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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Goodbye 2012

It’s the end of the year. Goodbye 2012!

ImageTime to look back and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Nah. I don’t really want to do that. I don’t want to look back. I could say “I just want to look at the future!” But reality whispers, “You just don’t want to face your failures.” True. I don’t! I don’t want to admit it to myself and I certainly don’t want to post it for all of  you to read. 

But I will.

Soon.

I need to look at what worked and what didn’t. I need to evaluate systems I have that simply don’t work. A real, honest to goodness, hard core search through my life and my heart. 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein

I definitely had some insane moments this past year! Who’s with me on that one? 

Another thing I’m examining is this blog. I enjoy writing and I love sharing it with you. Do I want to stay focused on the same things? What do I want to change? I have a few ideas that I’m really excited about! One thing I do know… I’m going for gut-level honesty and will not be afraid to discuss the hard subjects. {gulp}

What about YOU? What are your favorite posts? What do you want more of? What posts do you usually skip? Tell me in the comment section or send me an email (kimberlya.vogel@gmail.com). 

So, dear readers, stay tuned and until then –

Happy New Year!

“This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 NIV1984

Recipe Switch-A-Roo for Christmas

I probably spent more time researching than I will actually cook. It’s all a learning curve when dealing with multiple food allergies and intollerances.

A few weeks ago I decided to try to replace some favorite family recipes with allergy free ones. My Recipe Switch-A-Roo began.

I didn’t realize what a tall order that was going to be. Only one recipe was an easy fix. The sweet potato casserole my sister makes has egg in it. She will just leave out the eggs. They aren’t really necessary. Best part of this recipe – my sister makes it! Some recipes I threw right out of the window. Humdingers. These are little nut clusters that stick together with a corn syrup mixture then are rolled in powdered sugar. Take out the syrup and sugars and you basically have the KimBars I make. Not holiday treats anymore. Another recipe I threw out was remaking the injection for fried turkeys. Too much work for something that probably won’t taste that good. What’s a cajun recipe without garlic? I did find some recipes worth trying.

Peanut Butter Balls *Switch-A-Roo* to Nut Butter Balls from Elana’s Pantry

  • Anytime I opened the Almond Butter to make this recipe, I ate some. I plan to make it on Saturday.
  • In other baking, I realized the vanilla extract gave me a headache. Extracts have alcohol and gluten in them. Most alcohol is grain based (and corn derived). I’ve been searching for gluten-free vanilla. I also found some that doesn’t use alcohol! Didn’t know there was such a thing. I bought both and hopefully can use one of them.

Cinnamon Rolls *Switch-A-Roo* to Cinnamon Swirl Breakfast Cake from Real Sustenance

  • I made one change. She calls for lemon juice. I don’t do citrus. I found out the lemon juice reacts with the baking powder to help it rise, so there needs to be an acid. I replaced it with Apple Cider Vinegar.
  • Brittany also has a cinnamon roll recipe on her blog. I want to try it soon! I decided to try this one first (it’s less work with no dough to roll) and if it gets two thumbs up, to make the cinnamon rolls. Looks like I’ll be making cinnamon rolls soon!

Snickerdoodles *Switch-A-Roo* to Snickerdoodle Cookies from Urban Poser

  • My daughter made these for me! They came out a little oily, so we will reduce the amount of coconut oil.
  • We replaced honey with coconut nectar.
  • I did miss the sugar crunch granulated sugar gives these cookies, I might sprinkle some on top.

Christmas Cookie Cut-outs *Switch-A-Roo* to Star Cookies from Elana’s Pantry

  • These are still on my to-do list. We’ve been waiting for our cousins.
  • Not sure what I will use for icing. I may make my own powdered sugar to use in a simple royal icing recipe.

In all recipes with baking powder – replace with a mixture of one part baking soda, two parts arrowroot powder. (or arrowroot and cream of tartar – 1 tsp of each and a half tsp of baking soda) This is how to make corn-free baking powder.

In all recipes with eggs – I replace them with an organic egg replacer, but only up to three eggs. For larger recipes, I just make small batches to keep it at three “eggs” or less.

