Thursday, April 30, 2009

Where's the Ladybug?

There's a ladybug in my broccoli... quick, take a picture!

Join the nationwide hunt for ladybugs... specifically, the elusive 9-spotted ladybug, which was once very common but has become extremely rare. In 2006, a 9-spotted ladybug was found in the North Eastern U.S--the first to be "spotted" in 14 years!

The National Science Foundation has granted Cornell University $2 million for the Lost Lady Bug Project, which encourages children and adults to go out and capture (or observe) ladybugs, photograph them, and then email the photos to Cornell University. Researchers will use these photos to help determine what species are still out there and how many are left. Quoting Cornell's Lost Ladybug Project website: "This is the ultimate summer science project for kids and adults! You can learn, have fun and help save these important species."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Backyard Homestead

Check out this awesome discovery by my mom (copied and pasted from the publisher's website):
The Backyard Homestead
Edited by Carleen Madigan

With just a quarter acre of land, you can feed a family of four with fresh, organic food year-round. This comprehensive guide to self-sufficiency gives you all the information you need to grow and preserve a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, and grains; raise chickens for eggs and meat; raise cows, sheep, and goats for meat or milk; raise pigs and rabbits; and keep honey bees. Simple instructions make it easy to enjoy canned, frozen, dried, and pickled produce all winter; use your own grains to make bread, pasta, and beer; turn fresh milk into delicious homemade yogurt, butter, and cheese; make your own wine, cordials, and herbal teas; and much, much more. It truly is possible to eat entirely from your backyard.
Cover photo and summary credit: Storey Publishing

Homemade Ice Cream

This coconut avocado ice cream looked so yummy, I went out and bought a cheap ice cream maker after reading the "Avocados with Attitude" piece in this month's Sunset magazine (check out the avo fries). Tonight was our first impromptu ice cream making night, and wouldn't you know it? ...We forgot to stock up on avos. Oh well, the ice cream turned out great, anyway:

Since our family consumes about 2 gallons of fresh-squeezed OJ a week, we had enough in the 'fridge to accommodate this Orange Ice Cream recipe from Gourmet magazine... Except, we tweaked it just a bit by adding fresh chopped peaches and strawberries, vanilla extract, honey, double the OJ, half the sugar and substituted the milk for heavy whipping cream. Oh, and we didn't do all the extra-fancy "pour through fine mesh sieve... 175 degrees-and-don't-let-boil" stuff. When you've got two little ones for helpers, simple is delicious.
Addendum: Since originally writing this post, we've tried the coconut avo ice cream. Ummm, I feel compelled to ask anyone else who has attempted this recipe: Yum or Yuck?

Photo credits: Sreelus Tasty Travels & Sunset

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Waldorf Salad (with chicken).

I've been whipping up my Waldorf (chicken) Salad concoction a lot lately--it is delicious on bread as a sandwich, stuffed into a pita pocket, served over baby greens as a salad, or even eaten straight out of the bowl all by itself. I served it at Rigel's birthday party with pita pockets and bread as part of a sandwich bar, and it got some good reviews. Best of all, it's quick and easy to make.
Waldorf Chicken Salad
2 C apples (gala, fugi, or pink lady are great), cored and chopped
1/2-1 tsp raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 C red seedless grapes, halved (or quartered if large)
1 celery stalk, chopped fine
2 12.5 oz cans Chicken Breast (Kirkland Signature brand preferred), drained and shredded
2 TB honey
1 C Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise
3/4 C walnut pieces
Place apples in large mixing bowl, toss with cider vinegar until coated (drain excess liquid). Mix in grapes, celery, and chicken breast. In separate bowl, combine vegenaise and honey (add honey to taste), mix well. Add vegenaise and honey mixture to large bowl of chicken and fruit, mix well, adding walnuts until completely combined. Refrigerate until served. Makes 4 servings (approximately).
photo credit: Distinctly Waldorf

Felt Owl

This was supposed to be an owlet, but it turned out looking a bit like a scrawny chick. No matter-- it's still a baby owl to Izzy, who loves that it's pink and purple. I purchased a rainbow of wool felt yesterday, and hand-stitched this little chicken owl by book-light last night while the kids fell asleep next to me. It took longer than I expected, but it was fun... ironically a lot less stressful than pulling out my sewing machine.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Love these toys...

