Monday, November 17, 2014

Linen Closet to Home Office in 2 Hours

Ever since starting Happy Goats Soap Company, things have gotten a little, um... ridiculous... in our closet area. (See the before picture, below.) At first I just wanted to clean the closet a little bit. Get rid of some things and organize my soap supplies, which I keep right there in that closet. Before you're too hard on me, you have to remember that the five of us live in 900 square feet. As I was pondering these things and sulking a little bit this morning, I soon realized what I really wanted. A home office. Not going to happen, I know. But what about...a home office IN my closet? Let's start the stopwatch at 9 AM. They said I couldn't make it work. I had doubters. But when all was said and done- we did it!- thanks in part to a healthy dose of screen time for the little ones. A closet office, with a working light! My soap supplies in one place and a spot to sit and work. Mission accomplished. All before my watch said 11 AM. If you are short on space and in need of a tiny office and you have a closet you could shuffle some things around in, why not give it a shot?!

the before and after

Friday, November 14, 2014

Keeping Kids Busy: Let them do "Work"

So Isaiah needs to be busy pretty much every minute of the day.  He's the kind of kid that doesn't just think of constructive (or quiet) things to do on his own. This means that in order to rbing out the very best in him, I am required to have an arsenal of ideas that can redirect quickly and get him outside, even in cooler weather.

This morning as I chopped and cleaned vegetables for soup, I realized I didn't need to walk the scraps out to the compost bin myself! I pulled the seeds out of the squash and put them in a bowl. I put the rest of my leftovers on a little tray that the kids use when they play outside and placed it by the front door. Isaiah and Zion used shovels to "plant" the seeds in my winter garden. Now I realize we aren't going to be harvesting squash from this planting but it was great for learning how to plant. Then they had to transport all kinds of plant scraps to the compost, so I talked to them about compost (like I normally do) and they learned something new. Since they're so little, these habits we're forming are ingraining in their little minds the practices that will hopefully carry through to adulthood. We plant. We compost. This is what we do to take care of the planet! If you want to get really home schooly you can do a little lesson on Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They were in charge of taking care of the plants and the animals and that was important to God.

I've found that the more "important" a task seems to Isaiah and Zion, the more interested they are. If I make an everyday chore fun then they really get into it! I might have to go back later and clean up their mess but it keeps them busy and keeps their minds working. Oh, and they're not in front of a screen. That's refreshing :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ten Minute Fresh Cranberry Sauce

If you have ten minutes, a bag of cranberries, and a half a glass of orange juice, then you've totally got this. I have to admit I love the canned jellied cranberry sauce we eat on Thanksgiving, but this is way better and just as cheap. You can either refrigerate, freeze, or hot water bath can your jars. My recipe makes one pint or two half pint jars of cranberry sauce.

Smooth Cranberry Sauce

One 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries (rinsed well)
One cup of sugar
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of water
the zest of an orange is optional, I didn't but it would add something.

1. On medium high heat, bring all of the ingredients to a boil in a medium pan.
2. Let it boil for about ten minutes, stirring well to prevent scorching. I had to turn my heat down a little bit when I noticed the pan was a little too hot and the sauce was sticking to the bottom. You really want to boil this well so that the cranberries pop and release their juice.
3. Once the mixture is thickened nicely (you can thank all of the pectin in those cranberries), remove from heat and strain with a metal sieve or food mill to remove stems, skins, etc etc.
4. Pour into one pint sized jar or two half pint jars. Be sure to use wide mouth if you want the look of the typical "jellied"cranberry sauce you can 'plop' into a dish and slice for your guests this Thanksgiving :) To get it to come out of the container nicely just run some hot water around the outside of the jar and loosen along the inside rim with a small spatula. It should be served chilled.

If you are having problems with the sauce thickening, you need to boil it longer. I promise this works. And don't use a sugar substitute, because the pectin in the cranberries reacts with the sugar to thicken the mixture once you boil it. It doesn't work the same with splenda/honey/agave nectar you healthy people. The sauce thickens up a lot once you allow it to cool and chill it. I love this recipe on biscuits or with turkey or on a sandwich. Mixed in with vanilla yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon for breakfast. Also just by itself on a spoon. :D

Friday, November 7, 2014

Salt Dough Fall Candle Holders

I can't believe I've never worked with salt dough before now... if you have .50 cents and an afternoon free, you can easily make this project. This woman also gives a good description of how to make them. My step-by-step is listed below!

