Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Life in a Jar

Happy Halloween!

I thought long and hard about writing this post.  I was afraid it would come across as too preachy or too righteous (I'm not either of those things. . . I think) and I didn't want to turn anyone off.   My normal "who gives a crap" attitude won and here's the post.

My Life in a Jar

Here's the jar:

It's not fancy. . . just rocks, pebbles and sand.  This used to sit on my kitchen counter as a visual reminder but, since I've started a job outside the home, it now has a place on my desk at work.

It starts and an empty jar that I filled with rocks.

It's very full!  The rocks are the "rocks" of my life.  These include my kids, my family, my happiness, my memories, my health, my God and all the things that are most important to me.  Even though the jar is full, I can put pebbles in it.

The pebbles are the things that I need in my life but aren't near and dear to me.  Those are things like my job,  money, appointments, and other necessities.  I can still add sand.

The sand is all the little, unimportant things.  These are the stressors in life - unwashed laundry, carpets that need vacuuming, overtime at work, etc.

This jar is to remind me that, if I dumped it all out and tried to put it back, I wouldn't have room for all of the rocks of my life.  I have to put those in first in order to get as many into my life as I can!  The rest will always find a place.

A long time ago I started the "two no rule" with myself.  Shhh. . . don't tell the kids. . . . they'll take full advantage of it!  I allow myself two "nos" a day when the kids ask me to do something with them.  Someday, they might quit asking.  For now, I use those "nos" wisely and only when necessary.  If my daughter wants to paint with me, I say "yes".  If my son wants to play four square with me, I grab the ball.  On weeknights, I try to say no only once or not at all since I see them so little.  It's my way of making sure that I never put a clean house over the kids.  I can always scrub out the toilets later.  I won't always be able to read stories with my daughter.

Today is an appropriate date for me to post this because I HATE Trick-or-Treating.  I always have, even as a kid.  My kids love it.  They will ask me to go with them.  I will say "yes."

Enjoy your night!  Enjoy your life!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Better Than Just a Drop

 My neighbor and I were talking and she told me about this stuff she just ordered off from QVC.  It's a product called "Just a Drop".  The gist of this stuff is that you drop a few drops into the toilet, do your thing, flush and you don't smell anything.  It  is small enough to fit into your purse to be discrete and you can carry it with you and into whatever bathroom you choose.

I had to giggle.  We have been doing the same thing at our house for years without the fancy bottle and trademark.  It's much cheaper and it works great.

Next time you are headed into the bathroom, take a bottle of essential oil with you.  I keep a bottle of eucalyptus oil in my bathroom.  Drop a few drops into the toilet water, sit down and do your thing.  Your bathroom will smell like eucalyptus, not number two.

Any sort of essential oil will work.  I keep a tiny bottle in my purse and one in my desk at work.  These days it's Jasmine oil.  I used to carry lemon oil until I realized people may be wondering if I was pooping Pledge. 

It's fine for the plumbing and it's a great way to avoid embarrassment, especially when there's someone outside the bathroom waiting for you to be done.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

To Do Booklet

With the new job comes a lot of new (to me) duties and little things that need to be done.  By noon my desk is covered in post-it notes and, right before leaving, I am frantically going through post-its to make sure I have all the things that need to be done TODAY done.  I need a better system and this is it:
It's easy and looks a lot better than random post-its everywhere.

This is just a basic black folder that I covered with some coordinating scrapbook paper I had laying around.

Make sure that the papers don't touch in the middle. . . they need to fold without bending on themselves.

The side on the left is for my "priority" side.  If it needs to be done today, it will be on a post-it and stuck to the left side.  If it can wait, it will be on the right.

As stuff gets done from the left side, I'll toss the post-it and move the ones from the right to the left.

I didn't label the inside because I didn't want anyone seeing me stick the task they gave me to the side labeled "less important" or "can wait".  I figure the system will be my little secret!

It doesn't eliminate the post-it trash but it does keep things neat and tidy and gives me a way to see the priority projects at a glance.

If I do it again:
I may try to laminate this in the future when the many lists of things to do isn't as daunting.  I could then use a dry erase marker on it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

T-Shirt Scarf

I recently started a new job after staying home with the kids for the last ten years.  In ten years my wardrobe has drastically changed.  I've increased a few sizes and the clothing was limited to one pair of nice slacks (for Christmas and Easter Mass), two pair of "dressy" jeans (for regular church service and parent-teacher conferences) and three pair of regular jeans (everyday.)  I had one nice sweater (for church - all services), several sweatshirts and lots of men's t-shirts.  I didn't own any women's Ts because I'm crazy tall and they are never long enough.  Because of the job, my wardrobe had to drastically increase.

I've been adding things but have found that I really miss my men's t-shirts.  They are comfortable and I can raise my arms above my head in public without showing everyone my stretch marks.  In an effort to dress up some of the nicer t-shirts I have, I've been wearing them with scarves.  No one has noticed (or no one has said anything.  Either way I'm fine with it.)

I saw a very nice scarf in JC Penney this weekend and thought "I could make that!"  So, I did.

Start with a t-shirt that you like the color of.  Make sure it is a cotton or cotton blend one and that it isn't the kind that is ribbed.

This is one that I used to wear but had ripped a hole in the underarm. 

Cut off the shirt right under the armpits.

Cut the bottom part into strips.  I made mine about a half inch wide.  Cut them across the shirt, not up and down.

Gather up your loops. 
Stretch them out.  You will notice that they sort of roll in on themselves.  Change the spot where you put your hands and stretch some more.  You want the whole loop rolled.

Take a leftover piece of shirt and tie the loops all together at the top.  If you have seams to hide, this is a good way to do it.

Wrap the shirt around for an inch or so.  I make sure to wrap the knot to hide it.

Tuck it in and tie it off.  I also used a needle and thread and added a few stitches to make sure it wouldn't come undone.

It's done!  It's quite long since I didn't cut the loops down.  I am going to wear it doubled up and with a black t-shirt.

Please excuse the photo.  Apparently, I need to clean my mirror.

If I do it again:

I will make another one - or two - in different colors.  I will probably cut the loops down on one so that I can wear the scarf longer but not SO long.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dilly Beans

We love Dilly Beans in our house and I never seem to make enough jars.  I recently turned two pounds of green beans into five more jars of the pickled goodness.

Make sure to use a recipe from a trusted source.  I would suggest the Ball Blue Book of Canning.  You want to make sure your recipe is safe and won't send anyone to the hospital with food poisoning.  For the record, I'm not a trusted source.  You don't know me.  I could be giving you my Grandma's recipe.  I'm not. . . this one is from the Ball Blue Book of Canning.  My point is that you should always check your sources.  Even me. 

That said, this is how I make my Dilly Beans.

Dilly Beans from Ball Blue Book of Preserving

Makes 4-5 pints

2 lbs green beans
1/4 c canning salt
2 1/2 c water
2 1/2 c white vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper PER JAR
1 clove garlic PER JAR
1/2 tsp. dill seed PER JAR or one head dill PER JAR

Wash and trim green beans.  Combine salt, vinegar and water into large sauce pot.  Bring to a boil.  Pack beans lengthwise into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, one clove garlic and 1/2 tsp dill seed or one dill head per jar.  Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles.  Adjust two piece caps.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

And the photos. . . .

Wash and trim them!  Don't toss the ends down the garbage disposal.  They may clog up the disposal and you may spend an hour of your Saturday night plunging the sink and stuffing baking soda and vinegar down it to clear the pipes. . . just saying.

I don't cut most of my beans but I do cut the super long ones in half so that they fit in the jar.

I also add 1/4 tsp pickle crisp to the jars to keep my beans crunchy.

Add you lids, process and you end up with some amazing dilly beans!  I let them sit for two or three weeks before opening.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Onsie Cupcakes

For awhile it seemed like everyone I knew was pregnant.  I almost quit drinking the local water. . . just in case.

This is a fun, inexpensive gift to give.  You can always add a gift card if you would like.

Those cupcakes are made out of socks and Onsies.

I bought a three pack of Wilton Cupcake boxes for $2.00.  It comes with pink, light green and yellow.

Since I was making this for a girl, I put together the pink box.  I also found four cute cupcake papers from my stash.

The only other thing you need is two pair of socks and four onsies.  You can get a five pack of Gerber Onsies for $8 and the socks in the dollar section.

I took some photos of both pink and purple onsies and the photos were mixed as to which ones were better.  Just pretend it's the same onsie in each picture following.

Spread out your Onsie and fold the top part into a point.

Fold the sides in.

Unfold the sock and add it to the pointed end with the tip poking up.

Roll tightly.

Fold the bottom part of the sock up.

And "fluff" the top part of the cupcake until it looks right.  I loosened the top while keeping the bottom tight.

Put it into a cupcake wrapper.

And add to your box.

This is fun to do for boys, too.  The cupcakes would look better with red socks but I couldn't find those!

If I do it again:

I would look harder for red socks for the boys.  Pink cherries are cute for the girl cupcakes.

Shared this idea here

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tip: Washing and Keeping Berries

Have you ever found a really great sale on berries and bought a bunch only to find that you had to toss half of them because they spoiled before you could eat them?

Try this tip!

Clean out your sink REALLY well (because the thought of not kind of grosses me out). 

Plug up your sink and put in about three inches of lukewarm water.  Add 1 cup of white vinegar.

Add your berries.

Let them soak for a few minutes.  Move to a clean towel.  Let them dry.

When they are dry you can move them to a zip lock bag or container.

The vinegar cleans the berries and kills any sort of bacteria that's on them.  It also acts as a natural preserver so your berries will last longer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pringles Cans to Christmas Gifts

I try to be organized.  In my wildest dreams, my resume says "organized and a pre-planner".  I'm not either of those things but I do, occasionally, try to be.

This project is one that you need to do ahead, unless you and your family can eat a can of pringles every meal.

Pringles cans make marvelous cookie holders for gifts.  They will fit about a dozen round sugar cookies.  The can is a little more than 2 1/2 inches wide so I purchased a two inch cookie cutter.  After baking, the cookies fit perfectly.

I had a bit of a bow theme going here. . . .

I have a marvelous sugar cookie recipe that takes a bit of effort but is SO worth it, especially around the holidays.  I will share it when it gets closer to Christmas.

I try to make these throughout the year because, otherwise, these end up looking all the same.  They're quite simple.  You need:

Pringles Cans
Christmas paper - wrapping paper or scrapbook paper

To fit a piece of paper around the can, you need it to measure 10 1/8 inches high and 9 3/4 inches wide.  That allows for a tiny bit of overlap at the back.

Cover the paper around your can and then decorate.

I decorate the lids with a homemade "Merry Christmas" tag.

Fill with cookies and deliver!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Last Minute Go-To Meal

As much as I try to plan our meals ahead of time, there comes the occasion where we have something come up, I don't prep in time or I just don't feel like having that for dinner.  On those occasions we have one of our "go-to" meals.

It's a go-to meal because I always have the ingredients and it takes less than thirty minutes to make with minimal prep.  It's also something everyone in the house will eat.  This is a rare occurrence. . . I generally please one child or the other and if both kids like it, I hate it.  Here is one of those meals we can all eat.

Have you ever tried one of the KFC Mashed Potato bowls? 
They're fantastic! 

I copied this for one of our go to meals.  It's probably not any healthier but it is good, filling and everyone eats it in some form or another.

You need:

Potatoes.  These will be mashed so you can use canned potatoes or instant potatoes if you prefer.  There are also frozen mashed potatoes that are very good.
Chicken strips.  Extra crispy are my favorite but extra crispy are extra costly so, unless I have a good coupon, I buy regular chicken strips.
Grated cheese
Corn.  Canned or frozen is nice. 
Chicken Gravy.  My favorite is Heinz brand.

Prepare your potatoes.  If you are making fresh, peel the potatoes and cube them small.  This should take ten minutes, tops.  Toss them into some salted water and boil for fifteen minutes.  Drain and mash with some butter and margarine.

Bake your chicken strips.  My bag says 400 degrees for fifteen minutes.

Heat the gravy and the corn.

I put everything out on the counter in bowls, including the cheese.  I hand everyone a bowl and they layer the potatoes with cheese on top, the corn, the chicken and then gravy over the whole thing.  Minimal fuss and the meal is served within thirty minutes of starting. 

The great thing is that these can be customized to taste.  I don't like my vegetables to touch anything else (no, I'm not five. . . I just didn't outgrow this stage) so I eat my bowl without the corn, rinse my bowl and then have the corn after.  My son hates gravy so he eats his without. 

We have a few other "go-to" meals that I will share in the future but I'd love to add to my go-to recipes.  Care to share your family's favorite?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Liquid Hand Soap from a Solid Bar

This summer, the kids and I embarked on a road trip to visit family.  Since none of my family had the common courtesy to settle in the same area - and closer to me - the road trip ended up being 4000 miles.  It was a long one!

While in Wisconsin visiting my grandfather, I took the kids to an Amish farm and we bought some amazing soap.  It's labeled as "hand soap" but I put it in the shower.  It has a nice, clean smell to it.

I'm down to one bar and, in an effort to make it last longer, I turned it into liquid hand soap.

Start with your bar of soap (about four ounces. . . double the recipe if you have a big bar), a half gallon of distilled water and some glycerin.  You can find glycerin in the pharmacy section with the band-aids.  Some pharmacists keep it behind the counter so you can ask them.  I opted to buy mine at a craft store in the soap section.  It was 3.99 for this big bottle (it's about $10 for a much smaller bottle at the pharmacy) and I had a 40% off coupon.

**You don't need distilled water BUT if your water is hard, your soap might not hold the fragrance for very long.

Grate your bar of soap into a pot.

Add your water and boil until the soap is dissolved.

Add one tablespoon of glycerine and stir in.  Let it cool.

It will be thick and kind of a clearish  color.  Whisk it or beat it with a blender.

It's ready to use!  Pour into soap dispensers and store what's left in a clean jug or jar.

If I do it again:

Hind sight being what it is, I should have left the soap in the pot to cool completely.  It takes about a day to cool down and thicken to liquid hand soap consistency.  I don't like leaving things sit on my stove, especially when they're NOT edible, so I poured it into an orange juice jug to let it cool.

I lost a bit into the sink when I slopped some on the hand holding the funnel.  It was a little hotter than I expected (I did let it cool a bit. . . just not long enough).  If you are smarter than I am and leave it in the pot or a bowl, whisk it before putting it into your soap dispensers and storage containers.  It will turn a creamy white color.  Mine turned into the consistency of jello IN the container.  I had to squeeze it out of the jug to beat it with a mixer to get it to the right consistency.  Oops.

Check out some other amazing ideas on Mostly Homemade Mondays here: