30 March 2013

Easter Eggs and the Koolaid Dye

I have to admit, I've been a bit Scrooge-like in my approach to Easter this year.  Or maybe it just snuck up on me.  What is it doing in March, anyway?  I had the genius idea to hit a few community egg hunts this morning and nearly died of an anxiety attack.  Why does the women who avoids highly congested areas walk willingly into a place that the entire valley is converging on?  Did I really expect my kids to get any treats, with every child in a 50 mile radius there too?  Is a picture with the sneaker-wearing Easter bunny really that important?  Deep breath....  We did make it out alive and with a few treats to show for it.

I saw eggs on sale last week and managed to buy a few dozen, not really realizing just how close the holiday was.  We boiled them earlier this week, although I still had not purchased the dye.  Then somebody I know pinned something on Pinterest about dying eggs with koolaid.  For some reason, my mind took hold of that and decided it was much easier to find the powdered juice aisle at the store than the Easter aisle, which isn't true and I ended up going to two stores because the first one didn't have the lemon-lime flavor, and what is Easter egg dying without green?  Also, I couldn't find the requested blue flavor, so I picked up blue raspberry, which may have been a wrong move.

As I started filling cups with water, I luckily thought first about making sure my little cups could hold the water with an egg in it, so I adjusted the water accordingly.  We still had some major splashing and spilling, but what do you expect when you turn three little kids loose with staining liquid and eggs.  I also realized at this point that koolaid packets don't come with the little egg dipper things.  Spoons worked pretty well, although they added to the spill factor a bit.

When it came time to dye the eggs, I laid down a ton of newspaper and then put down old rags and towels all the way around the table.  I did that because I know my kids can't make it through a meal without spilling a cup of something.  Maybe we'll start doing this for meals too.

Here's the verdict:
Yellow didn't work.  We left an egg in there for an eternity in kid time and it was barely yellow.  I added a bit of orange to it and we ended up with a few hues of orange.  Orange did great, as did green.  I did a cup with black cherry just for fun and it did a good job too, as did the cherry.  They aren't quite the same color, but really not different enough to need both.  The blue did okay.  It was a bit pale.  The pink did pretty well too.  The purple ended up more black than purple.  The instructions said to add a bit of the blue to the grape, so I did.  I'm not sure if grape by itself would have been better.  It was really making Easter look depressing to have two black eggs in the mix.

Luckily, or unlucky, depending on how you look at it, while the dye is wet, it rubs right off.  This means that we could re-do the black eggs, but it also means that when the 6 year old fumbles the egg removal, most of the dye gets scratched off by the spoon.  Once the eggs dried, the color is there and pretty.  However, the eggs tended to get air bubbles on them as they sat in the dye, so some of the strongest colored eggs have funny white dots on them as well.  Also, they took forever to dry and that drove the kids nuts because you need to dye each egg at least twice and we ran out of time for that, as bedtime arrived.

On the plus side, egg dying has never smelled so fruity, I didn't have to measure out any vinegar and the kids thought I was totally cool for using koolaid.

I don't know that we'll do this method again.

Happy Easter!

16 February 2013

The cheap-skate, last minute birthday party

I'm a slacker.  I wait until the last minute to plan things like birthdays or valentines or anniversaries.  I get tons of good ideas, but due to the last minute issue, I don't have any time to actually do any of them.  Right around Christmas Eve, I put aside a few sewing projects, telling myself that I would finish them for my little girl in time for her birthday.  Then I promptly forgot.  I remembered again, the morning of her birthday.

Maybe it was guilt that spurred me on to do an actual party for her.  Generally, I say a three year old doesn't need anything but ice cream, frosting and presents, but since the presents were lame, I felt obligated to do a little more.  So we had a Dora/Diego party, sort of.  Since I'm cheap and it was last minute, I had to  use what was in the house and what I could get through the internet.  So, for any other procrastinating mom, like myself, I'll share my Dora party equations.

One chunk of purple felt = a tiny backpack.  It was my first time making a drawstring backpack like this and I think it turned out well.


 Construction paper and some sketching time = Map.

