Sunday, July 24, 2016


A few weeks ago, I watched this video by Morgan Spurlock at the prompting of my husband.  I enjoyed the stories of the five artisans he interviews and portrays.  This morning the video came to my mind because of the contrasting portions of my day.

In the morning, we traveled to Annapolis, Maryland, and spent part of the morning walking around downtown.  We enjoyed window shopping though we didn't buy anything until I purchased a small pair of earrings at our last stop.  My family's favorite stores were the Woodcraft Artisans store and Nautical North.  Both were stores where we appreciated what someone had made.

I didn't make anything yesterday.  But, I did reuse things already in my house so that I ended up only spending $7 to rearrange part of our bedroom.

I began by going to Target and buying a shoe rack and a belt hanger.  I returned home from my trip to Target and began trying to rearrange our bedroom to make it simpler.   A friend of mine were discussing organization this week.  She had been working on her homeschool room and I had been purging my books that I store in the basement.

She and I both agreed that...
a) purging happens multiple times.
     The first time you purge, you are able to let go of a few things.  The next time, whether it be a few weeks or months later, you are able to let go of a few more (sometimes many more).
b) simplifying means less clutter
c) rearranging sometimes takes multiple attempts before one gets it to the best arrangement

In the case of my bedroom, the belt hanger (which was cheaper and better than all options available on Amazon) worked great.  I remembered once I got home that I had a second shoe rack being used as a shelf in our basement.  I rearranged some things down there and brought it up stairs to the closet.  I rearranged the shoes and finally was able to remove an extra shelving from our bedroom.  Over the years, I see more and more that less furniture is More--more space, more breathing room.  Next, I pulled out a 3 drawer wooden organizer that I had bought at a garage sale a few weeks ago for $3.  It was just what my husband needed to put on top of his dresser.  I pick up organizers all the time at garage sales and am always surprised at the purposes I find for them.  In this case, IKEA doesn't sell this organizer in the states anymore, but it is about $24 overseas.

Voila!  Just what we needed and finally our bedroom feels like it has what we need after 4 1/2 years.

One of the accidental things that happened along the way was that our air conditioning vent is finally open to a larger space.  It hadn't been covered up, but it was boxed in by dressers on two sides and a wall on the third.  Now, it's open on two sides.  When I woke this morning, I realized that my bedroom felt more comfortable.  I hadn't realized what a difference this one facet of the rearrangement would make, though I had hoped.  Earlier this week, I had rearranged our laundry room and uncovered the air conditioning vent that was under a table.  That room has felt cooler ever since.

I'm very thankful this morning.  I get to return the shoe rack and save $25!

Do you do this?  Do you rearrange rooms periodically?  Does it make you smile when it's done?  Do you reuse things in your home in a new way?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Summer Desserts

I did not want to turn on the oven tonight!  But, I really wanted to make a dessert for my family.  So, I thought about my options.

1.  Ice cream.

But, we'd already had pizza--that would be a lot of dairy ;)

2.  Rice Krispie Treats.

No Rice Krispies in the house--but definitely one for me to remember in the future.  I'm going to pick up some Rice Krispies this week for the next time I need a quick, cool dessert!

3.  Chocolate Milk Shake

Dairy, again, and that's what we had last night for dessert.

4.  The winner--chocolate dipped pretzels

I have milk chocolate and white chocolate wafers in the pantry that I keep on hand for special treats.  I melted just a few, pulled out small twist pretzels that had already been opened, and put a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet.  I let the girls go to town dipping pretzels and using every last bit of chocolate.  After only 10-15 minutes, the chocolate was hard and we dessert!

Other ideas I had for a cool, non-baked dessert...

Chocolate covered Peanut Butter Balls (aka Bulls Eyes)
Pudding (instant, not cooked over a stove)
Tapioca--a little cooking on the stove, but cool to eat once it's been chilled
Juice Popsicles

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Duct Tape

I have to admit I love duct tape.  Last night, I was talking with my husband and one of our friends about one of the gutters on the backside of our house.  It likes to leak.  (One of my neighbor's solution to their leaky gutter was just to take it down!) So last year, I wrapped a piece of duct tape around it to seal it.  I had to redo it a few weeks ago to reseal it, but the duct tape has worked great.

