a little fourth of july craft

ImageI’m not a huge holiday decorator, but I do like a couple of things out to reflect whatever season is upon us.  I found this cute little Fourth of July craft several years ago.  I’m not really crafty and this was just the ticket for me to find my inner Martha Stewart.  Seriously, anyone can do this.  All you need is a 2×4, a little sandpaper, some red, white, and blue scrapbook paper, and Mod Podge.  The lettering is totally optional.  I have a Silhouette cutting machine and used white vinyl for the star and black vinyl for the God Bless America.  You could also use precut letter stickers and cut a star out of your white scrapbook paper.  I don’t have a step by step picture tutorial, but seriously, I think you can handle this.

If you have a saw, cut two 7 inch blocks and three 3.5 inch blocks.  If you don’t have a saw, the friendly people at Home Depot will cut it for you.  They say there is a charge, but I’ve never been charged.  Just make sure you put on a bit of extra mascara for when you bat your eyelashes.  After they’re cut, sand them down just a bit. 

Cut your scrapbook paper just a tad smaller than your blocks.  For the red and white, I used a woven paper to give it more of a cloth look.  For the blue, I found this awesome denim paper.  It reminds me of cut-offs, an essential in my childhood summer wardrobe. 

Apply the paper using your Mod Podge.  Don’t over do it, but don’t be chintzy either.  Smooth your paper out nice and neat.  Let it completely dry.  It won’t take long.  If you’re using a paper star, apply that now, again with Mod Podge.  If you’re using vinyl, skip to the next step.

For a weathered or aged look, lightly sand the edges of your paper.  Do a little, take a step back, do a little more.  Just remember you can always sand more, but one the paper is sanded off, you’re done.  So go easy.

If you’re applying vinyl or stickers, do so now and you’re done.  Pick a fun place to display your amazing crafty talent or give it to a friend. 

taking back mealtime part 2

Welcome to part 2 of what I believe will be a three part series.  In case you missed part one, you can catch up here.  I almost feel a little guilty continuing on as this last week, we have not been so great, but I guess that’s life.  You shoot for the ideal, work really hard and do your best, and then accept your best. 

So I left off with why we made the decision to take back our mealtimes.  Now it’s onto the how to take it back.

I’m not a big movie watcher, but I love the movie Enchanted.  Any girl that tells you she doesn’t long to be a princess is in denial, but that’s another post for another day.  One of my favorite parts is when they are singing and dancing around Central Park – How does she know, you love her?  You know that song? 

When we made the decision to take back our mealtimes, we had to ask ourselves, if someone were to come and visit us, how would they know that family mealtimes are a priority for us.  What did we need to do? 

 Well, right away I knew I needed to plan better.  Waiting until 4:30 to decide what to make for dinner was not working well.  More often than not, I ran around like a mad woman getting grouchier by the second.  By the time I sat down, I was done.  There was food on the table, but I had nothing left to give.  By the end of the meal, my family was fed, but not nourished. 

 Now, I plan.  There are about a bazillion blog posts about meal planning, and you can find a ton of ways to showcase your plan.  If you don’t believe me, check out pinterest.  I like to keep it simple.  I plan a week at a time.  Planning a whole month of meals seems overwhelming so I put it off and put it off and next thing I know, the month is over.  Planning for a week, takes about 10 minutes.  I can handle that.  Most of the time, I just sit down in front of the computer with our weekly schedule in front of me and write it out on a piece of paper. 

Doing a week at a time allows me to cater meals to our family’s activities.  Is someone having a game?  Does Greg have to work late – whatever.   I can also plan around what we are currently producing at home.  Right now, we’re eating A LOT of zucchini.  Pretty soon, we will be eating A LOT of spaghetti squash.  I know many people plan around what is on sale that week.  Still others plan using systems like the Food Nanny.  Each day of the week is assigned a theme – chicken, seafood, Mexican, etc.  I felt trapped when I tried it that way, but my sister loves planning this way.  The best planning system is the one that works for you because it’s the only one you will do consistently. 

Also included in planning is the preparation.  If you go to make your planned meal of macaroni and cheese at 4:00 only to find that you are out of cheese, things become a little hairy.   When I plan for the week, I make notes of what I need to buy and what can be done ahead of time.  In our home, we try to eat whole foods as much as possible.  If black bean burgers are on the menu for Wednesday, I would probably prepare the beans on Monday so Wednesday wouldn’t be so rushed.  For another family, it might just mean making sure you have a can of beans ready to go.  And still for another family, it might mean making sure you have bean patties in the freezer.

