Thursday, May 15, 2014

An Interesting Revelation

Ah May. Is it May already? Are we ALREADY halfway through May? Between my son's 1st birthday, Mother's Day, and my birthday, May is a crazy busy month for us. Heck, the entire summer is super busy for us.

It being May, I've noticed that a lot of grocery stores and other retailers are starting to advertise Spring Cleaning! events. I've had my spring cleaning done for a few weeks now since I started in January.

Throughout this years spring cleaning season (January-April for me), I discovered something interesting about myself:

I feel like I don't deserve a clean house.

Its stupid, I know. But I noticed that whenever my kitchen is spotless, or there aren't a bazillion toys on the floor because I made the kids cleanup before bedtime, I have this weird sense that something is wrong because my house isn't a mess.

It doesn't make any sense, because I totally deserve to have a clean house. And I am 100% capable of having a clean house with minimal work, but for some reason, my mind tells me its wrong. Maybe its because I was never able to keep my room clean as a kid. Maybe its because I've never been a good housekeeper. Maybe I feel like because I have two kids, that I should be constantly doing housework, and if I'm not, something is wrong.

Who knows.

I've come up with a cleaning schedule that allows me to do one room a day. If I stay on top of it, my daily housework is less than an hour every day. And my house gets a full cleaning every week. I could also use some more sleep. I really go to bed much later than I should, which results in my day getting started much later than I like. I've tried staying accountable to a good friend (who is also a SAHM with 2 kids), but I find that if I DON'T get my cleaning done, that I feel even worse about myself which just contributes to the problem.

Here's the thing though, when my house is clean, things are SO much smoother around here. My daily housework takes me 30 minutes tops and then the rest of my day is free. It takes so much stress off of me and my kids. I'm not constantly worrying about what Aaron is gonna find and put in his mouth. I have more time to play with Penelope. I don't worry about where Luna is sneaking off to to devour dirty underwear or secretly pee somewhere. Cooking dinner is so much less of a problem because everything is clean and put away and I don't have to wonder where is that measuring spoon?

So I work really hard and go through a marathon cleaning day week and get my house spotless and then I can finally relax right? Nope. That's when the sabotage happens. My mind starts telling me things like "This is so not you. You're not one of these 'house is always clean' sorta people. You couldn't even keep a 2 bedroom apartment clean. How are you supposed to keep your house clean? And look at your BASEMENT! You don't really clean. All you do is shuffle things around so they LOOK clean, but you know the truth!..." and so on.

So I stop doing my daily housework. And the whole thing falls apart and it looks like a tornado has ripped through. Then I start feeling guilty about having a messy house. "Look at you. You can't even keep your house clean. You can't even stay on top of your dishes for one lousy day. And now you're SO TIRED that you can't even get off the couch to do any work" And so on and so forth. So I do a marathon cleaning, get the place spotless, and then the cycle starts all over again.

It's quite a cruel cycle.

And I don't know how to stop it.

All I can do is keep trying.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nomato Sauce Revisted

I have gotten such a huge response from people wanting the nomato sauce recipe that I've decided to go ahead and do a post about it, giving the full recipe here. That way, you guys can bookmark it and have it at your reference whenever you need it. Enjoy!

Nomato Sauce:
2 1/2 cup steamed carrots
1/3 cup steamed beets
2/3 cup Water
3 tablespoon Lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Basil
1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/8 teaspoon Oregano
3/4 cup chopped cooked onions (I use dried flakes equivalent),
1 clove minced garlic

Steam carrots and beets until tender.
Brown onion & garlic together.
Measure all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Nomato Ketcup (recipe from here):
1 (16 ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
1 (16 ounce) can pear halves in natural juice drained
1 (16 ounce) can sliced carrots drained
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup white corn syrup Karo
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. Store in refrigerator.

Nomato Barbecue Sauce (recipe from here)
2 cups tomato-free ketchup
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This recipe yields approximately 2 cups of barbecue sauce.

Someone had complained that the nomato sloppy joe recipe I posted had nightshades in it, and indeed it does. I hadn't made it clear that the recipe I posted was used for reference that I had not put any of the nightshades listed in the recipe in the meal. To help clear that up, here's the recipe again, this time without any nightshades in it.

