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quickpickle

I cannot adequately express to you how many tomatoes we had from our garden this year nor the emotions those tomatoes brought forth. When I noticed there were too many tomato plants growing what did I do? I allowed them all to grow. When I noticed that I’d have 1,000,000,005 tomatoes this year what did I do? I picked every single one. I hate wasting when I grow. So that has left me in somewhat of a panic trying to figure out what to do with all of the tomatoes.

I experienced some wonderful picked vegetables at my CSA’s Chef-in-the-Box demonstration. I immediately thought it’d be a good way to use some of my tomatoes but immediately forgot the quick pickle process right after I asked. Oops.

After some searching online I found a few ideas and modified a few things. I had to remove the sugar and increase amounts as I’m dealing with large volumes of tomatoes here. Seriously.

So here it is… a super simple and quick pickle recipe for tiny tomatoes. It’s easy, yummy, versatiles, and has a bit of a kick!

You’ll need:
1 1/2 c raw apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 c water
8 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
24 oz small tomatoes (cherry, pear, or grape)
1/4 c fresh chopped dill
4 medium thinly sliced garlic cloves
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

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Wash the tomatoes and remove the stems.

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Combine apple cider vinegar, water, kosher salt, maple syrup, and lemon juice and heat until salt is dissolved. Set aside and let cool for 25 minutes.

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Cut the tomatoes in half and put in a large bowl.

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Add the dill, garlic, red pepper flakes and mix.

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Put the mixture into whatever container you plan to use. This recipe fits perfectly into three mason jars.

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Cover the tomatoes with the cider vinegar mixture and let sit open for a few hours.

Refrigerate for up to three weeks and use however you wish!

Some suggestions for use:
As a side
On top of a salad
On chips or crackers, along with sour cream (would be a great hors d’oeuvre or snack for guests)
Give as a hostess gift

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I’ve been meaning to make granola for months and months and months. I’ve seen many more granola recipes pinned on Pinterest lately – I assume partly due to the cooler weather and a desire for us to use our ovens and due to an increase in anything that can be made with pumpkin.

pumpkingranola

This was easy, pumpkiny, and yummy.

What you’ll need:
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or chopped not of your choice)
1/2 cup raisins (or dried berry of your choice)
1/4 cup maple syrup (or raw honey)
1/4 cup (heaping) pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch or more of:
nutmeg
cinnamon
allspice
cloves
sea salt

Preheat your oven to 325 F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (because that makes making almost everything a million times easier), spread out the oats and the quinoa and toast for 10-15 minutes, stirring it every 5 minutes or so.

In a blow combine the flaxseed, pecans, and raisins. When the oats and quinoa are finished add them to the bowl and toss. Reduce the oven to 300 F.

In a smaller bowl combine the maple syrup, pumpkin, vanilla, and spices. Mix this together and pour it over the dry mixture.

Spread this over the same parchment paper lined baking sheet (because wasting parchment paper is silly) and cook for 35 minutes.

See how simple that is? :)

Have you made your own granola? I can’t believe I’m only just doing it now. Olive really likes it, which is great seeing as there are so many good things crammed in there (oat, quinoa, flax, oh my!).

There are so many opportunities for you to make your own games and activities for your kids. A really helpful resource is the paint section at a hardware store. We’re in the process of picking out exterior paint colors for our house so I grabbed some extra colors to make a few things for Olive last time we were there. We probably shouldn’t all run to the store and take all of the paint chips though – they might start charging if they keep disappearing!

Paint chips can be used for a lot of things but since Olive is only 16 months old I kept this first activity simple. I’ll show you a few other ways it can be used though and some other tips to expand it.

I grabbed a few basic rainbow colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. Using a paper cutter I cut off the name and number from each one and then cut them in half. Using packaging tape I taped one full set to a piece of cardboard.

I handed the free pieces to Olive, one at a time, this morning and she put them down in the correct place. So maybe I need to expand this idea for her already!

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You can expand on this general idea by sticking them to a backing surface a little more nicely than I did (haha), by using many more colors, by making shapes, patterns, and pictures, writing the name of the color on the cards, ect.

You can also use other objects to match colors to ensure color generalization, such as the peg people below.

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You can even turn it into a game – the good kind of game where there is no winner.. just fun! Put the pile of cards upside down, take turns turning a card over, and placing the corresponding peg person on the corresponding color, as shown below.