Once you have a plan, you need to remember to be flexible.  Things come up – go with it.  Easier said than done for some of us, but when you are prepared you can be more flexible.  They go hand in hand.  Stock your pantry with the basics, whatever the basics are for your family.  Things like flour, sugar, salt are givens for us, but there are some not so basic things I simply don’t want to be caught without – milk, eggs, apples, bananas, bread (I know, I should make my own bread, but we have a local bakery that sells organic whole grain bread for a dollar, yes a dollar.  You can’t beat that.), peanuts and raisins.  I can work around almost anything else.  I can work around these things as well, but everyone is happier when these things are on hand.

Have a list of go to meals that you can make in a snap without preparation – for us it’s grilled cheese and peas – nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.  That way if a game goes long or a project comes up that you can’t break away from, you can still have a meal without running to McDonalds.

If you have kids, include them in the planning and preparation.  While it may not always seem like it — check out this bunch below — they can be your number one asset. 

ImageSummertime is a great time for this – I often divide dinner jobs up so that everyone plays a role on getting dinner on the table.  For example a couple of Sundays ago, we had breakfast for dinner.  Taryn and Muffa made the pancakes, Hayden made the syrup, Thomas and I worked on the eggs, and Hailey set the table.  By working together we were not only fed, but nourished as we spent this quality time together.

Getting into a groove that works for your family takes time.  Don’t expect miracles overnight.  There are days I just don’t feel like planning, and I do it anyway.  And then there are those times that I don’t feel like it so I don’t, and then I usually regret it.  I don’t think I’ve ever finished up a meal and said, man, I wish I had just thrown something together at the last minute while snapping at my kids and getting frazzled.  But I have finished a meal and said, wow, I’m so glad I planned ahead and had the kids helping.  That was really nice.  Not a meal planner — give it a try.  I know you’ll like it.

even hippies have their limits or why i use a yogurt maker

ImageMy love affair with yogurt started when I was just small child thanks to my mom who had served a mission in France.  I even ate soy yogurt for during my vegan years until one day I reached my limit and almost lost my soy yogurt breakfast on my desk.  (Trust me, don’t do soy, I’ve since learned better.)   Recently, I discovered Greek yogurt.  Oh, what a treat.  My love for yogurt dimmed however when it became a source of incredible frustration. 

You see, somewhere along the line, I got it into my pretty little head that if I were a really good homesteader I would make yogurt without any help from modern conveniences.  Blogland is filled with posts of people who make yogurt with nothing but a pot of boiling water and a cooler.  Fabulous I thought — nope, could never get it to work.  Just put it in your oven with the oven light on — nope, that didn’t work either.  And last but not least, use a crock pot.  My trusted friend, my crock pot.  Of course he wouldn’t fail me — uh, yeah, he did — total failure.

So I said goodbye to yogurt and moved onto kefir.  I’d bought it at the store for years.  Kind of nasty, but in a good, super healthy kind of way which made it not quite so nasty.  I did my research and found that all you needed were kefir grains.  Pour milk on them, and soon you’ll be in kefir heaven.  So I sent my $20 in cash to the kefir queen in the Midwest, got my grains, and made my kefir.  Holy cow was it terrible.  It did make some really fluffy pancakes, but you can only eat so many pancakes.  Doing kefir was like having a pet.  It was always there, on my counter, asking to be taken care of.  I couldn’t handle the pressure, and I threw my grains into the garbage disposal.  On one hand, it felt really good to flip that switch and hear the grains being ground into oblivion, but on the other hand, I felt defeated.  I headed to Costco and got my Fage Greek Yogurt.  Non-organic and fat-free to boot. 

Then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks — buy a yogurt maker.  Oh no, I thought, I’m a hippie, I can’t do that.  And then I remembered.  My mom had a yogurt maker and wore long dresses and made her own granola.  Maybe you can be a hippie and use a yogurt maker.  I shopped around and then bit the bullet.  I bought a yogurt maker and haven’t looked back.

I went with the Euro Cuisine.  A few people had problems with theirs heating the milk up too much.  I however haven’t had that problem.  Works like a charm.  A couple of times my yogurt has been a tad grainy, but it was my fault.  I over heated the milk. 

