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Apr 21, 2014

Strawberry-Lime Syrup

We picked strawberries at a nearby farm on Saturday, and by Tuesday most of them were going bad. I'm talking about coming home with about 10 lb of strawberries! We ate a lot, but still had about 1/3 left. What to do with overripe strawberries? Make syrup of course! 

After removing the hulls and chopping them up, I added sugar and vanilla extract. Cooked the mixture on the stove for about 10 minutes. After tasting it, I found it too sweet. So, I added some fresh lime juice along with lime zest. It was perfect! My family could not wait for the syrup to cool off. They kept taking licks of the warm syrup. 

 We poured some on our favorite vanilla ice cream. 

 And added a few spoonfuls to cold milk to make strawberry milk. I also put a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top with some lime zest.

We mixed strawberry-lime syrup into plain yogurt, topped waffles with it...so far loved it all.

Here is the basic recipe:

1 pint hulled, washed and chopped strawberries
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put in put and cook over medium heat. Bring to boil, cook for a couple more minutes, remove from heat and let it cool.

Since it was too sweet for my taste I added lime juice and zest to taste.

Apr 18, 2014

Book Review: Walden on Wheels

I read so many books, and books are so important to me, it's crazy that I don't write about them more, or ever, on this blog.  But I've always found it difficult to write about books.  I swallow them whole and I feel things deeply about them, but it's hard to find words to describe the experience.  I'm going to try, though, so please be patient with me as I figure out how to do this.

I bought "Walden on Wheels" by Ken Ilguna awhile back when it was a Kindle Daily Deal because I'm a sucker for a Thoreau reference, and because the concept of living in a van to avoid student debt is exactly the sort of romantic idea I'm drawn to in theory even though I've learned I'm way too allergic to hardship to impose it on myself unnecessarily in real life.  That's one of the many things I love about books, you can 'experience' an alternative life while still enjoying your flushable toilet and piped in hot water.

What resonated with me
 Rants against the unconscionable practice of saddling students of all stripes and abilities with huge amounts of debt to get that all important college education which may or may not actually land them a job afterwards; ideas about living simply, how we don't need as much 'stuff' as we think, ideas about following your passions rather than chasing the almighty dollar.

What didn't resonate with me
His extreme self-centeredness.  Yes, when you're young life is all about you, and it seems like keeping yourself free of entanglements is smart, but he hasn't lived long enough to discover that forming bonds with other human beings can do more than tie you down, that those relationships can elevate you and not just be a millstone around your neck, that finding your soulmate and creating an entirely new human being together can be an amazing adventure.  I can't hold it against him, though, some things you don't know until you know.

What made me flinch
Occasional foul language, references to masturbation and other sexual activity, his utter horror when his girlfriend announces she's pregnant (it was a joke), and the casual way he drops her when he's ready to move on to the next phase of his life.

What changed my life
I knew all about "it would be nice". I saw it everywhere. A middle-class family might think it would be nice to have an in-ground swimming pool. A millionaire might think it would be nice to have a yacht. A billionaire, a private jet. The desires never stop.
I knew that there were people living in real poverty- people who could really use an opportunity to move up. Someone, somewhere, might think it would be nice to have food to feed her family. Someone, somewhere might think it would be nice to be enrolled in college. Someone, somewhere might think it would be nice to have potable water to drink, a job to work at, and a roof over his head. Someone, somewhere- I was sure- might think it would be nice to be in my situation. What if I thought it would be nice to be me?
After reading this, I find myself automatically turning around self-pitying thoughts.  I think, "It would be nice to have a deeper bathtub, where my whole body could be under water at once," and right behind that thought comes this one, "It's nice to have hot water.  And a tub.  And a private bathroom. And time to take a bath."  Or I think, "It would be nice if our budget weren't so tight,", then my brain fills in with, "It's nice to have an income, and a comfortable home, and plenty of food to eat and clothes to wear and cars to drive and really are you going to complain?  Because your standard of living is higher than most people who have ever lived in the history of the world."  The examples go on and on.  This is a great tool for practicing gratitude.  I am grateful to have read this book, in spite of its flaws.   I won't be packing our family of five into the minivan for a life on the road anytime soon, but it was a needed reminder that the stuff is just stuff, and we need to stay the master of it, not the other way around.

