PEPper Prepper Party : Like a cookie exchange but with waterproof matches.

all the disaster memes (thank you, I take no credit other than collaging them)!

I do love a theme! The disaster preparedness party idea started this summer when one of parents in our PEPs group shared an article on being ready for 9.0 earthquake in our near future (remember time is relative). In my last professional position, disaster preparedness was one of my bailiwicks, and I must have just been in a mood but therein sparked the September get together with our awesome PEPs group. Seriously, salt of the earth and surprisingly many had some form of disaster kit or at least a hint of a plan “a bunch of water in our garage and hope for the best”, so there was actual enthusiasm to get together and update now that our families are bigger by at least one. That and we like hanging out, eating and letting our kids play together.  Our first annual (because you need to update your kits) PEPper Prepper party was this September, which is National Emergency Preparedness Month (#notacoincidence).

Snapshot of some our kit contents to share.

Host your own Prepper Exchange Party

  • Create a list of basic items for guests to sign up to bring. Some examples:
    • Non perishable food items (think soup, vegetables, fruit, peanut butter, powder milk)
    • Can opener
    • Corkscrews (just kidding, sort of)
    • Whistles
    • Thermal emergency blankets
    • Moist towelettes
    • Garbage bags and ties for personal sanitation
    • Household bleach (for cleaning or water purification)
    • Water purification tablets
    • Duct tape (because if you can’t duct it …… )
    • Candles or flashlights
    • Lighters, matches
  • Suggest a minimum quantity to share with each family
  • Have guests sign up to bring 1) a dish or drink to share (potluck!) and 2) preparedness items to share


You might also want to have people bring boxes or find some 5 galloon food buckets to store items in. On a whim, I asked our local PEPs office if they had any swag that would be appropriate for disaster kits. Surprisingly, they had the perfect tote for us – electric lime green! [thank you for the other items too!]

Fortune cookies aka hope in a disaster and note the jam – must make room in my pantry!

Congregate, eat food, play with reckless abandon, assemble kits.  Another in the group found a cute coloring book to download about Pepper the Prepper Cat. There are others but this was a better fit for our toddlers (big picture, not a lot of words, they just eat crayons anyways). I also found a spooky vegetable page, a homage to our veggie-phobic brood. However, the large punch balloons were the big hit. Note: we live dangerously, since the balloons are labeled for ages 8 and over.



Check out this awesome repurpose/hack to portion out bleach using Medela storage containers. The label with instructions makes me smile.


Some helpful resources for filling in the rest of your kit:

Diaper Skep for a Bee or Beehive Themed Shower: Tutorial

diaper shower bee skep 1

So many options and ideas out there for diaper cakes. They make an adorable centerpiece for a shower, customizable with ribbons and flare, and certainly are a needed gift commodity for new parents. (..would fit well with a Bee is for Baby themed shower I hosted.)  For an added creative, yet not too complicated, twist, why not turn your diaper center piece into something more unique. For this tutorial, I am sharing how I crafted a bee skep (or hive) from diapers. A skep is an old hive design made often of twisted straw. While, no longer a legal hive style in most places, it is still found frequently in bee designs and themes. Read more about the beauty of bees here.

The skep can use less diapers than a tiered cake which is good for cost-conscious but also if prospective parents use an alternative to disposables. In crafting this, I already came up with other modification options that I will note but would love to hear your ideas as well. I love bees!


  • Diapers in primarily newborn sizes (approx.. 20-25) and some size 1s (approx. 10)
  • String or twine to form circles (or wire)
  • Decorative twine or yarn to tie rolled up diapers
  • Double sided tape
  • Ribbon, several yards
  • Bee stickers, cutouts (print and cut clip art), stamps, buttons, whatever you want to decorate
  • Foam or straw wreath for base (optional), 12 to 16 inch diameter
  • Fabric strips (#3 of 2.5 x 40 in/ WOF) to wrap around wreath base (optional)
  • Flat pins
  • Tissue paper to fill in the skep to support.

