October 20, 2014
by sarah
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Zentangle

tangled pattern

We have had a couple of very busy weekends! Luckily they have had a couple of hours of down time in the middle. Yesterday this is what we did to mellow out between soccer and birthday parties: Zentangles!

My very literal big boy loves these because he can be creative without having to come up with an imaginative narrative in a drawing.

 

 

 

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October 16, 2014
by jenny
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Galls

This week in Massachusetts we had a couple of warm sunny fall days which for the front of my house means ladybugs swarms. The ladybugs come out in droves looking for hibernation spots. A couple years ago there were so many that you could see the whole front of our house teeming with insects from the street.

While walking the dog this week I also started noticing some small pom pom looking things all over the sidewalk. I looked it up and these little pods are called galls. Galls can form on almost any part of a tree and are caused by (generally very tiny) wasps, mites, molds or fungi. These instigators cause a reaction in the tree or plant to form the gall and have a fondness for certain plant and tree species (it looks like these came from oak trees).  Fascinating. If you look up  pictures online, I’d guess you’ve seen different sorts of galls on different plants yourself (I bet you can walk outside and find maple leaf galls if your leaves haven’t all changed yet). The wasps and mites cause and live inside galls don’t cause harm to plants or humans, and some live inside until adulthood. I read several anecdotes where someone cracked open a gall and was stung by the wasp living inside, so watch out if you are doing your own discovery! (When I split mine, it just looked like a soft seed!)

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October 14, 2014
by jenny
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How do you do your beets?

I was never a big fan of beets, until this year. They come in our CSA box, so I’ve been eating them a handful of times in a year for years and felt they were fine, sometimes good, but not a favorite. I have tried cooking beets a handful of different ways. One of my favorite ways is to braise beets along with turnips and greens. But my go to way is to wrap 4-5 of beets in foil with or without an olive oil drizzle and slow roast them in the oven until tender (an hour at 350 or so, varies on the beet size/type). I peel the beets after they are roasted, cut them into bite sized chunks and keep leftovers in the refrigerator. I eat the leftovers heated up or cold, plain or in a salad or other dish.

This fall, by accident (I got sidetracked with other tasks), I found out that reheating the previously cut and slow roasted beets over low heat in a pan with a little butter for quite a while (15 minutes or so) caramelizes the beets even more than the slow roast did and is absolutely delicious. It’s become a favorite lunch of mine when I’m at home. The taste and texture is almost meaty (tender steak tips) and tons of flavor. I appreciate how much flavor can be created with just a beet, and maybe a little butter and salt and no other ingredients. It’s kind of remarkable for all of the seasoning used in other places.

How do you do your beets?

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(If you don’t have experience eating beets, in some people urine turns red after eating, which can be alarming at first. Poop too. I have read that this color changing phenomena can be used as a test to measure how fast food moves through your digestive system.)

 

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October 7, 2014
by sarah
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Paracord

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This story starts with my love of hanging laundry on a line outside. A couple weeks ago I hung up two loads of laundry on my trusty clothes line. With the weight of too many wet towels and years of wear and tear the cloths line snapped and all the clothes landed in the wet grass. My big girl immediately came over to me and gave me a hug. She could see how sad I was from the death of my clothes line and frustrated that the work I just put in had to be redone.

I promptly went to the hardware store to the clothes line / rope isle and found a pretty blue paracord and decided to try it as a replacement for my dead clothes line. Of course it was too stretchy. I pulled it taught on the hooks, but as soon as I put the wet clothes on it sagged to the ground. Suddenly I had 100 feet of pretty blue paracord to use for something else. My big boy has acquired a couple paracord bracelets thathe loves,  so we decided to try to figure them out on our own.

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We went to our best craft recourse YouTube!! Here is helpful video and there are endless other options:

I have found that my almost 8 year old could totally handle this by him self except for the melting of the cord at the end. My almost 5 year old liked doing them, but needed lots of hand holding. We also made a big monkey fist necklace (harder than it looks),  mini monkey fists around a hair ties, cobra key chains, and the heart knot necklace.

Amazon is a great place for supplies. Here a some great clips. And lots of color choices for cord.

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The end of the clothes line story is…I have found that the clothes line with the metal covered with plastic has been working OK so far.

 

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October 1, 2014
by jenny
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Kraut

Hey Sarah, how did your sauerkraut turn out last summer?

I’m trying it myself now. It was easy to set up, but it stinks (not rotten, just like sauerkraut in my basement). I wasn’t prepared for that. It is dying down now, I guess that’s phase two of the fermentation process?

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September 29, 2014
by jenny
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Remove hyperlinks default in Word

It’s true it can be the little things that can put someone over the edge or bring someone an odd amount of joy and fulfillment. I have had a long relationship with a little thing doing the former and the very easy elimination of it has brought me the later.

The thing that has been driving me crazy for years is  the Microsoft Word default setting that turns email and web addresses automatically into hyperlinks. I have to go back and (on my mac) control click, edit hyperlink, and remove hyperlink. It’s removed, or sometimes part of it’s removed because I didn’t select it all, then I delete the text and start again.  I hit the spacebar and it comes back and I have to repeat. Or I go to remove again and it all comes back. Or it’s gone and I carry on and look back and that bright blue text and underline just keep coming back. Or I try to highlight the text to remove the link, which is misinterpreted as clicking on the link, and mail opens up with new email message to compose or a web browser opens to the link.

For this to be a default, it must be helpful and make sense to some people, but it doesn’t for me, I can’t think of the last time I have wanted a hyperlink in a Word document. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to change the settings, but I finally did, and I’m happy.

If this is a scenario in your life, here’s how to remove the default insertion of a hyperlink in Microsoft Word:

  1. Open Word.
  2. In the top menu bar, select Tools.
  3. Select AutoCorrect.
  4. Go to the AutoFormat as You Type tab.
  5. Uncheck the box Internet and network paths with hyperlinks.
  6. Rejoice!
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September 26, 2014
by sarah
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Toaster Oven Kale chips

I think I have mentioned before that if my kids were combined into one child they would have a balanced diet. My oldest eats fruits and veggies, but little protein. My middle will eat hard boiled eggs, tofu, chicken, sausage, hotdogs, but very little veggies. The little one is still a pretty good eater. The peer pressure of her older siblings has not effected her yet.

So when the middle one declared she liked kale chips I started making them all the time.  Below is the recipe for kale chips in the oven. I have also prepared them in the toaster oven for a quick addition to lunch. I have put the kale in a single layer on the toaster oven tray, put it in the tiny oven, and simply toasted them as I would bread. It takes less than 5 minutes. kale2 kale1

Kale Chips

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Toss the kale, oil, and salt in large bowl.
  3. Lay the kale out in a single layer on to a cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes or until crispy.

 

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September 23, 2014
by sarah
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More chalk

My husband just resealed out driveway. Now we have a brand new huge canvas to draw on. The chalk looks so great and bright on the black surface. Jenny wrote this great post about side walk chalk almost 2 years ago. Hard to believe we have been at this blog thing for 2 years!

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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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