Saturday, January 21, 2017

Winter Blues Boredom Buster - DIY M & M rockets!



Are you going through a dry week in school?  Are you looking for a way to break up the winter blues?  Here is a fun simple craft for you to do.  And, did I mention tasty?  

 M and M rockets! 



Supplies you will need:

Mini M & M tubes, 1 per child
Rocket pattern, either sketch your own like mine or you can use the free pattern I have here
Cardstock
Alka Seltzer tablets, trust me on this, you will want a couple of boxes
Markers
Hot glue
Water


Trace one of each rocket part onto cardstock, one for each child.  Give each child a copy of the rocket bottom and top and a tube of M & M's.  Using the markers, allow them to color and draw whatever they want.  I let mine eat their M & M's while drawing (that's the best part, of course).


Once done, form the rocket body into a cylinder and tape closed.  Do the same with the cone of the rocket.  Cut the tab on the M & M tube so the top can come separate from the bottom.  Then, hot glue the cone to the rocket and the rocket to the M & M tube top.  Allow to dry.


Once they are all dry, they are ready for launching.  Now, it time to go outside.  We had a warmer late winter day when we did this, but it was windy.  Thankfully, it really didn't hinder our project.


Place an alka seltzer tab into the bottom of each tube.  Top off with water and QUICKLY close the top.


It will not take it long to fizz and then burst into the sky.  It is completely safe to hold as well as long as you hold it away from your body and face.


By the time I got to taking this pic, it had already gone off.  They shoot nicely into the sky with one.  You can even add 2 for an even higher launch!  I wouldn't recommend any more than 2.  We tried 3 but it didn't work as well with that many.

Here's a fun little video we made to show you.....


Have fun with your M & M rockets.  They will want to do them again and again (thus the need for more than one box of alka seltzer).  

Happy Crafting!















Saturday, January 14, 2017

Homemade Sauerkraut, using canning jars (its not as hard as it sounds)


One area of our lives I am trying to get better at is homemade probiotics in food or drink form to get better gut health.  I have been doing lots of reading and studying on the topic to take further steps in improving our overall health.  Hippocrates said, "All disease begins in the gut."  Now, while I don't think they all do, a good chunk does, and I have come to believe that improving gut health goes a long way to an overall healthy well being.  That being said, I have been learning how to make things in my kitchen to help our guts along.  The first thing I mastered was homemade yogurt in the crockpot.  Now, after successfully doing this over the past year or so, I feel I have mastered the "art" of sauerkraut.

When my hubby asked me to make him some after we were given a number of cabbages, I just looked at him like he had lost it.  Wasn't it hard?  I don't even know where to start.  I don't have any of those fancy crocks they use, etc. etc. etc.  After I was done whining (ha), I started doing some homework.  I bumped across a recipe from the Kitchn, and the rest, as they say is history.  It was so easy I could not believe it!  So, I dove in.  So, I am sharing a very photo heavy how to using her recipe.  You can find her post here.  Hers is for a small batch.  However, I go big or I go home.  Its just how I do things in a large family.


Supplies you will need:

Wide mouth quart size canning jars with screwcaps (no lids) - the smaller jars listed next will not work in the regular sized canning jars
4 oz. jelly canning jars (no lids or screwcaps needed) 
Marbles or even rocks
Kosher salt
Water
Cheesecloth - at least 2 packs for a large batch
And, of course, cabbages, I do 2 large heads


Peel off the outer soggy layers of the cabbage, but DO NOT THROW AWAY.  They will come in handy later in the process.


Chop off the core.  You don't need it.  Compost, trash, or feed to chickens.  (they love it)


Cut each cabbage into 4 wedges.  You will have 8 wedges total if you are doing 2 as I did.  Chop off any remaining core and discard.


Then, cut your cabbages crosswise into shreds.


Place all in a large bowl and add 1 1/2 tablespoons per cabbage to the bowl.  (so for this recipe, since it was 2 cabbages, I added 3 tablespoons.)


Stir around to incorporate salt.  I just do this with my hands.  I tried a spoon and it wasn't as effective at getting it all over like my hands were.  Then let sit for a bit to let the salt start doing it working of breaking down the cabbage.  



While it is sitting, I start preparing my small jars.   I just put enough marbles in each small jar to fill the bottom. It works as a weight to hold the cabbage down as it ferments.  You could purchase these instead if you want, but I had these already in the house.  Besides, with the marbles, it really is quite colorful!  :)


I also prepare my cheesecloth by cutting it into approximately nine inch square a couple of layers thick.  Don't make them too thick or you will not get enough air flow.  Air is crucial in the process.  But, we also want to keep out fruit flies as well.  


Now, your ready to move on.  By the time you've done all the above prep work, and you come back to your cabbage and salt, it probably won't look a ton different at first glance.  Start smashing it down a bit with your hands working the salt in, and it will begin to turn limp.  Keep softening the cabbage for a bit, and you are ready to can.


A canning funnel and bubble remover tool or wooden spoon come in handy right now.  I have a whole canning kit which has proven itself so handy over the years.


Fill each jar to the top with cabbage.  Pack down with your tool or wooden spoon.


Lay a piece of those limp outside leaves we set aside at the beginning to help keep everything packed down nicely.


Then, lay one of your fancy glass weights in the jar on top.


Add your cheesecloth and screw in place with a screwcap.


Isn't it pretty?  :)


I made a large batch as you can see.  Keep in a cool area for the fermentation process.  This usually takes about 10 days. 


After the first 24 hours, open each jar and check to be sure they are well submerged beneath its liquid.   If you see you don't have enough liquid to keep it submerged, dissolve 1 teaspoon in a cup of water and pour over till it is.  Recover and let rest again.


Keep checking it after that about every 48 hours, pressing if necessary.  I haven't had to reopen and add anymore liquid after that first day.


After the 10 days are up, it is ready to go.  Uncover, remove glass weight and limp leaf.  Pack into fresh clean quart canning jars. My batch makes so much I use large 2 quart jars to take up less space in the refrigerator.


If you run across any mold (which has happened from time to time), just remove moldy leaves and trash those leaves only.  The rest is still fine for eating.


And, there you have it.  Homemade sauerkraut that isn't hard or time consuming.  Refrigerate.  It gets better tasting with age.  It should stay good for a couple of month this way.  And, it doesn't stink like store bought (one of my biggest complaints on sauerkraut)  And, you don't need a fancy crock although, I admit my love for crocks has me admiring them.  :)

Here's to better gut health.  Bon Appetit!







Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Top 5 blog posts from 2016 and some of what's in store for 2017


Its time for my annual top 5 posts from 2016!  I always enjoy looking back and seeing what really hit the mark with people.  So, without further ado, here they are counting backwards:

At number 5, I had 2 that tied for this spot


and 


At number 4, 


At number 3, 


At number 2,



And, coming in at NUMBER 1, 


Very fun that my top 2 posts are all about our love of Lego. 

Speaking of which, my book is now available in both paperback and kindle editions!  Very exciting!  Stop by amazon and pick up your copy today!  Links can be found in this paragraph or by clicking one of the links on the home page.  

Now, onto 2017. What can you expect from this blog?  Well, for one, I am loving having a once a week regularly scheduled post, so I will keep doing that for now.  About once a month, you can expect to see me midweek as well.  I plan to finish out my series on How I Homeschool.  I also plan to add more on what we are reading around our home.  Over the summer, I will be putting up my unit study on the Reformation.  We are at the 500th year mark of the start of the Reformation and I have a great free unit study in the works for you!  As far as the rest of what you have come to expect from my blog - crafts, simple how to's, recipes, picture posts - they will all still be there.  So, stay tuned.  There will be lots going on in 2017.

Happy New Year to all my faithful readers!  May it be a year of blessings for you!


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Season of Advent and Christmas, in pictures


Happy New Year!!!!!!

I can't believe it is 2017!  But, here we are!  I pray your holidays were full of happiness and blessings!  I want to share some photos with you of our season of Advent and Christmas.  Since we follow the liturgical calendar, we start off our season with lighting of the advent candle each Sunday right after Thanksgiving in anticipation of the coming of the Christ Child.


Each day the children get to open a jar of candy and have a piece of whatever is in there plus we read a part of the Christmas story.


And, the rest is pretty traditional.  Christmas trees, presents, etc.  Enjoy a few pictures from our holiday celebrations!



Seasons Greenings, a train display at the Botanical Gardens in Washington, DC (an annual tradition)




Christmas Eve with my mom and dad


My oldest son has played Santa since he was about 3 years old.





Christmas with Lego (of course) and other fun things




An evening on the National Harbor for their musical lights and huge Christmas tree (another tradition)

Christmas day also issues in the season of the 12 days of Christmas!  Each day our wise men travel the house as they follow the star to see Jesus.


We issue in the new year with our annual fondue feast both with savory and sweet.



And, lastly is our celebration of Epiphany.  The wisemen have found the baby Jesus, and we celebrate their arrival and the close of the season with a special dinner and a small gift for each child.  We also have a cake with 3 beans hidden inside.  If you find a bean, you are crowned king or queen for 24 hours.




And, that wraps up our season of Advent and Christmas in pictures.  We did other fun things as well like gingerbread houses, a cookie decorating party with friends, new years eve party with more friends, and making foam crafts (a gift from their mawmaw).  Overall, it was a great season to be in.  But, it is back to school and a more predictable routine.  I don't know about you, but I crave routine (and so do my kids).   May your 2017 be full of blessings.  May you see the Joy of the Lord this year!