Monday, August 30, 2010

Wholesome Oat Muffins

 These tasty muffins are so much better than store-bought, you'll want to bake a supply regularly. Make a double batch and freeze half for later.

1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats
1 1/4 cups whole-grain pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup granular brown sugar substitute
1/3 cup canola oil
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 425F. Coat a 12 cup nonstick muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper baking cups.

In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and 3/4 cup of the oats. Let soak for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile in a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in walnuts.

In a large bowl, stir together brown sugar substitute, oil, egg and vanilla until well blended. Stir in oat mixture. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons oats over muffins. Bake for 11 to 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins to the rack to cool completely.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Be who you are and say what you feel: 
because those who mind don't matter 
and those who matter don't mind. ~ Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Felt Tissue Holder

I'm one of those women who cry at just about anything - happy, sad, sentimental, etc. I'm sensitive and feel things deeply. This is not a trait I'm really happy having. The sensitive thing yes - the crying no. I always carry a hanky but it doesn't stand up to my waterworks and is soon useless. So I carry a little package of tissues with me always. But they are boring looking, so I made this little holder for my purse.

I liked it so much I made a second one for my tote bag!

They are just some felt, pinking scissors, a sewing machine (although you could hand stitch it) and a little hot glue to hold the heart on. I think they look really cute! Oh it cost me $1.00 for two new packs of tissues, I had the felt and glue on hand.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cocoa-Raspberry Shake

Yum! This delicious shake is allowed on my current phase of the South Beach Diet. It's been so hot that I haven't wanted to turn the stove on and cook. So we've been making do with simple stove top cooking (how I wish I had the space for a grill) and salads. I thought we deserved a cool treat!

Blend 1/2 cup fat-free milk, 1/2 cup artificially sweetened nonfat or low-fat raspberry yogurt, 1 packet sugar substitute, and 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder until frothy.

The review: I had to top mine with 1 teaspoon of fat-free frozen topping and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. Mine didn't froth, but I used a stick blender instead of a stand blender, so that might be the difference. Well, believe it or not I couldn't find artificially sweetened raspberry yogurt at the store, so I used cherry, but I like cherry better anyway. There is a hint of the artificial sweetener taste of the yogurt in the drink. Not bad, but noticeable. Next time I'll try a different brand of yogurt. I can only imagine how yummy this would be with sugar sweetened yogurt! (But that defeats the purpose of the South Beach diet). I didn't think 1 teaspoon of cocoa would give it enough of a chocolate taste, but I was wrong. It was nice rich and chocolatey. I also didn't have packets of sugar substitute so I used 1 tablespoon of Splenda. This is a smooth, creamy treat that doesn't taste like I should be eating it! I will definitely make this one again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A ship in harbor is safe -
but that is not what ships are built for.

- John A. Shedd

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Organizing the Craft/Sewing Closet - Before

With my son's permission and help I recently cleared some space out of his 2nd closet for my fabric storage. Now I will have more room and can better organize my craft/sewing closet. I actually started the process of moving the fabric, forgot to take pictures, put everything back and then took pictures. You really need to see the before of my craft closet to appreciate the after.

The closet is so full that I have two kitchen garbage bags of fabric I think I don't want in the basement storage locker to try to sell on Etsy. My sewing machine doesn't fit, neither does my iron and ironing board. Outside the closet I also have a stack of fabric about 2 feet high which is my home dec fabric for current projects that I have no place to put. Not to mention that in cleaning out my son's closet I now have a stack of art supplies to add to my craft closet. I have another piece of foam for a chair project behind the closet door that you can't see. Oh yes, and a large box of sewing notions that I keep out with my sewing machine. Plus my cutting mat, rulers and rotary cutter. Darn, also my glue gun, an old ashtray I use as a stand and extra glue sticks. I think that is about it. Nope, still outside the closet I also have a bunch of polymer clay and a conditioning machine I won as a door prize at the recent Chicago Craft Social. Oh yes, I also have a stack of phone books. When I sit at the dining room table to sew, my chair is too tall and my feet don't touch the floor so I can't run my sewing machine. I stack phone books under the pedal so I can sew and my other foot so I don't sit crooked. Oh yeah, one last thing. I have two sewing/quilting/applique projects started that are sitting under a dresser in my bedroom. Now I really think that's it that's not in the closet. Shoot, no its not. I also have extra pillow forms down in the storage locker. And not that it necessarily has to be in this closet, but I have a bin of upholstery supplies down in the storage locker also. It's a pain to go down and get zippers or cording or my staple gun.

