Friday, June 26, 2009

Strawberries - Yummy treats

We went Strawberry picking this past weekend. It was a blast. It is amazing how different fresh picked strawberries taste from store bought strawberries. Here are a few pictures from our adventure.

Now for the treats. Here is what I did with our strawberries.

I dehydrated some to be used in our granola. Yummy!

I made strawberry rhubarb pie for my father for fathers day. Double Yummy!!

And finally, I made sugar free Jam. Yep, you read right, I said sugar free. Last year I made strawberry jam and was shocked at the amount of sugar that went into it. I went in search of a way to do it with less sugar and found one. Its called low methoxyl pectin. Here is the website where I purchased mine. Instead of sugar, you use honey, juice concentrate or a sugar substitute. I chose to use 1/2 cup of honey for mine.

The verdict: Wow!! It tasted like I had fresh strawberries mashed onto my toast. It was SO good. We will never go back to regular jam again. (unless of course we eat all of the jam I make, which might happen very quickly) Also, the company I purchased it was great. The have a "jam line" that you can call with your questions. I received a call back very promptly and the woman on the phone was a delight to talk with.

Now, as for the price, at first I thought it was more expensive to use this new pectin, but then I realized that one box was enough to make 20 half pints of strawberry jam. I would need four boxes of the regular stuff, plus think of all the sugar you would need to get.

Overall, if you are experienced at making jam, I would give this a try and if you've never done it before, you should look into it. Its really not that hard, teh istructions are included with the pectin and you just need the righ tequipment and you are set to go.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I have recently done a lot of baking. I have been taking advantage of the cool rainy days to have my oven going. I decided to share two of the recipes since they were very good.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is the easiest cookie recipe and it comes out so delicious. Personally I prefer big, soft cookies. If you do too, you should make these.

1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375
Using a hand beater or stand mixer cream together first 7 ingredients. Then add in flour and chocolate. Drop by tablespoon onto greased baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes

I use butter straight from the refrigerator, which means that it is cold. I don't know if room temperature butter will make a difference. Also, I like big cookies, but if you want smaller ones, then use a teaspoon to put them on the cookie sheet.

I also have been making A LOT of granola. My husband loves it, but it is so expensive to buy. I found a recipe that I really like. It is a little on the sweet side, but we like it that way. This recipe came out of an Amish cookbook.

Peanut Butter Granola

10 c Oatmeal
2 c wheat germ
1 1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c oil
1/2 c honey
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c peanut butter
nuts and raisins

Heat oil, honey and peanut butter until melted. Meanwhile mix all other ingredients (except raisins, add these at the very end) Mix all ingredients together until well coated. Pour into cookie sheets and toast in 300 degree oven until golden brown. Be sure to stir often so id doesn't burn. Let cool. Add raisins if wanted.

As much as we LOVE this recipe, I know eventually we may get tired of it. If you have a recipe of your own that you like I would love for you to share.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tot School - A Little Fun

Tot School
Esther is 2.5 years old
Here are some pictures from the fun we had over the past 2 weeks.

We played catch with our new beach ball and LOVED it.

I bought a beach ball from the dollar store and used a sharpie to divide it into 26 parts. I then drew a letter in each segment. I blew it up, leaving it slightly deflated making it easier to catch. We would toss it back and forth to each other and whenever we caught it, we would have to say the name of the letter that our hand was on.

I pulled out our hide and seek rice, but this time added measuring spoons cups and funnels.

My current plan is to focus on numbers for the rest of the summer. Currently Star can count to fourteen and recognizes the written numbers to ten. I hope to make it to twenty by the end of summer. I thought I would share the process I have been using.

I start with flash cards. I say the number, spell the number and then trace it with my finger while saying a little rhyme. I then have Esther repeat it her self. Then we go over the previous numbers.

I then have her go retrieve the current number of things from the house. This past week was the number 4.

Then we use this book.

I found it at walmart and I love it. So does Esther. It uses stickers to reinforce the numbers.

Esther also did her very first dot-to-dot. I started out by placing it in a page protector sheet and letting her use a dry erase marker until she got the idea of how to do it. Then I took it out and let her do it with a pencil. She then colored it it.

This was a caterpillar using the numbers 1-5. I found it here at abcteach.

We have been reading Going West which is a part of the My First Little House series. In the book, there was a picture of a lantern with holes poked in it making a beautiful pattern. Esther was drawn to it so we made our own. I used a paper bag with a piece of styrofoam inside. I drew a pattern on the front and Esther used a push pin to make holes where the dots were.

After we finished, I put sand in the bottom and added a lit candle. Overall the project went ok. We had fun, but Esther didn't have the patience to follow the patter exactly, so she made holes wherever she wanted, and once lit, the holes really weren't big enough to really let much light through.

And finally, what is a fun week without a little dress up!

We hope you had a fun week as well. To see what others did this past week click here!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Dot - A book review

This weeks book of the week is The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

In the book, a little girl is frustrated because she can't draw. She doesn't think she is a very good artist. The teacher tells her "Just make a mark and see where it takes you." She jabs her pencil on the paper making a small dot. Soon this small dot grows into quite the artistic adventure.

