November 15, 2016
by jenny
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More Comfort Food – Chex Mix

I’ve been into comfort food too. Part with all that is going on in the country/world, part because we’ve been winding down a very busy fall schedule, and part because my body/brain/sleep hasn’t adjusted daylight savings.

I come from a family and part of the country where Chex Mix was/is a big part of holiday tradition. It brings about the feeling of family, fires in the fireplace, piles of brazil nuts at the bottom of a bowl because no one liked them, and being very very thirsty.

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So I thought homemade Chex Mix was a good idea as a respite comfort food in our house. I made the first batch and it was gone in a few days. One of the many fantastic things about Chex mix is that you can adjust the ingredients and flavors to your tastes. We stick to the “original” recipe flavor, but go heavy on the seasonings. My mom is a fan of the speed and easy of microwaving, and I can’t taste the difference, but I still oven bake. I left out tree nuts because of an allergy in the house, and peanuts so my kids could take the snack to school and obey the nut free rules. We like the new “original” recipe addition of bagel chips to the ingredients, so add more than recommended. We still like Cheerios, even though that’s not on the recipe anymore, so add those in.  One family friend growing up added M&Ms to their mix.

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No one has dug much into the leftover Chex and the gerbils could use those boxes to chew, so I made a second batch. I was looking around for what to add besides the cereals since I used up the bagel chips in the last go around. I had pretzel twists out, but put them away to add in these sourdough pretzels bites. I have more than one family member who is definitely going to pick those out first!

Anyone else add something different/special into their Chex mix? img_7172

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November 9, 2016
by sarah
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Comfort

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No matter how you voted in the election yesterday I feel like we are all exhausted and need a little comfort. Comfort food or comfort crafts. (I started crafting at 7:00am this morning). I have been making more of these sweet tutu dolls. And I’m about to roast some pumpkins to make Jenny’s pumpkin bread. And I recently made these left over Halloween candy cookie bars. Then made a second batch and made them into cookies instead. I liked the cookies better. As you can see making stuff makes me feel better.

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November 1, 2016
by jenny
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Hand Pies Make Me Happy

This is an advertisement for hand pies. I don’t have a solid recipe I use, so I just wanted to give a shout out to all hand pies and encourage others to make their own.

I really dig hand pies. My last batch exploded to almost all look like awesome faces looking at me, as if hand pies didn’t make me happy enough.

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In high school we could walk to a convenience mart during lunch or before sports practices. I loved to get Drakes or Hostess fruit pies (mostly apple). I also liked the McDonald’s apple pies and am feeling a little nostalgic opening up that cardboard sleeve for a hot pie.

When I stopped frequenting convenient marts, I sort of forgot about hand pies. And then I saw a picture/recipe online a few years ago. I’m guessing homemade hand pies are only slightly better for you than the commercially mass produced versions, but they are just as (and sometimes even more) tasty.

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I won’t say they are as easy as pie (yes, I made myself laugh out loud typing that), but they are just about as easy as making a whole pie. Depending on your filling, making hand pies are not only incredibly quick and easy to make, but super convenient to eat. They are portable and go great in a lunch box. You don’t have to eat an entire pie within a week. You can make a batch and freeze some and pull them out one or two at a time, so as a mom can make your favorite and hide them or not worry that no one else likes them! They are easier than pie to share. If you are into crust, there is lots of crust! I like store bought crust, which makes life even easier.

Hand pies make me happy.    img_7017

 

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October 20, 2016
by jenny
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Do you have any Instant Pot Recipes for me?

I recently received an Instant Pot from someone who was gifted one but wasn’t interested. When offered, I did not jump at the chance. I already had a slow cooker and stove top pressure cooker. I work from home and feed my kids a dinner type meal around 3:30-4pm before leaving the house for evening activities. We aren’t a family who all comes in from our days at 5pm looking to sit down and eat at 6pm, which seemed like the target audiences for the Instant Pot recipes I’ve seen.