It’s super simple to use.  I heat my milk to about 170 degrees.  Take in off the heat and let it cool to about 110 degrees (you can go a little lower, but don’t go higher).  Add your starter — I either use yogurt from my last batch or I also bought a big thing of Fage and froze starter size portions.  Make sure your starter is at room temperature so it doesn’t cool down the milk too much.  Pour it in the little jars and nine hours later, yummy yogurt.

I like it so much that a couple of weeks ago I bought some spare jars so that we would always have fresh full fat organic yogurt on hand.  In fact, I just make go and have one right now.

our week — 17 june 2013

I’m kind of liking this slower summer pace.  We still have things going on, but the feel of urgency just isn’t there.  Taryn and Hayden are both working and Hailey is being kept busy with daily softball practice (she made the Little League All Star team — GO HAILEY), babysitting here and there and a project she’s working on over the summer.  Thomas does a little math here and there, but I’m not pressing him, and together with Muffa, is studying all about dinosaurs. 

On the homestead front, not much really going on either.  It was kind of an odd little week for us.  We didn’t really work on any huge projects just wrapped a couple up.  Almost a year ago, I got a picture of the Mesa temple for our family room with the intent of putting one of my favorite quotes (from the Bible Dictionary of all places) on the wall.  Well I finally finished it up.  I’m pretty pleased except for the fact that as I was adding the link, I realized I got my quote wrong.  Oh boo.  Anyway, I still like it, the OCD side of me will just have to get over it. 

ImageNow I really want to paint our 3 year “temporary” entertainment center.  Don’t tell Greg.  Oh wait, he reads this, dang.  This post is not going well.

Moving on, I made butter by accident and pickles on purpose.  Both are incredibly yummy.  Here’s the link for the pickles.  I added a little red pepper because I had some left over from the pizza plus I thought it added a little color.  They’re pickles, I know, but food can be pretty as well.

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Greg did one last tilling of the front yard in preparation for our alfalfa.  Here’s the view from our front porch. 

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How’s that for curb appeal?  Nothing says welcome like a yard full of cow poop.

A couple of firsts that I should include.  Thomas killed his first rabbit.  Sorry if that grosses anyone out.  He’s very proud of himself and is definitely one of our best farm hands. 

He also wrote his first talk with just a tiny bit of help from Mom.  Unfortunately, he was sick and didn’t make it to church.  Muffa kindly agreed to deliver it.  A first for Muffa as well.  Of course, there’s no recording at church so you’ll have to trust me that he was very cute. 

I love that the gospel of Jesus Christ is so simple, that we can be taught by a five year old.

Before Jesus died he had one last supper with His Apostles.  He gave them bread and wine and told them to think of Him.  He told them to love one another and listen to the Holy Ghost.  Then they sang a song.

ImageEach week I come to church and take the sacrament.  I sing a song.  The priests bless bread and water just like Jesus.  I eat the bread and drink the water just like the Apostles.  I try to be reverent and think of Jesus just like He asked me to. 

ImageWhen I am eight, I will be baptized.  I will promise to love others and listen to the Holy Ghost.  The sacrament will help me remember my promise.

ImageGood job Thomas. 

i’m pretty sure they have homemade pizza in heaven

For me, nothing says Friday like pizza.  I think it’s because of my Aunt Kaye.  When I was seventeen, I moved clear across the country to live with my aunt and uncle so I could establish residency in another state.  I ended up not liking the state one little bit and threw in the towel about four months later.  You’re probably saying at this point, get to the pizza.  So anyway, my aunt brought home carry out pizza every single Friday night.  I loved it.  It was a great way to end the week.

Unfortunately, take out pizza places rarely cater to whole food eating hippies.  Boo.  Never fear though if you find yourself in our situation.  Thanks to my sister, Sarah, and my good friend, the internet, I’ve put together an absolutely wonderful winning combination of crust and sauce to make any pizza lover rejoice — hippie or not.

Here’s the proof, just last week we had pizza.  Taryn was headed out to a pizza party of all things later that night but had just a quick bite with us before she had to leave.  The next day she commented that our pizza was so much better than anything else out there.  Everyone readily agreed with her assessment with one exception — the pizza we had while visiting Times Square in New York.  Not bad considering we were in New York, eating pizza a cool thing in and of itself and then add on top of that we were practically starving.  Sorry, I digress once again.  Enough of the chat.

ImageWhole Wheat Pizza Crust

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm water

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon organic sugar

Combine water, yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar.  Let it sit for about five minutes.  It should get all bubbly.  Mix 2 cups of flour, the salt and remaining sugar in a stand mixer.  Add the yeast and olive oil.  Begin mixing with the paddle attachment and then switch to the dough hook or knead by hand for about 5 minutes.  Slowly add the rest of the flour.  Shape the dough into a ball and allow to rise for about 45 minutes to one hour.