This book is perfect for my little one. I can already tell that Esther is very analytical and a perfectionist. The few times I have seen her try to draw she gives up in frustration because what comes out on paper is not exactly what she sees in her mind. I am hoping this adorable book will help her to see that even the smallest dot can become a masterpiece.

I am planning this weekend to clear off the table and cover it with different types of art utensils and just let her go. Hopefully the result is a lot of fun and some beautiful new pieces to hang on my fridge.

Overall I find the book very sweet and inspiring, in an artistic way. It would be a great starting point for an art filled afternoon or morning. You can visit Peters website for even further ideas to go with the book. (click here to go) There are two more books in the series, ish, and a third which is to be published soon, plus a few more that we will probably be looking in to.

Even if art isn't your "thing", this great story is sure to bring a smile to your face.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A simpler life

I confess that deep down, there is a part of me that wishes I could have lived during the pioneer times. I know that it was a hard life, and I probably have no idea how hard, but there is something about the simplicity of it all that intrigues me. Please understand that by simplicity, I do not mean easier, I just mean an attempt to go back to basics. Today we live in a world that is obsessed with convenience. Don't get me wrong, convenience is sometimes a wonderful thing and I know I would not have survived my pregnancy without it. But, I believe that there are basic skills that are being lost as generations pass. For instance, this spring I was attempting to do a spring cleaning in my home and I realized that I had no idea how to wash the walls. I know, you may be thinking, wow, this girl doesn't know anything. And that is the point. I didn't know if I should use soap or another cleaner, or nothing at all, yet this is something that everyone knew how to do and did not too long ago.

And what about cutting up a whole chicken? I have always bought the cellophane wrapped Styrofoam hugging pre-cut pieces of chicken. Again, nothing wrong with this, but if I had to, could I process a chicken?

Well, now I can. Last Sunday I was awake at 5 am due to my allergies. So I decided to take advantage of the early morning quiet and dissect a chicken. I used my Joy of Cooking as a guide and just went at it. Here are the results:

Besides all of this delicious chicken, which I got for $3.50, I used the leftover parts and pieces and boiled them to make a stock, which turned into this:

Yep, it tasted as good as it looks. By using what ever I could find in the fridge and pantry I was able to make enough soup to feed my family for two lunches.

So, for a $3.50 chicken I got the following

1 chicken dinner
Leftover chicken for husbands lunch next day
2 tenderloins put in freezer for future use
4 adult and 2 child servings of soup.
One very satisfied mommy

*small edit* Thanks to Tom for answering all my questions about chickens and soup!!

That same meal, we had a salad made of lettuce entirely from our garden.

Planting a garden was also on my list of back to basics. There is something deeply satisfying in eating something you have grown and harvested on your own. When I first started making my garden plans, I was a little daunted by the idea, but then I read the book "Square Foot Gardening" and I soon realized that gardening didn't have to be difficult, or take up a lot of space. Here is my garden (this picture was taken 4 weeks ago, its much greener now)

It is 4 feet by 6 feet. Currently I have
12 cucumber plants
24 pea plants
8 tomato plants
4 basil
24 radish
lots of carrot
12 lettuce
And I still have 5 square feet left! And really it wasn't hard. Many vegetables can be grown in large pots on your porch even.

Next on my back to basics list:
Baking bread from scratch
Find a good and healthy blueberry muffin recipe
Sew Esther one of these skirts

What would be on your back to Basics list?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tot School

Esther is 30 months old

Recently tot school has consisted mainly of exploring outside in the yard, garden and sand box. Here are a few other activities we did during the past two weeks:

We made chocolate playdough using this recipe. While the dough smelled wonderful and was silky soft, but it didn't taste very good at all. I am on the lookout for an edible playdough that can be eaten after being used.
We painted. Esther LOVES mixing all the colors together, then painting. Right now my home is decorated with lots of lovely brown paintings!
I also gave her a food pick which she used to make designs in the paint.

We finished a bottle of hand soap, so I washed it out and filled it with water and a little bit of soap. Esther really enjoyed squirting the soapy water, but it was a little difficult for her. I think after doing this a few times more, her muscles will be built up enough that she will be able to do it easily.
For some exploration time one day, I gave her some glass beads and several differnt containers that made different noises when the beads were poured into them. While she enjoyed this, it was short lived.
We also read a lot of Curious Geaorge books. She LOVES Curious George.

That was what we did the past two weeks, click the button below to see what others have been doing.
Tot School

Monday, June 1, 2009

My Little Monkey

I recently found a blog by the name of My Four Monkeys. It is a great blog featuring many giveaways as well as great information on mommy made products out in cyberworld. I have been introduced to some great products because of this blog, plus I had the wonderful opportunity of winning one of the giveaways. This was my first ever, and I am so happy. Here is Elijah with his handmade bunny "tippy"

Here is a link to the post with all the details about it if you are interested in it. I just wanted to share the cute pictures and say thanks to Angie for providing such great information and opportunities.