Monday, June 13, 2011

Faux-fossil Memory Game

I love playing homemade games. It feels organic and old fashioned, and I like it. My kids like it too - there's a satisfaction in knowing they're playing with something they made, not a kid working in a sweatshop in some foreign country.

This is a project I made up myself. We do a lot of fun projects that I read about in books and online, but it's not often I come up with something on my own that I think is worth sharing. Enjoy!

Today's project: Fossil Memory

We started with homemade playdough, colored with Kool-Aid.

2 cups flour
2 cups salt
2 Tbsp cream of tartar
2 cups water
Kool-aid packets

Mix together all the ingredients except the Kool-aid. Add more water or flour as you go, you want it to be the consistency of play dough. Divide the dough into six balls - if you have six colors of Kool-Aid. Knead the Kool-Aid into the dough. Best do this outside - the smell of the Kool-Aid gave us headaches after awhile. You could also use food coloring, and avoid the headache.

Put your dough in plastic bags and set aside while you...

Go on a nature walk.

Check out your back yard, or the neighborhood, a park, or wherever. Add interesting things to your basket as you go, so long as they are less than 2" in diameter. We ended up with flowers, leaves, rocks, shells from our collection, a pine cone, a piece of bark, etc. We made ten sets of memory stones, but I suggest finding more than ten things - some don't make as nice of prints as you'll hope.

Bring your nature back to the table, and divide each color of dough into four equal pieces. Roll them into balls, then smash them down so they look like flat stones. In each piece, press one of your nature objects, leaving a "fossil" imprint. Make two of each print, but make them on different colors. Otherwise it's too easy to match them!

Let the "fossils" dry all day (and all night, if needed.) Be sure to turn them every so often so both sides are getting air.

Then, lay them out in a square and take turns trying to match fossils.

Fun stuff, huh?

Other thoughts and ideas:

If you need it to be more difficult, make them all the same color. This difficulty level is perfect for my three year old, a little to easy for the eight year old.

Consider making a set for each season, based on the changes you see in nature. Fall would be great for harvested veggie bits, seed pods, etc. Winter has acorns and feathers and berries, and spring is full of all kinds of natural bits.

Or, make a set for different areas. This project would travel nicely, and I look forward to making a set of stones the next time we go camping. Just add water, find nature, and away you go!

The dough would roll out nicely into a sort of plaque, where kids could press all the little bits of nature they come across and make a nice decoration for a table top or a wall.

Have fun!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Garden to Table Challenge- Rhubarb Pie

It's no secret that I am a Pie Making Failure. There are a lot of domestic, housewife-y things I do a good job of, but making pies has never made it on that list.

But lo! What's this?

I've made a pie! A pretty one. And even better than being pretty... it tastes good, too.

I bought some rhubarb at the Farmer's Market, since it was about the only thing I could find that I hadn't already grown myself. I've only ever purchased rhubarb one other time, and the resulting cobbler wasn't all that good. But I gave it another go, and I'm glad I did.

I also (gasp) turned my back on the pie crust recipe my mother gave me, the same recipe every woman in my family uses to make incredible pies. It felt a bit like sacrilege, but I had to do it - mine just never turn out like hers do. This time I followed the recipe from my red and white checkered cookbook. The only change I made was using whole wheat flour. Which was probably pointless, considering the other main ingredient is Crisco. Pretty sure Crisco negates any health benefits of whole wheat flour. But whatever. It was really good.

The recipe:

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup raw cane sugar

Mix it all together until the fruit is well coated. Set aside.

Crumb topping:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. butter

Cut together with a pastry blender until crumbly.

I'll let you find your own pie crust recipe... mostly because I can't remember exactly how much of everything I used, and also because pie crust recipes are easy to come by.

Press the crust into a pie plate. Dump in the fruit. Sprinkle with the topping. Cover the edges of the pie with foil, bake for 30 minutes. Take off the foil, bake for another 30 minutes. And there's your pie.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Garden to Table Challenge

I've totally fallen off the bandwagon with Wendy's Garden to Table Challenge. My excuse is that I seem to have forgotten how to cook Summer Food. We're still eating soup four times a week, because it's all I can seem to remember how to make. Well, and salad, because we've got a Lettuce Problem again in the garden. (I really need to learn to plant in succession. But that requires more planning and patience than I usually possess.)

So anyway, I'm sharing a soup recipe with you. Because soup is still good, even when it's 90 degrees outside. Just turn on the air conditioner before you get started, or everyone in the house will be sweltering before it's even time to come to the table.

It's garlic scape season. If you haven't had garlic scapes, try them. I saw some at Farmer's Market last night, so they're available even if you didn't plant garlic last fall. They remind me of garlic chives, only bigger and bolder. Like green onions, but with a distinct garlicky flavor. We tried them chopped raw in a salad last week, and learned that they are probably better cooked. But do give them a go, they are a delicacy!

Potato Scape soup

1 quart chicken stock (plus extra for thinning)
5 or 6 potatoes of a creamy variety (try Yukon Gold) peeled and roughly chopped
6-8 garlic scapes, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup butter
salt and pepper
If I'd had white wine on hand, I would've added half a cup. But I didn't, and it was still good.

Melt the butter in a big soup pot. Saute the onions and scapes until tender but not browned. Add the potatoes and stock. Boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very soft. Use a stick blender to whir the soup, leaving some chunks but making it fairly smooth and creamy. Salt and pepper as desired. Serve with slices of fresh, buttered bread. It's a good dipping soup. This soup will thicken the longer it sits, so eat it right away, or be prepared to thin it down with more chicken stock.

Next week, I'll shoot for something a little less... um, warm. Like strawberry-rhubarb pie, because I bought rhubarb on a whim last night at Farmer's Market and now need to figure out what on earth to do with it.

Happy Local Eating, everyone!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Knight in Denim Armor -or- Cats Are Really Stupid

See: Stupid Cat

Can you spot the Stupid Cat?

Stupid cat tried to get chickens. Smart dog stopped it. Stopped it real good, as a matter of fact.

Note that the utility pole is in the corner of four yards. Three of those yards are home to large dogs. Stupid cat was too scared to even try to get down... and I'm pretty sure it couldn't have, anyway.

I sat in the kitchen and watched it for awhile. And then Two Little Girls woke up and saw the sweet kitty stuck up on that pole, dogs barking at it from all angles. They went in and woke up the best Knight in Shining Armor they know.

What a good Daddy.

And what a stupid cat.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who needs Barbies?

Who needs Barbies, when you have a rooster with such fabulous 'hair'?

"He needs to be beautiful, so he can come to my party."

Because it's perfectly normal to comb your rooster's feathers.

Okay, maybe it's not.

Unless you're a three year old girl with a comb and a rooster handy. Then it makes perfect sense.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rise and Shine!

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were sitting outside, enjoying the spring air and watching the kids play with the dog. The chickens were in their coop for the evening, and I was enjoying listening to the sweet chicken noises emanating from their cozy little corner of the yard when suddenly...

"Honey, what was that noise?"

"I think it was a chicken."

"Chickens don't make that kind of noise."

"Roosters do."

"But I don't have a rooster. I got pullets. Maybe it's Miss Tweets. Maybe she makes different noises because she's a different variety of chicken?"

"Yeah... the rooster variety."

Sigh. Sadly, there's no denying it. Miss Tweets is undeniably crowing, odd though it may sound.

In looking at her him I can't believe we didn't figure it out before.

But he's always looked So Different from the other chickens anyway, we just assumed it was his breed.

But no... no. That's definitely the sound of a young rooster practicing his crow. He's tremendous fun. If we crow at him, he often crows back. I can't tell you the enjoyment I get out of listening to my children running around the yard crowing - in addition to the rooster. I'm sure the neighbors love it just as much.

We're going to try to keep him. There's something cozy about waking up to a rooster crowing in the morning, even though we live in the city. I'm not entirely sure all the neighbors feel the same way, but the ones we've talked to don't mind him. And the ones behind us? Well, if they're going to spray my garden with Roundup, they deserve to be woken up at five thirty every morning by the sound of a juvenile squawking rooster.