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Dani Jean

Mama

Stop Toddler Hair Pulling & Eating

Stop-Toddler-Hair-Pulling-Eating

The day I discovered my little girl was pulling and eating her hair I was horrified. Toddler hair pulling & eating can turn into a very medically concerning problem if continued for long periods of time. In some cases it can require to surgery to remove accumulated hairballs. Not to mention temporary baldness.

Noooo, Not The Hair!

I opened the car door to get her out of her car seat, and there she was with two fists full of beautiful blond hair, eagerly trying to gulp down a several strands she had in her mouth. Quickly, I pulled the hair from her mouth. Then took a deep breath as I wrestled to remove the hair from her tiny fists. Another deep breath and I looked directly into her eyes and calmly said, “We don’t eat hair. It can make you very sick. You won’t be able to poop if you keep eating your hair. Not being able to poop is very painful. If you continue to eat hair and you can’t poop, you won’t be able to eat the foods you like: cheese, yogurt, bananas, dessert. Promise mama you wont eat any more hair, okay?” To which she replied “na poop?” While looking at me skeptically.

Looking at her later that afternoon, after the shock that my toddler eats hair had worn down, I started to suspect that she’d been pulling hair out for a little while. She used to have some pretty curls coming in at the back, bottom of her head. Now there are only two wisps left, one on each side behind her ears.

Queue Manic Mama Mode

Naturally, that night I didn’t sleep, I lay awake listening for the sound of her pulling and eating hair in the next room. What that sounds like, I am not sure – but it kept me awake all night. More importantly, what would possess someone to want to eat hair? Yuck! This led me to think about when and why she pulls her hair.

She always loved to play with my hair when she was nursing. I often wore pigtail braids to keep my hair out of the way when she was an infant. She liked to play with the ends of my pigtails. Now that she is older, she plays with my hair if I carry her in my arms when we’re out and about. She only plays with her own hair in the car and when she is falling asleep, which tells me that boredom and self-soothing factors are at play. Her hair isn’t long enough for me to pull back in a tie. Since I was awake anyway, I decided to do some informal research.

Toddler Hair Pulled Up
Toddler Hair Pulled Up

Stop Toddler Hair Pulling & Eating

After an all-nighter Googling what should be done to refocus and undo the toddler hair pulling & eating habit, I came across a several recommendations. Most common suggestion said to ignore the behavior if it happened at times when the child was trying to get attention. Some said redirect by giving the child something tactile to play with. A few articles I read said that it could be a form of pica, if on going, and to ensure the child is getting sufficient iron in their diet. By far the best suggestion for us was posted on the forum netmums.com: add mittens to her wardrobe.
Note: Statements on this blog should not be taken as medical advice. I am not a doctor and do not purport to have any schooling or licensing as such. If you suspect your child has pica or they are a chronic consumer of hair, I encourage you to seek the advice of a medical professional.
Since I believe she pulls hair to self-soothe at night and occasionally due to boredom, I decided to sew mittens onto her pajamas. The next day we played with her socks as puppets on our hands and laughed quite a bit.

Later that night we tried on her new “mitty pjs” and made a big deal of how fun they were. We played sock puppets with them for a few minutes and then finished our bedtime routine as normal. Success! The next morning there was no more hair on her mattress or on the mittens.

Mitten Pjs
Mitten PJs in Action

The car boredom wasn’t as easy to cure, we bring lots of books and her water sippycup along with us everywhere we go. In addition, we sing songs, play peekaboo at stoplights and talk about things we see on the road. If I hear her being too quite I sneak a peek in the mirror to make sure she isn’t snacking on her hair.

I’ve since sewed some silky mittens to additional pajamas. The finished prodcut isn’t too pretty, but it does the job intended. Here is the pattern I used for my 1 1/2 year old who wears 24 month PJs.

Cut two pieces of silky, breathable fabric, fold over the flat side on each piece, pin and sew down. Next, pin the right sides of the fabric (the smoothest side you want to face out) together so that you are looking at the wrong sides of the fabric. Then sew together with 1/2″ seam allowance. Finally, sew mitten to pajama sleeve, stretching the sleeve a bit as you go. Repeat for the other sleeve. For safety, I wouldn’t use these mitten pjs on a child less than 1.5 years.


Have you had any success with other methods to stop the toddler hair pulling & eating habit? If so, I’d love to hear about it, please share in the comments below!

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DIYDress Up

DIY Halloween Costumes Tinkerbell Under $10

no-sew-tinkerbell-costume-diy

Want a cheap, easy, no-sew costume for your little girl this year? Think Tink! This is costume is great for Halloween and/or to add to her dress up wardrobe. For bonus “awesome mama points” you can make her favorite doll a matching Tinkerbell dress too! Since Halloween is Hubby’s favorite holiday, I really wanted to make our Halloween costumes this year. Something simple, easy and cheap. After some looking around online for inspiration i found a new-sew Tutu dress that could easily transform my little pixie into Tinkerbell – just add wings. As luck would have it I already bought a set of purple wings at the dollar store for a photo session that has yet to happen. I also had a 20 Yard spool of light purple 1.5” ribbon I bought a year ago on clearance. DIY Halloween Costumes Tinkerbell under $10! Looks like I am getting out easy this year! Hubby was good with dressing as Captain Hook (what guy wouldn’t want to brandish a sword and hook on Halloween?!?). I had a dress that was in my pile of clothes to donate that was perfect match for Wendy, it just needed a bit of blue dye. DYI Halloween costumes here we go!

DIY Halloween Costumes : Tinkerbell

I found the photo of this Etsy listing posted on Pinterest and followed the link but the seller didn’t have the dress available any longer. It looked easy enough to attempt to make on my own and I had made no-sew tutus in the past so this should be simple.

Tinkerbell Costume Inspiration
Tinkerbell Costume Inspiration

Tinkerbell Costume
Here is the list of supplies and steps to making an adorable Tinkerbell Dress for your little one:

  • 4-5 spools of 6” wide tulle in bright green (I used 60 yards in total)
  • 3/4” no-roll elastic
  • Min 10 yards of 1” -1.5” ribbon
  • Fairy Wings (found mine for $1 at the Dollar Store)
  • Circular container to use as dress form
  • Dryer sheets for removing static from tulle

Grab your fabric tape measure or simply a string and ruler or standard tape measure. Now measure around your child’s chest, right under their armpits. Subract 1.5”. Cut elastic to this size. Next, glue (or sew) the elastic ends together by overlapping about 1/2”, to form a circle.

Tinkerbell costume elastic band
Tinkerbell costume elastic band

Find a somewhat round container to stretch your elastic around. This will be your dress form. I used a 1 gallon plastic water jug.

Tinkerbell Costume Dress Form
Tinkerbell Costume Dress Form

Measure your child for the length of the dress. Start at their armpit and stop just below the knee or mid-calf. Take that measurement and add 4 inches. Example: Bug’s length measurement was 18” + 4” is 22”.

Find a photo frame or cut a piece of cardboard to that length measurement. Grab your tulle and start at one end of the frame or board and wrap the tulle around it until you run out (don’t pull the tulle too tight or your measurement will be off). Example: I had a photo frame that was 22” across and the frame was relatively thin. Once you’ve wrapped your spool of tulle, cut only one end of the tulle, so that your strips are double the length measurement.


Fold the tulle in half length-wise. In this example the strip would now be 3″x44. Now, cut from the creased corner up at a 45 degree angle, repeat on the other end (effectively cutting off triangles from both ends). This will give it a pixie look, with pointed tips.


Now, take one strip at a time, fold in half width-wise and grab the middle of the tule. Grab a dryer sheet and run it over the strip of tulle once or twice to remove the static if necessary. Check to make sure the ends are even. Next push the middle of the tulle upwards between the elastic band and the dress form. You should have a loop sticking up out of the top of your elastic band.
Note: it is important to push middle of the tulle UPWARD through the elastic band and not from the top down. I made this mistake and the knots were waaaaayyy to poofy to wrap with ribbon, which forced me to undo all of my knot work and start over, oy!


Take the two loose ends of tulle and shove them through the loop and pull down/tight. Make sure that you don’t pull so tight that your elastic band curls up. Repeat with all the tulle strips. Periodically you will need to squish (technical term) the knotted tulle together along the elastic band, so that the band is covered well by the tulle.


