Thursday, October 18, 2018

Penmanship Tea Party








This morning we all worked on our penmanship while some cookies baked in the oven. Twenty minutes of writing, pens down when the buzzer goes off. Many mornings Ben's mom skypes with the kids and works with them on math using Life of Fred. We decided that we should set a place for Oma and invite her to the tea party. The kids used their best cursive and wrote name cards. Juliana and Lucia picked some flowers while Pieter helped pile up the cookies for the table. We all read from our poetry books for a bit during our party. Oma even read a few of Mary Jane's poems from Poems of a Painter.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Coconut Chocolate Bars


This afternoon I came across a wonderful coconut bar recipe. Here it is, a bit modified for less sweetener and of course a healthy layer of dark chocolate. These would be the perfect homemade Halloween candy bar!

Coconut Chocolate Bars
2 cups shredded coconut, unsweetened
4 tablespoons coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt
1/8-1/4 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
5-6 oz dark chocolate (I like Trader Joe's 72% Pound Plus bar, use enough to make a nice layer)
Splash of milk
  • In a food processor, process shredded coconut, coconut oil and salt. Drizzle in sweetener of your choice.
  • Press into 8x8 pan. Cool in fridge (or even freezer to make spreading chocolate easier).
  • Melt chocolate on low heat. Add a splash of milk to thin the chocolate. Whisk to combine.
  • Spread onto coconut. Cool again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Beeswax Wrap



{finished wraps ~small squares for bowls and plates,
big squares for serving dishes, long rectangles for folding up sandwiches}



For ages I've wanted some Beeswax Wrap but didn't want to fork over the money for it. Just last week I saw a recipe for making it yourself and it was a like a light went on. Why hadn't I thought of that before? It is so very easy to do. Three ingredients and some fabric from your stash. I looked at a lot of recipes and they all have beeswax, pine resin and jojoba oil. What differs is the ratio. I ended up choosing one in the middle ground. My end result is a tacky beeswax fabric that sticks to the glass or ceramic dish nicely. This is a nice post on making wraps with and without pine rosin to achieve the tackiness you might be used to with plastic wrap. The comments are extensive and have lots of great advice.

Speaking of tacky, if you have furry friends in the house with you, their fur will be attracted to it. I folded up my wraps and put them in a ziplock bag to store in a drawer until they are needed.

One note about cost. It is about $40 for all the ingredients (links below). I didn't even make a dent into the contents. If you don't want to spend a lot and only want three wraps, just buy them already made. If you want more than that, this definitely is the way to go. You could also split the costs with a friend who also wants to make them. And another thing to remember is that after a year or so of use you will probably need to refresh the wax, so having extra is great.



Beeswax Wraps
1 cup beeswax (grated from a block or pellets)
1/4 to 1/2 cup pine resin
2 tablespoons jojoba oil
washed fabric squares (there are lots of chemicals in new fabric)
  • Melt the three ingredients. I used a little thrifted crockpot that I use for melting beeswax for crafts. It was prefect for the job. If you don't have something like that just create a double boiler with a pot of water and a bowl or glass jar sitting in the water. The pine resin does take a while to melt. Just wait and it will eventually melt and you can stir it all together.
  • While it is melting prepare the fabric. Using pinking shears, cut around all the edges of the fabric so it doesn't fray. 
  • Pull out a couple of baking trays and line with parchment paper.
  • Turn on oven to your lowest setting, probably around 210 degrees. 
  • Spread out fabric on the trays and paint on the melted beeswax mixture. Don't put it on too heavy. Pop it into the oven for five minutes. 
  • Pull out the trays. The wax will have penetrated the fabric. Touch up any spots that don't have enough wax and put in the oven again for a few minutes. 
  • While in the oven, grab a skirt hanger with clips or a metal hanger with clothes pins. Have ready.
  • Pull trays out of oven and hang up the waxy fabric. It cools and is ready in just a few minutes!
  • If you are doing more fabric, put it on the parchment and let it soak up the drops of beeswax before painting on more. You can even pop it in the oven for a few minutes to help it soak up the excess.
If you feel like the wraps are too thick with the wax mixture, you can thin it by putting a new piece of cloth on your tray with your coated cloth on top. Put it in the oven for a few minutes for the wax to melt off. Another way would be to iron the wax out. Sandwich the wrap between two cloths that you are planning to make into wraps. Place on top of parchment and iron. 

I used every drop of beeswax mixture for all of the fabric above. It was a lot, so if you only have a few squares you could cut the recipe in half. You can also just use what you want, let the remainder firm up and do a second batch on another day. I saved my parchment to do another batch later. Oh, and it is a bit of a sticky job. The pine resin isn't very water soluble. I used Citra Solve and it came off my hands and trays easily. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Outdoor Kitchen









When we bought our home here in Mayaguez, there was a wall oven in the kitchen and it was very old and rusty and inoperable. Ben took it off the wall and we hung up a pot rack instead, knowing that eventually we wanted to remodel the kitchen and would sort out an oven then. We started thinking about how great an outdoor oven would be to keep the heat outdoors, but I was a bit reluctant wondering if lizards would make themselves home inside. I still have a vivid memory of turning on an oven in some pretty yucky housing during my outdoor education years and smelling roasted mouse. Yet as the months and years ticked by I decided it didn't matter. I wanted an oven. Two years was enough without one.

Ben had a vision to turn the rustic brick fireplace and stove/counter into an outdoor kitchen. When we came home from our trip to the U.S. and Canada this summer we drove down to Ponce to find a commercial gas range that would work without any electricity. Modern gas ovens still need electricity to regulate oven temperature. After our experience post-hurricane last fall, it has become increasingly evident that we need to form our home and lifestyle to be much less dependent on the grid. That began a month long work project for Ben. First he dismantled the old fireplace, which was a huge job and created a lot of rubble. I don't have any recent photos of the fireplace, but I found one from when we were looking at the house a few years ago:



{2015}

He tried to save as many bricks as he possibly could. 
He dug out about a foot of red dirt from under the brick patio, ran a water line over to the counter and then backfilled it with broken brick and concrete. Then he relaid the brick floor and built the surround for the stove.  In the meantime we found a huge sink and faucet on Amazon. Once the brickwork was done he installed the sink and poured a concrete countertop. More work on grinding, plumbing and gas lines and we now have an outdoor kitchen. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mango Marmalade






Two years ago we had a bumper crop of PiƱa Mangos. I worked on turning these big, beautiful fruits into so many different types of jam, desserts, and hot sauces. Vanilla Bean Cardamon Mango Jam, Vanilla Bean Mango Jam, Mango Ginger JamMango Tart... But Mango Marmalade was my favorite. So when Ben worked on cutting up mangos this weekend I knew just what they were going to become. I based it on this recipe last time, but didn't write down exactly what I did, so I thought I had better do that this time. This recipe is for one small batch. When I pureed all the mango Ben cut up, I had 32 cups of it! So I made this recipe X8. I always use Pomona's Universal Pectin since you can use a fraction of the sugar compared to normal pectins. When I calculated that I needed 2 cups of lemon juice I decided that 1 cup was sufficient since I had used so many lemons for the marmalade. I added a bit more than the recipe (10 lemons and 10 mandarins). If you make just one batch you probably wouldn't even need pectin since the citrus rinds have a bit of pectin. Just cook it up and put it in the fridge.

Mango Marmalade
4 cups pureed mango
1 lemon
1 orange
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Pomona's Universal Pectin
4 teaspoons calcium water (in pectin box)
  • Slice lemon and orange very thin and quarter. Add to a pot with water to cover. Simmer 30 minutes.
  • Peel and cut mango off pit. Puree in blender. Obtain 4 cups.
  • Add mango, lemon juice and calcium water to pot and stir.
  • Put pot onto stove and bring to a boil. 
  • Measure sugar and add pectin to sugar. Whisk to disperse. 
  • Add sugar mixture to bubbling mango. Stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes to dissolve. 
  • Remove from heat and can in jars in a water bath as you normally would. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Hiking the Trails at Au Sable


{Canada Mayflower, Maianthemum canadense}


{American Robin}

{Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum}
{A voyager's log cabin}




{Louis' Pond}

The kids were eager for a hike on the trails at Au Sable this morning. A beautiful morning, 62 degrees, sunny and windy. Perfect for wearing the sweaters we brought along. Spring is just unfolding here in northern Michigan. Leaves are just popping out, spring ephemerals making their yearly appearance. So many memories of this land from 20 years ago. Could it be so long ago? The log cabin is still as beautiful as it was the day it was built. The kids had fun looking at all the voyager's belongings. 
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