Saturday, January 24, 2015

What Is This Blog Anyway?

Someone asked me once, what I blog about.  My response was, "Ummm.  Home stuff."  I couldn't really put my finger on my main topic.  I read food blogs, DIY blogs, photography blogs, sewing blogs, garden blogs, and interior design blogs.  I love them all!  When I think about my own blog, it doesn't fit neatly into any of those categories.

I write about antiques I collect and where I put them in my house.

I share recipes I've come up with.

I do share home decor once in a while.

I always enjoy sharing sewing tutorials.

Probably one of my favorite topics to post about is gardening.

So, what is this blog anyway?  I'd say it's a Homemaking blog.  I majored in Family and Consumer Science in college (along with getting my teaching degree) and I've always loved everything about FCS (formerly home economics).  I also love the mission of FCS, which is to help people improve the quality of their lives.  I guess that's "kind of" my mission here.  My hope is to inspire someone who doesn't sew, to break out the sewing machine and give it a try.  I'd love to see someone try a recipe I've posted here and realize that cooking from scratch isn't too hard.  Wouldn't that be cool?  I think so, which is why I blog and am so thrilled when I get an email from a friend who tells me I've inspired them to try something new.  

I may not be a food blogger or garden blogger.  You may not consider this place a sewing blog or DIY blog, but it's a pretty fun Homemaking blog to write.

Happy homemaking!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Documenting Life Through Pictures of Toys

I read the greatest blog post yesterday.  It was on the Clickin Moms site.  Click here to take you to the post. In the post, the author shares several photos of her kids' toys.  I loved this idea!  It's just what I needed as a little inspiration. Everything outside is a dreary shade of brown or gray right now and, to be honest, my kids are really sick of posing for pictures. Taking pictures of their toys is the perfect way to document where my kids are in their stages of life, without eye rolling and foot stomping.  I can't wait to get started.

Be prepared to see lots of pictures of stuffed animals.  I think my daughter may be a hoarder.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Not So Formal Living Room - There.

I'll start this post with a side story...

Many years ago, when I was going to college and living with my sister, I remember a conversation we had about the way people look when they are ready to leave the house.  My sister said something about how sometimes people just surprise her  because we all know that they look in the mirror at themselves, finish fixing up their hair or their makeup, and then say, "There." Our conversation was about how sometimes people just need to take another look before saying, "There." Maybe a second look would prompt them to see that their hair was not quite "there-worthy" yet.

Years later, we still use "there" in our conversations, on regular basis.  My sister and my mom see my constant rearranging of furniture or painting of rooms and ask, "When are you just going to say THERE and be done?"  I would love to say there.  I would love to be done.  But I can't.  I'm just never to that point where I'm backing out of my living room, looking at a beautiful space, and ready to utter that one little word, "There."

Well, maybe, just maybe... today might be the day.

You see, I bought some new chairs for the living room about 3 years ago.  As much as I loved them in the living room, I found that we really NEEDED them in the family room.  I moved them over to family room and they served (pushed together) as our make-shift couch for the past few years.  Well, just this week my new couch for the family room arrived, freeing up my chairs to go back to their rightful home in the living room.

I love that this room has plenty of seating now.  It looks warm and inviting.

There is still plenty of space for games and activities on the floor, but adults aren't forced to sit on the floor because of lack of chairs.  I think it's a pretty good looking space and I may even venture so far as to see that it looks complete.

 I'm looking at this space today and tentatively saying

Yep.  There.

Monday, January 12, 2015

LeapFrog Delivery

The greatest delivery in the history of free deliveries was waiting on my porch today!  I can't wait to play around with the LeapPad 3.  I use the LeapPads in my classroom and the kids LOVE them. Plus, I have 5 new games to try out that are perfect for Kindergarten.  

I reviewed the LeapTV a while back (which is really awesome) and after posting my reviews, LeapFrog said they would be sending me the ultimate goody package.  Well, I'd say this really is the ULTIMATE goody package!  Oh, what a happy mail day this is!!!  Thank you, LeapFrog, for making me such a happy teacher!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I always struggle a bit this time of year.  I just can't stand the dark, gray, gloom that surrounds the Pacific Northwest during the winter months.  (Who am I kidding... it's most months here.)  Don't get me wrong, we have beautiful days here and there, but for the most part it's pretty gray around here.  I love being outside and working in my yard, but this time of year everything has died and there is just a muddy mess of leaves that we didn't get around to picking up and skid marks of mud where we once had grass.

It's dreary, Friends.

My husband and I were chatting last week, while we were both home and vacation, and as I looked outside on our muddy lawn I said, "Well, at least we don't feel the pressure to hurry up and enjoy the sunshine, because we know it won't last too long, or feel the need to work in the yard every weekend."

 My attention turns to inside this time of year and making a cozy and inviting place for my family.  I focus more on cooking, baking, cleaning, organizing, and decorating than weeding, planting, pressure washing, and dead-heading.

As I was feeling down about the gray and rain again today, I reminded myself how much I LOVE home.  I want my home to wrap my kids and husband with coziness.  I want it filled with smells of good food and the sounds of laughter.  It's a happy place, and do you know what?  It's not so bad to be trapped inside because of the gray and gloom.

 It's a time to nest a bit and create as many memories inside the house as we do outside.

Home is a good place to be.

Happy Homemaking!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Wood Burning Fireplace

When we moved to our house, 10 years ago, I was thrilled that we had a wood burning fireplace.  I've always loved the crackling sound of a roaring fire and I know the trend is to rip those out and replace them with gas.  I understand that gas is convenient and that it's much easier to flip a switch for warmth than it is to play Boy Scout and build the perfect fire, but there's just something about a real fire that I love.

Two years ago, when we were having our chimney cleaned, the chimney service let us know that there was some damage that needed to be fixed.  We have a broken cap and some of the wood is rotting.  At $1,500 for repairs, we didn't jump on the idea of having those repairs done right away.  This year, when we had our chimney cleaned (by a different company) they told us the same thing and the suggested fee for repair was about the same as well.  That news got us thinking that maybe we should just look into swapping out for a gas insert.  Then, the repairs at the top of the chimney wouldn't matter because it would vent in a completely different way.

My friend, Diane, is in the middle of a big flooring, fireplace, and fireplace tile remodel so she asked if I wanted to go shopping with her over the weekend.  We found some very pretty gas inserts, but with my particular situation, the glass (viewing area for the actual fire) would need to be pretty small.  That was the first strike against this new plan.  Then came the really bad news.  We went to three different places and found that it would cost between $3,000 and $4,000. Sheesh!  We don't mind a DIY project now and then, but DIY of fire and gas lines does not sound like something we will be tackling any time soon, so there would be no chance of cutting the cost.  That was the second strike.  I had pretty much made up my mind that this would not be happening, so I tossed the brochures and built myself a cozy fire last night.  Third strike, Friends.  I just really, really, like a wood burning fireplace.  I know, I know... a gas fireplace would increase the value of my home and it's much more convenient but I also know that it's 3 strikes and you're out.  The wood burning fireplace will be staying.

The fluffy guy loves curling up by the fire too.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

Warm chocolate chip cookies on a cold night... what could be better? How about a warm chocolate chip cookie wrapped into a pie?  I made a chocolate chip cookie pie a few years ago and my hubby didn't like it too much.  Well, I've revamped my recipe and I think this is a winner.  I took it, along with an apple pie, to Thanksgiving and the kids fought over the last piece on Leftover Eating Day.  Yes, our family devotes an entire dinner party just to eating leftovers.
1 unbaked pie crust (I always make my own)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place butter and shortening in a bowl and beat together.  Add brown sugar and white sugar. Beat. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix together.  Add flour and salt and stir until mixed together.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Pour into unbaked pie shell.  As the pie is baking, I sprinkle a few more mini chocolate chips onto the pie. (The chocolate sinks to the bottom of the pie as it bakes, so this makes it pretty on top.) Bake at 350 for 55 minutes. 
Enjoy your warm cookie pie!
Happy baking!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I've decided I'm a soup snob.  I don't like canned soup anymore.  I will still eat canned soup if I have to, but I would much rather have homemade.  It snowed on Saturday, and of course that means I was craving soup.  I made two soups, one for lunch and one for dinner.  Soup #1 was a Loaded Baked Potato.  I found a couple of recipes on Pinterest, but neither was exactly what I wanted so I concocted this yummy treat.

1 pound bacon
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
3 yellow potatoes, diced (leave skins on)
3 red potatoes, diced (leave skins on)
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups cream
2 cups milk
sour cream and cheese for garnish

Cook bacon and set aside.
Heat olive oil.
Add onion, carrots, celery, and diced potatoes.  Cook until soft.
Add 2 Tbsp butter and melt.
Add flour and mix together.
Add chicken stock and stir until lumps are gone.
Slowly add cream and milk.  Cook until thick.

I love bacon in this soup, but I don't like smooshy bacon.  I added the bacon to the soup at the last minute so it would stay crunchy.  Then, I topped the soup with more bacon (you can never have enough bacon), shredded cheddar cheese, and a little sour cream.

It's the perfect cold day lunch, friends.  

Happy soup making!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hot Cocoa Station

The Hot Cocoa Station has made its return!

Every year, about this time, I set out a tray with everything we need to make a cup of cocoa after school.  My kids like Nestle Quick hot cocoa mix that you make with milk.  We also add marshmallows and sprinkles just for fun.  

This year, I let my 13 year old take the picture of our hot cocoa station.  He just finished up photography class in middle school and I thought it would be fun for him to play around with bokeh a bit.  He started by taking just a regular picture with the tree in the background.  I suggested he get the tripod and then gave him a few settings to try.  I was kind of proud of myself because it's not too often you will hear, "Whoa, that's so cool!" when a 13 year old is directing a comment toward his mom.  Yep, I made that happen!  I might need to mark this day on the calendar.

The cocoa station that sat on our kitchen table last Christmas had candy canes and Christmas mugs too.  So many choices, so little time.

If you have kids, set up a cocoa station for them!  It's really cute and it's the highlight of a cold winter day!

When Rolls Don't Rise Fast Enough

On Thanksgiving I was assigned rolls for both of the parties we were going to.  Cinnamon rolls were for one party and dinner rolls were for the other.  I ran into a little problem with my timing.  It has been SO cold out lately and my house wasn't as toasty as usual, so my rolls weren't rising as quickly as I would have liked.  

Enter my favorite trick for helping rolls rise faster:

The heating pad.

I placed the heating pad under the rolls and turned it to high.  The yeast in the rolls like heat, which makes them rise quickly.

Most of the time, when I'm making bread or rolls, I have the oven on and I can just set the pan of rising rolls on the stove top.  Since my oven wasn't going, this was a great way to get the rolls off of the cold counter top and start doing their thing.

While we're sharing tips and tricks, I always use my old bread machine on the DOUGH CYCLE to make my bread and roll dough.  It saves so much time.  I throw the ingredients in, set it to dough, and it beeps at me when it has had enough time to mix and rise.

I know a lot of people don't bake with yeast because it's kind of scary.  Yeast is tricky because you have to make sure your ingredients are warm, not too hot and not too cold.  But, I'm here to tell you that it's really not that hard.  Oh, and once you have your heating pad out you might as well put it on a comfy chair and snuggle up to watch a good show on tv.

Happy baking and stay warm!


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