Natural DIY Tick Repellent

Last week, my son found a tick on his thigh after an evening walk in the woods the night before. He was bit by a deer tick. Ugh.

Ticks make us all nervous these days because of the diseases you can get from them…..specifically Lyme. Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that you get from the bite of an infected tick. Fever, headache, joint pain/stiffness, fatigue and basic flu like symptoms are typically how Lyme presents itself. Some people also get a rash around the bite that looks like a bullseye. It can be easily treated if caught early but because of it’s similar symptoms to other illnesses, diagnosis can be difficult and is often missed.

We live in Connecticut, where Lyme was first discovered and for some odd reason, it makes me more scared of getting bitten and infected. Especially when it comes to my kids. Lyme is treated with heavy rounds of antibiotics which are perfect for getting rid of the baddies, but they also get rid of the good bacteria that I have worked so hard to put in my gut and my family’s guts as well. Gut health is very important to overall health and happiness.

Preventative measures must be taken because we simply aren’t going to stop going outdoors for fear of tick bites:

  • wear tick repellent
  • dress appropriately so you can see ticks and remove them right away
  • check for ticks after being outdoors and remove them COMPLETELY
  • tick proof your yard by mowing regularly, removing brush and keeping areas that could attract rodents clean and neat
  • introduce tick eating creatures into your yard – chickens, amphibians, etc….
  • sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your yard
  • educate yourself

We have a tick removal kit in our bathroom just in case of bites. Removing a tick is not as easy as you think – if the tick has bitten you and you grab its body to pull it off, the head could be left inside you. Yuck. The entire tick must be removed. This is why prevention is key.

I have put my fair share of toxic chemicals on my body to keep away insects. I would much prefer a cleaner option for myself and for my kids. I read that ticks detect animals’ breath and body odors, as well as sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Most insect repellents work by masking the human odor…..this is how DEET works. Essential oils can do the same although they may not be as effective as DEET. Although, nothing is completely reliable – not even DEET.

While researching combinations of essential oils to use for a tick repellent, there were several different suggestions.

The lists go on….

The only thing to do is try them out. Start with 1/2 cup distilled water and 1 cup vinegar and then add your oils of choice. Some recipes just used distilled water. I saw no explanation behind the amount of drops of each oil and some recipes just used equal amounts – 9 drops of each or 20 drops of each. Who knows? I suppose you should just find a combination that you like. Spray it on your clothes whenever you go outdoors. When you return inside, check yourself for ticks. **QUICK TIP: use a sticky roller on your clothing to catch any ticks!**

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From what I have read, the spirochete that carries the Lyme bacteria that comes from the tick bite takes a long time to travel from the belly of the tick into your body, so if you catch a tick on your body within 24-36 hours, you have a much greater chance of not catching the infection at all.

Prevention is everything! Use those essential oils – besides, you will definitely smell better than bug spray.

 

 

10 New Ways to Use Up Your Hard Boiled Eggs from Easter

I LOVE to dye eggs – it’s such a fun and creative activity. If you saw my recent post on how to dye eggs naturally, you can see I dyed quite a few. Every year, we go through this dance where the entire week after Easter becomes a challenge for all the different ways to eat up the eggs. It’s also the week of crazy sugar-high kids and cats pooping easter grass. Nothing new to see here…

So, what now? My kids are already over the hard boiled eggs I suggested they eat for dinner, for lunch and for breakfast. Time to get creative…

My favorite basic ways to eat up eggs are:

  • Avocado Toast with sliced HBE (Hard Boiled Eggs) & Everything But The Bagel Seasoning
  • BLT or Spinach Salads
  • Egg Salad Sandwiches made with mustard or curry powder
  • just plain with a sprinkle of salt

But, sometimes we need a little bit more to keep away the boredom. So, I compiled a list of some more creative egg recipes. Enjoy.

Soy Sauce Eggs from Belly Full:

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Chickpea and Tomato Salad from Simply Recipes:

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HBE and Avocado Bowl from Eating Bird Food: (because I love complete meals in bowls)

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A vegetarian Chickpea & Fennel Sub Sandwich from Martha Stewart:

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There is nothing extravagant about this “recipe” but it is one of my favorites and you can use already cooked bacon which makes it SUPER easy from Meal Plan Addict:

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An egg casserole for breakfast which uses 8 of those HBE from All Recipes:

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Macaroni Salad from Taste of Home:

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Egg and Asparagus Breakfast Croquettes from Taste of Home:

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A Six Layer Salad that can be made ahead from Taste of Home:

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Scotch Eggs make a great appetizer from Sweet and Savory:

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See? There are other ways to eat up all those hard boiled eggs!

