Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Five Minute Bread Dough

I'm serious, it only takes about 5 minutes to make this bread dough! Here's the recipe.

You mix all of the ingredients in an old ice cream bucket. You can use something else, but this works great because it has a lid, but isn't air tight. So follow the recipe and mix it all together and 5 minutes later you're done.

Let it sit on the counter for 2 hours so the dough can rise. Then pop it in the refrigerator. If you want to make bread the next day, just pull the container out and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Then get your hands wet and pull out the a ball of dough from the container. Around a pound works, but you can adjust this depending on the size loaf you want. Lightly dust the loaf with flour and shape it. Sprinkle cornmeal on a sheet of parchment paper and set your loaf on it.

(Enjoying my bread with raspberry jam)

Don't forget to make a deep cut in the top of the loaf before putting it in the oven. It allows the steam to escape. These are only partial instructions. Follow the detailed instructions in the recipe to make your own. This was my first effort, so I'm excited to try it again soon.

Photos by moi.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tips for Yard Sales (Buyers Edition)

Garage sales with a little creativity and change in your pocket can go a long way. They are a chance to benefit from someones excess while not living excessively yourself. A way to treat yourself, house, and family without having to treat your bank account harshly. Another way to be a different kind of giver/home manager. One who thinks ahead and is prepared for the holidays and year to come by buying before the need arises.

So, after coming away from a morning/afternoon yard saling with my head in the clouds or feeling like a rain cloud is following me. I tried to come up with a few tips to make the day go easier.
1.) See the potential in every item. That bowl with musty potpourri was just .50, cleaning the bowl out I currently use it by turning it upside down and putting it on the mantel with my other round glass bowls. The flowers were taken out of the brown holder and it was used as a bathroom trashcan, much better than the plastic version at the store. Garden tools are a great find at sales. And lamps can always find a home somewhere around the house spruced up with ribbon or painted.
2.) Trash Day is Freebie Day. Take a walk or drive through your neighborhood on trash day in the summer. I found these items plus a few other extras. The shelves (from Target) now hang above my computer desk and the stars were given as gifts. They even still had the tag on them. Don't be above taking someone elses "trash". They are glad to be parting with it and you are doing them and the local dump a favor!

3.) Hit the higher-end neighborhoods first. All these items came from a "nicer" neighborhood with bigger houses and green manicured lawns. The prices may be higher, but the items will sometimes be better quality. I kept the flowers in the original vase, but filled them with polished stones from our yard. The lamps decorate a table between our living room and kitchen. The picture was in our bathroom, but since we are remodeling I am thinking about painting it with chalkboard paint, and moving it else where. The wicker basket houses my workout things like a yoga mat and weights.

4.) Community Garage Sales are your BFF. You can hit tons of individual sales in just a couple hours because they are all so close together. Saving you time and gas money.

5.) Make a List. A bicycle helmet, step stool, winter jacket, baskets, snow pants, black sandals, a decorative plate holder were all on my list. No joke. Because my brain had already preplanned it was easy to remember what I needed most for the coming year.

6.) Kids Toys. If you see something that your kids or others would enjoy I suggest buying it for them. Then when you are home put those things in a box far far away from their view.
I was able to furnish Christmas fillings and others birthdays with this box. At one sale I bought a misc. box of GeoTrax(toy trains) for my son for $30. There must have been over $300.00 worth of trains and accessories in the box. If I had saved it for Christmas I would have been his hero, but I am weak and wanted to see his face light up in the middle of July!

