Apr 25, 2015

Weekend Links

* Thinking about raising chickens for meat? Here's a helpful read for deciding between two of the most popular meat breeds.

* Kraft Mac and Cheese is loosing food dyes and preservatives.

* A major scientific study finds no link between MMR vaccine and autism.

* I see a lot of ladies online complaining about their laundry pile. Here are the tips I use to keep our laundry easily under control.

* FREE Redbox rental, good through 4/26.

* Want to save a minimum of $300 a year? Cut your husband and son's hair! Trust me; you can do this! I have no skills in hair cutting, but I've been using this exact hair cutting set for at least 10 years...and it makes the job easy!

* My 9 year old has struggled with learning "skip counting" (i.e., times tables). We'd tried songs to help with memorization, but they didn't work. Then we started using the songs on Access to the Answer's CD. Now she breezes through her multiplication! I think the secret is that she already knows the songs (such as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"), so she can just focus on learning the new "lyrics" (i.e. multiplication). Sadly, this CD isn't easy to find, but you can order it directly from the lady who makes them. I highly recommend this CD! 
* Wow! Without my noticing, I passed the 1,000 mark for blog posts at Proverbs 31 Woman! As of today, there are 1,004 posts! I should throw a party :)

* Lookee at what I've been working on! With even MORE recipes than in the last edition... (It's not for sale yet; coming soon, though.)

Apr 22, 2015

The Simple Cleaning Tip that Changes Everything

When I still had children in high chairs, I struggled to keep the high chairs, kitchen table, and dining-area floor clean. No matter what I gave those kiddos to eat, it seemed to end up all over the floor, the table, the chairs...and the children. So I would wipe the children off with a warm towel...but often neglected to wipe off the eating area surfaces, too.

That is, until I realized that doing so made cleaning those surfaces so much harder!

Yes, I was really tired. Yes, a thousand other things pulled at me, shouting, "I need attention...right now!" (Not to mention children were literally pulling on me, saying "Mama! Mama!") But putting off cleaning messes only meant more work, more energy, and more time later.

So I learned to clean messes the way I cleaned my children: Right away.

(Okay, confession time: I'm not perfect at this. Sometimes I still put off cleaning messes. But I know the work is much easier if I don't!)

So next time your sweet babes, your husband, or you make a mess, stop. Clean it up right then. Usually, it will take less than a minute. Rarely will it take more than a couple of minutes. And then it's done. It won't tug at your mind, it won't weigh you down, and it will clean up quickly and easily, rather than requiring more effort on your part.

It's a game changer, friends.

Apr 20, 2015

The BEST Pizza Crust Recipe

Over the years, I've blogged about several different pizza crust recipes. I've also tried about a gazillion others...but I am finally certain I have the perfect pizza crust recipe. I've used it for several years, and my sister in law (who gave me the recipe*) has used it years beyond that. It's easy. It's no-fail. It rolls out well. It's healthier than a lot of pizza crust recipes. And it tastes good, too.

A lot of the other pizza crust recipes I've tried have either been a bit tough or too puffy, or they had quite a lot of olive oil in them. Olive oil is a healthy fat, but pizza, with all it's cheese, is already pretty fat-filled. Plus, good olive oil isn't cheap, so if I have to use a lot of it in a pizza crust, it makes homemade pizza not nearly as frugal as I'd like it to be.

I usually make this is my bread machine, but I've also included instructions for making it with a food processor or by hand.

The BEST Pizza Crust Ever Recipe

1 cup warm water (about 105 - 115 degrees F.)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Measure out the water in a measuring cup, then add the yeast and sugar. Set aside until the mixture is foamy. (If it doesn't turn foamy, your yeast is bad.)

2. Pour the remaining ingredients into the bowl of your bread maker, then add the yeast mixture. Turn to the dough setting and let the dough mix and rise.

To make in a food processor, pour the flour, salt, and olive oil into the bowl. With the machine on low speed, pour the yeast liquid into the feed tube. Pulse until the dough forms into a ball. Process another 30 seconds, to knead the dough. Transfer to a large Ziplock bag; seal the top and let rise in a warm location for about 45 minutes. Or, transfer to a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a cotton cloth and let it let rise.

To make by hand, mix the ingredients in a large bowl, then knead until elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm location for 45 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Yes, I prefer to use a child-sized rolling pin. Don't laugh!
4. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll into shape. Transfer to a pizza tray. (Follow the pizza tray manufacturer's instructions; my trays need a wee bit of oil rubbed on them before I place the dough on top. Others may need a sprinkling of cornmeal to prevent the crust from sticking to the tray.) Parbake (this just means you're pre-baking the crust) in the oven until the crust is golden, about 10 -15 minutes. Remove from the oven and put sauce and toppings on the pizza. Bake until cheese is melted, toppings are heated through, and crust is the desired level of doneness, about 5 - 15 minutes more.

To Freeze the Dough: You can also make up the dough, and as soon as it's been mixed and kneaded, transfer it to a freezer bag and place in the freezer. To use, remove the bag from the freezer and leave the dough inside the bag. Place on the counter in the morning. By evening, it's ready to roll into a crust. To read more about freezing pizza dough, click here.

Two of Our Favorite Toppings

Pepperoni Pizza:  Spoon pizza sauce, marinara sauce, or spaghetti sauce onto the parbaked crust. Don't over do it or the pizza will be very moist and messy to eat. Spread shredded Cheddar cheese over the sauce. Layer pepperoni on top. Bake.

Chicken Pizza: Spoon Ranch dressing (preferably homemade) over the parbaked crust. Sprinkle shredded cheese of your choice over the sauce. (I usually use Cheddar and/or Mozzarella.) Sprinkle chicken over this. (We love canned chicken on pizza, but you can also use leftover roast chicken.) Sprinkle chopped green onions, scapes, or chives over this. Bake.

* This recipe originally came from a Cuisinart food processor manual.

Apr 18, 2015

Weekend Links

* I'm opening with this link about mothering in the Internet age because I love, love, love it!

* Not one but TWO baby food recalls: Heinz chicken with broth recalled due to bad seals which could result in dangerously spoiled food - and Beach Nut baby food due to the possibility of glass in jars.

* "In a new study done over ten years and sampling 60,000 women, it was shown that women who drink two or more diet drinks a day have much higher cardiovascular disease rates and are more likely to die from the disease."

* THIS is the ultimate rhubarb recipe! A perfect blend of tart and sweet. Gonna make it for Mother's Day.

* QUICK TIP: When making a graham cracker crust, you don't need to mix the crumbs, sugar, and butter in a separate bowl. Just dump them into the pie plate, stir to blend, then press into place. One less bowl to wash is always a good thing!

* File away under things you never thought were possible: Your backyard hen could transform into a rooster!

* Cute ideas for upcycling used cribs.


Apr 17, 2015

The Easy Way We Save Thousands Each Year

I admit it. I'm shocked and amazed to hear what most people spend on television. We're often talking hundreds of dollar per month - thousands per year. For television, people.

How much do we spend on TV at my house? $7.99 a month.

That's because we long ago ditched cable or satellite and bought a Roku device. The Roku is a small box (about 3.5 in. square) that connects your television to internet TV. The Roku itself costs about $60 - $100 (depending upon which version you get; we have Roku 3, which Amazon sells for about $85)...and almost all of the channels we have are free. Yes, free! Some of our favorite free channels include The History Channel, A&E, The Smithsonian Channel, and PBS Kids.

In addition, there are many Roku channels available for purchase. A great many are under $5. We only have one paid channel: Netflix. It costs $7.99 a month. But there are hundreds more channels to choose from, many of which are only available through a streaming service. There are channels just for those who love to cook, or love to hunt, or want to learn to garden. There are Christian channels, classic tv channels, classic movie channels, and radio channels. A friend of mine has a child who wants to learn French. She found a Roku channel that teaches French for only 99 cents a year. You can bet she was more than happy to pay it!

True, streaming is bit different from regular television. For one, there are often no commercials! For another, there isn't quite the selection you get through cable or satellite. (Although more channels are added regularly.) Many of the free channels are the same as the websites cable channels have. For example, The History Channel website is essentially the same as The History Channel on Roku. So some episodes are free to watch right away, while others you might have to wait weeks (sometimes months) to watch. No matter; we can always manage to find something decent to watch through our Roku.

Pros to Streaming with a Roku:

* Commercials are rare. (We only have them on free channels, and even then, usually only during peak hours. Also, there's typically only one commercial during a commercial break. There are no commercials on Netflix.)

* You can watch whenever you like; you don't have to wait a certain hour for a show to air.

* You can binge watch. Love a show? You can watch as many episodes as are available, all at once. Ha!

* There's lots of content. Through the Roku, you can get Netflix, Hulu Plus, NBA, NHL Game Center, EPIX, Amazon Instant Video,Vudu, CNBC, The Blaze, FOX News, NBC News, and so, so much more.

* It's so inexpensive!

* Did I mention how cheap it is??

Cons to Streaming with Roku:

* Streaming is not a good choice if you have a very slow internet connection.

* If your internet service has limits on bandwidth, watch out! Streaming takes a lot of bandwidth.

* If your internet connection goes out, so does your tv.

* You may not be able to watch all the shows you want; you may have to wait for the latest episodes of TV shows.

But, for us, the cost difference is so HUGE it utterly and completely outweighs any cons. What about you?


Apr 15, 2015

10 Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring cleaning is the time to tackle projects you otherwise might not think of...but as the spring sun begins to shine through your windows, become more noticeable. Every house is different, but here are my top spring cleaning projects. See which ones you need to add to your list, too.

