Friday, December 30, 2011

Household Hints

Good info from my email inbox: 

*When you need to dry the inside of a bottle with a small opening, fold and twist a paper towel from corner to corner and insert it into the bottle. The paper towel absorbs the moisture. It may be necessary to take towel out and let it dry, then insert it again.

*Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it on your hair.

*To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.

*Use a mason jar (or any suitable upright container, perhaps clear plastic jars) in your medicine cabinet to corral all those little tubes of ointments, brushes, etc that are always falling out when you open the cabinet door. The clear glass helps you see what you are looking for.


*Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you
can't see easily.
*Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip or to the seam of your skirt and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling. Place pin in seam of slacks and .. ta da! ... static is gone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Decorating on a Shoe String

At this last minute, I wanted to share another project I did for my Christmas decorating with some links that follow for more good ideas. It seems that silver, white, and sparkly is the current ‘in’ look. I didn’t want to buy anything new, so I looked at my décor and thought about how I could update my look. I picked a few things to spray paint, and then went to my craft area and got out a box of pinecones the kids and I had collected at a park a while back.
I did buy a can of the sparklyest (is that a word?) shiniest silver spray paint I could find at a local craft store, with my 40% off coupon of course. I wanted 'Looking Glass' spray paint but they were out of it. Looking Glass paint is very silvery and shiny; mirror like. Out in the driveway with my pinecones and other things in a large cardbox, I sprayed away, let dry, turned and sprayed some more. (You really should wear something over your mouth and nose to keep from inhaling the spray from the paint, and safety glasses to keep it out of your eyes.)

Back in the house, I added my new sparkly silver items to my décor and I am very satisfied with my new improved ‘in’ look. It only cost $7.99 minus 40%, or $4.80.

Here is a pot of flowering paper whites wrapped in pine garland, with pinecones and bird added.

Another pine garland with larger pinecones for over the TV. I have added silver pincones all over the house!
Now on to the links with some easy and quick ideas. Ornaments looking a little tired? Spray paint and glitter can help. Frou-FruGal has great ideas for that.
Here are some other easy, inexpensive ideas I found online. Check them out! Merry Christmas!
Love this idea at Under The Table and Dreaming; if you don't have Mod Podge, use white glue with a couple of drops of water if it's too thick. Works the same way.
I'm gaga about this one from Country Living, if you don't have a cloche', do you have a glass covered cake plate somewhere? (See how I use a cake plate)

Look how beautiful, yet simple to do, this is from Pom Pom Emporium. Great project for the kids!

Over at The Magic Onions they dipped pinecones in colored wax. When I saw the picture, I thought it was dipped in a bucket of paint. Hmmm.....that's an idea if you don't want to spray paint.

I guess this post ended up being more about decorating with pinecones than anything else! What are some ways you update your holiday decorations without buying new?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Home Made Yogurt

Making yogurt at home is very easy. There is no reason to buy any special equipment as you probably already have what you need. Making your own yogurt allows you to control what is in it, up the protein content if you wish, and is less expensive than store bought.  I like my yogurt to have a little sugar for sweetening, and a little vanilla for flavor. Store bought sweetened yogurt is like eating pudding it is so sweet, but I don't really like the tartness of plain yogurt either. For me, the hardest part of making yogurt is waiting for the milk to reach the right temperature.
I like to use organic milk because there is a higher percentage of omega’s in organic milk than regular milk. I also prefer whole milk for the extra creamy texture of the finished yogurt but 1 or 2% works fine too. You can leave out the sugar and vanilla if you want plain yogurt. I sometimes add powdered milk to up the protein content of the finished yogurt and it also helps to thicken it.
I purchase plain yogurt with live culture in it for starter rather than use my own home made as starter. Home made may not be as strong and there is nothing more annoying than taking the time to make a batch, and spending the money on organic milk, only to have to throw away the whole mess because it didn't culture right. Left over purchased yogurt can be frozen to use later. Always make sure all utensils and containers you use to make yogurt are very clean. Any bacteria on the surface of these can incubate along with your yogurt and you don’t want that to happen.
In a large pot, preferable a heavy bottomed one, pour your milk and the powdered milk if you are using it. Attach a candy thermometer on the side of the pot so that the end of the thermometer is about in the middle of the milk mixture. For stirring I use a spatula with a flat edge so I can pull it along the bottom of the pot. Stir continuously, as the milk will easily burn on the bottom. Bring the milk to 180° using medium heat. Immediately remove from heat source, and do not let it boil. If you find that your milk is burning on the bottom of the pot your heat may be too high. 
Once the pot is removed from the heat source, add in the sugar and vanilla if you are using it, stirring well to dissolve all the sugar. You now want your milk mixture to come to 105°. I usually just watch it, stirring on occasion while it comes down to the right temp, but you can set your pot in the sink that has some cool water in it. Don’t get any water in your milk mixture.
At 105°, I measure out my starter yogurt into a 2 cup measuring cup (if the temp is too hot it will destroy the starter). I ladle some of the warm milk into the yogurt and whisk it well. Then I add more milk mixture to measuring cup, whisking, then pour it all into my pot of milk and mix well. This makes it easier to stir out lumps before it is added to the pot.
At this point I use my jar funnel and ladle it all into 4 one pint Mason jars that are placed in a baking pan. Now, I change out my oven light bulb for a 100 watt incandescent light bulb. Because of the configuration of my kitchen I need to take the door off my oven in order to reach the bulb. Did you know that it is really easy to take the door off a free standing stove? You open it to that first little bump where it is open only a few inches, and pull up. It comes right off on most stoves. It’s made that way to make cleaning and working on it easier.

With the door back in place, I put my baking pan of Mason jars in the middle of my oven and put a thermometer in front of them so I can read it easily through the oven door window. I want the temp to stay at 100° give or take a degree or two; and a 100 watt bulb works perfect to heat my oven space to that temp. 

Now I will wait for the magic of the live culture to work. If I have added powdered milk to my mix, I can usually have yogurt to the consistency I want after about 10 hours. If I have not used powered milk, it takes longer, maybe 14 hours, until it has the thickness I want. It is necessary to plan the making of my yogurt with the time it takes to incubate in mind so I will be around to take it out of the oven when it is ready. (or have my husband do it when he leaves for work :) Once, I left it for 17 hrs and it was a nice consistency and tasted great.
My jars of yogurt are then put in the fridge to chill. A batch of yogurt will last  me a long time; it takes 3 to 4 weeks to use it all, and it continues to thicken ever so slightly in the fridge.
I love my homemade yogurt. I think it has a better flavor than any store bought I have tried. With the small amount of sugar and vanilla I add, it’s mildly sweet. It can be flavored by stirring in a spoonful of fruit jam if you like, but mostly I like to added dried fruit and some nuts.
There are many ways to make yogurt if this way doesn’t appeal to you; this way is super easy for me.

  • 7 cups of milk
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of powdered milk (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar  (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tsp of vanilla  (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of starter yogurt
Heat 7 cups of milk, with powdered milk stirred in well (if you are using it) to 180 degrees stirring continuously. Remove from heat and add sugar and vanilla (if you are using it) and mix well cooling down to 105 degrees.

Add a cup or so of cooled mixture to 1/2 cup of starter yogurt, whisk well and then add starter to milk mixture in pot. Ladle into containers of your choice and keep at a temperature of 100 to 105 degrees until it reaches your preferred consistency and flavor (check it after 8 hours) for approximately 10-12 hours.

*when checking on the consistency of the yogurt while incubating, be sure to do it quickly so you are not allowing the oven to cool too much, slowing down the process.

* Update: I have tried this recipe many different ways, from adding more milk or less, more vanilla or less, etc. I can tell you that you can add up to one cup of milk more or less without much change. I usually do about 8 cups of milk as that is how much is in a carton. I have tried adding more vanilla and yes you can add too much; it will taste awful! I have only had one jar go bad and as it was not the whole batch I believe it was because the jar was not as clean as it should have been. I knew it was bad immediately from the first bite!
A while back I watched an episode of Good Eats and Alton Brown was making yogurt. He stated that you only need to heat the milk up to 120° so I tried that as it would be much faster. It worked just fine but the yogurt was a little thinner than usual. I did a little online research and most say that it is better (for many reasons) to heat the milk to 180°. I will from now on. You can do your own research and decide for yourself.

I linked this post to Made by You Monday at Skip to my Lou.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Training a New Assistant

It’s a cold day here in Arizona, barely in the 50’s! I thought is was about time to break in a new kitchen assistant after losing my last one to kindergarten when school started.

A good day to have the oven on too, so we decided to make my super easy Irish Soda bread recipe. My new assistant was a fast learner and really got into her job!

She thought cooking in her pj’s was pretty great too.

Later, still in  pj’s, we painted pine cones and glittered them to decorate the house with.

Oh and by the way, if you decide to bake some potatoes while the oven is on, make sure you poke some holes in them. Because if you forget, they will explode!
Enjoy your kids and don’t be afraid to mess up the kitchen cooking with them this holiday season.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Painted China Cabinet; From Free To Fabulous!

A good inexpensive way to update the look of your home is with paint. Sometimes painting furniture pieces will bring it all together if you have mismatched pieces. I have painted furniture many times over the years. The pieces I choose to paint are usually older and solid wood.

Here is my latest painted piece. We helped a friend move and this cabinet would not fit into their moving truck after the rest of their furniture was loaded, so we hauled it home. It sat on the back patio a while, then I decided to paint and use it. It is a quality piece, and it was in good shape. I liked the lines and structure of it; just not the color. It just didn't work with my other furniture without painting it.

I didn't photograph it before we started but you can see the original color inside the cabinet. My husband sanded it; we vacuumed and wiped it down to remove all traces of dust and dirt.
Then it was painted with a primer base coat; I used Behr brand exterior water based primer and sealer. We let it dry for at least a week, and another base coat went on. A couple of weeks went by, (we are busy) and then the last paint coat went on, a creamy very pale yellow.
To add an aged look, I used a water based wood stain.

I brushed on the stain then quickly wiped off the excess with a dry cloth, rubbing it into the cracks and crevices.

I usually start inside a door to make sure I have my ‘paint on wipe off ‘ technique the way I want it before proceeding. If you are new to aging or distressing, don’t be afraid of it, try painting some card board or scrap wood as you paint your piece. Then you will have a place to try out the aging or distressing process before you commit to it.

I think that having patience and waiting a long time between coats of paint (I always use several coats of paint) is best to avoid peeling or chipping of your new paint job. Paint takes a really long time to cure; it will feel dry to the touch but still have moisture in it. I waited about a month before I used this piece. I placed a picture on a shelf then checked it the next day to make sure the picture frame was not sticking to the shelf before placing any more items on it. I had planned on replacing the knobs but now I’m not so sure I will. Maybe I’ll just give them a coat of spray paint.
Here’s another piece I painted and aged with stain. It is in the office/kids crafting area to store all their crafting supplies.

I'm really happy with how this china cabinet turned out, and I've put it to good use as you can see! If you would like to know more about painting furniture, check out Miss Mustard Seed's blog for some expert tips and techniques. You will find some amazing tutorials there too. She does amazing work!

I linked this post to Made by You Mondays at Skip to my Lou, A Bowful of Lemons, French Country Cottage, Under the Table and Dreaming, Between Naps on the Porch, Craft-O-Maniac, Organizing Junkie, Ginger Snap Crafts, Living Life Intentionally, Chic on a Shoestring, Cheerios and Lattes, Uncommon, Grandma's Briefs and Miss Mustard Seed.

**Join me for Wow Us Wednesdays link up party.**