Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Indestructible Books

In my previous post we talked about how books can sometimes get destroyed by little hands. I wanted to share a book that your baby cannot rip. Nope, no ripping, no tearing. In fact your little one can chew, slobber and do anything in their power to destroy it.
"Indestructibles are the books built for the way babies read. They are 100 percent baby-proof, chew-proof, rip-proof, and drool-proof. Printed on a unique nontoxic, paperlike material that holds up to anything babies can throw at it—gumming, spilling, dragging across the floor—Indestructibles are the little books that could. They’re indestructible. And if they get dirty, just throw them in the washing machine or dishwasher."

It's true! We have a few at our house. The paper feels almost cloth like. They do start to get a little raggedy after a while. After a few washes you will notice the pages get crinkly. They are really fun and a perfect baby-shower gift. Right now Babby Babble is only $2.97 and Baby Faces is $2.91. This is a great deal for these, as they are usually over $5.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tips for Reading With Babies-- and beyond

Reading with little ones can sometimes be far from "storybook perfect". I remember the first time I was able to finish a whole picture-book with my son still attentive, it felt like a miracle. For a long time, reading books involved baby grabbing the book and then baby trying to eat the book. Then baby learns to turn the page, and you are either speed read or abandon reading all together. 

I was watching a friend try to read to her one-year-old last week. I could totally relate to her frustrated feelings "I'm suppose to read to him, but I never make it through a single book!" If you are in the same boat, don't despair! 

Fist of all, when you're introducing books to you're little ones- have realistic expectations. It may, at times, feel like more of a chore than some heavenly educational experience. This is okay and totally normal. Redefine success in this area. Sometimes success might be a few moments looking at pictures. The key if just to keep trying. Keep "reading" even if it doesn't involve a lot of actual reading.    

Secondly, it's more than likely a few books will be harmed in the process. I know, those beautiful shiny books you bought your child!! Pages get ripped, board book get chewed, pages bent and smashed and heaven forbid a child rewrites the story in marker. Proactively, I teach the kids to be careful with the books. Intentionally ripping pages is a punishable offense around these parts.
However accidents happen and books get banged up. I'd rather have busted books that get read than a dusty, but pristine library. I have purchased a lot of our books at thrift-stores (Goodwill mostly) and yard sales. Knowing I only paid $.50 really softens the blow of a book destroyed.

We have books just about everywhere. The kids have a few favorites in their rooms and some live in the truck. The main place I keep them is our "family library". This is where most of the kids books live. My goal is to always have the books accessible. They are close to our main living area and easy to grab. If you have a crawling baby, keep a few in a basket down low.

Don't just make a place in your house for books though, make time for them too. Make time to read them together and time to read them alone. I love reading to my kids. Now that they are older, (4 and 2) getting through a whole book is no problem. Reading aloud is super important for early-literacy. I also try to have my kids sit down for "library time" during the afternoon. They choose a few books from our home library and sit quietly for a bit.

My last tip is to take advantage of your local library. We live in a teeny-tiny town and have teeny-tiny library. Even though it is small, there are tons of books and TONS of kids books. I often take the kids, which isn't always pretty. Be brave and don't feel too bad if you're kids are a little crazy. Most librarians are really understanding of this. The library is an incredible resource. It's a great way to try/read books before you buy them. I also love that my son can choose books according to his changing interests.

So read, and keep on reading. Remember that your long-term goal is to create a love for books in your child. Don't get too bogged down by the short-term goal of getting through a story. Worse, don't emphasize the short-term goal to the point that the long-term one is harmed. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Meatless All Day by Dina Cheney

    Meatless All Day by Dina Cheney is, you guessed it, a vegetarian cookbook!

   You know I'm all about the styling, and this cookbook is pretty good. I thought the photos and overall look of the cookbook were solid. It isn't necessarily pushing any boundaries, but I think it's an attractive enough book. Most of the recipes were photographed, which I find helpful.

 This book is all about adding big flavor with "power" ingredients. Dina has a long list of these "power ingredients" that give a meaty flavor or texture. She also has general cooking/prep tips that are very helpful

In the book you will find recipes for Breakfast and Brunch, Lunches and Light Entrees, Dinners and some extra holiday favorites.

