Engineering Fun!

posted in: Learning | 0

Engineering Fun!We somehow ended up with a few extra PVC frame laundry hampers in our home.  So, as is usually the case, my creative toddler discovered a way to repurpose it.  Toby asked me about taking it apart.  I thought, “sure, why not?”

So, for the next hour, our kitchen became an engineering construction site.  Toby gleefully pulled apart the PVC pipes and connector pieces, reconfigured them in various arrangements.

The hamper became a car, a boat, among other things.  We rebuilt it into its original form, and then draped our play fort fabrics over it (see how we made our own fabric play fort kit from old sheets).

I ended up keeping the hamper, as it inspired so much creative play.

A few days later, I noticed Toby’s little brother using the hamper for a different purpose — Zack was pushing it around the floor happily.  The hamper was also a DIY baby walker!  It definitely came in handy during those few transition weeks as my not-quite-a-baby-anymore learned to walk on his own.

Take a peek at some of the pictures below…

Toby disassembling and reassembling the PVC parts.
Some of the parts were trickier than others to connect and pull apart.
Toby would have taken the whole assembly apart multiple times if there had been time before bed.
And then it was time to put things back together…
Toby was able to manage most of the connections himself.

So, overall, I’d say this activity was a success.  Toby got to use some problem-solving skills and have fun constructing.  We didn’t spend a time, and in the end I still had my PVC hamper available for use (although I have to say, it’s been officially repurposed as a kid toy by now).

Cultivating Water Kefir

posted in: Learning | 0

bphotoart-water-kefir-experiment-Over the past few years, I’ve learned how to cultivate different fermented foods — sauerkraut, sourdough starter (for bread), kombucha, milk kefir, and now water kefir.  My toddler, Toby, has enjoyed helping with these processes.

I’ve found milk kefir to be the easiest of the fermented beverages to maintain, followed by kombucha.  Water kefir, thought, I found more tricky.  I think the original water kefir grains (not really grains, but that’s what the lumpy starter is called) weren’t hardy enough — but as is usually the case, the third time proved to be the charm.

After “killing” two sets of water kefir grains, I gave my water kefir making attempts a break.  Then my mom went off dairy and mentioned to me she would miss having milk kefir every morning.  So, for Christmas last year, I acquired a third set of water kefir grains.  Since they came a bit early, I ended up cultivating them myself, and giving her a whole starter of her own (plus some water kefir ready to drink!).

And that’s where this activity comes into play.

I had a learning curve with water kefir, because it was different than milk kefir.  With milk kefir grains, you just dump them in fresh milk, let the concoction sit for about 24 hours, and then strain out the grains from the milk-turned-kefir, and start again.

But with water kefir, you need to use sugar water.  The water kefir grains digest the sugar and turn it into probiotic goodness (similar to what the milk kefir grains do with the lactose in milk).  But the trick is this.  Water kefir grains like minerals too (which is the opposite of my kombucha starter — it dislikes minerals).  So, through trial and error, I discovered that my water kefir grains thrived in brown sugar water more than in white sugar water.

And I was curious how much of a difference it made.

So Toby and I performed an experiment.

Over the course of a week or two, we fed several different types of sugars to water kefir grains, and observed how quickly the water kefir grains multiplied (that’s one of the benefits of this, once you have your own starter, you’ll have plenty of new to share with your friends and family!).

We weighed out equal amounts of water kefir grains, and put them into four different mason jars (pint size).

Our control group was given nothing but plain filtered water from our fridge.  The remaining three groups each got white sugar, brown sugar, or unrefined turbinado sugar — dissolved in the same amount of filtered water as our control received.

After four days, we checked on the water kefir grains.

We did taste test the different water kefirs (though not the control group).  The molasses flavor was most pronounced in the turbinado, followed by the brown sugar.  We also strained out and weighed the water kefir grains from each of our mason jars.  It was interesting to see which had grown the most.  Those that we fed turbinado sugar grew the most, followed by brown sugar, then white sugar.  And our control group in water?  Those grains actually withered and shrunk (aka “died”).