Once you’ve looped tulle all the way around your elastic band, you will grab your ribbon. Choose a starting point and push your ribbon up between the elastic and your dress form, between two strips of tulle. Leave a few inches hanging out so you can tie it when you are done. Wrap the ribbon around every two knots. Take care to make sure the ribbon doesn’t bunch up at the top. Also tuck in the ribbon for the smallest footprint at the bottom of the elastic, this will ensure your dress doesn’t have too big of gaps between the tulle. Continue until you’ve wrapped the entire band. Here is a quick, thorough video tutorial by Sandy Bell on how to wrap the ribbon.


Grab your wings. Cut off any unnecessary elastic (mine came with elastic loops to put your arms through). Take the ends of the ribbon that you used to wrap the elastic band with and singe the ends with a lighter briefly to keep them from fraying. Then wrap them around the center of the wings, securing them to the top of the dress.Tie a knot in the ribbon.

Finally, we will shape the dress. Tinkerbell’s dress was slightly shorter on the sides than in the front and back. Looking on from the front, Start at the right side and trim so that it is a few inches higher than the lowest point on the front middle of the dress. Repeat with the left side.

Once the dress is on your little one, then use the same ribbon to tie around their waist, finishing in the back with a bow.

Step back and take in all the cuteness you can stand. DIY Halloween Costumes Tinkerbell for under $10, done!


What DIY Halloween Costumes have you made? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Tips:

  • Shop around for the rolls of tulle.The first store I went to sold the same tulle for $4 a roll (JoAnn’s). I found some at Michael’s for $2 and at at Walmart for $1.79 . Walmart’s rolls of tulle were 2.5 times as long as the more expensive rolls.
  • Add a wand to your child’s costume. Hobby Lobby carries wooden dowels with various toppers attached for $1.79. Grab one and wrap it in the same ribbon you used on her dress. Cover the topper in glitter puff paint (the glitter won’t wear off that way). Or buy a small piece of dowel and create two small pom poms to affix to the ends (less likely to injure self or others with pom poms on either end).
  • Create two small pom poms from leftover tulle and affix them to your little one’s shoes.
  • Glitter tulle is evil. it sheds everywhere, and for the next 6+ months of your life people may think you moonlight as a stripper, because you’ll have that much glitter on you everywhere you go. But hey, what is a pixie without her fairy dust?
  • If you do go with Glitter tulle, make your project outside, away from your doors and major traffic paths. Better yet, go to the park and make this. Share the glitter love with fellow park goers and shake it out on the grass.

Parting thought from a dear friend: glitter is the herpes of the arts & crafts world. Eeeewwww!

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MamaNew Mama 411

Mama Product Reviews: Oreck Steam-It Mop

Oreck-Steam-It-Mop
9tech score

This review was not paid for and the product described was not discounted in exchange for my review. All opinions are in-fact 100% my own.

I know, cleaning – blech, boring. But with a new baby in our home, a good steam cleaner was one of my most important purchases. What better way to sanitize than to steam clean! With steam there are no chemical vapors or residue. With my baby’s face down on the floor during tummy time, eventually crawling and then rolling around trying to eat things off the kitchen tile, I wanted to make sure all my floors were as clean as possible.

I borrowed my sisters SHARK steam mop, which worked well but I found the head of the mop was bulky and difficult to maneuver. I researched dozens of steam cleaners. I had a budget of $100. I read Amazon reviews, review websites, I talked with friends and family.

I finally decided on the Oreck Steam-It mop. Here is why:

  1. It sanitizes hard surfaces in 5 seconds
  2. Pressurized dry steam means that it dries quickly
  3. 25 Foot cord (so you don’t have to fumble with those infant outlet protectors too often)
  4. At only 10 Lbs it is pretty light
  5. Several attachments come with the Oreck Steam-It (so it can be used for spot cleaning, window washing and grout) including a mini funnel for filling up the reservoir
  6. You can use it with the bonnets that come with the package or with small towels

Steam Mop In Action

Since purchasing I’ve used the mop at least one time per week on all tile in my house and occasionally to spot clean after meals and to sanitize my carpet. I loooooove how clean it leaves my tile; no residue and dry within seconds. Lets give this a moment of thought: every time you mop with a sponge you are spreading around bacteria and whatever else has been growing on that sponge since your last mop job – eeeeewwww! Clearly, you can see why this is such an important item to add to your cleaning arsenal. Especially when you have chickens who free range and leave little bird bombs all over your patio, dogs who leave presents on the lawn, and little feet that don’t mind where they walk…well, you get the idea.

I recently tried the grout attachment. While the steam rocks for a quick to like-new finish, the bristles don’t really stand up to much scrubbing (maybe that’s why they sent three replacement grout bristles with the mop). The steam followed by a rag underfoot along the grout lines cleans just as well if not better than scrubbing with the bristles anyhow.


Window cleaning and shower cleaning is easy, and with the tank 1/2 full, it is light enough to lift up and use on these surfaces. I’ve even cleaned my bathroom mirrors with the window attachment. Did I mention that I loooooooove this Oreck Steam-It mop? Cleaning attachments are easy to change with the press of a button.

The Oreck Steam-It mop does fall victim to hard water, so, it is best to use distilled water to avoid having hard water build up inside the unit. It also needs to be cleaned every 10-15 uses or so. This is a simple 5 minute task, which only requires the cleaning bristle and wire that comes with the mop. Admittedly, I’ve only cleaned it twice since I bought it over a year ago, and it still runs great.

Pros:

  • Cleans awesome with no residue and very little effort
  • No chemicals needed to sanitize
  • No more sponges! Yes!
  • Dry surface in seconds because it produces a pressurized dry steam
  • Long cord, minimizing need to fumble with baby outlet covers
  • Light enough to clean shower tile, mirrors, windows (about 10 Lbs)
  • Quick to heat up and produce steam
  • Amount of steam produced is easy to adjust while operating the mop
  • No waste: wash the bonnets or towels in the washing machine

Cons:

  • When using the main cleaning head on the mop, it squeaks and creaks. Plastic parts don’t sound durable, but have stood up to regular use so far
  • Grout Bristles should be made stronger to stand up to more scrubbing
  • Mop should be cleaned internally every 10-15 uses (for $100 bucks there were no self-cleaning units)

Oreck Steam-It Mop Attachments Bonnets
Attachments & Bonnets

Warning: Hot steam needs to be used with caution as it will burn if it contacts your skin. Do not use around toddlers and babies.

Bug likes to help me mop, but she knows “hot” means it’s gonna hurt if she touches it. So whenever I get the mop out she gets excited to see the steam, but she is always cautious not to get too close.

I bought the Oreck Steam-It mop over a year ago from Discount Cleaning Products website (not an affiliate link). A coupon code I found online saved me 20%. I searched recently and couldn’t find any valid coupon codes – Bummer. Their price ($115) is still the cheapest I could find on a quick search. Shipping was fast and packaging was adequate.

If you’re an Amazon Prime junkie like me, you can get is with two-day shipping at a very low price here as well:

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Micro FarmerSoil

Winter Garden Prep: Eliminate Pests

Winter Garden Prep

Garden fresh green beans for Thanksgiving? Yes please. It’s been cool enough to start planting some things for our Fall/Winter garden. A few weeks ago I planted green beans, cucumbers and lettuce from seed. After a about a week I noticed that only a few plants came up. Then, a few days after that they vanished. Poof, gone! Not even so much as a tiny stem left. I suspected Grubs or Cutworms were the culprit, so I put on my gloves and got to work. Time to eliminate pests from the garden!

A little bit of digging produced these little jerks, who mistook my seedlings as a generous free lunch. Well, there is no free lunch in my yard, if you’re not contributing you’ve gotta go. I fed these little beggars to a few eager chickens. Ahhh, sweet revenge – who’s laughing now little grubs!? I’ve dealt with these pests before, and I knew just what to do.


These nasty little guys are white grubs, or the larvae of Japanese beetles, scarab beetles or striped beetles. They will decimate your plants before they even see the light of day. They will mow them down once they’ve just sprouted. They will also wreak havoc on your lawn, causing the infamous brown, dead patches wherever they are thriving.

Scarab Beetle Green

I got to work and turned up the soil and mixed in a generous helping of food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). First I dug down about 6-8 inches all over the bed where I planned to replant my seeds. I picked out all the grubs that I could find and fed them to the chickens. Then I sprinkled DE around the bed and mixed it into the soil.


Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth is an powerful friend of the organic gardner when used properly. This product is all natural, consisting of fossilized remains of diatoms. It is mined from FDA and EPA approved lake beds, then processed to remove dirt and unwanted minerals and then ground into a powder. The diatoms are very porous, so it readily absorbs moisture from any source around it. DE kills pests by slicing them up and dehydrating them, (as if they’d crawled through a bed of shards of glass).

Then I replanted my seeds. We won’t be grubbing on garden fresh green beans for Thanksgiving, thanks to our uninvited guests. I planted lettuce, spinach, brussel sprouts, and broccoli for now. I will plant root veggies in a week or so. I am testing my planting according to the Farmer’s Almanac this season, check out your local planting calendar. Or plant seeds according to moon phases.

Protect the bees and butterflies: Don’t spread it over flowering plants or leaves that bees may buzz. While you’re at it protect yourself! Wear gloves, a mask and protective eyewear. DE will irritate your lungs, eyes and dry out your skin, so be careful when applying it.

Note: that non-food-grade DE is harmful to humans and animals.

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Mama

Toddler Trouble: Major Sass Ahead

toddler-trouble-sass-ahead-roadsign

Toddler Trouble On The Horizon?

It really hit home that I had a toddler on my hands the moment my daughter first rolled her eyes at me. I was slapped in the face with a combination of suppressed laughter and the instant realization: holy crap, she’s got some serious sass! Is this the beginning of the Toddler Trouble that everyone rants about?

I know we first-time mamas tend to obsess over developmental “milestones”. After her first birthday, I noticed that she stopped babbling as much and really relied on body language and baby signs to communicate. Like any other normal, semi-neurotic new mama would, I became obsessed with “fun” ways to engage her and draw out her voice.

On this particular occasion I was using her favorite food in attempt to get her to repeat a word she said earlier, “banannanna”. She signed “more” and I asked her to use her voice to tell me what she wanted. She looked from the banana, straight into my eyes and rather than grace me with her adorable little voice she gave me the biggest eye roll i’d ever seen and then turned her face away in contempt. It was as if she shouted “I already told you what I wanted, ThankYouVeryMuch!”.

Seriously, what’s a Mama supposed to do with that?!?

Well, game on kiddo! I accept your challenge and am making it my mission to stay at least one step ahead of you at all times.

Stay tuned, the fun is just getting started…

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Quickie GourmetSnack Foods

Best Cucumber Salad Of Summer

Best-Cucumber-Strawberry-Salad

The Mission: Create the best cucumber salad recipe

I wanted a quick side dish to take to BBQs and the obligatory football parties. After trying several recipes I found online but not finding any worthy of going back for seconds (my daughter didn’t find any of them to inspiring either) I decided to create my own recipe for the best cucumber salad. I am always in need of healthy & tasty snack foods that are easy prepare. Now that the end of summer harvest is happening, we have a ton of yummy produce.

Here in the hot desert climate where we live, cucumbers and strawberries (everbearing variety) tend to produce the most fruit in late spring or early fall. So I have an abundance of these two fruits at the moment. There are many uses: flavor water with them, eat ’em sliced, make tatziki sauce…and cucumber salad of course.
I wanted a salad with a hint of sweetness, balanced with a slight zing and I wanted to use my favorite herb, fresh basil. At the end of summer there’s also a bountiful supply of basil to be used, dried and stored.

My sister surprised me a bag full of fresh-picked cucumbers yesterday. I went to my garden and picked some strawberries and basil. Back in the kitchen I gathered the honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red onion and Himalayan Salt. Then I washed and started dicing. Keep the skin on your cucumbers if it isn’t too bitter or thick.


Double Bonus: Keep the skin on your vegetables to save time in the prep process! Skin of fruits and veggies contain a lot of nutrients and fiber which helps balance digestion of sugars the fruit contains.

Best Cucumber Salad of the Summer

Prep Time: 10 Minutes. Makes Approx. 4 Cups

  • 6-8 Strawberries diced
  • 1 Medium to Large Cucumber, diced
  • 1 Sprig of Basil, chopped (leaves only)
  • 1 TBS Onion finely chopped
  • 1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 TBS Honey
  • 1/8 tsp Himalayan Salt

Combine diced strawberries, cucumber and onion in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt and chopped basil. Use a whisk or fork and vigorously mix the sauce. It will emulsify, trust me, just keep at it. I think it took me about 2 minutes of stirring. Add sauce to the strawberry cucumber onion mixture and stir until well coated. Cover and refrigerate.

Voila Best Cucumber Salad of Summer. Try not to eat it all before you can share your yummy dish with someone you love! Like this recipe? Please share it.

What is your favorite cucumber recipe?

Quick Tip: Buy the best olive oil in bulk and use a funnel to fill an old (washed) wine bottle. Add a liquor pour spout inserted in the top and now you have a fun oil dispenser. The dark glass protects the oil from UV damage and the spout makes a no-mess pour. That’s how we upcycle in my house!Photo Wine Bottle Used As Oil Dispenser

 

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Quickie Gourmet

Easy Shepherd’s Pie – Scrumptious

Shepherds-Pie-Ready-To-Eat 2

Want a crave-able dinner recipe that is easy to make, healthy and covers lunch and dinner for a few days? This easy Shepherd’s Pie meets all those requirements AND is on my super-tasty comfort food list. Whip this dish up in under 45 minutes using only a pan, bowl, baking dish and mashing device.

Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground lamb, hence the name Shepherd’s Pie. Add gravy and finish with mashed potato crust, voila deliciousness. It is a traditional dish belonging to the British, Irish and Scottish. The Scottish dish was originally prepared with pastry instead of potato according to the Oxford Companion to Food . Make it with beef or turkey and the dish is called Cottage Pie.

Don’t be intimidated! The process is easy despite the long ingredient list. All the ingredients should be familiar. Bonus: you can substitute seasonal vegetables from your garden (or farmer’s market) and this dish will always be fresh.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients

  • 3 Lbs Yukon Gold potatoes cubed
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 large egg, separate yolk from white
  • 1-2 C cheddar or colby cheese shredded
  • 3-4 medium size garlic cloves
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 carrots, quartered and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 carton of mini portobello mushrooms sliced
  • 2 LBS ground lamb, beef or turkey
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 3-4 medium size garlic cloves
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 4 TBS flour
  • 2 C beef or vegetable stock Or Substitute 1 C for Red Wine
  • 4 Tsp Worcestershire

Lets get to cooking this easy Shepherd’s Pie!

Clean and cube your potatoes, then boil them in a large skillet of salted water for about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse potatoes, place into large bowl and add butter. Now set the potatoes aside and rinse out the skillet.
Yukon Gold Potatoes Cubed and Boiled
While the potatoes boil, chop onion, carrots, mushrooms and peel garlic. When the skillet is rinsed, add olive oil and meat and begin to brown over medium heat. If meat is excessively fatty as lamb often is, spoon away some of the drippings at this point. Then add chopped vegetables, mushrooms, salt and pepper to the pan about halfway through cooking.


Once meat is cooked through reduce heat to medium-low and and add peas, pressed garlic and butter and stir. Preheat broiler on high. Sprinkle flour all over the meat mixture, then mix well and cook for 1 minute. Now add 1 cup Beef Stock (or wine), and allow to reduce for about 4 minutes. Next add beef stock and Worcestershire and reduce to a nice thick gravy. Remove from heat.


Add egg yolk, pressed garlic, cheese and milk to the potatoes and blend on low or mash using a masher. Since I keep the skin on the potato, I like to mash with a blender on low. However, I am careful to make sure I don’t over blend, else i’d end up with a gluey mess. Blend until ingredients are just mixed, and there aren’t any large chunks of potato left (smallish potato pieces are okay).

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Add Milk, Egg, Cheese and Garlic

Take a 9×13 baking dish and an 8×8 baking dish and wipe baking surface with olive oil. Spread meat and gravy mixture into the bottom of each pan. Finally, top each with mashed potatoes and then sprinkle with paprika.


Place one easy Shepherd’s Pie in the oven (on High-Broil setting) with the rack close to the top of the oven. Broil for 10-15 minutes, checking occasionally, until the top of the potatoes are slightly crusted over and are golden brown. Remove from heat and serve. Don’t forget your glass of of wine on the counter. Enjoy!

Cover and freeze the other Shepherd’s Pie to save it for a quick meal another day.

Indeed, this may just be one of my favorite comfort food casseroles. Below are some additional options to spice it up!

Optional additional seasonings:

For lamb, beef or elk:
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp celery salt in place of regular salt
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed

For turkey:
1-2 TBS McCormick’s Montreal Chicken Seasoning

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Micro Farmer

Fresh Eggs – Raising Chickens: Pets Who Produce

Farm-Fresh-Eggs-Raising-Chickens

What’s for breakfast you ask? The incredible edible egg! Thanks to our four backyard chickens we have enough farm fresh eggs to have breakfast, do all of our baking and share with our neighbors once in a while. We did some research before raising chickens and after talking to Aunt E, who has a gaggle of chickens, decided it was easier than we initially thought, so we went all in.

