Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Simple Gifts

                               Simple Gifts 
"Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right."

- Joseph Brackett, 1848

Hello friends. There's a lot going on in the world right now. Sometimes it's hard to write here, because it feels awkward to be celebrating our safe, happy life crafting and cooking and playing, while so painfully aware of the violence and suffering others are experiencing. I am continually seeking our purpose and the opportunities available to make a difference in the lives of people a world away who will never know the joy and safety we take for granted. 

In the midst of that, I am for starters, committed to not taking simple things for granted. One of those simple things is our garden. Gardening feels like something that people across the world have in common. In countries around the world people are planting seeds, tending them, and anxiously waiting for the fruit from them to sustain their families. Many families long for the opportunity to grow their own food. It is a simple gift--one that you can give here or here, if you're interested. I have been gratefully spending time each day trying to make the most of our homegrown vegetables and not let anything go to waste. 


This year we finally grew everything to make salsa. My recipe can be found here, if you need a good salsa recipe. 



We also have had a big crop of basil, so I've been cutting lots of it, drying some, and turning some into pesto. My pesto recipe is here


I divide it in an ice cube tray, freeze and then throw the cubes in a bag in the freezer to be enjoyed all winter. Our new favorite meal is cooked meatballs tossed in warm pesto over couscous. 


There's nothing really special about our garden, or the food we make, but I'm grateful for it, and I know that even what seems like our simple life is extravagant to most the world. I will do my best to be always grateful for it and never to take these simple gifts for granted. 

In the midst of a crazy world take a cue from simple things; and do not worry. 
You are loved. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kid-Made Foosball Game

Hi guys! I hope everyone's week is off to a good start. Thing One did a fun project last week that I thought your favorite kids might be interested in. We found this idea at Frugal Fun 4 Boys (find their post here). We made a few of our own adaptations and still had it turn out great! I like when the kids make something that they can use or play with after the glue dries (as opposed to just throwing it away, because the craft time is over). 


Here's our modified supply list:

Build You Own Foosball Game

1 pair scissors and 1 exacto knife
1 shoe box
2 wooden skewers
small piece of duct tape
1 piece of paper + crayons, pencils or something to draw with
1 glue stick
2 water bottle caps
2 pipecleaners
10 cheerios
1 foam soccer ball (a ping pong ball or bouncy ball would also work well)



I did the cutting on this project and Thing one did the rest. Here's what you do: 
  • cut out goals on both ends of the shoe box. Use the ball you are using to measure a minimum height for the skewers --the ball has to be able to easily pass under them. 
  • Then use the knife to cut an x on both sides of the box, and the middle of the bottle cap. Poke the skewer through both sides of the box. Use scissors to cut the sharp tip off the skewer, then slide the bottle cap onto one end of the skewer. The bottle cap keeps the skewer from slipping out in the heat of play! 
  • Use the cardboard that you cut out for the goals to make the backing of the players. Have the kids draw players, cut them out and glue them onto the cardboard
  • Use a little piece of duct tape to tape them to the skewer, leaving just a little clearance for spinning. 
See the end caps in action here and our first mis-measured hole. : )


We also added a way to keep score, just for fun. We loaded 5 cheerios on a pipe cleaner and then poked them through both sides of the box (make an x withe the exact knife again). Pull tight to make it flat and wrap over the edge of the box. You can cut off the tails or tape them to the outside of the box. Then choose your team and you're good to go! If you wanted to you could have kid paint the bottom the box green before you start. 


Thing One loved this activity! We had everything on hand, so we got to re-use some things, and it don't cost us a dime; our favorite kind of fun.  :)

You are loved!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Homemade Granola Bars

Hi! How's it going? We're good here. We had a couple of cooler days, which was really nice in the middle of constant 90's. But other than those days, it's still too hot to cook/bake in my book. So today I'm sharing this recipe for no-bake granola bars that we tried. It's one of those where you can switch out almost any ingredient for another similar one and still have it turn out great (is that the definition of fool-proof?). These are great for school lunches or after-school snacks. 


