Thursday, June 30, 2011

{ All the Pretty Ponies - A Simple Handmade Baby Gift }

Today's post is a "How to" on making a simple stuffed lovey for baby. I call these little guys ponies, but they can be giraffes or donkeys or whatever you think they resemble. Whatever you choose to call them, they're cute and perfect for little hands to grasp. I think that they make the perfect addition to any baby shower gift and they're super simple to make. So read on to find out where I got the idea from and how I made my little ponies.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

{ Your Weekly Peek + THE Best Way to Eat a Ton of Vegetables }

It's week four of CSA season and the good stuff keeps coming. In case you might think that we got bell peppers and red onions from our CSA, we didn't. The picture above is of our stir-fry ingredients - THE best way to eat a ton of vegetables. In fact, we call it "veggie-must-go". So read on to get a peek in our box and read about how easy it is to throw together a stir-fry that uses every vegetable you've got... well, maybe not the beets.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

{ Frijoles in a Jar - My First Canning Experience }

Well, maybe I should clarify my title; this was my first canning experience as an adult and with canning a protein. I vaguely remember making jelly with my mom when I was younger after picking a ton of blackberries, but that's a whole different kind of canning I learned.

In today's post I'm going to share my canning experience with you, some tools of the trade and whether I think "Going Old School" is worth it when it comes to canning beans. So come along and see how my frijoles got in their jars.

Monday, June 27, 2011

{ Check Out My New Look! }

Instead of writing a new post today, I spent my time remodeling. Please take a look around and check out my new blog digs.

Also, here's a sneak peak for what I have in store for this week's posts:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

{Going Old School - I Made My Own Tortillas! }

Making homemade tortillas was my second accomplishment off of my {Going Old School - Laura Ingalls Style } list of things to try. I really can't believe how simple and how yummy it was to make my own whole wheat tortillas. You really have to try this at least once. The only way I can see going back to store bought tortillas is if I need corn tortillas (because I don't have a recipe for those, yet) or if I need them in a pinch; because while these tortillas are easy to make, you have to let the dough sit for 4-24 hours.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

{ Your Weekly Peek In My CSA Box + Why I Share }

Another week, week three to be exact, another box. Beautiful as always.

You may be wondering why I like to share my weekly CSA with you, and here is my answer: because I believe that Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) is something unique to our generation and culture. I know that agriculture has predominately been supported by the community in the past, but in our affluent and global world it's become more likely that our apples are shipped in from another state or country than across the county line. CSA entities as they are organized today allow us to help small farmers and eat locally grown food, which is great for a whole host of reasons you can find on the internet - the most important of which is that fresh locally grown food tastes great. In particular, I didn't know much about CSAs until I moved to Olympia where they seem to be all the rage for your summer and fall produce. So as "Oly Momma" sharing my northwest lifestyle with you, I think that it is a large and noteworthy part of our life here. Hopefully my sharing with you will encourage you to find a CSA of your own next season.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

{ The Co-Op - My Triumphant Return! }

I did it! I went back to the Co-Op finally. I bought 12 pounds of organic black beans (to be canned into 20 quart jars today - it should be enough to last us until Armageddon), a couple pounds of organic rolled oats for granola and a bunch of fresh, local and organic carrots (Only $2! I swear that I pay $3 at the Farmer's Market for the same carrots) all for under $18!

I can't say that my trip was without sneers, the gentleman filling the bulk bins wasn't super excited that Tabi wanted to touch the bins while I scooped 12 lbs of beans (I tried to keep her hands off I swear!), but all in all, it was a success. I had my re-usable produce bags to carry the beans in and more importantly I knew to have a paper and pen to write down all of my upc codes (obvious for the bulk items, but because of QueenBee's article I knew that I needed to do it for everything).

Monday, June 20, 2011

{Get Your Kiddos Crafting - Watercolor Silhouettes}


Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Mine was great! Kyle and I had a lovely anniversary weekend in the Portland, Oregon area, without the girls, and a fun Father's Day dinner with Kyle's family and the girls to wrap it all up. We felt so blessed this weekend, I hope that you and your family had a great weekend too. What did you do for Father's Day? Any great handmade gift ideas that you'd like to share? I'd love to see and hear about anything you or your kids did for dad this year.

Friday, June 17, 2011

{ Going Old School - It's Really NOT That Hard }

A lot of you are probably wondering how I have time to "go old school" and make a lot of our foods from scratch. Well, this is a quick post to show you that it really isn't all that hard. Most of it seems to just be a lot of waiting - unlike folding the laundry (hmmm... maybe I should try doing that while I'm waiting, nah!). But as I was saying, it's a lot of waiting. So if you have even an afternoon/evening to be around and you time it right, you can get a lot going at once:

See! We had three things going at once, well actually four. Three food items and one craft (insert smiley; man it's hard to blog without emoticons!). While I was working on a fun baby shower gift that I'll share in another post, Kyle made the bread dough - so if I weren't sewing I could have made the bread dough. And then all at once we had milk heating up for yogurt, bread rising and yogurt cheese "hanging out". And right after this picture, while everything was in a "hold" phase, I took a quick trip to Trader Joe's with the girls!

All of that to say it's really not too hard, it just takes a little planning - and to be perfectly honest, this wasn't even planned this specific day; it all just kind of randomly came together. So go on and get making! You really can do it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

{ Going Old School - Homemade Yogurt Cheese }

Slowly but surely, I'm checking items to make off of my { Going Old School - Laura Ingalls Style } post.

My first adventure was making yogurt cheese. I first tasted yogurt cheese at my girlfriend Sarah's house. She sweetens hers with xylitol and uses it more like a dessert spread; this particular evening she served it on banana bread.  She then told me that in it's original unsweetened state, yogurt cheese can be used as a cream cheese substitute. Seeing how when you don't buy everything organic, as I don't, you should at least buy the things that your kids eat the most organic I figured that this could be a low cost solution for an organic cream cheese alternative; especially since I wasn't forking out the dough for organic cream cheese any ways, just plain old conventional - full of hormones and antibiotics I'm sure. So of course I had to get the "recipe" from Sarah to make. She referred me to the Kitchen Stewardship site and I got under way.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

{ Get Your Kiddos Crafting - Card Making }

Phoebe's just getting to the age now where she can compose well. Her favorite mediums are stickers, stamps, paint and markers. I like to keep it simple so we use a lot of foam stickers around here. She loves to do art, as I'm sure most kids do, so why not put that fun to work? Have your kiddos make their cards for friends and loved ones.

{ What To Buy Organic }

Here's a great blog post I just read on the "Clean 15" and "Dirty Dozen."

New 2010 Dirty Dozen Produce List Update Released by EWG

I'm always forgetting what produce really needs to be organic and which produce is okay to buy conventional. I hope that you find Kitchen Stewardship's post as helpful as I did.

I tried to post this on Facebook, but I didn't see it in my Newsfeed. Sorry if this is a repeat!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

{ My CSA Box - You Know You Want to Look Inside }

The season of weekly treasures has arrived! It truly is like a little treasure chest that we pick up each week. Despite our farm's best efforts, we don't always know what vegetables we'll be getting before we pick up our box, and even if we do it's still fun to open and explore inside. Come on! Take a look:

It's exciting isn't it!?! Well, if you aren't excited by my treasure trove of vegetables it's because you've never had local, farm fresh, picked that day, organic veggies - we've never had any vegetables that are tastier. The radishes actually have a bite to them, the broccoli is almost sweet and the lettuce is pure, fresh, crispy and, depending on the type, sweet. Let's continue to unpack and see what we got:

No, these photos are not enhanced. The radishes really are that red and the greens that green. So what do we have? Well, from left to right, we have garlic scapes (these are exquisite, you can cut them like green beans and sauté them for an easy and tasty dinner veggie), salad turnips (these are sweet-ish with an almost marshmelo-y texture; we had them grated on our salad tonight and they added a nice crunch), broccoli (oh let me count the ways I love you!), radishes and radish greens (I'm excited to try some new recipes for these, I guess you can cook them - they aren't just a salad topper) and lacinto kale (we love our greens steamed or sauteed with balsamic vinegar on top, but we might make these into kale chips).

Don't worry, that's not all. Here's some more:

Here we have red leaf lettuce, arugula and butter-crunch lettuce. The lettuce will be good for salads and sandwiches. The arugula has a ton of uses, salad being just one of them. I'm thinking it's time for the Chicken Moroccan Soup we like from the Weight Watchers cookbook that uses arugula. Yum.

Our farm, Calliope, has the staple vegetables, but they also specialize in gourmet italian vegetables. So if our box looks too adventurous for you, you should do some research because there are farms that also do just the basics. Furthermore, it's only week two of the season so I'm sure if you want to join a CSA you still can for a pro-rated amount.

If you're just curious about what a share looks like, feel free to swing by my blog and I'll share my box with you each week and then you can buy your own share next year; because I know you'll want to, it's AMAZING! Kyle always says that we didn't know what vegetables tasted like until we joined our farm last year.

If you already have a share and are looking for ways to use your veggies, head on over to my friend Wendy's, yes yogurt Wendy, blog. She is blogging on her first CSA season with Pigman's Farm and posting new recipes almost nightly.

What rare or staple vegetable do you have an awesome recipe for? Please share!

Friday, June 10, 2011

{ Going Old School - Laura Ingalls Style }

Eating healthy and organic foods is not cheap, that's why I'm trying to figure out ways to make organic more affordable for our family. There's also something nice about knowing exactly what's in the food you're eating. That's why we've been trying to make more of our food from scratch and buying less prepackaged food. Because not only is the food itself a concern these days (if you don't know why, you should do some research), but so is the packaging (they are finding BPA leaching into canned food from the lining they put inside the can and if we're just now discovering this, who knows what else our food packaging is doing to our food). These are just a few of the reasons why we are trying to go old school, Laura Ingalls style, by making food instead of buying it prepackaged.

A few of the staples we've already taken to making at home are: granola, yogurt and bread (granted so far the only completely organic product of the three is the yogurt). Here are a few more things that I want to try, and when I do I'll share my experience with you. So here we go!

While checking out at Top Foods today I saw this magazine and decided that I "needed" it. I'll for sure be doing jam and apple sauce at some point, but this magazine has other great ideas for canning relishes, pestos, dessert spreads and zucchini pickles among other things. And did I mention that I haven't even cracked this baby open yet? I got all of this from the cover, so imagine what's inside! (Speaking Authoritatively On Books You Haven't Read, this article is so for me.)

I currently have plans in the works to can beans with my friend Julie. I'm pretty excited about this since we use a lot of canned beans. In fact the only things we buy in cans are beans, tomatoes and broth. So in the next couple of weeks you can expect a post on how that experience goes.

Next, aside from the art of canning, there are some other staples that I want to start making at home too. I was referred to the blog Kitchen Stewardship by my friend Sarah and I've found quite a few things that I want to make from here- things that one doesn't typically think about making at home. Here's my "to make list" from Kitchen Stewardship:

Yogurt Cheese - I'll be making this soon. I've got my yogurt made, bought my flour sack towels and now I just need to wash the towels so I can use one to make my cheese. Supposedly this can replace cream cheese, I'll let you know what my choosey eater thinks of this replacement. I'm also excited because I'll use my organic yogurt and get organic cheese for less than or the same price as a block conventional cream cheese would cost me. My cost will be $1.42 since it will take a quart of my yogurt.

Tortillas - these look yummy. My other Sarah friend, who now lives in Germany, made tortillas for lunch once and the pictures here look like her tortillas. Also, as an added benefit, I will get to use the whey (as in Little Miss Muffet's curds and whey) produced by making my cheese for an extra protein boost in the tortillas. Double score!

Crackers - Organic crackers are SO expensive, so I am looking forward to seeing if this recipe is easy enough that I can keep us cracker-ed up by making them at home.

I'm pretty excited to go Laura Ingalls - or should we say Caroline Ingalls - on y'all. I'll keep you updated on my back to the roots experiments. If you beat me to it, please share your experiences with me - and this isn't a rhetorical request.

(I LOVED Little House on the Prairie as a girl, we won't mention that it was Nelly that I liked - it must have been the hair and pretty dresses.) 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

{ Homemade Yogurt - Say What? }

That's right, homemade yogurt. Last summer when a friend from church said she made yogurt I thought, "You crazy lady." She said that it was easy though and the thought hung in my head, so much so that I bought a yogurt maker for myself for Christmas. After reading the instruction manual it took me several months to actually commit to making yogurt, it still seemed tedious.

When I actually got around to making it, in April, it wasn't difficult and it was delicious. So much so that I found it difficult to keep up the supply for our family since the yogurt maker I had bought was for baby food and it only made about a half a quart at a time. I also wanted to make more than a quart at a time, which is what most yogurt makers make, and I didn't want to buy another gadget. My friend Wendy, who initially intrigued me with the idea of making yogurt, said that she did hers in her oven and that some of her friends did theirs in their crock pots.  My oven, like most, doesn't go down to 110 degrees so that method was out of the question. That left the crock pot. Yes, the crock pot. And guess what? Crock pot yogurt is even easier to make than yogurt in a yogurt maker, crazy I know.

It boils down to four phases: Phase one, heat up the milk in the crock pot. Phase two, cool down the milk in the crock pot. Phase three, mix in the starter yogurt and hold at a steady temperature. Phase four, chill.

If your still on board, follow along for a more detailed how to. If you don't eat plain yogurt or even yogurt for that matter but you think that you would like to, follow this link to the Kitchen Stewardship site and you'll find a great guide for getting yourself to enjoy plain yogurt - yes, like wine and beer it is an acquired taste, but well worth it. And for the record, homemade plain yogurt is way smoother and more palatable taste wise than store bought; my choosy eater loves it!

Pretty much all I know about crock pot yogurt comes from these two blogs: Nourishing Days (from what I can tell this is the original crock pot yogurt blog as everyone seems to refer back to it) and The Girls' Guide to Guns and Butter (a more scientific and refined approach to the basic Nourishing Days recipe/method). Please feel free to go to the original sources if you prefer, but here's a basic how to and my experience with making crock pot yogurt.

2 quarts / 1/2 gallon of milk (we use whole but you can use whatever you want)
2 tblsp plain, live active culture yogurt (buy from the store to start and then use your own yogurt so long as you are actively making yogurt weekly, so that your culture doesn't die)

Tools of the trade: 1) I highly recommend buying a 2qt crock pot if you don't have one. I got mine for $10.99 at Target and for some reason the yogurt comes out better in the smaller crock pot, but feel free to try in a larger one as well- I did. 2) You may also want to use a digital candy/meat thermometer if you want to be precise, but this is not a necessity.

Phase One: Heat 'er up!

Step 1: Fill your two quart crock pot with milk, we use whole milk because it's what we drink but you can use any type of milk. Turn your crock pot on low and heat the milk for two and a half hours. If you are using a larger crock pot Nourishing Days suggests adding 15 minutes to this time for a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes of heating.

My experience: I made the yogurt without a thermometer and it came out fine, but when I used a thermometer I found out that my crock pot wasn't heating the milk to the recommended 180 degrees. Raw food enthusiasts skip this step, so it isn't vital to your yogurt turning out. Heating your milk to between 180-190 degrees is "to create a sterile medium to be inoculated with your yogurt" (A Girls' Guide...). To reach 180 degrees in two and a half hours, I have to heat my milk on high in my crock pot. This is why you may find a digital thermometer helpful, so you can figure out what your crock pot is actually doing.

Phase two: Cool 'er down

Step 2: Once it's been two and a half hours, or you have verified that your milk has reached between 180 and 190 degrees, turn off and unplug your crock pot. Come back in three hours.

Phase three: Hold 'er steady

Step 3: Inoculation. Sounds dirty doesn't it? After three hours, or once you've verified that your milk has cooled to between 110 and 120 degrees (hotter than this will kill your culture), you're ready to inoculate your milk with yogurt culture. There are two ways to go about this: one, if you are lower in the heat range and don't want to lose any more heat take out about a cup of milk and whisk it with the two tablespoons of yogurt and then whisk the yogurt/milk mixture back into the milk in the crock pot and replace the lid. OR Two, if you're higher in the heat range and could stand to lose about two degrees of heat just whisk the yogurt into the milk in the crock pot and replace the lid. If you aren't using a thermometer I suggest using method one.

(The Girls Guide... suggests that the higher in temperature, closer to 120 degrees, your milk is the thinner your final product will be and vice versa, that the closer to 110 degrees that you can keep the milk the thicker and creamier your yogurt will be in the end. All of these are recommendations, I haven't gotten her exact results yet, so like me you may have to play around to find out how to get exactly what you want; but even the thin yogurt still tastes good.)

Step 4: Turn on the oven light, but not your oven. Then lay out a thick bath towel in your oven, place the crock pot (the inner portion that holds the food, not the heating element) on the towel and wrap it up like a baby to keep it warm for the next eight hours.

Phase four: Just chillin'

Step 5: After eight hours pull your yogurt out of the oven. It should be thickened at this point and it will continue to thicken in the refrigerator. Move the yogurt from the crock pot into storage containers, I recommend two one quart jars (if you don't want to buy anything just use recycled jars, the pictures of jarred yogurt here are in an old Costco jelly jar). Put it in the fridge and let it chill for eight hours for optimal thickness, although it can be eaten at any time after you take it out of the oven.

Voila! Homemade yogurt!

It takes about 24 hours total to make your yogurt, but it's a very hands off project and totally worth the wait. And did I mention the monetary savings? I pay $5.69 for a gallon of organic whole milk at Trader Joe's, divide that by four and I'm only paying $1.42 per quart of organic yogurt! It's usually anywhere from three something to five dollars a quart, depending on the store you're buying it from and the brand.

As for eating, we like ours with berries and granola. We also use it in recipes that call for yogurt and I'm looking forward to making yogurt cheese (to replace buying cream cheese) with it too. How will you eat yours?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

{ From Cheap to Boutique - Card Refashioning }

Everybody loves to have fun stationary and thank you's, but not everybody has a ton to spend or can find what they want. Here's a quick little how to that will hopefully inspire you to create something fun for yourself; cheap, unique and not much fuss.

Here's what I started with:

- A stamp pad (nine years old, I know because I bought it to do my wedding invitations nine years ago; amazingly this puppy still works!)
- A set of 10 cards from the Target dollar bins (so yes, the base price of each card is ten cents)
- A "Thank You" stamp from the JoAnn dollar bins and the base that all of the "new stamps" stick to (yes, rubber stamps are officially outdated. The "new" thing is clear acrylic stamps). You can get a base out of the dollar bin too, but this is a nicer one and I recommend a good one since you can stick anything to it; I also have a dollar bin base and it isn't nearly as easy to use.
- Some card stock.

Things that I used and aren't pictured here were: a circle cutter, double sided tape, another JoAnn dollar bin stamp, some bling (the pink rhinestones came with the dollar birthday cake stamp and I had the clear ones on hand) and a couple of "W" stickers I also had on hand.

Step One Cut some paper to stamp or decorate. With these particular cards, a circle shape worked best so I cut out ten circles.

Step Two Decorate your circles. I made 5 Thank You's, 2 monograms and 3 birthday cards - I hate having to run out to the store for these and I rarely like what they say.

Step Three Position your decoration with double sided tape on each card. I went simple here because it worked well and it made it easy to create 10 cards in one shot, but you can definitely get craftier depending on what you have around and what you want to do - I'll show you a more intensive refashion later in the post.

And there you have it! How simple and quick was that? Here are all of the variations I made:
Birthday cards with a little bling.

Thank you cards: simple, clear rhinestones and pink rhinestone variations.

Monogrammed stationary
(You may notice that on one of the birthday cards and the monogrammed cards I added a second layer of circle cut card-stock in a second color to the original white circle.)

Using the same idea of going from "cheap to boutique" I refashioned a different card from the Target dollar bins for a friend's birthday. Again, I kept it simple so that 1) it would be an affordable option and 2) it would be stuff that you may actually already have around- I did. So here we go! Card remake #2.

The loot here includes: an old sheet of sticker letters, a box of cards from the Target dollar bins, some card-stock and some ribbon from the Target dollar bins as well.

From here out, I'll let the pictures do most of the talking as this card is mostly paper cutting and layering.

First layer of paper.

Okay, so when you cut ribbon you should use a lighter to melt the ends so that they don't fray. A super easy trick for a nice finish.

In case my iPhone (my DSLR has been out of commission since about the beginning of my blog in April, it should hopefully be back from Nikon soon!) didn't catch it, there are three layers of color here under the silver letters.

The finished product, a one of a kind birthday card for under a buck. Here's a before and after picture for effect:

There you have it, you can make one of a kind stationary and cards on a budget. Now get going and get creative!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

{ A Black Apple Doll for Sophie }

About two weeks ago I did a post entitled Ideas for Simple Handmade Kid Gifts, well here is my first completion of one of the ideas listed there. A Black Apple Doll for Miss Sophie, a friend who recently turned two; we're looking forward to celebrating with her this weekend.
For the record, I am not one of the blogging geniuses who crafts and sews amazing things. I'm just a beginner hoofing it with the rest of you beginners out there. In light of this, I would like to keep a tally. This Black Apple Doll is my fourth sewing project (two in classes and this is my second solo project), so as with anything handmade there are plenty of quirks.
Here's the tutorial I used: Black Apple Doll on Martha Stewart.

This is the original doll template that I printed out from my computer.

Then I went to Kinko's and enlarged the template 150% like the instructions said to do.

The blonde Black Apple Doll was made by my friend Paige for Phoebe for her second birthday, she enlarged the template to 200%. I enlarged my template to 150% and then added 1/2" to all of my pattern pieces because it seemed like the doll was going to be a little small, that's why my proportions are a little different from Paige's doll. I also took a little artistic liberty with the hair so it would be a little bit more like the real Sophie's curly hair.

These are the fabrics I used: canvas for the body, 30% wool felt and two woven prints.  Once I had all of my fabrics together, I cut my template and then started cutting my fabric pieces.

I used a seem gage and a sewing marker, the technical name I'm sure, to enlarge all of my pieces by 1/2".

For the arms, legs and body I made sure to trace them and cut them on folded material so that I would have two matching pieces. The image above shows how I got the front and back of one leg.

Here are all of my pieces cut out and ironed with front and back pieces attached to each other.

Multiple steps came together between the last picture and this: I sewed the hair on to the face. Next I sewed both the front and the back of the head on to the body pieces. I also created a little Sophie name tag with a piece of yellow knit fabric from a t-shirt and fabric paint; then I sewed it onto the dress with a fun turquoise thread in a zig zag stitch. I also sewed all of the arms and legs together and them flipped then right side out as the picture shows.

Next, using embroidery floss and a needle I hand stitched a face and attached the hair bow.
It was getting late, and I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the steps but I'll briefly fill you in on the process.

Once I had the face done, I was ready to sew the doll together. First I stuffed the arms and legs and then I pinned them folded inward. Now, in hindsight I realize that I was supposed to pin the arms and legs inward toward the body, see step seven on tutorial 2, and then pin the second body piece on top in two steps so that the doll would be inside out. Instead, I sandwiched the arms and legs inward and then pinned; I think that this method - or the time of night - may have been a leading cause in me having to sew the arms and legs on a couple of times since not all of the pieces were completely sewn into the original seem.

When I finally sewed all of the arms and legs completely into the seems, made a little tricky by the fact that the arms and legs were stuffed adding bulk to the doll, I had an inside out doll. Next, I pulled the legs and arms out of the little opening left in the head and I had an unstuffed doll. Finally, I stuffed my doll before sewing the head completely shut. I did all of this on my machine, it may have been easier to do by hand but I have an aversion to sewing with my hands - I'm somewhat scared of it for many silly reasons.

In the end, at 1 am, little Sophie was completed! Ta da!

I know that a lot of you have made these dolls and variations of them, my girlfriend Brooke made a mermaid version, email me the pictures of your variations and I'd love to share them with the other readers. I'd also love any tips you have that you thought were helpful when you made your doll.

In the end, I'm pleased with my final product. It's not perfect, but neither am I. I hope that Sophie loves it as much as my girls did when they first saw it. Happy Birthday Sophie!
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