Zero Calorie Salad Dressing [for hot sauce lovers]

Zero Calorie Salad Dressing [for hot sauce lovers]

It’s been a while…but I’m back for the moment to tell you about a salad dressing I made that has practically no calories at all. [To be technical, all four ingredients in this dressing have 0 calories on the label, but there very well may be a trace calorie or two 🤷‍♀️.]

Look, finding salad dressings that are even low calorie is a challenge, so this, my friends is a near miracle. The only catch is, in order to like this dressing, you’ll need to love hot sauce…

I’m going to tell you all about it, but first, a rant about salads…

Salad Rant

I have been extolling the virtues of salads since I began this blog five years ago. [In fact, I just searched through google photos for a picture of salad and I think I actually have more photos of salads than I have of my own face.] Personally, I eat a fresh vegetable salad almost every day. The only problem with a salad [besides potentially out of season and pesticide ridden produce] is the calorie bomb usually found in the dressing.

For the past ten years, I have eaten my salad with oil and vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon. And that is all well and good, but if I want to load my salad with chick peas and avocado AND a tablespoon of EVOO [120 kcals, btw], well, that adds up. So, sometimes I want something a little lighter and I’ll tell you all about it, but first, a caveat about extra virgin olive oil.

EVOO Caveat

I am in NO WAY saying that EVOO is unhealthy or that you shouldn’t eat it. Quite the contrary. Extra virgin olive oil is wonderful for you — especially when it’s high quality and cold pressed and drizzled onto a fresh veggie salad [or drizzled raw on anything really]. So adding it to salad is a healthful and filling choice [due largely to the healthy fats in EVOO]. In fact, you can add that drizzle of olive oil right along with this salad dressing if you wish.

I personally, consume A LOT of olive oil and use it in many, many dishes. So sometimes I skip it in my salad. No biggie.

Now, on to the salad dressing…but first, the story of my inspiration.

Story of Inspiration

I was riding my stationary bike in the basement the other day and following along on an absolutely BRUTAL HIIT ride with my favorite Peloton coach, Robin Arzón, when she said “I use hot sauce for salad dressing.” She was meaning this metaphorically, I think, since hot sauce is her favorite analogy for ridiculously high resistance on the exercise bike, but I thought to myself…I would like to have hot sauce as a salad dressing. That sounds delicious.

I finished the ride first, but then I immediately googled “hot sauce salad dressing recipe.” Nada. I mean, I found some spicy Mayo recipes [that ain’t going to work] and I found some spicy honey mustard recipes [nope], but nothing like what I was looking for. I wanted something that tasted like Franks RedHot, but was not just plain ol’ RedHot, which would maybe be a little too spicy even for me. [And ya’ll, I LOVE spice.]

So, then I went into my kitchen and did a little mixing magic and voila! A hot sauce salad dressing.

None of these measurements are exact because mixing magic does not involve measuring things. Just throw some of these ingredients into a jar and shake. If you no likey, add some more of this or that and try again.

Ingredients: mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, lime juice.

Generally speaking, the ratio I use is about 2 parts mustard to 1 part vinegar [I’ve tried rice vinegar, white wine vinegar and red wine vinegar so far]. Then I add enough hot sauce to make it SPICY [and to prevent it from tasting like just mustard] and a few splashes of lime juice. Too spicy, add more lime juice. Too thin, add more mustard. Too thick, add more vinegar. Adjust per your personal tastes.

I for one LOVE hot sauce. I have been putting it on [or in] every savory thing I eat— except salads and I don’t really know why. I love this dressing so much and the fact that it happens to have no calories is just a bonus.

🙌

Alright, so if you like heat, try it out and lemme know what you think.

🌶🌶🌶

Karis

My Minimal Wardrobe [4 Years Later]

My Minimal Wardrobe [4 Years Later]

Today is my 35th birthday, and the 4th birthday of this blog. It’s also the 4th anniversary of my conversion to minimalism.

I began this blog with the [self-imposed] challenge to pair down my sizable wardrobe from 486 items to 175. At the end of the first year, my wardrobe was down to 149 items of clothing. I went another two years without buying any new clothes and now I only buy things when I need them… [well, not counting the Christmas onesie when I didn’t technically need but thoroughly enjoyed all winter].

Now, I know that 150 items of clothing doesn’t exactly sound minimal and many people live with much less. I hope to someday be among them. But right now, I have a small enough amount of clothing that losing one freaking tank top [my favorite one!!!!] is very noticeable [not to mention irritating]. Whereas before, I could have lost a shirt or pair of pants and probably not realized for very long time and even if I did, not cared because I had twenty-five replacements waiting in the wings, now when I lose something, I notice it immediately and have to decide if it’s something I need to replace [my only pair of jeans, for instance], or something to just forget.

Now that it’s been four years since I first downsized I thought this would be a good time to go back to the closet, do a recount and see if I’ve backslidden…

For reference, I keep all of my clothing in this one quarter of the double closet that I share with Brett. [He does use about half of the remaining closet space, but the rest is used for storage.]

Not a very fancy set up, but it works just fine.

I pulled out and organized all of the clothing in the drawers and then counted everything by category, added that to all the hanging clothes, and everything in the laundry and even included what I am wearing.

Here are the results. Drum roll, please.

🥁 🥁 🥁

Today, I have 112 items in my wardrobe. That’s including socks, underwear, bras, bathrobes, bathing suits, causal clothes, dress clothes, etc. [It does NOT include outerwear like coats and scarves or shoes.]

Wow. I’m quite surprised actually…I had thought that extra clothing was sneaking into my wardrobe via Christmas presents and free race t-shirts. But turns out I’ve been pretty diligent about the in-and-out rule.

Well, now that I’ve had four years to live with less clothes [I know, I know. I’m not living with as little as I could], here are some things I’ve learned.

What I’ve Learned

1. I’ve discovered what I like and what I don’t like. I don’t like to wear crew necks [unless it’s a workout shirt]. I have an incredibly small color range that I like to wear [see photo above], and honestly I’m ok with that. I LIVE for leggings with pockets. I prefer to be casual. I may have nine dresses in my closet, but I haven’t worn one in at least two years. I will always have more workout clothing than any other type of clothing. I found a bathing suit I love and I hope I love it forever because finding one is SO HARD.

2. My taste in clothing changes over time. This is probably obvious to most normal prosper, but I actually thought that once I have a t-shirt that I love, I will always love it. It will be my favorite until it literally falls apart. But, it turns out that for some reason I cannot ascertain, I don’t like the same things this summer that I did last summer. My favorite t-shirt from two summers ago just doesn’t fit me right anymore. The flannel button-down that I used to wear every day hasn’t moved from its hanger in two years.

🤷‍♀️

It’s so strange. I don’t believe my style is changing. Maybe it’s my changing body [which in all fairness hasn’t changed very much in the past two years]. But whatever the reason, I find myself gravitating to different things in my closet, which leads me to the second thing I’ve learned.

3. It’s ok to buy ethically sourced clothing. For a long time, I avoided buying clothing at all cost, wearing the same socks with holes in them for years [true story], but as I discovered that I didn’t really like some of the things in my wardrobe, I realized I wanted to buy a replacement. It was freeing to realize that I could replace it with something that I actually do like from an ethical source like a resale or consignment shop or form an ethical brand like Patagonia, which leads me to the third thing I’ve learned…

4. Where to buy ethical [and awesome] clothing. Since I’ve spent four years only buy ethical clothing, I’ve developed a pretty good list of go-to brands. I’ve shared them before, but now I want to share the ones I love the most.

  • Patagonia [for activewear and t-shirts and hoodies and everything else that they sell]
  • Boody [for activewear and basics]
  • Pact [for basics]
  • Naja [for intimates]
  • Local consignment/resale shop [for everything else]

5. The perfect size wardrobe is one where every item is loved and used regularly. There is no rule for how much clothing a person should or should not have. The only rule is that you love what you have and you actually use it! [Ok. It’s really more of a suggestion.] Clothes are meant to be worn, not gathering dust in a closet. Clothing uses a lot of human and natural resources in order to make it into our closets and we shouldn’t just piss on all that by never even so much as taking the tags off our recent “haul.” We have to be more intentional about what we purchase.

As Erin Loechner writes in Chasing Slow, “To shop consciously, we also must own consciously…Buy what you need. Need what you wear. Wear what you buy.” [This is not a recommendation of the book, which I hated…except for this quote.]

Well, thirty-five times I’ve been around the sun. It’s been a journey. I’m always learning and always growing and always trying to do better. This is one area that I need to continually work on. Consumerism is very sneaky in American society.

👀

As always, I welcome comments, criticisms and critiques. Drop ‘em in the comments below.

