Keep Calm and Continue Parenting

Okay, so I know I’m a little late to the party with this new take on the iconic “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, but “Keep Calm and Continue Parenting” has become a daily mantra in the N+D household.

Keep Calm and Continue Parenting - Large square[6]

I want to plaster this everywhere.  It’s my desktop background.  It’s taped to the fridge.  I’m considering getting it printed on a t-shirt for each of my step-kids, so it’ll be front and center when we really need a reminder.

When your 12 year old suddenly decides he doesn’t like bacon and won’t eat dinner?
Keep calm and continue parenting.

When your toddler throws a screaming fit halfway through a four hour flight?
Keep calm and continue parenting!

When your teenager lies about whether or not he took a shower?
Keep calm and continue parenting!!

When your 6 year old spills a pocketful of marbles all over the floor of the library?
Keep calm and continue parenting!!!

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I loaded the image up on Zazzle so you can get it printed on whatever you want, like this throw pillow.  Although if the boy decides to dislike ONE MORE FOOD, I might throw it at him. 

Soldier on, parents.

Roasting winter squash whole

Roasting squash 4[6]

I love winter squash in all its forms. Butternut squash soup, acorn squash breakfast porridge, spaghetti squash with parmesan, garlic, and pine nuts…yum.

But hacking through those tough skins? Intimidating.

I’ve got a pretty poor track record with knives. And despite the frequency at which I slice into them, I really do value my fingers. So to spare my poor, defenseless digits, I often roast squash whole.

Many recipes tell you to slice the squash in half, scrape out the pulp, and roast them. Easier said than done, right? But did you know you could just roast the squash whole? Seriously. You just prick it all over like a potato and throw that sucker in the oven. 

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It does take longer to roast, but as long as I remember to plan ahead, I love this method. After it’s cooked, the squash slices open easily. You’ll need to watch out for the steam, but after you let it cool a bit, the pulp scoops right out.  Then, just scoop it out of the skin, and it’s ready to go!

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This technique works best with squashes you’re planning to puree or mash, but it’s also great for spaghetti squash.  Just scrape the insides out with a fork, and the strands will fall apart into a big pile of veggie spaghetti.

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Whole roasted winter squash

Works well with butternut squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Pierce the squash all over with the tip of a knife. 
  3. Place the entire squash, whole and uncut, in the oven.
  4. Roast for 45-65 minutes, or until the squash very soft when poked.
  5. Let the squash cool on the counter for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Split squash open and use spoon to remove seeds and pulp. Be careful and watch for very hot steam!
  7. Scrape the flesh from the skin.

Ta da! Soft winter squash, ready for eating or use in recipes.  Enjoy!

Good morning, porridge!

Faux-tmeal 5

I’ve been flirting with this whole “Paleo” thing recently. I haven’t given up dairy or grains yet, but I love the idea of including vegetables in curious places. So when I stumbled across this recipe for “Faux-tmeal,” from Melissa over at CupcakesOMG, I knew the acorn squash languishing on my kitchen counter wasn’t long for this world.

That’s right, people: acorn squash.  For breakfast. Okay, sure, it seems a little weird.  But I like squash and I like breakfast, so why not?

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I tweaked Melissa’s recipe a little bit, adding more shredded coconut and a pile of chopped pecans.

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I didn’t have any cardamom in the cupboard, so I subbed in pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract.

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And, I used some of the fancy maple syrup that my lovely sent over from New England.

The result was a chewy, hearty mash that tasted like eating pie for breakfast.  It made more than enough to feed us breakfast for the next few days, so I packed it into mason jars to make it easy to eat on the go.  Yum!

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Acorn squash porridge

Adapted from Faux-tmeal (Paleo Oatmeal) by Melissa at CupcakesOMG

  • 1 acorn squash, roasted until soft
  • 1 cup coconut milk (plus a little more to adjust texture)
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped.

