Saturday, December 19, 2015

Baby Sophisticate Sweater

Yes, this is my little guy! He's finally big enough to wear the sweater I made when I was only just pregnant. It's fun to see him wearing it! I think I timed it perfectly for size and cold weather. I used Cascade 128 Superwash Silver color 1946. I had to buy two skeins and only used a tiny bit of the second skein. I'm making a hat for him out of the rest of it. It is just lovely and soft and oh so warm! 

You can find the pattern by clicking here. It is called Baby Sophisticate if the link doesn't work.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Last Minute Gifts for 2015! (Or products I love this year!)

I'm sure that many of you are already prepared for your Christmas gift giving. Yay for you! For those of you who are still in the market for some Christmas gifts, I'd like to share a few of my favorite items that I discovered in 2015. I was mopping just now, and I thought, I really need to tell people how much I love this mop. Hence, this post!

So in no particular order, the following are a few little items that you may want to consider for those loved ones in your life! (Affiliate links included)

I received the Aerolatte Milk Frother last Christmas and have used it every day since then! I've even taken it on trips with me. Really, I have! For those of you who enjoy coffee and specialty coffee drinks, this tool is for you! It has cut down the number of trips to Starbucks for me by a lot. I'm just so happy with a little tiny bit of foam, it's ridiculous! Aerolatte Milk Frother with Stand, Black

The next item on my list for 2015 is my new Swissmar Borner Mandoline! It just makes slicing sweet potatoes and other veggies a breeze! I had to carefully read the directions since I'd never used a mandoline before, but once I tried it, wow it was fun and easy! Swissmar Borner V Power Mandoline, V-7000, White

Admission, I forgot this the first go round, but remembered the same day as I was cooking dinner. My garlic peeler! I love it!!!! I don't know about you, but the smell of garlic is wonderful, but not on my hands all day long. This little silicone gadget is great. Put the clove of garlic in, roll it, and presto! The papery skin is gone. No need to use a big knife anymore to crush that skin off.  No potential for cutting yourself! Totally worth the $5 if you use garlic at all.  Zak Designs E-Z-Rol Garlic Peeler (Blue)

And finally, the item that inspired this post, my new e-cloth Deep Clean Mop! I love it! I had a Shark steam cleaner that I used, but it wore out. I liked that, but didn't like having to assemble and plug stuff in just to mop. When it died, I went in search of something better and easier to use. I was interested in the Norwex mopping system, but I just could not justify over $120 for a piece of metal and cloth. I read some reviews and comparisons, and it turns out that the e-cloth mop is very similar and actually gets better reviews. Plus it's a quarter of the price! Win!!! I'm pretty picky with my cleaning products since I was a janitor for a lot of years in high school and college. I will get down and wash the floor on my hands and knees for a good deep clean. I haven't felt the need to do that since I got this mop! I ordered this e-cloth Deep Clean Mop and the e-cloth Dust Mop Head. The best part of the mop is that I actually use it!!! Can you tell from the number of exclamation marks how much I love this mop? :)

Let me know if you have any products you love that I should try for 2016.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Confessions of a New Foodie

This post contains affiliate links. 

I'm a foodie. There, I said it. Phew, it's good to get that admission out there. I just have to recognized and admit that I am a foodie and embrace that as a good thing. :) According to Wikipedia (that's totally official, right?), "foodie is a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages.[1] A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger." 

I've realized in the past 6 months or so that I really do seek out new food experiences as a hobby. It helps that as a nursing mom I'm hungry all the time! All. The. Time!!! So eating a lot of interesting food is not just fun, but I need to eat. What could be better?

So what do I do that has made me realize this? Well, I cook lots of new dishes. Every week I sit down with my wall calendar and pick what dishes I'm going to make. It really helps me to make good, interesting healthy dinner choices when I spend 20 minutes with my computer and cook books. It saves me from the 4 o'clock scramble/panic of what do I have that I can make for dinner. The amount of stress that this 20 minutes has saved me in the past 6 months is ridiculous. It also allows me to quickly look back and see what I made previously and decide if it's time to repeat that dish or pick a new one.

I also talk about food and recipes with friends, family and coworkers. If you work with me, I'm sorry! But hopefully, you've tried a new recipe or two and found some new family favorites. :) It makes me so excited when I hear from people that they have tried one of my favorite recipes and loved it too! If you have a favorite recipe please share with me in the comments. I also love trying your family favorites.

The final foodie thing that I'm still figuring out is what ingredients really are worth the extra money in the grocery store. I'm a bargain shopper. I will be the first to get the manager's special meat and store brand food for the saving. However, I'm discovering that there are certain ingredients that it's really really worth the extra money. I don't mean organic unless Joe and I can tell a difference in the flavor. I mean certain items. I'm going to share what I find is worth the extra money because I've found they just taste so much better. If you have something please tell me in the comments because truly, I'm on the lookout for good ingredients and mainly learn about them from friends and recipe blogs.