👗 👕 👖

Karis

Simplifying Parenting [Part 7: Children’s Chores]

Simplifying Parenting [Part 7: Children’s Chores]

You probably already know this about me, but I’m one of those people who LOVES a list. I make lists for everything: shopping list, grocery list, meal plan list, to-do list, daily habit list, bucket list, household projects list, school assignment check list, daily/weekly/monthly cleaning list, family birthdays list, reading list…even writing this list of lists has proven quite enjoyable for me [don’t judge].

Well, here’s another list that is a life-saver for parents [or at least it is for me]: the children’s chore list.

FINALLY! The kids are old enough to help with some of the work around the house. Giving your kids chores empower them to take responsibility, makes them feel important…and they may be less likely to throw their clothes on the floor if they know they will have to pick them up. But most of all, you’ll get some much needed HELP!!

My kids don’t particularly love doing chores, but they do love the feeling of being an integral part of the family and contributing in a meaningful way [and the allowance is nice too].

How to get kids to do chores

In order to give our kids a little motivation and make chores more fun, we use a two reward system: 1) weekly allowance and 2) a chore chart.

The weekly allowance isn’t really a result of the chores. We give them their allowance whether they do their chores are not. But on the flip side, the chores are not optional either. Chores are how we all contribute to the family and home. [And goddam it, there is no reason why I should be the only one doing them around here!!! Can I get an Amen?!]

As for the chore chart, this is a trick that I myself know and love [but I also read about in Atomic Habits by James Clear]. Checking something off a list is REWARDING. It feels SO GOOD! This is ultimately why I am so obsessed with lists—it provides visible proof that I’m making progress.

So, I printed these adorable chore charts [thanks to Mique at 30days] for my kids and laminated them and hung them on the fridge so the kids can check off their chores each day.

You can download the printable for yourself from 30days here.

How old do kids have to be to start chores?

I don’t know if there is some child psychologist answer to this question, but I can tell you that my 2-[almost-3]-year-old can set the dinner table with napkins, silverware, and put everyone’s water bottles at their seat [in fact, she demands to do this chore and has literally stolen the job from her older sister].

So, I guess I’d say 2-years-old is a good time to start, though kids know how to pick up toys and put things away even younger than that.

There are plenty of lists out there on the interwebs that can provide age-appropriate chores. Just try some out and if needed, adjust the list! [That’s why I had these laminated, ya’ll]

If you want some ideas, here are my kids’ chore charts:

Evangeline, almost 8-years-old
Theo, 6-years-old
Jojo, 4-years-old

Important rules regarding lists

Lists must be flexible. I think this may be a contributing factor to why lists stress some people out and some other people totally hate them. Lists do not have to be written in stone. While this is true of all lists, it’s especially true for lists for your kids [even unspoken lists like the list of careers you want your kid to choose from]. Things will happen, days will get away from us, we’ll decide to walk to the ice cream shop instead of doing any chores, there will be melt-downs, freak-outs, and some days it won’t get done.

That’s no big deal. Kids are learning about responsibility. They can’t be expected to perform like an adult [even adults don’t perform perfectly…and yes I’m looking at everyone who has ever called into work “sick” because they just didn’t feel like working, myself included].

Lists need regular review and revision. In order to make sure that the chore lists are working for everyone, we review them in our weekly family meeting and make adjustments. [I’ll share more about our family meetings another time, but this is definitely something you should start, if you’re not doing it already.]

We make adjustments to the lists nearly every week [again, that’s why it’s laminated and written in wet-erase marker]. Sometimes we change chores just for some variety. And as the kids get older, we increase the difficulty of the chores.

Look, I’m no perfect parent. I’m not even a model parent. I wouldn’t even say I’m a great parent. But I am trying to be a good parent. I’m also trying to survive being a parent. So in these posts, I’m just sharing ideas that work for me and my family. I am certainly no expert.

Give them a try if you want, or share your own ideas.

👩‍👧‍👦👨‍👧‍👧

Karis

Zero Waste: Deodorant

Zero Waste: Deodorant

If you search online for zero waste deodorants, you’ll find PLENTY of options. But it’s a total crap shoot – a bit like finding the perfect menstrual cup [which I’ll discuss some other time]. No matter how many reviews you read, the only good way to know what works for you is to try some out.

So, when I began my initial search for a less wasteful deodorizer [over two years ago now], I just went with a brand that I trusted: Lush Cosmetics. Since then, I’ve tried four additional deodorants and [go figure] my favorite is the first one I picked two years ago.

