Thursday, June 30, 2011

52 Weeks of Happiness: I love feeding seagulls!





We just got back from our trip to the beach... and one of the coolest activities that we did cost less than a buck. We went to the grocery store and bought a bag of the cheapest white bread that we could find, found a secluded area, and just started throwing the bread in the air. Pretty soon it was like being cast into the middle of that famous Hitchcock movie... birds all around. The kids were in heaven. I had to bite back the urge to run screaming, but once I started snapping photos of the kids and caught a little of their excitement all my fears were gone.

The pictures below are from a couple of years ago. I love the look on my little ones face when she experienced seagulls for the first time. This time was no different.





lollipops

I also won this nifty award... How cool is that?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Makeover Monday: Taking a Short Cut to the Beach.

This weeks Makeover Monday will be a bit different. I have been so busy with summer fun that I didn't have time to try any new makeover recipes from the kitchen... Instead I did something drastic. I chopped it all off in preparation for a trip to the beach. On Saturday I went in and got my locks cut to right at my chin. I love how it looks and feels. My annual "just chop it all off" trip to the salon was a bit more drastic than most years... but I'm so glad that I did it.
I was a bit scared at first (not about cutting it... I do that every year) but about the stylist lack of confidence. He talked too much and just seemed nervous about doing something so drastic. I'm a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to getting my hair cut. I don't really understand it, but for some reason, even though I only get my hair cut a couple of times a year I hate spending a lot for a new doo. So I went to Great Clips and as I was sitting there with more than half my locks on the floor I noticed how crooked it was. I guess it is intimidating cutting off almost a years worth of growth... but he got it right in the end and I am happy with the results.

So what does your summer doo look like? Is it the same as your winter look... or do like to try something new?

Please leave a comment and let me know... I won't be using the linking tool this week... if you have a makeover tip just leave your link in the comment section... And don't forget to stop by and visit the Zany Housewife.

Cheers,
Jenn

Update on the PITS project... We went camping this past week and the whole natural deodorant project got put on hold. My husband decided to go native and so our camping week will be the control week for the project. He will be using the apple cider vinegar this week. I already packed it up for the trip and I'll let you know how it goes. Thankfully we are pretty poor and won't be visiting any fine dining establishments while we are at the beach. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Little Spoon With A Big Mission.

Tomorrow I am setting up a geocache and releasing two travel bugs. What is a travel bug you ask? You may even be asking what is a geocache... Well here is the story.

A few months ago I attended a Texas Parks and Wildlife class about geocaching. I was at my second BOW retreat (becoming and outdoors woman) and it was one of the offered classes. I had heard of geocaching, but when I walked into the classroom I had no idea what to expect... I had no idea that this would become a new obsession for me and my family.

What I found out was that geocaching is outdoor treasure hunting using a GPS device. It is done on a very large scale. People from all over the world hide containers, small and large, all over the place and then log the coordinates online for other people to find. You probably walk right by geocaches every day and have no idea that they are there.

A travel bug is an item, any item, that you attach a special tag to that allows you to track it's progress (using a tracking number). You place it in a geocache and send it out into world with a mission. The missions vary: some travel bugs simply want to travel as much as possible, some want to be photographed in exotic locations, some hope to increase awareness for a cause. There are countless reasons a person might send out one of these bugs. One of the travel bugs I'm releasing is a tiny measuring spoon.

This spoon was given to me by my mother when I went off to college. It is one of only two measuring spoons left from my first kitchen. It has been used to cook countless meals that have been enjoyed by many and I would like to pass the cooking bug along to as many people as possible. So the goal of this little spoon is to travel from place to place, inspiring people to cook and share a home cooked meal with their friends and family. I'm asking people to post a photo of the spoon with their home cooked meal... and send the recipe along to me. I would like to track it's travels here on my blog.

I'll have to see what happens and keep you posted.

