pinecone crafting for the craftless

Someone accused flattered me once and called me “crafty.”

She apparently was looking into my heart, and not at the evidence.

But I try, gosh darnit. I try.

We’ve been at my Mom’s in the Coachella Valley this past week and I’ve been looking for fun things to do with the kids during the 90 degree days that won’t leave my cold-loving Montana brood bored and stuck in air conditioning for too long. (The pool’s been off-limits this week as they clean it, turn the heat on and prep it for the “high season,” which in the desert is end of October through March).

We’ve had bubble blowing contests.

Races around the trees in the field behind the house.

We’ve gone sidewalk chalk crazy on the patio.

Had ballon tosses.

But our favorite thing to do is go on nature walks to the duck pond just a stone’s throw from Grammy’s backyard … our best adventure to date.

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(Although today we head to the Living Desert Zoo and are hoping to see the zookeepers feed giraffes so … it may not stay in the lead for long).

On one of those walks, the kids “discovered” pinecones different from the ones at home. These are full and round and open. They are just gorgeous. (The ones at home are gorgeous, too. But they stay pretty closed with our cool cool nights.) Our quest undoubtedly became a game and a race to see who could pick up the most pinecones. Although we piled them into one pile, so no one was the winner. ūüôā

But what to do with a stroller full of pinecones?

Why … make Christmas ornaments, of course.

I mean, Costco is already selling ribbon, O’Mamas is already doing a toy giveaway, it only makes sense to make ornaments in October, doesn’t it?

So after a run to the local pharmacy to get glitter and glue, here’s what’s left of our beautiful pinecones.




Yeah …

We’re not as crafty as we dream.

But it was fun.

And after two days we’re still finding glitter in our hair.


pantry basic – the sourdough starter

Someone was bragging to me once about the sourdough starter he and his wife had gotten from his maternal grandmother that was almost 100 years old, and they’d been using it for bread for years.

That’s cool.

But guess what … whether your starter is 5 days old, 5 months, 5 years or 500 … it’s all sourdough starter. ¬†We make a lot of sourdough stuff:¬†Sourdough bread.¬†Sourdough pancakes.¬†French Toast.¬†¬†Crackers. We make sourdough English muffins and sourdough cinnamon rolls (for special occasions). ¬†There’s always some dough rising. ¬†Or sourdough fermenting. ¬†Somewhere in our kitchen.

And I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Our starter was 6 years old, until I forgot to feed it for 3 weeks (left it on the counter when we went out of town and forgot to tell the house sitter about it).  So now, our start is about 6 months old.  And I started a new one a few days ago so I could show you how easy it is.

Here’s the kicker … MAKING A SOURDOUGH STARTER IS EASY! ¬†(And maintaining it is even easier.)

And to tell you the truth … if it was difficult, I probably wouldn’t do it. ¬†Life can be challenging enough. ¬†I don’t really want my pancakes to be hard.


But on this real food journey, I’m learning more about more about why fermenting the flour … making it “sour” … actually makes it more digestible and easy on our bellies to process and absorb all the goodness in the wheat (or spelt or rye or fill in the blank with whatever grain floats your boat).

And up to this point, I’ve found sourdough easier to manage than sprouting grains. ¬†(Sprouting can take a few days … souring takes a few hours … and I can wrap my head around planning a few hours ahead, but still struggle with planning meals more than a few days ahead. I’m working on it, bt that’s where I am today.)

Here’s what you need for a sourdough starter:


  • All purpose flour.
  • Filtered water.
  • Glass jar with a lid. (At least one and a half pints, but preferably a quart.)

That’s it.

Oh … and you need about five days.

It takes about five days to get things grooving and growing and ready for your first stack of sourdough pancakes. ¬†But if you start this today, you’ll be loving life (and impressing your loved ones) on Sunday with a fresh batch of yum.

I’ve read somewhere that you need to use whole wheat flour to start the process. ¬†I haven’t had that experience. ¬†Organic all purpose flour works just fine.

So …

You ready for this?


In a glass bowl, combine 1/2 cup of flour with a little less than 1/2 cup of filtered water until all of the dry flour is absorbed and you’re left with a thick sticky dough. ¬†Pour the contents into your glass jar (scrape the bowl and get all the last remnants). ¬†Cover the container and put it in a place in your kitchen where the temperature is consistent and maybe even a little warm.


You will likely see a few bubbles starting to form. ¬†And maybe it smells a little “sour?” ¬†The things are good. ¬†It means that wild yeast from the air has taken residence in your mixture and good things are starting to happen.

Add 1/4 cup of flour with a little less than 1/4 cup of water to your container and whisk it up.  Again, you want the new flour to be incorporated fully into the mix.



This is when things go from good to better. ¬†Your starter will be nice and bubbly. ¬†It will be thick. ¬†It will smell good and sour-y. ¬†And it will have “grown” (maybe even as much as doubled in size). ¬†Very exciting stuff is happening.

We’re on REPEAT: ¬†add 1/4 cup of flour and a tiny bit less than 1/4 cup of filtered water to your container. ¬†Again, whisk it up. ¬†It won’t be easy to whisk (you can also use a fork). ¬†But get all that flour and water super incorporated. ¬†Cover again. ¬†And set aside until …


REPEAT day three’s activity. ¬†1/4 cup of flour. ¬†1/4 cup of filtered water. ¬†Whisk. ¬†Cover. ¬†Wait 24 hours.


You’ve got bubbliciously fermented sourdough starter begging to be made into something.


So now it’s up to you … use it!

But after you use it, replenish it with equal parts flour and water (I prefer the consistency of starter that has just a tiny bit less water than flour, but this is a personal choice.)

And keep it alive, because if you are good it your starter, it will be good to you in return.


Every other day (or every three days), add a 1/4 flour and 1/4 filtered water.  Whisk.  Cover.  And set in the sourdough starter home in your kitchen.

Here’s ours … the old and the new … souring together.


Just waiting for me to start a new batch of sunny sourdough crackers (with cheese ¬†and truffle salt this time … because they’re for grown-ups :).

By the way, Remember how I told you a few paragraphs ago how I let our starter die and had to start a new one?  Well, these starters are really very hardy.  And if I had just put the starter in the fridge while we were gone, I would have come home to starter ready to be fed again and after just a day or two be ready for bread.

I should tell you that after two or three days, a clear liquid may form on the top of your start. ¬†That’s okay. ¬†In fact, it’s just the natural alcohol separating from the wild yeast. ¬†Clear liquid is fine. ¬†Just stir it back into the starter and keep on doing a great job.

IF, however, that clear liquid is not clear, but cloudy or pinkish¬†… throw it out … your starter has spoiled and you must start again.

Let us know how your sourdough adventures go … and have fun starting experiments in your kitchen!



weekend update

And the winner of our well-loved Ergo Standard Baby Carrier¬†is …


Congratulations, Lindsey!  Please email us your mailing address so we can send you your Ergo!

happy weekend 3I don’t know what happened to Fall, but it seems to have slipped out of the calendar this year. ¬†Because just like THAT, it’s Winter here in Montana.

Which means we have to worry about snowsuits, snowshoes, hats and catching up to all those running noses … probably why our most PINNED and SHARED posts this week were …

6 natural ways to fight the flu


6 MORE natural ways to fight the flu

But our most read? ¬†Our most read post was Abby’s first heartfelt story in her series …


And one of our favorite (okay … it’s just the one that made us cry) post we read on the WWW this week is from Rage Against the Minivan … What I Want You to Know About Birth Mothers

what i want you to know

And then, of course, there’s the recipe by another blogger that we just can’t wait to attempt: ¬†Nanaimo Bars … until we read Jody’s post we had no idea these even¬†existed!

Jody (the incredible real food blogger from our home town of Bozeman) describes it this way: “It‚Äôs a dessert bar of Canadian oigin, consisting of a chocolate coconut cookie crumb crust, and vanilla custard filling, topped with a chocolate ganache. It really is‚Ķheaven in a bar.”

Ummmm … YES PLEASE!!!! ¬†Count us in.

nanaimo1Hope you all have a wonderful weekend …

By the way, if you’ve got recipes you think we should try … add ’em to the comments of today’s post and we’ll post a little “contest” on Facebook. ¬†We’ll make the one with the most likes and feature it right here!


