Showing posts with label How To. Show all posts
Showing posts with label How To. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How To Make Pumpkin Muffins




Among her many and varied good qualities, Jill brings me muffins every now and then.  Really good muffins.

A while ago she brought me two muffins, one for Mark and one for me.

I ate Mark's.  (What?  He said I could.)

They were amazing.  I told Jill and she told me the recipe and now I'll tell you.



1 spice cake mix

15 oz can pumpkin puree

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice



Mix together and place in muffin tins.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

I think spice cake mix and pumpkin puree are a match made in heaven.  I have written about these cookies made out of the same lovely combination.

Now I'm wondering if I should make the muffins with chocolate chips.

I wonder if I should skip the brown sugar and frost them with cream cheese frosting elevating them past that thin, thin line that separates muffins from cupcakes.

I wonder if I should buy more spice cake mixes and pumpkin puree.

(I know this post would have been better with a picture or two...we ate the muffins before I thought about it.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How To Make Dinner for Wednesday Night

...or whatever night happens to be your awful night where you have to be 35 places at once and your family still expects dinner.

After you've exhausted the drive-thru option one too many times.

After you've made this more often than you care to remember:

Here's something to try:

In your crockpot place 4 chicken breasts  (it's OK if they're frozen), 2 or 3 cans of beans (any combination of refried beans or drained black beans or whatever), a jar of salsa, and a couple of cups of chicken broth.

I don't think I've ever made it the same way twice and it always works.

I let it cook on low for about 6 hours...or whatever (are you getting that this isn't really one of those carefully tested recipes?).

Break up the chicken breasts with a spoon or take them out and slice them (I've done both, the second option is quicker but as you can imagine, messy).

It will be a thick soup consistency.  Serve over tortilla chips and you can top it with grated cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes, guacamole, etc.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to Be Bold




Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!  Live the life you've imagined.
Henry David Thoreau

This is something I've been considering.  I am a work in progress and am not expert at this, but here's what I think.

1- Don't be afraid to change course.

Braeden is in the throes of charting his high school course.  He had a plan.  He wouldn't be swayed.  He's rethinking it.  It's causing him stress.

I told him about when I was in high school and decided between my sophomore and junior years to change the extracurricular activities I was involved in.  Things like that mattered in my tiny school and I had one teacher that didn't talk to me for the rest of high school because he was mad that I quit.

And that was awkward in my tiny school.

But I was happier.  Ten thousand times.

2- Just start.

I've mentioned before our slow and steady approach to running.  A 5K (for me) seemed a little impossible but we chipped away at it, improving a little each day.  It worked.

3- It's not too late.

When I was growing up, my mom taught me piano lessons.  I hated it.  (I think my mom hated it too...I didn't practice very well...or very often.)  She'd always tell me I'd regret it someday.  I sort of did.  Lately I've started practicing the piano a little.  Not because I'll be in trouble Friday if I don't (Friday used to be my piano lesson day-- I dreaded Fridays) but because I just want to practice the piano.  And I have more time because of my 2/3 drop in home school enrollment.  I set the timer for 10 minutes and sit down and play.

I'm getting (a little) better.

I'm enjoying it.

4- Don't listen to critics.

My family is good to me.  They sometimes balk at my ideas though.  (Mostly because a lot of my ideas involve them and furniture moving.) I've been completely rethinking our school room.  (We have had a 2/3 drop in enrollment after all.)  They have all said, "What are you doing?" and "Why?" with an incredulous tone.  I tell them to just go with it and pick up that corner of the futon because we're moving it.

The other day I was dismantling a desk with a screw driver and Mark told me I'd lost my mind.

I moved the futon three times...and it weighs as much as several large elephants.  Then I moved it back to the original place.

I might leave it there.

But I might not.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How To Create a Game for a Milestone Birthday Party




My tremendous sister (who really is more fabulous than irritatingly virtuous but don't tell her I said that) is about to turn 40!

When we were in Nevada we surprised her with a party.  Olivia was in charge of food (and others helped) and I was in charge of decorations and a game.  My main intent with the game was that I wanted to best my youngest brother who is handsome and young and irritatingly good at everything:

pictured here with his beautiful wife Melanee and beautiful baby Cormac
I designed a game where it was advantageous to be older...but then I remembered that I couldn't compete (or beat Ammon) because I'd invented the game.

Rats.

With the help of Wikipedia, I scanned the events of the years from 1971 to 2011.  I wrote one event per year.  I also added in a few personal events like when Marianne's children were born, when her team won the State Basketball Tournament, things like that.  (Marianne's husband may or may not have missed some of the years when their children were born but you can see that I'm not even going to mention it).

Here is a copy of the game (a little wrinkled but it's been to Nevada and back).


Everyone at the party (except my dad who didn't apply himself...he only got two correct) filled in the dates and Marianne and one of my other brothers, Enoch, tied for first place.

Here's Enoch.  He's also handsome and has a beautiful wife (Jennifer).  He also looks a little smug, and this was even before the game.



What gives?

Enoch is 5 years younger than me.

I don't think he should have won.

