Saturday, May 29, 2010

Summer Door Decor

100_6320
Doesn’t look like much yet…
100_6321
But, add a little green paint that was left over from the potting bench project…
100_6340
And a few hooks, wires and ribbons…
100_6325
Some sticker letters…
100_6434
Some cheap dollar store flowers…
100_6444
… and suddenly you have a very summery wreath…
100_6441
that looks just perfect with the new screen door.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Grilled Pizza Dippers

A kid-friendly lunch that even mom will enjoy.
100_6370
Ingredients
Bread
Sliced Mozzarella cheese
Butter
Basil
Spaghetti sauce
Directions
Add about 1 T butter and chopped basil to a hot skillet. 
100_6367
Sauté until the basil and butter start to give off a wonderful aroma.
Place sliced bread on the sautéed basil.
100_6369
Add some yummy mozzarella cheese and another slice of bread, buttered on the side that faces away from the cheese.
Brown on both sides, as you would for grilled cheese.
100_6370
Slice in strips and serve with warmed spaghetti sauce for dipping. 
Enjoy a simple but yummy twist on grilled cheese.  Makes mommas happy.

Thankful Thursday

Cinnamon rolls and coffee for breakfast.
Baby chicks in the garage.
A fun time playing with friends.
Corn and green beans popping up in the garden.
Dinner out with the girls (I hope).

Chime in!  Leave me a comment and share your favorite things about today.  It makes me smile and dance around the living room when I hear about your day.  I’m really not kidding. ;)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An All-purpose Cleaner you could drink, not that you’d want to!

 

100_6248

I quit buying most household cleaning supplies.  I hated the toxic smell when I was pregnant.  I just kept imagining the fumes making their way to my tiny little baby.  I dreaded cleaning the bathrooms.

I tried buying some of the “earth-friendly” cleaners.  I guess I’m just too much of a skeptic.  It seemed to me that they were just reformulated to make a buck.  They still took up the same amount of room on the back of a truck and produced just as much trash.  I’m too hard to please.

So, I’ve taken a grandmotherly recipe and made it work for me.  Thought I’d share my favorite way to clean. 

Ingredients;

An old spray bottle

An old plastic container with a lid

Vinegar

Water

Something that smells good (essential oil or herbs)

Baking Soda

Directions;

Pour vinegar about 1 inch high in the bottom of the spray bottle.  Add some yummy smelling stuff!  You can add 4-5 drops of essential oil or throw in something out of your herb garden.  I used lavender.  Fill the bottle the rest of the way with warm water. 

100_6253 

Fill the other plastic container with baking soda and make some holes the lid.

100_6257

You now have everything you need to clean most of your house.  Small package, but huge results!  I love not having to tote around 17 different cleaning bottles.

For windows and mirrors; Just spray the vinegar and wipe with a soft cloth.  I find that old cotton napkins (the stained up ones you don’t want to throw away) work really well.

For sinks; Sprinkle the baking soda in the bottom and then spray generously with the vinegar water.  Use an old washcloth to wipe the sink clean.  The vinegar loosens the gunk and the soda provides a bit of scrubbing power.

For toilets; Pour a fair amount (about what would fit in the palm of your hand) of baking soda into the toilet and brush as normal.  Spray the seat and toilet with the vinegar water and wipe down with an old cloth.

For the bathtub; Pour soda in the bottom of the tub and spray entire tub with vinegar water.  Add a little water to the soda to make a paste and scrub the tub with it.  Shiny, bright bathtub with very little work.

For laminate floors; Spray with vinegar water and wipe down with your favorite, handy-dandy mop.

For vinyl floors; Same as laminate, except when they are really disgusting I put down some soda before I spray and then give them a quick scrub with a bristly scrub brush.

Kitchen; Just use the vinegar water to clean most surfaces.  Add the baking soda for stainless steel to get a pretty shine.

Laundry; Vinegar works well as a fabric softener.  Lightly spray clothes (or hair) that have a bit too much static. 

Insect bites; Make a paste of baking soda and vinegar water and apply directly to the bite.  It will take away the sting of bee bites and reduce itching of mosquito bites.  After the paste dries, just wash it off in cool water.

Cats that misbehave; Spray lightly with the vinegar water.  They will remember their manners next time!  We used it to train the cats not to run into the house and not to climb on the window screens.

