Monthly Archives: June 2011

Free Giveaway! Ester’s Secrets

Free Giveaway! Ester’s Secrets

It is time for another FREE GIVEAWAY!  You are in for such a treat. I have been enjoying some of these products all week and I feel like I have been at the spa.  It started with a sugar scrub.  It left my hands feeling rejuvenated and so very soft.  I just wanted to keep rubbing my hands.  There was such a difference after the yucky hands of too much yard work.  I also have enjoyed the privilege of trying super awesome soap, lotion and lip balms.  Her soaps are made with high quality ingredients such as distilled water. sodium hydroxide, olive pomace oil,coconut oil, palm oil, shea butter, fragrance oil. The luscious lip balm is offered plain or with a very light natural looking tint. This lip balm is not like a lipstick but adds a natural glow to your color, all while protecting your lips from the everyday weather. Can be worn alone or under make up.

I can’t even begin to list all of what Ester’s Secrets has to offer.  The quality of her products is amazing and it is very affordable. Head on over to her page and look and see what she has.  I even loved reading the descriptions.

Here’s what we are giving away:

We are giving away to one lucky winner a lotion, soap and lip balm.  You will be able to pick out the items of your choosing.

Here’s how to enter:

1. Head on over to Ester’s Secrets on Facebook and like her page.

2.  Next comment on my blog post or Home in the Trenches Facebook Page about what products you would like to own.

For additional entries:

1.  Post on Ester’s Secrets on Facebook what products you would like to own.

2.  Follow me on Networked Blogs, Twitter, Facebook.  Additional entry for each follow.

3. Subscribe to follow Home in the Trenches by email.  Head over to the blog and fill in the subscribe box on the top-right corner.

4. Tweet about this giveaway.  One additional entry for each daily tweet.

This giveaway will end Friday June 24th at midnight CST.

Strawberry Picking Tips and Recipes

Strawberry Picking Tips and Recipes

Berry picking is a some-what new activity for our family. We really enjoy going and picking our own berries and now that we have done it a couple times we feel like pros! If you live in IL we love heading out to Mazon to Olive Berry Acres.  It has such a down home, family feel and the people who own it are wonderful!

I want to offer a few tips for you if you haven’t gone before, as well as some tips for cleaning and freezing them and some yummy recipe ideas too. So here we go:

Tips before heading out to pick berries:

1.  Make sure you wear old shoes.  It can get quite muddy.  I had my kids all wear old shoes and then threw another pair for each of them into a couple plastic grocery bags and put them into the back of the van.

2.  Bring sunscreen and bug spray.

3. I have heard that it is best to pick berries earlier in the day if possible.  On weekends, places can be picked-out by noon.  Make sure that you call ahead to make sure that they have berries available.  Strawberry season only lasts a couple weeks, try to head out in the early part of the season if possible.

While you are berry picking:

1.  Do not pile your strawberries more than 5 inches deep, you will bruise the bottom strawberries.

2.  It usually takes a person 10-15 minutes to pick 1 to 1.5 lbs of strawberries.

3. Only pick berries that are completely red and ripe. They will not ripen once picked.

4. Berries picked in the sunshine tend to soften quickly.  If you are needing to pick on a sunny day, try to store them in the shade as quickly as possible.

Once you get home:

1. DON’T wash the berries until you are ready to use them.  Washing makes them more prone to spoiling.

2. Cut the tops off of the strawberries.  Or even better follow this new tip we learned.  Take a straw and push it gently up through the bottom of the strawberry and through the top.  The top should pop right off.  We had a lot of fun doing this and even very little ones can help do this without worrying about them cutting themselves with a knife.

3. Wash berries that you are planning on freezing and lay out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towel.  Let them dry before putting them into freezer bags.  We really liked using the quart size bags.  They seem like a perfect size to pull out for smoothies etc.  One more tip with the straw here.  If you don’t have a neat vacuum sealer place one end of the straw in the almost sealed bag and suck the air out and seal quickly.

