November 21, 2014
by sarah
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Flag bunting

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I have made a couple of these small flag buntings over the years. My littlest room has a sea life theme with fish and light houses and two ribbons of mini flags hung along the top of opposing walls. Last weekend I had a wonderful time helping celebrate a friend who is due to have a little boy in a couple weeks. She also is excited about the nautical theme. So I made and strung more small flags around her living room for her shower. I have left them with her to decorate the nursery.

Flag bunting

Supplies

  • Scraps of fabric cut into 2 inch triangles
  • ribbon
  • sewing machine
  • thread

Directions

Start sending the triangles through the sewing machine. Pause before you come to the corner of one triangle and line up the next one. The stitching will connect them.

The ribbon can be used in two ways. Either attached about a foot at each end of the finished stitched flags or if you have tons of ribbon actually sew the triangles onto the ribbon. The second way you can space the triangles apart a bit since the ribbon is connecting them in addition to the stitching.

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November 18, 2014
by sarah
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Piñata

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About 20 years ago I volunteered for an environmental organization called the Sierra Student Coalition. We campaigned to save Alaskan wildlife and California deserts, among other things. One of my favorite events was a rally against the North American Free Trade Agreement. The bottom line was NAFTA wasn’t looking out for environmental. So a large piñata was made to represent the earth. It was filled with fake money. A fellow student who had a similar build to Newt Gingrich put flour in his hair to make it grey. At the event he hit the piñata representing the idea that Newt’s NAFTA plan was killing the earth for money.

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Fast forward twenty years to this past Saturday. One of the main priorities for my sons birthday party was a piñata. So we made one. Taking his lead it turned into a very similar earth piñata. This time it was filled with candy. The piñata fell from its support rope before it could be truly destroyed by the wiffle ball bat. I hope it just represented fun for a kid birthday party and not anything deeper.

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Here are some tips to making your own:

  • Really big balloons can be found here.
  • Good flour glue recipe and tips on on this web site.
  • Make sure you have plenty of time. Like weeks before the event. It takes a long time to dry.
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November 13, 2014
by jenny
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Birds’ Nests

Again I found something fascinating (to me) while walking my dog. I thought it was trash that had been run over by a lawnmower at first, and I supposed most of it probably was at some point. But when I looked again I saw that it was a small nest.

I decided to bring it home for my kids. We have tried putting out bags of nesting supplies for birds in the past and never thought there were takers, so it’s fun to see stuff people stuff  being recycled in the nest.

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When I was studying the next as I was carrying it home, I was imagining the bird(s) building it. I often think of all of the crazy work parent birds put into feeding the baby birds in the few nests I’ve been lucky enough to watch. I was waxing philosophical on the nest as a metaphor for humans taking care of their families – building a home, pulling scraps from anywhere to hold it together and make it strong, but it’s still fragile, etc. I thought that concept might be something I can post here.

But when I brought the nest home, I put the next on my desk. Can you guess what happened next? No, the kids or dog didn’t bust it up. No, a bird didn’t fly in the window and land in it. I didn’t accidentally throw it in the wash machine.

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I googled. I started trying to identify the bird nest. And I thought screw the metaphorical, birds nests on their own can be pretty amazing. Sharon Beals shows up again and again as the foremost bird nest photographer, check out her website some time or some photos here: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/05/25-photos-of-birds-nests-sharon-beals/.

I was impressed with the weaverbird nests. They have incredible weaving skills (check this link out), and some species of the bird also make giant communal nests (check this link out).

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I was also a little endeared looking at the hummingbird nests after our summer watching them. I had read about their nesting habits this summer being curious where they were when they weren’t around, but didn’t really look too close before this. They are tiny (like the size of half a walnut, but thebirdsreport website  says they are often lined with fresh made that day spider webs. I thought that was kind of cute, until I was remembered the hummingbird wars at our feeder and thinking about poor spiders always having to rebuild their webs.

I have not decided out what kind of nest we have, but when I went through this identification guide, I was impressed that the guide narrowed the search down to only the birds that most frequent our backyard. This nest was smaller than those in the guide, though maybe I  only have a piece of it.

This was my favorite interesting nest website when I was looking: http://www.thebirdersreport.com/egg-and-nest-identification.Scroll down and you might think about Sarah’s laundry on her line!

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November 12, 2014
by jenny
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Spiralizer

I received a super fun toy for my birthday last week from my husband and kids. I’ve wanted one for a while, so my kids were very excited for me to have it! They were far less excited when we had zucchini spaghetti for dinner. A fun toy for sure, and I’m looking forward to using it for more things. My daughter helped me spiralize and she cut one zucchini noodle that was over 7 feet long!

I’m looking forward to sweet potato curly fries next.

Do you have favorite recipes or recommendations on using a spiral cutter?

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November 10, 2014
by jenny
1 Comment

Celery Root

We’ve been members of a CSA for years. Celery root is something that always shows up in our boxes in the fall. Our CSA farm sends newsletters with suggestions on how to use and store some of the produce folks may not be used to preparing. The tips for using celery root/celeriac have always been to leave it in your refrigerator and slice off pieces as needed to add to soups, stews and salads. So that is what I have done with it and never looked more into other options. I’ve always treated celeriac like a bay leaf, adding a big slice to soups, and removing it before serving.

But a few weeks ago, I was watching Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network and someone was serving Dr. Pepper braised short ribs on a bed of celery root puree. It happens that I had two bulbs of celeriac in my refrigerator (one has a few slices taken out), so I started looking up some recipes using celery root and turns out I’ve been using it all wrong and definitely not to it’s full potential. Many of the celery root recipes I saw online use heavy cream or items that I don’t have on hand or don’t like to cook with.  But I did see it can remain in soups.

So I chopped up one of celery root bulbs and threw it in with potato leek soup to see what happened. What happened was that that the soup got rave reviews from my husband, in-laws and oldest daughter, so I thought I’d share in case you have a bulb sitting in your fridge.

I don’t really keep or follow soup recipes, so use this as a basic guideline and adjust the taste to your preference!

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Celeriac Potato Leek Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 large leeks, cleaned and sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6-8 medium sized potatoes (I use whatever I have, white, yellow, baking and generally leave the skins on)
  • 1 bulb of celery root, peeled and roughly cut into 1 inch chunks
  • chicken stock or water [I use about half stock and half water so it’s not too salty and I can taste the leeks, or I use water and add in Better than Bullion at the end, just enough to make the flavor richer (about a tbsp)]
  • seasonings to taste (I usually just add a bunch of black pepper at the end, salt may not be needed if you are using stock, other seasoning work especially rosemary and thyme)

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil, garlic and leeks in a stock pot, and cook over medium to low heat turning once in a while until the leeks are tender (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add in the potatoes and celery root. Add in enough liquid to cover the potatoes and what not. Cook over medium heat (covered or uncovered), stirring occasionally, until everything is tender, about an hour.
  3. Blend together with an immersion blender or in a blender in batches. Add seasonings and stir or cook in if desired.
  4. Serve immediately. We’ve garnished potato leek soup with bacon crumbles, cheese, sour cream, chives, croutons, and parsley, but mostly eat it as is!
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November 6, 2014
by sarah
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Eric Carle Prep

I have been itching to get into my second graders class room. He doesn’t tell me much and I want to see what’s going on. I know that I have to let go. There is a reason that there are less and less opportunities to help.  I wanted to try one last way the  – I’m a former art teacher trick!! And it worked!! So I am going in to help the teacher complete their insect unit by showing the kids how to make insects-a-la-Eric Carle. I only have an hour with the second graders. My kids and I have been doing some prep work.

We are making what my book binding teacher called Paste Paper. Google image Paste Paper – there are some beautiful examples. For book binding purposes it is usually used for the cover of the book. To make paste paper start  by mixing acrylic paint and gloss medium and then painting it on to a large piece of paper. With various tools you can make all sorts of textures and patterns. Eric Carle did the same type of thing. He then cut up the paper and used the small pieces to collage together insects, animals, people, among other things in his wonderful books.

We skipped the gloss medium step, just using acrylic paint and tools I cut out of cardboard. We also used smaller paper so we could make lots of color  variety and knowing they would be cut up anyway.

Everyone participated. The three year old was excited to use the forbidden acrylic paints and it was perfect to work on identifying colors. The other two just had fun with mixing colors and trying textures. The best was letting one color dry and putting another over it and then scraping it off to see what was reviled.

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The class was a success too here are some of the final insects.

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November 4, 2014
by sarah
1 Comment

OK GO makes me smile!!

I want to end my day with a smile. So often my day is full of  crazy mom stuff, reading sad articles, helping others less fortunate, and just general life worries. So recently before I go to bed I watch something silly or inspiring. Jimmy Fallon is always good for this. As are OK GO videos – I have posted about them before here. Now in the morning (especially the last few that have lasted forever because of day lights savings) I’ll show what I have found to the kids. Here is the more recent OK GO video for “I Won’t Let You Down” (warning it is very catchy – will stay in your head all day).

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October 31, 2014
by jenny
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Comic Strips

My household is unanimously book worms. Even the dog likes listening to books.

My kids literally cheer and sprint home from the bus stop when I report that I went to the library for them while they were in school. When I go to the library for my kids,  I walk through and grab a variety of books without spending too much time there – old favorites, books series or authors they enjoy, random non-fiction and picture books, new things to try, whatever I see until the bag is full. Some weeks I do better than others in picking entertaining or interesting books. A favorite of mine as a kid, Some Swell Pup, by Maurice Sendak, can always bring out laughs and claws.

This week, my kids were very inspired by some old favorites that were in the library bag, Library Mouse, by Dan Kirk (highly recommend), and the Lunch Lady series, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (thoroughly enjoyed by my 5th and 1st graders) (those are Amazon Affiliate links).

The inspiration led to a week of my kids making their own comic strips. Some are actually a little clever. Some don’t make much sense to anyone but the author. While this week they’ve enjoyed drawing their own comic strips, my oldest daughter reminded me of a comic strip website that we used to use a bunch. We checked and the website still exists and has also become a free app.

There are a bunch of great apps that you can buy and make comic strips using or converting your own photos. We have played around a little with a few of these apps, but completing a vision takes a bit too much time and work than my my kids at this age are willing to put into creating.

However, my kids do keep going back to the app from the website we’ve been using for years: http://www.makebeliefscomix.com. The app and website are free to use. You can create very simple strips selecting from simple layouts, characters and backgrounds. The focus is on creating dialogue instead action, so kids can concentrate on making up a story and creating dialogue. It’s pretty fun!

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October 27, 2014
by jenny
0 comments

Turnip Love

I really dig turnips. And I think I’m pretty funny for making up that root vegetable gardening pun. Sometimes I go back to my younger self imagination and pretend that I’m a Fraggle. But instead of going bonkers over radishes, I adore turnips. Maybe Katie K can relate to such visions.

Today I readied my Doozer rods turnips and I felt a little turnip love in return.

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Does it look like a heart to you? It does to me.

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