Here Is Why We’re Into Raising Chickens:

Backyard chickens are arguably one of the best pets you can own. Each chicken tends to have a unique personality. Once you are established as their caretaker, they will run over to greet you every time they see you, and may even follow you around the yard while you do your gardening.

One major reason we love keeping chickens is that in our house everyone pulls their own weight. We model that with our kids and age-appropriate chores, with pets who deliver tangible benefits, and our gardening where everything we water gives back to us in some form of food, shade or microclimate. Chickens are pretty low-maintenance, they eat your plant based kitchen scraps, bugs and spiders in your yard, and will clean up most weed problems in a few hours. Moreover, they reward you for providing these “treats” with tasty farm-fresh eggs (yum!) and rich manure for your compost bin (a big bonus for us gardeners).

The cost of raising chickens is relatively low when compared to other pets who give back fewer tangible rewards. It is true that you likely wouldn’t read a book with a chicken snuggled in your lap, however, I do know people who pick them up for a quick cuddle from time to time. For the four chickens we spend about $25 per month on feed, and only because I buy them the non-GMO, soy-free complete layer feed. If I bought regular feed it would cost even less. I bought a bale of straw for $10, of which i’ve only used 1/4 bale over the past six months. Cage-free, non-GMO, soy-free fed chicken eggs in the store sell for $7-9 a dozen, and we use more than 4 dozen eggs a month.  Raising chickens is a no-brainer.

I feed and check their water once per day, in the morning. Then we collect eggs in the morning as well. Once a week I empty a pull out pan from under their roost bars in the hen house and empty their poop into the compost bin. At the same time, I change the straw in their nesting box. The old straw goes into the compost bin as well.

Their hen house is a simple small wooden house we elevated on cinderblocks and wood to keep it out of the mud when it does rain. It roost bars inside and nest box off the side where they lay eggs. They have a long chicken run and military netting for shade where our trees don’t cover. When I have weeds for them to eat I let them into their chicken tractor I built out of PVC and chickenwire and position the tractor over the weeded area.

Each hen lays an egg almost every day, giving us about 20-24 eegs a week. What do you do with all those eggs??? Boil ‘em, fry ‘em, poach ‘em, pickle ‘em, blend ‘em in a shake, make egg salad sandwiches, egg pie (quiche). crustless egg pie, put them on a burger for extra protein, and – my favorite – bake yummy breads and desserts. Oh, yeah, we share them with the neighbors too from time to time.

<!–Check out some of the links above for our favorite recipes and –!>share your favorite egg recipe in the comments below.

Have I convinced you to get your own backyard chickens yet? If not, my last selling point on raising chickens is that they are kid friendly. Bug loves to chase them around the yard (good for getting out those wiggles before a drive across town) and the Rhode Island Red hen variety are non-aggressive, so they’ve never even attempted to peck at her or chase her back.

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DIY

Lower Energy Bill – Clean Your Dryer

Clean-Clothes-Dryer
I am all about saving money and time, especially on things that are routine, where the savings adds up over time. A lower energy bill is big on my hit list. Lately I’ve been wondering why my clothes dryer timer displays one minute left on the cycle yet still runs for another 30+ minutes.  Not very efficient! So I decided to investigate.  Here is what I found:
Clean out your dryer lint. Image of dryer lint pile.
Dryer Lint – Clean That Hose!
Yes, that is a a lint ball the size of a basketball.  I confess, In all my cleaning efforts, I never even thought to clean the appliance that cleans my clothes.  Sure I’d run the “tub wash” cycle on my clothes washer once a month, but the dryer has no such setting or indicator.  Clothes dryer manufacturers-(Samsung, Whirlpool, Maytag, I’m talking to you)-will you add an indicator light that tells us consumers when to clean our dryer please?

How do you get a clean dryer you ask?  It is this simple:

Keeping a clean dryer starts by unplugging the dryer from the wall, just to be extra safe; no one needs to be electrocuted today.  Pull out the lint trap, clean it.  Grab a flash light and depress the lint trap flap (where you normally reinsert the lint trap screen), Is there a bunch of lint that snuck past the trap?  If so, have your husband, child, or neighbor help you hold the flap open while you use something to pull out that sneaky lint.  I used needle nose pliers from my husband’s tool box, but you could use anything that fits in the space: chopsticks, a long wooden spoon, your kids’ drumsticks. Once it is clear put the lint trap back into it’s proper place.
Next, remove the dryer hose from the back side of the machine. You will need a flathead screwdriver to loosen the screw on the band at the base of the hose, then pull the hose off the dryer.  Look inside, more lint?  If you’re like me and have gone 3+ years without cleaning your dryer, you more than likely have a hose full. Disconnect the hose from the wall by loosening the screw on the band around the hose where it connects to the wall.
Now, put on your brave-mama face, stick your arm in the tube and pull that lint out. Alternately, you could go buy a new hose, but we are talking about saving money here, and its a perfectly good, albeit lint filled hose. So take the plunge and sweep it out with your hand.
Once you’ve cleared out the fuzz, reattach the hose at the wall and the back of the dryer and tighten the screw on the bands that hold each end of the hose in place. Plug the dryer back into the wall socket.
The whole cleaning process should take less than 10 Minutes.  Now add it to your monthly chore list.

Congrats! You are on your way to a lower energy bill.

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Dessert

Best Ever No-Bake Cheesecake (Minus the Cheese)

Brilliant Berry Icebox Cheesecake Minus the Cheese

In honor of the once-in-a-generation summer solstice and full moon occurring on the same evening this week, (June 20th), I give you a pie worth passing on to the next generation! And in deference to the “great heatwave” we are experiencing in the southwest lets make it a super-simple, no-sweat, light yet delicious Beat-The-Heat No-Bake Cheesecake (minus the cheese), in Brilliant Berry flavor. Guaranteed as delicious as the Strawberry Moon was beautiful this year.

While technically there is no cheese in this no-bake cheesecake, I promise that you’ll love it all the same. This is a healthy, raw, almost vegan version of an old favorite. You can even make it without the added Maple Syrup and Honey to cut sugar if your diet requires it, and it will still be a tasty treat.

This dessert combines the health benefits of virgin coconut oil and berries, and is rich enough to satisfy the biggest dessert craving, but light enough to not weigh you (or your scale) down.
Without further adieu:

Brilliant Berry No-Bake Cheesecake (Minus the Cheese)

2 Cups Mixed Berries, Defrosted If Frozen
Generous 3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup Cashew Butter
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1-2 TBS Honey (to taste)
1-2 TBS Maple Syrup (to taste)
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1 Granola Pie Crust

Blend first seven ingredients until smooth. I use the large blender cup that came with the NutriBullet. Taste and adjust for sweetness as desired. Pour into pie crust. Freeze for 1-2 hours. Remove, cover and refrigerate until ready to eat. Thank you Strawberry Moon. Enjoy!

Brilliant Berry Icebox Pie
Brilliant Berry No-Bake Cheeseccake (Minus the Cheese)

I made this pie for my bug’s first birthday as an alternative and healthy smash cake. It was a huge success. Not only did she devour the pie, but she had an amazing sensory experience with the smooth and creamy texture too.

For a different twist: Use cherries with a drop of almond extract, or straight up strawberries in place of mixed berries for a variety of no-bake cheesecake tastiness (minus the cheese).

My husband insists that this is the best berry pie ever. Give it a try and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Granola Pie Crust Recipe


2 1/4 Cups Sunbelt Bakery Banana Nut Cereal
3 1/2 TBS Butter

Pre-heat oven at 375. Blend cereal ’til crumb consistency. Melt butter. Mix butter and crumbs well. Press into pie pan with the back of a spoon. Place in pre-heated oven. Bake for 9 minutes. Remove and cool. Pie crust should be golden brown and fragrant.

Hot Tip to Stay Cool:

Beat the heat. Keep heat out of the kitchen by using a small convection oven outside. I move my convection oven outside next to my BBQ during the summer months. The oven I use is big enough to cook with a 9×13 pan, and also fits a 12×12 square baking sheet. You can find this style of convection ovens at most retail stores for $85-250. I purchased mine at an estate sale for $40. It is perfect for casseroles, pies, sweet potato fries, pizzas, etc.

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