Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pancake & Waffle Mix

This is an easy recipe for a mix I adapted from my great-grandmothers pancake recipe.

Pancake & Waffle Mix 

4 c flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. sugar

Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a whisk to thoroughly combine.  Store in an airtight container. 

To use:  Measure out 1 cup of mix into a bowl.  Add 1 egg, 1 cup milk and 1 Tbs. oil or melted butter.  Stir to combine.  Serves 4. 

Whole Wheat Pancakes – use 2 c. whole wheat flour and 2 c. all purpose flour.

Blueberry Pancakes – add ½ c. dried blueberries 

Gift Idea - I like to take 2 cups of mix and place it in a plastic bag.  Place a label or a tag on it with the instructions and decorate with ribbon.  Add a bottle of syrup or a jar of jam if you like.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Food Storage – Pyrex

I have had a long time love affair with vintage Pyrex.  I just love it!  I have some modern pieces too but my favorite, by far, is my vintage collection of refrigerator jars, casseroles, baking pans and pie plates in various shapes and sizes. 

I collect mostly the blue Amish Butterprint and pink Gooseberry patterns.  I also love the flamingo pink from the late forties and early fifties which complements the Gooseberry pattern very nicely. 

It is wonderful if you are able to collect something you love but if you can use it to enhance your life on a daily basis then that makes it a truly worthy collectible.  I really do use my vintage collection every day.  I bake, serve and store leftovers in it and as a result I am able to thoroughly enjoy it. 

I gave up on plastic storage containers for a variety of reasons.  Mostly because they stain, hold flavors and odors and don’t reheat well in the microwave.  They don’t last long either, the lids warp and then you end up contributing to the landfill. 

I do use plastic Glad and Ziploc containers for freezing because they are flexible for expansion and contraction, you can write on them, they stack nice and you can recycle them when they wear out. 

For everyday use I go for my Pyrex.  It is pretty and practical.  I also like that I am buying and re-using items from the past as opposed to regularly purchasing new.  I find great pieces at thrift stores, yard sales, antique shops and my favorite place - eBay. 

Do you have a favorite piece (or pieces) you love to use in your kitchen?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Easy Cooked Rice – No Steamer Required

I like to keep my kitchen small appliances to a minimum so owning a rice and vegetable steamer is definitely not on my must-have list.  I don’t think I have a space left in my little kitchen to put a steamer if I had one. 

Making rice is so simple and I have an easy way to make it perfect every time:

In a heavy pan with a lid bring 2 cups of water to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and stir in 1 cup long grain rice.
Place lid offset onto pan.  I like to use my wooden spoon to lift it up a little to help prevent boil over.  Set timer to 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes turn off burner and thoroughly stir rice so there are no lumps.
Place lid on tight and set timer for 20 minutes.  Walk away.

After 20 minutes fluff rice with a spoon and serve. 

It turns out perfect every time!

Rice Ratios: 

4 Servings = 2 cups Water + 1 cup Rice

6 Servings = 3 cups Water + 1½ cups Rice

8 Servings = 4 cups Water + 2 cups Rice

10 Servings = 5 cups Water + 2½ cups Rice

12 Servings = 6 cups Water + 3 cups Rice

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day Planners

I am a planner.  I am not one of those fly by the seat of my pants, spontaneous, whatever-will-be-will-be, types.  Not my style at all. 

I love to plan for my future and I use a day planner.  In this era of apps and technology I still use a simple-straightforward-write on-it-with-a-pen-or-pencil paper day planner.  I also make it myself on my computer using Publisher and the understated monthly calendar template.  Toward the end of November I print out all twelve months of the upcoming year and away I go. 

If you don’t have Publisher on your computer you can go online to microsoftoffice.com and print one of the free templates on that site.  They have several day planner templates - daily, weekly or monthly layout, whichever you prefer.  Through trial and error I have found the monthly planner works best for me and because I am thrifty I make it myself as opposed to buying refills at the store or online. 

Once you have printed off the day planner of your choice just punch it with a 3-hole punch and put it in a binder.  If you don’t have access to a 3-hole punch use a sheet of loose leaf notebook paper as a template and punch through the holes with your single punch and you are all set. 

I also like to put a vinyl pencil pouch in my binder to keep a few items handy – mechanical pencil, eraser, ball point pen, black Sharpie marker, a small calculator, a few binder and paper clips, post-it notes and a pair of small scissors. 

I bought a binder that zips so I can put loose items inside it and not worry about losing anything.  It has a couple pockets to tuck in envelopes, stationery, greeting cards and stamps. 

I go through the entire year and “schedule” car maintenance, yard and home maintenance, haircuts, doctor and dental appointments, school closures and holidays.  Then as the dates approach I am reminded to call in advance and actually set up appointments and plan ahead for school days off and upcoming holidays.  If I have a certain goal to reach I put it on my planner.  I schedule grocery shopping, bill paying, gift making, card sending, meetings and commitments, vacations, etc. 

If I put it down on paper then I don’t have to clog up my mind with remembering the multitude of things I have to do.  I am also able to keep better track of time so I don’t find myself suddenly upon something with little time or preparation.  My day planner gives me peace of mind.

If you don’t already use a planner of some sort you might want to consider doing so.  You will be amazed at how much you will find yourself getting done and how many things you stop forgetting about.  It will alleviate a lot of stress and make you a far more productive person. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Cards

To send or not to send?  That is the question I hear most often.  Along with… 

“Postage is so expensive.”

“I don’t have time.”

“Hardly anyone sends me a card.” 

Sending Christmas cards is fast becoming a lost art, just like letter writing, film photography and vinyl records. 

I choose to send out Christmas cards every year.  Compared to a lot of other things postage isn’t really that expensive.  Consider how much you spend on your smart phone service or internet and then compare that to a cute little book of Christmas stamps – bargain! 

It isn’t about the cards you get.  It is all about the cards you send.  Spreading joy and adding a little sparkle to someone’s day.  Most importantly, you are letting someone know you care. 

If I’m short on cash I can always make my cards. Christmas cards can be as expensive or inexpensive as you wish.  You can find inexpensive cards at dollar stores and they are really nice ones too, usually last year’s run. 

Thrift stores and garage sales are another resource.  A lot of people donate their leftovers along with their old sweaters and, more often than not, they will turn up in the “FREE” bin at a yard sale.  Look for them throughout the year and you’ll be ready for next Christmas. 

Cards can be made of fancy paper with sparkly glitter trim and professionally engraved with your name or they can be made out of your kid’s construction paper.  Either way, a perfectly acceptable greeting. 

Don’t have time?  Seriously!  How long does it take to sign your name? 

Add a quick note if you like, or not.  Add a photo of your kids, printed off your computer or better yet have the neighbor snap a quick group shot of the whole family.

Make Christmas cards an event.  A fun way for the family to sit together at the table, make cards, address them, write notes on colored paper and cut out some photos.  Talk about past Christmases with them and share stories from your childhood.  Make some popcorn and hot cocoa afterwards or head outside for a snowball fight. 

And all those cards you receive this year, don't throw them away.  I'll have a fun project to show you to re-use them after the holidays.

So if you are thinking of giving up on sending Christmas cards this year, re-think that a little bit.  And if you don’t usually send them, why not start?  It is, after all, Christmas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Use It Up

At our house we try to make the most of what we have.  One the best ways to stretch your budget is to use what you have and to use it all.  You will be amazed at how much is still left in a bottle or tube long after you were ready to toss it. 

·         Bottles of soap, shower gel and shampoo – store it upside down to get it all; use a little water to rinse out the last remnants.
·         Toothpaste – start at the end and use a rolling pin or something similar to squeeze all the paste toward the top.  Some people even cut the tube open with scissors to make sure they don’t miss anything.
·         Soap slivers – dampen the sliver and the new bar of soap with water to “laminate” them together.  They will fuse together next time you shower.
·         Facial cleanser in a pump dispenser – use a little water and shake it well to loosen what is coated along the inside of the bottle and you will have up to two more weeks of cleanser.  If your cleanser is super thick, like mine is, you can do this a couple of times.  I get a whole extra month of use this way.
·         Chapstick and lip balm – once you hit the edge of the tube scoop out the rest with your fingertip or a flat toothpick.
·         Dish soap – when you get down to the last of it thoroughly rinse out the bottle and the residue that has accumulated on the cap and you’ll have enough for one more sink of dishes.  You can do the same thing with laundry detergent and fabric softener.
·         Liquid hand soap refill – I find I can dilute hand soap up to 50/50 with water and it lathers up and cleans our hands just fine.
·         We have a rule with cereal and crackers that you can’t open a new one until the open one is all gone.  This way we don’t end up with a bunch of open boxes that go stale before they get used up.
·         Mayonnaise or peanut butter – get out the rubber spatula and you can usually scrape enough off the sides to make another sandwich or two.
·         Mustard, ketchup and salad dressing bottles – store upside down in the refrigerator to squeeze out every last drop.
·         Milk just turned – make pancakes, biscuits or bake a cake.  A lot of old cookbooks call for sour milk in recipes because in the good old days you didn’t waste it.  It imparts the about same flavor as buttermilk I imagine.
·         Flat beer (that hardly happens) – make fish and chips or beer bread.
·         Leftovers – usually leftovers become a second meal and/or lunches at our house, but not always.  If it looks like you aren’t going to get a chance to use something up (or just can’t stomach the idea of eating that one more time) consider freezing your leftovers for a future meal.  I like to freeze smaller amounts in individual containers for a quick grab and go lunch when I am rushed in the morning.
·         Gift wrap – before you head out to buy more check what you already have and pledge not to purchase anything else until you use up what you’ve got.  Get creative with ways to make it work.  You may find this year you don’t need anything new at all. 

