Thursday, December 7, 2017

DIY Sharpie Mugs

Y'all.  I made these mugs.


OK, I didn't actually make them, but I did decorate them.  I am so pleased with how they turned out.  Want to make some?  Here's what I did.

Online consensus is that cheap mugs are best, probably because they're not glazed as well as more expensive ones, so I just grabbed these from the dollar store.  I used graphite to transfer the design onto the mugs, as explained here

All you need to do is create or find a design, then print it out on regular paper.  Cut out the design and turn it over.  Using a pencil, shade over the entire design on the back side of the paper.  Tape it, graphite side to the mug, then using a pen (or pencil), trace over the entire design, pressing firmly.  When you remove the paper, you will see that the design has transferred over to the mug. 

I know.  I could hardly believe it, either (sorry I didn't take pictures--I wasn't sure it would show up on camera, and I was anxious to move on to the next part of the process).

I made this one for someone who could use some hope,
which comes from faith,
which means one must believe. 
I gave her some vanilla syrup, as well as some instant flavored coffee.

Next, I used an oil based sharpie to trace over the design.  Here's the one I used:
The fine point was perfect for "Believe," but I found myself wishing for an extra fine point on "All is calm; all is bright."  The important thing is that it needs to be oil based--regular sharpies will wash off.  You might want to keep some rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs handy to clean up any oopsies.

I'm kind of shaky when I'm trying to trace, but even so, I think they look great.

Next, I let them dry overnight, then I was ready to set the paint.  There is all sorts of advice out there about how to do that.  I've seen suggested temperatures as low as 250°F and as high as 450°F, and suggested times as low as 30 minutes, all the way up to 2 hours.  The internet disagrees on whether the mugs should be placed in a cold or preheated oven.  Most of the blogs I found suggested baking at 350°F for 30 minutes, so that's what I did.  Sort of. 

I put the mugs in the cold oven, set the temperature to 350­°F, and then when the oven was preheated, I set the timer for 30 minutes.  When the timer rang, I turned off the oven, and left the mugs in the oven until they were completely cool.  According to lots of bloggers, baking will make the design permanent.  I'm not sure how many of them tested that theory for longer than a couple of weeks before posting about it, though, and I would definitely recommend hand washing.

I made this one for someone who has had an anxious sort of year. 
She could definitely use some calm in her life,
and next year is looking brighter. 
I filled it with hot chocolate mix, mini-marshmallows,
and a couple of candy canes to stir.
In the meantime, I realized that I hadn't put supper in the slow cooker that morning, and had a moment of panic trying to think of something easy to make that we had all the ingredients for, and didn't require use of the oven.  Breakfast for dinner to the rescue!

Tragedy averted, I wrapped the mugs and goodies in tissue paper, and sent them off to their new homes.

What do you think?  Ready to make some of your own?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Case Keenum, you made my day

Source
Dear Mr. Keenum,

You made my day, heck, maybe even my year, on Sunday.  Not just because of the win, although a Vikings win always makes for a good day.

And not because of an amazing touchdown celebration, although those are always fun, too.

By the way, that was duck, duck, gray duck, not goose.

No, Mr. Keenum, you made my day because for years, I have been poking fun at announcers and analysts who spend hours on end discussing the key to the game.  They say the key to winning is all sorts of things: capitalizing on this or that, neutralizing one thing or the other, passing yards, time of possession, injuries or lack there-of.  And while all of those things are factors, they are not really the key.

I have known for years that those are not the key, and on Sunday, on the sideline after the game with Pam Oliver, you proved that you know it, too.  The actual key is scoring more points than the other teamThat's how you win games.  And you, well, you said it.  Finally.

