September 19, 2014
by jenny
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Crock Pot Broth

Something that I have harbored an odd sense of guilt about and often wished I was better at completing, is making my own broth/stock. I have tried it before, so I know that it is a simple and easy concept. But when I’ve made stock at home, it has tasted greasy and not flavorful, and I never wanted to use it for soup or something else. I should care about cutting back on salt and stuff that’s in commercial stuff, but it just tasted so much better.

The guilt stuck, because I figured, if I worked on it, I could make palatable stock at home. So the biggest issue I come across in making homemade broth/stock (I don’t know if there is a difference, by the way) is that I don’t like to keep extra stuff around and my body/mind “has” to clean and close down the kitchen after dinner, and I go to bed early. To make stock, I either have to stay up late mucking up my kitchen or put post-dinner scraps in the fridge or freezer for a while until I take on the project during the day. I know people recommend keeping scraps in a bag in the freezer and adding to it. I’ve tried this a few times, but then I just end up throwing it out when I need freezer space or feel like there is trash in my freezer, or just feel guilty that I don’t want to think about tasting another gulp of greasy broth that took me 6 hours to make.

I was reading about the benefits of drinking bone broth a few months ago and the blogger (once again,I’m not sure where, it may have been Homemade Mommy or a link from her, she’s always going off on bone broth) mentioned she kept a crockpot on the counter of broth ingredients and would take a serving out, replace some water, repeat for a week or so, and then replace dump it all out and start again. Too much sitting around food grosses me out, but broth in the crock pot? I can do that.

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This week with husbands out of town, an array of soccer practices, Back To School Nights, and other activities, I had a complex childcare swap arrangement with a friend. I had the combined families’ six kids for dinner and had rotisserie chicken, mac & cheese and cut up veggies. After dinner I stripped the chicken of “good” meat and dropped it in the crock pot with a chopped onion, leftover carrot and celery sticks, a bunch of fresh parsley, some rainbow chard that was starting to wilt, and right at the end  I dropped a few florets of broccoli that the kids didn’t eat at dinner. I filled the rest of the crock pot with water, set it on low and cleaned up the kitchen.

My friend came to pick up her kids and warned me that she’d tried this before and the bones can get really soft and be difficult to strain out. So I guess people are doing this all over the place behind closed doors while laying in bed. Friends, why didn’t you tell me about crock pot broth sooner? Hopefully you all know about this already. But it not, I wanted to share it with the world, it might help you out.

 

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In the morning, soft bones wasn’t an issue with this batch. The few florets of broccoli may have been a mistake though – the kitchen smelled like Panera Cream of Broccoli soup, and the first taste was very strong on broccoli, but it go away once vented for a while. I strained the broth in a sieve with no problem. Worried about soft bones, I originally lined the sieve with some cheese cloth we’ve had in our cabinet for 6 years and never found a use for, but when I poured everything into the sieve, the cheesecloth just slipped down into a ball and probably didn’t do much extra straining.

 

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This broth was good. I had used a grocery store rotisserie chicken, so I didn’t add any salt or pepper knowing the chicken was likely salty enough and I could add salt later. I would have added a bay leaf but couldn’t find any in the pantry when I was throwing things in (I found some later) – I think the parsley, chard and broccoli added enough “fresh” taste. I was a little worried the chard might add too much red or green coloring and scare off my kids, but it was fine.

With all of the solids filling the crock pot, I didn’t think I’d end up with much broth, but I drank some plain, put a little in the freezer, and I made chicken noodle soup for the kids and I for dinner, so it was definitely enough that I think the endeavor and vegetable investment was “worth it.”

My kids all commented that it didn’t taste at all like they expected the broth to taste in their noodle soup, but they all liked it. It definitely wasn’t salty, but we didn’t need to add salt, and it had a lot of flavor. It wasn’t greasy or fatty.

I wouldn’t have changed a thing. And I’m definitely going to do this again when I have leftover bones and will try throwing in different combinations of whatever is in my veggie drawer, I’ll maybe even start saving scraps in a freezer bag again.