The other travel bug I'm releasing is a crocheted finger puppet that I will be tracking on my other blog Worth a Knit. Stop by and read it's story if you are interested.



lollipops


For the next few weeks my posts may be a bit sporadic. Summer is in high gear around here. This week we went camping at Krause Springs...As a result of our summer travels I missed this weeks 52 Weeks of Happiness and What I love Wednesday. Since geocaching falls under both of these categories I thought I'd share this post... It's a little late I know... but better late than never. I'll post photos of some of our summer adventures soon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Makeover Monday: This Job is the Pits!

My husband worked his last day for this school year on Thursday. Summer vacation has officially started in our household and it has already been an activity packed few days. I expected my husband to get off work on Thursday, pop open a beer, prop up his feet, and sigh with relief to know that his work year was at an end. Instead he surprised me by proclaiming "WoooHoooo! I don't have to wear shoes, shave, or put on deodorant for the next six weeks." THEN he popped open a beer, propped up his feet, and sighed with relief to know that his work year was at an end.

I'm usually pretty tolerant to his crazy plans and schemes... but I was about to respond to his proclamation with a predictable "you'll wear deodorant if you want to have anything to do with me for the next six weeks"... when that cartoon light bulb appeared above my head and an idea began to form. I asked my husband if he would mind being my Makeover Monday guinea pig for the next month and a half. He responded with an enthusiastic YES.

So dear ladies (and gentlemen) for the few weeks we are going to be conducting a natural deodorant experiment in the name of science. We will attempt to find out if any natural products really fight body odor... or if it's all just a bunch of hippy bull $h!+.

We started our little experiment yesterday. Our first trial is going to be apple cider vinegar. I read that the vinegar is suppose to kill odor causing bacteria. It won't stop a person from sweating, but it is suppose to keep your sweat from smelling bad. We also have plans on trying a mixture using baking soda and cornstarch, and then a spray using witch hazel and sage oil (which is supposed to be a natural antiperspirant). Unfortunately we will also have to have a week to set up the control where he wears nothing at all.

If anyone has a recipe for any other natural deodorants please feel free to email me or leave it in the comment section.

Wish me luck!

Cheers,
Jenn





As always leave a comment, post a link, and be sure to stop by the Zany Housewife's blog for more makeover mayhem.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I love Zucchini

I'm a little embarrassed to write this but... I love zucchini!



I always thought that it was a cucumber featured in this famous scene, but according to Spinal Tap A to Zed it is most certainly a zucchini... because "A cucumber is all pimply."

I also discovered on a site called Witchipedia (who knew that such things existed) that "zucchini resonates with earth energy" and "is feminine in nature." Zucchini is apparently used in "spells for increase and fertility" because of it's prolific nature. So you might want to be careful next time you serve this dish at a dinner party.

What other vegetable do you know that can be used as "Trouser Helper" while resonating with feminine earth energy? Some might call it the perfect food!

When it is not doubling as trouser make up or being carved into fertility charms by Wiccans zucchini also makes a wonderful addition to any summer meal.


Sauteed Italian Style Zucchini

1-2 zucchini
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
olive oil
fresh herbs (or if none are available dried will work fine... you can either use a combination of basil and oregano or just use a sprinkle of Italian seasoning)

Saute diced onion and minced garlic in olive oil until soft. Add the zucchini and cook until it is just tender. Stir in the herbs (I like to use basil and oregano from my garden) and cook until just wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

lollipops

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

52 Weeks of Happiness: Cooking With Friends.

One thing that really makes me happy is cooking with friends. I have always loved cooking with friends and family. I used to host weekly potlucks at my house... and holiday meals are often cooked at my house because I love throwing a good party. This past weekend I got a chance to break bread with friends three times.

On Friday we went to Bastrop to celebrate the first birthday of little M. We had homemade pizza, swam in their new pool, ate cupcakes, and drank root beer floats. I also learned to play the ukulele. My awesome friends Marcus and Sara lent me one to play around with at home, and let me tell you, all songs are funnier when played on the ukulele.

