Thursday, July 28, 2011

Super Duper Power Smoothie

(clockwise from blender): Smoothie, Chlorophyll, Chia Seeds, Frozen Organic Spinach, Frozen Organic Blueberries

10-12 hour work days, followed by cleaning, cooking, dishes, laundry, gardening, chicken chores, changing diapers, grocery shopping, etc. ~ the list seems never ending. As mothers and/or wives, you all know this list well. I was beginning to believe that only a miracle could help me keep up with the workload and responsibilities in my life. Instead of ignoring my responsibilities by throwing my list in the trash and grabbing a big bowl of Ben&Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream (my fav) to eat while watching "Days of Our Lives"....or running away to a deserted tropical island (this is an occasional fantasy of mine), I turned to the Internet. I was searching for a Miraculous Super Mom Power Boost when I turned to a group of wise moms for suggestions. One mom suggested to check my levels of  iron and Vitamin B. Another suggested chlorophyll, chia seeds and a multivitamin. I frantically looked through my vitamins, ready to try anything, and found I had some B6...that would have to do. A few days later I made the trip to the food co-op to purchase some liquid chlorophyll and chia seeds (every time I say chia I think of the Chia Pet song. "Ch-ch-ch-ch-chia"). 

My morning smoothies are now SUPER POWER SMOOTHIES! I add the liquid first (about a cup of milk, coconut milk, coconut water or any combination of the three) and toss in 1/4 t. of chia seeds and 1 T. chlorophyll. I let this sit a minute so the seeds can absorb some of the liquid. Next I add approximately a cup of frozen blueberries. Sometimes I add 1/4-1/2 cup of spinach. Add more liquid if needed. I add a splash of maple syrup if it needs a little sweetening. Warning: your teeth may turn blue and/or green. This is only temporary but you may want to brush your teeth after drinking your Super Power Smoothie. :)

My smoothie has given me a boost. I am still often wiped out at the end of the day but at least I'm able to have a bit more endurance during the day to my tasks done. At this time I am not taking a multivitamin because most make me sick. I did get a list of more gentle vitamins from my super mom friends but I'm scared to spend a bunch of money (some of those babies are expensive!) to find that they only make me sick. Flashbacks of my experiences with prenatal vitamins intensify these fears. I may explore the vitamin realm at a later time.

Two more habits that would increase my productiveness and energy level are an earlier bedtime and exercise. I know that going to bed a little earlier at night and rising a little earlier in the morning to exercise would benefit me greatly. But knowing and doing are two different things. And it's so easy to hit the snooze button on the alarm clock. Maybe my Super Power Smoothie will motivate me to accomplish these goals too.

Linking to Traditional Tuesdays

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sea Salt Spray

I was thrilled a couple of weeks ago when my daughter asked if we could make a hair product. She usually rolls her eyes at my speeches on the harmful chemicals in which she is applying to her body and is hesitant in trying any of my homemade "beauty" products. I've often thought of sneaking my homemade shampoo into her bottles of shampoo just to see if she'd notice. So I almost fell over when she asked for my help to find and make a recipe for sea spray "stuff" (hair products, other than shampoo, are foreign to me these days). Sea Salt spray gives the "fresh from the beach look". Breanna says that it controls her curly hair from getting too frizzy. The spray was easy to make ~ water, sea salt and little bit of oil.

Old spray bottle to store Sea Salt Spray, Sea Salt, Moroccan Hair Oil, mixture cooling in bowl of ice
Boil 1 cup of water, remove from heat
Add 1 T. Sea Salt, stir until dissolved
Add a few drops essential oil of your choice (Breanna had Moroccan Hair oil that she wanted to use)
Cool before pouring into a spray bottle 

Breanna loves her homemade Sea Salt Spray and is costs fractions of what she'd pay in the store. Maybe she is learning something from her momma.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Laurie's Little Sprouts Make Hamburger Cookies

On Tuesday I took the "Big Sprouts" (six of my school age daycare kiddos) to the Chatfield Public Library's Elementary Summer Reading Program, where they made hamburger cookies. The boys loved it and had so much fun that we decided that we needed to make these at Laurie's house and teach the littles how to make them too!

Buns ~ Vanilla Wafers
Burger ~ Fudge Mint Cookies
Ketchup ~ Red Frosting
Mustard ~ Yellow Frosting

Corn Syrup (I made a simple syrup with sugar and water) to "glue" the sesame seeds to the "bun".