I liked that there were recipes that could be made from ingredients I have at the house. I always look for that in a cookbook, can I actually make anything in this? Will I have to buy a new pantry just to cook these? I will say that for some cooks the ingredients list might be a little intimidating. For the more ambitious cook there were plenty of more involved recipes as well, such as the "Beet Wellington". There are in fact, a number of beet recipes. This made me smile, I wonder if Dina is a beet lover like me?

I would have liked to have seen an estimated cook/prep time for each recipe. I find this really helpful when I am skimming through a cookbook for weeknight meal recipes.  She has noted which recipes are vegan at the top of the page in green. Especially helpful if you are hosting vegan friends but aren't familiar with vegan dietary restrictions.

I own a variety of vegetarian cookbooks, but we are not vegetarian? There are just a lot of wonderful vege cookbooks out there and a lot of authors pushing and innovating in that area. I also have such a large garden that often fresh veg is available, ripe for the picking and free. Besides, we can't let the vegetarians have all the fun ;)

I received a copy of this book for review purposes, but opinions are my own.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fresh Food Nation by Martha Holmberg

Fresh Food Nation by Martha Holmberg is really the ultimate gardener's cookbook. I wait all June for things in my garden to grow. July I sample and enjoy the slim pickings. In August my garden is bursting and crazy.. and suddenly I am out of ideas for cooking these things. I get totally overwhelmed by the abundance and creative ideas just fail me. I have a feeling this cookbook will be getting a lot of use come August.

This books manages to stay creative and original throughout. I think this is largely due to the fact that the recipes are all from different farmer's and CSA members across America. This really makes the book unique. Each recipe also has a CSA showcase, where a farm with CSA membership is highlighted. I loved reading the little tid-bits about each farm and what they produce. I sort of daydream about expanding my garden and selling some of my abundance at the Farmer's Market someday.

What you can expect to find in this book-- Starters & Salad with creative recipes like Cantaloupe-Lime Salsa and Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Basil-Cilantro Puree. When my cukes are out of control I am going to bust out the recipe for Solar Dill pickles.

The Soup section is next, and filled with an abundance of soups that make the most of seasonal ingredients. I love how each recipe was so full of produce!

Pasta & Grains features an ingenious recipe for Radish Leaf Pesto with Linguine-- I would have never thought to make a pesto from radish leaves.

 The Main Dish section was varied with both meat and vegetarian recipes. I bookmarked a lot of recipes from this section. Specifically the Stuffed Poblano Casserole with Black Beans Corn, and Rice. I have poblano's growing right now-- awaiting to be made into this delicious casserole.

The next section is Sides which are all just small little extras- A lot of them would make a great lunch. Most of these recipes were pretty simple, but looked delicious. This section featured a recipe for Grilled Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto. I just loved this idea for using the whole carrot to create an amazing side.

Finally we have the dessert section, which doesn't disappoint. I can see myself whipping up all the the treats in this section. The Cardamom Carrot Cake, specifically, because I am a cardamom nut. The other recipe I cannot wait to make is the Chocolate-Beet Snack Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. It looks delicious-- and how fun to freak out my family when I tell them there are beets in their cake ;) I love beets, but it seems nobody believes me when I tell them how delicious they are!

This cookbook is such a neat way to celebrate farmer's and fresh produce. If you want to seize the season by enjoying fruit and veg, pick up a copy of this!

I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review

Weekend Things

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We seem to be continuing a summer weekend tradition of shoving as much as humanly possible into one weekend. Being Father's day weekend, I thought I had best let my husband choose the activities. Friday night we went on a hike/picnic. Most people picture this sort of activity taking place at a park or designated picnic area. Not my husband. We drove way up in the woods and hiked to one of his "secret spots". He is a major hunter and pretty much lives to spend time in the woods. Lets just say the 1/2 mile hike was not 1/2 mile. It was fun though, and incredibly beautiful. It also involved wild flowers, a particular favorite of mine.

Saturday we went to some garage sales and out to eat. I found a treasure. I got this 5x8 Pottery Barn wool rug and a 2.5x9 that matches for $30! Woot! We also picked up 9 Nerf guns.. My husbands purchase... Oy. We now have enough Nerf guns to create our own small army. My son is quite pleased.

Sunday we went up to my parent's house to celebrate Father's day with them. It was a fun trip which involved lasagna, blackberry pie, floating on the river and lots of loves for grandma and grandpa. 

 And now it is Monday again. I have a play-date scheduled already and a few great books in the review que. I have sourdough rising in the sunshine outside and babies napping. And soon, a cup of coffee to tide me over! Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Current Beauty Faves

 I remember sneaking my mom's old crusty eye-liner when I was 13... My mom has never been into makeup, but from early on it has always fascinated me. I use to memorize makeup tips from Carmindy on What Not to Wear!

I still love makeup and enjoy trying out new and different products. today I thought I would share 4 products I am using ALL the time right now.

My husband actually got me this Origins Ginzing mascara for Christmas. I'm pretty sure the sales lady talked him into it ;) I really love this mascara. I have very long, thick lashes that tend to clump easily. This lifts and gives good lash definition. It lasts all day but washes off easy. I also love that it doesn't get crumbly. I hate mascara that starts to crumble and gets in your eyes- total pet peeve.

I also love this Benefit Lollitint. It is a super pigmented cheek and lip stain. I just have the small little sample one and it has lasted me a long time. Don't be turned off by the funky purplish color. It looks amazing on and is a perfect color for summer. There is just something so glowy and fresh about it.

The Bye Bye Under Eye concealer by It Cosmetics is a long time favorite. You can see a more complete review I did of it here. It just gives amazing coverage. The product is a little greasy-- my mascara does tend to run a bit into it after a long day. BUT you just can't beat the coverage for the price. I am almost out and need to buy some more soon! They need to make a matte version.

Finally this Elf  brow kit is pretty awesome. It is so so cheap-- I think $3 at Target. It comes with a gel and a powder. Inside is an angled brush for application. It gives a nice natural definition to my brows. 

What products are you loving right now? 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Clean and Quiet

Summer days are certainly upon us. I can hear the tractor making hay in the neighbors fields every time I step outside. Our creek is starting to dry up and the river is looking very tempting. We have been doing "summer". Less house, more garden. Less cleaning, more river. Less cooking, more bbq. Look at all the summer outside my windows! It has been wonderful, magic and messy. So messy. My chores have dearly suffered. I have friends coming tomorrow and so I decided I better get this place clean clean. Like vacuum under the couch clean.  

My children are sleeping, my house is quiet and I'm sort of crazy about it. It won't be quiet or clean long, so I'm savoring this moment.

Look! No Legos on the floor!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

First Sourdough of the Season

For the last week something has been growing in my kitchen... Something wild and yeasty. I made a new sourdough starter! I had two last year-- which I killed because I got sick of taking care of them. I'm not the greatest sourdough mama in the world. I have been daydreaming about sourdough, so I made a new starter. The process sort of creeps me out. Basically you leave flour and water out on the counter for a week- feeding it daily- and it catches the wild yeast from the air.

For my first loaf, I decided to make this recipe from King Arthur Flour. I didn't have any white flour, so it was all rye and whole wheat. Also I didn't add any Anise. I made about some about 12 rolls and 1 loaf. I snapped this photo of a roll really quick this morning, before I devoured it. They have a nice dark flavor, with a good amount of sour too. I heat them up in the microwave with butter. Next time I'm going to stuff them with cheese. Because that just feels right.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bread and Butter by Erin Mckenna

 As I sat in the sweltering heat, waiting for people to make purchases at my garage sale-- Bread & Butter was the book I flipped through. The fact that anyone has been able to crack the code of baking both gluten-free and vegan is pretty incredible to me. What are pastries without butter, flour and eggs? Thanks to Erin Mckenna, they aren't tasteless bricks.

This book is spunky, feisty and fun. I can only guess that it is a reflection of Mckenna herself. The colors are all vibrant shades of pastel. Babycake's retro-glam style definitely shows through in this book. This photo of Erin in a puff of flour is my absolute favorite image of the book. There is just something so joyful and fun about it.

I kept finding recipes I wanted to make-- only to realize I didn't have any of the ingredients on hand. I find myself in sort of a hard place with this book. I bake gluten-free often, but I am not vegan. For me to make these recipes I would have to invest quite a bit of money into various flours, xanthan gum, etc. Most of the recipes require a mix of different flours, so you really need to own them all. I just don't know if that is really worth it to me.

That doesn't make it a bad book. It would probably be a fantastic book for those who are gluten-free/vegan. I can see it being an indispensable resource for a small audience. For now though I think I'll stick with baking sourdough. I love David Lebovitz, who did the forward and whose quote is featured on the back.

He says "It's bread that is the stuff of life, and I'm thrilled that Erin has created this collection of baked goods not just for the wheat-free crowd, but for everyone who enjoys good, fresh, honest food as much as I do."     

Perhaps he should have added-
and doesn't mind dropping the money to buy all the additional ingredients to make the recipes.

All of that aside, I think Erin certainly needs to be applauded for this book. I can't imagine how much recipe testing went into getting these recipes perfected. I get frustrated trying to make recipes gluten-free and often give up. She certainly accomplished something impressive with this book!

I received the book for review purposes from Blogging for Books, however opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Keeping a Daily Journal

As a teenager I was an avid journaler. I documented every detail of my dramatic existence. There were poems and drawing and lamentations. While they are somewhat painful to read, I am thankful I have them. It's pretty neat to read about the first time I met my now husband, our first date and first kiss. They are sort of ridiculous and angst-ridden but they're a reflection of me at the time.

Over the years I slowly stopped journaling. It started to feel a little silly. I felt pressure to come up with something to say. I slowly fell out of the habit. I just didn't feel like I had anything useful to write. At the same time, it made me sad that I wasn't documenting my life in some fashion.

I came across a daily journal, by the now defunct Paper Coterie, and it seemed feasible. It had three rows for you to write in everyday. Only three small rows. I felt like I could do that. I kept track of all things domestic- what I cooked (and if we liked it), what we did, what the kids are learning, who we saw, what the garden was doing, short and long term goals, kids quotes and etc. It was easy to adapt to whatever season of life we were in.

I am on my third journal right now. With Paper Coterie out of business I just purchased a regular journal-- with a pretty cover, of course. I enjoy having a little more space to write if I want to add more details. Reading over my old journals is really rewarding. It is also really helpful practically. If I want to know the date of anything we did, I can find it. Like when did we move to this house? When did you start that job? When did my daughter take her first step? When did the garden go in last year? This has come in handy so many times.

If you want to document your life in some way, but find it hard to keep on a journal-- a daily journal might be just the ticket for you!

Tips for keeping a daily journal-

-Just start with what you have. Maybe all you have to use right now is an old notepad, but sometimes the best way to start is to jump right in.

-That said... Having a cute journal does make things more fun.

-Keep writing! Some days it feels like I have nothings to say about my day. I pretty much do the same things most days, so I feel like I'm just repeating myself. To keep things from getting to monotonous I write silly things the kids say or do. The kids are always changing. I also write about any new projects I am doing or thoughts I am having.

-Try to write everyday. My goal is to have an entry for each day. However, I do sometimes cheat and do a few days at once. I try not to get to far behind because I tend to forget what we did.

-Reread them regularly. I have journals from the past three years. I love sitting down and reading about my life then. It is also really helpful to see what remains interesting to me years later, and what details I don't really care about. Like, why did I write about the weather 5 days in a row? I am thankful for the times I wrote about what dinners we were enjoying or the kids milestones. I try to then add more details like these in my current journals.

-Have fun with it! You are doing this for you, nobody else. Write about the things that you care about. No detail is too small if it matters to you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June Garden

 Every day I ask myself "are there any projects I need to do in the garden today?" most of the time the answer is no, I'm usually caught up on all my weeding/watering. However, without fail I wander out there. I love it, like a cucumber beetle on my beans, I can't get enough.

Last year I really wanted raised beds. My husband busted out his chainsaw and made these log beds for me. We won't be in the house forever, so they are a good temporary solution. I have four raised beds- behind them is a huge plot where I planted all my overflow.

