Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Challenge

Wow... Thanksgiving is done and over with and Christmas is approaching! Can you believe the year is almost over? I sure cannot. 2011 has been a difficult and challenging year for us, but it was redeemed by a few things; one being our trip to visit my sister, Ashley, in Liberia, West Africa. In the midst of one of the most impoverished, hopeless, cruel worlds I have ever seen with my eyes, I found love, joy, peace, and beauty. I have never seen anything more beautiful and heartbreaking on the face of this planet. After an amazing trip, I came home to the same dull, sleepless, depressing life - life on night shift. It was not a good welcome home gift. However, soon after we got home, I finally got a day shift job, and started to enjoy the pleasures of being a day person for the first time in two and a half years. What a joy it has been! I have been able to do more in the 4-5 months I have been on day shift then what I did in 2.5 years (or at least I feel like it)!

Anyways, now that Christmas is approaching (back to this again... sorry about the tangent) I am reminded of how much I love Christmas, and also, how much a hate Christmas. I love the lights, the songs, the atmosphere, the family time, the food, the hot beverages, etc. However, Black Friday reminded me of how much I hate Christmas. How it is a time when we just collect more stuff for no reason. We don't need anything, but we still get a pile of gifts on Christmas day. It is sad that our culture has given us a love and passion for stuff. We are materialistic. Plain and simple.

So for the challenge... I challenge you and myself to do something different this year. In light of the fact that most of us will have presents under the tree this year, let's make some room for it!

I challenge you to start cleaning out your house, apartment, room, etc. and find those things that you once loved and cherished, but haven't thought about in ages or haven't used in awhile. Start with a small project. This morning I opened up our coat closet and was sickened. Between TWO people we had EIGHTEEN coats in the closet! HOLY CRAP! How did this happen?! Easy... we collect stuff... it is a sickness! I cleaned it out so that I can give a bunch of coats to a place that gives people who probably don't have ONE coat a nice coat this winter.

What a difference we can make this Christmas season! Start with something small and work your way through the house. Christmas is the season of giving, right?! And plus, giving away something you already have means it's free! You don't even have to spend any money! When you are cheap like me, what could be better?

Make a difference in someone's life this Christmas.

Make some room for all the new stuff you will get under the tree.

Merry Christmas! :)

P.S. For those of you interested in seeing what my sister does in Liberia by making a difference in the lives of orphans, check out her blog loveinliberia.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Highway to Hell

Alert the media!

After ripping up our nasty carpet in the upstairs of our house, my husband and I decided we should just do it up right and replace the disgusting carpet in our downstairs living spaces as well!

What great news!

We got a wonderful tip from my mom about some laminate flooring from Sam's club. She got the tip from http://www.theyellowcapecod.com/search?updated-max=2011-10-02T04:11:00-07:00&max-results=7.

Dark, wide planks, textured. The flooring is beautiful!

Today is the beginning of hell in our house. We are going to be moving all of our furniture from the living room, dining room, foyer, and kitchenette. Next will be ripping out our old floors - carpet, laminate, and linoleum. Then for the installation. Our house is going to be crazy until we get this floor installed! If you have ever done a big project like this at your house, you know how crazy it can be! Hopefully, it will be worth it!

I will be keeping you updated through this journey from nasty to fantastic!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Swear This Isn't Product Placement

Ever get tired of using those same old knives? How is it that when you bought them they were gloriously sharp and now they can't even break the skin of a tomato? Look no further! I have the solution!

Meet the knife sharpener!

My husband found this baby on Amazon for a small price, but let me tell you... so far the results have been OUTSTANDING! I feel like I am using someone else's knives. It is THAT good!

I definitely recommend this product for those of you who are struggling with your knives and are thinking about getting new ones for Christmas. Instead, order this puppy and have a set of "brand new" knives for less than thirty bucks... yes you heard me right... <$30!!! Beats buying hundreds of dollars worth of new knives that will also go dull in a few years.

