Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Challenge

Up until about two years ago, we always had at least one yearly challenge that we set.  We've had a rough two years and haven't really done that.  2012 has ended on a rough note as well, but we feel like we want to set another challenge.

Our 2013 challenge is that we are not going to eat at the same restaurant twice.  If you know us, you know that we love to eat out.  In fact, it is pretty much our only vice.  The problem is that we live in a small town, with limited options and when we do go into Austin, we find ourselves going to the same places over and over again.  Here are the rules:

1.)  We cannot eat at the same restaurant twice.
2.)  If the restaurant is a franchise, we can only eat at one restaurant in the franchise for the entire year.  For example, if we go to the Taco Bell in town, we cannot eat at another Taco Bell in a different city.
3.)  Ice cream visits do not apply.  There are a limited supply of ice cream restaurants so we can visit the same places for ice cream treats.
4.) If we go out to eat with friends or family, we can eat at a restaurant we've already eaten at if the other party chooses the restaurant.
5.) If we do go on a vacation, we will try to adhere to the rules, unless there are no other options available.

We are excited about the challenge and looking forward to the new restaurants we will be able to visit.  Does anyone else set challenges?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Eukanuba BzzReview

I joined the Bzz Campaign for Eukanuba with 3D Dentadefense awhile ago, but due to my torn muscle, I haven't really felt like writing a review until now.  As a BzzAgent and part of this BzzCampaign for Eukanuba 3D Dentadefense, I was given a coupon for a free bag of Eukenuba 3D Dentadefense dog food.  The approximate value of the 17 pound bag of dog food was $32.

Here's how the Bzz Campaign described the food: "Recommended by vets, Eukanuba with 3D DentaDefense™ keeps your dog in top condition from tooth to tail. Ensure your canine's canines are healthy — feed your pup the only leading brand that provides complete nutrition and superior tartar protection in every adult and senior diet."

We initially started feeding this food to our oldest dog.  She has pretty bad teeth, although ironically, they are pretty good for a dog her age (13.5) and breed (greyhound).  She started eating it and seemed to like it but then started having some health problems and quit eating the food.  I do not think it was the food that made her stop eating it, but her health problems.  She was on the food for about two or three weeks before she stopped eating it, and I did not notice any improvement in the tartar on her teeth.

We have given the food to our other dogs as little treats, but not on a constant basis because of dietary restrictions.  They all, except our oldest dog, seem to really enjoy the flavor of the food and always seem excited to receive little bits as training reinforcements.

I wish I could tell you more and give you a better idea of the great potential benefits of Eukanuba with 3D Dentadefense.  I do think it sounds like a viable chance of improving the tartar of your dog's teeth.  The food is pretty pricey, but very well could be worth it.  If you decide to have your dog try it, I would love to hear if the food helps eliminate some of your dog's tartar.

As a side note, it was really cool of Eukanuba to include a little black light with the Bzzkit.  Did you know that when you shine a black light on your dog's teeth, the light will color the tartar pink?  It works on humans as well...Pretty cool!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Leftover craft paper

After my last craft, I had some leftover paper so I decided to make some cards.  When it comes to cards, I tend to be a minimalist so using the leftover scraps worked out perfectly.  I used my Cricut machine that I received from my in-laws for Christmas a couple of years ago to cut out the shapes, letters and words.
As a side note, I love homemade cards.  They are less expensive, but at the same time are full of meaning.  When I receive a homemade card, I think how wonderful it is that someone took time out of their schedule to make me that specific card.  Does anyone else feel that way?

Getting Crafty

Last month all I did was sit on my rear and watch movies.  I fully blame Blockbuster for this since they "gave" me a free pass for their $14.99 a month program that allows you to rent one video or game at a time with no return date and unlimited rentals.  Because I wanted to get the full value of the pass, I felt like I had to constantly get videos to watch.  Towards the end of the pass, I decided that I would not be renewing it because I didn't want to spend more time with my eyes glued to the TV.  I decided that I would start crafting more to occupy my time. 
I opted to work on a project that would be super easy, but was something that I had wanted to try for a long time.  My materials were:

* Wood Letters
* Paper in a matching color motif
* Mod Podge (matte)
* Foam brush
* Enamel Spray Sealer
* Pencil

I matched the paper with the letters I wanted them to be attached to, traced the letters upside down on the back of the papers, and cut them out. (Sorry about the photo, I forgot to fix it before uploading it.)