Supply Notes: I used a mixed of newborn and size one for the first two layers but found the newborn to be easier to shape.  Wowsers, I also forgot how small they are compared to our current toddler dipe.  Also, Pampers newborn diapers had the most white space while the Huggies newborns had some green and cartoon accents. Not a big deal, just be aware that it might add accent colors or is an option for you to decide if you want. I used the diapers I was gifted so you see a little green and Winnie the Pooh every now and then.But hey, he liked honey.

Not necessary but I did roll up the rest of the diapers I had and stuffed them inside the bottom too layers. It added stability, more diapers to the gift but you could skip this step. I used some tissue to stuff and support the top layers. Again, you could use a mix of tissues and maybe a balloon etc. I was gifted the diapers for free on our local Buy Nothing group. You should definitely check out this organization if you haven’t already – a great way to meet and make community through random acts and asks of kindness.

The wreath base is also not necessary but can be an additional gift if decorated for nursery décor. It added stability as this particular skep was off to be mailed. The bigger the base the taller the skep. I used one that was 15 inches.

Ideally the diapers will be actually used on an adorable baby bottom, so no glue was used and maybe the few diapers with pins in them can be used with reckless abandon.


  • Create base if doing this step. Wrap with fabric strips secured with flat pins. Using a straw wreath would add another design element (homage to old English skeps) and you might want to wrap just with ribbon or twine to let it show through. Your creative call. Note, I started with yellow strips but didn’t have enough cut so switched to grey. They are out of a jelly roll.

diaper shower bee skep 10diaper shower bee skep 9

  • Start building the rings of the skep. Roll up the diaper over the string/twine or wire. I cut off a length about 36 inches for the first one, which is more than enough. Roll from the ruffley edge down. You might also want to decide which side is the ‘outside’ or right side if designs.

diaper shower bee skep 8

diaper shower bee skep 7

  • Tie the rolled up diapers either with one in the middle or two, on either end. I used colored twine (brown and yellow) to add a color accent. Colored twine is easy to find now in just about any shade. I put the tied twine on the part of the rolled up diaper that will face inside. Note in this photo how they are rolled around the white twine and tied. When you have added all the diapers for the ring, tie the loose ends tight enough to form a circle. Repeat this making each ring or layer smaller each time to create the taper.  The last ring was three newborn diapers and the very top, which you add at a later step is a newborn diaper rolled the long way and folded in half.

diaper shower bee skep 6

  • Create each layer and do not worry a ton about length, its diapers, they are forgiving. I tied each ring in knot that I could undo if I needed to add or substract or substitute a size 1 diaper for newborn if that made it fit the skep better. Stack your rings as you go to get a sense for how it is shaping up.
    • Here is the diaper count I used.
      • In the first ring I used: 2 Newborn and 6 size 1
      • Second ring: 2 Newborn and four size 1
      • Third ring: 7 Newborn and no size 1
      • Fourth ring: 4 Newborn and 1 size 1
      • Fifth ring: 5 Newborn
      • Sixth ring: 3 Newborn
      • Top: 1 Newborn
  • I had a lot of other diapers and wanted to stabilize the diaper skep. So using twine and a few rubber bands, rolled up more size one diapers (these are more useful to new parents anyways) and stood them end on end inside the first diaper ring, then put a layer around perimeter of open/flat diapers. In the picture you can see that I put the ring more in the middle. This way some of the rolled up standing diapers would be wedged in the wreath and also the second ring. Again, this is optional. I stuffed the rest of the skep inside with tissue paper.

diaper shower skep 4

  • Once you have your rings created and stacked, you can tape them on the inside or in between useing double-sided tape. I tried to alternate the spaces between diapers versus lining up. Now is the time to put in tissue or other filling to support shape.

diaper shower skep bee 5

  • Add the ribbon. This adds color, theme and also helps hold it together. I used flat pins to affix the ribbon (grosgrain) to the wreath and then pulled it up and into the top of the skep. You could also weave it in and out, or use twine etc. With the top I used a small section of ribbon to hold the diaper folded but not too tight.

diaper shower bee skep 3

  • Add some bees and maybe an entrance. I used my favorite bee stamp, espresso colored ink and some scrap kraft paper to create the bees in hexagons. There was much internal debate about circles versus hexagon. Yes, time I will never get back but well spent. You could also use stickers, scrapbooking cutouts, large buttons or print out some images.

