5 Easy (and delicious) recipes for Tea Time

This time of year, none of us want to be near the oven any longer than we have to, but you still want to make poetry tea time delicious (or your tea party if you’re a Downton Abbey Fan!)

We’ve been reading our poetry outside on the deck under an umbrella, and our tea looks a lot more like lemonade than actual tea some days, but we still love to set the table up with lots of food and enjoy a leisurely time together.

I sacrificed a 25 cent vintage sheet from my stash to make a pretty tablecloth for our (also vintage) oddly shaped table on the back deck.

I sacrificed a 25 cent vintage sheet from my stash to make a pretty tablecloth for our (also vintage) oddly shaped table on the back deck.

I’ve compiled this set of recipe links from around the web to inspire you; some like the lavender bread (so good!), can be made the night before after things cool off a little while others need a few minutes in the oven right before eating. What they have in common is that they’re totally worth making despite the heat! Enjoy.

photo credit Debbie on allrecipes.com

photo credit Debbie on allrecipes.com


1.Basic tea biscuits. You can tweak these light and fluffy biscuits to your heart’s content – try lemon zest in them and then fill them with clotted cream and raspberries picked from the garden, or just grab the Gay Lea Spreadables (real butter blended with unsaturated canola oil so it’s spreadable on a hot biscuit right out of the fridge).



2. Vanilla bean scones. Every good tea time needs scones! This recipe is a twist on the classic – delicious and so easy to make.

photo credit ReluctantEntertainer.com

photo credit ReluctantEntertainer.com

3. Downton Abbey Lavender tea bread. I was a little skeptical, despite our love of lavender, that my kids would eat it, but I had to scramble to get a piece at all.

Photo credit dot.com

Photo credit dot.com

4. Learn to make old-fashioned home-made English crumpets!

downton-abbey-earl-grey-shortbread-cookies from sugar and soul

5. Downtown Abbey Earl Grey Shortbread biscuits are a small taste of heaven. And only 5 ingredients, too.

If you’ve never experienced a proper tea time or dressed up for a tea party, you have been missing out on something rather wonderful! Here’s a link to a post on how to throw an afternoon tea party, in case you need pointers. Obviously, this collection of recipes I’ve shared doesn’t even begin to touch on all the food you can include…….thinly sliced, crustless cucumber sandwiches……..open sandwiches with cream cheese and strawberries, eggs all dressed up……..there will be something to make every participant happy.

Do you have a recipe that’s your “go-to” for tea time or tea parties? Please share in the comments!


Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.


5 Ways to Enjoy Whipped Cream This Summer!

It’s summer, and it’s scorching hot. If you’re like me, you still want to serve nice looking food, but without a lot of fuss and without turning on the oven. Here are 5 ways you can use whipped cream to make things delicious quickly – OK, there are 6, but this is a family-friendly blog 😉

  1. Iced coffee just got fancier. I need my caffeine fix, but I don’t have to have it hot.iced coffee with whipped cream
  2. Did you know you can make your own slightly healthier (and way tastier) jello with fruit juice? Add a tbsp of plain gelatin to a cup of boiling juice or water, stir really well, then add a cup of cold juice. Cranberry is particularly good….especially when you top it with Gay Lea‘s Real Coconut Whipped Cream. It’s dairy and nut free, and absolutely delicious.iced coffee with whipped cream
  3. Possibly the world’s fastest dessert….a fairy cake, whipped cream, and fresh fruit from the garden. D,8 loves to pick the fruit for this part!fairy cakes with fresh berries and whipped cream
  4. Scratch pancakes, more fresh fruit, and a squirt of whipped cream make a quick breakfast luxurious in under 10 minutes including mixing time.pancakes, fresh berries and whipped cream.
  5. The joy of a can instead of a bowl of it? You can do this with the last part!IMG_8815IMG_8816

What are your favorite ways to use Gay Lea Real Coconut Whipped Cream, or regular whipped cream, to fancy up a summer food? Share your ideas in the comments so we can try them out!