Old flannel sheet = water, over which lies the troll bridge, of course it needed some repairs performed by a 3 year old girl.


Chairs of all varieties in the hall = boulders in Slippery Rock Canyon, of course.

Then we had the dark tunnel, which required a flashlight, obviously to be found in her backpack.

We also had construction paper stepping stones, one of which needed some sticky tape, also in the backpack.


I used some of Dora's friends to help along the way, and even Swiper made an appearance.

When she emerged from the tunnel, she found the cupcake tower and presents.

All in all, I think it was a success, even though I stressed myself out completely trying to come up with Dora stuff in my non-Dora brain.  The little one loved it and fell right into character, with her siblings helping her read the clues.

Maybe if I start planning now, I'll have a stress free birthday for her next year.  Or maybe I'll just try to finish her Christmas projects before summer starts.

14 February 2013

My Valentine






These made me snicker this morning.  The top two are my favorites.

Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought I would share my exciting gift with you.  Actually, I was given this gift a few weeks ago, but we're calling it a Valentine/birthday present.  My husband started dropping hints about the amazing gift I would be getting and I quickly gathered that it was a pricey gift, which honestly drops a gift's value in my estimation.  I started warning him that I can't enjoy a gift that costs a lot.  When he informed me that it was free, I was excited.  His hints led me all over my imagination, but didn't help much.  Heavy, antique-like, not made of wood, useful, I saw it several years ago... I was lost.  Then he pulled up a picture of it on the internet.

I love old cook stoves and I have planned to have one in my someday house.  Honestly, the power goes out in Wyoming enough to justify having a wood stove hooked up.  My mom has an old Majestic stove in her basement, waiting to be cleaned up and put to use, but I don't think I could ever convince her to part with it.  Thankfully, my husband's past boss remembered that I'm a lover of such things and offered it to us when they moved, so now I have my own.
 
Of course, this is a picture of what it should look like, ours is not put together and had been sitting outside for several years.  One of the legs needs repaired or replaced, but all in all, it's a pretty good deal, if you ask me.  A little elbow grease and a bit of polish... plus a call to a parts place, and we'll  be in business.  Now we just need a house to put it in.
Mom's Majestic

Maybe next Valentine's Day?

14 January 2013

Yikes, it's cold out there!

I think we have had more than our fair share of cold this year.  Our overnight low was -21 and it was -16 when the kids left for school this morning. As I type, the temperature still hasn't reached 0.  Let's hope we make it to our projected high of 8 degrees today.  I am very thankful that our furnace is working.  Our little house is very toasty right now.

The other day, as I was sitting in the car with the kids in back, waiting for daddy to run an errand inside a store, I was trying to stay relaxed and fighting the urge to bang two heads together in the back seat.  To distract myself from the insanity, I started watching the snowflakes falling on the windshield.  They were like mini paper cut out snowflakes.  The kids and I had recently read a book about snowflakes and we knew that each one was different, but I had never seen snowflakes that actually looked like that.  I guess I thought you had to look through a microscope or something.  I think Wyoming snow has been driven by the wind so much, it doesn't look so pretty when it lands.  Anyway, this is the first time I noticed individual snowflakes looking like the snowflakes we draw or cut out or hang on our Christmas tree. When my husband returned to the car I pointed them out to him and he hadn't noticed snow flakes looking like that either.

A few days later, we noticed the same kind of snowflakes on our car as we were going someplace, so I ran back into the house to get my camera.  The pictures are a bit fuzzy because the flakes really are small.

Now I'm just waiting for some nicer weather so I can go cross country skiing!

10 January 2013

Our Happenings

I find it funny that every time I make a goal to either go to bed early, or get up early, I get thwarted by my dear, lovely children.  There have been several times in the past 8 years that I have decided that I will get up before the kid(s) do and have some quiet time for myself to get organized and ready for the day.  Without fail, the baby at the time will suddenly alter their schedule to wake up before me, no matter what time I have picked to rise.