We left too late and my little one was so exhausted that she had a bit of a fit... but otherwise it was a fun day. I got to cook with my friend Sara and hang out with the little ones while the dads took Thing 1 and Thing 2 out for a treasure hunt. I made the cupcakes and iron chef-ed the frosting... and Sara made the pizzas.





On Saturday we had breakfast with a friend. I made breakfast tacos and we hung out all morning drinking coffee. Due to the late evening the night before the kids were pretty mellow and allowed us to hang out at the table talking. Then later that afternoon we hung out with friends in Martindale on the San Marcos River. I forgot my camera... but it was a nice afternoon hanging out in the shallows, cooking sausage on the grill, and watching the kids swim.

Finally on Sunday we had a friend over to our house for dinner. My husband really wanted to have shellfish. We had watched an episode of a cooking show the night before and they had made a lovely saffron, shellfish and pasta dish. Due to the time of year all we could find at the seafood counter was shrimp and scallops... but here is what I did.

I cooked red onion, scallions, and sun dried tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil until the onions were soft.
Then I added the shrimp, scallop, artichoke hearts and some fresh herbs from the garden. I cooked it until the seafood was cooked through and then simply tossed it with the pasta. I added some fresh Parmesan cheese and there you have it.

I hope you find time this summer to cook with friends.

Cheers,
Jenn




Monday, June 13, 2011

Makeover Monday- I'm not so Loco about Coco-nut.



This weeks beauty treatment didn't really work all that well... and I was so excited about it too. I had a vision of myself with luxurious locks that smelled of tropical islands and conjured up images of sipping piƱa coladas on the beach. I think I even thought it might make me look better in a bathing suit.... How wrong I was!

What I ended up with was greasy lifeless hair that I hid in a bandanna while I stood in warm waist deep pool water and sipped a beer. As I watched the kids play in the chlorinated water my tropical dreams floated out to sea.

A couple of weeks ago I purchased a can of coconut milk in the Asian food section while I was doing my weekly shopping. I looked for the purest coconut milk I could find... I stayed away from the alcoholic beverage section because the coconut mixers there included corn syrup (or worse) and were intended for making sweet mixed drinks. The recipe I had instructed me to refrigerate the milk overnight and then use the solids that accumulated on top as a hair conditioner. For some reason the coconut milk I had never separated.

It did thicken up somewhat, however, so I made do with what I had and smeared the creamy stuff all over my hair, covered my hair with plastic, and then sat back for 15 minutes with a cool drink. I washed it out like I would a hot oil treatment and yet I still ended it up with a lot of greasy residue in my hair. I washed my hair again the next morning... and it was no longer greasy... but the second washing seemed to strip my hair of any benefits that the treatment had to offer. In fact due to over washing my hair seemed more fly away than usual.

I'm not sure if it was the coconut milk I chose or if the coconut oil was just too rich for my hair type. I'm just thankful I didn't make the facial mask I was planning with this ingredient. I am going to have to do a little more research and possibly revisit this ingredient on another day.

So next time you dream of the salty sea air blowing through your hair while you sit in the shade of your umbrella on the beach... Put the coconut in your drink and NOT in your hair. You'll thank me for it later.

Cheers,
Jenn


Honduras trip 2010... The right way to enjoy coconut!



Be sure to check out the Zany Housewife for more makeover madness...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy Black Cow Day!

Today, June 10th, is one of two days of the year dedicated to the root beer float (also known as a black cow, or a brown cow). The other National day for this creamy beverage is on August 6th. Why the root beer float has two national holidays in it's honor I'll never know... perhaps it is because it's just THAT good.

Much like the Ice Cream Sundae the history of the invention and origin of this delicious beverage is under debate. There are several people who claim to be the originator of this tasty treat... but most folks attribute it to Robert Green in 1874 who either created it as a way to keep his soda cold or as a way to create a new dish for his expanding business. Whatever the reason the root beer float caught on.

All you really need to do to make a root beer float is a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a bottle of your favorite root beer... but if you want to get fancy about it then you can go for the works.