Gay Lea whipped cream

Disclaimer: I received special perks (such as getting to try out the coconut whipped cream) as part of my association with Gay Lea as an ambassador. All opinions are my own.


Daisy chain tutorial (2 types)

Have you ever wondered how to make a daisy chain? Here are two different ways that you can make it – two tutorials in one post, so you can chose the level of difficulty that fits your child or yourself! This is a great floral crown craft for the summer solstice, garden parties, and weddings.

For either type, you’re going to want to pick nice long stems, and a couple of pieces of string to tie it together with – I’ve heard that it’s possible to do it with long pieces of grass, but whenever I try they break and/or snap off the daisy heads.

daisy chain pics 005

daisy chain pics 003

Daisy chain number 1 (easier):

Line up three daisies so that the heads are beside each other in a row. Tie it off at the base with a small piece of string and trim the string ends low.

daisy chain pics 008


Repeat, tying off three each time, until you have a big enough daisy chain for your crown or necklace or garland.

daisy chain pics 009

If you’re making it round, take a last piece of string and attach the two ends together. Wear it with pride!

daisy chain pics 021


Daisy chain number 2 (slightly more advanced):

If you can French-braid hair, you can make this! Start with three daisies and begin braiding the stems.

daisy chain pics 007

Continue, adding more daisies every few inches, and braiding them in. About this distance apart is where you want to add the next two or three daisies in:

daisy chain pics 006

The stems are self-eliminating, so you won’t end up with a big clump of stems at any point.

Take a small piece of strong and tie off the end, or tie it into its circle.

daisy chain pics 011

daisy chain pics 016


daisy chain pics 015

daisy chain pics 024

He’s just so darn cute. And a very good sport! I’m still completely smitten after more than 20 years.

Have you got any tips for making daisy chains, or other flower chains? Please share in the comments!


Waldorf Window Sun Tutorial

The summer solstice is almost upon us, and we’re celebrating! D,8, made this easy summer craft, and he asked me to grab photos for making a step-by-step Waldorf window sun tutorial.

You’ll need:

-8 square pieces of kite paper (I bought mine at Happy Hedgehog Post’s store – not an affiliate link, just a plug for a friend who sells quality materials and craft kits) It doesn’t really matter what size as long as they’re all the same. We used 8 yellow and 8 orange, 6″ each.

-glue stick


How to make it:

Step 1. Fold your square diagonally, making sure to line up the points. As D is demonstrating, if you hold the points with a finger and then slide your thumbs down to fold the paper, it helps you keep everything lined up.

fold # 1 waldorf window sun tutorial

fold # 1B waldorf window sun tutorial

Step 2. Open your triangle, turn the square the other way, and fold again. Make sure that all your folds are crisp and flat.

fold # 2 waldorf window sun tutorial

Step 3. Open your square again, turn it so a point is up, and fold the sides in to the middle line as shown.

fold # 3 waldorf window sun tutorial

It’ll look like this when you’re done this part.

fold # 3B waldorf window sun tutorial

Step 4. Fold at one pointed end, from the top down to the middle line, over the bits you just folded – the picture makes it more clear than my somewhat awkward wording:

fold # 4 waldorf window sun tutorial

Do the same to the other half. It’ll look like this when you’re finished.

fold # 4B waldorf window sun tutorial

Now set it aside and make your other 7 exactly the same way.

waldorf window star tutorial showing all points made

On to the glue part!

Glue the each point the same way, except the last one.

waldorf window sun tutorial glue instructions 1

waldorf window sun tutorial glue instructions 2

Try to line those bottom points and the middle line up as well as you can.

You’ re going to glue the last piece differently. Turn it to the front and glue the first half on. Then glue under the flap that D is lifting to attach the second half.

waldorf window sun tutorial glue instructions last piece of paper

That’s it! You’ve now made a beautiful, happy Waldorf window sun. Stick it up – you can even use the same water-soluble glue stick – and admire from either side.

waldorf window sun tutorial sticking up on window

waldorf window sun tutorial view of sun from outside

If you’d like to try another, more advanced Waldorf window sun tutorial, Samantha has a solstice star tutorial here.