Nightshade Free Sloppy Joes (original recipe here)

2 tsp olive oil   
1 small uncooked onion(s), chopped   
2 rib(s) (medium) uncooked celery, chopped   
1 pound(s) uncooked ground turkey breast   
2 tsp dried basil   
1/2 tsp table salt   
1/4 tsp black pepper   
20 oz nomato sauce (see above)
1/4 cup(s) nomato ketchup (see above)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 cup(s) frozen corn kernels, thawed   
8 item(s) mixed grain hamburger roll(s) 

Heat oil in a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add onion and celery and sauté until tender, 3 minutes. Add turkey and sauté until browned, breaking up the meat as it cooks, 5 minutes. Add basil, salt and black pepper; stir to coat. Add nomato sauce, nomato ketchup and mustard; mix well.

Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

Stir in corn and simmer 2 minutes to heat through. Spoon mixture onto rolls and serve hot.

There ya go! I hope this clears up any confusion on that last recipe. I also included a link to the original recipe in case someone is looking for that too. Enjoy everyone! Please don't hesitate to email me with any questions! :-)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why We Don't Celebrate Halloween

In the never ending myriad of mommy war topics, this is one that I get tired of explaining. So I'm doing it here, once and for all.

Why don't we celebrate Halloween?

I don't know.

Honestly, I can't explain in words what it is that makes me not want to participate. But there is just something that we cannot get past.

I don't really see anything wrong with Halloween. Dressing up is fun. Candy is fun. Free candy is REALLY fun. But...there's just something about it that doesn't sit right with me.

So does this mean that we don't do anything in October? Not true! This year, October has been SUPER crazy busy for us! We got to meet firefighters and climb in a firetruck. We went to a fall festival at my mom's school. We went apple picking with my sister and brother-in-law. We went to Maker Faire. Our church held a Harvest Party last week that we went to. We have even carved pumpkins. Two in fact.

I have never gone trick or treating. Travis went every year. Before we had kids, we would go to Halloween parties, and hand out candy to the kids. But something changed when we had kids, and now, we don't celebrate anymore.We talked, and prayed, and talked, and prayed, and prayed some more about how to handle this holiday. And we decided that its just not for us.

We still let Penelope dress up, but this isn't a far cry from every day - she LOVES to dress up.

I have noticed one thing this year. It seems to me (and it could just be me) that the decorations and costumes have gotten a lot more scary. There seems to be a lot more ghouls, ghosts, and skulls than in past years. When you have a child who is very sensitive to this sort of thing (she was afraid of Tinkbell being chased by a cat in The Great Fairy Rescue), you tend to avoid them. Our neighbors throw a block party on Halloween. We went last year and had a great time. This year, however, we probably won't be going because they have put up a HUGE floating skull ghoul that I'm sure would scare Penelope. It's unfortunate because we really did have a good time last year, but the last thing I need is a 3 year old waking up screaming because she had a bad dream.

So why don't we celebrate? Is it because of the pagan history? Is it because of the weird spiritual aspects that always seem to come up? Is it because, in some weird way, I want to continue my non trick or treating streak? Is it because we don't want our kids to have tons of candy? Is it because of the fear factor?

Maybe. It could be any of these, or something else. It could be a little of each one. Like I said, I can't really explain why we don't. It's just the decision we made for our family.

So if you wanna go trick or treating, you won't get any judgement from us. We get its a personal preference, and I'm not trying to convert anyone. Just be safe and have a GREAT time!!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Adventures in Cake-ing

I recently did a wedding cake for a good friend. She picked a 2 tier square chocolate cake with strawberry filing and cream cheese icing. She didn't want anything super elaborate for decorations. Just a simple pink paisley pattern in a couple of places to stand out against the white. This is probably one of the most simple cake designs I've done, and yet, its given me such problems!

1. I tried to make a practice cake a few weeks ago that failed miserably. For whatever reason, the cake dried out super crazy fast and tasted awful. I was in the middle of bridal shower planning, so its very possible that that had a lot to do with it.