I will admit… looking at our Christmas Menu can be a bit depressing. I try to focus on what I CAN have instead of what I CAN’T. I realized I’ll miss having rolls with our meal. So I found a biscuit recipe. It’s all in the attitude. What’s even more important – there is a pair of eyes watching me. If I pout about what I can’t eat – she will even more. If I eat things on my list of no-no’s – she will too.

The main thing – Christmas is not about the food. It’s about who is at the table. And why.

What Advent REALLY Looks Like (at my house)

Pictures and posts popped up all over Facebook: Calendars held chocolate or legos. Gifts and trinkets wrapped. Books read and candles lit. It looked like Pinterest took over Facebook for a few days.

Advent.

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One particular picture captured my attention. A family sitting and reading a book. One candle burning brightly. Such a serene, beautiful portrait. Inspirational enough for me to declare a new family tradition, jump over to Amazon, and order a book for Advent.

December second arrived and our new family tradition began. I had a beautiful portrait in my head of what that would look like. There were clues I did not see. Those clues might have whispered screamed, “GO! RUN! Don’t even try!”

I gathered the family and announced our new family tradition. Over the groans I didn’t notice my husband trying to get my attention. I settled everyone down when my husband whispered, “Um, Honey, can we do this during Half’-time?” Well, it was his birthday and his team was playing… so I quickly informed the kids we would start soon.

“Let’s all get in our pajamas and then we’ll start!” I donned my Christmas PJs just in time for half-time, er… advent. I opened the book and began reading. My voice rose above the murmurs of the kids. There was a fight over the seating. A fight over the dog. A fight over the footrest. Or was it a blanket? Probably both. A fight over someone breathing?! I began to profusely sweat in my flannel PJs. Christmas in Texas sometimes means 80 degrees outside. Inside the temperature was rising even higher than the Texas heat. Dad was checking his phone to see if halftime was over then double checking the score. His voice rose the longer Advent time went. My voice rose over their voices. I may or may not have said such things as:

  • “This is Christmas, at least pretend to be happy.”
  • “She is your sister. It is OK to sit next to her. You can’t? Oh yes you can! Sit with your arm around her. You don’t want to? Well maybe she can sit in your lap.”
  • “Please stop arguing over the dog. Let’s focus on Jesus, not the dog!”
  • “I know other families have candy and a calendar. We have some better, each other.”

In the middle of a sentence I closed the book. The Mom Look took over along with The Whisper.

“”This is what I expect of you. (insert long list of behaviors to-do and not-to-do here) We will have this Advent time and we will be respectful.”

After one of those really long This. Is. Serious. pauses, I continued reading.

The kids (finally!) listened and got into the book! The story ended with a climactic scene that left us holding our breath until the next night. Dad ended the Advent time with Scripture and a sweet prayer. He even waited until Amen before the game was turned on.

Tonight is the 14th day of advent. We are only 5 (or 6?) days behind. I have still not captured the magical, inspirational picture.

But we read on.

I ALMOST gave up a dozen different times.

But we read on.

Each night the girls settle a little quicker. There are no more fights or arguments, well… for the most part. (I never even used the whole “Santa is watching” method of invoking good behavior!) The prayers come from the heart. We are reading two sections a day to catch up for missed nights and Dad even wants us to make sure he’s here for Advent.

I’m so glad we read on.

Christmas is creeping closer and my heart is filled with anticipation for the coming of Christ.

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven” Luke 1:76-78

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Luke 2:19

One New Thing – Hug a Little Tighter

Normally I write about getting healthy in my One New Thing posts. Not today. The only One New Thing appropriate for this week is to hug a little tighter.

There are no words to adequately portray the horror in Newtown. So I won’t even try. I’m just going to hug my kids a little tighter and pray a little more.

Many are speaking…

There are many I just don’t want to hear.

THIS message is one that touched my heart.

In Response to the Unthinkable – by Jeff Wells

Check it out. All the way to the end.

Then hug someone, just a little tighter.