Have fun, and happy summer!
P.S. Are you following me on Pinterest or Instagram yet?


Mullein nature study and journal entries


Do you ever have those days where your kids wake up in such “high spirits” that your ears are ringing by 7am? Yeah, me too, and yesterday was one of those days! I decided that some nature therapy was clearly in order for all concerned, so we went for a wander, and what caught our interest was some fairly newly growing  mullein. Naturally, we needed to do some mullein nature study!

I mentioned to D,8, that the Native Americans used to use it in their footwear for softness and added insulation, so of course he whipped off his crocs and tested it out. He liked it so much that he wore them for the rest of the morning.

At this point, K23 came out to see what we were up to (M had been up late writing a paper, so she was still asleep) and grabbed his camera to get some shots of the fronts and backs of the leaves.

mullein leaf front nature study

This posts contains affiliate links for products we used in our nature study. Clicking through our link if it’s something you decide to buy is always appreciated!

mullein leaf back nature study

Of course we had to bring a leaf inside to draw, and to inspect under our handy dandy new microscope! It almost looks like frost, doesn’t it? D speculated that since, according to the Handbook of Nature Study, (pages 237-239) mullein has these spiky leaf parts to hold moisture in longer, perhaps they are distant relatives of cacti…..something to look up another day (we’ve made a note in our questions notebook)


Handbook of Nature study page 573 mullein

D’s getting really good with using an index. This one for this book is huge so he gets lots of practice!


mullein leaf under a microscope front side


mullein under an eFlex microscope back side

D thought it looked like a map of a city on the back.

We wanted to learn more about how mullein was traditionally used, so we checked out an article from the Natural News.

We learned that as D had noticed, it grows in dry places and survives because of the deep-growing roots mentioned in the Handbook. It’s been used for respiratory problems, all parts of the plants, and has anti-bacterial properties. The article went on to say that it’s often used as a tea, so we steeped some mullein leaves -link is for where you can get some if you don’t have any-and tried it out (with local honey for some of us). It was really good, sort of green tasting, and would make, we decided, an excellent kind of iced tea this summer.

tasting mullein tea

Other things mullein is used for even today: as a sleep aid, for ear pain, migraines, rashes, cold sores, and as a poultice for bruises and arthritis. Wow……if it does even half of that we think it’s an incredibly useful plant to know! D has named it his “new favorite plant”.

mullein nature study journal page 2

mullein nature study journal page 1

mullein nature study journal page 3

Have you done any mullein nature study? Do you know of other uses for it? Please share in the comments!







Ureadin: Strong enough for a sensitive skinned man!

Recently we were delighted to be offered the opportunity to try Ureadin, a line of products from Intega.

Our oldest son, K,23, “The Man Mountain”, spends a lot of time getting absolutely filthy as for work he digs septic systems, graves, works on house renovations……you get the picture.

As you can imagine, this requires a corresponding amount of time scrubbing himself clean again! Since K has very sensitive skin and has suffered from eczema since he was a baby, you can guess what havoc it wreaks on his skin and how much discomfort he is often in.

We try as much as possible to control the irritation with diet, but sometimes you need some extra help and in K’s case, with the amount of direct scrubbing with his problem areas (hands, wrists and lower arms in particular) we were itching (sorry, couldn’t resist!) to try Ureadin ‘s Ultra 10 lotion in particular.

Ureadin Ultra 10 lotion

The company’s claims for this were that it relieves itching and irritation and healed roughness, scaling,  redness, and cracking of the skin among other things. K was willing to put the claims to the test! He also loved that the scent is light and clean, so he didn’t get teased on the work site for smelling like a flower garden.

We chose a small patch to test it on in case K’s skin reacted badly. Here it is before – the photo’s a little dark but can you see how it’s across most of his inner elbow?:

Before Ureadin Ultra 10 lotion

Here’s that same patch two weeks later. All of it, almost completely gone, and not itching at all.