We repeated the process for another four days, but unfortunately my kitchen elf must have run off with the sticky note containing the final weights of each set of kefir grains.  So I can’t share the number with you — but I can tell you that the trend continued.

So, based on our experiment, I can tell you that our water kefir grains were happiest with the most unrefined sugar.  Water killed them.  They survived with white sugar, and even multiplied, but to really boost their numbers I’d definitely use brown sugar or unrefined sugar.

Here are some pictures from our experiment…

Here's what water kefir grains look like.  Kind of like cottage cheese clumps...
Here’s what water kefir grains look like. Kind of like cottage cheese clumps…
Toby scooping sugar.
Toby scooping sugar.
Toby was excited to do this experiment!
Toby was excited to do this experiment!
We labelled each of the mason jars with the type of sugar the water kefir grains would get.
We labelled each of the mason jars with the type of sugar the water kefir grains would get.
Toby thought about which one would grow best.
Toby thought about which one would grow best.
I let Toby do the measuring and dumping...
I let Toby do the measuring and dumping…
We used different spoons to dissolve the sugars into their respective waters.
We used different spoons to dissolve the sugars into their respective waters.
Toby added water and stirred everything equally.
Toby added water and stirred everything equally.
The water kefir was put into mason jars and labeled for our experiment..
The water kefir was put into mason jars and labeled for our experiment..
Finished water kefir, ready to drink!
Here are the visual results of the first four days' fermentation.
Here are the visual results of the first four days’ fermentation.
We weighed the water kefir grains...
We weighed the water kefir grains…
Like good scientists, we recorded our findings...
Like good scientists, we recorded our findings…

I’m sure we could have been a little more efficient in our experiment, but the whole point of this was to get my toddler thinking about what might happen.  He enjoyed checking on our experiment, and was excited to help weigh the water kefir grains.

Rooting + Dividing African Violets

posted in: Learning | 0

Rooting + Dividing African VioletsAround here, we love finding ways to bring nature indoors.  And one of those ways is to have houseplants.  For the longest time, my mother has had African Violets basking in the Northern windows of her home.

So, several years back I mentioned to her that I wanted to have some African Violets of my own for our house.  My mom made me a generous offer…

Her African Violets were ready to divide, so if I was willing to split them I could have some African Violets of my own to take home within the week!

I did a little research online about how to best divide African Violets, because all I’d ever done up to that point was root African Violet leaves.

It turns out either method is pretty simple.

Well, rooting the leaves is simplest. So let’s start with that.

Rooting African Violets

You get a few African Violet clippings from a friend with a healthy African Violet plant.

Take those clippings, and stick them in fresh water.

Leave them on your windowsill until the clippings start to grow roots.

I found it best to change the water out every couple days, so that things didn’t get slimy or gross.

Once you have roots, simply put into dirt and enjoy! I have always used “African Violet Potting Mix” — because that’s what my mom uses, but if you want to try general potting soil, that’s your prerogative!

Okay, now onto the trickier project… dividing African Violets.

Dividing African Violets

There are a lot of detailed tutorials, and even YouTube videos, about dividing African Violets.  So I’ll spare you that.  Take a quick search and you’ll find something that explains it in minute detail.

The basic premise of dividing African Violets?

The plant’s leaves usually all originate from one central location. So, when you see a plant that has two central points where leaves are stemming from, that means you can split the plant into two.

To do this, I gently eased the African Violet (and dirt) from the pot.  Then, I loosened the dirt from the roots so I could see the structure.  After trying to find which roots go with which portion of the plant, I used a sharp knife to gently slice through those intertwined roots.

We then put the plants into fresh soil, in new pots.   Well, actually, the plants soaked in water jars for a few days while I got around to locating my stash of ceramic self-watering African Violet pots.

But that’s it!  One key thing to remember?  As my mother told me — don’t get water on top of the leaves.  It’s not good for the plants.

