One Ash Homestead

How We Simplify Christmas

Lee Ann and Alexandrea PerezJust like most women I know, I am ready for this holiday season. I love the spirit of the season and always hope to make special memories. But one thing I have found is that it's very easy to get carried away, stressed out, and to lose that beautiful spirit of Christmas. For so many years I worked in that crazy, commercialized retail rat race where it's all about doing what the world expects. Its such a blessing to take a step back and do only what I can truly enjoy. With only so much of "me" to go around I have found these ways help me to enjoy the season (without collapsing by January 1st!).

1. Share your abundance with the lonely or needy. Every city and church has organizations they can suggest for your donations. Most of us have more than we need or can use. Blessing others is one of life's greatest blessings.

2. Pick one or two main events. With so many things going on it's hard to know what will be the most meaningful. There are certain traditional activities that we all have — but are they important or just a habit? Take time and re-think the things you do during the Christmas season and pick just one that will mean the most. It could be a service project, a public event you attend, helping with a church event, or hosting a party. For me it's the annual Cookie Exchange Tea that we host at our home for the ladies and girls of our small church. That special fellowship helps to create a special bond that lasts all year long.

3. Gifts. Need I say more? For many women this has become (wrongly) the major focus of the season. How many conversations have you had with others that ask "have you started shopping yet," or "are you done yet?" How many times have you rushed around, driven too far too fast, been short with someone, or spent too much, just to find that "perfect" gift? Think about gift giving like this — if God takes care of providing our every need, then why must you stress over finding a gift? If it's meant to be given, won't you find it just in time?

4. Christmas cards are still around, even though social media and the Internet seem to be taking the place of "snail mail". I do love sitting down quietly with a cup of tea to sign and address cards to a few special friends and family members. What, you say? Quiet? Time for tea? Only a few cards?! Yep — this is my next tip. Now, if you love taking the family Christmas card picture and writing the yearly recap of life in your home, there is nothing wrong with that. But for me, that has always been just a bit too much. Over the years I have pared back my Christmas card list to include only those that mean the most to our family (I guess I figure the rest would just use our card as filler on their card display). And as for fancy cards? Nope! I have found that thrift stores or the dollar store always have enough cards that perfectly match our personality as a family. After all, it's not about impressing someone with the quality of my card, it's about the thoughtfulness of remembering them.

5. And speaking of thrift and dollar stores ... Have you really checked them out? What great places to find all sorts of gifts! Granted, some items are lesser quality, but if you take a little time and really search you just might find that special something you are looking for. And they are perfect spots for finding stocking stuffers!

5. The money ... do you spend a lot of it during the holidays? Trust me, I have lived that life of trying to give the biggest, the best, the most expensive gifts. And you know what? Months later those recipients, and even myself, really can't even remember what I gave them. Gift giving is not about what the stores want you to believe. It's not what the commercials portray on TV. Gift giving comes from the heart and doesn't mean bigger, better, best. It's not about pushing an item or agenda on someone. Gift giving is about knowing the person you are giving to, and offering something that matches their interests. It doesn't have to be a "thing" that you buy at a store. It is a warm, generous, gesture, given in whatever form is comfortable for you. Think of the toddler who enjoys the empty box more than the toy inside. What money parents could save if they gave for the child's interests and not their own!

6. Food. Oh, how I love a good Christmas cookie or sweet!! But all of those special ingredients can really break the budget. If you enjoy cooking homemade treats during the holidays, try researching some historic recipes. Many of them take less ingredients and produce very unique goodies. And it's a great way to learn about how our ancestors celebrated the holidays.

7. Take some time for yourself ... a long, hot bubble bath, a good cup of tea, a big chocolate bar, or a good book. I love reading Christmas Amish fiction books, and every year choose a few to enjoy throughout December.

8. The real reason. As you are bustling through the first 24 days of December are you truly remembering why we celebrate Christmas? It's not about Santa Claus and eggnog, reindeer and Black Friday shopping. All of our "traditions" are fine and dandy, but if it wasn't for our Lord and Savior's birth we would have no Christmas. Taking time to reflect, study God's word, and count your multitude of blessings should be the most important part of your Christmas activities.

