Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Natural Dandelion Control

In our yard, we have a raging infestation of dandelions. Everyone in our area deals with their own share of dandelions, but I happen to think our yard gets hit by weeds worse than some. It really doesn't help that there is a currently unoccupied rental next door where the yard isn't even mowed.

So, how do we control weeds? Well, last week I enlisted (bribed) the help of my 7 year old and 5 year old. The incentive? 1 penny per dandelion head,  5 cents for a root.

Kylie went for the roots. She took the challenge to heart.

Ayla didn't bother going for the root, but she sure was proud of those dandelions she picked!

And they enjoyed hamming it up for the photo shoot that followed.

In the end, my yard had fewer dandelions going to seed, my kids were occupied for a good part of an evening and I invested a total of $3.37 towards dandelion weed control.

Don't forget to sign up for the Olympia Local Foods - $25 Giveaway!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Olympia Local Foods - $25 Giveaway!

I have to share this little gem with you. What is that gem, you ask? It is Olympia Local Foods! I absolutely love doing as much of my grocery shopping through them as possible.

What is Olympia Local Foods? Here is how they describe themselves: "Olympia Local Foods is like a grocery store, but more local -- like a CSA, but more flexible -- like a farmer's market, but more convenient."

I have been using Olympia Local Foods for about 9 months now and I love the ability to select my groceries online. As a mom of little ones, I love the convenience of shopping whenever the time is right for me. I can browse and add items to my cart at my own convenience (at least until Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m.). Then I pick them up on Thursday (between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m.). So easy!

Another thing I love is that Olympia Local Foods has taken the time to find local farms, dairies, bakeries and other yummy food businesses. I know many of the grocery stores in town carry local products, but I frequently am not sure which items are local and which ones are not. Everything Olympia Local Foods carries is local! All of the businesses offer quality (organic/natural) products that taste amazing.

Do you already shop at Olympia Local Foods? Here is a chance for a huge discount off of your next purchase! Have you thought about it but not tried it out yet? What a great opportunity to try it out!

The giveaway:

The lucky winner of this giveaway will receive a $25 credit to Olympia Local Foods!.

To enter the giveaway: 

1. Follow/subscribe to this blog. (Why follow? Here is a great article about why.)
2. Leave a comment below sharing your favorite local business or a comment about Olympia Local Foods.

One extra entry in the giveaway for each of the following:

1. Share about this giveaway on your facebook. (Um, if we aren't friends on facebook, you will probably need to leave me a comment letting me know that you did this.)

2. Share about this giveaway on your blog. (Again, letting me know certainly would not hurt.)

Enter this giveaway until Friday, April 29, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. The winner will be randomly selected and then announced on Monday, May 2, 2011!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Day - Cookies!

At a Good Friday service 2 years ago, the children's ministry pastor passed out a recipe for cookies that included the story of the crucifixion and resurrection. We tried them that first year and all really enjoyed the process, accompanying Scripture and the resulting delicious cookies.

These cookies have made the level of "tradition" in our house. This was our third year now making the cookies. Here is the instructions and some pictures of our family making them this year.

Resurrection Cookies

Ingredients and items needed:
1 cup whole pecans
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Ziploc sandwich bag
Wooden Spoon
Electric mixer
Wax paper
Cookie Sheets

Preheat oven to 300° Farenheit.

Place the pecans into the Ziploc bag. Let the children beat them with the wooden spoon to break them into smaller pieces. Explain how Jesus was beaten by the Roman soldiers after he was arrested.

John 19:1-3 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

Let each child smell the vinegar. Put the vinegar into the mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, Jesus was given vinegar to drink.

John 19:28-30 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Add the egg whites to the bowl, explaining that eggs represent life and how Jesus gave His life for us.

John 10:10-11 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

 Add a pinch of salt to the bowl to represent the tears shed by Jesus' disciples and followers after His death. Have each child taste the salt to remind them of the bitterness of sin.

