Monday, December 22, 2014

How to Get Your Kids to Hand Scrub the Tiled Floor

Yep!  You read it right.  I actually found a really "fun" and successful way to garner help for my kitchen floor.  It goes month(s?) without getting mopped because, well, it's hard work.  And it's one of the jobs that isn't the kindest on my back, even when using a mop.

Yesterday, I found my sweet daughter having a creativity/generosity explosion.  She was doing all sort of things (without asking).  When I found her with a washcloth, Christmas towel, and I-know-not-where-it-came-from bucket of water cleaning the glass doors of the entertainment center "for Daddy," I had an idea.  "Hey!  Sweetie!  I have an idea.  The perfect job for you.  Do you really want to clean something?"  ::winkie face to self::  "Follow Mommy...."  ::sly grin::

I set her up to scrub the kitchen floor.  She was in heaven!  But how was I going to make sure each tile got clean?  And I knew she wouldn't last long, so how would I know which ones had been done?

Beads.  What else?  It would only add to the colorful "fun" of scrubbing the kitchen floor.  And it definitely did.  I got down on the floor with her, and we worked together.  When my middle son found out what we were doing, it was all he could do to make himself sit and finish his schoolwork so he could then come clean the floor, too.  Score two for Mom!  :-D

I told EA that he would get $0.05 per tile he scrubbed.  I gave him blue and yellow beads to put down as he cleaned.  Since Eden and I had put down beads, he knew which ones were already clean and could simply go to town.  Using beads also allowed us to create a line of red beaded tiles so we could break halfway for lunch and more school (and once we had the red line, we picked up all the other beads so we wouldn't have to keep dancing across the floor then counted out his beads and added up his earnings...bonus: Math!).  Later, EA and I went back to work, knowing exactly where to start and finished that kitchen floor!  It was great fun to spend time with him and watch him have so much fun working AND earning money.  He's so proud of his $4.45, which I will HAPPILY give him for scrubbing my floor clean.  It looks and feels beautiful!  And I'm pretty sure he'll do it again because he knows that's it's a fast and easy way to earn money.  And he loves beads and water!  Win, win.  Done.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Best Simple Hot Choclate

For a while, we've been making our own chocolate sauce for ice cream and hot chocolate.  Recently, however, I wanted to try a Food Network recipe for "The Best Hot Chocolate."  It was good - but it was quite rich!  So the second time I made it, I tweaked the recipe.  The kids and Hubby LOVED it!  I did, too, because it was smooth, mild, and perfectly chocolaty.  Try it!

3 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla (optional)

Heat milk and half and half in saucepan (don't boil).  Combine cocoa and sugar in a small bowl.  Spoon out some hot milk and mix with the cocoa/sugar until it's a nice slurry.  Add this into the saucepan and stir well.  Continue to heat and stir about 2 minutes until everything is incorporated.  Add vanilla, if desired.  This makes 4 good cups of hot chocolate, 5 if you have slightly smaller servings which is what we do.

Don't forget the smosh-mallows!  My little Eme calls them that, and I refuse to correct her.  :-)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Asian Beef

This is a super easy, super delicious - loved by ALL - crock pot meal!  The ginger and soy sauce beef with delicious oven-roasted broccoli is a perfect combination!

1 sweet onion
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
pepper to taste
1 beef chuck roast
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water

1 can sliced water chestnuts (optional)
enough broccoli crowns to feed your family
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
enough rice to feed your family

Place roast in crock pot.  Wedge or slice onion and place on top of roast.  Grate ginger on top of roast (or use a few sprinkles of ground ginger).  Pepper to taste.  Combine soy sauce and water; pour over roast.  Cover and cook on low at least 6 hours.

30 minutes before dinner time, preheat oven to 400.  Start your rice according to package directions.  Meanwhile, rinse and chop broccoli; place in baking dish.  Sprinkle water chestnuts throughout the dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt/pepper to taste.  Roast 10 minutes; stir.  Roast another 10 minutes or until it suits your fancy for doneness.  Your rice should be done about when your broccoli is - convenient!

NOTES:  The beef should shred easily simply by pinching with tongs or using a couple of forks to pull it apart.  Sometimes, if I haven't cooked it long enough or it was a not-so-great cut, it won't do that (always a bummer!).  Make it gluten-free simply by using gluten-free soy sauce.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homemade Almond butter? Yes!

I have a confession to make. I don't like to try new things because I'm afraid I will fail. Every once in a while, I will branch out, be brave and try something new. Some time ago, I got brave and I tried making my own almond butter. You know is so easy!

Now, I have been making my own almond butter for a while. I thought I would share with you how easy it is. I'm sure you could use this for other nut butters, since I actually got the idea from here where she is using peanuts. So without further ado here is a picture blog of how I do my almond butter.

 I use 2 cups of unsalted, dry roasted almonds bought in bulk at Whole Foods. You put the almonds in your food processor. Make sure you put the blade in first. I can.not. tell you how many times I've had to dump the almonds out of the processor bowl because I forgot to put the blade in. Once the almonds, and blade, are in the processing bowl turn it on and plug your ears. It is pretty loud for about 20 seconds. If you have others around you warn them there is a loud noise coming :)

 This is after about 30-45 seconds of processing. The almonds sort of look like course sand. At this point I stop the processor and scrape the sides down. I'm not sure you have to at this point, I just do.

You can see the almonds are a bit finer and are starting to clump together a little bit. I scrape the sides down again.

Here we have it a little bit more clumpy and you can see a change in the color. It is a bit darker that is because the oils are starting to release....scrape down and keep going. While you let it process this next time melt about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. I have used both extra virgin and the more processed kind. The extra virgin will give just a hint of coconut flavor to your finished product.

It is really starting to stick together now and you can even see the sheen of some of the oil that has been released. Again scrape down. This time while you are scraping make sure you scrape up what is sticking to the bottom of your processing bowl as well. 

This is about 1/4 of a cup of melted coconut oil. I only use about 2 tablespoons.

If you can slowly pour the oil while the nut butter is processing and you don't need to process it long after you have added the oil, just until the oil is fully incorporated.

See how smooth and creamy it is. It is actually quite fluid at this point, which makes it easy to get it into the jar!

I have started saving jars and this is one I had on hand. Once you have finished mixing the oil in the butter simply add your butter to your jar and store it in the 'frig.

My 2 cups of almonds made about 1 1/4 cups almond butter. I do store it in the refrigerator for a couple of reasons 1) I think it will keep better, though honestly it doesn't last long around here and 2) it makes the almond butter a bit thicker consistency when it is cold. You will notice that your almond butter gets softer the longer it is out of the refrigerator.

So there you have it. It might look like a lot of steps but it really isn't. It literally takes about 5 minutes or so. If you decide to try your hand at this or another type of nut butter I'd love to know how it went. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Go-To Essential Oil Relief Combos

All who are essential oil fans have to start their journey somehow, sometime.  I'm so glad I did!  I'm definitely not that experienced, but I also feel like I'm finally getting the hang of what to use for what.  And I'm happy to say they are effective!  I'm posting my favorite relief combos here mostly so I can remember what on earth I put in each, but also so you can maybe give it a go if you're interested!

Nighttime Asthma/Cough Relief

EA's first asthma episode was when he was only 6 months old.  That was the beginning of a saga.  A simple cold turned flaming ear infection turned asthma attack landed him in the ER and then a hospital stay for 3 days (missed my first ladies' retreat at our new church and also celebrated my birthday in the hospital with a preciously adorable but struggling was memorable).  Seven years later, we are finally not visiting the ER three or more times a year.  EA is not on multiple rounds of antibiotics for his ears or steroids for his asthma.  He's down to one asthma med instead of three (fingers crossed for this fall/winter!).  I attribute this vast improvement first to the Great Physician who has been so gracious to keep Elijah with us, healing his body over time, and allowing the medical world to have medicines and procedures to help little kids with asthma.  Second, I attribute the noticeable improvement over the last year to our introduction to essential oils used in conjunction with our humidifier.  It makes a HUGE difference.  When EA is having an episode, he will have terrible coughing spells throughout the night (puts us in a newborn-like-sleep-deprived state).  But, when we use the humidifier and essential oils at night, he sleeps the entire time (and so do we!).  It's incredible.  So here is what we do!  I've listed the specific reasons we use these oils though most oils have multiple uses.

1 full humidifier
pinch of salt
10 drops lavender (relaxing, calming)
7 drops peppermint (reduces inflammation, opens passageways)
5 drops eucalyptus (reduces airway inflammation, possible expectorant)
10 drops orange oil (I don't always this, but there is some research that has shown orange oil may possibly help asthma in particular.  I've found it doesn't really make a noticeable difference like the other three oils do.)

Drop oils in water.  Assemble humidifier.  Plug in.  Enjoy the scent and lack of coughing/breathing difficulty.  *Note* I have since doubled the oil amounts and diluted them a bit with sweet almond oil to have this combo at the ready.  Takes much less time to prep the humidifier when you don't have to do each oil separately!

Bite Relief

El mosquito es un insecto offensivo.  I think I said that enough in high school Spanish that it will stick with me the rest of my life.  I'm a mosquito magnet - sweet blood, according to my grandparents and parents.  :-)  But unfortunately, I am also allergic to mosquito venom.  My bites instantly sting, itch like fire, and swell up.  Some of them have gotten so large in my lifetime that I actually remember where they were and how big they got!  Biggest one on record was ONE bite on the back of my lower leg that made my entire calf swell, getting tight, uncomfortable, and ferociously itchy.  I have tried using essential oil repellent, but the only one that was successful works for me only for 20 minutes (or less most times).  I surrendered and use commercial repellents.  It's worth it to avoid the allergic reactions to bites!  However, I have discovered an essential oil combination that, when used asap, cuts the itch within a few minutes (you have to be patient for it) and drastically reduces both the reaction intensity and its duration.  I may have to reapply one or two more times over a couple days, but that's it.  And lemme tell ya.... that's INCREDIBLE.  Just ask my mom.  :-)  In a little bottle, combine...