100_6255

I’ve been using these items to clean my house for a long time and have been truly happy.  It sounds entirely too simple, but I hope you’ll try it out.  I do think you’ll love it and you’ll love the lack of toxic fumes.  The most costly item on the list is the fragrance, and that can easily be left out.  I just add lavender because it makes me happy.

Try my cleaning methods and let me know what you think.  Do they stack up to your favorite store cleaners?  Do you have a recipe to share?  I’d love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fun Links

Sometimes I see things that are so cute the make me want to sew all day! 
Like this…..
image
from Blue Cricket Designs.  Makes me wish my girls could still wear onsies! 
And this…
image
from Moda.
These flowers make great headbands, too
image
again, from Moda.

Thankful Thursday

A visit with my mom.
Fresh, sweet strawberries for breakfast.
Fragrant Honeysuckle in bloom.
Sun peeking through the clouds.
Barefooted kids.

Please join in and leave a comment.
What you are thankful for today?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Best, Cheapest Laundry Detergent Ever

My friend, Erica, had a great post on her blog today showing how to mix up a batch of your own liquid laundry detergent.  I use this same recipe/method for our laundry.  It works very well and is so stinking cheap you'll wish you would have tried it years ago.
Check it out!
image
http://experiencedamatures.blogspot.com/2010/05/homemade-laundry-detergent.html

Monday, May 17, 2010

Clutter

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” ~ Wendell Berry, Prayers and Sayings of the Mad Farmer
Yeah.  I’m there.  At least close to there.  In fact, I have a yard sale planned for the beginning of June and the wait is making me crazy. 
Seven years ago, this house seemed so big.  So empty.  Seven years, four kids, two cats, a garden, several hobbies, lots of camping gear, and one cow later, I can barely walk through some rooms.  The garage failed to hold vehicles long ago.  Now, one of the rooms in the basement houses lots of outgrown clothes and baby items.  ….and miscellaneous pots, pans, TV’s, books, the list goes on!  I thought about posting a picture, but….
It doesn’t seem possible that one family could have so much stuff.  Some of these things that clutter our home are needed or at least appreciated.  Some of them just add to the stress of cleaning and living in our home.  Now that I am past all the pregnancies and my babies are getting to a point where they can occasionally play for 20 minutes without needing my help, I am tackling the clutter that has been making me crazy.
Thought I’d share my favorite ideas and ask for you all to share some of your favorites.
100_6232 These are the kids’ laundry baskets.  Color coded, no less.  As I fold clothes, I drop their socks into the bottom of the baskets.  Then, I pile in the clean clothes and tote them upstairs.  From there, it’s the kids’ job to put things away and mate their socks.  Even the three year old can do it with a little help.  Then, the baskets are put at the top of the stairs.  The baskets also come in handy for “toy sweeps.”  I have the kids visit each room looking for anything that belongs to them and kindly take it to their room.
100_6234
The kids each have a designated towel hook for their bath towel.  There is an extra hook in the middle, which makes the kids think we should get another baby.  Pretty sure that ship sailed with that fourth c-section!  Anyway, this saves me a ton of laundry.



100_6235
Baby books are so hard to keep up with.  This basket has helped me bunches!  It’s easy to grab the whole basket and to veg-out on the swing or wherever and add a few things to each book.  The big envelopes are a great timesaver, too.  It is so nice to be able to slide little keepsakes, photos, pictures they draw, their weight and height from the latest doctor’s visit and birthday party invitations into their envelope and add them to the books later.
100_6239
These cool storage bins are so nice for organizing meds.  I have one for injuries, filled with bandages and Neosporin.  The other tote is for sickness.  It holds meds for anything from a tummy ache to a sore throat.
100_6240When I needed some cheap, yet manly bookshelves for Eric’s office, I found these great gorilla racks.  Very rugged.  Very manly.  Very, very cheap.  Let’s hear it for SAM’S Club.

100_6242  Again, the gorilla racks come to the rescue!  I love buying in bulk.  It saves me trips to town with four kids age 6 and under.  This is very, very valuable.  This lovely gorilla rack allows me to see what I have, send the kids “shopping” in the basement, and easily put away my latest coupon/sale buying finds.

So, I hope you’ve found a few ideas you can use.  I’d love to hear the organization/de-cluttering ideas that work well for you.  I’m really struggling to keep the kids hand-me-downs organized.  Craft supplies get me in trouble, too.  So leave me a comment and share a tip or just complain about the mess that gives you headaches.  I love hearing from you!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Falling out of bed…

100_6220
This is how Sam took his nap today.  Looks uncomfortable, but it didn’t seem to bother him.  I didn’t try to move him.  I just snuck in and took silly pictures.  Gotta love these moments.