The tree near the middle of the photo is Eucalyptus. I planted it last year... Perhaps not by best decision to place it there. It was so tiny when I  bought it, I never thought it would grow so big so fast. Things are far from perfect. I have battled it out with slugs and cucumber beetles. Plants have lost their lives. I love having a "before" photo of the garden. I took this photo last week and the plants are already considerably bigger. So here it is, the garden in June!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

So I may have mentioned my starry-eyed love for A Modern Way to Eay by Anna Jones. As a reward for my hours of slaving away in this pigsty, I made up some cookies. I flipped through the recipes I had tagged until I came to the Coconut Oatmeal Cookies. The cookies are the perfect mix of macaroon and oatmeal cookie. They came together in about ten minutes.

The cookies are made with coconut (or spelt) flour, oats, unsweetened coconut, brown sugar, coconut oil and maple syrup. The recipe called for raisins as well, but I left them out-- because for me raisins ruin everything. Me eating a cookie with raisins-- oh it's a chocolate chip-delicious chocolate-oh wait it's a raisin-barf. Anyways.... raisins aside, they were super simple cookies to whip up. I only dirtied a measuring cup, 2 bowls and spoon. No need for a mixer here.

Next time I make them I will probably substitute coconut sugar for brown sugar. I almost did this time, but I wanted to give the recipe a try the way Anna had intended it. I am guessing the coconut sugar will work fine.

I always love finding recipes that use coconut flour- it so much cheaper than most flour alternatives and I love the taste. It is so dry, but it works perfect in this recipe. I have found it most successful when cookies are kept round like these. It seems like when you flatten them they have a tendency to get even drier.

Also, just a a warning, do not give these to a 2 year old in her freshly laundered bed... They are a little crumbly and the 2-years-old's vice grip will likely turn them into a huge mess


Monday means....

Dishes, dirt and laundry. Messes, spills and sticky substances. Laundry, did I say laundry? And dead mice your kitty kills and leaves for you to clean up. Children coming down off the weekend high and disappointment that daddy went back to work today.

And me, slightly disheveled, and tired because I stayed up too late watching Burn Notice with my husband. And not quite ready to tackle the mountain of work that lays ahead of me.

It was a good decision, years ago, when I decided weekends were for playing. Weekends are for spending precious time with my family, not cleaning up like a crazy person. Because, I am a crazy person and I love the clean- need the clean. My family though, needs me on the few days we can all play together. It doesn't always work out great, but it works out good enough.

And so.. here we are, with mountains of laundry and dishes and messes. It's Monday again and time to clean up the weekend. I get out my good smelling homemade cleaner, and diffuse some oils. The music, is of course, on and loud. The children are outside trying to make their bikes work on our gravel driveway and grass.

And a second cup of coffee is beckoning.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Next Review in the Que, Bread & Butter.

The next book I get to review for Blogging For Books is Bread & Butter By Erin McKenna. I am SO excited to try out some of these recipes. Erin is the fabulous founder of BabyCakes NYC and Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC. All the recipes are gluten free. Baking gluten free bread products is a realm I have only dipped my toe into. I love to bake and my trusty sourdough start gets a lot of action. I'm hoping this book expands my knowledge of gluten-free flours and techniques. I got an email today saying that my book was shipped, so I should receive it in the next week or so. Keep and eye out for a full review then.

Influenster Nurture Box

I got a sweet purple box in the mail today! A box filled with goodies from Influenster. The Nurture Box contains

-Hada Labo Tokyo™ Ultimate Anti-Aging Facial Mask

- A coupon for Uncle Ben's

-Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive

-Dramamine Non-Drowsy Naturals

-Skinfix Diaper Rash Balm

-Red Vines

-A coupon for Ore-Ida Extra Crispy Easy Fries and Tater Tots

-ATTITUDE Little Ones Shampoo

I totally spaced getting the Dramamine Naturals in the picture-- I already gave it to my husband. He gets very sea sick. Poor guy spent his entire time halibut fishing barfing. Hopefully the product will help him next time he goes out.

So far our favorite product is the Attitude Shampoo. It has a light, natural fragrance. The product left my daughter's tangley hair super manageable and soft. Not having to brush knots out of a two-year-olds hair-- WIN.

"I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes."