Thursday, August 18, 2011

DIY Easy Orange Marmalade

Making your own marmalade is surprisingly easy and requires very few ingredients. I used 1 large navel orange for this batch but look forward to making it again when the small sweet mandarin oranges comeback in season as well. Do you think it is funny that Walmart has Sunkist navel oranges here? I sure do.

Homemade Orange Refrigerator Marmalade

  • 1 large or 2 small oranges
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Wash the orange(s) well, and cut off the top and bottom, but do not peel. This actually has nothing to do with my disdain for peeling things unnecessarily, you need the peel for the recipe to work right. The peel has natural pectin in it that will help the marmalade thicken. Without it you will have runny marmalade.
  2. Cut orange into eight or more pieces, and place in the blender with the sugar and the water. Blend well.*
  3. Transfer to a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Boil for 15–20 minutes until well thickened.
  5. Remove from heat, and allow to cool. If you have any undesired chunks of orange in the marmalade, you can scoop them out at this point.
  6. Transfer to a glass jar, and refrigerate for storage. I have read that this type of marmalade can be kept in a cold refrigerator for up to 6 months, but I have never had it last long enough to test that myself.
*You may have noticed by now that I love my blender, as it makes so many things easier. You can make marmalade without a blender by cutting the unpeeled orange into very small pieces, boiling, and then mashing with a potato masher. This is a little more work and makes it a little chunkier, but it will still very good. I have made lots of marmalade successfully using this method, and some people even prefer chunkier marmalade.

    DIY Caramelized Pear Frozen Yogurt

    This frozen yogurt has the great combination of caramel balanced with naturally sweet fruit in a tangy yogurt base. My husband even liked this light fruit filled frozen yogurt better than rich caramel ice cream.

    Homemade Caramel Pear Frozen Yogurt

    • 1 large or 2 small pears finely diced
    • 1/2 cup sugar (divided)
    • 3 cups plain yogurt (homemade works great!)
    1. After you finely diced the pears, put them in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of sugar. Saute over low heat to caramelize the sugar. It may take a while to cook out the excess liquid from the pear to allow the sugar to thicken and caramelize.
    2. Remove from heat, and allow the caramelized pear to cool.
    3. Stir 1/4 cup of sugar into the yogurt.
    4. Add the cooled pear pieces and stir to distribute evenly.
    5. Freeze in an ice cream freezer, or follow these instructions to freeze in your regular freezer.
    This recipe make about 1 quart or liter of frozen yogurt.

      DIY Dreamsicle Frozen Yogurt

      This light citrusy frozen yogurt is refreshing and great for a warm summer day. It also provides a little extra vitamin C to help boost your immune system anytime of the year.

      Homemade Orange Frozen Yogurt Recipe

      • 1 large or 2 small oranges peeled
      • 1/2 cup sugar (or honey)
      • 3 cups plain yogurt (homemade works great!)
      • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)
      1. Pull apart or cut 1 or 2 orange into segments, and put in the blender with sugar, 1 cup yogurt, and vanilla (if desired).
      2. Blend until smooth.
      3. Stir in remaining yogurt (this keeps the yogurt from getting too runny).
      4. Freeze in an ice cream freezer or follow the directions here to freezer in your regular freezer.
      This recipe makes about 1 quart or liter of frozen yogurt.

        Monday, August 15, 2011

        Mandarin Mondays: 天气

        Something that a lot of people seem curious about is what the weather (tiān qì, 天气) is like here in Kunming (昆明). Kunming's weather is one of the mildest climates around. It is far enough south that it rarely gets too cold (tài lěng, 太冷), and its high altitude (1,900 m above sea level) keeps it from getting very hot (hěn rè, 很热). In fact, it is often called the "Spring City" or the "Green City" because of its mild weather and lush vegetation.

        Right now in summer (xià tiān, 夏天), it is warm, not hot, with average highs about 75 F and average lows about 62 F. Summer is the rainy season, and it does rain a lot: 7–8 inches a month on average. It can get quite chilly here when it rains (yǔ, ). In fact they have a saying here: "It's winter when it rains." But it warms back up when the sun shines, and this keeps it from ever getting too hot here. Apparently the record high was 90 F.

        The rains begin to taper off in September (jiǔ yuè, ). September (jiǔ yuè, ) and October (shí yuè, 十月) are supposed to be still very nice with most days still in the low 70s. Fall (qiū tiān, 秋天) is very mild here.