2 Tbs sweet almond oil
20 drops lavender
15 drops tea tree
10 drops citronella
7 drops peppermint
7 eucalyptus

Boo Boo Oil

This combination is the latest one I've tried.  Last week, I had to give it some extra care to an ear piercing as it was having  trouble with being red, inflamed, and irritated on its way to infection.  I mixed up some "boo boo oil" and saw VERY quick results!  Within a few minutes of each use, the inflammation and redness goes down and the pain is gone.  The tea tree has definitely done its work at keeping infection away and promoting healing.  The peppermint has a wonderful cooling affect that brings quick relief, and the lavender is soothing.  All I do for treatment is place one drop on the back of the pierced area and a drop on the front.  Then I use a q-tip to wipe the extra oil that runs down my ear.  A small part of me wishes someone would get another boo boo so I can try it on different types, like a scrape or something!  But just a small part of me.  For the family to be boo boo free is a good thing!  :-P  In a little bottle, combine...

2 Tbs sweet almond oil
20 drops lavender
10-15 drops tea tree
10 drops peppermint

*Note*  The "little bottles" I use are simply essential oil bottles I've used up.  The labels come off very easily.  Then I just slap on a white address label and write on it with a sharpie, as seen in the Bite Relief photo.  I'm learning now that I need to write down exactly what I put in the bottle.  Hence the blog post.  And the recipes are hopefully accurate...I'm goin' on memory here!

UPDATE:  Ha.  While I was writing this post, EA tripped on the stairs and hit his chin.  It'll be more bruise than anything, but he did get a bit of an abrasion.  I asked if we could experiment.  He's a trooper.  :-)  He said the oil stung a little, then a lot, then not at all - less than one minute.  We'll see how the healing and pain relief goes!

Homemade Chest Rub

I used this recipe to make a kid-friendly version of chest rub for cough and breathing trouble.  I halved the essential oil amounts, but I think next time I may do 3/4 the oil amounts to make it just a touch stronger.  I don't have cinnamon or clove oil, so I used 15 drops lavender instead (again, will use more next time I make it).  EA really enjoys having this as part of his episode regimen, and I myself enjoy it when I'm having respiratory trouble.

Diluted Thieves Oil

My mom introduced me to this one, and I don't have as much experience or personal testimony of effectiveness as with the other combos.  It is thought to help keep the body from getting sick.  My mom used it on her feet at bedtime throughout last winter and did not get sick!  I've used it a few times on various family members when they have already gotten sick, but I'm not sure how much it helps cut sickness duration.  I am thinking about trying what my mom did to see if we have fewer illnesses this fall/winter!  Simply dilute Thieves oil with your carrier oil of choice (mine is sweet almond oil), rub on feet, and put socks on.  There is a TON of info online about Thieves oil and its if you want more info, get to Googling!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sweet Taste of Autumn Cake

Because it's September.  And for whatever reason, my self-control completely goes away when September hits.  No more waiting for the sweet taste of fall!  Bring on the PuMpKiN!!!

I had a can of pumpkin.  I had a box of white cake mix and a can of chocolate frosting on hand (which never happens...long story).  There had to be a way, right?

Sweet Taste of Autumn Cake

1 box white cake mix
15 oz canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp clove
1 can chocolate frosting (Choose your chocolate flavor!  We did chocolate fudge!)

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cake mix, sugar, and spices; mix well.  Add eggs and pumpkin.  Beat on low speed 30 seconds to combine.  Beat on medium speed 2 minutes.  Pour batter into greased baking dish / cake pan / bundt pan / cupcake tin (because really...cake can take all forms).  Bake according to box directions based upon which pan you use.  Frost.  Eat.  Now you are ready to enjoy the best season of the year!  :-)

Ps 1 - Sweet Taste of Autumn because Autumn is my sister, and I love her.  And the chocolate/pumpkin combination always reminds me of her delish muffins she introduced us to years ago.

Ps 2 - Making this cake on a cloudy, cool, dank day will make you wanna break out sweaters and hot tea and boots and a cozy blanket.  Beware! :-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Heavenly Penne Alfredo

For years upon years, I have always known that my "last meal" would include pasta alfredo from Olive Garden.  With grilled chicken, Caesar salad, garlic bread, and tiramisu.  I love alfredo.  And I no longer need Olive Garden to get it - goodbye restaurant prices and non-homemade!  Alfredo doesn't love the arteries, but I love it anyway.  I pinned a copycat recipe a while back, but the link no longer works.  Boy, am I ever glad that I printed it when I found it!  If you love alfredo...make this.  It is so super easy... is divinely yummy.  x10.

Shown here with seared chicken marinated in Maggio's tuscan herbs olive oil,
basil, garlic, pepper, and salt then drizzled with a touch more tuscan herbs olive oil to finish.
Restaurant food at home, people.
Penne Alfredo
(with my editing)

1 box penne (or desired pasta)
1 stick butter
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs cream cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain; set aside.  Bring the saucepan to medium heat and add the stick of butter.  When melted, add garlic and cook two minutes.  Add heavy cream and cream cheese.  Heat and stir until bubbling but do not allow boiling.  Add Parmesan cheese and stir until melted and smooth.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Return pasta to pan; mix well.

Eat.  Die.  Go to heaven.  Alfredo perfection.

And, no, I'm not being dramatic.

D's Chicken Tortilla Chili

Wanna know what my family's TOPPEST OF THE TOP favorite meal is?  Chicken Tortilla Chili.  It's a recipe that started out as the "Super Flavor Soup" in a recent post a long time ago.  But it's been developing - and boy is it the tastiest now!  I usually use the leftover chicken from a crockpot chicken roast as well as broth made from said chicken.  You can also cook and cube your own chicken if you don't have leftovers.  Amounts are approximations as chili is the easiest recipe to add or take away whatever you want!

This yields a lot of soup.  :-)  Maybe 10ish servings or more?  My family eats two dinners from this one recipe.  Freezes well.  Gluten and dairy free!  Excellent with tortilla chips or fritos - we prefer tortilla chips as it doesn't overpower the soup as much as fritos.  But they're both good.  You can use cooked dry beans if that's your route, but use more broth to compensate liquids if desired.

~3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
3-4 cups chicken broth, or however soupy you want your soup (make your own!  cheaper and healthier!)
2 cans black beans, undrained
2 cans great northern beans, undrained
1-2 cans corn, undrained
1 can pinto beans, undrained
~2 cups salsa of choice
3-4 Tbs chili powder to taste (this is where the flavor power comes in!)
~1 Tbs cumin to taste
Salt to taste
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, and guacamole

Throw it all in the pot.  Stir it.  Heat and stir every so often.  Enjoy!


I'm.  Hungry.  Now.

PS Recipe...  Easy Guacamole for Two

(or one if you eat half today and half tomorrow because you are the only one in your family who will eat it...more for me...)

I used to hate avocados.  I adore them now.  Thank you, dear daughter, for being a baby in modern times and helping me branch out more.  ;-)  I make a super easy guac that I just love - there's no raw onion and no cilantro.  Eww to both.  But you can do whatever suits your fancy!

1 avocado, mashed
1/4 cup salsa of choice
Few splashes of lime juice (if I have it around, but it's fine without)
Dash of onion and garlic powders  (don't go hog wild can always put in but you can't take out)
Salt to taste.

Mix.  Eat.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Homemade Ranch Dressing/Dip

Since wanting to start using less pre-packaged food, I have been on the hunt for a really good homemade ranch dressing.  Ranch is one of my favorites!  Apparently, I had found one and put it in a folder on my computer...and then forgot about it.  I made it for a church gathering and it seemed to be a hit.  It is so tasty!  I do think that it is a little thick for dressing, but you can simply add milk until it is the consistency you prefer.  Now, on to the recipe :)

Let me know if you try it and what you think!
Ranch Dressing/Dip

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper

Simply whisk all the ingredients together until smooth, adding milk as needed/desired for a thinner consistency. Pour into a container and keep in the 'frig. I imagine it will keep for a week or two.

Homemade Pizza

I've used a homemade pizza dough recipe for years!  I got it from a friend in college who blessed me with said recipe at one of my bridal showers.  She calls it "The Best Pizza Crust Ever."  :-)  It is not the Pizza Hut deep dish, greasy 'n crusty type.  Nor is it the thin crust cracker type.  It's is a soft bread type crust.  You could probably add herbs and such to kick it up a notch if that suits your fancy.  I've also included the sauce recipe I happened upon last month that is super easy and a perfect backdrop on pizza or sauce for dipping pizzadillas or homemade bagel pizzas.

Best Pizza Crust Ever
Jenny Heath

1 Tbs yeast
2 Tbs sugar
2-3 cups flour
3 Tbs oil
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup water
(cornmeal, pizza sauce and toppings)

Heat water to 110*.  In a mixing bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and 2/3 cup flour.  Add water and stir well.  Allow to sit for 20 minutes until a sponge is formed.  To sponge, add oil, salt, and 2/3 cup flour.  Mix together, adding flour if too sticky to come together a bit.  Turn out on well floured surface.  Knead with final 2/3 cup flour (or more if needed) for 5 minutes.  Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400*.  Dust a pizza pan/stone with cornmeal.  Shape and roll out pizza dough; transfer to pizza pan/stone.  Prick a few times and bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and top with sauce etc.  Bake another 10 minutes or until the pizza looks just right!