It could be that I'm harboring ill will against my brothers because they used to stuff me in a closet because they were bigger than me and could.

It's just a guess.

But the game was fun.  And not that hard to create (thank you Wikipedia).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to Corral Jewelry



I think I saw this idea in a magazine.  It has made my life easier.

I am a dangly earring sort of girl.  Dangly earrings are quick to become tangly earrings so this solution worked very well for me.



I bought a grate sort of thing at Lowe's.  I'm not sure what it's original purpose was.

I put it in a frame with white paper behind it (I'm sure you could put some dapper scrapbook paper in and it would be lovely).

Most of my earrings just hook onto the grate but I have S-hooks for those that don't (and for bracelets).

the paper gets a little scratched up from the earrings...you can't really tell unless you're zoomed in like this though


My earrings are quick to find and not tangled.

And that makes me happy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to Feel Better About Giving Your Children Pancakes for Dinner



Recently when I knew Adam wouldn't be home for dinner, my lofty thoughts of pork chops fell flat.  It's no fun to make dinner when Adam's not going to be home.

I contemplated my options and decided pancakes sounded like a very fine dinner.  Then I remembered this recipe my irritatingly virtuous inspiring sisters that don't eat white sugar or white flour gave me.

It made me feel better about pancakes for dinner.  (And they taste really good.)

Peanut Butter Pancakes (makes 16):

2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 c. wheat flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter

Mix it all together in a normal pancake fashion and cook in a normal pancake fashion.

If you want to throw a few chocolate chips on, I will not judge you (or tell my sisters).


If you add a little smiley face out of chocolate chips, I will not judge you.



I love these topped with Greek yogurt but my kids doused them in syrup.

(Does that negate the whole no white sugar/no white flour thing?  I'm going with no.  Syrup doesn't count.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How To Plan A Menu

I can't take credit for it myself (but I don't know who I should give credit to).  Someone, somewhere gave me this idea and I think it's a good one.

First write a list of your recipes in categories.  For example, you could have a chicken category, beef, pasta, seafood, soup, salad, pork, vegetarian...you get the idea.

Then, get a blank calendar page.

Assign each day of the week a category.


Change your mind and cross things out.  (This step is optional.)

Using your list, fill in the calendar.  For example, if you've assigned chicken recipes to Monday, write down a different chicken recipe for each Monday.

In cooler months, you may include a soup category while summer may contain a salad day or a cook-out-on-the-grill day.  It's very adaptable.


In a matter of minutes, you'll have the entire month filled in.  If you're like me, they'll be plenty of crossing out and switching but I love having a general idea for the month.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How To Lose A LOT of Weight

I love the book Organized Simplicity.  I was so convincing in singing its praises to my mom that she bought one for each of my sisters and SILs.  (Then she sent me a check for the price because my mom is like that.)

Marianne told me to keep telling my mom how much I like books.

There have been many, many, many books and magazine articles written about decluttering.

Here is my advice: make it a pleasant experience.  It makes it much easier...and more likely to be successful.

1. Don't get overwhelmed.

Divide your rooms amongst months or weeks or days if you're really an eager beaver.  Doing one little bit at a time helps you focus and when you focus, you notice things you had become numb to.

2. Let time do the work for you.

Back in December, I turned all the hangers in my closet backward.  When I wear something, I turn the hanger back.  Without even thinking about it, I have come to realize what I'm wearing and what I'm not.  In June, everything with a backward hanger is going away.



3. Don't feel guilty.

It is painful for me to waste money and sometimes I don't want to get rid of things that I spent money on.  I feel guilty if it's perfectly good.  It's not doing me any good (or making me feel any less guilty) by taking up space though.  Let it go.

4. Find a worthy recipient.

I love seeing my children's old clothes on my nieces and nephews.  It is easy to give something away when you know it is appreciated.  If you find a good charity for all of the things your sisters aren't interested in, that helps.  Considering how you are blessing someone else's life with the dress that never fit you quite right makes it easier to pass on.

5. Separate your memories from your stuff.

We have stuffed animals around here.  Too too many.  There's a bin in my boys' closet filled with stuffed animals.  Inside is the Donald Duck I got at Disneyland when I was growing up.  I've hung onto it because I loved that trip.  I don't need the Donald Duck inside a bin in my boys' closet to remind me that I loved that trip though.  I hope Donald makes someone else happy.

6. Involve family members only in moderation.

Sometimes you need helpers...like when you're wondering if their clothes still fit or if they're still interested in reading a stack of books.  Sometimes, they are no help.  More often than not, they will never wonder what happened to the random/broken/never-played-with toy.  (But will be upset if they see you getting rid of it.)  Be sneaky.

7. Finally, prevent future clutter.

Marianne taught me this:  an elephant for a quarter is only a good deal if you have a quarter and need an elephant.  I am addicted to finding a bargain and it is hard to pass up a good buy.  I try not to buy anything that I don't have an immediate use (or place) for.  Also, I try to remember the sting of getting rid of past unwise purchases.


