Thursday, July 31, 2008

Smells Like Home


One of things I loved about visiting my grandmother was how good her house always smelled. It's important to me that my house smell nice too. That's one of the reasons I've always used scented laundry detergent and fabric softener. I would tuck a fabric softener sheet in the linen closet or under the trash can liner in the bathrooms...maybe another between the mattress and boxspring in the guest bedroom.

I recently read an article about the toxic chemicals in scented laundry products and air fresheners so I have decided to stop using them. No point in taking the risk of endangering my family.

So how do we make our homes smell good without the use of toxic chemicals?

1) Baking: My personal favorite. :) Several years ago we had some furniture delivered. I had brownies baking in the oven when the delivery man showed up and he kept going on and on about how he could smell them as soon as he walked in the door.

2) Fresh flowers: Have fresh flowers in your entry way. Beautiful to your eyes and your nose!

3) Linen spray: I have a lavender linen spray that is scented with essential oil. It's so nice to spray on my pillows before I go to bed.

4) Keeping the trash emptied: This probably goes without saying, but it's easy for the trash to get stinky quickly.

5) Baking soda and lemon juice: These are great cleaners and also great ways to keep your drains clear and smelling good. Pour some baking soda down the drain and follow with lemon juice (or vinegar). Let it bubble for a while then follow with boiling water.

6) Non-toxic candles: Be sure to buy candles that don't have lead in the wicks.

7) Homemade potpourri: If you don't have time to bake, put some orange peels, cinnamon sticks and cloves in a small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer on a back burner.

8) Scented non-toxic furniture polish: I love the scent of freshly polished wood furniture. Daddy Van's has some that smells really nice.

9) "Swish" your bathroom every day: Do a quick swipe and swish of your bathroom every day. That will keep any smells from accumulating.

10) Open the windows: Open the windows first thing in the morning before the heat sets in and let in some fresh air.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jalapeno Appetizers

We had a big party out at my mom and step-dad's ranch last night for Peter. They invited about half the county and it was a lot of fun. I'll post some pictures of their ranch sometime soon. Right now I want to show you the jalapeno appetizers that I took.

They are so easy to do. The ingredients you will need are:
cream cheese
bacon (I used turkey bacon for the first time and it worked out well)
brown sugar

I realize that you can't buy jalapenos in the store right now, so this may be a bad time to post this recipe. Hopefully some of you will have an overabundance in the garden like we did. :)

I'm not sure what kind of peppers the yellow ones are. Mike planted them and he can't remember either...oh well, they tasted good!

First, slice the peppers in half lengthwise. Then use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and membrane. Be careful if you have sensitive skin and be SURE not to rub your eyes or nose.

See the DVD player in the background? Cindy brought it into the kitchen and put The Sound of Music on for she and I to watch while I was cooking. Isn't she sweet? I wouldn't let her help because I was worried about her handling the peppers, but she still wanted to hang out in the kitchen with me. She took some of the pictures.

Here are all the peppers ready to go. We put the insides on the compost pile.

Fill each pepper half with softened cream cheese.

Wrap each filled pepper with a third to a half slice of bacon, depending on the size of your peppers and secure with a toothpick. This is turkey bacon in the picture.

Place the wrapped peppers on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. While they are baking, mix together ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar. I don't measure, but maybe you can get an idea of the proportions from the picture.

After the peppers have baked for 15 minutes, brush the ketchup mixture on them. Return them to the oven and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.

They are good hot right out of the oven or at room temperature. When we got to my parents house, I went ahead and uncovered them so everyone could sample a bite before I took them into the kitchen. I thought I was going to have my arm gnawed off before I could even get through (and not by the 4 legged creatures)! :) This is all that was left by the time I made it to the kitchen and these few didn't last more than another 10 minutes. The latecomers didn't even get any!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cleaning out the tea kettle

We have extremely hard water here (meaning that it has a high mineral content). It really does a number on my tea kettle. When I looked in it this morning, I couldn't believe how disgusting it looked!

So I put about half a cup of vinegar in it, and filled it up with water. I boiled this mixture for about 10 minutes (making the house smell like a pickle plant) and it looks SO much better! You can also run vinegar through your coffee maker when the minerals start to build up on it. Of course run plain water through afterward so your coffee won't taste bad the next morning. :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Cake Was a Hit!