Jeanne & Abby

31 things: Mama’s from Texas


I’m back on board with The Nester’s 31 Day Challenge. I missed yesterday, and there’s a good chance I’ll miss many more. I’m alright with that, though!

Today, the third of October, we had our first big snow. I can honesty say that this is the first year I haven’t dreaded it.

What I want my boys to know is:  Mama is from Texas. My idea of outdoor recreation used to be floating in the river with a cold drink in hand. Once in high school we got ONE inch of snow, and school was cancelled for 3 days.

I laugh at that now when I pass the elementary school down the road, and the kids are having recess in snow boots and ski gloves. Soon enough my boys will be doing the same thing, and they’ll never know any different.

This whole cold weather and snow thing is in their blood.

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True story… my oldest got bundled up and headed outside as soon as he could today and kept saying “I’m just so, so, so happy Mom!”. The kid LOVES the cold weather. In fact, the only time he ever complains about the temp is in the summer when it is “so hot” at a whopping 80 degrees. When we head to Texas to see family… forget it… the kid hardly wants to step outside.

It’s true my boys have changed me. Because they love the snow, it feels like I love the snow.

We’ve taken the plunge and made sure they have good snow gear, and that had made a world of difference. It softens the blow that I only have to buy the things once and then they will be passed down to my 2 year old.

Jeanne always says (not sure who she heard it from) there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. I must say I’m beginning to agree (unless of course it’s negative 20… Then you’ll find me curled under a warm blanket with hot tea by the fire).

Until tomorrow,

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gently used ergo baby carrier GIVEAWAY!

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!  Thanks for playing!! 

And CONGRATULATIONS for winning …

Lindsey Miller!!

Maybe you saw the link we posted from Northern Mum on Saturday about why front-facing baby carriers may not be a great idea …


Which got me thinking … I have this great Ergo Standard Baby Carrier.

41tD6dK6fTL._SY355_ I love this carrier.

From the moment our little guy was big enough to fit, we were freed up to go just about anywhere.


I should have more pictures of these experiences but I can’t find any … seriously. ¬†He started out on my chest with an infant insert, moved out of the insert and stayed face-forward, then got big enough that he liked life better on my back. ¬†It was a full 20 months of awesome.

And I’m so thankful for the Ergo. ¬†For real.

Because ¬†this was me and our little girl (before I knew better) …

DSC01314(I love this picture because I love the adventures that little girl and I went on and I love those memories … but now I cringe when I see it … knowing now what I wish I knew then.)

So now that the little guy is too big for the Ergo, I realize that it’s still got a TON of life left in it … and if you’ve been using a front-facing carrier (or know someone who is) and want to make the switch. ¬†Maybe this is for you … and a chance to give it a try for FREE!

So we’re giving away our well-loved Ergo (sorry no infant insert … I was reminded that I already gave it away).

a Rafflecopter giveaway



This is NOT a sponsored post.  We just love the Ergo and want it to go to someone who needs/wants it.  Winner will be chosen at random on Friday night and announced Saturday.  Ergo will be shipped USPS standard mail.

the kindergarten quandary

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Abby here, confessing that I’ve gone back and forth as to whether or not write about this.

Part of me feels like this should be an easier decision, and I need not rely on other peoples opinions and experiences. But the other part of me feels like I’m running in circles, and I’m hoping maybe some of you have really wrestled with the same issue…

So here’s where I’m at: I’ve got a wonderful 4 year old son who will be starting kindergarten next year.

For the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve been pretty amped up about homeschooling. This really wasn’t something up for debate. I was excited about it. I researched, looked into the local co-op, read blogs and books, and asked a million questions.

Now here we are, with just one short year before kindergarten, and I feel stumped. I’ve felt less and less adequate to homeschool the closer we get to kindergarten, yet a huge part of me still longs to do so. I love the idea of it, I’m just not sure about the reality of it.

As for most parents, the three obvious options here are homeschool, private school and public school.

