Monday, June 29, 2009

Adventures in Tag Sales

I shopped Tag Sales Saturday morning. At least that is what Martha Stewart calls them. Tag Sale sounds so much more whimsical than yard sale or garage sale. I even saw a sign for a rummage sale. Whatever you call them, they are great fun. For 50 cents we got Adelina a pair of glittering red shoes that fit her glittering personality. Another 5o cents bought Samuel a two inch thick WWII History in Pictures book. He is obsessed with all things military right now. I got a small stack of very old books, one published in 1928 and one in 1905 for 25 cents each. One was written by Helen Keller and looks to be very interesting and challenging to read. It’s small and blue with delicate pages. The stack makes me wish I had better photography skills; they would make such beautiful pictures.
The girls and I went together and had a wonderful time. We hope to go again in a few weeks with my mother, who is a real pro. I have sweet memories going with her as a girl.
Happy Tag Sales, I hope you find something useful and beautiful that makes you smile every time you use it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Obsession Continues

Part Two: Supplies and Construction
We did it again. We have now cooked 3 meals and a loaf of bread in the solar oven. I almost feel guilty if I don't have something in it, like I am wasting energy. It is also hard to get used to not flipping the "on" switch or somehow turning it on. Below are some of our materials. We used:
  1. scrap lumber
  2. cookie sheet from the Salvation Army store
  3. a picture frame the boys found dumpster diving
  4. a new set of hinges
  5. a can of black high-heat paint
  6. one insulation board, which insulated the box and built the reflector panels
  7. Some special tape that conducts heat or something, it is quite expensive and not necessary, but it made the finished project look cooler. We had it for wrapping our hose so it wouldn't freeze this past winter.
  8. Various tools, you'd have to ask Sam, maybe I'll have him post.

The pot in the picture was supposed to dictate the size of the oven, but the cookie sheets ended up dictating the size and the pot doesn't fit.

First we made a box at the size we deemed appropriate, not sure exactly how we decide, but we measured once and cut twice. :P
Then we insulated it.

At some point we spray painted the cookie sheets with high heat paint. In hind site, we realized this step should have been done first, so they could dry while we worked on the rest.

The cookie sheets had to be cut to fit the box, because the box is designed to angle toward the sun. It took a few attempts to find a tool that would work.
Last we hinged the picture frame with glass to the top like a door and it almost fit perfectly...more on that in the next post on "tinkering, adjusting and triumph".

It was about 6:30 or 7:00 when we finally completed the project and when placed in the sun heated very little. It was deemed a failure and everybody went inside to get ready for bed. I tried to convince them that in the morning with more hours of sun it would surely work, but they were sceptical.
As you will see in more postings about the solar oven, this one works great after we do a little adjusting and tinkering. Sam is already making plans for an even better one, learning from this project. Altogether we spent less than $40.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Almost As Green As a Clothes Line

Part One: Your Homework
We did it! I didn't want to spend a lot of time posting about the solar oven until it really worked and today was a complete success! It is sooooo cool! I baked bread and made beef stock for Pho soup without using one ounce of nonrenewable energy. It was as simple as the clothes line. Place the clothes on the line in the sun and they will dry. Place the food in the box and it will cook with the small exception that the sun oven was probably a little more involved to construct, but using it is simple.
The weather here in Rogers, AR was in the high 80's low 90's all day with clear sky's in the morning and a few clouds in the afternoon. We were able to get the solar oven slightly above the 250F mark by about 10:30am. I had planned to make a sheet marking the time, outside temp and oven temp, but hey life happens and I'm not super women. We'll do that another day as a school project.
So, now you know it is possible. Here's how to get started. First do a little research and design an oven. Here are my two favorite sites: and The video on the second link is a must see. It is the reason I wanted to start experimenting with a solar oven.
Second, I had a class for the children. We talked about heat and how to best trap it. While Sam was gone to Iraq I put an oven together really quickly and it didn't work, so we talked about why it didn't work. Here is what the kids came up with.
  • black absorbs heat, thus the inside of the oven needs to be black.
  • the heat must be trapped, like in a closed up car, thus you need a glass or clear plastic lid and it must be as air tight as possible.
  • the oven must be angle towards the sun
  • reflectors help concentrate and direct the heat and can be made from a variety of shiny objects, including metal, aluminum, or old mirrors.

Third, we put these principles into action and gave them some pencil and paper. They can up with some great designs, including putting the oven on wheels so it is easier to follow the sun through out the day. Samuel designed a solar grill, which was very smart and I found one like his on youtube that actually works. We plan to design one of our own at some point. Ultimately, we used some of their ideas and came up with something mom and dad thought would most likely work and could be constructed with easy-to-get materials.

Next we gathered materials and constructed our solar oven and twittered around with it until we were successful. I will post materials and how-to next time.

