Tag Archives: how-to

Thanksgiving, Just Late

This year Nate and I wanted to try to host Thanksgiving at our house. We also ambitiously decided to make the meal ourselves. What were we thinking?!

It ended up going really well, with only a few hiccups. Ever the procrastinators (how did we end up together?) we started everything the morning of… cleaning, the turkey, prepping, etc. Everything. I guess we both work best under pressure. We were lucky to have grocery assistance from both sets of parents plus my sister, and my sister came early to help entertain the boys and prep food. We had one casualty… one of our favorite kitchen tools, our Deep Covered Baker, broke in all the hustle and bustle. But, lucky us, we just got a bunch of free and discounted Pampered Chef stuff, including the RockCrok and a mini Deep Covered Baker, so I think we’ll survive.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, and we were lucky to have all five boys together at once, a rarity these days. Everyone stayed afterward and relaxed, napped, played video games, laughed, and just enjoyed our time together. It was a great day!

One thing I always struggle with is using leftovers creatively. I don’t mind reheating things myself for lunches and for dinners when Nate isn’t home to cook for me, but sometimes having the same meal more than three times in a row gets really boring. I asked around my friends and moms groups about using Thanksgiving leftovers, and found some great ideas. A friend a fellow blogger shares a ton of great ideas here, and she inspired me to try a few things myself.

Everyone knows I can’t cook… I’m not joking.

ruined pancakes... my specialty
Here are some pancakes I worked really hard to ruin a few weeks ago

So the first thing I did was totally easy because, ya know, it has to be for me even attempt it. I have been totally digging this Stoneware Microwave Egg Cooker I got from Pampered Chef recently. I’ve used it to cook actually decent pancakes and have been using it to cook scrambled eggs in nice neat patties for Atticus and I. Friday I made eggs with leftover ham and green pepper, and we both loved them.

Last night Nate and I made cheesy turkey and ham pockets and they were fabulous!

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We used:

  • some chopped turkey and ham
  • 2 packs of crescent rolls
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • some shredded cheese
  • some chopped onion and green pepper
  • some melted butter
  • seasonings

It made 8 pockets.

We divided the cream cheese in half, melted it a little in the microwave, then added turkey to half and ham to the other half. Then we added a handful of shredded cheese and a handful of chopped onions and green pepper and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.

We separated the crescent rolls into rectangles of two crescents attached together. Then, we scooped a few forkfuls of the mixture into each rectangle and folded the ends of the dough over to make pockets. I melted some butter and sprinkled some garlic powder into it, then brushed the butter over the pockets. We baked them at 350 for about 20 minutes.

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Delicious! What didn’t get eaten was wrapped up so I can take them for lunches and freeze some for later meals.

How did your Thanksgiving holiday go? Did you spend good times with family or friends? Any leftovers?

Starting A Blog

I was recently asked to put together and deliver a presentation on “Blogging Basics” for the library where I work. I certainly don’t see myself as a blogging expert, but I do enjoy putting together and delivering presentations, and I would consider myself pretty knowledgeable in the field of social media endeavors, marketing, and web 2.0 and library 2.0 kinds of things. I agreed… then I forgot about it and procrastinated until the day before.

I think I did all right. #Nailedit

Without further ado, here is said presentation:

http://prezi.com/6755ts3bxpw8/so-you-want-to-be-a-blogger/

 

I really enjoyed this, though I had a small crowd. For one thing, I always enjoy presenting much more than I think I will. For another thing, organizing my thoughts this way helped me sort of review my own blog and renew my passion to write and share my stuff.

Getting Started

What will your blog be?

1. Pick a topic or niche for your blog. Ask yourself:

  • What do you want to write about?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What blogs do you enjoy reading?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What do you want your audience to know?

2. Pick a name or title for your blog. Ask yourself:

  • What describes your blog?
  • Is your potential name memorable and catchy?
  • What are similar blogs called?
  • What are keywords your audience might search for?
  • What does your potential name look like on screen and sound like aloud?

3. Pick a platform for your blog. Ask yourself:

  • Are you willing to pay for hosting?
  • How much flexibility, customization, plug-ins do you want?
  • Do you want to host, install, and configure on your own, or rely on a service to do that for you?
  • Do you want to monetize? (Keep in mind monetizing isn’t easy with some blogging platforms)

Some popular blogging platforms include…

WordPress: WordPress is available for free with limitations or pay for a full-on experience and tons more options. It is extremely customizable, plug-ins are available (if you pay for the service), there are more than 1,000 themes. WordPress is one of the most popular blog and website creation services.

Blogger: Blogger is a Google service and is available for free. Several templates and backgrounds are available. While there isn’t as much freedom as far as customization it is easier to monetize with Blogger, using Google’s AdSense service.

Tumblr: Tumblr is a free social network that allows users to share content and create original posts. Tumblr is sort of a mix between Twitter and Facebook, and could be considered a form of micro-blogging.

Medium: Medium is a free platform that allows users to focus on writing. There are no plug-ins, sidebars, ads, etc. The focus is truly on writing, and the idea is that users will share their own stories and ideas and read others’ as well.

Marketing Your Blog

Get the word (your words!) out there!

1. Write good content.

  • Use proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Write what you know and be confident in what you’re writing about.
  • Be original and interesting.
  • Use quality images, videos, and other sources. Many of your readers are visual consumers.
  • Let your readers get to know you.

2. Establish your blog.

  • Create a few good first posts. You want to have content (not an empty shell of a blog) when you start getting visitors.
  • Create an about page and determine how you will use your sidebars and menus.
  • Consider adding an email subscribe button or an RSS feed subscription button to your blog.
  • Consider creating a Facebook fan page and other social media network pages for your blog.
  • Always respond to questions and comments on your blog and emails you receive via your blog. You want to establish not just your writing, but also a relationship with your readers so they’ll keep coming back.

3. Share your blog.

  • Tell your friends and family you’ve started a blog. Ask for support.
  • Consider (again) creating fan pages or accounts through various social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).
  • Share your content on both your fan pages and on your personal social media networks.
  • Tell people about your blog in-person if the opportunity arises naturally.
  • Don’t be annoying with any of the above. Don’t beg.

4. Take advantage of what’s popular.

  • Use popular hashtags and keywords when sharing content.
  • Blog about current events and other popular topics.
  • For blogging ideas Google “trending,” or check Twitter, Buzzfeed, and Yahoo for what topics are currently trending. Share these topical blog entries you’ve written soon, while that trending topic is still actually trending.
  • Consider being a devil’s advocate when blogging about what’s popular. It stirs the pot and gets attention.

5. Do some detective work.

  • Search for content creators and consumers that align with your blog’s niche.
  • Join Facebook groups, subreddits, and message boards that revolve around blogging and your blog’s nice.
  • Follow other bloggers and interact with them.
  • Search Google or other search engines for “[your blog’s topic] blogging groups.”

Maintain the Momentum

Don’t run out of gas!

1. Create and work to achieve blogging goals. Some goal ideas:

  • Write ## blog posts per week.
  • Increase your email/RSS subscribers by ## each month.
  • Update your blog’s Facebook fan page or your Twitter feed ## times each week.
  • Comment on other blogs or message boards ## times each week.
  • Link to ## other blogs each week.
  • Spend ## hours each week marketing, sharing content, and networking with other bloggers.

2. Do something your readers will remember. Try these ideas:

  • Create a series of posts (part 1, 2, 3, etc.) or numbered lists (i.e. “top ten canning recipes”).
  • Run a contest and offer a prize.
  • Flatter your readers by writing about them.
  • Guest post on other blogs, and invite other accomplished bloggers in your subject area to guest post on your blog.
  • Write about something popular or even controversial. Playing devil’s advocate always attracts attention.
  • Refer to or link back to your existing content. Try reviving old posts by creating a post about previous posts.

 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed researching ways to make my blog better. A few resources I used are:

Starting Your Blog: http://startbloggingonline.com/, http://www.ehow.com/how_2045008_start-blog.html, http://www.wikihow.com/Start-a-Blog, http://wordful.com/how-to-name-your-blog-what-makes-a-great-name/,

Blogging Platforms: http://mashable.com/2014/05/09/16-minimalist-blogging-platforms/, http://www.edudemic.com/minimalist-blogging-platforms/, https://blog.shareaholic.com/best-blogging-platform/, https://blog.shareaholic.com/best-blogging-platform/)

Marketing Your Blog: http://startbloggingonline.com/how-to-promote-your-blog-and-get-visitors/,

Blogging Goals: http://blog.osmosio.com/101-blogging-goals-grow-blog/, http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/blogging-goals-types-of-goals-to-set-for-your-blog/, http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/8-different-tips-for-promoting-your-blog/,

Monetize: http://www.comparebusinessproducts.com/fyi/101-ways-monetize-your-blog-without-irritating-your-readers

Save your seeds! How to save heirloom tomato seeds

This year I decided to save some seeds from my dad’s heirloom tomatoes. There are a few small varieties I love, and I want to grow them next year… Plus, this way I can share seeds with others.

It’s super easy, though it takes more effort than most people realize. Tomato seeds are best once they’ve been fermented, though the process isn’t absolutely vital. This process helps weed out the bad seeds and makes the seeds less likely to carry diseases. It also helps separate the seeds from the clumpy tomato gel.

I happened to be making some sundried tomatoes, so when I scooped them out for better drying I just put all the seeds from one variety of tomato in a glass.

