Monthly Archives: October 2011

Happy Halloween!

Standard

This year's pumpkins. The owl pattern came from Better Homes and Gardens

Halloween is my second favorite holiday!  It also happens to be my anniversary.  So we really like to celebrate on Halloween.  Last year, my husband (who is a movie guy) and I put together this little halloween episode.  We’re not amazing actors, but we had a good time.  Hope you enjoy it!

The most appropriate card we received for our wedding.

P.S. Looking forward to seeing pictures of everyone’s costumes! Don’t forget to post them!

Master Chef

Standard

Often times, during the summer, there’s a week or two when most of my family is in one place, visiting my parents.  Occasionally, someone (Jessie) will be proactive enough to put together a family game of sorts.  One year we did “The Newlywed Game” with each couple competing against the others.  We’ve also done a supermarket relay with the wives describing items over the phone to their husbands, who were dashing madly around the store trying to find all their items first.  This year, my sister Jessie came up with the idea to do a Family Master Chef competition.  It required some work, but it was a lot of fun.

The husbands opted out (party poopers!) so the sisters, inlaws, and our mother were the participants.  Even our sister, who was on the other side of the country, helped out as our lifeline (She’s the real gourmet in the family). Each round, we were put in teams of two, making three teams total.  The first round, we drew a key ingredient out of a hat and we had to make something from scratch without any recipes using the ingredient, which happened to be Choke Cherries.  Picked fresh from my parent’s yard.  The difficult thing about choke cherries is that they are mostly pit, hence the name.

Lindsey and Danica made chicken and beans with a choke cherry sauce, served over pasta. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ann Marie and Jessie and my mom and I had the same idea- choke cherry bars- but when we realized that we were making the same thing, Ann Marie and Jessie took a slightly different route and ended up with fritters topped with a choke cherry strawberry sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom and I did choke cherry lemon bars that didn’t quite set up the way we had hoped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we did round two. We switched up the teams and each team had to draw a gourmet recipe out of the hat and make it.

Danica and I made a spinach souffle.

Jessie and Mom did chili crusted flank steak with mango salsa.

Lindsey and Ann Marie made an almond chocolate torte.

The third day was a little less formal.  Each family brought their favorite pizza toppings and we all made our own gourmet pizzas.  Mmmmm…..

The menfolk served as film crew and food critics.  If I can figure out how, I’ll upload the film version of our little competition.

What does your family do when they get together?   What game do you think we should play next year?

Book Review- A Picture Perfect Childhood

Standard

I was going to write about something different today, but the book I am reading now has touched mA Picture Perfect Childhoode so deeply I need to share it!

While I was at the library last Wednesday I was walking by the rows of books and saw this one on the end of the row, and felt I should pick it up.  I was intrigued, but also quite sceptical.  “My children’s whole life will be perfect if I invest just 15 minutes a day! Yea, right” I thought.  It sounded like something was being sold that was just too good to be true, but I had no idea what they were trying to sell.  I grabbed the book and forgot about it until last night.

I picked it up last night to see what in the world it was about.  It wasn’t long before tears were pouring down my face and I think I even pressed the book to my chest and thought “Oh!  I’m going to LOVE this book!”  It is, in short, about reading to your children. 

She starts the book out by explaining how books help children develop imagination and basically the good we can get from reading books.  Then she gives list after list of books she recommends for almost every occasion or subject you can think of.  I like this quote from her book. 

“Literature and the reading of it is not about getting away from the world or living apart from the world or isolating oneself into a make-believe world.  Literature and reading is all about understanding the world, accepting the world we live in and our place in it, reaching a higher chapter of being, and helping us make the world better than we see it outside our glass tower.  It’s all about turning the page and bridging the gap.” 

