Friday, January 22, 2010

Tutorial: Valentine Craft with the kids

We decided it was time to make some decorations for,  N (age 3) and E (age 6) joined me in making hearts.  We decided that stained glass hearts would look great when the sun shines through our west windows!  Here's what we did...
You will need:
Wax paper
Pink, red and white crayons
potato peeler
an iron
a couple of old rags

I started with a couple of sheets of wax paper (about 18" long) and shaved some crayons with the potato peeler.  Obviously N needed help, but E was able to do it by herself.

When you have enough shavings, spread them around and place another piece of wax paper on top.  I did move it to the ironing board first,
re-spreading the shavings and then put the other wax paper on top. 

Now it's time to iron!  Place a cloth on top of your ironing board, because I found out the hard way that it does bleed through a bit.  Put another cloth on top and then iron with hot iron.  Move it slowly until the crayon shavings have melted.

Next, we cut out hearts and hung them in the window.  We just taped them to the window, but they would be cute hung with ribbons.  This photo didn't turn out great, but you get the idea!  They really do look fun as the light is shining through them.  Enjoy...I think the boys would have a great time helping you with these.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Recipe; Homemade Healthy Granola = YUM!

Making fun! I am anxious to hear how the budget thing goes.  That will be challenging, but you are always up to a good challenge!  I will check out the cookbook you recommended.  I always love new cookbooks.

Well, we decided to cook in our kitchen today as well. As you know, I love to cook and part of that is tweaking any recipe to make it better for you. N, age 3, has been asking for homemade granola, so today we made some! My entire house smells soooo good! Here's the recipe I used, it is one I tweaked by combining a few other recipes and then changed it a bit to make it healthier. Here you go:

Homemade Healthy Granola 
7 cups rolled oats (not quick)
1 cup raw wheat germ
1 cup shredded coconut (not the sweetened)
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup freshly ground flax seeds
1/2-3/4 cup seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin etc.)
1 cup raisins (I also added some chopped dates)
1 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews etc.)
1 cup non-fat dry milk
Mix in bowl  and set aside

3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 tsp. salt (you could probably leave this out!)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. maplene
You can add some brown sugar if you'd like it a little sweeter
Mix the above ingredients in blender and then pour on dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Spread onto two large cookie sheets and bake at 250 degrees for 60-90 minutes stirring every 20 minutes.

As you can tell, you can change it to fit your tastes.  You may want to add more nuts, less wheat germ, more flour.  Play with it.

You'll have to try it and let me know what the boys think.
Have a great day!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting Started…

Dear Amy,
So, a lot is going on here. R and I have made some significant decisions regarding how we want our next couple of years to unfold.
We have committed to living on half of R’s salary for one year—HALF! Ouch. Although R doesn’t make a lot of money, she makes a good salary. And we feel that we spend more than we need to each month. Okay, let’s be honest, I spend more than I need to each month. And that other half of her salary? It’s going into savings. We’re going to do some traveling and the rest will go toward building our dream house in a couple of years—a spacious (not large) barn house with lots of windows on some spectacular acreage…with chickens…and a two-car garage.
The budget will be finalized this week. And living within such a strict budget? I know it sounds crazy, but it excites me! I look forward to the challenge. I welcome the creative problem solving. Part of the challenge will be to make this small house continue to work for our growing family for the next two years. Toward that goal, I am making daily decisions, conscious choices that keep us on the right path. More about that later in the week.
For now, I want to tell you about one of my favorite books in the kitchen: The River Cottage Family Cookbook. Love, love, love this book! It’s full of recipes and ideas for living and eating well. this book contains some great information on dairy foods, including directions on how to make butter. I realize that you’ve already tried this, but I haven’t, and I loved it. So easy! Last night, we enjoyed a dinner of homemade vegetable soup, homemade sourdough bread and homemade butter. Yes, butter! We made butter!
Please follow along with my make your own butter tutorial:
Start with heavy cream, locally produced is better, and leave it on the counter about 30 minutes or so, until it’s room temperature. The fresher the cream, the longer it will take to turn into butter.
Find a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. I used an empty applesauce jar. Fill it one-third full with cream. It needs plenty of room to move around and churn, so keep it to one-third full.
Screw the lid on tightly and start shaking! Shake it up and down and all around so that the cream is really moving around and hitting the bottom of the lid. Don’t stop shaking until the butter is finished. It’s a good workout using such a large jar. R and I had to take turns! The boys loved it.
At first, it will obviously feel like cream sloshing around in there. Then, it will get quiet and you won’t be able to see into the jar. Voila! Whipped cream!
whip cream
Keep shaking! Suddenly, you’ll feel something heavy sloshing around in there, surrounded by liquid. It may take anywhere between 10-30 minutes to get to this point. You’re almost done! At this point, it’s very soft and looks like whipped butter. It needs a little more shaking to firm up a bit more and separate from the buttermilk.
almost done shaking
All finished. Here’s what the butter looks like before it’s drained:
done shaking
Drain the buttermilk into a separate container.
draining buttermilk1
Then fill the jar with cold water, slosh the butter around and drain. Repeat this step until the water runs clear. Dump the butter onto a wood cutting board. Press with the back of a wooden spoon or with your hands to remove the rest of the buttermilk. If the butter is still full of buttermilk, it will spoil more quickly.
Squeezing with spoon1
Squeezing by hand
All done! Shape, wrap in wax paper and store in the refrigerator.
All Done
I highly recommend enjoying your fresh butter with fresh-from-the-oven, still-warm sourdough bread. Does it get any better than this?
Love, Kate

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hopes For The New Year

Dear Katie,

It's a beautiful day here in the West. The air is cold, but dirty. I just heard that we have the worst air quality in the nation; I guess that happens when you live between mountains. Hopefully that will improve!

This year I am excited to start some fun projects. I really hope I can get on top of scrap booking and doing a history for my children. I wish that some of our ancestors would have provided that for us. I wonder how they lived, how they felt when life didn't go as they had hoped. I also wish I knew how they parented, being the mother of six, I always like to hear other mothers' experiences. We know the basics about them, but that's about it. I want my kids, grand-kids, etc. to know how life was and to have great memories recorded that they can remember. DH mentioned last night that it is so nice to see old photos and realize that we really HAVE done FUN things with the kids.

I am also hoping to become more self-reliant. This will include the hoop house we are hoping to build in the garden. I'll send you photos of the progress. It should be an interesting experience! This should help us expand our gardening experience into more seasons and hopefully be able to use fresh veggies from our garden into the winter months.

I've also started sprouting seeds (alfalfa, clover etc.) and hope to learn more about that as well as soap making and making cheese. The cheese making will only happen if our goats kid this year. I would also like to learn more about green living. I'm not sure what that will entail at this point. It will be so fun to keep in touch with you this way and to share challenges and triumphs throughout this next year.

I hope it's a good day!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Fresh Start

Dear Amy,
Birthdays and New Year’s, they both do it to me. I take a step back, I become more introspective. I once again take a look around at my life, at myself. I take stock. Am I where I want to be at this time in my life? Am I living the life I want to live? Am I the person I want to be?
I’m so easily caught up in the riff-raff of life, of things…the superfluousness, the excess. My target for this year is to live more simply. To make time for things that really matter. I admit that in some ways, this seems a very attainable pursuit; yet in other ways, I have no idea how to reach it. Explanation to follow.
We both know that I am a creative gypsy of sorts. I love to try many things, to explore, to discover, to dip into any and all creative pursuits I come across. Yet, my attention tends to stray rather quickly. I am surrounded by the results of my gluttonous appetite for pretty fuel to forever feed my creative soul. My eyes delight in the scores of tasty fabrics, mouthwatering skeins of yarn, delectable papers and adornments, savory sheets and rods of glass and yummy woolen goodies. As if this collection wasn’t enough, I also save. That big blanket I made of felted old wool sweaters? Well, I saved all of the parts of the sweaters that did not go into the blanket. I’m convinced I can find a project for them. (Guess what? I already have several projects in mind for these bits and pieces!!)
So I guess it doesn’t come as a big surprise that part of my goal this year is to use up what I have in lieu of buying more. This will require some major self control on my part, a trait which I look forward to strengthening.
And I want to spend less on groceries each month. This is the tricky part. I don’t know exactly how to go about this. It’s one thing to be a coupon shopper; however, most coupons save you money on processed food—canned soups, etc. I can use coupons on household items, but I want to continue down the path of wholesome eating while cutting our grocery bill. Part of this will require expanding our garden, and I think I may want to get into food dehydrating as a means to preserve some of our summer and fall bounty. This will be more of a journey rather than a destination—an exploration and discovery in terms of low-cost, wholesome eating. We may be sharing a lot of recipes and food prep ideas. I’m so excited to become more self-sufficient this year!
It’s been an interesting year and I feel like I’m still trying to get the hang of being a mother of two very young ones. So, part of my plan for simple living will include taking better care of myself. I struggle with this. As most mothers, I’m so caught up with making sure everyone else has what they need, that I rarely take the time to make sure my cup is filled. I want to spread this over three areas: 30 minutes daily time to engage in something I choose to do (reading, bath, sewing, writing, nap, etc.); morning yoga and daily exercise; and weekly time away from home by myself or with a friend.
I’m looking forward to this year and this exchange of ideas, successes and failures. What a great way to keep in touch over the miles and to keep us motivated to continue to improve and find better ways of doing things.
Love, Kate