It is not uncommon in this house to see a few upside down bottles here and there.  Not using things up makes me think of literally throwing handfuls of change into the trash.  Something I’m just not willing to do. 

If you haven’t already done so take a look around your house, in your cupboards and pantry, inside the refrigerator.  Find all the items that have just a little left in them and decide to use it up. 

I did this a few months back and we have been on a mission to use up a lot of forgotten items we found in our bathroom.  In the process you will save some money and as and an added bonus clear a lot of clutter. 

A lot of this is just common sense ideas we’ve probably all heard before.  Sometimes a refresher isn’t a bad idea.  If you have any great tips or ideas, please share.  We can always use a good tip for saving money.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

One of my fall and winter favorites is pumpkin pancakes with hot maple syrup. 

Pumpkin Pancakes 

1 c. flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
½ c. pumpkin puree
1 egg, slightly beaten
¾ c. milk
1 Tbs. oil or melted butter 

Combine dry ingredients with a whisk.  Mix wet ingredients in another bowl until thoroughly blended.  Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir together.  Serves 4. 

Serve with butter and hot maple syrup.  Maybe some apple butter.  Delicious!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Whole Wheat Dinner Roll Recipe – Bread Machine

Here is a simple dough recipe for dinner rolls our family really enjoys.  I love that it is easy. 

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls 

2 cups flour
1 cup wheat flour
¼ c sugar
2 ½ tsp. yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 ¼ cups warm milk
1 egg
2 Tbs. melted butter 

Select the dough cycle.  Place dry ingredients in pan and select start.  Add milk, butter and egg.  Once dough forms a smooth ball (you may have to add a little flour or water depending on humidity) close lid and allow cycle to run completely. 

Once finished remove dough from machine and knead lightly on a floured surface.  Dough should be smooth and not be sticky.  Butter a 9” X 13” pan.  Pull off pieces of dough and shape into balls about the size of a golf ball.  Line dough balls up in pan, cover lightly with a dish towel and place in a warm, draft free area.  Allow dough to raise until doubled in size, approximately one hour. 

Bake rolls in a preheated 400° oven for 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush tops with butter.  Makes about 2 dozen rolls. 

Serve these up with butter and homemade jam.  Sure to please!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

We are going very traditional this year with the standard issue items: 

·         Roasted Turkey & Gravy
·         Stuffing
·         Mashed Potatoes
·         Steamed Broccoli
·         Green Beans
·         Rolls & Butter
·         Cranberry Sauce
·         Pickles & Olives
·         Pumpkin Pie & Whipped Cream

We aren’t changing it up or trying anything new this year.  Sometimes there is something to be said for the old tried and true. 

We do brine our turkey overnight before we roast it and have done this for many years now.  For anyone who wants to try this it is a pretty simple process.  We love the flavor that it imparts into the bird, not to mention the gravy!  Oh my gosh the gravy! 

We brine our bird in our canner but you can also use a cooler.  Whatever you decide to use make sure it is nice and clean. 

On Sunday morning take your bird out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator to begin defrosting.  I put mine on a jelly roll pan to catch any yuck. 

On Tuesday start your brine.  You will need a gallon of vegetable broth.  I make my own: 

Vegetable Broth 

In a large slow cooker place four unpeeled carrots, four stalks celery, on large onion quartered, two bay leaves, and a tsp dried rosemary.  Pour in one gallon of hot water and let it stew on high for four hours.  Remove vegetables and bay leaf.  Allow to cool and then chill overnight. 

On Wednesday evening finish your brine: 

Turkey Brine 

1 gallon vegetable broth
1 cup salt
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. black pepper 

Stir to thoroughly combine.  Add 1 gallon ice water (1/2 ice, ½ water).  Pour brine into canner.  Immerse turkey into brine breast side up.  Just before bedtime turn the turkey over so it is breast side down. 

You will need to keep the bird refrigerated throughout this process.  I leave the canner in the garage where it is plenty chilly but don’t do this if there is a chance it might freeze.  You won’t be very happy if you wake up to a solid block of ice. 

When you are ready to put the bird in the oven remove it from the brine and rinse it well.  Place it in your roasting pan uncovered and unstuffed.  Insert your electronic thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, at this time, if you have one.  Make sure you aren’t hitting a bone.  Turn the oven on to 500°.  Yes, really! 

Roast the turkey in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Set the timer!  Then reduce to 350° and let it continue to roast until the internal temperature of the bird reaches 162°.  You will not cover the turkey at any time during this process.  It takes about 3 hours for an 18 to 20 pound turkey. 

Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest 20 minutes before carving.  It will continue to cook so don’t be alarmed if the temperature continues to rise at first. 

While the turkey rests you can use the drippings to make the most amazing gravy ever, get those potatoes mashed and warm up the rolls. 

If you decide to try this let me know what you think.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Keeping Your Resume Fresh

Is your resume up to date? 

Back in 2008, when the economy tanked and unemployment was on the rise, many people lost jobs they had held for a very long time.  They were comfortable in their job, had no plans to leave anytime soon and were shocked when their pink slip was handed to them.  For a lot of people they were completely unprepared.  Economically speaking, we still aren’t out of the woods yet. 

In addition to my full time job, I have two side businesses I run out of my home.  One is as a bookkeeper and the other is my “fun” business as a small graphic arts studio – announcements, wedding invitations, business forms, letterhead, that sort of thing.  And for several years now, resumes. 

When so many were losing their jobs in 2008 and 2009 it was heartbreaking to sit and listen to their upset and fear over this tremendous loss.  It was also hard to hear how unprepared so many of them were for this event in their life.  Almost everyone I worked with during this time was completely without a resume or hadn’t updated one in decades.  I recommend you review and update your resume at least twice a year.  You just never know. 

These are the things you should be thinking about when it comes to your resume: 

·         You need to show at least ten years of consistent work history.
·        Edit out the short-term temporary jobs you held in between longer periods of employment so you don’t appear like a “job hopper”.
·        Keep in clean and concise.  It shouldn’t look cluttered.
·        Keep it to one page.  I know that may seem impossible but employers don’t want to read a book (I know this first hand, I am an employer).
·        Dates of employment – use the years, not the months and days.
·        Show your achievements.  The big ones.
·        Show your education – High school grad date, higher education and/or tech school/training, continuing education.  Make sure you demonstrate you are willing to keep learning.
·        Keep your job descriptions brief.  You don’t need to list everything you ever did.  Highlight the important tasks that an employer would see as truly beneficial to them.
·        Remove the line “References available upon request”.  That is already assumed. 

These are the things you should be updating: 

·       Your address, phone number, email, name – anything that has changed since you looked at it last.
·        Any relevant classes, courses, continuing education you have done.  Edit out the non-current and no-relevant information.
·        Changes to your job title, position, and your job description.  Promotions.
·         Awards of achievement or any other relevant accomplishment.
·         Is your format current, eye appealing, eye catching?  Does it say WOW!?
·         Is your resume easy to read?
·         Re-read it entirely, check your spelling and watch out for typos.
·         Make sure it is accurate.  Don’t make the mistake of overinflating your resume beyond your abilities and don’t exaggerate your experience. 

Pay attention to the details.  As an employer there is nothing worse than a resume that is not well thought out, well put together and is difficult to decipher. 

A resume that is full of typos or misspelled words will quickly hit my waste basket because it tells me that this person isn’t detail oriented and doesn’t care enough to impress me. 

Don’t include your picture – it’s cheesy. 

On a separate sheet of paper (stationery) you will need to list three professional references.  Not your friends or co-workers, but actual supervisors.  Make sure you have their correct telephone number.  It doesn’t do any good to give out a phone number for a supervisor that no longer works there and can’t be reached.  As a courtesy to them make sure they know you are looking for work and to expect a call.  Present this at your interview, not as part of your initial contact. 

Who needs a resume?  Everyone!  Even stay-at-home moms can draft a resume.  They work – hard! 

