January 16, 2018
by jenny
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Fajitas and Mexican Rice

I’ve been working on digging out of the same meal rut. Mostly because my middle is more willing to try new foods in the past few months, but also for my own sanity/desire/taste.

I made these recipes for dinner the other night and it was super easy!!!

My kids tend to shy from any meal that I make that has tomato and/or onion “chunks,” so I wouldn’t say it was an over the top major hit in my house, but it was a minor hit. I think it would go over well in another house.

The best parts were how easy it was, the simple ingredients and that leftovers will make awesome lunches! I used a bag of frozen peppers and onions, which saved me prep time cutting as well as money on the peppers this time of year. I buy chicken breasts from Costco and store in the freezer as well. All the ingredients were relatively cheap and I already had on hand.

The fajitas tasted good, though I might tweak the seasonings a little in the future, maybe add roasted garlic. The mexican rice came out really creamy, almost like a risotto, I was happy about the comfort food factor of that! I used low sodium chicken Better Than Bullion and water instead of the vegetable stock, which I think was actually a great change.

We served with flour tortillas, salsa, shredded cheese and shredded lettuce because that’s what we had on hand, and no one but me likes any other toppings, but guacamole (or straight avocado) and sour cream would be awesome!

Ole!

Easy Oven Fajitas

Perfect Mexican Rice

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January 11, 2018
by sarah
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For the Love of Sketchbooks

Being an artist I have been required to keep sketchbooks for classes and enjoyed keeping sketchbooks for idea generating. Recently I have a lined notebook I can’t go anywhere with out that has to do lists, notes from meetings, plans for classes I’m teaching, and drawings of plans.

My littlest one has recently gotten into keeping her own books. She has them in various sizes. With lines and with out. Sparkly and basic. She uses them all. Most of the time they are elaborate shape designs and color with no particular subject. Sometimes a figure appears.

My bigger kids are loving their “Wreck This Journal”. On page one it says “Warning: During the process of this book you will get dirty. You may find yourself covered in paint, or any other number of foreign substances. You will get wet. You may be asked to do things you question. You may grieve from the perfect state that you found the book in. You may begin to see creative destruction everywhere. You may begin to live more recklessly.” Each page instructs them to do something to the book. It varies from collecting fruit stickers to taking it in the shower.

I have also brought small sketchbooks to the classes I am teaching. The children are loving having there own special books to create in. I simply take one piece of 8.5×11 card stock + 3 pieces of 8.5×11 white copy paper and fold them in half. Then staple them together. I have posted about more complicated bindings here and here

Sometimes adults and children get stuck on what they should be adding to their books. A simple google search for “Sketchbook Prompts” will bring up all sorts of ideas.

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January 5, 2018
by sarah
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Let’s Go Fly a Kite

I am teaching an art class where I am expected to incorporate science and literacy into the art projects. They are learning about air and wind in their classroom. So I thought building a kite would be perfect.

Of course we had to get messy! To make the kite beautiful we marbleized paper with the shaving cream and food color. Before we started we talked about color theory. I realize that rainbow marble paper is beautiful, but I thought ahead and predicted that several 7 year olds stirring up the colors it would get muddy quickly. So we stuck to warm colors or cool colors, avoiding using complimentary colors (green/red, yellow/purple, orange/blue) together.  Here is a video:

The paper dries quickly, so we constructed the kites in the same class. I used the kite making suggestions from this post.  

 

We tried to fly one of the kites a week later. The children had great fun, but the paper ripped quickly. Unfortunately the wax paper that Handmade Charlotte suggested will not marbleize. Someone suggested using Tyvek paper.

P.S. The books we read were: “Kite Day” by Will Hillenbrand and “I Face the Wind” by Vicki Cobb.

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January 4, 2018
by jenny
1 Comment

Two Random Reviews

I wanted to share a couple random things (Amazon affiliate links)!