I am an avid reader, and I always have been.  I feel sometimes as if I DEVOUR books,  and I can’t imagine life without reading.  I especially enjoy the fantasy genre.   I think perhaps this is why this book has touched me so deeply.  I am passionate about the books I read.  Just thinking about my favorite books as a child and the pleasure and excitement I got from reading them is enough to get me blurry eyed.  The Little House books (which I am reading to my 5 year old now, and I STILL love them) Anne of Green Gables, the Narnia books, The Wizard of Oz, Walk Two Moons, Charlotte’s Web, and on and on and on.  I so want to pass this passion for books on to my children.  This is one reason Waldorf education seems so wonderful to me.  They place much emphasis on story telling, especially fairy tales for young children. 

So here are a few things I am going to do differently as a result of reading this book.  First, not all children’s books are created equal.  I am going to stop just pulling books randomly off the shelf when we go to the library and make my selections a little more thought out.  I love that if I go online and reserve the books I want at the library a few days before we go, they will have them all right there in one place for me to pick up.  With kids ages 5,3, and 1 I don’t get much of a chance to really peruse anymore.  I am going to buy this book so I can have it for the list of book recommendations and try to get a few of those each week.  I also want to focus on getting books more on my children’s interests.

Second, I am going to re-commit myself to making sure we are enjoying reading together each day.  I say enjoying because all too often I am trying to rush through the book so we can get to the part of bedtime when they actually go to sleep.  I also find I read to them when I am too tired to do anything else, so I don’t end up putting much feeling into my reading, either.  So enjoying together means I have to enjoy it too! 

I loved reading this book most of all because it brought back to me how important reading good literature is to me and how important it is to pass that love of reading to my children.  If you love to read, this book is for you.  But don’t take my word for it!

Homemade Laundry soap

Standard
Little girl playing--doing laundry

Image via Wikipedia

Here it is!  I found the original recipe here.  Have you been dying to try it?  I was pretty excited, but then I was less so after making several mistakes in the prep.  It’s still a great recipe, though.  So here’s what I did and what I will do differently next time.  Hopefully you will learn from my mistakes so your first attempt will be more enjoyable! Read the rest of this entry

Costumes!

Standard
Ball

Image by macieklew via Flickr

Ack! I dropped the ball. I haven’t been able to get that homemade laundry detergent made and tried out in time for this week’s post. I’ll do it soon, promise!  And I’m so excited because it’s apple season and I can finally share with you my slow-cooker apple butter recipe.  Look for it soon!

Lately, most of my ‘spare time’ has been going toward getting costumes made for my kids. I’m making a Toad (from Mario Bros.) costume for my oldest and a Princess Peach costume for my youngest. Thankfully I already have a Mario costume for my second.  I only have so much ‘free time’ after all.  My husband will just have to fend for himself.

I already had a pattern for a princess costume that I could easily modify for Princess Peach but the Toad costume was going to be a challenge.  Lucky for me I have the internet!  I was able to use this tutorial to make the vest and this one to make the hat.  I’m thankful there are so many talented people out there who are willing to share with the rest of us.  You’ve saved me more than once!

If you’re still wondering what to do for Halloween costumes, take a look at The Costume Box on Craftsy.  It’s a whole video course on crafting costumes and accessories with minimal (if any) sewing.  Plus, it’s on sale!

What are you going as?

Hair Clips: not just for little girls….

Standard

This week I thought I’d demonstrate a really cute hair clip that is not only easy to make, but easy to make YOUR OWN.

You will need:

-a way to draw large, medium, and small sized circles if you’d rather not eyeball it (I used a mug and a spool of thread )

-a pencil

-scissors (I used pinking shears)

-3 or 4 scraps of fabric that look good together

-netting or mesh fabric that matches your other fabric

-a button or plastic jewel that also coordinates

-a metal hair clip (most craft stores sell packs of these for cheap these days since everyone wants to make their own hair clips)

-a needle and thread or hot glue gun or both

Step 1: Figure out which fabric you want for your base, draw the largest circle on it and cut it out.  Like I said, I used a mug to trace my circle, but if you want your clip bigger, use something bigger.