I used it again this morning.  On my dryer.  It has had this funny quirk lately.  The door pops open just slightly sometimes when clothes push against it--turning it off.  So, I decided to try duct tape.  I placed a piece on the door to hold it more securely to the dryer.  It worked!  I have been able to use and reuse the same piece for several loads.  I am thankful!  My dryer shall live on without major repair for a little longer...

When I was a kid, I didn't learn anything about repairing or taking care of houses.  But, as an adult, I've needed to learn all sorts of things.  I have found that it feels better to fix something than to throw it away.  To reuse, rather than buy anew.  I've also found that it's often easy to think what our culture tells us every day through the advertising that perpetually permeates our lives-- "if something breaks, go get a new one."

My husband's favorite books are Shopclass as Soulcraft and the second book by the same author, Matthew B. Crawford.  Shopclass is a book about doing.  We live in a world that is becoming more and more disposable and virtual reality has become true reality in most people's minds.  Video Games are preferred to real "doing" things.  There are good reasons for this--skiing on a video game is cheaper than going skiing.  A driving game is cheaper than big R/C cars.  But, it's not just that video games and the like are cheaper--they're more convenient.  Kids can do them on their own instead of needing parental help and involvement.

Recently, my husband wanted me to watch a documentary titled Crafted, a film by Morgan Spurlock. It's a short film about doing, not just living vicariously through technology.  Spurlock interviews some knife makers, potters, and other other artisans.  The first time my husband saw it, he wondered if we were pursuing the type of art in any way in our lives as a family.   After the second time watching it, my husband explained that we are.  We cook food from scratch, seek to reuse and repurpose items in our home, I write curriculum for my kids' schooling, he enjoys playing the piano as much as his fingers allow him to...

This weekend we went to a hobby shop and purchased large Radio Control (R/C) cars for our kids to enjoy with my husband.  He loved R/C cars in high school and understood the ins and outs of them.  The kids had a lot of fun with them.  Our plan this week is for them to build a track in our backyard for the cars.  I asked one of my kids afterwards which was better--MarioKart or the R/C cars.  There was no question in my child's mind--R/C won hands down!

I find that it takes energy to do, but that it is more rewarding.  It's easy to fear for our culture that we are turning into a people lost in tech, but weekends like this past one encourage me to remember that many people are choosing to do.  The hobby shops were getting shoppers--they weren't empty.  So, now my mind is turning to ways I can foster the desire to "do" in my kids--showing them the appeal of doing!

Venturing into New Seafood Waters

Seafood is one of those foods that is best cooked precisely.  Unfortunately, I am not the precise kind of cook.  I tend to modify recipes and throw in this and that as I cook.  So, I generally steer clear of Seafood.

But, my love of seafood periodically draws me back.  My anniversary is this week so I wanted to fix something special for my husband out of the blue.  On a whim, I bought some mussels while at Costco.  I knew just where to go look for a recipe when I got home.  Recently, I got a new Seafood cookbook titled Fresh Fish: A fearless guide to grilling, shucking, searing, poaching, and roasting seafood by Jennifer Trainer Thompson.  I opened up the cookbook to the index, found a recipe for steaming mussels, and set to work!

Cookbooks vary a lot.  Some have many pictures, some have none.  Some have horrible formatting that make them difficult to read because the color of the font is too light to read, the font itself is hard to focus on, or even because there are too many words on a page!  As for the actual content, some recipes are written well, making them easy to follow--while other cookbooks miss steps or even ingredients!