  • Solitaire Chess: This is a challenging brain teaser. It’s more brain teaser than chess, but you somewhat use the rules of chess movement (only can move in any direction) to play. If you like chess and brainteasers, this is a fun combination.
  • Bee’s Wrap I finally tried this. The internet always seems to be recommending it to me one place or another. It does work. It took me a little while to figure out how to use it. For example, it only sticks to itself, so you have to overlap the Bee’s Wrap on itself to seal bowls, it won’t just stick to the bowl like plastic wrap. They are rather expensive and I’m not sure washing them with gentle soap and water would be enough for me if I were sending them in a school lunch during flu season (or any season?). I like to run things through the dishwasher. So I’m not switched over, but in looking for ways to lower plastic use, these may be an okay option.
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December 30, 2017
by jenny
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Those Giant Crinkled Chocolate Chip Cookies

This summer I was reading about the giant flat crinkled chocolate chip cookies that swept the blog world last fall. Recipe bloggers were trying to recreate and perfect the original recipe and it was on multiple blogs and multiple recipes.

These cookies were sort of the opposite of my go to chocolate chip cookie recipe – big and flat as opposed to small and thick. They both had a gooey aspect, but maybe gooey in different ways. The new recipe was allegedly crispy and gooey. The key to the new recipe was a combination of chilling the dough and banging the pan while baking. Interesting.

I tried one of the recipes this summer. I followed the recipe right off of my laptop. The recipe was deemed a success and the recipe “a keeper” by my family and a couple neighbors who fancy themselves chocolate chip connoisseurs (or at least big fans).

A couple months after that I decided to make the new big flat chocolate chip cookie again. But I couldn’t find the recipe. I searched and I searched and I couldn’t remember where I had originally found it and I couldn’t find it again.

And a month after that, I tried again. And had no luck.

And two weeks, I tried again to find it for a birthday.

AND THEN last week, a different neighbor having no idea I’ve been looking or even knew this recipe existed, but also a huge chocolate chip cookie fan who saw the recipe on instagram shows up at my door with the recipe. The same recipe! How crazy is that? It may not be your version of crazy, but it certainly seemed crazy for me. He had also brought with him a deep longing for giant flat crinkled chocolate chip cookies and bars of bittersweet chocolate to contribute.  I made him the cookies.

My kids and husband approved.

I doubled the recipe and changed a couple things (for example, I refrigerated the dough overnight and then skipped the freezing the dough – though I did freeze the cookie sheets before baking), but it is basically the original – Sarah Kieffer’s recipe from “The Vanilla Bean Baking Book.”  I can give you my recipe, but think you should go to/read about and give credit to the original!

Enjoy!

pan-banging chocolate chip cookies

 

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December 18, 2017
by sarah
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Flowers in December


Every year I encourage the kids to make something as a gift for their grandparents and other family. We discovered these flowers made of glue and wire and thought we would try them.

Wire flowers

Supplies

  • 20 gauge wire
  • wood glue
  • nail polish
  • pencil or large marker
  • paint brush
  • plastic cup
  • optional – cup with dried rice
  • Newspaper (or something to protect table from dripping glue)

Instructions

  1. Cut a piece of wire about 2 feet long. Wrap the wire around the marker or the pencil to make the flower petals. The larger the cylinder you use the bigger the flower. We found the smaller petals were easier to manage with the glue.
  2. Pour wood glue into the plastic cup.
  3. Dip the wire flower into the glue. Take lots of deep breaths and be Zen with it! The glue creates bubbles between the wires. Like most bubbles they are very fragile.
  4. Let dry. We found that a mug full of dried rice helped the wire stand up and avoid bumping into the other drying flowers.
  5. When dry add another coat of wood glue. Once again be Zen with it. At this stage the dried glue is still very fragile. Once the second coat of glue dries they become pretty sturdy.
  6. When dry decorate with nail polish.

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December 11, 2017
by jenny
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Fall 2017 Sabbatical

Yes! We’re back!

