Make Your Own Foaming Hand Soap!

This tip is a real winner: You can make your own foaming soap in about one minute by mixing just two ingredients.  Foaming soap will save you a lot of money because you’ll need less soap to get clean.  Refilling your foamer will save even more money and reduce the packaging you discard.  You can use plant-based soap, which is better for the environment and probably better for your health than soap made from petroleum distillates and undisclosed chemicals, without breaking your budget.  You can choose whatever scent you like!

This is not a sponsored post.  I’m recommending two specific products (a foamer and a soap) that have worked really well for me for several years.  However, if you already have a soap foamer and a plant-based liquid soap, try them together!  I’ve used several brands of soap and never found one that didn’t work.  You may need a higher ratio of soap to water if your soap is not as concentrated as Dr. Bronner’s.  Some soaps settle to the bottom overnight; just shake to re-mix. Read more of this post

All-Natural Vegetarian Non-Refrigerated Convenience Foods

This is not a sponsored post.  This is a recommendation of products I tried and liked.

Daniel and I try to make enough real, from-scratch, healthy food that I (working in an office) can take leftovers for my lunch every day and he (working at home) can get something ready to eat within a few minutes rather than spend time cooking at lunchtime.  It works out better at some times than others.  In the past year, with the additional distractions of getting our baby daughter ready to go each day, I’ve had more days when I didn’t have time to pack a lunch, couldn’t spare the attention to figure out what leftovers were available, or wasn’t able to carry a lunch because I was bringing something to work (like dish detergent) and there’s a limit to what I can carry along with Lydia and all her gear as we commute by bus!  I was grabbing Trader Joe’s meals from our freezer sometimes and eating in restaurants much more often than normal.  I like restaurants, but at $6-$9 per lunch, that gets expensive!

One day I was buying some milk for my coffee and mixed nuts for snacking at the CVS store half a block from work when I noticed a sale on foods in pouches and noticed that many of these were vegetarian foods.  I took a closer look and saw surprisingly unobjectionable ingredients.
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Read more of this post

A Real-Life Menu (early summer)

I was recently asked by a reader to share what one of my family’s meal plans really looks like. I’ve previously described how I plan the menu even though Daniel cooks our weeknight meals, how from June through November I’m planning around the vegetables we receive from our share in a local organic farm, how I write the menu a few days at a time on a sheet of scrap paper held up with magnets on our steel kitchen cabinet door, and how each of the multi-week menus I’ve posted is based on the weeks that fit on one sheet of paper…but when I write those menu posts, I write out a lot of details about what we ate and why. My actual instructions to Daniel must be much briefer, to fit 3 or 4 weeks on a page–what do they look like?

Well, here you go! Since you’re not Daniel (who isn’t a mind-reader, but after being happily unmarried for 21 years we do think along the same lines) I’ll explain the things that I see need explanation, and I’ll be happy to do more explaining in the comments if you have questions! Recipe links are at the bottom. Read more…

Top 3 Veggie Burger Recipes

Daniel and I have tried dozens of varieties of veggie burgers in the past 15 years or so, since they started appearing in stores and restaurants.  We gave up meat for Lent in 2002, and since then we’ve never gone back to eating as much meat as we used to eat.  In particular, we really don’t eat hamburgers anymore, after learning that grinding meat causes any bacteria on the surface to be distributed throughout the meat and that ground beef and chicken are the meats with the highest risk of food poisoning.  But we do like to eat a tasty chunk of protein on a bun with ketchup and pickles!  We buy frozen veggie burgers sometimes, but they tend to cost around a dollar per patty, and they’re packed in plastic, and they’ve been shipped across the continent in a freezer truck, and many of them feature large amounts of genetically modified, isolated soy protein.

Here are our 3 favorite recipes for homemade veggie burgers, and then some tips on how to cook and freeze them.  All these recipes work well for making “meatballs” or nuggets instead of full-size burgers, if you prefer. Read more…

My Father Taught Me How to Be a Working Mother

When I was born, my mother quit her paying job so she could be home with me.  She did not take another job until I was almost twelve years old.

