Use Crayons For Dry Erase Boards

We ran out of dry erase markers and made a discovery. You don’t need to buy more of those plastic markers! Large crayons work just fine on dry erase boards. Simply use a soft cloth to wipe it off, with a little extra elbow grease.

 

Crayon going onto a whiteboard…..And crayon coming off the same whiteboard with an old sock eraser. This really does work, and it does wipe clean! Just sayin’.

How Toxic Is Your Garden Hose?

Think Twice About Your Garden Hoses And How Toxic They Might Be. Photo © Liesl Clark

One of the cheapest, happiest forms of warm weather play for children is a garden hose with a sprinkler hooked up to it. For our children, it means hours of joyous play.

Sprinkler Fun. Photo © Liesl Clark

The challenge for us is the knowledge that most hoses are made of toxic chemicals and hence are full of pthalates and Bisphenol A. Both are known endocrine disruptors and if children drink from a hose their BPA levels will rise significantly.

Be Sure to Play in a BPA-Free Garden Hose Spray. Photo © Liesl Clark

Lead has also been detected in most garden hoses. It’s unknown what the effects are to the soil and plants, but what’s clear is that the next time we buy a hose we should be aware of studies on the chemicals hoses can leach and which hoses are safest. Here’s a 2016 study on the toxicity of hoses done by the Ecology Center.

Photo © Liesl Clark

We do have one PVC-free hose and that’s the one we use for kid water-play. In fact, we use it as often as possible, as we phase out our other old hoses. An irrigation project we’re longing to do is a hose-free drain system from our pond to the vegetable garden so we can skip the hose quotient altogether. No wonder our waters are full of estrogen-mimicking chemicals that are affecting indicator species like fish.

Photo © Liesl Clark

If you’re interested in phasing out your old hoses or reusing one that’s broken, we’ve seen them sliced lengthwise in small sections to be used as blade protectors for hand-saws, or used on the side of a garden shed for wall-art, or woven on an old chair to create some cool outdoor furniture.

But, for the purposes of watering our garden or for kid-play, from now on we’ll be seeking out BPA and lead-free hoses.

Use Your Bean Water!

Did she say bean water? Yes, bean water is how I refer to the leftover liquid after I’ve cooked beans in my slow cooker or pressure cooker. Every week, we do at least one pot of beans, to provide the staple ingredient (beans) for many meals for the family.

FullSizeRender 81

Dried beans, bought in bulk, are among the cheapest and most nutritious foods we can buy. Now, that weekly practice of ours has yielded several more meals that I had never thought of before — using the bean water to make wonderfully delicious dishes!

FullSizeRender 82

Here’s our black bean water, leftover after I removed the beans to make refried beans.

This week, our beans of choice were black beans, and thanks to this article, I saved the bean water and used it as the basis for a huge pot of Tarascan Bean and Tomato Soup. It’s a recipe I first started making in my 20s, because I wanted to find something to use up the bacon grease that I save.

FullSizeRender 79

We save our bacon grease for recipes and bird suet 

The soup takes on the flavors of the bacon and it’s absolutely delicious and Whole30 compliant.

FullSizeRender 77

Bean water can also be saved for use as a base in vegetable stock and in soups like minestrone. Seems there’s a bit of a craze out there for bean water, especially chick pea water, which has the official name of “aquafaba.” Chick peas, or garbanzo beans, can yield a liquid that is a great replacement for egg whites and even meringues can be made from them. So, get creative, learn about aquafaba, don’t pour your bean water down the sink. Use it up to flavor your favorite meals.

FullSizeRender 80

Behold, our bean water.

I’m feeling so very proud that the Tarascan soup which I love has 3 ingredients in it that many people would normally toss: bacon fat, vegetable scrap broth, and bean water.

Here’s the recipe for it, which is based on one found in my favorite Mexican cookbook, The Cuisines of Mexico, by Diane Kennedy.