Apr 14, 2014

DIY Painted Hungarian {folk} Easter Eggs

It is no secret that I love Hungarian folk art. I have always admired painted Easter eggs with our folk motifs.
Aren't these gorgeous? 

 Clearly mine do not come even near the ones above. I lack the skills and patience.
However, I really wanted to try to make some and did not feel confident that I could paint straight on the wooden eggs I picked up at Hobby Lobby. I was not even sure I could manage to draw the designs onto the curved eggs. I knew I could draw better on flat surface, so I had to try a couple different things to make it work.
 To start with, I painted the eggs one color. Then traced the egg shape on paper and drew a folk design inside the outline.
Turned the paper and traced my design on the back as well, going over the pencil lines a couple times. Then holding the paper on the egg (with the double traced design on the bottom) I again traced the design. Removed the paper and the pencil lines showed well. I had to fill in the design here and there.

Then simply painted the eggs. Once the paint dried, I gently erased the pencil lines. 

That's it. And if you are far away enough and squint your eyes, you can't even see the mistakes!

this post was linked up to: Wow Me Wednesday

Apr 11, 2014

Általános Konferencia Napló - General Conference Study Journal in Hungarian

{You knew it was coming. I simply had to make one in my native language. The rest of this post will be in Hungarian.} 

Kedves Magyar Mormonok,

Konferencia az mindig is különleges. Az élő próféta, apostolok és az egyház vezetősége beszél hozzánk, és  az a mi feladatunk hogy tanulmányozzuk, megértsük, és engedelmeskedjünk a szavaikra. Itt élve, sokat tanultam arról hogy hogyan lehet tanulmányozni otthon a szentírásokat és konferencia beszédeket. Az egyik eszköz, amit itt sokan használnak, az a napló, vagy tanulmányi napló. Az évek során észrevettem hogy én jobban emlékszem a próféta szavaira és tanácsára, ha nemcsak olvasom és aláhúzom ami tetszik vagy amit fontosnak tartok, hanem ha egy céllal tanulmányozom a beszédeket. A kinyomtatható napló amit csináltam az az én módszerem a beszédek tanulmányozására. Mindig megkeresem és leírom a tanácsokat és figyelmeztetéseket. Kedvenc idézeteket szeretem sokszor fejből megtanulni. Jó leirni milyen tanokat hallok a beszélőtöl, például a ha a megváltás tervéről hallok. A sajat gondolataimat is szeretem leírni, hogy nekem mit jelentett a beszéd és persze hogy mire inspirált. Célokat tűzök ki,  például hogy jobb látogató tanitó legyek. Végül leírom hogyan tudom a célom elérni, mit kell ahhoz csinálnom. A napló oldalak amiket magyarul csináltam, mindezeket tartalmazza. Remélem ez segíteni fog nektek is.

A link a letölthető PDF oldalakra az ennek a bejegyzésnek a végén van, a képek alatt.

A címlap az a mostani konferenciára készült, a napló oldalait lehet használni bármelyik konferenciára. Mikor kinyomtatod az oldalakat, ne illeszd a nyomtató terület méretét a margóra.

 A képek az oldalakról

Innen letöltheted a PDF iratokat. Itt van a címlap, KATTINTS IDE és a napló oldalaihoz KATTINTS IDE. 

Conferencia General Diario de Estudio Personal - General Conference Study Journal in Spanish

Because a reader asked, I made a Spanish version of the General Conference Study Pages from this previous post. It is a simpler version, I changed the first page of the journal to be used as a generic page. Of course I could not have done this without the help of a friend from our church, who translated everything.

You can download the COVER PAGE HERE.
Download the file Conferencia General Diario de Estudio Personal HERE 

IMPORTANT: when printing, make sure not to select fit to printable area, or scale to margins etc.

 IMPORTANTE: al imprimir, asegúrese de no seleccionar Ajustar a área de impresión, o escalar a los márgenes, etc.

                                            And here are the PNG files

Apr 9, 2014

April 2014 General Conference Personal Study Journal (FREE printable)

Making this journal was definitely a labor of love. It is a huge printable {40 pages just to download}. However, it was worth the time and loss of sleep.  I will explain bellow how to have it printed and how you can assemble it. Links for downloading the PDF files will be at the end of this post.

To all of our readers who do not know what General Conference is: In our church ( The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) General Conference is a special 2 day event, when we get to hear talks (or sermons) from the leadership of our church which includes a living prophet and apostles.

 It is a spiritual feast and in order to help my fellow sisters (and myself) to study and savor each talk, I put together this journal. I encourage you all to visit the General Conference page (HERE), linger and read. Or watch the videos. I promise, it will not be a waste of time.

 Pictures of the files:
2 covers to choose from

You can right click to save the journal cover to your computer or you can download the PDF file (which is slightly different) at the end of this post. 

To assemble:

- 3 ring view binder (the one with the clear sleeve in front and back)
- whole puncher

Print the journal cover in color and place it in the front sleeve of the binder.
From the General Conference Journal files, print pages 1-36. On the other side of these print page 37 (36 times). Print pages 38 & 39 (36 times) back to back. Page 40 is for additional notes, print as many times as needed. Punch holes and insert into binder. Each talk has it's own first page and the 3 additional pages for journaling. 

IMPORTANT: when printing, make sure not to select fit to printable area, or scale to margins etc. 

this post was linked up to: Wow Me Wednesday

Apr 7, 2014

Knitting as Feminism

This came up over dinner tonight, one of my daughters gave me the perfect lead-in to pull this out.  It's one of those passages that made me want to stand up and cheer the first time I read it, and has lived in my head for years now, changed the way I fundamentally look at life. From the intro to Debbie Stoller's great book on knitting:
When I'd tell people about my latest obsession, I'd invariably get one of two responses. The first, "Can you teach me, too?" was a common and very welcome reply.  But other friends responded with "Really?" or "How interesting," both spoken with an air of disbelief, even a touch of disdain.  After all, I had gotten a Ph.D. in the psychology of women and had started BUST, a feminist magazine- what was I doing knitting?  Soon it occured to me that if I had told these folks I'd been playing soccer, or learning karate, or taken up carpentry, they most likely would have said, "Cool," because a girl doing a traditionally male activity- now that's feminist, right?  But a girl doing a traditionally female activity- let alone one as frivolous and time-wasting as knitting- well, what were they to make of that? 
It made me rethink my original feminist position.  After all, it had been thirty years since the feminist revolution of the 1970s and housewives as we knew them had pretty much gone the way of the dinosaur, so why, dammit, wasn't knitting receiving as much respect as any other hobby? Why was it still so looked down on?  It seemed to me that the main difference between knitting and, say, fishing or woodworking or basketball, was that knitting had traditionally been done by women.  As far as I could tell, that was the only reason it had gotten such a bad rap.  And that's when it dawned on me:  All those people who looked down on knitting- and housework, and housewives- were not being feminist at all.  In fact, they were being anti-feminist, since they seemed to think that only those things that men did, or had done, were worthwhile.  Sure, feminist had changed the world, and young girls all across the country had formed soccer leagues, and were growing up to become doctors and astronauts and senators.  But why weren't boys learning to knit and sew?  Why couldn't we all- women and men alike- take the same kind of pride in the work our mothers had always done as we did in the work of our fathers?  
"Pretty deep for a knitting book," as my daughter said when I was done reading.  It is.  It's gotten me all worked up now.  I hope that my children can be on the vanguard of a new school of thought, and teach their children that it's okay for boys and girls to do to 'girl' things as well as 'boy' things.  Yes, there are often things that boys are just drawn to that girls generally aren't, and vice versa.  But I'd love to see a generation that cheers on the child who loves knitting just as much as the child who loves math- or even better, where the child who loves knitting doesn't write math off, but gets into it as s/he starts writing original patterns; and the child who loves math doesn't write knitting off, but gets into it when s/he realizes that knitting is just a three dimensional math problem, which when correctly solved gives you something warm to wear!

