Beets with Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil

My husband and I love beets! (Our kids are learning to love them too!)

We love them roasted.

We love them pickled.

And we especially love them served simply with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Yum!

beets vinegar oilThis was my sad, little harvest of beets from my garden.  With only four small ones, they weren’t enough to serve on their own, so I added them to a pasta salad that I made.

DSC_0458Thankfully, our CSA is much better at growing beets than I am and these were in my share this week!  These are chioggia beets.  Wait to you see what they look like inside!

DSC_0464Here is my favorite way of preparing and serving beets.

Beets with Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil

Ingredients:

1 bunch beets
1 T white vinegar
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1)  Cut leaves from beets leaving about 1 inch of the stems attached.

DSC_04652)  Place beets in pot.  Cover with plenty of water.  Add 1 T of white vinegar (this helps to preserve the color).

DSC_04683)  Bring to boil over medium/high heat.  Boil for 45 – 60 minutes over medium heat until easily pierced with a sharp knife.

4)  Remove beets from water and place on cutting board to cool.

5)  Once cool, cut off root end and leaf end.  Remove peels.  They should slip off easily, but if they don’t just use a pairing knife to cut them off.  Aren’t they beautiful?

DSC_04766)  Slice or cut beets into chunks and place in bowl.

7)  Add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Serve chilled or room temperature.

DSC_0479I hope you enjoy this family favorite!

What’s your favorite way to serve beets?

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5 Sanity Saving Changes I Made This Summer

As the school year was coming to a close in June, I was excited at the thought of having all of my children home for the summer. However, I knew that with all of them home all the time, except for a couple of weeks of camp and a few small trips, that my life had the potential to be pretty stressful.

So over the last six weeks, I made five changes that have saved my sanity in certain areas. Some of these changes are permanent and others are for this season of life.

5 Changes

1)  The Buddy System

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left the house with all four kids and five minutes into the car ride someone needs to go to the bathroom or when we arrive at our destination I realize that someone is missing a shoe and of course we are usually running late. I was watching 19 Kids and Counting one day and the mom was talking about how difficult it was for her to get everyone out of the house on time, so she implemented a buddy system where each of the older kids are responsible for four younger kids. Brilliant!

I paired up my oldest son with my middle son and my daughter with my youngest son. The older two are responsible for making sure everyone has shoes and anything else they need to bring with them. My oldest son also is responsible for making sure my middle son uses the bathroom before we leave (my youngest son is still in diapers).

This has worked surprisingly well. I simply say “buddies” about 10 minutes before we leave and everyone knows what they need to do. Getting out the door on time and with everything we need has been wonderful.

2)  Shower in the evenings

I prefer to shower in the morning. I like that clean, fresh start to the day, but now that my 18 month old is tall enough to open doors, taking a shower in the morning when I’m the only adult home is simply too stressful. He leaves the bathroom and gets himself in all sorts of trouble. I now shower in the evening when my husband is home and can make sure everyone stays safe. It’s also a nice way to unwind at the end of a long day.

3)  Assigned dirty laundry to my oldest son

We live in a two story house with our washer and dryer in the basement. For a family of six it’s not exactly ideal, but it’s what we have. I decided to assign the task of bringing our dirty laundry to the basement to my oldest son because it was getting too difficult to carry the laundry down two flights of stairs while making sure everyone else was safe on the stairs (my children like to follow me where ever I go in the house!). He is responsible for bringing it down every morning. This is working well as long as he remembers to actually do it. 🙂 Knowing that all of the dirty clothes are near the washer when ever I can sneak down there to start a load sounds like a small thing, but it’s one less thing that I have to worry about and in my book that’s a huge sanity saver!

4)  One load of laundry every day

I’ve heard this suggestion many times over the last few years, but I didn’t see the benefit of it until I actually tried it. I used to do several loads in one day and the clean clothes would get dumped on my bedroom floor. Everyone would dig through the pile to find what they needed until I was able to devote a couple of hours to folding clothes and putting them away. I usually needed to do a few more loads before I found the time for folding. But now when I do one load of laundry every day, I’m able so sort it and put it away the same day! No more digging through piles!

5)  Dinner at 5-ish

My husband and I make it a priority for our family to eat dinner together almost every night. There are exceptions, such as when my husband has to work late, but most nights we are all together. Somewhere along the way, we decided dinner would be at 5. Most nights I was frantically trying to reach that (self-imposed) deadline and getting stressed out because someone was crying or someone else needed a diaper changed.