Cover Letters - Yes, you need one!  Honestly, it is not the first thing that gets read but it is the first thing that gets seen and if we are impressed with your resume we will go back and read your cover letter. 

·        Before you print it find out the name of the person you most likely will interview with and insert their name in place of “Dear Sir/Madame".
·         Keep it to one paragraph.
·         Don’t forget to sign it in ink.
·         Use a letterhead.  It is easy to create one.
·         Make sure the date at the top is current.
·         Check for typos and misspelled words.
·         Use proper grammar, capitalization and punctuation.
·         Make it professional, not personal. 

Keep some sheets of nice white, gray, or beige stationery on hand to print your resume and cover letter.  Seriously, no pink or scented paper.  Even when so many are submitted online you still want to present a hard copy at an interview. 

If you mail your resume invest in a large white envelope and the extra postage to mail it rather than folding it.  Much better presentation! 

Better yet, deliver it in person and if you do, don’t show up in sweats or jeans.  And don’t take your kids or a friend!  Dress like you would for an interview.  First impressions are extremely important and you may get pulled in on the spot, you just never know. 

So take a little time this weekend, pull out that resume, dust it off and spruce it up.  It is one less thing to worry about when it comes time for a job change.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Grandma’s No-Crust Pumpkin Pie

I love this pie.  I especially love that it is lower in calories, although I don’t know how much lower, than traditional pumpkin pie.  If you are watching your waistline or looking for something a little less heavy for dessert after the big meal give this one a try. 

No-Crust Pumpkin Pie 

¾ c sugar
½ c biscuit or pancake mix
1½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 c pumpkin puree
1 13oz. can evaporated milk
2 Tbs. butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs 

Combine all ingredients and blend well at low speed with your mixer.  Beat on high one minute.  Pour into a lightly greased 9” pie plate.  Bake at 350° for 50 to 55 minutes until center is set. 

I love pumpkin so much that I make this pie year round.  And don’t forget the cool whip.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle

About ten years ago I really got interested in recycling.  Three years ago I took it a step further and really started to think about our family’s consumption and the overall effect we were having on the earth – our footprint. 

Americans are some serious consumers.  No doubt about that.  As our landfills grow larger and cities all over are contracting their mountains of trash out to rural landfills and outsourcing to other sanitation providers it really made an impact on me as a consumer. 

What can I do to reduce the mountain of trash my family produces? 

A lot actually.  In a world where we often feel powerless to change things of any great importance we can seriously affect the devastation we, as consumers, place on our earth and its natural resources.  We can, very easily, have a dramatic impact on the current concerns and issues affecting our local landfills.  The best part is we can start today! 

·         If you don’t recycle – START.  Even if you don’t have curbside pick-up service, consider locating your local recycling center and taking your items in.

·        Look for the large metal recycling bins in area parking lots supporting scouts, Kiwanis groups, shelters, etc.  Impact the environment and a civic group too!

·        You can recycle – PAPER, NEWSPAPER, CARDBOARD, ALUMINUM, METAL, GLASS, & MOST PLASTIC – look for the symbol.

·        Start COMPOSTING – fruit & vegetable scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds & tea bags, shredded newspaper, paper grocery bags, dryer lint, leaves & grass clippings.

·       Shop with RE-USABLE SHOPPING BAGS.  If you must use plastic bags bring your them back to the store to re-use or place in the recycle bin usually located near the front door.  Use PAPER BAGS.

·         PURCHASE LESS than you truly need to avoid waste.

·         THINK before you make your next purchase, no matter how small.  How much trash will this create?”  “How am I going to use it?”  When I am done with it where will it go?”

·         Consider RENTING or BORROWING items you rarely need or use.

·       Collect your ALUMINUM CANS to take in for MONEY and add a little to your income.  My kids collect them and once a year in the spring we take them in.  We usually get enough money to go out to lunch.

·         RETURN all cans and bottles that require a DEPOSIT.

·         If you have a garbage disposal use it.

·         CONSCIOUSLY LOOK at what you are placing into the TRASH.

·         RE-USE items you might normally throw away.  REPAIR something rather than REPLACE it.

·         GROW A GARDEN.  You will give back to the environment, have a place to use your compost and consume wonderful and nutritious food starting with just a few small seeds and a little water.

·         PLANT a TREE.  Give back to the earth to help replace what we take from it.


Once you get started you will immediately feel good about what you are doing and pretty soon it will become a habit.  You won’t even have to think about it.
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