Friday, May 31, 2013

Making Butter - Electric Mixer

This guy got it into his head that we needed to make butter from some heavy cream.  I convinced him we didn't need to do it using the raw cream, and that the organic heavy whipping cream from Trader Joe's would work fine.  He conceded and off we went.

He made it at school using marbles and shaking it, and at home we used the mixer with the whipping attachment.

So first it was whipped cream.

Then it got harder and harder and harder.

Then it got soft and a puddle of liquid fell out of it.  My guess is that that is when the butter happened.

So we drained off the liquid and squeezed the butter into a solid shape.
Does anyone know what that liquid is called and have any uses for it?  Is it whey?  
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

First Blueberries (of the year)!

Anytime we have open areas in the back yard (read: away from the deer in the front yard), we plant blueberry bushes. We are up to 8, I think.  And they are producing!  Not a ton, but they have berries.  Here are the first ones of the year.  
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Best Outside Toys

With summer already here, it is always refreshing to get that outdoor time with the kids.  And sometimes it is made so much better with the right outside set-up at home, including outdoor toys.  Here are some of our family favorites:

  1. The Sandbox. Our biggest issue with it is getting the kids to keep the sand in the box, but it is otherwise a great outdoor toy.  We made ours by making an extra veggie box and filling it with sand from Diamond K instead of dirt (we were scared off the "play sand" from Home Depot when someone on the listserv reported silica in it, plus Diamond K is a really fun outing and their sand is washed river sand).  When the kids grow out of the sand box, we will fill it with dirt and make it a veggie box.  The most-used items in the sand box are the old plastic yogurt containers and some gardening trowels.  The measuring cups also get a lot of play.
  2. The Water Table. This gets hours of play, and the kids love pouring and filling and re-filling any objects, as well as the table itself.  Its biggest downfall is that it attracts bees.  We got a bag of rocks at Diamond K last time we were there, and they go between the sand box and water table and get a lot of action.
  3. Dump Trucks and Shovels. We have a bunch of these in varying sizes and materials.  The most-used are the big huge plastic ones from Target, but I know the plastic will go brittle after a year or two and wish I would have invested in some nice steel Tonka ones a few years ago (now I feel like it's too late).  For shovels, the kids love the gardening ones (the trowels and the mini shovel from Ace Hardware that looks like Mommy and Daddy's big shovel).
  4. A few bricks.  They love to stack and unstack these, and make seats, and garden art.  If you're not into bricks, try rocks.  Seriously fun.  They can wash them and stack them and paint them...
  5. A mini wheelbarrow.  The bricks go in here, or the weeds we pluck, or they love to roll it around empty.  In addition to being great for gross motor development and proprioception, my boys love to roll that thing all around the garden, and their buddies always see it and want a turn - even if we are doing something unrelated.
  6. A swing from the tree.  Depending on your child's age, you could hang a swing with a cross-bar for a baby, a regular swing for ages 2-4 (and up), and a disc swing as they near ages 5 and up.  You could also hang a rope for climbing, or a trapeze bar to swing on.  The best part of hanging it from a tree?  It's always in the shade.  Worst part?  There is a big tree trunk right there they need to watch out not to hit.
  7. Some stumps.  The kids can climb up and down them, bang nails into them, jump off them, or take a break in the shade.  You could also make a dedicated work bench for banging nails into, and drilling.
  8. Sidewalk Chalk. The kids love drawing, and tracing their feet, and washing it away and starting again.  
  9. Soccer goal and a few balls.  Depending on your kids' ages, a little basketball hoop is also nice.  
  10. Wheeled Ride-On Toys.  The classic Big Wheel, or a tricycle, or bike is always a good time.  Scooters are also fun, and they come with two or three wheels for balance these days.  Littler kids could use a mini coupe or sit-on scooting toy.
Regardless of how you spend your time outside, make sure and keep an umbrella out there, and some water for drinking.  
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Drain Rocks and Drainage Ditch Revamp

We just revamped our drainage ditch. This is the area between our house and the street.  In the winter, rainwater runs down it to the creek, and in the summer, it grows weeds.

But not any more.

The first step was to weed whack the weeds down to nubs.
Then we had a dump truck deliver 11 yards of rock and enough weed cloth (yes, we had to have them come back with 3 more yards of rock).

With a handful of helpers, we spread the weed cloth and the rocks.

 It was a hot hot hot day and we worked hard.

Here is what it looks like now. It is a much wider space then I had originally thought, and the rocks frame the inside garden and make it look much nicer.
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Under Sink Contact Paper

We had contact paper under the sink before, but it was peeling up and getting pretty nasty.  So we put new paper in.  I chose these little flowers because they go with the era in which the kitchen was designed- late 60's to mid 70's.

This was actually not as easy as I thought it would be.  The paper sticks to itself (though it un-peels easily), and needs to be flattened.  I also didn't do a great job measuring, so I ended up making patches with other contact paper to make sure the corners were covered (we don't want to wood to rot- the contact paper protects it).  The paper does have a grid on the back so you can cut straight, which I appreciated.

At least now we have bought ourselves a bit more time until the kitchen needs to be re-done.
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Homemade Olive Oil Mayo

I didn't really realize I liked mayonnaise until I was inspired by the great cookbook Well Fed and decided to make my own.  I have made it a few times now, and it is really easy.  We have used our eggs from our chickens, plus Meyer Lemons from the gorgeous tree the grandparents have, and the non virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's.  I even bought a squeeze bottle to store it in.  It is really good mayo, and without all the cr@p that store bought mayo has inside.  Super easy.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Strawberry Harvest and Crustless Pie (GF SF) - Meyer Lemons Inside!

What a strawberry harvest!

So we are back to an old favorite with another new twist, the strawberry pie (here was our last one- with a crust).  This is a bunch of strawberries, rinsed and sliced and put into a pie plate.

Then we made Meyer Lemon Jello- 1 cup hot water- then sprinkle 1/4 c. Gelatin and dissolve.  Then add 1 cup meyer lemon juice and stir.

The the Jello goes over the strawberries and the whole thing gets refrigerated.  
  In addition to being delicious, it preserves the strawberries longer than refrigeration alone.


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Friday, May 24, 2013

Growing a Bean - Kids' Gardening

This is a bean my son planted at school in a styrofoam cup with holes for drainage on the bottom.  We've been watering it and it is doing great.

FYI the two empty pots on each side are full of seeds we just planted that have yet to sprout.

This reminds me of Seeds and More Seeds, an old kids' book we LOVE.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Contact Paper Flower Keeper- Frame

We were looking through a kids' activity idea book and found this one: keeping flowers inside contact paper.  

We cut two sheets of contact paper to the same size, then cut a piece of construction paper as the frame.  We could have decorated it at this point.

Then we opened one piece of paper, put the frame on it, put some flower petals inside, and a few leaves, then the other sheet of paper on top made a sandwich.

To hang it, we used a hole punch and ribbon, and hung it in the window.  I think it turned out really nicely.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kids Eating Butter Straight

Man, do these kids love butter straight up.  They like to take the whole stick (or chunk) and unwrap it, then take bites out of it.

Thanks, Weston Price, for making me feel like this is OK!

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Anniversary Cake from Lovely Little Cakes in Walnut Creek

After all my blubbering about cakes and the sugar in them, I commissioned my husband a replica of our cake top (with elements from the second layer) for our wedding anniversary.  I got it from a friend's company, Lovely Little Cakes in Walnut Creek (she delivers), who at least makes them gluten free and refined sugar free.  My husband even said it was delicious!

Here is our wedding cake:

It was such a fun gift and a gorgeous cake.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Watermelon Cake (GF SF - ha) - and Birthday Party Activity Idea

On our eternal quest to make a birthday cake that won't give the kids diabetes (here and here and here and here and the banana with a candle in it I didn't blog about), I have stumbled upon the watermelon cake.  I saw a photo of it on Facebook, and we decided to make a few sample cakes before the little guy's second birthday next month.

The base of the cake - we made two. 
We did it as a "make your own" challenge- as if every kid at the party would have their own base and a pile of fruit and toothpicks and decorate as they desire.
This is what my older son came up with as his cake. 
Here is my cake.
Yum! He was so proud of his work.
And they were as fun to eat as they were to make!  What kid doesn't love eating off a toothpick?
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Goumi Fruit - Nitrogen Fixer is delicious Permaculture

We bought a bunch of fruit trees from One Green World two winters ago.  This year, we are getting our first crop of Red Gem Goumis.

Goumi are little fruits, and have a pit on the inside. They are slightly astringent if you eat them too early (like persimmon), but the kids really love them (far more than my husband and I like them).

Plus, goumi act as a nitrogen fixer, meaning their roots add nitrogen to the soil and fertilize the plants around them without you having to add nitrogen to the soil.  Delicious permaculture!
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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ultra Low Carb Flax Buns

These are from Caveman Keto and they are delicious. I took out the Splenda, too.  PLUS- the kids love them!
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Friday, May 17, 2013

DIY Scooter Treasure Basket

This is a large strawberry basket zip-tied onto the handlebars.
 It could (obviously) hold much more, but we were harvesting the strawberries at the time...
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kids' Flour Concoction

It all started innocently enough.  I was making macaroons with my older son across the kitchen. We looked over and the little guy had a container of flour poised.

So we got him a bowl.

Then he kept "cooking," adding a bit more of each kind of flour, plus an egg, and some water.  Soon enough, my older son thought his brother's cooking was more fun than his mom's, so I lost my helper.  They added yeast, and used the mixer to get the right consistency.

They spent over an hour at this project.

We baked it, and they took a bite, then gave it to the chickens.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is a great activity. It wastes a bit of food (I took out the expensive flours early on- whew), and took ages to clean up (they helped with this, too).  But it did keep them occupied and self-directed, and out of the hot sun for a bit.  They even measured and got to imitate Mama cooking.

Though perhaps next time I will encourage them to use Play Doh instead...
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meatza - Grain Free, Primal, Ultra Low Carb "Pizza" - Kids Food

This was inspired by Well Fed and Caveman Keto.  There was pizza night at school, and my son didn't want to go out, but liked the idea of making Meatza at home.

Meatza is basically meat instead of a bread crust, and the rest is the same as traditional pizza.  

While I was working on the meat crusts, my 4.5 year old made appetizers (not ultra low carb, FYI, but delicious). He took goat cheese and put it and shredded carrots on a plate.

Then I made two kinds of Meatza.  One  Meatza was made on defrosted chicken thighs.

The other was made on flattened ground beef, prebaked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

I topped them with chopped leftover veggies (asparagus, cauliflower, and broccoli), sliced salami, olives, leftover cooked bacon, and shredded cheddar cheese.

The boys said they were delicious.  My older son actually said he liked the chicken thigh one a bit better.

I even found sauce in his ear later!
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