2015
Sep 28

The Cup of Truth: A Life Lesson From Caramel Corn

by Hannah Holt »

10 comments


caramel corn

Caramel corn is one of our favorite fall snacks. It’s crunchy and oh so delicious! It’s easy to make, too, as long as you have a Cup of Truth nearby.

What’s a Cup of Truth?

It’s simple. I keep a cup of ice water on the counter next to my caramel pot. When I think the caramel is finished I take a small spoonful of syrup and drop it into the ice water (aka: Cup of Truth). The water cools the molten caramel quickly, so I can test to see if it’s reached the perfect hardness.

Removing the caramel from the heat too soon turns it into a sticky mess. This type of caramel corn will dislodge dental fillings!

Removing the caramel too late will burn it. YUCK.

There’s a small window of caramel perfection. Hence the need for a Cup of Truth.

cup of truth

My kids all hang out around the Cup-o-Truth because they like sneaking cool bits of caramel before the full batch is ready. While they linger for sweet snitches, I talk to them about feelings and stuff. I say, feelings can be like a pot of boiling caramel.

Sometimes someone does something so mean it makes you bubble with rage. You might even want to spill your thoughts right then and there.

But friendships can been ruined unnecessarily that way…and dental fillings, too.

How do you know if feelings are truth or just heat-of-the-moment steam?

Put them in the Cup of Truth.

  • take a breath
  • take a walk
  • sleep on it
  • put it on ice

Once feelings have cooled, it’s easier to see what (if anything) needs to be discussed. Then you can speak with confidence, knowing the words will be the right words. (And not a sticky mess.)

Okay, now who’s hungry?

Carmel Popcorn

1 cup butter

2 cups brown sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

5 quarts popped popcorn

  1. Melt butter in a thick bottomed pot on low heat.

  2. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and salt to the pot. Then increase the heat to medium and stir until boiling.

  3. Boil for about four minutes without stirring. The caramel will resemble the color of a brown paper bag when finished. Check for hard crack readiness by spooning small amounts into a cup of ice water. The caramel should be crunchy (not squishy).

  4. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and soda. Mix well.

  5. Use a spoon to drizzle the popcorn with the hot caramel. Stir the popcorn with a spoon every few minutes until completely cool. This will keep it from clumping together.

  6. Enjoy!

2015
Jul 22

Recipe for an Emergency Kit

by Hannah Holt »

2 comments


Six backpacks hang in our garage. They have food, water, clothing, and other supplies so our family could make it through 72-hours. You know….in case stores are closed and we need to leave fast and the earth is falling down all around us.

Most of the time the packs just sit there, but every six months, I rotate the water/food/etc. I was going through the packs last week and in a moment of laziness decided we didn’t need them anymore. Then media outlets exploded with this news: the entire Pacific Northwest is going to suffer a devastating earthquake ANY FREAKING DAY.

The hype is a little overrated. I’ve lived in the northwest for almost 30 years, and I remember them predicting the same thing about 25 years ago. We’ll have a huge earthquake some day. There’s no doubt about that, but “any freaking day” could be tomorrow or–300 years from now.

In any case, I decided I’d at least keep the backpacks in rotation.

Here’s what makes up a typical 72-hour “go bag”:

  • a change of clothes
    • my kids are growing so this needs to be updated annually
  • personal hygiene items
    • toothpaste, contact solution, and medicines will expire, so check the dates
  • matches and a fuel source for cooking
  • a mess kit and/or a container for boiling water
  • an emergency blanket
  • a rain poncho
  • a flashlight
    • make sure the batteries aren’t connected to avoid slow drain
  • cash
    • we keep about $20
  • a first aid kit
  • a sharp knife
  • water
  • food

Rotating the food takes the most time for me. I’m slowly working in a rotation of longer term storage (freeze dried meals). But prepackaged emergency meals are pricey, so I also make some of my own.

Three days of food for one family

 

{Enough food to feed a family of six for three days. FYI, the fruit in the background isn’t part of the plan.}

Every six months, I have my family eat the food from their packs. This is because I don’t want to waste food and also the food needs to be something they’d actually eat. So before I planned a menu, I let my family sample a variety of different meal options.

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{Re-hydrated Pad Thai, right. Pho rice, left.}

Then everyone voted for their favorite meals.

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For each homemade recipe you’ll need a quart sized freezer bag. You can add boiling water right into freezer bags. Then stir and let rest until finished cooking.

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Here are three of our favorite home-prepared emergency meals.

Breakfast:

Rice Porridge

  • 1 cup minute rice
  • 1 Tb powdered milk
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup boiling water
  • optional: add raisins, nuts, and/or dehydrated apple slices

Lunch:

 

Mexi Rice

  • 1 cup minute rice
  • ½ cup tortilla soup mix
  • 1 ¼ cups boiling water

Dinner:

 

Sweet and Sour Rice

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 ½ Tb sweet and sour seasoning
  • ½ cup peanuts
  • 1 ¼ cups boiling water

You’ll notice my kids seemed to prefer the minute rice meals, but other good options for a starch base could be: couscous, instant oats, or potato flakes.

When I was making these meals, I went through the bulk foods aisle of my local grocery store and mixed and matched food that I thought might blend well together. My kids also liked instant potatoes with ranch dressing mix, and anything with cheese powder.

I was looking for high calorie/low cost options. Each meal I created averaged about 400-500 calories. At three meals a day or 1,200 calories, that’s enough to keep an adult going but probably not satisfied. Still, for an kit that needs to fit in a backpack, it’s just perfect.

Here’s what three days of food looks like for one person:

Three days of food for one person

 


2015
Jul 16

Paycheck-2-Paycheck: A Budgeting Game for Kids

by Hannah Holt »

2 comments


A few weeks ago, I offered to substitute for my son’s Sunday school class. Of course, I forgot all about it until I pulled into the church parking lot.

Summer brain strikes again!

In the short while before class, I skimmed the lesson on tithes and offerings. The material was thin. I needed something to fill more time, so I sketched up a quick money management game. It evolved into this.

game

{Note this version doesn’t have a charitable contribution option, but that could easily be added.}

Basically, the game follows a two-week pay cycle.

game board

You roll a single die to advance through the days. Every two weeks you collect a $1000 paycheck. That’s simple enough, but here are the variables:

  • The players choose all expenses and have to pay up with each paycheck. At the beginning, no one will be able to afford the best everything, so…
    • Are you willing to live in a smaller house?
    • Give up eating meat?
    • Only have one pair of clothes?
  • Along the way there are also a few random risks and rewards.
    • Need to visit the doctor? That will be $100.
    • Have a car? You’ll need to pay insurance on that.
    • Oh, look it’s your birthday. Grandma gives you $100! Yay.
  • You win by saving $1000 (after all expenses are paid). In the game, this is the amount of each paycheck. So winning means you’ve graduated from living paycheck-to-paycheck.

To play you’ll need:

  1. An instruction card
  2. A game board
  3. A decision sheet
  4. Play money
  5. Risk/Reward cards
  6. An expense tracker
  7. A die to roll
  8. A game token

Feel free to make copies for personal and/or school use. I just ask that you don’t distribute commercially. I recommend printing the risk/reward cards on card stock and gluing the game board to a piece of cardboard for better durability. When you’re all done playing, everything can be trimmed and folded to fit into a gallon bag.

finished game

If you want to make the game even more complex you could add features, like:

  • taxes
  • more bills (cell phone plans?)
  • charitable contributions
  • add risk/reward cards that include salary increases and decreases

So far it’s been a big hit with my kids. I hope yours enjoy it, too!


2015
Jun 05

Building Forts with Plants

by Hannah Holt »

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Forts are my favorite.

I loved building elaborate blanket forts as a kid, and I still like hiding away in nooks to read a book–when my kids let me.

This year we’ve been visiting historic forts in the Pacific NW, like Fort Stevens

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and Fort Vancouver.

Elena and Josh Ft Vanc

While we were at Fort Vancouver this weekend, I noticed something cool in their vegetable garden. They grow their beans on birch tepees.

bean fort bare

bean fort1

Wouldn’t that make the perfect summer fort for a four-year-old?

In May, I started a corn fort:

corn fort

It’s basically the world’s easiest corn maze: the corn is laid out in a rectangle with one end open for a door. By August, the plants should be high enough to create a nice little hiding place. I’m thinking about putting a chair in the closed off end.

I also tied together some sticks and made a mini-cucumber fort in my garden boxes. But this one is more of a fort for lettuce than children. I’m hoping when the summer gets nice and hot for cucumbers, it doesn’t scorch my lettuce.

cucmber fort

 

Forts could also be made by planting tall flowers like sunflowers or hollyhocks in a circle. Just make sure you leave room for a door.

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Plant forts are the perfect summer escape–right in your backyard!


2015
May 04

Graphing with Waffles

by Hannah Holt »

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When I see a waffle, sometimes all I see is a buttery breakfast treat.

graphing waffle 1

 

But then I add a few blueberries and voilà! An equation!

graphing waffle 2a f(x)=x

 

I don’t need a formal proof to show me math can be delicious…

graphing waffle 2f(x)=-(x-1.5)^2+2