Jan 042018

meditative mandala partially colored in

I got a bit of time to add some color to my meditative mandala after dinner (btw Instant Pot chicken and potatoes was A+++). Careful coloring takes time, at least for me, so I’ve got another night or two after this to finish this drawing. Also, I’m using watercolor pencils so I might do some water blending at the end as well.

After only these first few days I’m noticing an additional benefit from restarting this project – it’s luring the kids out of their rooms and away from their electronics! Tonight while I colored V read to me, and D complimented my mandala and then asked to draw too (which, of course you can!). What a great reminder to me about how important modeling behavior is, and how vital it is for them to see that adults can draw or color or paint without an end goal or product in mind.

Lean and Clean Turkey Burger {Recipe}

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Mar 262015

lean and clean turkey burger with recipe

These lean and clean turkey burgers and heavy in our dinner rotation lately. Right now my kids are obsessed with “make your own” dinners. Make your own tacos, make your own pizza, and make your own burgers – basically anything that they get to assemble on their own is a hit. We have “make your own ” burgers just about weekly, and like to rotate between beef burgers, salmon burgers and ‘clean’ turkey burgers.

This recipe is quick and simple to prepare, and fits in with the kind of healthful eating we try and stick with. We like to fix oven roasted potatoes instead of french fries, and usually serve peppers, carrots, or cucumbers alongside as well.

Lean and Clean Turkey Burger
(Serves 4)


  • 1 lb lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (uncooked)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for frying burgers)

1. Combine all the ingredients and mix well. The mixture will be really soft and sticky. Wet your hands with a bit of water before you form the patties to keep the meat from sticking to your fingers. At this point you can put the mixture in the fridge to chill if you’re not ready to cook yet, otherwise proceed to the next step.

2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat while you begin to form the patties. Once it’s hot add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and then as you make a burger set it right into the hot pan and pat it down a bit, then move onto the next one.

3. Cook the burgers for about 7 minutes per side, until the patty is entirely cooked through. If you want to add cheese, top the burgers with a slice once you’ve flipped them and they have about 3 minutes left to cook. Pepper Jack cheese is delicious on these!

4. Serve on hamburger buns with your favorite toppings. Some of our favorites to choose from are bread & butter pickles, salsa criolla, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados or guacamole, and ranch dressing.

lean and clean turkey burger

This post has been shared at some of these link parties – come party with us and check out the fun!

Manila Clams with Wine, Butter and Garlic

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Jan 152015

manila clams with wine garlic and butter

Yum, one of my favorite simple suppers is steamed Manila clams with white wine, butter, garlic and shallots. It’s so easy you don’t even really need a recipe, although I’ve got one for you. This meal manages to be unfussy yet elegant at the same time, which is often just what we need at our house after a stretch of burgers, tacos and pasta.

One of the best parts of this dish is that it’s a one pot meal – just add a loaf of crusty bread to soak up the sauce and you’re good. If we’re feeling really motivated we sometimes also add a green salad.

Steamed Manila Clams in White Wine
serves 4

  • 3 lbs Manila clams, live
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. Rinse off the clams and inspect them – discard any clams that are open and don’t close up when they are knocked together. Most clams you purchase these days are farmed clams and are quite clean so they just need a rinse – if you’ve harvested them yourself or suspect they might be sandy you can leave them in the fridge in a bowl of clean water for 30 minutes so they can flush the sand through their system.

2. In a large stockpot or dutch oven melt the butter over medium heat – when the foam subsides add the shallot and onion and saute until they’ve softened but not browned.

3. Add the drained clams to the pot and stir to coat with the butter, shallots and garlic. Pour in the wine and stir again briefly, then cover the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Check the clams – make sure they’re all opened and discard any that haven’t. Add the chopped parsley, stir and cook for a minute more.

5. Serve the clams in bowls with their sauce and good bread on the side.

manila clams wine garlic butter

Homemade Lego Candle Holders for a Birthday Cake

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Sep 302014

homemade lego candle holder cake

My son is absolutely obsessed with Legos, so for his fifth birthday I wanted to add a little lego touch to his cake. His favorite cake – the one he always asks for – is my Raspberry Lime pound cake, which has just a simple sugar glaze. This cake doesn’t lend itself to fluffy frosting decorations, so I knew I’d have to do something with the candles instead. We’ve used lego brick-shaped candles before, but I was hoping to come up with something different. Then, playing with legos one day about a week ago I had an epiphany – I could use minifigures to make homemade lego candle holders for his cake.

Off to the giant lego bin I went, to play around with different pieces and see what I could come up with. I wanted to have four different figures, and I mixed and matched several to make them a bit more unusual and fancy. Next I added a stick to each one’s hand, and a square at the end of the stick (I used the small squares with just one stud in the middle). Finally I melted the bottom of regular birthday cake candles and stuck them onto the squares.

In order to hold the lego candle holders onto the cake, I cut bamboo skewers into about 3 inch lengths, stuck them into the cake and then pushed each minifigure onto a skewer through the hole in the bottom of its leg. I think that they would stand up just fine in a denser frosting. These minifigures were a hit – my son loved them, the other kids loved them, and they even kept the melted wax off the cake, which was a nice bonus.

homemade lego candle holder Collage

Ooodles of Zoodles!

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Sep 152014
zoodles are zucchini squash sliced into thin noodles

Zoodles are zucchini sliced into thin noodles

Have you heard of zoodles? They’re thinly sliced zucchini strips that can mimic noodles in pasta recipes and I just can’t get enough of them. They’re simple to make if you’ve got the right equipment – lots of people I know use spiralizers and love them, but I get good results using a mandolin that I happen to already have. Since I don’t have a ton of kitchen storage I try to make do with what I’ve got, and the mandolin with a julienne blade works just fine for me.

