About

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Citrus Lane Review


Guys, I love mail. It is a great sadness to me that people don't often write real letters anymore. Sure, we can order all kinds of things online but there's no surprise to it. Sure, it's nice for something anticipated to arrive. But there's something really awesome about a surprise in the mailbox. 


I recently restarted our Citrus Lane subscription. 

I LOVE Citrus Lane.             

We kept a subscription for a while then cancelled it when we moved.            

 You can pay monthly or save by buying several months at a time. This would be a great gift for an expecting mom or for a child's birthday because they get to go on opening it every month with lots of surprises coming in the mail! Each month, a box arrives in your mailbox full of naturally themed goodies. Usually, the value of the box is around 45-50 dollars. The boxes include high quality products tailored the the age and gender of your child. 

This box was for Ezra, my 14 month old son. 

It included:

A plum stage 4 food pouch. (Retail: around 1.75)

I usually buy these anyway, so when Ez saw this, he lunged and asked me to open it right away. Obviously, he approved. 


Plan Toys wooden camera: (Retail: 15.00)

Being a photographer, I was tickled by this toy. I adore play cameras and my kids are so used to me taking photos, they they always love play cameras too. The quality of this toy is superb. 


Ezra knew just what to do with it. He held it up and said "chee". 



Counting in the Garden Board Book (13.46 on Amazon)

Very cute board book. Just the right size for little hands, nice matte pages, and lovely illustrations.


Also included (I didn't get a photo before the packaging was ripped off) was a Oogaa Silicone Bowl (Retail 8.99). When I first opened it I thought "Meh, it's just a bowl". This is the reason I really like Citrus Lane though. This has become my favorite thing in the whole box. Being silicone, you can put it in the microwave, toaster oven, oven, freezer, and in front of your baby. It won't break. It won't leach chemicals into baby's food. Ezra is just learning to use spoons and we've been on an oatmeal (or "Oat Lunch" and he calls it) kick since this bowl came in. I can prepare the oatmeal in it, then stick it in the freezer to cool it off, then give it to him to eat. It doesn't slide around on his tray and if he throws it on the floor, I know it won't break. I totally love this little product that I NEVER would have bought on my own. 



There was also a little sample tube of Purlisse sunblock and coupon codes for all of the items included in the box. 



The total retail value for this box was 40 dollars. I actually used a coupon code they had going for the 4th of July and only paid SEVEN dollars for it. 

If you're interested in signing up, if you click here and use my referral link, you will receive 50% off your first box and I'll receive a credit to my account and be able to continue doing these reviews for you! You can cancel at anytime, and you can also refer friends and receive credits off your future purchases through Citrus Lane. 

Tell me, do you have a CL subscription? What is your favorite product you've received to date? 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The first day: A dreadlock story.

Years ago, when I was growing my second son, I stopped brushing my hair.

It wasn't really an intentional thing. I was exhausted. I had barely transitioned into motherhood when I found out I was pregnant again. I spent my awake hours chasing a toddling one year old. I threw up every morning and every afternoon and occasionally in the night. My make-up collected dust and my hair went from the shower into a style reminiscent of a ratty ball on the back of my head.

It was a rough few months.

One afternoon, I was sitting in the play area of the mall in Knoxville, TN, a place I always felt distinctly young and plain and inadequate next to all of the other moms. And then she walked in. A mother with a baby in a wrap and dreadlocks down to her waist.

I was in shock. Up until that point, I had never met another mom in real life (meaning not on the internet) that was into wraps and cloth diapers. And this mom radiated confidence. She was like me, I thought, but she didn't brush her hair and it was cool.



When I was in high school, I loved dreadlocks. I talked about getting them but then I graduated, became a mother, started pursuing photography. It became, in my mind, a missed oppourtunity. Then I met the mom in the mall.
I have never been fancy. I always lean to the natural. And I really hate fooling with hair. It dawned on me that dreadlocks would actually be really awesome for me.  I started to research. All of the misconceptions I'd had were resolved. I stumbled upon Sara Janssen's blog, and began following her dreadlocks story. I was in love. This was the hair I was made for.
But then I started to talk about it. To friends and family. "Oh no," they said, "You don't want to do that to your hair."
I was worried about what people would think. Worried that their opinions might limit me.

So I didn't do it.


It's been nearly 8 years since my chat with the dreadie momma in the mall. I've forgotten her name but every time I meet a woman with dreads, I am alight with interest and I remember her. I've followed bloggers, and YouTubers and anyone with a public dread journey with a longing in my heart.


A hairstyle is only an unimportant detail of a person's life. This hair, dreadlocks, is just something I like. But it does not define me. Nothing that you see on the outside defines me.  My hair holds the same power to tell you who I am as my old van, or my favorite, worn-down shoes, or my goodwill jeans. I buy the things I like and clothe this temporary body with them. And you should do the same. None of it really matters in the end. My value lies in Christ, who has such affection for me and my unkempt hair that he pulled on skin, became a man and pursued me all the way to the grave.


It's because of Him that I don't really want to strive for this world's version of beautiful. See, when my eyes are on Him, I feel the boldness to be exactly who He made me to be. I have a purpose. I am custom made. When I go to the play area now, I no longer notice my differences as inadequacies. I am ok with being the only woman without a manicure. I don't see what I'm lacking. Because I am sure that God made me to be the sort of woman who grows things. Things like vegetables and flowers and beautiful children, but not nice fingernails.


I want to be the woman described in 1 Peter 3: a woman made beautiful by the unfading beauty of a gentle spirit, not by the work she puts into her external appearance. I want someone to know me and think I'm lovely. Not because what they see but because when they know me, they will see my God.
I like dreadlocks because they say to the world that I don't care to fit in it's box. Because my Jesus didn't. Because sometimes following Him makes people shake their head. Sometimes it makes them judge you. Sometimes they may even hate you even though they've never taken the time you see your lovely heart.



Today my friend Ari came and started the process of putting my hair into this crazy, wonderful, natural hairstyle. It's my kind of beautiful. I'm happy to be able to share this journey with you. Today is the first day of my dreadlocks, but it isn't the beginning of their story. Their story started years ago really.






(I'd just like to add my Ari is amazing at this. I am very tough headed but it really didn't hurt at all. She is very, very reasonable in her pricing and is totally passionate about helping chicks like me fulfill the dread dream. If you'd like her info to take the plunge yourself or to maintain dreads you already have, shoot me a message using the contact form in the sidebar and I'll get you in contact with her.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

The World's Best Fried Potatoes

It's a good thing I love to cook because this house has a lot of mouths to feed. I believe in real food whenever possible. Although it is definitely hard to take the plunge and leave convenience foods in the dust, I know it can be done. Because my table seats eight and it is almost always full, and the plates on it hold from-scratch meals 90% of the time. 

I am not superwoman. I am actually just a frazzled, mildly overstretched mother like many of you. And if I can feed my family real food, you can too. Really. 


One of the tricks to putting a real meal on the table is keeping versatile staples that don't spoil quickly. You can always, always, always find red potatoes in my house. Red Potatoes are surprisingly healthy, relatively cheap, and can be used with just about any meal. They can be grilled, mashed (I always leave the skin on), or roasted.

The most common way for me to cook them, though, is to fry them. Now don't assume I've just ruined the health benefits. Hear me out. 




Fried red potatoes (or "spicy little potatoes" as my Asher calls them) are kind of my plan B. If I forgot to defrost something, or forgot to start the crock-pot, or forgot to stop at the grocery store on the way home (I told you, I'm frazzled), I can throw a meal together in less than 30 minutes with red potatoes and whatever is in the fridge or freezer. Usually, some baked fish and sautéed veggies will accompany these for dinner. Or maybe they will be topped with easy over eggs and served alongside fresh fruit. Or they might be rolled into whole-wheat tortillas with scrambled eggs and cheese, or else baked into a frittata. Really….you can scrounge up a meal without convenience foods. And if it has potatoes in it, even a family with four small boys, a couple of visiting teenagers and a hungry husband won't complain. Ask me how I know.


I've had several friends attempt fried potatoes in their own home, and quite a few of them have told me that theirs didn't turn out the same. Here's why:


I'm a firm believer that these things are a must if you really want the world's best fried potatoes. Otherwise, they may just be average. First, you need a cast iron pan. You can read my feelings on cast iron here. When you are using well seasoned cast iron, hardly any oil is necessary. See, I told you this wasn't an unhealthy recipe. Next, the oil I DO use is very important. I cook primarily with coconut oil. You can get a 54 oz jar on Amazon for around 20 dollars here: Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, 54-Ounce Jar. If you have a membership to somewhere like Sam's or Costco, you can check with them. I buy my jars there for about 16 dollars each. I know this may seem steep for oil if you aren't used to buying it, but it lasts a good while and it is totally worth it. Check out this link for the health benefits of coconut oil. And lastly, I only use kosher salt and course ground (or fresh ground) pepper. I don't have a lot list of why you should use these. You just should. Because they taste exponentially better.
Also, on fried potatoes, I used granulated garlic. I'm a big fan of using fresh garlic, but for this purpose, the granulated is better because it won't burn or add extra moisture while you are trying to get crispy potatoes. Go with granulated on this one.


Another important part of making your fried potatoes a success is to get them cut into fairly small pieces. Big chunks just don't cook through as quickly, and they are better this way.

So here is the "official" recipe, the best I can do it. I usually don't measure things, but I did for the purpose of telling you how to do this. However, you may want to taste and add more seasoning if you life things spicy. We do. I usually put more seasoning than this but I toned it down for the sake of this recipe.



The World's Best Easy Fried Potatoes

5-6 medium red potatoes (diced)
2 T. Coconut oil
1/2 T. Kosher salt
1/2 T. Course Ground Pepper
1/2 T. Granulated Garlic

Heat cast iron pan over medium heat.
Melt the coconut oil in a well-seasoned cast iron pan (if you feel like you need more oil, add it a little at a time. If you put too much in, your potatoes won't get crispy).
Once the pan is hot, put the potatoes in.
Evenly sprinkle on the salt, pepper and garlic.
Stir every few minutes to keep them from sticking.
They will be cook through in about 20-25 minutes. You can keep cooking them to get them crispier, but just watch them and make sure they don't burn.

Turn off the heat and serve.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Little Bit of Lately.

We survived a week of Miah being gone at camp.
This is, I like to think, a huge testament to my mothering prowess. But I'll admit. I had a lot of help.

We spent a lot of time with family and friends. I actually had a ton of photography work to do (and the ensuing editing has led to my silence here for the past week).
I picked up a dead chicken (another playmate fell victim to my dozy dog) and reminded myself the whole time that I want to be country.
We picked a TON of blackberries. Everywhere we could find them. And I made jam with this recipe. 



We ate a lot of watermelon. And tomatoes. And Squash. Because these things are growing in abundance in Arkansas right now and NOT eating them would be a crime. Local produce is the best. Ezra agrees. 





We watched fireworks on the fourth and thanked God for the privilege we have been born into. 
And we ate more watermelon. See above.


April and Daniel spoke publicly for the first time since the storm. 
They announced that the foundation they are forming in Cameron and Tyler's memory will be working hand in hand with the Oak Grove Life Center. 




Other noteworthy things from the past couple of weeks:
  • A friend wrote an update on April on her blog.
  • My kiddos started raising money for their camp. If you'd like to help with that, please contact me!
  • I signed back up for Citrus Lane, which I LOVE. I'll have a review up as soon as our box gets here, but you can check it out and sign up for 50% off your first month here.
  • Signed up several people to be Young Living distributors and I'm already hearing testimonies of how it's changing their lives! Check out this post if you have considered using or selling essential oils. 
  • Our playsilk giveaway has concluded, so I'm coming up with the next giveaway. Here's a big hint: www.babylegs.com. 
  • Found this recipe for Almond crusted eggplant. Bought the stuff yesterday and it's happening today! Yet another way to use this beautiful, bountiful produce that the Arkansas summer blesses us with. 

That's all for now. 
From my family to yours, 
Have a beautiful week.



























Saturday, July 5, 2014

Becoming Country

This article was originally published in Do South Magazine. Check out their website here for my monthly contributions. 





You will never really understand how city you are until your life shifts and you find yourself removed from suburbia. I’ve harbored a homestead dream for as long as my memory can reach. At the age of twelve, my cousin walked me through his Texas back yard, showing me the neat rows of vegetables and how to feed chickens. Then he introduced me to the pig.
“This is Bacon,” he said.
“Why’s he called Bacon?” I asked.
“Because. We’re gonna eat him,” he replied nonchalantly. Seeing my alarm, he added “But we’re good to him, see. It’s kinder this way. Better than how factories raise them up like they don’t matter.”
“Cool.” I said. And I meant it.
That evening, my sister sat at the table and downright refused her dinner that we learned came from their last pig, Porkchop. I, on the other hand, decided then and there. One day I would have a pig named Bacon, too.
The dream didn’t die. While my peers pledged sororities, I read books on goat husbandry and growing things. While they purchased starter homes, my pile of books grew, books on beekeeping and chicken care and living off the land. For years I have perused seed catalogs with prayers on my lips and buried deep in my heart. Please, God, could I have this?
He answered in the most unplanned timing, when I had finally chosen to be content. I had just agreed to wait until the kids were older and money was less scarce when my dream came true by way of a vandalized foreclosure on four acres. It was the kind of deal people could hardly believe. “This is God,” I told them, “He, who hears my prayers.” They all awed at the house, and the potential for equity. But it was the land that captivated me. To my homesteader’s heart, just the idea of four acres caused a flutter of disbelief. It ignited my imagination.
Four acres. Do you feel it?
If you are like me, you hear four acres and you instantly see the gentle glow of an orange bell pepper lit up in the Arkansas sun. You can almost feel the skin of a freshly picked berry bursting warm against your teeth and hear the sound of chickens clucking around your imaginary muck boots. Four acres is no farm. It will never pay the bills. But coming from a sleepy suburban neighborhood, a stack of books, and a far off dream, four acres is everything I’ve ever wanted.
I would have been content to leave the house packed until October, instead spending the summer elbow deep in the earth, but reason won out. I suppose it’s a good thing. It would have been a long few months with five children at home and only a garden to entertain them. We worked through the spring and now the inside of our home is functional. The walls are painted and the boxes are unpacked. And I am the proud owner of a big pile of wood that my husband assures me will take the form of raised beds and a chicken coop in the coming months.
Patience has never been my strong suit. I like to think I live with abandon because that somehow seems more admirable, but you could call me reckless and you wouldn’t be lying. This is a trait that I fight. Recklessness usually yields regret. So while I stand at the brink of breaking ground on the homestead of my dreams, I am repeatedly reminding myself of something. Waiting rooms are great classrooms. These transitions between the before and the after are often the places that require stillness the most, or else we risk missing out on valuable lessons from our wise and patient Teacher.
While I wait, I am learning to become country.
Surely, you think, the difference between city dwellers and country folks is merely one of geographical location. But you would be wrong. I was wrong. I thought that because I so ardently desired to build a life outside the city limits, and because I was so well read on the process of doing this, that there wouldn’t be many necessary adjustments. I was born for this life.
It doesn’t matter how badly you want it, adjustments are going to be necessary.
Being twenty-five minutes from town makes a difference. I thought it would just alter how I plan my days and eliminate late night Kroger-runs for ice cream. But now I’m finding myself with this mindset of my comfort zone, which is home, and the rest of the world, which takes almost half an hour and three dollars in gas to reach. I never imagined that I would feel like I’d moved so far and that things had changed so much. Home is where I want to be.
It’s not the drive that makes me feel this way either. I enjoy the drive. I expected to hate the extra time spent in the car just to do things like go to church and buy groceries. Instead, I’ve found it so incredibly peaceful. I make the rural trek to town, admiring the explosion of wildflowers on the roadside, and am in awe. I get to live here. Before, in all my years of being city, I had never seen a horse play, running full bore down a hillside and rolling in the grass with hooves aloft. Now, thanks to my drive, I have seen it many times. I have stopped on the side of the road to look into the doleful eyes of a heifer nursing a newborn calf. “I know how you feel,” I told her. Under blue skies and toiling dark ones, I have talked to God in the very midst of His creation. This drive is good for me.
There is something about the country that just makes me feel so completely alive and small, and so undeniably created. It’s easy to become so submerged into a manmade world that we are blinded to that which God made. Now, even though the land and creatures around me are divided by our fences and cultivated by our tools, I am overwhelmed by the inexplicable wildness of it all.
The winged things that get trapped on our screened porch are the stuff of nightmares. I couldn’t name them if I tried, and it amazes me that they have been living so near for so long. They are as foreign to me as if they were from Africa. The ivy and the honeysuckle and every form of plant grows like maybe they know how greatly they outnumber us and our weed whackers. They stretch out with ferocity, glorious victors of a revolution. There is never a moment without some noise, some chirp or hum or buzz.
Oh, and the stars. How have I gone my whole life without being able to see these stars every night? Of course, they are direction for the lost with how brightly they shine. They are diamonds, artwork, with marvelous constellations. How many nights did we waste with our darkness lit by streetlights and a TV screen while these very stars burned on past the light pollution and our range of view? Such a shame.
I have watched my sons take to this new ground like transplanted tomato plants. Tobias, the toddler, has been in the creek as often as the dog. As soon as his eyes open in the morning, the first word he shouts is “Milk!” and the second is “Outside!” Mud seems to run in his veins. Ezra, the baby, is fearless, toddling through the grass, giggling as he grabs for fireflies. Jackson and Asher, my second and third-grade sons, are less sure. They were a little root bound where they were planted, with their sidewalks and after-school Baskin Robbins. It was all they knew, and this new life seemed to offer much less at first glance. Then they learned to climb trees. We explored the woods and found blackberries. They caught a blue-tailed lizard and started to believe that they, deep down, were country too.
When this house and it’s impossibly cheap price tag, which was all we could afford, fell into our laps, I kept coming back to Ephesians 3:20. “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” I just thought He was giving me my homestead dream. But I have realized in this short time of waiting that God didn’t give me this house just so I could make my own pickles and eat fresh eggs every morning. He was handing me a tool to raise our kids in a different world, a world where we can easily teach them hard work because there is so much of it to do. He was enabling us to teach them quiet in a generation that was born into noise and screens and distractions. It is a home to raise our family, not just a house.
He gave us four acres, a little bit of this earth He crafted, a little living piece of His creative wonder.
Four acres.
Do you feel it?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

All About Cast Iron: Where to start and why you should.



I bought my first cast iron pan when I was twenty. We had just made the 500 mile move to Tennessee, to a real, grown-up apartment, with one small boy in tow. I fancied myself a homemaker, and in order to feel equipped, I ordered a 10 inch lodge fry pan to meet me on my front door.

I was remembering Costella, the precious woman that raised my dad and his siblings. I was remembering her standing in my Grandmother's kitchen and telling me the secrets to cooking. She taught me to roll dumplings on the counter, to shake chicken and flour in a paper bag and then drop it into a heavy, grease-slicked cast iron pan. "Don't even fool with frying chicken in anything else," she said. "It won't turn out the same." And then she gave me a piece. It burned my mouth. I was ten.

I washed my first cast iron pan in the dishwasher. Costella had impressed upon me the merits of cast iron but had never touched on the care of it. When it turned orange with rust, I put it in a hard to reach cabinet and forgot about it.

in 2009, I received Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys for Christmas. In it, Lucinda Scala Quinn sings the praises of cast iron and I thought, "Hey, I have one of those".  It was all downhill from there. Having gained a little more experience in the kitchen, I was able to appreciate how truly awesome cast iron cookware is. My collection today would make Costella proud.

In fact, the last conversation I had with her, although she was not entirely lucid and thought I was my mother, was about cast iron. She told me about seasoning it. About never letting soap touch it. About keeping it to give to my babies when I'm too old to fry chicken anymore.
She sat there in her chair, a faded, framed photo of MLK on the wall behind her, her wig slightly askew and her stockings drooping on her shrunken legs. I remember that moment so clearly because I wanted to take her photo and I didn't. This beautiful woman, our bonus grandmother, who loved us all like she had delivered us into the world herself . When I look back to that moment, what I remember most is what it meant to watch someone fade away. And in the years since then, I've learned the regret of not capturing a moment when your heart is moved to. This is why I take photos of everyday things, of odd things, and even sad things…because I wish I could show you Costella now, on the last day we spoke, the day she taught me about cast iron pans.

So, you may ask, why cook with cast iron?

1.  It's incredibly cheap.

I'll start with this point, because frankly, it's what drives most of us. Especially those of us with families and plenty of things we would rather buy than pans. You can get an entire set of Lodge cast iron on Amazon for less than 65 bucks here: Lodge 5-Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set, Black 
 The linked set above contains a 10 inch griddle, a 10 inch skillet, and 8 inch skillet and a 5 quart dutch oven with a lid. If you don't want to make that big of a commitment, I recommend just getting a 10.25-Inch skillet to start out. That will run you between 15-18 dollars depending on where you buy it. 
Also, you can find cast iron pans at garage and estate sales. Some of my best pieces I paid less than a dollar for and just had to put in some work getting the rust off. Then it has a story.
 I love things with a story. 

2.  It will last forever.

The worst damage you can do to a cast iron pan is put it in the dishwasher and ruin the seasoning. But it can be restored even then. Your cast iron pans will outlive you. You don't have to worry about someone messing up the non-stick coating or burning a bunch of stuff to the bottom. For someone like me, not being able to ruin it is a huge plus. 

3. It's so much easier than you think. 

One of the things that I hear a lot when I talk about cast iron is "But it's so much work."
That couldn't be further from the truth. 
Really, caring for cast iron is more about what you DON'T do. 
Don't EVER put it in the dishwasher. Trust me on that one.
Don't put soap on it. If you accidentally do (or a well meaning friend cleaning up after dinner does), don't sweat it. Just rub it down with some oil and it should be fine, though it make take a few meals to get it good and slick again. 
Usually, all you need to do is scrub it with hot water and a stiff scrub brush. Dry it off with a towel (or put it on a hut burner for a few minutes) and if it's looking a little dry (not shiny), just wipe it down with a paper towel and some vegetable oil. 
To season a new cast iron pan or one that has had a soapy encounter, wipe it down well with vegetable oil or shortening. Then bake it in a 325 degree oven for an hour or two. This isn't exact science. I've tried all kinds of oils on my pans, but truthfully, I like using shortening best. Yes, as in Crisco. I know it's gross stuff but I keep a little tub of it just for my cast iron. It is, after all, what Costella told me to use. 

4. It's significantly healthier. 

Once your pan is well seasoned (and that doesn't count the "pre-seasoning" it comes with when you buy it), it is virtually non-stick. You can use much less oil even when cooking things like fried potatoes or eggs. Because it doesn't need a non-stick coating to be non-stick, it is a great chemical free alternative to coated pans. If you've ever done even the slightest research about Teflon, you will want to ban it from your kitchen.  And unlike so many things that require a lot of money or commitment to make a healthier choice, cast iron is easy and cheap, remember?

5. Food cooked in cast iron tastes good. 

Because food can be cooked in cast iron with less oil, you really get to enjoy the flavor of the food. I actually enjoy steaks cooked on cast iron more than ones cooked on the grill. Also, iron distributes heat evenly so you don't end up with hot spots or burned bits quite as easily as other pans. 

6. It's super versatile. 

Cast iron can be used for SO many things. You can use it in your kitchen, on the stove top and in the oven. You can take it camping, cooking over a wood stove or a fire. It generally cooks very evenly and also retains heat, so it keeps food warm on the stove for a long while. 
I cook the majority of our food in cast iron. I cook sauces, meat, and veggies in my skillets. We use them for pancakes, cornbread and baking things like fish and chicken breasts. I cook soups, stews, roasts, and rice in my enameled dutch ovens. I have even used them to bake loaves of bread! (You may notice i said dutch ovens. Yes, plural. We have two 7 quart dutch ovens that get used a ton because we have a huge family and are often feeding 20 people at once. One large dutch oven should suffice for most families.) We have a 15-inch skillet that is roughly the size of a manhole cover but is crucial for the best chicken recipe in the history of ever. (In all seriousness, you need to make the chicken. If I had to choose only 5 foods to eat for the rest of my life, this would be the only meat I'd choose.) I really can't think of much you CAN'T make with the right cast iron pan. Muffins. I've never made muffins. But I have made cake, so.


So, where do you buy it?

All of the links in this post so far take you to Amazon. This is probably one of the cheaper places to buy cast iron brand new. You can also get it at Wal-Mart, Target, or any store that sells camping gear (think Academy Sports, Dick's Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain.) Look out for it at garage sales and estate sales. Usually, if it's in flea markets, it's been marked up but sometimes you can find a deal.
If you find a used piece that is rusty, you can follow this tutorial on how to get it clean without using harsh chemicals.  You basically just have to get the rust off then re-season. It's totally worth doing if you find a good deal.

Additional tips

If you do buy a brand new cast iron pan, go ahead and scrub it with soapy water. They coat it with something to make it non-stick but it doesn't work well and I imagine it's not very healthy for you. Just wash it and then season it yourself.

The first handful of times you use your pan, you want to try to cook higher fat things. Like bacon or hamburger meat. It takes a little while to get it good and slick where things like potatoes won't stick to it. But bear with it. It's worth it.

There are a lot of cheap cast iron pans out there, most of which are china made. For a more affordable option, I always lean towards Lodge because it is USA made (except for the enameled pots).






So, there you have it. The nitty gritty of cast iron. Tell me, what is your cast iron story? Your favorite pan? Favorite dish to cook in it? I'd love to hear from you!



*The links above are affiliate links. This means that a percentage of any purchase you make while using one of my links goes to support The Hodgepodge Darling blog. Thank you so much for helping me pursue my dream!










Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reed Silk Studio- Review & Giveaway




Imagination. 

I hate to pull a "back-when-I-was-a-kid" move and completely romanticize the past the way people often do. But I don't think I'm looking through rose-colored glasses when I remember the way we used to play. I had my secret hideout, an overgrown easement behind the fence which my brother and I called "The Nature Spot". We would spend hours there, making mud pies, pretending to be runaways, with nothing but our imaginations to entertain us. 

I try to remember what my parents did to foster this sort of imaginative play. I know we didn't watch much television. But we didn't have cable and the only kid shows were replaced by soap operas by midday anyway. There were no video games (well, there were but we couldn't afford them until much later in my childhood). So we played. 



Kids now seem to be at a disadvantage. From toddlerhood, they are absolutely inundated with screens, and games, and around-the-clock available shows. There is always an option of something mindless to do. Unless. 

Unless they have a parent willing to turn off the screen and equip them instead to think, and play, and create. I love toys that help with this. I love things that don't run on batteries but instead on the thoughts of my babies. And I love the product, their games and their creations. 




My friend Kate is a mom like me. She loves to teach her babies to grow beauty and make art and imagine anything they can. And not only does she believe in this line of thinking for her children, she herself love to create. She owns Reed Silk Studio, where she sells her handmade creations. 

I have been so excited to work with Kate for a giveaway, and when I checked the mail and found the review box she had sent full of delicious play silks, the kids and I headed straight for the yard to play. I didn't even unload the groceries! It has been so incredible watching them take these beautiful silks and turn them into wings, and fires, and super hero capes. 
How incredible a child's imagination is when it is equipped and encouraged! 

Reed Silk Studio sell products all hand-made in the U.S. These play silks are made with all natural materials and are all unique, as each one is hand-painted by Kate. She sent us two large silks and two small ones to play with and tell you about. One thing I had wondered before having play silks was what made them different from other fabrics. I thought, surely, I child could play with any fabric cutting just the same. However, I've seen now how weightless these are, which makes them easy for small hands to manipulate and tie and throw into the air and watch them slowly float down. They are a little transparent too, so the light shines through them and little eyes can easily peek from behind them. And maybe it's just the silky. I know my Tobias is not the only small child who is addicted to silky. 



I could tell you all about the things my children have pretended to be with their new play silks, but I thought it might be better just to show you. Inspire imagination, and just sit back and watch magic happen. 




















Would you like to win a "35 playsilk from Reed Silk Studio?
Enter below! There are multiple oppourtunies for entries. The giveaway will close Wednesday, July 2. 

Also, Kate has offered a coupon code to The Hodgepodge Darling's readers! Just enter "darling" at checkout to save 10% off your purchase! If you haven't already, go check out Reed Silk Studio's website.