Easy Pizza Sauce III

15 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground oregano
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground paprika

In a medium bowl, mix together tomato sauce and tomato paste until smooth.  Stir in oregano, garlic, and paprika.

Rollin', rollin', rollin'....
Ready to go in the oven!
Ready to be topped!  I added garlic powder, oregano, and Parmesan cheese this time.
Let's eat!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pinteresting Recipes & Reviews Pt. 2

French Dip Sandwiches - Slow Cooker Style
Here is a delicious, easy recipe!  This is one that I think would be great to serve when you are having a casual dinner with friends and/or family.  My Honey and I both really liked this.  Autumn, my oldest daughter, made this for her family (three kids, 11 and younger).  They all liked it as well.  So I feel safe in saying this is a dish that will satisfy a lot of different people.  I made this thinking we were going to have company but plans changed.  I was sad I didn't get to meet some new friends but happy that I now have the leftovers of this in the freezer for another day :)  Two things of note: 
  1. I checked my meat after being in the crockpot for 6 hours since I had used a bit less than 4 lbs of meat.  I used tongs to pick it up and I was able to life the entire piece of meat.  I figured it wasn’t tender yet so I let it cook another hour or two.  When I checked it again; it fell apart as I lifted it with the tongs. It was so nice and tender *and* very easy to shred.  
  2. I am trying to be careful about using processed foods so I didn’t use the boxed dry onion soup mix. I used a recipe from the Dining on a Dime cookbook Dawn and I have referred to in past blog posts.  Here is that recipe:
Onion Soup Mix
         3/4 cup instant minced onions
         4 tsp. onion powder
         1/3 cup beef bouillon powder (looking for a better form of this)
         1/4 tsp. celery seed, crushed
         1/4 tsp. sugar (didn’t add this)

         Mix all ingredients, and store in an airtight container.
         To use: Add 2 tablespoons mix to 1 cup boiling water. Cover and              
         simmer 15 minutes
        This makes a stronger soup than the store-bought mix, so you can      
        use less.

I used 4 tablespoons of this in the french dip.  I just sprinkled it on like it says in the french dip recipe.  I know if you make this you and your family will enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Homemade Laundry Detergent, Take 2...Powder!

For Abbie, because I promised.  And the rest of our readers, too!

Well, I finally ran out of my 5 gallon bucket of liquid laundry detergent (Duggars' Recipe).  It lasted me over a year, and that includes a time when another family of 4 was living with us and using the detergent.  I also didn't dilute it nearly as much as the Duggars suggest because I felt like I needed more cleaning power.  My final review is that, while it definitely costs very little compared to store-bought, I felt that our clothes got a bit dingy after a while.  ESPECIALLY the whites.  Frustrating.  Also, I missed that "laundered" smell.  It's one of my favorite smells in life, after all!  It wasn't a big deal, but I also wasn't fond of measuring liquid.  It just seems messier than it needs to be, whether store-bought or homemade.

I didn't want to make another 5 gallons of the liquid without first trying a powder form.  Some people seem to caution away from powder because of it "wafting in the air" posing a problem to breathing health.  Others said they had trouble with caking in their dispenser.  It does cost a bit more than homemade liquid, but still not nearly as much as store-bought.  And powder?  Just so much easier to measure!  So I researched, chose a recipe, and went for it!

I used Liz Marie's Laundry Soap recipe.  I had 1 leftover bar of Fels Naptha, so I only did 1/3 of her recipe - yes, math was involved to figure out how much of the other ingredients to use.  Good brain exercise!  I also thought it would be good to only do 1/3 just in case I didn't like the recipe or it wasn't effective.  Here are my notes from making it:

  • I left out the scent beads because of cost and non-necessity.
  • Microwave the soap bar(s) on a plate.  It makes it SO much easier to grate or powder-ize.  After breaking up the pieces as much as I could by hand, I put it in a big ziploc bag and went to town with my rolling pin.  I figured, "The finer the bits, the better they dissolve" to avoid the caking issue.
  • I picked up a simple plastic snap-top container from Target - plastic is cheaper, lighter, and IF per chance it falls off of washer/dryer/shelf, you'll only have to clean up detergent.  I use a 2 Tbs measure (harder to find in store, though not impossible...Amazon will rescue you).  Normal loads use 1 Tbs (half a scoop).  Bigger or more soiled loads use 2 Tbs (whole scoop).
I made my 1/3 batch back at the beginning of December.  It's mid-Februrary now, and I still have at least 2 months or so of detergent left!  Which means a full batch would last approximately a year to a year and a half!  My thoughts after using it for a few months:

  • I.  Love.  It.  After the FIRST load, I thought I was seeing things.  The clothes seemed brighter - especially a particular green shirt my boys wear.  I called my boys into the laundry room and asked if they thought the shirt was a brighter green.  Even they agreed!  I'm pretty certain it's the oxyclean.  And if you keep extra on hand, you can add a little to any load you want to have an extra punch of clean!  I usually do this for whites and wash on warm.  They have revived a bit from the dingifying effect of the homemade liquid.  But new socks we've gotten recently are still perfectly white!  No dingifying!
  • Laundry smell!  It's back!  I think because the Fels Naptha isn't so diluted down with water as in the liquid recipe, the smell is able to shine a bit more.  I imagine the powder version would smell like whatever soap you choose to use (Fels, Zote, etc.).  The smell is not incredibly strong like store-bought, but you might catch me with my nose in clothes.  Maybe frequently.  If you were a bug on a wall in my sunshiny laundry room.
  • Measuring?  LOVE.  Super easy.  Mess free.  Unless you bump your hand or the measuring spoon or just completely miss your dispenser.  But that's user error.  ;-)
  • Wafting and breathing powder in?  Not with daily use.  I did notice some of this action when pouring the batch into my plastic container, but I'm the only one around when doing it.  So no worries for my kids, namely my asthmatic boy.
  • Caking?  I have had no issues with this at all.
Conclusion?  I'm sold.  For forever.  :-)

Ps - I would have pictures for you, but I believe my superhero power of spastic static ruined the memory card drive of my computer......  Apologies.  You'll just have to imagine my little container filled with powder and measuring spoon!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pinteresting Recipes & Reviews

So the last week or two I have endeavored to actually make some of the recipes I have pinned on my Pinterest food board.  I have made bread, dessert, and a couple main dishes that I'd like to share with you.

FYI: I have included the links to the original recipes because I believe it is important to help fellow bloggers with their traffic and credit should go to whom credit is due for recipes!

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

Though I have made quick breads before, this was the first yeast bread I have ever made.  It was quite tasty!  The reason I haven't made bread before is because I was afraid of failure.  And I saw success!  I was so nervous about making bread that I forgot to put the egg wash on until the last five minutes.  I realize now how silly I was to be afraid of making bread.  I encourage you to find something in the food world you've been hesitant to try, and go for it!

As for the recipe review... I was a teeny bit disappointed because the Pinterest user I found the recipe from said it was like the bread at Macaroni Grill.  I did think the flavor was better than Macaroni Grill, but it didn't have a hard crust on it.  Now, being a brand new bread maker, I don't know why the bread did not turn out crusty (perhaps from forgetting the egg whites)...and it certainly did NOT keep me from eating the bread.   :)  Also, I thought it needed more salt.  Perhaps sprinkling sea salt on top before baking would help.  I just put some salted butter on it which was really good.  I think you could dip it in olive oil with a little salt and pepper; and that would work, too.  I used fresh rosemary in the bread and dried rosemary on top.  I will make this again!

Beer Crockpot Chicken

The recipe will be found here.  Let me preface this review with a disclaimer (?) I started this early in the day, before I go volunteer at church for a few hours in the morning.  I don't know if I set my crock pot wrong or it malfunctioned or what happened but when I got home the crockpot was off.  I had no idea how long the chicken had already cooked but it didn't look cooked.  I needed dinner to be ready in a few hours so I re-set the crockpot for 4 hours on high.

So, I found this dry and tasteless.  I shredded two chicken breasts and mixed the meat with black beans and brown rice.  Then served it with tortillas, sour cream, cheese and taco sauce.  Once it was fixed up it tasted fine, good actually.  I saved the rest of the meat, in the freezer, to make chicken salad and maybe some sort of chicken casserole later.  I will try this recipe again because I don't know if the crock pot situation is what made it not taste as good as the reviews.

Main Dish #2: Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
You can find this yummy recipe here.  This was so delicious!!  For people who are low-carbing, this is a great meal.  This is easy as well.  One word of warning, though it is a simple recipe, it takes a while.  I thought it would be a thirty minutes or less meal (the danger of not reading through a recipe).  It actually says to cook the onions and mushrooms for about 25-30 minutes to get them caramelized then you cook the actual stuffed peppers for about 20 more minutes.  But, seriously, don't let the time keep you from making these.  They are delicious.  I will definitely be making these again.

Dessert!:  Apple Enchiladas
This recipe is so good!  Another easy recipe.  We had this as part of my dad's birthday dinner.  We had Dawn's Chicken Tortillas soup.  I'm not sure we have posted that here but if we haven't we need to do that :)  It was fun to have a main dish and a dessert with a spanish/mexican flair.  I served vanilla ice cream along side the enchiladas.  The sauce that you make so pour over the enchiladas before baking is so good, I have thought about making it just as an ice cream topper.  I will make this again, but I think next time I may try it with cherries, since that is my Honey's preferred cooked fruit.

Let us know if you try any of these and what you think of them.  Remember Pinterest is only a worth while thing if you actually USE/DO the ideas that you pin...otherwise it is simply a time waster.

Update: Why update you ask? Well I actually typed this a while ago and forgot to publish it :P  I have another one that I did the same thing with that I will post in a day or so :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ninja Express Chopper: A Review

Oh. My. Goodness. I love this new little gadget. I have had the Ninja Express Chopper for several months now.  I have used it, exclusively,  for chopping almonds to put in my yogurt, until the other day. I was making a ragu (that sounds fancy but it really isn't). I needed to chop onions, carrots and celery. I don't mind chopping onions, to much, but chopping carrots and celery is not fun. I wondered how the chopper would do, since carrots are hard, celery is stringy and it didn't matter if everything was uniformly chopped. Well, you know the old saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words"? Here you go :)

The Ninja Chopper is a small, no frills chopper. It has one speed, go.

This is after 3-4 quick pulses. Strings were no problem.

I could have done more than one carrot at a time.
Again, just 3-4, maybe 5 pulses and done.

I am very happy with this little workhorse (I was not paid for this in any way, I just love this little gadget). I will use it more often now and for more than just almonds. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Personal Testimony: Lavender Oil for Burn Treatment

I'm still sort of a newcomer to the world of essential oils, though I don't feel quite as "Huh?" as I once did.  :-)  Lavender oil seems to be a go-to oil for many, many things; and this last week, I learned from personal experience just how good it is at healing the skin.  I've read that you can combine it with witch hazel to use on cuts and scrapes as a natural wash before bandaging, but you can also use it to treat burns.  Lavender oil is one of the few oils that you can put directly on your skin - never put an essential oil directly on the skin unless you have checked if it's ok first!  Many oils need to be put in a carrier oil such as olive or sweet almond.  Do your research!

That said, I just wanted to share my personal testimony to the healing power of lavender oil for a burn that graces my forearm.  I received the burn while cooking by iPhone light - Hubz and my dad were installing a new dining light fixture which meant lack of electricity to the kitchen.  I was pulling something out of the oven, and quick as a wink my forearm touched the 400+* rack.  I didn't think it was a terrible burn.  I put an ice pack on it for a few minutes and called it good.  Apparently, it must have been one of those burns where your skin was touching for a bit longer than you thought...  It blistered.  It was swollen, red, and irritated.  I made a tiny mixture of real aloe from my plant, sweet almond oil, and a drop of lavender oil.  I dipped gauze in the mixture, and then wrapped the burn.  It felt SO cool and soothing!  I did this for a couple of days, but the burn didn't really seem to be improving. If anything, it seemed to start feeling more painful and irritated.  I tried antibiotic ointment - which did nothing.  So, "Whatever...I'm getting desperate...I'll just slap some straight lavender oil on it."

Amazing things happened, folks.  By the next morning, there was zero pain, irritation, and inflammation (it was actually dipped below my normal skin level just a bit!).  It looked noticeably better, too.  I kept it loosely covered throughout the day just to keep fabrics and such from rubbing against the burn.  By night, I could tell there was a little bit of swelling around the edges.  I put another drop of lavender oil straight on the burn and wrapped it up for another night.  Next morning, again, a remarkable improvement!  I wish I would have taken a picture when I started using the straight lavender oil, but I did start documenting a few days ago.  Here is the progression of healing over the last five days (minus day 4 in which I did not put any lavender oil on the burn just to see if it would continue healing quickly after several days of treatment).  See for yourself!

After one night of treatment.  Ask my mom about the level of improvement!  She was here when the burn happened!  The burn went from blistery and angry looking to calm and smoothly scabbed overnight!

Day 2 - the scab is noticeably smaller and new pink flesh is appearing.

Day 3 - Again, the scab is remarkably smaller and the pink flesh is calming down in color.

Skipped Day 4 just to see what would happen.  This is Day 5.  WOW!  Only a dot of scab left, and the pink area is much less noticeable.  Can you tell I'm amazed and excited?  :-)

Hubz and I wonder how society has departed so far from natural remedies when clearly they work!  There is definitely a place for medicine (we're advocates of that, too!), but if you can keep it simple for simple things...why wouldn't you?

Friday, January 10, 2014

LEGO Storage: A Saga for This Family

Ah, Legos.  One of the coolest toys around and also the brunt of many parental jokes (like sprinkling Legos around to deter criminals).  My boys can spend hours building and have truly done some pretty amazing things!  I love Legos for that reason.  But...for someone who has a hidden OCD streak, Legos can be the bane of an organized, tidy existence.

We went through months of trying several different ways to organize Legos.  I looked to Pinterest for ideas, talked with my Hubz and my boys, and delved the depths of my own brain for the best way to store the gazillion bricks and their instruction manuals.  Here are some we tried...

1) The One Box Idea - Keep them all in the same box.  Use a big blanket to build on, and then you can just take up the blanket and be done with clean-up in an instant.  Simple.  But definitely cramps the style of serious Lego builders as it takes FOREVER to find the pieces you want.  Which also means there is tons of sifting going on...which *might* grate on the nerves of a mom who likes things to generally be quiet and peaceful.  Things had to change.