Grilled Pizza


Pizza is one of my favorite meals to make on the grill.  It has a smell that is a cross between a great pizzeria and carnival food.  Grilled pizza has a great taste, too.  The best part is the crust, very crispy on the bottom, but soft everywhere else.



Ingredients for the crust...

1 1/2 cup very warm water (like bath water)
1 T yeast
1/4 cup flax seed (optional)
1 T sugar
1 1/4 t salt
1/4 cup olive oil
*  herbs of your choice, I used basil
*  flour, about half white and half whole wheat.  I would guess that it will take about 4 cups to make the dough somewhat firm and workable.

Soften the yeast in the warm water for a few minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients and about 1/2 cup of the flour.  I added basil today, but onions or oregano are also wonderful.  I bet it would be great with all three as well, but I try not to overwhelm the kids' taste buds too much.



Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time alternating between white flour and whole wheat.  The whole wheat flour gives the dough a bit of a firmer texture and really lends itself well to grilling.






Switch to the dough hook and work the dough, adding flour one tablespoon at a time.  You want fairly firm (but in no way stiff) dough.  This is what the dough looked like right as I finished kneading it.  I put the dough out on cookie sheets to rise, coated in olive oil.  Let it rise for about 20 minutes and then form small personal sized pizzas.  Let those rise while you are getting the topping ready.



One of my favorite toppings is tomatoes.  I drain the tomatoes really well, even pressing the water out using paper towels until the tomatoes resemble tomato paste.  Otherwise they are too wet for the pizza and end up kind of slimy and gross.

Then, I add olive oil, diced basil and 1/4 t salt.  I use this as my sauce, but the kids and Eric like a more traditional sauce.  For them, I use a little Prego.
Toppings make the pizza...  Today, I used sausage, bacon, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan.  Sometimes I even cut up spinach and use it as a topping.  Very, very yummy.

Add all the toppings, except for the cheese.










Carefully place the pizzas on a very hot (350 to 400 degrees) grill.  The best way is to kind of pull up the edges to meet in the middle, forming a very fragile sack.  Then, lay the pizza on the grill gently and reposition the toppings as needed.  This is where the dough's consistency is so important, too soft and it falls apart.

Add the cheese.
I love slices for this job because it's easier to control.

Let the pizza cook with the grill lid down as much as possible.  I try to keep the grill at least 250 degrees.  My grill is totally taken up by the pizzas, but if it wasn't I would use a more indirect heat (the burner that isn't under the food).  As it is, I just monitor the pizzas to avoid burning and move them to the top rack when they are nearly done.  Don't try to move your pizzas around until the dough is cooked very well or you will have a mess of toppings and dough. 


Enjoy with your favorite people.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

There is work that must be done...

One of the hardest things about being a momma is the fact that there is work that must be done.  I'd rather spend my days reading to the kids, playing at the park, blowing bubbles and generally acting silly.  Thing is, I must also keep some of the laundry clean, cook, clean the house, and keep up with outside chores.  It's a fact of life that isn't going to change unless we somehow hit it big and get to hire a maid.  That isn't going to happen.  We don't even have an ambition to make something like that happen, as we enjoy the day-to-day tasks and the life we live.

I've been thinking about ways to be more productive during my working hours so that I can have more playing hours.  Before we had so many kiddos, I could usually keep up fairly well.  With four kids, age 6 and under, getting things done has become very difficult.  Overwhelming.  Stressful.

I've been doing some evaluating, looking for the things that slow me down and the ways to improve in those areas.  For the next few days, I'm going to be exploring this topic.  I'm hoping you'll join me in a conversation about getting the work done and leaving some time for playing.

Our first topic will be managing clutter.  Sometimes I feel as if my house has been taken over by all the stuff we own.  It slows me down, makes it hard to clean, and generally frustrates me.  I've been looking for ways to simplify and organize.  Hope you'll take some time to think about how you manage all the "stuff" in your home and join me for the discussion in the next post.   I need all the help I can get!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sippy Cup Song

I can't find my sippy cup,
I've looked most everywhere.
'Cept for the refrigerator,
I didn't check in there.
It could be in the bathroom
Sittin' on the floor.
Or maybe in my bedroom,
Hidin' back behind the door.
Could have left it outside
When I was playin' on the deck.
Maybe it's in my sister's room,
I didn't really check.
Momma says to go and look,
Or I can't have a drink.
'Cause in a day or two the milk
Left inside my cup will reek.
I can't find my sippy cup,
I've looked most everywhere.
'Cept for the refrigerator,
Oh look! It's in there.

Cheesy, I know...  But can't you mommas relate?

Thankful Thursday

Sam is happy with his new toddler bed (though it gives me a few tears...).
My kiddos play together as best friends (most of the time).
There are three ripe, red strawberries waiting to be picked.
My honey has the day off tomorrow!
Good friends whose kind words have kept me smiling this week.


Hope you'll leave me a comment and share a few things you are thankful for today.
I love hearing from you!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Measuring is highly over-rated...

I love to make bread.  I love to eat bread, too!  It's such a part of our lives, that it always surprises me when someone says that they just can't make bread.  I think a lot of us get it into our head that it's some kind of science.  I say that it is more of an art.
Today, I made a soft, sweet brown bread.  I didn't measure much, just threw stuff in a mixing bowl.  If you have ever wanted to try bread-making, I hope you'll find inspiration here.

My Crazy Take on an Amish Bread Recipe

Ingredients
3 cups warm water
3 T yeast (or 3 pkgs)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 T salt
3 T flour
1 T molasses
3/4 cup vegetable oil
flour

Start with about 3 cups of warm water.  Most tap water is 120 degrees or more.  You want your water to be no hotter than 115, so add a bit of cool water.  It should feel good to the touch, like a nice warm bubble bath.
Pour the water into your mixing bowl and add 3 T yeast.  I like to add ground flax seed as well.  It's heart healthy stuff and it adds a bit of a nutty flavor.  Very yummy, but optional.  Leave it out if you don't have any  in the cabinet. 


Mix all that good stuff up in your bowl and leave it for 5 or 10 minutes.  Perfect amount of time to get out the next batch of ingredients and grease your bread pans.  I love to use shortening for this job.  Just shortening.  I know lots of people say to flour your pan, but my experience has been that the bread simply falls out of my pan with the shortening only method.


Now, on to the good stuff.  Add all the rest of the ingredients except the bulk of the flour.  Measuring is highly over-rated, so just come close enough and it'll be fine.  I rarely measure anything and never with any accuracy.


Now, you can start adding the flour about 1/2 cup at a time.  I sometimes use all white flour, but I often use quite a bit of whole wheat flour.  The best advice is to introduce whole wheat slowly and add the amount of whole wheat as your tastes and experience grows.


You'll start with something that looks like this....

As you add flour a half a cup at a time, it will begin to look like this...

When it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, like this...

Then, it's time to switch to the dough hook.
Add about a tablespoon of flour at a time to help keep the dough from sticking to the outside of the bowl.  The less flour you add, the softer the bread will be.  The more flour you introduce, the harder the bread will turn out.  This dough looks about right for a very soft dough and a melt in your mouth bread.

Turn the dough out into an oiled bowl (and turn it over to coat it in the oil) to rise for about 30 minutes.  Punch the dough back down into the bowl and let it rise again for about 30 minutes.


Don't get too crazy about keeping track of the time.  If you let the dough rise too much, it will climb out of the bowl and onto your kitchen counter in an attempt to take over the world... or at least your kitchen.  Temperature and humidity do change the time it takes for the bread to rise.

Turn the dough out onto a wooden cutting board if you have one.  The oil from the bottom of your bowl should keep the dough from sticking.  If not, add a bit more.  Lots of books and people will tell you do lightly flour the work surface and your hands.  I'm telling you that it's a bad idea.  That flour never gets worked into the dough, leaving streaks of tough bread.  However, if you want a bread that is very crusty on the outside, using a bit of flour does promote that.

Cut the dough into four equal pieces.

Shape the dough into loaves.  Make sure the work the dough enough to get rid of air bubbles and tuck any "seams" under when you place the dough into the pans.

Let the dough rise until it is peeking over the top of the pans.

Place the dough in a 375 degree oven, leaving some space between pans.  Bake for about 10 minutes and then reduce the oven temp to about 325 degrees.  Cook another 10 to 15 minutes until the bread is a beautiful brown.

Enjoy!