Monthly Archives: April 2013

Make – Jewelry Organizer

I have been in desperate need of jewelry organizing solutions for a while now. A small jewelry box on my dresser houses my favorites and most oft-worn pieces. I also have an earring frame that an aunt made me years ago that holds my earrings. But that’s it. Everything else has been crammed into jewelry boxes and bags in a small drawer in my dresser for a while now. It’s a complete disaster. When I try to find something, pretty much everything has to come out until I locate what I want.

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Enter this empty frame that I found in the Hobby Lobby clearance aisle a few years ago. It used to live on my living room wall…two houses ago. Since then, it’s just been hanging out in various closets. I finally found a way to give it new purpose. All you need to do this project yourself is an empty frame, a roll of mesh hardware cloth (mine has 1/4-inch squares), a staple gun, wire cutters, and some S hooks.

Begin by cutting the hardware mesh to fit the back of the frame. This is the trickiest/most time-consuming part. I’m sure there is something more efficient to use than the little wire snips that I have. If you have something better, by all means, use it!

Once you have your piece of mesh, flip the frame over, and staple the mesh to the back.

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I stapled mine down every 3-4 inches, making sure the wire was pulled tight and flat all the way across. It will flatten out some when it hangs against the wall, but you don’t want it all bowed and saggy.

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All that was left to do after that was to hang it on the wall, add the S hooks, and hang my necklaces. The whole project took maybe 20 minutes, and the bulk of that time was spent cutting wire. This isn’t every necklace that I own, but it gets the bulkiest ones out of the drawer. I love that I’m wearing them more now that I can see my options all the time.

 

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Yoga Pants Song

I know. I’m sharing a lot of videos lately, but this one cracked me up. I almost snorted Spark out my nose. Tim Hawkins sings about yoga pants. Enjoy. 🙂

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Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Ladies, if you haven’t watched this video yet, do it now. It will be three minutes well spent. What in incredible reminder that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to looks. I hate seeing photos of myself. I can almost always find something wrong. To quote the video, “You are more beautiful than you think.” Wow. Just wow.

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Eat – Marshmallow Fluff

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I have a confession to make. My kids are addicted to marshmallow fluff. Well, maybe not the fluff itself, but fluffer nutter sandwiches. Aidan packs one in his lunchbox almost every day. When I stumbled upon this recipe for homemade marshmallow fluff over at A Farmgirl’s Dabbles, I knew I had to give it a shot.

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Marshmallow Fluff

  • 1/3 c. water
  • 3/4 c. light corn syrup
  • 2/3 c. plus 2 T. sugar, divided
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, combine water, corn syrup, and 2/3 cup sugar. Place over medium-high heat and cook until boiling. Cook, stirring, until mixture reaches 240° on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from heat.

While the saucepan on the stove top is cooking, beat the egg whites. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar together until light and frothy. With the mixer running, slowly pour in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Beat until soft peaks form. Let sit until saucepan ingredients are ready.

With the mixer on low speed, drizzle the hot syrup from the saucepan very slowly into the egg whites mixture. Increase mixer speed to high and continue beating for about 7 to 9 minutes, until mixture is stiff and glossy. Add vanilla and beat on high just a bit more to combine completely.

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This stuff is super yummy! I ended up with 3 pint-sized jars full. It should last us about three weeks, optimistically. It makes a great fluffer nutter. It also makes a great filling for a cookie sandwich, if you don’t have any marshmallow frosting on hand, that is. 😉

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Next time, I’m going to play with different flavors. I think it would be really fun to have strawberry fluff, of chocolate. Mmm…

I will leave you with this, which a friend shared with me last week. I hope you get it stuck in your head just like I did. Just kidding. But not really.

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Pray for Boston

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I am just heartsick over the events in Boston this afternoon – as a runner and as a human being. Here are some of the most inspiring individuals in the running community, incredible athletes, and they have been attacked. Not only the athletes, but their families, the people who have supported them, encouraged them, and who stood on the sidelines nearest the explosions today. What should have been a triumphant day turned into a horror. Some runners who expected to be crossing a finish line today have lost their legs. Their worlds have been forever changed.

