Friday, May 31, 2013

Fitness Fridays

How are you enjoying the 30 day squat challenge?????  If you missed last weeks Fitness Friday, you can check it out here.  I am surprised at how much I like it.  I split mine up into sets of ten because as my sister the personal trainer pointed out, who wants to do hundreds of squats at once?
She was also kind enough to inform me of a 30 day AB challenge.  Holy cow, how did my painfully soft, mommy belly miss this?!  I went on the hunt and found it to share with all your mommy bellies (or daddy bellies because we all know it happens).

My sister the personal trainer points out that this is better than the 30 day squat challenge because it has a variety of exercises.  She will happy when she reads this because I have decided she and I should come up with a 30 day butt challenge (I am thinking of a new name because I am worried it could be taken wrong...).  I am thinking she is right about the whole monotony thing and it might be more enjoyable AND effective if we had four or five different moves.  I will keep you posted.  In the meantime, trash those abs!

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Ever have an "ah ha!" moment?  One of those where you really question your intelligence based on the idiotic way you've been doing something your entire life?  I had one last year while I was making stuffed peppers.  I was pregnant and tired and getting ready to haul out a big pot to pre-boil my peppers and I thought "Why the hell am I pre-cooking something that has to cook in the oven for like an hour anyway?"  Duh.

I had another one yesterday making huge quantities of cupcakes for my daughter's birthday.  I lined and sprayed all my pans and went to get a spoon to attempt to neatly fill the cups, knowing that after a few it would go completely to hell (I'm saying hell a LOT today...) and I would be cleaning the pans in a futile attempt to end up with clean liners.  And don't get me started on trying to dispense the batter evenly.  ANYWAY, I had an "ah ha!" moment and did this:

Do you see the stroke of brilliance?  I scraped the batter into a gallon Ziploc bag, cut off the corner and used it like a pastry bag to easily fill my liners cleanly and evenly!  Duh!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

I have some very cool old cookbooks from fundraisers for church's, city, schools and who knows what else.  These are some of my favorite places to find something yummy to make because they are usually full of tried and true family recipes.

I was going through one of my favorites and found this cake.  It reminded me of one of my biggest hits Too Much Chocolate Cake.  I had to make it.  Of course, I doctored it up because I can't resist the urge.  Holy cow was it good.  I mean G-O-O-D.  I mean, stock up on milk, good.  I mean, line up some cardio to offset the massive amount you will consume, good.

With only seven ingredients and no mixer required, this cake will be one of my new go-to, company's coming over desserts.  Try it out and I bet you will add it to your list too!  Happy baking!

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 box vanilla instant pudding
1/2 c. oil
4 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
6 oz. chocolate chips
1 bar German Chocolate (it is with the bars of chocolate in the baking aisle) grated, reserve 1/4 c. for topping
Mix together cake mix, pudding mix, oil, eggs, and buttermilk.
Stir in chips and grated chocolate.
Pour into well greased bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. 
DO NOT OPEN OVEN WHILE CAKE IS BAKING. I am not sure why, but the recipe said this and I didn't want to try it and find out because I really wanted to eat cake.
**If you want, you can make a simple glaze with 1 c. powdered sugar and 3 Tbsp. milk to drizzle over the cake***
**Sprinkle cooled cake with reserved chocolate shavings***

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fitness Fridays

I was at work putting in a set of extensions last night on a client I really enjoy.  That is a really good thing since we have to spend a LOT of time together considering an extension application takes 3 hours.  I digress (imagine that).  We were talking about working out and I was whining about my butt not being round and perky enough and she told be about the 30 day squat challenge.  She was shocked I had not heard of it since we are both big "pinners".
Of course, I had to look it up since I have a pear shaped body that also happens to have carried three humans.  If you are also feeling a little less than "bootylicious"  here are two great options I found. 

Or if you want a little less strenuous option:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chenille Baby Blanket

This is one of my new favorite baby gifts.  It is very simple to make (not FAST, simple) and very different from the normal afghans and quilts.  Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE to make afghans and quilts, but variety is the spice of life right?  Plus, I am an egomaniac and I LOVELOVELOVE when people "ohhh" and "ahhh" over what I've made.  This blanket gets a lot of ohh's and ahh's.  My mom loves them so much she wanted me to make her a big one.  Unfortunately, I don't think I can fit is into my sewing machine.  Maybe a pieced version is in our future...

Chenille Baby Blanket
What you need:
  • 1 yard of cotton fabric, I like to pick a print with some different color options
  • 3 yards of coordinating flannel, this is why I like to have options, I have used three different colors or all the same color, whatever you choose, you must have three, one yard panels
  • 1/2 yard of cotton fabric for binding
  • 3 spools of matching thread, yes three, remember I said easy, not fast
  • yardstick or similar long straight edge
  • ruler or measuring tape
  • fabric chalk or disappearing pen
  • scissors
What you do:
Pre-wash and dry all the fabric.  This is a very important step.  The types of fabric we are using shrink quite a bit and you don't want to end up with a Frankenstein blanket.
After washing, straighten the edges of the cotton panel.  If you wish to have the blanket smaller (some people like 36"x36"), crop it down.  I like a bigger blanket, so I go with the width of the fabric (usually 42"-45").  This makes my finished blanket about 41"x36"(I have to take off the printed selvage on the width and the length is 1 yard because that is how much fabric we bought).
Now you will lay out the layers of the blanket.  If you are using different colors of flannel, decide what order you want them to be in on your finished blanket.  I find the outside most layer of flannel will be the predominant color.
First, lay the cotton print, face down on a large work surface (I use the floor a lot).  Next, lay on the flannel you want to be the innermost color.  I line up one straight edge of each fabric, letting the other sides hang over (flannel fabrics are usually wider than printed cotton).  You just want to be sure the grains of the fabrics are running parallel to each other.
Now, flip the entire thing over being careful to keep them in place.  This is easier than it sounds because flannel is pretty grippy.  Pin all the layers together I pin about 6"-8" apart all over.  You want to keep shifting to a minimum.
If you cut your cotton panel into a 36" square, draw a line from corner to corner using chalk or disappearing ink.  If your blanket is not square (like mine) or you don't have a straight edge long enough to span that distance (like me), measure up one side 20" and make a small mark.  Measure up the adjoining side, starting at the same corner 20" and make another small mark.  Using your straight edge, connect these to marks in a straight line.  This line is your first stitching line.
Now sit at your sewing machine and get comfortable.  You will be here a while.  Sew along the line you marked.  Now sew lines parallel to this line, 1/2" apart across the entire blanket.  I kept a ruler handy to check my spacing at first, but you quickly get pretty good at eyeballing it. 

I do this in shifts and it does not seem painful at all.  Once you are done, trim the extra flannel from around the edges and check to make sure everything is straight.

The most stressful part of the whole project comes now.  Flip your trimmed blanket over and begin cutting the chenille.  To do this, you will cut through the three layers of flannel in a straight line between each line of stitching.  BE SURE NOT TO CUT THE COTTON OR YOU ARE SCREWED.  Go slow and be very careful.

Once all the chenille is cut, sew on the blanket binding.  See how I do mine here.

Wash and dry the blanket.  This is when the magic happens.  You will put in a weird looking, chopped up hunk of fabric and pull out a beautiful blanket backed with fluffy chenille.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Simple Suppers-Chicken Noodle Skillet

Need a quick and comforting meal for dinner tonight?  Chicken and noodles is one of my people's favorite dinners and this version is simple, fast and full of good stuff (and a can of Cream of Chicken soup, but you can't win them all right?).  You probably have everything you need on hand and it takes 20 minutes start to finish.  Boom.  Dinner.  Done.

Chicken Noodle Skillet

1 lb. chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1 Tbsp. oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup peeled, sliced carrots (about 3)
1 cup broccoli florets (I also peel and chop the stem and toss it in)
1-1/2 c. noodles
2 c. chicken broth
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 Tbsp. parsley

In a 12" nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until rippling.
Add chicken and onion and cook, stirring frequently until it is beginning to brown.
Stir in remaining ingredients, except parsley.
Heat to boiling, cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
Uncover and continue to simmer about 5 more minutes, until chicken is cooked through and noodles are tender.
Stir in parsley and serve!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Inan's Cookies

Last week I got to babysit my nephew Inan.  My sister was having her ducts cleaned and her treadmill worked on and sometimes Inan can't behave when strangers come over.

Kian and Inan followed each other around the house, watched cartoons and tormented my dogs.  Inan was being so good, we decided to make him cookies to take home and share with his sister Bailey. 

He could hardly wait for them to come out of the oven.  When they were finally done, he tried to grab a hot one right off the baking sheet, so his auntie (me) had to break it open and "hoooo" it so he could eat it right then.  He loved them so much, we had to keep them where he couldn't reach them so he didn't eat them all and get a belly ache!

Inan's Cookies
2 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cornmeal
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. oats
1/4 c. molasses
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Stir in molasses, oil, eggs and milk, until dough sticks together and there are no powdery spots.
Roll out onto a floured surface to 1/2" thickness and cut into desired shapes, re-rolling as necessary.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Turn oven off, leaving biscuits in oven for 20 minutes to harden.
***Did you guess?  Here is a picture of my handsome nephew...***

Monday, May 13, 2013

Make It Monday-Teething Ring Drool Catcher

I am tired of Monday's With the Maid (actually, tired of cleaning) and since it is my party, I decided to change it up.  Today I am going to show you how to make a really simple baby gift.  No joke, it will take you an hour...  if you are lucky enough to have an hour of un-interrupted work time.  As long as you know how to double crochet and hand sew, you are in business!

Teething Ring Drool Catcher

What You Need:
Cotton yarn (I use Sugar 'n Cream)
Crochet hook (I use H-5.00mm)
Velcro (about 1")
Teething Ring

What You Do:
ch 29
sc in 2nd ch from hook and each following ch to end of row (28 st)
Row 1: ch 2 turn, dc in first st, *sk1 dc in next st, dc in skipped stitch working in front of and around previously worked stitch, dc. Repeat to end.
Row 2:ch 1, turn. sc across
Repeat rows 1 and 2, 8 more times
Repeat row 1, leaving last 3 st unworked
Repeat row 2
Tie off
You will have a corner like this:
sc 3st down one side of the corner and sc 3 st across the other side. 6st
ch1, turn sc in each st
Repeat 11 times (13 rows)
This is the loop for the teether.
Tie off, weave in ends.
Sew Velcro to end of tab and base of tab.  I put the hook side on the tab and the loop side at the base.

Loop through a teether and you are done!
***Love this project, but don't crochet?  Look for a finished one in my Etsy store!***

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Good For You Blueberry Muffins

I came across this recipe in a Fine Cooking spin off magazine, Cook Fresh.  I liked that it used whole wheat flour to up the fiber and minerals, canola oil which is a heart-healthy option and applesauce which helps reduce the amount of fat AND sugar needed. 
Fat helps keep baked goods stay moist by surrounding the starch granules, protecting them from gluten development, locking in moisture.  The pectin in the fruit essentially does the same thing, helping keep these muffins tender and moist. 
However, the best part about these muffins (in my opinion) is the buttermilk.  I love love love to use buttermilk.  It gives a richness, lightness and tang that is fantastic.  Biscuits, cake, waffles, pancakes, muffins, bread, it's uses are limitless.
Make these muffins and pack them up in individual bags to keep in the freezer and pull one out on a hectic morning for a quick, moist, scrumptious breakfast.  They are excellent.

Good For You Blueberry Muffins
1 c. flour
1 c. whole-wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. canola oil
1 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
1-1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. buttermilk
1-1/2 c. blueberries
Whisk both flours, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a medium bowl.
Whisk the eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl until pale and slightly frothy. 
Add the applesauce, lemon zest and vanilla. 
Whisk in half the flour mixture, half the buttermilk, remaining flour mixture and remaining buttermilk, stirring until well incorporated after each addition.
Gently fold in the berries.
Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and divide batter evenly among cups, filling each to the top. 
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
Let cool 15 minutes then run a knife around the edges and invert to remove from pan.
***Don't like blueberries?  Try strawberries, diced peaches, or blackberries.***

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to Finish Wood Furniture

A year and a half ago, my husband bought me a big house to fill with small people.  It was a foreclosure and while in good shape, was VERY, VERY dated.  How dated?

LOTS of brass, laminate, golden oak and this weird blue and gray back splash.  Don't be jealous.
My first major project was to get on the whole "filling it with little people" thing.  See here.  That took up most of my first year in the house.  BUT, I am recovered and not pregnant again yet so I am busting my butt to get some stuff done!
The first thing people see when they come in your house is the entry so I wanted to get mine together.  I decided I wanted a matching set of entry tables to put on each side of the front door.  Being cheap, I bought  an unfinished pair.
Luckily, my dad taught me how to finish wood furniture many years ago. Here is how he taught me to do it!
You will need: wood conditioner, stain, polyurethane, an old sock or rag, gloves and steel wool (the sanding kind not the cleaning kind)
The first step is to condition the wood.  This helps open the grain of the wood so it accepts the stain more readily and evenly.  Wearing gloves, use and old sock or a rag to rub the wood conditioner over the entire piece.  This needs to sit on for about 15 minutes and if there is any product still sitting on the surface simply wipe it off.  After you have completed this step, you must stain the surface within two hours.
Now it is time to add a little color.  To do this, I put on a glove then stick my gloved hand in an old sock.  My dad taught me to apply stain by rubbing it on and in, kind of like lotion.  Don't just slap in on there, rub it gently, wiping it on and off being sure to remove any that does not soak in as you go.  Be sure to do the entire piece, it is very hard to stop and pick it back up later without any seam lines.  When you are done, let it sit 15 minutes and wipe it with a clean rag to remove any extra you missed.  Let it dry about 8 hours.  If you want the piece darker, repeat this process.
I did two coats of Min wax in Jacobean on my tables.
Last, you will apply two coats of polyurethane.  Be sure your furniture is free of dust and apply a light coat, following the grain of the wood, using a sponge brush (I like these because they don't leave brush marks and they are disposable).  Do this in a quiet, dust free area.  DO NOT do this on a windy day with your garage door open.  You will have to steel wool the heck out of it to get it smooth before applying another coat and it will suck.  Trust me.
Polyurethane really brings out the grain in the wood.  The table on the left has one coat done while the table on the right only has stain.
Let each coat of poly dry about 8 hours before applying another.  I have heathen children so I do two coats to give a little more protection from plastic hammers and flying Lego's.  Gently rough up the surface with steel wool between coats.
Let your piece dry 24 hours after the final coat and you are done!  Buying unfinished furniture to complete yourself lets you achieve a custom piece at a fraction of the price.  I paid $80 per table plus under $20 in supplies for both.  $90 for a solid wood table in the color of my choice, not too bad in my opinion.
***Like my tables?  You can get your own here.***