Two African Violets, ready to be potted, and three African Violet leaves, ready to root!
Toby had fun digging in the potting soil to get the plants’ new homes ready.
We filled the pots carefully with new potting soil for the African Violets (before Mommy put in the plants).

Practicing Scissor Skills with Family Photos

posted in: Parenting | 0

Practicing Scissor Skills with Family PhotosaThis is a fun little activity that I created on the fly for my four year old.  He wanted to cut things with his scissors… And I just happened to have some photos on hand.

Now, I’m not advocating you hand photographic prints to your child to have them practice their cutting skills, because we all know where that could lead.

(Yikes! It could be worse than “mom, I cut my bangs!!”)

But most printers can print out average quality photos, even on normal printer paper.  I used my color laserjet printer to print out some photos on standard printer paper — 9 images to a sheet.  This created some nice straight lines between the images, which I hoped Toby would try to follow when cutting.

It seems like I didn’t explain my idea quite well enough (or Toby had his own activity in mind) — the activity became a series of snips and cuts in seemingly random array.

Oh well.

In the very least, I provided my child with something of interest to cut.

The simple actions of cutting — scissor skills — were still being practiced:

  • holding the paper with your helping hand
  • proper scissors grip (thumb in the hole on top, fingers in the hole on bottom)
  • safety skills for using and carrying scissors

So, even though our activity didn’t turn out exactly as intended, I’m still calling it a win.

Toby got to practice his scissor skills using printouts of family pictures.

And, the icing on the cake?

My toddler got out the hand broom and dustpan, and swept up all the paper scraps …on his own accord.

Hooray for self-sufficiency!

bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2170 bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2163 bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2160 bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2172

First Snow – Grayling, MI

posted in: Notes | 0

It’s amazing how transient things are, how quickly the seasons change.  We went up north last weekend as part of our continued “working on the cabin” saga.  And yes, that’s why things have been a little quiet around here on the blog.  Real life obligations always come first — in this case, it was an amalgam of things for clients as well as the addition we are adding to the cabin.

Anyways, last weekend we were expecting cold weather, but certainly not snow.  We unpacked the truck in between snow flurries and frozen rain showers.  And in the morning, we woke up to a winter wonderland.  Well, snow wasn’t completely covering the ground, but there was certainly enough for the boys to stomp about, shovel off the deck, and make snowballs.

Here’s a view off the back deck of the cabin, at sunrise.


Yes, it was still snowing that morning.  The grayish white specks all over these images (faintly resembling sensor dust) are really large snowflakes coming down.  Zack was enthralled and wanted nothing but to be carried outside so he could try to grab snowflakes.  Toby tried his hand at catching snowflakes on his tongue, before moving onto bigger ventures — shoveling the deck.bphotoart-DSC_8305-grayling-mi

There’s something to be said for the warmth of the early morning sun coming up over a snowy scene.  These pictures simply don’t do it justice.


The air was a bit hazy with all that moisture as the sun came up, giving off an ethereal glow…


And here’s the best “it’s snowing” picture I took before heading back inside to make breakfast.  So many snowflakes in the air.  It was gorgeous.  Cold.  But gorgeous.


Thanks for letting me share.  I’ll be working more blog posts back into the schedule this fall and winter, so don’t be surprised to see things get “back to normal” around here.  As always, I’d love to chat with you about planning a portrait session… so get in touch!

Simple Studio Portraits

Just because you choose to have your senior portraits done at the studio, that doesn’t mean your portraits will suffer. One benefit of staying at the studio for portraits is it’s simple to do both indoor and outdoor locations — without the hassle of additional travel.

We have a nice wooded area, complete with rustic forest path and patches of sunshine that make it through the leaves of mature trees. There’s no trekking along public park paths to get to “the perfect spot” — and while your senior portrait location may not be completely unique, your senior portraits still will be personalized to your taste!

Senior Portraits at the Park

I find that senior portraits, when done at a local park, always end up with a more casual and relaxed feel. Maybe it’s the simple fact of being outdoors, or just happenstance, but if I have a client who is looking for relaxed and casual — I’m definitely going to suggest someplace green and natural.