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Next, I added about an ounce of water, and covered the glass tightly with Saran Wrap. I poked a slit into the plastic wrap with a knife so air can aid in the fermentation process. I set the glass on my kitchen window sill where it’s out of the way, and left it there for about a week. It’s recommended that you leave it for 3-5 days.

The seeds will develop a disgusting moldy film on the top— that’s okay, it’s supposed to happen! It might also stink. Mine sure did.

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As the fermentation happens you’ll notice that the seeds mostly sink to the bottom, though a few will float to the top. This is also a good thing. The good, healthy seeds will sink, and the bad ones will float.

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After a few days, I lifted the plastic wrap off and gently lifted the moldy film off with a fork. Then I also slowly and gently poured off some of the water and the floating seeds (though some of the floating seeds stuck to the mold). Next, I poured the rest of the glass out through a fine strainer and rinsed the seeds with cool water very thoroughly.

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Next I gently blotted the seeds with a paper towel, then poured them into a plate to dry. Do not leave the seeds on a paper towel or paper plate to dry as they’ll stick. Every few hours I tapped the sides of the plate to get the seeds to separate from each other.

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Once they’re completely dry they’re ready to store. I plan to put mine in a small glass jar, although a paper envelope would also work.

Happy seed-saving!

Pickling day! Plus a little about my Mary

That’s right! Between my own garden, my grandma’s and my parents’ it’s time to start pickling cucumbers. My friend Mary taught me how to pickle a few years ago, probably with the intent of teaching me so I’ll go out on my own.

But I won’t go out on my own. I puppy dog her, and it won’t stop anytime soon. OK, MARY??!

I’ll say all this before the pickling because otherwise she won’t read it and neither will you because it’s not nearly as exciting as the pickling. Well it is to me, but maybe not to you.

Mary and I met at work. She’s a librarian, I’m a librarian. While I was in school for my masters she gave me advice on projects. When we got smooshed together in the information services department and stuck on the desk 10% of our working hours we meshed really well. We didn’t really have a choice… So we realized how alike we are in weird quirky ways (like watching shitty reality tv, eating, reading the quirky stuff, etc.) and we just clicked. Or maybe I [desperately] didn’t give her a chance not to be my friend. My best friend. Is this creepy yet?

Anyway, yesterday we pickled cucumbers and garlic. So good! I have 5 or 6 pickling cucumber plants, and my parents and grandma have a few, too. I harvested a nice sized box of cucumbers and a few onions from our gardens and set out to Mary’s house.

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We started by washing the cucumbers and onions, then we stuck the boys with the slicing job. Both Nate and Steve work in the food industry so they’re always good helpers :-). They cut the cucumbers longways and sometimes in half if they were big, scraping the mushy seedy part out on the bigger spears. They took some of the skinnier cucumbers and sliced them chip-style so we’d be able to make both types of pickles.

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While Nate and Steve chopped Mary and I washed jars, found kids and rings to match, the set the jars in the steam canner to boil. We also started boiling the brine, a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water.

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Mary also bought a big bag of peeled garlic which we planned to pickle. This stuff is like crack! The guys chopped the woody ends off and we had the cucumber chunks, chips, and garlic in separate bowls, plus a smaller bowl with a little bit of garlic and the onion slivers.

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Once the jars and brine were boiling we got started adding the spices to the jars. We put some dill (fresh is always best, but we only had fried this time), mustard seed, red pepper flakes, and pickling salt, then we add some chopped onion and a few garlic cloves (although we forgot that part on our first batch this time). We’ve added grape leaves in the past to keep the pickles crunchy, but this time I think we used something called pickle crisp along with the seasonings.

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Next we packed the jars with the sliced cucumbers. This part can be surprisingly tricky; it’s like a puzzle. You want to use slices that fit well with each other so that they’re packed tight. When the jars get nearly full we break chunks off and top them off. Next, we poured the brine in to about half an inch from the top of the jar.

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After the jars are packed we wiped the rims with a clean cloth, the. Set the lid on top and put a ring on, just finger tight. We put the jars onto the rack of the steam canner, then put the lid on and let it boil for about 15 minutes.

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Once the steam canner has boiled at least 15 minutes we pop her open and gently lift the jars out, letting them rest, cool, and *pop* on a kitchen towel on the counter.

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And onto the next batch….

This weekend Mary and I did two batches of pickles (spears and chips), and one batch of pickled garlic. Yum! Our results look amazing… And I can’t wait to eat them. But not so fast! They need to sit and get really pickly, at least 4-6 weeks if I remember correctly.

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I always have such a good time and learn so much when I pickle with Mary. When I’m going through it Mary is always there. When I think I’m going through it but really I’m just being sensitive or over analytic Mary shakes me sane. She’s a good no-nonsense friend, but don’t let the no-nonsense fool you, she’s one who actually cares. At work when we have to talk on the phone I often quickly and loudly tell her I love her before she can hang up, for three reasons: (1) because it makes her laugh awkwardly, (2) it makes others around either of us laugh too, and (3) because I mean it.