This time around, I determined I would go to bed earlier and no sooner did I make that goal, then my little girl suddenly started waking up just before midnight to make sure I didn't get to sleep until late.  I'm guessing she is having night terrors.  Her big brother had them for a while at this age.  It's not a very fun evening activity, usually striking one to two hours after the child goes to sleep.  They are difficult to wake when having a night terror and touching or holding them seems to make it worse.  Last night, I put some soothing music on repeat and there was no night terror.  I don't know if the music helped or if she is simply past them, but I think I'll play some music again tonight.

We had some very cold temperatures this past week, coupled with a furnace that only works when it feels like it.  Thankfully, I have a large sweater collection.  I discovered that the cold weather had penetrated the garage and frozen about 25 pounds of potatoes I had out there.  I decided I would try to do something with them before they thawed and I had a nasty pile of mush to deal with.  So, I turned them into fries for the freezer.  I wasn't sure how it would work out, since the potatoes were already frozen.  I thought they might just fall apart, no matter what I tried, but I couldn't stand to just throw out that many potatoes.  I tried two different methods of preparing the fries, one was much faster than the other so we have more of them.  The first method was to slice the potatoes into fries and soak them in hot water.  Then put them in boiling water for 2 minutes, dry and place on baking sheet and put in the freezer.  The other method kind of followed this recipe for baked oven fries, but I didn't bake them for the entire time.  I put them in the fridge to cool and then put them into freezer bags.  I have cooked up both varieties in the oven using the method in the linked recipe and I do like the baked first fries a bit better, but the boiled fries worked very well thrown in some stew I was making.  I was so very happy that both methods turned out perfectly edible.  We ended up with 10 quart bags of fries, plus what we ate for our taste tests.

Another adventure in my life this past week was making deodorant.  I've seen recipes for it all over the internet and I just kind of tucked it into the back of my mind to try someday.  So I finally tried it.  I haven't been using it long enough to have a great opinion, but I don't dis-like it.  My armpits are much more moisturized than usual, but I don't sweat a whole lot in the winter, especially with a moody furnace.  We'll see how I like it as the seasons move on.

Last, but certainly not least in our happenings, we celebrated our anniversary yesterday.  Or maybe we just observed our anniversary.  Nine years isn't generally the center of a huge party, although I have to say that I'm very excited for our 10th, since it will come right after my husband finishes school for good and ever (if I have anything to say about it.)  If I was a more thoughtful and organized wife, I would have created a cute and thoughtful gift inspired by pinterest... and I do have some things pinned with him in mind, but we obviously weren't thinking clearly by getting married so soon after Christmas.  We pretty much doomed the creative gift giving without even knowing it.  But who needs gifts?  I have a wonderful husband who just seems to get better as the years go by.

Have a  lovely blog week!

02 January 2013

2013!

I'm always a bit taken by surprise when a month or year is suddenly gone and I'm left feeling totally unprepared for the next one.  Suddenly, it's 2013 and I haven't even evaluated the past year, let alone figured out new goals for the next year.  It isn't as though I didn't know it was coming, it's just that I get so busy, I lose sight of what day or year it is.  We ease into it in November; my husband's birthday and then Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday (food and family, what else is there?)  Then I remember that the advent is coming up, thank goodness we had an extra week this year.  Throw some college finals in for my husband with my late night sewing projects.  I cancelled several because I wanted to enjoy Christmas Eve this year.  I guess the kids will get super hero capes for Valentine's Day.  We don't get to relax after Christmas though, because my son has a birthday two days later.  Then, suddenly, it's a new year and I'm sitting here with blurry eyes and laundry piled all around me.  The kids are all fighting off various sicknesses and ailments that pop up when running with cousins, staying up late and getting up early, not to mention getting soaked in the snow at least twice a day, so it was early to bed tonight.

Now that the house is quiet and the dishes are done, I'm letting myself think a bit about what I would like to work on to make this year better than the last.  I saw this little quote on facebook and thought it fit me so well.

