September 18, 2019

V8 Soup from Tomato Juice


Don't throw out that tomato juice! Use the juice from your strained tomatoes to make a delicious, healthy, vegetable-based V8-inspired tomato drink.

From the big batch of salsa I made last week, I had this byproduct: tomato juice. Never one to waste, we peeped around the Internet for about 2 minutes and mashed a couple recipes together to fit our needs.

Add your homemade V8 to a cold beer on a hot summer day, or just eat it like tomato soup with grilled cheese in the winter.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Makes about 4 quarts

  • About 3.5 quarts tomato liquid, strained of skins & seeds
  • 5 small-medium beets, peeled & chunked
  • 4 large carrots, chunked
  • 1/8-1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1 cup kale (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 TB honey
  • 1 TB chipotle EVOO
  • dash lemon juice*
  • dash cinnamon*
  • dash soy sauce/liquid aminos*
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cucumbers, chunked
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup arugula


Combine everything except the last 4 ingredients. Simmer uncovered for 35-45 minutes or until carrot & beet chunks are fork-tender.

Add remaining ingredients. Blend using immersion blender.

*These ingredients I used in lieu of Worcestershire sauce one recipe called for. The cinnamon can be pretty overpowering, so measure out 1/8 tsp first and go up from there.

NOTE: If the acidic tang leaves a bittery-hot aftertaste, add 1/2 to 1 tsp baking soda. The chemical reaction will burn off some of the acid from the tomato juice, leaving the flavor but none of the harshness.

We drank some, froze some for later and to the rest I added some chicken broth, a can of venison, a can of black beans and a can of corn to create a Frankenstein-ed up chili that was awesome with sour cream, cheese & cilantro.

Blogging this mainly to save my recipe for later. But I hope someone else can enjoy it too!



September 8, 2019

Summer Recap



Yikes! August came and went and I didn't write a single post.

Summer zipped by in a blur and now Babs is starting Kindergarten. (LBR, we were all ready for her to go back to school.) Here are some of the summer highlights:

A lot of time has been spent tending to the garden this summer. My fridge and freezer are full of kale and my squirrel room is overflowing with pickles and pickled beets. Mr. Go likes to go outside to caress his tomatoes every morning and no, that's not a euphemism.


We picked 17 pounds of blackberries that are going to get turned into prison-wine this week and we gave ourselves whiplash packing and unpacking for 5 camping trips.


In August my company flew me out to Minneapolis to film some sewing tutorial videos and I spent several weeks prepping and stressing.

A friend of ours got married, Mr. Go fished a lot and I processed a whole bunch of stuff from the garden. (Oh my god so much kale.)


I helped my mom get my grandma and grandpa moved into the assisted living facility just up the road from me.

And of course, I published a book.

Hunting season is just around the corner so we're working furiously to consume the leftover things in our freezer from last year to make room.

Then it's going to be time to get ourselves out of this frigid tundra for a winter trip. Where to? I have no idea yet, but we should probably figure it out soon. I'm gonna go do that.



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July 26, 2019

I Wrote A Book


Well, I've written several books, most of which are 3/4 finished. This one sat on the back burner for many years because I didn't know what to do with it and I was too scared to try to move it forward. 

But I found a little courage and here we are now! 

Lesser Evils, a historical romance set in the American West is available for purchase on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo & Tolino. 

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"To protect her sister, Abby Fraser became an outlaw. Handcuffed and lost in the desert, she’s rescued by Dalton Laine, a gun-slinging rancher. He claims to have rescued her out of the goodness of his heart, but Abby soon realizes she’s not the only one keeping dangerous secrets.

Dalton spent the last five years dedicated to revenge. Throwing in with a pretty spitfire wasn't part of the plan. Neither was the hope she makes him feel. Now Dalton begins to wonder if there may be a future for him after all.

He provides her a convenient alibi, pretending to be her husband and hiring her on at his ranch until it's safe for her to move on. That's all it was supposed to be.

But the worst secrets never stay buried and sometimes the past has a life of its own— especially if you don’t kill it dead enough."
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The world of publishing is changing at a wildly rapid pace, thanks in large part to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program, which allows authors to get their work out there without relying on a traditional publisher. Instead, we rely on our own promotions and reviews from readers. 