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You can use the idea pictured above to make a large game board, kind of like Candyland. If your child is old enough you can invent a game together! You can incorporate numbers and letters and color names – the opportunities are endless.

You can work on fine color discrimination – such as the difference between certain shades of blue using the paint chips that come with 3-4 colors. If you get two of those you can keep one whole, cut up the other, and fix the pieces to the ends of clothespins and then have your child work on pinching the clothespin while matching colors.

You can ask your child to find items in your house to match to each color on a board such as the one pictured above. Or you can put the colored cards onto a bin and work on sorting colors with toys, blocks, puff balls, etc.

I would like to get a bunch of different colors and make alphabet flashcards for Olive to use when she’s a little older. It’ll be a lot more exciting than white cards with letters for sure! Maybe match up each color with the letter? Though I’m not sure what color starts with X…

The opportunities to use paint chips for fun and educational activities really are endless. I hope this gives you a few ideas! Pick up a stack of colors the next time you’re at the hardware store and give it a try. If you mess up or your child doesn’t like it you’re not really losing out on much – it’s quick and virtually free!

Enjoy! :)

What kinds of homemade activities do you do with your children? I can’t wait to make more activities for Olive as she gets older.. to work on discrimination, sorting, labeling, fine motor, and more!

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I just took a shower. I should probably reserve a bit of dignity for myself and not tell you how often I shower. I’ll pretend its because I have a busy toddler. But it’s not.

Though I now feel the need to share… it isn’t good for you to shower every day. Probably not even every other day. Your body has quite a few wonderful self cleaning processes and cleaning too often can really interfere with them. It may lead to acne, dry skin, etc. And then you most likely shower more and put more unhelpful things on your skin in attempt to alleviate the problem. It’s a vicious cycle. And any television station you watch or magazine you flip through will be certain to encourage this process.

By “you” I don’t mean all of you. Maybe some of you? One of you? Regardless.. just some food for thought. :)

Anywho – I took a shower.

I feel the need to share this information because I feel quite refreshed and pleased with myself after this particular shower.

I used a simple bar of soap with three ingredients.
I did not use shampoo – I recently jumped on the “no ‘poo” bandwagon.
I scrubbed with sugar scrub that I made.
Afterwards I brushed my teeth with http://anowlsnest.com/2012/03/31/homemade-toothpaste/.
I might even slap on some homemade deodorant.

That was an incredibly inexpensive, non-toxic, refreshing, healthy shower. :)

How do you feel about each of those things? I’m assuming if you haven’t yet heard of it you may be stuck on the “no ‘poo” part. No shampoo. That’s right. We’ve given it up. Even if you use natural shampoos.. take a peek at the label. There are a heck of a lot of things in there you probably don’t want on your head. What we’re doing is pretty simple. I put two cups of water and two tablespoons of baking soda in a spray bottle. There you go. “shampoo”

Tonight was my first try – I’ve heard your hair can get pretty oily and weird for a little bit after just starting it so I’ll post an update later and let you know how it’s going.

Why no shampoo, you ask? Shampoo hasn’t been around forever. Hair worked out just fine and dandy before it came along. Shampoo actually strips your hair of useful things. It can become oily because its trying to overcompensate. Or dry and frizzy because it isn’t trying to compensate. Complicated. Messes with the natural eb and flow of oils. So I’ll give my head a chance to get back its equilibrium and see what happens. I’d love to only use baking soda and water on my hair when I shower.. I really would! No dyes, no fragrances, no chemicals, no weird processes to make it, no worry about what happens when it goes down the drain..

Fingers crossed. :)

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I’ve been pretty into making things myself lately. Initially as a strategy to save money but as a healthy measure for my family as I continue to learn more disturbing information. I’m going to try not to rant here… but oh my gosh… there are millions of things that millions of Americans do daily that are detrimental to their health. It’s absurd.

I’ve heard that people make toothpaste. Cool.. I’ll make toothpaste too. But why? Yes, it is by far cheaper. And… a billion times healthier. Here is a little information about why the toothpaste you most likely brushed your teeth today may be harming you and is probably, actually, HARMING YOUR TEETH.

