Cooking 101 - Whole Wheat Bread

This bread is SO good. It's 100% whole wheat so there's not a lot of guilt involved when you eat it. I've found that if I use white wheat flour (still 100% wheat), the bread doesn't have a bitter wheat taste, and it stays light and fluffy. AND it makes a killer sandwich!!!

(makes 2 regular-sized loaves)

2 1/2 t. yeast (or two 1/4-oz. pkgs)
1 c. warm water
1 c. scalded milk
2/3 c. honey
2/3 c. melted butter
2 t. salt (or a little less)
2 eggs
4-8 c. white wheat flour

a handful (about 1/2 c.) quick oats
a handful of ground flax (about 1/4 c.)

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix milk, honey, melted butter, salt, egg, and yeast mixture while the mixer is running on low speed. Add the oats and flax if you're using it. Add flour gradually, 2 c. at a time. You may only need 6 c. of flour, you may need a little more, but you probably won't need more than 8 c. The dough should be a little sticky, pulling at the sides of the bowl a little bit. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl; cover and let rise until doubled in size - about 1 1/2 hours.

When dough is doubled in size, punch down dough. Knead a few times on a well floured surface. Cut dough in half; form into loaves and set them evenly into two regular-sized, buttered loaf pans. (The dough should sit about 2 inches below the top of the loaf pan)

Let the bread rise again for another 30-minutes to an hour. Bake it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it with your fingernail. Let the bread rest and cool for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing into it.

The End of a 3-Month Whirlwind

Hi All! I hope you had a great Holiday season! I guess, technically, we have one more big one left - New Year's - but the bulk of it all is over and done with and as much fun as it was, I'm so glad to be done racing around!

Oh, and the day after Christmas my computer CRASHED. Nice. EVERYTHING was lost, but luckily I didn't trust my junky Dell so I had recently backed everything up in September. I only lost 3 months of stuff but it was still painful. So after crying my tears, I picked myself up and drove over to the Apple store where they hooked me up and made me feel SO much better! Aha! Thank you, Apple for making computers that WORK.

So now that most of the holidays are over, it's back to doing what I love - projects! It seems like the three-month fog that is Halloween through Christmas has lifted and everything can settle down a bit finally. It's fun and all, but I'm ready to be done with holidays!

Until I get my act together, here's what I'm drooling over:

LaLa's Paquinos

Aren't these things the CUTEST things ever?!

Meringue Designs
I'm in the mood to do a banner similar to this - maybe for Valentine's Day, and a generic "Happy Birthday" one for any time there's a birthday around here! I'm already getting excited...

These cute Penny Pockets from Happy Zombie would be fun, too - and she gives a GREAT tutorial on her blog.

If I had any energy whatsoever right now, and if I didn't need to go to the grocery store BAD....I'd jump up and make something...haha!


Light Bright!

Leave it to Martha (or should I say - her talented STAFF) to think of something like this! I love it! Don't know where I'd put something like this, but it's so darn cool! Here is a link for the directions. So when the holidays are over - don't put away the white lights - do something like this and get creative with your own designs.


Salt Dough / Homemade Play Dough

I'm finally getting around to posting this recipe - this is the BEST STUFF ON EARTH and it hardly costs anything! I love that my mom reminds me of these simple, fun things.

For a fun night with the kids, or even better - for some time by yourself, mix up a batch of this and let the kids go nuts while you go relax with a box of chocolates in the pantry closet. They'll never know you're gone!

Oh, and I have to add that when I was little, my mom had us make fun Christmas ornaments like this with these very same cookie cutters and I can't tell you how much fun it was year after year getting out our homemade ornaments that we made and painted. I think mom still has all of them from so long ago in a box somewhere. Now my kids have their own set and it was SUCH an inexpensive, fun, memory-making project.

What You'll Need:
2 c. Flour
1 c. Salt
1 T. Oil (vegetable oil or olive oil is fine)
Warm water - about 1 c.
Food coloring (optional)
Cookie cutters with patterns in the middle
Acrylic or children's water color paints
(acrylic doesn't wash out of clothes like the watercolor paints will)
Glitter paint (optional) - makes Christmas ornaments sparkly
Spray Varnish

Combine the flour and salt; add oil and combine

Add water a little at a time. Start by using about 3/4 c. of the water, mix the dough with your hands, and add more water as you need it a little at a time. Dough should be moist but not sticky - just like the store-bought Play Doh.

If you want to paint your creations, keep the dough white. If you don't care and just want the kids to play with it, separate the dough into parts and use food coloring and make dough of different colors. Now let 'em play for hours. Store the dough in zipper baggies in the fridge so it will last longer.