Vanilla Ice Cream
Root beer
Chocolate Syrup (the chocolate syrup is optional, but I have never tried it this way so I think I'm going to have to give it a whirl)
Whipped Cream
and some cherries

Place a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a tall glass. Top with a squirt of syrup and then top with soda. Pour it slowly so that it doesn't over flow. Add a bit of whipped cream and then put the cherry on top. Enjoy.

Cheers,
Jenn


Thursday, June 9, 2011

A rhubarb what? A rhubarb tart!

Yesterday I discovered rhubarb. I have heard of this lovely fruit/vegetable before (it is technically a vegetable but it's classified as a fruit in the good ol' US of A) ... but before yesterday I had never sampled it's goodness. I had my first slice of rhubarb pie yesterday at a cafe in Wimberly, Texas. Today I was inspired to look into rhubarb and I discovered a wonderful online resource for everything rhubarb. Check out the rhubarb compendium for an awesome list of rhubarby-links to recipes, medicinal uses, limericks, natural pesticides and some other more unusual uses for Rheum x cultorum.

Or if (unlike me) you care to skip directly to the chase... you can just find a whole mess of recipes for rhubarb pie or you could check out a whole host of other possibilities for cooking with this celery look alike. I plan on looking for some of these stalks of tart goodness next time I hit the produce isle.

In addition to my first taste of rhubarb I also visited the Wimberly Glassworks and watched a glass blowing demonstration, shopped around the Wimberly square, and visited a few parks in the area. We tried to visit the Bonsai exhibit nearby... but there are no public restrooms (even for 6 year olds doing "the dance") so we were forced to cut the trip short.
We ended the day by meeting up with my husband for dinner at Brewster's Pizza. All and all it was a wonderful day out with the grandparents. Too bad I screwed up this lovely family photo with my rhubarb stained fingers.

Cheers,
Jenn

And while I might not have made my rhubarb pie it is truly a vintage dessert so I am linking up at the Joy of Desserts for Vintage Recipe Thursday.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Love Cooking Shows!

Last night I was sitting in bed watching the first episode of Oliver's Twist (a cooking show) and I thought to myself... I LOVE COOKING SHOWS. When I'm away on vacation or just staying in a hotel for some reason I always stay up late watching the food network. I don't have television at home so I watch food and cooking shows (from several seasons ago) on Netflix. The selection isn't that great so I have watched most of the episodes of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations already. I love the mix of travel and food on his show... although I'm not always fond of his taste for organ meat and strange foods I do enjoy his spirit of adventure. That is why I was so glad to see the Oliver's Twist show... I was about to run out of food TV on instant watch.
When I'm sick of what Netflix has to offer I can check out old episodes of Julia Child's show, The French Chef, at the public library. Before TV went digital and I could at least get a few stations in with my rabbit ears I was fond of watching shows like this on PBS... One of my favorites was Two Fat Ladies . Their motorcycle and sidecar cracked my up... and although I don't eat foods like the ones they cook (in fact when I watched the show I was a vegetarian)... I loved their down to earth style.
My favorite cooking/food show of all time, however, has to be the original Iron Chef. I dream of cooking in kitchen stadium someday. Sometimes I even pause while cooking, bite into a fresh and crispy bell pepper, and smile at my imaginary audience.


Last night I even whipped up dinner Iron Chef style.

I had placed chicken breasts in the fridge to thaw Monday afternoon and when I took it out to marinate it for last night's dinner I realized that I had purchased chicken wings by mistake. I had intended to do a Thai garlic marinade and while that would have worked out fine. I really wanted to make something more suited to the ingredient. I decided to Iron Chef my own Asian style chicken wing glaze... Here is what I did.


I started by adding salt and pepper to the wings. I then gave them to my husband to grill. He cooked them on a medium-hot setting for 6-8 minutes per side. He checked the temperature at this point and decided to let them go just a touch longer.

While he was doing this I pulled a selection of sauces out of my fridge and began to whip up my glaze.