Most toothpastes and hygiene products foam, right? Foaming and soapy suds make us think that something is working to make us more clean. You wash your hair and it doesn’t get all foamy so you add more soap, right? Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is what does that.

SLS is one of those crazy things that can be found in many products in your home in small doses but that can also be used for completely different things in very large amounts. SLS is used to clean oil spills. It’s in bubble bath. In shampoo. In toothpaste.

Have you ever noticed that many hygiene products say to flush your eyes out with water if you accidentally get it in your eye? Have you ever had your shampoo or face wash get into your eye and cause it to get red and sting? Thats the SLS. SLS is known to be a harmful skin irritant and can actually cause damage to the mucous membranes in your eye. Yuck. It is also known to be toxic to the liver and kidneys, it can be deadly to fish and aquatic animals (good thing we’re washing it down our drains daily!), and is listed as a hazard by the National Institute of Health. It’s (big surprise!) known to cause eczema and other skin problems as well as mouth ulcers (canker sores).

You may find that some of your hygiene products say that they’re free of SLS because people are getting smart and learning to avoid certain harsh chemicals. However they most likely contain equally terrible things such as Sodium Laureth Sulphate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate.. which don’t seem to be any better. So read the label and educate yourself about what you’re reading.

Cases of sensitive teeth and mouth cancers on the rise… Wonder why? Of course many things can be playing into those issues but putting chemicals in your mouth and inevitably ingesting a little can’t be helpful, can it?

Most toothpastes contain artificial colors and flavors – neither of which are healthy or even close to natural. Both of which are very bad for you, especially for children. If you don’t know anything about what artificial colors do I strongly encourage you to do some research, especially if you have children.

So I poked around and found some very convincing evidence of tooth decay and enamel problems being slowed, stopped, and even reversed in people of all ages after switching to a homemade, safe, and natural toothpaste.

I picked out a pretty simple recipe to start with. If this goes well I may keep it, experiment with changing the taste, or try one of the more complicated recipes out there.

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Easy Homemade Toothpaste:
5 Tablespoons Baking Soda
4 Tablespoons Organic Coconut Oil
10 Drops Organic Peppermint Oil
optional: a pinch of Xylitol to make it sweeter

Mix the ingredients together, apply to your toothbrush, and brush away!

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Remember.. it won’t foam. But that’s a good thing! :)

After brushing my teeth felt so squeaky clean and I was left with a refreshing peppermint aftertaste. The baking soda taste may be overpowering to some – simply add more peppermint oil or xylitol if this is the case.

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Did you know about what harm your toothpaste could be causing? Do you use natural toothpaste or make your own?

Making ricotta at home is so fast and easy! And less expensive than store bought ricotta as well.

There are many many ways to make ricotta cheese but this is the method that I use and like.

You’ll need:
A pot
A strainer
Cheesecloth
2 qts milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons vinegar

Combine the milk, cream, and vinegar in the pot and bring to a boil for a few minutes. You’ll see the milk curdling as it boils. Let it cool and then strain. Squeeze to get the excess liquid out.

You can strain it warm if you want warm ricotta but it will curdle a bit more as it cools so you’ll yield a little more that way.

You can use the leftover whey in baked goods or as a replacement for water in soups.

If the mixture is boiling add a bit more vinegar until you see it curdle.

You can very easily half or double this recipe. As is it yields about three cups of ricotta. But I snack as I strain it do I could be wrong. ;)

Enjoy! It’s soooo yummy!

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Do you make ricotta? If so, how?

I made two onesies the other night for a baby shower gift. In an attempt to be frugal and personal I thought I would whip something up. I already had a few plain white 0-3 mo onesies laying around and more fabric and fabric scraps than I would like to admit.

I know that I didn’t do these “correctly”. I really can’t say how well they will hold up – honestly my hopes aren’t too high. But babies don’t wear things for very long and I mentioned in the card to take extra good care of them.. just in case. :)

As always I didn’t do any planning. I grabbed some fabric and the scissors and while cutting I was trying to think of what I was cutting. My brain is in crazy fast mode. Hopefully in say.. five years.. it’ll slow down.

So even though I don’t think these will last forever and I didn’t put in a huge amount of effort.. I think they’re cute and I thought I would share. I should probably learn how and buy the supplies for making these “correctly”. Someday. It’s on my list. ha.

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(sorry for the dark photos – it was nighttime)

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