Just had to pop in quickly to let you know that the cake from Sunday's dinner was a huge hit! It tasted so good. I substituted strawberries for the raspberries because strawberries are MUCH cheaper. I think it turned out pretty cute considering I have no clue about cake decorating.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Food, Food, Food

Seems like my whole day today was all about food. Shopping for food, preparing food, cleaning up after we ate food... I don't think I've stepped foot outside the kitchen all day except to go grocery shopping (and I have the laundry pile to prove it)!

I made three meals (blueberry muffins, jambalaya and cornbread, and Frito pie), plus I'm cooking for a big day tomorrow. Monday is my little brother's birthday. He'll be 38. He's back from the wilds of the Wyoming oil fields, plus we have Peter home (and as of today Bobby back from his mission trip) so we have a lot to celebrate.

After church tomorrow my parents and my brother will come over for Sunday dinner. We'll be having a Pioneer Woman menu. :) We're having The Best Lasagna. Ever. (really), Olive Cheese Bread, and the 4th of July Cake (I thought it was fitting), plus sun tea and lemonade. My mom is bringing salad and ice. She also said she would bring paper plates and cups, but I actually like to bring out my nice dishes. I have a good dishwasher and the plates and cups aren't the hard part of washing dishes anyway.

Here's my kitchen in action today. You see two skillets on the stove because I made two versions of the lasagna. One with no pork because my mom doesn't eat pork, and one regular.

See the shiny new skillet on the right? That's my new one. The handle broke off of my old one and I've been making do for weeks with my other two skillets that are not very big. As you can see by the state of my stove top, big meals like the lasagna filling don't fit too well in my cast iron skillet. Mike has been telling me to buy a new one and I finally did. I love it! I want to leave it sitting out in the kitchen so I can look at it. :) I might set it next to the bed so I can look at is as I doze off tonight...OK, not really.

I've already run the full dishwasher twice today!

And just for grins, here's last nights supper.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Day in My Life - July

Little Jenny Wren has been hosting A Day in My Life since March and I've enjoyed participating in it so much. It's fun to take a peek into the lives of the other participants. It's all about chronicling an ordinary day.

Today I intended to take the girls to visit my grandmother, but she said last night that she wasn't feeling well and didn't think she would be good company. We're going to try again tomorrow.

I woke this morning about 6:00 to a loud clap of thunder and the sound of heavy rain. That encouraged me to snuggle deeper into my bed and sleep a little while longer. :) I knew that I had no schedule or agenda today, so I had the luxury of sleeping in. I didn't actually get out of bed until after Mike left for work.

The girls were still asleep, so I turned on some soft music, made my coffee and cereal and had my quiet time. I read two chapters in Acts.

I always make big breakfasts on the weekends, so Monday's breakfast is usually YOYO (you're on your own). The girls woke up about the time I finished my reading and had cereal and juice.

While the girls were eating I stripped my bed, put my sheets in the washer and did a quick pick up around the house. Then I did my 2 mile walk exercise video (while the girls giggled) and checked the church website to see the new pictures from Bobby's mission trip (the youth pastor posts new pictures every night). I also emailed Mike, emptied the dishwasher and did what little breakfast dishes we had.

Then the girls and I took a quick turn around the very wet garden to see how everything was doing and checked the rain gauge. Can you believe that tomato plant? It's about 4 feet tall and spilling over the edge of the garden. The rain gauge showed 9/10ths of an inch.

After my daily phone calls with my mom and my best friend it was mid-morning and I still hadn't had my shower! Ick! So, I showered, got made up and dressed. I decided to wear my hair curly today because it's SO humid. There was no point in trying to straighten it.

I decided that for a special treat while it was just us girls at home, we would have a fun "girly" afternoon. We went out for lunch at Subway, which the girls loved. Then we went to Tuesday Morning where I got a cute decorating book and a pilates DVD and exercise band. I spent a little over $10 with tax for all of it.

Here's a page in the book.

Then we decided to head to a nearby antique "mall".

We found so many things we just loved. I found some cute aprons, table linens, and dishes that were calling my name, but we left without buying anything. Most of it was just too expensive.

Here are some of the fun things that we saw. I love these old radios.

Aren't these chairs cute and retro? I think they must have come from a waiting room or something. They are all joined together. If you look in the mirror, you can also see some old theater seats for sale.

After leaving the antique mall, we went to the dollar store where I got some sandwich bread and dishwasher detergent, then picked up Mike's dry cleaning, then home. When we got home I checked the mail and yippee, I had some freebies. I just love getting freebies in the mail!

I made the bed up with clean sheets and sat down with my cookbooks (and looked at The Pioneer Woman Cooks) to decide what I want to put on the menu for this week. I need to get the grocery shopping done in the next day or two.

For supper, we just had a simple meal of sandwiches with homemade pimento cheese, and salad. No heating up the kitchen! :)

After I did the supper dishes, Mike and I sat on the swing in the front yard for a bit and watched the girls play.

Now it's getting dark and I'm again hearing the rumble of thunder. The girls are watching a DVD and I have another load of laundry in the washer and one in the dryer. I need to check email and finish the laundry, then I'll probably settle down with my new book and head to bed.

Goodnight! :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Day in My Life

Tomorrow is the 14th (I can't believe it's here already) and I once again have the privilege of participating in A Day in My Life hosted by Little Jenny Wren.

The girls and I will be off bright and early to visit my grandmother who lives about an hour away. Mike will be at work and Bobby is off on a mission trip in the Big City (more on that later). Hope you're having a wonderful, restful Sunday and I'll see you when we get home tomorrow! :)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Singing in the kitchen

How many pre-teen girls know all the words to several Rosemary Clooney songs? Mine do! We are having a rainy afternoon here and the girls and I have been baking and singing at the top of our lungs. Mike says if we start dancing too he's going to go to think he's in the middle of a bad musical. Poor man. He's probably ready to retreat to the bedroom and watch a John Wayne movie. :)

This song is one of our favorites.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Updates From the Garden

The garden is coming along well. We haven't harvested a huge amount yet, but I think we're about to be over run.

We set up our little garden plot a little differently than most. We put down several layers of newspaper (just the black and white part, not the slick ads), dampened it with the water hose, and put topsoil and compost over it. The grass won't grow up through the newspaper, but the plants can put their roots down through it. I'm not sure exactly how that works, but it does. We've also been using grass clippings as mulch around the plants. That seems to be working really well to keep the weeds at bay too. We edged the garden with wood from an old swing set. It's not too pretty but it works, plus it was cheap. :)

These are either watermelon or cantaloupe that Mike planted last week. He planted both and I'm not sure which is which.

These are jalapeƱos. We have several different types of peppers. Something is eating the leaves, so we'll have to figure out what to do about that. We haven't been using any chemicals on the garden.

These are tomatoes. We have several tomato plants of different varieties and they are thriving.

The garden has been a lot of fun and we really haven't put much money into it. We bought a few bags of topsoil (spending $20 at most), the tomato and pepper plants (maybe $15 for that) and the seeds for the other plants (about $2). I think we'll wind up with much more in harvest value. We also now have the garden well established for next year and a great compost pile going. Maybe we can even expand.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ice Cream Cake

We had this ice cream cake after supper last night. I made it the night before and put in the freezer. The 4th of July is always a busy day for us because we go to the parade and street fair in the morning, then the fireworks after dark. It was nice to have such an easy dessert to go with our cookout, plus it was delicious. This would be a great birthday cake for summer birthdays.

I found the recipe at Real Simple.

Ice Cream Cake:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
6 ice cream sandwiches (3.5 ounces each)
2 1.5 ounce candy bars or 1/2 cup chocolate chips, chopped (I used Reese's Cups).

Line an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with a piece of wax paper or parchment, allowing the paper to hang over both long sides.

In a large bowl, beat the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.

In the bottom of the pan, arrange 3 of the sandwiches in a single layer, cutting them to fit as necessary. Spread with half the whipped cream. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches and whipped cream.

Sprinkle the top of the cake with the chopped candy bar. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least one hour and up to one week.

Holding both sides of the paper overhang, lift the cake out of the pan and transfer to a platter. Discard the paper, slice the cake, and serve.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

A Necessary Observance

If our nation’s Founders could visit us on this, our 232nd Independence Day, what would they make of us? What would they declare of us?

A hint can be discerned in a letter from John Adams to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776, as the Declaration of Independence had just been approved. “It ought to be commemorated,” said the man who would become our second president, “as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Day’s Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

Read the rest of this excellent article here.