Taking boxes out of your house, boxes full of things you no longer need but that someone else may love, is a fabulous feeling.  It reminds me of how it felt as a child when winter was over and I no longer had to wear heavy snowboots.  Light and free.

It's the best way to lose A LOT of weight (and still get to eat chocolate).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How To Make Pizza on Your Grill

Adam and I fell in love with East Coast style pizza--and more specifically New Haven style pizza during our Connecticut years.  We've been trying to duplicate it ever since.

We love pizza cooked on our grill.  The best way is to get Adam to do it (that's my strategy).  I'm not willing to share him though, so here are the instructions:

Make or buy dough.  We have yet to find The Perfect Pizza Dough recipe.  I think we're getting closer (a little more tweaking) but you can buy pizza dough at Trader Joe's that works great too.  (Do you have a perfect chewy crust recipe?  Please share...)

The first step is to put your pizza stone on the grill and with the lid closed, turn the heat all the way up (try to get it up to 500 degrees).


As you can see our pizza stone is cracked and stained and much loved (abused?).  A less wrecked stone would work just as well...

Next divide your divide your dough into pizza sized chunks:

I made this dough so it needs to be divided...the Trader Joe's dough comes packaged in the right size.

Flatten it with your fingers (Adam is well equipped for this job with his big hands).


Next, with a rolling pin, finish shaping the pizza.  Work from the middle, smoothing to the edges:


Sprinkle corn meal on a wooden pizza paddle.  The tiny grains act as ball bearings for the dough to slide on...you'll see what I mean.


Transfer the dough to the paddle:


Now finish assembling the pizza.  Spread the sauce, either a traditional marinara sauce:


Or we love pesto too:


Sprinkle cheese:


And any other toppings you want:

Can you tell this is my hand instead of Adam's? Adding peppers was my sole contribution.

Next, slide the pizza onto the heated stone.  This is where the corn meal comes in handy...the pizza rolls right over it.  (This is also where an Adam comes in handy because he knows how to do this part.)


Close the lid and after about 5-7 minutes, the pizza is done!  It should look all toasty and bubbly with the crust sometimes a little black (all part of the magic!).


Slide a cooling rack under the pizza to remove it from the stone (because likely your wooden paddle is already loaded with the next pizza):


Lovely lovely pizza...


And three satisfied customers:


Mark has either 1) achieved Pizza Nirvana 2) is asleep or 3) is his mother's child and has his eyes closed for a picture.

You decide.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How To Undrab the Dreary

There are things about life that are not fun.

There's help for some of them.

If you (for example) live in the Pacific Northwest (for example) and it rains all the time (for example), you need a raincoat that makes you happy.  You need more than one.



Jill, who recently moved from Tucson (and at times wonders why), and I were recently talking about running in the rain.  Just in case, you know.  It might rain.  She told me her husband had a raincoat I could borrow.

Oh, Jill Jill Jill.  I've lived here for ten years.

I have a raincoat.

(I have another raincoat too...it's green.  I'd take a picture but since it's my heavy duty raincoat, I wore it running and it currently resembles a soaking wet popped balloon.)

If you have a lot of cooking or dishes to do, don a darling apron.  It lifts my spirits and gives me a place to wipe my hands.

why yes, I do like red...why do you ask?



If you have to be in any situation that requires waiting, bring a book.  That's just basic safety.

If you have a tool you use over and over and over, get a good one.  I love my measuring spoons.  The narrow shape fits into little spice jars.



If you have to sit at your desk or computer for a long period of time, planning or the like, sip a cold drink. From a straw.

If you have cleaning to do, turn on loud music you love.  And use cleaners that smell wonderful.  (Like Mrs. Meyer's--whose first name is Thelma by the way.  Don't you think I deserve a discount?  The "only-Thelma-under-80-years-old-discount" or something like that?)

In almost any situation, there's a tiny way to make it more appealing.

And that makes me happy.

If all else fails, take a long hot bath.

There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them.
Silvia Plath




Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How To Get Out of School Activities

I didn't initially think I should blog about this because it doesn't exactly paint me in the best light but my imaginary friend, Stie, is hosting a How To link party and I'm in.  I don't know her in person but I have walked a mile in her shoes so I think that counts for something.

I happily wanted to oblige and write a How To except then I was stuck.  I don't know how to do anything that everyone else doesn't also know how to do.  And better.

So I dug deep.  I pondered.  I realized I really do have skills.  And I'm happy to share.

Last week was "Turn Off the TV" week at Emma's school.  This wasn't very hard for our family since we don't get any good channels are pretty much perfect in every way.  The school had two evening activities scheduled during the week, I guess to fill the long and lonesome hours without TV.  Our evenings are already filled enough.  But Emma wanted to go to the activities.

I would rather go to the dentist than an evening school activity.

And that's saying something.

On further inquiry, I learned that the reason Emma wanted to go was because her teacher was holding a little drawing for money towards a book order and you got your name in an extra time for each of the activities you attended.  Emma was gunning for $10 in free book order money.

I said, "How about if I pay you $10 not to go?" (and not to ask about it again)

She said, "Done."



And THAT is how to get out of going to school activities.  You're welcome.

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