Apr 4, 2014

DIY Easter Egg Puzzle {FREE printable}

We love puzzles and I really wanted to design a simple but fun DIY block puzzle. Since Easter is around the corner, and I love colorful Easter eggs - well, things just fell into place. 

This simple puzzle is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers and  for teaching colors!

What you need: 

- 1-1/2 inch wood blocks (found at your local craft store usually in bags of 6)
- printed egg puzzle page - link at the bottom of this post (I highly recommend using a printing service and print these on card stock.)
- Modge Podge

 Cut the egg puzzle tiles out and glue them on the block. There are 6 colors for each side of the wood block. Make sure you do not glue on a certain color more than once on one block. I would also keep the different colored egg parts the same on a block. For example, glue all the top left egg puzzle tiles in 6 different colors on one block.

 If your cutting skills are not perfect, no worries. You can always adjust it later.


this post was linked up to: Wow Me Wednesday

Apr 3, 2014

9 Fantastic Family Games To Play

Our family is really into games. Board games, card games - we love games. And we have a ton of games. Rachel has been asking me to share some games with her and I simply keep forgetting. I remembered only because I just e-mailed her a long list of books we read and loved. And it reminded me another list I was supposed to send her. So, here are a few games (totally random) from our massive collection of games that we like to play.  I will elaborate a bit about each and include links as well.

Click on the name of the games (in bold) to see them on Amazon (nope, not getting paid to link there.)

King of Tokyo - my kids and husband love this game. I have not yet played it, but from what I hear it is really good and fun. So both you and I have to take their word for it. Just a note, I guess you really need the expansion for ultimate fun.

Power Grid - and expansions. Basically you build power plants to supply cities with electricity and you need resources of course to power them with and you try to block others from building etc. A classic.

Ticket To Ride (different versions) - you build trains to go from city to city! Way fun, you need to complete routes to gain points. And really good for geography as well! My kids are pretty good at knowing where the major cities are in the US and in Europe.

Enchanted Forest - this game is for younger kids. Basically a memory board game - that can challenge a grown up too. We enjoy it and my younger kids really like it.

Carcassonne (and expansions) - OK. My husband and kids play this game. A lot. My 8 year can play it. They love it. For some reason I cannot get attached to it. It is all tiles, you build castles, fields, roads etc by placing tiles you draw from a bag and try to complete areas by claiming them and making sure you are the last person to place the tile you need to finish it.

Survive Escape Atlantis (and expansions) - LOVE this game! It is so fun and the pieces are amazing. And the concept - first of all it is Atlantis! You start on the island of Atlantis with your cute little people that you need to save because the island is falling apart. You flip the island tiles one by one to find out what happens. Mainly bad stuff. Like being eaten by a nice wooden shark. Or be sucked into a whirl pool. Or simply get dumped into the ocean (if you are lucky). You try to save your people by putting them into boats and trying to get them to shore. But whales can turn your boats and the passengers end up in the water. Hopefully with no sharks around. Worse case a sea serpent will come, turn over your boat and gobble up everyone. Fun game! Really! It is fun. Obviously most of your people will get eaten. Still a fun game.

Dominion (and expansions) - This is a card game. With hundreds of cards. But it is really fun. There are action cards, victory cards and money cards. Action card let you do 1 or more actions. Some are pretty mean, some build, some help you gain victory cards or money. Good game.

Munckin (and expansions) - another game we LOVE. It is a card game and it is hilarious! Pokes fun at Dungeons and Dragons. You get to be a race (like elf or can stay human) with special abilities (not if you are a human) and have a class (like thief) and have spacial things you can do. So you can be an elf thief who fights monsters (like the Giant Teddy Bear who hugs you a bit too tight) to level up. There are treasures to be had as well. Like new armor or funky drinks to help you in battle. Or you can level up just because. Fun game!

