May 27, 2011

Memorial Day

I hope all my loyal readers have a wonderful holiday weekend. Please take a moment during your celebrations to remember what the day is all about. I'll be back next week with some yummy recipes to share!

Remember Memorial Day

May 25, 2011

Christmas in July (well, May...)

I know it seems like the winter holidays are a long way off, but I have never been deterred from visiting some of my favorite Michigan landmarks just because it's spring (or summer...or fall). If you're in need of a day trip (or a weekend getaway-but more on Frankenmuth in another post) check out these great places!

The first, and probably the best known is Bronner's in Frankenmuth. This place is immense! They have thousands of ornaments, hundreds of wreaths and trees and who knows how many other decorations, books and toys. They also have a wonderful selection of Hummels and Christmas village houses and accessories. You can easily spend several hours here, so I suggest making Frankenmuth a day trip. Hit up Bronner's and then head over to either Zehnder's or Bavarian Inn for yummy chicken dinners. From either restaurant, you can easily walk the downtown area and check out some of the other local stores. Check the Frankenmuth website for deals and special events, like Oktoberfest and Snowfest.

The other Christmas shop is Always Christmas in Canterbury Village. Located in Lake Orion, Canterbury Village has a restaurant, an ice cream shop and several smaller shops that surround Always Christmas. Always Christmas is smaller than Bronner's, but still large, with two stories of trees, ornaments, and decorations.

If you need a little help getting in the holiday mood (or just want to cool off on a hot summer day), I suggest checking out one of these great places. It's impossible to leave either one without humming a carol!

May 23, 2011

Progress: Technology

I'm sure you remember me talking about how much I'm still on the computer. And, it bothers me a bit. I never wanted to completely stop using the computer, but I did (and do) want to cut back. It's easy for me to say that I'm just going to jump on for a second to check my email, but it invariably turns into more than that. In addition, I'm in the process of starting up two at-home businesses. One focuses on kids, the other on adults and both will require me to put in some more time at the computer. So, I need to make some changes. If you follow the blog on Facebook, you know already know what one of those changes is. I'm going to restrict my regular blogging to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Now, that doesn't mean I won't throw in an occasional Wordless Weekend or Tuesday Tidbit, but I think that this will not only free up some more of my time to actually learn and do all the things I want to tell you about. It will also ensure a high quality post. As I learn more and readership grows, I may go back to every day posting. We'll see where this leads and play it by ear.

Another change, is a step back from some of my crafting. I love my clay, but listing and promoting Michigan Mud is another chunk of online time that I could be using to do something more immediately pressing. The studio is going to remain open and I'm still going to list from time to time, but there is definitely going to be a pullback. Now, I'm crafty by nature so I'm still going to do crafts, but I'm going to be in more of a learning phase for awhile and not limit myself to things that I have to get posted in the store. Some of what I make will be for gifts, some will be for me and my family to enjoy and some will just be for the learning experience. I promise I will still show off all the successes and failures to you.

So, there it is. A couple steps that will be harder for me than for you, I'm sure. :) I hope you keep reading. In the next few weeks I have plans to show off my gardens (which actually have things growing in them!), a whole bunch of craft and project ideas and my business plans. Stay tuned and I'll be back on Wednesday!

May 20, 2011

Operation: Pantry Clean Out

In the days before my "from scratch" resolution, I stocked up my pantry-with all the canned, processed stuff you would expect in a pantry. Now, I want to get rid of that stuff. I want to make room for home canned and preserved or, at least, locally preserved foods. So, I need your help. Do you have a great "from the pantry" kind of recipe? Send it to me and maybe you'll see it featured in a future post!

May 17, 2011

Tuesday Tips and Tidbits: Green Camping

So, many of the picnic tips from last week hold true for camping, as well. But what about campfires? How about some chemical-free fire products? Bonus: They are made right here in Michigan!

You can also go the crafty route and make your own firestarters from upcycled egg cartons (the paper kind), clean sawdust and old wax. That's what I do, but if you're more of a "buy ready made" type-check out Murray Products.

May 16, 2011

Spicy Asian Dipping Sauce

OK, this is another one of those embarrassingly easy recipes that I shouldn't even put on here. But, it's yummy, so here it is. This summer, when the peppers are in, I'm going to try a fermented pepper sauce that I have directions for, but for now, here's the easy one.

Asian Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup chili garlic sauce (add more if you like it spicier)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • Mix everything together and let rest.
See, I told you it was embarrassingly easy.

May 11, 2011

Product Review: Sprout Organic Baby Food

I know, I know-you're wondering why I'm reviewing baby food when I make my own. Well, truth be told, I often use commercial baby food when we travel. It's easier on so many levels. Plus, there are so many great combinations that I would never think to put together (roast bananas and brown rice, roasted apples and blueberries, etc). Since I still want the food I give my little guy to be healthy and ecologically responsible, I was ecstatic to find Sprout.