Thank you, my friend, for finally setting the media straight on this point.
Sincerely,
Scarlet B.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Menu plan for the week of December 4

Hi everybody.  How's your December going?  Ours, so far, has not felt very December-ish.  The unseasonably warm temperatures have been wreaking havoc on our auxiliary refrigeration unit.  In fact, today thunderstorms are in the forecast.   It's supposed to get colder after that, but there still isn't really a good chance of snow in the near future.  I've heard that we're supposed to have an unusually snowy winter this year--hope that's true, but it's sure not looking like it at the moment.

I'm kind of regretting my decision to put our turkey carcass in the freezer, because now I'm having a hard time motivating myself to actually make the turkey stock.  If it had stayed in the fridge, the stock would be done by now.  It's not difficult, not at all--just time consuming.  And it definitely helps to have the auxiliary refrigeration unit up and running.  This week?  Maybe?

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

  • Beef stroganoff, green beans, applesauce
  • Nachos with taco toppings and guacamole
  • Chicken broccoli braid (we use 1/2 t each celery salt, garlic powder, dill seed, and dill weed instead of 2 t all purpose dill mix), mandarin oranges
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, carrots
  • Pizza (saucecrust), salad
  • Chicken nuggets, mixed veggies, pears
  • Grilled steak, mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, applesauce
  • Grandpa R's chicken-rice soup, rolls
Other:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Menu plan for the week of November 27

Hi everyone.  How was your weekend?  My parents were visiting for Thanksgiving, and we had so many leftovers from guests who had arrived earlier in the week that they only got to eat three original meals.  Out of eight.  The rest were leftovers.  On the up-side, they didn't seem to mind, we still have enough leftovers for Hubby to take to work this week, and we actually have room in our refrigerator for new food.

I'm exhausted, y'all.  We had a houseful of people, and I realized for the first time that introverts don't just get emotionally drained by being with gobs of people; we become physically drained as well.  Cheers to learning new things (although one would think I would have learned this earlier in life--I guess I never noticed before)!  Not that I don't love visiting with family--it just happens to be a lot of exhausting work, too.

Another thing I learned is that Bubby's bedroom is much more conducive to sleeping-in than mine is.  I thought I was no longer capable, after years of children waking me up before 6 a.m., of sleeping past 7.  But the combination of sleeping in Bubby's bedroom, along with the people-induced exhaustion, proved me wrong.  I'm thinking of asking him to switch with me.

You would think, after feeding up to 11 people three meals a day for 7 days, that it would be difficult to think about food.  You would be right.  This week, we will have even fewer people around than normal.  Hopefully it'll be a good recovery week.  Here's what's on the menu:

Supper:

  • Pizza (sauce, crust), salad
  • Wild rice casserole, green beans, applesauce
  • Beef & potato stew, rolls
  • Chicken broccoli braid (we use 1/2 t each celery salt, garlic powder, dill seed, and dill weed instead of 2 t all purpose dill mix), mandarin oranges
  • Nachos, guacamole, taco toppings (what toppings to you like on your nachos?)
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, carrots
  • Chicken nuggets, mixed vegetables, pears
  • Beef stroganoff, green beans, applesauce


Other (I'm not really sure I'll feel up to making anything extra, but just in case I do, I wanted to get these down, so I remember what the extra things I wanted to make are):

  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Oatmeal chocolate chip walnut cookies
  • Rolo pretzels
  • Turkey stock
  • Canned black and pinto beans

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Bluefield Sausage Stuffing

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.  This stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving.  Well, aside from spending time with family, watching football, and watching the fam play ultimate Frisbee during halftime.  I got the recipe from my mother in law, but I've tweaked it a little to make it slightly healthier and less likely to cause food poisoning.  This year I'm doubling the recipe, since everybody seems to like this (and our turkey is huge).