Punch down the risen dough and roll out on a pizza stone (we’re not the fancy) or a greased baking sheet.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees and add your sauce (see below) and toppings.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes depending on how crispy you like your crust.

Sarah’s Super Easy, Super Yummy Pizza Sauce

15 ounces organic tomato sauce (we get ours from Costco)

6 ounces of organic tomato paste (again Costco)

3-5 Tablespoons organic sugar

minced garlic to taste (we usually start with about a Tablespoon and go from there.)

Italian seasoning or oregano to taste

seasoning salt to taste

Mix it all together and you’re good to go.

Just a couple of tips.  Don’t try and spread the crust too thin.  The above recipe makes one nice pizza.  We usually double or sometimes even triple the recipe if friends are coming over.  Depending on how much sauce you like on your pizza you’ll have enough for around three pizzas.  This stuff stores and freezes really well, so don’t be afraid of making too much.

Dang, now I want pizza.  I may have to change up my weekly menu a bit.

taking back mealtime part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to give a presentation to our church’s women’s organization, the topic, meals for busy families.  A couple of concerns popped into my head right away.  First, my audience was going to be diverse — women who were married with children, single moms, women that weren’t married and women whose children had all flown the coop.  My second concern was that we don’t really eat like mainstream America.  We make almost everything from scratch and that takes time.  I had a feeling they were looking for something more along the lines of quick and easy meals.  The only super fast meal we eat around here is grilled cheese and peas.  Everything else takes time and that’s just the reality.  So I began to think, and think, and think.  Thankfully, a loving Heavenly Father helped me out with this one.  My thoughts were continually directed back to the whole idea of busyness.  Joshua shared some great insights on his blog, becoming minimalist that I really liked.

As I continued to prepare, I felt prompted to share our family’s experience with busyness. For the last year or so, Greg and I have really felt the Spirit working on us to change some of our family dynamics.  We were simply too busy.  Being anxiously engaged in a good cause has its limits.  We had reached ours and our family was paying the price.  I don’t think that our situation was an isolated one.  In fact, I know it wasn’t as many talks on this subject have been given in General Conference in recent years.  Here’s just a taste of what the Lord has been telling us.

From President Dieter F. Uchdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency

“One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.

Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.

It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Overscheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks…”

“Since ‘no other success can compensate for failure’ [in the home], we must place high priority on our families. We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities.”  To hear the whole talk (it’s really good) click below.

And from Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Quorum of the Twelve

“We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.

“Family experts have warned against what they call ‘the overscheduling of children.’ In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together.

“The number of those who report that their “whole family usually eats dinner together” has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together “eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.”  Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs. There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: what your children really want for dinner is you.”

Greg and I decided it was time to move family mealtimes into the best category.  We were pretty good at getting everyone together, but pretty good wasn’t good enough anymore; so we made some changes.  I’ll share those changes with you in another post — this one is getting pretty long, and there’s plenty to think about.

i feel pretty

This is a break from what I would normally post, but what the heck.  Even though my days are filled with chasing little boys, tending to a mini-farm, and scrubbing toilets, I get up each morning, get dressed, do my hair (if a ponytail counts as doing my hair) and put on a bit of make-up.  I’m not a big make-up wearer, but I like to give my face just a little lift.  It makes me feel like I’m ready for whatever comes my way.  If my house burns down, at least I won’t look totally funky on tv when they interview me.  Shallow?  Perhaps, but there were are. 

About a month ago, I was feeling not so pretty and felt like I needed to up my routine a bit, so I started painting my nails again.  I really liked them for the first day but the chipping drove me crazy.  They would last two days at most and then I would have to paint them again.  I liked them painted and all, but not that much.  I had given up on the whole thing until I found this tutorial on The Sweetest Thing.  Now I do my nails once a week.  Hurray. 

Here’s what it looks like day one —

ImageAnd day 7 — remember, I weed the garden every day, take care of farm animals, wipe bottoms, and all the other fun stuff that goes along with being a mom.  I do however where gloves when I wash dishes.  My hands get super, duper dry.  Anyway, day 7 —Image

The middle finger is really bad because I forgot I was going to take pictures and started scrubbing a nasty pot without gloves on.  Also, had I not been planning this post, I would have done a little touch up throughout the week and they would have been just fine.  Even still, not bad for a whole week.

