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Autumn Olives Ketchup

I’ll be the first to admit that COVID social distancing has caused me to do some weird stuff…I’ve learned about paw paws and foraged for them and made several batches of muffins, I’ve made life-changing lemon muffins from yellow squash, I’ve painted a section of my living room purple, I got a cat…I could go on. Perhaps the strangest so far, to me, is autumn olives. I first heard about autumn olives about a month ago on a Facebook foraging group that a friend added me to after I started getting weird. That post took me down a couple hours-long Google hole as I researched all about autumn olives and what you can do with them. I decided I was going to try foraging for autumn olives and make ketchup!

One of the things I learned is that autumn olives are best after it has hard-frosted. Lucky for me <<sarcasm>> I live in the part of NY where it frosts early (but then gets to be 80 degrees during the day so you never know how to dress!). After three nights of frost, I figured it was time to go look for some autumn olives. I had heard there were a bunch growing down by the lake. I laced up my walking shoes and headed out on my quest. It’s beautiful by our lake – check out this funky driftwood lean-to I walked by. Even cooler, it had a Little Lending Library next to it…in the middle of nowhere…so super cool!

After about a half mile, I found some! Keep in mind, I had never seen an autumn olive before…I just had a couple of photos from the internet to search with. This is an autumn olive tree:

My recipe said I needed 4 cups of autumn olive pulp for ketchup, so I picked about 4 cups or so of autumn olives. It took me about a half hour. After that, I decided it was so gorgeous, I should get my 3 miles in for the day. I have to tell you I jumped off this bridge at least 1,000 times when I was a kid, and I camped in the park across from the autumn olives stash every summer. The lighthouse wasn’t there, but it’s a great addition!

Feeling absolutely fantastic and accomplished, I headed home to make ketchup!

So the first step to making ketchup is to run the autumn olives through a food mill. I don’t have a food mill, so I simmered them for about 3 minutes with a little water and smooshed them through a sieve. It’s easy!

A note about those seeds: autumn olives are INVASIVE. Don’t put them in your compost! Put them in the garbage to be disposed of.

Then, I learned a hard lesson. 4 cups of autumn olive berries only makes 1 cup of autumn olive pulp. Dang it. I’m 3 cups short! I have to go back out and pick more autumn olives. You can also use this break time to deal with anything else life might have thrown at you while you’re boondoggling weird foraging skills…for example, the dead red squirrel your cat left for you in the living room.

Ok, squirrel disposed of, another hour picking autumn olives…I’m feeling kind of “over” this experiment of mine. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Once you have your 4 cups of autumn olive pulp from 10-12 cups of autumn olive berries, you add maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, salt, and a sachet of cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, mustard seed, and onion. This simmers until it’s ketchup consistency. It’s beautiful.

It took about 30 minutes of simmering for me to get a fantastic, rich ketchup consistency. Once that’s done, you pop it into jars…or, in my case, jar. Yes, after 2 hours of sweating in the sun picking autumn olives, squishing them, and cooking them, I got 1 small jar of ketchup. However, that jar is filled with DELICIOUSNESS! It doesn’t taste like Heinz ketchup…it tastes like bougie, artisan ketchup! When my husband tried it, he said, “I guess this is our ketchup from now on!”

Would I do this again if I wasn’t stuck in social distancing isolation? Maybe. It really is fantastic! But, the picking is a lot of work. Those berries are tiny! However, if I had a minion or a friend to help pick, I would definitely make it again!

Want to try it for yourself? Here’s the recipe I used with some notes:

Autumn Olives Ketchup

Ingredients

  • 4 cups autumn olive berry puree
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Directions

  • Make autumn olive puree; you can simmer the berries with a small amount of water until soft (about 3 minutes) and squish them through a sieve OR put them through a Foley Food Mill
  • Place autumn olive puree in a crockpot with no lid and gently simmer until reduced by half (note: I didn’t do this step, I just skipped to the next one)
  • Put the puree in a medium sauce pan; tie onion and spices in a spice bag and add to the puree, along with the sea salt, vinegar, and maple syrup
  • Continue cooking until thick like ketchup – about 30 minutes. Stir frequently so you don’t scorch the puree
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MOC-ing LEGO City Police Monster Truck Heist (60245) and Donut Shop Opening (60233)

Have you ever loved parts of a LEGO set but wished they were just a little bit…more? It happens! When we get that feeling, we think about whether or not we can use the set as a base for a MOC! Most recently, we did this with the LEGO City Police Monster Truck Heist (60245) and Donut Shop Opening (60233) sets.