But when re-offered, I thought “sure, why not.” You know I’m always up for an experiment. The first thing I did after receiving the multi cooker was donate my old slow cooker. I had tried to make dashi stock over a year ago and it spilled into the cooking portion of the cooker and not matter how many times I tried to clean it, I could smell it every time I walked by the shelf the crock pot lived on in the basement. I was afraid to ask if someone else smelled it or not, but either way, I was happy to see it go.

The next Instant Pot related activity I did was buy a whole chicken to allegedly cook in 45 minutes. But I chickened out (bad pun) and roasted it in the oven, not wanting to risk messing it up or have it come out “weird” because we had a busy night that night and I wanted to make sure the kids actually filled their stomachs before heading out.

My husband often makes a bean chili for himself to eat for lunch for a week using dry beans that seem to take all day to cook, so I was trying to pressure (another pun) him into using the Instant Pot to cook the beans. But he wasn’t that inspired and now he hasn’t made his chili.

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On Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I bought a couple rotisserie chickens. I’ve been making stock in the crock pot overnight a lot after cleaning off the chicken carcasses. It never turns out to be the alleged gut healing gelatinous bone broth I intend even if I leave it for 18+ hours of cooking, but makes a fine stock to freeze or use for soup. Monday is our trash and the truck usually comes early Monday mornings so I wanted to get the chicken bones into the trash Sunday night. In comes the Instant Pot. I figured I could make the stock quickly with nothing to to lose and get the bones in the trash.

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It totally worked! Quick and easy, as advertised. I dumped in two birds’ bones, a small onion, a couple carrots and celery stalks, a few cloves of garlic, a couple bay leaves and water. I have pressure cooker experience from canning, so the spurting steam didn’t bother or surprise me at all, but I guess I could see someone being alarmed by that. And the end product under two hours after starting was perfect bone broth. It was easy, quick and delicious. And the bones didn’t have to stink in my trash all week. I’m definitely doing that again.

What Instant Pot recipes to you recommend?

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October 17, 2016
by jenny
1 Comment

Small pets!

We have gerbils.

If you are my mother, mother-in-law, or some of my neighbors you will read that with the connotation that one might read “We have chronic and very contagious lice” (we don’t, we’ve still only had that one easy bout!)

But we really like our gerbils. Their rat like tails and ratty faces don’t bother us. We think gerbils are cute.

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Gerbils HAVE added a lot of “oh man, the things we go through for our kids,” stories to my life over the past 5 years. But I’ve really enjoyed having the little rodents around. It took my husband about 3 years of being mildly disgusted by their ratty look, and having to listen to the beasts running in a squeaky wheel for hours while he watched TV at night, but he’ll even admit he thinks they are kind of cute now.

In fact after a tough loss of our old man gerbil, Teddy, last month, it was my husband that initiated the pushed to get more. We adopted two new little guys  last week (gerbils are social and not only enjoy people, but like to be in pairs). It’s fun to have babies again!

Here is a picture of our new pair, Patronus and Sirius Black:

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I was watching them this morning as they zipped around running in and out of a paper towel tube, burying themselves in bedding and popping up on another side of their tank. It made me appreciate one of the reasons pets of any kind are so fascinating – it really is amazing to be able to observe an animal up close and study and appreciate their completely different (or similar) brain, body, mind, needs, wants, actions, reactions, mannerisms, abilities, and priorities.

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We have a dog, some fish, a hermit crab, gerbils and a water frog. Each kid currently has tank with something living in his/her own room. I can’t say that pet ownership has given my kids any “sense of responsibility” as the plot of Arthur’s Pet Business or any other kids’ book would lead me to believe. I’m pretty sure no one else has ever once cleaned out a cage/tank, washed the dog beds, given the dog a bath, had the dog’s nails clipped, or bought any food or supplies. I doubt anyone has ever once even fed or walked the dog without being asked. I let the dog out, feed and walk her at least 80% of the time when there are other people in the house.

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But the amount of compassion my kids show for the animals in my house is worth it. (With one current compassion exclusion: one kid won’t stop touching the new gerbils even when the little guys probably need a break, I’m hoping this wears off a little after they’ve been here a few weeks!)