4.  Make lots of fun recipes to eat your strawberries.



Fruit Dip:

Mix one 8 oz package of cream cheese with one 8 oz jar of marshmallow fluff.  Once mixed you can layer cut up strawberries with this dip for a pretty dessert.  Or you can just dip your strawberries right into the bowl of dip.  This one really just depends on your mood!

Strawberry Pie:

First strawberry pie I ever made was today!  Very simple.  Here is the recipe that I used.

(Straw)Berry Lemonade Slush:

Remember, I just shared this with you!  Find the recipe here.

Deliciousness in a Glass

Deliciousness in a Glass

Wow, I just made this awesome, refreshing dessert in a glass and had to share it with you.  We got home from a bike ride one evening recently and everyone was wondering what we were going to have for dessert.  I was excited to be able to surprise them with this super easy and quick dessert.  The recipe actually was in a flyer from our local grocery store.

Berry Lemonade Slush:

Country Time Lemonade Flavor Drink Mix

1/2 cup water

1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries

3 cups ice cubes

How to Make it:

Measure drink mix into cap to 1 quart line (1/2 cup)

Blend water, drink mix and berries in blender until smooth. Add ice; blend on high speed until thickened and smooth.

Serve immediately!

I hope you enjoy this as much as our family did.  It was perfect after a hot bike ride!

Travel Journals for Kids

Travel Journals for Kids


Since we were doing such a big trip on the road, I thought it would be fun for the kids to journal about the things we did and saw along the way.  I wanted for them to be able to add memorabilia to the journal once we got home.  I searched on the Internet for quite a while before I found what I was looking for. I came upon a couple different FREE travel journals that looked like they would work for us.  I found a smaller one for Faith (4).  It had some check lists and short fill in blanks and plenty of space for drawing pictures of things we did.  I printed it from here.

I love the one I found for the older 3 kids.  It had a page a day for them to fill out and it asked different questions each day about how they felt, what they saw etc. I found it here.

I printed the pages out, hole punched them and put them in 3 ring binders.  As we started our trip I let the kids decorate the cover page and fill in the before we left section.

As we were going different places we picked up brochures, collected ticket stubs etc.  I brought along a few big 9×12 envelopes that we would put the memorabilia we collected.  This was a huge help!  Normally I end up with things left all over the RV or put in random places and they are ruined before we make it home.  Not this time! I am excited for the kids to spend the next week adding this stuff to their journals.  I am planning on adding clear page protectors that the kids can put these things in.  They may glue some things down on paper to create a collage before putting it in a page protector and adding it to the journal.

I think the kids will really enjoy remembering what we did and what they saw and felt when they look at these journals down the road.  It has also been a great way to keep them writing while we were on road.



School on the Road

School on the Road

As we ran into people along the way on our journey we heard a lot, “Oh, you must homeschool!”  Yes, we do homeschool.  Depending on how our schedule lines up really determines how and when and where we are homeschooling.  We are usually at home for most of our schooling and try to stick to a “traditional” schedule.  Our kids really wanted to finish up most of school before we left on our trip.  They worked really hard the last 3 weeks before we left to get extra work done.

On the first 2 days of driving we were able to get quite a bit finished.  It is amazing how much school work one can get done when having to be seat belted in a moving vehicle.  They finished up Science and History and another of their quiet reading books.

They also did quite a bit of Math on days we were driving or had down time.  All we have left to finish up are some odds and ends- a read aloud book and a writing assignment and a couple weeks of Math.  We will also do our travel journals, but they don’t think that is school HA, ha, ha.

We started school about a week and a half ahead of our public school in mid-August and we also don’t take days off when the public school kids are off.  We tend to take days off here and there that match up with my husband’s schedule and we want to do something as a family, like the zoo etc.

I love the flexibility of homeschooling.  We were able to spend time reading books about Washington DC before we went there.  I felt like the kids had a grasp on some of the things we were going to see.  It also really created some excitement about that portion of our trip.  We have spent the last 2 years studying American History with Sonlight, so it was very good timing to be able to see some of what we have studied about!

Up next…travel journals….