“Friends, there are no easy answers to something like this. For every complicated problem, there are plenty of simple explanations – and they’re usually wrong. But this is what we’ve got – our great God.” -Jeff Wells

Recipe Switch-A-Roo Pot-luck Adventure

Tonight I am going to a Pot-luck. My family is excited. Well, some of us are – the ones who can eat anything. I am not one of those. Being the one to cook and not eat is frustrating. Normally I would cook a quick, easy, yummy, cheap meal for the pot luck and just eat something “safe” beforehand. That started changing when I had to think about my daughter’s many food allergies, not just mine. Now that my awareness is growing, I want to bring foods that many people with food issues can eat. I searched the internet for a meal we both could eat. I found one. It would be a bit time-consuming and a tad more expensive, but I was determined. THEN I read the email. NO NUTS. My recipe has almond flour. The other gluten-free flours are safe for my daughter, but not for me. *sigh*

Back to the drawing board.

Then I remembered my own advice, Keep it simple.

So I will.

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Lettuce boats!

I roasted a whole chicken for dinner last night. Using the leftover chicken, I chopped it up. I’ll prepare the rest of the ingredients, then heat the chicken and assemble right before we leave.

To assemble:

Romaine lettuce leaves, separated and spread out, with the spine down and the top open – the boat.

Spread meat over the leaves.

Top with sauce: avocado, 1/2 cucumber, tahini – if  you have it, dash of salt

Provide a small bowl of extra toppings: tomato, cucumber, whatever else you want

Make a sign that informs guests: Lettuce boats! Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, paleo

Not only is this one of my family’s favorite recipes, it’s fun to eat too! That’s my Recipe Switch-A-Roo for tonight! I’m still searching for the rest of the recipes on my list!

The Christmas Shoe Miracle

file1551245784283 (1)The year was hard. Harder than most. We stretched our pennies as far as they could go, and then some. My kids needed shoes. Their toes were creeping closer and closer to end. But this is Texas where you can live in flip-flops for a majority of the year. In October I prayed for shoes. We searched the depths of our closets and found a few forgotten pairs that could be passed down from one sister to another. We were thankful for what we had. A good friend reminded me just to trust. And I did.

November turned our thoughts to thankfulness and I tried NOT to think about Christmas presents. A strange thing happened. Peace poured over me as I began to worry less and thank more. Even if my kids didn’t have new shoes, or a pile of presents, we would focus on family and serving others.

A service project presented itself to our family and the local American Heritage Girls Troop we are a part of. I offered to help an organization called Moms Helping Moms with their Christmas Gifts for children. When I pulled up to the warehouse, they loaded my car with – SHOES! Boxes and boxes of shoes. The shoes kept coming. We ended up filling two van loads and a truck with shoes. When I was loading the last box, the head of the organization whispered “Thanks so much for your help, why don’t you let your kids pick out a pair of shoes?” Answered prayer!

My house was filled with shoes. The shoes needed to be sorted and matched in pairs. As I looked at all of the shoes, I couldn’t help thinking about all of the kids that would be helped through Moms Helping Moms. I also couldn’t help thinking, “Well, I prayed for shoes! God answered my prayer, and gave me a chance to help others in greater need of shoes! My house is overflowing with shoes!” Then I looked at my house. Things might be tight and my kids might’ve needed a pair of shoes, but we really don’t know what it’s like to be in TRUE need. Desperate need. I humbly confessed the times I let shoes, among other things, cause stress, and the times I forgot how blessed I am.

All of the shoes were loaded into a trailer and our American Heritage Girls troop sorted and organized them into groups based on size, age group, and gender. At the end of the project, the girls gathered over the shoes and prayed for the boys and girls. My heart was touched.

The verse from Luke 6: 37 – 38 kept repeating in my mind, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven, Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Days were checked off the calendar, December came, and Christmas crept closer and closer. I knew gifts would be scarce, but I also knew that wasn’t what Christmas was about. I reached a point of acceptance and thankfulness. Then the miracle came.

I shared my answered prayer about the shoes to a few close friends. A few emails later, people from church anonymously gave a gift here and a pair of shoes there. By the time Christmas morning came, our family was given over twenty pairs of shoes!  The ones that didn’t fit were returned for other gifts or given to others. When Christmas morning came, we did have a pile of presents. Right next to the pile of shoes! A few that didn’t fit and couldn’t be returned were tucked into a closet. Months later, a friend posted a need. I was able to pass on the shoes. The miracle lived once more.

1 prayer + 1 act of service + a little bit of faith = 20 pairs of shoes

A true Christmas Miracle! Remember last week? The magic of Christmas of became real to us that year. My kids remember this event as the year Santa gave us shoes – and our parents gave us more shoes – several boxes of shoes. It’s really strange because we aren’t exactly a “shoe” family. We each have one or two pairs and are quite content (well, THEY have one or two pairs… I’m a bit different…), so getting that many at once was, well, rather humorous. But isn’t that the way God works? He reminded me that he answers prayer. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over. He pours it into our lap.

One New Thing – Holiday Exhaustion

As I type this I’m falling asleep. I’m exhausted. I know I’m not alone! We’re pulled in so many directions during this season: parties, shopping, decorating, family gatherings, outings with friends, church programs, school programs, baking, and more shopping. How do we maintain such a heavy pace without wearing ourselves out?

Keep it simple.

Know when to say no.

Get enough sleep, food, and water.

Most of all, remember the what this holiday is for – Jesus. Are you too busy celebrating His day that you forget about Him?

Recipe Switch-A-Roo

This year I am doing a Recipe Switch-A-Roo!!

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I am trading my traditional holiday recipes for safe, allergy-free ones.

The problem is…

(I haven’t started yet.)

This week I’ll hunt high and low through all of my pinned recipes, bookmarked blogs, and kindled books.

My Guidelines (just so you know what I’m working with): Dairy-free, gluten-free, yeast-free, corn-free, egg-free, and peanut-free. Also NO honey or lemons/citrus. One more thing, for savory recipes, NO garlic or carrots. Is that a long enough list of foods to avoid? Soy-free is also helpful, but not necessary.

Recipes I want to replace:

Peanut butter balls

Humdingers

Cinnamon rolls

Snickerdoodles

Christmas Cookies (Iced sugar cookies)

Savory:

Sweet potato casserole

Cajun injection for fried turkey

And you, my friends – Please join my Recipe Switch-A-Roo! Leave a comment and answer, “What holiday recipe is YOUR favorite?”

Allergy-free friends, “WHERE do you find your replacement guidelines/recipes?”

I’ll report back next week with my findings!

The Santa Controversy – We Told Them

***This has the potential to be controversial. I am not wanting to start a debate (yeah, right). No really, I’m not. Because it could get ugly. Instead I’ll encourage a healthy, uplifting conversation. Please tell me your thoughts and traditions about this subject. Just leave a comment!***

We told our kids.

For months, years actually, we’ve debated this. After a marriage Bible study on submission, I agreed to my husband’s wishes. As soon as I agreed, a weight was lifted. I knew it was overdue. The whole family was in the car on a long road trip and my husband began a discussion with the words “We have something to tell you. You might get upset, but we’ll talk through it.”

Then there was a pause.

The kids were silent. (Yes, it’s a shock if you know our family.)

The murmurs started and rose to a crescendo of:

  • “Is everything OK?”
  • “Are we moving?”
  • “Is someone sick?”
  • “How is my life going to change?”

I was thankful we were in the car because they couldn’t see my face. I fought back laughing and crying simultaneously.

Kevin continued the conversation and gently broke the news about Santa. And the tooth fairy. And the Easter Bunny. The tooth fairy was easy because we often forgot to leave money under the pillow. Last year my husband just handed money as soon as a tooth fell out. The first time it happened, I was outraged, but realized he truly didn’t know they still believed. Needless to say, they weren’t shocked about the tooth fairy. Or the Easter Bunny. But Santa…

They were so relieved we weren’t moving, no one was sick, and their lives really weren’t going to change, that the news about Santa was a relief.

“Haha! I knew IT!” and “Now it all makes sense!” was joyfully exclaimed.

One of our kids even wisely asked, “But Mom and Dad, how could you guys afford all of those gifts?”

“That’s the real magic of Christmas. Some years when we couldn’t afford it, God provided.”

“So why did I get those shoes last year?” (I’ll save that story for another post. A true Christmas Miracle!)

“How did you guys do it???”

We had a fun time of questions and answers followed by a discussion of keeping it a secret for others who still believe. “Let’s keep the special secret going for others. It’s each family’s decision if they tell their kids about Santa or when they reveal the secret.”

That is the magic of Santa.

My husband finally asked the biggest question he’s had for years. YEARS. “Do you guys feel like we were dishonest with you?”

“No,” they readily agreed, “it feels more like a game. Or a special secret.”

We discussed the aspect of Santa – is it lying or just keeping a secret? My husband and I were both very honest. We feel differently about this subject and told them. We apologized for not being honest. As a family the conclusion was reached that we protected the Santa Secret. The kids were not angry and didn’t feel like we had lied. Looking back, would we have done anything differently??? I really can’t answer that.

Over the years one aspect of Santa has burdened me. “Oh you better watch out!” I must admit – as a mom of young ones, I loved when Christmas rolled around and I could start talking about Santa seeing misbehavior. It was HUGE motivation to be good. I took full advantage of it. Many times, one of the kids would be throwing a tantrum and I would start singing “You better watch out! You better not pout! You better not cry, I’m telling you why!” Oh, the memories! In all reality, the message behind that is a strong one. Be good = Get presents.

I’ll never forget the year my daughter tearfully looked at me and said, “Mom, I thought I was good this year. But I didn’t get many presents. What else can I do to be good? My friend got (insert LONG LIST of the most expensive toys here) and I only got (really short list).” My heart broke. I wanted to say “Well, both parents work full time and she’s an only child – a really spoiled child.” Instead, I fumbled through encouragement of what a great kid my daughter is and how the real meaning of Christmas is Christ, not gifts. I realized how we are setting our kids up to base self worth on monetary values. I don’t think I used the “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” song after that. (Except on one or two occasions when feeling really desperate!)

Now, as I roam facebook and scroll through Pinterest, a new phenomenon is popping up. Elf on a shelf. It is adorable. Part of me wants to jump on board and play mischevious pranks with a toy elf. I can see the fascination. Another part of me wants to cringe at the focus – once again – getting farther and farther away from our core values. The real meaning. It hits me – What am I doing to show the real meaning of Christmas? Why just do it for one month a year? I haven’t come to any conclusion on what to do or how to change things, only that it’s up to my husband and I to do what feels right for our family. To live our convictions. To not impose them on anyone else.  Turn our eyes to the gift of Christ instead of gifts from/for others. Live each day for Christ. THAT is Christmas.

So I came up with a different Christmas tradition. Advent. But that’s another post.

One last confession… My house has yet to be decorated for Christmas. I haven’t even listened to Christmas music. Some of the magic is gone. Telling the kids about Santa along with looking at all the traditional recipes I can’t eat has pushed me into Grinch-mode. But I have a plan. I really want to do “magical” things all year. Instead of Elf at Christmas, I’ll be introducing another character for Birthdays. But it’s a secret. I’m also going to decorate while listening to Christmas music. Even if I don’t feel like it. (It’s not just the whole Santa thing that threw me off this year, it’s the Texas heat. It’s hard to get motivated when it’s 80 outside and we’re wearing shorts…) So… goodbye Grinch!

Building Bridges is about honoring family traditions and knowing when to change them.

What about you? Where do you stand on the Santa Controversy?

One New Thing – Kombucha!

In my quest for better health, I started One New Thing a week. This week I’m going to tell you about one of my family’s favorite things.

KOMBUCHA!

It sounds like a battle cry and looks like a foreign language. That’s not too far from the truth. When I yell Kombucha, my kids come running. (Except one – she runs the OTHER way, but I’ll tell you why a little later.)

This phenomenon has been in the news lately. A child was recently sent home (almost suspended) for bringing Kombucha in their lunch. It violated the school drug and alcohol policy. Kombucha is often found in the hands of famous stars who probably pay high dollar for a bottle of this popular drink that is one of the “new” health fads.

So… what is it???? It’s a tea. But a very special tea. When you read all of the health benefits, it starts to sound too good to be true, like one of the miracle cure-alls door to door salesmen tried to sell in the early 1900’s before they got booted out-of-town. Unlike those cons, this stuff is for real! This article tells the many facts of WHY you should drink kombucha: http://www.foodrenegade.com/kombucha-health-benefits/ but basically it helps anything from digestion issues to depression. Not to mention it’s a detox, cancer prevention, arthritis help, and probiotic.

So where can you get the stuff??? Health food stores carry it for around $2 a bottle. Or you can make your own. And I’m going to tell you how! (Which will save you a whole bunch of money. You’re welcome!)

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That cute picture came from HERE. It’s almost how I make my kombucha. Every website with instructions about how to brew your own Kombucha has a different version of the same thing. Look at the recipe and alter it to what fits you. The important things are the starter, sugar, tea (not a herbal one), and the can’t make without it Scooby. Or as my friend loving calls its, “Scabby.” Scooby is the reason my daughter runs away. She thinks it’s too gross. I look at Scooby as a growth of health and wellness. Scooby is the culture. Scooby is the WHY Kombucha is so good for you. Besides that, I can’t really explain the magic of the Scooby – this Mother of health that even grows a baby!

Now for the HOW:

  • Boil 3 cups of water (to remove impurities) for five minutes,
  • Add tea bags to make tea.
  • Let it steep.
  • Add 1 cup sugar and stir until it’s dissolved.
  • Give it time to cool. (If the tea is too hot when you put the Scooby in, the heat will kill it!)
  • In a glass container put the cooled tea/sugar mixture, one cup of starter, and one Scooby.
  • Fill the rest of the container with filtered water.
  • Cover with a towel or linen and secure with a rubber band.
  • Place container in a cool, dark area for fermenting. I stick mine on a top shelf in the pantry.
  • Let it rest and work it’s magic for around 7 days.
  • Taste. If too sweet, let it sit longer. If vinegary, it fermented a day or two too long. Next time, do it a day less.

*I came up with these instructions based on what works for me. I make 3 gallons at a time. The large pot I boil my water in holds 10 cups. I needed to divide the tea between all containers. That is the scientific reason why my recipe call for you to boil the 3 cups of water. (Technically it’s really 9 cups give or take and I add three cups of sugar because I triple the recipe.) Do what works for you.*

Congrats on being patient and waiting for your Kombucha to brew. Now it’s time to harvest! When you see your Scooby, it will be a white/tan color with brown stringy stuff around it. That is what it’s supposed to look like! I peel off the strings – so Scooby will look presentable for the next harvest!

Harvest your Scooby:

  • Take the towel off and gently remove the Scooby. Place in a bowl (non-metal but I couldn’t tell you why, I think they just don’t like metal) with a cup of the Kombucha brew (what I call the starter). The Scooby is thicker than what you put into the brew. Peel off the top. That’s the baby! Now you can make TWO batches!!! I make a batch as I harvest. The tea starts steeping before I get the Kombucha out of the pantry (the fermenting location).
  • Strain the rest of the Kombucha into bottles. I use a mixture of wine and beer bottles, but have also used mason jars. The wine and beer bottles are colored glass. Scientists (my kids) swear that it just tastes better from colored bottles. Either that, or it’s the novelty of drinking from alcoholic bottles. One day they might need therapy for this.
  • Let the bottle sit on the counter for a day or two, then stick in the refrigerator. This part adds a natural carbonation. It reminds my kids of soda! (Maybe a flat soda… but a little fizz does wonders!) This is the stage where many people add fruits to give it some flavor. I tried berries and ginger. My favorite was the ginger!!! My kids enjoy it so much plain, I don’t add fruit to it anymore.
  • Rinse (with water only) the gallon jar you  harvested from and start over!!!!

After a few more rounds, you will have more Scoobies than you need. Place them in a glass jar (I use pint-sized Mason jars) with starter and cover with the lid. Now you have a Scooby Hotel. Add more each time you brew until the jar is full. Be sure to share a Scooby with a friend! When a Scooby becomes discolored (not the brown string stuff but dark colored infected looking spots) or molded. THROW IT OUT and start over! Have fun and do One New Thing for your health!

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