Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Apologies

My apologies for the lack of posts lately. Life has been crazy. Things seem to be returning to normal and I have tons of posts in my head waiting to make it into this blog!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Post-Valentine Project for Kids

Do you have kids who come home from school with bags full of Valentines that they don't want to part with? Here a tip that allows the kids to keep the cards in a way that's practical:

Place the cards in between sheets of contact paper or laminate them in a rectangular shape. The cards will be visible on both sides of the paper and your child will have a new place mat! Use them for eating or coloring and preserve memories at the same time.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Natural Sleep Help

I often have trouble sleeping - my body gets tired but my mind won't shut off. Here are a couple things I use to help me fall asleep:
  • I take a hot shower before getting into bed.
  • I use lavender aromatherapy oil.
  • I drink chamomile tea.
  • I listen to calming music.
  • I meditate.
I'm always looking for new suggestions. Counting sheep just doesn't do it for me. Someone suggested I try visualizing mowing the lawn. I tried. I failed. The next day I couldn't get the image of the lawnmower mowing in a square out of my head. What helps you sleep?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cat Duster

Cats are so handy sometimes!

Brogan was extremely hyper today and batted several toy mice under the stove. He frantically tried to get them back and went so far as to cram himself behind the stove. This is an extremely tight space that I usually have trouble cleaning. He came out with one toy mouse, several clumps of cat hair, and a nice layer of dust!

I love those automated dusters...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Smoked Dinner

Do you ever write a word and stare at it, contemplating how it looks? "Smoked" is messing with my mind.

Anyhow, today was my mother-in-law's birthday. I spent a good chunk of time preparing for her to come over. Her gift was wrapped, the cake was made, dinner was cooking and the table was set. Then the smoke alarm went off. At first I panicked about the biscuits in the oven burning. When I checked the biscuits were fine, but one had slid to the end of the cookie sheet and, not being fully cooked yet, was dripping onto the bottom of the oven. It took about a minute for the house to fill with smoke. Our smoke alarms are the fancy-shmancy kind that are all connected so they were all going off at once. I turned off the oven and my husband was frantically fanning the smoke alarm, but to no avail. The noise continued. We turned on all the fans in the house, turned off the heat, and opened the door. (Side note - I was worried that the sound of the smoke alarm with the door open would bring neighbors running, but in our keep-to-ourselves woods not a soul came to check out the loud, annoying noise. Good to feel safe in case of actual emergency...) Eventually the alarms stopped. The house was suddenly quiet, cold, smelly, and full of smoke. And my mother-in-law was due to arrive in 15 minutes. For her birthday. I lit some incense (yeah, that'll hide the smell) and set a pot of water boiling to re-humidify the air. I added some spices to the water which, believe it or not, really helped! Overall, not my best evening.

A few things turned out okay. My mother-in-law was running late and the smoke was gone by the time she arrived. Dinner turned out fine and didn't even taste like smoke. We had great conversation and everyone enjoyed the cake.

I think my cats are still hiding.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Snood Update

I forgot to post an update on my knit snood. It actually turned out pretty well. It keeps my ears much warmer than a hat and I like how it looks. I adapted it somewhat and added a button in front. Rather than designate a specific buttonhole I can slip the button anywhere - the stitches are large enough. This way I can keep it from falling down in back. Hmm...what should my next project be?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Neighborly Vent

We have a neighbor who seems quite nice. We exchange greetings occasionally, but he generally keeps to himself. Lately he's developed the interesting habit of snow blowing at night. Apparently prime snow blowing time is between midnight and 3 AM. It drives me crazy! Now, I don't know if he has a job with strange hours or if he enjoys being out at night, but I don't know what to do. We don't talk a lot and I don't want to be the rude neighbor complaining about his snow blowing. It's not keeping me from falling asleep, but it does make it harder to do so. I guess I shouldn't make it into an issue. Snow blowing is only necessary after snow falls, so it's not like this is a year-round hobby. I just hope he doesn't mow the lawn during the same hours...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Patching Ripped Jeans

If you're the kind of person who always wears the same color and wash of jeans, here's a tip for making patches. Take your oldest and most ripped pair of jeans and put them with your sewing materials. When you need to patch your other jeans you'll have those old jeans to make patches with, in just the right fabric!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ten Years of Harry Potter?