I made two batches at once, but mixed them separately so that we could try different flavors. We made a fruit and nut version: dried cranberries, natural coconut flakes, and peppitas, and a double chocolate: chocolate rice cereal, and chocolate chips. 


No-Bake Granola Bars

(each recipe makes one bread pan)

Cranberry Nut

2 cups rolled oats
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1/3 cup melted peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup chopped dried cranberries
2 tbsp natural dried coconut flakes
2 tbsp pepitas 

Double Chocolate

2 cups rolled oats
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1/3 cup melted peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup chocolate rice cereal
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix ingredients well and press firmly into a parchment-line bread pan. Refrigerate at least one hour. Then lift parchment out and cut into bars. Makes 7-8 bars. 



Be warned , they are a bit soft, meaning they will crumble if handled a lot. They hold together better when cold, so I just put the whole batch with the paper in a tupperware and keep it in the fridge. 


I love these for breakfast, lunch or dessert. Granola bars are my kids favorite snack, so I'm happy to have our own recipe to make them now. Plus, with oats, chia seeds, and pepitas, I'm feeling pretty good calling this healthy. This is also an easy project to let kids help with; all the measuring is simple and there's no heat involved. Hope you had a great week, friends! Happy Friday!

You are loved!



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Make a Difference: Shopping for Shoeboxes

Hi Friends! Is it just me or is July the fastest month of the year? We are already stocking up for school. When I was checking out at Walmart, the checker said that now is the time to buy school supplies, because closer to the start of school, they raise all the prices. 
While you are out getting deals for school, don't forget that now is also the best time to stock up for your Operation Christmas Child boxes. Pencils, sharpeners, crayons, colored pencils, and markers are all great items to put in your shoeboxes. 


This year I also got several pencil bags, because I saw an idea on Pinterest that suggested putting puzzles in a pencil pouch instead of the bulky box. The pouch will likely hold up better over time than a flimsy cardboard box too. Just make sure to cut out and include the cover photo, so the kids know what the puzzle looks like! The Dollar Store has tons of puzzles and coloring books to go with all the art supplies on sale right now. 


The end of the summer season is also a great time to find super clothing deals for kids. This year, for the first time, we are including some clothing in our Operation Christmas Child boxes. I found some awesome, very lightweight athletic shirts and sundresses, (brand new) for just a few dollars. These will fit easily in the shoeboxes, and still leave plenty of room for other fun stuff. 

Buying things at the right time is so important because it means you can pack more and spend less. Win! Win! Happy shopping!

You are loved!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Easiest Smoothies Ever

Hi Friends! How's your summer going? We've been melting here some days, and we are looking forward to free Slurpees this Friday, 7/11! Did you hear that 7-11 is doing a week of freebies after Friday if you get their app? (check it out here)  
Speaking of free, this Friday is also Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-a (dress like a cow, get a free meal--read details here and print your own costume). So yeah, we have lots of Friday plans! I LOVE free things!! 

Now on to healthy things... This is my favorite way to make smoothies for my kiddos. I know I said this before, but whenever strawberries, blueberries or raspberries are on sale, we stock up and freeze them. I use regular sandwich-size zipper lock bags. 


To make the world's easiest smoothies just combine:

2 cups frozen berries
2 1/4 cups vanilla almond milk

Makes two large smoothies or three-four small ones.

Almond milk is also something that's easy to buy on sale if you are paying attention. It has a longer shelf-life than cow's milk, and some brands don't need to be refrigerated until you open them; so it's easy to stock up without taking up room in the fridge.

Blend on high. Enjoy!



By using the vanilla almond milk you don't need to add any sweetener. Almond milk has 50% more calcium than cow's milk, and strawberries are high in vitamin C. It's our perfect summer cool-off treat   --for those days when free Slurpees are not available. True Story: when I was a kid I used to dream of winning the Lottery. The first thing I planned to buy was my own Slurpee machine. I've always had noble goals.


I hope you are staying cool and healthy and that you get to enjoy some summer freebies this week!

You are loved!