diaper shower bee skep 2

  • The final product was about 12 inches tall. For future skeps I might roll the diapers even tighter to make more rings, or use a more narrow ribbon to hold together and ideally all the diapers would be white but knowing the green is there because of gift from Buy Nothing, makes me smile. The expectant mama used to be in the same group before moving away too. Enjoy!

diaper shower bee skep 1


Other Diaper Centerpiece Baby Shower Ideas:

This week’s food inspiration: fresh, mostly local

beet carrot radish salad coriander

My garden is not going gangbusters but I am enjoying a new CSA we are trying this summer, Growing Washington. Having so  many colors and options to play with makes the peak of summer a great time to prepare food. Mixed in you might also find ways to integrate food from the larder to make way for future bounty, meat from a local farmer or, of course, a shopping trip to local Costco or grocery store (probably delivered, because I would rather be playing, or you know #life). I am not going to put on airs, just know that I vote with my dollar, taste buds and I like to snap pictures of my food. And eat out too. Ok, I like to eat good food.

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

  • Green beans (CSA)
  • Cherry tomatoes (C)
  • Garlic (Neighbor)
  • Olive oil (Instacart)
  • Basil (pot on deck)
  • Crumbled Farmer’s cheese (CSA)
  • Salt and Pepper

Blanch the beans, trim the ends and slice into 1/2 inch segments or so. Slice the cherry tomatoes. Finely chop a clove garlic and basil. Toss ingredients together, dress lightly with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Don’t fret too much about quantities, I used about 1 lb beans.

Rainbow of Beets, Carrot Ribbons and Radish Salad with Coriander vinaigrette dressing

  • Beets: Chiogga, Red, Golden (CSA)
  • Radishes (CSA, garden)
  • Carrots (Instacart)
  • Parsley (Instacart)
  • Honey (backyard hive)

Here is the link to the recipe. I added some chopped up extra peppery arugula for a kick and at least trippled the quantity.

Herbed Smashed Potatos with Roast Chicken and Sautéd Tat Soi, Spring Onions and Baby Bellas

  • 2 pounds potatoes (CSA)
  • Fresh and finely choped rosemary, thyme, oregano (or sage) (backyard)
  • Garlic (neighbor)
  • Goat Milk Yogurt (CSA), no more than 1/2 cup
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt, Pepper

Wash, scrub the potatoes and cut them in half or quarter. Put them in pot or pressure cooker and cover with water by an inch. In pressure cooker, bring to 15 PSI for 6 minutes and quick release. Drain potatoes and let them sit in colander. Add oil to pot, turn on heat, add garlic for a minute and then herbs until aromatic, just minutes. Add the potatoes back in, turn off heat and smash with wooden spoon etc. Mix in yogurt (or milk) to help make potatoes a little more creamy, add salt and pepper to taste, top with butter.

  • 1 pound tat soi (CSA) or other leafy green like bok choi, spinach, chard etc
  • Spring onion (CSA), sliced about 1/2 cup
  • Oyster sauce (your favorite asian grocery store)
  • Sliced mushrooms (C)
  • Garlic (C )
  • Avocado oil (C)

Add oil, onions, garlic and tat soi. Stir fry on high heat. About half way through wilting, add oyster sauce, about 1 tablespoon and continue stirring until all cooked. Salt and pepper, chili flakes or sauce to taste.


Roast Chicken – from Windy N Ranch in Ellensburg, done in my favorite way. This chicken and many scraps then became stock in the pressure cooker!


Ahh, pie……  Rhubarb from my garden, blueberries from CSA and Asian pears from the yard, frozen last fall.

img_1064I was more busy than usual in the kitchen over the weekend, prepping some treats for the freezer, friends and a hungry toddler that needs to not know about all the places the veggies hide.

Butternut squash cornbread: refined sugar free! used up some organic frozen squash (sneaky veggie!) and yes really 2 T baking powder (use aluminum free). This was amazingly soft yet still cornbread-y… next time i might pop in some curry powder instead of nutmeg and ginger.img_1071Carrot Parsnip Oatmeal Muffins (based off this recipe), sweetened with pure maple syrup. Great for toddlers (sneaky veggies). I added raisins and some random dried chopped apricots along with grated parsnip and carrots. They do stick to the papers more than usual. I doubled and froze.  Someone helped me mix them up too. Stirred in his own veggies!