And the only thing I can do from nearly 2,000 miles away is pray. Because these are my people. I may not be as fast, or as dedicated, but their stories have inspired me to keep running regardless.

I’ve been seeing a lot of encouragement among the running community to wear a race shirt tomorrow to show your support for Boston. If you feel led to do so, please participate. I will be. I hardly know what else to do.

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Project – Painted Dresser

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For about a year now, I’ve been making noise about repainting my daughter’s dresser. It was a hand-me-down, already white, and we gave it an extra coat of white paint before putting it in her nursery. That was over four years, a highlighter, a few crayons, and tons of stickers ago. In my head, I imagined it pink…until the day we went to buy the paint. Then, I changed my mind to green. Her bedding is The Princess and the Pea, from Land of Nod, so it works better than pink, I think.

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I began by removing the hardware, sanding it with my Black & Decker Mouse, and covering it with a coat of Kilz spray primer. I don’t really recommend doing all of this indoors. I covered as much as I could with sheets and a drop cloth. It’s still too cold to be doing anything in the garage here yet, but I didn’t want to wait another month to work on it. I’ve been putting it off for a year. Who knows when the mood would strike again if I’d waited? While you’re covering things, don’t forget your eyes and mouth. Dust flies and Kilz stinks, people.

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Next up? Two coats of paint. I used Pittsburgh Paints ultra interior latex satin in Dinner Mint. It’s very pretty, but a little ambiguous. Depending on the light, it would sometimes look mint and sometimes closer to aqua.

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Here’s a closer photo of the color. I think it pretty much looks aqua here. But it’s not!

Next, take a little square of sandpaper, and distress the edges – or anything you want distressed. This party is scary, but it’ll look great once it’s all finished. Promise. I love the character that a little bit of distressing adds.

543987_10151562491190049_1978604444_nThe next step was to add glaze. I used a Ralph Lauren glaze in tea-stained. Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook got to share in my dismay when the can showed up half spilled inside the box. It was packed really well. It seems like FedEx would have had to throw it against a wall or jump up and down on it repeatedly for this to happen, but what do I know? It was a bummer, BUT the guys I ordered it from were really great and gave me some money back, and there was plenty in the can to finish the dresser.

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I was terrified that I was going to hate it at first, but I adore the glaze. I applied a thin coat in kind of a streaky, cross-hatch pattern. Now that it’s on, you can absolutely tell the dresser is green. No more ambiguous aqua. Whew! Not that there’s anything wrong with aqua. It just isn’t the color I was going for.

Once the glaze was dry, I added a coat of Minwax Paste Finishing Wax in natural, which will hopefully protect the dresser from future mishaps with crayons and stickers. If not, I know the distressed look will hide them much better than the white did.

The last step was to spray paint the hardware bronze, put it all back together, and move the dresser back to Neely’s bedroom.

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My little girl is so funny when it comes to her room. When we put the new Princess and the Pea bedding in her room last November, she shrieked and squealed and danced all around telling me how much she loved it. This time, she snuck upstairs and started talking to the dresser. I was in the next room, so I peeked around the corner and eavesdropped, of course. She was saying, “Nice. It’s so nice. I’ve been wanting it back.” She wasn’t kidding. It took me a week to finish, and she asked me every day when she could have her dresser back. I’m glad she likes it. She’s very opinionated, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to convince her to love green if she didn’t on her own.

I love it, too. I’m eyeballing everything in the house to see what I can paint next!

For more detailed instructions on how to paint furniture using the same technique I did, please visit Altar’d Designs. I used a lot of the recommendations from their eBook, Paint Your Furniture.

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Run – Maintaining or Losing Fitness

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I haven’t done a lot of talking about running around here since the race in February, but don’t worry. It is happening. It’s just been hard. I’ve done some unexpected traveling, had sick kids, and had company, to name a few things the last couple of months have thrown at me. I have fit in the odd run at the gym when I can, and when I can’t, I’ve been using exercise routines from my Can You 24 DVD.