Step 2: Figure out which fabric you want to be in the middle and draw a smaller circle on that fabric and cut it out.

Step 3: Figure out which fabric you want your smallest circle to be, trace your smallest circle and cut it out.

Step 4: Cut two wide strips from your mesh fabric that are the diameter or a little longer than your biggest circle. Cut enough so that you can fold it over fan-style 3 or 4 times.

Step 5:  Layer all the pieces together with the largest circle on the bottom, a folded up mesh piece across it, the next largest circle, the second folded mesh piece on top of that running perpendicular to the other mesh piece, the smallest circle, and then place the button on top of everything.

Step 6: Get your needle and thread and sew through the button down the middle so everything is sewn together.  Put a couple stitches in. ( I also cut a larger circle out of the mesh and put it on the bottom of the whole stack.)

Step 7: Place your metal hair clip on the bottom, making sure the top of the hair clip is being attached to the bottom of your fabric.  If your clip has a hole in the top part, you can just sew the fabric right on to the clip.  If not, you may need to cut an extra piece of fabric and use your hot glue gun to glue the bottom of the fabric to the top part of the clip and glue the extra piece of fabric on the bottom of the top part of the clip to keep it all in place. 

These images show an example of the clip sewn on and the other of the clip hot glue gunned on with the extra piece of fabric on the bottom.

Another variation of design is seen on this clip where instead of just cutting out one circle for the middle layer, four circles are cut and then folded into quarters and placed together to make the middle circle.  This makes the clip thicker and gives it a fuller, more layered look.  You may want to just hot glue all the layers together if you go this route.

The best thing about the design of this clip is that it’s very basic, which makes it easy to make embellishments and variations.  You can make your clip as dressy and elegant or as casual and playful as you like.  Try different fabric types and color combinations. Use feathers instead of mesh.  Try a jewel in the middle instead of a button.  Add ribbons or lace.  Or both.  Make it your own.

Happy Creating!

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Standard
Dishwasher, open and loaded with dishes

Image via Wikipedia

I’m so excited about this!   I hate regular dishwasher detergent.  The chemical smells drive me crazy and it is so expensive, not to mention it often comes in a plastic container.  Blah.  So I thought I’d try something different.   I made a batch of this recipe and it worked great!  The dishes were at least as clean as with regular detergent and there was no nasty chemical smell.  Yay!  (In fairness, I must confess that I rinse my dishes before I wash them so I don’t know how well this will clean unrinsed dishes.)

Here’s my version of the recipe for your convenience: Keep Reading…

‘Tis the Season to be Canning!

Standard

My sister-in-law Danica and I ordered a 40 lb box of pears from The Pear Guy this year.  The pears ripened very quickly and pretty soon we were forced to can them.  BY OURSELVES.  That’s right.  We’ve both “helped” with canning before, but neither of us had

The two-year-old wanted to help wash bottles

actually ever done it ALONE.  So, we borrowed  a boiling water canner, rack, and the retro Squeezo Strainer from my mom along with her well used “Home Canning” Cookbook, published in 1975.  We then contacted my sister Alberta who referred us to Ball’s Canning and Preserving website and gave us some yummy recipes to try out.  We chose three canning recipes we wanted to make with our pears.  Autumn Cranberry Pear Jam Peach/Pear Butter and regular pear quarters in syrup.  The instructions for the pear quarters was in the Home Canning cookbook, along with other handy tips about canning.  The website also has a step by step hot water bath canning tutorial that was most helpful.

The first thing we had to do was wash all the bottles and lid rings.  We had some help with this part.

Boiling pears before putting them through the strainer

Then we decided the first thing we wanted to make was the Autumn Cranberry Pear Jam.  We had been warned by Alberta that we should probably just tough it out and peel, core, and crush the pears by hand so the jam would have a chunkier texture, but we were feeling lazy and instead we just boiled the pears and ran them through the Squeezo Strainer!  Not only was it quick and easy, but it was fun!  It took me back to the autumn days of my youth when my mother would allow us to run the strainer for her when she was canning applesauce.

We decided that since we had to boil and strain pears for the pear butter

anyway, we might as well do it for the jam too.  After straining the pears, we measured out the amount we would

need for the jam and mixed that recipe up in a pot on the stove, adding in the liquid pectin at the specified time and boiling it.

Danica using the Squeezo Strainer!

Heat canning lids on the stove.The rings can be reused, but these special guys can’t.

We immediately poured it into our warm jars, (that we kept warm in hot water in the sink)  wiped the tops of the jars,

put the lids on, and processed the jars in the boiling water canner. We were amazed and delighted when all the jars “popped” and sealed after the water bath.

We then mixed up the pear butter recipe and started boiling that.  We didn’t realize how long it takes for pear butter to “thicken” and I sat and stirred that boiling pear mixture until midnight before I decided it was thick enough for me and I bottled and processed it.

processing bottles on the stove

The next day I spent a couple of hours peeling and coring pears and since I had no way of keeping them from turning brown, I just peeled and cored as fast as I could and as soon as I had a bottle’s worth, I would fill a bottle, pour in the sugar-water syrup and put the lid on.

peeling, slicing, and coring pears

That seemed to keep them fresh until I was ready to process a batch.  All in all, we got about 17 quarts from that 40 lb box.  I have a few pears left and some apples and I really want to try this mincemeat recipe!

Thanks for sharing in our canning adventure!  What do you like to can?

Fun Apple Festival!!

Standard

“Across all cultures and ages, humans have come together in observance of the progression of time, in recognition of our relationship to the earth.  Although our western society has become far removed from these agricultural origins, we can give recognition to the way these rhythms still live in us through the celebration of family festivals.  We can rejoice in the turning of the seasons at home with images, stories, foods and activities that evoke seasonal qualities.  Many of the agricultural festivals and their closely associated religious holidays have been claimed by marketing agencies and have become overly commercial, devoid of soul.  If we choose, though, we can ensoul them and make them our own unique celebrations.  They can become a picture of our family life together.”   

         -Sharifa Oppenheimer, in the book Heaven on Earth

This past Saturday we celebrated an apple festival, our first one ever!  I decided on an apple festival mostly because having been raised on an apple farm, I wanted my children to experience the same sorts of things I did as a child.   The first idea of visiting a U-pick apple farm didn’t work out as there weren’t any in the area, but with decorations and songs, stories, and a yummy dinner, it turned out pretty fun.

We made this fall banner by paint-stamping in red and orange apples cut in half and then painted on “Joy of Autumn”.

For our door hanging and outside decor, we gathered cattails and yellow grasses and leaves from around our apartment.  Then we cut down our corn from the garden and tied it in a bunch to go by the door.

 

 

The tablecloth was fabric I found on clearance at Joanns, and the centerpiece we made by sticking all the things we gathered outside in a grapevine wreath (which I love because we can just take them out when done and use again for our winter festival!).  Also we added the apples (it IS an apple festival, after all) and candles to bring an extra special feeling to the meal.  Don’t you love eating by candlelight?  The kids sure did!

 

We also got our “nice” plates out of storage, and they added to the special feeling. 

The menu was:

 

 

   

      Butternut squash and apple Soup

 

 

 

 

  

    Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Apples

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Cranberry and Apple Chicken

 

 

 

 

We read apple books from the library throughout the day.  Something to change for next year would be to get different books.  The books we had were mostly informational books, and I would like more imaginative fictional stories, so I would find different ones or write some of my own! 

We also sang songs about apples through out the day and did apple bobbing after dinner.  Oh, and of course, we had applecrisp for dessert!  unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of that,  but I’ll provide one from someone else to tempt your taste buds. 

 

Overall, it was a great time, and we will for sure continue it next year!