A few other things:
  • Have small bills and quarters on hand.
  • Ask around to see if anyone has anything specific they need or anything you need they could be watching out for at their sales
  • I used to be shy about asking for a lower price. Now I know that the worst thing that could happen is they could say "no". Always Ask.
  • Google Maps,, Craigslist, or your local paper are all good places to hear about yard sales. If I am planning to go out that day I will map the route I plan to take and then follow it loosely. Having a plan is crucial so you aren't aimlessly driving around town. Also, if you know someone else that might go garage saling that day email or print them the route too. Simple things like that will make someones day.
  • If you find something you are even remotely thinking about buying pick it up and carry it around. The "one" that got away will haunt you forever.
  • Clean out your car before you go. Who knows how lucrative your trip could be? Enough room to carry your ____ (fill in the blank) is crucial.
  • If you see something, but you can't decide, give them your card. A card with your name and number and if they don't sell the item by the end of the day just ask them to give you a call.
  • There are a few things that I almost always buy baskets, picture frames, and big glass anything (bowls, vases, etc.). These are things that can be used in a multitude of different ways for decorating the house and never go out of style.
  • Pray about your needs. I cannot tell you how many things I now take for granted in my house that I didn't have and wanted last summer. God blessed me many times over finding that perfect item!
  • Dress in layers. It is cold in the mornings, enough so for a sweatshirt, but as the morning sun arrives you will be glad you thought to put a t-shirt on too!
  • Organize different boxes for the different types of garage sale items you regularly purchase. Once you have filled your box or container you should think you are at your limit for the season. I have two decorating boxes that I occasionally "shop" my house for. That way I'm not running out to buy something when I get the need to redecorate. All I do is rotate my things so I am never getting tired of seeing the same old pieces. When those two boxes are full I know I need to stop, or purge my decorating boxes. Having boundaries in all things helps.
  • One-in-one out rule. If you have bought a shirt or anything else that will be taking up space in your home then you should think about what could be taken out of your house and donated or maybe have a garage sale of your own?

Happy Yard Sale(ing)!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Garlic Solutions

Flannel Man and I have figured out that we love to use garlic when we cook. The only problem with this is that I feel like my hands reek of garlic for days afterwards. So I started making the rounds online looking for a solution. I read about lemons and saunas and all sorts of stuff, but one thing stood out.

I read over and over again that rubbing your hands on a bar of stainless steel under running water would do the trick, (they also said a stainless steel knife would work, but I would lose a finger trying that.)

So Flannel Man works with metal and he made me a bar. I've tried it and found that it definitely helps. I can still smell the garlic, but it's really faint, nothing like what it was before. So it works for me. Have you guys found any better solutions?

Photo by moi.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Birthday in Pictures

Can you believe that this was my fortune cookie last night? I will have to oblige.

My new apron and God's fresh bouquet of flowers outside our door.

A tea maker with the most wonderful smelling loose leaf tea!

A delivered edible Fresh Fruit bouquet.

Newly remodeling the bathroom with birthday money.

And last, but not least, a husband making me sushi California rolls!

What a wonderful day full of sweet cards, special treats, and supportive friends and family. God has truly blessed me this year! I can't wait to see what He has in store for the next (hopefully more sushi).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today is one of the two blogger's birthday! The mom/organizational genius who created this site with me was born today a couple decades ago. So happy birthday to you my friend. I hope today is filled with kind words, happy thoughts, relaxing moments, good food and people you love.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rice Cooker

One of the most useful appliances Flannel Man and I received as a wedding gift is our rice cooker. For some reason, without this little wonder, I can't seem to get the right balance of water and rice. It's always too dry or too mushy. So yay for something that tells you exactly how much water and rice to use and then you just push a button and it cooks until it's done. It's like magic.

In our home it actually gets used more as a veggie steamer. The cooker comes with a steamer tray and I can just drop frozen broccoli or green beans in with two cups of water and 15 minutes later they are ready to go.

What kitchen appliances have become essential in your homes?

Photos by moi.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mission: Cloth in the Kitchen

Using paper towels in the kitchen are one of those disposables that can be a drain on your budget and your trash. Yet, with a little forethought and planning you can have your big messes and clean them up with cloth too!

Here is a complete look at my cloth system. It is constantly evolving just like any organizational system, tweaking and changing with the seasons and needs of our family. So, what are the basics that come with having a cloth system?

- Initial Start Up Investment. You might have to spend some cash to complete this mission (unless everyone at your wedding got you kitchen towels, like they did me :)). The key is to make it easy for you, or it won't work. That means you need a few days worth of towels so that you aren't doing laundry after every spill.

-The categories you could use are Good, Dish, & Clean Up. Now that you know your mission you must decide your choice of weapons against the messes.

