Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reflections of.. My 2014 resolution. Simplifying successfully

My 2014 simplifying journey

I just wanted to reflect on my New Years resolution for 2014 of simplifying my life. 
Many joke that resolutions are for breaking. Not mine. 

I found the key to true happiness in simplifying my life. 
Being busy is overrated. 
Success is not about money or a job or possessions, it's about being happy. 
I'm happy at home. With my family. No plans. Just being at home with my favorite people. 

We turned our Sundays into family days a long time ago.
I highly recommend this.  We don't make plans. It's a rule. Very rarely we do break the rule. If there something special going on, we switch the date to Saturday that weekend. 

We have managed to shave $ 7780.00 from our yearly budget. No kidding!  
We eliminated cable, went with a cheap Internet home phone, and refinanced at an INCREDIBLE rate with a private lender. (I won't even get into that, our rate almost unheard of). 

I shut down social networks at 8pm. (There were a few days I hung out for a bit longer, but for the most part, my social sites went quiet at 8). I also removed cattiness from my Facebook page. Restricting and hiding from timeline and even some blocking.  I had one major drama episode recently but it's done and I wasn't the culprit so I can stand tall. 
It won't happen again. I'll just restrict unsolicited advice immediately right off the bat. No warnings. Poof! 

 My Facebook page has changed drastically since last year and will continue to change so it can be a place for fun, motivation, and silliness. 

I also got rid of clutter and unnecessary unloved things in my house. The goodwill shelves were filled with my unloved possessions. I sent at least a box a month there. Sometimes boxes! 
We keep a box in our upstairs linen closet so the kids can fill it with their unwanted items. When it's full it goes and a new box gets set in its place. It's so weird to say linen closet, my husband has been building closets, our home came with none!  After 16 years here, my home has a linen closet. 
My fav quote: if I acquire as much as a stone, it owns me, because then I have to dust it. 

And I'm not finished, I will continue this simplifying journey in 2015. 

My 2015 resolutions will be:

  • Drink more water (I'm not getting enough fluids) 
  • Have more family dinners at the table together. 
  • More walks, runs and workouts with hubby. 
  • No more delicious chips and salsa  at Chili's. (Gotta get back on my healthy eating wagon). 
  • Simplify more

And of course I will keep simplifying. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Easy Sweet Potato Pie with Gingersnap Streusel

2 cups gingersnap crumbs
1/3 cup butter. melted

Combine gingersnaps and butter, staring well to make sure coated with butter. 
Press into an upside of a 9 inch deep dish pie plate. 
Bake at 350° for 6 to 8 minutes. 

1 (29 oz) can sweet potatoes drained and mashed. 
1 1/4 cups evaporated milk
3/4 cup firmly packed  brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
Pinch cardamom
pinch cloves

In the mixer, beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients and the beat  until combined
Pour into prepared pie crust and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. 

2/3 c ginger snaps
handful walnuts
1/3 c packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter cut in half
pinch cardamom and cloves

Combine ingredients in a food processor, cuts in butter beautifully.
Sprinkle streusel topping over pie and bake 15 more minutes. 
Cover with aluminum foil and bake an additional 25 minutes or until set, cool on wire rack. 
Garnish with whipped cream. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Simple pie crust (uses butter instead of shortening)

I forgot to buy shortening so I decided to Google pie crust made without shortening. I came across quite a few recipes using butter and they were all very similar to this. 
After making it this way I probably will never buy shortening again. It was easy fast and delicious.

This makes 1 9 inch Pie crust. 
Double if you need a top crust or are making 2 pies 

In a food processor, pulse the first three ingredients about a minute (pulse, do not turn on full speed)

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
5 1/2 T butter
It should end up feeling  like sand. 

1-3 T water

Add 1T cold water at a time until your pie crust starts to come together. 

Dump out and form into a ball. Do not overwork, if there are stray bits push it into the pie crust dough. 
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate one hour. 

