, as I used trial and error to find out how to get all aspects perfectly centered when it actually printed on the packet.

The supplies I used for my project, are as follows:

Daisy Seeds-3

Blank Seed Envelopes -3


Seed Packets for Favors Free with Subscription (enable editing)

After I printed off all my envelopes, my mother and I funneled 1/2 oz of seeds into each envelope. We prepared 100 packets and still had a large amount of seed left over. In fact, 3 years later, we STILL have seed left over, including one whole 1/2 lb package that had never been opened. This should give you a vague idea of how many packets you could make with this particular amount of seed.

For final touches, we placed them on the guest book table at our wedding in a cute little galvanized bucket. I think the turned out pretty great, even if I do say so myself.