Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Homeschool Adventures

I'm back!

I want to talk about homeschooling today. Though we have a Charlotte Mason/Unschooling slant, I am always looking for things to add into our routine, just to shake it up and keep the kids excited. There are a few new things I've been wanting to try: Peak With Books, Moving Beyond the Page and Time 4 Learning.

Peak With Books is designed for classroom use, but has suggestions for adapting the book for home use. If you are not familiar with Peak With Books, let me give a brief synopsis. It is geared towards preschoolers and includes questions, activities, extra reading suggestions and prompts for many books including Chica Chica Boom Boom, Bedtime for Frances, Make Way for Ducklings, Each Peach Pear Plum and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Moving Beyond the Page offers homeschool curriculum for gifted learners. Much like Peak With Books, Moving Beyond the Page is a literature based learning experience. Unit based and book heavy. They also use Right Start Math, which is my personal favorite way to approach math, which is basically counting in tens.

Time4Learning is a computer based homeschool curriculum. A built-in time and assignment tracker seems to be the most outstanding feature I see so far. I am curious to see what the activities are like. I've been invited to try Time4Learning in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so come back and read about my experiences. For more information, check out their online curriculum or learn how to write your own curriculum review.

Friday, November 11, 2011

{this moment}

Today I am joining Amanda Soule at SouleMama for {this moment}.

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Thank you so much everyone who participated. And thank you to Jessica of You're Inspired for her awesome interview and generous gift. 

Congratulations to Jewels! Email me at tangledoakroots (at) yahoo dot com within 48 hours to redeem your prize. That's it!

If you didn't win this month, I have another fun giveaway planned for next month - art yarn, mmmmmmm, and I hope you'll be back! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

~Mindful Quotes~

Wednesday's thoughtful tradition, ~Mindful Quotes~: A quote you find resonates with your soul, a way to live your life, an inspiration. 

"May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true, may you always know the Truth and see the light surrounding you." Bob Dylan

Monday, November 7, 2011

Real Food Recipe: Orange Muffins

Otherwise known as: Oooops, I Liquified My Mayonnaise. I make my own mayonnaise. Why? Because the mayo you buy in the store is made with rancid oil, even the expensive health food kind. Eeeeeeeew! Right? Ever notice that mayo has a distinct aroma and taste and people either love mayo or hate it. Well, that signature mayo smell and taste is actually comes from the rancid oil. Yuck. I am not feeding that to my family.

Making homemade mayo is a cinch and another great way to get good fats and eggs into your family. All you need to make mayonnaise is a one cup of a quality oil like olive or sunflower (not safflower), and an egg. I prefer sunflower oil as it has a neutral flavor better suited to salads and sandwiches.

Whisk the egg until totally blended and then while whisking, slowly add the oil in a very thin, steady stream. In a few short minutes you will have a beautiful, truly healthy mayonnaise, also known as aioli (eye-o-lee). Add any range of sea salts, spices or herbs for a delicious spread on sandwiches, crackers or even a dip for veggies.

Now, I use my Vita-Mix to make my mayo. If I get distracted from watching the process, things go south. Even 5-10 seconds too long in the Vita-Mix and thick mayo liquifies. No amount of whisking or blending or silently cursing the mayo will make it thick again. 

Fortunately, you can avoid this catastrophe by hand mixing. So why do I use my Vita-Mix, you ask? I make large batches of mayo that tend to slop out of the bowl when I'm whisking. The Vita-Mix (usually) is the better choice for my needs.

So what to do when I start day-dreaming and liquefy my mayonnaise? I hate waste in the kitchen. Waste is not good stewardship and it's also not good for the budget. So what to do with that high quality oil and pastured eggs? Bake something of course! Nearly every baked good calls for fat and eggs. You could really go anywhere with this: muffins, cakes, cookies, brownies. Whichever confection your family loves the most.

I had a surplus of oranges, a cold November afternoon and a family clamoring for a treat. This recipe was born.

These muffins are delicious. Moist, orange-y, with a fine crumb like a sugar cookie.

Orange Muffins

Makes 18 muffins

Double batch of liquified mayonnaise OR
2 pastured eggs
1 1/2 cups of sunflower oil 
juice of one organic orange (around 1/4 cup)
zest of one organic orange (thoroughly scrubbed) (TIP: add more zest if you made an olive oil mayo. The zest will mask it.)
1/2 teaspoon real almond extract
1 tablespoon Triple Sec (optional, but really adds an extra something)
3/4 cup sucanat sugar
1 3/4 cup sprouted flour
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit.

If you didn't accidentally liquify your mayonnaise, at this point you want to whip your eggs and oil until they don't separate as soon as you stop mixing. 

Toss in the orange juice, orange zest, almond extract, Triple Sec and sucanat. Combine thoroughly.

Sift dry ingredients together. Add to wet ingredients while stirring slowly. Only mix 25-35 strokes. Lumps are fine, even big ones. If you over-mix muffin batter, your muffins will be tough and heavy.

Fill muffin tins 1/2 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean.

Devour these hot and slathered in raw butter, with a glass of cold, raw milk. Rejoice that your mayonnaise making didn't turn out, because now you have a yummy treat you can feel good about eating.

These muffins keep well and freeze well, so they are a good option to keep around for a quick snack. They would also make a fabulous addition to a party, especially with some soaked, slivered almonds added to the batter.


I am joining the Healthy Home Economist for Monday Mania with this recipe.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November Jubilee Giveaway: You're Inspired

I am excited to announce our November Giveaway! We are adding a new feature as well. We plan to introduce a family-run business each month that we personally and highly recommend because of their sustainable-materials ethics and quality workmanship.

This month our featured shop is of my favorite places of all time: You're Inspired. We are giving away a $25 gift certificate to Jessica's You're Inspired Etsy shop. 

A few months ago I was looking for some homeschool supplies that would span the ages from toddler to preschooler to kindergartener. I found You're Inspired and just fell in love with Jessica's handmade wood creations. I think you will too. All her toys are made from sustainable and renewable resources. 

Here is Jessica's shop announcement:

While the wooden toy market is plentiful, the majority are coated in a thick layer of paint. If the wood is no longer exposed, our precious little ones are not actually touching the wooden toy; they are essentially playing with the paint or varnish coating. While many polyurethanes varnishes and paints state they are "water based", the truth is they are full of chemicals and are probably no safer than the plastic toy you were trying to avoid in the first place.

After seeing thousands of wooden toys recalled due to toxic lead paint, I set out on the venture of creating natural toys for my daughter. All my wooden toys are made from locally purchased lumber, and my hardwoods are all sustainably harvested. I am committed to using AP certified non-toxic waterbased paints, which use plant gum as binders, instead of "non-toxic" acrylic paints, which are plastic based. All toys are sealed using my homemade wood creme, consisting of pure beeswax, expeller-pressed jojoba oil and just a hint of sweet orange essential oil.

I have spent many hours trying different techniques to find the perfect method to avoid the dreaded "bleeding" that natural wooden toys are infamous for. This new method involves a watered wash of paint to deeply penetrate the grain of the wood (creating a stain, instead of a coating over the wood), followed by a protective sealing of beeswax wood creme which is then heatset to stabilize the paint. Finally another coating of wood creme is applied and buffed for the finishing touch. The result is a natural toy that is water resistant which means no more paint rubbing onto little fingers, clothes or your carpet!

Please note that Mother Nature has not yet created a way to completely waterproof wood. While my painted toys are water-resistant, they are not water-proof and I would still not recommend my toys for water play or as a constant teething toy as colors may eventually fade. I do offer many unpainted toys as an alternative for those who are interested.

I love custom orders, so if you have an idea or want something altered, just let me know!

Didn't I tell you Jessica is awesome? Read on to learn more about how she creates her whimsical and wonderful art.

How did you get into wood carving?

After our daughter (Azure) was born, I noticed it was really hard to find wooden toys that didn't have a thick coat of paint over them. Azure chewed on EVERYTHING and that paint kept chipping off. I made a commitment to be a stay at home mom when Azure was born, and funds were limited to purchase the toys I ogled online...so I decided to try my hand at making my own!
My first toys were made using a handheld jigsaw and were crooked. I used food coloring to paint the toys which worked great, until the toys got even the slightest bit damp--and then they bled horribly! I invested in a scrollsaw for $20 off Craigslist, which was a great investment. I then started using watercolors to stain the toys, which worked much better. I was really set that I didn't want to use a lacquer, even if waterbased, to seal the toys-- and it took a bit to learn the right ratio of water/paint to use, and the trick of heatsetting the paint to finally create toys that didn't bleed. I first started trading the toys in crafting swaps, and the demand was so huge I decided to start selling on etsy.

Will you walk us through your work day?
The lovely thing about selling on etsy is I can set my own hours, and take breaks or quit if needed. Some days I won't work at all, or only for a few hours. Usually around Christmas though I will end up working for days on end. The great thing is that I am a night owl by nature, so even when I have huge orders, I can work mainly at night or during Azure's naps so I can still spend time with my family.

Where do you find inspiration?

I love designing toys and in the beginning my mind was constantly full of ideas. I couldn't wait to try out new designs create them. After awhile though I would be so busy filling orders I didn't really make the time to try new ideas. So honestly now, my inspiration comes from customers! I love when people request items and I get to design new toys again. Sometimes people request things I have been meaning to get around to, or they will request toys I would have never thought to make (such as the viking set, which is now one of my best sellers!). 

How is your daughter involved in your creative process?

Azure loves to help me sand. But other than that, honestly, Azure isn't that interested in the toys. I had visions of her helping me more indepth (and I am still hoping that day will come), but sadly she doesn't even really like to play with the toys! I have tried creating toys for her based on her favorite characters...but even those seem to just sit there and gather dust. She enjoys stacking with the block sets and playing with kitchen food, but has never really roleplayed with any of her toys with the exception of "babies" and her kitchen. She just turned 4, and is finally starting to show interest--so I am hoping things will change! When other kids are around while I am working, they seem really excited and ooh and aah and want to help. I wonder sometimes if because she is around the toys so much, they have just lost their luster!

Thank you Jessica for giving us a glimpse into your charming world! I hope others will find as much inspiration as I have from you. Our family feels good about supporting a stay-at-home mama who is committed to using sustainable and non-toxic materials. Our little ones love your beautiful wooden animals and they play with them everyday. It is truly a joy to observe them running their small hands over the wood grain and even breathing in the scent of the wood. We all love how you create happy, peaceful expressions on the faces of the animals, too.


How To Enter to Win a $25 Gift Certificate to You're Inspired:

Subscribe to my blog and leave a comment telling me you did. Hint: Look to the right bar of my blog toward the top of the page for a Subscribe box. Just enter your email address, hit Enter and you'll be subscribed. You can unsubscribe at any time.
That's it!

Want Even More Entries?

You know you do! 

The fine print: You must leave a separate comment for each extra entry.

1. Blog about my giveaway and link back to my giveaway on your blog. Be sure to add the link to your blog post in a comment below.

2. Leave a comment to share one thing you have done in the past week towards sustainability OR a frugal organic housekeeping tip OR a Real Food recipe your family loves.

3. Email 3 friends about my giveaway, making sure to include the link to my giveaway in your email. Leave a comment letting me know you did.

4. Subscribe to my Feedburner updates. Look to the right and you will see where you can enter your email address to subscribe to my Feedburner updates.

That makes 5 total possible entries for each person.

I like those odds!

Entries will close midnight Tuesday November 8th, 2011 (PST). I will use a random number generator to find the winners. Check back here Wednesday morning for an announcement of the winner.

Comments closed.

Friday, November 4, 2011

{this moment}

Today I am joining Amanda Soule at SouleMama for {this moment}.

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keys To The Castle

It has been very busy around here. So busy, in fact, I have not had a free moment to blog. And I've missed this space. But I come here today with some exciting news: we got a house!

It closed just this week. We have lots of work to do around the place, and we will be blogging how we get the work done in a sustainable way. From installing new floors, repairing a falling down wood fence, removing acoustic ceiling, renovating a kitchen and bathrooms, building a top-bar beehive (what???), a compost bin and planting fruit trees, vines and a garden.

This weekend I will have a fun giveaway, including handmade Waldorf-style wooden animals, so check back for that.

I hope you are all well and staying warm on this cold Autumn day. Have a beautiful Thursday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Real Food Recipe: Beef Stroganoff

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The weather is cooling down. I resume knitting and start baking every day again. Summer clothes are packed away, sweaters and thick socks find their way into our drawers. The trees change colors. And I begin making our families' favorite dinners in earnest: soups, gravies and sauces.

Beef stroganoff is one of those tasty comfort foods that gets a bad rap. Of course, anything that comes out of a box with a package of powdered flavoring made with rancid oils and MSG is going to be disappointing.

My Beef Stroganoff is the real deal. Made with grass-fed beef, lots of nourishing fats, beef stock and fresh ingredients, this classy version will be an instant family favorite. It is mildly flavored, so children will love it, though still rich enough to satisfy our more sophisticated adult palates.

This is one of my go-to meals when I need a quick, nourishing dinner and I am too tired or busy to spend an hour in the kitchen. I can have this on the table in 25-30 minutes and clean-up is a cinch.  

Serve this Beef Stroganoff on its' own or over sprouted flour noodles, a baked potato, mashed potatoes or with sourdough bread. (Don't forget true sourdough bread is not made with yeast, but with a sourdough starter.)

 I like to serve sauerkraut and sliced tomatoes or cucumbers as accompaniments.

Beef Stroganoff
Serves 4-6

1 pound grass-fed organic ground beef
1 stick grass-fed butter (raw is not necessary, as this is a cooked dish)
1 small organic onion, finely diced
1/2 pound mushrooms, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
1/2 cup sprouted organic flour
2 cups raw, grass-fed milk OR 2 cups homemade beef stock OR 1 cup raw, grass fed milk AND 1 cup homemade beef stock
1 cup natural sour cream ( make sure your sour cream does not have any additives, Daisy is a good brand, and quite easy to find)
dash (5-6 drops) fish sauce or all-natural worcestershire sauce
cracked black pepper
sea salt

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, brown the ground beef in the butter over medium heat. The grass-fed beef I buy tends to be very lean, and I must add butter to get it brown properly. Regardless, browning the ground beef in butter imparts a rich, beef flavor to the butter, which in turn imparts a deep, rich flavor to your sauce.

Remove ground beef, leaving butter and drippings in the pan. Next, saute the onions and mushrooms over low-medium heat, until they become tender and aromatic. If you chose to use garlic, you would add it after the onions and mushrooms have cooked, sauteing until garlic is aromatic. Take care not to burn or brown the garlic.

Turn the heat down to low. At this point we are going to make a roux. Add the flour and stir vigorously until butter and flour are well combined and bubbly. Cook for 1-2 minutes while continuing to stir vigorously. We want to cook out the flour taste.

Slowly add in the raw milk or beef stock. Stir constantly until well combined. Add the ground beef back to the pan. Keep stirring until you have a nice thick sauce. Add the fish sauce or worcestershire now. Stir to distribute throughout sauce. Turn off the heat and add sour cream. Mix in thoroughly. If the sauce is too thick for your taste, add extra milk, stock or sour cream. Add sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Story of Stuff

This is a great 20-minute movie about the cycle of "stuff". It takes us on a little journey showing how raw materials are obtained, how it gets into our hands and how it all ends up in the landfills. A behind the scenes look, if you will, revealing the true cost of cheap stuff.

One shocking statistic I learned from The Story of Stuff is that 99% of what we buy today ends up in the landfill in six months. Hard to believe? Next time you go shopping and get home, look at what you've purchased and ask yourself: Is all this stuff still going to be in my home in six months? I did that very thing, and sadly, even with all our family does to be sustainable, much of what we buy does end up in the trash. Sounds like we have some serious work to do.

I learned something else very shocking. Did you know that stuff is actually engineered to break? Yep. What we've all suspected for years is true. But there's more to it than that. An even darker side. You'll just have to watch the movie to find out.

My 5 year old thoroughly enjoyed The Story of Stuff and asked me a zillion questions about why society and people are the way they are.  I feel this movie is great springboard for family discussion.

Check it out here: The Story of Stuff

Have you already seen it? Great! What did you think? Are you outraged yet? Outraged more than before? Good! Let's do something about it. There is only so much that we can do, but our actions can show our love and respect for our fellow humans and the earth. By examining our habits and the manner in which we care for our family, I am certain we can all make changes to foster good stewardship of our natural resources.

Are we asking ourselves "Is this a need or a want"? An oldie, but a goodie, as they say. Often times, this can stop us from buying something unnecessary that will not only be thrown away in the near future, but expose our family to toxins in the meantime.

Are we using reusable bags when we shop? I recommend 100% cotton cloth bags. Those cheap ones at the stores are made of chemically treated, highly flammable polyesters. If you already have some of those ones, by all means, keep using them and do not throw them away. But from now on, choose only 100% cotton bags. They will last forever and can be repaired if they rip, unlike the flimsy polyester numbers. Also, many of the polyester ones cannot be washed. Yuck! I wash my bags after I shop. They have been in my car, in carts, on the floor. They need to be washed. I have been using and washing the same cotton bags for almost 10 years and they still look great.

Are we choosing items that have little or no packaging over heavily packaged items? Sometimes this cannot be avoided, but many times if we spend a scant minute or two looking, we can find an alternative to a heavily packaged item. Toilet paper is a good example. Do we buy the individually wrapped rolls? Or do we wisely choose the packages that have the least amount of wrapping? Some families even use cloth wipes. What a way to cut down on waste! Buying in bulk is a great way to avoid heavy packaging too. I also have much of what our family uses shipped directly to my door. From food buying clubs like US Wellness Meats and Azure Standard, to Amazon and Soap.com, I save our family thousands of dollars each year, while also cutting down on the amount of packaging circulating the earth.

Are we buying second-hand or hand-made if possible? Furniture, clothing, appliances, vehicles, books, toys, can all be found for a fair price and better quality than new. One huge bonus in my book to buying second-hand or hand-made items is that many of the toxic chemicals have out-gassed already, leaving you with a less toxic or non-toxic product.

Are we grouping our errands together? It's widely known that when you do one big shopping trip each month you buy less. When we run to the store several times a week for this and that, we are more apt to buy unnecessary stuff, and contribute to the sad cycle of consumerism. Doing one big shopping trip each month forces us to plan our purchases carefully. I have been doing this for years now and it works wonderfully for our family. I do go to the store to pick up produce and perishables once per week, but I eliminated a weekly Target/Grocery Store trip many years ago.

How are you a good steward of the earth? I would love to hear from you!