I resumed working outside the home when each of my children was twelve weeks old.  After Nicholas was born, I went back part-time and later gradually increased my working hours until I was back to 40 hours a week when he was four years old.  After Lydia was born (when Nicholas was nine years old), I returned to my job full-time.  It isn’t easy!  Forty hours, plus commuting time, is a long time to be away from home even when you’re only taking care of yourself; when you have young children, it’s a time-management struggle as well as an emotional struggle over being apart from the kids so much.  My mother–who’s been a great role model to me for things like breastfeeding, intelligent discipline, and making healthy food–was not much help as I figured out how to balance parenthood with employment.  It’s my father whose example has really helped me understand what’s important and where to cut myself some slack.

Oddly enough, it was an insensitive comment my father made that led me to realize his value as a role model for me. Read more of this post

Technology to Help You Be Energy Efficient and Environmentally Friendly This Summer

This is a guest post by Maria Ramos, who offered to share her research on these new technologies with my readers.  I’m not a smartphone user myself and don’t carry any other high-tech device routinely, which is one way to conserve energy…but if you’re already carrying a device or you’re considering getting one for other reasons, adding energy efficiency to its tasks is a great idea!  Also, some of these products are things you set up in your home that don’t require a “smart” device to control them.  It’s interesting to learn what’s new in climate control!

Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication.  She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.

With summer just around the corner, many people expect to use their air conditioners heavily in order to stay cool during sweltering days. Doing so, however, traditionally consumes a lot of electricity, costing a pretty penny and harming the natural environment. This situation is changing with the development of new technological products that aim to cut energy consumption with consequent benefits both to the earth’s ecology and consumers’ pocketbooks.

The Apple Watch and HomeKit app aim to make it easy to control devices from different manufacturers from a single interface. As long as they use compatible products in their homes, people will be able to adjust their thermostats, dim and raise lighting levels and manage a lot of other functions right from their Watches. They can thus turn off appliances when they don’t need to use them, reducing energy consumption. Many smart home devices from different producers haven’t worked well together in the past, but now they’re being brought together through the HomeKit interface.

Those who are put off by the Apple Watch’s high price, starting at $349, may be interested in the Misfit Flash fitness band, which only costs $50. Although it’s primarily designed to help users exercise more efficiently, Misfit has extended its capabilities through partnerships with other companies. Users can use the Flash to control thermostat equipment from Nest, smart home systems from Logitech, and many other devices. With the right products from partner firms, users of the Flash will be able to lower their energy usage by finely controlling the performance of their home equipment. Read more…

Book Reviews: Mysteries and Mars

These aren’t the only books I’ve read in the past few months, but I noticed two themes that led me to group these reviews together.

A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin

P1020132This classic mystery was written in 1953, and reading it in the original edition (courtesy of Daniel’s mother) helped me get into the mood.  I’ve never seen either of the two film versions, which is good: This story is best if you have no idea what to expect from it, and some of the twists just simply wouldn’t work if you could see who’s who rather than relying on the viewpoint characters’ perceptions.  I won’t give away the plot except to say that you may want to avoid this one if you’re pregnant or have a new boyfriend.  It’s really fantastically written, with plenty of clever tricks that prevent you from noticing that you’re making assumptions until some of those assumptions are suddenly overturned.

Although the story is set on Earth and all characters are humans, the book will be enjoyed by readers from all worlds, as indicated by this symbol on the cover of the Inner Sanctum Mysteries hardcover. Read more of this post

Grildebeen Burgers (homemade veggie burgers)

Most supermarkets these days sell convenient frozen veggie burgers.  We’ve eaten a lot of these, and most of them are quite tasty and nutritious.  But they tend to cost around a dollar per patty, and they’re packed in plastic, and they’ve been shipped across the continent in a freezer truck, and many of them feature large amounts of genetically modified, isolated soy protein.

This is one recipe for homemade veggie burgers that we really like.  Four years ago, I explained how we were still calling them by the original recipe’s name even though it didn’t make sense with our modification of the cooking instructions…and how that made me think of a future animal, the Grildebeest.  In the comments, my brother asked if we’d now be calling the burgers Grildebeens.  Ultimately, yes, we modified the recipe to be a little more to our taste, and we are still making these burgers regularly and calling them Grildebeen Burgers.  So here’s our recipe! Read more of this post

‘Becca Misinterprets the Signs

After a discouraging morning at work, I journeyed to a slightly farther-away restaurant than usual, in search of an invigorating lunch.  (By this I mean that they have free refills on coffee.)  After eating, feeling much perkier, I noticed for the first time that one of this restaurant’s signs is missing a letter, so that it was directing me to The Restooms.