Lemme tell you about it…

Lush Cosmetics Deodorant Bars

I LOVE Lush Cosmetics and have been using their bar shampoos and conditioners as well as the occasional body bar, scrubby, bath bomb and some of the other amazing zero waste products. Lush has brick-and-mortar stores, one of which was at the mall where Brett worked for a few years. This was particularly convenient because we didn’t have to have products shipped and Brett could wander into the shop and pick out new and exciting products [hence, the many bath bombs I’ve enjoyed]. Lush products are vegan, cruelty free and all natural. In addition, Lush is a also a very ethical brand, truly walking the talk.

So, it was just natural that I would try out their zero waste deodorants. In April of 2020, I purchased two of their bar deodorants: T’eo and Aromaco. I started using the T’eo bar first.

And I LOVED it.

Also, it lasted me all the way to July of 2021. In that time, I moved away from my beloved store and bought a second T’eo bar when we were visiting Nashville last summer. I’m still using the second bar.

Here is what it looks like now…

This bar smells FANTASTIC. It’s made of compressed powder which I gently rub on to apply, and has waxy base to hold it together. I do not recommend applying immediately after shaving, however, because OUCH!

It’s just a bar, with no container at all. Since I bought this in the shop, all I have to store it in is the brown bag I was given at checkout, which has worked fine for the past year [but is definitely falling apart at this point, as you can see in the photo above].

In the end, I tried the other bar but it was very hard to apply and did not smell as good, so I didn’t use it.

But, over the years, I have tried some other options…

Homemade Deodorant Spread

Another blogger had shared a recipe for homemade deodorant, which I decided to try. The recipe called for coconut oil, shea butter, baking soda and essential oils.

While I loved the idea of a homemade deodorant that I could keep in a mason jar, I didn’t love the smell or the cold [this recipe recommended storing it in the fridge] and I didn’t feel that it was actually doing any deodorizing.

Hammond Herbs Pit Stop Deodorant Tube

Recently, I decided to try the natural deodorant called Pit Stop, which I ordered from another of my favorite zero waste shops: Well Earth Goods. [This is the same online zero waste store where I purchase my dish soap block, dish brushes, toothpaste tablets and laundry detergent strips which I’ve posted about previously here].

This deodorant comes in a recyclable/compostable cardboard container. You push up from the bottom and spread on your underarms. It smells and spreads better than the Aromaco bar from Lush. The tea tree and lavender is strong, though, so you have to like the scent. I like it, but it smells very “clean” and not particularly feminine or masculine [or whatever those stereotypical scents are], like Brett and I could share it. [Ok, that’s just disgusting. We don’t share deodorant, I promise.]

Pit Stop is made in America, uses natural ingredients and, overall, I like it just fine.

But T’eo by Lush is still my fave.

Ethique Deodorant Tube

Another brand that I use for shampoo and conditioner bars is Ethique, so I decided to try their deodorant tube.

This deodorant smells AMAZING [very floral] and is applied just like the Pit Stop deodorant. Also, this tube is bigger than Pit Stop. Ethique is very convenient because they distribute through Amazon [as well as their own online store]. This cardboard tube is also recyclable/compostable, but now that I’ve tried it, I really want to try their deodorant bar, which is more like the Lush Aromaco bar.

However, I won’t be needing more deodorant for…at least another year or two.

And, even when the time does come for more deodorant…I’m still going to order the T’eo bar from Lush.

🤷‍♀️

What can I say? It’s my favorite!

If you try one of these or have other zero waste deodorant recommendations, let me know in the comments!

🙋‍♀️🙋🙋‍♂️

Karis

Simplifying Parenting [Part 6: Storing Childhood Mementos]

Simplifying Parenting [Part 6: Storing Childhood Mementos]

I recently decluttered the “craft closet,” which is used so frequently that it was becoming dangerous to open the closet door.

Before:

After:

WAAAAAY Better right?

I pride myself on being “minimal”…in all things EXCEPT craft supplies.

😁

What can I say? Art is super important to me and a full [albeit messy] craft closet is how I foster creativity with my kids.

But I’m not actually here to extols the virtues of decluttering. I wanted to talk about how I organize and store all of the mementos that my children accumulate.

You know what I’m talking about…the coloring page that they are SO proud of for actually coloring the whole thing, the first note where they wrote “I love mommy,” the spelling test with the hard earned 100%. Normally, I’m the first one to say NOT to hold on to sentimental junk – but some times I don’t listen to my own words. Sometimes I want to hang on to these mementos of my kid’s childhood.

Some of Evangeline’s mementos – most probably wouldn’t mean a lot to other people, but they are special to us and hold happy memories that I want to cherish.

I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, in which she makes it a goal to be a “storehouse of happy memories.” At one point she gets cute boxes to literally store the happy memories of her daughters. I’ve had my own version of her boxes for a few years now.

Back to the craft closet…

Besides all of the craft supplies, this closet also holds my kids’ memento drawers [the plastic drawers on the floor]. I use these drawers to organize the paperwork that my kids bring home from school and the many pieces of artwork that children create.

However, this collection goes through several rounds of “reductions” over time.

The Three Round Rule

Round 1 – I make the initial decision of what to keep immediately. Most coloring pages get recycled and a lot of the school papers, but occasionally there is a special drawing, creation, piece of art that I put away in their drawer. I also keep their graded papers and projects.

Round 2 – At the end of the school year, I go through everything in their drawer again and keep the most special. In a lot of cases [and in the face of the sheet quantity] a lot of the items have lost their value, so I feel fine recycling. Obviously things like school pictures, the class photo, and special creations move to the next round.

Round 3 – I really liked Gretchen Rubin’s ideas about boxes, so I’m working on acquiring four cute storage boxes [you know I HATE buying things] which I will use to store the special mementos for my kids. BUT I still plan to review the items that make it into the box every year and toss anything that doesn’t still hold special meaning. Over the years, time really does put some of these sentimental things into perspective and the items that really matter stand out.

When I married Brett, his mother gave us boxes and boxes of his *ahem* crap from his childhood. And we had to go through it and look at every kindergarten field day green ribbon, every plastic t-ball trophy, every grade school report card. Quite frankly, by the time you’re an adult, you don’t care about the majority of that stuff.

I had a few boxes of my own from childhood when I moved out of my parents house and I tossed most of it. But, of course, I’m glad I had the newspaper clippings about my speech competitions, my autographed photo with the President, and some of my favorite writing projects. But the rest was junk.

The three round rule is my attempt at doing the majority of the sorting for my kids so that they don’t someday inherit a basement full of crap to sort through. Maybe someday they will wonder, Where is that kindergarten cut out of the letter B that I loved so much?…but I highly doubt it.

What do you do with all of your kids’ mementos???

📝

Karis

Zero Waste: Laundry Detergent Sheets

Zero Waste: Laundry Detergent Sheets

Today is laundry day in my home. Years ago, laundry was ruling my life. There was always some laundry bin somewhere full of clothes that needed attention—either washing or sorting or folding or putting away. I got so sick of doing laundry every day that I decided I would only do laundry one day a week. Now, I take one day and focus only on laundry. I do all the washing, drying, sorting, folding and putting away once a week. It is heavenly. [I actually quite look forward to laundry day because it is the one household chore I can multitask while watching tv and I don’t have to do any other cleaning that day. Can I get an amen!?]

Recently, my laundry routine got an extra zero waste boost when I switched over to a more environmentally friendly alternative to the plastic jug of liquid laundry detergent.

Introducing: the laundry detergent sheet!

I absolutely LOVE these things. I just take half a sheet [or a full sheet for really dirty loads] and toss it in the drum and start the wash. They are better than traditional detergent in a lot of ways. First of all, they remove the need for plastic jugs, which I would guess are rarely cleaned and recycled. Secondly, they don’t contain unnecessary, unhealthy, or dangerous chemicals, which harm our health and the health of aquatic life and our shared water sources. And the rest of the reasons are for convenience: they don’t take up a whole shelf of the laundry room, they travel easily, they don’t spill or drip and get blue goo everywhere, they require no “guesstimation” regarding how much to use and prevent over usage.

[Buy them for yourself here, and read about the zero waste packaging, ingredient list, and FAQs.]

Seems like a no-brainer. Friendly for the planet, better for our health, and convenient to boot!

I buy them from Well Earth Goods [which is also where I buy my toothpaste tabs, stain sticks, dishwashing blocks, and a bunch of other zero waste goods]; however, you can find these detergent sheets lost of places now—even Amazon. BUT please don’t. I love Well Earth Goods because it is a small family run business located in Oregon and it’s the kind of business I like to support.

Please, please, PLEASE don’t just buy the cheapest option you can find [this advice goes for every single purchase]. There are many, many things to consider before buying. While it’s great to buy zero waste products, it is also now possible to support unethical and environmentally damaging companies who sell green products. The best choice is to support the companies that actually care about environmental issues – not those that are just jumping on the latest trend to make a buck.

That’s my two cents.

🤷‍♀️

Anyway, back to the detergent sheets.

You can buy scented detergent sheets, but I think that clean clothes should be void of any smell…not smell like they’ve been doused in Aunt Bonnie’s floral perfume. Plus I’ve been using unscented laundry detergent since I had babies because the chemicals that create that overpowering “spring rain” scent can lead to skin irritations and there is some concern about carcinogens.

To make things even more earth-friendly, I use a stain stick [which I once posted about at length here],

…and wool dryer balls, which were the first zero waste gift I ever received after starting this journey [Thanks, Michelle!]

I just keep these balls permanently in my dryer, so that every load comes out nice and fluffy.

[Side note: I’ve heard complaints about static with the dryer balls as opposed to dryer sheets, but static is more about the materials you are drying. Synthetic fibers cause more static in the dryer. My family and I don’t have that problem because we avoid synthetic fibers – which I also recommend everyone do for the sake of Mother Earth and personal health. But that’s a post for another day. 😁]

So, there you have it! A totally zero waste laundry routine.

🧺 🧺 🧺

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste Kitchen: Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

[Nearly] Zero Waste Kitchen: Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

For the month of January, I’ve been avoiding added sugar, which is a LOT harder than it may sound. Though I thought I already knew most of the culprits hiding sugar, I have discovered a few more places that I was unaware of.

Sneaky Sugars

For instance, sriracha has sugar. That might be common knowledge for people who eat sriracha regularly. I just thought it was like any other hot sauce, until I tasted it. It was so sweet that I had to check the label.

Sure enough – sugar is the second ingredient.

Though, the real conundrum is how they manage to put “0g added sugar” on the nutrition label…????

🤷‍♀️

I don’t know what that’s about, but I decided not to take any chances and switched back to my regular hot sauce [Tapatio, at the moment] which has no sugar.

I also happened to be in the market for a new multivitamin and I thought I would give gummies a try [they are so dang popular after all], but I decided against it when I realized that they have added sugar.

These are the gummy vitamins that my kids take every day. They prefer gummies for obvious reasons [and truthfully, the sugar content is nominal], but they also like Flintstone chewable vitamins, and these don’t contain any sugar.

Sugar in Bread

By far the sneakiest place to find added sugar is in bread. It is very challenging to find bread in the grocery store bread aisle that doesn’t contain any sugar. It’s not impossible, of course, so if you really want to buy your bread, I recommend looking in the bakery for freshly baked loafs that only have the four necessary ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, water.

Obviously, if you want a sweet bread [such as zucchini bread] or even an enriched bread [such as brioche], then you can expect to find sugar in the ingredient list – but for every day, run-of-the mill sandwich bread and buns, sugar is unnecessary.

So, I’ve been making my own for years.

It all began when I experimented with giving up processed foods for a month. I was pretty new to baking at the time, but I had to find a bread recipe that I could actually make that would work for sandwiches – that was also 100% whole wheat. It took me quite a while to find one that worked for me, but now I’ve been using the same recipe for the past five years to make everyday bread for my family.

The base recipe is from An Oregon Cottage [you can find the recipe here]. Over the years, I’ve altered the recipe to suit my needs — namely removing the honey and swapping two cups of whole wheat flour for bread flour, which makes a slightly fluffier bread.

So, here is the recipe that I use [and it’s in my preferred format which is with ingredients listed in bold in the instructions].

Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

This recipe makes two loaves and takes me 2 hours to make [1hr and 20 minutes of that is rise time], but I’ve been making it every week for years, so maybe plan on 2.5 hours.

1. Put 2 1/2 cups warm water [about 110°, but don’t stress it – just not so hot it can burn you] in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast over the water. Add 2 cups bread flour. Mix until incorporated. Wait 10-20 minutes [the mixture should rise and get foamy on top].

Before 20 minutes
After 20 minutes.

2. Add 1/3 cup olive oil [or any neutral oil], 4 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir until it becomes too thick, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth, adding additional flour as needed to keep it from being too sticky.

My kids love to get it on the kneading.

3. Divide dough in half. Take one half and flatten, then roll up and pinch together. Curl up ends and pinch together. Place seam side down in oiled bread pan. Repeat with other half of dough.

4. Cover with a towel and let rise for one hour [preferably in a warm place].

Before the rise
After rise

5. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

And voila! Enjoy that freshly baked bread smell! Mmm…

🍞 🍞 🍞

Karis

Simplifying Parenting [Part 5: Kids Clothing]

Simplifying Parenting [Part 5: Kids Clothing]

When it comes to my own wardrobe, I’m a minimalist, fitting all of my clothing into three small drawers that fit into my closet [plus some hanging clothes that I rarely wear but keep for “just in case purposes” such as a black dress for funerals]. A few years back when I went through all of my clothes and purged everything I didn’t need or love, I found the whole process to be immensely gratifying. And, I’m pleased to report, that simplifying my kids’ clothes has every bit as satisfying.

Principle #1: Only clothes that are needed.

How do you know how much clothes your child will need? First determine how often you do laundry. I dedicate one day per week to laundry. Which means my kids need seven days worth of clothes [and maybe a few extras for accidents or emergencies]. Since a lot of our clothes are hand-me-downs, we do end up with extras of some things, but I make it a point to avoid getting extra clothes we don’t need.

For example, when I switched my son’s wardrobe over to warmer clothes, I found he needed more long-sleeved shirts and a few more pairs of pants for the winter. Brett found someone selling a used set of clothes — seven pairs of pants, two t-shirts, one sweat pant outfit — all for $15. But we didn’t need most of it, so we paid $8 for two pairs of pants and the sweat pant set. I found three long-sleeved shirts at a resale shop, and that was all that he needed. Theo is now all set for the winter.

Theo’s clothes [both summer and winter] all fit in two drawers in the dresser that he shares with Jojo.

Principle #2: Only clothes that are used…for the most part.

This is so important to me since I have learned about the clothing industry and how it continues to wreak havoc on our planet and hurt economies and take advantage of workers around the world. So, as a principle, we always get our clothes used, unless of course there are certain items that we can’t find used. Underwear is one of those things, so I buy my underwear from Boody and I get my kids underwear from Pact — both ethical, sustainable brands that I love to support.

I mean, really, it is criminal that kids clothing gets worn for a season and then tossed. We need to keep clothes in circulation for as long as possible since each item of clothing represents costly natural resources and a lot of labor. I wouldn’t even care if used clothes cost more, but, of course, buying used is cheaper which makes it a win-win. And we find really nice stuff used!

Evangeline’s drawer of adorable hand-me-down and used clothes for winter.

We like to use Facebook marketplace [Brett handles that since I am not on Fb] or OfferUp or nearby consignment shops and even resale stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army to find used clothing. In our small town we have a resale shop where I have found new tennis shoes for Theo, an Express undershirt for Brett, and jeans for Evangeline. [I also found a beautiful North Face sweater that I really wanted, but didn’t need, so I passed on it. Hopefully someone who needs it finds that treasure.]

Principle #3: Only clothes to play in.

Two of my daughters are wearing dresses [with shorts for modesty purposes] as they dig for fossils in the dinosaur museum.

It’s a bit of a pet-peeve of mine how parents like to dress up their children. All of their life experiences until the first grade revolve around play, so they should be dressed for play. It makes absolutely no sense to me to put a little kid into dressy clothing and then try to keep that child from playing in it or getting it dirty. Let the kids be kids for goodness sake! Even at church, Christmas dinner, and weddings, kids should be dressed in play clothes.

The other problem with dressing up kids is that it requires you to keep an entirely separate set of clothes. Your kid will need a full wardrobe of play clothes and a full set of dress clothes. Why on earth?

We just keep one type of clothing for the kids: play clothing. They can wear it on vacation, on a hike, to church, to school and to play in the backyard. My daughters each have some dresses that they love and these are not special occasion dresses. Their dresses get as much use as the rest of their clothes. Which is fine. They like to wear frilly pretty clothes, and I expect these items to get throughly played in, dirty, messy, and worn out.

Principle #4: Only clothes they love.

In this Easter picture, my middle daughter is wearing her pajamas. Still cute!

I let my kids dress themselves. I have since each of them were three and old enough to open a drawer and pull out an outfit for the day. This relieves me of the stress of fighting with my kids about what to wear and allows them to choose clothes that they love and that express their unique personalities.

It seems to me that, as parents, we want our kids to look like mini fashion models because it improves our own image. I don’t think the kids care – nor should they! So what if they want to wear plaid with polka-dots? Who really cares?

I definitely don’t want to send the message to my kids that what they wear matters, that they need to dress a certain way to “fit in” or be accepted, that love is based on how someone looks. These messages are everywhere in our society, but I don’t want them in my home. I also don’t want to teach my kids to conform to fashion trends. Instead, I’d rather teach them to wear what is practical, comfortable and something they love – something that shows the world a piece of themselves rather than just a reflection of everyone else.

