Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I just had to tell you....

that they were right. Bon Appetit magazine taught me how to make the best fried chicken of my LIFE. To be honest, I've actually never really like fried chicken. It was always too greasy with too much breading. Awhile back I posted the link to their recipe on how to make the best, life-changing fried chicken ever.

Oh. my. goodness.

Using their instructions and recipe, my very first batch was incredible!!!! The meat was juicy, tender, and flavorful; the breading light, crunchy, and seasoned perfectly.... I drool just thinking about it. I could hardly believe I had made it myself! (And my second time around, it was just as good!) I'd always heard making homemade fried chicken was nearly impossible or you had to have some southern great-aunt's famous recipe to do it. But no. Bon Appetit taught me all I needed to know. And I'll be forever grateful.

You should give it a try. Really. You'll thank me.

Here's the recipe.

They weren't lyin', folks!!!
All this talk... I need me some fried chicken right now.

P.S. Pssst! I even broke down a whole chicken all by myself for the first time in my life - just to make this recipe. Can you believe it?! I was so proud of myself! You can do it too! They have a good slide show of pictures here.

The Natural Canning Resources Book

I just learned about this book, Natural Canning Resources Book, through the Cultures for Health website and I just had to take a look! I'm fascinated with food preservation and enjoy eating the fruits of my canning labors (though the process itself is not as fun, especially doing it all by yourself!).

Just one look inside and I could tell that this book is special. It's hard to tell, but I believe there are recipes. What struck me about this book though, was that it has information not usually found in the standard Ball Blue Book like how to replace conventional sugar and corn syrup with healthier alternatives in canning like honey or maple syrup, the nutrient changes in canned food, an explanation of the PH scale, and the science of what lies behind the USDA's regulations for canning. It also has information on unsafe canning methods and things that do not have safe home canning guidelines.

Here is what it says about the book on Cultures for Health:


Lisa Rayner, 2010, softcover

The local foods movement has made home canning popular once again! Farmer’s markets, Community Supported Agriculture projects, urban foraging collectives, permaculture guilds and community gardens are popping up like mushrooms. People who never learned how to preserve food growing up are teaching themselves and learning from old-timers how to can in boiling water baths and pressure canners.

The Natural Canning Resource Book fills a major gap in the canning literature.  Most published canning recipes require the use of non-organic, refined ingredients like distilled while vinegar, white sugar, corn syrup or commercial pectin containing chemical preservatives.  This book explains the science behind USDA canning guidelines and explores how to can foods using healthy, natural ingredients you'll find at your local farmer's mart, CSA, natural foods grocery, buying club or cooperative.

Learn how to:
  • Can fruit & pickles without sugar or sweetened with raw honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt, evaporated cane juice or other unrefined cane sugars.
  • Pickle vegetables with organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar or homemade vinegar.
  • Can wild and tropical fruits like Oregon grape, Juneberries, elderberries, paw paw & guava.
  • Gel jams and jellies with homemade pectin extracted from locally grown fruit.
  • Create your own jam, jelly, fruit butter, pickle, relish, chutney & salsa recipes.
  • Can foods using a solar cooker.
  • Create a community canning project or start a community kitchen.
  • Save money & energy with home canning.
  • Use European-style canning jars with glass lids & rubber gaskets.
  • Sell your canned goods at your local farmer’s market or CSA.

This looks like an exciting book, especially if you enjoy or depend on canning to fill your cupboards!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


So, for some reason my wandering mind has zeroed in on Christmas. I'm thinking about Christmas already! Maybe it's my subconscious yearning for cooler weather. Usually this Christmas contemplation happens in September when I start planning for gifts to give me plenty of weeks to prepare. Well, this time I was actually thinking about a new tradition I wanted to start in our family. I got the idea last Christmas at a friend's house.

