Ultimate Guide to Dutch Oven Cooking

15 Secrets to Dutch Oven Cooking featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

Dutch oven cooking is one of life’s pleasures. It’s hard to duplicate the feeling of cooking outdoors in a big, cast-iron pot over hot coals. It’s hard to duplicate that flavor too — a cross between cooking over a fire and using a slow cooker.

Dutch oven cooking has been around for years and years and years. Now that most of us do our daily cooking indoors on and in modern stoves and ovens, it seems like Dutch oven cooking is more for hobbyists and campers. If you haven’t enjoyed Dutch oven cooking as the cook or the eater, you’ve been missing out! It’s a lot of fun.

Dutch oven cooking might seem a little intimidating or complicated. I totally get that! But what you put into the Dutch oven is pretty simple and uncomplicated; the cooking part is where it can get a little tricky. There’s a bit of a learning curve to get the timing and temperature just right, but once those two things are covered, you’ll be set.

You can cook or bake practically anything in a Dutch oven — they are incredibly versatile. Over the years we’ve modified old family favorites for use in a Dutch oven as well as finding new ones. Keep reading for recipes, notes, and everything you need to know to get started.

Make it! Computer Code Jewelry

Awhile ago I went to a lecture about girls and tech given by Cynthia Bailey Lee of Stanford University. Cynthia is a mom of two, and teaches C++ programming, computing theory, processor architecture, and number theory. Specifically her lecture was about getting our daughters and nieces and any other young girls in our lives to get more excited about working with code, and making the coding world more accessible.

One idea she had was making jewelry based on ASCII code. (And if you don’t know what ASCII code is, no worries. It’s all explained below.) I was really taken by this idea! I called Amy Christie and we brainstormed options for both kid jewelry and grown up jewelry (because hey! it’s not too late for us grownups to learn coding either).

The basic idea is to use beads to write your name or initials or a favorite word or a secret message in code. It’s so cool! I’ve got all the information — what ASCII code is, ideas for jewelry, and how to make it — below.

Living With Kids: Amity Courtois

I was hooked on Amity’s story as soon as I learned she and her husband bought their home on Craigslist, hooked even harder when I saw how she makes a home heavy with dark wood look effortlessly holiday-airy, and completely reeled in when I read her honest words about being a stay-at-home mom. There is so much goodness in this tour, Friends. I hope you enjoy it!

Exploring Greece!

What a trip! Here’s a report from our family vacation to Greece. Fun fact: Ben Blair and I used to lived in Greece — it was many years ago when I was pregnant with our first baby, Ralph. We loved living and working there but despite our best plans, we’ve never been able to get back. So getting to be there again was dreamy. And getting to be here with ALL the kids — they’ve never been! — was over the moon fantastic.

As the kids get older and have independent lives, it’s harder and harder to spend time together like this (even when it’s not a pandemic). So I tried hard to soak up every moment.

We spent a couple of days in Mykonos, a couple of days in Santorini, and a couple of days in Athens. Find reports about all three locations below.

Tall House Updates: Moving the Green Piano

We rolled the green piano to the new house! We couldn’t find a mover that worked with our timing, so we put the piano on rollers and pushed it down the street. It was slow going, but the kids took turns playing it while we walked and we were all thoroughly entertained.

Here are lots of snippets of the actual rolling-the-piano-down-the-street — I’ll bet you’ll recognize some of the songs the kids played:

Living With Kids: Rachel Shingleton

One of Rachel‘s mottos is “I’ve never met a color I didn’t love.” With one peek of her home, I know she’s not kidding. It’s a bright, cheerful space that makes me smile, and I know it must have the same effect on her family. And at the risk of getting too deep, I imagine it helps her stay positive when life doesn’t exactly go the way she’s been dreaming. Does your home do that, too? I hope it does.

There were a few times when I found myself pointing to something in her photos that I thought was super cute, only to find that it’s available in her shop! How wonderful and empowering it must be to live among your own art and makes. Friends, I’m so happy to introduce you to Rachel and her color-burst home.

