October 20, 2016
by jenny

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.


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.


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.


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:



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.


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.


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!)


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

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”.


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??


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

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.


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

Now we are painting acorns.


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.


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.


  • 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

Sign of a Good Summer!!


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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September 7, 2016
by jenny
1 Comment

Potholder Loom!

A couple weeks ago I took the kids on a last minute last trip of the summer to visit my parents. In the weekly newspaper I saw an ad for  10″ potholder looms from Harrisville Designs at a book/gift store. I coincidentally was cleaning out some craft stuff and had gotten out our smaller plastic loom the week before and tried to get the kids to use it, so was very interested in the bigger loom.

We happened to go to the store. As it turns out, my mother had seen a woman demonstrating these larger looms a few weeks before and was also intrigued. We both had the smaller looms as kids. We both enjoyed seeing the beautiful designs and functional quality of the finished products from the demonstration left for sale. We both were a little dismayed at the price, however my mom took the plunge as an early birthday present for both of us. We both got our own new toy looms.

And they are pretty awesome.


People think I’m far more Pinterest and Martha Stewart crafty than I am, but I have little interest in decorations, fashion or decor. I like to make stuff, but don’t like to waste stuff. I like my crafts to challenge me and let me be creative but to be functional, and typically something that might make a nice gift. These potholders fit the bill. They take a little work, but are easy to make and with the bigger loom and the high quality loops they create a very functional end product as a pot holder or trivet. The loops come in a ton of colors. My kids (ages 8, 10 and 12) can easily make them on their own. You can make one in one sitting, or put it down and easily see where you left off.


It’s some good stuff. A great early birthday present and not something I might have spent the money on for myself (or maybe would have bought under the guise of buying it for my kids, but really getting it for myself). My kids, who had no interest in the small loom the week before were also very interested in trying their hand at the big loom. My favorite part is figuring out patterns and replicating the patterns seen in the potholders for sale at the store. My mom really likes the potholders themselves and reliving her childhood!

Thanks, Ma!


In other news, is anyone in the market for a potholder?

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September 4, 2016
by jenny
1 Comment

Cheese Fondue

I have a huge cheese fan in my house, so when she came across a fondue recipe in the American Girl The Awesomest, Randomest Book Ever, some time last year she was intrigued.

We have used the recipe from the book for dinner a handful of time since then. It’s pretty good! We’ve found it a great way for the kids to prep dinner, eat some vegetables, use up some leftovers and have fun at dinner. The first couple times we made a big deal about it, adding to the grocery list and prepping, but the past few times, this has been a meal we make when it’s dinner time, the kids are hungry and we don’t have a dinner plan. The kids can prep the dippers, or cook the cheese, you only need a little bit of everything on hand, you can get creative using leftovers, and it’s quick.

For dippers, we have tried and like chicken, shrimp, sausage (we keep talking about hot dogs, but never break them out), tofu (pan fried extra firm so it stays on the skewer), broccoli, cauliflower (okay, only I’m the only one in the house who likes the cauliflower), baby carrots, apple, snap peas, bread and potatoes (particularly in the form of tator tots). We tried ravioli for the first time which went over very well!

We have one non-cheese lover in the house, so we’ve also started making a couple olive oil dipping options (the easy favorite is olive oil with black pepper, Parmesan and herbs). And, of course, the conversation always goes into “can we make chocolate fondue for dessert?”


American Girl Inspired Cheese Fondue
(Adapted from The Awesomest, Randomest Book Ever )


  • 1 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 tbs flour
  • 1 cup milk or half and half
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dry ground mustard
  • dash of garlic powder


  1. Add all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan and melt over low heat stirring often until melted and combined thoroughly (it can burn quickly in our stainless steel pans)!
  2. Dip and Enjoy!
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August 27, 2016
by jenny

More Summer Bucket Crafts – Tie Die and Periscope

While Sarah is certainly the Queen of Tie Dye in our town, my kids and I and enjoy a good tie dye session once in a while too. In the spring, I had found a set of blue, yellow and red dye, leftover from previous dying, but we’d taken the soda ash out of the kit. Later, I found some plain white t-shirts in my sewing stash, that I think we’d originally planned to decorate for a Taylor Swift concert (there was glow in the dark puffy paint rolled up in them). This added “Tie Dye” to our summer bucket list.


My oldest has been away for a few days, and in washing her sheets, I noticed how beat up her pillow cases are, so I decided to try to tie dye them to see if I could give them new life before moving on. I also wanted to attempt a heart tie dye, and my daughter wanted to try the polka dot technique from the tie dye kit instructions.


My middle daughter also wanted to make a periscope this summer. At Joann Fabrics we bought 5 mirrors for $0.99, some soda ash and a bottle of purple dye to add to our arsenal.

The tie dyes came out great, though one of my hearts wasn’t quite as heart shaped as expected, it still looks good (way better than a yellowing pillow case!), and is about what I expected for a first attempt. The polka dot tie dye looks much less like lesions that I expected, and my middle daughter’s stripe shirt was the best we’ve done. My son had made the classic swirl and we were giving him a lot of grief for not doing it more neatly, and then had to eat our words and apologize when we saw how nicely it came out!IMG_6550

The periscope was very easy. The mirrors were cheap, and then we use used cardboard and duct tape. It was much more fun to turn the mirrors (and one outlet hole) around and see backwards!





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