Roll out the dough, cut out your creations, and poke a hole with a toothpick where you want your string to hang from - and give yourself plenty of room for the string/ribbon. Keep in mind that the thicker your cut-out is, the longer it has to bake. Try to keep your cut-outs somewhat thin and uniform in thickness.

Place the ornaments on a cookie sheet (ungreased, of course) and bake them between 200 degrees and 250 degrees for about an hour. Ours were baked at 250 degrees and they were fine, but your oven might be different. Your oven is too hot if your ornaments get bubbles in them. Turn the ornaments over and let the other side bake for a while - maybe 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how hardened they are.

To check for doneness, tap on the ornaments and if they sound crisp, dry, and light, then they're done. If you tap on them and they feel dense and heavy, then they need a little bit longer. Just keep checking them.

When done, let the ornaments cool for a minute, and they're ready to paint. After the paint has dried, spray varnish them and the colors will become more vibrant and the ornaments will last a very long time.


It's That Busy Time Again!!!

WOW! What a fun time of the year but SO BUSY! However, I love this season so much that I'm enjoying EVERYTHING! Oh, and thanks so much for the kind well-wishes while I was sick! That was so nice!

Thanksgiving was simple and HEAVENLY, my hubby and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary, my mom came for a fun visit, we've been decorating for Christmas, and that's all just the beginning. I'll try to post something worthwhile soon but until then, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Here's a little peek of what it looks like around our house!

While my mom was here, she and the kids made salt clay ornaments, baked them, and she had the kids paint them. I love it! The kids have a little tree of their very own to display their creations!


Convenience and Relief

It's been a very rough 24-hours and all I can say is THANK GOODNESS for Bob Evans homemade chicken soup and Vernors (super strong ginger soda). I think I got food poisoning or something because....OY! Just when you feel like you can't hang on to life anymore, when all hope is lost and you just want to go find a remote cave and lay there until the merciful beasts devour you alive - along comes the relief of Bob Evans and Vernors. Nothing tastes better when you're sick! And the chicken noodle is made with real, homemade noodles and there are huge chunks of chicken. I now have strength and I think I can make it. Whew.

Sorry it's a little blurry - I didn't feel like doing a very good job.



It's cold, gray, and dreary outside. I SHOULD be getting my tight work-out pants on that reveal my belly fat like nothing you've ever seen, and my work-out top that sucks it all back in (sort of) where it needs to be, and on my way to burning the extra 10,000 calories I consumed at dinner last night. But what I WANT to do is sit here in my warm, bright, cheerful house with a cup of dreamy cocoa (an extra 3,000 calories) and read my new book and laugh the day away. However, what I HAVE to do is clean out my closets, clean the basement (a.k.a. my craft dungeon), pay bills, and do laundry since it hasn't been done for 15 days. GROSS. I'm tired just thinking about it all.

Do you see why I'm conflicted?! I'm not complaining, though. How nice to have options. It's times like this where I'll probably putter around doing odd jobs so as to APPEAR like I've done something today, you know, for the 'ol conscience - but none of my big to-do list will get touched. WHY?! Why can't I be organized and motivated and responsible and clean?! I guess I better go get some cocoa and think about it...

Happy Veteran's Day, by the way! I love those Veterans!


Cute Brooch

Alright - I swear I'm going to make a hundred of these brooches! Think of the COLOR possibilities! What a great holiday gift! They are so easy and I'm pretty sure they're not geeky. Are they? Maybe I am a geek.

You can pin these to a purse, a hat, a scarf, your sweater/jacket, baby clips,etc. AND! (as Design Gal said below) you can pin these to a present as a bow and it's part of the gift! Thanks Design Gal!

I didn't find any cute felt, I don't have time or patience to make some, so I used fleece instead and it worked fine. (plus it was 40% off yesterday, so that makes sense, right?)

So if you missed the tutorial link, it's HERE. And you really should watch the video link HERE because Betz White shows you how to clip the back leaf and attach the pin correctly.

I experimented a little here and I really like the look of the blanket stitch on the leaves. Great! Now my plain leaves look lame. If you'd like a fun tutorial on that, go HERE.


Cute Brooch Tutorial

I've been hunting high and low for a cute, simple, easy-to-make brooch and THIS IS IT! I found this cute blog with an excellent tutorial, so go check it out!

Here is another SUPER cute brooch tutorial! I can't wait to get started!!!


A New Arrival!

It's HERE and it's BEAUTIFUL!!! I've been privileged to witness the birth of my friend Kadie's Etsy store and it's pretty special. I held her hand, told her to breathe, and I'm totally just kidding. But go check out her store.

Kadie is an amazing artist, among other things, and her store is full of gorgeous HAND MADE jewelry. I'm partial because she's my friend, but I'm also partial because I've seen her work. She's pretty darn picky on what goes into her jewelry - it's ALL glass beads or real metal - no plastic. Honestly - these are going to make some great Holiday gifts because her prices are awesome, it's hand made (my favorite part), and it's NOT going to disappoint! And if you want something custom-made, contact her and she can do anything. Right, Kadie?

here's a small taste...


Great Book!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book, "The Last Lecture", and I can't wait to read it to my kids. It's short, sweet, and LOADED with some incredible truths about life that I needed reminding of. The author, Randy Pausch, a married father of three little kids and a university professor, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given 3-6 months to live. The way he handled this news, and everything else in his life for that matter, is completely remarkable. You have to read this. I think it's so well written, too, each segment being a short chapter on something specific, so I could easily read a chapter to my kids and I really think they'll love the stories. The book makes you want to dream BIG!

We read this for our Book Club meeting this month and discussed it at my house last night and since the book is full of "childhood dreams", we all talked about ours and how to make them happen. I remembered that one of my childhood dreams has always to be in a symphony orchestra!!! I want to be in a long, black dress, playing the violin, getting lost in the music in a sea of other talented musicians. Kinda nerdy, I know, but it's still a dream. The only hang-up is that I don't play the violin...guess I should learn, eh? Or I could pick up my clarinet - they have those in an orchestra! Nah - not as cool as a violin. This guy, Randy, would figure out a way to do it so I guess I could, too. Also, I was going to grow up to be Crystal Gayle - the country singer with hair down to her feet - I always wanted hair down to my feet. I don't think hair that long is pretty now, but that was my dream!

So I know you're reading this and I want to know some of YOUR big childhood dreams - and don't skip out on me.

HERE is the link to the You Tube video of Randy's Lecture.


Cooking 101 - Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I'm embarrassed to say that I've never tried Brussels sprouts before yesterday. AHHH!! What on earth is WRONG with me?! Anyway - I got a taste of what I was missing out on and I swear I could eat these every day and not tire of them! And - these little guys are SO CUTE!!! They're like little tiny heads of lettuce! (but so much more flavorful in my opinion)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 10-16 oz. package Brussels Sprouts
5-6 slices Turkey Bacon, cut into pieces
1/4 c. chopped nuts
Olive oil

Wash and cut the stems off of the Brussels sprouts, then slice them in half.
In a large skillet, cook turkey bacon with nuts until it's firm and a little crispy; remove from pan.
Add Brussels sprouts to the pan with a drop or two of olive oil. Cover and let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add bacon bits and nuts to the pan, mix together, add salt to taste. That's it!


Kadie's Buttermilk Syrup

There are no words...you just have to try it, especially with the whole grain pancakes I just posted. The first time I tried this syrup with those pancakes, I got all cross-eyed and couldn't speak - just groan. It was amazing! Thanks, Kadie - now I have MORE laps to run today...BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!!

**Note: I doubled this recipe and it pretty much boiled out of my huge stock pot. If you don't have a gigantic stock pot, I don't suggest doubling the recipe. However, because I made a big batch, I just keep a jar of the syrup in the fridge and it keeps nicely.


3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

4 T karos syrup

2 sticks butter

2 t baking soda

Mix all together in a large pan, boil for 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and add 4 t vanilla

AMAZING Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes

I don't have a picture because WE AT THEM ALL - but if you're looking for a GOOD pancake recipe, look no further. I made these this morning and I sent the kiddies off to school in full confidence that they won't be getting hungry for another five hours!! These bad boys are so filling and good!

**I always double this recipe because my kids are big pancake fans and always want more

Dry Ingredients:

2/3 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. flour
1/4 c. oat flour (or quick oats)
2 T. wheat germ
1 -2 T. ground flax seed
2 t. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Wet Ingredients:

1 c. buttermilk (+ more if needed)
1/4 c. milk
2 eggs
1 T. oil
1/4 t. vanilla

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients; in a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Mix everything together and let sit for a minute. If mixture is too thick, add more buttermilk.

Ladle onto hot griddle, flip after pancakes get bubbly and lightly browned on the edges.


Shotgun Wedding!

Okay - visualize this with me, girls - it's Thursday night, 10:30 p.m., I'm getting ready to go to bed when I get a phone call from my girl Denise (she is our Relief Society President). She asked if it's possible to put together a wedding by Saturday for a couple in our ward (church). (that's 1 1/2 days, folks) She let me know that they don't have any money, it can be something very simple, but something to make the day special. The reason for the haste: The groom, fresh from Marine Corps boot camp, is shipping out on Tuesday for some more military training, so the poor couple wanted to get married before he left in order for her to join him when he's done.

Now this is where most people would panic but I got a surge of electricity through me because this could be FUN! I told Denise that it is ABSOLUTELY possible and this bride better like Fall colors because that's what she's getting! Naturally, I enlisted my girl Kadie and the three of us set to work on making a game plan. Also, there weren't going to be very many in attendance, so that also made this party quite easy.

Here's what we came up with in a couple of hours on Friday:

Dinner In a Pumpkin (SO good - you have to try this before Fall is over!)
Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Bars
Chocolate Eclair Dessert
Fruit Trays
Sparkling Cider
French Bread
(Thanks, Jen, for assigning everything out - and thanks ladies, wherever you are, for making, baking, and shaking for us!)

Fall, Fall, Fall
White lights
Dim lighting with lamps
Platters, cake stands, ANYTHING
Whatever we have at home - and between Kadie and I, we stripped our homes of every piece of decor and made the place quite cozy!

(honestly, people, we had to turn a seriously ugly room into something sort of pretty...big task but manageable...)

So here's our ugly gym - and all of our junk.

Hard workin' ladies - Kadie and Denise

More junk...

Our centerpiece: Floral pumpkins

I spent about $60 on some clearance fall foliage and we clipped everything apart into piles. From there, Kadie and Denise stuffed the flowers into a pumpkin with the top cut off. We didn't have time to clean out the guts - we just stuffed! Normally, I'm sure you'd want to clean out the seeds and such.

They did great, eh?! I also had a bunch of these berry garlands that we encircled around the base of each pumpkin, along with acorns from my back yard. (I paid my kids $1.00 to gather as many as they could...haha!)

And here's our finished table. That tiny little cake in the back is all I had time for! Everybody we knew was either watching kids or baking themselves, so that left NOBODY to do a cake - which is fine. I found a cute little cake at the store, added some flowers, and that's what they got.

And, yes, those are paper plates you're seeing in the corner but don't judge me! We had no budget for cute plates! (besides, they match the decor...)

With a little bit of magic and floral tape, I put together a cake top and a couple of boutonnieres for the men. I'll give a tutorial on that when I get some time. (Heaven only knows that I've got plenty of leftover scraps.)

(The cake top is wet because I had to wash off the frosting...but you get the idea.)

All in all, I spent about $100, maybe $150 (I lost count, actually) on pumpkins, foliage, and a little food.

We all spent roughly 9 hours total on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. - unloading junk, decorating, ironing table cloths (you rock Denise), decorating, decorating, getting dressed quickly, serving food during the wedding, and then disassembling everything, cleaning the kitchen, then re-loading our vehicles so we could go home. We rock.

Was it worth it, you might ask? You bet it was. The groom, who is a sweet young man in our ward, had no idea it was possible to make the gym look so nice! He was SO very thankful and hugged all of us who worked so hard. We later learned that the couple had no expectations of a nice wedding since it was such late notice.

Great things can happen when we get the girls together! Not pictured are many, many other people who contributed to this event - thanks everyone!

Dinner In a Pumpkin

This is the best discovery EVER! My girl Kadie got the idea from her cute mom and I love it!! It's quick, easy, and SO good!!! For a large crowd, we doubled the recipe and used a bigger pumpkin - but you'll have to cook the pumpkin longer if you do that.

Kadie's mom (love her...) made this dinner every year on Halloween for her family - what a fun tradition!!!


1 small to medium pumpkin
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 to 2 lbs ground beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (4 oz.) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (about 3/4 c. dry)
1 (8 oz) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
Cut off the top of pumpkin and thoroughly clean out seeds and pulp. Paint an appropriate face on the front of the pumpkin with a permanent marker or acrylic paint.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, saute onions in oil until tender. Add meat and brown. Drain drippings from skillet. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, mushrooms and soup. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cooked rice and water chestnuts. Spoon mixture into the cleaned pumpkin shell. Replace pumpkin top and place entire pumpkin, with filling, on a baking sheet. Bake 1 hour or until inside of the pumpkin is tender. Put pumpkin on a platter. Remove pumpkin lid and serve meat. For your vegetable, scoop out cooked pumpkin and serve. Serves 6.


Cooking 101 - Summer Corn Chowder

This is one of my MOST favorite soups of all time - we just had this yesterday. It's a very basic base, it's quick and easy to make, and it has the most homey, earthy, comforting flavors you'll ever taste. (is homey a word? Besides "What up Homey?")

I have a story about this soup, too! (how fun...I love stories!...but this really isn't very exciting - just a fun memory of this soup.) It was a couple of years ago, in the Fall, and VERY, very cold in Michigan at that time. The sun was going down early, making everything dark too soon - and I noticed that we had a newlywed couple moving in across the street. I assumed that they were cold and hungry, and knowing that I had soup and homemade rolls cooking, I walked over and invited them in for a warm dinner. (thank goodness it wasn't hot dog night...) They gladly came over and joined us for dinner, we sat down to this comforting soup and warm rolls, and we all smiled and devoured it in our warm little home, getting to know one another. So when I eat this particular soup, I get that memory stuck in my head every time and it never gets old!

Anyway - you HAVE to try this. I'm serious. Also, I usually skip the bacon and go the olive oil route, but if you want to do it right, use the bacon.

Summer Corn Chowder

4 oz. Bacon (or 2 T. olive oil)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 can diced green chili
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 t. thyme
salt & fresh ground pepper
3-4 c. chicken stock (less stock if you want thicker soup)
2 1/2 c. yellow summer corn (or 1 medium bag of frozen corn)
5 oz. red potatoes, diced (about 4-5 medium sized potatoes)
1 - 2 pieces grilled chicken, diced
1 1/2 c. half & half

Cook bacon in stockpot until browned; remove and transfer to a paper towel, set aside. Discard all but 2 Tablespoons of the drippings. (OR...in stockpot, heat up 2 T. olive oil) Add onions, celery, thyme, salt & pepper, and green chili; cook until onions are translucent. Add stock, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes.

Add corn & potatoes; cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add half and half, as well as the chicken, and simmer until soup is hot. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish by crumbling bacon on top.

Don't forget the homemade rolls!



YUM. That's all I have to say about it. I posted the recipe HERE a while back and just made some more today. Oh, AND...my house smells AMAZING. (Which is a good thing considering the fact that I need to do some serious cleaning...)


Bring on the Bling

So this is Kadie - (sorry, this is the best photo I have of you at the moment, Kadie) and I'm pretty sure we were twins separated at birth. I mean, you can probably tell just by looking. Anyway... among many other things, Kadie is the jewelry GODDESS. As you know, I've dabbled in bead jewelry a bit but Kadie has rejuvinated my jewelry-making needs. (...and she's got nunchuck skills...)

Kadie showed me this cool way of making charms which can be attached to earrings, necklaces, bracelets, whatever - so this post is in honor of Kadie.

Don't you want to make a cute pair of THESE? These earrings go with just about everything I have in my closet, including my Fall wardrobe. Very cool.

I'm just going to give you the basic idea of how I did these and then you can do what you like on your own.

To start with, you'll need some tools:
Round Nose Pliers
Needle Nose Pliers
Wire Cutter
2 Headpins (those straight wires with something on the end)
2 small "O" rings
2 earring hooks
Thin gauge wire

You can mix and match however you'd like - the color possibilities are endless!

Start by making your leaf charm.

Start with your thin gauge wire (I can't remember the size) and run it through your leaf, twisting a couple of times.

Bend the short end of the wire into a loop with your round nose pliers.

Now wrap the wire carefully around, making sure to secure the loop, and wrap a few more times.

Now you have a leaf charm!

Now for your flower charm - stack your beads on the headpin. (I know, it seems too easy to be true...and it is)

With your round nose pliers, grab on to the wire, giving yourself about 1/2" of space above your bead.

Twist around the round nose pliers. Using the needle nose pliers helps get the wire nice and tight.

Wrap once, and then around again, opening the round nose pliers, grabbing a hold of the wire, and clamping down hard again, twisting the wire around.

Now that you have the wire wrapped twice, take it underneath and go around the shaft of the wire a couple of times, using the needle nose pliers to get it nice and tight.

...and now you have a flower charm!

the rest is cake...just open your "O" ring, stack the charms and your earring hook inside and close it up.

Perfecto! (I don't speak Italian...or Spanish...but I like that word.) Baby's got BLING! The approximate price of these earrings is probably in the $1.00 range - give or take. Now get out there and make yourself some GORGEOUS Fall jewelry!

I'm also going to take some pics of Kadie's jewelry and show you her amazing stuff. I guarantee that it will inspire you to go out and get some beads!