So as you can see and hear, my closet has exploded with stuff all over my condo and storage locker with nowhere organized to put it. And remember, this is only my storage closet. I have to take things out, set them up and actually craft on the dining room table. So when its so difficult to get to the supplies and put them away again, I don't craft. And I get grumpy. Something has to be done.  Hopefully strategic organization yet accessibility is the key. This is my biggest organizational challenge yet! I'll be working on it over the next several weeks. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Business Card Holder

I have these cute calling cards that I had made up. They come in very handy when meeting new people and giving them my contact information. Or when I'm talking about my blog to someone and they want to go check it out. My problem has been that I just had them shoved into my wallet. When I would dig them out, all my other wallet items were displayed. I knew I could do better.

I saw a couple tutorials on how to make business card holders here and here. I used the tutorials as a jumping off point and added a 3rd fabric for more color and ended up with this:

I was worried that the cards would fall out and spill all over my purse. Or that I would need some velcro to hold it closed. Although a velcro dot might still be useful. But the fit is snug and they aren't going anywhere. The project was simple and quick. It took me longer to get my sewing stuff out and set up on the dining room table then it did to sew the holder! I just love that fabric color combination.

The project was basically free. The fabrics were scraps from my stash and the interfacing from another project. I'm very pleased with how it turned out!

Linking up to some of these great parties!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sometimes it's the small things

I have a new dog food container! Yippee! (OK, it might seem silly, but read on).

My kitchen is teeny-tiny 12'x6.5' with a door that opens into it leading from the common back stairs and parking (our primary door) and a doorway into the dining room. So really, not much space. Prior to the New Dog Food Container! I had the storage container sitting in front of my black storage shelves next to the refrigerator. It wouldn't fit in the shelves and it really wouldn't fit anyplace else. When you walked in the door (which had just enough clearance not to hit the dog food container) the space felt cramped and messy. The useless space behind the container just gathered clutter. See?

My new container is smaller and fits inside my black storage shelves (it took forever to find one that would fit but hold enough food!). It frees up that little corner when you walk in the door and takes the place of the cluttered spot. Gone with the messy, cluttered feeling as soon as I come home. It would always make me feel grumpy as I walked in the door.

Yes, it is ugly. I'm hoping a few coats of spray paint (primed with a plastic primer, painted on the outside only) will help the ugly factor. While I'm at it I'll also paint the cat food containers to it's right. I'm not sure what color. I would really like pumpkin orange, my accent color, but don't want a black and orange vibe going on in the kitchen. Too Halloween-ish for my comfort. I'd love to find a green spray paint that coordinates with my baskets. I'll probably wait until I paint the walls from the current nice looking milk chocolate (not my choice) to a fresh light aqua first and then see what would work best.

Anyway, sometimes its a small thing like a new dog food container that can make a large impact on how a space feels and functions. I only gained 1'x2' of space, but it made a world of difference. (Doesn't that door look horrible? It will get a crisp coat of white when all the trim and doors are painted later this year).

Have you made any small changes that had a big impact?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bedroom painted!

One of my goals for the month of July was to get my son's bedroom painted. Mission accomplished! with one minor problem. I forgot to take before pictures.  So you don't get to see his room messy with posters on the walls and major dirt smudges on the 10 (I don't really know) year old flat off-white paint. Use your imagination.

Forrest cutting in; first coat

So there is paint on the walls, but much work left to be done. This was the first time painting that my son did the cutting in around the trim and the ceiling. He did a great job and most spots are pretty good, except one wall. Some touch ups are in order with ceiling paint which I hope doesn't lead to painting the ceiling.

My projects tend to move slowly and this bedroom redo will be no exception. My son was anxious to have his room back in order (meaning his computer hooked up and internet back up). So ceiling touch-ups and trim painting will have to happen another day. Along with hanging curtain rods and drapes (which are still being made), hanging art on the walls, upholstering / slipcovering his desk chair and installing some shelving above the desk. Oh and some closet and drawer organization once he leave for college in September.

Right now I'm happy with clean green walls!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vegetable Quiche Cups to Go

 "This crustless quiche recipe can be used as a base for any combination of vegetables and reduced-fat cheese. Once prepared, the quiches can be frozen individually and reheated in the microwave." Makes 12, 2 per serving. This is page 201 out of the South Beach Diet Supercharged book. Look for my review down below.

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar or Jack cheese
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced onion
3 drops hot pepper sauce (optional)

Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

Place spinach in a microwaveable container and cook in the microwave on high power for 2.5 minutes. Drain excess liquid.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, cheese, egg, bell pepper, onion and pepper sauce, if using. Mix well. Divide evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Review:  I used 4 eggs instead of the egg substitute. When using eggs instead of egg substitute, first beat the eggs with a fork, then add the spinach, onion, cheese and green pepper. This went together fast and easy. I used frozen chopped onion and green pepper which made it even quicker. Even though I used cooking spray, they tended to stick in the pan. Next time I'd use a heavy coating of spray in each muffin cup, especially up the sides. Needs salt. My spinach wasn't squeezed out enough. When I bit into them, they tasted a little watery.  Next time I'll use a sieve and push out the water. I just used a fork against the side of the pan. They are thin, about half the height of a normal muffin, so a serving size of 2 is pretty small. I was still hungry after breakfast. They are very vegetable-y. Next time I'll add a couple more eggs to increase the egg to vegetable ratio and to make them a little bigger.

They tasted good. I liked the green pepper and hot sauce, in fact I'd a little more. I liked how easy they were to make. I could see making this in a double batch and having them in the freezer for a quick, healthy breakfast. My son's review: "I don't really like it". Why not? "Too vegetable-y" (obviously his grammar is picked up from me). Getting green vegetables into that child is a major feat so I wasn't too surprised. Mmmm... more for me.

They recipe would be yummy with ham and swiss with mushrooms, onions and broccoli. Or add some crab and garlic to this recipe.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lazy, lazy girl
Get up and do something now!
Summer sun shining.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

10 Great Declutter Tips

I had a small bit of a clean out the other day in my living room when I was feeling kind of blue. The rearranged and decluttered, now more minimal and monochromatic accessories lifted my spirits. And if you believe in such things, moving the items around eliminated stagnant pools of bad or stale energy allowing good fresh energy to flow throughout the room, which is what perked me up. Either way it feels good to give a room a bit of a declutter.

Clutter is to "fill with things in a disorderly manner" or "a state of confusion". I think we all know it when we see it. If you struggle with clutter (and really - who doesn't have a little clutter tucked away somewhere?) here are some tips to make clearing it out easier.

  1. Declutter for 15 minutes every day. It's amazing what you can accomplish in small increments.
  2. Declutter during TV commercials. You don't need to watch the commercials and want new items. Get up and spend a minute or two decluttering a surface, drawer or basket.
  3. Don't allow new things in the house in the first place. Whether you’ve begun decluttering, or you’ve just completed it, stop bringing in new stuff NOW. This way, when you do get to decluttering the existing stuff, you’ve already stopped making it worse. 
  4. Use the "one in two out" rule.  For serious clutter busting, when you bring in a new item, two items have to leave.  A new decorating accessory in - two back to Goodwill. 
  5. Reduce your storage space. If you have lots of storage you can have lots of clutter.  Clutter will fill up whatever space you let it. Eliminate extra storage barns, lockers, rented space, etc. and stop it's creeping presence.
  6. Clothing Rule - if you haven't worn an item in 2 seasons (e.g. last summer and this summer) or it doesn't fit donate it
  7. Donate the stuff you are decluttering  This way you won't feel like you're wasting things. Besides donating can help someone else out and keep things out of the landfills.
  8. Declutter one room at a time (including desk drawers, closets, etc.) It will feel so good to be in that room that it will help motivate you to keep going.
  9. Declutter in layers. You won't get all the clutter on your first pass around a room. Start at the door and go around the room. First get the superficial stuff (the surfaces and piles), then open drawers and doors on the next pass around the room. Then when you think you are done, revisit the room in several weeks or months and give it another pass. You'll be amazed at what you now see and are now willing to part with. Decluttering is like housework. You might "finish" but you have to do it again next week because, well, it keeps getting dirty!
  10. The One-Year Box. Take all your items that you are unsure about getting rid of (e.g. “I might need this someday…”), put them in a box, seal it and date it for 1 year in the future. When the date comes, and you still didn’t need to open it to get anything, donate the box WITHOUT OPENING IT. You probably won’t even remember what there was in the box (don't label the box - that's cheating).
I'm off to take a look at what's lurking in my china hutch. I have an abundance of table linens, candles, and "picnic dishes" (Its been 4-5 years since my last picnic). The doors are barely closing so its time to reduce some clutter!

If you want to revisit an early post of mine on the emotional aspects of clutter go here.

How's your clutter? Mild, Medium, Get the Bulldozer? Do tell!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dyson Vacuum Cleaner Drama

I heart Dyson vacuum cleaners. I paid a small fortune for one 5-6 years ago. This thing sucks! It's unbelievable the crap it picks up. I have a long haired dog that sheds like crazy and a short-haired cat plus the usual dust and dirt. It's unbelievable but I will fill up the canister in just one room. I'll vacuum about every 1-2 weeks, depending on what life is like. So its not like crazy hoarder dirt or something. Just everyday stuff. I can't say enough about how good this machine is.