Happy Easter!

Backyard Garden Design

Our backyard garden is in dire need of an update. The raised beds have rotted after several years, the trees have overgrown and I learned what worked from our first design and what did not. I am ready to make some big changes.

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When planning a garden, there are many factors to take into account. Sunlight, ease of use, eye appeal, watering, how much you are willing/able to care for, what plants you even want to grow, what space they take up and your own abilities. This is the 3rd home where I have created a backyard garden so I have a pretty good idea of what I like to grow and what I can grow. I know my hardiness zone and I know my level of commitment so it’s time for an upgrade.

I knew I definitely wanted something a little taller than my last one – I previously had about an 8″ high raised bed. This time, I am building a 12″ high raised bed.

My husband suggested that I build two 16×4 foot beds with a 3 foot space between them to allow movement and mowing. The boards I planned to use were 2×6’s at 8′ long, so a 16′ bed would work. But, my last beds were long and I found I just didn’t have enough ease of access to all the veggies so I wanted smaller sized beds this time. I decided on 4’x8′ beds – 4 of them. I also wanted to build them in a more central location in my backyard. Last time I built my beds against the fence and that took away even more access to the garden veggies. Now I can walk entirely around each garden bed which gives me lots of access. #easeofuse

I used pine boards to make my garden because I like that my walls rot after 6 or so years so I can change my design again, but cedar or redwood will last much longer if you want a more permanent choice. I used 4 2″x3″ stud boards to create my stakes but you can buy stakes if you don’t want the extra work of cutting them. I was just trying to save some $$. Oh, and do NOT use treated wood – that stuff has arsenic in it and you DO NOT want that leaching into your food. #keepitclean

Supply List:

  • 24 2″x6″x8′ pine boards
  • 4 2″x3″ studs
  • outdoor screws (I used 2 1/2″ wood screws – living on the edge)
  • a drill
  • a sledgehammer
  • a measuring tape (this is your best friend)
  • rotary saw
  • some good tunes to keep you working

OK, you are going to get the instructions that I finally figured out on my last two beds. The ones that are actually pretty easy and work perfectly. The first two garden beds are not as pretty, they were definitely my learning experience. But, I wanted to do this independently (usually my husband takes over these types of projects and I just hand him tools) because I felt a desire to get it done asap and I work from home which gives me the liberty to work outside during the week. I also love a good challenge!

I could have gotten this done in one day if I knew what I was doing. But, now that I do, I kinda wanna build raised beds all over the house…..where can I go next? Although, 2 days to get this completed is not too shabby either. My over 40 body is not as excited.

Let’s start with CUTTING:

These are garden beds, not indoor furniture, so I am not going to get really exact here, but I do want my work to look nice and be functional. (which it is!) So, start with making your cuts. Fashion some protective eyewear and have fun – rotary saws are loud, but not hard to use. So, to make a 4’x8′ bed that is 12″ tall, you need FOUR 8′ boards and FOUR 4′ boards and FOUR stakes. I cut all of my 4 footers together – so for 4 beds, I needed 16 4′ boards, so I cut 8 boards in half. The rotary saw is easy, just make sure to raise your boards off the ground and hold on so it doesn’t pinch the blade when you are completing your cut.

Then I needed to cut my stakes – **Lesson Learned** – I thought I could just take those studs and make FOUR 2′ stakes out of them by cutting each piece at an angle. NO. Stakes must have a point in the CENTER of the bottom, not just to one side. If you try to drive a stake into the ground with only one slanted side, it will move out of position by inches.  I learned the hard way. NO bueno. So, go ahead and cut those angles every 2 feet, but then take each stake and cut off that little tip so the stake has a point in the center.

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See the stakes with the point in the center!!!

Next, time to BUILD:

Now, I already measured my space and figured out where the beds would sit relative to other structures in the yard (fences and shed wall) and made sure to have an equal spacing all around the beds. 3′ border around the entire garden area and in between beds. Math IS important! And so is measuring…..do it more than once. #measuremeasuremeasure

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The first step is to make a box. Take 2 long boards and 2 short boards and put one screw into each joint. Just one. This gives you some play to make sure your box is in the right place and is not a parallelogram. Place your box in the right spot and than measure the diagonal to make sure it’s square. You don’t need to do trigonometry, just make sure both diagonals are the same.

 

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Once you get your diagonals equal and your beds in the right spot, put the 4 stakes in each corner. Just enough to be level or lower than your 12″ bed height. I marked each stake with a 11″ mark and hammered them in to that point. Measure your diagonals again just to make sure nothing shifted.

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Now make another box on top of your first box. Make sure when you are making these boxes that you are lining up the edges nicely. Check your diagonals AGAIN and then once they are all good, you can screw the top and bottom boards into the stakes.

And that is it. Seriously. You CAN do it yourself and pretty quickly once you realize how easy this is. I may stain them with some linseed oil or not….I will figure that out this weekend…..

I used a staple gun to put weed block paper on the bottom of the beds. It’s an extra step that will make a huge difference.

Now, it’s time to fill those babies up. Find out if your local transfer station has free compost for residents. I know mine does, so I will be hitting that next week! Then I can add more structures….I have plans for growing upwards and maybe even creating a small pergola between the beds on the long side so grow something up and over for fun! Stay tuned!

Happy Building!

 

Herb & Butter Mushroom Pappardelle

With 3 kids and busy school nights, pasta is a regular occurance in our house. I definitely don’t mind because I love it too. There are so many options for different shapes of pasta and so many different ways to eat it. So versatile.

I grew up eating homemade spaghetti sauce from a recipe by my mother’s Aunt Teeny. It was a favorite of mine (and my sisters!) and always a special treat. When I was old and brave enough, I made it myself with all the fresh meatballs and italian sausages. I believe that recipe card is the most worn and well loved of all the recipes I own. #celebritystatus

I will never stop making Aunt Teeny’s sauce, but, I need a new simple and delicious pasta dish to add to my medley of recipes. Something that will use fresh herbs from the garden…

I found a delicious option from Half Baked Harvest that I just adjusted a little bit to fit better with my lazy cooking style. After a full day of building raised garden beds in my backyard, I still had time and energy to whip up this simple and fresh recipe AND gobble it down while still standing at the countertop. No time to sit when your food is this good.

Let’s cook:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pappardelle or whatever pasta you wish
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs of mushrooms – feel free to mix and match
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic cloves, smashed 
  • 1 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I just squeezed half a large lemon)
  • grated/ribboned cheese of choice (I used a fresh block of parmigiano but Half Baked Harvest used Burrata and Manchego)

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Instructions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook your pasta to al dente. How cute are these little birds nests of pappardelle?

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2. In a skillet, heat your EVOO over high heat. Add mushrooms when it’s ready and let them cook undisturbed for around 5 minutes. I had 16 oz of mushrooms in my skillet, but I love them so much, I may add more next time. Give them a stir and cook for another 3-5 minutes. To be honest, I have no idea how long I cooked my mushrooms for….I just know how I like them cooked and just let ’em do their thing.. Reduce heat to medium and add the butter, smashed garlic, half the rough chopped basil, all the sage and thyme to the skillet. Mix and cook for another 5 minutes (or whatever?)

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It smells amazing in here. I need to cook with more fresh herbs…

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3. Add the wine if you haven’t already drank it along with the lemon juice and stir. When it gets back to a simmer, add your cooked pasta to the skillet. Give it a sprinkle of salt and pepper and just let it incorporate for a few minutes. Remove the garlic. Once the pasta is warmed, plate the meal and sprinkle with other half of roughly chopped basil. Shave some cheese on top – or not.

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That’s it. Pour yourself another glass of white wine and scarf it down fast, because you can’t believe how delicious it is. Mmmmmm…

This dish is easy to make and fairly quick. When the garden gets growing again, it will be easy to harvest fresh herbs. Now I just need to figure out how to forage for wild mushrooms…..

Happy Cooking!

 

Naturally Dyed Eggs DIY

Food dyes have played a major role in our lives since we were kids. I remember how red my lips would get after eating popsicles and how my fingers would glow a bright Cheeto-Orange. These colors were always associated with special treats since I grew up in a household where chips and sweets were very scarce. I never thought twice about the food dyes until becoming a mama myself. Of course, there is much to question about the other ingredients (like artificial sweeteners and chemical additives) in those processed foods too. But there is still reason to raise awareness…

Canada and the European Union do not ALLOW as many dyes as the US does. The EU even requires a warning label on certain dyes – dyes that do NOT come with a warning here in the US. Still, there is much debate about whether food dyes are actually harmful – lots of wishy washy talk about not enough evidence.

