Saturday, March 31, 2012

Use What You Have, Duct Tape Wallet

I knew a project was coming on when, earlier this morning, I heard, "Mom, I need a wallet."

Those are project words.

I seem to remember some DIY idea to make a wallet out of Dorito bags and duct tape, but a simple Google search revealed something far greater.

Duct Tape + Fabric!

We watched this video tutorial and headed for my fabric scrap bin.  We gathered the tools,

and just a few minutes later we had this nifty little wallet.

And it wasn't a bit wonky.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Look who's perching!

It goes without saying that we are so delighted by our little chicks.  They are 10 days old today and already reaching milestones.  They are getting lots of adult feathers on their wings, shoulders, and tails, but still are mostly the cute fluff that makes chicks so adorable.  They realized that it's not super fun to be held by humans and now screech and run when it's time to change their bedding.  Speaking of which, is daily reminding me more and more of a barnyard. Not in a cute, charming way.

And they are so jumpy now that I put the lid on the stockpot to keep them from hopping out for the eternal 3 minutes that it takes me to change the bedding.  Yes, it does look like I'm making chicken soup with 5 live chickens, but I promise I'm not!

And they perch.

We had to upgrade their brooder from the galvanized tub to a large cardboard box, mainly because of their jumping and flapping skills.  Now they are safe and sound in the box with its high walls.  Plus the scenery is better because this used to be my daughters' play box and so it's decorated with crayon murals for their viewing pleasure.  And there is room for natural habitat stuff like branches.

The name discussion continues but is nearing its conclusion.  Any final suggestions of children's book characters?

Monday, March 26, 2012

They're here! The first week for our chicks.

We had been contemplating, pondering, considering chicks for about a year before their big arrival last Tuesday.  If you've ever glanced at the Recent Reads sidebar on the right, you could guess the inevitable, that we would one day be keepers of backyard chickens.  And now we are, excect they live in our kitchen.  Seems appropriate, because that's where they will end up.  At least the eggs will.

Our chicks came to us the way nature intended.  Through the US Mail.

Turns out that just before hatching, chicks absorb the yolk as their nourishment and hydration, allowing them to be just fine without food or water for about 48 hours.  In your standard barnyard, this is so the mother hen can sit patiently on her whole clutch, while the slowpoke eggs take their time hatching and the early birds don't starve.

In your small city, this is so they can arrive via Express Mail to your local post office.

Their box was lined with straw, had plenty of holes for air, and even its own heating pad for warmth.  And so our 6 chicks arrived last Tuesday around noon, just 24 hours after hatching!

Here they are in their new home, a galvanized tub in our kitchen.

Within minutes, they figured out that chicken feed is delicious.  And soon after, that water is awesome.

Within just a day, adult feathers were replacing the fluff on their wing tips.  And they were doing chicken-y things like preening, flapping, pecking their neighbor, and crazy yoga-like stretching.

My family took to them right away, and we snuggle them whenever possible.

If we are still and quiet, they fall asleep right in our hands.

We have two Salmon Faverolles, 

two Barred Rocks,

and two Buckeyes.

Unfortunately, this little one has fallen ill and won't be with us much longer. 

And then there were five.

These five have gotten so jumpy that when I change the bedding in their tub, I'm forced to put them in my tallest stockpot to keep them from hopping away!

They've gotten a little bigger by now, but I couldn't help but notice that a newborn chick weighs less (at 38 grams) than an egg (about 55 grams)!

And all of us humans stand motionless above their brooder tub, amused by how birdy they are.

The jury is still out about their names, but I think a family meeting is in order to determine this soon!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rich in Eggs (Bread Dolls)

About two years ago I was on some strange children's-book-with-recipe kick.  I found myself approaching the children's librarian, asking if she happened to know of any charming picture books with recipes included.  She pointed me in the direction of one or two, then the next day sent me a spreadsheet with about a hundred more titles.

Lesson: Only ask a librarian a question when you are fully prepared to hear the answer.

We worked our way through some of them, including the sweet Cranberry series.

And this Patricia Polacco one.

Just the other day, we and the neighbor girls tried these intriguing Bread Dolls, as described by one of our all-time favorite authors, Tomie dePaula, at the end of this book.

Basically, you make a sweet bread dough,

divide it into strips, wrap the strips around a raw egg,

braid as desired,


bake, and you've got yourself a doll with an egg face that is amazing with butter.

Plus, the whole recipe uses nine (9) eggs!  Which works out really well when you find yourself rich in eggs, as we sometimes do.

Here is the recipe:
Scald 1/4 cup of milk in a small saucepan.  Add 1 stick of butter to melt.  While this is cooling, mix 4 cups flour with 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  In your smallest bowl, heat 2 tablespoons water.  Dissolve 1 package of dry yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast) and 1/2 teaspoon sugar into it, stirring gently.  In the bowl with the flour mixture, make a well and pour into it 4 lightly beaten eggs, the milk/butter mixture, and the yeast mixture.

Mix all this thoroughly. Knead with hands until smooth, adding a touch of flour as needed to not get too sticky.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  We cut this batch of dough into 4 parts for 4 dolls.  For each doll, cut about 1/3 of the dough off for the short rope, and use the remaining 2/3 of the dough for the long rope.  After forming one short rope and one long rope, set an uncooked egg on the end of the short rope.  Loop the long rope around the egg, draping the ends down, so there will be 3 bread ropes for braiding.