This is how I simplify my Christmas season ... I hope you can take some of these tips & use them yourself. And, most of all, I hope you are able to slow down and enjoy this Christmas season!

how we simplify Christmas

23 Ways To Live The Amish Lifestyle Without Being Amish

Lee Ann and Alexandrea Perez23 ways to live

Do you love a simple lifestyle?

Do you strive to be closer to nature?

Most of us live hectic lifestyles. With today's society, we are always go, go, go. If you don't answer that text message or email back within 5 minutes, you're almost considered a recluse in today's day and age. The Amish lifestyle portrays the simplicity and freedom that most of us crave on some level, whether we know it or not. By living on a farm ourselves, we are often forced to take the time to be outside — nice and simple, but are we really enjoying nature? Are we enjoying this life God has given us? Or, are we just taking it for granted? I feel that most of us are doing the latter.

Every day, I think of ways we can achieve the Amish lifestyle, without necessarily being Amish. Whether you live on a farm or in the city, I feel there is something for everyone on this list!

Here are my Amish-inspired tips that will help you slow down in this crazy life.

1. First and foremost ... Have faith. I'll be the first to tell you — things hardly ever go as planned. Sometimes, life is just plain tough. It's at these moments where having faith is one of the things that helps us get through. As many say, "Let Go and Let God." I recently read this post from our friends at Her Sword on how to do just that.

2. Learning to let things be what they are. Things aren't going to be easy — and that's okay.

3. Be frugal. When you leave the corporate world, you go through a big financial change. Through that, you learn to be frugal and to count every dollar. After a while, you learn that you can live just as well as you did before — at a quarter of the cost!

4. Family. Family is so vital to being happy. I know some of us don't get along with them ... And I sure can't change that. But, with that being said, we wouldn't be where we are if it wasn't for the three of us coming together; I don't know where we'd be!

5. Community. This can definitely be a toughie, depending where you are in the world (and where you are in life). But, what I have found is that by surrounding ourselves with other similar-minded people, it has helped us only grow more. With the community and friendships we have established, we feel more comfortable in the day-to-day and always have someone to lean on for questions or advice if we need to!

6. Grow your own food. Even if you live in an apartment, you can do this. Throw some pots by the window or on your porch. It doesn't take a lot of space to grow food. Even if you're just doing a few tomatoes or a couple of peppers, you will still feel so rewarded when those veggies are ready to be picked and eaten!

7. Preserve your own food. Canning/dehydrating/fermenting ... whatever it is you want to do ... learn how to do it and try your hand at it! Even if you don't do it every day, it is still a skill that's wonderful to have in the back of your mind just in case you may need it later on in life.

8. Eat naturally. I know, "healthy" food can get expensive sometimes. What we like to do, besides raising the food ourselves, is look for sales at the local stores. You may not be able to get everything you want that week, but you can usually find some pretty good deals on stuff that will last a while!

9. Learn how to sew. Again, a skill you might not need every single day. But one that is excellent to know!

10. Learn crafts that you can sell. Looking for a way to make some extra cash? Just like to put your hobbies to good use? Take up a craft like knitting or sewing (even baking) and go set up a table at the local farmers market!

11. Use the Bible as your guidebook through life. We all have trials in our life, questions we want answered and advice that's needed. Go to the ultimate guidebook for those answers — the Bible.

12. Have gratitude. Even when things don't go the way that you planned, they still happened the way they were meant to. Have gratitude in all situations and your life will be a lot happier and less stressful!

13. Bloom where you're planted. You may not be in that dream job or in the dream house. But that's okay. Seize the moment that you are in and do your best in that place!

14. Teach future generations. Everyone has the opportunity to do this. Each and every one of us have someone younger looking up to us to see what our next move is. Teach them gratitude, hospitality, faith ... but also teach them skills that they can pass down to the next generations, such as knitting or plowing the fields.

15. Leave a small carbon footprint. While we all love our technology, it's not doing much for the sake of the earth. By being natural and using natural, you can leave a smaller footprint.