The Very Best Homemade Lemonade

There is nothing that quenches my thirst on a hot summer day quite as well as an icy glass of fresh squeezed lemonade. Whether it’s straight up lemonade or a fruity lemonade infused with herbs or flowers, I take mine with plenty of ice and by the quart. Read on to find out my secrets to sweeten up your summer and make the perfect pitcher of lemonade. Get ready to get refreshed.

Hello From Greece!

Hello! We’re on a family vacation to Greece! With all six kids! I can hardly believe it. Ben Blair and I used to lived in Greece — it was many years ago when I was pregnant with our first baby, Ralph. We loved living and working there but despite our best plans, we’ve never been able to get back. So getting to be here again, 23 years later, is dreamy. And getting to be here with ALL the kids — they’ve never been here before! — is over the moon fantastic.

As the kids get older and have independent lives, it’s harder and harder to spend time together like this (even when it’s not a pandemic). So I’m soaking up every moment.

Our itinerary: We’re spending a couple of days in Mykonos, a couple of days in Santorini, and a couple of days in Athens. (You can see what we’ve been up to so far in my Instagram stories (Greece highlight).

Something extra fun: getting to hear Ben speak Greek. He first learned Greek as a missionary (he lived in Greece for two years before I knew him), and then we lived in Greece together early in our marriage, and then he studied more Greek during grad school, and he’s been practicing again daily for the last year. He’s not fluent but he’s conversational and it’s lovely to see people’s faces light up when they expect to hear English and he engages in Greek instead.

I posted about this trip on Instagram and readers have shared lots of excellent recommendations. Feel free to add yours too!

Living With Kids: Lynne Knowlton

You just might fall head-over-heels for this home. And then you may feel a little dizzy when you see the tree house so unlike any other tree house you’ve ever seen that you could want to call it a home in the trees instead. Because it needs a fancier title. Some of you might drool over the pool situation or the poolside bench that was once a Balinese boat, or the barn with lanterns to light up any night. A candlelit outhouse. And oh, yes. There is a mermaid shower.

But I’m betting that Lynne (and her amazing family!) is the element in this tour for whom you’ll all fall the hardest. I don’t know her, but I wish I did. She is strong and positive and happy with her life, and all of the qualities in between that I strive to make a part of me, too. If you look only at the pictures, you might envy her. If you only read her story, your heart will swell. Friends, I hope this tour will change your day. Or more. (Because, for me, it changed more.) Enjoy.

DIY: Flower Frog Bowls

Fresh flowers are a nice addition to any given day. But I’ve got a little trick that will take a simple arrangement up a notch — even that ordinary bundle of grocery store flowers! Instead of using an basic, nondescript vase, use a small dish with a pin-type flower frog and take the ordinary to extraordinary.

If you haven’t used, or even heard of, flower frogs before, no need to be intimidated. There are a variety of flower frogs (people actually collect them!) that all serve the same basic purpose — to help you arrange your flowers. For this project, I’ve incorporated the pin version or pin flower frog (called such because it looks like lots of pins sticking up).

With this type of frog, the flower stems are stuck into the pins to keep the flowers in place. Stems can be stuck and restuck, arranged and rearranged in the pins until it is just right.

I purposely chose simple, inexpensive flowers for this project because, really, it’s not about the flowers. Flower arranging prowess is not needed, and you don’t need to seek out a specialty floral shop. It’s the pin flower frog in the small bowl, decorative or otherwise, that is the big deal. It is the inside secret to a good looking arrangement in a small container.

It’s so easy you will flip!

Newsletter & Friday Link List

Hey there. How are you? I read an article about Romance novels that I keep thinking about. The author started reading romance novels when she was in her early 30s because she needed to for work, and she has kept reading romance novels, because she says she found out they were awesome. The article is titled “Why You Should Be Reading Romance Novels” and suggests that if you think you don’t like romance novels, you might want to unpack why that is (the author thinks the reason is probably: misogyny). Let’s discuss!

Click here to read the full newsletter (it’s free!) and find my weekend link list.

Ultimate Guide to Campfire Cooking

23 Secrets To Cooking on a Campfire featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

Campfire cooking is definitely one of my favorite things about summer and being outdoors. There is definitely something deeply satisfying about cooking over an open fire. The flavors, the smells, the sounds. All of it conjures up good memories of childhood camping trips and communing with nature. Campfire cooking can be just as fun and satisfying whether it’s for a week at a campground or for the day in your own backyard. Let’s get to it!

Living With Kids: Elle

When Elle reached out about being featured a few weeks ago, she had some simple requests. Elle is in the middle of a complicated and painful divorce and wanted to keep certain parts of her life (like her last name) private. She also spoke beautifully about how her garden, both working in it and walking around it, has been a key part in her ongoing healing process. Elle’s home and garden are both beautiful, the former full of striking mid-century pieces and cool mod patterns. But what is especially beautiful is Elle’s thoughtful and vulnerable words about going through something immensely difficult. Welcome, Elle!

DIY: Yard Yahtzee (And It’s a Bargain, Too!)

Make Yard Yahtzee for Your Family | Design Mom

Have you noticed the fun trend of turning childhood table games into oversize outdoor games? For the record, I am fully on board. Big interactive games that the whole family can play, and that get people outside? Yes, please. In fact, lately, my new favorite housewarming gift to give has been an oversize outdoor Jenga set. But I think I like this DIY Yard Yahtzee even more! And it’s a total bargain project too.

Newsletter & Friday Link List

Hey there. Lots of happy things happening here at the moment, but the biggest happy thing is that all six of our kids are under one roof, for the first time since Christmas 2019. I can hardly believe it. A full year and a half since the younger siblings have been with the oldest two. It feels like our collective joy is going to burst at the seams! A few observations from the few days we’ve had together:

Click here to read the full newsletter (it’s free!) and find my weekend link list.

Living With Kids: Maureen Vazquez

Maureen seems like she would be a great instant friend. You know the one: she invites your kids over for a crafter-noon just when you’re on the verge of a “I can’t glue one more thing to one more thing” moment, delivers a meatloaf just because she made two, and shares all her secrets for making her life easier just in case you need one. She is someone I love sharing with you today, and you’ll soon understand why.

Oh, and her London space isn’t too shabby either! Welcome, Maureen!

Slow Cooker Recipe: Greek Gyros

I think it’s safe to say that gyros are the most famous of Greek meals — a classic sandwich, with meat cut from a spit, wrapped in a pita, and topped with tzatziki (yogurt sauce). Happily, gyros are easy to make at home. True, they will not be as authentic as the kind you’d get from a sandwich cart in Athens, but they sure hit the spot when I have a craving!

It’s nice to be able to toss everything into a pot, forget it, and let it cook slowly for a few hours until it’s time to eat. While the chicken is delicious on its own inside a soft pita bread, adding tzatziki makes it that much better. We like to serve our gyros with a simple Greek salad on the side. We use mixed baby greens and add some sliced cucumber, tomatoes, kalamata olives, crumbled feta, and a basic balsamic vinaigrette. For an additional side, roasted potato wedges cooked with lemon and oregano, or even potato chips, are great. If you’re serving a large group, you could also add a chickpea salad, fresh veggies and fruit.

And that’s it. A super easy summer meal that you can take with you to a park or eat it out on the patio.

Ready to get cooking?

Sun-Dye Bandanas — Easy DIY

Let me start by telling you I’m kind of obsessed with sun-dyes. They are super cool and feel a little magical. Essentially, they are dyes that are colorless when you apply them, but turn vibrant colors when exposed to sunlight. My mom introduced sun-dyes to me when I was in college and I’ve been going through sun-dye phases ever since.

For this activity, we decided to dye bandanas. I couldn’t actually find plain white bandanas, so we used square cotton dishcloths instead. They’re a generous size and work as head wraps, capes, or can even be tied around the waists of little ones as a beach/pool coverup.

American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach

Yesterday, we spent time at the D-Day beaches and the American Military Cemetery. We’ve been here many times and it’s an emotional journey every visit. This is a sacred place that makes me feel incredibly angry, overwhelmed, heartbroken, and deeply grateful. So much was sacrificed — an incalculable amount — to fight back fascism, nazis, and white supremacists.

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