Monday, September 22, 2014

Homemade Gifts by Kids - Create your own ISPY Book

Since the Holiday season is slowly approaching I thought this might help you guys out! For the next few weeks I will share with you some of my kids' homemade gifts. We love giving and receiving meaningful presents, especially when they are perfectly fitting the person on the other end. 


The iSpy Book



My kids made this for their cousins' birthdays. It happened to be their favorite kind of book at the time and my kids were very excited they came up with the best gift!

Do you know someone who is a big I SPY Book fan? 

In that case, keep reading...

First, have your kids pick a group of toys they would like to use and set up their first scene. You can either have the kids take a picture or take it yourself (usually depends on each individual kid... some four year olds could be very skillful with a camera ;-)


We also secretly went to their house and set up a scene from their actual toys (luckily they were out of town and we were taking care of their house ;-)


After we took all the pictures we wanted, we uploaded them to iPhoto and edited them. We cropped them and also fixed the exposure and color if it was needed.

I use Shutterfly for all my photo books but if you have a site that is your favorite, you can use that one. Shutterfly has many coupons available most of the time and sometimes you even get the book for free - you just pay shipping. Using their templates we turned our idea into a fabulous book!


After you upload all your photos, you place them onto the pages, and decorate with different embellishments (if you wish of course). Then go back to the pictures and come up with the riddles, which you place on opposite page!


This was such a fun project that we all worked on together for couple weeks. We took our time, went back and forth to adjust different things, but at the end it was all worth it. My kids wanted to have their own copy as well so I had to order two.


We made sure to personalize the book with messages for the boys and personal pictures of all of them together!

Here is an idea for a title page photo ;-)


The boys loved the gift so much!

I hope this helped and have fun with this project!





Friday, September 12, 2014

Kids and Chickens - Why is Chicken Keeping Beneficial for Our Kids

Old McDonald had a Farm ... which little child wasn't in love with this song at some point in their life? We live at least part of this song daily here at our little backyard farm and I see the impact of caring for animals on my children. 



We can go and see animals at the ZOO or a petting place but to experience the ownership that brings on responsibilities in the children is priceless. We have had chickens even before our kids were born, so they both came to live into the farm environment. Last year, we finally decided to get them each a pet chicken. Up until that time, all our chickens were sort of pets that had to go every few years because they would stop laying eggs. But I realized how important it was to them to have a feathered creature here to stay.


And that's how we came to Brownie and Whiny. This above is Brownie - they are both Bantams, miniature chickens. I like having small chickens for the kids, because they are easier for them to handle.
Many times I catch the kids hanging out with their birds. Here is T enjoying afternoon rest with Brownie. 

 Having chickens keeps my kids connected to the reality of where food comes from. They also learn responsibility and compassion towards animals, something that God intended for us to have and to teach to our children. When we come to a slight bump and we have to deal with some emergency in the coop, kids are always involved and they help us solve the problem. Here is Whiny when she nearly died as a baby and we helped her back to life by feeding her sugar water using dropper. 


They LOVE collecting the eggs from nesting boxes and feeding the girls!


During the winter months we grow earthworms for our chickens for healthy snack... what kid doesn't like to participate in something gross right? Our daughter used to be afraid of these wigglers and this exposure helped her feel comfortable and now she handles them without a problem!


 Generally kids love animals and it is up to us parents to nurture that relationship. To close this post, let me list some suitable chicken breeds for you to consider:
  • Silkies
  • Cochins
  • Australorps
  • Bantams
  • Sussex
  • Delaware
  • Red star chickens
are all friendly breeds and are best to make special connection with your kids. Well, this is so exciting and I hope you will start your little chicken coop soon! 








Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dreamy Meatloaf Recipe

I used to make meatloaf according to an internet recipe I found and it was good... But then I remembered how my mom used to make this meatloaf, filled with pickles and eggs and hot dogs and I really wanted to try make it myself (to spice up the menu ;-) - don't we all wish to do that). 



Just a note - if you have been following my blog for a while, you know we raise our own chickens and turkeys and I am a big fan and supporter of people eating organic, free range, local meats - so I am using a ground beef that was lovingly raised on my husband's uncle's farm. We just love when we know where our food comes from ;-)

You will need

1 lb of ground beef
1/2 of bagel or 1 french roll
milk
1 egg
1 small onion
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp majoram
2 tbsp ground caraway
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of black pepper

For Filling

Hard boiled eggs
Hot dog
Pickles

give or take 
the amount depends on what you like best - you can double up on the egg and leave out the hot dog etc...

First cut up the bagel or roll and dip it into the milk. Wait until it absorbs the milk and becomes soft and mushy. 


Then work it with hands until it looks like this.


Set it aside and mix the rest of the ingredients ...


... in a Kitchen Aid like mixer - or just use you hands. Preheat oven to 350.


Take it out of the bowl, lay it out on your counter, and form it into a half an inch thick long oval.


Lay the eggs and cucumbers (or hot dogs) on top of the meat mixture...


... and wrap it all up. The mixture should be holding well together.


Pour oil and half of cup of water into a glass (or any) oven dish and place the meatloaf in it.


Bake for 45 minutes (Please check your meatloaf after 35 minutes - ovens might vary and that could make a huge difference) and during that time open the oven couple times to pour some of the oil mixture that is in the dish over the meatloaf to keep it from drying out. Don't take it out of the oven but just turn on the broil option and keep it in for 5 minutes. Observe carefully so you don't burn it. This gives it a crunchy seal (if you prefer not softer meatloaf, skip this step)


You are ready to let it cool down for easier cutting! I hope you enjoy this fun spin on your meat loaf!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

DIY Sparkly Sequins Shoes

Not that these Converse sparkly shoes weren't fancy enough already ;-) But my daughter saw a picture of this project in one of her library books a while ago and insisted we do it as a part of our "girls-only" weekend.


You will need:

Shoes with the rubber toe, such as Converse
Hot glue
Sequins
Decorative jewels 


I had her arrange the jewels and sequins on top of the shoe the way she wanted them to be laid out. If kids are old enough to handle hot glue gun, they can attach them after they laid them all out. If your kids are too little, parents should help attaching them.

And finished...


You have no idea how much higher these help you jump! ;-)




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tips for Planting Perennials and Tour Around the Backyard Farm

I thought I would give you a new tour around the backyard today and give you few tips about strategic planting that I use. 

When I buy plants, I think ahead... how tall will they get? That is very important when it comes to placement of the plants. For example look at this picture below... I started on the left with ground cover that doesn't grow too tall, followed by taller and then taller plants (The dark leafed plant in the back will still get taller - it's a late bloomer). Tall grass is placed in he back.


And look at this same setting from a different angle. It still works, doesn't it?


I took this picture of the same plant just recently, when all the plants got even taller. Also did you notice that I like to incorporate rocks into my garden? I love how they add that sharp edgy look to it.


The beautiful greenery is in great contrast with the grey rocks. 


And how about all the different shapes you can play with? I just love the contrast the rocks create. We didn't have to purchase the rocks, I got them from people who were getting rid of them - bonus!


Besides different sizes, I also love combining different shapes, textures, and colors. You can see an example on the picture below - how the thin grass breaks up the space in the front of the bee balm. And then the lavender plant (first year for this one so it's still tiny, but again, I am thinking ahead) and pointy leaves of iris.


...or over here by our pond I placed an ever green bush with hostas and cat tails in the background...


Think outside the box when it comes to designing your garden. I like placing garden decorations into our garden beds, they add an extra touch to the whole picture.


I am in love with these terra-cotta glazed garden balls.


Don't throw out that old barrel planter. The rustic look adds a little vintage to your design.


Every year we somehow change something in the backyard. Either things begin to over grow or we just have a better idea ;-)


I spoke earlier about the different textures and shapes. I have another example below, where my husband added this drift wood into the equation. And as a ground cover, to make everything look neat we choose either gravel or free mulch that town offers for us to come pick up.


Don't forget you are not limited if you only have an option to use planters... In the next post I will give you some tips for container planting ;-)


I hope you enjoyed this year's tour! Enjoy the end of summer in your garden :-)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tip for Healthier Tomato Plants

Just a quick tip how to keep your tomato plants healthy and have more tomatoes!

Remove those suckers!

They are called suckers because they suck the precious energy the plant needs to put into the actual tomatoes fruit. You need to pinch or cut them off as soon as you see one.

What are they? Look at the picture below - do you see the extra small branch that is starting to develop between the stem and the original branch? That's the sucker.


Sometimes I catch them very tiny and that is a bonus - the sooner you get rid of them, the better for your plant. It can focus on the important job. Also if you leave them, your plant becomes an uncontrollable bush and you have difficult time getting to your crop.



Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Feeding Eggshells to Your Chickens

Feeding eggshells to the chicken has been around what seems like forever. If you are like us, you don't like to waste any leftovers and you like to use as much as possible. Of course, you can compost the eggshells but if you feed them to your girls, they will provide some extra calcium in their diet, which they so badly need. Every egg contains a large amount of calcium and if the hen is lacking it in her diet, the rest of her body will suffer. 

Benefits of feeding the eggshells to the chickens

1. No wasting leftovers
2. Providing some extra calcium to the chickens' diet

How to prepare the eggshells

You have to dry the eggshells before you can feed them to the chickens. The reason for that is (as I heard it from our grandmother) that the chickens don't eat any of the actual wet part because that might promote egg eating in you coop. I have double oven and I mainly use the top part. I have a big cookie sheet ready in the bottom oven and every time I have some eggshells I place them on the cookie sheet. You can find any spot in the kitchen... I heard people keeping them under the sink, in an empty cupboard, or in their pantry. Just make sure they are in a place, where they can dry.


After you dry the eggshells, you would want to break them up into tiny pieces. Hens don't really have the brain capacity to realize that you are feeding them the eggshells from the eggs that they lay but they could visualize the round objects and connect it (like when people place golf balls into the nesting boxes to promote egg laying there... golf balls are very similar to the egg shape). Hens sometimes start eating the eggs they lay because they lack the calcium in their diet or they are simply bored. I have never have it happen but I sure heard a lot about it. You can avoid this problem by drying the eggshells and breaking them into tiny pieces - see bottom picture.


Now you are ready to bring them to your coop. I mix them with their regular feed and they gobble it up no problem.