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the squash, coconut milk, pumpkin pie spice, and maple syrup.
  2. Using a potato masher, mash the squash and mix well.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Incorporate the shredded coconut and chopped pecans and mix well. If too thick, add coconut milk until desired consistency is reached.

Serve hot; leftovers taste great when reheated.

Pinterest Made Me Do It – DIY Foaming Hand Soap

Pinterest Made Me Do It - Foaming Hand Soap - (1)

If you’re a Pinterest addict like me, you’ve probably seen more than a few pins touting the benefits of making your own foaming hand soap. It’s cheap! It’s easy! You can control the ingredients!

You know I’m all about cheap and easy, but today, I just needed soap. The soap dispensers were empty, and since the main road has been closed since the floods, the nearest store is over an hour away.

A quick search on Pinterest for “foaming hand soap” yielded approximately 39802938 slightly different recipes for foaming hand soap, so I took a closer look at a few of them.

  • The Moms Who Blog take the straightforward, thrifty approach: 1 part soap to 8 parts water, shake gently, and you’re done!
  • Melissa at Frugal Creativity likes to use body wash, which she says gives great results – and she only uses one tablespoon of soap!
  • But, Glamour Puss cautions to never use “creamy” soap, because it can clog the dispenser.
  • Kim, from What’s That Smell, is concerned about unnecessary chemicals in her family’s life, so she uses castile soap.
  • At More Green For Less Green, Pamm scents her castile soap with essential oils.
  • And Ashley Benson suggests adding “1/2 tsp of Vitamin E oil, Almond oil, or vegetable glycerin” for a little moisture.

There’s a lot of varying advice out there, but I decided to try two different approaches.  Here’s what I did:

Method #1: “Regular” DIY Foaming Hand Soap

DIY Foaming Hand Soap

One glaring problem with most of these “recipes” is that they don’t give any actual measurements for soap and water.  “Fill 1/8 full” doesn’t help very much if your container is shaped all weird like mine.  “Use 1 tbsp.” doesn’t help if you don’t say how much water you’re adding.  So, while you can certainly just eyeball it, I’ve included actual measurements.  I like to mix it up in a Mason jar so I can refill my soap dispensers easily.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soap
  • 1 empty foaming soap dispenser
Instructions:

Combine soap & water; mix gently. Pour into an empty foaming soap dispenser.

 

Method #2: “Natural” DIY Foaming Hand Soap

DIY Foaming Hand Soap

Dr. Bronner’s is a brand of castile soap that’s biodegradable, certified fair trade, and action-packed with exclamation points. All-One!  My bottle of Dr. Bronner’s is peppermint-scented, so I used lemon essential oil to create a light and clean fragrance.  You can leave it out completely if you prefer unscented soap.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup castile soap
  • 15-20 drops essential oil
  • 1 empty foaming soap dispenser
Instructions:

Combine soap, water, and essential oil; mix gently. Pour into an empty foaming soap dispenser.

DIY Foaming Hand Soap

Just look at that beautiful foam!

Both recipes created foam that’s just as good (if not better!) than the store-bought refills.  It’s always so satisfying when a Pinterest project succeeds, isn’t it?

What I’ve Been Up To…

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Making extracts!  It’s super easy to make your own – just take your favorite flavoring ingredient, put it in a jar with some vodka, ignore it for a couple weeks, and then strain out the solids.  Right now, I’ve got watermelon, peach, chocolate, and pineapple in jars, just steeping away. Yum!

What can you use extracts for?  Well, baking, of course.  But since we’re homebrewers, we use them to flavor beers.  We’ve got a delicious hazelnut-vanilla English mild in the keg right now.  And while I can call them “extracts” all I want, they’re really just flavored liquor, so they make one heckuva cocktail.

I just put together some new flavors (and I actually measured things this time!), so after a taste test in a couple weeks, I’ll put up some instructions.


What I've been doing (2)

What else?  Well, I broke my favorite garlic press – right through the metal!  You’re impressed, right?

I would love to get a new one just like this one, but I can’t figure out the brand.  Anyone recognize it?


What I've been doing (3)

But what have I really been doing?  Yeah, playing with my new phone.  It’s so shiny!  It’s so fast! It does so many things!  I think I’m in love…

 

So, what have you been doing recently?

Grilling a frozen pizza

A couple days ago, a neighbor told Bruce that it’s possible to grill a frozen pizza and since then, he’s been dying to give it a try.  He actually made an attempt yesterday, but instead of preheating the grill to 425°, he preheated it to 700° – at which point, it caught fire.  Oops.

Grilling a frozen pizza (1)

So, take two.

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Why grill a pizza?  Well, I could say that it’s because our natural gas is still out (no oven) or because the nearest pizza place is 40 minutes away – but really, it’s because Bruce wants to prove it’s possible.

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And guess what, folks? It turned out just fine.

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The crust was a little charred in a few places, but the pizza was cooked all the way through. Next time, we’ll probably use our pizza stone (that we forgot existed until the pizza was almost done), and I imagine the crust will be even better. 

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Just one note: You should probably wait until the cheese cools down before you tilt the pizza to get a photo of its crust.

So, grilling a frozen pizza? Totally possible. We’ll definitely be doing this again…

Colorado Floods

Wow, guys.  It’s been quite a week.

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After a week of the wettest weather I’ve ever known, the sun is finally shining in Coal Creek Canyon.  It started raining on Wednesday morning and just kept raining.  You have to understand: it doesn’t rain in Colorado!  I mean, ya know, it does, but not like this.  This was the wettest, thickest, heaviest rain I’ve ever seen – and it went on for days!

The nearest official rain gauge registered the 7-day total as 10.36 inches, but I stuck a Mason jar on the deck on Thursday, and by the next morning, it was overflowing.  I’m guessing we were getting close to 1”/hour for several hours.

Our first indication that this wasn’t a regular storm came on Thursday morning.  Bruce was just getting in the shower when the phone rang: it was an automated call from Xcel, explaining that the natural gas had been turned off.  So, no hot water.  Perplexed, we turned on the computer and checked http://www.cotrip.org.  Sure enough, Highway 72 was closed.

Then we turned on the news.

Lyons is being evacuated! The Big Thompson is destroying things!  People are stuck in trees! Things were getting real.

And still, it kept raining.

We spent the next couple of days at the house, just waiting.  We walked around in the rain, talked to neighbors, and brought coffee to the rain-soaked JeffCo cops who were manning the barricade at Twin Spruce.

But mostly, we stared in awe at the amount of damage that water could do.

Neighbor's driveway is gone
(Click for video)

The little drainage ditch that runs along Twin Spruce/Gap Rd. was a raging torrent of water.  I don’t think it even has a name most of the time, but now it was destroying driveway bridges, ripping apart culverts, and washing debris onto the road.

Coal Creek Canyon Flood - Aftermath (16)

Further down, it ripped apart the road itself.

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In some places, there’s less than a lane remaining.  See the yellow line?

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The intersection of Twin Spruce and Highway 72 is a waterfall.

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It swamped the liquor store and the Kwik Mart.

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And ripped off the deck of the old coffee shop building.

After a summer of worrying about fire danger, all this water was a bit of shock.  But now, the flows are finally starting to subside, and there has been a steady stream of road construction equipment running back and forth in front of our house.  We’re moving into the recovery process, although it’s going to be a long time before things are back to normal.

But compared to so many, we’re incredibly lucky.  Our house is fine – we took in a little water in our storage/utility room, but a couple of hours wringing out towels was able to solve the problem.  We don’t have natural gas (no hot water, stove/oven, or furnace), but we’ve had power, internet, and clean water from the well throughout the whole storm.  There’s only one dirt road to get out of our canyon, but at least we can get out!  All in all, it could’ve been much worse.

I posted a few more pictures on Flickr, so take a look if you’re interested: Coal Creek Canyon Flooding.

International Bacon Day!

Last Saturday morning, my Facebook feed erupted with important news – it was International Bacon Day!  I’m never one to pass up a food-related holiday, so I pulled a Costco pack of bacon out of the fridge and got busy.

For dinner, we had veggie burgers with bacon (affectionately called “Hippie Nightmares” around here), but the real star of the show was much more extravagant.

I planned to make these little gems: bacon cups.  But none of this salad nonsense – we would eat them for dessert with a scoop of homemade cinnamon ice cream.

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I had made them once before, with great success, so I figured I knew what I was doing. I didn’t need to look up the directions, right?

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Wrong.  Some of them looked okay, but they were completely stuck to the muffin tin.  We tried prying them off with a butter knife, but they just crumbled.

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But as long as you don’t care about presentation, it makes no difference.  Bacon-topped cinnamon ice cream is basically the most delicious thing ever, no matter what it looks like.  We’ll call it a win.

Update:  This project was recently featured on one of my favorite websites, CraftFail!  You can read Robyn’s commentary here.

Thrifted Chacos!

Sometimes, It feels like my thrifting mojo is gone.  For a the past couple weeks, I’ve had some rotten luck during my regular rounds.

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But then these babies entered my life.

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Thrift store Chacos!  In my size!  Nearly new!  And with this very important tag:

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Chaco manufacturing used to happen here in Colorado, but they’ve since been purchased by a larger company.  And while their current sandals are still top-notch, they’re just a little bit different.  My current pair is nearly 13 years old – I bought them the same month I moved to Colorado.  I wore them down to nearly nothing and had them re-soled by ReChaco last year – with their original sole, a burly Vibram number they call, aptly enough, “Colorado.” It’s only available on resoles and custom orders these days.

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Which brings me back to the new-to-me pair – since they’re older, they have the same “Colorado” Vibram sole.  If you’re not a Chaco person, you probably don’t get this at all.  But if you are: I know, right??  I was stoked!

Best part?  They were marked at $5.99.  And…I had a coupon!

Final price: $4.72.  That’s over 95% off retail!

So, that’s more like it.  My luck has returned!

Denver County Fair 2013

This past Saturday, we decided to venture down the hill to check out the Denver County Fair.  It’s relatively new event – this is only their third year – but it was well-organized and adorably representative of Denver’s quirky urban homesteading movement.  We had a great time!

The event is held indoors at the Western Events Complex, and there were 14 different “pavilions” to explore.

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We arrived at the Fair just in time to catch the Hot Dog Eating Contest in the Kitchen Pavilion.  We ended up standing near the cheering section for a guy named Matt.  Go Matt!  We’re on Team Matt! 

Matt did pretty well – second place with a total of 19 hot dogs in five minutes!  Goodness, that is a lot of hot dogs.  Fortunately for the contestants, this was a bun-less competition – so you could be gluten-free and still compete, I suppose.  Very Denver.

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We really loved the Geek Pavilion, of course.  I think R2D2 should be at every county fair.

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The Boy even got to try on a Stormtrooper helmet from a local costume-making group.

There was a booth set up by the guys over at The Concoctory and I got to see a 3D printer in person for the first time.  I loved that there were competition categories for the Geek Pavilion.  It’s not just prize-winning zucchinis and pies at the Denver County Fair – they also handed out ribbons for categories like Best Homemade Robot, Best Use of Recycled Materials, and…

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Best Peeps Diorama!

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This one is MINE next year.

There were plenty of animals at the Fair, too.  Chickens, goats, rabbits, ducks…not to mention a couple of black bears and a tiger cub. 

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You could even take a unicorn ride!

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We finished up our day with Digger and Mudslinger, a pair of seriously talented hogs.  According to their trainer, they’ll do just about anything for Cheerios.

I’m planning to actually enter the Fair next year – definitely the crochet category, and maybe baked goods or one of the Geek categories.  I think Bruce should enter the homebrew competition, for sure.  And there was a Juvenile division for every category, so maybe the kids will enter, too.  Now we have a whole year to think about it…

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