Whether I sell 11 copies or 11,000, getting this out there available for sale is a dream come true on its own. And if some people read it and enjoy it, all the better.

For more on my writing see NLLaFoille.blogspot.com.


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June 19, 2019

A Hobbit Birthday: Middle Earth Party Decor & FREE Invitations Template

For her 5th birthday, Babs requested a Hobbit-themed party, because she is her mother's daughter and a complete Nerd. 

So I went overboard with the theme, no surprise there.



Hobbit Door Invitations

To start the festivities off right, Babs and I crafted our own Hobbit Door Invitations.

Supplies

  • white or cream heavyweight paper or cardstock
  • green construction paper
  • ivory copyweight paper
  • glue
  • stapler
  • 3 different reddish-brownish coloring utensils

Instructions

  • Use a coffee cup or small bowl to trace a 4 3/4" diameter circle onto the heavyweight paper/ cardstock.


  • Download this template for the base. Change information as desired. Print some testers to be sure all your information fits in your desired circle size. I alternated fonts and took screenshots of Babs' name and 'our precious' in Hobbiton font and Bilbo Hand font, since I can't download/install cool fonts into Google Docs. Or maybe I just don't know how?


  • Print the invitation template onto ivory paper. Use a cup or bowl to trace 3 3/4"-diameter circles around each text group.


  • Glue each invitation-circle centered on one heavyweight-paper circle.




  • Draw alternating diagonal lines (or just straight lines, who cares!) for the bricks around the doorframe. Color in 3 alternating reddish-brownish colors.




  • Cut corresponding circles using the same round object from green construction paper. Draw lines and a gold doorknob in the center for the door. Center the green circles over the ivory circles and staple twice at the left edge to create the door.




You can alter the template to be bigger if desired, but the 4 3/4" base circles were nice because they fit into 5"x7" envelopes.

Woodland Bunting

From four green & brown print fabrics and a solid ivory muslin, I cut a whole bunch of triangles roughly 8" wide & 8" tall. Make a slit in each corner. Thread yarn or ribbon through the slits so the ribbon is on the wrong side of the fabric. Hang for a delightfully woodland decor.

Happy Birthday Banner

I scoured my Extensis Fonts Add-on for the perfect Middle Earth font. I wound up mish-mashing a bunch of fonts, to hit the right mix of Middle-Earthy and readability.

Download the letters here.

Decorating Crowns

Using these templates, I printed crowns onto yellow construction paper (cut them to 8 1/2"x11" size, before putting them in your printer).

Given markers and jewel stickers, they could've sat at the table for far longer than I let them.


Goodie Bags

I had some metallic-y fabric in my stash and a zillion buttons, so I decided to make party favor bags for all of Babs' friends.

I used this tutorial as a guideline, except I made small 1/2" slits roughly 1" below and perpendicular to the cut edge.

Balloon Dragon

We stuffed red balloons with prizes like Tootsie rolls, dragon tattoos and stickers. I tied balloon ends together in pairs and slung each pair over a long yarn to create the body. I taped this dragon face template on the front balloon, slung two pieces of red tissue paper over the body for wings and freehand drew a tail onto a sheet of red construction paper.

The idea was to bring it on the floor and let the kids squeeze an orange rind over the balloons to pop them. That trick worked when I tested it a few weeks prior, but it DID NOT WORK FOR THESE BALLOONS?? I have no idea why.

We ended up having to put a pin in the tip of our foam sword and let the kids jab the balloons to pop them. (Stressful, dangerous & not advisable.)



Spider Web & Sucker Spiders

I taped some Halloween spider webs across a corner and wrapped little dragon toys in webs. (You know, like how Bilbo & the dwarves got wrapped up by the spiders in Mirkwood???? It made sense to ME. The 5-year-olds, not so much.)

Babs and I made sucker spiders to guard the dragon packages, and the kids had to very carefully choose one bundle to pull from the web & unwrap.