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Making Your Own Woven Wrap for Babywearing

This past fall my mother and I embarked on a brave quest to make my own woven wrap so I could wrap my wee baby Atticus. I became addicted to babywearing just a few months after giving birth to Atticus in February of 2013. I bought a Moby when I had Trent and unfortunately never used it, and my mom bought me one as a gift prior to having Atticus. I was determined to learn how to wear this time around. I knew that having a newborn and a toddler at the same time could be hectic if I didn’t have a way to carry around the baby without wearing out my useless/non-existent arm muscles. Woven wraps can be super expensive, I quickly realized, and I thought making my own would be a cheap alternative addition.

Atticus and I Using Our Handmade Woven Wrap
Atticus and I Using Our Handmade Woven Wrap

I won’t bore you with my wrap purchases on this post, but be warned that they’ll surely come up soon. I have a handful and they’re gorgeous and soft and fun and cozy and useful and and and…

So anyway, my mom and I decided we were going to bang out a wrap on our own! Here’s how we did it.

Making your own woven wrap

Purchase your materials. You will want a sturdy but not-too-stretchy fabric. I used Osnaburg, but some people also use tablecloth material. I bought my Osnaburg from Hobby Lobby. The cost was $4.99 per yard, but they typically have a code you can enter for 40% off one item. You can also buy Osnaburg on Amazon for around $4.98/yard. I bought 10 yards, which would have been $49.90, but after applying the 40% off code my total before shipping was $29.90. I chose to purchase 10 yards was so that I’d have plenty, since I knew the Osnaburg would definitely shrink. I definitely wanted a size 6 wrap, which is 15.09 feet or 181.10 inches, or just over 5 yards. [Find more information about wrap sizes and other information about woven wraps on PAXbaby’s Woven Wrap Guide. Be warned… once you start poking around you’ll start losing hours before you realize it]. I figured buying so much extra would either leave me enough for a shorty or a ring sling, if I ever wanted to make a second wrap.

10 yards of Osnaburg is a whole lotta fabric!

Wash the fabric. First we washed the Osnaburg on hot and dried it on hot. Again, Osnaburg shrinks, and I wanted to leave plenty of room for shrinkage before measuring and cutting. Some people suggest you wash and dry 2-3 times, but I only did it one. I lost approximately 1/2 yard.

Choose your size and cut. Next, determine for sure what size you want your wrap to be. As I mentioned above, I wanted a size 6 (just over 181 inches). In addition to the 181 inches, we left extra fabric to allow for more shrinkage and for tapering the ends. Check out this nifty Babywearing102 Formal Investigate on Tapers to see different depths of taper by wrap maker. We measured 15 inches from each end so that, not including the tapers, the wrap measured 181 inches. Then, we cut on the diagonal so the tapers weren’t too deep.

Measuring the taper 15 inches deep
Cutting the Osnaburg on the diagonal for the taper

Serge or sew the edges. After the fabric was measured and cut my mom and I took turns serging the edges. If you’re not familiar, a serger uses 4 or more spools and has the capability to trim the edges to keep it clean and even. At the end of each side I tucked the four threads back into the serged edge with a needle, then added some fray check. (*If you don’t have a serger you could fold the edges under twice and then sew it for a nice seam. It would take a little more time to do that. You could also not sew or serge at all if you don’t mind slight fraying. Fraying doesn’t effect the integrity or strength of the wrap.)

The serger makes a nice clean cut and edge
The wrap as it is being serged

Attach a middle marker on the long edge. I wanted a middle marker on my wrap, so we took a piece of ribbon and folded it in half, then held it in place with pins until we got to that point of the fabric while serging. Needles can easily (and dangerously!) break with a serger, so we removed the needles and slowly serged over the ribbon to attach it.

The ribbon is serged on for a middle marker

You can see in the picture above that because we used four colors of thread on the serger the different sides of the wrap are obvious when up close; one side is primarily purple and the other side is primarily green. New babywearers (and some veterans, too) need to be able to see the difference between the sides so the wrap doesn’t get twisted. I also wanted to be able to tell the top from the bottom (again, to prevent twisting). With this in mind, we serged one long edge with the wrap turned over, so that the opposing thread colors were on the facing side.

It was not an easy project, but it also wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and it was very rewarding! I got to spend time with my mom, try out my new serger, and got a new baby wrap out of it! Maybe one of these days I’ll dye it. You can see below that Atty and I both love it!

A size 6 is quite long!
A close up view of the finished product
Atticus loves his new wrap!
A back view of the wrap job. Plenty of length.