| May 16, 2012 | 2:18 pm
My kids love fresh green beans so much. I make them about once a week in the summer because I know that they are going to go down fast. Steamed or roasted with a dash of lemon juice, that’s the ticket!
Since I knew that the kids would devour green beans pretty much no matter how they are served they made the perfect first choice for my latest cooking experiment. My friend Colleen let me borrow her Sun Oven! And let me tell you, the green beans were outstanding! Moist, still crisp, slightly caramelized, and quickly devoured.
So, what is a sun oven? It’s an insulated outdoor oven which directs the sun’s heat into the cooking chamber with giant metal reflectors. There are many tutorials online on how to make your own, which I may try after I have to give back my loaner, but buying one is pretty cool, too.
I have used the sun oven twice now, each time at about 4pm, facing west. The days were fully sunny and I got an average temperature of 275* in the cooking chamber. According to the directions, if you’d like to get a higher temperature, like around 350* to 400* you can grab the southern sun at noon by aiming the oven towards the south. Then your food will get a high heat in the early day, and the oven temperature will slowly lower to around 200* in the evening once the sun is no longer directly into the funnel of the reflectors. So essentially you are slow roasting food in a completely energy free way (after manufacture and shipping of course).
Is anyone else out there cooking in a sun oven? Are you using a handmade one or a manufactured one? If you’re using a handmade one, what is your average temperature? I am really excited about the possibility of using a sun oven in the summer when my western facing kitchen is too hot to cook in, but I want to know if it is worth it to make one, or if I should just buy the same model Colleen let me borrow. Feedback, please!
| May 9, 2012 | 10:42 am
I am so pleased to announce that I will be contributing some of my coffee bean bag purses and totes at the Portage Trail Barn Sale. My goal was to sew a bag a day for the past two weeks to prepare. That was insanity. There are so many moms who manage to juggle the work-at-home-mom gig. I don’t think that person is me.
I get distracted by my garden, my friends, my kids, my desire to learn how to build a drip irrigation system…. And another project that I am so excited to share, but I’m not quite ready yet.
Kid's Cape made by Portage Trail Barn
In any case. I have much less than 14 bags to offer at the sale, but the ones I do have are really great. You’ve seen the photos before. I’m also bringing some items which I made last year, some arm cuffs and headbands and stuff.
Mostly, I’m just glad to be a part of such a unique retail opportunity. My friend Mary Beth is such a creative and industrious person. She’s a real up-by-your-bootstraps kind of woman. And she has chickens, which is something I really want (anyone want an awesome house in west akron with fabulous neighors so I can move to a house with a yard big enough for chickens?).
There are many other vendors offering their wares at the sale, too. So you will need to check out the Portage Trail Barn blog to see her featured sellers to know what to look forward to. And even better, you can head over to the sale next weekend and feel all the hand crafted goodness with your own fingers. I am planning on restocking my supply of hand knit dish cloths. As well as finding some handmade gifts for my mom’s birthday!
- Spring Barn Sale- May 17-19
- Thursday 5p-8p
- Friday and Saturday 10a-3p
| April 30, 2012 | 9:46 pm
Saturday morning, in spite of the grim cloud cover, gardeners of West Akron got together to trade plant divisions. Elaine Chin from Chin’s Place on West Market street was the host, and she more than made us feel welcome. She had the servers from the restaurant bring us hot tea and crab rangoon. And if you’ve ever eaten at Chin’s Place, you know that it was great crab rangoon!
About 30 to 40 people were in attendance, each one bringing one or more plants to share. As everyone mingled in the parking lot, huddled into little circles to keep warm, we’d OOOoooo and AAAaahhhhh as new species were put on the offering pile. Divisions were separated into three basic catergories: edibles, flowers/perennials, and ground covers. The show stoppers of the day were the bleeding heart and Mary Bethel‘s aloe, for sure. Everyone was whispering that they were hoping to get a bit to take home.
Elaine had all the swappers draw a number from 1 to 100. Then she called them in order, and as your number was called you were able to go pick three plants. As things were chosen, seasoned gardeners would help newer gardeners choose plants, describing their type and how they like to be grown. People grabbed strawberry starts and herbs for their vegetable gardens.
Even though I drew number 75, I was not left out of the abundance. I was able to replace some of the hostas which Sherman has dug up and tossed around. I also grabbed a giant fern, some parsley, a couple pots of evening primrose, and a bleeding heart cut for Rob’s mom. Once all of the swappers were able to pick three plants it was opened up for a “free for all” until all the plants were gone. It was amazing. I don’t think that a single plant was left over.
I just put my transplants in the ground this afternoon, and it’s raining a nice little sprinkle on them. I want to give them a day or two to perk up and see what makes it before I take pictures of them in their new homes. I’ll let you know what makes it!
| April 24, 2012 | 2:10 pm
One of the reasons I love being a Girl Scout Leader is that everything that I am excited about fits in with the Girl Scouts purpose. Right now our girl are learning about the natural world and farming in our Journey “Between the Earth and Sky.” We’ve even been talking about regional crops, local food, and plant classifications. The leader’s guide for the journey recommended having a farmer come to talk to the troop about plants “special jobs” as we prepare to talk about sunflowers and their ability to clean up dirty places by drawing toxins like lead out of the soil.