Catan Junior - we are huge Catan fans and my younger kids love this version. They are too young for the original game and outgrew Kids of Catan. So this is a great in-between game.

Mar 31, 2014

Love Where You Live- Music in the Streets

My husband is really great at finding new and interesting things for our family, whether they be books, music, or places to eat.  He's the one who introduced me to Connie Willis, who is now in my personal sacred pantheon of authors who have helped me understand eternity.  He's always introducing our in house band, ie. the children, to great new music by talented singer/songwriters.  

So last week when he said he heard about this great new restaurant we just had to try that was like Chipotle but with Greek food, I should have paid attention, but I really only half-listened and thought maybe we'd get around to it some week when our budget wasn't stressing me out so much.  But he made it happen.  After a Saturday evening church meeting, we all headed over to Cava Mezze Grill.  If you don't live in the D.C. area, I'm sorry, because for now it's a local chain, but I think they have plans to expand and some day when it comes to your city you can say you read about it here first.  The menu was simple, like Chipotle, the food was delicious, and the chalkboard on the wall listing the local farms from which they source their ingredients made me swoon.  It's a little pricier than Chipotle (locally sourced ingredients, plus compostable dinnerware), so we probably won't go back with the whole family any time soon, but we'll definitely be back for a date night:)  

After that, I needed some fennel for a beef stew I was going to make the next day (using this recipe from Founding Farmers, another great place that sources its ingredients locally).  There was a M.O.M.'s around the corner, a local organic grocery store chain, so we decided to walk there.  As we walked along, oogling all the shops we could never afford to actually shop in, my oldest started hyperventilating, "Look, look over there!"  I thought, gosh, even a cupcake shop wouldn't get her that excited, what could it possibly be?  It was a piano, just sitting out on the sidewalk for anyone to play.  

My kids weren't shy at all (those poor homeschooled kids, they just don't know how to act in public, they don't know that teenagers are supposed to be self-conscious and sullen).  They played and sang together, song after song, earning smiles and nods from passersby.  It was a beautiful, unplanned moment that reminded us once again that the best things in life are free.  The kids are clamoring to go back.  Maybe next time we'll set out a hat and their can earn their own dinner.  (J/K, mostly.)

Mar 28, 2014

Pan Fried Deliciousness

We haven't had pork chops for years, but I finally found a source that was local, antibiotic and hormone free, vegetable fed, humanely raised, etc. I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe and everything she says about it is true. My husband and children think I'm a goddess.  This is her picture, because my food photography skills are not that awesome, and it was dark when we ate.  They turned out just like this, though.

I tweaked it a little, because I didn't have the exact spice called for, and just because I can't make a recipe without tweaking.  In the dredging flour mixture, I didn't have seasoned salt, and didn't want cayenne pepper, but I threw in some smoked salt we had and some paprika.  Instead of frying the pork chops in canola oil, I used a mixture of bacon fat and ghee, just because my canola oil was smelling a little off.  Also, I used a meat thermometer to determine cooking time.  I've learned that a good digital thermometer is the key to tender meats.  The Pioneer Woman says to cook the chops 2-3 minutes on each side, and maybe she's experienced enough to know when it's done just by looking, but your actual cooking time could vary quite a bit depending on the thickness of your chops and the temperature of your burner.  The new USDA recommendations on pork say you can cook it to 145 degrees, so that's what I did, and these were perfect, tender, juicy, and delicious.  My husband kept walking by and saying, "Whatever you're cooking in there smells delicious.", and once we got to the table, there were audible sighs of delight from many quarters.  The consensus was that pork chop night should be a weekly thing- which it can't be because these awesome grass fed, local, organic chops are a little too expensive for that, but it was gratifying to get such rave reviews for a pretty quick and easy meal.

Mar 25, 2014

Brain Hat, or Why I Love Homeschooling

Lately I've been even busier than usual.  I've gone back to school, and even though my class load is light, it's taking a lot more of my time than I expected it would.  My older two are pretty independent in their schoolwork, but I've been feeling guilty that I haven't had time to do any of those quirky little side projects that make homeschooling fun with my nine year old.  So last week when I was taking a quick study break and spotted  this link on Pinterest I impulsively printed it up.

If I hadn't been so busy and stressed, I probably would have done all the cutting, folding, and taping by myself, and then looked up some information about the brain and put together a little lesson to present to my son along with the hat.  Instead, I handed him the sheets and told him to follow the directions and let me know if he needed any help.  I figured that at the least it would amuse him for ten minutes, and I could pretend like I'm still a cool homeschooling mom, and maybe if he wore the hat some of that information would leak into his head by osmosis.  

Sometimes I wonder how I've been doing this homeschooling thing for so long and still have so little faith in how it all works.

This is what happened:
1) He managed the cutting, folding, and most of the taping by himself.
2) He figured out the the Frontal Lobe should go in the front when he put the hat on.
3) He rigged something up with a shoebox and some pipe cleaners, attached the brain hat to it, and made a brainwashing machine, a la Calvin and Hobbes.

All good fun.  He enjoyed sneaking up on the rest of us when we were sitting on the couch immersed in our computer screens, dropping the hat on our heads, and pretending to brainwash us.  It amused him for much longer than ten minutes.  Success.

Then here's what happened a few days later:
4) He googled some of those big words labeling the different areas of the brain hat.
5) He told me what he learned, and as we talked, he learned how to pronounce "parietal" and "occipital" correctly.
6) I told him I'd read some new research about how something like 'brain cells' are actually located in different parts of our body, and we googled that together and discovered that there are over a million 'brain cells' in our gut.
6) He googled some more, and figured out which parts of the brain are responsible for different things we do, like vision, gross motor movement, decision-making, etc.
7) He gleefully drove the rest of us crazy spending an entire afternoon walking around with the brain hat on, giving us an out loud narration of which parts of his brain were engaged at any given time.
8) As I was frying pork chops for dinner, he announced that the brain in his stomach passed up the brain in his head a long time ago, and "It's all your fault 'cause of all your good cooking."  Thanks?

I haven't been able to catch him in good lighting to take a picture of him wearing the hat.  My husband says I shouldn't post one on the internet anyway for his future employers to see.  But what if he's applying for a job as a neuroscientist?

Mar 19, 2014

Peg People Pirate Clothes {FREE} Printable

For my youngest son's birthday, I needed to make a lot of pirate peg people. A lot. Every time I sat down to paint, I found an excuse to get away. I like painting. But painting a bunch of peg people for a birthday party...too much. Then after designing a cute printable robot puzzle, I thought I could tackle making peg clothes.

So, making peg pirates just got a whole lot easier! Just print, cut and paste! Perfect when you need to make a a dozen (or more) peg pirates!

Materials needed: 
- printed peg clothes page with 2 pirate clothes template {For the FREE Printable click HERE}
- scissors
- little wooden people size 3-9/16 inches tall (large man body, you can buy some here or check your local craft store)
- matte Modge Podge
- paint brush
- acrylic paint

Cut template, making sure to include the white rectangle at the end. With a brush, paint matte Modge Podge on the back of the template and starting with the white rectangle end piece, wrap around the peg doll, covering the white end piece. You may need to apply slight pressure at the seam for a few seconds to help the glue hold.

Add details with paint and paint brush, such as eyes, bandanna and hair. If needed, paint can be sanded off with sandpaper. (Do not use Sharpie markers! They bleed and cannot be sanded off the wood.)
To seal, simply brush matte Modge Podge over the peg dolls and let dry.

For the pirate clothes seen in this picture (not included in the free download)  click HERE.

That's it! Enjoy!

linked at: Make it and Love itI Heart NaptimeWhipperberryTidy Mom, Lil'LunaSomewhat Simple, Tatertots and JelloToday's Creative Blog,Flamingo Toes Craft-O-Maniac, Wow Me Wednesday