Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Solitary Amnesty Day Find

Fall brings many wonderful things to our area and soon I will post pictures of beautiful Maple Avenue in all its flaming color. But there is one week that I hold dear and that is Amnesty Week.

I remember explaining the concept of Amnesty Day to the family I stayed with in Costa Rica. In my best attempt at Spanish, I told them that the town would happily pick up any refuse that one no longer wanted. Living in the land of "Keeping Up with the Jones'" means that there is always a wide assortment of TVs, chairs, tables, sofas, golf clubs, etc. left curbside. They laughed and thought something was lost in translation, but later Enrique (in much better Spanish) confirmed what they called American lunacy.

Back to Amnesty Day...

In the past, I have found some wonderful things, my favorite being my living room coffee table. I sanded and painted it matte black and added some vintage knobs. Very heavy, functional, cute. This year, the scavengers were out en masse, probably due to the nice weather. We had such a busy schedule and shining a flashlight on the curb and/or hoping to catch someone while they are taking their junk to the curb (the best scenario!!) took backseat to a warm bath and good book.

However, this morning C & I were coming home from errands & I spotted IT from the car. Quickly, I pulled into the nearest driveway and retrieved my treasure. It is a beautiful, very old mirror. The white paint is a bit flecked on the scalloped sides and one teeny piece was cracked off. The mirror itself was in stellar condition and just needed a good cleaning. C clapped from his car seat & we headed home.

Tonight, I carefully cleaned the mirror and applied a small bit of spackle over the broken edge. I used a small knife edge to carve a bit before the spackle dried. Good as new.

Here's a picture of the "new" mirror-the oval one, now hanging over my dresser.

Also a picture of my trusty Art Deco lamp, which lights my Bible every night for quiet time. I found it in an antique store in Alexandria; the owner was selling much of her things from her days in Paris. Very heavy, casts beautiful light and patterns on the walls.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pistachio Ice Cream

My sister generously let me borrow her ice cream maker and the boys have been excited to try my experiments.

Yesterday, I had no half and half or heavy cream so I searched for an ice cream recipe that would suffice without either of those ingredients...not an easy task. I found a recipe for ice cream made with pudding and changed it up a bit. There are only three ingredients and the results were amazing! It was very sweet, but not cloyingly so. If you like creamy, intensely flavored ice cream, try this! Although we used pistachio (my favorite), I am fairly certain that other flavors would produce delicious ice cream.

Pistachio Ice Cream
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3.4 ounce package dry pudding mix (pistachio)
1 1/2 cups milk

Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl. Pour into ice cream freezer and process as directed. I transferred to a plastic container to ripen and firm up in freezer for 2 hours. Enjoy!!

Monday, September 27, 2010


As much as I enjoy spending time in my kitchen, our schedule doesn't always allow hours of prepping, mixing, standing over the stove. For our busier weeks, I rely on shortcuts...they save me time and still allow us to sit around our dinner table with a nice, hot meal. Keep in mind that these shortcuts are not always the healthiest options, so sprinkle them into your meal plan between healthier choices.

Thank you, IKEA.
This past winter we sampled the Swedish meatballs at IKEA for the first time. They were surprisingly good and I picked up a 2.5 pound bag for $6.99. A packet of the cream mix was around $1. Simplest directions ever; just heat in your oven for about 15 minutes. In addition, I opted to add just skim milk to the cream gravy packet and it turned out great. Following IKEA's lead, I served the meatballs with smashed red potatoes and my homemade cherry jam. A green salad is always nice, too. Fast, satisfying supper.

Krusteaz saves the day!
Even as I type this, I am enjoying the cinnamon fragrance from a Krusteaz crumb cake. (My husband is watching the Bears-Packers game with his men's study and I wanted a surprise for his breakfast tomnorrow. He has a cold & has been working so hard). They have several terrific options for really tasty baked goods. Baking is my favorite way to relax, but sometimes I truly have 5 minutes to throw something together. We have yet to be disappointed with any of their mixes, but our favorites are the key lime bars, crumb cake and cranberry-orange muffins. Meijer had them on sale 10 for $10 several months ago and we stocked our pantry. My nine year old likes to make these by himself, too.

Roast Chicken in 25 minutes
I am not and will never be a Pampered Chef salesperson. However, my sister enjoys their products and has hosted a few parties. Last summer (2009), she purchased the covered baker for me. The interior is stoneware and the exterior is a beautiful cranberry glaze. Tomorrow I will scrub and slice about 8 smallish red potatoes and sprinkle them with salt & olive oil. Into the bottom of the roaster they will go, topped with a whole chicken. The whole bit goes into the microwave for about 25 minutes and voila! roast chicken with delicious, tender potatoes. Sometimes I sprinkle a little dry Italian dressing on the potatoes or place a lemon half & garlic into the chicken cavity. We have a busy evening tomorrow so I will make a Romaine, pear & Feta salad ahead of time to round out the meal.

Jiffy frosting mix.
This little blue & white old school box produces the fastest icing with just 2 Tbs.of boiling water added to the mix. For 60 cents, it's a quick way to thinly ice brownies in a pinch.