I used an Asian lemongrass BBQ sauce (about 1/2 cup), the juice of two lemons, grated fresh ginger, 3 cloves of garlic and a generous amount of sriracha sauce to give it that kick. I simmered this on low while the chicken was on the grill. The BBQ sauce was very sweet so it cooked down to a nice sticky glaze.

I then poured the glaze over the the chicken wings. I set a few wings aside for the kids and just added teriyaki sauce to theirs. They aren't fond of spicy foods so I thought I'd spare myself the work of making PB and Js while trying to eat dinner.


Then we sat down to dinner. Chicken wings, fried rice, dumplings and cucumber salad.


We had watermelon for dessert. Mmmmmmm!

Cheers,
Jenn

lollipops

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

52 Weeks of Happiness- The Games We Play.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the games I used to play as a child. Actually I have been thinking about these games for a long time. I have been sketching hopscotch grids on the sidewalk and looking longingly at the jump rope in the outside toy box since my oldest daughter took her first steps. It is not that I remember all these games fondly. I wasn't the most coordinated child: Always picked last for kickball, only average at jump rope, and I stayed miles away whenever a dodge ball game was being played. In fact some of the games that I've recently become interested in weren't really a part of my childhood at all. Marbles for example. Sure I had marbles, but the game wasn't terribly popular with the girls I hung out with so marbles were nothing more than pretty stones.

Perhaps it's the songs and rhymes that we chanted that I remember fondly. Or perhaps now that I actually possess the motor skills to play these games well I want to show off in front of my kids (I hope I'm not that shallow). Or maybe I just want to find something unplugged and offline to share with my kids in this increasingly high tech world. I'm not really sure, but I know that playing these games with my family makes me happy.

Recently I was thinking about a game that was popular with my friends in the the late 70s and early 80s called Chinese jacks? Does anyone else remember this game? I found this Youtube video for those of you who wish to see a game in action.

These are not the exact rules that we followed... but this is basically how the game of Chinese Jacks was played. Unfortunately you can't buy these little jacks at the store anymore... Sure they exist on Ebay... but at greatly inflated prices for little plastic rings. The cool thing about this game was that you could buy your playing pieces with pocket change... and you could design the jacks yourself by combining different colored rings to make your own special pattern.

In my research I found several games from different parts of Asia that are similar to this game.

The true game of "Chinese" jacks is called Catching Seven Pieces. It is played with seven one inch bean bags (0r rice bags) that you throw and catch in the same style as the game I loved as a kid. In fact the rules to this game are much closer to the game I played as a child than the video above. Here are the playing pieces that I made to try this game out.

I also found a game from Korea called Gonggi. Here are what the pieces for this game look like:

This game looks almost identical to the way we played Chinese Jacks, as well, and is a fun variation. I may have to pick up some of these fun playing pieces if I can find them at an Asian market.



The last game I found was Otedama from Japan. This game is played like the games above but with larger beanbags called ojami. Ojami were traditionally made with scraps of kimono fabric and stuffed with beans or rice. Apparently Otedama reached it's height of popularity during World War II and all but disappeared soon after. I've read many reasons for this popularity and why it died off. One source credits it's popularity during the war to the fact that during hard times it was a cheap toy to make. The same source also states that people used the beanbags to smuggle extra food to their kids in school in form of the beans in the bag. This seems unlikely to me because I'm not really sure that uncooked azuki beans would be a good source of food. This is, however, is the beauty of folklore... there is always an ounce of truth and an ounce of fiction. A more likely story, perhaps, is a that people cut the beanbags open to cook the beans and rice when times got hard... and as a result the game lost popularity when families were forced to eat the toys in order to survive. Whatever the reasons apparently it is making a comeback.

There are different levels of this game and some of them combine juggling with a more traditional jacks game.
I made a set of these for my girls to play with... and I plan on making more of these games up and giving them as gifts.

What games did you play on the playground as a child?
Do you share these games with your kids?
What games have you discovered with your kids?

Cheers,
Jenn

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