My kids all talk to our pets with such tenderness. Our dog clears out of a room scared from a lot of weird things, like cardboard boxes, and the kids are so sympathetic and never chase after her or tease her with an Amazon delivery in hand. They are inclusive and tenderly invite her into their rooms, and don’t drag, push or lock her in if she doesn’t want to go. They don’t force her into weird situations she doesn’t want to be in (like standing next to a tower of cardboard boxes) and they help her out of situations that make her uncomfortable (like UPS deliveries left on the front steps that she needs to get past to go inside/outside). If she does something that seems unintelligent to humans, they might laugh for a second, but then they don’t make fun of her, they almost always give her a hug, pet her, and in a soothing voice point out her other good qualities (like that she wins the stinkiest in the house award!)

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I’m all for pets, whether or not you have kids in your life. I don’t think pet ownership is a great exercise in physical responsibility for kids, but there is a sense of pride, and I think having pets in the house can make kids more compassionate people as they navigate co-existing and interacting with other beings (animals, people, and even the environment) who need things different than us and can add different sorts of experiences to our lives.

We hugely recommend dogs around here, but we would also recommend gerbils for those who can’t gave a dog looking to start off with furry interactive pets! I can give you more information on gerbil care if you are interested!

 

 

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September 30, 2016
by sarah
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Some Recent Hacks

I’m so glad there is now a trendy word that describes my silly solutions to everyday problems we have. Here are a couple of recent “Hacks”.

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My big girl wanted to organize her bags. They were in a basket in her room. She never used them because they were in a big pile and she couldn’t see her options. We took an old drying rack,  made space in her closet, and added clips to hang her bags. Jenny do you recognize a couple??

button-sandwich

My littlest girl needs some fine motor practice. Her OT suggested playing with buttons. I took her Mellissa and Doug felt sandwich kit, cut slices in the middle of the “meat” and “cheese”, sewed a ribbon to one side of the “bread”, and a big button to the other side of the ribbon.

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September 22, 2016
by jenny
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Mixed Media Scupley Project

Like Sarah’s crew, and I’d figure the majority of people, searching for and finding treasures is a big part of my kids’ and my enjoyment of the beach. Sarah has a preference for certain types of rocks, but our favorite collections seem to vary. And like Sarah, we are always looking for ways to use the treasures when we get home.

Last year our focus was small snail shells. We must have have a couple hundred. We have some lake and some ocean snail shells, all under an inch in length. The shapes are cool, but color wise, they aren’t all that pretty. Last summer my girls were very into lemonade and rainbow loom bracelet stands, but in our neighborhood, it’s the same traffic. We thought they could paint the shells and sell them. We also collected many itty bitty snail shells and we have itty bitty jars we thought could be filled with shells to make decorations. But the idea I was most excited about was using Sculpey clay and using the shells to create snails or hermit crabs.

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And a year and half later, my middle (a hermit crab owner), was inspired and made that vision a reality. They came out as I envisioned over a year ago on a beach as my kids stuffed my pockets with sandy shells and I was thinking “what in the world will we do with all of these?” Except, they are maybe even better. We baked them to harden the clay according to the Sculpey directions without problem. img_6818

If you need a project to use up some summer souvenirs, something like this might be fun!

 

 

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September 16, 2016
by sarah
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Now we are painting acorns.

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As the seasons are changing we have moved on from collecting beach rocks to collecting acorns. My little one is very particular about “perfect” intact acorns. As you can imagine there are piles all over the yard and house. When I saw this post for Happy Acorn Necklaces I thought we had to try it. Maybe be able to use the acorn.

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We decided not to make faces and painted on letters instead. She has painted the tops and bottoms, we let them dry, and then I paint the letter requested on them. We have made them for her teachers, friends, and family.

Hints:

  • I was surprised by how hard the tops of acorns are. I was worried that I would crack them while drilling. No way they were hard to drill.
  • The old ice cube tray was helpful in sorting the tops and bottoms that fit.img_3206 img_3201
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September 12, 2016
by sarah
0 comments

Sign of a Good Summer!!

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Years ago before I had girls I told my self I would never have my children wear saggy bathing suits with no elastic. Now I have decided saggy suits with faded color, pills, and little elastic left is the sign of a GOOD SUMMER!!

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