Cheers to you, Crock pot!

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September 16, 2014
by jenny
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Garden Updates 9.16.2014

Boo. My garden is gone now. There are a few things out there growing, but it’s basically just parsley. We put most of our garden space into tomatoes that ended up blighted this year, and a few other things that just never took off. We certainly aren’t pulling up root vegetables like Sarah posted last week.

I wasn’t feeling well through most of summer and we spent a lot of time visiting family, so I didn’t get a chance to eat up as much of our farm share boxes as usual (not to mention “our farm” had a few set backs and has gotten smarter about growing things, giving us not the bounty in certain areas that we are used to in the past). This all resulted in me preserving a whole lot more stuff than usual.

One of my all time favorite kids books is Blueberries for Sal (Amazon affiliate link). And this summer I pretended that I was Sal’s mother often. Almost weekly I was saying to myself Now, Sal, you run along and pick your own berries. Mother wants to take her berries home and can them for next winter.” It wasn’t berries (and unfortunately, not pesto, our basil never did come back), but we ended up with a good haul put up.

Salsas,

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lots and lots of crushed tomatoes,

 

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waaaaay too many dill and hot pickles,

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grean beans, snow peas and assorted greens and other veggies in the freezer,

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and today eggplant getting ready to be breaded, baked and frozen. YUM.

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September 15, 2014
by jenny
0 comments

Three Cheers for Zappos!

I have no affiliation to this company. I get no benefit from providing this shout out, other than hoping it will and/or has made you happy and your life easier, and hoping their business succeeds and continues to provide me great service.

I want to say Zappos rocks. I know, support small local business is a better public announcement, but sometimes big business does things right, and I find Zappos is doing it right.

I will say I don’t have any endurance or passion when it comes to shopping, and my UPS guy will tell you Amazon Prime and online shopping is my M.O, so Zappos already has that going for it in my book.

In addition to school and other life transitions, my middle kid has a lot of trouble shifting to new footwear. My older daughter on the other hand loves new shoes, but all of the females in this house  suffer from very narrow heels, which limits easily finding reasonable school shoe options.

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So the handful of times per year when it’s time to shop for new shoes/sneakers/cletes/sandles, our household process goes something like this:

  • Step One: Find nothing at small selection local shoe store – except perhaps one pair of shoes that I refuse to spend the $120 price ticket and fight ensues over evil mommy. After many years, this step is now often skipped.
  • Step Two: Check another not so local shoe store with a large selection, find up to a few pairs of shoes that fit, but only fit into one of the following criteria: don’t slip off heels and appropriate for school. Sometimes come home with cool good looking shoes that only get worn a couple times before being left in the closet because of “not feeling right.”
  • Step Three: Mall. Try four or five stores at the mall and find nothing that fits or styles we can compromise on. Often my oldest finds something she likes and might fit, but is one of those kids that stores never seem to have her size in stock.  Leave with at least middle child and myself with tears of frustration.
  • Step Four: Order from Zappos. By this step we have reliable feet measurements and have narrowed down the hunt to brands or styles that might not slide off heels. We order two or three sizes of every pair we are interested in. Usually ending up with over a dozen pairs of shoes on the order. Shoes arrive in under 48 hours almost every time (for free!) We try all of the shoes on (often it takes middle a few days to accomplish this), and can send any that don’t fit back (for free!). We often end up sending them all back and ordering a whole new slew. I drop the box off at our super friendly local UPS Store and the credit is back on my credit card with in another 48 hours. Amazing.

Zappos makes my life easier. They are efficient on sending orders out. I always opt for the free shipping option, and only once in many years did the order take more than 48 hours to be on my doorstep. This past week I placed an order around 6pm one night, and the box was on my doorstep before lunch the next morning, 18 hours later. That amazes me.