- "Good" doesn't mean these towels behave better than the others. It simply means these are the towels that hang out for us to dry our hands on. No spills or floor for these guys, they have the easy life.

-"Dish Rags" are only for use in the sink.

-"Clean-up" towels fall into two categories. The left-side ones are for the heavy duty messes. These messes are the ones that would usually have me reaching for the paper towels. Instead having designated heavy duty towels to turn to is key for me. The right-side ones are for my little ones. After they eat they use them to wipe their hands. You can't tell, but they are half the size of the "good" towels. They are like napkins for us.

Another tip is to hide the paper towels. If they are out in plain sight then it is going to be harder to say no. For guests when they ask I can redirect them and suggest they just use a towel or point them under the sink.

And lastly, always have a bucket or way to keep the towels till they are ready for the washer. Having them draped over something or spread out is key to not letting mildew or germs breed on them. Then when they are dry you can easily put them in a sack or bucket for the journey to the laundry room!

Now, nothing may happen over night, but by using a few towels here and there I really picked up the habit. I hope seeing my humble system in place inspires your own or keeps you motivated to keep up your own good work!

Monday, March 22, 2010

What's Cooking: Chicken with Pan Sauce

(All my ingredients, ready to go)

This recipe comes from The Hip Hostess and is Flannel Man's new favorite. I personally had no idea what "pan sauce" was, but have now decided it's delicious.

The recipe calls for dry white wine and I used a Sauvignon Blanc. It also tells you to wrap the chicken in plastic wrap before pounding it down. I put all four halves into a large ziplock bag, which kept any juices from splattering around my kitchen.

The onions tasted similar to capers by the time the sauce was done. Which was great, because I don't like onions, but I love capers. I served the chicken dish with a Caesar salad, orange slices and a piece of baguette. Mmmm.

Photos by moi.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Got Swagbucks?

The new to do in search engines is searching while purchasing, Swagbucks that is. For every few searches that you choose Swagbucks as your search engine you will earn points. As these points accumulate you will be able to cash them in for various prizes. Prizes that could range from a new phone to gift cards. I personally, have had no spam or any reason to be suspicious of the operation. I have read that it uses Google and results. Normally, I do go to Swagbucks for my first look into a search, but do not find the results typical of the ones Google brings.

- Download the toolbar. I find that if it is almost effortless, I will use it every time. (Download it and I will come. )
- Go back and forth between Google and Swagbucks. They then reward you even more for coming back to use their site. (They heart you!)
- Promote others to use their services. You get a bonus if others sign up, because of you. (Sign up here! That's about as far as my link to the company goes. )
- When the disaster in Haiti happened, I was able to donate my Swagbucks towards the relief effort.
- They really only reward you for the first 20 or so times you use the search. After that you are just using it cause you think it makes you have SWAG.
- The cons, just like other sites I don't know how much power this search engine has over tracking your searches. I would recommend not relying on it for everything, but using it as a fun way to earn extras.

Hope your searches today are Swagalicious!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Green Cushions

(Our little glider)

When we bought our house quite a few random things came with it. The former owners left a playground set, an old grill and a glider on the front porch. Flannel Man and I love sitting out there in the evenings and a current sale at Target has made our little bench even better. All of their outdoor cushions are on sale and I grabbed these two green ones for $10 each.

(Our view of our front yard from the front porch)

Photos by moi.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's Cooking: Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins

(The finished product)

Our oven is finally back up and running. Yay! So last weekend I decided to try a recipe I found at The Idea Room.

(Two different mixes, one flour and one eggs, that you combine in the end)

The recipe is for Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins, which sound a bit odd, but were delicious. They were easy to make and are slightly less sweet than regular muffins, which I prefer. I didn't add the cinnamon sugar topping that the recipe suggests. I didn't want any more sugar on the top and they tasted great without it.

(The recipe made 12 muffins)

The recipe said the muffins should cook for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees, but it took 55 minutes for my muffins to cook. I don't know if that's because of something with our oven or what. They turned out great in the end, but I had to keep checking them for the final half and hour because I had no idea when they would be done.

(Enjoying one of the muffins with a cup of coffee)

Photos by moi.