I also have a hard time staying motivated when I don’t have a race on the calendar or a specific goal in mind. I so desperately wish I hadn’t taken the good weather and races that were available practically year round for granted while I lived in Louisiana. Here in small town North Dakota, races are few and far between. Most of the year, it’s just too cold and treacherous outdoors.

I’ve been worried about losing running fitness. I’ve read some statistics that scare me. According to Jeff Galloway, you lose 10% of your running fitness in just 7 days. It only takes 35 days to lose 100%. What?! Of course, this is if you are doing absolutely nothing. No alternative form of exercise. Nada. I was hopeful that I hadn’t lost everything I’d trained so hard to achieve.

Last Friday, I tackled my longest run since February. All this stuff I’ve been reading had me scared, so I was shooting for just 7 miles. I was able to start out running on the track at our gym, but just after I finished my sixth mile, the track was closed for testing. I moved to the treadmill. I ended up running four more miles on the treadmill for a grand total of 10. What was in my head? Part of it was that I didn’t want to look like – to the handful of people in the cardio room – I could only hack 10 minutes on the treadmill. Part of it was that both kids were at school, and I had time, for once. I was feeling good and still had half a package of sport beans and plenty of water with me, so I decided to go for it.

I’m so glad that I did. I was incredibly relieved that I had not completely bungled my ability to run distance in 6 weeks’ time. The really, super crazy thing? I wasn’t sore afterward. Not a bit. That in itself is a miracle. With that run as reassurance, I think I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing – running when I can, cross-training in the interim, and throw an odd long run in when I have the time. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep running long distances without burning myself out.

I have a bit more traveling coming up in a couple of months, and I’ve already started finding and registering for races to run while I’m on the road. I am most excited about a 10-mile race in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. It’s part of the RC Cola and Moon Pie Festival. My brother and sister-in-law are going to run with me. I haven’t talked to my sister-in-law about how she plans to train, but my brother is doing something that’s either totally awesome or completely nuts. He won’t actually be running much, but he’s going to amp up his other workouts. You can check out the ideas behind his approach here. I can’t wait to see/hear how it works for him. Maybe I can talk him into a guest post. Has anyone else tried this?

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Eat – Breakfast Cookies

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The Sneaky Chef strikes again! It’s another breakfast recipe. When I’m not careful to switch up the routine, the Toaster Strudel and Pop Tart consumption around here can reach embarrassing levels. I’m trying to be more conscious about what I’m feeding my little guys in the mornings. As a result, we’ve managed to stretch one box of Pop Tarts and one box of Toaster Strudels for about three weeks. I’m hoping to make it to four. 🙂

It’s not hard to get your kids to try something new when it’s a breakfast cookie. Who doesn’t like a cookie? Am I right?

The only tricky ingredient in this one is the flour blend that you already have if you tried out the Double Chocolate Chip Pancakes. If you didn’t, mix up 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of whole-wheat flour, and 1 cup of unsweetened wheat germ, and you’re ready to go.

Breakfast Cookies

2 cups Wheaties

3/4 cup flour blend

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 large egg

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

cinnamon sugar for dusting

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet.

Crush the cereal into coarse crumbs.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour blend, cereal, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In another bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, oil, vanilla, and ricotta cheese.

 Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just enough to moisten dry ingredients.

Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet, leaving about an inch between cookies. Flatten cookies with a fork and sprinkle tops generously with cinnamon sugar. (I forgot to do this. My cookies would have been larger if I had.)

Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until browned and crispy around the edges.

 

These cookies are really simple to make. I baked a batch one evening after dinner, so they were ready to go at breakfast time the next morning. I think they’re great for kids and adults.

Fun facts about cinnamon? It can help regulate blood sugar levels in your body. It can help satisfy a sweet tooth. It also slows the passing of food from your stomach into the intestine, so you feel full for longer. If you’re trying to lose weight, or make what you’re already eating satisfy you for longer, bring on the cinnamon!

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Let’s Talk TV

Let’s talk TV. I know, I know. This is something that I never do here on the interwebs – foray into the world of popular culture. I suppose I’m feeling brave, or spontaneous, or maybe it’s just that I’ve spent the weekend finally catching up on all the shows I’ve recorded and really, really want to talk about it!

I must say, there is a major theme running through the shows I’m currently hooked on. Pretty much, if there’s no singing, I’m not watching it. Unless it’s Duck Dynasty.

My top three shows? The Voice, Nashville, and Smash.

I’ve been a sporadic Voice fan through all of the first three seasons, but the current season is my favorite so far. It is the only show that I watch in real time. During the first week of blind auditions, when Usher called Nashville a state, I nearly peed my pants and knew I couldn’t miss another episode. Also, I’m pretty sure my four-year-old daughter has a crush on Adam Levine. It’s funny. And weird. I mean, she’s four! Is this normal? I have no basis for comparison. I can’t remember having a crush on anyone when I was four. Did I? Mom? Dad? I hope I’m not about to majorly embarrass myself just by asking.

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Next up? Nashville! I’ve only been watching for the last couple of months. I got into the show because I was feeling a little homesick, and it’s pretty cool to be able to watch an hour-long TV show and catch little glimpses of home. Now, I’ve become obsessed with Connie Britton/Rayna James. She is lovely. I wish I looked like her. More than anything, I want her nail polish collection. Strange, I know, but true. I love this interview with her from Garden & Gun.

I’ve also been watching Smash. I’m not quite as emotionally involved this season as I was last season, but I still like it. There’s enough singin’ to keep me entertained. And I love Debra Messing. Can I have Debra’s hair and Connie’s fingernails? Pretty please?

So what about you? What is everyone else watching these days?

I’ll leave you with this – my favorite Si Robertson quote. I had to fit the Duck Dynasty in here somewhere. 🙂

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Eat – Double Chocolate Pancakes

I’ve been on a quest lately – yes, again – to find healthier things to feed my picky eaters. A few months ago, I borrowed a copy of The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine from my local library. I found myself flagging so many pages to try that I gave in and bought my own. I tried food subterfuge a few years ago, using Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious, with little success. The recipes I found in The Sneaky Chef seemed more like things my kids would eat anyway, instead of introducing new foods.

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In the last couple of weeks, I’ve finally gotten around to trying some of the recipes. These pancakes, actually called Cocoa Chocolate Chip Pancakes in the cookbook, were a big success. Woo woo! I will share the recipe for the pancakes first, then I’ll include the recipes for the make-ahead stuff.

Double Chocolate Pancakes

1 1/2 cups flour blend

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

4 tbsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

2 large eggs

1/2 cup purple puree

4 tbsp. honey

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Mix together flour blend, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the vanilla, milk, egg, purple puree, and honey.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until just blended. Add a little milk if the batter feels too thick.

Add chocolate chips and mix lightly.

Cook in a greased skillet or griddle over medium heat. These will not bubble when they’re ready to flip like regular pancakes. You’ll know they’re ready to turn over when the edges begin to set and the skillet side (you’ll have to peek) is golden brown.

Serve with maple syrup. You could add fruit if your kids are into that. Mine aren’t.

The recipe above is actually double what is written in the cookbook. I got about 12 medium-ish pancakes out of it.

Make ahead recipes:

Flour Blend

Combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, and 1 cup unsweetened wheat germ. You can store this in a sealed plastic bag for months.

Purple Puree

Simmer 3 cups raw baby spinach in water over low heat for 10 minutes. In a food processor, puree cooked spinach, 1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen, thawed), 1 tsp. lemon juice, and 3-4 tbsp. water until smooth. This makes a little over 1 cup of puree. You can store it in the refrigerator for a couple days, or freeze it to use later.

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