Monday, June 30, 2008

Plum Cobbler

So my plum tree was overflowing with ripe fruit this weekend. I ended up picking about 6 pounds of juicy plums and wondering what in the world I was going to do with all of it. After staring at the gigantic pile for a few days, I decided to make a plum cobbler last night (I've never made one before) and it turned out REALLY good, so I thought I'd share the recipe. It'll be even better with vanilla ice cream so I'm heading to the store in a bit to pick some up.

Plum Cobbler
3/4 cup plus
4 cups of chopped or sliced plums
2 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tbsp of white sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Preheat oven to 350°F.

2 In a large bowl, combine white sugar, plums, cornstarch and cinnamon. Place the fruit mixture in a 2-quart casserole.

3 In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Cut the butter in with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk and egg until just moistened.

4 Drop batter on fruit, or if desired, spread batter in stripes. Bake in a 350°F oven for 35 minutes.

Hope you like it, tell me what you think!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This Is Quite Possibly The Most Horrible Thing I've Ever Heard In My Entire Life

Seriously, I think my ears are bleeding.

And, for your amusement, here are the lyrics. I had to read them because I couldn't understand a thing she was saying.

Heidi Montag - Fashion

Red One


ohhh ohhh
la la la
We Love Designer

I am, I'm too fabu-lous
I'm so fierce that it's so nuts
I live, to be model thin
Dress me, I'm your manne-quin

Fashion put it all on me
Don't you want to see these clothes on me
Fashion put it all on me
I am anyone you want me to be
Fashion put it all on me
Don't you want to see these clothes on me
Fashion put it all on me
I am anyone you want me to be

Repeat Bridge

I need, some new stile-ttos
Can't walk, down the street in those
You are, who you wear it's true
A girl's just as hot as the shoe she chooses

Repeat Chorus

Repeat Bridge

Repeat Bridge (again)

Repeat Chorus

Repeat Chorus (again)

Repeat Bridge

Repeat Bridge (yet again)

Ladies and Gentleman, this is who our kids are watching.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Apparently Surviving on Coffee Isn't So Bad

So, my (almost) 14-month-old son just learned how to open doors and our baby gate. He now has access to knives, chemicals, kitty litter and the trash can. And then he discovered he could drag the kitchen chairs over to the counter for even more access to all sorts of wonderful things. Oh, goody!

As I'm sure you can imagine, I've been running myself ragged chasing him around the house to keep him from killing himself - so I have had no time to eat, sleep, or shower. I've been surviving on coffee, crackers and string cheese for two days. Lucky for me, I found this article on MSN Health & Fitness that has made me feel slightly better about my sudden coffee dependency.

Apparently, the Autonoma University in Madrid, Spain did a study with 42,000 men and 84,000 women on the relationships between coffee consumption and dying from heart disease or cancer. Surprisingly (at least, to me) they found that women who drink between 2 and 3 cups daily of either regular or decaffeinated coffee had a 25 percent lower risk of death from heart disease, and an 18 percent lower death risk from a cause other than cancer or heart disease compared with non-coffee drinkers. For men, the 2-3 cups a day showed no difference in health risks. Bummer for the guys. But seriously, C'mon all my sleep-deprived mommies out there, how awesome is that?

It also said that their research showed that up to SIX cups a day showed nothing but positive effects on your health. Which is cool, because I had 5 cups already today. Now I just need to find a study on the positive effects of surviving on crackers and string cheese and I'll be good. Maybe between the caffeine, malnutrition and chasing my kid around I can at least lose a couple pounds, right? That just might make it all worth it...

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Easiest Potato Soup You Will Ever Make!

My MIL gave me this recipe (which was given to her by a caterer) and it rocks! I was absolutely shocked by how simple and delicious it was. I make it when I REALLY don't want to cook but I want something satisfying - like when my husband is out of town and cooking for just me is way too much trouble.

Way-Too-Easy Potato Soup:
1 bag Potatoes O'Brien with peppers and onions, thawed
4-6 c. chicken broth (depending on how thick or thin you like your potato soup)
1 pkg. of country gravy mix

Seriously, that's all that's in this - no joke!

Bring broth to a boil, dump in potatoes. Let cook 10 minutes and then whisk in gravy mix. Let simmer another 10 minutes. Enjoy!

You have got to try this and tell me what you think. I love it!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Great Summertime Activities for the Kids

The warm weather has gotten me thinking about things that I can do with my son. Now, he is only a year old so this somewhat limits our options but I've compiled a list of some pretty great kid-friendly summer activities. Take a look and feel free to leave your own suggestions as well.