Private school wasn’t something we considered until our church began meeting a wonderful private school here in town. Getting to know the school and some of the students and teachers has definetely warmed me up more to this idea. There are just so many factors…. a few being the price, that fact that it takes a classical education approach and then also the rumors that there is very little emphasis on play for the students. One advantage to this private school is their kindergarten program is a 1/2 day, which I think could be a good transition into school for my boy.

Then there is the cute little public school down the street, that every person I’ve met in Bozeman who knows anything about the school district here says I am CRAZY to not send my child there. There is usually only one class per grade, and I have heard nothing but amazing things about the place. To top it off, my son just started a neighborhood soccer team, and every single boy on his team will be in the kindergarden class next year. Many of the parents have older children already in school, and they think the world of that place.

But then I’m back to square one in that in a perfect world I really do think I’d like to homeschool… I think.

So… I guess this is just a brain dump, but I would love and appreciate any advice. Surely I am not the only one who has struggled with this….


“It is an incalculable added pleasure to any one’s sum of happiness if he or she grows to know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature.” – T. Roosevelt

With that idea in mind … to teach our kids to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature … we went on a great adventure last week.

A 250 mile road trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Two moms.

Four kids (which means four car seats.)

A rented Suburban.

Way too many snacks (because with four kids, there never seem to be enough snacks).

And more than a little enthusiasm for 13 hours on the road!



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“The Park is just a howling wilderness of three thousand square miles, full of all imaginable freaks of a fiery nature.” – R. Kipling

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It’s also a good place to find a bench and relax.

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Note the lovely glare? ¬†It’s true … just because the dude is carrying a really fancy camera, there’s no guarantee he knows how to take a picture ūüôā

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Somehow … 13 hours, 250 miles, 35 bathroom stops, snack stops, nature walks, rock climbs and races …. we are all still friends and reminded just how lucky we are to live so close to this amazing gift.
Happy Monday!

i thought i was a genius

It’s Jeanne.

With a pathetic confession.

It’s been a few weeks since I made ice cream and the other night our little guy looked at me and said (in a tiny-little-about-to-turn-2-years-old voice ¬†“Ice cream…. Pwease … My favewit.”


(This is not my pathetic confession … but it says something when a toddler puts together his longest string of words to beg his mother for ice cream, yes?)

So I haven’t made ice cream recently. ¬†Not for any real reason. ¬†Mostly because I haven’t wanted to buy heavy cream from the grocery store because we’ve got a friend who shares the raw milk bounty from her dairy cow, and we have so much milk in the house right now, with beautiful wholesome cream on top, that I just feel like it would be a waste to go out an buy heavy cream.

But I don’t have a fancy milk separator.

We have a small kitchen and limited storage … we’ve definitely got enough stuff and I’m trying to simplify rather than multiply what takes up that precious space. ¬†I don’t really want to buy another bulky piece of kitchenware.

So I haven’t made ice cream.

And then all of a sudden this request is looming large every time I look into those baby blues.

“Pwease … My favewit.”

Which gets me thinking about how I might separate the cream from the milk we have.

Abstractly thinking about it.

Not really thinking about it.

I didn’t google anything.

I didn’t pull out the old homesteading books.

I just sort of had a thought about it and then filed it away didn’t really think about it again.

Until I woke up to light bulbs flashing in my brain … a real “EUREKA!” moment.

We have THREE cold drink dispensers. ¬†You know …the ones with a spout. ¬†Like for sun tea or something?? ¬†All I really need to do is pour the milk into one of the dispensers. ¬†Let it rest over night until the cream rises to the top and then siphon ¬†off the milk!



So I tell Abby this (mind you, as I’m saying it I’m prouder than a peacock) and she says “yeah, that’s pretty much all over the internet as the easy way to do it.” ¬†(I’m paraphrasing … I can’t remember her exact words because they were like knives to my bubblicious ego, which popped and left me deflated on the floor).

So …

Yeah …

I may not be the first one with the idea … but I’m happy to report that it worked!


Isn’t that pretty??

So today I’ll be making some ice cream… “Pwease.”

Happy Tuesday!

We’re linked up:

Kelly the Kitchen Kop

nothing beats a beet quinoa salad … except maybe TWO

When I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, my girlfriend Stephanie and her husband Rob had a Cowboy-themed cookout that was part pot-luck … and there was this amazing beet and quinoa salad.

