Saturday, September 27, 2014

Himrod Grapes

I picked our grapes today!  I planted a himrod grape plant two years ago in the corner of the yard and let it grow up our wooden fence.  We're in SW Nebraska, zone 5b.  Last year we got two bunches, and this spring I hard pruned the whole thing back to just one tall vertical stick.  This year we got a whole big strainer full plus a couple of other bunches we already ate.

I know people say growing organic grapes is really hard, but honestly if the plant died today we would have still saved money because the plant was around $4.00 but we've gotten way more than that in fruit.  In general the plant seems healthy without any fungicide spray, but I did notice that mid-season the new leaves were shriveled and curled, which Dr. google says is some kind of leaf fungus.  My plan is to just cut off all the smaller branches this winter to help train it up the fence and hope for the best!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Easy Cherry Lime Syrup Recipe

4-5 cups of sand cherries (or other wild or non-sweet cherries) (leave the pits in)
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1/4 cup honey
pinch of salt
3 limes (juiced)

In a saucepan on med-high heat, add the whole cherries and add just enough water to cover the cherries.  Cook on a low boil for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Place a mesh strainer over a large bowl pour the whole saucepan full through the strainer to get cherry juice.  You can squish the cherries a bit with a spatula in the strainer to get more juice out.  Put the juice back into the saucepan and discard the cherry pits and solids.  Add sugar, honey, salt, and lime juice, and cook on med-low for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let it cool and you're done.

Do you ever click on a recipe on Pinterest and then get annoyed when you have to scroll through the whole page of pretty pictures and lots of words to find the actual recipe?  Me too.  That's why I put the recipe at the top.  In case you want to know more though... here's the rest of my blog post.

Last year we planted some Sand Cherry bushes in the yard.  We ripped out the burning bushes previous owners had planted because we wanted to have more edible landscaping.  My thinking is if I have to water them, I should at least be able to eat something in return.  Sand cherries (Prunus besseyi) are native to the northern plains, so bonus for planting natives!

Here they are, growing happily in their second summer in our yard.  They've survived two very severe drought years.  We're in SW Nebraska.  They are on the west-facing side of our garage.   I got exactly 3 cherries in the very first year, but this year we got at least two quarts.

In the beginning of July the cherries look like this.  I'd say even these are not quite ripe.  They're quite black when they're totally ripe.
If you eat them raw they're quite bitter and sour.  These are great for jams and sauces where you're adding sugar anyway.

I picked about 1 1/4 quarts (4 or 5 cups) off of the ripest bush.
To make the syrup, put the cherries in a saucepan on med-high heat with just enough water to cover them all.
 Cook them down on a low boil for 15 minutes.
 Strain them through a mesh strainer and keep all the rich purple juice.  Discard the pits and fruit.

Cook the juice with the sugar, lime juice, salt, and honey for 10 minutes on med-low heat to create the syrup. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pokemon Birthday Party

A long time ago we got a McDonalds kids meal with a Pokemon toy inside.  My soon-to-be 7-year-old daughter had no idea what it was, and at home it was thrown into a box of small random toys and forgotten.  Forgotten until the day when she found Pokemon TV shows on Netflix that is.  Then she suddenly remembered her little Tepig toy, and fell in love.  She carries little Tepig everywhere!  When her birthday party was coming, and I asked her what kind of party she wanted, she of course said 

"I want a Pokemon party, Mom!"

And inwardly I sighed.  Because you can't just go to WalMart and buy pokemon party stuff anymore.  They have the cards, but that's about it.  So off to google I went, and found
 this awesome Pokemon Party at Craft, Interrupted
Awesome.  Really.  If you're looking for inspiration start there.  We used their hat and gift bag idea.

After lots of googling, this is what I came up with for my daughter's 7th birthday.

We had a Pin the Tail on Tepig
(printed off an online Tepig coloring page and stuck on 33 cent poster board)

Gotta Catch 'Em All Balloon Game
The game involves little pokemon pictures I found with a google image search.  I laminated them because I know my daughter will want to play with them later, and I stuffed them into balloons that they had to pop by sitting on.  They thought it was fun, but loud.  Maybe this would be better outside.

We had an Easter-egg-style Pokeball Hunt in the yard.  Inexpensive fishing bobbers look a lot like Pokeballs if you just take a thin strip of electrical tape and stick it around the middle.  I didn't pull them apart and put things inside, but I bet you could if you wanted to.  We just hunted for them as-is and put them into their gift bags (sling bags from Craft, Interrupted).

Once a few months ago my daughter woke up in the middle of the night crying and when I went in to check on her, she said all she wanted in the world was a pinata for her birthday.  That must have been an interesting dream.  So I made her a Pokeball Pinata.   Why pokeball?  Because it's the easiest pokemon shape to make.  There was no way I could pull off a tepig pinata. I used this youtube video to get the basic idea.  I dipped the strips instead of using a paintbrush.  I just used a 12 inch balloon and made it with flour and water and newspaper strips.  There are three coats of strips on the pinata, each took 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour.  Three layers seemed to be just sturdy enough for the kids to each have a couple of turns.