However, I've been having problems with the love of my cleaning life. It started to smell like burning hair when the brushes were going. I took it to an authorized dealer and they had no clue (turns out they were clueless) but charged me $35 anyway. I thought the motor or belt or a gizmo was burning up and I would soon have to say good-by to a favorite friend. (And I was vaguely worried that I would electrocute myself if the motor was going out or something).

As a last resort I called Dyson and they had the problem diagnosed in 1 minute. There was hair wrapped tightly around the inside spindle. The nice man on the phone had me open the casing using a quarter and talked me through cleaning it. I put it back together (which was super simple) and tried it.

No smell! I'm such a happy girl. And I don't have to worry about affording another expensive vacuum cleaner in the near future. Lesson learned here: call the manufacture's support line first. They might actually be able to help.

If you are looking for a new vacuum, think about a Dyson. They are expensive but worth it. And no, I'm not being paid to say these things-but if I was, how cool would that be?!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Turkey Meatloaf with Mushrooms & White Beans

We're embarking on a program of better food choices and a more active lifestyle (nowhere did I say the words diet and exercise) and following the South Beach D*et (a word we don't say). I had great success on it back in 2003 when it first came out losing 50 lbs. Well the years have passed and the pounds have slowly crept back on. D*eting is like housework. Nobody likes it, you have to do it daily, it feels like it never ends and sometimes it you don't seem to be making progress. Sigh. Today's recipe is from page 212 of the South Beach Diet Supercharged book. Since this isn't my recipe, I'll review it for you. Look for my notes at the bottom of the recipe. Oh, and get ready for a bunch of recipes from the same source!

My food styling needs some green garnish to sprinkle down the center of the meatloaf.

"This healthy alternative to typical meatloaf adds white beans for a delicious high-fiber twist. Serve extra Dijon mustard on the side; it lends a satisfying, piquant flavor element".

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 lb mushrooms chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1 15 oz. can Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/4 lb extra lean ground turkey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard plus extra for serving
Heat the oven to 375F. Lightly coat an 8x4x2/12" metal or glass loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, thyme, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and mushrooms are incorporated, about 5 minutes longer. Add beans and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cooled bean mixture, turkey, eggs, parsley, and 2 teaspoons of the Worcestershire sauce. Mix well with wet hands to combine. Form into a loaf and place into the prepared pan (mine was just mushy and wouldn't stay in a loaf form).

Stir together mustard and remaining 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce and set aside.

Bake meatloaf on the middle rack of the oven for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with the reserved Worcestershire mixture. Return to the oven and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until a thermometer inserted into the meatloaf registers 170F. Let meatloaf stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with additional Dijon mustard.

Makes 6 servings. Cooked meatloaf freezes well for up to 3 months. Cut it into individual portions before freezing and thaw in the microwave when ready to eat.

Well right off the bat lets talk about what I did different from the recipe. I didn't have parsley so that is missing. I didn't have paprika so I substituted chili powder (they are both spicy and red-ha!). I try to follow recipes, really I do. I just misread where it said 4 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce and read 4 tablespoons. So the meatloaf is extra Worcestershirey - lets see if anyone notices. I'm not sure my turkey was extra lean ground turkey. It came in a tube and was mush like. I'm thinking I should have sprung for the more expensive packaged ground turkey, but we'll see. Oh and when I put it into the pan it was full to the tippy-top of the pan. I put it on a jelly roll pan to catch overflow if necessary. 50 minutes later - Well good thing it was in the pan because when I went to brush the top with reserved sauce and mustard there was "juice" all over the pan, the top was submerged so I tilted the pan to let it run off and added the sauce.  Here I took a picture for you - yummy (not).

Hmm... not bad. The texture is a little weird with the beans in it and I'm not sure the paprika to chili powder substitution was a good one. I would reduce the amount of thyme the next time, I can really taste it and prefer a more subtle note. If you are expecting it to taste like ground beef meatloaf with ketchup and bread crumbs (plus other stuff of course) you will be disappointed. This is not that. But this is a healthier, more sophisticated seasoned meatloaf and it is good. I will be making it again (following the recipe a little more closely next time). I will also try doubling the recipe so I can freeze one while we eat one. Next time I'll spring for the more expensive packages of ground turkey and see what a difference that makes. My son agrees "not bad".

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happiness is not a place to travel to. It is a way of getting there. - Anonymous