1. Print coloring pages from the National Geographic website or from Family Education. The have a TON of great animal coloring pages and your kids can learn something while fostering their creativity. Perfect when the weather is just a little too warm outside.

2.Splash In the Pool! Whether you have a real pool, or just a kiddie pool, what kid doesn't love splashing and getting soaked? The quintessential summertime activity.

3. Don't have a pool? Have a sprinkler party! Turn on the hose and let those kids burn off some energy. Bonus: It may just give you some time to catch up on that book you've been wanting to read. (Or, let's face it, shower.)

4.Go to the Zoo! Seriously, is there anyone on this planet of ours that doesn't love the zoo? Even if it's not really close, make it a long day trip. Your kids will talk about it for days.

5. Go Berry or Apple Picking. This is a fun summertime activity for the whole family - and there's an immediate payoff. You can also seize the educational opportunity at hand and talk to them about how fruit grows and how healthy it is for them.

Enjoy you summer!

Question of the day:
What are your favorite family summertime activities?

Friday, June 20, 2008

See How My Garden Grows!

Ok, enough with the cleaning supply posts for awhile. It's summertime and that means I get to talk about my garden. Yea!

I love, love, LOVE summer. The flowers are blooming, the sky is blue, the weather is warm, and we get some great thunderstorms. Of course, my allergies are in full swing because of this and I pretty much keep Claritin in business but, hey, you can't have it TOO good, right?

This year our fruit trees are producing for the first time, as well. They're just loaded down with apples, pears and plums. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to learn how to can or buy a dehydrator or something, because we're going to have fruit coming out of places it was never meant to be. I can't wait until those first little fruits (really, they're little. This is the first crop ever.) are ready to toss down my throat. Mmmm...

We've also become really excited about our grape and blackberry "crops" this year. Our two grapevines seem to be dripping with green grape clusters and our three blackberry bushes don't seem to be hurting, either. Last year we got enough blackberries for me to freeze and I've been able to put them in homemade baby food and other things all year. I'm looking forward to more.

We planted our garden a few months ago and our plants have started producing vegetables. I have two crookneck squash plants that are already starting to produce little baby squash like crazy. I'm so excited to have them with dinner. They're especially good sauteed in a little bit of browned butter with some sliced onion. I can almost taste it now.

We've also planted some green onions and serrano peppers and are quite excited about them, but the real treat of our garden are our tomatoes. Ah, the lovely red globes of juicy goodness.. After you've experienced the pure loveliness of fresh tomatoes, the impostors they try and sell you in the grocery stores start tasting like little more than soggy styrofoam. Every winter I really start missing our tomatoes badly and begin to daydream of juicy BLT's and cherry tomatoes. I was so excited early this week to see that I actually have some little cherry tomatoes forming. Every time I go out to the garden I look for signs of red - I just can't wait to eat that first one!

This summer is particularly wonderful because it's my son's first summer that he can really enjoy (he's almost 14 months old). I just know that he's going to have so much fun picking the little tomatoes and the fruit off of the trees. Everything is so new and exciting to him and I so enjoy (like eating my fresh tomatoes) savoring every second of it.

Question of the day:
What are YOU growing this year?


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Save Money by Making Your Own Cleaning Supplies - Part 6

Time for some homemade recipes for floor cleaner! Yippee! I actually have to that I like quite a bit. Here it goes (ya takin' notes?)

Floor cleaner option #1:
The greatest cleaner for linoleum is plain ol' club soda. Works like a charm.

Option #2 :

I got this from my wonderful Aunt (it works great!)

Bucket o' hot water
1 cup ammonia
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup baking soda.

Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water (otherwise you'll get a film - yuck!). Add remaining ingredients. Great for grimy messes.

Hope these work for you!

Question of the day:

Some other quick cleaning tips for you:

Use distilled white vinegar instead of fabric softener in your rinse cycle.

Use dryer sheets up to 3 time (or cut them in thirds) then use them to polish you faucets or dust.

Microwave: Mix 2T baking soda or lemon juice and 1 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for five minutes or until the liquid boils and condensation builds up inside the microwave. Wipe down.

Use hydrogen peroxide in your whites instead of bleach.

Since you can't use bleach in your colored laundry loads, use borax! It disinfects and cleans as well as bleach without damaging the fabric and colors!