Here’s what happened with Police Monster Truck Heist: we loved the bank facade but didn’t really care about the vehicles. We also wanted a bank building and not just a facade.

To begin, we built the set and pulled a couple of other bank-type pieces we had laying around. It’s a super cute little set. We also had an ATM that Don Manuel had built and another little bank-type atrium.

Next, we started laying out our ideas for a bank. We imagined Scrooge McDuck owned the bank, so we wanted a vault so that he could dive into his money like he does in the cartoon.

Then, we added lots of green and gold!

Then, we completed the MOC, and since then, we have added goblins from Harry Potter’s Gringott’s bank to work in the bank, robbers planning a heist out back, and Iron Man sunbathing on the roof waiting to go to work. You’ll have to stay tuned to our YouTube to see those reveals though!

For Donut Shop Opening, Don Manuel and I have different approaches to MOC-ing sets. I like to build the set first and then modify it. He likes to start right off MOC-ing. So, I worked on the donut shop, and he worked on the toy store. Then, we put them together!

First, we needed to figure out what they would might look like together. We knew we wanted to keep them to one 32×32 baseplate. With some imagining and giggling, this is what we decided on. If you look closely, you can see that Don Manuel claimed all the extra space for the toy store! 🙂

Let’s start with the donut shop (because donuts are awesome!). I expanded and enclosed the building and added tables and chairs and patrons.

Don Manuel expanded the toy store, added lots of displays, and then added a second floor with apartments!

This is our finished product!

We love it! And the citizens of Moorogel love it! It will be featured on a future episode on our YouTube channel if you’re interested in more details and where it has landed in Moorogel 2.0!

So, if you are thinking about trying a MOC using a LEGO set as a base…do it! It’s LEGO, you can always take it apart and try again if you don’t love your first attempt!

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LEGO Creator Gingerbread House (10267 Build

When the LEGO Creator Gingerbread House came out last year, and we watched several online reviews of it, it didn’t look like a set we were interested in. We had the Winter Firehouse but decided not to get the Gingerbread House since our Lego city, Moorogel, didn’t really have a winter area. Fast forward to now and our upgraded and larger version of Moorogel, and we have a whole winter village happening! So…we decided to get the Gingerbread House to add another building to the winter village since it’s a little light on larger buildings at the moment (ok…the truth is…I might have ordered the Gingerbread House without telling Don Manuel, but…) Well! Am I ever happy we got it, because, in person, it’s an absolutely fantastic set!

To get started, there are 5 sets of bags, 2 instruction books, and 1 sticker sheet. The first set of bags and the first instruction book build all of the little accessories like the gingerbread people, baby carriage, snowblower, and Christmas tree and presents. I was absolutely smitten with these!

It was at this time that my build session was abruptly attacked by a feline who wanted to play too. It was cute…for a minute…until he decided whacking Lego pieces onto the floor was more fun. He had to go.

Once the rogue cat was removed, the gingerbread house build got underway. When I say that the build techniques on this set are super creative, fun, and awesome…I mean it!

I was making good progress when I got interrupted by cute grandsons photos, so I had to pause to “awwwwww”

Ok…back to work on the build! I’m having so much fun with it, I forget to take photos after each bag set. Also, in fairness, I’ve been interrupted several times at this point!

After this last step is when all hell breaks loose! I have lost track of time, and it is almost midnight on a work night, but I want to finish the build. Don Manuel is happily playing COD when I hear him freak out! Not in the “someone killed me” kind of way but in the “HELP” kind of way! A HUGE wolf spider was trotting across the living room floor…possibly to steal the tv…because this chica was ginormous. Well, when Don Manuel put a glass over it to trap it to get it outside, because it was wayyyy too big to squish, it spontaneously gave birth to approximately elevendybagillion itty bitty baby spiders. They scooted right out under that glass like it wasn’t there. By the time I got there from the other side of the living room, armageddon was underway! Look at this momma!

Woooooo! After getting the spider outside and the living room completely disinfected trying to get rid of our case of the heebie jeebies, I finished the build. AND I LOVE IT!

I can’t wait to get this incorporated into Moorogel’s new winter village! Keep an eye on our YouTube channel for an upcoming tour!

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LEGO Ideas The Flintstones Build

We were excited to get the LEGO Ideas The Flintstones set (21316)! We had been looking forward to seeing it IRL ever since we saw the mockups of it at Philly Brick Fest 2019! At Brick Fest, we got to sit in the authentic movie Flintstone Mobile…total #nerdgasm

But, I digress! The Flintstones set is awesome! I think all the Ideas sets turn out to be fan favorites. This set has 748 pieces: 6 bags, 1 instruction book, and NO STICKERS! All the cool pieces are printed!

I want to highlight just how innovative the build techniques for this set are! The house has two swing out attachments on the back to expand the living area. It is not fully enclosed when closed, which is a little disappointing as we tend to like complete buildings.

We have added the completed set to our Lego City, Moorogel. Somehow, it just weirdly seems to fit right in! It also inspired us. We are going to MOC up a bowling alley for Fred and Barney to work in since there’s no quarry in Moorogel.

Our recommendation? Pick up this set as soon as you can! You can get yours here

Note: As Amazon Affiliates, we may occasionally receive teeny tiny monetary compensation for purchases based on our recommendations.

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LEGO Ideas Dinosaur Fossils Build

Were we planning on getting the LEGO Ideas Dinosaur Fossils set (21320)? No. Did we get the LEGO Ideas Dinosaur Fossils set? Yes. Yes we did. Why did we get a set we weren’t intending to purchase? Well, because somewhere in there we decided our Lego city, Moorogel, needed a museum, and Erusa Ert was born! And, it needed dinosaur fossils, obvi.

6 bags, stickers, 3 instruction books for the 3 different dinos, and 910 pieces. Let us just say, these were quick builds. However, the piece usage was incredibly creative and the building techniques were super cool!

Our resident master bearded builder had fun with this!

All-in-all, we’re rather happy we picked up this set!

We have since installed the dinos in Erusa Ert, and they look fantastic! We’ll be uploading videos to our YouTube channel and Facebook in August, so stay tuned to see the completed museum. We did notice that we seem to have one issue with waking up to find drunk skeletons passed out on the floor of the museum. We’re not sure what’s going on, but we intend to find out! 🙂

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LEGO Friends The Television Series

We were FINALLY able to get our hands on the LEGO Friends The Television Series Set (21319)! It has 1070 pieces and includes stickers.

This was a fun build with interesting building techniques. We tend to LOVE the LEGO Ideas sets as they are created by fans like us and are often just super cool! With this build, we had some extra help too…the supervisor was really critical.

There were 6 bags to build with instructions.

We found the sideways builds for the throw rugs to be especially awesome!

We’re currently thinking about how to incorporate this into our LEGO city, Moorogel. We are considering doing a MOC with the Big Bang Theory set and turning it into a first floor shop with apartments above. We’ll see!

We recommend this set! Give it a try…if you can get your hands on one!

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Book Bites: Untamed

I absolutely LOVED Untamed by Glennon Doyle. It was a quick read, but it was incredibly thought-provoking and gave me lots to think about and consider. Other parts of it just resonate on a soul level.

In Untamed, Glennon openly and rawly tells the story of her untaming. Glennon was hiding from her discontent. Then, several years ago at a conference, she looked up and fell instantly in love with a woman, Abby Wambach. She decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living. It will make you laugh, cry, invigorate you, inspire you, and make you want to untame your life! Untamed shows us how to be brave. As Glennon urges us, “The braver we are, the luckier we get.”

Untamed is a loving call to action to live as your true self without compromise. Glennon says, “find what your makes your heart ache and follow it”.

Conclusion: READ THIS BOOK! You can get a copy here: