Friday, July 27, 2012

Tasty Treats

Eating healthy is is important. Probably 80% (completely made up figure) of our overall health is based on our diet. We're trying really hard to eat only whole, real food. Papa Bear has even committed to eating a paleo diet. I'm not quite ready to completely give up carbs, I have a MAJOR sweet tooth.

Also, getting the kids to give up sweets will be quite an undertaking. Bug, not so much since he doesn't know anything but healthy food yet. But Josh on the other hand, he's of the mindset that eating a bowl of cereal should earn him an after breakfast bowl of ice cream. I can't blame him, I myself love ice cream for second breakfast.

So, I started looking for some kid friendly snack ideas. First I came across this idea on Pinterest to use ice cube trays for toddler finger foods. A super fun way to get the kids to eat a colorful array of fruit and veggie snacks, or whatever you've got handy. Also a great way to use up those random bits of leftover produce in the fridge.

I did this twice so far and both times it went over well. Josh even thought it was fun for a minute.

 apples, blueberries, peas, almonds. banana, ham, carrots, cheese

Bug approves

apples, oranges (already eaten), goldfish crackers, bananas, peas, blueberries, ham, strawberries

 Josh even went for it for a minute there...

That was all well and good, but Josh and I needed a fix for our sweet toothes... sweet teeth? Whichever. A big favorite in our house is snow-cones. There's a lady right down the road with one of those little wooden shacks where you can get a ginormous styrofoam cup of sugar coated ice shavings for $1.50. So yummy on a hot summer days, but not healthy. So we did some experimentation to find an alternative. 

Bug has a milk protein allergy/intolerance so he drinks coconut milk. It's suuuuper sweet and delicious, so we decided to make snow-cones out of that. We poured some in a bowl and stuck it in the freezer. Every 30 minutes or so we'd pull it out and whip it with a hand mixer to break up the ice crystals and make it fluffy. We placed the bowl into another bowl of ice to keep it from melting too quickly while we worked.

 The end result had to be served immediately, because storing it in the freezer would just make one big giant coconut milk ice cube. It turned out looking like this-

And the kids liked it alright...

But for me it was hours of waiting and work for a treat that was just "meh" in my opinion.

Next we tried a recipe I read somewhere for mixing yogurt with berries. I have to go on a quick tangent here...

I went to Wal-Mart, against every fiber in my body screaming "Nooooo! Don't do it!" because I needed new shorts for Josh, fish food, printer ink, and frozen berries. I mistakenly thought it would take less time to go there instead of three separate stores. Wrong. I spent way too long looking for the frozen berries, thinking they would be near a sign reading something like "Fruit" or "Juice" even.... oh no.... No people, frozen fruit is labeled as "Desserts & Toppings." Because no one ever eats fruit unless its a topping on a dessert...*rolls eyes*

Anyway, simplest recipe ever. One container honey flavored FULL FAT greek yogurt (you could use plain yogurt and add honey) and one bag frozen mixed berries in a blender.

Mix, pour it in a bowl and put it in the freezer. Every 30 minutes or so give it a stir to break those ice crystals up into tiny delicious pieces.

After a few hours of this you'll have beautifully scoopable, tasty delicious frozen yogurt.

I would have pictures of the kids eating it for you, but there aren't any. Josh ate the entire batch in one evening. Bug didn't get to even try it, and I barely got to lick a couple spoons. It was amazing. Sooooo delicious. And no way was this Mama Bear going to say "no" when her carb-aholic 7 year old asked for more good fat, protein, and vitamin- full greek yogurt and berry "ice cream".

Give it a try, I bet you'll love it. You're welcome. Nom nom nom.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No New Things...

We're trying to live more simply. We got rid of tons of stuff when we moved earlier this month. We are trying really really hard not to buy any new stuff to fill up our new house. It's so nice having all our uncluttered space, and barely needing to move a thing when dusting, sweeping and cleaning in general.

But we have a quarter acre lot, and that means we need lawn tools. Living in a condo before meant we had nothing as far as lawn equipment was concerned, and we'd be starting from scratch.

Papa Bear and I did some soul searching and some reading, and we set a goal to not buy anything new if we can help it (except underwear and toothbrushes, for obvious reasons). We'd like to be less wasteful, both with our money and with our material possessions. Why go out and buy a brand new x, y, or z when there's a perfectly functional used one somewhere out there. It not only keeps used items out of landfills, it also supports small local businesses and families instead of big box stores. And it saves us money. Triple win!

We put our goal to the test and started perusing Craiglist for the things we wanted. We found plenty of listings that were already sold, which really frustrated me as I'm an instant gratification type of gal. But with patience we found exactly what we were looking for at a great price from people right in our neighborhood.

We got this entire set of tools from a family just a few streets away from us. I'll compare our purchase price to an estimated new price. I'm Googling the "new" prices for each item and using the least expensive price I find.

New Prices

Garden Rake- $20
Axe- $16
Round Shovel- $10
Flat Shovel- $20
Wide Broom- $28
Hoe- $18
Smaller Broom- $12
Leaf Rake- $10  


Total New- $134 Our Price- $40 Savings- $94

Then we found all the following tools from a recycling center we found on Craigslist located in the next town. Again, I'm Googling the "new" prices for all these and using the LEAST expensive price I find.

 Black and Decker Hedge Trimmer
new- $55

Black and Decker Leaf Blower/Vaccum
new- $72

Snap and Go Weed Eater
new- $30

Black and Decker Edger
new- $89

Homelite Cordless Electric Mower
new- $349

Scott Push Mower
new- $105

Josh insisted we get this, much to Papa Bear's head shaking. He loves it though, and has spent the last three days mowing for fun!

Total New- $700 Our Price- $100 Saving- $600

They originally had each item listed separately, but since we bought them all at once they gave us an awesome package deal. The only down side was we had to make a second trip because the electric mower didn't fit along with everything else the first time.

I'm so excited we were able to get EVERYTHING for taking care of our lawn in one weekend, and for only $140. Truly amazing. Bonus points- Everything is electric. No gas, no oil, no gas can sitting in the garage. Extra bonus points- Our electricity plan is 100% wind power, so I feel pretty good about that too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wholly Macaroni!

My kids love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Who doesn't?!?! The stuff has to be laced with crack or something, it's delicious! But with an ingredient list like this (taken directly from Kraft's website)...


...I don't exactly feel great about feeding it to my kids.

We are trying our best to eat only real, whole food. Things that were once alive- fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and eggs. It's a gradual process, and while pasta isn't on the list of approved foods, I can at least find a way to make mac and cheese using all ingredients I can pronounce and know what they are. I mean, seriously, what is cellulose gum?! No thanks.

On my quest for tasty real food recipes I found this one on Pinterest and it looked great. Basically, it's pasta, evaporated milk, a can of Campbell's Cheddar Cheese soup, and shredded cheese. I set out to buy the ingredients and give it a try, but came across one road block. Have you ever looked at the ingredients in Campbell's Cheddar Cheese soup? There are 59 of them!

water, cheddar cheese, wheat flour, food starch modified, margarine (soybean oil partially hydrogenated, soybean oil, water, salt, soy lecithin, natural flavor, mono and diglycerides, beta carotene added for color, vitamin a palmitate) contains less than 22% of salt, sugar, cheese enzyme modified (milk, water, milk fat, sodium phosphate, cheese culture, salt, acetic acid), apocarotenal added for color, butter, butter flavor (butter oil, cheddar cheese (milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, calcium chloride), corn oil, cottonseed oil, cream powder, disodium phosphate), butter enzyme modified, cheese cheddar enzyme modified (enzymes, flavors, guar gum, lactic acid, butter oil lipolyzed, milk non-far dry, oleic acid, soybean oil partially hydrogenated), sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, vegetable oil (water, xanthan gum, vitamin a palmitate)

So obviously that is out! I figured I'd leave that out and just wing it. Here's what I ended up doing-

1 16 ounce box of small shell pasta (indredients- duram semolina, niacin, ferrous sulfate (iron), thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
4 Tablespoons butter (pasteurized cream, natural flavors)
1/2ish of a 12 ounce can evaporated milk (milk, less than 0.5% dipotassium phosphate, carrageenan, vitamin d)
8 ounces, more or less, freshly shredded cheddar cheese (cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes, annatto (color))
seasoning to taste

Boil the pasta, drain it and leave it in the colander. Return pot to burner and turn heat down to medium. Melt butter. Add evaporated milk and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add pasta, combine. Season to taste.

I've tried making homemade mac and cheese using a rue before (melted butter and flour) and never was happy with the way it turned out. This was SO much easier! It came out nice and creamy without the flour taste or waiting forever for the sauce to thicken. Just as easy as box macaroni, but half of the ingredients!

Here's Josh giving it a sniff. Naturally, he's wary of anything posing as macaroni that hasn't come out of the blue box-

After a few bites though, he gives it the thumbs up! Success!!!

Here's Bug's attempt to give it a thumbs up, he hasn't quite figured that one out yet.

His smile and messy face show his approval though!

This time around I used sharp cheddar cheese (because I love it and that's what we had), so the sauce had that sharp cheddar bite to it. Eventually the kids caught on to it and started giving their bowls the stink eye. Next time I think I'll use a mild cheddar. Josh suggested colby, his favorite, and I think that would work really well too. For grown-ups something like a smoked Gouda would probably be delish! There are so many possibilities! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Whistle While You Work

Today was a really great day. One of those days when everyone is in a great mood, and everything seems to be going right. The height of this really great day came when I was cleaning up Bug's room for the night. We've made picking up all his toys part of his bedtime routine. I sat down to pick up his train tracks, singing the clean up song, (I'm sure you all know it...) and there was my 18 month old singing along, picking up his trains.

For a second, I just sat there and soaked up the moment. Then I got to thinking about all the other things the boys do without a fight, things that are stereotypically battlegrounds between parents and kids. Picking up toys, brushing teeth, doing chores. I wondered what we were doing differently that gave us a different reaction than the norm.

Its all about attitude!

We have a song we sing when we pick up toys, or we get baskets and make it a hunt or a race, or playfully toss things into their buckets. We have a song for brushing our teeth. Just about every time I brush my teeth, Bug sits on the bathroom counter with me and brushes along. I've never ever MADE him do it. He WANTS to do it. He enjoys doing it, because he sees it is something that I enjoy.

I LOVE our new house, LOVE IT! And I really do enjoy taking care of it and keeping it clean. I think the boys pick up on that attitude and follow suit. Just yesterday Josh was so excited to go bring the trash bins in from the curb. I didn't ask him to do it, HE asked ME if he could! Today we made a list of one chore to do each day to keep the major housework in check. Tuesday is "clean the bathroom" and guess who was right there with me scrubbing toilets? Josh. Yep.

The point I'm trying to make here is this- When we act as if housework, or any work at all really, is drudgery and put forth the attitude of how much we hate it, how can we expect our kids to act any differently? When we take pride in our work and enjoy taking care of the things we have, we teach them to do the same and to really appreciate everything we are so lucky to have.

Monday, July 2, 2012


One of the reasons we are unschooling is because we don't want to boys being forcefed a ton of facts for them to regurgitate on command. We want them to be able to think critically about facts and connect the dots to see the bigger picture.

One way to encourage and test this is to ask them what they think about things. Or to have them "teach" us something they have learned. Being able to effectively communicate your thoughts and explain ideas is SUCH a valuable life skill.

All this ranting to bring me to my real point. I LOVE TedEd! I mean, honestly, what an amazing resource for homeschooling! You can go to the website here and register for an account. They have thousands of videos which are recorded lectures from nominated teachers which have been animated by nominated animators. After each lesson there is an optional "Quick Quiz" of 5 multiple choice questions, a "Think" section of short answer questions, and a "Dig Deeper" section of links for supplemental information.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the short answer section. I'm not a big fan of multiple choice questions because that is exactly the fact regurgitation thing I was talking about earlier, but by having Josh answer the "Think" section questions I get real feedback about what he absorbed from the video, and what we should revisit or clarify.

The first video we watched today was about Speeding up Chemical Reactions (Josh's choice!). It totally went over his head, understandably. Next we watched one about Just How Small Is an Atom? He answered all the multiple choice easily (he wanted to, I didn't ask him to do that section) but he had to sit and gather his thoughts for the short answer. I LOVED seeing this. I typed out his answer exactly as he said it to me. Here it is-

Describe the size and scale of an atom. Explain the relative size of the nucleus in relation to the size of the entire atom.
"The atom is invisible so the nucleus, if they're both the same size then the nucleus would be invisible too. If you had a blueberry then blow it up to the size of a football stadium, and you can get inside of the blueberry and the nucleus would be as small as a marble compared to the blueberry."

He's getting it! I'm so proud! After answering the one question he felt like playing with Transformers instead of continuing, and that's just fine.

I can't wait to see what else he learns from this awesome resource. Heck, I can't wait to learn more myself!