Mayo ~ white frosting
Lettuce ~ green shredded coconut

Notes: To make this project less expensive, I could have made my own frosting or purchased a little tub of white frosting and added food coloring. I decided to spend a little more in the name of convenience. 12 kids can do a lot of damage with frosting. :) The squeezable icing was perfect and much less messy.

Assembly is pretty simple. Add ketchup to the flat side of a bun, followed by the burger. Top with mustard and bun top. Brush sugar "glue" onto the top of the bun and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

    Fun, simple and yummy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In the Kitchen

Bread, Raspberry~Rhubarb Custard, Rhubarb Custard, and Beef Stew

Wednesday is typically bread-making day. So yesterday, while the bread was rising, I baked a couple custards. We had bought a bunch of rhubarb at the farmer's market in Eau Claire. My husband loves rhubarb pie. Unfortunately I hate making pie crust. I don't know what it is. It's not that I haven't had any success at making pies but rolling the dough always seems to frustrate me. I feel the same way about rolling out sugar cookies. And lefse. Maybe it has something to do with using a rolling pin. I don't know. Anyway... yesterday morning, before rhubarb was even on my mind, I decided that I wanted to make custard. I had excess milk and eggs to use up so I began my search for a good custard recipe. I stumbled across a rhubarb custard (CRUST-LESS!) pie recipe. Perfect! I get my custard and hubby gets his rhubarb pie. I had intended to make only one pie but found that I had an extra cup of rhubarb. I threw the extra rhubarb in with two cups of raspberries to make the second pie. Easy recipe and really good!

While the bread was baking I took a look in the freezer to decide what we'd have for dinner. I found steak. I know that some may shudder at the thought of putting good steak into a stew however it's what I had and cubing the meat would make it s-t-r-e-t-c-h. We could have had steaks for dinner or I could make it into two meals. I cubed a few potatoes, cut up some carrots, chopped up an onion, browned and diced the steak, and tossed it all into a crock pot. Just before dinner I made a roux to thicken up my stew. Today I can add a little broth, cut the potatoes and carrots up a little smaller and add it's been transformed into Beef Barley Soup. Viola!

Crust-less Rhubarb Custard Pie from Seasonal Ontario Food
3 cups chopped rhubarb OR mixed berries
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar (1/3 cup if using berries)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 10" pie plate, and spread the chopped rhubarb over the bottom. If you are using frozen berries, they should be thawed slowly and drained first.
  • Put the remaining ingredients in a blender or mixing bowl and blend or beat on high for 3 minutes. Pour the batter gently over the fruit.
  • Bake the pie for 40 to 45 minutes, until set in the middle. Let cool before serving.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Living on the Edge

Let's make this clear. I once was spontaneous. However somewhere along life's path I lost it. I think it happened around the time I turned thirty. I was a single mother of two (Isaiah was a baby, Breanna was 9) and I was determined to create a "better" life for my family. I headed back to school to finish my elementary education degree, I was working, and I was slowly building my savings so that I could buy a house. There wasn't time for spontaneity. When we did do fun things I planned. This may have come from a few camping trips in which I spent hours searching for a campground that had room for us. It is no fun when mama is tired, kids are tired, and you can't find a place to rest.

Quickly learning from my mistakes, I started planning our trips. I remember spending a month planning our trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a summer vacation. I even had a binder filled with maps, itineraries and confirmation numbers for the hotels and campgrounds that we stayed. I had each day plotted out. There is wonderful security in knowing that there will be a bed (or a spot to put up the tent) waiting for you after a long day of driving with two kids. So when my husband announced last week that our weekend anniversary get away should be without a plan, I had a difficult time. In the last three years of our marriage I've been the planner. I plan and then I tell him what is on the agenda. I know that things operate much smoother when there is a well planned plan in place (I know, I sound redundant but that's how my planning can be...I tend to go overboard). I cringed when he said, "Let's just head to Stockholm (art festival that I wanted to see) and go from there." I responded with a hesitant, "Are you sure?? Shouldn't we at least make hotel reservations?" "Nah, we'll find something." So we left without a plan. Living on the edge. And it was lovely.
We began our trip by heading northeast, traveling through the small towns of Eyota, Plainview, and Wabasha and ending at our first planned destination (I only planned our first two stops) of Nelson, WI. I was craving a Nelson Cheese veggie sandwich. Cucumbers, peppers, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, mayo, avocado and cheeses on a delicious whole wheat bread. Really, it's the best sandwich EVER! Although the heat was beginning to rise, we found a shady spot outside to sit and enjoy our sandwiches.