I actually haven’t been spectacularly busy this fall.

Some new things we’ve been doing around here this fall candle making, actually enjoying the Instant Pot (my kids used to groan anytime the crock pot was pulled out, but now I can make meals everyone eats), playing new games, dealing with two middle school aged girls in the house, starting to plan long talked about house projects, and photography.

I’ve been enjoying photography for a long time, but I’m starting to study it more as a science. I’ve been watching some online workshops on camera science and nature photography, practicing some different things and have been playing with a new lens I got my birthday. I’m also starting to play around with actually processing pictures in Photoshop and Lightroom (but don’t know what I’m doing yet).

I think I’ll give our website an overhaul soon, is there anything you’d like to see?

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December 1, 2017
by sarah
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The Best Clay Yet


We have been away from the blog for a while – busy with family, jobs, making art, community organizing, driving to hockey practice, to name a few. I thought a good way to come back was to remind you about some projects that we posted in the past, as well as introduce a new idea.


We love getting messy with our kids and experimenting with different sorts of clays. We have posted about lots of substances that can be molded over the years. Play dough, polymer clay, cornstarch clay, kinetic sand, Paper Mache, and make your own erasers. I have a new one! If you have gotten into the slime craze you might have the materials in your house currently. The biggest benefit is that it dries very nicely – smooth and hard, with no cracks.

Air Dry Clay

Supplies

  • 1 tbs vinegar
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 4 oz white glue
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • food color (optional)

Directions

  1. Mix vinegar, coconut oil, and white glue in a microwavable bowl.
  2. Mix in corn starch.
  3. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir.
  4. Microwave for 15 seconds and stir.
  5. Microwave for 15 seconds and stir.
  6. Repeat until the clay starts clumping up.
  7. Scoop clay out on to a surface you have sprinkled with corn starch. Knead until smooth.
  8. Keep in air tight container.

EXTRA NOTE: Always have extra corn starch handy. I made a batch that came out very very sticky. Not sure why –  maybe didn’t cook long enough? humid weather? When I kneaded more corn starch in it made it better to work with.  Here is a NIFTY video with recipe too:

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June 5, 2017
by jenny
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Make your own erasers

My son saw this Klutz Make Your Own Mini Erasers kit at his school book fair last fall. I wouldn’t buy it for him then thinking it wouldn’t work well, but we put it on his Amazon wish list.

 

After reading reviews for it (in which the clay in the kit is pretty unworkable), I also added OOLY eraser clay to his list.  A lot of times in my house added something to the wishlist helps temper the immediate passionate want of the item by giving an optimism that we might get it someday. Other times, after sitting on the wishlist for a while, we might realize we didn’t really want it.

I continued my skepticism Eraser clay was something that stuck with my son, and he ended up getting the set for Christmas, but we didn’t end up using it until recently. I was wrong. The OOLY eraser clay (in the  supplemental set – the reviews were right, the clay in the Klutz kit was dry) worked well. With some working of the clay it was soft, smooth, moldable and mixable for making new colors. 

We followed some of the cute pattern from the Klutz kit, and baked as directed. We have tools from working with Sculpey that helped. I liked making pencil toppers! In the end, the erasers actually erase!

We think making your own eraser clay would be a good kid birthday gift, summer activity, party craft, or something to sell at lemonade stands. The Klutz kit was fun to look at, but you could easily find and follow regular/Sculpey clay directions online as well. 

[Amazon Affiliate Links – proceeds cover our web hosting!]

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May 22, 2017
by jenny
1 Comment

Dandelions

I took this picture yesterday. When I downloaded the picture, I started staring wondering what the heck happens from the yellow lush petaled flower to puffy thin white “petals.”

So I started watching youtube videos and reading google. Like investigating caterpillar to butterfly, my research really didn’t help unveil much in the understanding of what’s going on inside the transformation, just more of an appreciation of how many amazing things happen in the world around us.

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