Your piecrust is ready to roll out. If you doubled it cut it in half and roll out your two piecrusts. 
This crust can be prebaked or if your recipe is a baked pie is ready to fill. 

Here's our finished shoofly pies. It's a wet bottom, I will be posting this recipe next. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Simple Melted Snowman Ornament

I like to make a homemade Christmas gift to give out every year.  Last year I made little time.  They are inexpensive enough to hand out to everyone in the family, co-workers and friends.

I can't believe I forgot to post this last year. Better late than never.

Simple Melted Snowman Ornament. 

It's just:
Craft store plain glass ornaments. 
Kosher salt (snow)
Peppercorns (eyes and buttons) 
Cut out foam nose 
Ribbon scarf

I used a small funnel to get the salt in fast.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pumpkin peanut butter dog treats

Some people cringe when I tell them I make homemade dog biscuits. Those who give it a try soon realize how easy is.
Not to mention, they are pretty tasty. 

My biscuit cutter is too big I need to buy a smaller one. I'm not sure why ever made biscuits as large as my biscuit cutter. Small treats means more giving. :)

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Preheat oven to 350°

2-1/2 to 3 C flour (wheat, AP, or whatever)
2 eggs
4 T peanut butter
1/2 C pumpkin purée
Dash salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon 

Mix all ingredients in bowl. (Mixing in flour lasts makes it easier to hand mix, but it's not necessary) 
I use my hands to mix. Add more flour or water to make it a dough texture. It should be on the dryer side. 

Roll out and cut. 
Bake (I bake on a stone) for 40 minutes or until hardened. 

Taste them!  

These are great treats for if your puppy or dog has loose stool as pumpkin is a remedy for diarrhea. 

Before the flour
Reroll the scraps of course.

Put into airtight jar and use them to bribe your puppy. :D

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Crumbly Apple Pie

My sister-in-law turned  me on to these recipe books years ago, when I first met my husband.  They are classic and everything is amazing...the pumpkin roll is out of this world...

I did tweak a thing or two in my version of the recipe tho..always add a pinch of cardamom and I like some walnuts in my apple pie crumbs.
I also slightly upped the sugar..go figure!  lol
I have been making this pie for 23+ years now.
If you have an apple peeler corer slicer, you are golden!  This thing is a major time saver. I have a pampered chef brand one for 20+ years now...but this one is cheaper and my friend has it and uses it with great success..

Crumbly Apple Pie

Flaky Pie Crust (recipe below)

make pie crust below and put into pie pan

In a large bowl..
peel core and slice 5 apples (macintosh is my go to for baking, use your fav)
3/4 C white sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch cardamom
dash salt
 mix apples well to coat with the sugary deliciousness.

Pour into crust...

In food processor (or a bowl using a pastry knife to cut butter)
1 C brown sugar
1 C flour
1/2 c walnuts (optional)
1/3 C butter( I use a little more, I'm out of control)
whirl in food processor until grainy
sprinkle over..okay dump...and push it around until its evenly distributed.

Bake in 400° preheated oven on the bottom rack (rack all the way in bottom level) for 35 mins....I put a crust shield over it after 25-30 mins to prevent the crust edges from over browning.

Flaky Pie Crust

3 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 C (scant) shortening
6 tbsp water

I put all of this in the food can cut it together by hand with a pastry blender if you prefer.
dump out onto counter and form into a ball making sure its all moistened..cut into three parts and roll out.
You can bake this ahead of time for tarts....I do not pre-bake for this apple pie.

before baking

This thing doesn't fit all of my pie plates but it covers enough. 

Some things that will make your pride making experience easier, of course you're welcome to use premade piecrusts, and having an apple peeler corer slicer or is a huge timesaver.
I am going to make a few more this week, we are drowning in apples so I will take more pics when I make it again, and update this post.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Knit an elf hat in a few hours

I made this hat after trying the video below...and wanting a more tapered hat.  
For your first hat, I recommend following the video and then, you can 
play around and make your own patterns up.  This pattern is still not mastered. 

I crochet and I knit and I saw these loom sets and decided to buy one and give it a about simple!  A young child can sit and make a hat in a few hours. 

The first set I got was round...I looked at the directions, yawned. I don't have time for that....
I turned on good ol' YouTube..the gal in the video below caught my eye and the very first hat I made, turned out fantastic!!

Don't mine my selfie modeling my first hat..I don't really care for selfie pics much but I wanted you to see the hat on someone.

My family loved it and some of my friends ordered some from me.  I was going to put them on etsy but I can't keep up with the demand of people I know.  I am also working on Christmas gifts for the son will never get his kind sized afghan lol...that project took a back seat to this loom.

The gal in the video below  is entertaining as well as a great teacher to get you started on your first hat.  Use a soft yarn..don't use something cheap to try it, you will end up with an itchy hat no one wants to wear. Go for a comfortable fav less expensive is Lion Brand Heartland.  Alpaca and Merino mix is a nice soft and warm, but pricey choice too..maybe use the Lion Brand first.  You won't be disappointed. (I don't work for Lion Brand, I just love the softness of their yarn and its great or looming)

This is my first Elf hat. I need to trim up the pompom but I wanted to give you an idea of what it will turn out like. 
This goes down past my chest. It's so fun and a great skiing hat. You can make it as long as you like. 

I wanted to learn to make a longer one and one that tapers down more, so  I ran with this idea, and used a rectangle loom to make an elf hat. I needed to be able to reduce and I wasn't sure how I could do this on a round loom..maybe there is a way...but this was easy.  

What I did was,  use a rectangle loom, 18 pegs long. This is doubled so it will be using 36 pegs total.I did what she does on the round loom by going around twice then pulling the bottom round over-the-top. 

I made the rim and two stripes ( 8 rows long each). Then I moved all four corner loops off the corner pegs and put them on the peg next to it. Pulling the two bottom strings over the top loops as you go around the loom in those corners. 

Then I did a few more stripes. I found that minimizing mid stripe was better than doing it on a beginning or end of a stripe. It was less noticeable. 

I am really new at using these looms so I may find an easier way but this was so simple I don't know how much easier it could get. 
I continued making each stripe and downsizing, until it was the desired length I wanted and I downsized as far as I could go. 

Here are a few other hats I made from the video, before venturing out on my own and playing with my own pattern ideas. 

These are the shorter type, like in her video..and I made a beanie type also.My youngest son is obsessed with brown and blue...hub requested the patriots colors, it'll be his ski hat. 


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fast & effortless herb & spice drying

Topped the basil so it didn't go to flower.
Thanks to a basil conversation I had with a friend today, it reminded me to tend it.

It's such a needy herb. I've been known to let it go to flower and lose it.

Two days just laying on the counter, then into a brown paper bag for two weeks. It's my favorite quick and easy spice-drying method. Then I just shove it, whole, into canning jars and grab a wad when I need it in a recipe.
I mark the bags because sometimes I have 10 bags of herbs drying at the same time. Plus I can reuse the bags for the same her next time. 
The bag also catches all the little pieces that falloff so they get used also. There's no waste this way. 
I use the stems in the vita mix for dressings and such, and sometimes I muddle them down and use them in the food if they're not too prickly.  They have lots of flavor. 
My son is in culinary arts and he uses the stems in his spice bags for soups and stews. 

I use a muddler to get the most flavor and aroma from my herbs when using them, every time I use a spice. It's always sitting right in the counter. I use it daily!  They have them at TJ Maxx and Ross quite often for 5-6 bucks. 

Just make sure your herbs are completely dry before jarring. And if you don't have counter space, any area to let it initially wilt is fine...using newspaper under it helps a lot too.  Keeps it easier to clean up, but if you don't have any handy, ya don't need it.

My herb garden looks like a jungle right now. I have some cutting to do. I will continue to harvest until October. 

The purslane keeps coming up through my pathway stones. That's what happens when your yard is totally organic. But you learn a lot about weeds and how beautiful some become if you let them grow.