I was very excited to read an article this morning listing the release date for the next Harry Potter book as July 21st.

Then I read that it will be the ten-year anniversary of the release of the first book.

Ten years?!?!?!?

I feel so old. I would rather not measure my age using book releases, but I'm really stuck on this one. It kind of takes away from the excitement of the last book in the series coming out. Oh, well. Still looking forward to reading it.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesday Woes

I've done something to my back. I don't know what I did or what exactly is wrong, but it hurts. A lot. The same thing happened last year. I did a set of stretches every day and the pain went away after a couple of weeks. I really don't want to wait that long. That's what I get for posting about my Monday success. (I can probably trace the back incident to my furniture moving spree last week. Oh, well. My room is so pretty now...)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Monday Success

I enjoy Mondays. Weekends are nice, but they mean that I get behind schedule. Things around the house run astray. Work, some of which I do from home, gets put on the back burner. Then Monday arrives. I catch up on dishes, do all the laundry, clean the house, get my work ready for the week, and enjoy the order that has returned to my life! Maybe it seems silly. Does anyone else have this orderliness affliction? Sometimes I wish I could enjoy a little chaos, but then Monday arrives and I'm content again.

Online Coupons

I'm a huge fan of coupons. They seem so logical to me. Take a few minutes to clip them and save some money. Unfortunately my local paper offers limited coupons that actually apply to things that I buy on a regular basis. That's where online coupons come in handy. A little research goes a long way. I have several coupon sites that I check regularly for discounts, both online and in stores, that I might use. A great resource is Coupon Chief. You can search by store or by category and find coupon codes to use for online purchases. 5% or 10% might not seem like a lot, but if you have a large order or expensive items to purchase it can really help out! (And I, not being a person who enjoys the store experience, love having purchases delivered to my door.)

Here are a few stores that offer discount codes through Coupon Chief:
This has been a PayPerPost ad.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


I'm curious about how other people use stevia in recipes. I've been experimenting with it as a sugar substitute. Does anyone have a problem with the lack of appropriate support in the US? I'm just looking for some feedback.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Giant Kitchen Rags

Have you ever had a bad spill in the kitchen, like an entire pitcher of juice falling out of the fridge and spilling across the entire kitchen floor? No, neither have I. And when you tried to clean up the juice you realized that none of your rags were sufficient and not even your mop would soak up the mess so you used bathroom towels that ended up with pink juice stains on them? No, neither have I. And I'm sure that a nice juice coating is good for wood floors.

Anyhow, here's my solution to the giant kitchen spills, since I'm not a fan of paper towels. When you have bath towels that are wearing out or have holes, turn them into giant kitchen rags. Don't cut them up into normal rag sizes. Keep them their original size and accessible. The next time that pitcher of juice spills you'll be prepared. Or I'll be prepared. Whatever.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Snow Yourself In

Why snow yourself in, you ask? I've found that this is a great solution to drafty doors. I realize that not everyone has doors that aren't being used, but my house has several doors leading outside. Drafts can be a problem in the winter, particularly with the sliding doors. A great solution (in addition to stopping the draft from the inside) is to pile snow in front of the door. I do suggest that you keep at least two outside doors accessible - in case of emergency you don't want to be stopped by snow! This is just a quick fix if your house if more summer-oriented.

Train Signal Training

How's your computer knowledge? I feel like no matter how much I know I always have more to learn. Train Signal Inc. is offering free computer training. You just fill out your name and e-mail, and select a login ID. It's a simple process and the best part is that the free lessons aren't just demos - they're full lessons from the paid course that Train Signal offers. Do you want to assess your new (or old) knowledge? They also offer free practice exams! If you want to enhance your computer knowledge click here and try it out.

This has been a PayPerPost ad.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Moving-the-Furniture Bug

Finally, here's a real post for you instead of just a link!

I got the moving-the-furniture bug the other day. It started out innocently enough. We bought a new bed. It arrived and I was putting it together. As I did so it occurred to me that it might look better facing the other direction. That caused me to move the end tables, dressers, hampers and every other piece of furniture in the room. The new furniture arrangement meant that some of the picture needed to be moved. And the hooks on the walls. Basically, it's like a whole new room. And I love it! Now I'm looking at our tired, old bedding and thinking maybe it needs a spruce as well...

Do you ever get the moving-the-furniture bug? I do, a couple of times a year. Perhaps that's why I like the unpacking part of the moving process. There's something very satisfying about finding the perfect place for every piece of furniture. Or maybe I just have issues. Regardless of whether or not you like moving furniture, I think it's good to do once in awhile to get in some nice, deep cleaning!

Now I wonder which room will be next...

Blogger Survey

Yes, I'm redirecting you again! If you have a few minutes to complete a survey, head over to Why Do You Blog? There are sixteen questions and you can choose to leave an e-mail address or remain anonymous. (If you leave your e-mail address it will be submitted in a drawing to win an iPod Shuffle.) It really doesn't take long. Have fun!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cystic Fibrosis

Take a moment to check out this post at Kid Squared. If you are able, donate a little money to help out Adelaide's team raise money for CF research.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Have you heard of this cookbook? I'm not usually a fan of cookbooks, because I'm not very good at sticking to the recipes. It never would have occurred to me to buy this for myself, but it was given to me as a gift so I tried some of the recipes. I'm thoroughly impressed! These are great vegan recipes that taste and look like your run-of-the-mill, heart-attack inducing cupcakes. Luckily they're somewhat better for you. Now, I don't often bake cupcakes, but I do like to bake muffins. I took some ideas from Vegan Cupcakes and made my muffins vegan and a little healthier. Yum! Has anyone ever heard of putting vinegar in soy milk to curdle it? I love this - I can't believe I never tried it before. Anyhow, go make yourself a cupcake. Yum.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Deep Dish Pizza

If you prefer making your own pizza crust to buying a pre-made one, you may want to try making it a deep dish. I made many pizza crusts before coming up with this one. Take your pizza crust dough and, rather than roll it out, press it into an oven-safe pan frying or cake pan (I use an iron frying pan.) In my opinion this is faster than rolling it out. It make for a hearty and filling pizza. The thick crust means there's no need for bread sticks! I usually do several layers of each topping, depending what I'm putting on. I bake it at about 450 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes - it's easy to tell when it's done because the edge of the crust and the cheese both brown. Enjoy!

Friday, January 19, 2007


I previously posted about how much paper is wasted during the holiday season. I think a great way to cut down on paper usage is by using free e-cards. I've done this for years and have always been happy with the results. A few benefits of e-cards:
  • Save on paper!
  • Forgot to send a card ahead of time? Just click a button!
  • Animation and music, which you don't usually find in paper cards.
  • Brighten someone's day for no reason at all.
I recommend American Greetings. They have a large selection of cards and the site is easy to navigate. Here are some specifics about American Greetings membership:
  • Membership for one year, which includes unlimited cards, is $13.99.
  • You can sign up for a 30-day trial membership before paying.
  • Prepare cards in advance and select when they should be sent.
  • Send the same card to multiple people.
  • Personalize your messages and pictures.
If people really want to keep their cards they can print them out. Everyone else can save the paper!

This has been a PayPerPost ad.

Beans and Rice

Beans and rice have a long-standing reputation as a cheap and filling meal fix. Although this is true, there are many ways to turn beans and rice into tasty and unique dishes as well. Every once in a while I make a huge pot of beans and rice (usually white rice and chili beans, sometimes I vary this a bit.) I often add hot sauce, hot peppers, cheese, salt, pepper, onions and garlic. Here are a few ways I use the beans and rice:

  • Casserole - I layer one or two casserole dishes with the mixture. This creates a layer in my enchilada casserole or becomes the bulk of the casserole.
  • Burrito Patties - My own invention, I take homemade uncooked tortilla dough, wrap it around a scoop of beans and rice, and either fry or bake it. I then freeze them for instant lunches on busy days. Very filling!
  • Burritos - Just wrap a scoop of the mixture in a tortilla for an easy lunch or dinner sandwich.
  • Tacos - Beans and rice make a great meat substitute in vegetarian tacos. Sometimes I prefer TVP or plain beans, but the already-seasoned beans and rice work well.
These might seem obvious, but I'm always amazed just how long a pot of beans and rice can last! They have become a staple around here. I often have extra beans and rice frozen in the freezer. Last week we ran out of rice and it was beans and rice panic! (To put this in perspective, I'm usually on top of the grocery shopping and pick up extras before we actually run out.) Oh, this is also an easy crockpot meal. In fact, I prefer the crockpot because I don't have to stay near the stove making sure the rice doesn't burn.

Any other beans and rice ideas? I'm always open to suggestions...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Get on the Map

Have an extra minute or two today? Head over to Rocks in my Dryer and put yourself on the map! Shannon and her sons are trying to get comments from all 50 states and around the world. They're marking each location on a map. They've set a goal for 675 comments and, last I checked, they were up to 395. Make some kids happy and let them know where you're from!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mice, Mice, Everywhere...

...but, don't worry, they're not real! We have accumulated a disturbingly large number of cat toys. This isn't because we think the cats need a lot of toys. They like to play with those stuffed, cloth mice and they tend to chew through them. When the basket of cat toys is looking empty we buy new mice. When I'm cleaning I occasionally find them under bookshelves or chairs and I put them back in the basket. Well, today a small ball rolled under the stove and we had to go fishing for it with a broom handle. Now, let me preface this by saying that I do regularly clean under the stove and have even found cat toys under it before. The ball was in the far, back corner and took awhile to get out. In the process we unearthed five or six little stuffed mice! I understand that the cats batted them under the stove, but I have no idea how they all ended up so far back! Luckily it wasn't too dirty under there and the mice were all still in good condition. Our cats are so spoiled and now have a full basket of mice to play with. Oh, well. At least they didn't hide the real thing under the stove!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Reusing Plastic Containers

Many restaurants put take-out food in rather sturdy plastic containers. In my opinion these are much better than styrofoam containers because they are recyclable and, often, reusable. I've actually found these containers to be sturdier and more useful than containers I've bought in stores. The next time you bring home take-out in a plastic container try and reuse it. You'll save money on tupperware and help the environment at the same time.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hot Soup on a Cold Day

What can be better on a snowy day than curling up with a nice bowl of hot soup and looking out the window? Actually, in addition to soup this evening I made cornbread. I wanted to try something different so I got the inspiration from this recipe. It turned out great! Oddly enough, as a person who loves spicy food, spicy cornbread never occurred to me. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Make a Child Smile

After I wrote this post about the Red Scarf Project it occurred to me that I haven't shared with you some of the other organizations that I support. Make a Child Smile is a website I stumbled upon about nine years ago and I've been checking it monthly ever since. Each month they post brief biographies of three featured children, each with serious medical conditions. The idea is that anyone can send these children (and their siblings) notes, cards and gifts that will brighten their lives a bit. I don't send things every month, but when I have time I send cards or handcrafted items. I encourage you to check it out!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dos and Don'ts of Decorative Soap

I spent the day helping my mother-in-law take down her holiday decorations. Among these are two decorative soaps. I unpacked them for her in December and packed them back up today. Apparently, since these are decorative soaps, they are to be used as decorations and never as soaps. I don't get it. I understand the concept of decorative soaps, but in my world after they serve their purpose decoratively they serve their purpose practically - I use them as soap.

When I was young I had a number of relatives who had decorative soaps in their bathrooms. I never understood their purpose. Once I asked my aunt if I could use one to wash my hands and she was horrified. How dare I even suggest it? After that I never asked to use them again.

Out of curiosity I asked my mother-in-law how long she had been unpacking and packing back up these soaps. Can you guess how long? Apparently these soaps (which no longer smell interesting - they just smell old) were given to her as a gift by a good friend. Over 30 years ago.

That's right, 30 years.

I was a bit speechless. I suggested that perhaps she might want to consider letting the soaps go. She's considering it. By that I mean she packed them back up and, when she unpacks them next year, she might decide to let them go. If they weren't 30 years old I would have suggested that she just use them as soap. Now they're just trash.

Soap must be sturdy stuff, to last that long!

This situation makes me wonder about my candles. My mother-in-law gives me a holiday-appropriate candle every year (snowball, Christmas tree, candy cane.) I usually display each candle during the holiday season and burn it soon after. Isn't that what you're supposed to do with candles? Now I'm wondering if these candles were meant as permanent decorations. Little waxy statues. Lots of fun.

Red Scarf Project

Since I just mentioned my lack of craft projects in January, I was pleased to come across this. If you knit or crochet this is a fast and easy way to help out foster children who are going to college. The deadline is at the end of the month, so, quick, knit up a scarf!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Have you delurked?

I must admit, that was the first time I used the word delurked in a sentence! Is it actually a word? I've been reading about delurking week, so I thought I would do a quick post and mention it. If you're an occasional reader and would like to comment, go ahead and do so. Make sure to link to your blog so I can return the favor! If you would like to continue lurking (as I know many of you do), be my guest. I certainly do enough lurking of my own. I try to comment when I have something to say, but more often than not I just read! Anyhow, happy delurking!

Pre-made Sandwiches

And by pre-made I don't mean take a loaf of bread and make sandwiches ahead of time! :) I try to bake bread weekly, although I do freeze loaves for when I get busy. When I'm on top of things we don't always run out of bread before I need to make more. Here's something I do when making the dough for two loaves of bread:

Put half the dough in a bread pan to rise. Take the other half and divide it into small balls (I usually end up with about 16.) Roll each ball out like a tortilla, and don't worry about making them round. Take your sandwich fillings (I usually use cheese and soy ham) and put on the flat "tortillas." Fold the sides of each "tortilla" underneath it so the fillings won't leak when baked. Bake along with your bread, but for about half the time. When they're done they should look like dinner rolls.

These make great sandwiches. You can eat them cold or hot and either freeze or refrigerate them. Other filling suggestions are peanut butter and jelly, pizza toppings, or barbeque (soy barbeque, in my case.)


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Furoshiki Update

I promised an update on the Furoshiki method of wrapping, which I wrote about here. I wrapped most of my gifts this year using the second diagram (Yotsu Musubi) and was pleasantly surprised. The gifts looked lovely. I highly recommend fabric wrapping whenever possible. I used to tie the packages up with ribbons but this way is faster and easier for people to unwrap!

Monday, January 08, 2007


For many people January is a time for resolutions. For me it means new projects! I do a lot of knitting and sewing, and many of my projects throughout the year are for other people. After the busy holiday season I usually have most of my projects wrapped up and I'm ready for new things to work on. This year I still have several sewing projects for things around the house, but I have no knitting projects in the works. I like to have projects to work on while watching movies. I wanted something fast and simple, so I decided to make this. I like everything about it except the name. Snood? Questionable. I'm selfishly knitting it for myself. I rarely make things for myself, but I was needing a new winter hat so I think this fits the bill. I'm using scrap yarn (Bernat Soft Boucle) so there's no extra cost and I should be done with it soon so I'll be able to enjoy it this winter! I'll let you know if it's as cozy as it looks.

Blogs I Enjoy

I've added a few blogs I enjoy so go check them out if you're interested! I'm by no means done, but my time is limited.

Unanticipated Absence

My apologies to those of you who take the time to regularly check in here. Although I realized that I would have to take some time off around the holidays, my internet provider sped up the process for me! We had unreliable internet service for several weeks. We have finally corrected the problem, but are still less than happy with our service. Oh, well. When you live in the woods there are limited choices.

I plan to make up for my absence by adding some new features. My long-awaited links, which I've been meaning to add for awhile, should be going up this week. Want to be added? Comment here and I'll check out your blog. I'm also toying with the idea of book reviews. My posts about moving seem to be the most popular, so I'll try to do more of those.

On that note I'm off to do other things, but check back later for a real, honest-to-goodness post!