I cornered the maker of the salad (who turned out to be this incredible woman Michaela) and asked for details because I knew I was going to crave this thing. It was the most gorgeous purple color. Savory. Sweet. Hearty. Satisfying. Just … AWESOME.

So I got the low-down from Michaela (but of course I didn’t write any of it down because I was just sure I would remember everything in it).

And I made a really really good beet quinoa salad.

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So good, actually, that I convinced myself that it was a pretty great replica and I made a batch at Abby’s the other night (during our cookfest and recipe-test extravaganza) and was thrilled that her family loved it, too!

beet salad bowl

This is how I made it:

beet salad ing


  • 1 cup quinoa (soaked and then cooked … yields about 1.5 cups cooked quinoa)
  • 1 cup roasted beets (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup raw zucchini (chopped)
  • 3 large scallions (diced)
  • 1 medium crisp apple like a honey crisp or pink lady (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed and finely chopped into a paste
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste


Abby roasted the beets before I got there, so all I had to do was chop them. But to roast your beets, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, peel and rough chop the beets, toss in a little melted coconut oil and arrange them in one layer in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. And roast for about 20-25 minutes (if they are still a bit al dente at that point, let them cook for another 10 minutes … the speed with which they cook really depends on the size pieces you’re roasting). Out of the oven, put the beets in a medium bowl and refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

Pre-cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package and let it chill in the fridge, too, until you’re ready to use it.

Next, chop the zucchini, scallions and apple.

Combine the quinoa, chopped beets, scallions, apple, zucchini, garlic, ginger and pumpkin seeds into a large bowl. Squeeze in juice from one lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil and stir to combine well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 6 servings.

Sounds pretty great, right? And it is!!!

But just to be sure, before I went over to Abby’s, I emailed Michaela to ask her if I had the ingredients right. First off, I wasn’t sure she would remember me. Secondly, I wanted to wow her with my great memory of her excellently good salad.

And I am chagrined. Because when I got home that night I got an email from Michaela … Thankfully, she knew who I was. But I am completely embarrassed to say that I missed about half of the goodness in her salad. Here was her response (in italics):


I didn’t forget you Jeanne! (Whew!)

Great that your’e back and in the groove of things. I kept thinking of you and your lovely husband and wonder how it might be in Montana now at the end of summer. I checked out your blog and I love it !! (YAY, O’MAMAS!!)
Here’s what I did:
  • 1 cup of Red Quinoa
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth. (I used water)
  • steam yellow onion, mushrooms, zucchini in coconut oil (no onion or mushroom or coconut oil … oops)
  • add himalayan salt, provencal herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil) (fresh herbs? ¬†ugh … I’m a space cadet)
  • squeeze ginger and garlic through garlic press
  • roast asparagus with a little olive oil, cut into small bites¬†(of course there was asparagus … now I remember. ¬†so good)
  • mix everything with the steamed quinoa
  • add shredded big raw beat, hacked walnut, apple (sour), dried cranberries,¬†(did you notice the walnut? ¬†I really am embarrassed … )
  • fresh parsley and chives
  • apple cider vinegar and lemon juice
  • a small can of bamboo sprouts (not necessary at all)
  • last you add fresh blueberries,¬†(the fact that I forgot the blueberries is the most embarrassing of all … they were a burst of color and flavor … so good. ¬†I want Michaela to cook for me every night.)
  • sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
I prepared most of the salad on the day before but added more of freshly steamed onion, zucchini and mushrooms the next day when I added fresh parsley, chives and blueberries.
I flushed the blueberries in boiling hot water and added them at the very end.
All ingredients were organic and I steamed and roasted in very low temperature so it still had a bite to it when it came into the mix.
I think the apple cider vinegar is very important to balance the quinoa in the salad. Add until you like the taste.”

So … yeah … now you have recipes for TWO great beet salads.



PS – I’m going to see if I can convince Michaela to contribute another recipe or two. ¬†She’s INCREDIBLE.

We’re linked up:

Domestic Superhero
This Chick Cooks
The Nourishing Gourmet