Here’s what I do —

Start by cleaning off any old nail polish with nail polish remover.  Shape your nails and then use a buffer to shine them up a bit.  Wash your hands to make sure everything is off.

Apply a good base coat.  I like Revlon’s Color Stay Base Coat.  You can find it anywhere.  Let it dry.

Next apply a coat of Gelous Advanced Nail Gel Coat.  Let it set for a few minutes and add a second coat.  The second coat will take a tad longer to dry, but just five minutes or so.

Apply a coat of your favorite nail color.  Let it dry for five or so minutes and then apply your second coat.  Again let it dry. 

Stay with me, we’re almost done.  Apply a third coat of Gelous — if you’re in a rush, this one is optional, but I’ve had better luck with doing it. 

Finally, apply your top coat.  I really like Out the Door.  It dries super fast, so you’re pretty much done, just don’t go too crazy with your nails.  I did it once right before bed and woke up with a sheet grid on a few of my nails. 

All in all, it takes about 40 minutes or so.  I do it as I’m catching up on non-urgent emails.  Tah-dah.

 

 

 

our week 10 june 2013

Our weeks are getting pretty boring without school.  Thomas is still working on a few things, but we’re much more laid back than we have been.  As for me, I’ve been puttering around working on a few projects that I’ve been putting off all school year.  It’s nice to see some of them getting checked off the list.

Greg’s been the busy one this week.  With temperatures getting into the 110s (yes, that is very hot), we’ve been concerned about the rabbits.  We knew we had to do something and once again, Greg came up with the perfect solution.  He never ceases to amaze me.  He tapped into the waterline that he had put in for the garden last year and installed a misting system for the rabbits. 

ImageYou can’t really see it in the picture, but just know that the rabbits being out and about during the day is a big deal.  Last week they totally stuck to their basements trying to beat the heat.  This week they are jumping around happy as clams.

Our other exciting news from the homestead front is that we managed to grow a watermelon.  I’ve been walking through the garden every day in hopes of finding one and on Thursday, this appeared.

ImageHurray, maybe we’ll be enjoying this baby on the Fourth of July.  Here’s hoping.

my new favorite breakfast treat

ImageI have another tasty treat to add to your arsenal of zucchini recipes.  Just when I think I have my zucchini under control, someone will walk in from outside with another armful.  Thankfully, I’ve come across a few new recipes calling for this never-ending squash.  Technically it’s a muffin recipe, but boy you just may need to file it with your treat recipes, it’s that good.  The original recipe comes from Brandy over at Marathon Mom.  I tweaked it just a tad. 

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup dehydrated cane juice

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup shredded carrots

3/4 cup shredded zucchini

1/2 cup walnuts

2/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon wheat germ

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients.  Add the zucchini, carrots and walnuts, and mix until they have a nice little floury cover.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir just until moistened.  For regular muffins, bake for about 20 minutes.  For mini-muffins, bake for about 12-15 minutes. 

That’s it.  Start to finish they take about 30 minutes (well, maybe a little longer if you have to shred your veggies.  I did that the day before.)  Regardless, totally yummy and well worth the time.  Enjoy.

 

a plan for the little man

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I feel like I am a sensible, frugal person for the most part.  I combine trips when I have to go out, I’m not an avid coupon clipper, but I do like a good deal and rarely impulse buy, and I get dressed in the morning and wear those clothes all day long.  At the day’s end, if my clothes aren’t dirty or stinky, I hang them up to wear them again (within limits of course).  Muf however, not so much.

You see, Muf is a busy guy and doesn’t have time for sensibilities.  He’s on a pretend basketball team, a pretend hockey team, a pretend baseball team, and a pretend football team.  Each of these teams have games almost every day, and each team requires a different uniform and a different pair of shoes.  We’ve talked about a million times about how we don’t need to change clothes every five minutes, but to no avail.  Something had to be done.

Muf is fiercely independent.  He likes being in charge — especially in charge of himself.  So I knew whatever we did, he had to feel like he was gaining control instead of loosing it.  I’m happy to say that I think we came up with something that works for everyone.  I hung up seven different outfits on hangers.  Muffa was then given tags for each day of the week.  He was able to pick which outfit he would wear each day.  He thought that was awesome.  We hung up his clothes, chatted a bit, and shut the closet door.  We also shut the door on our wearing a bazillion outfits a day problem.  Brilliant.