Sopa Tarasca

4 Cups Bean Water (pinto beans or black beans)

2 Tomatoes or 8 oz Canned Tomatoes

2 Cloves Garlic

Half an Onion

4 Tablespoons Bacon Grease

1 Cup Vegetable Broth (or Chicken or Pork Broth)

Cilantro for garnish

Salt and Pepper

Blend the tomatoes, garlic and onion in a blender or Vitamix until a soupy puree. Set Aside.

Place the bacon grease in a soup pot and put the heat on high to melt it. Add the tomato mixture and mix by hand as it cooks for about 5 minutes. Gradually add the bean water and bring the soup to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the broth and allow the soup to cook for another 10 minutes on low, until your soup reaches the thickness you’d like. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the soup and garnish with cilantro, paprika, shredded cheese or sour cream to taste.

Enjoy!

FullSizeRender 78

Paleo Sugar-Free Seed Crunch

IMG_2268

I fell in love with a delicious seed bar that’s sold down the hill in our local farm store. But they’re a bit pricey and come wrapped in plastic, and so my son and I worked together to figure out what’s in them, so we can make them at home.

IMG_1029

Ours taste pretty much exactly like the bars at the store, but our little seed mix ends up just that, a mix that you can eat with a spoon. This deliciously healthy mix of seeds and berries is now a staple lunch item for our always-hungry teen!

Enjoy.

IMG_5764

Paleo Sugar-Free Seed Crunch

2 Cups pumpkin seeds

1/3 Cup cacao nibs

1/2 Cup coconut butter

¼ Cup gogi berries

¼ Cup golden raisins or colored raisin mix

1/8 Cup almond flour

1/8-1/4 Cup cashews

3 dates (chopped up)

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

pinch of salt

Put everything in your Vitamix or similar kitchen gadget and let it rip on high until you have a meal-like consistency. Sometimes I have to take half of the mix out, half-way through, and do it in two batches. Throw the mix in a jar and it’ll keep for weeks!

IMG_2541

 

DIY Wool Dryer Balls Reduce Dryer Time

The title of this blog post were the words I used for a Google search yesterday, as a question, and the answer from over 10 bloggers was resoundingly “yes.”

I had to find this out for myself.

IMG_2644

So, I went to my yarn basket and found a few balls of 100% wool yarn that we hadn’t used for years and wound a few contrasting colors of yarn around them. If you’re not sure if your yarn is wool or acrylic, check out this article that’ll help you determine what’s what.

IMG_4300

I also took some old knitting projects the kids had done (half-finished scarves and finger knitting garlands), balled them up, wound more wool yarn around them to make them into tennis ball and soft ball size.

IMG_8397

IMG_2240

IMG_2229

I then grabbed a few oddball socks out of my single socks box (yes, we have hundreds) and placed one wool ball inside one sock and tied off the end.

IMG_2726

I did this for each of the balls, until I had 6 balls-in-socks, ready for the washing machine.

IMG_6114

I put the cycle on high and threw in a few towels and T-shirts. I did the cycle twice, just to be sure that the wool balls were felting up. The wet wash then went into the dryer for a high heat cycle.

The outer tied-off socks were easy to untie and I rescued the now-felted-wool balls from their sock prisons. Each one felted up pretty nicely!

IMG_2291

Experts at this have suggested putting a few drops of your favorite essential oil on the wool balls about every 4th load you dry, so I found some rosemary (so my son won’t feel that he smells too flowery and to also keep buggies off of us (they don’t like rosemary.))

IMG_2321

Now, the true test was upon me: If I ran a load of laundry with wet towels through the dryer, would 6 wool dryer balls reduce the dry time? The answer is resoundingly yes. Typically, we have to run our towels through our high heat normal dryer cycle twice. This time, with 6 dryer balls, I only had to run them once! So, that’s a win. I figure this will save our family on dryer time (i.e lower our electricity bill) during the winter months when we can’t put our laundry out to dry in the sun.