What are some of your favorite shortcuts??

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Lesson of the Mums

Sometimes God uses the everyday to speak truth to me.

Yesterday, C & I took advantage of the unusually hot weather to scrub down the front porch. A 2 year old + a hose + soap suds= good times. In addition, we took a trip to Meijer to purchase what have to be the most beautiful mums I have ever seen. (I have been shopping around for a huge pot of mums for the porch and Meijer has the most gorgeous, GIANT ones for $20!).

After selecting our orange flowers and paying for them, I buckled C into his carseat and the mums literally took up the entire side of the adjacent seat. C couldn't resist touching them, saying, "Flowers! Smell!" I reminded him to look with his eyes and not to touch the flowers.

No sooner had we left the parking lot did I see him plucking off a mum and smelling it. Mums are not the most fragrant flowers, and he did not appreciate the smell. He tossed the petals on the ground and screamed, "Ewww!" He met my gaze in the rearview mirror & I gave him a stern, "No. You may not touch the flowers". Of course, within minutes, his chubby hands were pulling off another flower, tossing in and shreiking due to the nasty smell on his hands. I reached back and gave his hand a firm squeeze and another reminder.

I kept thinking, "Child, you know that you were told not to touch the mums and you know that your hands stink after you touch them. Whay do you continue?!?!" Then, it struck me that God often says the same thing to me. Romans 7:15 says: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." How many times has God told me not to gossip, be lazy, etc. and yet I forge ahead, aware that I am disobeying and later filled with the reek and remorse of my sin?

Well, after a stop at my sister's house, my sister & niece came out to admire the mums and I decided it would be best to move them to the front seat. Another lesson there: removing temptation! C was an excellent helper in choosing a spot for the mums-I will post a picture of our clean porch and mums when they are full-blown. I will also say that he was eager to clean the peppery "eww" smell from his hands.

Have a great Friday! Off to do laundry and build a block garage for Matchbox cars.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Their Trash=My Treasure

Wanted to post a few pictures of my living room, much of it having been dragged home on amnesty day or discovered & revamped post-thrift store.

Several of these hats belonged to my Grandma Fitzgerald. They are propped up by all sorts of old candlesticks, wine bottles, etc. to get the varying heights. The armoire is one of the 1st pieces I purchased myself (along with my purple chaise) when I was a single, working girl. It is loaded with old pressed glass, my china, chargers, silver and tablecloths. Currently it is housing my cache of felted wool mittens that I am preparing for the Christmas fair.

Don't know if I will ever stop liking this chaise lounge. As mentioned earlier, I spied it at Hufford Furniture and thought that it was so lovely with beautiful lines and heavy, tufted fabric. It has moved with me MANY times and will likely be recovered someday. The picture is a gift from my parents and the Venetian mirror is the real deal, found in the basement of a Fredricksburg, VA antique store.

Here is the little chair that I reupholstered (detailed in earlier post). Behind it is a fun, HUGE oil painting that was salvaged from a coach house in Chicago. My friend's husband rescued the painting & they generously gifted this gem to me!

What you don't see is the very messy antique Pfaff in the background as it is piled high with my sewing projects!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Favorite Beauty Staple

Those of you who know me well also know that I adore all things "girly", especially perfume, cosmetics, creams, etc. Having used hundreds of different products, I have found a few that I repurchase again and again. Here is a short list of some of my favorites:

1) Jergen's Cold Cream

It doesn't get more old school than this, ladies. It's basically a giant tub of the greasiest pink cold cream that $3 can buy. The smell is subtle albeit a bit floral and it is very rich. Don't think I would recommend this to someone with oily skin, but if you have dry skin and are not prone to break outs, this stuff is golden.

2) Seche Vite
If you like pretty I like pretty nails...then Seche Vite is a terrific investment. It dries nail polish quickly and thoroughly. Essie nail polish is my preferred brand of color:)

3) Avon Glazewear
Hands down, best lipgloss. My current favorite shade is Island Glow, a taupe-y champagne-y sheer glaze.

4)Fleurs et Chocolat
Fresh came out with this perfume years ago, originally debuted as "Lucia". I love the blend of sweet oranges and bitter chocolate, scent perfection for me. It has been discontinued (again!) and I had to purchase from ebay. I keep it squirreled away in a dark drawer to preserve the scent as much as possible. My other favorites are offensive to some: Diptyque's "L'ombre dans l'eau", Theirry Mugler's "Angel" and the original YSL "Champagne", so I don't wear them often. My husband does love the Champagne (I have an original bottle of the parfum bought at Marshall Fields), so I sometimes dab a teensy drop on my neck. It is an amazing scent, intense and beautiful.

5) Olive Oil
That's right. I love to use olive oil on my face as a quick cleanser, massage medium. It feels wonderful and my skin thanks me. In addition, I have used baking soda as an extremely gentle scrub. It is non abrasive and my skin is baby soft after. Fresh lemon juice & sugar make an excellent body scrub for dry winter skin.