Every day of December leading up to Christmas day, her children unwrap one Christmas movie. I don't have that many Christmas movies and don't really want that many, so instead I decided we could do Christmas books instead, supplemented with the movies we have and Christmas music CDs. (I actually buy new Christmas music every year. This year I'm getting Barbara Streisand's classic Christmas album I grew up listening to - my mom's fave. I can't wait!)

So, I happened to be at Goodwill and they had quite the selection of Christmas books! I bet if I had waited a month or two, they would have been gone. I wanted to focus on Jesus' birth, so I skipped most of the Santa books, making an exception for the classic "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" because it had gorgeous artwork. I'm a sucker for good artwork!

Speaking of art work, one of my most amazing finds was a pop-up book about the 12 Days of Christmas. The paper work is incredible!!! My jaw dropped as they got more and more complicated with each day of Christmas. And for 95 cents, that was a steal!!! I'll have to take picture of one of the pop ups just to show you what I mean.

So, when I got home I pulled the few Christmas books in the kids' regular book collection, added them to the stack and pulled out all our Christmas movies. My music is missing, but I think it might be in the Christmas tub. (That's right! My husband is adamant on keeping our Christmas things down to one large tub. Let me tell you, that is quite the feat for me. I LOVE Christmas!!)

Anyway, our Christmas movies are "White Christmas", "Little Women" (even though it's not all set during Christmas, it always makes me think about Christmas!), "The First Noel", "Mr. Kreuger's Christmas", "The Gift of Love" with Marie Osmond, "The Muppet's Christmas Carol", "A Child's Christmas in Wales",  and a few others. I even have some more movies on my wishlist on Amazon.

Wow, I had no idea I'd have so much to say about Christmas in August, but maybe I just need to get it out of my system. Another Christmas project: Sewing present drawstring bags out of Christmas fabric instead of using wrapping paper. I'll have to wait for an incredible fabric sale sometime in November though.

That's ok! I have tons of sewing projects stacking up. (Go to my historical blog at History:Preserved to see my costume projects.) I have 2 quilts in the works too, but I was waiting until cooler weather to continue on those. (One is a fall quilt with beautiful fall colors and seeing the new autumn fabrics at the fabric store is just killing me! I am just drawn to those earth tones!) Also, I just finished the last of the curtains needed for our house. Whew! I'm keeping my sewing machine busy! It feels good to be sewing again after a long haitus.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Healthy TV Habits in a Technologically Saturated Culture

I had my fair share of TV watching growing up of which I have fond memories. (I was a child of the 80s!) But I also spent a great deal of time playing outside, having loads of imaginative play indoors, and going for many long walks in nature with my family. (My mom was a huge advocate of exploring.)

I still enjoy watching movies and television shows I like - sans commercials if I can! And while my children and I enjoy being entertained like everyone else, I need to constantly remind myself that my children also need to learn to entertain themselves. I try to be cautious in how much TV face time they get, especially my toddler. And I try very hard to not let the TV be a babysitter, though I have resorted to it from time to time. The temptation to just sit them in front of a TV show is so strong sometimes, but I am getting better at ignoring that temptation by just telling my kids if they're bored they have to go find something to do or I'll find something for them to do. I'm met with grumblings of course, but eventually they're playing happily (with or without bickering). I've also tried to make an effort to only allow television on Tuesdays and Thursdays, although I've been slipping up the past couple weeks. I should consider it a good sign that my 2 year old daughter comes wandering in to find me instead of watching her favorite "doggy talk" show (Martha Speaks).

It's not that I want my kids to be technologically slow or ignorant. On the contrary. I just want them to develop healthy habits when using technology. (Which I need to be diligent in applying to myself as well! It's so easy to get sucked up into things...) To be honest, I am very anti-hand held gaming device, but I don't mind a few old-school video games (like Atari or Nintendo) for a limited time. My 5-year-old son knows how to work the TV and Netflix, but he is also finding his way around building electrical circuits using his Snap Circuits Jr. set. I am reluctant to have the internet on my phone because I know my own weaknesses! I spend enough time on the computer as it is.

I love technology. I really do! I just don't want us to be a slave to it. We are the masters over technology, not the other way around. At least that is my constant goal.

My mother sent me this article about why TV is a bad idea for kids under 2. It is positive encouragement for my efforts and gives me more determination to have less TV time in our family life in general.

One last thing, is that I am concerned by how many young children are plugged into technology - MP3 players, phones, texting, internet, TV. There is something constantly entertaining them. But what about being with their own thoughts? What about forming their own thoughts without constant exposure to someone else's? It is no wonder that children's attention spans are shrinking as the use of technology is growing.

I feel a valuable way to counter this is to have real quiet, contemplative time for children. This usually comes through unstructured play time. Even driving in the car, I've noticed my son quietly looking out the window or talking to himself as his way of using the car time. I am also a strong advocate against movies in cars - unless it's a car trip longer than 2 hours. I don't mean to put down people who use the little TVs in their cars. I just find that idle time in the car to be a good exercise for our children's patience and creativity in the enclosed space. I myself didn't grow up with movies in our cars for long trips (though my husband did, as well as listening to radio dramas). I remember much of the time spent playing travel games, eating, listening to music, feeling the wind on my face from the open window, thinking, and sleeping. (I was easily motion sick, so no books for me!)

Reading a lot of books to your kids and also having them read by themselves is great  in developing attention span. I also find using a different technology - audio radio dramas - develops great listening and imaginative skills. The mind is engaged, but because it is all auditory, their mind is left on its own to imagine the pictures, people, and scenarios. What a lost art this is becoming!

I'm excited whenever I come across audio dramas. I grew up listening to American History radio dramas and my son enjoys them now. Here a few links for audio dramas:

The Living Principles of America
My Audio School
Your Story Hour

We're looking forward to using these in our homeschooling.

I'm writing this post as much for myself as for anyone else - to re-encourage myself to stay strong against overusing the TV and to get the kids playing, reading, or listening!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Homeschooling Begins!

Today I decided we'd officially start our homeschooling. I've been having our 5-year-old son working on some workbooks throughout the summer to gear him up for the schedule and expectation of school every weekday. I think it was a smart decision for us. My son has a hard time with transitions, and this easing into full-time homeschool has made the transition pretty uneventful - which is good.

For Mondays and Wednesdays we have Math and Reading.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are Science and History.
Fridays are reserved for extras like field trips, art, P.E., or whatever we feel like doing.

Since he's only in Kindergarten I'm hoping to keep things simple, do a lot of reading, go on abundant field trips and just enjoy our school year.

Having a 2 1/2 year old is proving to be a challenge for school time. So I'm figuring out that for the first hour we do things that she can enjoy alongside us like doing puzzles, reading, and occasional art projects. (She loved joining in for painting some wooden bird houses!) Once she goes down for her nap, we break out the workbooks and curriculum.

We'll see how it goes, but I'm feeling pretty optimistic!

Sourdough Update

After a few days of fairly flat sourdough starter with only some bubbles, I realized that I had been only feeding it every 24 hours instead of every 12 hours like I was supposed to. Oops! Once I was feeding it more on a regular basis, it was rising and bubbling reliably. 

So far, I've made a loaf of sourdough bread (that rose in only 3 1/2 hours compared to the 4-12 hours they say it should take), sourdough biscuits, and sourdough pancakes. The biscuits were fabulous. The pancakes not so much. I'll have to tweak that recipe a bit.

My sourdough jar covered with its cloth and rubber band.

Nice and bubbly!

Mmm! Delicious sourdough biscuits!
We smeared these with butter and strawberry jam and were in heaven!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New History Blog

I've just started a History blog as an outlet for my historical interests, which are many! I've wanted to post stuff here, but it just didn't really fit with the scope of this blog. So, I started a new one. Come on by! Leave comments!
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