Well, I immediately thought of local Paqarina Farms because of their work in urban farming in Akron. They might not have been using sunflowers to clean up their land in the Akron City Limits, but they have definitely used organic principals to make that rusty old patch of soil a viable farm which can even support customers and a CSA. I emailed Karmi, one of the owners of Paqarina to ask if she would come speak to our girls and she said, “absolutely!”
Yesterday was the day she came to speak with the girls and it was a hit! Our scouts were so amazed that our Farmer was not a man, but a woman! They sat down to hear “Miss Karmi” explain their bee hives, horse plows and companion planting. My daughter Olivia informed everyone that bee hive collapse is happening because of pesticides in High Fructose Corn Syrup (which was both adorable and embarassing). The Troop decided that I was the Queen Bee and they were the worker bees. And everyone played with tools.
Here’s the troop working in their journals drawing something they learned about farming from Miss Karmi. Most of the girls were really inspired by the “three sisters” so you can see their corn and beans in the pictures.
Miss Karmi invited us to visit in the summer when all of the crops are in full swing and her chickens are out and about. And I plan on paying her a visit to the Highland Square Countryside Conservancy Farmer’s Market on Thursdays this summer. I’ll keep you posted as to what else my kiddos learn from Miss Karmi later on!
| April 19, 2012 | 9:59 pm
I never properly introduced Templeton Goods, and I’m sorry about that. When Colleen and I were writing the blog together I didn’t want to take up post space with personal advertisements, and she didn’t have a craft line she produced, so anyway… I never introduced my craft line and etsy store properly.
Templeton Goods is named for the infamous Templeton the rat from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web because (almost) everything I use for materials is reclaimed or repurposed. I’ve never been very good at buying new materials anyway, so this is really just comes naturally to me. Last year I really focused on men’s wear fabrics: herringbone, houndstooth, chambray, cotton shirting. These fabrics are so abundant and universally stylish I just loved working with them. If you came to Crafty Mart last year I’m sure you saw me hawking them.
This year I’ve moved onto a new fabric to work with. Colleen brought me over a coffee bean bag which she bought from a local coffee shop. The fabric was just so cool! It had prints from the countries the beans were grown in. Some of the bags had rainforest alliance logos printed on them. The weave is loose and summery. I was very inspired. I’ve made some coffee cup sleeves out of the material, which are with a vendor waiting to be sold so I can’t photo them. But the crown jewel of accessories I’ve made with these coffee bags are the purses and totes.
I am in love with them. They are fun to sew (though they create a large quantity of dust). And each one turns out different! I’ve been pairing the totes with fabrics I’ve collected from my favorite trash-dive, Zero Landfill.
I’m so excited about the way these are turning out it hasn’t been hard to stay motivated in the sewing room. Expect more combinations to be revealed soon! And head over to Templeton’s FB page and like me. You’ll be updated when new items get posted in the store.
| April 17, 2012 | 9:50 pm
Last week I took the girls to Eddy’s Bike Shop in Fairlawn because I needed to get some inner tube repair patches for my bike. But Eddy’s was having a $50 off Trek bikes sale (you should see if they still have the sale going on!) and we just got our taxes back….
Oops. I bought my first new bike ever. It’s the 7100, and it is basically like gliding down the road on butter. It is so smooth!
Can I just say that buying a new bike at Eddy’s is like all of the things I like at once? Athletic gear, outdoor opportunities, small business support, family togetherness, eco-friendly transportation. Basically, it’s perfect.
Here’s the photos of the girls’ and my bike outing. We loaded everyone up and hit the Memorial Trailhead of the Towpath for a quick before dinner ride. I keep the bike rack on the van from April to November, just in case we need to hit the trail on a whim.
Please note my hipster basket toting my purse. I could have bought one at Eddy’s for a pretty hefty price, and I would have been happy. But I happen to have had a basket just the right size sitting in my garage doing nothing at all. So my neighbor gave me some heavy duty plastic chord ties and we attached that sucker to my handle bars. I am officially cooler now that I have a basket on my hybrid bike. And a bike trailer, too. Yes. I’m feeling cool.
| April 12, 2012 | 10:53 am
Look! My daughter, Elise is a Clever Nester, too. She became interested in Legos after finding my husband’s old set in his parents basement last year. After reading some Lego for girls reviews (this one came after our purchase but it is a great read!) we bought her a basic pink starter set for her fifth birthday. It’s just girlie enough, but can work with all the other Lego products for open ended fun.
She uses the Legos to build elaborate houses with multiple rooms, gardens, stables, cars and appliances. I’m completely impressed and see a possible Elise Lloyd Wright in my future.
We bought Olivia a set of Legos for Christmas, too. The Hogwarts Castle set. Olivia, Elise, and my husband Rob all sat down together and built the castle following the directions to a T. Then it went up on a shelf until last week when Rob gave Elise permission to harvest it for parts. She was already using Hagrid’s hair to make a second mom, and all the wands for broom sticks (see photo below), but now she wanted to use the castle windows for her home.
I always see her working on it on her work table. I help her get the one block thick pieces unstuck every once in a while. But some how I hadn’t noticed how elaborate her house was until today when I was vacuuming under the table and had to grab all the loose pieces before they got sucked up. Did you see that stove? Did you see the table, complete with center piece and service ware? It’s amazing! No wonder my two year old, Cressida, is always trying to steal it!
She even has an area rug in this room. And vases on the shelf below the TV. See what I’m saying? Elise Lloyd Wright. Lego Genius.
| April 11, 2012 | 2:49 pm
Today is Hump Day of Spring Break. I’ve got Olivia home from first grade, and Elise home from pre-K. We’re hanging around the house and making messes. Olivia needs to work on her Painting Patch for Girl Scouts which means that everyone in the family needs to be painting.
Last night I cut out large pieces of freezer paper for the girls to work on and got out the nice water color paints. Everyone got to work while I made dinner. Elise painted a picture of a house, Olivia painted a picture of me on a hike, and Cressida painted herself.
Please excuse the blurry pictures, Cressida is still in the moves-so-fast-its-hard-to-get-good-photos phase. Especially in my dark kitchen. I was looking through iPhoto while I uploaded these pictures from my phone and I came across this picture:
Cressida has been coloring her body since the day she was given markers by accident. I have to wash paint or marker off this kid at least three times a week. Everyone says I shouldn’t expect anything else since I have so many tattoos. haha.
Anyway, here’s the older two working away.
The next part of her project is to look for inspiration. She wants to go to the library and check out some painting books. That gives us another good activity to keep us busy on these crummy rainy days. I also plan to look on the web for some inspiration. I came across the site artsz.org and I think she and I will enjoy looking through it together. She is supposed to paint a landscape, paint a feeling, and paint without a brush. I am curious to see what she comes up with.
| April 7, 2012 | 2:10 pm
It is the last lovely day here in Ohio before the sun goes dormant for a week and the weather threatens snow. That’s Easter for you, it is always awful weather. Since it’s such a fantastic day I am struggling between going down to my basement studio and sewing a new Easter dress for Olivia or going and sitting outside with a pad of paper in the sun and drawing and writing. I guess in my next post you will all know which one I picked.
In a couple of minutes I know that I am going to dye eggs with the older two. Cressida is napping, and honestly, a two year old just isn’t who I want playing with eggs today. I’m a bad mom, ha. I found a piece of silk in a bag of scraps about 8 months ago and have been saving it to do Easter eggs ever since. Long time readers will remember how we tried Martha Stewart’s eggs last year and I just loved the way they came out.
Yesterday Olivia and I were wrapping up our Daisy Scout family camp out. I spent 15 hours with 8 first graders and their moms. The major goal of the overnight was to learn to take responsibility for their troop jobs, and work hard together. But the main event was learning how to build a camp fire using REAL matches.
We started by making edible fires, and then moved to real a-frame style fires while working in groups of two. After the girls got the fires going they had to keep them burning for five minutes. These girls were pretty excited when they had success, and I was impressed by how responsible they were with the task. They even raked up their own ashes and cleaned up the fire ring.
Even though I was totally in my element I was completely exhausted the next day. Thank goodness we are leading up to spring break so that I can rest. Hahahahhaha! Just kidding. Have a great Easter everyone.
| April 4, 2012 | 10:44 pm
And so I haven’t been working on this blog. Colleen and I had high hopes of turning Clever Nesting in to a business back when we bought this domain. And that energy really forced me to take my crafting and creativity to the next level. It never turned into a money maker ( really, who were we kidding!) but it was valuable in so many other ways.
I got an email listing a few new comments which came from Pinterest pins. It made me long for some blogging action, and I missed the ol’ WordPress dashboard. So here I am.
Colleen isn’t really blogging anymore, but I plan on leaving her stuff in the archives. I might make a new category to organize stuff… But I’m getting back to my blogging roots and I’m going to just start writing about what it’s like to be a creative mom. I’m also hoping to get better at taking photos… I’ve never been the best at that.
Here’s a photo I took of one of the purses I made last month. I came across some burlap coffee bean bags at a good price, and I made a bunch of purses with them. I am looking for a retail store around Highland Square to sell them for me… but first I have to get the Girl Scout camp out done and over.
I became a girl scout leader this year for my first grader’s troop. It has been the ride of my life. I LOVE these kids, and I’m looking forward to being with them as long as they’ll stay in scouts. We bridge to brownies in a couple of months, so we’re making these shirts and hoodies with freezer paper stencils at the camp out. Any former scouts know what that is? The Brownie Beanie! Good thing it’s an optional part of the uniform now…. I hated those when I was a kid.