Please share your favorite ways to hide veggies!

Harvard Beets: Out of the dirt into the Pressure Cooker


Harvard beets are a vintage recipe quite popular for good reason in all the guild, church and society cookbooks: tasty, simple and flexible. Many of you know I have a love of vintage cookbooks but today I share with you a quick updated version using your pressure cooker; taking the stovetop simmer from at least 40 minutes to 20 minutes.  These sweet, tangy and spicy beets make an excellent side dish to share, addition to a salad or a dish to put away in the freezer  (or can)for a later date.  What makes them Harvard? Legend is murky but it could be the crimson color or their New England popularity or some say they were ‘invented’ in a long-ago English tavern named Harwood.  The number of legends is about equal to the number of recipe variations.  I was lucky to have some overwintered beets that I just harvested for this batch (motley looking beet crew).


Harvard Beets 


  • 3 pounds of beets; I don’t get hung up on size.
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons jam; a citrus marmalade works great; I used fig jam!
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • Optional: pinch of cinnamon or clove
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (ok to omit this if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt  (maybe omit if using salted butter)
  • 2 cups of water


  • Wash the beets well and trim off the tops. Save them to braise, sauté or make into ‘chips’.
  • Place the beets and 2 cups of water in the pressure cooker. Cook at 15 psi for 20 minutes if using stovetop or if using electric pot – high pressure (~ 11psi) for 30 minutes.


  • When done cooking you can use the quick release method to get ready for next step.
  • When safe to open the pot, go ahead and remove the beets. You need to rinse and drain the beets with cool water. This will help them cool down as well. Do NOT toss the water from the pressure cooker!
  • Once cool remove the skins. They should almost slip right off, but you might need to use a paring knife.


  • To the pressure cooker pot full of beet juice, add the vinegar. Turn the heat back on until it starts simmering. Once simmering, add the jam, cornstarch, butter and salt. Whisk it up! It should start to thicken up. At this point, you are almost done.
  • Put the beets in a serving dish, pour in the liquid. Taste and add additional salt, sweet or maybe pepper to your taste preference.


  • I love to serve with goat cheese or on top of a salad.
  • Don’t forget beets stain everything. You can actually tie-dye with them but that is likely not your goal today, so be careful. I wore gloves to peel to save the washing and scrubbing of my hands later.
  • Some recipes call for canned beets. Just don’t. Support a farmer or gardner.
  • If you want to take it until step further you can also can/preserve harvard beets, omit the cornstarch (you would add that in when serving). Here is a recipe for guidance
  • Fortunately, the pressure cooker isn’t required you could simmer the beets in the water on the stovetop for 40 minutes or so, and go from there in the recipe. I will say that they are just fine served right way but the flavors mellowed and merged after a day in fridge.
  • This recipe can easily be adjusted based on the amount of beets you have. Just be sure there is enough liquid for your pot.


IMG_9235IMG_9236Recipe adapted from Weinstein’s Great Big Pressure Cooker Book. One of my faves.

What is your favorite version of Harvard or Pickled Beets?

Little’s Bee Room: Curated and Created

IMG_7705 copy
– panoramic of grey and yellow room for Little Bee

Well, it only took me about a year to push publish the last post about Little Bee’s nursery, albeit, it is hard to use the word nursery now but the ‘decor; and space are growing.  Future modifications will be to keep making it more ‘montessori’ but for now, it is a space for some  stories and sleep. The most fun part of putting this room together was curating and creating all the art and decorations(see post Fresh Nursery Wall Art Ideas and this one Simple Stitched Paper Garland or Bunting) but I also made simple custom curtains to help darken. This room will continue to be a work in progress as he grows.


To make the curtains, I used some simple grey heavy fabric curtains from Ikea. I hemmed them to the window length and then sewed two strips of coordinating bee and yellow honey comb fabric along the bottom to match the theme. I did the same thing (sewing coordinating fabric) to the tie backs. Easy peasy!

PFew! Checked that off my list.

Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon – Preserving the Harvest

Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon spice

Last year I finally broke down and bought a food dehydrator after years of concern that it would be just another appliance taking up space. Granted it isn’t running 365, but when it is time to harvest fruit or there is a great sale at the market, my Nesco Snack Master Pro (amazon affiliate) becomes indispensable. I also found myself up to my eyebrows in jam and dehydrating offers another alternative to preserving food.

Someday I might be an “Excalibur” level dehydrator but after lots of research and polling the audiences, I settled on the Snackmaster. Besides, it is fun to say snackmaster and easy to add trays, clean and adjust heat setting.

For this recipe, I used crisp sweet Asian pears because that it what grows in my back yard, but any pear would do and I would venture to say that the curry and cinnamon and a little sugar would work on apples and bananas and other fruits. I like the sneaky subtle spice of the curry with the classic cinnamon. I use just a tiny bit of sugar but you could absolutely just skip that part and have it be plain fruit. Some people will so a quick swipe through some lemon water to help prevent browning but it doesn’t bother me (and seems to be minimal), the cinnamon hides it and it adds another step.

Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon spice

Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon

Ingredients: Ground cinnamon, granulated sugar and Madras curry powder (I like sun brand)

I don’t measure anything but mix together maybe a tablespoon of sugar with a lot of cinnamon (3 teaspoons? more?). This made enough for two full Snackmaster loads of pears. I put the curry on separately, for no good reason, other than trying to keep it really light.

Pear preparation: Wash, dry and you can peel them if you like. I usually leave it on but Asian pear peels can sometime ‘russet’ or get thicker and in that case I peel off part of it. Now you can cut in half and scoop out the core with a melon baller, and slice into thin wedges or slices, even leave the stem on for decoration if you like. This year I sliced horizontally, sometimes leaving the core in (removing seeds) and other times i cut it out, especially if it felt tougher.

Layer the fruit into dehydrator. Sprinkle on curry powder and then cinnamon sugar. I only put it on one side, and it leaves more than enough flavor. you could also dip the slices in the spice mix and then place on trays.

How think you slice the fruit determine the drying time. I aim for a scant 1/4 inch, closer to an eighth but my knife skills are amateur and I was too lazy to get the mandolin out. Turn on your dehydrator, about 135F for 8-12 hours. Once dried appropriately let cool and then store in a zip lock, glass jar, food saver or just eat them right away. They are a health snack, good in oatmeal or baked into cookies.

Bonus! Your house will smell like pear pie, fall and hugs. Yay!

Dried Asian Pears with Curry and Cinnamon
dehydator action shot

Other dehydrator ideas

Some of my other Asian Pear Ideas

Nut Butters – Almond, Pecan and Walnut! Oh My!

Starting my day off with a banana and pecan butter  toast!

I love nut butter – peanuts? yes please! almond? Over here! But I recently tried making a batch of pecan and a batch of walnut. Now the big decision, is which nut butter to spread on my toast?

Nut butters are very easy to make at home and are a sure fire way for you to know EXACTLY was is in (or not) your spread. Nuts and a pinch of salt (if you like). Get a bit crazy and whirl in some honey.

What you need

  • Raw or roasted nuts
  • Sea salt
  • Food processor, spatula
  • about 10 – 15 minutes
  • Maybe ear plugs if your food processor sounds like a jet engine (as does mine – since upgraded)

How to

  • Put the nuts, whole is fine, into the food processor.
  • Turn on the food processor and let it whirl, swirl and pulverize away.
  • You likely need to stop it every few minutes to scrape down the sides.
  • Keep processing until it is the consistency you desire. Plan on about 10 minutes but watch as each nut and batch size will vary.
  • Add a pinch of salt, mix it in. Taste and add more if you like.
  • Scoop into containers, maybe enjoy a spoonful.
  • Nut butters keep just fine in a jar at room temperature. I made sure when filling the container to push out air bubbles.
  • Enjoy!

DIY nut butter

Almond butter is a staple, the walnut was good but I think next time i will roast the walnuts first as there was a slight bitterness. Pecan butter was the big surprise – it becomes spreadable really quickly (compared to almonds) and the taste has a lot more depth. After it sat for a few days some of the oil separated, which i poured off (you don’t have too), but it was still perfectly spreadable.

Starting my day off with a banana and pecan butter  toast!
Starting my day off with a banana and pecan butter toast!

