Monday, February 24, 2014

More Problems with Tech

Stop! a Vintage Car Brake Light by Sarah McTernen
I think it is officially dead.  I tried to revive it, but after six months of hoping it won't crash, my computer will no longer stay on for more than 30 seconds before blue screening.  I guess it is time to give up and figure out how to work without it. 

My kitchen table is a mess of wires right now as I have a USB hub hooked to the Surface and USB keyboard hooked to the hub and my USB hard drive also hooked to the hub so I can work on documents that will not fit on the Surface and something is beeping!  I don't know what but I am assuming that the file transfer that I am attempting between the SD Card and the portable hard drive is not working :(  Blah.  Some days I hate technology.

Finished reading the 5th graders essay on how stars created the universe.  Now onto figuring out how I can get files from my camera onto the USB hard drive so I can develop the photographs I took on Saturday.  I think I am ready for it to be Tuesday.

Are there days when technology fails you?

Thanks for reading,
Sarah McTernen

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chocolate Cake Donuts

Whole wheat chocolate donuts, glazed and coated in Unsweetened Coconut
Chocolate Cake Donuts
I have to admit.  I have a soft spot for donuts.  Donuts were one of those foods that I would treat myself to on a rare occasion when I was in high school.  Soft, chocolaty, and only a little sweet, the chocolate old fashion cake donut unglazed was my favorite.  The only place in town that made them went out of business before I left high school and as I started eating less and less processed foods, I was not longer fond of any donuts I found as they all had an odd aftertaste.  It is one of those sad things about purging the chemicals from your diet, you become much more aware of the chemicals flavor in your food. 
At some point I decided to try to make them at home and opted for the baked version, but it wasn’t the same.  I tried frying them in a pan with a little oil, but they were more like fritters than donuts.  So my husband bought me a deep fryer.  Fast forward nine months to a fateful Sunday when my daughter asks if we can make donuts.  We do.  They are soft, chocolaty, and only a little sweet.
Chocolate Cake Donuts
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
¾ cup buttermilk
5 tablespoons melted butter
Fat for frying (we used Canola oil because I bought a thing of it at Costco, but I want to try lard for a healthier option...that still sounds funny in my head).

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.   Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl and then pour the wet into the dry.  Stir until it all comes together. 
At this point you have three options:
o   Flour the counter and pat the dough out flat with floured hands to about 1/2” in thickness, making sure that the dough does not stick to the counter (Oil is already hot and you want donuts now.)

o   Let the dough rest for 10-20 minutes and then follow the procedure above (you just started the oil and it is going to take a bit to heat up but you would still like donuts before lunchtime.)

o   Chill the dough for 1-3 hours and then follow the procedure above (you thought ahead and have time to let the dough meld before making doughnuts for breakfast.)
As for the frying.  There are many ways to fry a donut.  You need either an electric deep fryer or a large pot able to hold 6-8 cups of fat with plenty of head room.  Heat the oil to 375 degrees F (if not using an electric deep fryer you will need an oil/candy thermometer).  Gently deposit one donut at a time into your fat, but do not add more than three donuts at a time.  Cook 1 ½ - 2 minutes on each side.  Your first donut will be the tester so cut it open and check the doneness.  Cool on wire rack over paper towels.
Want glaze?
¼ cup milk + 1-2 cups of powdered sugar and pinch of salt and a dab of vanilla.  Heat in a sauce pan until warm and then remove.  Reheat if necessary.
Dip donuts in glaze and return to wire rack to harden.
Glaze is a great way to add additional toppings like coconut, crushed peanuts, or chocolate shavings if you are leaning for something fancy.   Just dip in the glaze and then dip in the toppings.  If you prefer more chocolate, make a chocolate ganache instead of glaze by combining ½ cup chocolate chunks with ¼ cup cream, heat slowly over medium heat until combined and then remove from heat.
What is your favorite donut?
Best wishes,

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Copper Filigree Snowflake Necklace - Sea Snow

Sea Snow by Sarah McTernen
Copper Filigree Snowflake Necklace - Sea Snow
I am not sure that I am happy with the name.  The filigree snow flake paired with the aquamarine and sea ice like prehnite led me in that direction.  It doesn't capture the romantic elegance that I see in this piece. 
The snowflake is made of a copper wire frame with six diamond shaped ends and a nested wire center.  Curly Q spirals are then wire wrapped to the frame, two to a prong, with the bottom spirals wire wrapped to the adjoining prong.  The whole pendant measures almost 4" and when you include the cagay pod stem, the pendant drop is nearly 5 1/2". 