Braid or shape however you wish.  Next time I think we'll make actual arms and legs for a more doll-like effect, but the braid or twist is super cute too.  Repeat this for the other 3 dolls.  Beat yet another egg in a small bowl and brush it over the dough to form a glaze.  Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes, depending on thickness of your doll.  Check that the bottom doesn't burn :)

Enjoy with butter, oil, or jam!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rich in Eggs (Easiest Ice Cream)

I'm delighted that we've been getting our milk and eggs from the local Calder Dairy for about five years now.  Every Friday morning, Calder brings 2 half-gallons of skimmed milk, 2 half-gallons of 2% milk, and 2 dozen farm fresh eggs.  That's right, we have a milkman.  Stan, the milkman!  I love the sound of the clinking bottles as Stan whisks away our empty ones, leaving us with the milkiest milk I've ever tasted.

I love that I feel like I'm doing at least a small part to keep my food dollars here in Southeastern Michigan.  I saw that study that reported that just spending $10 per day locally would save the world, one dairy cow at a time.  Or something like that.  The fun was enhanced when we visited the actual dairy farm and saw that one of the cows shares a name with my younger daughter.

The only downfall, if you can even call it that, is that occasionally we have a surplus of eggs.  If I haven't been on top of my game omelette-wise, then on Friday afternoon, we could very well have 3 or 4 dozen eggs in the fridge.

Then I have to get creative.

Seeing that I'm all of a sudden rich in eggs, I look for ideas to use lots of them in fun ways.  Recently we all had a hankering for ice cream during one of our Abundant Egg Times.  Luckily I had this recipe tucked away.

Easiest Ice Cream (modified from Everyday Food from a few years back)

Beat 1 and 3/4 cups cream until stiff peaks form.  Let this whipped cream sit in the fridge.

Heat 1/3 cup honey in your smallest saucepan until it boils, stirring throughout. Cook for another minute or two.  Remove from heat.

In another bowl, beat 4 egg yolks until they are creamy and pale-ish.  Add the honey in a slow stream, beating the whole time.  Beat until the mixture is about room temperature, a few more minutes.

Fold this mixture into the whipped cream (stir slowly with a rubber spatula).  Pour all of this into a bread pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for about 2 hours.

We like this plain or with any variety of toppings.  But my favorite thing about this recipe is that it only uses 3 ingredients and is easy to scale up or down depending on how much you'd like to make.

Or in my case, how many eggs I'd like to use up.

Stay tuned for other Rich in Egg ideas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

why my marriage works

We've gotten into the frugal habit of requesting DVDs from our local library.  We get a little phone call telling us that our requested items are ready for pickup, and we're set with a couple of hours of viewing pleasure.

Look what items just became available from our list:

Does this mean my husband and I are completely alike, or completely opposite?  Probably both.  Which is why our marriage works!

What do your DVDs say about you and your family?

Monday, March 12, 2012

on a whim

Lately I've been seeing a lot of Do It Yourself tutorials for turning dumpster furniture into beautiful furniture.  This looks like so much fun, but really, I don't need any more furniture.  Less is more, when it comes to furniture, and just about everything else. And I enjoy seeing lots of floor and wall space in my house.

One day I saw this sitting by the side of the road.

The next day it was still there.

The third day, I picked it up.

Before I lost the nerve, I found myself washing this piece, sanding it down, and slapping a coat of primer on it.  Then some leftover paint.

Then some fabric with Mod Podge.

And before I knew it, I had a place to store chicken supplies.  (Chicken supplies!  We're expecting our chicks early next week!)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Birthdays are mandatory, electricity is optional.

Last week, my younger daughter celebrated her 6th birthday.

Things were going something like this:
Me: Do you want to bring treats to school?

Her: Oh, yes.

Me: Cake balls, like last year?

Her: Oh, no.

Me (to myself): Please don't request a cake shaped like a dolphin or a pomeranian or anything else you've been pretending lately.

Her: How about chocolate-covered strawberries?

Me (to myself): Healthy-ish, and strawberries are on sale this week at the grocery. Yes!

Me: Chocolate-covered strawberries it is!

Her: And monkey cake for my regular party.

So we plan for the kids party on Saturday morning and the family party on Sunday around lunchtime.  The plan: animal charades, monkey bread, and lots of pasta.

But in the middle of the night, both children (separately) come into my room to inform me that the power has gone out and all they hear is crazy wind and can they please climb in my bed.

This birthday is not going well.

Around 7am on Saturday, we all decide to face the cold fact that our house has no electricity.  I silently decide that not only do we have to cancel the birthday, but we also have to move.  Today.  We wander around for about a half an hour before remembering that we have a fireplace.  The Music Man builds a fire and proceeds to cook oatmeal and brew coffee over our fire.

The sun starts to brighten our house.

That's enough for me to stand up and declare:

People had birthday parties before electricity was invented.  The party is on!

Her: What about the monkey bread?
Me: Let's roast marshmallows instead!
Her: Can I have one right now?

Clearly, this was going to be a memorable birthday.

making ice cream

So we fed the fire, pulled back every last curtain, lit candles, boiled pasta on the fireplace, wore sweaters, painted wooden animals, roasted marshmallows, acted like animals (that's the charades), and heard nary a complaint.

By evening, the power had been restored and we were thankful.

Thankful to sleep in warm beds.
Thankful to boil pasta on the stove.
Thankful to bake monkey bread in the oven.
Thankful to use all the conveniences that normally we take for granted.
And thankful for 6 years with this not-so-little one!