We couldn't find our bat anywhere, so a broom handle worked in a pinch.

And of course we had Pokeball Cake and ice cream. 
I'm not a cake decorator, obviously.  I kept debating about just buying one at the store and having them make it look like a pokeball, but I forgot the picture every time I went to the store, so I ended up making it myself with a Rainbow Duff Cake mix.  The inside was kinda cool.

And to fill up time at the end, the kids played the Pokemon Card Game.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Camping Foods- Smoreos, Orange Cinnamon Rolls, and Tortilla Pizzas

We took our three kids on a camping vacation this summer that involved 4 days and three nights camping. It was time to try some of the camping foods that looked fun on Pinterest.

Switching up the S'mores:

We tried two different takes on the S'more this year- S'mOreos and using chocolate covered graham crackers.

S'mOreos:  You just roast a marshmallow and instead of graham crackers you open up an Oreo cookie and put the marshmallow inside.   They're still messy, but you don't have the melted chocolate factor.  I personally wasn't a huge fan.  They're just ok.  They were a hit with my daughter.  Man, camping is messy...

The chocolate covered graham crackers on the other hand are genius.  I don't know about you, but it seems like whenever I make a traditional S'more the chocolate bar never fully melts.  Maybe it's because I'm too impatient to get a really fully roasted marshmallow.   The chocolate covered graham crackers (bought at Walmart) were perfect.  They're still a mess, and I'd keep them in your camping cooler so they don't melt in the heat, but they really eliminate the hassle of putting a s'more together. 

The next night we tried something from this pin, Orange Cinnamon Rolls:

I think I burned them a tiny bit, but overall they turned out pretty well.  They were easy to make.  I didn't really love the cooked orange flavor on the outside of the roll.  They were easier than making a cake in an orange for sure.  

And on the last day for dinner we didn't want to deal with a fire, so we cooked Tortilla Pizzas on our camp stove.  My kids devoured these, and they're easy to eat with their hands.  Just bring the toppings you like on a pizza, spray a frying pan, and make a little pizza pocket with a tortilla instead of pizza crust.

Other camping foods I've tried before:

Red Hot Apples:
Core an apple.  Put a marshmallow plug in one end.  Fill with red hot candies and plug the other end with another marshmallow.  Wrap in foil and cook in the fire until tender.

Banana Boats:
Peel just one side of a banana and cut a slit into the fruit all the way down.  Stuff with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips.  Replace the peel side, wrap in foil and cook in the fire.

Tin foil dinners:
This is really a camping staple for our family.  I've seen a lot of variations, but this is what we do.
On a long piece of aluminum foil, layer 1/4 lb ground beef, peeled carrots, peeled and cubed potatoes, sliced onions and 1/2-3/4 of a can of cream of mushroom soup.  Really just mix it all in there.  Optionally, sprinkle a packet of Lipton Onion Soup mix on top and salt and pepper.  Wrap in a double layer of aluminum foil and cook on campfire coals about 40 minutes, or until carrots are done and meat is cooked through.  Serve with ketchup.

Orange cakes:
Cut an orange in half and eat the flesh inside so you're left with two little orange bowls.  Fill one with prepared cake mix from a box (any flavor is fine, but I have only tried a yellow cake).  Place the top of the orange back on, wrap in foil, and cook in the camp fire.  We did this for my birthday one year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Potato Growing Experiment, Purple Majesty (Part 1)

I have a small garden but I've never ventured into growing my own potatoes, until now.  They're already so cheap at the store that it doesn't seem to be worth all the trouble.  BUT, I saw the Purple Majesty potatoes in the Gurney's catalog and thought they looked so interesting!  I know I won't find those in the store.

So after doing a little research I decided to give them a try.

I bought a 20 gallon Smart Pot online.  The 2 lb bag of seed potatoes came in the mail.  I set them on my counter top on a plate with paper towel underneath to let them sprout for about a week.
The little sprouts are a pretty purple color.  I wonder if the plants will be purple too.

I've heard around here (USDA zone 5b) that people plant anywhere between St. Patrick's day and Easter, so April 15th seemed good to me.  It did just snow again this week after all.  First I filled the bottom 1/3 of smart pot with a mixture of Miracle Grow garden soil (I would have preferred an organic one, but oh well.  It's what Walmart had.  This one seemed a bit wood chippey.) and about 1/3 compost.  I folded down the sides of the container so they wouldn't flop around. 

 The Smart Pot website suggests one potato per 3 gallons of container, so 6-7 potatoes.  I went with 6 since I don't want to make it too crowded.  I arranged them like this, and then buried them 3-5 inches under the soil as suggested by Gurney's.  I've read you can cut big ones in half and get two but I didn't want to deal with that.

I gave them a good watering.  I'm hopping for a yummy crop this year.  I might make some purple french fries!

