Friday, April 26, 2013

Fitness Fridays

Every now and then we need some motivation to keep up going on our exercise and healthy eating plan.  With that in mind, I want to share a really cool link I discovered.  You enter in your current height weight and frame as well as your goal weight and it gives you a rendering of the two sizes.  I think it is great for two reasons:
  1. Most of us have body dysmorphia and are not as HUGE as we are convinced we are.  It is nice to see what you really look like now, size wise.
  2. You can see the difference your goal loss will make which can be very inspiring.
While I think this is a super neat tool, I do have a couple of problems with it:
  1. It does not have an option to add mommy belly or stretch marks, so the virtual me is not quite accurate (see below).
  2. Her shoes are just awful.
If you are needing some inspiration for your workouts or to skip the ice cream check it out!

 My Current WeightMy Goal Weight

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Double Chocolate Chip Crunch Bars

For those of you who are fans of my Healthy Peanut Butter Crunch Bars.  I did up a twist.  These are like thin, crunchy brownies. 
I used a really cool product, PB2 powdered peanut butter, in place of the regular peanut butter I used in the original.  It is simply peanuts pressed to remove most of the fat and oil then mixed with sugar and salt.  All you do is add water to form a creamy spread.  Two tablespoons contains 45 calories and 1 gram of fat compared to 210 calories and 17 grams of fat in regular peanut putter (Peter Pan).  You can find it at the health food store.  (I recommend PB2 over other brands, they are sweetened with coconut sugar and not as good.)

Double Chocolate Chip Crunch Bars
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1/4 c. rolled oats
1/8 c. cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. wheat germ
2 tsp. chia seeds, optional
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (I like chocolate and cinnamon, if you don't, skip it)
1/8 tsp. instant espresso powder (just to bump up the chocolate flavor)
4 Tbsp. PB2 +2 Tbsp. water, combined to form a spread
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large egg white
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. mini chocolate chips
Line a 9"x13" baking dish with foil and spray lightly with non-stick spray.
Stir together flours, oats, cocoa, germ, chia seeds, salt, cinnamon and espresso powder in a small bowl.
Combine peanut butter spread, sugar, oil, egg white and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat on medium speed using a hand mixer until creamy, about 2 minutes.
Add dry ingredients to peanut butter mixture and beat on low until combined. Mixture will be like play dough.
Press into prepared pan, flattening with palms.  If it is sticking to your hands, dampen them with water.
Sprinkle chips over top.
Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes. Cool completely.
Break into 18 pieces.  I scored it with a knife and then tried to break along the lines

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

The maid is tired today, so you kind of get a cop-out post.
I am claustrophobic.  A cluttered house makes me crazy.  I am always looking for ways to organize the chaos and make it a little more bearable.
No matter how much counter space you have, it never seems like enough so I like to keep them as clear as possible.  One item that takes up a huge amount of counter space is a dish drain rack.  Even with a dishwasher, sometimes you need to hand wash things.  Big things, things that will melt or simply too many dirty dishes to fit in the washer at one time (don't be fooled, I don't usually wash those by hand, I leave them and run a second load in the dishwasher).  But you don't need it out all the time so I came up with an easy way to store it when you are not using it:

I put up a couple of removable sticker hooks on the inside of my cabinet under the sink and hung my rack right on it.  Now it is off my counter but within easy reach and not taking up too much precious cabinet space.  Now to find an easy way to hide the rest of my crap...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fitness Fridays - Oldies but Goodies

When thinking about exercise, it is easy to get caught up in all the "new" workouts out there.  However, some of the best moves are ones you will probably remember from gym class.  These can be a great addition to your circuit training repertoire.  One of the most important factors in any workout is change.  It keeps your body from getting efficient and your mind from getting bored.  Here are some of my favorite "classic" moves.  
  1. Jumping Jacks-works your total body including your cardiovascular system, start with 2-3 reps of 25
  2. Chair Dips-works primarily your triceps, a great modification is to put your feet on a chair too then you will work legs and core as well, try 2-3 reps of 10-15
  3. Plank-works your core like nobody's business, try holding for 1 minute
  4. High Knees-fast or slow, your legs and butt will BURN, try to keep it moving for 3 reps of 60 seconds each
  5. Leg Lifts-don't laugh, inner and outer thighs will benefit greatly, try 3 reps of 10 each leg
  6. Wall Sits-oh the burn, try it on your toes to hit your entire lower body, 60 seconds at a time
  7. Mountain Climbers-everything, especially your core will tighten up with these, go for 60 second intervals
  8. Step Ups-lower body with a cardio benefit, go hard for 60 second bursts
  9. Jump Rope-there is a reason boxers do it, it is great cardio and jumping is more intense than you remember, use it as a warm up to get your blood pumping and all your muscles going
  10. Sit Ups-yup, they work, be sure to do them on a mat or carpeted surface, I tuck my toes under my couch to help keep my feet on the floor, try 3 reps of 25-30

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lining a Crochet Purse

Lining a knit or crochet bag is a very important step.  It helps protect the bag from damage, keeps it from stretching out and since these bags tend to have little holes, the lining helps keep your items inside.
Luckily, it is a really easy thing to do.  Here is how I do it.

First, I lay my finished purse on two layers of the lining fabric.  Using a pen, I draw a line about 1/2" outside the edges of the bag.  This does not have to be perfect.  No one will open out the lining and say "Oh my!  You're lining is crooked!"  If they do, slap them.  Tell the cops I said it was fine.
Next, with right sides together, sew around the outside edges of the lining.  Do not sew across the top.
Tuck the sewn lining into the purse, with the wrong side of the lining facing the inside of the bag. 
Turn the top edge in toward the bag and whip stitch the lining to the bag around the top.
For this bag, I started my lining right under the handles.  Don't go above the handles or you won't be able to use them.  Sounds like common sense, but I've been in a rush and done it.  Can't be pretty and smart.

See?  Simple.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Simple Crochet Purse

For Christmas I made my cousin's girls craft bags with their initials on them (see the post here).  Unfortunately, I have apparently been spelling one of the girl's names incorrectly for years.  Yeah.  When I realized her name was Kaydee not Caydee, I felt like a toad.  I apologized profusely and promised to make her another bag.  She was absolutely sweet and very forgiving.  I was a toad.

I decided to make her something completely different that takes way more effort to try to redeem myself.  Here is what I made her!

Simple Crochet Purse

Here is a link to the original pattern I used.
I made some changes starting with the pattern of the mid section.  The shell pattern used in the original, was a bit open and loose for what I had in mind.  Here is the pattern I used on the middle section of my purse (the lavender).
Round 1: sc in each stitch around
Round 2: ch3, skip first sc *skip next sc, dc in next sc, dc in skipped sc working over and enclosing previous dc (crossed dc made), dc in next sc.  Repeat from * around.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until desired height.  I did my middle section shorter than the original because I wanted a purse size, not a sack. 
Continue on with top section of original pattern.
When I was finished I added a lining to the bag.  That sounds like a good Thursday post...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

I have a husband who loves technology, therefore I have six flat screen TVs.  I have children who love to be dirty little monkey's, therefore I have six flat screen TVs with fingerprints all over them.
Here is how to clean them off properly.

Hopefully you can see the toddler sized schmears all over the playroom TV screen.
You will need:
a mixture of 1/8 c. water and 1/8 c. alcohol
2 microfiber cloths
Step 1:  Dampen one of your cloths with the alcohol solution.  I mean damp.  Squeeze as much out as you can.
Step 2:  Wipe down the TV with the damp cloth.  I do it all, screen, sides, top, back, everything.
Step 3:  Use your other cloth to dry the television.
Squeaky clean.  Until nap time is over.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Healthy Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

Frequently, the word "healthy" is a misnomer.  I come across many supposedly "healthy" recipes that have really no redeeming qualities.  Sure, reducing fat and calories is a good thing, but on sugar and flour filled confections I would simply call that "less bad".
When I came across this recipe, I loved that it not only used very little oil and sugar as well as only egg white, but it also contains whole wheat flour, wheat germ and chia seeds (If you don't know chia seeds, you must be introduced!).  This makes them high in fiber and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  I count that as healthy, no quotes required.

Healthy Peanut Butter Crunch Bars
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1/4 c. rolled oats
1 Tbsp. wheat germ
2 tsp. chia seeds, optional
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. creamy natural peanut butter
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large egg white
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted (about 2 small squares)
Line a 9"x13" baking dish with foil and spray lightly with non-stick spray.
Stir together flours, oats, germ, chia seeds, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Combine peanut butter, sugar, oil and egg white in a medium bowl and beat on medium speed using a hand mixer until creamy, about 2 minutes.
Add dry ingredients to peanut butter mixture and beat on low until combined.  Mixture will be like damp sand.
Press into prepared pan, flattening with palms.
Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes until golden.  Cool completely.
Drizzle with melted chocolate and allow chocolate to harden.
Break into 18 pieces.  Yes I mean break.  It does not cut well.  I scored it with a knife and then tried to break along the lines.
***These are 2 Weight Watcher Points Plus per square***
***I did not invent these.  See the original recipe here.***

***Like this recipe?  Check out my Double Chocolate Chip version here.***

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fitness Fridays

What is your worst thing about wearing a swimming suit?  Belly jiggle?  Bat wings?  Butt that looks like it survived a hail storm?  Inner thighs that rub together?  Ouch.  Abrasive. 

Here is a cool modified squat that hits all those trouble spots.  Butt, arms, thighs, core.  Boom.

 Illustration of wide-stance arm swing
Step 1:  Stand with feet a little more than shoulder width apart and point your toes out slightly.  Hold a dumbbell (5-12 lbs. depending on your fitness level) in front at waist level.
Step 2:  Keeping your arms straight, lift the weight to shoulder height as you lower slowly into a squat.  Hold for 2 counts and then slowly return to the starting position.
***Always maintain control of your movements.  NO swinging!***

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Winey Wednesdays

I came home last night, tired and hungry.  I decided to sample the wine of the week while I made dinner.  Let me just say, a big glass of wine (this week is a good one) on an empty stomach did me in.  We will just pretend today is Wednesday and I can hold my alcohol.

This week's wine is one of my most favorite so far.  It has a cool name, the label is pretty and best of all, I liked the wine!  The label describes it as being a "deeply concentrated wine" and I know I drank it on an empty stomach, but WOW it hit me hard!  The label also says this Chardonnay is "fresh and vibrant" (I agree) "delivering bright tropical pineapple, pear and melon with clean citrus and a touch of vanilla" (very fruity and slightly creamy).
Here is my two cents:  This wine is bright and fruity with a subtle bite (burn).  Is is extremely flavorful and pretty rich for a white wine.  All in all a darn good wine.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

German Apple Pancake

Want a new dish to add to your weekend breakfast rotation?  Try this easy oven pancake.  It is started in a skillet on the stove, then finished off in the oven.  The original is made with apples, but it would be amazing with blueberries, peaches or plums (or some of each!).  No fresh fruit?  Try replacing the apples with dried fruit and a little water to plump them up.  The possibilities are endless, making this a very versatile breakfast option and a yummy way to use up whatever fruit you have on hand!

German Apple Pancake
1/2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. granular sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2/3 c. half and half (I used milk)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter
3-4 apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (I used LOTS more)
Move oven rack to the upper-middle position and pre-heat to 500 degrees.
Whisk flour, granular sugar and salt together in a medium bowl.
Whisk together eggs, half and half (or milk) and vanilla together in a small bowl. 
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk until no lumps remain.  Set aside.
Melt butter in a 10" oven safe non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add apples, brown sugar and cinnamon and cook until fruit is golden brown and syrupy (about 10 minutes).  Take off heat.
Spread apple mixture evenly around pan.
Quickly pour batter over and around apples and immediately place in pre-heated oven. 
Reduce heat to 425 degrees and bake 18 minutes, until puffed and golden at the edges.
***You can dust this with powdered sugar or serve with syrup, but I think it is sweet enough by itself.***
The original recipe can be found in one of my favorite cookbooks The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook .

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

My dishwasher should change careers and become a vacuum because it sucks (I know.  Hardy har har.).  I find it so hard to understand HOW an appliance whose only job is to clean, can get so stupidly dirty.  Today I MUST clean my dishwasher so, I will show you how I do it then you can go clean yours. 
What?  YOUR dishwasher is immaculate and ALWAYS cleans your dishes perfectly?!  I bet your children are always well behaved and you wear a size two and never eat sugar or carbs too.  Cough, liar, cough.

How to Clean a Dishwasher
Step 1:  Remove the top rack jet arm thingy (This is a very exact and detailed description, obviously.).  To do this, see what kind of screw is holding it on.  You pretty much have to climb in and see.  Be careful, I took a rogue squirt of water to the eyeball. 
Mine looked like a phillips, but was actually a star shape.  Luckily, I married an EXTREMELY manly man who owns at least one of every type of screwdriver made and if he doesn't, he will happily go buy more. 
Now check to see if any other arms are easily removable.  The arm that hangs directly from the top of my dishwasher simply snaps on and off, so I removed that, but my bottom arm did not seem to easily come out, so I left it in.
Step 2:  Fill your sink with hot, soapy water and put in the removed pieces to soak.  I also added in a splash of bleach as my jet arms were especially nasty. 
Step 3:  While your parts are soaking, scrub the icky parts of the dishwasher.  For me, it was the sides of the rack extenders, the crevices at the bottom of the door and the rubber seals.  I use a toothbrush dipped in the water you filled the sink with.  As the toothbrush gets icky, I just rinse it off in that same soaking water.  If you need a little more cleaning power, squirt additional dish liquid on the brush like toothpaste and scrub away.
Step 4:  Once the parts have soaked for a while, use your toothbrush to scrub them clean.  Use a toothpick or skewer to clean any gunk from the holes.  Run clean water through to be sure all the holes are free of clogs.
Step 5:  Put the arms back in your dishwasher.  Fill a mug with 1 c. of vinegar and place it, right side up, on the bottom rack.  Run the heaviest cleaning cycle your washer offers. 
Step 6:  Sprinkle 1 c. baking soda into the bottom of the dishwasher and again run the heaviest cycle.
Step 7:  If needed, add a couple of tablespoons of bleach to your dishwasher and run again.  Mine did not need this added step this time, but if yours was particularly grimy (or you make a lot of tomato sauce), it might.
That is it!  It takes about half a day due to the repeated cycles, but it is worth it to have dishes that come out cleaner than they go in!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Simple Suppers-Tuna Cakes

Ever get home from work at 7:30 only to find a pack of hungry animals waiting for you at the door?  I know, the story of your life.  Mine too. 

These cakes are easy, fast and you probably have everything you need to make them on hand.  Make some mac and cheese and a side of peas and you are golden.

Tuna Cakes
2 cans tuna packed in water, drained
1 c. bread crumbs, divided
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 onion, grated
1 egg
1 Tbsp. mayo
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt (I would use more, but I like things heavily seasoned)
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. oil
Set aside 1/2 c. of the breadcrumbs.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and let sit for a few minutes so the breadcrumbs can soften up and do their gluey job.
While mix is sitting, heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
When pan is almost ready, start making cakes.  I used about a handful of the mixture for each cake and it made six cakes.
Dredge the formed cakes in the additional crumbs and place in the hot pan.  Cook about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy.
***You don't have a stock of breadcrumbs?  Whaaaaat?  Check out my breadcrumb post NOW!***
***Want to make perfect cakes?  Form an "okay" sign using your middle finger and thumb.  Fit your ball of tuna mix in the circle and, using your fingers as a guide, pat your cake to fit.*** 
***Scared your kids (or husband) won't eat them?  One word.  Ketchup.***

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fitness Fridays

Bathing suits are here!  Went to Target and staring me down as soon as I walked in were a slew of bikinis.  Jerks.  Just thinking about them makes me suck in and realize that might not fix the problem (problem being I have carried three people in my stomach).

So today, for the reasons stated above, we are back to abs.  One of the coolest and best ab exercises I have found is a variation of the plank.  All by itself the plank is tortuously fantastic, but this one added move makes it wicked good. 

Start in the traditional plank position, on your toes, forearms on the floor. 

Alternate bending each leg to the side, bringing your knee to your waist, still maintaining plank position with your arms and other leg.

That is it!  Seems simple, right?  Try it and let me know how that works out for you.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Winey Wednesdays

Today I am shakin' things up.  Today, I am talking about beer.

I HATE beer.  Unless I am drunk, but that could be said of many things.

My brother-in-law came over to visit with a six pack of Blue Moon and some OJ.  This is the best thing, he says.  You will love it, he says.  Beer and orange juice is the bomb, he says.

Beer and orange juice?  Really?  Sick.

Try it, he says.  I take a Squidward sip (Not up on your Spongebob references?  Lucky you.).  I take a regular sip.  I steal his beer. 

Beer and orange juice.  Really.

My brother-in-law says you must use Blue Moon or it is not as good.  Something about it being a wheat ale maybe?  I trust him on this because he is engaged to a bartender so, yeah.

Anyhoo, Blue Moon with a splash of orange juice is rocking my world this week.  SUPER good.  Try it with orange pineapple juice too.  Yum!

DIY Curtains #2

One of my most popular posts is my first curtain tutorial.  I am guessing the reason for this is people want custom curtains but custom curtains are so dang expensive.

My house has HUGE windows.  Like, I need over 84" long curtains, huge.  Like, I would have to special order them, huge.  Like, it would cost $50 per panel for boring curtains, huge. That is why I make my own curtains. I can use any fabric and make them any size AND it is easy.  Here is how I made the curtains for my smallest persons room.  I will give you my specific measurements, but this is more about the technique I use so you can come up with your own measurements to fit your particular window.

Banded Curtain Panels
First, you need to decide on the dimensions of your curtain.  I measure over my window starting where I want the top of the curtain to be and measuring down to where I want the bottom to be.  This is your finished length.  If you already have a curtain rod up, hook the end of the tape measure on the rod when measuring.  This will give you the length to the top of the rod pocket.
For the width, I often use the entire width of the fabric.  It makes life easier.  If this is not an option (like if you have a freakishly narrow window) a safe estimate is to measure the width and multiply it by 2.  This is the TOTAL amount of fabric you will need to cover the window and still have a good amount of gathering at the top.  If you are making two panels, that means EACH panel should be about the width of the window.
**My finished curtain measurements are: length-86" and width- 50"**
Now, it is time to calculate cutting measurements.  I am a visual person, so I usually draw a picture.  It doesn't have to be pretty, it just helps me remember to add in all my seam allowances.  Here is what my drawing for this project looked like:
See what I mean about not being pretty?  And yes, that is the back of an envelope.  And yes, that is a "to-do" list above it.  I decided to make my curtains using bands of three different fabrics.  On the left of the rectangular-ish curtain, you can see the length I want each finished band.  The top will be 4'2" (or 50"), the middle band will be 1' (12") and the bottom will be 2' (24").  To the right, you can see where I added in seam allowances, the bottom hem and the top hem which will include the extra 2" at the top for a ruffle (4" extra total for the front AND back of this ruffle) and the extra 2" to make the rod pocket on the back (This gives you a finished 1-1/2" pocket and 1/2" seam allowance below it.  If your rod is bigger, simply add more to this measurement.).  To break it down:
Top panel will be cut 56" long (50" to the top of the rod pocket+2" above pocket on front (ruffle)+2" above pocket on back (ruffle)+2" for rod pocket which includes the pocket (1-1/2") and the seam allowance on the bottom to make it (1/2"))
Middle panel will be cut 13" long (12" finished size+1/2" top seam allowance+1/2" bottom seam allowance)
Bottom panel will be cut 27" long (24" finished size+1/2 " top seam allowance+2-1/2" bottom hem)
**I just used the width of my fabric so I have no width measurements.  If you do, be sure to add a seam allowance for the side hems.
Now it is time to cut and assemble.  Cut out all your parts using the measurements you came up with.
Stitch the bands together and finish all your edges.  I have a serger, so I simply run my curtains through starting with the band seam allowances, then the sides and last the top and bottom.  If you do not have a serger, you can use pinking shears on all the raw edges.
This is one panel before I trimmed it down and finished the edges.  My yellow chevron fabric was not as wide as the others, so I simply butted it up to one side and trimmed off the extra after I stitched them together.
Now it is time to hem the sides.  I pressed 5/8" hem, up each side to the back.  Since I finished my edges with my serger, I did not fold any under.  I stitched up each side using a 1/2" seam allowance.
Next, I pressed under the 2-1/2" bottom hem and stitched across the top of the hem.
Last is the top.  I pressed under the 4" at the top edge that includes the 2" for the making of the rod pocket and the 2" for the back of the decorative ruffle at the top.  Stitch 2"down making that ruffle as well as the top of the rod pocket.  Then stitch another row 1-1/2" below that line of stitching, making the bottom of the rod pocket.  If you did everything right, you will have 1/2" of seam allowance under the rod pocket.
Now hang and enjoy knowing you saved some serious $$$$$$!
***Like my fabric?  You can find it and lots more here.***
***Want to see more DIY curtains?  Check out another of my tutorials here.***


Monday, April 1, 2013

Mondays With the Maid

I am revisiting my shower door today.  If you missed my first go at removing hard water build up, check it out here.  If you want to see me second have at it, look here.  The frustration has passed and I feel emotionally ready to try again.

I saw a commercial for Lime Away and thought what the hell?  Might as well try.

Here is a reminder of what my shower looked like:

Do you see Donny Most rising through the fog?  Sorry, obscure Family Guy reference. 

Those should be clear glass walls.  Unfortunately, years of lackluster cleaning by the previous owner (I swear), have left them unbelievably cloudy.  I have tried many, many cleaners (see posts above) with absolutely no luck.

Unfortunately, we can add Lime Away to that list.  This time I did just one spot, just in case all my work was helping but I couldn't tell because I did the whole thing.  Nope.  No difference.  At all. 

When my husband came home from work we started going over remodeling ideas.  I think that may be the only way there will be clear glass in my future.  Sigh.