I’m having a hard time finding pictures of my kids in unusual outfits – they usually dress so cute! No one would guess they always choose their own clothes.

Over the years, with absolutely no help from me, my oldest daughter [now 7] has figured out her own way of dressing that is unique and absolutely adorable. I wouldn’t change anything about her style.

[I once wrote an essay for Parents Magazine about this very topic, which they published in 2018. You can read it here.]

Don’t be afraid to pare down the kids’ clothing! It feels GREAT!

👚 👖 👕

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste Kitchen: Homemade Croutons

[Nearly] Zero Waste Kitchen: Homemade Croutons

Every week I bake a lot of bread, which means that we inevitably have some dried out, day-old bits. I do my best to bake only what we need and eat everything I bake; however, life happens. BUT it doesn’t have to be wasted.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there is no shortage of great options for using up day-old bread, but in my house, croutons are the favorite because they are so quick and easy to make and my children LOVE them.

Before I tell you how I make the croutons, here are some other ways I use up old bread:

We’ve done all of these things at one time or another, but croutons are my favorite because they can be made in just a few minutes and thrown on soup or salad [my two favorite food groups].

I actually learned how to make croutons from my brief stint as a bakery associate at Panera bread about thirteen years ago. Did you know they make their croutons in store? [At least they used to.] And Panera has the BEST croutons.

Croutons can be made on the stove top or in the oven. [The Panera method is in the oven.]

Stove top croutons

Cubed two-day-old sourdough bread

To make croutons on the stove top, just heat up some oil in a skillet, cube and season your bread, then add to the skillet and toss occasionally until brown and crispy on the outside.

You have to watch them so they don’t burn, but it only takes a few minutes – maybe 3-5.

I season them with literally whatever I have on hand. Usually some version of garlic salt and then a green herb like oregano or thyme, but I’ve been known to get funky and throw smoked paprika on them [I put that sh*t on everything]. Just plain ol’ salt and pepper works great too.

Oven baked croutons

Cubed day-old whole wheat bread ready to go in the oven [and you can spy my homemade veggie soup simmering too]

The process is very similar with baked croutons. Cube the bread and toss with seasonings and olive oil, then spread on a baking try and bake at 350° for roughly 7-10 minutes. I usually toss them once to get them crispy all over.

No matter how you make them, they are delicious!

Perfect for fall soup season! Add croutons to the list of things you’ll never need to buy again.

😋

Karis

Happy Fall Ya’ll! [and here’s a fall dish you have to try!]

Happy Fall Ya’ll! [and here’s a fall dish you have to try!]

Happy First Day of Fall! 🍂

I could not be happier for fall to arrive this year, but still I was a little surprised when all my neighbors started putting out pumpkins and scarecrows and Halloween decorations. I mean, it was still 90° around here! Certainly didn’t feel like fall. [This is my first time living this far south – and I’m just in southern Illinois.] Appropriately, today is a beautiful fall day – cool, crisp, windy, rainy. I LOVE it!

Besides today’s weather, the local produce is also screaming fall, so I decided to make my favorite fall meal [or side dish], comprised of my favorite fall vegetables roasted to perfection and tossed together.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash, and Brussels Sprouts

[I need to work on the name of this meal…it’s quite lengthy…]

I make this every year as a side dish for our Thanksgiving meal, but I make it as a stand-alone for my family many times during the fall. This is the perfect fall meal, because these are perfect fall foods that are in abundance during this time of year.

It also couldn’t be easier.

Peel and chop some butternut squash.

Peel and chop some sweet potatoes. [I like the color contrast provided by these purple sweet potatoes, but I usually just use regular.]

De-stem and half some Brussels sprouts.

Toss them all with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes at 425°.

Then serve.

We ate it with a side of vegan Tofurky sausage, but these vegetables are hearty and filling and can be a stand-alone meal too, which we have done many times. [If you’re not used to eating only vegetables for dinner, this is a great place to start.]

Side note: Roasted Brussels sprouts are a family favorite in our home. Despite their terrible reputation, Brussels sprouts are SO DELICIOUS. If you haven’t tried them, or more importantly haven’t tried them roasted, this is the time to do it. Like, right now. I have converted many Brussels sprout skeptics with my roasted side dish using the same method as above.

For my family of six [four of which are young kids], I roasted one small squash, two sweet potatoes, and 12oz Brussels sprouts. We had a little squash leftover, but otherwise, everything was gone.

Ahh…now it feels like fall.

🍂 🍂 🍂

Karis