2) The Ziploc Idea - This one is all over the place.  And I think it might be for the OCDers out there who just don't get the big picture of Legos.  I confess: I was there.  Why WOULDN'T you want to keep a Lego kit all to itself in one Ziploc bag with the instructions slipped inside?  It makes perfect sense.  Then all your pieces are right there, ready for building.  Where this fails: This is an imagination and engineering killer.  By doing this, you are confining Legos to only be used for what has already been thought up.  One of the benefits of kids (and adults) playing with Legos is the way it forces the brain to imagine, engineer, create, and even do math without realizing it.  Also, I guarantee that these Ziploc kits will NOT stay complete.  They will NOT be put away correctly every single time by young kids, especially if they are hurrying to "clean."

3) The Instruction Manual Notebook - This one is also all over the place.  How on earth do you store all those manuals??  Why, get a three-ring binder and some page protectors, of course.  Slip instruction booklets inside, and viola.  Excuse me while I laugh at my ignorance.  Your child(ren) would have to already be OCD to keep those page protectors unwrinkled and in one piece and the instructions neatly placed inside rather than jammed in.  I was shocked at how badly this idea failed.  My Hubz was shocked that I actually thought it would work.  :-)  (PS - If you are a hard core paperless person, Lego does have all of the instruction manuals online!  We let the boys build from the Kindle at times.  The boys have an endless supply of things to build without our having to spend a dime on kits.  This is also neat because then they must improvise for pieces they may not have.)

4) Separating Legos into bins/drawers by type - I thought this would be a great idea.  I realized my error in thinking that keeping kits together was perfect and moved towards the bigger Lego picture.  Freeing up blocks to be used for whatever my kids (and Hubz) could think of.  So let's try it by type.  Big, unique pieces in one bin.  Tiny little one-dots and bits in one bin.  People in one bin.  Flat bricks in another.  Normal bricks in another.  And so on.  We were SO close to finding a system that worked.  This one almost did.  Here's where it failed: Clean-up.  Some pieces could go in two different kinds of bins.  How is a kid (or mom??) to know which one?  And when kids are using instruction manuals, they have to check more than one bin to find that particular piece they need.  And a 3 year old?  Yeah, there's no way she's helping clean up because then the bins would be completely messed up.  This one was longer lasting, but it still took a few hours every now and then to set things right - going through bins and putting bricks back in the right places.  Eventually, this got annoying.

Enter the "I told you so" moment.

My son Judah (who could probably already be a Lego designer for the company) had suggested a while back that we just sort it by color.  My brain didn't compute that because that would mean lots of different kinds of pieces would be together.  Why, oh why, did I not listen to my sweet 7 year old when he said that!  He's the one that builds, not me.  So, I gave in.  We already had been using the perfect storage unit from Ikea (Trofast with 9 small drawers is Lego organization heaven!), so we set to work separating every brick by color and some by type.  I printed labels for the bins.  We purchased three extra rubbermaid/sterilite drawer units for the categories that didn't need huge bins.  Failure?

NO.  WAY.  This has truly been a blessing - yes, a blessing - to this mother.  And to the Lego builders in my life.  Anyone can clean up Legos this way - 3 years olds and even younger kids can certainly figure out that this red brick goes in the red drawer.  Judah and Elijah appreciate this organization method because as they build from instructions, they know which drawer to go to.  Yellow dot?  Yellow drawer.  White piece with a sticker on it?  Sticker drawer.  Large grey flat piece?  Grey drawer.  Judah knew what he was talking about when he told me how we should do it.  ;-)  Bliss.

Here are some pictures of our system with captions for explanation.  Soon, we hope to get some simple, thin white shelves to put next to the Lego storage to get the built projects off the ground where they can be stepped on or where they take up play space.

Our Lego Storage.  Ikea Trofast system and smaller drawer units from Walmart.  We have two big bins in the Trofast for our Thomas wooden train set and for cars, but the other bins are Legos.
Organized by color.  Plain and simple.  This also makes it SUPER easy to get the drawers perfect as you can tell when there are colors that don't belong.
Our drawer units.  The blue basket on top holds extra Ziplocs so the boys can keep kits they are working on together rather than having loose Legos everywhere or having to put all the pieces back only to find them again when they are ready to finish building.

A closer look at the bigger drawer unit.  These drawers are the PERFECT size for Lego instruction manuals.  As you see, we have them divided up into categories.
Our small tower holds drawers for the smallest categories.  Although the people are about to outgrow their drawer!  And it's a little weird to look in there and see heads and tiny hands and half bodies.  :-)  This drawer also houses the awesome Lego separators that I think were the hit of Christmas.  $5 a piece.  I'll take that!

This post has been Judah, Lego Master, approved.  :-)