        In November (shí yī yuè, 十一月), the average highs begin to drop to the 60's, and the rains slow to almost nothing. In winter (dōng tiān, 冬天), the average highs are about 60 F, and the average lows about 36 F. The weather can be a little crazy at times, and occasionally there are freak snows (xià xuě, 下). We actually experienced one in March (sān yuè, 三月), but this is quite rare. The record low was 18 F.

        In spring (chūn tiān, 春天), the temperature climbs back up to 70–75 F for highs and 45–60 F for lows. Usually in May (wǔ yuè, 五月), the rains begin again.

        This climate is great for agriculture and gardening. Kunming is famous for it's horticulture. It produces a lot of different fruits (shuǐ guǒ, 水果) and vegetables (shū cài, 蔬菜), and much of China's flowers (huā, ) are exported from this area.

        DIY Peanut Butter Granola Bars

        These are great for snacking at home or on the go. Just wrap individually in plastic wrap.

        Homemade Peanut Butter Granola Bars Recipe

        • ½ cup peanut butter
        • ½ cup honey
        • 1½ cups oatmeal
        • ½ additions (raisins, other dried fruit, seeds, chocolate chips, or just more oatmeal)
        1. Melt peanut butter in a medium saucepan on the stove.
        2. Stir in honey.
        3. Add oats, and stir until well coated. Add additions (unless using chocolate chips, then wait until the mixture cools), and stir well.
        4. Spread into a greased 9x9 pan, and bake at 350 F for 15–20 minutes.
        5. Remove from oven, and allow to cool 10–15 minutes before cutting into bars.

        Friday, August 12, 2011

        Family Fridays: Open House Outside Tour

        Entrance gate to our apartment complex

        Last week I gave you a tour of the inside of our apartment here. This week I am going to give you a quick picture tour of walking into the apartment complex to our home and our little backyard.
        Bamboo to greet you
        Once you walk just a little further the
        city noise begins to fade.
        Look to your left and you'll see Walmart in the distance;
        that is our building on the right in this picture.
        Look to the right and you'll see the stairs
        leading up to the park area,
        and way in the distance you can see the
        western hills that help frame in the city.
        Walk down over a foot bridge.
        There is a little man-made stream.
        The one grassy area in the complex where all the kids play.
        It's right outside door, which is really nice.
        Here is our building.
        Our apartment is on the first of seven floors.
        A lot of buildings are seven floors here,
        because after seven you are
        required to install an elevator.
        Here is a better view of the front of our apartment.
        Now quick run through the house.
        Here is the view of the back of the fire station
        and another larger apartment complex
        that we see out of our back door.
        Our back balcony, clothes dyer, and yard.
        My tiny garden.
        Pretty rose
        Yea, we are starting to get grass for the boys to play in.
        Looking back at our house from the yard.

        Thursday, August 11, 2011

        Dinosaur Themed Preschool Craft Idea: Archeological Painting

        Archeological Painting: T-rex Discovered
        Here is another really simple and fun dinosaur themed craft suitable for a preschooler or a tot-schooler. It is basically painting a crayon resist drawing with watercolor paints and making it dinosaur themed to go along with our unit study. The boys had so much fun painting and I was really surprised at how careful both of them were. You can print out your own dinosaur skeletons to trace from my free printables availabe here.

        Preschool (or Tot-school) Craft Idea: Painting Dinosaurs and Dinosaur Bones

        • Paper and pen or dinosaur coloring sheets
        • Watercolor paints (Homemade works great!)
        • Paintbrushes
        • White crayons or oil pastels
        1. Print out some dinosaur coloring pages, or draw dinosaurs and/or their skeletons on some paper.
        2. Place a second sheet of paper over the coloring sheet, and trace the outline heavily with white crayon or oil pastel.
        3. Have the kids paint over the entire page with watercolor paints to reveal the dinosaur who was hiding there.
        The boys had lots of fun painting dinosaur skeletons and regular dinosaur coloring pages. I had thought this project was going to make a much bigger mess, but even Andrew (19 months) was really careful and there wasn't much mess from the paint. What little paint did get on their hands and the table washed off really easily. 

        Painting regular coloring pages

          DIY Watercolor Paints

          Paint for art projects is another supply that I have put off buying here lest it end up in Andrew's mouth. There are lots of different recipes for all sorts of paints out there. This basic recipe for homemade watercolors can also be found at I Can Teach My Child and lots of other places on the web. I have never tried to make watercolor paints before, but these turned out really well. And just like the glue, I love that these are made with all edible ingredients, just in case. I used a couple of trays that held yogurt cups for a paint tray, but you could use an egg carton, large bottle caps, small cups, or other recycled pieces. Or if you were going to give these as a gift, you could even use a store bought paint tray for really nice presentation.

          Homemade Water Color Recipe

          • 3 Tbsp baking soda
          • 3 Tbsp corn starch
          • 1½ tsp corn syrup (Homemade works great!)
          • 3 Tbsp white vinegar
          • Food coloring
          1. Put baking soda, corn starch, and corn syrup in a bowl. Add the vinegar. Kids will have fun watching it bubble and fizz up.
          2. Mix well.
          3. Separate into try sections small containers.
          4. Add food coloring for each color desired. The gel food coloring I used made really vivid colors, but did take a while to mix in.
          5. Let the paints dry overnight. (Or use now to make your own paint with water pages and let those dry over night).
          6. The next morning the paints will be thicker and in a more solid state, but they will still be wet to the touch.  They are now ready to use!
          7. Have fun painting, and then cover and store for next time.
          I used this recipe to make 12 small amounts of colors (6 for each of my 2 boys), but you can obviously make less colors and have larger amounts.
          Both of my boys had a lot of fun painting dinosaurs with these wonderful watercolors. Their finished pictures look really cool.

            Dinosaur Themed Preschool Craft Idea: Popsicle Stick Dino Skeleton

            We're studying dinosaurs this month and doing some fun crafts to go along with our theme. This is our first dinosaur creation: a Stick-a-saurus Skeleton. You can print out your own stick-a-saurus outline from my free dinosaur printables available here.

            Preschool (or Tot-school) Craft Idea: Stick-a-saurus Skeleton

            • Popsicle sticks (for long bones)
            • Q-tips, toothpicks, or cut popsicle sticks (for ribs)
            • A piece of paper (lines to use as a guide for where the sticks go can be drawn or this can be more of an open-ended project, and you can leave the design totally to the child)
            • Small dino head cut out of paper
            • School glue (Homemade works great!)
            • additional Q-tips to spread the glue if desired
            1. Assemble supplies.
            2. Have the child spread the glue on the sticks or on the lines for the long bones, and press into place.
            3. Then glue the ribs and the head on top, and you're done!
            4. The child can name the dinosaur if they want.

            My preschooler, Aaron, (who is three years old) was able to follow the lines and make the dinosaur look really good all on his own. My little guy in "tot-school" Andrew (who is 19 months old) just stuck them all over, which is absolutely fine with me. Gluing and sticking at this age is already kind of advanced, and everyone says his project looks like they just discovered the bones at an archeological site. :)

              DIY School Glue

              Homemade School Glue
              When I saw the idea for making homemade glue over at I Can Teach My Child, I  knew right away that I wanted to try it out. I have been avoiding buying school supplies in China that could easily end up all over Andrew's hands and then probably ended up in his mouth, just to be on the safe side. Now I that I learned how to make homemade corn syrup, I can make this glue whenever we need it. I did end up adapting the original recipe because at first it turned out too thin, but the second time it turned out great!

              Just Like Elmer's School Glue

              • ¾ cup water
              • 2 Tbsp corn syrup
              • 1 tsp white vinegar
              • 2 Tbsp corn starch
              • ¼ cup cold water 
              1. In a medium saucepan heat 3/4 cup water, corn syrup, and vinegar.
              2. In a separate bowl or measuring cup mix ¼ cup of water with corn starch until thoroughly dissovled.
              3. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the other ingredients, and stir well.
              4. Bring mixture to a rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
              5. Remove from heat and let cool. (The glue will still be kind of thin when it is hot. It will thicken up gradually as it cools.)
              6. Pour into recycled glue container or jar, and let sit over night.
              7. Use as you would regular school glue. (I didn't have an old glue container to recycle, so I just store the glue in a jar and poured a small amount into a bottle cap for the boys to apply with Q-tips. This method worked well.)
              The boys had lots of fun gluing popsicle sticks together to make dinosaurs with this glue. It is a little more clear than regular Elmer's glue, but it holds just as well when dry.


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