16. Don't get caught up in the worldly things. Don't get all riled up about what celebrity did what. Or what new technology just came out that you won't sleep until you have. Focus on your family and what is happening in your life!

17. Live a simple life.

18. Be welcoming to others. While we are all busy living our lives, it can be very easy to bypass someone new in the neighborhood or in the church. Be welcoming to them. Take the time to introduce yourself and let them know that they are welcome in the community!

19. Be a keeper of the home. All you ladies — this is for you. Keep your home like you were doing it for The Lord.

20. Share your bounty with others/don't be greedy. Maybe you struck it big this year and got a ton of pears. But, you might not can all 10 bushels you got. Share some with friends or neighbors and pass along the blessings!

21. Respect the elders. There is so much to learn from them. Remember, they've been where you are and they can help you with some good advice if you just listen!

22. Work hard, but have fun. Working doesn't have to be miserable. Have fun working and do all your work unto The Lord! The blessings you will receive will definitely make it worth it!

23. Live for today. Don't worry about what tomorrow holds — you don't even know if there will be a tomorrow. Focus on the today that is right in front of you!

Do you have anything you'd add to the list?

Amish Fried Pears

Lee AnnWhat is it about these early, rainy, Autumn days that makes me want to get in the kitchen and try something new? I think maybe it's the change in the local food that's available.  For us, it's time for apples, and pumpkins and greens. It's also time for pears that are juicy, ripe and just about falling off the trees.  

This week, I was blessed with a bushel of fresh picked pears from a friend.  I will can most of them to have for those cold winter nights when we want some fresh tasting fruit.  But, we will also enjoy many of them fresh.  This morning, I decided to try something different to have with breakfast.  Fried Pears- and oh, my, how delectable they were! The soft, sweet, yet crunchy, chewy texture was unbeatable.  Our house smelled like an Amish bakery and these pears tasted just like an Amish schnitz pie,  minus the crust!  A portion of these pears along with a slice of fresh baked bread with home made butter (learn how here) was the perfect rainy morning treat!  This recipe can easily be reduced or increased as needed for the size of your family.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

amish fried pears

Amish Fried Pears

1 fresh pear per person, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon brown sugar per pear used
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon per pear used
1 tablespoon butter per pear used

Melt the butter until bubbling.  Add the pears and other ingredients.

Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

The pears are done when fully coated with the other ingredients, and browned until crispy.  Serve warm and enjoy!

Peach Peel Jelly

Lee AnnWAIT! Don't throw away all of those peach peels and pits! They have a great future as flavorful, delicious Peach Jelly!

If your homestead is like ours, we don't like to waste anything. I am all for using every part of every item, and that comes to my peaches! After making all of the other great peach items that we have posted, take those peach peels and pits and turn them into a great alternative to traditional grape jelly! This is so good on PB&J, and makes a great breakfast addition to homemade biscuits or bread!

Here is the recipe that we use, enjoy!

Peach Peel Jelly  

Peach Peel Jelly

Put all of your peach peels and pits from other recipes into a large kettle and barely cover them with water. Bring this to a boil and cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Let this mixture stand overnight.

Strain off the juice through a cheesecloth lined strainer. Now you can take all those used peels and pits to the compost pile.

Measure the amount of juice you have. Based on the amount of juice you have, measure out 1 cup sugar for each cup of juice.

Use 1 package powdered pectin per each 3 cups juice. Add the pectin to the juice and bring it to a hard boil. Stir in the sugar and boil rapidly until the mixture reaches 220 F. Skim off any foam.

Pour this into hot, sterilized jars, and seal with hot lids and rings. Wait for the "ping" and then store your cooled jelly for a winter day!

No-Pectin Peach Preserves

Lee AnnWouldn't it be delicious to pop open a jar of preserves in the cold of winter and have them taste exactly like a fresh picked peach? That has been my goal this year. In the past I have always trusted the box of clear-jell or pectin that I buy in the local market. I have followed the recipes, dumping nearly a bag of sugar into each batch. Not so this peach season!