Stockholm Art Fair
 From Nelson, we traveled north along the Mississippi to Stockholm for the Art Fair. I love this stuff. Most of the pretties are too expensive for me but I love looking a the beautiful things and dreaming of being able to craft such things. I made two purchases. A used book on soap making at A+ Antiques and an ice coffee sweetened with real maple syrup from Farmer to Farmer.

As we left Stockholm, we decided to take a winding country road. A couple miles down this mystery road we discovered a sign to Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery. Here we had a few samples of apple wine and hard cider. I wasn't too crazy for the apple wine however the hard cider was yummy. 

After spending a couple hours driving the back roads, we decided to head toward Eau Claire. We figured that would be a good place to find a room. Our plan was to find a room, have dinner, and return to our room to enjoy a glass of wine from the winery. It didn't happen that easily. An adventure wouldn't really be an adventure without a mishap or two.

Let's just say that next time I will try to persuade my husband to allow me to book a room in the general direction of where we are heading. Waiting until 8 pm to begin our hotel search and then spending hours in pursuit of a hotel room...let's just say that I was hot, tired, starving and a bit cranky but I bit my tongue so that I wouldn't ruin the weekend. If we hadn't stopped at Days Inn (our third hotel try, also with no vacancies), we may have searched for hours. BUT Days Inn had an awesome hotel clerk, Heather. Heather informed me that ALL the hotels in Eau Claire were filled. She than proceeded to call hotels in neighboring cities and finally found us one in Durand (a city we went through on our way to Eau Claire). She even let me use her internet to book the room so that the room would still be there by the time we arrived. She was so nice that I bet she would have put us up at her house. Above and beyond service. I love it when I stumble upon wonderful people (they really are everywhere if you look). She made me happy at a time when I was feeling a bit cranky. So with our room booked, we headed out for a romantic, candlelit dinner....oh no, I guess was the anniversary dinner I dreamed, we went to a pizza joint and shared a delicious Gourmet Veggie Pizza. My hubs is such a good guy, he sacrificed his favorite meat loaded pizza and ordered what he knew I'd like (I think he was just trying to keep on my good side.) He really is a good guy.
Some of the other places we happened upon:

Junque to Treasures in Rock Falls, WI ~ very cool store of antiques and crafty, re-purposed "junk"

Eau Claire, WI ~ farmers market where we picked up peas and raspberries to munch on during our ride.

Durand, WI ~ where we finally found a place to rest our heads.


Leinie Lodge
 Chippewa Falls, WI ~ home of the Leinenkugel Brewery and the Leinie Lodge. The temperature outside was hot but the temperature inside the brewery was hotter, well over 100 degrees. We decided to skip the brewery heat stroke tour and stayed in the cool lodge and sampled a few Leinie mixes.

Most locations had no name. We traveled beautiful, narrow roads surrounded by woods. Occasionally we'd see streams. The heat and humidity caused a fog that hovered over the water. At one stream we watched a group of teens "playing" in the water. I suggested we join them but Barry thought I was joking. ;) So we stayed in our air conditioned van, touring the countryside while my husband dreamed of making this trip next year with the MG that he is restoring.
Maybe next year this car will be painted red, finished and licensed for our fourth anniversary road trip.
Who knows what direction we will be traveling!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wedding on the Cheap

July 12, 2008

Three years ago my husband and I married. Because we had both been previously married...and on a limited budget, we agreed on a simple, small wedding in our backyard. Although I lean towards practicality, I still dreamed of a fairy tale wedding. The romantic in me wanted a stunning dress, a beautiful location and all the unique little details that would set our day apart from any other. So how does one have simple yet special?

I found that simple (unless simple means eloping) is sometimes harder to pull off than the extravagant. I spent HOURS looking for the perfect, simple, inexpensive dress. I didn't want to look like the mother-of-the-bride. I wanted to look like the bride, however I wanted the dress to be somewhat casual to fit the backyard wedding. I finally decided that what I was looking for didn't exist and I did not possess the time nor the skill to create the dress I had pictured in my mind. I settled for the only dress that even remotely interested me. I purchased the dress on sale at the Dress Barn for under $50.

Today, as I was searching for uses for my piles of t-shirts, I stumbled across this t-shirt dress. If I was getting married today, this just might be something I'd try. ;)

The location. I needed to "pretty up" my yard. Because of a big dog and daycare kids, my yard was well used. We were able to slide the two play sets so that they would not become the focal point of the ceremony. A generous friend, who had married a few years earlier, loaned me two beautiful pillars/columns in which I topped with two, big potted plants. This became the "alter" area. Next to this we placed my wicker love seat for the bride and groom to sit during the sermon. I probably spent $50-$75 on potted flowers and hanging baskets, however we were able to enjoy them all summer.