Dyes may not cause hyperactivity in children, but it can definitely aggravate it in kids that already have ADHD and hyperactivity. I should know……my son is diagnosed ADHD/Anxiety and it is a constant struggle to be observant of the effects that certain foods have on him. Luckily he is an extremely healthy eater (much more-so than his siblings), but life happens and events come up where processed foods are eaten and it can almost be like you flipped a switch in him.

The bottom line is this – what do we need artificial dyes for anyway? They add ZERO nutritional value to food and may actually be causing harm. Go to Europe and you will see the same brand of processed foods over there with natural dyes, where here in the US, we still get the eye popping synthetic colored foods. It can clearly be done for them, so why isn’t it done for us?

There will be lots of synthetic food dyes being consumed this weekend for Easter with all the jelly beans and such. So I decided to lessen the exposure by creating some naturally dyed Easter eggs. There is nothing better than dying eggs for Easter. All those bright, beautiful colors just perfect for egg hunt hiding places. A little creativity with colors is always fun. Turns out, natural dyes are just as beautiful.

Here is what you need to do, and let me warn you, this is NOT difficult, but it is time consuming. Creating the dye will take a couple hours (you can do this ahead of time) and then to dye the eggs, you need at least 1 hour of soaking – possibly several hours. So, the immediate gratification of dyed eggs within minutes is not a possibility with natural dye. But, with that being said, I believe that the naturally dyed eggs are beautiful in their own way and the process of making them should become a NEW tradition.

So, let’s do this:

I made 4 colors – Yellow, Orange, Blue and Red. You can mix eggs to make Purple (red and blue) and Green (yellow and blue) too. You could do this with making Orange as well, but I wanted to test all the options I had to share with you.

To make Yellow you will need:

  • turmeric
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar

After 12 hours – white eggs on left and brown eggs on right (green egg made by doing half in turmeric/yellow and half in red cabbage/blue):

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To make Orange you will need:

  • 2-3 cups yellow onion skins
  • water to cover in pot
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar

After 12 hours – white eggs on left and brown eggs on right:

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To make Blue you will need:

  • 2 cups of shredded red cabbage
  • water to cover in pot
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar

After 12 hours – white eggs on left and brown eggs on right:

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To make Red you will need:

  • 2 beets, peeled and grated
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar

After 12 hours – white eggs on left and brown eggs on right:

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Throw the food/spice + water in their own pots and bring all 4 of them to a boil. Set to simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Walk away and get your hard boiled eggs ready. Grab some jars (I used mason jars) too and a strainer.

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If you aren’t used to working with beets, protect your clothing and your hands, that stuff is red!
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Simmering turmeric….

After 1 hour, it’s not gonna smell like roses in your house anymore. Whoa. Nonetheless, strain the beets, cabbage and onion skins into their own jars and let them cool to room temperature. Add your Tablespoon of vinegar to each jar. Oh, and when you are stirring, be careful to use tools you aren’t attached to or metal, because look at my wooden spoon already after stirring the turmeric! Oh, and look at all those dishes I have to do….sigh

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I decided to do a little experiment for you…. I am dying white eggs and brown eggs to show you the different colors you can get. I am also dying eggs in the liquid created from the boil and the liquid + the food matter to see if it makes any different effects.

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Once the dyes were cooled and the hard boiled eggs were cooled, I placed one white and 1 brown egg in each jar and walked away again.

After 30 minutes, this is where we stand. Top picture is (left to right) Turmeric, Red Cabbage Juice and Red Cabbage Unstrained. Bottom picture is Beet Juice and Beets Unstrained, Onion Skins and Onion Skins Unstrained. The red cabbage has not gotten enough time to work it’s magic, but the turmeric, beets and onion skins are already bright! The brown eggs aren’t making any change really yet, but they may never…

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After 5 hours, this is where we stand. Brown eggs closer to you, white eggs farther…left to right you have just the Juice egg and then the Unstrained Juice egg (except for turmeric, which is just the juice) Look at that red cabbage!!! Such a beautiful blue. And the egg I left in the Red Cabbage Unstrained has little speckles on it from the shredded cabbage pieces. NEAT-O!

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Here are the eggs after 12 hours in the dye. I even made a green one by putting a yellow egg (turmeric) in the red cabbage (blue) overnight. I am VERY pleased!