Ring Toss

For stability, I tied a foam sword onto our paper-towel-holder. If your sword is lighter than ours, you could just put the hilt into a mason jar. A couple glow sticks put together made the ring.

Smaug Horde Cake

I used this gluten-free cake recipe, but in a 10" pan instead of an 8". It was a pretty large cake and one (2 sticks of butter) batch of buttercream was just barely enough frosting for this bare-bones frosting design.

But the gold and white nonpareils made up Smaug's treasure horde, with clusters of mini M&Ms for emeralds, rubies and sapphires. And yes, I forgot to take a picture of it before it got demolished.



----

It was probably more fun for me crafting things to theme than it was for the kids to enjoy them. Let's be honest, 5-year-olds don't give a crap about themes. They'd have been happy with cake and candy and just running around.

But it was a fun, albeit exhausting, day for everyone. And Babs is already making requests for her party theme for next year.




June 14, 2019

Tangled: Princess Rapunzel Kid's Bedtime Story


Don't miss these classic bedtime stories:
Frozen
Beauty & the Beast
Moana
Cinderella

Once upon a time, a single drop of sunlight fell from the heavens. From that drop of sunlight a magic flower grew, which had the power to heal the sick and wounded. An old woman named Mother Gothel selfishly kept the flower hidden and used its magic to keep herself young and beautiful for many years.

In a nearby kingdom, the Queen was about to have a baby, but she grew very ill. The people went out in search of the miraculous Golden Flower of legend, in hopes that it would heal their Queen. They found the flower and scooped it out of the ground. They used it to make a medicine that healed the Queen and she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl with shining golden hair. They named her Rapunzel.

Mother Gothel was angry that the flower was taken from her, so she snuck into the palace. She realized that Rapunzel's golden hair held the power of the magic flower, so she tried to cut some. But when the hair was cut, it turned brown and lost its power. Mother Gothel had no choice but to take the whole child. She stole Rapunzel and hid her away in a tall tower in the forest.

The King and Queen were distraught that they couldn't find her. So every year on her birthday, the kingdom lit floating lanterns and flew them into the sky in hopes that one day Rapunzel would find her way home.

Rapunzel grew up thinking Mother Gothel was her real mom and Mother Gothel told her lies about how awful and cruel the outside world was, to make Rapunzel afraid of leaving the tower. But still, Rapunzel grew up a kind and curious child. Every year on her birthday she snuck out of her room to look out the tower window and watched as lights floated up into the sky. She wondered what they were and wanted to go see them up close.

On her 18th birthday, Rapunzel asked Mother Gothel to take her to see the floating lights, but Mother Gothel said, "You are not leaving this tower, EVER!"

Meanwhile, a thief named Flynn Rider and the Stabbington brothers had stolen the Princess's crown from the palace and were being chased through the forest by the palace guards, led by the Captain's horse, Maximus.

Flynn betrayed the Stabbington brothers, took the crown and escaped them all by climbing a tower he found hidden in the forest. Rapunzel's tower. When he got inside, Rapunzel smacked him in the head with a frying pan and hid him in the closet. She was scared of him, after all the tales Mother Gothel told her about mean and evil people. But he didn't look evil. So when he woke up, Rapunzel made a deal with him.

"Take me to see the floating lights and return me here safely," she said. In return, she would give Flynn back the satchel with the crown, which she'd hidden under some floorboards. He reluctantly agreed.

The world outside her tower was wonderous and Rapunzel loved everything about it. But she was still a bit frightened of it. Flynn thought he could scare Rapunzel into giving up her quest and get his satchel back quicker, so he brought her to the Snuggly Duckling, a tavern filled with ruffians and thugs.

Rapunzel was afraid at first, but she was kind-hearted and compassionate. She found that she had something in common with all of those big, burly, scary men. They all had a dream. Rapunzel wanted to see the floating lights, one of the men wanted to be a pianist, one wanted to bake cupcakes, one collected ceramic unicorns.

In the end, they helped her and Flynn escape when the Palace Guards came. They ran down a tunnel and Rapunzel used her hair to swing herself and Flynn to safety. But they ended up trapped in a cave that was flooding with water! Rapunzel used her magic hair to light the darkness and find a way to escape.

Flynn was amazed that her hair magically glowed. "It doesn't just glow," Rapunzel said. She then used her hair to heal a cut on his hand.

Meanwhile, the Stabbington brothers met up with Mother Gothel, who'd realized Rapunzel had left the tower, and they chased after Flynn and Rapunzel together. Mother Gothel tried convincing Rapunzel that Flynn only wanted the crown and didn't actually care about her. She dared Rapunzel to return it to him and see what happened. Then she left.

Maximus the horse caught up with Flynn and Rapunzel, but Rapunzel convinced him to let Flynn show her the lights first, then they could chase each other to their heart's content. Flynn then showed Rapunzel around the kingdom. Some girls braided her hair with flowers so it wouldn't get tangled up everywhere and Flynn thought she looked beautiful. He took her to read books in a library, they ate cupcakes and she drew a beautiful mural with chalk.

When it was time to go watch the lights, Flynn took Rapunzel out on the water in a little boat. Flynn had gotten them lanterns to light too, and they watched them soar up into the sky, lighting up the night like stars. Rapunzel gave him back the satchel with the crown because she trusted he wouldn't abandon her. But Flynn realized he didn't want riches anymore, he just wanted to be with Rapunzel. He put down the satchel and took her hands. But before they could kiss, Flynn saw the Stabbington brothers appear on the shore.

"I'll be right back," he promised Rapunzel, and left her on shore with the boat. He took the satchel and went to meet the brothers. He tried giving them back the crown so they'd leave him alone, but Mother Gothel had told them about Rapunzel's magic hair and they decided they wanted her instead. So they tied Flynn up on a boat and sent him across the water to be arrested by the guards.

They went after Rapunzel, but Mother Gothel jumped in and stopped them. She wanted Rapunzel to think she'd saved her, when really she'd been the one to send the brothers after Rapunzel in the first place. Rapunzel, thinking Flynn had betrayed her, went back to the tower with Mother Gothel.

In the jail, Flynn saw the Stabbington brothers in another cell. He grabbed them through the bars.

"What did you do to her?" he demanded.

"It wasn't us," they said. "It was the old lady."

Flynn realized Mother Gothel was behind the whole thing and Rapunzel was in danger! Luckily, Maximus had gone back to the Snuggly Duckling and got Rapunzel's new thug friends to come help Flynn escape. Flynn rode Maximus through the forest and climbed the tower. Once inside, he saw Rapunzel tied up in the corner and Mother Gothel stabbed him from behind!

Mother Gothel tried pulling Rapunzel out the back door, but she struggled and fought.

"Stop fighting, Rapunzel!"

"No!" Rapunzel said. "I will never stop fighting to get away from you. But, if you let me heal him, I will go with you. I won't ever try to escape. I promise. Just let me heal him."

Mother Gothel agreed. She tied Flynn up so he wouldn't follow them and Rapunzel went to heal him. But Flynn stopped her. He knew if she went with Mother Gothel, she'd be unhappy for the rest of her life.

So Flynn took a shard of a broken mirror and cut off all her magic hair! That way, Mother Gothel couldn't use Rapunzel and keep her prisoner.

Without the magic, Mother Gothel turned to dust. Rapunzel's hair lost its golden color and turned brown. And she couldn't heal Flynn. She bent her head and cried, singing her magic song. But, even without her hair, Rapunzel still had magic in her. One tear fell onto Flynn's cheek and the magic flowed through him and healed him!

He woke up and they kissed and they went back to the palace together. Rapunzel met the King and Queen, her father and mother, and they knew right away she was their lost Princess. They pulled her and Flynn into a big hug.

The Kingdom rejoiced. Their lost Princess had returned, and she was loved by all. Especially Flynn. He asked her to marry him... and she said yes! And they all lived happily ever after.

The End.

March 18, 2019

Gluten Free Goldfish Crackers + DIY Goldfish Cookie Cutter


There are some things about childhood that your kid "misses out" on if they're gluten free. We never felt that we were depriving Babs of anything and never felt the need to make substitutions for the gluten items we cut out of our diet.

But...

When her school is doing a Dr. Seuss week with a 1 Fish 2 Fish activity, what do you do? Luckily, Babs' teacher is out of this world amazing and makes sure as much as she can that Babs is never singled out or left out.


Unfortunately there are no commercially produced fish-shaped snacks. (Except Swedish fish, or as I like to call them, fish-shaped high-fructose-corn syrup.) So I scoured the internet, made a few test batches and perfected this Gluten Free Goldfish Cracker recipe.


  • Gluten Free Goldfish
  • Makes about 4 cups of goldfish.
  • 3 oz. Cheddar Cheese, shredded (about 1 1/4 cups ish)
  • 2 TB parmesean cheese, shredded or grated
  • 4 Tbs. Cold butter (I used salted; if using unsalted, add a pinch more salt)
  • 1/2 c. Cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. gluten free flour (see below for my blend recipe)
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Xanthan Gum
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbs. Milk

Combine all ingredients except milk in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles little crumbles. Add milk and pulse some more to combine the dough. If too crumbly, add a little more milk. If too thin, add a bit more cornstarch.

Dust your work surface with cornstarch or flour. Lay a sheet of parchment paper over the dough. Roll out dough to 1/8-1/4" thickness. Cut out your desired shapes and place on parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. They can be quite close together; these puff up nicely and won't spread.

Cook in preheated convection oven at 400 F for 10 minutes. If you don't have a convection oven, you may need to add cook time.

They'll burn quick, so pay attention. If they're a touch underdone, they'll still be delicious, but an extra minute is all it takes to get that golden orange color and the perfect crunch.

Gluten Free Flour Blend
The recipe, from the blog Allergy Awesomeness contains 3 ingredients:
Rice flour (brown has a better nutrient profile than white, but either works)
Tapioca Starch
Potato starch

DIY Mini Fish Cookie Cutter

Goldfish and Cheez Its are essentially the same thing, so if you don't require the fish shape, just cut them in squares and be done with it. But to go the extra mile, you can DIY your own mini goldfish cookie cutter from an aluminum can.

It's not as hard as you think it's going to be.

Supplies
Aluminum can
Knife (for starting the cut)
Scissors (not your best pair)
Duct tape

Using the knife, poke a hole big enough to get your scissors in, then use the scissors to cut the circumference of the can. Cut a vertical slit, then cut about a 1" strip.



Gently bend the strip into your desired shape. I started with the center front of the curved fish head, then bent the strip outward. Then bend each side of the strip back in for each point of the tail.



Trim off the excess. Overlap the ends and secure using duct tape.



Using small strips of duct tape, wrap the cookie cutter edges on the upper edge (the edges you will be pressing down on) ONLY.

Enjoy your fish crackers!




March 11, 2019

Cinderella Bedtime Story for Kids


Frozen
Moana
Beauty & the Beast
Rapunzel (Tangled)

Once upon a time, there lived a lovely girl named Cinderella. Sadly, her father passed away, leaving Cinderella with her stepmother and two stepsisters. They were very cruel to her and treated her terribly, making her work cooking and cleaning all day long. But Cinderella was cheerful nonetheless, and she was friends with the house mice and sang with the birds outside her window.

One day, the Prince of the kingdom decided he would host a ball at the palace, in order to choose a bride. Invitations were sent to every available lady in the kingdom. One invitation came to Cinderella's house. Cinderella thought this meant she, too, would be able to go to the ball. How wonderful that would be! To escape the dull drudgery of her life for just one night!

She had a gown of her mother's that she would fix up with her needle and thread. It would be nothing fancy, but she certainly couldn't go to a ball in her old raggedy dress she wore around the house.

But her stepmother and stepsisters scorned her. "Of course you can go," her stepmother said. "If you finish all your chores."

So all day long, her cruel stepsisters made extra work for Cinderella. Whenever she finished cleaning up something, they'd make it messy again, so she didn't have any time to fix up her mother's dress she wanted to wear to the ball.

At the end of the long day, Cinderella sighed. "Oh well, I guess there will be no ball for me."

But, her mouse and bird friends had spent all afternoon working, too. They saw what Cinderella's stepmother was doing to her and they wanted to help. So, using the sketch Cinderella had made of what she wanted the dress to look like, they cut and stitched and strung pearls and ribbons and fixed up her dress for her!

Cinderella was so excited when she saw what they had done. "Thank you so much my friends!" she exclaimed, hugging them all. She quickly dressed and hurried downstairs, where her stepmother and stepsisters were about to get into their carriage to go to the ball.

Even though her gown was not as fancy as her stepsisters', she still looked beautiful. Her stepmother wanted one of her own daughters to become Queen, so she didn't want Cinderella to go to the ball and catch the Prince's attention. She accused Cinderella of stealing the pearl necklace she was wearing. Her stepsister snatched it off her neck and tore her dress too. They pulled at the ribbons and beads until her dress was in tatters. Then they got into the carriage and rode away, leaving Cinderella there alone.

Defeated, sad and lonely, Cinderella rushed outside into the garden and sat on the ground, crying onto the stone bench.

Suddenly, she realized she was not alone anymore. A kindly old woman was sitting on the bench, patting her arm. "There, there, dear. It'll all be alright," she said.

"Who are you?" Cinderella exclaimed.

"I'm your fairy Godmother of course! I'm here to help you."

Her fairy Godmother knew Cinderella wanted to go to the ball, so she used her magic. With a wave of her wand and a Bippity Boppity Boo, she transformed a pumpkin from the garden into a carriage, two mice into horses to pull the carriage and a rabbit into a coachman to drive it! Then she turned to Cinderella. She waved her wand and Cinderella was suddenly dressed in a beautiful sparkly blue gown.

"Remember dear, the magic will only last until midnight!" her fairy Godmother told Cinderella.

At the palace, Cinderella marveled at the beauty of the ballroom and the luxury of the other ladies. She was having such a lovely time just looking at everything. The Prince was swamped by all the ladies wanting his attention, but he noticed Cinderella wandering out by the balcony. He left all the other ladies and went to talk to her. Cinderella was very surprised, but she accepted when he asked her to dance.

The Prince didn't leave her side all night. They talked and laughed and danced. Cinderella was having such a lovely evening, she lost all track of the time. Finally, she got a look at the clocktower. It was five minutes to midnight!

"I have to go!" she exclaimed and rushed out.

The Prince chased after her. "Wait! I don't even know your name!"

On the steps, she lost one of her glass slippers, but she couldn't go back for it. She didn't want the Prince to see her when the magic spell wore off.

She got home just in time. The carriage changed back into a pumpkin. The horses turned back into mice, the coachman back into a bunny and Cinderella was dressed in her ragged old dress again. The only thing she had left from her magical evening was one sparkling glass shoe.

But, oh, what an amazing night! The memories would be enough to help her endure her stepfamily's cruelty for as long as she had to.

But the Prince did not give up so easily. The next day, he sent his Governor to every home in the kingdom, carrying with him the glass slipper, the only clue the Prince had about the mystery lady he wanted to marry. Every lady who'd attended the ball tried it on.

When the Governor came to Cinderella's house, her stepmother locked her in the attic so she couldn't try on the glass slipper. As her stepsisters tried to cram their big feet into the dainty glass shoe, Cinderella's mouse friends went on a dangerous mission. They snuck past the house cat and stole the key from her stepmother's room. They unlocked her door and Cinderella rushed downstairs just as the Governor was leaving.

"Wait, please! I'd like to try."

Before she could try on the shoe, her stepmother tripped the Governor and the glass slipper shattered on the ground. He was devastated!

"Don't worry, sir," Cinderella said kindly. "I have the other shoe."

And so she did. She retrieved the other glass slipper from her bedroom and put it on.

It fit her foot perfectly, because it was made for her. The Governor knew this was the woman the Prince was looking for, so he whisked her off to the palace. As soon as the Prince saw her again, even in her ragged old dress, he knew she was the woman he'd fallen in love with. He asked her to marry him right there, and she said yes.

Cinderella became Princess of the kingdom and eventually Queen. She brought her mouse friends to live at the palace with her, and they all lived happily ever after. The End.