IMG_2309

Oh, and the wool dryer balls also are a replacement for fabric softener (we’ve never used it anyway) and dryer sheets (ditto) as they remove static cling, soften your fabrics and add a lovely scent via your essential oil!

IMG_2325IMG_4251

20 DIY Crafts Not Plastic

A Case For Exposing Your Children to Traditional Arts Using Natural Materials. Photo © Liesl Clark

When my children reached elementary school age and we enrolled them in programs that had art classes, we were amazed at how few natural materials were used for art supplies and just how much of it was plastic: glitter glue, colorful plastics for mosaics, acrylic-coated feathers, various items to be “recycled” through art like yogurt cups and plastic straws. The myriad cut-and-paste-style art projects they did were primarily made of art supply store plastics. All too often schools and art classes are cutting corners and can only afford cheaper plastic materials for art supplies.

Hand-crafted tiles or buttons, made by a young Nepali stone-carver. Photo © Liesl Clark

I would’ve preferred sticks, stones, leaves, sea glass, natural feathers and wood over the pre-fabricated plastic materials my son and daughter were exposed to. These plastics were simply mimicking what’s found readily in nature. I also believe the color palette children are exposed to in those early years, through day-glo style plastics, can affect their color choices later in life. Gone might be an appreciation for natural greens, browns, blues and purples found regularly in the environment. We started to opt out of the popular kinder art projects in preference to doing our own art, making an effort to learn from traditional artists who work with stone, wood, glass, wool, and ceramics. These experiences, for our children, were enriching as they learned quickly that they could create things of beauty from resources found in the natural world, as people have done for millennia.

A Young Nepali Artist Carving Prayers Onto a Mani Stone. Photo © Liesl Clark

A coupling of leaves, feathers, and flowers could become a miniature nest or fairy’s bed from a 7-year-old’s imagination.

A Fairy Bed, Made From Leaves, a Pod, Feathers and a Flower. Photo © Liesl Clark

Or a piece of wood might be whittled into a boat, a stone carved into a work of art. Exposing children to traditional folk art from around the world is a great way to teach them how natural materials that are readily available can be turned into works of beauty.

Azurite Is One of The Pigments Used in Traditional Himalayan Art. Photo © Liesl Clark

On a recent trip through South Korea while we were in transit, we took part in a program at the airport in Seoul that teaches traditional art forms. Every time we pass through this airport our children learn a new form of art made from a surprising material. They’ve worked with rice paper to make stone carving prints onto them, they’ve made paper lanterns, they’ve hand painted fans, and they made a tapestry necklace. This time, they learned the Na-Jeon art form, working with mother of pearl-colored shells and shellac from the lac tree.

Learning the Na-Jeon Art Form in Korea. Photo © Liesl Clark

This highly sophisticated ancient Korean craft utilizes iridescent abalone and conch shells in contrast to a lacquered black wood background, creating a sense of balance and harmony in this mariage of opposites.

A Hand Mirror Made in the Korean Na-Jeon Style © Liesl Clark

The children were given hand mirrors to decorate in the Na (which means “pearl”) Jeon (which means “decorate”) style. The focus and concentration the craft required was mesmerizing for us to watch. And the mirrors will be treasured for years to come in our family.

IMG_5929 © Liesl Clark

If you’re looking for some ideas for arts and crafts less plastic, we came up with a list of 20 traditional crafts from natural materials found in and around your home that are easy to try. Copy this list or share the link with your art teacher at school. No need for spending money on cheap plastic art supplies when there are supplies we can contribute from our own homes and backyards: scrap fabric, acorns, sticks, scrap paper, wool sweaters, leaves and sea shells are just a few. Incorporate information about the cultures that started the folk art form you’ll practice so your children appreciate the history behind their craft and how interconnected we all are through our art forms:

1) Doll-Making: Fabric Scrap Dolls have been made for the children of many cultures for centuries.