For my whole chicken dish, I've tried a variety of chickens. This is one time I specifically seek out an organic chicken. It's just so much more tender and juicer. I don't have a specific brand, just the best priced organic chicken. It's typically about 50% more expensive, but worth it because we actually eat it all and enjoy it!

Cinnamon is the next ingredient I've discovered makes a difference. I discovered this when someone gave me a Penzey's cinnamon for a gift. Wow! I didn't really have any clue that there could be a difference in the flavor of cinnamon. But it is amazing! I don't always buy Penzey's now, but I do spend the extra money for good cinnamon. I use less too because it just has so much more flavor. Are other spices this way? I haven't particularly noticed, but perhaps some of you know of more spices that are worth the extra money.

Pasta! We pretty much only use DeLallo brand pasta now. I discovered this brand from my favorite recipe blog, Skinnytaste. It is more expensive, but Joe and I were just discussing last night how their pasta is just SOOOO much tastier than any other pasta we've ever eaten that it's just worth it. It makes that pasta a feature of the meal as opposed to just a carrier for other flavors. It's buttery and rich tasting. Are you picking up on my love for this pasta? Their DeLallo Organic Whole Wheat Lasagna, Oven Ready? Oh my goodness! You'll never eat such wonderful lasagna. DeLallo also makes the best whole wheat pasta. (DeLallo Organic WW Orecchiette, 1-Pound (Pack of 8)) Usually if I have whole wheat pasta, I can tell it's whole wheat, but I eat it because it's better for me. With Dellalo it just tastes wonderful. There is nothing that makes you think of cardboard. And for those of you who don't eat wheat, they do have rice pasta.  DeLallo Gluten Free Brown Rice, Penne Regate, 12-Ounce (Pack of 12)

These are the main ingredients I've discovered so far to make a difference in taste. What am I missing? Let me know please. I'd love to try out your favorite dishes and ingredients.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Goodbye Fluorescent Lights!

I know that fluorescent lights are relatively cheap and hugely popular in 1974 when our house was built, but yuck! Ooooh how I hate them in my house. They are fine in a classroom, but over my kitchen table? Nope! No thanks. This light had to go. It's been flickering since we moved in even with new bulbs. So instead of replacing the ballast, it was time to just replace the light. 

This thing was a beast. Joe helped me take it down. It had a built-in frame held into the ceiling with 4 giant screws. 

You can see the holes where the screws were and the rectangle of the former light. It's so pretty isn't it? You can see why this had to go.

I started by installing the base of the new light fixture. I'll admit right now, I should have done a little more research on new light fixtures. I like the fixture I got; however, I wish I would have gotten a slightly bigger light fixture for the room over the table. I may replace it again some day, but for now, it's a million percent better so I just don't care!

See what I mean? Isn't it so much nicer?

Clearly I still need to take care of the holes and paint. It took me forever to finish because I just didn't want to deal with moving the rug from under the table to paint. But, I finally moved the rug and got a move on the final details. I started by filling in the holes with spackle. I really let it dry well before I sanded it flat. Finally I painted the entire ceiling with a basic Lowe's ceiling paint.

Before                                                                         After

One final vanity update!

So if you're counting, this is my fourth vanity painting in this house. That's right, we have four bathrooms that all had original 1974 vanities. I've discovered that the easiest/cheapest way to give the entire room an update is to paint the vanity. It really brings it into this century for about $10-$15 and some elbow grease.

I start by taking the doors off and washing everything well. I use my favorite primer, Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 as a base coat. 

After the primer, my sister-in-law and I painted the whole thing white. I just used a Better Homes and Gardens basic white that I had downstairs. I put new hinges and knobs on, and that's it! I just love how much fresher and better it all looks. Now unless I decide to change the colors, all of the bathrooms are "done" for now!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Waffles

I can't take credit at all for the idea of adding pumpkin to my oatmeal waffle recipe. My friend Jessie texted me the other night telling me that she added half a can of pumpkin to the original waffle recipe. So of course I had to try it this morning. It turned out to be very tasty indeed! Wonderful idea Jessie!

For those of you that love pumpkin, this is perhaps the perfect autumn breakfast recipe for you. For those of you looking to sneak more veggies into your diet, this is a very easy addition. 

I mixed up a batch of the batter in my KitchenAid stand mixer this morning. I have a Belgian waffle maker that I use. After making waffles every week for two years, I've discovered for my waffle maker that 2/3 cup is the perfect amount.  Without further ado, here is the recipe

Pumpkin Oatmeal Waffles
3 c. flour
2 c. quick cooking oatmeal
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. ground flax seed (Optional, but I love the texture it adds)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs, beaten
3 c. milk (any kind)
6 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
4 Tbps. brown sugar
1 cup pureed pumpkin

Kitchenaid Stand Mixer directions:  Add eggs, milk, butter, vanilla extract, pumpkin, and brown sugar to mixing bowl.  Mix on medium speed for about one minute until completely mixed and brown sugar is dissolved.  Add flour, oatmeal, baking powder, flax see, cinnamon and salt to liquid.  Mix for another minute at speed 2.  Scrape down the sides and mix for another 30 seconds.  Pour into a hot waffle iron; close lid quickly and open when done.  

Regular directions: In a large bowl mix together all of the dry ingredient but the brown sugar.  Set aside.  In another bowl mix eggs, milk, butter, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and brown sugar with a whisk.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture.  Mix with a wooden spoon until blended.  Pour into a hot waffle iron; close lid quickly and open when done.  

Makes 8-10 six inch round waffles.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Powder Room Vanity Update

For the most part our main floor powder room was updated and looked nice. The only thing that needed to be done was an update to the vanity. A new vanity was not necessary, just a coat of paint on the current vanity along with some new hardware was just the sprucing up that was needed. I had this project in mind last year and already had the paint. I got a small sample size of paint for a different project and decided it would be perfect for my update. My sister-in-law was in town for a weekend visit and she helped me with painting this and another project I'll reveal soon.

Here are a few pictures of the bathroom beforehand. It's a tight little space that is a bit difficult to photograph.

I did a few test patches of some colors I had downstairs to make sure I liked my choice.

After deciding on the paint color I wanted, I took the doors and all of the hardware off. Then I put a coat of my favorite primer Zinger Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer. (Affiliate Link) Rust-Oleum 2004 Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 White Water-Based Interior/Exterior Primer Sealer, 1-Quart . I use it on all of my furniture painting projects. It allows your actual paint color to stick and blocks other stains that might seep up through from old wood or laminate. After the primer, I applied two coats of the paint color. Always use two coats, you'll often regret one coat, but you'll never regret the second coat. After the paint had dried well, I installed the new hardware and rehung the doors.

And presto, here it is all finished up! I love how it just brings the whole room into this century. It certainly wasn't a big hard project, but it makes a big impact.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Herb-Marinated Cinnamon Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Cinnamon Garlic Roasted Sweet Potato

Herb-Marinated Cinnamon Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Cinnamon Garlic Roasted Sweet Potato

I don't have a garden, but I do have what I like to refer to as my estate-grown herbs. If you live somewhere other than Arizona in the summer, you can grow most herbs in outdoor pots in the summer. We've had a lot of rain here in Dayton this summer which means all of my plants are just doing wonderfully! I'm trying to take advantage of the herbs in my cooking as much as I possibly can. I've seen wreathes made out of fresh herbs that dry for use in the winter, but I'm not exactly sure how to do this. Does anyone have any tips for me so I can bring the taste of summer into my winter cooking? Please send me links or tips if you know of anything for drying herbs. 

Back on topic, last night I made a tasty marinated grilled chicken breast for dinner with some roasted sweet potatoes and a big garden salad. It was super tasty so I thought I'd share it with all of you! You can make a meat marinade out of almost any seasoning, but some work better than others. You should also always use a little oil and an acid like lemon juice or vinegar. If you follow that you can marinade any meat with confidence. Joe received an awesome foodie book for Christmas one year from his aunt and uncle called The Flavor Bible by Karen Page. It is an awesome guide for any adventurous chef out there. It tells you what flavors compliment each other for almost any food you can think of. I used it to create this marinade for my chicken breast. 

Marinade ingredients: garlic, rosemary, thyme, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar
Rub ingredients: cinnamon, salt and black pepper

Herb-Marinated Cinnamon Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Cinnamon Garlic Roasted Sweet Potato
Ingredients for the chicken:
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
2-3 fresh basil leaves
1 clove of minced garlic
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

In a small bowl combine the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Rub onto the chicken.
In a plastic zippered bag add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, slightly crushed herbs and garlic. Mix and add the chicken. Allow to marinade for 2-4 hours.

Grill until internal temperature reaches 165˚. Remove from grill and allow to sit for five minutes. Slice and serve. 

Ingredients for the sweet potatoes:
1 large sweet potato sliced into 1/4" rounds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of thinly sliced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425˚. Use a mandolin or a sharp knife to slice the garlic and sweet potato. In a medium-sized bowl toss all of the ingredients together until the sweet potato is evenly coated. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes.