Monday, January 30, 2012

Cure for the Mondays 1/30/2012

Every Monday I post things that made me laugh and smile in the last week. I hope they help if you have "a case of the Mondays"!

*How cute is this idea for colorful drinks??

Basically, you freeze colorful fruit juice or Kool-Aid, then pour Sprite over the brightly colored ice cubes.Try it this weekend with ice cubes in the color of your favorite Superbowl team!

*Every time I see something like these adorable animal cupcakes I am more and more convinced I need to learn to use fondant...

*No special fondant skills required to make these Teddy Bear car treats! I think these would be so perfect at a Teddy Bear picnic. The only changes I'd make would be to use 3 Musketeers and M&M's instead of Milky Ways and Sweet Tarts

*I love this idea of re-enacting kid pictures as adults. I can think of a few specific pictures already that I'd love to try it with!

What made you laugh and smile this week??

Sunday, January 29, 2012

February Towel of the Month

For Christmas, I gave my mom a "Towel of the Month Club Membership"-basically, I promised to embroider a kitchen towel for her each month this year(I forgot to take a picture of the "January" towel I gave her on Christmas to have something to open). I just finished the February towel and wanted to share it with you. I used this free pattern:

 and decided to do the whole thing as if it were one big flowering plant-I made little stars where the circles above each flower are in the pattern and made the shapes below the flower all green like stems and leaves. I think the heart and pink make it Valentine'sy enough to be fun, but it is also generic enough to leave out all spring. I used stem stitch on the flowers, woven spider wheels and straight stitch on the green portion, and just kind of made up the yellow stars.
And here is my finished towel:

My February towel. Sorry for not ironing.

Have you ever embroidered tea towels? I have 10 months left to go, so please share your favorite patterns and motifs with me!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

French Bread

I'm attempting to bake bread 50ish times in 2012 and I'll post lots of pictures, recipes, and tutorials here to update you on my progress and hopefully inspire you to bake some too!

This week I baked simple, classic French bread using this recipe from Better Homes & Gardens. I love that it is simply flour +yeast+water+salt. I actually cut the recipe in half and used whole wheat flour though, so to make their French bread my way:

What you need:
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

A hunk of this French bread with Italian seasonings is great with spaghetti!
What you do:
  • Mix all the ingredients
  • Knead for 6-8 minutes
  • Let it rise for about an hour or until doubled
  • Punch down and form into 2 "baguettes" on a baking stone or cookie sheet with a little cornmeal or flour sprinkled on it.
  • Allow dough to double again (about a half hour or so)
  • Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until crust is hard and sounds hollow when tapped.

My thoughts:
  • I use a "Silpat" my mom sent me and it's awesome for preventing sticking.
  • If your house is really dry this time of year like mine is, you can add a tiny bit more water, but if you add too much, your dough will get droopy like mine did...I've made this recipe many times and the only time it wasn't perfect was when I added too much water. If you overcompensate, it will still work and be yummy, it just won't be quite the same.
  • The dough should be elastic and smooth-not sticky-if you have kneaded it properly.
  • If you keep your house cool during winter, let your dough rise a little extra long so it is nice and fluffy.
  • Delicious plain, or rub a stick of butter across the top and then sprinkle Italian herbs like basil, oregano, and garlic and/or some grated parmesan cheese on top for extra deliciousness (and to impress your family!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

5 Mom Inspired Driving Tips

Esurance is asking moms for their best "mom-inspired driving tips", so I wanted to share my best ones so far from my time as a mom and from my memories of running errands with my own mom as a kid. Driving is something that doesn't come naturally to me, and my son went through a phase where he absolutely hated riding in the car, so it's something I've given quite a bit of thought to, actually! So here are my thoughts:

Plan ahead

Plan out your route before you go-I use Google maps unless it’s somewhere I’ve been a million times like the grocery store. If you’re going very far, you can also check your state DOT website to see if there are any road closures you should be aware of. I remember my own mom always kept an atlas with a spiral binding in the pocket behind the passenger seat.

Combine trips and buy treats

By going multiple places in our trip, you get more time out and about with less overall drive time-usually a good thing with babies who won’t tolerate too much time in a car. Frequent stops can lift spirits of curious little ones-especially if you throw in some fun stops just for them, like the toy store or somewhere with snacks. And treats from somewhere you were going anyway definitely counts too. One of my favorite places to go as a kid was the grocery store, because sometimes if we were very good, my mom would let us buy ice cream cones from the ice cream counter there (like how my current grocery store has a Starbucks, lol). My favorite flavor was black cherry, which I haven’t found anywhere since.

Drive gently and bring extra clothes

Some kids (like me when I was little and now my son…lucky me!) get carsick if you take them on a bumpy drive or one with sharp turns. Trying to turn gently and avoiding bumps increases the odds of making it to Target without anyone throwing up. But be sure to bring a spare outfit in case you fail. If you live somewhere cold and have a puke prone kiddo, you may want to buy an extra coat. A coat that smells terrible can ruin a shopping trip pretty quick, even if you change the whole rest of the outfit.

Keep your kiddo as safe and happy as you can

Some kids, especially babies, just hate car rides and will fuss no matter what you do. But hedge your bets by taking along some soft non-choking hazard toys and maybe some music your kids will like. And of course, be sure they are in a comfortable age-and-weight-appropriate carseat or booster that is tightly fastened. For older kids, video games like the Sega GameGear we had growing up might be a fun distraction for them so you can stay focused!

Take a chill pill

Once you’ve done what you can to prepare for your trip, and minimize distractions, just relax and try to enjoy the outing. Stressing out won’t help you be a safer driver-or have a good day.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Esurance blogging program for 8,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.
What memories do you have of driving with your mom?

Wordless Wednesday: March for Life

The annual "March for Life" in D.C. was earlier this week and Bad Catholic caught up with some of the 40,000ish pro-life protesters at the event to make this video:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cure for the Mondays 1/23/12

On Mondays if I get around to it, I'll post things that made me laugh or smile in the past week in hopes they'll make you laugh and smile too, especially if you have a "case of the Mondays"! Here are my picks for this week:

*One of my latest TV addictions is Hart of Dixie, and I was totally afraid it got cancelled because 1.) fun lighthearted shows I like always get cancelled and 2.) they took a super long winter break, but
Hart of Dixie is back on the CW tonight!!!
Source: via Crunchy on Pinterest

If you haven't seen it, it's about Rachel Bilson aka Dr. Zoe Hart who moves from NYC to Bluebell, Alabama  to do private practice medicine and befriends a former NFL star, a hick with nice abs, a lawyer, and a hilarious Asian waitress, and is frienemies with a Southern Belle with a chip on her shoulder. The show doesn't take itself too seriously, and I think does a good job of poking fun at Southern culture and rural life without being disrespectful. So yeah, check it out! (PS If you know me personally, it's not hard to see why I dig the idea of a hottie lawyer who eschews big city corporate law to return to his hometown...)

*A friend from college spotted this Black Magic Chocolate Cake on Pinterest and I can't wait to try looks like it's gotten rave reviews from everyone who has so far.

*What would Monday be without an arbitrary cute baby animal picture? I can't help but gush at the cuteness of this baby alpaca!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Grandma's Hot Rolls

I'm trying to bake bread 50ish times in 2012 and I plan on posting lots of pics, recipes, and info on how well they worked! Check back each week or so to see what I've been baking up!

This week I made my Grandma's hot rolls. My Grandma used to keep these rolls on hand at all times-this is what my Dad took ham sandwiches to school on and what my Grandad ate at his lunch on the railroad, so they are extra-special to me. Most people seem to agree they are pretty delicious too (I took them to Thanksgiving at my in-laws house and a good number of them were eaten). Anyway, it's a pretty easy recipe and so far always turns out really well.

What you need:
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 7 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 packet (2 1/2 tsp) of dry active yeast

What you do:
  • Pour the water into a bowl (I use the bowl of my stand mixer).
  • Add the other ingredients and mix.
  • Knead for 8 minutes (I let my mixer do the kneading but usually for more like 6 minutes)
  • Scrape down sides of bowl if necessary and pour a little oil down the side to prevent sticking.
  • Cover with clean cloth and let rise until double (about an hour)
  • Punch down and let double again (another hour, maybe a little less)
  • Roll into balls (use a 1/3 cup measuring cup the first time to get a feel for the size)
  • Let rise on baking sheet until doubled again (not too long-maybe 15-30 minutes)
  • Bake 375 for 20 minutes or until golden brown
My notes:
  • This recipes ends up baking 24 rolls when I make them about 1/3 of a cup each, but I don't actually measure.
  • I use a metal lasagna pan to bake mine and they all run into each other, but that just makes them extra soft and fluffy
  • Toddler NOT thrilled he had to wait 20 more minutes to eat rolls
  • These are delicious with half whole wheat flour and I've even made them with all white whole wheat flour and enjoyed them, but reduce the amount of flour slightly because whole wheat flour is denser and will dry out your dough too much if you use the full amount.
What foods make your think of your grandparents?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cure for the Mondays (1/16/12 edition)

On Mondays if I get around to it, I'll try to post random things that make me happy-things that can cheer me up when I have a "case of the Mondays"  

Giveaways galore at The Feminist Breeder to celebrate her new resources page! Go here to get the details and enter! My math is a little fuzzy today on account of it being Monday in all its glory, but I think they end Friday at Midnight based on the Rafflecopter countdown clocks...

Awwwww a mommy otter snuggling a baby otter:

Rainbow cookies!!! They call them unicorn poop, which is yucky to me, but they still look pretty. It's basically a rope made of different colored sugar cookie dough. I think I'd twist it into a spiral or a knot or something and NOT call it unicorn poop but still enjoy its sugary prettiness. Oh and sanding sugar for sparkle is a must!

And coat the rims of a cup with sprinkles to dress up a festive drink.The original link/pic are martinis, but I'd totally do this for pink lemonade for a baby or wedding shower!

And Pinterest in general. I am kind of in love with/addicted to Pinterest, which is where I found most of this stuff. You can follow me if you want and I'll follow you back!

What fun/silly/cheerful stuff have you seen lately?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Experiment in Homemade Bread

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little more natural. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I've been increasingly drawn to the idea of baking the majority of the bread my family eats myself for several reasons including:

It's inexpensive: one or two loaves of healthy bread at my local grocery store easily costs the same as a bag of flour, a jar of yeast, and a shaker of salt. Also, compared to most crafty or foodie hobbies, bread baking-even artisan bread baking-is a pretty darn cheap way to express your creativity.

It's healthy: most of the reasonably priced bread at the grocery store is full of high fructose corn syrup and all sorts of preservatives and additives. Basic French bread has only 4 ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. Even quick bread and sweeter yeast breads tend to be healthier than their storebought counterparts, so while homemade cinnamon rolls aren't exactly a health food, they are likely to contain fewer bad ingredients than storebought pastries.

It's easy to customize: You can easily modify most bread recipes to include a variety of healthy and fun flours, grains, fruits, and spices. You can also easily avoid allergens and other ingredients you dislike or that cause you issues. For example, I'm lactose intolerant and sandwich bread (and many other breads) contain milk. By substituting lactose free milk or soy, almond, or coconut milk I can make delicious breads my stomach won't regret later!

It's delicious: homemade bread generally tastes better

So for a few weeks in December I tried baking all our bread myself and I discovered a few things:
  • It's really fun and easy to bake my own bread
  • My husband and son will both gobble down as much homemade bread as I'll give them
  • December is a terrible time to start a new project-even one that doesn't take much time or effort.
  • We don't need to eat bread nearly as often as we currently do.
Basically, it went really well until I got overly busy with Christmas. I underestimated how much time I needed to spend on sewing Christmas presents and we ran out of bread. No one even noticed for like a week, which tells me that we really don't need to be eating as much of the store-bought stuff as we had been, even if I don't make homemade to replace it. We can eat brown rice, pasta, & potatoes and have a much more balanced diet. And less high fructose corn syrup!

So my plan for 2012 is to eat less bread overall and make significantly more of it myself. In fact, to help keep myself accountable (and just for fun) I've decided to do a bread baking challenge in 2012: I'm going to attempt to bake bread 50 times this year and post once a week about the recipes I'm using. Sometimes I'll make savory breads that can basically replace store-bought sandwich bread or buns, and other weeks I'll do quick breads and sweet bready treats.

To kick it off, this week I made Whole Wheat Blueberry Oatmeal bread from the blog From Judy's Kitchen and here's how it turned out:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Blueberry Bread-yum!
Quick. Easy. Inexpensive.


What's your favorite bread recipe? Leave me a link or recipe & I'll try to make it sometime in 2012!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Honda's Annoying Anti-Marriage Car Commercial

Have you seen the Honda "proposal" commercial?

In case you don't want to watch it, I'll give you the quick run-down:
It starts with a man proposing to a blond woman who is probably in her late 20's or early 30's. She, in an aside to the camera, states "Married? There were so many things I was gonna do first!"
We then flash to scenes of her driving with some friends to a mountain she wants to climb, loading a pink drumset into her trunk, and on a movie set so she can "finish my short film."

We finally go back to her poor boyfriend to hear her say "ok, but we have a lot to get done first"...just the response every guy wants when he proposes, right?

Now I know Honda is just trying to sell cars-they probably don't really care whether married couples or cohabitating hipsters are buying them. But I still don't like the attitude this commercial perpetuates. That you have to go "find yourself" before marriage, not just by determining your core values so you can seek a spouse who shares them, but by accomplishing some sort of bucket list of single adventures. That marriage means you won't get to do anything fun or exciting anymore, or have hobbies, or a brain. That smart girls delay marriage until they do everything they really want to accomplish first. And then they can settle for settling down.

A waterfall we saw on Mt. Rainier

But marriage shouldn't mean an end to adventure or fun or chasing your just means doing them together! To be honest, the only time I've gone hiking in the mountains was after I was already married (*gasp*...don't tell Honda!) and my husband, my Dad, my Mom (*double gasp*...people who've been married 25 years still having adventures too...don't tell Honda!!) my big brother, and I all hiked Mount Rainier together. If you are considering marrying someone who wouldn't be supportive of your adventures (like drum-playing, which seems like a one-person gig) and/or having them right there with you (like hiking, if that's your thing), they are probably not a good choice for you. No one should have a marriage that is actually a fun-sucking end to all adventure in your life. A good spouse is the absolute best support you can find for accomplishing goals and chasing dreams. They'll be there clapping, cheering, helping, and chasing right along with you--and in return you can help them chase their own dreams and end up doing fun and exciting things you might never have tried if you were single.

And the thing is, marriage is an awesome adventure in itself. It means sharing your whole life, your heart, your home, your ups and downs, everything with one person forever. Unfortunately, fewer Americans are choosing to take part in that adventure now than ever, and the ones who do are choosing to do so later in life than previous generations (check out this Washington Post article or the actual Census Data if you're interested). Attitudes like the one perpetuated in this Honda commercial certainly aren't helping inspire young people to seek marriage. I don't think one commercial alone is going to be the deciding factor in the culture wars occupying our nation. I do believe that the cumulative effect of so much of our entire media treating marriage as inconvenient and restrictive makes a difference in the way young people approach courtship and marriage. I would love to see companies like Honda instead feature married couples-and single people-whose adventuring status has nothing to do with their marital status.

Because marriage isn't the end of adventure, it's the beginning of adventures together.

*I notified Honda via Twitter of my post and they thanked me for my feedback but didn't reply beyond that (in case you were wondering!) I'll update again if I hear anything more from them!