And no this is not product placement... just a good product.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Juju Eat Cake... DONUTS!

Ever since we have been on this "diet" (which for all of you that just means our new way of eating), I have been trying to come up with a way to remake GOOD food (which is usually BAD for you), into food that is both GOOD for you as well as being super tasty! One of the things I have been craving most and have been wanting to replicate a healthy version of has been... DONUTS! Donuts are probably one of the WORST things for you, nutritionally speaking. However, they are oh SO good for the soul!

Now don't get too excited, because I have not come up with an exceptionally healthy and delicious recipe for donuts. However, get excited, because I did make some tasty bad for you donuts! I figure to have a tasty and healthy version of donuts, you have to be good at making the real deal, right?! Well, that is just what I am telling myself to make me feel better.

This is attempt number one. Don't judge.

Since I am still in the fall mood, I decided I HAD to make pumpkin donuts. One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to go to Krispy Kreme and get a pumpkin spice donut. For those of you who have never had one, make the trip to Krispy Kreme and get yourself one...
you won't regret it!

I found a recipe I liked on a blog called Annie's Eats. The pictures looked delicious and the recipe sounded awesome, so I tried it out. I did do a few things differently. I did buy a donut pan on Amazon. I just thought that step #1 towards healthy donuts is not frying them, so I baked these bad boys instead of frying them up. I ended up making the glaze from the recipe for the donuts because after baking them, it did not seem likely that a cinnamon/sugar mixture would stick to the donuts. I added about a tsp of vanilla to the glaze, but followed the rest of the recipe.

I started by mixing the dry ingredients.

Then mixed room temp butter and sugar in my lovely KitchenAid Mixer. Definitely a must have!

After adding egg and egg whites, I started to add the dry and wet ingredients alternating between the two, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Once the batter was done and mixed up it looked like this.

The original recipe says to let the batter sit for a few hours before frying the donuts. But since I was baking mine, I didn't have to wait! Healthier and quicker! YES!
I put the batter in a plastic sandwich baggy, cut a hole in one of the corners, and piped the batter into my sprayed donut pan (used Baking Pam). I filled them up about 1/2-3/4 of the way full. This was plenty! I baked them at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 13 minutes. I put a toothpick into one of the donuts to make sure they were baked all the way through.

After taking them out of the pan and letting them cool, I mixed up my glaze. I added quite a bit more milk than what the recipe called for to make the glaze a little thinner. I think next time I won't add as much milk as I did, because I wish the glaze would have been thicker.

They ended up being QUITE delicious! If I were to make the unhealthy version again, I would have made them a little healthier by adding NO sugar to the batter and just getting sugar intake from the glaze. The glaze was sweet enough on its own. Other than that, they were superb!

You can find the original recipe at http://annies-eats.net/2011/09/26/pumpkin-doughnuts/.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Day Off

I am SO excited to report what I did today on my day off! Today I did one of those things you put at the bottom of your to-do list because you really DON'T want to do it. I am so proud of myself for doing it, I just had to blog about it!

We bought our house about a year and a half ago after living with my husband's parents for a short period of time while we saved up some money. We ended up buying a foreclosure to try to save some money by getting a good deal. We love the house we bought, but it has taken some manual labor trying to get this thing looking like a home.

We do have a small upstairs that is one larger bedroom over the garage, a small landing area at the top of the stairs that we have no idea what to do with, and a full bathroom. It was first our office, then a music room, then my sewing/craft room. Unfortunately, we have not been using this space in a long time because Sadie, our dog, started using this space as her own bathroom without us knowing about it. Sorry for too much info, but this is why I did what I did today. I ripped up that nasty carpet! When we bought the house, the carpet was already in pretty bad shape, but Sadie's habits didn't help at all.

Sorry I don't have any before pictures... I thought it would be a little too graphic for you. Here is the finished project for today.

This is the landing at the top of the stairs.

This is the bedroom that will soon be a purty craft room!
My plans for this room include making a craft area, sewing area, storage area, and possibly letting Daniel store some of his instruments and things. I am thinking about possibly painting the room a different color, but we will see! Making some curtains are a must, so be on the lookout for that project! I will keep you updated!

P.S. For those of you that are interested in doing something similar in their own house, ripping out some carpet is very easy. It is a little time consuming and it does take some manual labor, but paying someone to do it is a little too much in my opinion. However, I am the cheapest person in the world. All you need is a razor blade (you can get that at a hardware store) and some muscles. I also wore some work gloves, and if your carpet is super nasty, wear a mask. All you do is start cutting 4-5 foot long sections, rolling them up like a burrito, and taking out your rolls to the garbage! Easy enough! :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Singin' in the Rain

I am not much of a fashionista. I never have been and probably never will be. Sometimes I wish I was more stylish, but I just can't bring myself to either spend the money it takes to be stylish or take the time and effort. Also, I wouldn't know how to start even if I wanted to be.

Although I am not good at what's in or out of style these days, I did come across something at the store that whet my appetite for something that I believe is somewhat stylish. For probably a year I have been holding out for the perfect pair of rain boots. I know that they are probably more on their way out of style than their way in, but rain boots are super cute and comfortable, and when it's raining, seemingly useful! I love it when purpose and style intertwine! In my opinion, that is how it should be!

My sister and I went down to the outlet mall in Locust Grove and on our way back stopped by a local attraction we had never visited. That attraction was the Sock Shop in Griffin. I have heard of it and seen signs, but had never been there. We decided to check it out. It was pretty cool, but most importantly, I found the cutest pair of rain boots there!

Aren't they awesome?! I just liked how different they were! Nothing like what's at Target or any other retail place I have looked.

Just wanted to share my little find. Sorry if you think they are ugly, but I love them! :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Not Yo' Mama's B-Nut Squash Soup!

Now that it is fall, we all want to feed our faces with our favorite fall foods. Soups, stews, and pot pies, are now what dances in our heads when it is dinner time.
Also, for some reason, we want to eat anything that is pumpkin flavored.
Pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin coffee, etc.

Recently, the grocer man has been giving us some alternatives to just cooking with
cans of pureed pumpkin.
He has been busy stocking up some butternut squash!

(F.Y.I. My favorite farmer/my farming mentor once told me that all pureed pumpkin from a can is..... is BUTTERNUT SQUASH! Who would have thunk?)

Anyways. I have been craving some butternut squash soup. Instead of using a recipe from online, I just thought I would try whipping some up on my own! Besides, it gave me an excuse to use one of my most favorite things in my kitchen...

Isn't she perrrtyyy?!

So, I got to business this morning. As follows is the recipe and what I did to make this fab soup!

Juju's Butternut Squash Soup

Here's what you're going to need...

EVOO (extra virgin olive oil -> for those of you who have been living under a rock)
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into bite-sized cubes
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 large or 4 small cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 granny smith apple, chopped (I am sure another kind would be fine if that's what you got)
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1.5 tbsp butter
1/2 cup brandy
4 cups chicken stock/broth (a carton)
2 roasted red bell peppers (the ones in the jar)
1 carton SO Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer (make sure it's the ORIGINAL kind)
Cayenne Pepper

First off, I got all my veggies chopped so that I could be ready. Don't worry about chopping everything perfectly, it's not worth it in the long run. We are going to puree this in the end.

After getting everything cut up and peeled, I got my dutch oven out, drizzled some EVOO liberally in the bottom, and turned my stove on to medium heat.

Once the oil has had a chance to heat up, add garlic. Let it simmer in here until it gets yummy smelling. This takes about a minute. Stir while it's sizzling, you don't want the garlic to burn.
Next, add the onions. Stir this stinky combination until onions are soft. This may take a few minutes. Again, don't let the garlic burn!
Now add the butternut squash. Stir the mixture up a bit. This is where I let everything sit and mingle. I put the lid on for a few minutes before checking on them. Occasionally take your lid off and stir. The squash should release some juices, so you don't have to worry about burning the food. Let this cook so the squash can soften up a bit (about 10 minutes).
Now add your butter, apple chunks, and thyme.
Keep on letting everything sit and mingle, stirring on occasion. While my pot was cooking up, I was making myself busy with other things. Don't worry about it too much!
After a little bit of time, this is what my mixture looked like.

Once everything is soft and mushy, add some cinnamon. I added 2 pinches at this time, but then I added 4 more pinches at the end for taste. Also, add salt and pepper in there according to taste.
Once you add your cinnamon, this is when you start smelling those apples! Sooo good!
Using a microplane, grate your fresh, whole nutmeg to where the mixture is dusted with yummy nutmeg powder. Nutmeg is always a great secret ingredient.
Now that your pot is smelling like fall, add your brandy.
Let the brandy coat your mixture as the alcohol burns off. Also, make sure you're scraping the bottom of your pot at this time. Get all those yummy crumbs that are stuck to your pan!
Once you give the brandy a few minutes to burn off (your liquid should just about reduce in half), add your chicken stock. Once you've added your stock, put the lid on your pot and go find something else to do! You want your soup to come to a boil, and this might take a few minutes.
Once you get your soup mixture up to a boil, let it stay there a little bit. Add your roasted red bell peppers at this time.

I know, it's not the most beautiful looking creation, but it gets better from here. If you have a food processor or blender, follow my instructions from here on out. If you have a hand held blender, you can use that right in your soup pot!
Once everything is nice and steamy and boiling, dump your soup into another vessel. I used my large mixing bowel from Pampered Chef. If you use something that is glass, it might crack, so be careful! This is some hot soup!
Get our your food processor/blender. I used the biggest blade for this job. Using a ladle, fill up your food processor about 1/3 of the way with your soup.

Let her rip!
Turn on your food processor until WELL pulverized!
If done correctly, your soup should now look like baby food/applesauce.
The more you blend, the better the texture of the soup will be.
Once your first round is done, dump your baby food back into your original soup pot.
Repeat until all soup is pulverized and back in your original pot.
Here is what your baby food should look like...

Almost there!

Okay, this is when I started to add my spices to taste and add my creamer. Once I got to this point, I had only added 2 pinches of cinnamon. When I say a pinch, I literally mean a pinch (between your thumb and index finger, people).
At this time I added a total of 4 more pinches of cinnamon and about half the amount of cayenne pepper. I would guess about 1 tbsp cinnamon and 1-1.5 tsp cayenne pepper in all. This is also based on personal taste! I like spicy, but you may not, so add a little at a time, stir it up and taste it. You will know when it is just right!
I also started whisking in my coconut milk creamer at this time. This is to help the soup be creamy, instead of baby food texture. I used almost a whole carton of this stuff. I think it is a pint of creamer. I used coconut creamer instead of whipping cream because of that whole Paleo diet thing... you can use whichever, but the coconut creamer is WAY better for you.
Whisk the creamer into your soup until...


You did it!! You're done!!

The final product is beautiful and delicious! Would make a great appetizer or side item to any meal! Especially on a chilly evening!

Hope you try it and love it! I know I did!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It Might Actually Make Your Insides Turn to Gold!

Beer. Liquid bread. Nectar of the gods. Liquid courage.

You could probably call my husband and I avid beer drinkers. We even have started brewing our own beer. Yes, if you stay in our guest bedroom, you can open the closet door and have almost 100 beers at your choosing. When we started brewing, the brewer man at the brew store told my husband he needed 50 empty beer bottles, so once the brewed beer was done fermenting it could be bottled to condition. My husband asked the store owner (we affectionately call him Doug the Brewer) if he had any empty bottles for sale. Doug was appalled and said, "Man, you have three weeks, drink some beer!" So needless to say we started drinking beer like crazy, thinking it would take a long time to empty 50 bottles of beer. We had it covered plus some between the two of us.

Anyways, we like to try new, interesting beers. A friend of ours told us about a beer called Midas Touch. It is brewed by Dogfish Head. So what makes this beer so special? Dogfish Head claims that the recipe used to brew this particular beer is the oldest fermented beverage in the world. Found in the tomb of King Midas, this 2700 year old brew is a mix of beer, mead, and wine.


It is absolutely delectable! Served in a wine glass, it is sweet, delicious, and elegant. I recommend you find this beer and try it! It sure does taste like the nectar of the gods, if there even is such a thing.

The Hunger Games

Thought I would add a little book report in here.

I just got done reading The Hunger Games trilogy and I just had to write about it. I read the trilogy in less than a week. Now that I am done reading them, I have started to read them out loud to my husband. To say the least, these books give you page turning fever! The series started a few years ago, but I had never heard of them until I found them on my Kindle a few weeks ago. If you have a Kindle, you can buy all three books for $18 or something around there.

Anyways, the books are set in a country called Panem, which is actually a country founded after years and years of natural disasters hitting North America, and Panem is all that is left standing. Panem was originally made up of "The Capital" (self explanatory) and 13 Districts, each District specializing in a certain trade to keep the country running (i.e. coal, agriculture, etc.). Although the Capital and the Districts are one country, the society between the two are completely different. The Capital is a wealthy, materialistic, narcissistic society where food is eaten in droves, plastic surgery is the fashion, and everything is about outer appearance (remind you of anything/anyone?). The rest of the Districts are extremely impoverished, children starving, people dying at young ages, etc, etc, etc. District 13 decides they don't like being oppressed, so they rebel and a war occurs between the Districts and the Capital. Obviously, the Capital wins, destroys District 13 and everyone and everything in it, and the war ends. Now that the war is over, the Capital must keep the Districts under control and in line. So to remind the citizens of the Districts that remain that the Capital is in control, they begin what is called the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a yearly "competition" that takes place, in which 2 children ages 12-18 (1 boy, 1 girl) are chosen at random to compete. The object of the competition is to be the last person standing. How do you become the victor? By killing everyone else! Basically like Gladiator, but with children. Also, they broadcast the "games" on TV and the entire country must watch. It is a reminder that not even parents are in control of their own children, but the Capital is the one in control of everything.

I know, you are thinking OMG, why would anyone want to read something so barbaric?!

I promise you, they are not gory or gross or graphic, but they do show you a picture of how barbaric human beings can be. I think that these books give you a healthy outlook on how societies can end up so warped and twisted that almost anything can be turned into a social norm (like in Rome in the Gladiator days). Also, these books made me think a lot about the U.S. and how we could, one day, easily fall prey into something like this if we do not keep ourselves in check. Anyways, I am going to stop there because I could go all day on that subject.

I do highly recommend reading these books, especially because in March the movie is scheduled to come out! I found this out when I was searching for a picture for this post shown above. Now I am excited! Don't be the one trying to read the book at the last minute so you can go see the movie, or just seeing the movie without reading the book (we ALL know that the book is ALWAYS better than the movie). Read it now and be prepared! You won't regret it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

There is a Chill in the Air

There is a chill in the air here in Georgia, and you know what that means?

Well lots of things, actually! Fall brings all kinds of wonderful things! Football, warm meals, Halloween treats, fall decor, beautiful leaves, amazingly comfy clothes, and the list can go on and on. One thing I wanted to do this fall season since we have our own house and everything, is make a wreath for the front door. I have been using Pinterest to help me out on my quest for coming up with a cute fall wreath idea (if you don't know what Pinterest is, I am sorry that is a whole blog post in itself and right now is not the time). The one pin that I found that I really liked was from a blog called Craftaholics Anonymous. Here is my creation!

Love the burlap flowers!

Simple, easy, and looks great! Thanks Craftaholics Anonymous and of course, yours truly, Pinterest!

The original craft with instructions can be found at the following link: http://www.craftaholicsanonymous.net/2011/09/burlap-fall-wreath-tutorial.html.

Duck... Duck... GOOSE!

Here is the background info...

My husband and I are on this journey to lead healthier lives. He joined a gym about 2 years ago called Crossfit so that he could loose some weight and stay in shape. I was not so keen to join the gym at the time because I was working night shift. I felt that I should not have to endure such hardships in my spare time since I was enduring the crappy life that night shift will bring you during working hours plus some. I was put on day shift this past summer and BOY is my life different! I did end up joining Crossfit, which I have learned to love!

Our gym right now is doing this thing called the "Paleo Challenge." Basically, we have been challenged to eat this diet called Paleo for just 30 days. Can't be too hard, right?

For those of you who don't know, Paleolithic eating is basically eating the way a caveman would eat. The no-no's are: bread, rice, pasta (NO STARCH), milk, yogurt, cheese (NO DAIRY), peanuts, black beans, black-eyed peas (NO LEGUMES), cakes, cookies, pudding (NO SUGAR). The diet encourages you to eat meat, veggies, fruits, nuts, and I added that I could eat chocolate as long as it contains 70% cacao or higher.

How hard could it be? It's just a diet...

The problem is...

I love food.... no you don't understand... I LOVE FOOD!!!! You did see that this website is called Juju EAT CAKE, RIGHT?!

I will not eat unless it is beyond yummy. I don't like most recipes these days because most of them revolve around ease/time and not taste. I try to find the best bang for your buck with both ease and taste! The recipes that I will put on this blog will be both of these things. If not then I have failed miserably!

We successfully were on the diet for 2.5 weeks before we went out of town and broke the diet trend. We have not been so good since we have been home, but I am going to continue cooking this way, because it is actually healthy and delicious! I think we are going to add some dairy to our diet, but limit everything else.

Anyways, I have been using this VERY helpful website in the process, which has been a lifesaver! I am now addicted to it and the food! You can find it at www.health-bent.com. This girl is a genius in the kitchen!

Here are some pictures of a mouth-watering dish that I made just last week. It is a Paleo take on Thai food (which I love). Instead of using noodles/rice noodles in the dish, I used zucchini. Can you believe that? Yes sir, I did and you could not tell a lick of difference (literally)! My sister julienne'd the zucchini for me while I prepared the meat and sauce and it worked out splendidly! The duck was absolutely delicious as well. I bought it at my favorite store in Atlanta, the Dekalb Farmer's Market. If you ever get a chance, go there! It is field trip worthy!

The meat was super juicy and was a beautiful pair with the sauce. All the ingredients went perfectly together. Even the green onions made a huge difference. Towards the end of the meal, my husband said, "So let me get this straight, I am actually chowing down on just zucchini?" Yep! That is right folks! How much healthier can you get?

This plate is beautiful, delicious, full of flavor, but most importantly, healthy! Thanks Megan Keatley at Health Bent! You are the best!

See www.health-bent.com for recipe called Paleo Pad Thai!


I am a newbie to this wide world of blogging. Please forgive me if I have started this blog in vain. I don't really know why anyone would want to read my personal thoughts and feelings about anything, but if you do this blog is for you. Maybe at least there will be one person who feels the least bit interested. If not, that is okay too.

I don't read enough blogs to know where to begin, but I guess I could start by telling you what type of blog this is going to be. To be honest with you, I have no idea myself. I have been collecting a few pictures and things to post over the last few weeks of my life, while I have been trying to figure out how to design a template, change my background, etc. Boy was this challenging! I am sure someone is laughing at me right now, but it was not easy for me. Now that I have the look that I want out of the millions of options, I am ready to roll!

Hopefully this site will be a place for you to stroll by on occasion and just check out what I have been doing in life. Maybe it will be a place where you can find interesting crafts, a few good recipes, and maybe just something to make your day a little bit better. Enjoy! :)