The nice thing about most outdoors options is the variety of backdrops. With one location, we can create a wide variety of looks quickly and easily. There is no better way to have a stress-free senior portrait experience!

Retro Hollywood Senior Portraits

posted in: Notes | 0

Sometimes it’s fun to do something a little different, a little retro. These Hollywood glamour style portraits have a retro vintage feel, and definitely are not your average senior portrait. While this style of portrait is easily created in the studio, it’s also simple to create on location.

Creating a vintage-themed portrait does take a little planning, but it’s easy enough for anyone to pull off this look with the right vintage attire, and oh, don’t forget the curls!


Senior Portraits at Home

Sometimes the best locations are literally just outside your front door. Or, the front door of a family member’s home. For this senior’s portrait session, we planned a relaxed outdoors series of portraits around her grandmother’s home. Additionally, we incorporated a few inside settings into several of the portraits (based on a preliminary walk through).

While having a plan is good, it’s important to go with the flow, so usually when doing senior portraits at a client’s home I will do a quick walk through of the location before the session officially begins. If my client has specific spots in mind for the portrait session, we’ll make sure to include those settings, but otherwise, it’s flexible.

And the results, as you can see, are always fantastic.

Senior Portraits on Location

This Saline High School senior wanted to have his car included in the senior portraits. So we planned a location portrait session at his home. While we were there, we also created a number of other portraits around the neighborhood. I love the wide variety of portraits you can get with a location senior portrait session like this.

Laid back, relaxed, casual, and stress-free. All part of the equation for fantastic senior portraits.

Senior Portrait with Musical Instrument

An important part of creating senior portraits? Finding ways to personalize them! For this senior’s session, we decided to incorporate his musical instrument. Well, one of them. Percussion players almost always get to play more than one instrument, so we settled on just one for the portraits.

Because of the instrument’s size, it was easier to create these portraits at my client’s home (versus transporting it to the studio). So, we planned a nice series of outdoors portraits in their backyard!

I love the vibrant colors of nature, and how they add depth and interest to the image.

Senior Portraits with Fall Colors

I love doing senior portraits during autumn. The colors are vibrant, transient, and beautiful. The colorful leaves provide a change of pace from summer green, and it’s usually still warm enough to forgo heavy jackets.

Here are some favorites from a senior portrait I did during autumn at Nichols Arboreteum. The fall colors really add another dimension to these images.

As an aside, I love including pets in portraits! Whether we go for something casual and more lifestyle in nature, or more formal, if pets are an important part of your life, please let me know so that we can discuss ways to include them.

Senior Portraits in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor has such a nice variety of locations and settings for creating your portraits! For this senior portrait session, we chose two spots in Ann Arbor that are almost iconic. — Nichols Arboreteum and Graffiti Alley. An interesting juxtaposition, I might add.

Nichols Arboreteum has acres of undeveloped land. There are a variety of natural areas: rolling hills with grassy open fields, deeply wooded areas, maintained gardens, and frontage on the Huron River. It is easy to spend the day at the Arb, feeling like you are far from the city of Ann Arbor.

In contrast, Graffiti Alley is at the heart of Ann Arbor, and is everything the Arb is not. Urban, gritty, and ever-transient, the graffiti art is likely to be different each time you go.

Senior Portraits :: Courtney

Courtney came to the studio for her senior portraits, and after discussing numerous location options, we decided to stay at the studio. You’d never know it from the portraits we created, but it was a ridiculously hot and humid day. Courtney’s senior portraits are so gorgeous; I love how the color of her dress contrasts with the vivid green hues of nature.

We also created a series of images indoors at the studio, so that the family could have a set of more traditional images to choose from. Those turned out great too!

Summer Portraits :: Sisters

These adorable sisters came to the studio on a nice (albeit hot) summer day. We started indoors, and then after doing some more formal portraits we created several more casual portraits outdoors here at the studio.

I absolutely love the colors of these dresses, and the detail work was absolutely gorgeous too.

Dogs + People

It’s always fun to photograph dogs with their people!  Creating these portraits of Susan with her two dogs, Malia and Zihna, was a pleasure.  I enjoy animals of all kinds, but we’re still only a cat-only family, so it’s always fun when I get to play with puppies!

Enjoy this series of images from her session.

Oh, and in case you’re bemoaning the fact that your dogs would never sit still for a portrait session, don’t worry. I have several tricks up my sleeve.  And treats work wonders 🙂

Making the Choice: School or Home? (…9 parents share)

posted in: Parenting | 0

Making the Choice School or Home? ...9 parents share why they chose public schools, homeschool, or hybrid called afterschooling.As we count down the days left until school starts, it’s a good a time as any to cover the ever popular topic of schooling choices.  Specifically, whether to send your kids to school or keep them out of the school system and homeschool.  Rather than trying to argue one side or the other, I figured it would be more helpful to get input from parents like you and me.  Parents, who, for various reasons, have fallen into homeschooling, or tried homeschooling and switched to traditional schooling.  I even learned about a hybrid blend of the two, called “afterschooling” — which I thought was very interesting.

As you read through the responses below, keep in mind that I asked these parents three questions:

  1. what you do and why
  2. the benefits for you in doing what you do
  3. what you find difficult about what you do

As you’ll see in the various responses, no two experiences are exactly alike.  Whether you choose traditional schooling or homeschooling, there are joys and challenges.  It’s all about what works best for your child, what works best for your specific circumstances.

I hope these parents’ experiences will help you if you’re trying to make the choice about whether to send your children to school or to educate them at home.

Some Parents Choose Public Schools

My daughter attends a public traditional school. She is bright (and quirky) and in third grade. We chose to send her to public school because there are really awesome teachers there, she has a strong quest for knowledge and I like that she has built in social time at school while building independence in a supported environment. When she gets home from school we sew, craft, bake, garden, and explore the world together.

The benefits are that she has the best of both worlds, learning at home and at public school. She is a very well rounded, thoughtful child.

It is challenging to find ways to deal with things at school that I don’t necessarily agree with. As a reading specialist, I was dissapointed that their spelling / vocabulary tests consist of the teacher reading the definitions and the students (from memory) write the word with correct spelling. My daughter is 8 and the words tested are words like surrounded (shut in on all sides: encircled, enclosed) and anxiously (uneasily: nervously). From my personal and professional opinion, these tests do not accurately measure vocabulary use and put undue pressure on kids. We have luckily found a way for my daughter to find success in these tests, whether or not I’m a fan, they still exist weekly!

Amanda Boyarshinov, The Educators Spin on It

My daughter who is also 8 goes to the third grade of a regular public school in California. Both of us work full time in technology jobs, and we don’t think that either of us could be a successful homeschool teacher even if we could “swing it” financially. Our public school is considered to be a good one in a good district.

My daughter constantly receives positive feedback from teachers and other kids respect her. This brings confidence. She learns to listen to different adults and to cooperate and compromise with her classmates. She is also learning to do what she doesn’t like to do or to be bored sometimes – I consider that to be an important skill if these “lessons” don’t happen too often.

My daughter is highly gifted, and public schools are not well equipped to support such kids. Everything depends on the teacher. Last year we had a teacher who taught to the middle, and daughter was bored more than we consider acceptable. This year after a lot of advocacy, they created a gifted cluster with a very strong teacher, but it feels rather an exception than a rule.

Natalie, Planet Smarty

I loved homeschooling my kids. But I hated the stressed-out mom I became trying to do it.

I loved that my toddler got to spend so much time with his older sibling.  But I hated neglecting him most of the day to focus on their homeschooling.

I loved that my Preschooler was excelling at Kindergarten content.  But I hated hearing her beg to go back to public school with her friends.

Now we’re loving public school, because…

My kids are learning more social skills than I was able to provide while homeschooling.  They have so many friends!