DIY Tiny Dolls Wear Fabric Scraps in Style

2) Vegetable Stamps: My favorite veggie to use for stamps is okra. But you can also carve stamps from a potato with excellent results. And the celery rose stamp is absolutely beautiful.

3) Fabric Scrap Mosaic: Reusing fabrics is an art unto itself and certainly has been passed down for generations. Try making a pretty mosaic from your leftover scraps.

4) Embroidery: Try your hand at embroidery. You can even embellish a tired old lampshade to create color in a room.

5) Twig Basket: Collect some long green twigs and make a freeform basket out of them.

6) Origami Tea Bag Folding: Learn the traditional art of origami paper folding using the paper the covers tea bags! If families saved up their tea bag covers, a school art program would have plenty of paper to work with and couldn’t complain about budget constraints.

7) Scrap Paper Flowers: Art classes should save all scrap paper to make these beautiful flowers. Or toilet paper rolls are all you need to make these flowers.

 

Toilet Paper Roll Flowers. Photo © Kelly Munson

8) Fallen Leaf Art: There are many beautiful artistic creations you can craft from leaves.

9) Scrap Paper Tree: This pretty craft utilizes tiny pieces of your favorite scrap paper as well as sticks collected from outdoors.

10) Seashell Arts: We’ve made mobiles from sea shells and endless mosaics. These seashell koalas would make any child happy.

11) Tin Topiary: Use pie tins to make these beautiful tin flowers.

12) Knitting: With some saved-up chopsticks, you can teach anyone how to knit.

Knit with Old Chopsticks photo © Rebecca Rockefeller

13) Felting: Learn how to felt your wool sweaters.

14) Rubbings: Make rubbings for things natural or extraordinary.

15) Weaving: DIY weaving is easy and a great craft to do with scrap yarn and fabric strips. You can even make your own loom.

16) Phone Book Paper Painting Meditation: Teach the kids meditation by doing phone book paper art.

17) Sock Crafting: If you’re in need of a stuffed animal, try making one from a sock.

Sock + Rubber Bands + Bits & Bobs = Sock Hippo. Photo © Liesl Clark

18) Hand-Made Valentines: Valentines are an original folk art scrap hack.

Handmade Paper Valentines, An Original Folk Art. Photo © Liesl Clark

19) Stencils: You can make stencils from food boxes and use beets as your ink dye.

20) Driftwood Sculptures: If you collect enough of a variety, driftwood lends itself to creative art from their smooth appealing shapes.

What crafts from materials readily-available can you add? We love to make things from what’s abundant around us!

Reflective Pavement Markers Trash Our Roadsides

img_6287

Dear Washington Department of Transportation:

When you resurface our roads each year, you put in raised reflective pavement markers so we can better see the center line in the dark. But when winter comes, you scrape them all off the roads with your snow plows, and they sit there forever mangled, these mutilated pieces of spent DOT trash.

img_9984

What’s the point of installing plastic reflective pavement markers if you obliterate them a few months later?

img_0938

Now,  they simply reflect random routes off-road beckoning us to take misguided adventures into our roadside ditches.

img_2629

Didn’t you know that plastic pollution is one of the greatest problems endangering Puget Sound? Your scraped up plastic reflectors get run over by cars and break down into smaller and smaller reflective plastic bits as they slough off our hills and runoff with the rain into our ditches, headed for Puget Sound.

img_6244

These are the pieces of plastic marine debris we find washing up on our beaches. Perhaps there’s another alternative to reinstalling raised plastic reflectors on our roads each year, just to be scraped back off by your plows? I know other states, like Utah, use indented reflectors so snow plows don’t hit them.

img_7596

My neighbors try to be creative and reuse your smashed up reflectors on their stone walls so motorists don’t hit them at night. As for me, I’m just left to pick up your bits of reflective plastic trash as I reflect upon the waste our state tax dollars are creating, every time I walk down my road.

img_4468