I was happily distracted from the boring biological activities of the next two minutes by imagining my vacation to The Restooms.  These must be a series of interconnected caves of unusual smoothness and beauty, furnished with embroidered silk pillows for lounging.  I think they’re in North Africa somewhere.  I felt more relaxed just imagining being there.

Then, on my way back toward work, I noticed a new restaurant with the highly disturbing name of Chick’n Bubbly.  Their signature dish must be horribly fermented chicken–no, maybe it’s one of those highly engineered vegan chick’n products made of genetically modified soybeans or filamentous fungus.  As I drew closer, I could read smaller words on the sign, which explained that this establishment offers “chicken bites & bubble tea.”  So you go in there to get a bubble tea, and a chicken bites you.  Fun for the whole family!

Earth is quite an entertaining place if you just read the signs and let your caffeine-fueled mind roam freely.

DIY Deodorant: Pros and Cons

Last September, I reblogged The Zero-Waste Chef’s post about how to make your own deodorant and hoped that having it on my own site would motivate me to try this handy do-it-yourself option.  I actually did get around to it within a few weeks…creating deodorant that then became unusable for me for months.  It wasn’t until this spring that I was able to give it a fair trial.  Now I can tell you what’s good about it and what isn’t.

DIY Deodorant ingredients

The ingredients: coconut oil, baking soda, corn starch, and essential oil. Image from The Zero Waste Chef.

The Good Things:

  • It works!!!
  • It truly was easy to make and took me just a few minutes.  Combining the ingredients was soothing and satisfying.
  • It hasn’t made grease stains or white marks on any of my clothing.
  • It’s less expensive than buying natural deodorant, which is $5-$7 in my area.  The ingredients for a baby-food jar full of DIY Deodorant, which gives approximately the same number of applications as a stick of solid deodorant, cost less than $1.  It’s hard to find even a nasty-chemical-filled deodorant for $1 these days.
  • It does not have a plastic package that will never biodegrade and is made from irreplaceable natural resources.

The Bad Things:

  • It really needs to be stored at a room temperature of approximately 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit.  Within two days after the time when I happened to make my DIY Deodorant, my house settled down to its winter temperature, which maxes out at 70 degrees on the thermostat but is a bit colder (66? 67?) up in my bedroom where I keep and use my deodorant.  The coconut oil hardened so that I had a jar of solid stuff impenetrable to my fingertips.  I considered using some kind of tool to scrape out each dose, but that would be really annoying–and given that I apply deodorant while I’m half-conscious and often stepping over a crawling baby, there was a high risk of flipping bits of this oily stuff all over the room!  I ended up deciding to leave it alone until the weather got warmer.  I live in Pennsylvania.  This deodorant was unusable for seven months.  And within a few weeks after it finally became scoopable, we had a 90-degree day when we left the drapes open so that the bedroom heated up, causing the coconut oil to become liquid so that the DIY Deodorant was unscoopable in a different way: too drippy!  (It was fine again the next day, though, and didn’t even need re-mixing.)  The Zero Waste Chef lives in central California, where the weather is more consistent, and I think that’s a big reason why this stuff works so well for her.
  • You need to wash your hands after applying it, or at least wipe them hard on something that you don’t mind grease-staining.  I’m not thrilled with adding this extra step to my morning routine.
  • If you drop a bit of the deodorant–which is easy to do because it’s crumbly–it will leave an oil spot.  Annoying.  Especially on paper items, a tiny bit of coconut oil can make a big, obvious grease stain.

Overall, I think I will keep using this stuff until it’s gone and consider making more for late-spring-through-early-fall-except-on-very-hot-days use, but for most of the year I’m going to stick with Tom’s of Maine long-lasting natural deodorant.  It works well for me, it’s easy to use, the fragrances are pleasant and not too strong, the price is acceptable with coupons and sales frequently available, and it’s sold in many stores that are convenient for me.  Daniel and I both have been using Tom’s deodorant for about ten years now.  We do not recommend Tom’s antiperspirant, and we have not liked any other brand of store-bought natural deodorant that we’ve tried.  Tom’s deodorant is available from ePantry for only $5.89; click here to learn more about ePantry and get a special deal!

If you live in a consistently warmish climate, though, DIY Deodorant may be all you need!  Give it a try!

UPDATE: Readers inform me that blending beeswax into your DIY Deodorant makes it more stable in changing temperatures, and you can even refill a twist-up deodorant container with it!  See the comments below for information and links.

Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more great tips.  Visit Real Food Friday for more things (mostly edibles!) that you can make from food ingredients.

If you’d like to join ePantry…

…then click here to get $10 off your first order and a free organic soy candle!  This link will also show ePantry that I referred you so that I’ll get a credit with them–this week (May 24-31) I get double credit.  ePantry is a company that sells plant-based and recycled cleaning and hygiene products in a “subscription” format designed to deliver things just when you need them.  Consider whether a subscription service for buying environmentally friendly products is right for you, and learn more about ePantry and selected products from my review. I got one of those soy candles as a bonus in my last order.  It’s nice: smells good, not too smoky, and it’s in a glass jar so it doesn’t drip and doesn’t burn off too fast.  It’s made in USA of organic soybeans.  If you like candles but have been using the petroleum kind, try a soy candle!  They last a long time: This one says its 8 ounces of wax will burn for 70 hours, and the two smaller soy candles (different brand) that I got as baby shower gifts more than a year ago, and have used extensively, still have some wax left.

If you read my earlier articles when they were first published, you missed this update: ePantry responded to my concern about their office dogs:

I couldn’t help but notice your concern over the dogs in our office.
I want to let you know that there is no need to worry about dogs being near
your shipments :) Though we do have dogs in the office, 100% of our order
fulfillment is done in our warehouse, 20 minutes away from the office.

This is good news for me because my dog allergy is sometimes severe enough to be triggered by something that spent time near a dog a few days ago.  I hadn’t had any problem with my ePantry items, but it’s good to be reassured that this will not be an issue.

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop and Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more great household tips!

Our resilient ozone: When science spoke and we listened

'Becca:

The healing of our ozone layer is a great example of what Earthlings can do when we admit our mistakes and change course!

Originally posted on I'm not a hippie but...:

In the 1980’s scientists discovered the devastating effect we were having on our ozone layer. By using various chemicals in manufacturing, and particularly in aerosols, we were inadvertently chipping away at our precious shield from the worst of the sun’s damaging radiation. Wasting no time, these savvy scientists educated us as to the importance of the ozone layer and warned us that its existence was threatened if we did not act.

Put aside for a minute the hilarious image of an 80’s scientist; yes, they existed. It wasn’t all crimped hair and leg warmers, some people were off being intelligent and learning things! Thank God for these serious souls too, because without them we likely would have happily continued to spray away our entire protective coating by now.

Fortunately, we didn’t continue living in ignorance. We were alerted to our unwittingly destructive behaviour and could therefore make the necessary changes in order to save our skins (literally).

And…

View original 264 more words

Eco-Friendly Building Materials for Your Home

This is a guest post from the staff of Modernize.com, a site for home ideas and inspiration.  The Earthling’s Handbook is not affiliated with any of the businesses whose products are linked here, and the editors of The Earthling’s Handbook have not used any of these products in our own home–but we strongly encourage recycling and thinking green when you improve your home! By Jane Blanchard

new home construction

Image via Flickr

When you’re passionate about improving the environment, everything you do should be sustainable. If you’re in the market to build a new home or make improvements on an existing one, there are lots of different materials that you can use that are eco-friendly. Whether you plan on adding a new recycled rubber roof to an existing home or using recycled steel within your new construction, these materials are great places to begin when looking for eco-friendly building material options.

Recycled Steel

Using recycled steel in the construction of your home is one of the simplest ways to be eco-friendly. Steel is one of the most recycled materials in the world, and in 2008, 97% of it was recycled, according to Wikipedia. Chances are, the steel you plan on using for your home already contains some recycled material. Read more of this post

Ginger Black Bean Soup (slow cooker)

Meatless MondayWe got a slow cooker a little over a year ago, and we like it a lot!  It’s a great way to make a lot of food without having to stand over it stirring, which is a relief in hot weather and convenient anytime.  So far, we’ve only made other people’s recipes, as we develop our sense of what ingredients in what proportions will become food (rather than a watery mess or a blackened sludge).

This recipe is merely a change of seasoning for the Vegan Black Bean Soup recipe from Stuffed Veggies.  We made that soup three times and liked it, but the Mexican flavor was too similar to the Bean Burritos and Mexican Pizza that are staples in our diet.  This variation turned out to be just what we wanted!

To make a big pot of soup (8-10 bowls) you will need: Read more of this post

ePantry and Earth-friendly Cleaning Product Reviews

UPDATE: If you decide to join ePantry, click here to save $10 on your first order and get a free soy candle! This is an affiliate link that will give me a discount, too–at no cost to you.  As noted below, this was NOT a sponsored post; ePantry encouraged me to sign up as an affiliate after they read this post.

Last week, I explained some things to consider before subscribing to household product deliveries.  Now I’m going to tell you about my experience with one particular subscription service and the specific products I bought from them.  This is not a sponsored post.  Aside from the special offer of $10 discount plus a free bottle of dish detergent, I received no special consideration from ePantry or any of the product manufacturers, and I did not tell them I was going to write a review.  After evaluating each product, I’ll tell you what else I recommend in this category–not all products are available through ePantry. I have been using Earth-friendly cleaning products since 1997, so I’ve tried a lot of them.  If you’re just starting to switch from conventional cleaning products to plant-based ones, I hope to help you choose cleaners you’ll like!

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This is my second ePantry order. Left to right: Method foaming hand wash, Yes To hand soap, Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent, Seventh Generation toilet bowl cleaner, Method antibacterial cleaner, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day multi-surface cleaner. In the jar in front is a soy candle that was my free bonus item.

I first heard of ePantry from a blog that was raving about it and offering a special introductory offer.  My first thought was that I don’t need to subscribe to green products because I’m able to buy them by the case to save money or to buy them in my local stores when I’m there buying groceries anyway.  Still, I spent some time looking around ePantry’s site.  Most of the products they carry are just a few brands–Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, and Method–all of which I can buy at Target, for gosh sakes; they didn’t have the more interesting brands that my local crunchy hippie store sells, let alone anything I’d have to buy by mail.  Prices were okay but not all that exciting.  Oh well.  I decided it wasn’t for me, but I was glad that other households who don’t shop in crunchy hippie stores would be using green products for more of their cleaning because they could get them so conveniently (which seemed to be the gist of the comments on that blog).

Four months later, I saw the same special offer on Jaimie Ramsey’s blog, and this time I took it.  Why?  Well, our springtime calendar was beginning to fill up with special events, and when that happens, I have to scale back the grocery shopping, planning menus based on what we have in the pantry supplemented with strategic forays to stores when Daniel or I have time to get there–it’s not possible to time our shopping as well as we normally do, and that can mean running out of something.  Also, I realized that although we can buy Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and Method products at Target, we hadn’t actually gotten around to trying any of those products except Method foaming hand soap.  (Seventh Generation, on the other hand, is a brand we’ve bought frequently since 1997; we’ve tried most of their products.)  I decided to use ePantry’s special offer as an affordable way to motivate myself to write some product reviews!

First, here are the pros and cons of the ePantry service, in my opinion. Read more of this post

A Robot’s Cookbook, Chapter 2

See Chapter 1 for explanation of this unusual recipe collection.

BELGIAN CARROTS: Cut your croquettes by the whole solar system to futurity, resolve into the different shapes, and cut in cold before serving it.  Mix till it simmers in the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, sliced carrots, and chocolate for five minutes, while a few Brussels sprouts boil some parsley. Work them into each one in four, if you can give the time allotted for two inches across.

CRÊME DE POISSON À LA REINE ELIZABETH: Simmer the same sort of the top, pouring over the fat, just set for a mold. Put a slice of brandy and a layer of gelatine (melted). Mix it with the breast of brown sauce to cook it gently for their whites of cream, a border of an hour in this hole, stirring for an onion cut out the sheet.

SOUFFLÉ: Mince some rice flour; you can. Put into pieces from the top of an hour. Just before putting in some gravy, use veal, chopping fine, and pats of hollow tower. Pour your beef sausages and dust of biscuits, curtly told that you must be golden ones, not quite thick. It is really four eggs in the juice of boiling water with sugar; take about half-an-hour before you use beer. Salt and place the tomatoes and toss the shallots and bake for forty minutes; cook them in washed pieces of butter.

CUCUMBERS AND CHEESE SOUFFLÉ: This is to form a sprig of salt. Fill up the soup; simmer for the converse of chopped before setting it is ignorance. Fork the sauce when you have only just three pounds of mashed potatoes. Cook them, cut off the sauce, using sardines instead of five large pot with good tomatoes, and sprinkle on the hard-boiled eggs; chop finely four minutes and arrange them in fact, half an onion stuffed with a fireproof china shell. Roll each guest.  Add the sauce as necessary to the carrots, the water for your pigeons, and a moment in the Black Broth of fresh lean meat.

STUFFED CARROTS: Fry two half-cases from whites. Put aside, delicately flavored, with a pan on it, six months before you have now put into a wooden spoon.  Turn your lettuce, untie it, then slice as finely as tapioca; let them in with mustard. Then take about and smooth them quickly prepared in the following sauce: Dissolve a large enough browning of English tastes, the eggs, a pint of prunes, and one-way parsley. Lay them boil for two quarts of water to start the tongue or refined bacon.

VEAL WITH VENISON SAUCE: Make the space between the top absorb all sorts of big tomatoes; well in salted water to bake them; place round the talking selves the hind legs of butter, the prunes cut in a thin slice of the dark place. Read more of this post

Will a household products subscription help YOU save the earth?

A household products subscription is an arrangement by which a company mails you certain items–like soap, toilet paper, and laundry detergent–on a regular basis.  A number of companies have started offering this service recently.  Some of them only sell environmentally preferable products like plant-based detergents and recycled paper.  Others offer these items among a wide range of products.  Will subscribing to earth-friendly products delivered to your door help you to reduce your environmental impact?

Well, it depends!  Here are some questions to consider.

Would this get you to change to greener products than you’ve been using?  If you’ve been washing your dishes in petroleum distillates because your local stores don’t carry plant-based dish detergent, then buying the green stuff would be an improvement.  But if a subscription just means buying by mail the same products you’ve been sticking into your cart as you walk through your local store buying milk and vegetables each week, then the subscription is actually worse for the environment because of the additional energy used to ship your package and deliver it to your home, on top of the energy you use going to and from the store. Read more of this post

Baby’s First Traffic Safety Lesson

Lydia is eleven months old.  Yesterday, we spent some time enjoying the beautiful spring weather in our small front yard.  Lydia studied the flowers.  She picked up dead leaves (functioning as mulch) and examined their lacy skeletons.  She gleefully wiggled her arms amid the arching green leaves of the daylilies coming up between our sidewalk and the neighbors’, and she pulled on some leaves to assess their strength and find the tearing point.

She also spent lots of time sitting or crawling on the sidewalk in front of our yard, soaking up sunshine, saying, “Hi!” to all passersby.  She toddled along next to our neighbors’ retaining wall, which is just the right height to lean her hands on.  Then she ventured across the sidewalk, looked over the curb, and began to reach for an interesting pebble in the gutter.

I said, “No!” and pulled her back.  She looked surprised.  But just then–perfect timing!–a car came rumbling along our brick-paved street.  “Stay out of the street.  The street is for cars,” I told her.  I pointed to the passing vehicle.  “Cars are big and fast.  We stay out of their way.”  She leaned over the curb again.  “No, the street is not for you.  The street is for cars.  The sidewalk is for people.  Stay on the sidewalk.”

I’m going to have to repeat this lesson a zillion times before she really understands–so let’s get started!  It’s complicated: The street is for cars, but when people get into cars we have to step into the street to get there.  The street is for cars, but people can walk across streets, following safety rules.  Lydia will have to learn that she can’t go into the street alone but can go with a taller person.  I know how to explain that.  But for now, I started with the lesson relevant to the present situation: Play on the sidewalk, not in the street.  A few repetitions did the trick for yesterday.  We’ll tell her again next time she approaches the curb. Read more of this post

Baked Tofu at The Purple Tulip

P1010891This recipe has been in development for more than three years.  Our son Nicholas first suggested it as part of a dish he wanted to serve in his pretend restaurant, The Purple Tulip.  It turned out very well that first time, but we had to make it several more times to be certain of the correct measurements and cooking technique . . . and we don’t eat tofu all that often, once or twice a month . . . and when we do eat tofu, there are several other recipes we like, especially Tangy Honey-Apricot Tofu . . . so it’s taken us a while to get in enough testing sessions to be confident of this recipe.

Baked Tofu is a protein you can serve in a rice bowl, in a wrap, on a salad, as a “meat” with side dishes, or whatever you like.  You can even eat cold or room-temperature leftovers in your packed lunch.  It has a firm, chewy texture and gets crisp at the edges.  The flavor of the sauce soaks in, making this a tasty, hearty food. At The Purple Tulip, we’ve served Baked Tofu in these two ways:

  • with thinly sliced apple and red pepper, wrapped in a whole-grain tortilla.  May also include lettuce and/or a thinly spread layer of beans sauteed with onions and mashed.
  • over rice, with kale and mushrooms sauteed in sesame oil, salt, and a little white pepper.  This is the version shown above, elegantly plated for me by Nicholas.  He prefers to eat his tofu separately from the vegetables, but he actually does eat those vegetables in decent quantity when they are prepared this way and served with Baked Tofu.

To make 6 servings, you will need: Read more…

10 Book Reviews by a 10-Year-Old

This is a guest post by Nicholas Efran.  His book reviews are a lot more succinct than his mom’s! If you want to know more about the books, you can ask Nicholas in the comments.

key:⭐️=1 star  🌜=1half star  😥=so sad  😠=makes me so mad  👎=thumbs down  🆒=cool book  💯=100

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

This is the story of kids who won a writing contest and got to go to the pre-opening of the new library before it opened to the public. They played many games there, but they found out that the last game they were going to play was “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library”. I don’t want to spoil too much of this book, as it is a good book, but I really recommend you read it—and there is a surprise at the end of the book!⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

Elephi, the Cat with the High IQ by Jean Stafford

Elephi is a cat who looks out his window one day and sees a little white car that a man is abandoning in the deep snow. He manages to get the little car into his owners’ apartment. He talks to this car—which I find a little strange, but things in stories can be personified. Eventually the car’s rightful owner comes back and everything is good.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Elizabeth Rew is a girl who discovers magic in a place you wouldn’t expect: The New York Circulating Material Repository, which is like a library of objects. She has adventures with her friends, and they discover who is working with bad or dark magic.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander

We got this book at the library book sale, and since it was about a cat I thought I would like it—but I was almost 💯% wrong. 😠  The book is about a cat who can time-travel and has a strange white mark on his belly. Apparently the cat can talk to his owner, and the owner wasn’t surprised at all when the cat started talking, and apparently all cats can talk and time-travel. Instead of having nine lives, they can live nine lives in nine different time periods. The cat takes his owner places (I only got through two before I quit reading the book) and they have adventures, almost all of which involve getting kidnapped and taken away. Nothing seemed to be explained enough, and their adventures seemed quite repetitive.🌜👎

Redwall by Brian Jacques

This book involved a lot of fighting and things that I thought were just terribly sad, like a mouse and his family getting trapped and forced to do things and being threatened with death.😥  Apparently, when the mice found a fox that was on their side lying injured, they just took him inside their castle, and he could walk up their stairs with no difficulty, which seems strange because mice are a lot smaller than foxes.⭐️⭐️🌜👎

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

This was an extremely good book with many twists and turns in the plot. I really enjoyed reading it, although I think it was a little strange and hard to understand.  Mr. Westing chooses his heirs, and his will describes things they’re going to do as it’s being read. He gives them a puzzle to solve that leads them to the name of his murderer. There are many explosions, and overall I give this book⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

I really enjoyed this book. I remember my dad tried to read it to me when I was about 5, but I didn’t remember any of it, so I wanted to read it again. Claudia and her brother Jamie run away from home to live in the art museum in Manhattan, where they have adventures trying to figure out who made a statue called Angel.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Miranda had a friend named Sal.  However, another boy punched Sal—apparently just to see what would happen.  Every day when Miranda walks home from school, she has to pass the laughing man, a homeless guy who seems kind of crazy.  It’s all explained in the end, but I don’t want to ruin it!  This is a very interesting book, as it involves time travel, and I give it⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

Ghost Cat by Helen Rushmore

Ghost Cat is a book about a girl named Glory who finds a cat she thinks is a ghost, although she doesn’t really believe in ghosts; however, the legend said there was a ghost who looked like the cat.   Overall, I think this was a very good book, and I think you should read it.  I would give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer

The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer is a book about a family who moves into the country in their family’s trolley car.  They had a lot of fun after finding out that they had neighbors who were very nice.  They grow a garden and have a small farm and have other cool adventures.  I liked this book, and overall I would give it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🆒

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