Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pin 201: Baking Soda Mattress Refresher

Between working, illness, baseball, not to mention a zillion other things, I haven't been doing much pinning lately. Lucky me--this weekend I will be zooming off to a relaxing crafting retreat with some of my favorite crafting ladies. I'm hoping to have a slew of posts for you in the coming weeks. (Teacher Appreciation is coming up. . . hint, hint!) Meanwhile. . .

Original pin:


Let me tell you, Jillee over at One Good Thing is one smart lady. She has a long list of great uses for baking soda. This one that I tried was a method to refresh your mattress.

Spring is in the air around here. Nothing gets me more in a cleaning mood than a cool spring day where I can throw open the windows and air the house out. Last week I did just that. I stripped the beds bare and laundered all the bedding (it was due). While they washed, I put together this concoction and went to work.

I recently bought this bottle of scent for use in another project (still looking for the final ingredient before I can try that one.) I figured there was enough here to spare a couple drops for this one.
I used about 8 drops per cup of baking soda. I whisked the scent into the baking soda so that I had a light, fluffy powder. There were a few baking soda clumps to break up.

An extreme close up of my powder!
I was staring at this trying to determine the best way to sprinkle it onto the mattress when I remembered some glass spice jars I had tucked away after they were empty. I funneled the powder into the jars and was able to fill three. I sprinkled a little more than one jar over my queen sized mattress.

An hour or so later I came back to vacuum it up. My whole room smelled delicious and fresh. I don't have any fancy attachment for the vacuum so I just climbed up there with the whole vacuum and went to town. My three year old thought I had lost my marbles.

When all the sheets and bedding were clean and dry and it was time to put the bed back together I grabbed my shaker again. Growing up, my mother would always put talcum powder on the bed when making it. It lends a nice smell and absorbs moisture. I decided this would work great for this purpose so I sprinkled the top of the mattress pad before I put the bottom sheet on. It left a nice scent and really refreshed my room.

I have a little more than a jar and a half left and I will keep sprinkling this on with my sheet changes until it is gone. I don't have carpet any longer, but if I did, this would be a good carpet deodorizer.

Total cost: I had both of the items on hand, but baking if I were guessing, it was probably less than $.30 worth of baking soda and fragrance.

Total time: 5 minutes to mix up

Final verdict: My room was so fresh! I loved it. The original calls for essential oils which I didn't have, but I did have this fragrance that worked great. I can't wait to use it again and again. The fragrance oils were so cheap that it would be easy to make a few different scents to go with the seasons.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pin 200: Single Serving Chocolate Chip Cookie

Original pin:


What better way to celebrate my 200th pin milestone than with a warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookie??? Prudent Baby shared this recipe for making a single cookie in the microwave. I scribbled down the recipe on a post-it note and went to work.

My microwave is nothing fancy. Honestly, it is something very cheap and a little sad. A repairman once called it "a builder grade piece of junk." It has a giant crack across the front plastic but works well enough for now. All that being said, it took much, much longer to soften my butter than described in the original recipe. I would just advise you to check and make sure your butter is, in fact, softened before you continue to add ingredients. Minutes later I had stirred up this concoction in my mug.
I poured it onto my plate and popped it in the microwave for the instructed 45 seconds. Now, I know I said my microwave was a piece of junk, but this surprised me. It was so liquid that I didn't feel any amount of time would firm it up.
That is really, really sad looking.
I thought it must need more flour, or less liquid, or hmmmm. . .  I looked at my little post-it scribble and went back to the computer to discover. . . AHA! I wrote tsp instead of TBSP when it came to the flour. I scrapped the first one and started over. My second batch looked much less liquid and more like cookie dough.
I plopped this on the plate and put it in the microwave. 45 seconds later, while not completely done, it was looking more cookie-like than version one.
It is kind of hard to see in this picture, but the middle top was baked-looking and the edges and bottom were very raw looking. I put it back in for as long as it took to look consistently baked through. In all, it took about 1 & 1/2 minutes to achieve this beauty.
It looks so good in the picture it is making my mouth water. And it was good! It was very hot and melty so I ate it with a spoon. MMMMMmmmmm.

Total cost: $0 I had everything on hand.

Total time: 10 minutes for the first flop. The second one was more like 5 minutes. It took a bit to gather all the ingredients. The second time, I had some of them out already. Plus I had some of the recipe memorized. One more batch and I won't even need that old post-it scribble.

Final verdict: It was great in a pinch and great for a single serving. It was no match for fresh, oven-baked batch of chocolate chip cookies. I definitely don't need a whole batch though. It squelched a craving quite nicely. As it cooled to room temperature, it wasn't as delicious, so I would recommend that you eat it while still warm. I would also recommend a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream (BlueBell if you've got it!)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pinprovement! French Bread Recipe

I may have said this ad nauseum, but I just love making bread. You'll probably think I'm a total dork now, but I am going to admit something to you--sometimes, when I'm making bread and it is baking and making my whole house smell delicious, it makes me cry. Absolute tears of joy. I could never go carb-free.

In October I posted Pin 144, a recipe for one hour French bread. My family liked it in its original form but it was very dense and something was just not quite right for me. I tinkered around with the recipe a little bit and found a combination that I like a little better. It is no longer one-hour, but more like 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours. Still much faster than some other recipes I have tried. I make this recipe regularly and freeze the extra loaves. When I want one, I simply pop it in the oven and soon I have fresh, hot, homemade bread again.

As I mentioned in the original post, there were a few steps that I was just itching to change up. The first one of those was the yeast.

I swapped out the regular yeast for fast rising yeast. I was looking for a fluffier bread so I wanted to use maximize my yeast activity and rise time.

My recipe looks like this:

2 1/2 c warm water
2 packages of Fast Rise yeast
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
3 T extra virgin olive oil
7 c flour

Add yeast and sugar to warm water and let sit for 5 minutes until you see lots of bubbles. When I first started making bread, my number one mistake was not getting my water warm enough or getting it too hot. It should be 105-110 degrees or as indicated on your yeast package. My advice to new bread makers is to actually measure the temperature of your water.
After 5 minutes--I have bubbles completely across the surface.  All the white is bubbles, you can see a bit of clear water at the edges. 
Add salt and oil. Stir to combine. I make this bread using my stand mixer with the dough hooks. If you don't have one, you can stir by hand until it is too thick and then knead by hand to combine all the flour.

Time to add the flour. I increased the recipe to 7 cups. I add flour 1/2 cup at a time and allow it to mix.  The original dough was really sticky and difficult to handle. Depending on your dough and your environment, you may need a little more or a little less flour. Here is my very scientific, expert method of how I determine when I have enough flour.

The poke test:

Gently poke a clean, dry finger into the dough:

Pull finger out. If it is covered in sticky dough, it is still too wet. Keep adding flour.

When you have enough flour, the dough is pulling away from the side of the bowl more and your poke test will look more like this:

Now it is time to let it rise. My poor husband usually gets dish duty. I try to keep the dishes down to a minimum so here is a little cheat step. Doing this cheat step saves me one large bowl from dish duty.

The right way to do it: Coat a large bowl in olive oil. Place the dough ball inside, turning over once to coat all sides.

The cheater's way: LIGHTLY spray the sides of your current bowl and the top of the dough with non-stick cooking spray (like canola spray).

I also spray the side of the plastic wrap that will come in contact with the dough.

Then I put the bowl in my warming cabinet. (heehee) If you didn't read Pin 144 about my warming cabinet I like to rise in, let me sum it here. Preheat the oven to 350 for 1 minute, then turn it off. Place your bowl of dough inside and let it rise. It is perfect! My dough always rises perfectly in there, it is undisturbed and warm no matter what the actual temperature of my kitchen is.

Allow the dough to rise 30 minutes to 1 hour. The longer you let it rise, the more air pockets you create for fluffier bread. However, keep your eye on it. After 30 minutes in the warming cabinet this is how tall my dough is:

Which is also why I spray every surface with cooking spray.

Next, I spray my working surface with cooking spray and dust with flour. Punch down the dough and divide the dough into four parts. You will see in the pictures that I can not divide evenly. My loaves are always a bit differently sized so do not stress if your loaves are not even.

Place one dough ball in the center of your workspace. Cover the remaining parts with your plastic.

Pat the dough ball into a flat, long oval. Do not overwork the dough. You will know you are overworking it if you can not get it to cooperate with you. If it won't pat out to an oval and keeps bouncing back, cover it with plastic and walk away for 10 minutes or so. Then come back and try again. Starting with the edge nearest you, roll in a jelly-roll fashion to create the loaf shape. I kind of roll with a little, teensy, stretch along the way.
This may be a good time to mention herbed breads. If you want four loaves of herbed breads, you can knead in your herbs after your flour, before your rise. If you don't want to knead them in, or if you want different kinds of loaves, you can do it here. I don't like to knead them in in this step--the bread seems to get too overworked. I sprinkle the herbs on top of my oval before I roll it and it bakes out pretty evenly.

Place on prepared baking sheet.

How I like to prepare my baking sheet for bread:
Spray sheet with cooking spray. Place parchment or wax paper on sheet. Spray parchment/wax paper with cooking spray. You can also dust with cornmeal, but I don't find that this recipe needs it.

Once you have all four loaves on the sheet, cut slits in the top of each loaf. I use kitchen scissors to snip the cuts or you can use a sharp knife. Cover with plastic until ready to bake. A second rise is not necessary. I usually just let it rest while the oven preheats.

Place in a oven, preheated to 375 degrees. Bake 30-35 minutes or until your desired brownness. I like to brush melted butter on the tops as it comes out of the oven.

For a crisper crust, place a dish of hot, steaming water in the oven below the bread pan during baking.

Thirty minutes later I had these beauties (see my little runt loaf? Nothing wrong with a runt.)

The final result is beautiful, isn't it? Here is the fluffier inside:
I hope you like my adjustments! If you want a denser bread, or if you want to try out the original, go check out the link from Pin 144

As I mentioned in the beginning, I freeze these loaves. Wrap in aluminum foil and pop in the freezer. When you are ready to eat it, pop it into the oven, still wrapped in the foil, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through. I'm not sure how long these would keep in the freezer because we usually go through ours at about a 1 loaf/week rate. 

Good luck and Happy Bread Making!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pin 199: Scrappy Alphabet Wall Art

Original pin:


You can't see this pin on my Pinterest because its hiding on one of my secret boards. I love the secret boards feature! Now I can surprise more people. I wanted to make something to donate to an auction fundraiser at my youngest son's preschool.  I thought this was really cute and could be reproduced easily.

Step one was to find a good children's book that I did not mind tearing up. This is really hard for me because I just have a sacred spot in my soul for books. I went out to thrift one book and ended up coming home with 15! The book I chose to destroy was one illustrated by my favorite illustrator, Quentin Blake. I had never heard of the title, but I just love his illustrations so much I knew I wanted it to be part of this art piece.

I selected the pages I wanted, and mod podged the back only to a canvas.

Even though these pages were already a bit aged, I decided to stain them. I loved the way the stain turned out! I used this stain,  Ranger TDW-29892 Tim Holtz Distress Stain Fluid Water-Based Dye, Vintage Photo, 1-Ounce , which you can spray with water to create variations in the color.

Now I had this to work with.
I know you are seeing all these wrinkles and thinking what a mess it looks now, but have you seen my post on the greatest mod podge trick ever??? Back at Pin 52 I learned what an asset the blow dryer is for mod podge projects.

Next step was to cut out all the letters. Y'all probably can guess by now that there is NO WAY I was going to measure and trace and precisely cut letters out for this. I flipped on the DVR and went freestyle with my letters. Guess where that ended me?? Well, they didn't quite fit the canvas in a way I was happy with.

So I cut another entire alphabet. Alphabet number two was a bit too small.

 (This is sounding a little like a Goldilocks story. . . ) Alphabet number three was juuuussstt right.  Sorry, I couldn't resist.

No, there was no alphabet three. I just mixed and matched letters from set one and set two to make it fit like I wanted.
There was just one teensy, weensy problem left. You see, this illustrator, Quentin Blake, well I just love his work. I really wanted to make sure some of it was seen in the final result. And there was one picture I was particularly enamored with that I didn't want covered up. Letter spacing now became a problem.

Luckily, I had this giant pile of letters from which to work and I was able to save most of this picture. I don't know why I liked it so much. I didn't actually even read the story so I'm not sure what is even going on here.
a big ol' pile of letters
I skipped a part of the background story I wanted to tell you. . . 

I love mixed media art. As a child, I would spend hours cutting up magazines and creating these gigantic collages of words and pictures I liked. They covered my doors and walls in my room. LITERALLY. Ask my sisters, I'm sure they remember. No magazine was safe in my house.  

I knew when I started this that I would have to add other elements to the canvas besides the alphabet. I added a measuring tape cut. There were a few hits and misses here as well. Thankfully, I had extra book pages because I had to remove a few items I didn't like after they were in place. I decided to go with hand sewn buttons to complete the look. A few people were surprised that I had actually sewn them on, but since it was on canvas, it was a fairly easy endeavor. 

Here is the final project. 

I have never sold an art piece before. I have only gifted one and it was to my mother a few years ago. Giving this away was a little humbling for me because, . . . well. . . .honestly?  I put a lot of time, and a lot of love into this. I made it the way I wanted it to be, and what if no one liked it?? I was fully prepared to buy it back for twice the cost of the materials. I just really, really, REALLY didn't want to hear anybody say anything bad about it. I loved it and might take a comment like that to heart.

Luckily, I didn't have to hear any comments about it. People were bidding on it at the auction so I didn't have to (or get to) buy it back. I hope it went to a good home and they love it like I do.

Total cost: Around $25

Total time: Hours and hours and hours. This time increased because I redid a few things. In all I worked on this for weeks. I would do a little something and then let it sit out and stare at it for a few days. There is a lot of pressure when you are making something for someone else! It sat on an easel in a high traffic part of my house so that I could walk by and contemplate it. My family helped me contemplate and make judgement calls on a few things.

Final verdict: I was a little emotionally wrapped up in this project, but not in an unhealthy way. I love the way it turned out, but was okay parting with it. I received a lot of compliments on it and it did have a few bidders. I tried to stay away from the bidding sheet because I was so emotionally tied to it. Bottom line is, it sold to someone who I hope loves it like I do. If I wanted to make one for myself, I could. I still have half of Willie the Squowse left and an entire alphabet set. Selling personal art is hard! No wonder so many artists aren't discovered until they are dead. They probably hide their stuff from prying eyes to protect their egos!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pin 198: Pretty Braided Bun

Original pin:


Last week I was having a surgical procedure on my neck. I needed to get all my hair up and out of the way to make everything go a little bit smoother. I turned to my beauty board for a little inspiration and found this braided bun tucked away amidst these 25 totally pretty hairstyles. I also appreciate that it promises to be complete in 10 minutes.

Here is the offender to be removed. It is just an ol' fatty tumor that has been hanging around for about 5 years, but it keeps growing and it bugs me. Time to see you off old friend.

The directions are simple and easy to follow. I particularly like this step:

I totally would have rocked this look as is about, oh, 23 or so years ago. 

But not today. Finished it up, lickety-split. It was easy and complete on my first attempt. 
 My hair doesn't have quite as much volume, so I needed to dress it up a bit. I pulled a crocheted flower from my yarn stash and pinned it in place to pretty things up a bit. After smoothing out the top and spraying in place I was ready to go.

Total cost: $0

Total time: 10 minutes--as promised!!

Final verdict: A nice, pretty way to get all my hair up. My surgeon was thankful for the effort as well! I will definitely use this again! And I am going to spare you the post-op pictures.

(And a note, as I was editing the photos to prepare for the post, my son walked in and said "Ooooh! Pretty girl. I love that pretty girl."

Since they are all of the back of my head, I replied with, "Do you know who that is?"

Son: "No. Who?"

Me: "That's your mommy!"

Son: "Oh mommy! I love you! Let me give you a hug."

Me: "Thanks darling. Now get your booty back in bed and GO TO SLEEP!!")

Monday, April 8, 2013

Get-Well Gift Bundle

My sweet, tender-hearted six-year old said good-bye to his Kindergarten teacher today as she left school to have knee-replacement surgery. She will not be back before the end of the year so we wanted to get her a nice get-well/thank you for the year/going away gift. I solicited donations from other parents and suggestions from recently hospitalized friends and was able to put together this bundle of gifts.

Initially I had planned on packing this all in a nice little basket, but as the gift grew and grew I found I didn't have a basket this size! I tied a cute tag to each item and packed them inside a gift bag tied with a big colorful bow.  Here is what I included:

1. Facial cleansing wipes. Even when I am at home there are times it is a chore for me to make it up to go wash off my face at the end of the day. Lay me up with a post-operative, major leg surgery condition and I may never wash my face at all! Now she can just stash this nearby the bed and freshen up as needed.

"Because sometimes you just don't want to get up to wash your face."
 2.  Hard candy. Eating and drinking restrictions, anesthesia, and a slew of medications are going to bring on some wicked dry mouth. I threw in some hard candy to help combat the dry mouth.
"Because surgery sucks."
 3. Interesting magazine. Reading material is a necessity. Sometimes anesthesia and pain medications can severely limit your attention span. Books can be a bit hard to read under that influence. A magazine with short articles can be better. His teacher makes some amazing cakes so this magazine should be interesting to her. I know she won't be up making too many cakes, but maybe she can fantasize up some good ideas while she heals.
"For inspiration during recuperation"
 4.  Tissues. Hospitals make me sneeze. I've been working in hospitals for over 12 years. Something about the dry air and hospital linen make my nose go crazy. And if I had surgery, I just might cry afterwards. Have you ever used those hospital tissues? Not fun. A little like wiping your nose with a piece of notebook paper.

"A tissue because we will miss you"
 5.  Lavender and chamomile lotion. That dry air also makes dry skin. On the bottle it says "helps you. . . feel at ease." Yes! That is what I want for her!

"Take a moment everyday to relax"
 6.  Lip balm. Should I say it again? Dry air, dry skin, dry lips.

"So your lips my shine as you smile through pain"
 7.  "Diamond Strength" Nail polish. I'm not sure I have ever seen her without her nails painted so this one seemed natural. It will serve multiple purposes--something to do while resting with her leg up and keep her looking good.
"May you have strength from tip to toe"
 8. Non-skid slippers. From a nursing point of view--it's got to be non-skid. These were cute, soft, and non-skid.
"To get you back on your feet"
 9. Chenille throw. This was so super-soft I wanted to keep it for myself. I know it isn't cold weather around here right now, but hospitals are cold. I, personally, would want to be cozy in my house also. I love a nice throw.
"A warm hug from your Kindergarten angels"
 10. Chocolate. What get-well gift is complete without chocolate?? I steel stamped the lid "FEEL BETTER" and filled the sucker up with M&M's. Putting bulk candy into a mason jar is such an easy way to pretty-up the presentation instead of the big bag it comes in.

"Because chocolate makes everything better"
Total cost: Not saying since it is a gift. But if I had more money, I would have purchased a big basket to pack it all in. I may have added a small bag of toiletries, wet hand wipes, a nice water bottle or big cup (like a Tervis), single serving drink mixes or water flavorings, teas, hair ties or soft headbands, gift cards for restaurants where her family can pick up food to bring home to her.

Total time: It took a little more than an hour to make the tags and pack up the items.

Final verdict: I think it looks like a gift I would want! Hopefully the items are helpful to her and she has a swift recovery.