Wednesday, June 5

No Clutter - Artkive Kids' Art Projects

The first time I had to throw away some of Maggie's art projects from school I had a lot of guilt.  What if she wanted to keep the scribbles she made when she was two?  The problem is, I'm not a keep-everything-on-my-fridge kind of gal.  I like things put away, nice and neat.   One finger painting at a time on the fridge is my limit.

Here's my solution for guilt-free disposal of nearly all art projects:  Artkive.

Artkive is an app where we can archive (get it?) all our kids doodles, scribbles, and crafts.  Each time Maggie makes something - or 10,000 somethings like she is in Paint Camp this week - I take a photo of it with my iPhone and store it in an album.  Then I can share that album with friends and family, or print the album.  It also allows me to make notes about the masterpiece.

Hope this helps someone else out.  Artkive away...


Monday, June 3

Don't Buy Taco Seasoning, And Other Things

A couple years ago I was making tacos and realized I didn't have a packet of taco seasoning on hand.  Oh no! What to do, what to do?  Then it occurred to me -- taco seasoning is just a bunch of spices mixed together and I probably have all of them. I know you're thinking I'm a genius right about now.

I've grown up in a world where if we can buy it, we buy it no matter how simple it may be to make ourselves.  It's so natural to just put things on our shopping list even though making it from scratch is most likely cheaper, more convenient and healthier.  So this night with the no taco seasoning started another change in how I think about food -- what's in that stuff I buy at the store and can I just make it myself.

Here are just a few things we should never buy because it simply just doesn't make sense.

Taco Seasoning
Mix together: 1T chili powder, 1/4t each garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dried oregano, 1/2t paprika, 1 1/2t ground cumin, 1t sea salt, 1t black pepper
Use 2T and 1/2 cup water per 1lb of meat

A standard package of taco seasoning at the grocery store contains corn flour, corn starch, sugar and a whole lot of salt. Yuck.

Whipped Cream
Put a mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for a few minutes to chill.  Add 1 cup heavy cream to the bowl.  And whisk away until you have whipped cream.  If you want it sweetened add 1-2T sugar or honey, or any other flavoring to the bowl before adding the cream. This makes about 2 cups of whipped cream.

Whipped Cream is just one ingredient really -- two if you sweeten it.  Cool Whip, the most popular brand of whipped cream, has as many as 10 ingredients and not one of them is cream.

Shredded or Sliced Cheese
Let's just avoid additional and unnecessary processing by the manufacturers when possible and all the preservatives and additives. Just slice or shred a block of cheese. Grate the parmesan yourself.

Flavored Yogurt
Buy a 24oz container of plain Greek yogurt, whole fat preferred but low fat is good still.  Scoop as much as you want into a bowl and flavor it with a bit of honey and fresh berries. Use a fork to mash and mix together.

Even the best brands of yogurt use artificial sweeteners and preservatives in their flavored varieties.

Microwave Popcorn
I didn't love the day I learned microwave popcorn is pretty nasty stuff.  Popcorn is a superfood.  Microwave popcorn, not so much. I remember my great grandma Ruth always having popcorn on her stove so I gave it a try and it's surprisingly easy.  To make:  Put 3T oil (I use coconut) in a sauce pan with a few popcorn kernels   Cover with a lid and heat over medium until you hear the kernals pop.  Add some sea salt and 1/3C kernels   Replace lid and remove from heat.  For about 30 seconds shake the pan around to get all the kernels nicely coated with salt and oil. Return the pan to the heat and shake it from time to time.  The kernels will start popping.  Once the popping slows remove the lid and you've got popcorn. Then add any additional flavorings you want.  I prefer butter or nutritional yeast.

Skip the oreos! If you want cookies and hate baking, anyone can throw together some yummy no bake cookies in a few minutes.  If you're willing to turn an oven on it only takes 2 bowls and 9-10 basic ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies.

Ice Cream -- Well, maybe buy this some times.
I will not give up my love for Ben & Jerry's Half Baked.  Can I get an amen sister?  But for a basic vanilla ice cream don't buy it, make it.  You'll need an ice cream maker so if you don't have one ignore this...or better yet buy one! You won't regret it.  Basic recipe:  Put 3 cups of dairy (I use 2C heavy cream and 1C half and half) in a medium pot with 3/4C sugar, the pulp of 2 vanilla beans and (this tip comes from Alton Brown) 2T peach preserves.  Warm it over medium heat until just before it begins to bubble.  Chill in the fridge overnight.  Put it in your ice cream maker the next day and then in the freezer until you're ready to eat it.

There are many more items, like spaghetti sauce, we'll post about later but I'd love to hear what you stopped buying and started making.

I also recently made laundry soap.  Where we live there is a lot of calcium in the water and all my laundry, no matter which soap I tried, came out with an odd smell.  So I tried Sugarpie Farmhouse's Homemade Laundry Soap and I'm hooked. This stuff is amazing.


Sunday, June 2

Today is Today, You Don't Get It Back Tomorrow

Somedays this is how I feel.  I just want to stick my tongue out at the world and say "phewy!" Or like today, I just want to growl, stomp my foot and throw a fit...for absolutely no reason.  Can I act like a toddler pleassse?  Pretty please?!

Sometimes we all just get in bad moods even when nothing is really seriously wrong.  If we're honest with ourselves rarely is there anything worth getting upset about.  Of course there are little things --inconveniences, annoyances, even difficult things but nothing that's worth stealing our joy.

There's a truth I realized some years ago:  Today is only available today. You can't wake up tomorrow and do today over again.  Once today is gone, it's gone.  

I hate that truth when I'm not living a day to my best.  A lyric in Matt Redman's song 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) says "Let me be singing when the evening comes."  That struck me today.  Will I be singing when the evening comes or will I be exhausted from a day where I was upset about this, that and the other. And if it's the latter that is a day wasted.  A day wasted! UGH -- I don't get to do that day over again and I wasted it.

So this is my little note of encouragement, to myself and to you, to try and do today what will allow you to go to bed singing.

Before we went to bed we had chocolate chip cookies and milk on the kitchen floor.  On a day when I just couldn't seem to get rid of the grumps this provided some smiles and giggles.  And yummy chocolate chip cookies (click for recipe - Kim Boyce's Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies).

On another note:
I struggle with whether or not to write.  I have a lot to say, it fills up my head all day and night but I doubt anyone wants to read it.  Then I had a long visit with a friend last week and she encouraged me to put my thoughts to blog.  I found this verse today that also persuades me:

Matthew 5:15  "Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all."