After Ureadin Ultra 10 lotion

SO much better…..and that patch had been there for almost a year despite our best efforts. K’s now expanded his testing to include all the other patches and we’re already seeing great improvement.

Intega also sent us their Podos gel, which repairs cracked and dry heels and feet, and my own personal favourite, their lotion spray! If you suffer from dry skin as K and I both do, then you know how awful it is when your upper back gets dry after a shower, right? Not to mention shins.

Ureadin Lotion Spray

Well, this stuff sprays on, soaks in pretty much instantly, and moisturized our skin all day until the next showers. Ahhhhhhhh. K has a lot of upper back and shoulder to spray, but this stuff hasn’t run out yet after almost a month of use.  It even helped when I accidentally burned my arms and shoulders gardening yesterday (I know, I know, but I was in the shade and wearing SPF 50.) As a bonus, it even offers an antioxidant effect.

In short, this Ureadin line has proved itself to be strong enough to please a big hard-working guy and relieve his dry skin misery.  If you’re an adult of any size, you’ll probably be as impressed as we have been. You can try Ureadin at Intega’s site, along with their children’s skin line and one for the acne sufferers.

Disclosure: I am part of the Intega Influencer Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Dragonfly nature study and journal entries

dragonfly nature study cover image

This post contains affiliate links.

This past weekend, our sunny front yard suddenly filled with literally thousands of dragonflies zipping around! That could only mean one thing: It was a chance to head down to the lake and see the dragonfly nymphs hatch.

We’ve casually observed dragonflies for years, rescued them from foam on the beach after storms, and ducked as they shot past during picnics.  Except for K,23, we’d never taken the time to look them up and learn more about them, though, so we grabbed our Handbook of Nature Study and read the pages about dragonflies and damsel flies (pages 401-405 in our copy, in case you want to take a look too.) It gave us a good idea of what we were looking for and where.

As it turned out, the “where” was incredibly easy; the nymphs were hatching all over the dock, the pilings, the reeds, the rocks, the grass……… it was more a question of finding a place to crouch and observe without squishing any!


We spent a good hour just watching them hatch and dry, gently picking up ones whose wings hadn’t formed right and putting them in places where birds might not find them, and seeing a new dragonfly fly away every minute or so (side note: did you know you can tell dragonflies from damsel flies by the way they hold their wings? We didn’t either before this!). Then we headed home with some empty dragonfly nymph casings to look at them more closely, since we’d already observed the dragonflies themselves in situ.

The Handbook of Nature Study offered some great nature study lesson ideas for dragonflies (pg 406-407), so we read the questions aloud and tried to find the answers using our new microscope (incidentally, this little eFlex cost us less than $50, it takes photos with up to 300x magnification right to our computer, and it’s small enough to fit in a pocket when it’s not suctioned onto the base. I’m going to take it along with the iPad next time and grab pics with it on the go.)

dragonfly nymph casing on eFlex

I love that the Handbook has related poems, too:

“Till the dragon fly, in light gauzy armor

      burnished bright,

Came tilting down the waters in a wild,

     bewildered flight.”


Isn’t that gorgeous?!


Just some of the questions we tried to answer from the book:

-Are there plumelike gills at the end of the body? If so, how many? Is one longer?

-Describe the great lower lip when extended for prey.

-Can you see the little wing pads on the back in which the wings are developing?

In case you don’t have nymphs to observe where you are, here are some of our photos from the microscope .  

eFlex pic of dragonfly nymph body segment

body segment (it fell into 2 pieces when we moved it to the microscope)

eFlex pic of dragonfly nymph head segment 2

head segment, even more in detail. Looks like something from Aliens, doesn’t it?

eFlex pic of dragonfly nymph head segment

Especially this one.

Naturally, we tried our hand at sketching in our nature journals from observation, too. I’m struggling a little with getting D8 to really look as he’s drawing, but I expect that, as it did with his siblings, these skills will build with time. He can describe what he’s seeing in great detail; he is just not very interested in translating it to a sketch some days.

D sketching nymph


dragonfly nymph sketch 3dragonfly nymph sketch 1

Have you taken a closer look at a dragonfly? I’d love to read about it in the comments!Feel free to share a post link, too, if you’ve done one.







A DIY $5 Milking stand, and how to milk a goat (video)

For International Goat Day (that’s a real thing), we’re answering the 2 questions we get the most when people come to our little homestead: How did you make a DIY $5 milking stand, and how do you milk a goat?

I’ll tell you a little about why we chose goats, and then you can see the video we made to answer those questions.

In case you wondered, we get roughly 4 litres per day (I think that’s 2 gallons) from our Alpine goat and about half of that from our Boer/Nubian cross. This gives us enough to make a good-sized batch of soft cheese and one of yoghurt each week and still have enough drinking milk for everyone who wants it .

Our weekly cost for hay and grain mix is a little over $2.35 per goat (we have 8 in total although some are meat goats destined for the freezer).  Additional non-feed costs are electricity for the fence (about $2 a week altogether until we change over to solar) and hay for bedding ($3 per square bale). Medications add about another $15 per goat per year. Compare that total to the cost of cow milk alone at the store and you’ll see what a bargain it is.

You can fit goats into a smaller area than you need for cows, a plus since about half of our 9 acres is alvar and we can’t sink posts into the rock. They also have a smaller barn than we’d need for cows.

Goat milk is one of those things that either tastes exactly like cow milk to you (the guys in our household swear it does), or has an aftertaste that makes you gag (M and I). Either way, it makes incredible cheese and yoghurt with no taste weirdness, and at a considerable cost savings over store-bought……soft cheese sells for a heart-stopping $6 per half cup here and we make it for under $3 for 4 times that size. We can also add whatever we feel like to it, so we can create cranberry/crushed walnut varieties or anything else that seems like a fun idea at the time (fresh strawberries anyone? Or plain, with grapes, wine and crackers?)

Goats are jerks, sometimes, but they are also friendly, affectionate and incredibly entertaining! If you’re looking for a way to add fresh milk to your life, and a family pet that’s more fun to watch than tv, consider a goat…….with a very secure 4-strand electric fence on a high setting, like we added this year.

And now, on to the video. Watch my husband Simon as he shows you how to make a DIY $5 milking stand, and how to milk a goat (you could imitate this, if your kids want to try, with a long water balloon if you punched a needle-thin hole in the tip and didn’t overfill it). The video ends a little abruptly because wind picked up so much that it drowned out voices!

Got more goat questions we can answer? Feel free to email us at the usual mayhem at gmail dot com, or leave it in the comments.

Join In With A Quirky Blog Hop

International Goat Day Quirky Blog Hop Badge More yummy recipes, craft activities and some fun play ideas as well! Celebrate on June 20th this year. Joining in with this quirky blog hop are some wonderful bloggers from around the world. This blog hop is all about sharing interesting crafts and activities aimed at kids of all ages.

The Usual Mayhem shares a fantastic How to Milk a Goat and How to Make a DIY Milking Stand post!

Nerdy Mamma has a great Invitation to Play – What Do Goats Eat?

Tuff Spot Play shared a brilliant 3 Billy Goats Gruff Tuff Spot idea

Kid Minds shares some awesome Goat Activity Sensory Play and Books as well!

Peakle Pie has some Fun Playing These Goat Games

Witty Hoots shares some wonderful Goat Ideas in a Round Up

Something 2 Offer shares these cute FREE Goat Coloring Pages

We are thrilled to be part of another Quirky Blog Hop with International Goat Day! Help us celebrate on June 20th by adding your own Goat Inspired Blog Posts.

The perfect summer dessert? An easy recipe

BBQ season is upon us once again: warm nights, the smell of charred meat, and the high-pitched whine of mosquitos. Ahhh, summer. Where I always run into problems is finding an easy summer dessert.

Easy Summer dessert recipe

Disclaimer: I’m a Gay Lea Ambassador, which means I receive perks that make me happy, like products so I can create and/or test out recipes to share. All opinions are my own.

You don’t want anything too basic (bowl of chips, marshmallows to roast), and you don’t want to go too elaborate – I once attended a wedding reception held outdoors where the cake collapsed in the 40C weather-so this easy-to-make summer dessert with grapes may just be the perfect balance! It’s ugly but it’s also sweet, delicious, light and best of all takes all of 5 minutes to prep up to a day ahead. This recipe serves my hungry family of 5 with a bite or two left for guests. For a take-along potluck dish you should double or triple it.

You’ll need:

-a couple of pounds of seedless grapes

-1/2 container light cream cheese, softened

-1/2 tub Gay Lea low fat or fat free Sour Cream

-1/4 cup white sugar (gasp! but otherwise the whole thing turns beige and even uglier.) plus 2 tbsp brown sugar for later

Easy summer dessert recipe

Wash your grapes and set them aside for a minute. In a bowl, blend your sour cream and cream cheese together until smooth. Mix in the 1/4 cup white sugar.

Stir in the grapes until they’re coated, sprinkle the top of it all with the  2 tbsp of brown sugar, cover, and refrigerate.  This is one of those things that’s delicious served right away, but even better if you’ve left it to blend for a few hours or even the day before…….if you can keep your kids away from it that long.

Other things that you’ll love about this summer dessert is that Gay Lea‘s sour cream is kosher certified and nut-free, so you can be sure that you won’t end your BBQ with a trip to the hospital for a guest….at least not because of your dessert! They also offer a lactose-free sour cream which would work just as well, although you might have more difficulty finding a lactose free cream cheese – I’m no expert on this one.

Variations you could consider might include substituting strawberries straight from your garden, chunks of fresh pineapple, mango slices…..or you could also mix the non-fruit ingredients together separately and put them out as a dip with a tempting selection of fresh fruit for people to choose their own.



Strawberries nature study

Have you ever looked up close at a strawberry? Neither had we until we did this little strawberries nature study over the past week.

It seemed like the perfect time for it; the wild strawberries all over our property are producing abundant flowers and so are the plants in our garden beds. Inspiration struck when D wondered aloud one day whether the leaves looked the same.

Naturally, we had to sacrifice a leaf and a flower from each kind of strawberry plant and check it out. (I won’t tell you the answer for this one; it’s too much fun to look for yourself!)

We picked some, smelled them, tasted the leaves, looked at them through our jeweler’s loupes and microscope, and sliced them in half to see the center.

We decided to use whatever medium stuck our fancy for our nature journal entries on this one. It was really interesting to me to see how the different kids (I use the term loosely since all three of mine joined in) opted to render their images. M’s blew me away – the art classes she’s been taking online  this year have really improved her skills!

strawberries nature study journal image 1

strawberries nature study journal image 2


strawberries nature study journal image 3

strawberries nature study journal image 4

And, of course, and good strawberries nature study requires that you eat as many as possible afterwards 🙂

I highly recommend that you also check out Barb’s strawberry nature study, more in depth than mine, from a few years back.

We’ve put together some great strawberry kids activities that you can use to create a  free unit study for PK up to mid elementary:


Find the Letter: S is for Strawberries from 3 Boys and a Dog

Strawberries Nature Study from The Usual Mayhem

Strawberry and Gardening Books for Kids from CraftCreateCalm

Fun & Easy Strawberry Paper Craft with Handprint Stem from Crafty Mama in ME

Strawberry Number Recognition Free Printable from Something 2 Offer

Strawberry Moon Outdoor Activities for Kids from FrogMom

How To Make Strawberry Shortcake from Tales of Education at Home

Strawberry Picking Sight Word Game from Books and Giggles

Strawberry Friends Printable Student Planner Free Pages from Look! We’re Learning!

S is for Strawberry Letter Maze from Simple Fun for Kids

How to Make Strawberry Lemonade from The Jenny Evolution

Preschool Strawberry Math from Schooling a Monkey


Happy strawberry picking!




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