So far I've come up with 3 things:
1. Early to bed.  I am a natural night owl, just like my mom and my sisters.  I am energetic late at night and I can get so much done after the kids are down for the night, but the kids get up early, or at least too early for me to get enough sleep, so I drag myself through another morning, most likely resembling a grouchy bear coming out of hibernation.  I can't make the kids sleep longer (I've tried keeping them up later.  They still wake up at the same time, only grumpier.) but I can go to bed earlier, so I'm going to try.  Perhaps 2013 will be the year of cheerful mornings.

2. Meal plan.  I shouldn't need this as a goal, but I have fallen off the wagon and into the trap of throwing something together at the last minute.  It causes me stress and it causes us to eat the same meals over and over.  Tonight we again had hot ham and cheese sandwiches with tomato soup.  This is in rotation with spaghetti and homemade pizza.  Along with this goal, I want to bake bread more often.  I kind of stopped for a while when we discovered a cheap bread outlet, but when it closed down (keep your twinkie, I want my cheap bread back) bread became expensive again.

3. While my forgetful self will be writing 2012 for the next few months, my brain has a tendency to live in the future.  I have so many plans and hopes for my family, and we're getting closer to them, but I tend to spend too much time wishing I was in my "someday" instead of paying attention to now.  It's going to be a crazy year, with at least one move, but possibly more, depending on job situations.  I want to fully enjoy the area and friends that I have here and now before I move on to the next.  I'm sure when the stress mounts, you'll find me sketching out my dream homestead, but until I am living there I hope to keep it to a minimum.

I hope this year brings you optimism and happiness.  What goals or resolutions have you set this year?

04 May 2012

Food Storage Friday: Strawberries!



I just thought that title sounded fun.  I am happy that it is Friday though.  I'm also happy that I have no more strawberries sitting in my house, waiting for me to do something wonderful with them before they self-destruct.  Our local grocery store had a great deal on a flat of strawberries and pectin, so naturally, I along with every other woman in the area decided to make jam.  My husband was thrilled, since he's not been too big on my mock raspberry jam.  He would never have known my secret ingredient if he hadn't come home early.

http://thefrugalgirls.com/2012/04/how-to-keep-strawberries-fresh.html
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to those strawberries for two days and by the time I did get to them, they were going downhill fast.  I hate wasting so much fruit.  About that time, I ran across this little tip to keep strawberries fresher, longer.  So of course, I had to go buy another flat of strawberries to try it out.  This time, I went through the strawberries sooner.  I washed them and sorted out the berries that needed immediate action and put the rest aside.  I don't know if it was washing them in vinegar, or being more diligent in taking care of them, but this bunch of strawberries did much better.

It occurred to me, as I was stirring in those ridiculous amounts of sugar, that I should find a more healthy way to enjoy this spring-time fruit later on.  I know there are low-sugar and no-sugar jam recipes out there, but I never think of them until I'm elbow deep in strawberries, pectin and sugar.  Even though I know that sugar is the main ingredient in jam, I'm just always blown away at how much!

http://www.housingaforest.com/healthy-dehydrated-fruit/
Apparently, I'm not the only one with strawberries on my mind, because a friend pinned this blog about drying fruit.  And the lightbulb came on!  I have never tried dehydrating strawberries, but I don't know why.  It is so easy!  Well, except for the slicing uniformly part.  If I had an egg slicer, it would have been easy-peasy, but I had to free hand it.  I tried a few.  My husband ate them on his cereal and asked for more.  So I made more and then more.  I'm thinking of running back to the store again to see if the deal is still on so I can make even more, but that would mean sorting strawberries again.  I'm not even sure how many strawberries I dried, but I have about 6 cups of the yummy snack sitting on my pantry shelf.  If my daughter finds the stash, it will be gone quickly.  She already finished off the dried apricots from last fall as well as most of the peach fruit leather.  It's such a healthy snack, I don't really mind her eating them, but I would like them to last a few months!

My total (so far) tally of preserved strawberries:

6 cups dried
5 pints canned jam
13.5 pints freezer jam

I think I will pedal on down to the store again when the little one wakes up from her nap... or maybe not.

Update:
Now that the sale is over, I found some more recipes for preserving strawberries.
No sugar strawberry freezer jam
Low sugar freezer jams
Dried strawberries (in the oven)

Happy preserving!