Luke 23:27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.

Add the sugar while telling the children how the sweetest part of Jesus' story is that He died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him.

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Beat the mixture with the mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes, until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity of those whose sins have been cleased by Jesus.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Next, fold in the broken pecans and drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheets covered with wax paper. Each cookie represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid to rest.

Matthew 27:57-60 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.

Put the cookies in the oven and close the oven door. Turn the oven off and seal it with tape to represent the way that Jesus' tomb was sealed off.

Matthew 27:65-66 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. 

It is sad to leave the cookies there and have to wait until morning. Jesus' disciples and followers were saddened by the sealing of His tomb.

John 16:20,22 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

In the morning, open the oven and distribute the cookies which are (hopefully) hollow on the inside. On the first Easter, Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.

Matthew 28:1-9 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Yum!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thankful for Goodwill Dishes

We have been so blessed in the dishes department. When we were first married, my aunt gave us some dishes she found at a garage sale. The set wasn't complete or perfect, but it served us well for several years. Then a couple of years ago my aunt's friend passed away and we inherited her very nice set of dishes. Dishes are fairly expensive and I am very grateful that we have not needed to purchase them.

Recently, though, a few of our small "Bread and Butter" sized dishes have cracked. Some of the "fault lines" have been visible for a few years, but just recently have they completely lost their structural integrity and bitten the dust.

I thought this provided the perfect opportunity to add more dishes to our nice, relatively new set. (That set only came with 2 dessert sized plates.) The way I figured, I would just round out the set by ordering 6 more Bread and Butter sized plates. As I searched the internet, the cheapest plates I could find were $7 each before shipping. Yikes! That adds up fast! I was looking at at least $42 plus shipping!

 At that point I decided that the plates didn't need to match perfectly. I would be very content with whatever I could find at Goodwill.

I couldn't find a set of 6 matching small plates, but I brought home 3 sets of 2 plates. And they only cost $ .59 each!

So today, I am very thankful for my Goodwill finds. I am thankful for small, inexpensive plates.

What are you thankful for today?

 Come join me (and my friends at Adventures Of Raising A Baby In The City )! Every almost every Thursday, I will post something for which I am thankful, and I would love it if you participate as well. It is medicine for the soul to give thanks and, when practiced regularly, results in contentment. It can be anything: silly, personal, or blog related. Just take a moment to give thanks!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Homemade Pizza

I love pizza. But then again, who doesn't love pizza? I know there will be some deranged person out there who probably doesn't love pizza. If you don't love pizza, you must have some serious taste bud issues. Maybe hypogeusia or dysgeusia? I say, see a doctor.

As far back as I can remember, pizza has always been a treat. As a kid my favorite was kind was Canadian Bacon and Pineapple. There is just something delicious about the combination of sweet, salty, spicy and cheesy. It blends the best of all worlds into one tasty pizza!

When my husband and I were first married, we regularly had pizza delivered. It was quick, easy and, well, delicious. In a pinch, a frozen pizza curbed the craving. As we plunged into the uncharted waters of "single income family with kids", we cut back on our expenses. Sadly, eating out (which included delivery in) was almost completely eliminated.

Why not just stick with frozen pizzas at this point, you say? At first glance, that seems like a simple solution. The problem is that in my first pregnancy I had some cravings (Mexican food with all the fixings) and only a few aversions. The primary culprit: frozen pizza. There was just something about the smell of frozen pizza cooking that completely turned my stomach. I don't know what "they" put in frozen pizza, but I still have some residual aversion to this day. (I hear you, maybe I am the one who should be seeing a doctor.)

Around this time I also began to explore the possibility of making pizza at home. I started out using Trader Joe's Pizza Dough. I stored it in my freezer and defrosted it when the pizza urge hit. Next I found pizza dough at the San Francisco Street Bakery. Sometimes, though, their dough was sold mostly frozen and took too long to defrost for dinner. Soon I realized that it probably wouldn't take much longer than the defrost time to actually make the dough myself.