The best toys are the ones that are in someone else's hands, room, toybox, etc., or those that have been stored away long enough to have been forgotten. At least, that seems to be the case with my kids, who had a blast today at Maz and Ava's house. Playdates at another family's house means Mom gets to test new toys out for upcoming birthdays and holidays. Here's some of the toys we love at Maz and Ava's house:

This portable fort (called a fortamajig) is the equivalent to a set of huge fabric blocks: you can build and rebuild forts of all shapes and sizes in just about any space

These magnetic shapes are great for all aspiring engineers and architects--check out Maziar's impressive design!

TAG is a great toy company, with lots of hands-on educational wood toys. Pull the lever on the number toy below, and the pegs roll out the bottom (like a register, almost). The rainbow gear puzzle is re-arrangeable and stack-able, with a removable lever that turns all the gears on the puzzle.

We didn't get to test this one out at Maz and Ava's house, but it looks fun: kids can trace each letter with its attached moving knob thing-y.

photo credits: TAG, Magna-Tiles, & The Happy Kid Company

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mom's Night Out

One more thing I love about our neighborhood playgroup is our Mom's Night Out. Though it doesn't seem to happen often enough, we occasionally all get together for some fun (off the clock--kiddos stay home with our S.O.s). Last week, we all met at Shanna's newly opened wine bar...a big hit. I'm looking forward to visiting it again with Dan on a Date Night (which, according to the following book, is one of the essential ways to prioritize your relationship post-babies, as is a little weekly time for mommy--all to her selfish self).

Click here to read more on Mom's Night Out.

Strawberry Fields Forever

So... our strawberry patch is producing its first bounty of berries, and though we've found some blossoms and actual strawberries (three berries, to be exact)--it's not exactly picking season for us, yet. But, the U-pick strawberry patch in Carlsbad is open to the public as of last week, and it provides a perfect alternative for impatient little gardeners who are eager to harvest their crops.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Our neighborhood had our third annual Easter Egg Hunt in Marie and Steve's backyard, potluck-style: that means homemade quiche, strata and coffee cakes with mimosas and coffee...

It doesn't get much better than this--a neighborhood full of families who come together to share the holidays!

(Moms-and-daughters shot courtesy of Cinthia)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Naturally Convenient

Currently, I dispose of all my kitchen scraps in a covered ceramic bowl, but this bamboo compost pail looks a lot more convenient. It comes with charcoal filters to eliminate odors, and there is an inner liner that is removable and dishwasher-safe.
P.S. Bamboo is a sustainable resource (and can grow up to 4 feet per day!)
photo courtesy of

Friday, April 10, 2009

Laundry List

photo credit: positively feminine

Being that I'm a stay-at-home-mom, it would seem that I have tons of time on my hands and should be ready and willing to take on all domestic responsibilities. BUT....if I could take one thing off my daily "To Do" list, it would be laundry. It's time consuming and never ending, and maybe if the clocks were turned back to the fifties and clotheslines were still relied upon (and if we had a sprawling lawn with lots of trees like the above sunshine-y picture), laundry wouldn't be so bad. Or, maybe I'm just a tad lazy and should face the facts: laundry is the bane of my existence and it is not going to go away!

Now, of course there are more worldly concerns than this mommy's laundry woes: our weak economy... water shortages... global warming... BUT, lets just say I could spoil myself every now and then... here's what I would do (hint, hint): hire this local home laundry service to pick up our family's laundry any time I felt a break was in order, or if, say, Mother's Day was approaching. Said service picks up your laundry, inspects each individual garment for stains, cleans it with Eco-friendly detergents and softeners, professionally folds it, then delivers it all to your door step within 24 hours of pick up (click here for pricing, which is pretty good, if you ask me). So, doesn't it make sense for all interested parties to unite and support our local businesses, conserve water (sort of), and go green by hiring this local home laundry service?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rigel and Iz are keeping an eye on our "strawberry patch"; they know exactly where our first two baby green strawberries are ripening. Therefore, how could this cute little pouch necklace not catch my eye?

The wings are a pouch, and the doll is a removable caterpillar... too cute.

doll necklace photos from Etsy

"Never enough thyme..."

I never would have thought that I'd be so passionate about gardening, yet here I am feeling like the sun goes down each day before I'm done fussing over our new vegetable garden. Except it's not strictly a vegetable garden, since we've got melons, strawberries, blueberries, artichokes, asparagus, herbs and spring bulbs mixed in with it all. Yesterday we added a nectarine tree to our "orchard." It'll be a couple years or more before we'll be harvesting any fruit from our trees, but when we do I'm planning on mastering nectarine pie (is there such a thing?). There's also something about growing most of the garden from seed--the nurturing and anticipation of it all explains how easily gardening can become more than just a hobby.
P.S. I love this soil (not because of the name, even though it's cool)'s "super-dirt" for your plants. Earth-worm castings, bat guano, and a lot of other nitty gritty ingredients make this brand's soil my favorite. Their dry mix organic fertilizers are great, too.

Get a Can-O-Worms

I am loving our worm farm. Stumbled upon at the Mission Hills nursery, this contraption can hold up to 20,000 worms. Nutrient-rich "worm tea" pours out a spigot at the bottom after filtering through 3 levels of worm castings. It's a neat-and-clean-hands-free method of worm farming. Old paper, kitchen scraps and coffee grinds get recycled into "vermicompost" by redworms (similar to earthworms). The sole purpose of these worms is to eat, poop, and reproduce whilst compost and worm tea is harvested from this container. I dispose of my vegetable and fruit scraps into a covered ceramic pot on my kitchen counter, which I dump into the Can-O-Worms at the end of each day. Some people keep this worm farm inside (yuck!)--in their kitchens (double yuck!)--but our worms are doing just fine outside, thank you.


My kids have developed a fascination for fairies. The presence of this moss terrarium in our house would induce endless stories and discussion on the fairies that live in our garden. I love how innocently gullible kids are at this age; we grown-ups can spin tales of Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and so on-- all to the delight of our little ones' imaginations. For partly selfish reasons, I say lets encourage this sense of wonder in our children for as long as possible. As it is, life passes us by fast enough.

terrarium habitat and photos found on Etsy

Monday, April 6, 2009

Loved the Circus

Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants was excellent. It pulled me in from the very first chapter, and I found my mind wandering back into the pages of her novel as I went about my day.

Who brought the cake?

We celebrated Rigel's 4th birthday this last weekend, and as usual went a bit overboard on all the details... our kids aren't going to stay little for long, and pretty soon they'll be dictating how best to plan their birthdays. Until then, I love coordinating all the fun. This year, we picnic'ed at the Train Park. There was a pinata, rides on a locomotive steam engine, and...wait--no cake and ice cream?

In the morning rush to get the car loaded up with party supplies and kiddos, I forgot the train cupcakes at home... all 35 of them. Four batches of coating the cake pan's teeny grooves and crevices with a paintbrush dipped in shortening, dusting the pan with Wondra flour, filling up each well with just the right amount of batter, then praying the cakes would release from the pan intact before cooling on the rack, and then rewashing the pan (and starting this process over again three more times). This was supposed to be Rigel's "main event," the details of which he had been checking in with me on for over a week. He had a steam engine and a tender reserved to decorate at the party with icing, cookie wheels, and pretzels for tracks.

Luckily, there's a restaurant at the park that serves mini ice cream sundaes, so we all sang "happy birthday" to him before digging in to heaping tablespoon-sized desserts. Though Rigel is never one to turn down an ice cream, he couldn't forget his train cakes. As we were leaving the park, he asked, "Mommy, is the park closing?" I told him that yep, everyone is going home. He then replied, "but we didn't decorate the train cakes yet!"

Happy Birthday, Little Dude!
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