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! :)