After trying out several pizza dough recipes, I finally settled on the one in my Betty Crocker's Cookbook. One thing I really like about this recipe is that the dough only needs to rest/rise for 30 minutes! It is still kind of time consuming, but totally worth the effort.

Homemade Pizza

Mix 1 cup of flour (I used fresh ground hard white wheat), 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast (or 1 package) in a large bowl. I prefer that my large bowl be connected to my Kitchenaid mixer. Add 3 tablespoons oil and 1 cup very warm water. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Or do like I do and beat it on medium speed for what seems like a reasonable amount of time. This method has worked for me so far.

Stir in enough remaining flour until the dough is soft and leaves the sides of the bowl. I never really measure, but the recipe call for 1 1/2 to 2 cups more.

This looked like the dough was sufficiently leaving the sides of the bowl, so this is where I stopped.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead 5 to 8 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy.

I like to use my kitchen table to knead. The height just works better for me. (I know, I am just asking for short jokes right about now.) Seriously, it is much easier and a lot less work to knead on the lower surface.

Cover the beautiful dough ball loosely with plastic wrap. I like to put my dough in a bowl greased with olive oil.

I may have gotten a little carried away with the olive oil this time. It looked like my dough was practically floating in the olive oil. I just figure, olive oil is good for you, right? It adds great flavor, right? And you know what else? My dough didn't stick to my bowl.

Set your timer for 30 minutes. While the dough is resting and rising, start the pizza sauce. Chop up some onion. I think I used a whole medium sized onion. In my opinion, it is hard to use too much onion. (Want to chop without crying? Check out this post.) Start that sauteing in some olive oil. Add in a generous amount of fresh garlic. I just had to show you this single huge clove from my garden. Amazing, isn't it?

After the onion and garlic is sauteed to soft perfection, add in a can of tomato sauce. For those of you who want specifics, this can was 15 oz. Stir in the tomato sauce.

Dump in your spices. I say dump because that is what I really do. I never measure spices. Never.

In the bottom right of the picture is my dumping of basil. The other large pile is a dumping of oregano. Bottom left is a small pile of crushed red chili peppers, which add a slight spiciness and make it truly taste like pizza sauce. Near the top is some fresh ground black pepper. I know it would have been twice as delicious if I would have used fresh spices, but I don't always have them on hand.

Stir the sauce. Let this concoction of yumminess simmer. The longer it simmers the more delicious it will be.

When the timer (which you set for 30 minutes) beeps, preheat the oven to 425°.
Grab your bowl o' dough and smile, enjoying how much the dough has risen in just 30 minutes.

Dump the dough onto your 15" pizza stone. I use my rolling pin and roll my pizza out the size of the pizza stone. Honestly, I am too scared of dropping the pizza dough to attempt throwing it. This makes a semi-thick crust pizza. (The recipe actually says to use it for 2 - 12" pizzas.)

Pop the pizza dough into the preheated oven. Partially bake for 7-8 minutes or until crust just begins to brown.

While the crust is baking, assemble your toppings. We enjoy many different toppings, but this time I went super simple. I just used pepperoni.

Applegate Farms makes my current favorite pepperoni. I love that it doesn't have any bad stuff (nitrates, nitrites, hormones, MSG, etc.) And it tastes delicious!!!

These pepperonis are very large, so I cut them into quarters.

Grate a nice big pile of cheese. Or ask your husband to grate it for you, like I did. Didn't he do a great job?

My favorite combination of cheeses is Mozzarella, Cheddar and Parmesan. There is just something about adding the Parmesan that makes the pizza so yummy.

Grab your partially cooked pizza crust from the oven. I like to set mine on a silicone trivet. It protects the counter and keeps the pizza stone from sliding.

Pull your pot of finished pizza sauce from the stove. (If you want pre-made pizza sauce, Trader Joe's makes some great sauce.)