Late July Update: They are almost all dead.  They grew a few inches tall but turned a sickly yellowish color and stopped growing.  I transplanted one into my regular garden bed and it's dying too.  I'm pretty sad and I wish I knew the cause.  I might try again next year.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How to Make Your Own Coconut Milk

Here's something interesting to do at home.  Make your own coconut milk!  My son is lactose intolerant.  He usually drinks almond milk so we're no strangers to non-dairy milks in our house.  I could say that I tried this because it's better than the pre-made stuff you can buy, but really we did this because we bought a coconut on a whim at the store one day and had to figure out what to do with it.  After some youtube watching and googling, here's what we did.

First, take a screwdriver and hammer it into two of the dots on your coconut to make holes.  Then let the coconut water drain out of the holes into a cup (this is not coconut milk!).  You can drink it if you want.  I've heard it's kind of good as a sports drink.  I think I might freeze it into ice cubes to use later in smoothies.

Then comes the fun part.  Put the coconut in a ziploc bag and let your kids throw it on the ground outside until it cracks.

My son was so proud of cracking it into 3 pieces!

Now you need to get the white meat off of the shell.  There are probably some easy cool ways to do this that I don't know about.  I just use a knife to cut little sections and pry off pieces like this.  Make sure your knife is sturdy.

One coconut gave me about three cups of meat.

Now all you do is either grate up the white part of the coconut, if you have the time and inclination, or just put it through your food processor and chop it up really small.  

Then add 2 parts hot water to 1 part coconut, so for this one I added 6 cups of hot water.

My food processor doesn't fit that much (oops learned that the hard way and kinda made a mess), so I added 3 cups hot water to all the coconut, processed it, strained it, and then put the coconut meat back into the food processor, added the next 3 cups of water, and strained again.

If you have cheese cloth around you could use that instead and probably get more milk out.

And you're done!  You can put it in a jar or pitcher and let it sit until the cream separate if you want to.  There should be a small amount coconut oil (maybe a couple of tablespoons) in there that will form a solid at the top.  I've been using it as a lotion.  Keep the milk in the refrigerator and use it up because it will only keep for a few days.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Storm Cloud Costume

Craftiness runs in my family apparently.  My dad recently participated in a polar bear plunge and the theme of his team was"rainbow" (like pot of gold, leprechaun, cloud, the whole thing).  My dad was the cloud, so this is what he and my mom came up with.

It's pretty awesome.  He didn't want it to be too fluffy because stuff like batting gets heavy and is hard to swim in.  He created this out of tulle, some cardboard, tape, and 1/16 inch dowels bent into a circle.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ruffle Purse

I finally (finally!) finally finished this purse that I started two years ago.  I pinned on all of those ruffles, sewed about two of them on, and threw it in a box on my shelf and forgot about it.  I had been wondering where all of those pins went...

I tried some new things including a zippered pocket (via this tutorial).  The bag is loosely based on this simple pattern from Crap I've Made.  The ruffles are inspired by this very cute  Bustle Backpack, although I used jersey knit so they won't fray.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Owl Tree Valentines Box from an Oatmeal Can

Here's my daughter's Valentine's Day mailbox creation!  She used it in Kindergarten.  We had a lot of fun making it together.  I love that with an oatmeal can you can pop off the top when your child gets home so you have easy access to the cards and goodies inside.


To make your own Owl Tree Valentine's Box, you need:
  • an empty oatmeal can
  • branches (either a cardboard tube of glowsticks, or a paper towel tube or toilet paper tubes)
  • brown craft paint (we used both brown and tan paint)
  • craft foam sheets, or construction paper (green, red, pink, orange, black)
  • hot glue

Since my daughter gave out glowstick bracelets with her valentines' cards, we already had a tube to use for the branches.  We found the bracelets in the dollar section at Target and they look like this:
If you don't have that, then use a paper towel roll or some toilet paper rolls instead.  All you have to do is cut the tube in half on a diagonal (so your branches will be angled up).  The black wrapper on the tube peels off easily.

Hot glue those onto the oatmeal can.  (Actually in hindsight I might try something stronger that hot glue, like E-6000 maybe.   One branch fell off at school).

Cut a hole in the oatmeal can.  I recommend making it big because with Pinterest you never know what kinds of big crazy valentine's creations your kid is going to get.

Then paint the whole thing brown.  I just dipped the brush in both tan and brown to give it a streaky brown wood look.

Then I had my daughter write her name and draw leaves and hearts on the foam craft sheets. I helped her cut them out.  She liked making "heart fruits" to go on the tree.  I just free-handed the owl.  Use a hole punch to make the eyes really round.

Then glue it all on.  My daughter liked finding places to stick everything.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 LDS Primary Scripture Theme

I've been working on getting the primary room ready for the new year, and while printing up this year's scripture, I happened to notice that I could make this year's scripture (Malachi 4:6) into a heart shape.  I thought it was cute, so I'm sharing it with you.

Here's the link to the file in Word
(it'll be one page when downloaded, although google drive thinks it's two)

Happy New Year!