Saturday, June 30, 2012

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

I hate "baked" potatoes done in the microwave.  To me, they just take on this taste.  I can always tell when I'm being served a nuked or reheated potato.

Summertime isn't the best time of year for baked potatoes but they tend to be a staple at our house.  How do we make baked potatoes without running the oven and heating up the house?  The crock pot.

I've done this as long as I can remember but I found out that not many people know this trick.  If you do, my apologies and I promise something more exciting will be posted in three days.

Pick out your spuds.  I prefer Idaho Potatoes but there's entire articles online devoted to the best type of potato so you can make an informed decision if you so choose.

Clean them.  The best way to clean your taters is with water and a greenie.  We keep a special greenie for veggies and this one doesn't ever scrub out gross pans.  (I do put the greenie in the dishwasher after I use it.  Just fold it in half and put it in a silverware cup. Run the load as usual.)

Wrap your potatoes in foil.  Again, if you know how to do this, skip this posting and come back in three days.  Here's my directions.

Pull off a piece of foil that's about the length of your hand.  If you have super huge potatoes, grab more.  If they're tiny, tear your foil in half (width ways).

Place the foil on your counter SHINY SIDE UP.  This is the "reflection" side.  Why? you ask.  Because the shiny side will reflect the heat AWAY from your potato if you put the shiny side out.  Shiny side needs to go in to cook the spud quicker.  Put your spud on a corner and roll up from corner to corner. 

And fold the edges in, covering the rest of the potato.  See?  Less foil used, all is covered and there's no big foil lumps where you had to fold the excess down.

Put your spuds in the crock pot.
Lid it and cook on high for four hours or low for six to eight.

Don't add water, oil or anything else to the crock pot.  It should just be your foil wrapped spuds in the bottom.  They'll come out perfectly done, fluffy and without the nuked taste that microwaves tend to leave.

You are welcome.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chalkboard Clock

I needed an end of the year thank you gift for some fabulous teachers and this is what the kids and I came up with:

These are clocks.  Instead of the traditional numbers, there are math problems written in.

We thought these are fun!  The clock face can be wiped clean and new problems written in so it can be tailored to whatever concept is currently being taught in math.

This was a fun project to do with the kids and it was fairly inexpensive.


Tray, plate or some other flat surface to use as your clock face
chalkboard paint
Clock kit with hands that are long enough.  Ours measure six inches.  Check your craft store.  We got ours off from eBay.

We found some thirteen inch trays that looked like they'd be great for this project.  Drill a hole in the middle.  Tape off your sides and paint.  Tip:  Use spray chalkboard paint so you don't get brush marks.

Put a few coats on it and let dry completely for at least a day.

Our clock hands were black which wasn't good for the clock we were making so I gave them a quick coat of some spray primer I had handy.  I then painted a layer of glow in the dark paint over the top.  It gives them a light yellow look but they do glow!

Assemble your clock kit per directions.

It usually comes like this.  Take all the pieces apart. . .

. . . and assemble.

Read the directions on your chalkboard paint on how to "season" your chalkboard.  Also, when using the chalk on the clock face, it's better to run the chalk on some paper first.  It "softens" the chalk and makes it easier to write with.

Add your math problems, put in a battery and hang it up!

If I do it again:

I'd go bigger.  The clock face isn't quite big enough to get complex problems on there.  It's probably not a big deal for a second or fourth grade teacher but older grades would probably benefit from some algebra equations!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Menu Board with Shopping List

I was telling my husband that we needed a better way to shop.  I was finding that I'm going to the grocery store three times a week and usually purchasing more than we need.  I needed a way to keep an ongoing list and a way to quickly organize everything.  This is what I came up with.

This hangs on the back of my pantry door.  There's a spot for me to do the menu for the week, a spot for the shopping list and a little spot for "notes" to myself.  I use a wet erase marker on the glass and it works beautifully!

I started with this:

It's a garage sale find.  I paid a quarter for the frame with glass and picture.  I wasn't really interested in the picture so I pulled the glass and pic out of the frame and spray painted the frame with some leftover spray paint my husband had from painting the wheelbarrow.   The color is a hammered bronze color so I picked some scrapbook paper to compliment it.

I just turned the picture over and taped/glued the papers to the back.  It measures fifteen inches wide and nineteen inches long so I had to do some cutting and piecing.

I cut a 12x12 piece in half and sent it through the printer for my MENU side.

Line it up, tape it down and add a ribbon trim under "menu".

I just taped it right to the mat.  I didn't need to worry about keeping it smooth since the glass was going over the top.

I also sent a piece of paper through the printer for "shopping list".  I layered a few pieces before taping those down.

The top right is a leftover scrap cut to fit.  I use it for notes to myself like "Cook 7 chicken breasts on Tuesday - use leftovers on Thursday".

I cut half inch strips of black cardstock and sent it through my crimper to provide a border. 

Put the glass and photo back into the frame and restaple if needed.

I hang almost everything in my house with these.
 These allow you to hang almost anywhere without having to put a hole in the wall or door.  I hung this on the inside of my pantry door.

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about having to rewrite the shopping list on another piece of paper before I could go to the store but I like it.  The kids add to the shopping list as they see fit and it's nice to be able to take a look to see if I REALLY need something before heading off to the store.  My daughter has the habit of adding macaroni and cheese to the list if we're down to four boxes or less so I can take a peek before heading to the store.

So far this is working great and I'm down to one shopping trip a week.  We just do without if it didn't make it to the list.  The kids are learning quite quickly that, if they want it, it better be on the list!

If I do it again:

1.  I would pick a frame that spanned my door a little better.  This one is off center because centering it perfectly would put the command strips in the decorative "groove" and it wouldn't hold.  I needed a frame either an inch narrower or an inch wider.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Waxed Paper Envelopes

I gave one of my lotion bars to a very good friend who took it into work.  She came home with several "orders" from people who wanted to purchase some of my lotion bars.  Wow!

I made up a batch with some of the beeswax I get from my local guy (leave a comment if you want his contact info.  His beeswax is awesome!).  I needed a good way to wrap them up. . . I can't just toss them into a ziplock bag if I am actually going to get paid for these!!

I came up with this:

It's a wax paper bag.  I wasn't too sure how this would work since waxed paper's purpose is a non stick surface. . . . how was I going to stick the seams together?  Turns out it wasn't that hard.


Waxed paper
Ruler (or eyeball it)
tape runner

Pull a piece of paper off that is twice the width you want it to be plus an inch.  I wanted mine to be four and a half inches wide so I pulled off a ten inch sheet.

Fold one side into the middle and crease.

Pull the other side in OVERLAPPING by about an inch.

And fold the bottom up about 3/4 inch.

Unfold. . . .
. . . and cut away the two corners on the fold lines.

Run a tape strip up the short side of the flap you fold to the middle.  Stick and then run a tape strip on the bottom flap and fold up.  You now have a bag.

Cut the top down to the desired height and stuff with whatever you made your bag for!

I printed some simple labels on the computer and stuck it to the front.  Definitely classier than a zip lock bag!

If I do it again:

Confession time:  I ran out of the tape runner and just used regular tape on the last few bags.  It's not as nice looking but it worked great.

1.  I'd use fancy scissors to cut all the sides.  You see the seams and I think a fancy cut would look nice.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mashed Cauliflower

Summer is back in full force and we are trying to take advantage of some of the great fruits and veggies that this time of year brings.

Here's one of our summertime recipes.

Mashed Cauliflower

One head of cauliflower, cleaned and florets cut off
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Put 1/2 cup of water in a large microwave bowl and add the cauliflower florets.  Cook on high for six minutes or until soft.

Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Don't let it cool!

Put back into a bowl with the garlic, cream cheese, butter and parmesan cheese.  Blend with a stick blender or an immersion blender until smooth.

Serve as you would mashed potatoes. 

It's a nice change from the root vegetables we eat all winter!  The kids love it and the husband eats it (smothered in hot sauce. . .ick!).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Citrus Vinegar

I went to buy a Swiffer Wet Jet refill and realized that the price jumped. . . again.  These things are now over $6 apiece.  I don't use it to deep clean my floors but I do use it for touch ups in between.  I've tried the tricks to refill the bottles myself but don't care for any of them.  I tend to get bottles that leak after a few refills.  I decided to buy this:
Twenty-nine bucks at Walmart and you can refill the bottle yourself.

I'm not too sure how I like it yet because I've used my Swiffer for over five years and the balance of this is a little different.  I can say that I love the fact that I can refill the bottle with whatever I want and there's no leaking.

I have hardwood floors that I like to mop at least twice a week.  I have two dogs, two kids and muddy spots in the backyard so our floors need a bit of attention.  Once a month I fill a big bucket with some antibacterial soap and another with clear water, put a pillow under my bad knee and scoot around scrubbing and rinsing every inch.  In between the deep cleanings I want something that is quick and easy and good for my floor.

The mop bottle gets filled with a mixture of citrus vinegar and water.  It smells great and does an excellent job of cleaning up any mess.

To make the citrus vinegar you need peels from citrus fruit and white vinegar.

The kids know to save their peels.  We put them in a bag in the fridge until I'm ready to use them.  We have lots of uses for citrus peels!

This bunch has clementine, lime, lemon and orange peels in it.  I try to keep as much of the fruit out of the peel because it has sugar and I'm not too keen on the idea of putting sugar on my floors - even the tiny bit that the fruit would bring.

Stuff them into a jar or some sort of container.  I used a milk jug. . .

. . . and pour your vinegar over the top.  Let it sit for a few weeks and it's ready to use.  The citrus will cover the scent of the vinegar and vinegar is marvelous for cleaning.  Another plus is that we don't have ants in our kitchen, even in the springtime months.  Vinegar gets rid of the little ant trails they leave.  It's a trick someone told me a long time ago and it has worked well for us. 

To use:  Mix a squirt bottle or other bottle with half citrus vinegar and half water.  Spray and wipe!

If I do it again:

I'm not sure if I would buy the Bona Curve mop.  I don't like how it balances.  I'm not one for change, though, so I'm thinking that the O Cedar mop I was debating against probably wouldn't have made me happy, either.  I'll get used to it!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bleached and Dyed T-Shirt

I have a bunch of men's shirts that I bought off the clearance rack and wear on a daily basis.  I like them because they are actually long enough for me and more modest than some of the women's shirts I've been seeing lately.  (That sounds a lot more prudish then it is meant.)

I have a light purple shirt that is quite blah.  I have been seeing some very inspired t-shirt treatments online and I thought I'd try one.

It actually surprised me how well it turned out.  I don't do well with dye and I definitely don't work well with bleach so having this result was astonishing.

Start with a t-shirt that you kind of like the color of.  I picked my light purple t-shirt.  You will need a box of RIT dye in a different but complimentary color.  I picked a darker purple.  You will also need some bleach in a squeeze bottle.

Make sure it is something you will never use for food.

Get your shirt damp and set on a protected workspace.  I decided on my bathtub.  It needed cleaning, anyway, so I got a two-fer. 

See the dry spots?  You don't want that.  Get it wet!

Take your bleach and run some lines across the front of the shirt horizontally.  Let it sit until you like the contrasting color.  I didn't want anything too dramatic so I let it sit to this point.

Rinse it out and toss it into a washer for a quick wash.  You want all the bleach out.

When it is done, take your still wet shirt and start twisting some spots up.  I looped it and held it in place with some rubber bands.

Be careful where you place these twists.  I didn't want anything directly over my chest so I avoided that area.  Nothing says amateur like a big circle dye spot over your boob.

Mix up your dye in a bucket or a stainless sink.  I put in the entire dye packet and two gallons of hot water.  Dip the bottom half of your shirt and hold for two minutes.  Flip it over and dip the top half for two minutes but don't dip the middle.

Wad up, set on a plastic bag and walk away for four hours.

When the time is up, take the rubber bands off the shirt and rinse.  

Keep going until the water is running clear.  At this point I toss it into the washer with some laundry soap (not my homemade stuff. . . it works too well and will fade the dye if it's not set.)  I do a quick wash in cold and then another wash with hot water and a cold rinse.  Make sure to put in a load of towels or something else that can be tinted if you didn't get the dye all rinsed out.

I also throw it in the dryer and dry it until it is completely dry.  I don't usually do that to my clothing but it seems to help set the dye so that it doesn't fade in the wash.

Here's my masterpiece!

And a side view because I was told that actresses always stand at an angle when having their photo taken.  It makes you look slimmer.

So does sucking it in and girdles.

If I do it again:

This was so much fun!  I will probably go with a contrasting color next time like a gray shirt and a blue dye or a teal dye.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Group Gift

This is one of those projects that didn't turn out at all like I had envisioned but I do like the result.  I was in charge of putting together a group gift and I thought that a gift card tree would be a neat thing to do.

This is what it turned out to be:

The gift cards are all on those florist picks that come in bouquets to hold the cards.  The local florist gave me the picks for free.  The plant is a philodendron. . .very hardy and can thrive almost anywhere.

It's plain and simple but when the gift cards and florist picks are pulled out she will have a pretty houseplant to enjoy. 

If I do it again:

Someday I would like to do a gift card tree as a group gift but finding the right stand on a small time frame was impossible for me at this point.  I also couldn't find a potted tree that wasn't hideously expensive or that would need to be transplanted outside.  I will keep my eyes open and pick up a few appropriately sized stands when I come across them!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Washing Pillows

Today's post is a tip.

Don't toss your flat and stained pillows!  Wash them!

The only pillows I don't wash are the tempur-pedic type pillows with memory foam because the last one I washed took a month to dry.  Everything else I wash.

If you have a front loader, you can fit two or three pillows inside.  Don't fit more.  If you have a top loader, put two pillows in, one on each side of the agitator.  If you are only washing one pillow, put a few towels on the other side to balance your load.

Wash on hot (warm if you have a down pillow).  Put in your detergent.  If you can tolerate it, add a little bit of bleach and a small amount of fabric softener if you have very hard water.

Run a regular load and put them into the dryer when done.   Dry for 20 minutes and set out to finish drying.

The result:  Nice, fluffy, clean pillows!

If I do it again:

Someday I will buy those dryer balls and put them in the dryer with the pillows to make them even fluffier!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tinted Glass Bottles

I've mentioned that I have a little addiction to glass.  I love the glass, especially when it is unique.  I was recently looking for a neat way to give an inexpensive gift and I came up with this:
These are simply made with these supplies:

 There are two glass bottles with the labels removed, some food coloring, mod podge and a paint brush.

I wanted some pretty teal bottles so I poured about 1/3 cup mod podge into a cup and added three drops of blue and one drop of green food coloring.
Stir with a toothpick. . . .

Pretty!  Paint your glass. . . .

. . . . and put into a 175 degree oven on a foil lined cookie sheet until the color changes to the clearish color.  Turn off your oven at this point and let everything cool down.

When cool, coat with a thick coat of acrylic sealer.  This way the water won't wash off the pretty color!

Add your flowers and embellishments and give to that special person!

If I do it again:

I'd go purple!  I think it would be gorgeous!  I would also thin it with a little bit of water so that you don't see the brush marks as much.