A small bib of aquamarine drops on copper chain adds a delicate nature to this statement necklace.  The chain is made of rough prehnite nuggets, dark brown wood rounds, faceted copper cubes and two cagay pod slices beaded with wood rounds and copper cubes.  This necklace is 18" around the neck and closes with a copper hook clasp for easy, yet secure, on and off.

What do you think of the design?

Thanks for reading,

Sarah McTernen

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How Should I HomeSchool? Let Me Count the Ways

The Alphabet by Sarah McTernen
When I first committed to the act of homeschooling four years ago, I  read article upon article, book upon book,  went to the conference to listen to lectures and tried to absorb as much knowledge as I could.  I pined over classical learning and Charlotte Mason, tiptoed into Montessori and Waldorf, avoided the idea of "schooling at home" and adopted a unit study approach that still had us scheduled, to keep us on track, but allowed for some freedom and my easily distracted ways.  I had plans.  Then we started our school year.  The plans I made went almost completely out the window. 

Not that we didn't do work.  That first year, my son and I worked on a lot, but it was at his pace and around the schedule of two little sisters. Our first year homeschooling was my son's 2nd grade year.  He had been reading since before kindergarten (which is one of the reasons we left public schooling), and was enthralled with the Harry Potter series of books.  That took care of reading.  We did math worksheets and reading comprehension exercises, because he liked the reading comprehension and needed the math.  We worked on kitchen chemistry and nature exploration.  These sound impressive, but really they were just simple interaction experiments like vinegar and baking soda, and playing in the backyard.   We also worked on Greek and Roman mythology. 

This littles didn't receive any scheduled learning.  We did story time, played with blocks, and played outside.  For the most part that is what I still do with them, now that I think of it.  We also watch television and play computer games. Early elementary in this house is very low key.

Our 3rd and 4th grade years where more sloppy and haphazard.  We had more life going on those years, but we still managed to work on Egyptian and Norse Mythologies, math and science including more chemistry and physics, lots of reading and probably too much TV.

This year is 5th grade and the boy requested more structure. AH!  In August, between football practice and birthday parties, prepping for the littlest ones surgery and following physical therapy, I tried to figure out how to get him more structure without wiping me out.  The method I settled on was E-Mail.  Everyday that we "school", which is Monday through Thursday, he gets an E-Mail that has his daily quote, daily word and work of the day.  Work of the day consists of articles, video lectures and online games that I find for each subject.  We break the subjects up for the week, thought we do not shirk from some overlap: Monday is English, Tuesday is Math, Wednesday is History, and Thursday is Science.  His work is mostly independent.

The middle one is in 1st grade and still working on reading.  Her math skills are good and she loves science experiments.  We are reading The Wizard of Oz aloud at night and I have hopes of starting to read A Little History of the World to them.

I know that there are family out there who do a LOT more than we do during the day.  I have gone through the doubt and trepidation that I am not homeschooling "right".  As I watched mothers who "school" more, who play more, who are calmer or more organized, I came to the conclusion that our children are a part of us.  They encompass our temperaments, quirks, habits and interests in one way or another, even if that is being the complete opposite.  With that in mind, I threw away the thought that another families homeschool would work better in my house.  I am not these women nor are my kids those kids.  If I teach my kids anything that sticks, I hope it is to be confident in who they are, in what they want, and in what they dream.

Thanks for reading,
Sarah McTernen

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lemony Blackberry Pancakes

My lovely neighbor had a freezer issue and needed to get rid of the frozen blackberries that she had picked the previous summer.  I said of course I would take them off her hands, not knowing what exactly I would do with them, but pretty sure I could figure something out.  My first thought was jam.  At the time, I had never made jam so I was lacking the ingredients and equipment.  In my attempt to make no pectin, low sugar jam, I created a very tasty, somewhat runny, not-jam.  Somewhere in my brain this equaled pancakes.

Lemony Blackberry Pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour (optional)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup yogurt
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 - 2 cups blackberry puree with honey
1/2 lemon squeezed and zested
1/4 cup melted butter

In a small bowl, mix together dry ingredients and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together wet ingredients, except butter, and stir to combine.  Add dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined, then add butter and continue until fully incorporated.

Cook in 1/4 cup dollops on medium hot buttered griddle until bubbles begin to show.  Flip.  Cook for another minute or so until brown and cooked through.


Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place six 1/4 cup dollops on a cookie sheet, either oiled or lined with parchment.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Flip.  Bake another 5 minutes or until cooked through. 

Serve with fresh whipped cream or nothing at all.

I am seriously tempted to go grab another one.

Try out the recipe and let me know what you think.

Best wishes,
Sarah McTernen

Should I Stay or Should I Go: The Debate on Moving to a Brick and Mortar

Darien Drive by Sarah McTernen
It started out as a simple question:  What is stopping us from having physical location?  This simple question had a simple answer: money.  You would think it would end right there, but it didn't.  This sent me on a week long run all over town seeing if it was possible.  If owning a brick and mortar physical location was the next step for Ardent Life.  In the end, the answer is no, not yet, but here are some things I learned.

1.  Business Insurance is not as scary or expensive as I thought it was.  Not that I haven't talked with my insurance agent many times over the years, but I had always thought business insurance would be a complicated process.  Not so much..

2.  There are a LOT of different types of leases.  It is not only important to know what type of lease you are looking at but also the rules of said lease and the expectations of both parties.

3. My city doesn't have a lot of interesting retail spaces.  I found one I liked.

4. I really love the concept of having my own shop.  There is part of me that wants to take the risk and just do it.  There is another part of me that understands reality to a better degree.

5. I need to write up a business plan. (I know, I know.  I should have done that 9 years ago).

I can see owning a shop in my future. I can see it being a success.  I cannot see it happening right now as I am trying to get back into the game.  I have been only dabbling in work the last few years due to my daughter's health.  This year will be focusing on building Ardent Life up, growing consignment opportunities and networking in the community. 

We'll revisit opening a shop in a few years.

What do you think?

Best wishes,
Sarah McTernen

Monday, February 10, 2014

Love's Lesson Learned

available on Etsy

Love’s Lesson Learned

Through the years the armor
builds and grows in strength.  The sweet
taste of trust and beauty fall martyr
to the whims of fate.  Hope, shrouded in defeat
is left battling from the ground
to hold the beauty of love’s chimes
for the heart to hear.  But bitterness surrounds
the soul, and in the essence of these times
 nothing can truly set it free
except an offering of selflessness, burned
on the alter of chance, opening the way to ecstasy
through loyalty, and love’s lesson learned.
The armor falls away as the first
lesson of pain is replaced with love not curst.

Best wishes,

Sarah McTernen

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Distracted Nature

The Distracted Nature
Being a mom is an interesting job.  There are some people who love it, there are some people who hate it and some who just put up with it.  I have to admit that most of the time I would rather be creating, rather be reading, or researching, writing or organizing my chaos than washing the umpteenth load of laundry and making lunch.  I know as my munchkins grow up, they will be able to take care of themselves more and our interactions will fall on the scale of little to intellectual/emotional/creative conversations. 

For now, I am in the distracted nature of the creative mom.  Moving from one project to the next in between the waiting times and trying to remember exactly what I walked in the room for before being interrupted because the dog knocked over the cup of milk that was not supposed to be in the living room. 

I have high hopes for 2014, though it does seem that everything will be about two weeks later than I had planned.  I am typically over ambitious with my planning.  I will be writing here more this year and sharing more photographs and new jewelry pieces.

My goal for this year is to find a calm somewhere between the chaos and the craziness. 

What is your goal for 2014?

Thanks for reading,
Sarah McTernen