I feel like my time with them at home is more quality mama time instead of stressful “teacher/school time.”

THEY are happier.

I am happier.

Krissy, B-Inspired Mama

Most kids go to a private school (with varying expenses) in India. Education is not funded and the government schools are not really up to the mark. we spend an average of 2500$ per year for the school fees ( 5000$ and upwards if you want an international syllabus) which is a big deal when you do the conversion.

Homeschooling is an option that is picking up but we don’t have support and since we both work in technology jobs full time, its not an option for us.

Education in India is highly competitive and rote based…My daughter is 8 and is doing well in school. They have a 1:12 student to teacher ratio and that ensures she gets the attention she needs while still functioning in a group setting.


Some Parents Choose Homeschooling

We homeschool for several reasons, the easiest of which to explain is the freedom it affords us. We get to learn whatever we want, whenever we want, in whatever way works best for us.

The best benefit so far has been that my son gets to go at his own pace and learn what he is interested in. He loves math and science and is able to explore those subjects at incredible depth for his age. Many times in the morning he brings me a book that he is interested in and we spend the entire homeschool day centered on that one subject, incorporating reading, math, science, and history.

I find it difficult to find time for myself and sometimes I feel jealous of my friends who get a break while their kids are at school! I love my kids and I love to be with them, but spending 12 hours a day with them can be a little challenging sometimes!

Crystal, The Science Kiddo

We kinda fell into homeschooling, only truly it was the Lord’s plan all along for us to homeschool our girls during each of the seasons of their lives we have done so

Homeschooling is hard enough already! Truly it is often a very draining, time-consuming, even grueling at times feeling endeavor. But other days it can be wonderful, and free-ing and downright awesome! Honestly, it’s just like any other area of our lives…. can’t just about everything we experience, at times alternate between awful and awesome?

Sybil Brun, She Lives Free

We homeschool. We tried two years of public school and it was a terrible fit for my kids (both are highly gifted). We are also a military family. Our options for schools are limited to where the army sends us and how far my husband is willing to commute to the base in order to (hopefully) find a good district.

In summary, we didn’t care for the curriculum, the pace, the lack of enrichment opportunities for gifted kids, or the social aspect. They had some great teachers (I still talk to two of them), but overall, that couldn’t overcome the issues. I can elaborate if you need, but I generally do that via email because I’m not up for the argument that I’m only concerned about my kids (I am, they are the ones I’m responsible for). I’m a certified teacher myself. Just spent the last 20 minutes doing polynomials with my 12 year old, my 9 year old is exploring ungulates. Everyone is much happier.

Would I love a break? Yes. And several. And I want to go to Starbucks right now. And I’d like to have lunch with a friend and take a long hot shower at noon. But I’m not willing to put my kids into a bad situation again in order to do it. The private school I’d pick is well beyond our budget, so homeschool it is.


We sent our oldest 2 to private school. When Eldest was in 1st and Princess was in K they began all day everyday K. My kids were gone from 7:50-4:20 each day. We no longer had the freedom to do things like trips to the zoo or playing at the park during the week. Numerous times my daughter fell asleep on the way home. I was pregnant with Big Red and knew financially having more than 2 in private school wasn’t feasible. We now have 4 and take a relaxed eclectic almost unschooling approach now. Trying to let each child follow their interests and be kids a little while longer.

Thaleia, Something 2 Offer

My life is dedicated to teaching my children, not only academics but life skills, so that they may one day be independent and successful on their own, if at all possible. I have found, for me, this much easier to do on my own, than to work with the public school system, teachers, counselors, therapists etc.

…In summary, I guess home schooling chose us, rather than we chose it.  Both my husband and I went to public schools.  We enjoyed our education.  However, that type of education is not one that will work for our children …This is our story.  It’s A LOT of work.  It’s a HUGE time commitment.  However, I love it.  I love to watch the kids faces as they see new activities on our shelves.  I love to watch them succeed.

Renae, Every Star is Different

Some Parents Supplement with Afterschooling

We do “after-schooling” which might be a made up term:). The kids do go to public school during the day. We purposely chose this school because it is extremely diverse in cultures and religions, and want our kids to learn side-by-side with kids from around the world. After school, we have fun with pursuing my kids’ interests whether it’s cooking, hands-on science experiments, animals, crafts, etc. We also love to travel and take field trips often.

Becky, Kid World Citizen

And then there are some more links I found that you might enjoy:

What are your thoughts?  Did you go through the school system?  Do you think it was a good choice for you?  Were you given a choice, or would you consider giving your kids a choice when it comes to schooling options?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  (also, please remember this is a hot topic for some, so an extra dose of kindness won’t hurt!).

Michigan Pasty Recipe – Meat Hand Pie

posted in: Notes | 3

While Michigan doesn’t have an official state food, in the UP (upper peninsula), there is a fond love for the pasty.  Pasties are meat hand pies, and depending on who you ask, a pasty may or may not have specific filling ingredients (potatoes, onions, rutabaga, carrots, meat).  A little further on, I’ll share our recipe for Michigan Pasties, but first, a bit of history.

According to a student webpage project done for Michigan Tech University, the history of the pasty is quite detailed.  It was a common meal for workers in Michigan’s upper peninsula copper mines (originally Cornish, but adopted by other European immigrants).

The pasty became popular with these other ethnic groups because it was small, portable, was very filling, and could stay warm for 8-10 hours. Pasty rivalry occurred between the Finns, Swedes, Irish, Poles, Germans, Scots, Italians and French with each group contributing something in the way of seasoning and other ingredients. All groups agree that pasties must contain two things, potatoes and onions.

The pasty was eaten by hand, and could be reheated or eaten cold. We’ve tried both ways in our household; the boys LOVED having cold pasty leftovers for lunch.

The portability of the pasty not only made it easy to carry, but if it should get cold it would be relatively easy to heat up. This was done by putting the pasty on a shovel and holding it over a head-lamp candle. Miners never ate a pasty with a fork, they ate it end to end, and held it upright to keep the juices in. Since entire Cornish families worked in mines and each member of the family wanted different ingredients in the pasty, the Cornish wife would stamp the bottom corner of each pasty with an initial. According to the Cornish Recipes Ancient and Modern, “The true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold it in the hand, and begin to bite it from the opposite end to the initial, so that, should any of it be uneaten, it may be consumed later by its rightful owner. And woe betide anyone who take’s another person’s corner!”

bphotoart-pasty-meat-handpie-DSC_6990An internet search for “Michigan Pasty Recipe” will produce many different pasty recipes — according to a UP pasty resource  I found, it appears there is no longer a set of required ingredients:

Pasties consists of a crust filled with diced potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, onions & ground beef seasoned to perfection. Now some people combine ground pork, ground beef, and ground lean beef. Now a days they even have chicken, veggie, and even a breakfast one.

Another bit of interesting history trivia?  In 1968, then Governor George Romney declared May 28th Michigan Pasty Day.  Oddly I’d never heard this, despite being born and raised in Michigan.  Thanks, History channel!  Apparently the tourism industry …er, the Mackinac Bridge, helped elevate the status of Michigan’s pasty from a homecooked meal to a restaurant-worthy entrée:

 After the 1957 Mackinac Bridge opened the Upper Peninsula for tourism from southern Michigan, the pasty shifted from being a food mainly cooked at home by U.P. locals (known as “Yoopers”) to one sold at restaurants to visitors from southern Michigan and beyond (playfully derided as “Fudgies” for their preferred dessert).

I also didn’t know that there is an annual pasty festival in early July (according to the Pasty Recipe on the Cooking Channel!)

Making Michigan Pasties

And now, it’s time to share our take on a Michigan Pasty.  Well, at least, our most recent variant.  I admit, I’ll make them with whatever is on hand.  This time, we skipped potatoes entirely (gasp) because I didn’t have any!

