Gigi Blog » The life and loveliness of Gigi's World

Gigi Blog bio picture
  • Welcome to the Gigi Blog!

    Blessed to be a mother to half a dozen girls & one boy. Wife of an undertaker.
    Photographer. Homeschooler. Daughter of the King. Chicken and goat raiser.
    Lover of Jesus and all things pink and vintage. ♥

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Well, my vanilla beans arrived from France – and do they ever smell lovely! I ordered them off ebay and shipping did not take long at all.


I know making your own vanilla extract is well heard of in many kitchens – in fact, it is so easy, there’s not much to post about it. It’s barely even a recipe, really …

Simply attain your fresh vanilla beans. Enjoy the beautiful smell of those rich, moist vanilla pods! Slice them down the center of the bean pod and drop 3-5 into a glass jar.

Cover with alcohol  – vodka, rum or brandy – and allow it to steep for up to three months. You can leave the vanilla beans inside your extract when it is finished seeping or you can remove them. I usually just leave them in for extra flavor.

 

 

My mom gifted me with some brandy and vodka (no, she does not drink alcohol but had them for household projects). What a blessing!

I covered one jar with brandy and the other with the vodka.

For many of us, real vanilla extract from the stores is quite expensive. Using the fake version is not an option because of what may be used to make the imitation vanilla. {Also, here is a good article on the comparisons.} Making your homemade vanilla flavoring is a great option for a healthier and cost-effective vanilla extract.

March 17, 2017 - 7:42 am

Gigi - Use the ones listed – I have heard that brandy is great for vanilla, but I think a common one is vodka. I am working on the link (I have forgotten my ebay sign in!).

March 16, 2017 - 4:55 pm

Maike - Does it make a difference which sort of alcohol I use? I don’t drink alcohol, it all smells the same to me, but perhaps there are differences especially in the final vanilla extract taste? I’m also interested in the link to the beans. 🙂

March 16, 2017 - 4:09 pm

Gigi - Looking at the bottle, I think it was a hot sauce bottle…

March 16, 2017 - 4:07 pm

Gigi - I think that bottle is an old condiment bottle- I try to keep all my glass jars/bottles and take off the labels. It helps in these types of projects!

March 16, 2017 - 9:50 am

Brenda (Gigi's Mom) - PS I love that bottle for the beans. Hoping to find one like that. It’s perfect

March 16, 2017 - 9:49 am

Brenda (Gigi's Mom) - I am making my own vanilla too! Thanks to Gillian’s inspiration. I got my beans from ebay, shipped from France but grown in Madagascar. I hear the best beans are from Madagascar 🙂
Thanks for the inspiration, Gillian

March 16, 2017 - 6:37 am

Gigi - I will look for the link! I think I will order more. They are so fresh and lovely.

March 15, 2017 - 6:46 pm

Lauren - Hey Gillian! I sooo want to do this. Vanilla extract is so expensive these days! I heard that there was a worldwide shortage of vanilla beans, hence the rise in cost. Where do you get your vanilla beans?

Almond Extract {at home}

It’s another very cold Saturday –  a little bit of a snowed in kind of day. It’s windy and too cold to play outside. We are all hoping perhaps this is the last winter blast, but we shall see. This frigid weather does make the perfect day to work on a few indoor small and easy projects for the house.

I made a huge pot of quinoa beef stew in preparation for guests that we will have in the next few days, which will also double as tonight’s dinner. It smells so good simmering on the back of the cookstove. We are running very low on our beef (which we purchase in the fall from a farmer) so a stew is a great way to spread the meat further for a few meals.
I also made some spelt buns and bread for dinner.

The girls helped me scrub the grout on the kitchen floor tile (a time consuming job), we washed all the bedding for the bigger girls and dried it by the woodstove, along with a second load of regular every day laundry. The girls cleaned up under their beds (a collecting spot for junk, if not monitored) and I scrubbed down our bathroom. We also did our regular Saturday chores, which usually is a cleaning of the house from top to bottom.

Lucia and Lovelyn made oatmeal jam bars, which the girls are snacking on while they work on an art dvd which our good friend gave to us.

 

After our regular chores were finished, I decided to make some almond extract. My mother recently gave me some extra alcohol she had in her cupboard, which was to be used for making our tinctures. I’m waiting for my vanilla beans to arrive in the mail (which will be used for vanilla extract), so in the meantime, I thought it would be a good idea to make a small batch of almond extract.

It It is so easy and simple to make. All you need to do is put your almonds in a jar and cover with vodka! I chopped mine up a bit but I am sure it is not required.

 

 

 

Once your almonds are covered with the alcohol (which extracts the almond flavor), place your jar in a dark cupboard to allow it to six for six weeks or so. After that time, it is ready! So simple and easy, right?

 

 

 

 

What home projects do you like to do a cold, snowed in Saturday?

March 14, 2017 - 5:58 pm

Our Home of Many Blessings - Great!!! I cant wait for that post! I have learned so much from you and this site. I appreciate all the time that you have put into it!

March 13, 2017 - 3:29 pm

Gigi - That is a good question that probably deserves a long answer. 😉 Yes, we have set schedules. I will see if I can post some. I’m afraid I add to that posted schedule all the time so it is changing with the seasons but generally, they all have assigned household and animal chores…every child is involved!

March 13, 2017 - 1:30 pm

Our Home of Many Blessings - I would love to know if you follow some sort of a housekeeping schedule.Wether it’s daily,weekly, or seasonal?do your girlies have set chores every day that you want them to follow?I know you have a lot of animals that need care also.Do you have a to do list or certain days with certain work that you do and how do you incorporate the kiddos?

March 12, 2017 - 5:50 am

Gigi - Such a simple idea, right? But so lovely to make for your kitchen.

March 11, 2017 - 10:52 pm

Katy - I have made vanilla extract before but never realized I could make almond extract the same way!!! Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

Guardian Angels

 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you,
That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father
which is in heaven.

Matthew 8:10

 

It is with humility and great thankfulness that I post a praise report this day.

God kept our family safe this weekend and for that I am truly thankful. I hesitated to post this as I don’t want to over dramatize, but I also want to give thanks to God for being present and sending angels to watch over our family.

On Saturday afternoon, as the cool chill of winter returned and the children played outside, I was icing a chocolate cake in the kitchen. The girls were playing in the fresh air, a tiny skiff of what is left of our snow covered the ground. The air was chilly so yes, the woodstove was going to keep us warm.  Suddenly, I heard the girls run, screaming – yes, all six of them – to the house. This makes my heart stop every time as I never know what they might be screaming about. They threw open the kitchen door and yelled “The chimney is on fire! There’s fire coming out! Get Lazarus and get outside!!!!”

In my haste, I dropped the icing knife and swiped Lazarus from the spot on the floor where he was playing – I threw him to his sisters – I’m not even sure which sister – and they ran to to our vehicle – which we had designated as our meeting spot, if ever we had a house fire. (We had figured the vehicle would be best as I could drive the children away if we needed to get further from the house. Also, I could keep them warm if it was in the winter and it would contain every one somewhat safely until the situation was under control.)

I ran outside the house through the dirty snow in slippers and no coat. Looking up to roofline, I saw the fire – yes, indeed, it was coming out of the top of the chimney in our school room! I ran back inside to call the fire department and to make sure the stove was shut down (as much as possible). All the vents were shut on the stove, but the temperature was dangerously high. I ran to the phone (thankfully, a  landline as I do not own a cell phone). Strangely enough, the landline was not working very well. There was much static and I could not hear anyone talking on the other end of the line. I tried calling 911 with shaky fingers but all I could hear was scratching and static … I tried again … but again, there was no proper reception and I could not hear anyone talking … I kept repeating, in a shaky voice, “Hello? I need the fire department!” and I would repeat our emergency address. I decided to unplug the phone and try another jack upstairs and so off, I ran, carrying the phone upstairs into our bedroom. But plugging it in, I discovered the same crackly reception – nothing with a solid phone line. I ran back downstairs, giving up on the phone, whispering frantic prayers to God to stop the fire and hurriedly typed a message to my mom  and my husband on my ipad (it seems silly but that was my only communication). My text was supposed to read: “Call 911 – chimney fire.”  But in my haste, there were many typing mistakes which came across as “chicken monkey fire”!  My mother was confused and thought one of my little children typed the message! (Hee hee!). She figured it out though and called my father in law, who lives nearby.

However, thankfully, because I called 911 on a landline, the emergency response units all responded – as they could track where the phone call was coming from, even if they could not hear anyone talking. {Land lines are the best thing to call for help on – cell phones do not allow the emergency teams to track where the call is located. Make sure you have a land line in your home!}
The fire continued to shoot out of the top of the chimney  … I ran back outside and told one of the older girls to run to the nearest neighbour and ask them to call 911 … off they went running while I stayed with the little ones near the truck … they were crying but I told them to just wait and pray and be calm. I went back in the house to see if the fire was coming out of the chimney inside the school room -but  I could see the orange glow coming from the cracks of the chimney. Although there was no actual fire was inside the house, the smell of hot chimney was strong.

 

I’m unsure how long it took the fire department to respond, but because we live in the country – and because the fire department is run by volunteers (although wonderful volunteers!) – it seemed like a long wait. During our wait, we continued to pray and watch the fire from ontop of the chimney. There was really nothing else I could do.
Soon, the fire department showed up, along with paramedics and the local police. Our yard and driveway became a buzz of quick activity. Because of my call with no one talking, every emergency service responded not knowing what type of emergency call was being made.

 

The fire fighters quickly climbed to the top of the house to put out the fire while others went into the house and put out the fire inside the stove. The chimney was taken apart – the smoldering ashes were brought down in buckets and poured on the driveway. The firefighters were excellent and wonderful and kept everything safe. They were kind to the girls, helpful and considerate.

My father in law showed up during this time to see if we needed help and offered to take the girls to his house for the afternoon as it was going to be long ordeal waiting for the house to entered again.
The fire was now out and there was no danger, but it was cold outside and the girls are all cheered at the thought of spending the afternoon at their grandparents’ house.  The girls excitedly packed up and headed off with grandpa while I stayed behind with Lazarus, who was so tired and desperately needing his nap. We were not allowed to go upstairs so I stayed in the living room and held him in the rocking chair while the fire fighters worked on the chimney and stove, dismantling the pipes. They also spent time adding more smoke detectors in every nook and cranny of this old home (being an older, cut up home) to ensure safety.

By this point, my husband had returned home after being at work over 1.5 hours away. Once the last fire fighter left, we worked together to clean up the mess left over while thanking God for His safety and protection! Collecting the icing knife dropped in haste on the kitchen floor, I thought of what could have happened and was so grateful for what actually did happen. We know that the children’s guardian angels were protecting them and myself and our home this Saturday afternoon. We know that God took care of us. And we are thankful, we are grateful and humbled.

“For he shall give his angels charge over thee,
to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Psalm 91:11

P.S. We received some beautiful blessings from all of this – one of the fire firefighters offered to come back and give the girls some fire safety lessons, as well as teach them and myself how to put out a fire if we are able. We will learn how to use a fire extinguisher in the likelihood that another fire poses danger to our home and family. The girls received free hot chocolate coupons from the police offers, who told the girls they did a great job reporting the fire and getting everyone out to safety. They thought that was just wonderful and received their hot chocolate treats on the way home from church the following day. We thanked the fire and police with some homemade cinnamon buns and have made some new friends in our local community.

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March 12, 2017 - 5:48 am

Gigi - Thanks, Rebecca. 🙂

March 12, 2017 - 5:48 am

Gigi - Thank you, Lindy. It was a great learning experience. 🙂 Good idea to get rid of the chemicals – I never thought of that! I do not have a diffuser yet. It is on my wish list.

March 11, 2017 - 12:08 pm

Lynda Lu Gibb - Praise the Lord! We have had 3 chimney fires in this house.. Indeed it is scary,noisy and smelly! Diffuse some Youngliving purification for a few days now.. any of the toxic particles,fumesans chemicals around from those high temperatures from the stove pipes will likely be wiped out. I Thank the Lord you are all safe..

March 11, 2017 - 3:36 am

Rebecca - Oh my goodness, praise God you all and your house are fine!

March 8, 2017 - 6:13 pm

Gigi - Oh my, I am so excited to hear you may have found a home! I do not know of someone, I’m sorry. 🙁 I hope you get to move soon! That is very exciting!

March 8, 2017 - 4:51 pm

Isela - Gigi, so happy to read everyone is safe and protected by our loving Father!! Praise His name!!
Gigi do you know a home inspector who specializes in century homes? We need a home inspector for a home we are planning to buy in Shelburne. If you know or can recommend someone we will greatly appreciate it having the info. Thank you so much.

March 8, 2017 - 4:42 pm

Chipmunk - I’m so thankful that the Lord kept you all safe and that it sounds like there was minimal damage to the house. God is so faithful!

March 8, 2017 - 12:30 pm

Gigi - Yes, the local emergency teams were fantastic. Last night, the fire fighters allowed the girls to tour the fire station and see the trucks and gave them all pencils with fire logos on them. They are kind hearted people. We are grateful. We look forward to our lessons on using the fire extinguishers and putting out a fire!

March 8, 2017 - 12:10 pm

Maike - The fire might not have been in the rooms but still a fire is truly scary no matter where it is. Thanks to the girls that they were so attentive and saw the fire, thought quick and let you know. And oh how glad I am that everyone is well and you had a lot of guardian angel watching over you. Your local fire fighter must be amazing giving your children the opportunity to learn and some hot chocolate!

March 7, 2017 - 7:42 pm

Gigi - Thanks, Auntie Kate! You are missed. xo

March 7, 2017 - 7:14 pm

Kate - What a scary experience! I’m so glad that you’re all ok and that God was watching over you – that it happened in the day time, that the girls were outside & saw it, that the emergency services responded so well….Sending extra hugs for all the Ls!

The Making of a Home

“{When you become a parent} self is no longer the centre.
There is new object to live for, an object great enough to fill all their life  and engross their highest powers.
It is only when children come that life becomes real,
that parents begin to learn to live.
We talk about training our children but they train us first, teaching us many a sacred lesson …

Our homes would be very cold and dreary without the children.
Sometimes we weary of their noise. They cost us no end of toil.
When they are very young they break our rest many a weary night with their colics and teething,
and when they grow older they well nigh break our hearts many a time with their waywardness …

There are some who therefore look upon the coming of children as a misfortune … they see no blessing in them.
But it is cold selfishness that looks upon children this way.
Instead of being hindrances to true and noble living, they are helps.
They bring benedictions from heaven when they come,
and while they stay, they are perpetual blessings …

It is a great thing to take these young and tender lives, rich with so many possibilities of beauty, of joy, of power,
all of which may be wrecked,
and to become responsible for their shaping and training and for the upbuilding of their character.
This is what must be thought of in the making of a home.
It must be a home in which children will grow up for true and noble life, for God and heaven.

 

Upon the parents, the chief response rests.
They are the builders of the home. From them it receives its character,
whether they must be the authors of happiness; if it be unhappy,
the blame must rest with them.
They have the making of the home responsible in their own hands,
and God holds them responsible for it.”
-J.R. Miller Home-Making

 

P.S. This lovely book, Home Making, can be purchased here. It was written in 1882 and is a beautiful book to read for all parents. It is not just about “home making” but the actual creating of a Christ-centered home life for your family.

 

 

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March 5, 2017 - 3:12 pm

Gigi - That’s a great idea, Katy! It would be a great gift for a new mother (or father)!

March 5, 2017 - 9:33 am

Katy - That is one of my favorite books!!! 🙂 I recommend it to all young women who get married and having children (and sometimes just buy it and give it to them myself)! 🙂 This is a truly lovely post! 🙂

March 4, 2017 - 7:48 am

Gigi - Thank you for reading, Sarah. 🙂

March 4, 2017 - 7:48 am

Gigi - Yes, she has! Just a year or two makes such a big difference in the littlest ones.

March 4, 2017 - 2:47 am

Lauren - My, how she’s grown!

March 3, 2017 - 7:14 pm

Sarah - Thank you for sharing this! It is so beautiful.

Lemon Infused Vinegar

These yellow and orange vibrant colored jars, filled to the top with white vinegar and peels of freshly-eaten citrus fruits, have been sitting on my windowsill for a few weeks now.

Making vinegar infused with citrus is nothing new – it is something that is so simple to make and is so beneficial in one’s home.

I typically use the orange-infused vinegar as our main cleaning product in the house. Lemons were something I thought I would just try – after all, we had lemons being used and it was a shame to waste those pretty fruit pieces.

 

All you have to do is fill your jar with white vinegar and add in your orange or lemon peels. Let the vinegar sit a few weeks, allowing the citrus properties to infuse the vinegar.

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend, I had an inspired thought. I needed to make a laundry stain remover  to get some stains off a pretty pillowcase-  a typical recipes would call for 1/2 cup of white vinegar and a few drops of lemon essential oil.

However, checking my oil cupboard brought me to realize I was all out of lemon oil. And when I run out of things in my home, it could be weeks before I can get to a store to buy the replacement.

 

My eyes turned to the vinegar sitting prettily on my kitchen windowsill. Surely, it would work just as well, I thought.

Indeed, it did! I only diluted the vinegar a little bit – and then sprayed it directly onto the stain. After washing and hanging on the laundry line (despite the cold conditions this weekend), I was happily pleased to find the stain had vanished and the pillow case good as new.

 

This will be my new stain remover from now on – and it is even more cost effective than a homemade version using the essential oil. It is amazing that two simple ingredients can do so many wonderful chores in one’s home – from cleaning sinks and bathrooms to removing laundry stains.

Lemons are a natural disinfectant … and because of their acidity, they are a great stain remover. The next time you have lemons (or oranges – as they are amazing, as well), do not throw out the peels or extra fruit. Save them, immerse them in white vinegar, let it sit for a few weeks and you will have a lovely natural cleaner for your home. Not to mention a great stain remover …

 

 

 

February 27, 2017 - 11:46 pm

Lynda Lu Gibb - I will do this for sure, as I use a lemon everday to start the day.. and I use vinegar and YL lemon oil for cleaning all the time.. so simple, can’t believe I never even thought of it.. Thanks Gillian!

February 27, 2017 - 7:38 pm

Jennifer Heemskerk - I just saw this and thought of you and your girls collecting eggs with it on! I think it’s a free pattern =) http://hearthookhome.com/

February 27, 2017 - 7:40 am

Gigi - Absolutely! They will work as your household cleaner for many things. I dry up my orange peels and grind them, mix them with baking soda and you will have a great kitchen sink scrub as well (or toilet bowl). The natural oils of the peel are a great cleaner in itself.

February 26, 2017 - 3:17 pm

Regina - Hi Gigi! What a great idea. Will mandarin orange skins work? We buy a lot of those here and would love to try this.