1. Clean the baseboards. Especially if you have pets or kids (or both!), baseboards can get surprisingly yucky. The easiest way to clean them is with a Magic Eraser and a little water. I put warm water in a bowl, wet the Eraser, scrub, then clean the Eraser in the warm water.

2. Clean windowsills. Again, a Magic Eraser and water makes this job a breeze.

3. Clean the molding around doors. Don't forget the tippy top! I like my Magic Erasers here, too. But assuming you don't want to use Magic Erasers for this or any other job, the next best thing is a sponge with a scrubby side and some Windex.

4. Shampoo the carpets.

5. Vacuum all the furniture, and shampoo it, too, if needed.

6. Actually, vacuum everything. I use my vacuum on the walls, ceilings, welcome mat...For tips on using the vacuum to clean much of your house, click here.

7. Clean all appliances. Wipe them down with Windex and towels (or a scrubby sponge if they are really dirty), inside and out, paying special attention to seals, edges around doors, and the backs.

8. Clean the disposal and sink. Really, the disposal should be de-stinkified as needed and the sink sanitized every day. (The kitchen sink is one of the germiest place in your house!) To clean the disposal, take a fresh lemon of two, cut them in half, and feed them to the disposal one by one. Afterward, give the sink an extra good clean. I like to spray it with Windex, then scrub with a sponge. If the sink is stainless steel, use the scrubby side of the sponge, or a Brillo pad, to make it sparkle.

9. Wash walls and ceilings, if needed. I love to use mop to do this; learn more about my method here.

10. Clean refrigerator and freezer coils. To keep these appliances running smoothly and as efficiently as possible, you should clean the coils once a year. Unplug the appliance (the food will be fine as long as you keep the door closed) and vacuum away using a brush attachment. (Don't have a brush attachment? Use your vacuum's wand with one hand, and a stiff cleaning brush with the other.)

Apr 13, 2015

Helping Dawdlers Notice Time Pass

I've written before about helping dawdlers...That's because my daughter is the dawdler of all dawdlers. Seriously.

All the tips I previously shared worked to a certain extent, yet my dear girl is still a Dawdler Supreme. But here's a tool that's been helpful that I haven't mentioned previously: Using a timer.

No, no, I'm not talking about saying, "Okay, you have 10 minutes to brush your teeth. I'm setting the timer now. Go!"

That sometimes works for my dawdler, but often it just gets her stressed out. And if she's busy being stressed out, she's not doing whatever else she needs to do.

Instead, what I've found is more helpful is to get her started with whatever job she needs to get done, then set the timer for, say, 10 minutes - telling her that this is only to help her feel time passing. When the 10 minutes have passed, I have her evaluate what she's accomplished, if anything. Then I set the timer for another 10 minutes...and so on.

When I use this method, I no longer hear things like, "It can't possibly be time to leave yet! Only a minute has passed!" I don't believe that when my daughter says such things they are an exaggeration. I think that's how the passage of time really feels to her. We often say that our dear daughter just has a different internal clock. By using this method of noting how time passes, we are helping her to adjust her internal clock to become more inline with the rest of the world.

Is this a quick fix? Nope. But it does help her...and I think that over time this method will be a good chunk of the answer to reducing her dawdling time.

Apr 11, 2015

Weekend Links

Only a couple of weeks into Weekend Links and I'm already behind! I had a rough week, but am trying to catch up. Here's some of the info I shared with this blog's Facebook followers over the last two weeks.

* Remember when I blogged about why we don't use non-stick cookware? Well, I just ran across this post from Kitchen Stewardship. It's a review for an air purifier, but what caught my attention was how bonkers the purifier went when this lady used her non-stick cookware. Yikes.

* This easy recipe has become a family favorite. We have it for dinner sometimes, in addition to breakfast.

* What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping.

* Wanna win a year's supply of chicken (160 lbs)? Check this out: https://godirectfoods.com/register/41430d155

* QUICK TIP: According to the experts at King Arthur Flour, you can make your homemade sourdough bread more tangy by letting the loaf rest in the refrigerator overnight.

* "There is no longer any valid basis for the current salt guidelines." Worse - government guidelines for salt may be a threat to health...because they recommend too little.

* Enchiladas an are easy, inexpensive, filling meal. They are also easy to make in large batches, so you can freeze some for later. Here's a recipe we love: Cook chicken breasts (I like to boil them), then shred. Cook some rice and add chicken flavoring (you can base your flavorings on this recipe: http://www.bigbearswife.com/…/homemade-chicken-rice-roni.ht… ). Stir together. Add about a pint of corn kernels, and some shredded Cheddar. Saute an onion and stir that in, too. Fill corn or flour tortillas with the mixture, pour green or red enchilada sauce over them, and sprinkle with a little more cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F., or until heated through. Recipe courtesy of my big sis.

* Lots of religions and philosophers tout the Golden Rule. What makes Jesus' command different?