What are your favorite beauty products?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fabulous Rice Recipe

Since tilapia was on the menu tonight, I searched through my recipe clippings for a new side dish. All the boys here favor rice, so I pulled out a recipe from Martha's Everyday Foods. It was wonderful...nice balance of cilantro, lime and garlic.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Cilantro-Lime Rice
1 cup long grain white rice
coarse salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 clove garlic (I used 2 small)
In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and 1/4 tsp. salt; cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, 16 to 18 minutes.
Meanwhile, in blender, combine cilantro, lime juice, oil, garlic and 2 Tbs. water; blend until smooth. Stir into cooked rice, and fluff with a fork.

The weather has been terrific. C played outside and I did my Bible study in the back yard while he explored and covered himself with dirt. He took his 2nd bath tonight. His 1st bath was at 11:00am after he dropped an entire bottle of maple syrup while "helping" me organize the pantry. He proceeded to lay in the sticky mess, pretending to be a dog and lapping it up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Have you been convicted of anything lately?

I have.

Last Sunday, our Pastor was giving a message on Hebrews. He referenced 1 Peter 4:9 while discussing hospitality. The Truth in God's Word says:

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."

Sadly, I have fallen short in this area too often. However, I recognize that when I am diligent on tending to the house and my quiet times, I do not feel overwhelmed by inviting others into my home. Thank you, God, for being patient with me!

On a side note, here is an idea for a cheap, homemade costume. T's school has a big costume parade & this was what he wore last year. We even added an apple in his mouth.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Freezer Sweets!

In an effort to save money and have readily available treats on hand, I began freezing different flavors of cookie dough. We currently have molasses, snickerdoodle & dark chocolate-oatmeal-raisin in the freezer. The yummy milk chocolate-Heath toffee cookies were consumed last week.
Prepping the dough for the freezer is a great job for little hands, too. I scoop uniform balls with my cookie scoop and let the boys roll them and place on the parchment lined cookie sheets. They love to roll the snickerdoodles in the cinnamon-sugar, too. I pop the whole sheet in the freezer until the dough is chilled. Just label some freezer bags and pop the frozen cookies in there.
This morning we made some impromptu snickerdoodles for T's lunch as he is not partial to the jam thumbprints that were on the cake stand.
Here is an excellent recipe for snickerdoodles from allrecipes. The almond extract adds a wonderful depth to the classic taste.

Tanya's Snickerdoodles
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt, set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the eggs, milk, vanilla and almond extracts. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Cover bowl and chill for 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
In a shallow bowl or saucer, stir together the remaining brown sugar, white sugar and cinnamon. Roll the chilled dough into 1 inch balls, then roll the balls in the sugar mixture. Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for about 8 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies begin to brown at the edges. Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Meal Plan for Week

Wanted to share my tomato & pepper haul from the garden today. Bring on the salsa! I need to go to Trader Joes to grab a bottle of Chianti so we can make homemade marinara, too. has been an excellent source of encouragement and inspiration for me, especially when it comes to meal planning and budgeting. Although I have always been consistent with my shopping lists, I struggled to adhere to a meal plan. I have an accordion file of recipes that I have clipped from Everyday Food, Martha, etc. The meals I choose are determined by the weekly meat & produce sales. For the past few weeks, I have been typing out my weekly meals onto a word document. There are 4 columns:
Day of week
Meal Description
Have in Pantry
Need to buy

I print the completed chart onto the back of my shopping lists/sales for the week. Here is my Amy Butler coupon organizer (36 tabs!) and my shopping list for the week:

Find a system that works well for your family. You will certainly have to tweak it as we have done (especially with fall soccer season upon us). However, I find that we eat much healthier, save money and that I am much less stressed come 4 o'clock!

I found this "recipe" in one of my old cookbooks and thought I would share for those 4 o'clock moments:
Light the oven. Get out bowl, spoons and ingredients. Grease the pan. Crack nuts. Remove 18 blocks, 4 dolls and 31 marbles from the kitchen floor. Measure 2 cups of flour. Remove Susie's hands from the flour. Wash her off. Measure one more cup of flour to replace the flour on the floor. Get another bowl. Answer doorbell. Return to the kitchen and remove Susie's hands from the bowl. Wash Susie. Get out egg. Answer phone. Return. Take out greased pan. Remove pinch of salt from pan. Look for Susie. Get another pan and grease it. Answer the phone. Return to kitchen and from her, take up greased pan and find 1/4 inch of nutshells in it. Head for Susie, who flees, knocking bowl off of table. Wash kitchen floor, wash the table, wash the walls, wash the dishes, call the bakery, lie down.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


OK, a quick rant and rave tonight before I head off to do my quiet time & curl up with a good book and tea. (Night off from sewing!)

The RIDICULOUS amount of Halloween "superstores" cropping up in our area. They are tasteless. With the rotten state of our country's economy, do people really need to be indulging in cheap rubber masks and sleazy costumes?? The advertisements from Party City are bordering on soft porn. And I am not being sarcastic.

I made rosettes this afternoon for a special snack for after school. Yes, we saved some for my charming husband, too. They were AMAZING!

Off to drink tea & have my quiet time.