Garden Beginnings

This morning I woke up with a stomach virus. So, there's not much going on around the house today, inside or out. But in my head I am gearing up for gardening season. Pondering what to plant, where, and how much (not eating it though, that thought makes me nauseous). Last year I had a selection of tomatoes (Roma, Regular and Cherry), zucchinis, hot peppers, green peppers, zinnias, basil, and a tiny amount of cilantro and and lots of baby sunflowers. This coming year I would like to do cherry and regular tomatoes, green peppers, green beans, peas, spinach, a few zinnias, baby sunflowers, basil, lavender (tea garden?), oregano (pizza garden?), and maybe onions.

Here are just a few sites that I have been looking over the last few days doing my "dirty" homework.

I always use rubber gloves to wash dishes as I do most by hand, they are a must. But the longer they are worn the more leaks and grubbier they get. Setting my older pair by the trash can imagining how I could up-cycle them I came up "empty handed". Later, searching for my gardening tools in the garage, that is a HUGE wintery mess, I couldn't find the box. So, I walked by those gloves two or three times before having a Cinderella moment with them. Slipping them on they fit perfectly (as most gardening gloves do not on small hands), they were easily washable, and they went up high on my arm! Perfect for diggin in the dirt! The tiny holes that were there when washing the dishes did not let any of the dirt in, and did I mention they are pink? Well, pink and brown now.

So, whether you are an expert, a beginner (like me), or just an indoor plant person. There is always going to be a teachable or new learning experience when dealing with plants. They seem to plant the seed of wonder and allow everyone to grow, if only in character.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring has Sprung

Last week, for the first time this year, it was wonderfully warm outside. I ran errands during my lunch break and ate my packed lunch in my car. I can't even remember the last time I just sat and watched the clouds roll by with my feet hanging out the car window. It was a good day. I hope all of you have a delicious St. Patrick's Day.

Photo by moi.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Freezer Organization

For most a freezer isn't something that one spends a lot of thought on, but when properly organized can serve as a helpful resource. Think about all those half eaten meals (that weren't touched with your fork), leftover spaghetti sauces, fresh vegetables not being eaten, or bulk meats bought on sale in the refrigerator. All these things have potential to be used at another time if put into the freezer.
Yet, I never thought of utilizing this space because it was so limited. Cramming everything in and hoping for the best was the "system". A few Ziploc bags later and some work on my part makes a whole new area for storing food! My options are now wide open and the new system saves me not only money, but time. Buying meat in bulk, splitting it into smaller 1lb portions, and flattening with a rolling pin makes it easier to dethaw and serve. Also, it is more convenient then buying it every week and lugging it home and not even at a sale price.

The veggie portion of the freezer was a hot or should I say, cold mess, before storing them in flat Ziploc bags. The top half is meat and sauces already frozen and flattened. The problem with just keeping veggies in the original bag is that it isn't a secure close, hard to take inventory on what I have, and which is the oldest veggie I should use up first.

Now, I can tell from top to bottom which is the veggie that is the oldest, what the contents are, and how much of one thing I posses. Also, when you are done with the freezer bag it is easy to rewash and use again. I would do this only with the ones that held vegetables as it is hard to get a truly deep clean with raw meats. Tips have been to purchase cheap plastic bags, fill them with the meat and then in a nicer freezer bag like Ziploc or Glad to protect them from frost.

I also put onions and red/green peppers in the freezer. Chopping them up and then flash freezing them. Flash freezing just means to put them individually on a flat surface, place them in the freezer let them harden, and THEN place them in a Ziploc bag. This way it is easier to take a few out at a time rather than a clump. They are mostly convenient for throwing in meats and sauces as flavoring.

The flash freezing process is also good for homemade chicken nuggets, pancakes, berries, and casseroles. To properly freeze a casserole and be able to keep reusing the dish, line it with foil, spray with cooking spray, and then flash freeze it. When completely frozen take out the meal in the foil, transferring it to a plastic freezer bag.

One tip for getting your meats to lay flat is to place them on a small cutting board in the freezer and let them take a flat shape before moving them. This way you gain more space and could even stand your foods sideways if you have the room and organizational talent!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Paper or Plastic

I'm sure most of you already know and/or do this, but taking your own bags into a grocery store is a great idea for a few reasons.

For one thing, you no longer end up with dozens of paper or plastic bags at the end of each trip. Also, many stores now give you a discount for every bag you bring in. I know that Target and Marsh definitely do this, and many others offer it as well. If you aren't sure, just ask your local stare manager. Usually it's only about 5 cents a bag, but that adds up with weekly trips.

Also, you can take any bag in, not just the store's own branded bag. I've found a lot of old tote bags that I hadn't used in awhile. Now I keep them in my car, ready for a quick trip into a store at any moment.

Photo by moi.

What's Cooking: Scallops

(The finished product)

Last night I tackled scallops. I'd eaten them before, but never cooked them. I found a recipe and got to work. After salting and peppering them, I put about 12 scallops into a large skillet and cooked them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for about 4 minutes on each side on medium heat.

(The sizzling scallops and orange peels)

A word to the wise (from one who isn't) put the scallops in before the oil gets hot or it'll be grease fireworks on your stove (hypothetically speaking of course.)

The recipe I had suggested using a vegetable peeler and taking some bits from an orange peel to cook with the scallops. It worked really well. The scalllops should be golden brown on both sides when they are done. I cooked some asparagus and rice at the same time to complete the meal and served it with orange slices.

Photos by moi.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Why of Green & Frugal Living

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."

- Alvin Toffler

The most ironic thing to me about the "Green" movement is that older generations practiced it, without much practice at all. They simply didn't have the luxury not to, they didn't have a choice. Most were just trying to live & save money, not trying to save the planet. This reasoning resonates with me the most because it passes up the fad and hype of the movement, and goes back to its roots. The green movement was begot out of the just using wisely what God gave you from the earth and surroundings.

One of the fundamental questions to ask when being a manager of the home is "why". The women of the last generation were mostly brought up in the age of convenience, as is this one and the next will be. No one has stopped to question our current methods. There now is a product for everything! The latest gadget is always behind the next curtain. Why do it yourself when there is a store down the road?

The answer is that most of the things that everyone is telling me I need, are subtly harmful for me and I can do it better myself and cheaper, thankyouverymuch.

Maybe store bought products can save me time, but what am I saving that time for? To watch tv? To make more money to buy more things? What am I sacrificing (iffy ingredient-wise)?And how much time am I really saving? My priorities need to be in check.

Chemicals and pesticides, to plastics and BPA. Almost no companies these days care where the item is made or where it was shipped from. Just as long as you are dependent on them. Unilever, the company, is a prime example that shows just how uncaring today's product promotions have become. Dove soap is a branch of Unilever, and is working hard to give women a positive body image. Shouting to women everywhere to be comfortable in their own skin. While in the same breath promoting Axe brand to men. Which shows women as only skin. Something to be lusted after, not much more. Now, I understand that money makes the world go round. But just knowing that they have no real loyalty to the consumer also makes me wonder about their ingredients. It makes me want to be more informed about my choices. It just makes me want to ask "why".

So, I would say that the most enlightening thing that I have learned is that I have a choice! I had no idea how easy it was to make bread. Seriously simple, like just a few ingredients simple. Why had no one told me it was in my reach to do this? I don't have to buy it? I honestly didn't even think I had a choice. I had no idea that making your own cleaning products is so easy a caveman could do it. It also saves me a ton of money! Gardening brings your food to your backdoor. How much more local can you get? Ok, I'm starting to understand now that it is up to me to teach myself these "basics".

Now, I am systematically going through my house and looking at each task/product in a new light. Could I make that easily? What's in that product? How could I use that item again or differently? Is it cheaper to repurpose or produce it at home?

Making some bread the other night my husband came into the kitchen with his plate and said, and I quote, "May, I have some more of your delicious warm homemade bread?" Looking beyond the sarcasm- he really did want more & he told me it was better than the store. If you know him that is a small step for me, but a HUGE leap for greenkind! :)

Being green and being frugal almost always go hand in hand. As does questioning and learning & maybe even unlearning some ways of living.