Here is a great almond butter treat recipe! No Bake Almond Apricot Chocolate Cookies  Do you have a favorite nut butter recipe or variation?  Those pistachios in my pantry better watch out….

Dried Mango – Simple Snacking

dried mango tutorial snack DIY easy

This isn’t rocket science but just a method that worked really well and made short work of a case of Kent Mangos. I scored the ripe box at Ranch 99 Market for a song – you could smell the mango-y-ness wafting from the box (after of course you left the questionable seafood herbal Pinesol legit asian grocery smell).

For slicing and serving I really like this method using a glass, although the mangos in this purchase were almost too big, I could only do this AFTER slicing half but still helpful.


Dried Mango

  • Dehydrator (or can use the oven either on dry function or low low heat)
  • Ripe Mangos
  • Metal box cheese grater (slicing side)
  • Vegetable peeler

Peel the skin off only half the mango so that you can hold onto the fruit without it all over the place. Run your mango across the slicing side of the cheese grater to get strips that are a good thickness for drying. I used primarily the top two slicers. Of note, I tried to using the peeler to create the mango slices but they ended up very very paper thin when dehydtrated- actually sustained a mango paper cut. Don’t ask. Keep slicing and peeling until about half is gone, then use the glass method if you like to remove the giant pit and repeat, but do just peel away a part at the time so you have the skin to help hold it together. There was still a pile mushy indeterminate shaped mango, just put in a storage container and add to yogurt, ice cream or just spoon it right into your mouth.

In the dehydrator at about 130 F it took my batch about 4 hours to dry. I like to fill up each layer and put some sliced banana in at the end.



Simple single ingredient dog treats – Happy Cow Heart Chews

dog treat anticipation dried beef heart organic homemade hypoallergenic

Happy Cow? Yes, I asked the rancher. Also grass fed and local.  A friend and I purchased a quarter cow from a local farm near Seattle (Hallet Family) this summer. When picking up at the butcher they asked if I wanted an offal. Yes! Liver (made pate), kidney, tongue (can you say TACOS!) and heart. The intestines weren’t suitable this time, no loss – not a tripe fan.  The kidney and heart are saved for Mr. Mason, the family fur baby.

Making a wholesome, natural dog treat and not wasting part of the animal makes this tutorial a win-win. I am sure you could also add spices, flavoring, much like a jerky and the dogs would love but this is allergen free and no extra sodium etc. A cow’s heat weights about 3-5 pounds depending on age, so expect at least half that in treat weight.



  • Animal parts – can do this with really any piece of meat or animal part. I have seen esophagus et al turned into dog treats out on the inter webs.
  • Dehydrator
  • Zip locking bags
  • Sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • large rimmed baking sheet (options)
  • Disposable gloves, if you prefer
  • Biology book if you want to geek out and look for things like aorta, mitral valve etc.
  • Paper towel, lots.

Place your cutting board in a rimmed baking sheet covered with paper towels. if no baking sheet, put paper towels under your cutting board to help catch blood.
Slice the cow heart into thin uniform slices, less than a 1/4 inch if you can. The meat should be mostly defrosted if frozen – does make a little easier to cut. I did need to drain the blood from mine and give a quick rinse in the sink. From bigger pieces maybe cut into strips or make bite size nuggets for training treats if you like. Remove as much fat as possible. I didn’t do as good of a job with this and my treats have more fat than they should, so I am storing them int he freezer so they do not become rancid. But you can certainly store these at room temperature – plenty of beef jerky recipes out there; I recommend however fridge or freezer. Remember – the nose knows…. Note – I did not preheat the cook/heat the meat.

Lay on dehydrator trays and turn on and let it work its magic. I used the higher heat setting on mine – but you should follow your specific dehydrator’s recommendations. You could also dehydrate in the oven or other methods, especially if you have experience dehydrating meat/making jerky.

Expert Tip – move the dehydrator to the garage as the meat smell is not appetizing after a while and it will take at least four to five hours to dry out.  When done I placed dried bits of love on a paper towel to dab off any extra grease I could. Store in fridge or freezer.


Finished product



Treat Anticipation…… Check dramatic slow-mo of Mr. Mason trying out his treat for the first time.