Candied Citrus Peel

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This recipe is super easy.  The peels taste just like sweet lemon drops. You’ll be certain to have your kitchen stocked with a jar or two of these from now on—ready to grab for that upcoming day hike or camping trip.  You may love them plain, with only a dusting of sugar, but in the end you may opt to dip your peels in chocolate for extra yumminess.  Look out!  These peels disappear fast!

 

You will need:

5 organic, un-waxed thick-skinned lemons (or 5 limes, 2 oranges, or 1 large grapefruit)

2 cups sugar

¾ tsp cream of tartar

Semisweet chocolate (optional)

 

What to do:

  1. Wash the lemons and slice off both ends with a knife.
  2. Make 4 equally spaced lengthwise slices just through the peel of each lemon.
  3. With your fingers, pry each section of peel off each lemon, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible.
  4. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a simmer.
  5. Add the peels to the simmering water.  Simmer for 2 minutes and strain with a colander.
  6. Rinse the peels with fresh water and wash out the pan with soap and water.
  7. Repeat 2 more times, each time using fresh water to rinse peels and saucepan, and fresh cold water to refill saucepan.
  8. The pith of the fruit has a bitter taste.  If the peels are very thick, use a spoon or butter knife to scrape off most of the pith from the peel. This should rid the peels of bitterness.  But don’t remove all the pith from the peels—it will provide some structure and tastiness.
  9. Combine 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water and ¾ tsp cream of tartar.  Slowly bring to a simmer, whisking often.  The sugar syrup should be clear before it reaches a simmer.  Be careful—this liquid is hot!
  10. Add the peels to the sugar syrup (add enough water to completely cover the peels) and simmer gently for about 1 hour, until the mixture forms a thick syrup and the peels are translucent and tender.  The temperature should be about 230 degrees.
  11. To test for doneness, lift a peel slice from the syrup with a slotted spoon, let it cool slightly and then sample.  If you can easily bite through the peel, it’s done.  If not, continue simmering peels until tender.  If the syrup becomes too thick, add additional water.
  12. Turn off heat, gently remove peels from the sugar syrup with slotted spoon and lay separately on a wire rack set on an edged baking sheet.  Watch out!  The peels will be very hot.
  13. Once cooled, cut each peel into thin strips (no wider than ¼ inch).  These can be great knife practice for smallish hands, but be sure to work carefully.  Set peels separately on a clean wire rack to dry overnight.
  14. A few pieces at a time, toss each peel in a sugar-filled bowl to coat.
  15. Store in an airtight container.

Candied peels are best used at least two days after you’ve made them—they won’t have dried sufficiently if used right away.  After no longer gooey to the touch, they should be kept refrigerated in an airtight container.  They will last several weeks (assuming they are not gobbled up before then by unicorns).

 

And try this:

  • Dip peel ends in thinned royal icing or tempered chocolate and place on parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.
  • For orange peels, try adding ground ginger or nutmeg to the sugar.
  • Chopped, the candied peels may be used as a topping to pudding, custard, ice cream, pie, fresh granola or cookies.
  • Remaining citrus and cooled liquid and may be used as simple syrup to make amazing homemade lemonade Just add juice of 5 lemons (leftover from the above recipe) and water to taste and refrigerate.
  • Or, on the eve an especially long day, concoct a comforting cocktail.  Cool the remaining citrus and liquid, and serve with your spirit of choice.

Note: I originally published a version of this (sans above cocktail tip, of course) in Whip Up’s Action Pack Magazine for kids (Issue 6).   Chock full of quality projects for creative curious kids who love to do stuff, Action Pack is a downloadable high-quality ad-free e-magazine by Kathreen Ricketson.  Diagrams and photos illustrate each boredom-busting step-by-step kid-friendly project—make a lemon battery, a citric acid fizz popper, cinnamon sticks wooden jewelry and handmade chalk.  For more hands-on projects like this one, click HERE.

 

 

Homemade Citrus Body Scrub

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It’s been way too long.  Truth is, the school garden is in full swing and I’ve been busy getting small hands dirty—turning over the winter cover crop, preparing the beds, planting sugar snap peas, packaging and selling spring seeds—it is that time of year.  Time to get dirty…. and then time to get cleaned up!

And nothing does the trick better than a handmade sugar scrub.  Upon completion of this practical project, you will have a novel and crafty cleanser-softener-smoother-moisturizer combo guaranteed to tempt even the most stubborn grimy kid into the tub.  In fact, you and your crafty team will be inclined to make oodles of these scrubs for deserving friends, dedicated teachers or for yourself—yes, even you are entitled to a complete body exfoliation with invigorating natural citrus scent.  Not only will your skin be healthy, it will feel smooth and smell delicious.

Natural sugar scrubs are fun, simple, and inexpensive concoctions. No cooking is necessary, and most ingredients can be found right in your kitchen cupboard.  Make a big batch, keep some, and give some away.

 

Materials: 

You’ll need the following:

  • A small, clean plastic or glass container with a lid.  A short, squat, wide container is best.  This could be found in your recycling bin or at a thrift store.
  • Sugar.  Coarse natural brown or white granulated (raw sugar works great), or a mix of both will work to exfoliate the skin.  Do not use soft brown baking sugar.
  • Oil.  Any oil that originates from a nut or fruit will work as a moisturizer, and will leave your skin soft and hydrated.  Light apricot, olive, avocado, jojoba, coconut are good choices.  Do not use cooking oil like corn oil—this will make a funky smell and a too-slick feel.
  • Natural additives.  You may add a small amount of any of the following: citrus juice (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit), honey, aloe vera, vitamin E oil, essential citrus oil (sweet orange, lemon, grapefruit)


What to do:

Before starting, remind everyone that some ingredients used can sting eyes and that the resulting concoction smells really yummy but tastes really horrible.  Yuck!

In general, you’ll want to measure 2 parts sugar to 1 part oil.  Add enough oil to turn your sugar into the perfect slushy snow mixture.  Pour all ingredients into a small bowl.  Stir until ingredients combine.  Pour into clean container.  Label your container.  Cover the label with transparent packing tape.


Now for the fun part:

At the sink, or in the tub or shower, scoop a small amount of the scrub into your hand and massage gently onto your damp skin for a minute to exfoliate and moisturize.  Wash it off with water.  Pat your skin dry with a clean towel.

You can keep the remaining scrub in the sealed jar.  Use the sugar scrub no more than once a week.

Upgrade it:

For a pick-me-up:  An easy way to make your scrub even more luxurious is to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.  Try citrus oil like grapefruit, sweet orange or tangerine.

For extra-dry skin:  Add a small amount of Aloe vera gel or vitamin E oil as a moisturizer.

Nice mixes to try:  Grapefruit and peppermint; orange, clove and lemon; almond and orange.

Add herbs or flowers to the mix:  Shredded ginger, orange peel, lavender flowers, linden flower—all of these are great options.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Because you can never be too careful when it comes to your skin, before you use the scrub, do a patch test on the inside of your arm to see how your skin reacts.
  • Do not use citrus oil (such as sweet orange, lemon or grapefruit) on your skin before you plan to spend the day in the sun.  Your skin is more likely to get sunburned.
  • Do not use on your face or neck.  And never use it on irritated skin.  If you have a sunburn, rash or cut, skip the scrub.
  • Also, as with anything that contains oil, a body scrub will make the tub or shower slippery.  Do not apply the scrub to the bottoms of your feet while in the shower.  You may slip.  Also, be sure to give the tub its own “scrub” when you’re done.

 

BODY SCRUB RECIPES:

O.J. Coconut Scrub

In this scrub, sugar granules gently exfoliate the skin.  The combined power of coconut, mango and orange provide nourishment.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup sugar

½ cup coconut oil

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

¼ cup mango puree

To do:  Chop mango into small pieces without peel.  Place in blender to puree.  Mix sugar into coconut oil in a small bowl and stir well to combine.  Stir in orange juice and mango puree.

 

Grapefruit, Aloe Vera Scrub

This scrub makes your skin feel moisturized and fruity fresh.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup sugar

4 Tbs jojoba oil

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs fresh grapefruit juice

2 Tbs aloe vera gel

2 drops grapefruit essential oil

To do:  In small bowl, combine sugar, grapefruit oil and juice.  Stir well to combine.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir well.

 

Sweet Orange and Lime Scrub

This tropical scrub exfoliates and leaves skin silky smooth.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

4 Tbs coconut oil

2 Tbs fresh lime juice

6 drops vitamin E oil

2 drops sweet orange essential oil

To do:  Mix sugar and oil in a small bowl.  Stir to combine.  Add remaining ingredients and stir well to make a paste.

 

Honey and Orange Scrub

Honey is a natural humectant, which means it attracts moisture and keeps it where it should be—under your skin.  This scrub hydrates, moisturizes and protects your skin.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

4 Tbs dark organic honey

2 Tbs fresh orange juice

To do:  Mix ingredients until you have a smooth paste.

 

Salty Sugary Scrub

This scrub leaves your skin soft and moist.  Just perfect for dry skin.

Ingredients:

½ cup coarse brown sugar

½ cup sea salt or kosher salt

2 Tbs coconut oil

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

2 Tbs dark organic honey

To do:  Mix all ingredients until you have a smooth paste.

I originally published this article in Whip Up’s Action Pack Magazine for kids (Issue 6: Zap and Zest).  This downloadable high-quality ad-free e-magazine by Kathreen Ricketson is chock full of quality projects for creative curious kids who love to do stuff.  Diagrams and photos illustrate each boredom-busting step-by-step kid-friendly project—make a lemon battery, a citric acid fizz popper, cinnamon sticks, wooden jewelry and handmade chalk!  For more hands-on projects like this one, click HERE.

 

 

Love Letters

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Forget the fancy flowers.  We are the dreamers of dreams.  Give me a thought.

We made a valentine banner.  Constructed out of felted wool sweater and cotton fabric scraps and remnant bias tape, it’s printed with thoughtful notes to each other.  Simple to make.

Printing on fabric requires an ink jet printer, thin cotton fabric (I just use remnant drapery liner) and freezer paper.

Here are the steps:

  • Trim the fabric slightly larger than 8 ½  x 11 inches.
  • Place the fabric onto an ironing board (or thick towel).
  • Place the shiny side of the freezer paper onto the fabric.
  • Iron.  Two will become one.
  • Trim the fabricky paper to 8 ½ x 11.
  • Treat it like a normal piece of paper and place it into your printer with the proper sides up and down.  Print your image.

To make a banner like ours, cut the printed material into the desired shape, peel off the freezer paper and sew to a sturdy material (like wool or felt).  Cut two small openings in the back of the material and carefully slip bias tape through using a safety pin as a guide.

 

A simple haiku can get you through the winter and then some.

 

 

Topping it Off: Eco-Friendly Gift-Wrapping

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It’s become clear that sometime during the next few weeks or so, you may have something to give me.   Quite possibly it will be something that doesn’t cost much.  Maybe it will be free—a shoulder massage, a ukulele tutorial, a list of trustworthy sitters, your timeshare in Antrim, Ireland—in any case, since you know I am a surprise-junkie, it will likely require some sort of superawesome wrapping to ambush and wow me.

This will be easily done, I think, since it is still fall here and I’ve recently discovered some mind-blowing tutorials HERE and HERE on transforming fall leaves into crafty decorative flowers—perfect for topping off your thoughtful gift.  I understand you may be concerned that fall is coming to a close, and leaves are becoming scarce and crinkly and delicate, and it might just take longer than expected for you to figure out just how to get those leaves folded.  Just.  Perfectly.  I am here to prepare you for alternatives.

This project requires a Felted Wool Ball, needle and thread, remnant wool felt, and a small collection of felted sweaters.  First, prepare the “petals” for the project.  With sharp sewing scissors, cut the felted sweaters into long zigzaggy strips, leaving a connection on the bottom edge—pointy or rounded tops.  Cut thin sweaters into narrow strips (for inner petals) and thick sweaters into wider strips (for outer petals).

I keep a stash of these strips handy for noteworthy projects like button bracelets and collars for small lively monster friends.

Next (and this is optional) use a felting needle, felting pad and skinny wool roving to embellish the wool ball, adding spirals or dots or anything else superfancy (see Dry Felting).

With needle and thread in hand, stitch the bottom edge of one narrow zigzaggy strip around the sides of the felted ball until you meet up with the starting point.  Cut off the extra end of the strip.  Stitch a wider zigzaggy strip around the sides of the ball, matching bottom edges and overlapping the first strip until you meet up with the starting point.  Cut off the end.  Stitch a third (the widest) zigzaggy strip over the first two.  Cut off the end.

Next, cut a large leaf-shaped piece of wool felt.  Place this piece on the bottom of your flower and sew around the edges, attaching it to your flower top and covering the rough zigzaggy strip edges.  Good job.