My friend also loaned me yards upon yards of white tulle which we decorated the outdoor porch with (this was our dining area). On the morning of the wedding, I went the Farmers Market to find flowers for my bouquet and for  centerpieces for the tables. I may have spent $20. I placed the flowers in mason jars and wrapped ribbon around the stems of my bouquet. I also filled jelly jars with candles to place on the tables and found beautiful tablecloths on sale to cover up four fold-up banquet tables. The chairs were rented. We used the chairs in the middle of the yard during the ceremony. During the pictures, the men put the chairs around the tables (easy task as there was only about 20-25 of us). I think the chair rental was around $30. Flowers + candles + chairs + tablecloths= $100

The cake. This is the one thing I did not skimp on (other than the size). Marble cake with a raspberry filling, topped with butter creme frosting and chocolate ganache. HEAVENLY! However, because we only had immediate family in attendance, we only needed a small amount of cake so this helped...a little. I purchased two rounds, rented two staggering cake plates and topped with a heart which I had found for under $20 at a party store. I think the cost of the cake was just over $100.

Funny, I can't remember any of the other food. I know immediately after the ceremony we served cheese, crackers and fruit while family pictures were being taken. Our friend, Blair Harrington, gifted us with his talent as a photographer. My mother made our dinner which probably consisted of sandwiches and salads. My friends, Brenda and Sue, manned the kitchen and the buffet table. Taking a stab in the dark, I would imagine the food didn't cost any more than $50.

"Reception" October 2008
The weather was beautiful. Although a bit windy, we were thankful that it wasn't unbearably warm or even worse, raining. My only regret was the size of the guest list. There were so many people that I would have loved to have shared this day with. My special daycare princess' and so many other friends. But if I had invited one, I would have wanted to invite another......and another....I don't think my yard would have handled that crowd. My mom, knowing this regret, hosted an open house a few months later to celebrate our wedding. (Thanks, Mom!).

If I could do a "do-over", I'd have the "open house" celebration  following the ceremony and family meal. A huge party to celebrate. I am a social creature and I would have loved to have all my friends present that day.  I would also have flower girls. Yes, plural, as I would include each and everyone of my daycare princess'! I had two little girls at the time of the wedding who would have made beautiful flower girls and I so missed not having them with me on my wedding day.

A wedding for under $400. But it's really not about the $$ ~ the most expensive dress, the fanciest reception hall or the elaborate decorations. A wedding is about two people celebrating their future together in the presence of those that they love. I hear horror stories of the headaches that accompany big weddings (and big debt) and I am so glad that is not my memory of my wedding. 

My love for frugality has grown since my wedding. I think today I could probably pull it off for even less money. I'd make recycled t-shirt dress and bake my own cake....or maybe I'd do the exact same way... with the addition of my princess' and a big party. ;)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lessons We Learned From a Kayak

 Isaiah, aka The Boy, has been dreaming of owning a kayak for two years. He decided this spring that he would save the money that he earned from working at his grandparents farm to purchase a kayak. Two weeks ago, he and his kayak hit the water together for the first time. As I watched him paddle around the lake, I reflected on the lessons that, WE, had learned from the kayak.

Lesson 1: Saving money.
Isaiah, like many, has a hard time saving money. Ten dollars in his pocket doesn't last long. Every time he wants to spend his money on a cheap toy, I give the same lecture. "Wouldn't you want to save your money for something really cool? Don't you think one million Legos is enough, do you really need more??", etc. until I'd throw my hands in the air, dropped the nagging and say with disgust, "Fine, it's your money." (I know, not a great parenting moment.) When Isaiah decided to start saving for his kayak he realized that if he had the money it would be spent. He found a safe hiding place for the money at grandpa and grandma's farm. Still accessible but not easily accessible and he remained diligent in not taking from his kayak savings box.

Lesson 2: Don't get paid for a job that hasn't been completed.
The Boy and I had been reading Bob Schultz's book, Created for Work . The book has short chapters, each followed by discussion questions, covering work ethics, honoring God with our work, and important principles of being a man of God. One of the chapters we read instructed the reader to avoid paying or being paid before a job is completed. Being paid prior to a job done turns motivation, the need to make money, into a good intention that can slip onto the back burner. Isaiah and I had a great discussion on this chapter.

This was read just days before my dad asked if he could purchase the kayak (the kayak was on sale and my dad didn't want Isaiah to miss out on the sale price) and Isaiah could pay him back. Isaiah was often counting his money and calculating how much he had to work in order to obtain his reward. If the reward was given before earned, I knew that his focus would be on a new prize. The kayak would lose its value in Isaiah's eyes and the loan wouldn't be paid in a timely fashion. Armed with this knowledge and the wise advice from Created for Work, my dad and I decided that he would purchase the kayak but Isaiah would not be able to have it until he had earned it.

Lesson 3: Responsibility.
After watching my husband move the kayak from the van to the water, I knew that Isaiah needed to learn this responsibility. The kayak is heavy, however if Isaiah wants to kayak, he needs to figure out how to maneuver the kayak from the car to the dock and into the water. His rig, his ride, his responsibility. After discussing the responsibility that comes with owning his own watercraft, Isaiah was determined to prove that he was in fact responsible and would not accept any help that was offered. Which brings us to the next lesson.

Lesson 4: Mama, let The Boy figure it out!
When I see my son struggle I have a tendency to jump in and help. This is such a disservice to him. The third time out in the kayak (day after the responsibility lesson), Isaiah decided to paddle out a bit to do some fishing. Me, the worried mama, sat at the end of the dock, keeping The Boy in sight at all times. I bit my tongue to keep from offering advice when I saw him struggle at balancing the paddle while casting his line. A few minutes later the paddle fell into the water. Isaiah, holding on to his fishing pole in one hand reached the other hand to grab his paddle.....and the kayak tipped, dumping Isaiah into the lake. I started to yell out advice but realized that not only did my advice add to his frustration but that I needed to let him figure this out. I waited. Only when I saw that he was becoming very frustrated did I yell out, "Do you want advice?" to which he responds, "No, Mom, I know what I need to do!". I waited. But I couldn't stay silent. Instead of shouting out instructions, I threw out an occasional, "You're doing great!", "Way to go!" or "You can do it!". Being careful to spread them out so that he didn't become annoyed with me.

I loved watching Isaiah glide around the lake. I love that he is learning to be responsible, setting goals and making his dreams happen! A very proud moment for this mama as watch the transformation of my boy into a man. I am so blessed to be learning alongside my not so "little" man.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Butterflies and Singers

It was difficult to get a good picture. This shot (on the right) was taken through the see-through top (I didn't want to risk losing any butterflies before our "release"). We had at least twenty butterflies. The red on the walls is not blood and is a normal occurrence during the transformation process. We took turns, allowing each child to release a butterfly. Very fun.

Painted Lady


A couple of months ago I got a "new" machine. Isn't is cool?? However I haven't sewn in about 15 years...not to mention that even when I did sew, I was not very skilled. I remember making my daughter a Pocahontas dress and accidentally sewing the arm holes shut. This is how good I am...or how good I'm not. So my new machine was very imitating. It's old and beautiful and I was terrified that I'd break it. When in need, share it with your facebook friends. Within an hour of posting a picture of my new Singer along with a HELP!, I had a taker. Gramma B. came to my rescue! Gramma B. is a dear friend who not only offered to give me some lessons but also brought cookies and a sewing project to work on. Gramma B., a seasoned and skilled seamstress, was a patient teacher. Thank you, my dear friend, for helping me!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bread Day!

Nevada Bread, Kefir Bread and Artisian Bread
This morning as I began making my kefir bread, I came across another bread recipe and decided to make my three favorite breads. A bread marathon followed by some taste testing. Personally I can't pick a favorite. I like the artisian bread because I like the look of round loaves (I know, silly, but true). I like the kefir bread because it is very moist. The artisian bread and the nevada bread are my favorites.

Artisian Bread
3 cups warm water
1 1/2 T yeast
1 T. salt
2 c. whole wheat flour
4 1/2 c. white flour   (I used 2 c. white and 4 1/2 c. wheat)

Add yeast to water and let fester for 5 minutes. Knead in the rest of the ingredients (with kitchenaide/bread hook). Cover and let rise for 1.5 hours. Split into two balls. Knead, shape into round loaves, "slash" the tops and let rise again for 30 minutes. Bake at 450 for 30-34 minutes.

Kefir Bread
3 cups kefir and 3 cups whole wheat flour - cover and leave on counter overnight.

Next morning mix in:
1 T. honey
1.5 t baking soda
3 cups whole wheat flour

Let rise for 30-45 minutes. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Nevada Bread
3 cups water
1/2 cup coconut oil (or melted butter)
1/2 honey (I only used a heaping tablespoon)
4 t. yeast
2 t. salt
9 - 9 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Mix, knead, rise for 1 1/2 hours. Punch down, knead and form into two loaves. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.