Slather your crust with this sauce. This is either enough sauce for a very generous saucing on this pizza or enough to use half now and freeze the other half for when the next homemade pizza craving hits.

Add a sprinkling of cheese, a thick layer of pepperoni (or your toppings of choice) and a final nice thick layer of cheese.

Bake your pizza for another 10 or so minutes, or until the cheese is melted and sufficiently bubbly.

Now for the best part: eat. I enjoy watching my kids devour their dinner, making plenty of satisfied gulping and lip smacking noises. Yes, that is the real reason why I love making homemade pizza.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Love Notes

About a year and a half ago, my dad was planning to attend a mid-week weed conference in Eastern Washington. (Yes, my dad is very interested in weeds. Not the illegal variety, but the dandelion variety.) To the degree that my dad is interested in weeds and learning new methods of weed control, my mom is not interested in learning about weeds. He invited her to attend with him, but she declined the "tempting" invitation.

As he prepared to leave in the morning, he did something totally unexpected. You see, my dad is a fairly regular guy. He isn't always thoughtful, doesn't always remember conversations and probably would not be considered a romantic. (Lets just say that no romance novels will be written in honor of him.) But he is faithful. He is loyal. He loves his family. And he is still in love with his wife (my mom).

That morning he decided to leave notes for my mom to find while he was gone. These weren't sappy love notes. As far as I know, none of them were x-rated. He simply wrote "I love you" on sticky notes and left them all over the house where my mom would find them. She saw the first note on the door from the garage into the laundry room. Then a note on the door from the laundry room into the house. As she went about her evening and morning, she saw "love notes" all over the place.

About few months ago, he felt the urge again, and left a few more "love notes" scattered about the house. This time, among other places, my mom found a note as she opened the fridge.

Do you know what I really love about this? Several of these notes are still there. In fact, I took these pictures just today. My mom tends to be very neat and tidy. She doesn't seem to struggle with the same difficulty to control clutter as I do. She regularly cleans her house. (Is it sad that this fact sets us apart from each other?)

But these notes are an exception.

My brother's girlfriend asked my mom why she leaves up the notes. My mom responded, "Because I smile every time I see them."

My brother's girlfriend said, "So do I."

I love that my parents have always lived their love in front of us. It isn't just the notes. I know that my parents love each other. I know that they enjoy spending time together, that they are best friends. I know that they still snuggle and kiss. I have seen it.

Not that they haven't had their fair share of struggles. In fact, I know their marriage has weathered some difficult storms in life. Some of these storms I witnessed. Some of these storms I have only heard about from my parents. But through it all, I have always seen how much my dad loves my mom.

How can he love her with such a strong, enduring love?

Is it because of the amazing example he witnessed from his own father? No. His own father taught him how to use a woman. His father worked and then spent his time at home watching football and expected to not be disturbed. His father would not even consider helping with cooking, household chores, or the kids. His father taught him to treat a wife nearly as a slave.

He learned to love my mom by reading Love Notes from another Father. Love Notes, such as this one:

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
   “I have loved you with an everlasting love;
   I have drawn you with unfailing kindness." 
Jeremiah 31:3

He learned to love my mom by learning from the ultimate example.

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, 
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Psalm 86:15

I have heard it said that a girl will grow up and marry a man just like her father. When I was first married, I saw so many differences between my husband and my father. The longer I am married, the more similar I realize they are. I realize now that it is true. I married a man just like my father.

And I am so glad that I did.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Remembering Chickhood

Yesterday, a friend of ours purchased 3 hot chicks. Yes, the fuzzy kind, not the human kind. As we oohed and aahed over the cute babies today, I became nostalgic remembering our own little chicks. Was it really almost a year ago that I brought home our own little babies?

I remember the day...

Chickenpox was working its way through many kids in our circle of friends. Sadly luckily Kylie contracted the chickenpox and we began the period of chickenpox induced isolation. I anticipated a time of fever and intense itchiness, but Kylie seemed to barely feel the effects. In other words, we were quarantined with a contagious child who felt well. This was a sure recipe for stir crazy mother and kids.

We had been discussing building a chicken tractor and getting chicks. What better time to get chicks than when we were already stuck at home? Perfect entertainment opportunity! I called my husband to make sure it was okay to jump in with both feet and go pick up the chicks. I must have stated my case as to why we needed the chicks now very well because he said yes. My mother-in-law came over and watched our girls while I went to the store.

With butterflies in my tummy and a quick prayer that chicks cannot contract chickenpox, I picked out 6 chicks (2 Rhode Island Reds and 4 Ameraucanas). I purchase the chicks, some starter feed and came home.

We spent hours watching the little chicks interact, sleep, eat and play. Kylie, especially, spent most of her day sitting there watching and holding them.

Ah, my heart still melts.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thankful for Spring Flowers

I admit it. I love flowers. I love growing flowers in my garden. I love looking at flowers at a farmers market or nursery. I love displaying cut flowers on my kitchen table. I love smelling the strong perfume of flowers.

It is currently spring, but the weather does not seem to be aware of that fact quite yet. Just yesterday we experienced sun, rain, hail and snow. Yes, you read that correctly, snow. In the midst of season confusion, I am thankful to see the bright, spring flowers in my beds. They add bright spots of color and their fragrance welcomes guests to my home.

I am thankful for this frilly daffodil. It is the only daffodil in my yard that has decided to bloom. (For some reason daffodils and I don't get along very well.)

 I am thankful for these fritillaria. Their dainty blooms and checkered petals make me smile.


I am thankful for hyacinth. It wouldn't feel like spring without their bright spots of color and amazing fragrance.

I am thankful for spring flowers.

What are you thankful for today?

 Come join me (and my friends at Adventures Of Raising A Baby In The City )! Every almost every Thursday, I will post something for which I am thankful, and I would love it if you participate as well. It is medicine for the soul to give thanks and, when practiced regularly, results in contentment. It can be anything: silly, personal, or blog related. Just take a moment to give thanks!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Ran Like a Fool!

In January, one of the goals I set out to accomplish was running. At first I wasn't sure how I would accomplish that goal, but then I signed up for the Run Like a Fool 5k and made a running plan. I used the basic format a little, but I also deviated quite a bit. You see, I am fairly competitive. If I am going to sign up for a 5k, then I am going to make sure that I can run that 5k (or 3 miles) before the day of the run. So, I skipped a bit ahead in the running plan and ran my first full 3 miles about 2 weeks ago.

This morning, I woke up to a beautiful day. The forecast said showers, but I felt completely blessed to see sunshine and a mostly blue sky. I dressed, ate, and headed down to Heritage Park on my own. As I picked up my number and bag o' goodies, I realized that it was very windy and cold. Yikes! At least it was still sunny and not raining.

I started the race near the end/middle of the pack. I knew that I would not be one of those runners pushing to the front and passing everyone along the way. Even so, I did pass a few runners.

I have been wearing this great bright pink hat while running, but I had no idea how windy it would be today. The wind kept catching my hat and nearly causing me to sprint after it. (No, I have not been training for a sprint.)

The wind almost won the battle for my hat.
As I ran past the bridge on my first lap, I was surprised to see my own personal cheering squad. My parents were there as was my husband. But my most enthusiastic cheerleaders were my two little girls. They jumped, cheered and brought a smile to my face. They even ran this short little stretch with me.

I ran my second lap and as I came around toward the finish, I barely managed to grab my hat before the wind whisked it away. At this point, I just gave up on my hat and carried it to the end. With my hair blowing wildly about, I finished the race.

Again, my little girls were right there ready to hug me. They didn't "officially" record times, but I am pretty sure my time was around 33 minutes.

I did it! I ran a 5k!

Now, I am hesitantly considering the Capital City Marathon 5 miler...