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I have to say that I am impressed with the natural dyes so far. They leave a beautifully muted and calming color on the eggs – white and brown. Although, I probably wouldn’t bother dying the brown eggs again. The variety is stunning though. Was it exciting and instant gratification? Definitely not. But, I am proud of the step we have taken to try something new and keep it clean and safe. I hope you give it a try too. Kitchen science is always the best science anyway!

Happy Egg Dying!

 

Blender Juicing

Just when you get the latest kitchen gadget, another one comes along that all your friends are talking about. Now ya got major FOMO. But, how many kitchen gadgets can you have? Crock pots, Instant Pots, Kitchenaid Mixers, Air Fryers, Immersion Blenders, Vitamix Blenders, Ninja Blenders, Nespresso machines, Slap Chops, Pizza Stones, etc, etc, etc…. It is almost dizzying how many things are created to make our lives easier, when they just complicate them instead.

Let’s keep it simple.

I’ve had a few blenders in my life and none of them have ever actually done a good job blending. Then I got a Vitamix. Yes, it’s an investment, but I will NEVER have another blender again. This baby does everything from margaritas to hot soup. (as you probably already know from my soup posts!)

At one time, I wanted to try juicing, but I had just bought my Vitamix and was not ready to make another big purchase. Instead, I looked into the benefits of Blending VS. Juicing.

  • Juicing is a process where the liquid part of the fruit or vegetable is separated from the pulp, or fiber. You get a thin and concentrated liquid product that contains vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients, which are good for you! You specifically need a juicer to do this.
  • Blending is when the whole fruit or vegetable is used: what you put in the blender is what you consume. The volume of the drink, which is often called a smoothie, will be much greater than that of a juice made from the same amount of fruits or vegetables. You need a high end blender for this.

There are benefits and downsides for both blending and juicing. Juicing packs quite a nutritious punch in a small package. It also has less fiber for those on a specific diet. Blending keeps the fiber which is great for digestion and keeping you feeling fuller longer.

So, what do I do now? I blend in my Vitamix. Making smoothies is easy once you figure out the correct balance of liquid to solid to make a perfect blend. I freeze fruit when it starts to get a little soft – when people aren’t as excited to eat the fruit whole, but it will still work perfectly in a smoothie. Veggies work perfectly too – kale, celery, spinach, etc.

A major benefit of blending is that you can prepare the perfect combination and measurement of veggies and fruits and liquids ahead of time and freeze. Just try these amazing smoothie prep ideas:

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Happy & Healthy Blending!

Avocado Toast

Sometimes you just have to do what the avocado tells you to do. It is quite a fickle fruit (yes, it’s a fruit – a berry in fact). Avocados love to ripen at either the best or the worst of times. Sometimes you have a perfect week where one ripens each day consecutively and then some days all 10 ripen at once and you have to scramble to be creative. But, no matter the hassle avocados put us through, there are a ton of us that would do anything for their creamy goodness.

Last night, I was having a dinnertime conversation with my family about chocolate. I blurted out that I didn’t trust someone that didn’t like chocolate. (I mean, really?) But, what about avocados? How can you NOT like an avocado? They taste amazing, are extremely versatile, chock full of nutrients, super creamy and can even be used on your skin. I mean, come on?

Avocados can be eaten in guacamole, used as a spread in sandwiches, baked into cookies, brownies, pies or pancakes, transformed into gelato, chopped over a salad, made into a salad dressing or a pasta sauce, blended into a cold soup, spread onto toast and even eaten with a fried egg and a spoon.

So many ways to eat something that is delicious and…

  • has more potassium than a banana which can help reduce blood pressure
  • is high in monounsaturated oleic acid, a heart-healthy fatty acid which can help with reducing inflammation
  • full of 25% soluble (helps you digest your food) and 75% insoluble fiber (makes you feel fuller)
  • helps reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides and raise good cholesterol
  • helps your body better absorb the nutrients from all the foods you eat
  • can reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis
  • full of antioxidants and vitamins

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When my avocados ripen just in time for Taco Tuesday, we celebrate with guacamole. When there is bacon and fresh tomato available at the same time, we do a BLAT. Man that was a great sandwich….

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But, the rest of the week, I use the sweet creaminess for avocado toast. It actually amazes me how fulfilling one slice of toast and half an avocado can be.  It tastes delicious and keeps me satisfied. Not only that, but there are many ways to jazz up your avocado toast. Here are some of my favorite ways to eat avocado toast:

The Basic – avocado and Everything But The Bagel seasoning (If you haven’t tried this seasoning yet, you MUST get it. Like now. It is delicious on just about anything. Well, maybe not ice cream. But, OMG):

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The Breakfast – avocado and a poached egg:20190413_085029

The BATT – bacon, avocado, tomato, toast (I suppose some sprouts would be awesome on this too!):20190411_090139

The Dessert – avocado strawberries and a drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar:20190413_141337

I actually ate the breakfast and the dessert today because when your avocado is ripe, you gotta do what you gotta do. There is nothing more delicious than a perfect avocado toast for all your different moods.

Clean plate club for me when avocado is involved.

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Happy Toasting!

 

Simpler Living isn’t as Hard as you Think

Grandma didn’t have 39 different detergents to choose from back in her day. She didn’t have single use packages of hot cocoa. Her family ate on plates that were washed instead of thrown away – take out was non-existent. She took care of her clothing with basic life skills like sewing buttons. Grandpa took care of his tools by oiling them after use. Kids handed down jackets and sweaters. Socks were darned when they developed holes. Tending the garden was a family chore. Laundry was hung to dry.

Where did we go wrong?

We have so much more technology and ease of living these days, but at what expense? I am a child of the 80’s where “go big or go home” was a life lesson. Everything had to be bigger and better – even our hair – eek. Wasteful living became a status symbol and now many of us are wondering what the hell we were thinking.

The movement to live a Less Waste life is not something new. Our grandparents did it before it was trendy. So, what can we learn from them? How can we return to those simpler ways with all that we have learned in the past 75 years? My remaining grandparent died last year (she was well into her 90’s) and all of a sudden, I have so much to ask her about her life. I grew up helping both sets of grandmothers hang their laundry to dry on a clothesline. It was always a task that I regarded as something I “just needed to do to help my grandma” but now I am finding a need to do it myself. Not just to save electricity, but because there was something quiet, simple and grounding about using mother nature’s breezes to help make my life easier. And that is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Being closer to our earth. Utilizing what we have. Getting back to basics.

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Growing food, herbs, fruits and nuts using soil, water and sun. Reheating food on the stovetop. Drying clothes with the breeze. Learning life skills so we fix more and throw away less. Making our own products in bulk to reduce waste. Planning ahead in order to use less fossil fuels. Reusing and repurposing items to have less waste. Supporting small and local businesses. These are just a few things that we should be doing more of these days instead of less of.

I am on this journey myself and would love to help others make small changes as well. If you are interested or are on a similar journey, let’s connect!

Happy Simpler Living!

 

 

Rock Painting 101

Who knew that something that has been a childhood activity for decades would become a motivational art form for adults today? Rock Painting is simple, meditative and rewarding (just like coloring). Supplies are cheap and easy to find and painting miniature pictures and quotes is just plain old fun. It doesn’t require tons of space and can be done fairly quickly.

Recently, I have noticed people doing a sort of “pay it forward” type of kindness project where they paint and hide rocks around town for others to find. It definitely puts a smile on my face when I see a hidden painted rock. I have yet to pick one up and keep it, but those little treasures will someday be found by someone that will bring it home and start or add to their own collection. Maybe it will be just the ‘sign’ they need that day. It’s heartwarming how life-changing something so simple can be.

Our town even has a dedicated Facebook page to these rock painters and collectors offering hints about where some rocks have been hidden – your town may have one too. Talk about a fun community project. It all started with #thekindnessrocksproject by Megan Murphy on a beach in Cape Cod and now it’s all over the world. Their mission is:

ONE MESSAGE
AT JUST THE RIGHT MOMENT
CAN CHANGE SOMEONE’S ENTIRE DAY, OUTLOOK, LIFE

Talk about moving! Most of their rocks are painted with inspirational or motivational quotes and are very encouraging. Hearing the right words can make or reinforce a positive change in anyone’s life. No matter what your reason to paint a rock, sharing it in your community will help make connections and hopefully uplift someone’s spirits. Isn’t that worth it?

Are you ready to pay it forward and inspire someone else too?

It’s simple, let’s get you started. Here is what you will need:

  • rocks
  • acrylic paint
  • brushes & newspaper
  • paint pens
  • clear outdoor sealant

My son and I started this project because we found a large container of acrylic paints in my mother’s attic. We sifted through and threw away the dried up and cracked paints and still had a ton of options to work with. (so many, my son had to organize them…) I figured, now is the time to use this paint for something good. Any other ideas are welcome!

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The rocks were already washed, so we started by just painting one side of each rock with a base color. So many choices. We used a cap from an empty supplement bottle to raise the rock higher so it wouldn’t stick to the newspaper we laid down to keep my kitchen table clean. #artworkwithkids

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It doesn’t take long for that paint to dry, maybe 20 min to an hour depending on the thickness. Some needed a second coat of paint because they were a bit transparent, but it’s all up to the artist. To avoid the second coat, you can mix white paint with your color paint or start with a white coat first and then add a coat of color. My son even did some that were more than one base color for fun.

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While your base coat is drying on a few rocks, go do some sketches for your artwork. Maybe you want to paint a cute picture or a design or maybe just write a quote. Maybe your rock looked like something in particular when you picked it up – a fish? a bug? a rainbow? a heart? Do the research while you wait and you will be ready to go when the paint is dry. Some people seal their rocks between coats, but I am just too excited to wait for that to dry. I’m going to try these craft paint pens from Michaels because they look  fun and easy to use. Go get yo’self some!

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I simply CLEANED my rock, PAINTED a base coat, ADDED the detail and then SEALED it with the clear coat. Boom.

Here are some great ideas to inspire you:

Just look at these! I am definitely drawn to the beautifully intricate designs and creatures, but I love a simple quote as well. It is all about what the painted rock does for YOU when you see it.

My very first rock is this one:

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It’s not perfect, but the possibilities are now endless. I can see how this can become an obsession.

Happy Rock Painting!

 

 

 

 

Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup

I love homemade soups. But they have to be easy to make.

I am no chef. But, I can follow a recipe and there are certain dishes that I am confident enough to play around with. Soups are one of those dishes. My absolutely favorite soup is my homemade Butternut Squash soup. It’s a recipe I make often and I look forward to it during the winter. I grow my own butternut squash every summer, so it’s quite a treat to finally eat it during the colder months.

But, let’s face it, I need a new soup to add to my repertoire.

A few weeks ago, I took my kids to the high school Art Show to see artwork by kids in our school system from Kindergarten to 12th grade. It’s always such an impressive and varied show with lots of excitement. I was most excited for Empty Bowls. “Empty Bowls” is an international project to fight hunger, run by art organizations on a community level. It allows artists and groups to create and donate bowls, then serve a simple meal. We got to choose a bowl made by the high school students to keep as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. They served up several different types of soup in carry-out containers for a suggested donation as well. One hundred percent of each meal’s proceeds are devoted to local hunger-fighting organisations, such as food banks or soup kitchens, or to national or international charitable groups.

 

All the soups they had to offer made it difficult to make a choice (in hindsight, I should’ve bought more than one) But one definitely stuck out to me…..Carrot Ginger Soup. Hmmmm. I love carrots and I love ginger, so why not? I brought it home with my cute little heavy bottomed thrown bowl with uneven glaze proudly. (It’s tough not to be somewhat critical when you have a BFA in ceramics – sorry) The bowl is displayed in my kitchen and the soup is long gone.

But, wow, what a delicious soup. I just had to try to make it myself. Besides, it needed a little more ginger for my taste….

I looked up a bunch of different recipes for this soup and made a general plan that is VERY similar to my butternut squash soup. I love easy meals and that soup couldn’t get much easier. Let’s cook….

  • Throw carrots (around 2 lbs), garlic (I used a handful, but most people would probably prefer 2-3 cloves) and a halved onion on a sheet pan with a little evoo and roast until sweet squishy perfection at around 400º (usually around an hour).
  • Once it’s done roasting, throw the Onion, Carrots and Garlic in the Vitamix blender along with some fresh chopped Ginger (about a 2″ section, but you may want to start with less and add to taste) a dash of Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce) and 2-3 cups of Vegetable Broth and 2-3 cups of Coconut Milk. Blend away to creamy smoothness on the Soup button. You can even add a pinch of some fresh parsley….mmmmm. If you don’t have a Vitamix, just use an immersion blender or whatever you got. It’s not rocket science.
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Might as well make my Butternut Squash Soup at the same time!

If it needs more liquid, add some. Bam.

Sprinkle some fun stuff on top – pepitas, croutons, seeds, sprouts, whatever ya want. Be thankful that you can fill your own bowl. Go fill someone else’s if you can.

Happy Slurping!

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