Earlier this summer I realized that I was putting all of this stress on myself unnecessarily. I made the decision that I would start dinner at 4:00 every afternoon. If someone needs me, that’s okay. Dinner can wait. Some nights things go smoothly and dinner is on the table at 4:45 and other nights it’s 5:15 because one of the children had a melt down that needed to be dealt with.

There are still a couple of weeks of summer left. What sanity savers will you implement so that you can make the most of your time with your children before they go back to school?

Week in Review, Parts 6 & 7

I don’t know where the last two weeks went!  My plan was to write these Week in Review posts every week, but that just didn’t happen last week.  I hope you enjoy this two for one post!

We picked these beautiful flowers from our garden and these blueberries from our lone blueberry bush.  I made a delicious Blueberry Lemon Bread with the berries.  I plan to post the recipe soon, so stay tuned!

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Two weeks ago my oldest attended baseball camp.  He loved it!  He’s never play baseball before, but now he’s willing to give up soccer for it.

My middle son was stung by a bee for the first time while we were picking my oldest up from camp.  Luckily he is not allergic to them.

We’ve been collecting eggs for the past two weeks.  Almost every day we’ve found two eggs.  They are a little on the small side and I’m hoping they will get bigger soon.  Our friends and family have been eagerly awaiting the eggs, but with only two of the chicken laying and the eggs being small, I’m not sure we’ll have any to share.

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We received this colorful bounty from our CSA this week.

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Last week my sister visited us for a few days.  She lives in another state and we only see her a few times a year.  We were excited to hear all about her trip to the Grand Canyon earlier this summer!  The first night we had a camp fire and the next day we took the kids to an amusement park.  Everyone had a lot of fun and the weather was perfect.  I was surprised to learn that my youngest who is usually fearless didn’t like the rides at all.

At the end of the week my husband and I took our two oldest children to Boston for a few days.  The younger two stayed with my parents.  As much as I missed the younger ones, it was nice to not have to bring diapers with me or push a stroller around.  🙂

My husband and I have been to Boston several times, but we haven’t been there in a few years.  This time we decided to take one of the trolley tours around the city.  It was very entertaining and we learned a lot of new things about the city.

We visited the Boston Children’s Museum, the Fenway Park Pro Shop, the Bruins Pro Shop and we went to the North End to show our children where their great grandmother grew up, which just so happened to be right next to Paul Revere’s house.  We also walked through the Boston Common and saw the swan boats and the Make Way for Duckling statues.  The highlight of the trip was the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.  We all loved touring the ship, throwing tea overboard and visiting the museum.

On the trolley.

On the trolley.

Climbing the rock wall at the children's museum.

Climbing the rock wall at the children’s museum.

 

Climbing the rock wall at the children's museum.

Climbing the rock wall at the children’s museum.

Outside Fenway Park.

Outside Fenway Park.

Outside the Boston Garden with #4 Bobby Orr.

Outside the Boston Garden with #4 Bobby Orr.

Paul Revere's house.  My husband's grandmother grew up in the building to the right.

Paul Revere’s house. My husband’s grandmother grew up in the building to the right.

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Tossing tea into Boston Harbor.

I made this scarf on the drive to Boston and while relaxing in our hotel room.  I hope to write up the pattern and post it here soon.

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We hope you enjoyed your last two weeks as much as we did!

Homemade Vanilla Extract, Part 1

I LOVE vanilla!  I love the smell and I love the taste.  All of the baking that I do is from scratch, so I use a lot of vanilla and I like to use high quality vanilla.  It just tastes so much better!  And it’s cheaper – see the cost comparison below!  I also love to give vanilla extract as holiday or housewarming gifts.

A few years ago I learned how to make my own and it’s time for me to do it again.  My recipe is based on this one.  I’m impatient and I didn’t want to wait 6 months for it to be ready, so I increased the ratio of beans to vodka in order for it to be ready in 3 or 4 months.

Ingredients:

35 whole vanilla beans – I purchased 1/4 lb of these beans
6 cups of vodka – this is a little less than a 1.75ml bottle – cheap vodka is okay to use (save the expensive stuff for cocktails)
2 – 1 quart mason jars like these or other glass containers

**You can make this recipe in any amount you want.  Just use 7 vanilla beans per cup of vodka.**

DSC_0336Instructions:

1)  Using a sharp knife, cut the vanilla beans in half length wise

DSC_03372)  Cut them in half width wise so that they will fit in the jars nicely

DSC_03383)  Place half the beans and add 3 cups of vodka in each jar

DSC_0339DSC_03404)  Cover the jars and store in cool, dry place.

Cost comparison:

$16.95 – 1/4 lb of vanilla beans
$11.99 – 1.75ml of vodka  ($0.20/oz)
$26.55 = 48 oz of homemade vanilla extract or $0.55/oz

$28.50 = 32 oz of store bought vanilla extract or $0.89/oz

 

 

Week in Review, Part 5

Last Sunday I put the little one to bed as usual.  About 15 minutes after I left his room I heard him crying.  I let him cry for a few minutes and then went to check on him.  I found him on the top railing of his crib.  😦  (He is just shy of 18 months and he’s following in his brothers’ and sister’s foot steps…they have all tried to climb out of their crib around 18 months of age.)

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I enlisted the help of my middle two to convert the crib to a toddler bed.  They all had to try it out when I was finished.  🙂

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Needless to say, bedtime has been rough this week.  The little one doesn’t like to stay in his bed.  He is enjoying his new freedom to the fullest.  Surprisingly though, he is still sleeping through the night pretty well.  You can read about how we got to that point here.

My oldest was at Cub Scout day camp all week, which meant for early mornings and later than usual dinners for us.  Camp is about 30 minutes away, so we have at least one parent volunteer and our leaders carpool each day.  We had to be at our meeting spot at 7:15 am, which was a bit difficult a couple of mornings.  Friday was my day to drive.

He had a great time at camp.  He participated in a number of fun activities including archery, swimming, fishing, BB guns, boat rides and hiking (lots of hiking!  According to my FitBit we walked almost 5 miles on Friday!).  He was so excited that he passed the hardest swimming test which meant he could swim in the deepest part of the swim area.

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While the boys were fishing on Friday, a few turtles were stealing their bait.  Who knew turtles like hotdogs?

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This is one of the items we received in our CSA bag this week.  Believe it or not, it’s actually a cucumber.  It’s not pretty, but it was delicious!

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This was the harvest from my garden on Saturday.  One lonely cucumber and a few peas.  That’s my little one’s hand trying to steal some peas.  I’m surprised that I’m still finding peas at the end of July, but disappointed that out of five cucumber plants this is the only cucumber that has actually grown.  But one is better than none!

DSC_0331What did you do this past week?

Week in Review, Part 3

This week my daughter took her first swimming lessons at a local lake. I waited until she turned 5 so that I wasn’t required to go in the water with her. Not that I don’t want to go in the water, but if I’m in with her then I need someone to watch the younger two.

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We spent four afternoons at the lake and everyone loved the water! As usual it took this guy a little while to warm up to the idea of going in, but once he was in he didn’t want to get out as long as no one splashed him.

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The younger one on the other hand, walked straight in and would have kept going even though the water would have been over his head. He has no fear!

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I made my first batch of pesto with this beautiful basil from my CSA bag.

DSC_0187I only used the green basil because I wanted the pesto to be that bright green color.  It was delicious! I’m the only one who will eat it, so I froze most of it.

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I also made this double chocolate zucchini bread with the zucchini from the CSA. (Sorry…I didn’t get a before picture.)  My sister introduced me to the recipe and the children have no idea that zucchini is in it, so they gobble it up!

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We went to the library to check out some new books and a movie. The older three handed in their reading log and they each earned a prize from the treasure chest.

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Last week I forgot to mention that I made this dishcloth in honor of the Fourth of July. I can’t decide if I want to keep it or sell it. Maybe it will be one of my entries for the craft show at our fall fair. What do you think?

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How was your week?

Week in Review, Part 1

I’ve decided to create a weekly post highlighting the previous week’s activities.  I hope it will remind me to take more pictures of my family and will serve as a journal for me.

My mom and I took all four kids strawberry picking.  I forgot the camera in the car, but here is our bounty.

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We discovered that one of our pullets (female chicken less than a year old) is in fact a cockerel (male chicken less than a year old)!  How did we figure this out?  He started crowing this week!

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Our friends invited us to spend an afternoon in their pool.  It took the younger two about an hour to warm up to the idea of going in the water.  Once they did, they didn’t want to leave!  Everyone had a great time!

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I finally got caught up on the laundry thanks to my wonderful husband.  He took the boys out for the morning and I sorted, folded and put away about six loads!  It’s so nice to see my bedroom floor again!

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Last but not least, I received my order of essential oils this week and we started using them.  More posts to follow on how they are working for us.