Hope this helps!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Save Money by Making Your Own Cleaning Supplies - Part 5

I have lots of all purpose cleaner recipes, so here it goes:

Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle.

Dissolve baking soda in boiling water (maybe 1/4 c. baking soda to 1 c. water), let cool. Mix with a couple cap fulls of bleach in a spray bottle.

Mix equal parts vinegar and water and sprinkle in some borax (Maybe a tablespoon? No specific amount, it just gives the mix a little "boost".)

Hydrogen peroxide. That's all, just peroxide in the little brown bottle. You can dilute it further with water, if you want.

Question of the day:
Has anyone else tried any of these (or any other) homemade cleaning supplies? What was your opinion of them?


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

FREE Potty Training Video From Huggies Pull Ups!

A fellow mommy from The Mommies Network alerted us to the free potty training video that Huggies Pull Ups is giving away right now. I thought that I'd share this with all my fellow mommies in the blogosphere!

Enjoy the freebie!

Monday, June 16, 2008

How To Tell If Your Watermelon Is Ripe

I don't care where you live, when the temperatures rise thoughts of ice cold, juicy watermelon start to work their way into your head. No matter if you grow your own or buy them at your local farmer's market or grocery store, we've all had the unfortunate experience of getting a not-quite-ripe melon. Here are some ways to make sure the one you get next time will live up to your warm weather watermelon fantasies.

1. Knock on it. We've all tried this one, but if you don't know what you're listening for it can prove disastrous. Your melon should sound hollow and it should feel more like knocking on a human head than a human chest.

2. Look at it. Check out the stripes on the melon. If the contrast between the stripes is quite obvious, put it back.

3. Check it's bottom. An unripe melon will have a white bottom while a lusciously ripe one will have a cream or yellow one.

4. Press on it. If it feels and sounds like it gives a little bit, it's probably ripe. Be careful, though. If you press too hard it could ruin the fruit.

5. Check the tendril (if it has one). If the tendril is green it is not ripe. Either wait to pick it or put it back. If it is half-dead, it is either nearly ripe or ripe. If the tendrils are completely dead it is ripe with the possibility of being over-ripe. It could also mean that anthracnose or some other fungus killed the melon, so beware.

6. Count the number of days from flowering or the number of days from planting. If you are growing your own melons this is the most fool-proof way of telling whether or not your melon is ripe. The back of your seed packet will tell you the number of days to wait.

7. Check the size. While not fool-proof, this is also something to think about. If your melon is small, it's probably not ready yet (unless the variety runs small). However bigger is not always better. Just make sure it's "normal melon size".

8. Crack it open. If your growing them and your've got a ton of 'em, why not test your ripe watermelon finding abilities?

9. Is your watermelon vine dying? Chances are, if the plant is dying, the melon ain't gonna get any riper. Pick the darn thing!

Enjoy the summer melons! ;)

Thanks to The Farmer's Almanac for the watermelon picking ideas!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A few things about this "Green" thing are really starting to tick me off...

Warning: This might turn into a rant. I'll try and keep it short and sweet, but consider yourself warned.

I'm all about sustainable living and protecting the environment. I use CFL light bulbs, re-usable shopping bags, I have a garden and buy from the local farmers' market... among other things. But some of these supposedly "green" people and companies are really starting to irritate me. It seems that all they REALLY want is for you to buy into the recent hype and line their pockets with dollar bills by buying all new stuff. Isn't buying new products kind of "anti-green"?

I mean, sure, I'd love a Prius or some other hybrid. But, isn't it really better to drive my existing car into the ground before I buy another car to put on the roads? And I'd love to buy your t-shirts made from recycled Coke bottles, but then I'd probably have some shirts going to my local landfill. And have you heard of these Organic Lollipops? I mean, really? What do you think, there's some organic lollipop plant somewhere and now lollipops are healthy?

It doesn't stop there either - you have green cleaners, too. Um, thanks, I can make my own! People get so caught up in this crap that they forget to think about other options (You know, 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle'). End of rant, thanks for listening.

Question of the day:
What do you think of the current Green movement?


Monday, June 9, 2008

Save Money by Making Your Own Cleaning Supplies - Part 4

The Easiest Oven Cleaner in Existence!

Don't Scrub your oven EVER AGAIN! You don't need all those horrible oven cleaners and you don't need to bend over and make your back ache by scrubbing forever, either. Want to know the secret?

Ammonia. Yup, ammonia. Nasty smelling stuff but it's a marvelous cleaner. Just get a glass bowl and fill it with ammonia (about a cup). Sit the bowl on a rack in your oven overnight. That's it! When you get up the next morning your oven will wipe clean easily.

Enjoy saving your back, your advil, and your money!

Homemeade Taco Seasoning

I don't know about you, but I love Mexican food and I prepare it quite frequently. But I always hated having all of those little envelopes of taco seasoning laying around - especially since I use so many. So, I decided to try and make my own. I believe I've got the recipe right now, and it's a lot cheaper than all those little packets.

Taco Seasoning
1/4 c. dehydrated minced onion
1/4 c. chili powder
1 T. cornstarch
1 1/2 t. red pepper
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 1/2 t. oregano
1 1/2 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. paprika
1 1/2 t. salt

Mix well and Store in airtight jar. Makes 1 c. taco seasoning. 1 1/2 T. is equivalent to taco seasoning packet.


Save Money by Making Your Own Cleaning Supplies - Part 3

Make your own toilet cleaner! It's a breeze!

Sprinkle your toilet bowl with borax and baking soda. Splash in some distilled white vinegar (or spritz on with a spray bottle). Swish around the bowl and let sit for a few minutes before scrubbing and flushing.

Works just as well as any other toilet bowl cleaner that I've tried.

Hope it works for you, too.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Finally, A GOOD Way To Meet Other Moms!

I belong to my local chapter of The Mommies Network and I just love it so much. When my husband and I moved to the town we live in now we didn't know a soul in the entire state. A few months after moving here I found out about The Mommies Network and it was a godsend for me. I quickly started making friends with other Moms in my area, and it was such a relief to have people that understood what Moms go through day in and day out. Every month we have coffee meet-ups, playdates at parks, we go out to lunch, and have countless other opportunities to talk with other Moms and for our children to make new friends. I'm so thankful that I found this organization. Just thought I'd share it with other Mommies out there, too.

Check it out!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Save Money by Making Your Own Cleaning Supplies - Part 2

A great (and cheap) window wash:

1/2 c. white vinegar
1 qt. warm water

Combine and pour into spray bottle. Works like a charm and is MUCH cheaper than windex!

Also, hydrogen peroxide cleans windows wonderfully.

Another great tip: use old newspaper to wash your windows. It doesn't leave lint and the print leaves a streak-free shine.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Save Money by Making Your Own Cleaning Supplies - Part 1

One way I save a lot - and I mean a LOT - of money for my family is by making my own cleaning supplies. It's amazing what you can clean with just a few products. I'm going to share my cleaning supply recipes for you in a few posts.

First, I'd like to share with you my favorite cleaning recipe in my arsenal. Dishwasher detergent. Yes, that's right, you have other options besides those cardboard boxes at the grocery store. Dishwasher detergent is very simple to make, you use far less and it is much, much cheaper than buying it.

You need:
1 c. borax
1 c. baking soda
1/4 - 1/2 c. salt (we have well watter with lots of minerals so I use 1/2 c. to help with build-up)
2 pkgs. UNSWEETENED Lemon Kool-aid (yes, it must be lemon - it's the only one with citric acid.)

Mix together and store in an AIRTIGHT container. If it is not airtight it will clump and it's a pain to fix.

Use 1 tablespoon in the wash compartment and 1 tablespoon in the rinse compartment. That's it - 2 tablespoons total. It costs me approximately $2 to make a batch of this stuff and I can wash about 20 loads of dishes with it. That averages out to .10 cents per load.

Also, in your rinse aid compartment, start using distilled white vinegar instead of Jet-Dry. It does a superior job for far less money.

Your Welcome!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Creamy Southwestern Chicken Soup

I made some pretty great soup last night and I thought I'd share. It was surprisingly easy and SO tasty!

Creamy Southwestern Chicken Soup

1 1/2 c. Salsa Verde
2 c. Cooked chicken - either shredded or cut into small pieces
4 c. Chicken broth
1 t. cumin
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Cannellini beans
sour cream
green onions - chopped
crushed tortilla chips
shredded cheese

Put Salsa Verde in large sauce pot and simmer for 3 minutes or so.

Add chicken, broth, beans, and soup. Simmer for 10-15 minutes so the flavors can combine.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with green onions, sour cream, chips and cheese, if desired.

This would probably be very good with some corn added in, as well. Also you could top it with diced avocado, and cilantro instead of green onions.