Monday, March 31, 2014

Raisin Math

My first child is a pretty traditional learner. She does her texts well and with lots of encouragement and bolstering, masters them easily. Ever since phonics 'clicked' for her, she has loved to read. She will miss meals just spending hours engrossed in a book, not realizing the rest of us have eaten and moved on from the table. It thrills me that she has such a love for literacy, and warms my mama heart to exploding when she snuggles her nearly-toddler baby brother into her arms and reads him books- and brings tears to my eyes that he loves her so much that he stays nestled in with her.
   My second child, on the other hand, is very non-traditional. Kinesthetic to his core combined with his intense sensory processing challenges leaves me constantly researching and pinning to find new ways to teach him the exact same information. One thing that I have found successful: food. Food totally motivates him. I was researching tactile manipulatives and other strategies on Pinterest and utilizing other tools made by shops like Bright Life Toys and loved all the options, but sometimes my sensory guy is just not firing the same way he was the day before. But he is always hungry. So I tried using raisins for math one day. We made more progress in math that day than any other day yet. The next day as we cleaned up from breakfast he asked if we could do "Raisin Math" again. WINNER-WINNER!
Pardon the coffee rings on the table.
Some mornings require more caffeine. 
He's made such a hullabaloo about loving Raisin Math days that now my  3.5-year-old asks to do it. Thankfully raisins work for all sorts of things, so for her we work on one-to-one correlation, basic counting, and work in proper pronunciation to help her with her speech delays. Who knew raisins were good for fiber, math on multiple levels, fine motor skills, AND speech therapy?! And not to be left out, my second-grader always enjoys Raisin Math days because she gets a snack while working through multiplication, Roman Numerals, fractions, and word problems just because. ;-)

Saturday, March 22, 2014


I love ruffles. LOVE! I love them SO much, in fact, that I broke my serger this past fall trying to sew together too many massive ruffles. There's just something incredibly sweet and pure about ruffles. Therefore, I put my girls in ruffles any chance I get. One of my go-to rufflicious patterns that is a wardrobe staple is the Ruffle Capris pattern by LaTeeDa Kids pattern shop on Etsy. You can easily modify it for inseam, hips, rise, and make the pattern last much longer than the 18 months to 6 years the guideline shows.

   Possibly my FAVORITE modification of all: Double ruffles. Yes. Double. Ruffles. For my oldest I can use it to lengthen the inseam. At 7 years old she's long and lean, needing a size 5/6 for width, but easily an 8 for length. Too add length I cut the first ruffle as directed by the pattern, then cut a second exactly the same width, but two inches longer, and complete the pattern as directed, just using two layers of ruffles instead of the one. My littlest girl, though, is pretty average in size so I can do her actual size and just make a second ruffle for each leg that is 1.5" shorter than the primary ruffle directed by the pattern. (The shorter ruffle is only 1.5" shorter instead of 2" like the longer ruffle because much shorter than that and the ruffle won't lay nicely with the one underneath. The proportions will seem similar to the naked eye.)
   You can also sew them longer to a custom inseam for pants. Or slimmer with knits. Or really anything to suit your needs! I high recommend this excellent pattern.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Adventures in Garlic Kraut, Part 2

Last time I wrote about how ridiculously easy it is to make lacto-fermented garlic kraut. Go on and check it out. I'll wait...
   Does your kitchen smell like stinky shoes yet? If you answer, 'Yes!' then your garlic kraut is probably ready! WOO! So how did it go?
Separation starting
Day you're likely to see little to no change. Day two my garlic kraut started to rise from the bottom and needed to be 'burped.' Burping is pretty much just doing what you did the the cabbage, salt, and garlic in the first place: take a long-handled plastic or wooden spoon and pound it back down to the bottom. Every time your cabbage starts to separate or rise up again this step will need repeating, just to keep the cabbage covered by the water solution. This keeps bad bacteria from growing, but allows the lactobacillus to flourish and properly ferment. All good stuff. When lacto-fermenting in cooler weather you will find it's pretty low maintenance. I only NEEDED to burp mine once in the last fourteen days. In warmer weather it will need more attention, and maybe even need to be 'burped' every or every other day. Starting with day 10, you can give your kraut a daily nibble to see if it's to your desired taste. In warmer weather, it may be perfectly done. In cooler weather it may take a full 14 days or more. 
   When it's done, you can eat it raw or warmed. Raw is best because that's when the lactobacillus is most potent, but for some the garlic may have too much of a bite remaining to go raw. Our first meal with it was delicious reubens on homemade rye with homemade Thousand Island Dressing. The garlic in the kraut added an incredible flavor to them. So. Yum. Garlic kraut can also be eaten in half-cup servings as a daily supplement to get those healthy bacteria into the guts. Because a happy gut is a healthy, happy body. (cheesy, I know.)


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Garlic Kraut: Delicious Adventures in Lacto-Fermentation, Pt. 1

   For several years after we were married, my husband and I with our growing family lived in a small city called Ithaca. There are SO many things that make Ithaca a unique city, unlike any other I've ever been to or heard of. One those things is the big farmer's market, filled to the brim(and a healthy waiting list besides) with local vendors of all kinds selling produce, natural-raised meats, a preservative-free butcher, cheeses, sheep hides and wool, hand-made clothing, and ethnic foods of all kinds. I could spend all day there. One particular vendor that was a favorite of ours sold garlic kraut. In short- sauer kraut with hefty garlic flavor. NOT your grandmama's sauer kraut.
   Unfortunately we had to move two hours north after several years, though we drove down and visited friends, family, and favorite businesses in the area whenever we could. Since then I have researched plenty and never found an actual recipe for garlic kraut, but I did find PLENTY of info on lacto-fermentation, so I decided to wing it and try to make it myself.
   Lacto-fermentation. It sounds so weird. A sweet friend saw the term on my Facebook page and asked, knowing what a lactivist I am, if it had anything to do with breastfeeding. LOVE IT! In short, lacto-fermentation is the process of preserving food using the healthy bacteria lactobacillus, and it is excellent for your health. Lactobacillus feeds on sugar and is really healthy for your guts, and we all know(or should) that a healthy gut is directly linked to the immune system and overall general health. YAY FOR HEALTHY GUTS!
Huge bowl o' shredded cabbage
   So garlic kraut. It's very simple. SO simple, in fact, that it seems TOO simple. Like something must be missing and it deserves one of those, "You're doing it wrong," memes. Nope. Nice and easy and I like it that way. It's pretty much fool-proof.

  • 1 large head of cabbage, shredded
  • Sea salt, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves unwrapped and rough chopped
  • water
Sea salt and rough-chopped garlic
   First I core the cabbage, cut it down into 1/16ths(small enough to be fed into my food processor), and send it through my trusty Black & Decker with the slicing disc on. VOILA! A nice shred in less time than it took to core the thing. Peel and chop the garlic down to small chunks. I usually use my gallon size glass jug, but it currently holds my homemade laundry detergent, so instead I have two half-gallon jugs to use. 
   Next you'll begin layering. To start I put a couple big handfuls of cabbage into the jug, followed by a big pinch(1-2 Tablespoons worth) of garlic, and sprinkle a layer of sea salt. Using the handle of a long spoon or a wooden spatula, go to town and beat the layer like you're churning old-fashioned butter, crushing it down to the bottom. Repeat the layering and pounding until your cabbage and garlic are gone. The pounded-down mixture should be 1-2 inches from the neck of the jug. 
Half-way there
   When you add the salt and are pounding with the spoon your cabbage and garlic will start to release their natural juices, creating a bit of fluid in the bottom. Some cabbages will be juicier than other, and given my cabbages are being used in early March, they're not so juicy. For that reason, I added a salt solution (2 cups of water to one tablespoon of sea salt) until it just covered the top of the vegetables. Keeping everything submerged is important because we want to GOOD bacteria to grow, not bad stuff, and the liquid in the jug is ripe with good bacteria. Too much exposure to the air and theoretically mold could grow. We're going for lactobacillus here, not penicillin. When you are finished you'll notice some of the cabbage is free-floating at the top. DON'T PANIC! It's okay, really. It's still IN the solution, even if it's floating. What you don't want is the cabbage sticking up and out of the solution. 
   Lastly, set it in a warm, clean spot. I like the back corner of the counter in my L-shaped kitchen. It stays plenty warm enough and no little hands are going to get into it. I also like to cover mine with a paper towel to keep any bugs out while still allowing it plenty of access to oxygen for "burping." Granted there are no fruit flies out right now in the first week of March, but we do have kittens and the occasional wayward spider, so for good measure they're covered with a paper towel. A spoon laid across between the two will keep it from being blown off.
Jugs in waiting 
Now don't touch it for two weeks. Seriously- ten to fourteen days. You won't regret it.

To be continued.... in 14 days. 

ETA: See part two HERE!