Bluefield Sausage Stuffing
(click here to print)
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf whole wheat bread, torn into small pieces (we like to let it stale a bit so it can soak up all those yummy juices, so we tear it the night before and let it sit overnight)
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. ground black pepper
  • 1 t. poultry seasoning
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb. pork breakfast sausage, cooked, crumbled, and cooled
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 c. milk
Instructions
  1. Mix together first seven ingredients.
  2. Combine butter and milk, and heat until butter is melted and the milk is warm (we use the microwave, but you could do this on the stove)
  3. Gradually add the milk mixture to the bread mixture and mix until combined.
  4. Stuff mixture into your turkey and cook turkey according to instructions.
  5. Extra stuffing that doesn't fit in the bird can be placed in a covered casserole dish in a 325-350° oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Menu plan for the week of {Thanksgiving} November 20

It's Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., friends.  Thanksgiving is the holiday where we give thanks by making a huge meal and eating until we can't eat anymore.  Seems like it might be more effective to eat less and give away more.  Thanksgiving is, of course, AKD's favorite holiday, because of the food.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends what their favorite vegetable Thanksgiving side-dish was.  In response, I got a redskin potato dish and a "spinach and cheese casserole" that looked suspiciously like quiche.  And stuffing, because there are veggies in that, right?

A couple of days ago, I asked the same people what their favorite Thanksgiving side dish was, and I got all kinds of answers, including corn casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries, green bean casserole, rolls, wine, and German potato salad, served warm.  The overwhelming response, given by almost everyone who answered, was stuffing.  Stuffing is my favorite, too.  In fact, I would be perfectly happy, thankful, even, to just have stuffing for my Thanksgiving meal.  After all, there are veggies in that.

This week's menu was easy to plan, since I've been working on it for weeks.  As I've mentioned, we'll have guests this week. so I've tried to plan meals that are easy to get on the table, and I've done a lot of prep work ahead of time.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:


Breakfast:



Lunch:



Monday, November 13, 2017

Menu plan for the week of November 13

This week, I'm continuing to prepare for guests.  Luckily, the children have an aversion to getting anything out of or putting anything into the freezer in the basement, so I can hide the things that I'm making ahead down there.  Like cinnamon rolls.  Mmmmm.  Also luckily, there's an almost-twenty-two pound turkey in the downstairs freezer, which means once I take it out to thaw, I'll have plenty of room for cinnamon rolls.  And, you know.  Other things.  But, cinnamon rolls.  Mmmmm.

Here's what's on the menu this week.

Supper:

Other:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Six Month Chicken Update

You read that right, friends.  Today is the girls' half-birthday, and tomorrow they will have been with us for six months.  Wowza, y'all.  Some days I feel like they've always been with us, and others, it seems like the blink of an eye.

The girls are doing well with the cold so far, although I can tell you they really don't like snow all that much.  The waterer is not doing as well with the cold--the nipples freeze whenever temps drop below freezing.  This is disappointing, since when I was researching watering options, I read that horizontal nipples are less likely to freeze than vertical nipples.  Hopefully a water heater will solve the problem (as soon as we get electricity out to the coop), but in the meantime, I'm swapping out waterers each morning.

Toasty continues to lay about an egg a day.  I can't really remember when she last skipped a day.  Her eggs are getting bigger, too.  They're just a skosh smaller than the typical large eggs from the grocery store.  Toasty is the most verbal of the girls--she's always squawking about something.  Toasty Crunch is Bubby's favorite chicken to pick up.

 Rocky's egg production has slowed to about one every other day.  The other day we were out in the yard when all of a sudden Rocky took off toward the coop.  Looked like she was on a mission.  Turns out she was--when I got over there, she was ensconced in the nest box, awaiting the arrival of an egg.

 Still no eggs from Esther.  I have theories, but no conclusive, evidence-based reasons for the continued drought .  That's all right.  We will continue waiting, with varying degrees of patience.  Esther is the smallest of the girls and really likes to be up high--the other day, she flew up on to the outside roof of the nest box.  She also seems like the most nervous of the girls.  If the rest of us happen to wander away from her, when she notices, she flies and runs over to join us.

Speaking of wandering, I like to take the girls on walks around the perimeter of the yard.  Bubby says we need to get leashes (yes, there actually is such a thing) so we can walk them, but I've found leashes are not necessary.  They follow me.  I am amazed and amused by this behavior.  The girls dictate the schedule, but I'm definitely in charge of the route.

