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No fuss fresh hard boiled eggs

If you have chickens of your own, buy your eggs at a roadside farm stand or are a CSA member, you’ve probably shredded your fair share of hard boiled eggs while trying to take the shells off. As a lover of egg salad, deviled eggs and just plain hard boiled eggs, I thought I’d share with you the method I arrived at after trying every online remedy I could find. I finally had a eureka moment when I combined a few different methods and I’m never turning back! You no longer have to look to Father Time for the assist, as you can steam your eggs literally just a few minutes after plucking them from the coop and still be able to peel your eggs.

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Items you need:
6 fresh eggs
A stainless steel steamer basket (a stainless steel strainer will do)
A pot with a lid
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Hot water

 

 

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Next, fill the pot with hot water just to where it touches the bottom of the steamer basket and add your 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the water. Place the lid and bring the water to a boil. Gently add your 6 eggs, place the lid, and set the timer for 16 minutes. The time may need to be adjusted for different altitudes or if you use more than 6 eggs. You may want to add 2 to 3 more minutes of steam time for a second row of eggs. When the timer is almost up, prepare a bowl of ice water for the eggs. As soon as the timer goes off, ladle the eggs into the ice bath and let them cool completely. You may have a few divots here and there while peeling, but compared to the usual mess I used to make, this method has been a time and egg saver in my kitchen!

I thought I would also pass along the recipe I’ve been using for deviled eggs. It differs from some, as it is mayo-free!

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Ingredients:
1/4 to 1/2 cup of greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon of ground mustard
1 teaspoon of yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon of paprika, plus a bit sprinkled on top
1/4 teaspoon of celery salt
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
A few shoots of fresh chives

Directions: Slice those beautiful hard boiled eggs you just steamed in half lengthwise and put the yolks in a small bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork and then add the greek yogurt and spices. Mix well and generously spoon back into the whites. Top with paprika and fresh chives from your spring garden, if you’re child hasn’t already taken as many as they could for their mud kitchen, and enjoy!

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This post is a tribute to Helga, my most favorite hen who gave up the ghost last fall.
Tutorials

An enchanted spring

Spring-like weather has finally arrived here in the northeast and with it comes the magic of a season filled with new beginnings, growth and welcoming back old friends. Of late, I’ve found myself to be a bit of the whimsical friend amongst more pragmatic folk. Many friends have often commented on how they wish they could muster up on-the-spot fanciful notions for their children about fairies, elves, dragons, unicorns and the like, but often are left disappointed with their attempts and therefore stick with the concrete. As a family, we are very scientific about identifying plants and animal species, as well as their habitats, but I am always quick to add in the fanciful. I do this because even the most sensible child can benefit from the door this opens in their imagination. So, for those of you that struggle with just how to open this door, I thought I would provide a few ideas to get you started.

Children are undeniably enchanted when they find something unusual or something perceived to be magical and it just so happens that fairies, elves and the like absolutely love to leave behind charmed items! So, without further ado, here is your “starters kit” for creating an enchanted spring…

IMG_0871Containers, containers, containers! Finding small containers has become a bit of a hobby of mine. I love to stop in antique stores when I happen to be alone and rummage for the tiniest treasures, which also happen to be fairly low-cost. Vintage perfume bottles are always a big hit and often still have that faint sweet powdery smell of your grandmother. However, if you happen to be more of a craft store person, there are often tiny corked bottles, baskets and tins in the jewelry, fairy garden and even scrapbooking sections of big box craft stores. For those of you that just want the containers to come to you, check out this little assorted pack of tiny glass vials on Amazon! In finding those, I also happened to come across these amazing genie blown glass miniature perfume bottles that may eventually need to land in my possession because Petunia would just adore them.

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Dried calendula, yarrow, motherwort and lavender make excellent fillers.

Next up is the what to put in those miniature containers. I happen to have a lot of dried herbs in my cupboards because I enjoy making salves and soaps, but you can also find many suitable potion elements in your spice rack, such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, and even cinnamon sticks. Other nice fillers that you may have lying around the house or garden shed are different birdseed varieties and wildflower seed packets; you know, those ones they send you in the mail to try to get you to donate to any variety of causes!

IMG_0873Next come the trinkets, the out of the ordinary compelling items that are sure to attract the eyes of the young, who I believe could most likely find that fabled needle in a haystack. Although they are able to completely ignore the socks they just left in the middle of the kitchen, they are always able to spot the tiniest somethings out-of-place. Shells, marbles, gemstones, sea glass and unusual rocks all catch the eye when appearing in atypical places.

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Finding spots that are chock-full o’ supplies, like moss, sticks, rocks and pinecones, can draw out some serious engineering skills in your child!

Now that you have an idea of what to have on hand, encouraging your child to engage with these magical beings is a great place to start. Building a shelter or leaving a special snack of fresh fruit or seeds on a large rock are great starting points. Those berries and seeds are almost guaranteed to be gone the next time you visit (thanks forest creatures!) and if you can sneak out and leave one of your tiny bottles or trinkets in its place, you’ve set the stage for magic. Finding supplies for fairy houses on our hikes has become one of our favorite things, such as wild bird feathers, sticks, bark, moss and pinecones. We typically bring a basket on our beach walks and hikes specifically to find new treasures for our magical friends.

So, there you have it. Everything you need to get you energized for an enchanted spring. I’ll leave you with a few of the anecdotes my Petunia has found particularly captivating.

  • In the morning fairies flutter around kissing flowers like tulips, poppies and crocuses so that they open for the day and in the evening they tap the blooms with their wands to make them close for the night.
  • A potion made of dandelion petals, which can be made by leaving a bowl full of water and petals in the bright sun for a few hours, can cure any magical beings ailment, but don’t forget to leave some for the bees!
  • If you are left a container of dried lavender it can fill you with courage in moments of despair.
  • Whenever you catch a sparkle out of the corner of your eye, but can’t quite make out what it was you saw, it was most likely a fairy tending to his/her business.
  • Elves love to make homes in the hollowed out cavities at the bottom of trees and enjoy listening to soft lyrical songs of children.
  • Unicorns may live in plain sight for much of the year, as they shed their horns in the winter. So, if you’re passing by a farm and see what looks like a white horse close to the woods, it just may be a unicorn!

IMG_9154What kind of enchanting things do you do with your children in the spring and year round? Please enlighten us with more anecdotes, if you care to share!

Fairy Fun is a book we checked out of our local library last year and loved. It’s a great resource for all sorts of crafts, magic tricks, riddles and more, if the fairy realm really takes ahold of your little ones imagination!
Faerie Charms is another book for children who strongly commit to the creativity and magic they possess within. If this book had been in my possession as a child, I would probably have a pair of wings myself by now! As a parent, this book provides many wonderful ways to explore the magical realm with your child and further the wonder and awe.

Tutorials

Children’s Terrarium Tutorial

On Thursday I happily spent the morning in Cape Elizabeth, Maine at Fiddleheads Flowers and Vintage Chic Gifts with one of my oldest friends, who just so happens to be an amazing florist. She guided me through building a simple and sweet terrarium for the littlest loves in your life and I would love to share the experience with you!

Since we can’t all have a florist best friend with all the fixings, I’ll provide a list of items you’ll need below.

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Keep in mind your succulents will grow over time, so leave a little space!

What You’ll Need:
Small succulents from your local florist or nursery (we used 2)
Clear Glass Bubble Bowl
Reindeer moss or a Moss Mix
River Stones
Potting soil (1 to 2 cups)

Additional Adornments:
Permanent botanicals/silks
Crushed sand
A fairy, bird, unicorn, fox, dinosaur or other tiny figurine that suits your little one
Sea Glass, Marbles and/or Glass Gems
Driftwood, beach rocks or interesting forest finds
Extra Fine Glitter

* They also make some great kits that contain many of the above items in small amounts, which can cut down on the cost, such as the following:
Premium Kit for Small Terrarium (Succulent, Cactus, and Fairy Garden) or
Terrarium DIY Succulent / Cactus Kit (Small)

Designing Your Terrarium

Once you have all of your supplies, start with placement of the river stones, which will help prevent pooling.  Arrange them to one side of the bowl.

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Next, add your 1 to 2 cups of potting soil to the remainder of the bowl, patting it down gently, and add any larger design elements you may want to build around, like driftwood, large rocks, bark, et cetera.

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Next, loosen and remove a bit of soil from the bottom of each succulent, exposing the roots, and situate them in the potting soil at the base of your terrarium bowl.

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Now, the fun really starts! Add your mosses, crushed stones, permanent botanicals, marbles, glass gems and figurines however you see fit.

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If you’re involving your little one in the terrarium making process, this is the ideal time to let them really take the helm and place all of the smaller elements carefully wherever they think they look best! After everything is in place, sprinkle the glitter throughout.

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Once completed, use a spray bottle to mist the plants and find a spot to highlight this treasure in your home! Ours is currently sitting in the center of the dining room table where it is checked on regularly by Petunia.

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I want to say a big thank you to Lauren for sharing her expertise. For all of your floral deliveries and gift needs in the Greater Portland, Maine area you can find Fiddleheads online at Fiddleheads, on Instagram at @fiddleheadflowers and on Facebook at Fiddlehead Flowers and Vintage Chic Gifts!

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If you’re looking for a fun little book to delve further into terrarium building, check out Miniature Garden Grower by Holly Farrell! I hope you enjoyed this little hands-on weekend project. I would love to see what you all create, so please tag me in your social media posts!

Uncategorized

A few good (picture) books

As a break from the recent posts on “overprotecting” our children, I thought it would be fun to share three of the books we’ve received as gifts recently and enjoy immensely. Gifting books is one of my favorite things to do and it is always hoped that the literature will delight the beneficiaries as much as the givers. If you decide to give these a try, I hope you find the stories and illustrations as enchanting as we do!

 The Night Gardener, written and illustrated by the Fan Brothers, piques my little Petunia’s curiosity about what happens during the night when all others are sleeping. I feel like it displaces the often feared anxiety of nighttime unknowns and replaces it with a calming affection for the surrounding nature and those who secretly do good within our communities. The illustrations are stunning and a bit of a throwback. I also can’t help but love the affinity the illustrator clearly has for stray cats and laced dress shoes!

 

What Do You Do With an Idea?, written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom, is perhaps one of the most charming picture books I’ve come across in a long time. For any child (or adult) struggling with confidence or patience, this book subtly follows an idea, in the form of an egg, from first glimmer to glorious fruition with all the hurdles and insecurities in between. This one was gifted to us a few years ago, but I always bring it out when I notice Petunia needs assurance in her endeavors.

 


 The Branch, written by Mireille Messier and illustrated by Pierre Pratt, thoughtfully explores the heartbreak, and often anger, children often feel when something important to them is lost. Young readers are encouraged to creatively problem solve  and see the potential for something new. I feel the added bonuses in this story are the lead-in to recycling, a gentle nod to hand crafters and the blossoming intergenerational friendship between neighbors.

 

Are you a book gifter? What are some of your favorites to share with other families? If you have read or decide to read any of the above, what were your impressions?

Overprotection Series

On influencing healthy food habits

I Must Remember

I must remember…
Turkey on Thanksgiving,
Pudding on Christmas,
Eggs on Easter,
Chicken on Sunday,
Fish on Friday,
Leftovers, Monday.
But, ah, me –I’m such a dunce.
I went and ate them all at once.
– Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

As I start this post, I want to reiterate the lens I am seeing this issue through. We are a two-parent household with direct access to typical grocers, as well as local farm products. We also grow our own produce in season and have a small flock of laying hens. There are many families that are food-insecure or can only afford “middle aisle” processed (and much less expensive) foods, are home/land insecure or live in parts of our country that are void of fresh food options altogether (food deserts). In taking all of this into account, let’s have a discussion about how we feed our children.

IMG_4477Coming at it from an overprotection angle, I actually see this as a category where overprotection, demonstrated in the form of quietly monitoring food consumption and modeling healthy eating habits, can be a boon to a child’s wellbeing. I state this, however, with a caveat about pressured and/or restricted eating, which can lead to food fussiness and avoidance. In essence, having lots of healthful choices available in your home, within your means, and very few unhealthy choices, leads to healthy learned habits in our children. When they are able to open the refrigerator or pantry themselves and choose foods they find appetizing, and that are also good for them, they develop lifelong practices that will benefit them.

IMG_4335Much easier said than done, however. I, for one, have a sweet tooth like you wouldn’t believe that I am trying desperately to tame for my child’s benefit. I do my best to choose wisely in her presence and share with her how my body feels (for example, a stomachache) when I have made an unhealthy decision myself, not an admonishment to myself about weight or outward appearance. I think the education for healthy eating habits also lies in how we talk about our bodies and having body-positive attitudes. In our house, when we talk about why mom and dad are making a better effort to eat healthier foods, it is framed as helping us feel better, being able to do more, play more and ache less.

The processed foods and sweets are delicious and, let’s be honest, addictive. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t actively fighting this battle internally, but the good news is my 5-year-old has been kept out of this paradigm through very engaged food choices. She also has a sweet tooth and enjoys small treats regularly, but with much more moderation and typically on a full stomach as opposed to unsupervised gorging on an empty stomach. The shelves she can reach in the pantry and fridge are full of healthy choices, so those are what she sees and is able to select from. The treats are up high in cupboards that, for now, are unreachable and seem to remain out of sight, out of mind. So yes, I feel like I fall into the category of overprotection in this realm, but to the benefit of my child’s health.

IMG_7141What are some of the ways you encourage healthful eating in your children? Do you do battle in the grocery store when your child sees all of the cute designs on the processed foods and wants them? Do you stick to a list when shopping or do you stray with your eyes and stomach? Do you include your child in making the grocery list (this is something we do and it seems to work magic!)? Knowing that not all families have the same food availability or luxuries, what are tangible ways to provide the healthiest choices at the least cost and develop good eating practices? What are your go-to healthy snacks for hungry kids? Do you take another approach entirely from what my family does? I would love to hear from you!