Gift ribbons can be easily made with light cotton fabric scrap.  Cut in about an inch from the edge.  Grab fabric edges and pull away, leaving raw-edged ribbon.

Wrap your gift with a larger fabric scrap, tying with raw-edged ribbon.

With needle and thread, secure flower onto ribbon.  Ta da!

 

Note: don’t attempt perfection with these felted flowers.  As with other projects, quirky outcomes are preferred over conventional.  That said, remind yourself that, in nature, some flowers are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, and some even lose petals.

Celebrate the uniqueness.

 

A Quiet Place: DIY A-Frame Tent

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DIT A-frame tentAt risk of exposing my vulnerability, I’d like to say I miss hanging out with you more.  The fact is that these days I’ve been enveloped by a certain writing assignment I’m supposed to be wrapping up.  Such a shame, since this is my favorite place besides HERE where I am treated queen-like and am provided the most delectable salami Swiss apple butter sandwiches on toasted rye and HERE where I actually haven’t been yet, but dream dream dream about.

Someday.

But today I am home with a small sniffly girl, and tomorrow I suspect I will be home with her too.  And her sister.  And then, the next day most likely the sniffler will be me.  Sniffly times require small quiet fluffy places where books and ice pops are consumed and slurped, and sneezes are snuzzed.  Snuggly places where I tell them sweetly that someday in the oh-so-near future there will be just a teeny tiny memory of right now.

Today we made a quiet place.

Simple instructions for cute wood-framed pup tents requiring just a cordless drill, some wood and a sheet can be found here, here and here.  Irked by tragic malfunctions with these designs (not due to any design flaw, but more likely due to the destructive nature of my spirited superheroines) we opted for a slightly more rugged frame.

Inspired by research on building mini hoophouses for our school garden, we opted to use PVC pipe for the ridge pole and legs, and a repurposed king-sized duvet for the cover—costing a mere $14.26 to build.

Bent on bonus features, my cantankerous and cranky team tacked on some time to the project.  Well worth it.  The winning hideaway can be easily popped up and down by them and tucked away.  It is our new bestest best friend.

Someday I will post a detailed PDF of the materials and sewing pattern.

Until then, gather up the following:

  • An old king- or queen-sized duvet cover with contrasting colors
  • Contrasting cotton fabric scraps (1 yard)
  • ¼ in elastic (1/2 yard)
  • Clear vinyl fabric scrap

And prepare for fun times ahead.  They are coming, you know.

 

Quickles

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Although our rabbit-eaten radishes were certainly nothing to whoop about this summer, we did have a tricky time keeping up with our cukes.  Started too many seeds and neglected to thin the strapping young things—they were so very eager and enterprising, producing a healthy progeny of slicers and picklers.  We planted too much.  We always do.

The best way to deal with all these cukes is to slice ‘em up and make several batches of pickles.  Given this situation, many folks with patience and minimal time constraints would opt to sterilize a case of canning jars and commit to a month-long mouth-watering wait.  In the interest of small hungry project managers craving speedy outcomes and post-project snacks, we most often opt for “refrigerator pickles,” or “bread and butter pickles,” or “quick pickles”—we call them Quickles.  Make them in the morning, and gobble them up at lunch.

As mentioned before, I do not like to cook.  My friend Jenny (who, unlike me, loves to cook and is really good at it), makes a superamazing Detox Soup—promise me you must save at least a few cukes for this recipe.  It is superfabuloso.  In comparison, Quickle-making is more of a magic trick than a recipe, like when the coy magician’s assistant enters a locked cage and transforms into a savage tiger.  Voila!  Tangy and sweet with a bit of a bite.  Mee-yow!

Your pickles are only going to be as yummy as the produce you start with.  Use the freshest pickling cucumbers you can find.  If you don’t grow your own, find locally-grown organic cukes.  Don’t be afraid to ask the farmer when the cucumbers were picked.  You will make the best pickles from cukes that were picked the same day, or, at the very least, within the last 2 to 3 days.  You can use any variety of cucumber you fancy, though we prefer using either “pickling” or “lemon” cucumbers.

You can make Quickles with just a few simple ingredients—fresh cukes, vinegar and salt—but a few extras will do wonders.  Feel free to experiment: garlic, dill, mustard seed, capers, hot or sweet peppers—branch out on your own.   The recipe below is perfect for a 1-quart Mason jar of pickles.

What You’ll Need:

1 ½ pounds (6 cups) pickling cucumbers, trimmed and cut to ¼-inch rounds

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup Diamond kosher salt (don’t use table salt)

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup distilled white vinegar

1 cup sugar (white or light brown)

Shake of black pepper

Clean, freshly washed 1-quart Mason jar with lid

 

What You May Want to Add, Just Because You Can:

1 tsp mustard seed

¾ tsp celery seeds

1 cloves garlic, slivered

1 tsp dill seed or chopped fresh dill

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Bay leaf

 

What You’ll Do:

Place sliced cukes and onions in a colander within a large bowl.  Add salt and toss well.  Cover the mixture with ice.  Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour.  Rinse thoroughly and drain.  Pat cukes dry with a paper towel.

In a large pot, bring vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and spices to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer.  When sugar has dissolved (about 10 minutes), add cukes and onions.  When mixture starts to boil again, remove from heat and cool.  Use a slotted spoon to pack the jar with the veggies within an inch of the rim.  Pour the warmish vinegar syrup into the jar to ½ inch from the rim.  Seal with the lid.  Place in the fridge.

Wait a few hours and eat ‘em up.  Sometimes they are so very seductive, we eat them all before they are completely chilled.

Quickles will stay fresh in the fridge for about 10 days.  The perfect balance of sweet and sour, they are picnic, potato salad, sandwich, and veggie burger champions.  In my humble opinion, there is no reason to ever purchase another jar of commercial pickles.

The Clubhouse Under the Stairs

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I told them that when I was little I had a clubhouse tucked under the basement stairs.  Not fancy, just a secret place with a miniature door and a mysterious wooden box that held classified codes and pencil nubs.  I have been a great many things, but when I was a secret agent, I was exceptional at it.

Yet we grow.  We move on.  And we forget.

But there is this part of me that is still so secret, and the other part is nothing like that.

One long summer, when the girls were crawling and falling, my SuperheroMan jackhammered our basement floor and hauled the concrete away in rusty metal pails.  With his dad.  And that winter we built a clubhouse tucked under the basement stairs.

Chalkboard letterShingled on the outside with a mail slot, outdoor light and window box, it now houses baskets of delicious wooden food, a tea set, guest books, date stamps, homemade wooden chalkboard postcards, pretend money, aprons and chefs’ hats, a desk call bell, and a few lonely spiders.


It is absolutely the best restaurant in our small town.

 

 

The Makings of a Superhero: The Superhero Costume

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Superhero GirlA superhero is not simply someone who stumbles upon a crime or injustice and makes a spontaneous decision to intervene.  A true superhero has a strong moral code and has vowed to actively battle, risking his or her own safety, for the betterment of humankind.

Superhero status should not be reserved for the mega rich, super-fit extra-terrestrial brilliant scientist type.  Sometimes merely being at the right place at the right time may be all that is needed—due to some freak laboratory accident, the clumsy lab tech comes into contact with a secret fizzley purple formula within a flask; the mousy orphan unearths a pebble or a magical wizard who bestows upon her the godlike powers of Captain America or Supergirl, transforming her into a massive powerhouse with enhanced metabolic powers.

Masked SuperheroAnd, sometimes a superhero needs to look like a superhero.  For, nothing motivates a pending protagonist more than a good outfit.  A good outfit not only provides protection and technological advantages, it conceals the supersecret identity of the real-life superhero from revenge-seeking criminals.  As well, a superhero’s secret identity protects friends and family from becoming targets of his or her archenemies.

Running SuperheroRecommended Components:

A real-life superhero outfit must be of sufficient quality to show that some care went into its creation.  Cape, mask, magical utility belt and speedy sneakers—all should incorporate the crusader’s well-considered name and theme.

Materials:

This project requires the following scrap materials: 1 yard fabric (preferably two different patterns, ½ yard each) for cape; decorative fabric fringe for cape bottom (beaded or tasseled cotton, lace, tassel, cording—anything is fine as long as there is a “lip” to sew onto); Velcro bits for cape closure; small fabric scraps (we used felted wool sweaters and soft remnant velveteen) for mask and magical belt; elastic for back of mask; and ribbon or remnant seam binding ribbon for magical belt tying mechanism.

Note: for sweater felting tips, see previous Mossy tutorials on wool sweater felting (Swittens, Tiny Birdhouse or Sweater Mice).

Instructions:

Choose a great name.  If you and your team are completely stuck, the Superhero Name Generator may be utilized to provide some direction.  Use the patterns below as a guide to cut large pieces for the cape (with both fabric types).  Cape pattern is similar to an enlarged baby bib pattern with offset neck closure—just worn backwards.  Cape length (A) should measure from superhero shoulder to lower thigh.  Use pattern as guide to cut smaller pieces for belt and mask.  Belt is long (approximately 16”) and rectangular, made out of two contrasting fabrics (we used felted wool sweater as the backing, and a smaller rectangular piece of patterned cotton).  We used felted wool sweaters for the outside of the mask and soft, velvety remnant velveteen for the inside of the mask. If desired, cut out fabric letters or symbols to add to cape and belt.

Superhero Costume Pattern

Cape LetterFor cape, pin and stitch fabric letter/symbol to back center of cape.  For this, a regular machine lockstitch set in 1/16 inch from the letter’s edge is perfect.  The letter’s edge may then be frayed by hand, if desired.  With right sides together, pin and sew cape fabrics together using ½” seam allowance, leaving an 8 “ opening on the bottom edge for turning right-side-out.  Trim seam allowances and clip curves (clip valleys, notch mountains).  Turn the cape right-side-out and press.  Add fringe at cape bottom.  Edgestitch around the entire cape.  Have the potential superhero try the cape on to determine neckline Velcro placement.

Superhero BeltFor belt, pin two rectangular belt fabrics together—one slightly smaller than the other.

Sew around edge, inserting long thin ribbon at sides (remnant seam binding ribbon is ideal for this) to tie around crime fighter waist.  Pin and stitch fabric letter/symbol to front center of belt.

Superhero Mask DetailsFor mask, pin right sides together and, using embroidery thread, blanket stitch all edges together (Futuregirl has a great tutorial for this).  Add elastic band and, if desired, add decorative remnant fabric flowers (to cover messy elastic band stitching).

Superhero Mask FlowersNote:  Along with a good outfit, a dedicated superhero may require a cast of recurring characters (which most likely will include you), a headquarters or base of operations (usually kept hidden from the general public), and a background that explains the circumstances by which the character acquired his or her abilities.

Dueling SuperheroesWith great power comes great responsibility!

The Smoopsicle

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If, in fact, you did come over sometime soon (and our fingers are crossed), my little team and I would whip you up a batch of our favorite simple, all-natural organic summer smoopsicles—quick and easy smoothie pops that run salty preservative-y saturated fat-ty high fructose corn syrup-y snacks clear out of town.

Most ingredients can be found at a farmer’s market like ours.  But we’ve been known to make these pops in the thick of winter.  As luck would have it, we’ve found that frozen fruit works best, so these days we squirrel away peak-season favorites in our freezer.  Thankfully, though, we’re not picky.  We’ll freeze and eat just about anything smoopsicle-worthy.

Here are some of our superfabuloso recipes.  Most are not ours, really.  We’ve stolen bits and pieces from aunts, close friends, neighbors and complete strangers.

 

Basic Smoopsicle Ingredients:

1 cup plain or vanilla organic yogurt (Greek live and active bacterial culture is best)

3 to 4 Tbs concentrated fruit juice (orange, pomegranate, cranberry, any favorites will do)

1 cup fresh or frozen fruit (plus extras for testing)  (strawberries, raspberries, sliced peaches, mmmmm)

Blend all ingredients, saving 2 or 3 Tbs fruit, until smooth.  Pour a few Tbs of blended ingredients into pop molds.  Add fresh, whole fruit layer.  Add another blended layer, and fruit layer. Finish with a blended layer.  Pop in pop sticks.  Pop in the freezer.  Wait…..

 

Waterminty Pops:

2 cups seedless watermelon chunks

3/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt

¼ cup raspberries (frozen or fresh)

3 to 4 fresh mint leaves

Cinnamon

1 Tbs honey, stevia, agave, maple or your favorite natural sweetener, to taste

Puree watermelon, honey and mint in blender.  Pulse in yogurt and cinnamon just until smooth.  Pour into pop molds and freeze.  Note: we’ve been known to pop chocolate chips into this recipe post-blending for “watermelon seeds.”  Mmmmm.

 

Mangopsicles: (inspired by Moosewood)

1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into chunks

2 ripe bananas

3 to 4 Tbs orange juice concentrate

1/8 tsp ground cardamom

Puree all ingredients in blender.  Pour into pop molds and freeze.

 

Note: as a quick alternative to any recipe above, add ½ cup crushed ice and blend with ingredients to make smoothies.  Drink immediately.

 

Sometimes it’s hard to wait.

Rules are Made to Be.

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Summer arrived while I wasn’t totally paying attention.  The days got hotter and longer; the girls got stronger and picked the first sweet fruits of tomato, zucchini, cukes and sugar snap peas.  We watched the sparrows fledge; the supersmart baby rabbits devour the perfectly perfect crispy radishes; the catbirds feed their saucy fledglings, (and we carefully buried the one that did not make it); the ladybug larvae tyrannize the meadowsweet aphids; the swallowtail caterpillars eat the parsley, change from third to fourth to fifth instars, and then magically transform into camouflaged chrysalises.  Now it is here.

But summer is deceiving.  As carefree as it appears, with its crazy messy hair, p.j. pancake breakfasts, sandy wet beach towel floors, puzzle-piece days, and lazy late sleeping girls, it reminds me each year of this: small people can get really out of hand.

Because in the summertime something happens between my two joined-at-the-hip girls.  Something spellbinding.  Yes, they have always loved each other.  There has always been idolization and fierce protection and love, love, love.  They get each other.  “Let’s pretend….” one of them says, and they make funky paper reading glasses and make handmade paper pets that play together with intricate social relationships, and they make each other laugh so hard that they make me laugh at them laughing.

But as the school year comes to an end, we are here.  And it is just us.  And so it is now that quickly things can change.  The “on purpose” bump, the “stolen” crayon, the intentional pinch—it is time for them.

 

And I think that if you and I are going to continue with our great friendship, you’re going to have to admit that you, too, at least occasionally have small people in your house that get completely out of control.  In fact, it is true that once, in one such moment, my small sweet one pushed a chair down a flight of stairs.  And then threw in a five-fingered scratch from shoulder to wrist.  To my mom.  On purpose.

Sometimes during the hot summer it is like they are putting themselves together by tearing me apart.  Building themselves out of tiny collected pieces of this, that, him, her, me.  And so, because of this, sometimes you just have to go back to the source of something and let it wash over you.  Sometimes you just have to review the rules.

I know this much is true.  Our rules are simple and we make them together.  They range from “Drink your Milk” and “No Pushing” to “Be Kind” and “Help.”  In earlier years, as a visible reminder, we wrote them on a family chalkboard and kept them nearby.  More recently, I permanently painted them on an old stretched canvas.

To replicate this project, you will need an old canvas or scrap wood (size is up to you), wood stain or paint for background, paint for lettering, small- and large-tipped paint brushes, a sanding block, chalk or transfer paper, and a your trusty list of family-generated rules.

First, prepare your canvas.  It need not be perfect.  In fact, the more rustic and unfinished, the better. Prime, roughly paint all sides, allow to dry, and sand edges with a sanding block.  My friends Lea, Helen and Susan (who, unlike me are superstar painters) would proceed at this point to paint the rules freehand.  Instead, I prefer to print them out supersize, cut each word or phrase out, and place them strategically on the canvas.  With transfer paper and a sharp pencil, trace the outline of each letter onto the canvas.  Remove the paper.  Fill in using teeny paintbrushes.  Allow to dry.  Lightly sand the canvas.

Just a note:  I suggest you not follow my black canvas background lead on this one.  Envisioning a chalkboard-like background, I painted a black oil base over my scrappy canvas.  I then hand-painted our rules in white.  Don’t do this.  Instead, either lightly stain a wood background or paint a light-colored background on canvas or wood.  You will avoid the headache of transferring letters onto a dark background.  Uggh.  If you are chalkboard-obsessed like me (we have five), you will not heed this warning.  In that case, use white chalk as a transferring agent instead of transfer paper.  Thoroughly rub the chalk on the back of each paper rule printout, and then use a sharp pencil to transfer the word or phrase onto the canvas.  Remove and fill in with paint.

On another note:  Our rules are referenced incredibly often.  Choose your rules wisely.  For instance, beware of ones that may slip in like “Get Muddy,” “Ask Questions,” or “Try New Things.”  Outcome may be entirely different from your original plan.

And on another note:  Surely some of you will think of easier ways to do the job.  Feel free to reveal any tricks of the trade.

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