Monday, June 22, 2009


On June 9th I went to see Beth Day teach her awesome Lemaze childbirth class. It is always in impressive to see her in action. She does such a great job. You can find her at
During class Sam text: Skill assessment is here can I open
I reply: YES!!!!
He replies: CONGratulations! You passed!
I reply: Praise the Lord!
So I had to wait until class break to go to the bathroom and jump up and down and yell on the phone with him. At the time we also had a mother in labor so right after class I drove to a birth. How cool is that?
My facebook status said: I PASSED! WHAHOO!! {jumping up and down, hands in the air, doing a back flip...ok maybe not the back flip :) } WHAHOO!!!
I take the written test in August and them I am an official Certified Professional Midwife!
I forgot the directions for the Thia curry. But really, I am like a guy trying to put something together when it comes to cooking, directions are optional. Put all the ingredients in the blender, except the oil and blend. Add oil a little at a time. If you are a purist I guess you could use a mortar and pestle, but good luck on that one.
Solar Oven: cloudy days and two births and travel: dubbed for next week pending weather along with bread making.
Oh yes, we had two births last week. No correction, on Monday, when we had a bunch of appointments scheduled. Congratulations to the sweet families on their sweet new editions.
For those who don't know we are moving to Mexico as missionaries in early 2010. You can read more about that at We are now at about 30% of our needed monthly support!
Got to go eat dinner. Sam made the gaucamole and it's really good. If I stay on here too long I'll miss out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

BINGO! More Good News From the Farmer's Market

Sam and I have a great passion for Thia food. We loved it before it was trendy. We could tell you where the best place is to eat it in Wurzberg, Germany and many other cities for that matter. We don't eat out much, but the local Thai owner knows us by name. It was the first place we stopped at when we picked Sam up from the airport on his two week visit from Iraqi. Our favorite dishes are Tom Kha Gia, a coconut chicken soup, and coconut curries.

Not only do we love Thai food, we love to cook Thia food. I have been able to locate the ingredients almost everywhere we have lived. I can find kiffir lime leaves, lemon grass, fish sauce, even galagal, but it has been very hard to find cilantro root. Thia curry uses all parts of the cilantro plant; the leaves, the seeds and the roots. I have from time to time grown my own cilantro roots, but have never been able to find any to buy, until now. When I purchased my cilantro at the Bentonville Farmers Market they had left the roots intacted! Several of the venders were of oriental decent, so it must be that they knew the little treasures at the end of the cilantro plants and just cleaned them off instead of chopping them off.

That inspired me to make Thai chicken curry with eggplant. Yummy is a total understatement on this one. We even made the coconut milk from fresh coconut not cans, a big thank you to my hubby for doing the muscle work on that one. You can find almost all the ingredients for Thia curry at the little oriental market right off Hwy 71 business at 702 W Cypress St.

Thai Red Curry
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
12 red chillies, seeded and coursely chopped
4 shallots, coarsly chopped
2 Clove garlic -- minced
1 tbsp fresh galangal
2 lemon grass stalks, chopped
3 kiffer lime leaves chopped
4 fresh coriander roots
10 Black peppercorns
pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp shimp paste
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Super Healthy Chocolate Shake?

A few months ago I was trying to incorporate more MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) and super foods into our diet and came across this really cool, very yummy, super healthy way to start the day. It does not really have any veggies, so most days we stick with freshly made veggie based juices, but I have no guilt serving this to my family. It has absolutely no sugar. The sweetness comes from the bananas and dates, both very nutritious foods. You could substitute the almond milk if you have nut allergies. I used raw cow's milk this morning. The almonds and chocolate are both MUFA foods and sometimes I add a little coconut oil, also a MUFA and very good and filling. All the ingredients are healthy, filling and raw. You just can't loose.

1 cup raw cashews or almonds, soaked for 3-5 hours7 small dates or 3 large Medjool dates3 tablespoons raw, organic chocolate powder4 frozen bananas (slice into small pieces before freezing)
Use a Vita-Mix blender or any other strong blender to blend cashews or almonds with one cup of water; blend until cashews or almonds are completely broken down into nut milk.
Add another cup of water, dates, raw chocolate powder, and banana slices to the nut milk in the blender. Blend until ingredients turn into a thick smoothie that resembles ice cream. Pour into tall glasses and enjoy these delicious, heart healthy chocolate smoothies.
Note: For an extra boost of flavor, add a touch of pure vanilla extract or a small piece of vanilla pod before the second blending.
The quantities listed in the ingredients section produce approximately 2 large servings.

Obviously there is a little prep time the evening before. I put bananas in the freezer and nuts soaked in water in the fridge.

Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

If You Can't Grow Where You Live, Then Sprout!

