Beach Stewardship

One of my proudest mommy moments came when barely two year old son started filling in a whole at the beach that had been left behind by a beach goer.  He said, "Oh no gotta help the sea turtles".  It made my heart sing.  While I love everything about playing at the beach I think it is so important to teach my children that the beach is a living environment that exists to support more than a fun frolic on a summer day.

1. Don't bring every toy, tote, and towel you have.  People with giant bags of plastic toys always leave one or two behind.    Hauling stuff to the beach is a huge bummer.  Stick to what you can easily carry.  In our family, as soon as you are a steady walker, you must carry your toys of choice.  I carry the bulk of beach booty: the thermal, the towels, ect.  But, nobody in my crew is walking empty handed. 

2.  Leave it better than you found it.  I always pack gloves and a trash bag in my tote.  When we find plastic trash and general nastiness on the beach I can bag it and drop it off at a trash bin on my way out.  I have the kids keep an eye out for such items and it is a fun game that we all feel good about. 

3.  Dig as much as you like, but stomp out your sandcastles, fill and flatten any dug in wholes when it's time to go.  Leaving your mark on nature is just not a good idea.  This is especially true near water ways.  Mountain Streams, Lakes, Marshes, and Shorelines are habitats for more than just the large animals you see.  There are many smaller creatures that are negatively impacted when we disturb their homes.

4.  Look for signs of wild life.  One of the beautiful things about limiting your toys is that you are able to notice so much more of your surroundings.  There is magic everywhere outside.  Looking for signs of wildlife serves as a great reminder that we need to be good stewards of their home.  It also helps increase our own awareness of safety. 

5. Mind your food.  We always pack a snack or two when we head to the beach.  But bringing plastic bags and bottles to the beach is a recipe for an accidental litter accident.  Try to use reusable food totes that you can easily keep and eye on and are not likely to blow away.  I like to add a little "To Be Cleaned" bag inside my thermal.  Then we can easily drop our empty dishes into that bag and they don't get lost or mixed up in with our ready to eat foods.  While your cleaning up pick up any food scraps that may have fallen out.  Don't feed the wildlife, ever.

Happy Beaching!


Fairy Gardening

I am a practical Gardner, if you could call me a gardener at all.  I like growing with a purpose.  Don't get me wrong, I love gardens ornamental and edible.  I adore natural and naturally inspired environments.  However, when I plant things, I like to grow with a practical purpose in mind.  To me that means we are going to eat it, attract something natural, or discourage something pesky.  When we grow I like to make sure we grow from seed when possible, grow native and only use non-invasive plants.  Then my little one wanted to build a fairy garden.  How could I refuse. 

Fairy Gardens at first blush don't seem to have enough of a purpose to inspire me to give it a go.  But I assure you, they have a purpose and it is a pretty magical one.  (Pun cheesy and totally intended) Fairy Gardens provide endless imaginative play opportunities.  They are simple to make and you can make them with both purchased materials and found objects.

First, we found a pot with a wide mouth and some pretty magical plants at our local nursery.   Then we grabbed a few pieces of fairy furniture.  Finally we found some accent stones to make pathways and patios.  We searched long and hard for the perfect fairy house for our garden.  I was so delighted when we found it on amazon.  It was the last piece that we put in.   

It has been absolutely wonderful continue to grow our little fairy village.  It's like a building an outdoor doll house. We have had countless hours of fun imagining, playing, and creating spaces that a fairy might find delightful as a home.  I highly recommend it and you can sneak in a few edibles.


Repurposed Water Fountain

Not to long ago we had a storm come through that served up some pretty impressive winds.  Our water fountain got pommelled with debris.  The result of that storm, a significant crack appeared at the base of the fountain that ultimately rendered our fountain out of service.  Rather than send it to the junk yard, I decided to convert it from a fountain to a planter.  I was inspired by a water feature I saw on a recent trip to Disney.    This was my smaller scale effort.

Toss the Electric Components.  Be sure to unplug and remove all of the electrical components of the fountain. 

Drill wholes to ensure drainage.  This is so important.  I drilled several drainage wholes to make sure that water could drain completely from the old fountain turned new planter. 

Plant until your heart is content.  I had so much fun planting colorful butterfly friendly flowers.  I also added some painted bricks made to look like some of our favorite books. 

This is a really simple and fun project.  I don't miss the running water at all.  Happy planting!


Crispy Kale Chips

Our garden has been producing awesome amounts of Kale.  I am so excited that we are still getting big healthy Kale.  It has been the heartiest cut and come again crop in our concrete bed.  One of our favorite treats is Kale chips.  Kale chips are so easy to make and are a perfect crunchy, munchy snack.  They can be tricky to get just right.  Here are the five secrets to my Kale Chip success.

Secret 1: Start Dry

It's important to thoroughly wash the Kale.  But do this well before you plan on baking your kale chips.  Any water on the leaves will result in a soggy or burned chip.

Secret 2: Size Matters

We have found that our Kale pulls apart easily. You want just the leaf not the stem. This makes it a super fun job for the little ones to do.   Because the Kale will shrink you want to makes sure that your pieces are at least one and half to two inches in size.

Secret 3: Flavor the Oil

I only use about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat my Kale chips.  Here is the trick.  I infuse my olive oil with the flavorings that I want on the chips.  My favorite combination is a teaspoon of herbs de provence and a clove of garlic.  I place the dry herbs in a sauce pan on medium-high heat.  As soon as the dry herbs are heated through and I can smell them, I add the olive oil and a clove of fresh minced garlic.  I heat the oil thoroughly without allowing it to boil or bubble.  Once complete, I toss the olive oil into my kale making sure each leaf piecce is well coated but not drenched.

Secret 4: Low and Slow

Pre-heat your oven 275 degrees.  Low and slow is the name of the game.  Bake them in a thin layer on a baking sheet for 10 minutes.  Remove them and flip the leaves over.  This will help to make sure the entire chip is crispy.  Bake for 10 more minutes.

Secret 5: Season Warm.

I add one last layer of flavor by sprinkling a little sea salt or kosher salt as soon as they come out of the oven.  YUM!  These are crispy and delicious.  I would tell you how to store them but I have never had left overs.  Kale chips disappear faster than popcorn in a bowl around here!

Happy Crunching!

The Wasting Nothing Philosophy

Playing, cooking, reading, exploring, loving, laughing, and making a mess with your little one is NEVER a waste of time! It is priority one! It's not just about getting to know your little one. It's about letting your little one get to know you!