I do have another standby fish cookbook that I love--James Peterson's Fish & Shellfish.  This has been my go to fish cookbook for years.  But, it's not a simple, easy to use cookbook.  I also have another one that I use for the simplest recipes, Seafood: A Collection of Heart-Healthy Recipes by Janis Harsila and Evie Hansen.  I've used both of these for years.  Peterson's for shellfish and more complex fish recipes, Harsila's for the simplest nights when I pan fry or bake fish.  But, neither have pictures.  Neither are particularly appealing cookbooks visually,  Peterson's does have a section of pictures in the middle, though they aren't right by the recipes.  Harsila's cookbook has a lot of older recipes that no one would cook today since it is thirty years old.  So, it made a lot of sense for me to go to Fresh Fish when I wanted to cook Mussels.

The recipe I found in this cookbook was easy to follow, simple to understand, and was spot on.  My husband and I both loved the mussels I cooked Friday night.  We let my kids try one or two and they loved them as well, which was quite surprising to me.  I did make one simple substitution of minced red onion for the shallots (because I didn't have any), but it still tasted great.  There was a separate

Jennifer Trainer Thompson put together a great cookbook.  The pictures make the food appealing.  The directions are easy to follow and formatted well.  Colored font was used for the recipe titles, headings, and step numbers, but thankfully not for the ingredient names and step directions so they can be easily read.  One issue I take with many cookbooks is using too many odd ingredients, but this cookbook doesn't do that.  I was pleased that there was only the occasional ingredient that would need a trip to a specialty foods store.

There were a few cases where I think there should have been pictures of the recipe steps rather than extraneous (but interesting) pictures of other things.  One example is the Seaweed Sushi Roll Recipe.  I make sushi regularly for my kids, but I wouldn't recommend following this recipe.  First, she said to chop the avocado and vegetables.  Instead, when making sushi the cook should julienne the vegetables (including the avocado).  If you did want to chop them, it would need to be a fine mince of the vegetables.  Also, wrapping the bamboo in plastic wrap is not so simple.  You have to wrap both sides of the map so that the plastic wrap will stay on it.  One last note, when spreading the rice on the seaweed paper, getting your hands wet periodically will help you spread it--which she does note.  I'm glad she mentioned that.  

This fish cookbook is going to likely have a place on my shelf for a long time!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey Books.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Those Horse People

Last Friday, my middle daughter fell off a horse and broke her hand.  She proceeded to get back on and ride for the rest of the trail ride.  In the afternoon, I went to pick her up from horse camp and I noticed her hand.  Mom's response?

You can probably guess my response.  I saw it and knew that I needed to get her to the doctor.  By the end of the day, she had a splint on it from Prompt Care and we knew she had fractured her hand.

On Monday, I took her to a hand surgeon who confirmed that it was a nondisplaced fracture and that she didn't need surgery or a cast, but a hard splint for 4 weeks.  Yahoo!

But, the Occupational Therapist's response to my daughter when she asked her how she fell and learned about the trail ride was... Oh, you're one of those horse people.

I chuckled.  Yes, my daughter loves horses.  She's one of those horse people...  And because she loves horses, she reads so many horse stories and loves horse activity books.

Recently, I received one in the mail that she just loved.  Storey Books published a new Horse activity book for girls called Horse Play, by Deanna F. Cook and Katie Craig.

The book starts out with a little horse trivia, a horse breed section with stickers to put on the horses that you've seen and a big sticker to put on a horse bank.  My daughter immediately came in and asked me for a jar to make a horse bank!  Her goal is to save up for some new riding pants or boots.  The book includes fun ideas for some easy horse crafts, a poster, bookmarks, sticker activities, and more.

As a mom, I love that this book has a variety of activities.  Some will only take a few minutes, but others will take much more time.  The photos/illustrations, directions, and formatting all make this book easy to understand and read.

This book is perfect for girls ages 7-11 years old.  A few years ago, I gave my daughter a copy of the American Girl book, Oodles of Horses.  She enjoyed it.  It's a similar type of book, but they have different activities and things to do in them.  If you have a daughter that loved Oodles of Horses, she'll definitely love Horse Play.  If I was choosing one to buy first, I'd choose this one if your daughter wanted to have a horse themed party, because there is a set of ideas on how to throw a great party!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of Horse Play from Storey Books for review.