First of all, Sprout was co-founded by Chef Tyler Florence. If you have ever tried any of his recipes, you know that this means you're getting a good-tasting baby food. And it is. I tried some. Have you ever tried regular commercial baby food? Not yummy. But this stuff is! Next, it's organic. This makes it better for my baby and better for the environment. The packaging is BPA-free, takes up less room then other methods and can be upcycled by crafty folks (craftier than me...). 

Now, Sprout is a bit more expensive than other traditional brands. It's a bit more than $1 per pouch, which is one serving for my little guy at this point. However, I would point out that you get what you pay for. And, I can't think of anywhere else that you can get healthy, organic, prepared food for around $1 a meal.

Whether you feed prepared baby food exclusively or are looking to supplement homemade, check out Sprout. It's available in stores or online. I think your baby will love it!

May 10, 2011

Tuesday Tips and Tidbits: Greener Picnics

I love a good picnic. I love eating outside. I don't mind a little wind or dirt. Heck, even most bugs don't faze me for a second. Now, when most people, and I'm as guilty as the next guy, get ready for a picnic they pack up disposable dishes, paper napkins, individually packaged everything (juiceboxes, soda cans, bags of crackers or cookies, etc) and head out. Then we spray ourselves down with chemical-laden sunscreens and bug repellents that are as bad (or worse) for our health as they are for the planet. So, in honor of summer and the fast approach of picnic season, I encourage to visit the Earth Share website to get some great tips for a greener picnic.

May 9, 2011

More Pretty Little Containers

If you're looking for something a little more durable than paper covered canisters, why not try covering jar lids with polymer clay? It's really not hard and it will be a bit more long-lasting than other methods. Once you try it though, you might find yourself a bit obsessed. Polymer clay comes in so many colors and is so easy to work with that it's hard not to have fun with it.

To make this covered lid I used:
  • polymer clay
  • Sculpey Bake N Bond
  • an empty veggie jar that I washed out
  • acrylic paint
  • clear glaze
After conditioning the clay, I started by cutting flowers of assorted sizes out the various colors of clay I used. I dabbed the Bake N Bond on the back of the flowers and began layering them on the jar lid. Once the lid was covered, I baked it according to the directions on the package. Then I cut out the leaf shapes and attached them using the Bake N Bond and baked again, this time turning the lid upside down so that none of the leaves were misshapen. Once it was cool, I used acrylic paint to add the yellow flower centers. I let the paint dry and gave the whole thing a nice coat of clear glaze.

Obviously, you can cover the lid in whatever style you like. Use cutters like I did or just sculpt whatever you'd like. It may take some experimenting to get it exactly right, but that's part of the fun. And, until you bake the clay, you can always start over!

May 6, 2011

Ham Pinwheel Spread

Who doesn't love a ham pinwheel? Well, vegetarians, I suppose. OK, skip that question. I love a ham pinwheel. There, that's better. In case you're not familiar with them, ham pinwheels are slices of deli ham covered in cream cheese, rolled up and cut into slices. Some folks put a green onion or tiny pickle in the middle. I'm not picky. I'll eat any of the versions. While these are easy to prepare they're often done for parties and I've never taken the time to make them for a meal or snack for myself. This spread that I came up with gives you the taste with less effort.

Ham Pinwheel Spread
  • 8 ounce block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup diced ham (or more if you want a thicker, meatier spread)
  • sweet pickle relish or diced green onions to taste (or get crazy and use both)
  1. Mix everything together in bowl, chill. (Can't get much easier than that)
You could easily make this into a cheeseball if you wanted something a little more party-ready. I put mine in a tortilla and made a lunch roll-up. Enjoy!

May 5, 2011

Pastry House Hippo: Novi, Michigan

You may have noticed my love of baked goods. If you haven't, you must be new here-welcome! I don't often splurge on bakery baked goods. I make my own or, if I'm in a hurry, I grab something from the grocery store. Last week, though, I was making a trip into Novi to support a fellow 3-Day walker who was having a fundraiser and it gave me a perfect excuse to visit my favorite Asian grocery store (One World Market). While I was in town, I wanted to try an Asian bakery as well. After a quick internet search, I found Pastry House Hippo, which happens to be located across the street from the grocery.

This place was great! As soon as you enter this tiny shop, you grab a tray and a pair of tongs. Then all you have to do is pick out your pastries. I had my sons with me and the four-year old had quite a time making up his mind. You see, one of the highlights of this bakery is their adorable little animal rolls called an pan. They are exquisitely detailed and fun. They are also filled with chocolate cream, strawberry jam or sweet bean paste. You can see the ones we picked out in the pictures. I also had some raisin-filled melon bread. Everything was delicious! The next time I go, I'm going to try some of the savory combinations. I also hope I can get there around lunch time for a steamed pork bun. I read some reviews complaining that the items were pricey, but for the work involved I had no problem paying the $1.50-$2.00 each bun cost. More than a doughnut, sure, but doughnuts don't take this level of artistic endeavour.