I never get tired of looking at those fluffy chicken butts.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Progress on goals: Homemade reusable cleaning wipes

Hi everyone.  You've grown so used to me reporting on my Trader Joe's goal that you probably forgot I had other goals for 2017.  Yup, I did/do.  My first 2017 goal was to make reusable cleaning wipes.  Well, I'm pleased to report that I succeeded, and I'm ready to share my recipe? method? how I did it.

They're not pretty, but they work!
My first order of business was to figure out what I wanted to use for the wipe itself.  I considered using cut up t-shirts or towels, and you may remember that I actually "bought" (they were free, but "bought" is still the best verb I can conjure right at this moment) some washcloths to use.

I did use the washcloths for the first couple of attempts, but they were too big and fluffy (I could barely fit the six of them in my container), and actually didn't work very well for what I wanted to do with them. 

So then I grabbed some microfiber washcloths from The Dollar Tree, and I've been very happy with both the number I can fit in my container and the way they clean.

The next order of business was to find a cleaning solution that I liked.  I tried 4 or 5 different recipes, but settled on this simple but effective combination:

Combine 1 cup water, 1/2 c. rubbing alcohol, and 1/2-1 T dawn dish washing liquid.

That's it.  Mix it up and throw your cloths in there.  You can scale up or down based on how many cloths you have (I have 8).

Now I will say that this mixture can get quite sudsy during use, so if I'm cleaning something shiny, I add the extra step of buffing/drying it off, but for the most part, I just let the things I clean dry on their own.  I will also warn you that rubbing alcohol can have a drying effect on skin. so you might want to wear gloves (which you might be doing anyway) when you use these, or just make sure to moisturize.

I mostly clean bathrooms with these wipes, but they work really well for general cleaning, too (pro tip: to avoid cross-contamination, use one color of cloths for the bathroom, another color for the kitchen, and a third for general cleaning (here's a set of 24 microfiber cloths: eight in each of three colors)).

How are you doing on your 2017 goals?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Menu plan for the week of November 6

Welcome back to standard time!  Yesterday, I managed to remain sleeping until 5 a.m., and didn't see any children until 6:11 a.m.  Well, actually, I didn't see him then; I heard him.  I remember the first time we made the switch back to standard time after AKD was born.  I got together with some women from my Baby and Me exercise class a few days later, and one of them asked if daylight savings had messed up our babies.  Nope, not really.  He woke up at the same time, it was just that we were calling it something different.

This week, I'm continuing to prepare for our guests, who will be arriving in a couple of weeks.  I'll be making a couple of varieties of muffins to stick in the freezer for quick and easy fend-for-yourself breakfasts, and I might get the sausage, that I planned to prep last week, cooked.  The warehouse store was completely out of stock when I was there last week.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I washed the windows: a cleaning hack

I washed the windows last week.

I need to tell you this for a few reasons.

First, I need to tell you because I don't think you would notice if I didn't tell you.  You know, considering y'all aren't here in my house and all.

Second, I need to tell you because it's a rare occurrence.  It's a lot of work to wash windows.  And it's frustrating because they always end up streaky.  Urgh.  It's true that something is better than nothing, but as a perfectionist*, I'd rather not do it at all if it's not going to be perfect.  This is also why I don't like sweeping, by the way.  I can never do it perfectly.  There's also the matter of TPAD, which makes me think that cleaning the windows is going to take a really long time.

And finally, I need to tell you because my windows are so sparkly.  No streaking!  I just keep staring at them, mesmerized by their clarity.  And I need to tell you how that happened.

So for the outside of the windows, I use the Windex All-In-One Window Cleaning Tool.  I bought it years ago on clearance, and this summer I found the refill pads on clearance, too.  I bought four, which at my current rate of window cleaning is about a 15 year supply.  I'm happy with how it works, and I'm ecstatic that I don't have to make a difficult job even difficult-er by having to haul out the ladder and carry it around with me.

On the inside of the windows I used a recipe I found online.  Unfortunately, I did not write down quantities, nor do I remember where I stumbled upon this window cleaning recipe, so y'all are going to have to wing it, like I did.

I wrote down:

windows


wipe; buff dry

Yeah.  Good luck, friends!

OK, if you insist on more specific quantities and instructions, I'd say I used about one tablespoon of concentrated dish soap, about one cup white vinegar, and about two quarts of water in a bucket.  I soaped up the windows using a microfiber cloth, and then I dried the windows using a dry microfiber cloth.  Yes, it smelled like vinegar while I was washing, but the smell dissipated quickly.  I'll link to some microfiber cloths here, but I bought mine from The Dollar Tree.

I'm genuinely surprised by how well this worked.  Yippee for clean windows!  Let me know if you try it.

*******

* It's true.  I'm a perfectionist, and it can be paralyzing.  I bet you didn't know that about me.  I'm much more of a don't bother if you can't do it perfectly perfectionist, though, as opposed to a get all things perfect at all costs perfectionist, so that's probably why you didn't realize.  Now that I know this about myself, I'm learning to be OK with something, even if it's imperfect, being better than nothing.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Whatever We Are by Leigh Fleming: A Review

I was thrilled to receive a pre-release copy of Leigh Fleming's new book: Whatever We Are: A Highland Springs Romance.


Liza Fisk is cursed. The holidays often mean disaster for her, including a car accident ten years ago that put her in a coma. She’s learned to forsake the holiday spirit due to continued calamity…but her luck is about to change. The Highland Springs city council is accepting secret bids on the abandoned “castle” her great-grandfather built and Liza is finally going to realize her dream of opening an art gallery. Until her arch nemesis rolls back into town with plans to ruin her Christmas. Again.


This time, Liza is taking preemptive measures and, in a moment of insanity, announces that she and her brother’s best friend, Tucker, are playing the town’s Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Brewery-owner Tucker Callum knows he’s going to win the castle with his proposal for a proper English pub. He’s so sure, in fact, that he’s already sold his house and moved into a camper behind the brewery. But his buddy Liza is afraid he’ll freeze to death in the West Virginia winter and insists he move into her spare bedroom. She’s made it crystal clear in the past that they could never be more than friends, but now that Tucker’s living in her house and playing the role of her holiday husband, he’s secretly hoping their ruse will turn to reality.


Liza slowly opens her heart to Tucker and the holiday spirit…until she learns that he is bidding against her for the castle and deliberately keeping it a secret. Will Liza be able to trust Tucker in the end or will the Christmas curse strike again?


*******
It's Christmas time in Highland Springs, West Virginia, and love is in the air...maybe.  

Once again, Mrs. Fleming has taken peripheral characters from a previous book, and told their story.  This is the third installment in Leigh's Whatever series, but the story definitely stands on its own. You've read the description, so I won't repeat it, but I loved this book.  



The story is well told and engrossing.  The setting is vividly described. The characters are real and relatable--I love that Mrs. Fleming's protagonists are likable, but flawed.  It's a quick, easy, hard-to-put-down, uplifting read, perfect to read on vacation, or when you *need* a quick vacation from reality.  

For a limited time, the Kindle version is on sale for $1.99.


Also check out the first and second books in this series, Whatever You Call Me, and Whatever You Say (read my review).



Menu plan for the week of October 30

This week, we're having an eat-the-random-things-in-the-freezer week.  Not because we necessarily need the space, but the other day I found some things I had forgotten about, and I will surely forget about them again if I don't get them on the menu.

This week, I'm also doing some prep work ahead of time for when we have guests near the end of next month.  I'll be cooking some chicken and browning sausage and ground beef, and then storing it in the freezer, to make putting casseroles and soups together fast and easy.  I am so on board for fast and easy.  So I guess we do need room in our freezer.

Anyway, here's what's on the menu for this week.

Supper:
  • Beef & potato casserole (aka the stuff with the soy sauce--similar to this), green beans, applesauce
  • Pulled pork (from the freezer), tator tots and oven fries, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
  • Wildtree bruschetta chicken pasta, garlic toast
  • Brats or hot dogs, buns, chips, mandarin oranges, cooked carrots
  • Pizza, salad
  • Chicken burgers, buns, grilled asparagus
  • Nachos, guacamole
  • Hot beef sandwiches, green beans, applesauce

Other:


Friday, October 27, 2017

I {don't really} hate shopping

As I was driving home from a mystery shopping assignment last Friday, the irony struck me, for the first time.  I really dislike shopping.  One might even go so far as to say I hate shopping.  I have never understood recreational shopping.  And yet, here I am, shopping professionally.  When I thought about it further, though, I realized that it is rare for me to actually go to a store for a mystery shop.  My very favorite mystery shop does not involve actual shopping, and the mystery shop I do most often is online, with no actual shopping, so I don't have to go anywhere or even get dressed.

Maybe it's not so strange, after all.

On Monday I had a whole lot of errands to run.  I listed them, and counted ten different stops that I needed to make, eight of which were at stores.  You know, stores, where shopping occurs.  Ugh.

First of all, I stay home on Mondays, so that was one whole big heap of wrong right there.  But ten stops!  In one day!  For a shopping-hater.

Why?
(say it again, with feeling)

And that's when I realized that it's not shopping that I hate, not really.  It's spending money that I'm averse to.  That's why the eight shopping stops.  I probably could have taken care of everything on my list with one stop; for sure two stops would have sufficed.  But I had a free gift card for this store, and that store had an awesome rebate on batteries, and the other store has Cartwheel, and I had to return the thing that I bought at that other store because it had the best price.  And everything's a dollar (Even though most of it's crap)!  And while those stores have food, they don't really have groceries.

I hate spending more money than I have to, which is why, all these years, I've thought that I hate shopping.  Huh.  And because I hate spending more money than I have to, I go to a lot of different stores to make lots of little purchases.

While it's always gratifying to learn something about oneself, I'm not sure what to do with this one.  It's kind of a problem for the household's procurement officer to not want to spend money.

I still don't understand recreational shopping.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The 24 week chicken update

Yes, Toasty Crunch and Rocky are still laying about a dozen eggs a week collectively.
No, Esther isn't laying yet (although Bubby thinks she might have done a halfhearted submissive squat the other day).
Yes, I am still buying eggs at the grocery store (but it's definitely fewer than before).

In other news, I thought that the shredded paper bedding wasn't working for the deep litter method, so I cleaned it out and put pine shavings in the hen house. 

I guess what this means is that easy wins out over inexpensive.  Good to know. 

But while I was cleaning out the paper, I realized it had composted more than I had thought.  I still think cross-cut shredded paper would work better, but perhaps my strips are adequate.  The strips of paper are just so fluffy, which in a chicken is a desirable trait, but in chicken bedding, not so much--the fluffy makes it difficult to cover and turn.  In any case, I'm committed to using pine shavings for the next 5.7 cubic feet, at least.  Maybe I'll switch back, or maybe not.

And now for the pictures!

Whatchu lookin' at?
Rocky, preparing to lay.  It was surprising to me how long the girls hang out in the nest box before the egg arrives.  I kind of thought they went in, laid an egg, and came out.  Nope.  We're not sure of the exact timing, but we do know it's at least an hour.

Esther, in the morning sun

Toasty, heading into the hen house
You done yet?!
Chickens like to lay their eggs all in the same nest box, so there is sometimes competition for the favorite.

Lately, Esther's been perching on my boot or arm.  It warms my heart.
Flying down.
I'm trying to get a video of Esther flying for y'all.  It's pretty impressive.
That's all for this week.
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