I chopped up the vegetables first - carrots, onions, and celery.
I chopped up the vegetables first – carrots, onions, and celery.
Then, I combined all the spices.
Then, I combined all the spices.
I added the melted butter to the seasonings.
I added the melted butter to the seasonings.
And then combined all the filling ingredients (vegetables, meat, and seasonings).
And then combined all the filling ingredients (vegetables, meat, and seasonings).

Next, it was time to start on the dough for the pasty.  We used freshly ground einkorn flour, and shortening (rather than our typical butter).  My toddler helped with this phase quite a bit!  Also, if you’ve never heard of a Danish dough whisk (#afflink), you need to try one …or at least check out when we made Irish Soda Bread with the Danish dough whisk.  It really simplifies the dough mixing process; I love how easily the ingredients get blended together — and how little mess there is!

My toddler helped me measure and dump.  To the flour and salt, we cut in the shortening...
My toddler helped me measure and dump. To the flour and salt, we cut in the shortening…
Here's what the dough looked like after cutting in the shortening, and adding water.
Here’s what the dough looked like after cutting in the shortening, and adding water.
Next, we divided the dough into four equal parts.
Next, we divided the dough into four equal parts.
One at a time, we rolled them out onto our baking sheet (~10" rounds)
One at a time, we rolled them out onto our baking sheet (~10″ rounds)
Adding the filling to our dough - just on half the dough, leaving at least 1" around the edge.
Adding the filling to our dough – just on half the dough, leaving at least 1″ around the edge.
I used the silpat to help flip the dough over top so that it didn't tear
I used the silpat to help flip the dough over top so that it didn’t tear
And here are two pasties ready to go in the oven, already crimped!
And here are two pasties ready to go in the oven, already crimped!

And that’s it!  Into the oven for almost an hour, and when they come out, dinner is ready!

A quick snapshot of a finished pasty, right before my toddler cut into it.
A quick snapshot of a finished pasty, right before my toddler cut into it.

Michigan Pasty Recipe

Dough Ingredients

  • 4 c. einkorn flour
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 t. salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 lb. carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 Vidalia onions, diced
  • 1 lb ground beef or venison
  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • 1 T. Thyme
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 1 T. rosemary
  • 1 T. coriander
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 t. pepper 


  • Combine flour and salt in bowl. Add butter, and use a knife to cut into flour.
  • Add water, and stir with Danish dough whisk (#afflink) until well combined.  If necessary, add more flour or water so the dough is workable.  If you use normal wheat flour, you’ll probably need another 1/4 cup of water.
  • Divide dough into four sections (we rolled ours into balls) and set aside.
  • Combine first four filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Separately, combine butter and seasonings; drizzle over top of fillings and stir to coat.
  • One at a time, roll each dough ball into ~10″ rounds.  place filling on half the circle, leaving 1″ border around the edge.  You can mound the filling up high.  Then, fold the dough over top, and crimp the half-circle pasty’s edges together.  We rolled these out on a silicone baking sheet, and then used the silicone to help flip the thin dough over top.  If you plan it out right, there is room to roll out two pasties per baking sheet (with no need to transfer).  That way, you don’t have to worry about the dough tearing and the pasty innards leaking out!
  • After all four pasties are completed, place the baking sheets in the oven at 375 F for 50 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
  • Enjoy!

The nice thing about this recipe is that it comes together pretty quickly.  The ingredient list may be long, but if you have kids who like to “measure and dump” — no problem.  While older kids can be involved with every step of the process, you can let younger kids help help roll out the dough for their own pasty, place the fillings on the dough, and “check on the pasties” by looking through your oven window as it cooks.  My toddler was so excited to eat dinner the night we had pasties!

I love pie crusts, and the pasty crust is similarly delicious :)
I love pie crusts, and the pasty crust is similarly delicious 🙂

Have you made pasties before?  What fillings are your favorite?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

tour-the-world-by-foodThis post is part of the Tour the World by food series — make sure to check out some of the other blog posts that highlight various state foods!

Here are some more resources on the Michigan Pasty (and other state foods), if you’re interested:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 25