Free shipping on returns. Sometimes it seems like my credit card has been credited for the return before I get home from the UPS Store. They don’t carry every brand/style (especially in kids cletes or “fake Uggs”), but the overall selection is vast. The prices are okay, around the manufacturers suggest price, sales aren’t huge, and no coupons, so you can find cheaper costs elsewhere, but by Step Four in our hunt, I’m on the cusp of  ready to return to Step One store to spend $120 on a pair of kids shoes, so the convenience of free shipping, being able to order a few sizes of the same shoe and send back what doesn’t fit (sometimes allowing a few days wearing around in house trial period) is worth the cost to me, as well as not bear another 15 minutes at a store.

I’m a fan. Thank you, Zappos.

 

 

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September 13, 2014
by sarah
1 Comment

Garden 9.10.14

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My littlest and I harvested the potatoes this week. The kids actually liked the purple ones!

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We tried two mini melons. I quartered a watermelon and cantaloup – one quarter of each together fit in a average size cereal bowl.

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And a two stemmed beet.

 

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September 10, 2014
by sarah
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The Pulley

We have become professional road trippers over the last several years. I have written about it here. The last week of August we drove to Canada again and made some changes  to the mini van that seemed to  improve the drive.

1. We took out the seat behind the driver in the middle row. Allowing for very easy entrance and lots of room for the dog.

2. We lined up all three kids in the back row. The girls on either window in 5 point harness big car seats and the boy in the middle on a booster. This helped with the show watching. We don’t have a built in screen. When we showed the DVDs on a laptop we collapsed the other middle seat and rested the laptop on the folded seat.

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3. We rigged up a pulley. The kids and I have talked about this for years. We finally ran a rope from the passenger side handle above the door to the handle in the far back way behind the driver.  Then clipped a carabiner to the rope and attached a small basket that transferred snacks and stuffed animals back and forth.

I actually got to sit in the passenger seat and knit for much of the trip.

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September 4, 2014
by jenny
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Click.

 

I’m getting my back to school life sea legs. After just two days, I’m still quite shaky. I wanted to post about school starting and have some recipes to share and a few other ideas, but stuff has come up and now I sat down to post something, but I’m super tired. So I started procrastinating and looking through summer pictures on my computer. I came upon these pictures of an interesting beetle my daughter and I found in our backyard this summer.

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So being in procrastination mode, I had to Google information about the beetle instead of the work I set out to do. I’ve seen similar beetles before in our yard. Well, by golly, I’m glad I did look it up. This type of beetle with fake eyes on the back are called Click Beetles, and they don’t threaten our garden. These are named Click Beetles because of a behavior they have of tossing themselves onto their backs and then snapping together two hinged sections of their body to flip themselves into the air (making a clicking sound) and either landing on their feet again or flying away. I had no idea. Apparently Click Beetles do this aerial act when they feel threatened or if they are turned on their backs (which I might consider a threatening act). Apparently, my daughter and I were not very threatening (even when moving this beetle to the tarp for his picture session), but you can guess if we ever see one again we might try to turn one over. We  thought this guy looked cool and didn’t know he came with tricks.

I thought you might like to try that too and see this trick/hear the click some day if you happen across the path of one of these (you can google for more information, and I saw a few YouTube videos of the clicking). Be gentle please!

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August 28, 2014
by sarah
0 comments

Pumpkin?

Instead of a garden update – a lawn update. I put some compost in the corner of a garden bed and I think a rogue pumpkin is growing from it. pumpkin1 pumpkin2

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August 27, 2014
by sarah
1 Comment

Waff Waffs

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At dinner the other night we asked the kids what they thought we needed to do to prep for the start of school next week. I have been making lists with things like back packs, clothing, morning check lists, school supplies. My big boy said we need peanut butter, honey, bread, and waffles. Of course! I was thinking about the details that would get us through the whole year. He was thinking of what we needed the first week. It was a great reminder to continue to ask for the kids perspective.

My littlest calls waffles: “waff waffs”.  With the waffle request in I started thinking about how to bulk the recipe up. How to give the kids a great breakfast to fuel them for the morning. This recipe made about 12 large waffles that break into four peices. I broke them up and froze them so they can grab 2 of the quarter pieces each morning. If you don’t have a waffle iron this recipe can also make pancakes. Here is what I came up with:

Waffles

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I love King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups milk (+maybe a little more)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 ripe pealed peach
  • 1/2 cup canola oil or melted butter

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Directions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients togehter in a big bowl.
  2. In a blender put in banana, peach, and milk. Blend. If the total liquid is under 4 cups add a enough milk to make it 4 cups. Add the eggs and oil. Blend.
  3. Add the liquid from the blender to the dry ingredients. Mix well, but not too well. Lumps are OK.
  4. Make the waffles or pancake the way you like to.

I am sure these waffles will see lots of maple syrup. I am hoping to convince them that dipping in yogurt or peanut butter is a good idea too.

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August 26, 2014
by sarah
0 comments

Camp week

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We did it again!

Last summer six families got together and ran our own week long camp. Check out last years success here.

This year we got bigger and better.  We added one more family, added a “camp” for the littles (2-3 year olds), and centered the week around a theme: holidays. Last summers week is now known as the “plain” camp week in my house.

We started the week with Christmas. The host family put up their giant wreath on the side of the house. The kids played several relay races focused around winter or Christmas like each kids had a to balance a marshmallow on a spoon  and run across the yard and put it in a bucket. As well as hanging candy canes on a Christmas tree with oven mitts on their hands. The also made Christmas ornaments.

Tuesday was the birthday theme with yard games and a huge inflatable bouncy house water slide!! They had cupcakes that they frosted them selves for snack. And a pinata of course, they had to line up for by their birth date.

I was supposed to host Easter on Wednesday. I planned on being outside the whole morning. The weather forecast predicted 100% chance of rain. And it poured all day. Luckily the Halloween mom stepped up and hosted inside!! I was/am very thankful to not have 15 kids in my house while it poured outside.  Halloween was a success! Games like eating doughnuts hanging from a sting without using your hands. As well as pumpkin crafts, costumes, and candy.

Thursday was the Fourth of July. Patriotic paintings were made, obstacle courses were challenged (with life sized croquet wickets made out of pool noodles), and a full kick ball game that the boys wanted to never end.

Then Friday was Easter. We started with  a quick walk through the woods to a large field to have an Easter Egg hunt. I was nervous about  how to present the hunt to make it fair for the fast 7 year old boys and for the more careful younger girls. So I split the 15 into 3 groups of mixed gender and age. Each group were assigned 2 different colors of eggs to find. Then a walk back to read books and do crafts. My favorite craft was the egg shell heads. The kids drew on empty egg shells and a cut toilet paper roll. They filled the egg with dirt and planted grass seed hair.

Here is the basic layout of how the camp works. Each day one mom would host and two other mothers would help out for the “big” kids camp age ranging from 4-8. Another mom took the five “littles” -the 2-3 year old younger sisters and brothers and hosted them at her house. The drop off and pick up was a little tricky, but we figured it out. Most of us have a mini van with a variety of car seats which helped a lot. That left three moms with the morning off. Here is a sample schedule of the week. Plug in 7 moms and families and you can have camp week too.

SAMPLE CAMP SCHEDULE

We ended a the week with a pizza party lunch on Friday with 20 kids + 7 moms! We congratulated one another and started planning for next year.

 

 

 

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August 21, 2014
by jenny
3 Comments

Free Shot

 

I had a good day today. I scrubbed the house some. Got the kids moving towards being prepared for school some. I watched three blue jays have an awesomely acrobatic bird fight for a while. And there was a deer kind of going crazy running around houses (entertaining, though something may have been wrong with it). I helped the kids create their final batch of tie dye for the summer (oddly messy even though they are getting better, but they were happy). My 8 year old baby and I made a go at our forth attempt at homemade cheez-its, and though the results still aren’t quite right, we ended up with something  like fluffy little cheese biscuits that are probably the most delicious of all of our attempts to date.

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