1.  For the dough (which we LOVED the consistency of) mix 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup flour, and a 1/2 cup of water in a bowl. I used my Kitchen-aid mixer to expedite the process, but you can do it by hand also. If it seems to watery add a little more flour.
2. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out various leaf shapes.
3. Lay the leaf cutouts across bowls and cupcake pans so they keep a nice shape while baking. (see picture below to get a better idea)
4. Bake the bowls/pans at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours.
5. Once they are cool, you can paint! In the same cupcake pans I baked the candle holders on, I mixed a little bit of several paint colors with warm water. We applied the paint to the bowls and let them dry.
6. Fill your candle holders with candles and enjoy the autumnal glow!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

quinoa chickpea burgers with pickled veggies and sriracha mayo

Do you like weird food as much as I do? If so this may be the recipe for you. Ever since trying a Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) at a little shop in Philly, I can't stop thinking about pickled vegetables and spicy flavors with bread. So I gave these burgers a shot and they were even approved by my husband which is big. Nay, HUGE. I also think they're pretty forgiving so if you don't have the exact ingredient the recipe calls for, substitute it for something close. I'm sure another type of bean (black beans maybe?) would be lovely, or Crystal hot sauce instead of sriracha. Whoa, even barbecue sauce would be a good substitute! You can find the recipe after the pictures, below.

 the sriracha mayo
 burgers, before being cooked.
 the star of the show!
 or are these the star? this is what the pickled veggies look like when they're ready.

ingredients for five burgers:

one can of chickpeas
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
1/4 cup of sriracha sauce
one egg
1/2 cup of rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ or bread crumbs
1/2 tsp of salt
dash of pepper

1. Using a food processor, chop the chickpeas until they are pretty well minced, then place them in a large bowl.
2. Next grind the oats in the food processor until they become a fine powder, then place them in the bowl with the chickpeas.
3. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix everything well.
4. Form the mixture into five burger shaped patties.
5. Heat oil (I used olive oil) over medium heat on the stove top, and cook burgers for 4 minutes per side or until crispy and golden.

then for those of you who like toppings...

for the pickled veggies:
If you want to get all crazy, you can make pickled veggies to put on top of your burger. All I do to make anything 'pickled' is to chop up whatever I want to use until it is in fine strips. Sometimes I use a potato peeler to get the strips extra thin and long. Then I heat about 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, and a teaspoon of salt on high heat until it boils. I put the chopped vegetables into a mason jar, making sure to fill the jar to the top. Then just pour the boiling mixture over the veggies, cover with the lid to the jar, and let it sit until you notice them turn a sort of yellowed color. (If you sue cabbage, it will turn a little purply too, but that's from the dye in the cabbage) This takes about an hour for the hot vinegar to really cook your vegetables. You can refrigerate what you don't use and keep it for quite a while! The vinegar is good to keep food preserved when refrigerated.

for the sriracha mayo:
In a bowl, mix equal parts sour cream and mayo. Then- to taste- add salt, pepper, sriracha sauce and lime juice.

Monday, October 27, 2014

five of my favorite festive family things to do in the fall

Was that enough alliteration for you? ... because that's all I've got. 
Here's my list! Maybe it will inspire you to make one or two happen for your family this year. 
Nothing tricky, just good/simple/cheap fun you can have without leaving the house. 

1. Rake the Leaves
The kids accomplished three wonderful things here- helped get our yard cleaned up, used teamwork, and burned up some energy. All good stuff.

2. Drink hot apple cider and snack on cookies.
We love Moods because it's the best, but your apple cider preferences are your business. No judgement.

3. Hang wax-paper leaf garland
I saw these on Pinterest (do you follow me on Pinterest yet?) and gave them a shot at our preschool co-op one week. They were so much easier than I thought! Seriously, it took like ten minutes. Just fold a nice long sheet of wax paper in half and lay leaves on one side of the fold. Close up the paper where it was folded and run a very hot iron over it very quickly. This will seal the paper together. I cut the wax paper after it was finished to give it more of a banner look.

4. Make Crayon Leaf "Drawings"
The kids loved that this project was one they could do all by themselves. Because that's what toddlers really want, right? Place a leaf under a sheet of paper and rub a crayon over top.

5. Bake Pumpkin Pie Granola
This makes your house smell the best ever. It's my regular crunchy granola recipe (here) but instead of cinnamon substitute 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin seeds. So good with yogurt for breakfast, or by itself.

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