2. The paisley pattern she wanted came from a cake stencil pack I got at Michael's. We decided to try this spray on edible coloring. Wilton calls it "Color Mist", Duff Goldman calls it "Cake Graffiti." Either way, its essentially edible spray paint that one uses to color a cake, or in our case, stencil on a couple of paisleys. Lemme tell ya something. These things are not for detail work. If you're going to color an entire cake, or cupcakes, it works fantastically. If you're trying to do something more detailed, these will not work (or maybe I just need more practice.) Plus, the stuff gets EVERYWHERE! My fingers were pink by the end of it. It was really tough to get a precise, clean pattern without pink everywhere else, no matter how hard I tried.

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about

Oh yeah. That's pink

3. After realizing that the colored spray wasn't going to work the way we anticipated, I spoke with my bride and I decided to buy some gum paste, and cut the paisley pattern out of that instead. I would then use the pink spray to color the gum paste pieces so it wouldn't go to waste. This came out so much nicer than I anticipated and I was really happy with the results. After spraying them and letting them dry, I took some silver petal dust and lightly brushed them to make them a little sparkly. It ended up looking really nice. I also piped on the dots instead of trying to cut them out of the gum paste.

4. I went to Joann's to pick up some gum paste. When I got home, I started working on the next cake to go in the oven. I had checked the fridge earlier to ensure I had enough eggs to make the cake BEFORE I left for Joann's. Yeah, well, it turns out, I didn't. There was 2 dozen eggs in my fridge. One had expired weeks ago, and the other were hard-boiled, which I didn't realize until I opened the carton and saw them dyed red (it's a Greek Easter tradition). So, after being home all of 20 minutes, Penelope and I got our shoes back on and we headed back out to Publix. I bought 18 eggs and an extra box of cake mix...and I am SO glad I did.

5. I finally get home and get this cake going...again...this time, with a fresh 1.5 dozen eggs. I put everything in the mixer, let it spin for a minute or so, and begin pouring it into the cake pan. That's when I noticed that the cake batter was awfully thick. I've worked with this batter before so I know what the consistency is supposed to be like. I thought maybe it was because I was doubling a recipe (2 boxes of mix instead of one) and it just came together weird. I also noticed it made less than it usually does. Again, assuming it was a weird discrepancy from doubling the mix, I popped it in the oven. 35 minutes was done. Now folks, this is a 10in square cake. The 6-INCH CAKES take 40 minutes to bake. I also noticed that it hadn't risen very well and seemed like it wasn't cooked all the way. I pulled it out of the oven, let it sit for 30 minute to cool, and then tried to pop it out of the pan...and it stuck...horribly. Now at this point, I'm really confused. My cakes NEVER stick. I used a knife to work around the edges of the cake and keep trying to pop it out. Finally, it comes out and is very dense, very crumbly, and just doesn't look right, not to mention a part of the bottom had remained in the pan. I let it sit for a few more minutes to cool, and hopefully harden up a little bit (it was still quite warm at this point), and finally realized that I'm not going to be able to use this cake and I'll have to make another one.

6. Again, I add my cake mix, oil, and water to my mixer. I'm about to add the eggs when I noticed something. Only 3 eggs of my 1.5 dozen are gone. Remember, I'm doubling the batch, so I need to add 6 eggs total, not 3. That's when I realized what happened with the other cake. I only used half the eggs, so there was half the fat and less liquid. That explains the consistency, the fact that it didn't rise properly, and the incredibly dense fall-apartyness of it. At this point in the day, I'd been at this so long that I did the only thing I could do - I laughed - uncontrollably. I could not believe that I had forgotten to add the extra eggs. Thankfully I had picked up 1.5 dozen eggs and an extra box of cake mix so I didn't have to go back out. After I composed myself, I got the last 2 cakes in the oven (double checking my egg count with each one).