I love to garden! Actually, that is a huge understatement! I have managed to have some sort of garden no matter where we live. We lived in an apartment so I grew tomatoes in pots on the balcony and even talked the landlord into giving me a small section of the landscaping in the back of the building for a few tomatoes and pepper. My passion is vegetable gardening and I am not happy unless I have spouted the plants from heirloom seeds, some of which I saved from the successful season before. Once we had the upstairs floor of a house and I was able to talk my downstairs neighbor into letting me use some of the yard. Last year, the garden was small. I only had one 4x12 raised bed because I knew we would be moving and our renters would be the ones enjoying my tomatoes, but I planted anyway.
I have to say, I really do have a green thumb. That has come with lots of reading and probably from a rich history of gardeners. Once you have sat on your daddy's shoulders while he hads you cherry tomatoes from plants you helped him plant, there is no hope for you. I like reading about gardening almost as much as I like gardening. I am a real nut when it comes to the "dirt", constantly coming up with scemes for adding more organic matter to my soil. We had a worm composter going really well in Oklahoma. It was so cool. It has now been giving to our good friends, so they can enjoy it.
The gardening I have found to work the best is square foot gardening in raised beds. I have big plans for when we finally get settled in Mexico. At the Children's Home I have a way to channel all the water from the clothes washer, so I can have a garden in our mountainous desert. Plus feeding all those kiddos produces a good amount of compostable matter.
But this is a transitional year for us and we have no place or time for even containers. My father-in-law offered me some garden space at his house, but alas we are just traveling too much. We will be in Mexico the first two weeks of August and I am sure it would never do to plant a garden only to have it neglected at the peak of the season.
So my solution to my gardening diliema is sprouting. They are quick, compact, and packed with nutrients. Did I mention cost effective. So far this week I have mung beans, alfalfa, and wheat grass. The kids will just gobble down the alfalfa before it has a chance to see a salad and the mung beans are great raw or stir fried. The wheat grass I juice. So, if you can't grow where you are, then sprout in four days or less.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lazy Summer Days

I can see the children happily playing from the kitchen table where I am checking emails and drinking my coffee after only reheating it once. I usually reheat it three times and dump it down the drain figuring after being in the microwave three times it has more radiation than one should really consume. They are really enjoying the time off from school. We "out sourced" their education this past year and they got a huge dose of "real" school. The kind of school where you do a lot of book work and sit in your seats a good part of the day. Don't get me wrong, they still have no idea what public school would be like, but they are appreciating some time off.

The morning chores went well, so I have a clean house. Josiah and Samuel got in a tiff about something and it distracted them from their work, so I got a clean bathroom out of that deal. While the kids finished up Haden and I took a walk together around the church property. He enjoys some special time with his mama. We didn't see Sam much this morning. He got up early for prayer and bible study and then got to work finishing up a construction project on the front of the church. Boy, I sure did marry a handy one. I took him his carrot, blueberry, and strawberry juice and we took a little morning walk. It is nice having him around more after all we have been through with the Army.

So all in all in all it looks to be a nice day. The sun oven is already heated to 150F at 9:40 AM and it is only about 70F outside. I put left over soup in it to heat for lunch. We still don't have it completely sealed or the reflectors, so I am really pleased with it. We are using a make shift reflector right now, but it seems to be working well. Once we get the kinks worked out I will post about the project, including drawings of the children's very clever designs. I can't wait to bake bread in it, for Sam it's all about the chocolate chip cookies.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Farmer's Market Review

For those of you who don't take advantage of the farmer's market you should. Here in Northwest Arkansas we have at least four markets from which to choose. I usually go to the Fayetteville market. It is the largest and most established. However, Sam and I had a morning to ourselves this Saturday, so we checked out the Bentonville market.

It is smaller, but it had a really neat flair. There were some farmers from MO, a local lady who makes and customizes baby items, a leather maker, a homemade bread stand, grass fed beef from MO and lots of locally grown produce stands. I didn't ask, but the produce seemed to be from small scale, perhaps even backyard gardens. There was the typical seasonal produce for this area; beets, turnips, radish, salads, onions and other spring produce. Each stand seemed to take great care in displaying neat clean produce. Mayor Bob McClasin was there putting in some community service by cleaning up the streets and I saw Debra Billingsley a local shop owner enjoying the market. It seemed very community based.

The square is around a fountain instead of a building, which makes the whole market open and appealing. We enjoyed coffee and a cinnamon role from World Garden's booth and chatted with friends we hadn't seen in a long time. It was neat to learn about World Garden and all their homemade goodies and on site roasted coffee. They have a very responsibly, sustainable, give back philosophy.

The market was very enjoyable. I am excited to see what it offers as the season goes along. I love eating so close to my food source. It is not as good as having my own garden, but it will work for this year.

I am sorry I don't have any pictures to share. I have not been good about keeping my camera with me lately, but I will get a picture this Sat hopefully.