If you're going to head over, here's a couple tips. First, they are located off Grand River in the same strip mall as the Library Pub and Anjishin Noodle House. Second, they only take plastic on orders over $10, so make sure you have some cash on you. Lastly, they have a website but it's in Japanese, so unless you're fluent, it's not incredibly helpful. I highly recommend Pastry House Hippo. Grab some sushi across the street at One World Market and some dessert over here and you're set!

May 4, 2011

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

Hmm, see a carbohydrate theme in the recipes lately? So yummy...Anyway, this is a great muffin. The texture of the cornmeal and the slight hint of orange really makes them a bit different from plain ol' blueberry muffins. This originally appeared in Family Fun magazine in the fall of '07.

Cornmeal Blueberry Muffins
makes approximately 1 dozen
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (I substituted orange extract since I didn't have zest)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (If you use frozen, do not thaw before adding)
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Grease the bottoms only of 12 standard muffin cups.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and orange zest. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs and oil until well blended. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until batter is blended. Gently fold in blueberries.
  • Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake muffins for 15 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool for 5 to 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing them.

May 3, 2011

Honey Oat Waffles

Ok, I love breakfast foods. Not necessarily at breakfast time, but that's not the point. The point is, that many of these luscious concoctions are not great for you. They can also take a long time to prepare. To fix the time issue, I periodically prepare a bunch of waffles or pancakes, let them cool completely and then pop them in the freezer. All you have to do on a busy morning is put them in the toaster, just like those store-bought ones. Unlike the store-bought ones, though, these are very yummy and not so terrible for you. They don't have much sugar in them and they are packed with fiber. So eat up! Within reason, of course. I'm not promoting them as weight-loss waffle or anything...

Honey Oat Waffles
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • water, to thin if necessary
  • In a large bowl, mix eggs and buttermilk. Add oats, stir well and let sit for 10 minutes (if using quick-cooking oats, it's not necessary to let it sit)
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • Pour about 3/4 cup into a prepared waffle maker and cook according to manufacturer's instructions.
These are yummy with maple syrup, drizzled with more honey or topped with fruit. Enjoy!

May 2, 2011


Yesterday marked the 3-month anniversary of the launch of this blog and the formal start of my experiment. I think it's time to stop and take stock of how I'm doing so far.

As I suspected, this has been the easiest aspect to change. I cook from scratch 99% of the time when we are home these days. The fun of trying new things, as well as the need for a bit more planning, has eliminated those nights that we would get takeout or head to a restaurant simply because I didn't have a meal planned. When we do choose to go out to eat we choose a locally owned restaurant whenever one is available. It's also more fun to cook from scratch. Opening a bag of frozen stuff and throwing it in a pan is not fun. It's work. Crafting a meal from great ingredients is enjoyable. We have joined a CSA and are eagerly awaiting our first bundle of fresh, organic produce. Our garden is getting underway and I'm installing edible landscape all around our yard, including raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and rhubarb. These plants are native to Michigan which makes them more sustainable and hardier.

Also as I suspected, this has been harder. I'm still on the computer a lot. So is my husband, and my four year-old is on more and more as he discovers how much is really out there. I can longer convince him that PBS Kids, Kids CBC and Starfall are the only websites that exist. At least it is still easy to monitor and limit his time on the computer. I know it will only get harder when he heads off to full-time, public school next fall. We have cut back on our TV watching and my husband and I have downgraded our cell phones to a prepaid plan. They are mainly for emergencies now. It's much cheaper and we were hardly using them before, anyway.

A constant battle, isn't it? I think we're on the right track with money. We've gotten some more things paid off and have enough saved up to take care of a few things that we need or want to do. Fun stuff, like new siding and insulation on our house. Whee...but, a wise investment in the long run. There are still three huge money things that we need to get going on.
1) Retirement and estate planning (This is obviously a must.)
2) College funds for both boys (We have a plan that will result in us paying for up to 100% of their post K-12 education.)
3) Retirement/vacation property (This is clearly third in importance, but it's first in my heart.)
I continue to make a few extra bucks a month teaching classes through community education and selling my craftiness online and at craft shows. I'm also in the process of starting up a home-based business. It's still in it's infancy, but, once it gets rolling, it will combine my science expertise, my love of planning events and my desire to make some money without depending on a "regular" job.

The past three months have not felt too much different than what we were doing before. I cooked from scratch often and we were always fairly diligent about finding local things to eat, see and do. Now, as spring and summer take hold, things may get a little more different. In the next 3-6 months I plan to learn canning, try my hand at cheese-making and step up the DIY projects in general. I hope you stay tuned!
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