The technique is super simple. Use a large zucchini (the larger the squash, the longer the zoodles will be) and either with the spiralizer or mandolin slice it into long skinny strips. These are your zoodles! Now you don’t want to overcook them, so you can either boil them in salted water for just a few minutes (3 minutes tops!) or else add them to sauce that is simmering and again, don’t overcook them. We like to eat them with our favorite pasta sauces (they’re excellent with pesto and we love them with meatballs and red sauce), as a base for stir fries instead of rice, and they also work great as a side dish just lightly dressed with olive oil, butter or soy sauce.

Zoodles are so light and refreshing – they can turn a heavy meal into a really healthy one, and it’s very satisfying to see your children gobble up a big pile of zucchini. We still love our pasta, but zoodles are a winner in our house now!

zoodles tofu stirfry

 Posted by at 11:01 am

Organizing the Playroom

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Mar 272012

Today’s project veers dangerously into the area of doing laundry, but it had to be done and I do manage to get my creative juices flowing when I’m deep in an organization project. Two weeks ago when we moved the kids into one room and reorganized their toys into a rotation system I ignored the mess in our playroom (and home office/library/family room/junk room) but I knew it needed the same attention so today was the day. First here’s what the play area looked like this morning as I got underway:

Most of the mess in the playroom consisted of play food sets that go along with the toy kitchen and trains and roadway sets with the train table, plus some puzzles and a few variety baskets for good measure. One of the big clutter challenges we always face are the food sets with their multiple pieces – the kids love to dump them all out, or combine them into big baskets or backpacks of mess that then get abandoned (since they’re no fun to play with when they’re all mixed up). I hunted down all the missing / misplaced pieces from each set from around the house, and divided the food up into three separate groups, with a few dinner, dessert and breakfast sets in each group. Then I got the trains and cars into three sets, and organized the puzzles into three groups as well, in themes that reflect the themes of the initial bedroom toy sets. Here’s what the space looks like now (well, not exactly right now – right now the three sets of food that were left on the shelves are now dumped on the living room floor):

The train table only has one roadway set on it now, and the kiddos have already played with that set more today than in the past month. They are really enjoying the toy rotation. I’ve just switched things up for the first time this weekend and it went smoothly; no one complained about toys going away.

Feb 062012

I felt like making bread today. I knew there was a simple recipe for white sandwich bread in The Best Recipe cookbook (by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine) so I pulled out the book, checked the ingredients, and got underway.

American Sandwich Bread from the Best Recipe cookbook

Of course since it was a spur of the moment decision to bake bread, I wasn’t entirely prepared. The recipe calls for rapid rise yeast, and I only had regular old active dry yeast on hand. Furthermore, “old” was the operative word in that last sentence, since the yeast packets in the pantry were a wee bit expired. The master recipe also called for using a stand mixer, which I don’t have, so I had to use two of the (helpful) recipe modifications – both for the yeast and for mixing the dough in a food processor. Of course, I went ahead and baked the bread – I just added a little bit more yeast in case it had lost some of its potency.

Mixing the dough in the food processor was so easy; I want to try that again soon. The kids had fun kneading the dough with me; their two rolls are in the picture as well. That loaf will probably last us about a day and a half, so maybe there will be more baking later this week.

Birdhouse Coat Hooks

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Jan 172012

I made a set of three birdhouse coat hooks for my son’s room – I made a set for my daughter before she was born and they’ve been so handy that I decided Domi needed some too.

These were made with unfinished wood birdhouses from Michael’s, painted with acrylic paint and with picture-hanging wire added to the back and a hook to the bottom. They’re not totally finished – I meant to hang them in his room tonight but he went to bed before I got them done, and of course I can’t go in there and hammer now.

Here’s a closer look at the hooks:

The houses hang flat on the wall; they’re tilted in the images because of the hooks on the table. I use picture hooks to hang them so that they support the weight of winter coats (and kids pulling on those coats).

I’ve linked up to this great link party – check it out! Funky Junk Interiors

Snow Day

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Jan 162012

Today was a snow day around these parts, so that means I made a:

Snowman! (snowmonster?)
Actually, this was another project that had a big assist from the kids, but I wasn’t going to push them out of the way for the sake of a pretty snowman! The poor thing was quite lopsided, and tipped over about 15 minutes after we came back inside (cue sad music).

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

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Jan 152012

Today we made cupcakes in ice cream cones. I saw the idea on Pinterest awhile ago, and then my sister  reminded me of it the other day. Today seemed like as good a day as any so here they are. I have to say that I mostly supervised the decorating instead of doing it myself, but it was a fun project for the kids. After being up until 1:30am yesterday working on the sleep sack, I needed an easy one today!

I used a box cake mix (Funfetti flavor) and store-bought frosting that I tinted myself. I think I overfilled the cones a little bit – we ended up with 21 cones but probably could have had 22 without some of the overflow problems. We iced them using an icing bag and I put to use another great pin I saw the other day – wrap the frosting in plastic wrap before putting it into the icing bag. Its hard to explain, but so clever with no mess and super easy cleanup. If you’re interested here’s the video that shows how its done. The original post I pinned showed the cones baking in a modified aluminum pan to hold them upright, but I just put them in the muffin tins and transferred them to the oven carefully. That was fine – the only problem came when Viv pulled the pan down to bring it to show Papi and all of her cupcakes tipped over.