Using the foam brush I applied a thin layer of mod podge to the letters and then carefully applied the paper over the mod podge.  Once the mod podge was dry, I applied another thin layer on top of the paper.  I let that dry over night and then sprayed all the letters with the spray sealer.

After a day of drying, I think I ended up with a pretty cute little project to display on our mantel.

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Several weeks ago, I had the sweets urge and had seen this recipe somewhere online.  I don't remember if it was linked from a blog I follow or pinterest, but it contained three words that almost always are a sell for me..."chocolate peanut butter".  The link is here for the original recipe from a blog called Diva Entertains.
I did change the recipe some based on what I had in the house.  The recipe calls for brown sugar when making the crust, but I didn't have any so I used sucanat.  The recipe was not specific on what kind of chocolate chips to use so I used semi-sweet.

The crust was a little a difficult to work with, but I managed to get out a slice. :)

James and I were not super impressed with this pie.  The filling was good, but the biggest problem was the chocolate.  It needed to be milk chocolate and be a thinner layer.  I have other chocolate peanut butter no-bake recipes I like better that I will use before this one.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Glade Expressions Collection Review as a BzzAgent

As a BzzAgent I frequently get to sample new products and write reviews of them.  Recently I was given the chance to try two products from the new Glade Expressions Collection.  I tried the spray and oil diffuser in the Pineapple Mangosteen scent.

Background info:  I have four huge, inside dwelling greyhounds.  They can bring some serious dog smell in the house and sometime is is overwhelming! 

I loved the spray.  I was able to control how much I wanted to spray and how often.  It was a little strong after spraying, but dispersed quickly.  I enjoyed the new Pineapple Mangosteen scent, even though I still have no clue what Mangosteen is!

I am not as in love with the oil diffuser.  The picture above does not really show that the upright part with the holes in it is made out of bamboo.  I still love the scent; however it is chemically overwhelming.  I tried to leave it in our big living, kitchen and dining room area and it was so strong that I started getting a headache.  We currently have it in our music room with the door shut and we can still smell it in the other rooms.  If you really need that kind of odor cover up, then this is the perfect product for you!

BzzAgent provided me with two coupons for free products and discounted coupons, but all opinions are my own.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Breakfast Baking Day

I wanted to make sure that James had some quick breakfasts next week while I am house/dog sitting for my parents, so I had a baking day.  I went to my Pinterest account and pulled 6 recipes I had pinned.  Obviously the one with the candy is a snack and not a breakfast food...although there's no telling how James will eat while I am gone! :)

Here's what I made:

Monster Candy  Cookie
Apple Pie Muffins
Lemon Cranberry Muffins
Breakfast Omelet Muffins
Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal
Orange Blueberry Muffins

Hopefully that will get him through the week for breakfast, and if I'm lucky still have leftovers for awhile!

Brownie Comparison

I didn't take any pictures of this challenge, but we enjoyed the results. I decided to time myself while making store bought brownies and homemade brownies.  The boxed brownies are definitely more "convenient" since it only took my 4 minutes and 20 seconds to mix up the brownies.  Of course, neither one of us really enjoyed the brownies and we ended up throwing out half the batch (we used Pillsbury Fudge Brownie mix).  Our biggest problem with these brownies was that they tasted super oily.

As a comparison, I made a batch of homemade brownies from a recipe I've used for awhile.  It took me 15 minutes to mix the batch up.  The brownies were awesome tasting!!!  So much better than the others, and definitely worth the extra time. James said he would prefer if I only made the homemade batch from now on.

When I timed myself, it included finding all the ingredients, measuring out ingredients, and cleaning up.  The homemade brownies mostly seemed to take longer because I had to melt chocolate chips.

Definitely an interesting experiment.  We learned that the extra time on the homemade brownies is absolutely worth the effort!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Timed Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I've been thinking a lot lately about "convenience foods".  I understand that most people have much higher and many more time demands than I do, but does it really take that long to make stuff from scratch?  I decided to time myself today while I prepped a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies.  I did not include the baking time or the amount of time the butter was sitting out softening.  I also wanted a fairly accurate time, so I didn't set anything out in preparation (other than the butter), and I didn't rush at all.

It took me 12 minutes and 18 seconds to make the dough for the oatmeal raisin cookies.  That time included getting everything out of the cupboards, putting the items away when I was done with each of them (yep, I clean as I go), using my arms instead of a mixer, and trying to mash up little bits of hardened brown sugar.

Is 12 minutes and 18 seconds worth it to me in order to ensure that James has a yummy batch of homemade oatmeal raisin cookies (his favorite and I don't touch them) with no added preservatives in bet! Plus, James says they taste a ton better than any kind of store bought or out of a box mix cookie!

Hmmm...I feel a brownie mix vs. homemade brownie comparison coming!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cupcakes using Homemade Pumpkin Puree

I made some cupcakes the other day, using the homemade pumpkin puree we made from the found pumpkin. They looked so pretty and tasted awesome!

I had a box of yellow cake mix in my cupboards that I was ready to get rid of, so I used that.  All I did was substitute the pumpkin for the oil used in the recipe and added some chocolate chips.  I made a pretty standard chocolate ganache to top the cupcakes.  So happy with the results.  We also made pancakes yesterday morning  substituting the pumpkin for the oil!  I'm looking forward to more baking with the pumpkin.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Wild" Pumpkin

Ten months after the massive fire that hit our area, new growth is prevalent.  One of the families that lost their home was big into gardening.  James and I used to walk by their home just to see what was growing (and to look at the incredible welded animal statues the man made.)  Apparently some seeds survived the fire and were washed into the gullies on either side of the burnt out slab.  Recently I walked by the place and saw, what I thought were pumpkins growing.  I took James over to look and he wasn't sure if they were pumpkins, squash, or gourds.  On the 4th of July we walked over to the area and I was crushed to find that the vines I had been watching had been cut back by the crews cleaning up the area.  James decided to traipse down into the gully and found the pumpkin pictured above.  So pretty!  It reminded me of the pumpkin that Cinderella's Fairy Godmother turned into a coach.  Of course, there are no pumpkin coaches in my future, so we decided to process it down into pureed pumpkin.

 Here's half of the cleaned out pumpkin.  The other half was already cut up and roasting in the oven. 

Two hours, a lot of work, and a big mess later, we ended up with a bunch of pureed pumpkin.  Anyone who knows me is probably thinking...what is this girl doing with pumpkin, she doesn't even eat fruit or vegetables.  Well, I use pureed pumpkin in pancake/waffle mixes and as a substitute for oil in baked goods like cakes and muffins.  As I am typing, I have some chocolate chip cupcakes, using the pumpkin, baking in the oven! They smell so yummy!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

On Wednesday night about 6 PM, James decided to tell me that he needed to bring something to work on Thursday for a potluck. Immediately I thought brownies, but he said another lady was already going to bring those. Then I remembered a recipe I had just pinned on my "recipes to try" board on Pinterest...Chocolate Turtle Cookies. I went to the link at a blog I had never visited and decided I would try to make them.

These cookies were super easy to make, but were a little time consuming. I didn't change the recipe at all, other than I only used one egg white so that I wouldn't waste an egg. As for taste...they are very good! The caramel is soft and gooey and the chocolate cookie has a nice, complementery flavor.

4.5 Quarts of Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

We have had tomatoes growing like crazy this year.  We have never really had success at growing tomatoes, but this year we tried something new.  We used a good organic soil mixed with cow pains me to even type those words, but it's true.  The cow poop worked...we've had over 20 pounds of cherry, roma and big boy tomatoes.  We made and canned 6 pints of salsa and 9 pints of habenero salsa, but then we started getting a lot of ripe big boys.  We decided to try out hand at making spaghetti sauce and freezing it instead of canning it. 

Results are in... 8-10 pounds of tomatoes and 2 hours of work later, we froze 4.5 quarts of homemade spaghetti sauce.  It is so flavorful and yummy.  We didn't use any exact measurements, but if you have questions on how we made it, leave me a message and I'll get back to you!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract is SO EASY to make!  I wish I would have known how easy it is many years ago.  It is also much more concentrated so you can use half of what a recipe recommends (unless you just love the flavor of vanilla) so the extract lasts longer. 

Many of you know that I have never had an alcoholic drink, not one in all of my years, so it was an adventure to try to buy vodka.  Thankfully you really only need the cheap stuff.