7. I let the cakes sit overnight to fully cool. The next day, I started making my strawberry filing to go in between the layers. It's a great recipe that creates a nice gelled filing that is very true to the fruit flavor. I looked at my recipe and decided to triple the batch to make sure I had enough for all the layers (3 filing layers in each cake). I started the strawberries, water, sugar, and lemon juice (to brighten the flavor) and kept an eye on it while it boiled and the strawberries fell apart. I strained it, per the directions, and added the appropriate amount of cornstarch and water slurry and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes. Within a minute or two, I realized something was wrong. Usually at this point, the mixture has started to thicken and gel. This had not happened yet. Understanding that sometimes doubling or tripling a recipe means you have to add more cornstarch/water to get it to gel properly. I added 3 times the amount the recipe called for, and still nothing. At this point, I also noticed that there were bits of cornstarch in the gel - it was falling out of solution. I realized that I was going to have to start over. So Penny and I went to Publix, and got more strawberries and I made some more. I decided this time to make 3 single batches instead of one tripled batch. This worked MUCH better and I was finally able to get the cakes filled and crumb coated. Ironically, the crumb coat icing came out perfect and I was able to get it coated and hardening in the fridge pretty quick. I'm still not quite sure what happened with the filing. I'm just glad that I finally got the cakes crumb coated.

8. I decided to wait until Saturday morning to ice the cakes. I had a really long day on Friday and was worn out by the time I got back from the store. I let the cream cheese for the icing soften and get ready for the cake. I made the icing and for whatever reason, it was quite soft. I was super worried that it was going to melt on the way to the wedding. Thankfully, mom, Travis and I had figured out a way to transport it and keep it cool to ensure it made it to the site (it was a 90 min drive).

Thankfully, the cake survived with only minor touchups needed. I was able to put it together, decorate it, and get it in the fridge before the wedding started. I was really happy with the outcome, and my friend was as well.

Congratulations to Jeremy and Miranda!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Craft: My Year in Temperatures Scarf: March

We have made it to April, and I have stuck with it! We saw a little glimpse of spring in this month, but still lots of drab colors. Hopefully April will be more bright and happy!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Squirrels: Part 2

Since our last meeting, the squirrels were ahead 2 to 1. Travis had gotten a cotton ball soaked in stink bomb solution into the hole. While at first, it seemed like they didn't care, we didn't hear anything from them for awhile so we thought they had finally left. We still heard them on the roof and in the trees behind the house, but not in the chimney.

Travis: 2; Squirrels: 2

Then, shortly after Christmas, they returned. We had decided enough was enough. We called a couple of pest control companies to see what it would cost to have the hole patched. Unfortunately, all the places we called (3 or 4) told us that they would not come out just to patch the hole. In order for it to make it worth while for them, they were going to need to squirrel proof the entire house. We loved that idea, but we didn't love the cost - $1,500+ - which we didn't, and still don't have in cash.

Travis has been shooting blow gun darts around the hole all week in an attempt to deter them from going back into the hole. This has not been working. Today, he came up with another idea. He remembered we have a ton of bottle rockets leftover from a firework run we made a couple of years ago. He decided to rig a launch tube from the PVC pipe used previously and attempt to aim one into the hole to scare (or possibly kill) them, which at this point, either option is 100% fine by me.

To give you an idea, this is what the above looks like:

The first pack were duds, so he went down and got out a second package. After 2 misses (they're REALLY loud!), he decided it was better NOT to tick off the neighbors (especially since bottle rockets are illegal in Georgia). On the bottom of our chimney, there is an old pipe that we are not quite sure of its purpose. It looks like an old dryer vent outlet, but why would that be attached to our chimney? If we stick something up into the pipe, we reach a block of some sort so it doesn't appear to go all the way to the top of the chimney. Travis decided to try one more thing. He stuck the bottle-rocket-loaded-PVC pipe into THAT pipe in an attempt to scare them off. We have no idea if this has worked or not. All I know is our house now smells like fireworks, and I'm getting a headache. I was also praying he wouldn't burn the house down or blow a hole into our chimney :-)

About halfway through this experiment, I remembered that there is a guy we go to church with who is super handy. An email has been sent to him and we're waiting to hear back. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Craft: My Year in Temperatures Scarf: February

2 months in and I'm sticking with it! I'm also loving the reverse stockinette more than I thought I was going to. I'm excited to move on to March, and I'm excited to get more bright colors in there! These drab ones are getting old! :-)