Thank Goodness for Chicken Wire

It’s been a weird year for gardening. We started with our bunny problems now that our dog Sadie is no longer patrolling the backyard. Despite small children chasing them screaming and being sprayed by water jets, it would seem the bunnies are here to stay. After having my garden eaten down to the ground, we finally put chicken wire all the way around the garden. Hopefully I can get most of the plants to grow back before the end of the summer!

And guess what the bunnies never even nibbled on?
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I haven’t had a lot of luck growing fruit so was thrilled with our cherries this year! We didn’t get a ton this year, our tree is still fairly small, but had a handful every morning for a week or so.
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And little did I know when I bought a lime tree that limes from Mexico would come under the control of the drug cartel and double or triple in price!
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I got my first jalapeƱo!
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And the out of control green onion plant.
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I have no complaints about the cooler weather and rain so far this summer but the tomato plants aren’t crazy about it- still waiting for our first big red tomatoes.
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The watermelon and basil are a little behind as well but we’re getting there! I’m not sure I’m going to get to basil bush status like last summer. :)

But it does look like I will have cucumbers coming out my ears! I think these baby cucumbers are so cute!

I love my pot of mint! A recipe for amazing Mint Chocolate Ice Cream is coming soon.
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Hoping for less bunnies, gentle rain showers every other day and an average temp of about 87 degrees the rest of the summer! :)

Easy Sprouted Whole Wheat Bread

We have been trying to eat sprouted or sourdough grains as much as possible but it’s not always easy. Our family can go through 5+ loaves of bread a week! We do buy Ezekiel 4:9 bread which is made from sprouted wheat but it is from the frozen section and to be honest- it’s a little on the tough side and just not our favorite. I was so happy to find this recipe- it only takes minutes to make (love my stand mixer!) and it’s soft, delicious, and slices up great for our pb&j sandwiches. This recipe is from Cultured Food for Life: How to Make and Serve Delicious Probiotic Foods for Better Health and Wellness- I would highly recommend this book!

Sprouted Whole Wheat Bread

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-110 degrees)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 teaspoons Celtic Sea salt
4 to 5 cups sprouted whole wheat flour

Directions:
1. Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, and mix on low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball.
2. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rise until the dough doubles in size, about 2 hours.
3. Punch down the dough, form it into a loaf, and place it in a greased loaf pan or baking sheet. Cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel, and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned.

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Penne con Salsiccia

This pasta is one of my favorite ways to use up some of the arugula that’s coming in from the garden. And my kids will pretty much inhale anything with sausage! I’m not sure who to credit for this recipe- I clipped it from the Kansas City Star about five years ago.

Penne con Salsiccia
makes about six servings

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
4 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
16 ounces tomatoes, drained and chopped
ground pepper and salt to taste
1 pound penne pasta (I use the Jovial brand)
4 bunches arugula, rinsed and drained
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:
1. In a large skillet, heat three tablespoons olive oil on medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the chili flakes and sausage and cook until the sausage in nicely browned.
2. Add garlic, cook one minute more. Add vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan.
3. Cook several minutes until the vinegar becomes syrupy. Add tomatoes, cook another 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well, add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and toss. Add sauce from skillet; toss well. Add arugula; toss. Serve with grated cheese.

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Fourth of July

We had a fun and festive Fourth of July! Even Harry dog got a Fourth of July handkerchief!
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We had some fun Fourth of July snacks!

Red, white, and blue fruit salsa with star shaped cinnamon tortilla chips.
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Can you see Lainie’s hand reaching out to grab a watermelon star with provolone and blueberries?
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The kids enjoyed their strawberry smoothies- strawberries, yogurt, apple juice and honey!
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And of course, how can you have the Fourth of July without sparkler candles?
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This year, Lainie was old enough to compete in the annual Fourth of July Family Olympics and boy, was she excited!
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I can always count on my nephew to do a few photo bombs!
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The water ballon toss.
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But the real crowd pleaser was the sunflower seed spitting contest.

Lainie gave it her best, but Kate was the champion at shooting baskets.

Balancing a slippery piece of ice on a spoon while running is tricky. . .
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Especially when your baby sister is really good at it!
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And the final event was a relay race with American flags. Good job girls!

The champions receive their medals!
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And the boys knew just what to do with the leftover water balloons.
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Hope you had a great Fourth of July!

How to Make Kombucha: Part 2

Okay, now that you have your SCOBY, it’s time to make some kombucha!