Pictured above is everything you need to make homemade vanilla extract.  Make sure to use a glass jar instead of plastic so that the jar isnt' stained and plastic chemicals don't leach into the vanilla.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

about 40 vanilla beans (I ordered mine from Olive Nation and they are super quality vanilla beans.)
1 quart cheap vodka

1.  Cut the vanilla beans down the length of the bean to expose the little vanilla bean goodness in the pods.
2.  Place the beans in the bottom of a large glass jar and top with vodka.
3.  Place jar in a dark place and leave it there for about 6 months.  I usually swirl the contents once a week or so.

As suggested by my new sister-in-law, I will be giving some people some homemade vanilla for Christmas presents.  I'm enjoying my last batch and looking forward to the new one!  I feel some baking coming on!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles for Women Review

As a Bzzagent, I have been able to review a lot of products, but I was super excited to be chosen to be a part of the Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Bzz campaign.  Don't you remember those old commercials..."I'm gelling! Are you gelling?"  As part of the campaign, I received a free pair of Massaging Gel Inserts for Women and 5 coupons for $5 off any Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles.

I loved these insoles! I put them in my work shoes, and after working a double, my feet didn't hurt at all!  I felt supported and comfortable all day!

Some highlights about Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles:

* Come in men's sizes 8-13 and women's sizes 6-10
* Feature a Dual Wave Design - cushions that provide superior shock absorption and added support

Perhaps the best thing about Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Insoles is that the company offers a money-back guarantee!  On the back of the container there is a little box that has the following message, "If you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, mail in the original UPC code from the package along with your sales receipt...for a replacement of refund."  How great is that?

If you are interested in trying a pair, I have some coupons (obviously...they are in the picture).  I am going to keep one of the coupons in case James needs some inserts so that leaves seven $5 off coupons.  The first seven people to leave me a message on this blog post or my facebook post (7 total not 7 on each of the two posts) will get a coupon.  Make sure I have your email address, or friend me on facebook so I can get an address to mail the coupon to!

** Bzzagent provided me with a sample and coupons, but all opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Laundry Day looks like!

In an effort to lower our electric bill, conserve energy, and be a little more green, I have significantly decreased our usage of the dryer.  It's easy, but it does take a little more time.

I wash our laundry in cold water and during the rinse cycle I add some vinegar.  What vinegar?  Yep, it is a wonderful laundry softener and no, your clothes do not end up smelling like vinegar.  When the cycle is done, I pull out all clothes that are not underwear or socks, and hang them.  Sometimes I have clothes hanging from both shower rods and doors and shelving, but that is only if I wait a really long time to do laundry.  The underwear and socks, from all the loads, go in the dryer all at once for about 30 minutes.  So instead of running the dryer for anywhere from 60-180 minutes, I only run it for 30 minutes!

I wash our towels the same way, except instead of hanging them inside, I drape them over the railing on our deck.  Once they are completely dried, I fluff them in the dryer for about 10 minutes.

I know the time it takes to hang the clothes and wait for them to dry is not for everyone, but it works for us and we have enjoyed the benefits.  Not only is our electric bill lower, we are doing our part for the environment and our clothes are lasting longer!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Homemade Floor Cleaner (Non-toxic)

With two people and five greyhounds, you can imagine how often I have to clean our kitchen floor. For awhile I used a Swifter, but I was always bothered by the waste of having to throw away the pads and plastic bottles (they are not made out of a plastic that is recycled where I live). I went shopping around and found this "mop" with reusable/washable pads. I have three pads and soak them in a bucket with water and oxygen bleach after each use, then I throw them in with my weekly laundry and let them air dry.

Of course, I don't want to just use some chemical laden cleaner on my dogs walk on it and lick their feet. I did some research, messed around with different recipes and came up with what works for us. Eventually it will be completely toxin, chemical free, once I use up all the dish detergent that I have stocked up. I will switch to castile soap, a plant-based, all-natural soap.

Kat's Floor Cleaner:
1 cup vodka (cheap is fine)
1-1/4 cup water
1 t dish soap
10 drops lemon essential oil
10 drops tea tree oil (antiseptic, anti fungal)
5 drops cinnamon oil (because I like the way it smells!)

Mix all together in the container of the mop. This usually lasts me about two-three weeks worth of "mopping" every other day. Let me know if you have questions!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Another baking day

I bookmarked a few recipes from the King Arthur Flour website last week and just got around to trying them. I made the Simply Sinful Cinnamon Muffins and the Doughnut Muffins. I did make changes to both recipes but they still came out yummy!  I substituted one cup of white whole wheat flour for a cup of all purpose flour in both recipes.  In the cinnamon muffins, I omitted the pecans because we didn't have any, made my own filling instead of the package product they had listed , and omitted the cinnamon chips.  In the doughnut muffins I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil and accidently forgot to add the vanilla.  OOPS!

I also made 6 pepperoni pizza pockets and 6 pizza shells.  I know there are only 5 pictured, I had the 6th one for lunch!
This is what the Simply Sinful Cinnamon Muffins look like when cut open. Pretty yummy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I was asked by someone a little while ago to share how I make my homemade laundry detergent. It is not a special recipe or anything, just something I have modified over the course of a year and half.  I started to feel like we needed to be more ecologically responsible in our home and after reading about all the chemicals in laundry soap/detergent (they are not the same thing), I thought this would be a good place to start. 

The ingredients are super simple, all natural, and ecologically responsible.  Originally I used Fels Naphtha as the bar soap, but James didn't really like the chemical smell. Then I researched Fels Naphtha and found out that it is a major skin irritant and toxic.  People who make their own soap often use this because it is super cheap.
2 cups Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (this is not the same as baking soda)
2 cups Borax
1 bar Dr. Bronner's Organic, Pure Castile Soap (I have the hemp variety, but any castile bar is fine.)
10-15 drops (roughly 1/4 t) Organic Lavender Essential Oil (I use Aura Cacia)

1.  Cut the bar with a serrated knife into shavings.

2.  Put the shavings in a food processor.

3.  Run the food processor until the soap is a very fine powder.  This can kind of smell a little, not sure why.  You will probably have to use a spoon to scrape some off the bottom of the food processor bowl.

4.  Place the castile soap and all other ingredients into a storage container.  Make sure the container is clearly labeled!  Put the lid on the container and shake until mixed thoroughly.

The final product all mixed together!

Because this detergent doesn't have all kinds of chemicals in it, you do have to take a few extra steps.  I usually start running the water into my washer without any clothes in it, dump in about a heaping tablespoon (yep, that's all you need!) and swirl the water with my hand or a piece of dirty clothing in order to get the soap to thoroughly dissolve.  Sometimes I also add about a tablespoon of OxyClean (this is an oxygen bleach, not a CHLORINE bleach which has all kinds of toxicity) just to boost the cleaning capabilities. Oh, and I almost exclusively wash with cold water because it is more ecologically friendly (a few exceptions of course.)

Ok, time and cost.  It takes me about 15 minutes to make a batch of this detergent.  That includes walking around to gather everything, because of course I store everything on opposite sides of the house, to actually make it, and to put everything away.  One batch lasts us about 3-5 months, depending on how many loads of laundry we have to do.

Price is a little harder to break down because I haven't made exact measurements to see how much I get out of each box.  I will do a little quick, guessing math. I paid $2.77 for a box of washing soda and got 8 cups out of it, so that's about $0.35 a cup.  The borax cost me $2.98 a box and so far I have used 10 cups out of it with some still left, I will guess that I have about 3 cups left, so for that comes to about $0.23 per cup.  The lavender essential oil is listed as $9.57 for 0.5 fl. oz. on, and I used next to nothing from that bottle so I will go the high guesstimate of $0.50 for the amount I used.  Dr. Bronner's Organic Baby Bar soap is pretty expensive but absolutely worth it knowing it is completely plant-based and all-natural.  I paid $23.06 for 6 bars from, which is $3.84 per bar.  Grand total for the detergent is $5.50.  Not too shabby! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Yesterday's breakfast baking session

James was in desperate need of some fast breakfast foods, so I had a quick little freezer baking session.  I made 5 Belgian waffles, blueberry streusel muffins (I admit to using a boxed mix that I got for free), and 5 chorizo, potato and egg burritos.  Hopefully this will keep him fed for a little while!

Wild Dewberries

Our dewberry pickings were slim this year due to the fire.  We lost all our secret dewberry patches, except the two small ones in our front yard.  We were able to pick two small batches.  Pictured above is the first batch after I washed and froze it.  Pretty sad!

I'm back

I didn't like what blogger did to the setting on my old blog, and I couldn't figure out how to get the old setting back, so I just started a new blog.  Welcome!