After doing some research, I gathered together a few different recipes (concepts, as I call them), and came up with a recipe that I think tastes fresh and just-picked. This recipe uses less sugar, and none of that boxed jelling agent. Thanks to a slower process, the natural pectin of the peaches helps to jell the fruit into a somewhat soft, but firm enough, preserve. I hope you enjoy!

peach preserves 

No-Pectin Peach Preserves
Yields about 4 pints.

7 pounds fresh peaches
4 to 5 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice, bottled or fresh

Prepare peaches by dropping in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, slip off peels and split in 1/2 removing  pits. (Save peels and pits for Peach Peel Jelly!)

Place peaches in 6- to 8-quart pan and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. (Do not add water!)

Using potato masher, chop cooked peaches into small, preserve size pieces. Add lemon juice and sugar and return mixture to medium high heat, bringing to a boil.

Cook, stirring almost constantly to avoid scorching, to jelly stage, or about 220 F. This will take about 20 minutes.

Immediately fill hot, sterilized jars with preserves, leaving about 1/4-inch head space. (Here's a trick – I keep my clean jars in the oven at about 200 F – that way they are hot and won't crack when I add the hot preserves!)

Making sure rims and threads of jar are free of preserves, place hot lids and rings on firmly. For safety, process jars in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Remove jars from water bath, place on clean towels to cool. (To do it how my grandmother did – turn jars upside down for 20 minutes then flip them back upright.) Listen for the "ping" as the button on the lid inverts and it seals completely!

You can easily multiply the ingredients for a larger yield.

For more information and available resources about canning and preserving food, go to the GRIT Bookstore and search for "canning" or "preserving."

Corn Salsa

Lee AnnWhat a blessing it is to be able to harvest so much corn this year! We have been stripping the kernels (with this awesome corn stripper tool) and preserving them for the cold winter months. I couldn't help using some of those kernels to make a batch of fresh Corn Salsa!

Everything except the onions came from our garden, and it's super fresh and cool. Great with chips or as a relish on top of burgers, salads or Fried Green Tomatoes. Enjoy!

Corn Salsa from One Ash Farm Recipes

3 cups fresh corn kernels
1 small tomato, seeded and diced (I like Roma tomatoes for this)
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons clantro leaves (I used dried)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1/2 tablespoon sea salt

Mix everything together, let it sit for a couple of hours to blend the flavors, and enjoy!

Homemade Natural Toothpaste

Lee AnnI have heard a lot of people talk about buying natural toothpaste so they can avoid the added fluoride and other additives that aren't so good for us. But there's no need to go to the store and buy something made by a big corporation when you can make your own homemade natural toothpaste!

There are many sites that will help to educate you about "big name" toothpaste and why it's something we should avoid. Many of the ingredients in that toothpaste include toxins such as flouride (a toxic industrial waste product), triclosan (which disrupts the endocrine system), and surfactants (which interfere with the functioning of taste buds and have been linked to causing canker sores). After reading many of those articles and talking with friends who buy the natural stuff, I combined what I learned into this super easy recipe for homemade natural toothpaste. This simple combination will really surprise you!

The benefits of coconut oil are numerous, but when used in the mouth it helps fight the common Streptococcus bacteria that are found in your mouth and along your gum line. It also helps to reduce  Streptococcus mutans, which lead to decay and plaque. Your teeth and gums will feel clean and fresh, and the odor-causing bacteria can be kept at bay. And you will avoid all of those toxins mentioned above!

The addition of a little baking soda in this recipe creates a slightly abrasive toothpaste that will shine and whiten your teeth. The peppermint oil extract is optional to create a more traditionally flavored toothpaste.


Give this natural and very inexpensive natural toothpaste a try!

Homemade Natural Toothpaste from One Ash Farm Recipes
(this recipe can be multiplied into larger batches as needed)

3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 to 4 drops peppermint oil extract (to taste, and optional)

Mix thoroughly and store in a closed jar or container in the bathroom.

To use, use the back side of your toothbrush to loosen enough toothpaste to cover your toothbrush bristles.

The coconut oil will begin to melt when you put it in your mouth and you can just swish and brush it on all of your teeth and gums.

You can brush your tongue, and gargle with what is left before you spit it out!