Kombucha
this recipe will make about a gallon

Ingredients:
- 13-14 cups of filtered water
- 8 black tea bags
- 1 cup of sugar (yep, this uses sugar but the culture consumes the sugar)
- 2 cups of starter tea (kombucha from previous batch or if this is your first batch, white distilled vinegar can also be used)

Directions:
1. Boil the water and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Add the tea bags and steep (I leave mine in for about 10 minutes). Remove tea bags and allow the tea to completely cool. This will likely take a few hours!
2. Pour the sweetened tea into a clean brewing container- an empty gallon size glass mayonnaise jar works great! Add the starter tea or vinegar to the sweetened tea. Add the SCOBY to the tea.
3. Cover the jar with a tight weave cloth and secure with a rubber band.
4. Let it sit for at least five days, up to 30 days. I have found that with the warmer temps, the solution gets a bit tart or vinegary tasting if I go longer than about 10 days. Strain out the SCOBY and your kombucha is ready to go!

A few tips:
- Make sure all of your equipment and utensils are very clean!
- If you are culturing other products (like kefir or sourdough) keep them a few feet from each other so they don’t cross-contaminate.
- My husband likes his kombucha plain, but the kids and I like it flavored. There are lots of ways to do this but the simplest way it to pour the kombucha into heavy duty bottles like this along with a few tablespoons of fruit juice and let it sit at room temperature for a few days (no more than a week). BE CAREFUL! The kombucha can get really carbonated so use heavyweight bottles, leave extra room at the top of the bottle, and open it over a sink. Our favorite so far is 1 tablespoon of cherry juice concentrate. More ideas on flavorings here- scroll down to the bottom and look under recipes.
- If you see mold on your SCOBY or in your kombucha, discard the whole batch including the SCOBY and start over. More troubleshooting tips here.

Hope you enjoy your energizing, tasty, and inexpensive kombucha!
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How to Make Kombucha: Part 1

Kombucha is one of those great things that tastes great AND it’s good for you. It’s also a great substitute if you are trying to give up soda. Here’s more about some of the health benefits of kombucha. The only problem with kombucha is how much it costs to buy it! It can cost up to $3.50 per bottle! But the good news is that it is inexpensive and easy to make your own. To get started on fermenting your own tea, you need a kombucha culture also known as a SCOBY which is an abbreviation for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. There are several ways to get started with a SCOBY.

1. When I first started making kombucha, I ordered a a dehydrated SCOBY from Cultures for Health. It takes about 30 days to rehydrate the SCOBY and to get started on your first batch. Mine worked great for the first few batches, but unfortunately I had a batch get moldy so I had to throw everything out. I didn’t want to wait to get another SCOBY in the mail and rehydrate it, so I looked for some other options!

2. You can also take a “baby” SCOBY from someone else that makes kombucha- as you continue to make batches, the SCOBY will keep making more and more SCOBY’s! Although it can be a little tricky to find very many other people who make kombucha. But if you live near me I would be happy to share one with you.

3. The final option is to grow your own SCOBY which it the option I went with the second time around. It doesn’t always work but was much faster than ordering another dehydrated one! I took this method from the Food Renegade blog.

How to Make a SCOBY

Ingredients:
1 bottle of plain kombucha
1 glass jar
1 kitchen towel
1 rubber band
1 cup of room temperature sweetened (about 1 tablespoon of sugar to one cup of tea) tea made with filtered water

Directions:
1. Pour the sweetened tea and kombucha into the glass jar, cover with the kitchen towel (secure with a rubber band to make sure no bugs get in) and that’s it! Over time, a thin film should start to form over the top of the liquid. As it sits, it will continue to get thicker and thicker. Once the SCOBY is about a 1/4 inch thick, it should be ready to make your very own kombucha! There can be a lot of variation in this process and it’s possible that one will not grow but I had success on my first try- it took about 2 weeks to get a usable SCOBY. No joke- they are weird and gross looking but necessary for making kombucha.

Here’s how it looks after a couple days- you can see a jelly like substance starting to form in the corner.
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And a fully developed SCOBY.
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And next time- how to use the SCOBY to make your own kombucha!

Honey-Orange Chicken Drumsticks

This is a great dinner recipe to convince your kids or others in your family that healthy, real food can taste fantastic! My whole family loved this recipe from Eating Well magazine.

Honey-Orange Chicken Drumsticks
serves 6

Ingredients:
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
12 medium drumsticks (3-3 1/2 pounds), skin removed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Directions:
1. Combine honey, orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl.
2. Coat a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker with olive oil. Add drumsticks, pour in the sauce, and mix to coat. Cover and cook about 2-3 hours on high or 4 hours on low.
3. Transfer the drumsticks to a bowl. Very carefully pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a medium skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced and syrupy, 10-15 minutes. Pour the sauce over the drumsticks and stir to coat. Serve sprinkled with cilantro and sesame seeds.

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A Trip to the Zoo

Of course we had to go to the zoo while we were in Omaha! I already posted a bunch of pictures of this zoo from our trip last year but I couldn’t help myself- these animals are so cool!

It was pouring all morning, but there was plenty to keep us busy inside.

This picture makes me laugh- such goofy boys!
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These penguins wouldn’t stop photo bombing us.

This guy could use a shave.
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So weird and cool.


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And my very favorite- this huge sea turtle.
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A little more tropical location.


A face only a mama bear could love.
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We spent the next morning in the hotel pool and of course had to make a stop at Ted and Wally’s for some homemade ice cream- homemade ice cream made with quality ingredients and with dairy free and sugar free (they use organic blue agave) options.
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And the highlight of Lainie’s trip? Meeting these police horses and getting to pet them right before we drove back home.

And of course, there was that very special moment when we got home and I unpacked the suitcases only to find all the clean underwear I packed for one of the boys still in the pocket of the suitcase. Yep, same pair of undies all three days we were there. Gotta love boys.
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Beautiful Omaha

Now that our youngest it two, we decided it was time to take our first family vacation with just the five of us. We didn’t get too ambitious- a weekend trip to Omaha, a 3 hour drive from home! :) But we had an amazing time. Omaha is beautiful!

Our first day there, we went to the Heartland of America Park, right next to Old Market, a beautiful part of Omaha full of old brick buildings and cobblestone streets. We took a walk a around the lake and saw lots of baby ducks and eggs for Lainie to ohh and ahh over.


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The fountain in the middle of the lake is awesome- 300 hundred feet high!
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And even after the long drive and spending the afternoon at the park, we still braved taking the kiddos out to eat. The beauty of eating outside in the Old Market area? So much to look at! Between the magicians, horses, guys with parrots on their shoulder, etc. they were way too entertained to misbehave. . . mostly.

Even this squirrelly girl.


And after dinner, we enjoyed walking through Old Market and downtown Omaha. So pretty!


And fun for little people too!


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Thanks for letting me share some vacation pictures!

Eight Reasons to Love 9Round

If I wasnt so tired from my workout today, I would have thought of NINE reasons to love 9Round. :) I first started at 9Round with a one month trial through Groupon (I go to the Overland Park location) but am still going three months later. 9Round is a fitness center with a kickboxing focus- there are 9 separate “rounds” or stations with a different combination of exercises each day. So here’s why I keep going back!

1. There are no set class times. You can go anytime they are open and you will get started on a station and work your way through all 9 stations. This works great for me since our schedule is always changing with the kid’s sports and activities.

2. I feel comfortable. I’m not a big fan of working out in front of people and I’m an introvert but I feel very comfortable here. Everyone is busy at their own station and no one is paying attention to how awkward I look! And for an added bonus, the lights are kept low.

3. Even uncoordinated people like me can work out here. There is always a trainer there and they show you what to do at each station. If you are one of those people that can watch someone do something and then easily repeat it, good for you! If not, and you have to ask them to show you something two or three times, I promise they won’t make fun of you.

4. I’m still running a few days a week (just signed up for the Plaza 10k- ahhhh!) but I really like how I can get a great full body workout here- no more jiggly mom arms! Even my Superman husband thought it was a great workout! But not to worry- I have seen men and women of all ages and fitness levels working out here- everyone is welcome.

5. It’s only 30 minutes! It’s always hard for a mom to find time to workout but most of us can squeeze in 30 minutes a couple times a week. And I even brought my kids with me once- after seeing me kick and punch for 30 minutes, they were very well behaved for the rest of the day!

6. The trainers are nice. They don’t yell or get in your face, but they do encourage you to do your best. And I’m not married to them so it makes doing what they tell me a lot easier (sorry honey!)

7. The workouts change every day so I never get bored. My favorite stations involve punching and kicking. :) I typically go three days a week but the membership fee allows unlimited classes. Apparently there are people that go through all nine rounds more than once a day- I don’t know who those people are but they must be crazy!

8. They have a monthly membership option. The cheapest way to go is to do an annual membership but if you aren’t sure it will work for you for an entire year, you can always just do the month to month option.

The first class is always free so if anyone wants to try it out let me know- I would love to have a friend come with me!

Here’s my pink boxing gloves. :)
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And a look at a few of the stations-