Thursday, April 25, 2013

Storage Diner Bench

Last week I posted about our locker bench.  I mentioned banquet seating that we created in our kitchen.  Sorry we don't have any plans to share.  We built based on our available space.  I've been wanting a bar where the kids can work on one side of the counter, while I work in the kitchen space on the other side.  We could have pulled it off, but one day my friend mentioned staying at a place where a bench was on one side of the counter and how easy it was for her kids to be on one side, while she was on the other.  I also needed storage space for various food storage buckets that seemed to be cluttering up the kitchen all the time.

Here's what we came up with:
The "wall" that you see on the left is actually our locker bench.  We didn't take a lot of pictures of the building process, but here are a few of us finishing it.

I wanted a durable finish so we opted to stain the bench, followed by 2-3 coats of polyurethane.

We had lots of doors to stain.

Next time I will be sure to get wood conditioner, so the stain will apply more evenly.  There was some splotchiness that I wasn't thrilled about on the top of the bench.  I corrected it, by staining it darker, but then the doors ended up being lighter.  I think the two tones look fine, but it wasn't planned.  See our food storage buckets kickin' around the kitchen?
 Now they have a home.  Yes!  Mission accomplished.
Check out my awesome new kitchen table next week!

Good luck on your projects!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Easy Rice Pudding

One thing that really helps our budget is using up leftovers.  A lot of times I will make extra of something, so I have leftovers to use in another meal or recipe, saving me time as well as money. 

When I make rice, I always cook a cup or two extra.  That way, I have rice that can be used in fried rice, or rice pudding or a casserole or something else that calls for rice.  My kids also like to eat rice and milk with cinnamon and sugar, as a snack or for an easy breakfast or dinner. 

Here's my recipe for easy rice pudding. 

Easy Rice Pudding
leftover rice-about 3 cups cooked (amount can vary somewhat, I just try and cook an extra cup of regular uncooked rice when I'm making rice for dinner so I know I'll have leftovers)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can water
Cinnamon-to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the rice with sweetened condensed milk, water and cinnamon.  If you did not add salt when you originally cooked your rice, add a dash of salt.  Stir until the rice mixture thickens up with the milk mixture.  When thickened, add vanilla and remove from heat.  Cool for 5 minutes.  Eat warm or refrigerate and eat cold.  My girls especially love this. 


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coat Corner

It's amazing how things tend to pile up in badly organized spaces.  A couple of years ago we put in a wall of cabinets.  We didn't take it all the way to the end, since I wanted some space between the window and the cabinets.  It also created a great place to add in some pegs to hang my jackets, coat and purses on.  It was also great to have all my purses upstairs by the door, so I can grab the purse that matches my outfit.  All of the things that go in my purse are compartmentalized in smaller bags/holders so I can just grab the things I need.  Will I need extra lipstick--sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Is it sunny out and I might need my sunglasses?  What about my checkbook and pass along cards.  These are things that I don't always need.  I also have "project" bags.  In one I have my needlework.  In another garden catalogs.  A third contains everything I need when I go to workout. 

As I assessed the situation I realized I needed a shelf to store these things on, as well as more hooks--both for the purses, project bags, and coats and jackets.  So here is the before picture.  Yuck!  What a headache in a corner.

One of the things I loved about Becky Beck's blog "Dirt"y Little Secrets was that she always photographed the tools she used along with a touch of yellow.  I prefer red, so here are my tools with a touch of red!

Pretty basic--drill, metal corners and screws.

Now, about the shelf.  I bought a shelf that was ok from Hobby Lobby, but it wasn't quite right.  So in my quest for a shelf, I definitely had a tithing blessing.  I went to a antique store called Gilgen's and found the perfect shelf--and I mean perfect.  I couldn't have built it to better spec's than what it was.  It fits perfectly, has two shelves and it is in oak, which my kitchen is full of.

Here is the picture of it below.

So as far as the project went, I cleared the area, unscrewed my white hooks and moved them down about a foot.  To make sure the top shelf was sturdy I attached it to the wall. . .

and can you see the metal bracket I added into a stud on the top shelf.  Now, I'm not going to put too much weight on it, but I did want it to hold and not come off the wall.  I put everything back and it was still horrible.  Sorry, no picture of this part.  I realized that I needed to have 2 sets of hooks.  One for my jackets and one for my project bags.  So off to Hobby Lobby again.  I found this adorable metal hook with birds for my jackets.  Doesn't it look great with the wood shelf above?  The white hooks below are neither here nor there, since they are covered with jackets.

I filled in the holes from moving my hooks as well as painted them.  I have a little plastic bottle of paint, which is SO handy for touch-ups.  I also made sure that at least one screw went into a stud.  The baseboard hadn't been in place for a while either.  So it is nice to have that back with a more finished look.

Here is a closer picture of the hooks. 

Now this is the corner that we keep our broom, so I needed a place for that.  See that nice blank cupboard side above?

Here it is with these other bird hooks that I bought from Hobby Lobby as well.

Here is a closeup of the hooks.  I love them.

Here it is all finished.  I was going to hang up the broom and dustpan here too, but it is just SO HANDY for my bigger purses, that they will be relocated to another spot.  It is nice having everything that I need for an outing or errands right there and in an orderly manner.

Happy Organzing!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Show Me the Money

bag of money
It's been a while since we've had a financial-type post.

Ruth and I  like Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makeover." Dave has 7 "Baby Steps" that he uses in helping people get out of debt and onto the road to "Financial Freedom".  Here are some of my thoughts on each of these baby steps.

Step 1. Have an Emergency Fund of $1000.00.  There will always be emergencies that arise, and when we are trying to get out of debt, those emergencies may seem even more "dire", because it doesn't seem like we have the cash on hand to deal with them.  If you have an emergency fund, then you don't have to stress out about trying to figure out how to pay for the current crisis.

Step 2.  Pay off All Debt Using the Debt Snowball--this is really simple, take your smallest debt and put any extra money you have on that debt until it is paid off.  Then you take the amount you were paying on that debt and start paying it on the next smallest debt.  This continues, like a ball of snow rolling down the hill until it gets bigger and bigger and the debts are all paid off.

Step 3.  Save 3 to 6 Months of Expenses for a larger Emergency Fund--this emergency fund is awesome!  Any major expense that comes up, can pretty much be covered by this one.  Of course the fund has to be rebuilt once you tap into it, but think of the peace of mind this fund can bring!  We've replaced air conditioners and furnaces twice (two different houses), covered big car repairs, and replaced vehicles without going into debt.  Just this last month we had to replace our dishwasher, a water heater and an exterior door.  The list could go on and on.  It seems something happens, that we aren't expecting, every single month.  Do we have bad luck?  No.  Did I stress about these "emergencies?"  No.  We had the funds to cover them.  Stuff just happens.  That's life.     

Step 4.  Save 15% of income in Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement--pretty self explanatory.  You can pretty much count on Social Security to NOT be available for us when we retire (those under the age of 50), so save, save, save, for retirement. 

Step 5.  College Funding for Kids--college rates have been increasing at a steady rate of 6% each year.  Ouch!  If you don't save something for your kids for college, it might be really hard to pay for it with cash when they get to that point. 

Step 6.  Pay off Home Early--Think of what you could do if you didn't have a house payment each month?!  Obviously you will still need to pay taxes and insurance on your house, but if that was all you had to pay, what could you do with the income that is freed up?  Go on, do the math.  Have a napkin handy in case you start to drool a bit.  If you are at this point in your financial plan, reevaluate your budget every so often, to see what you can pay extra on your house, then head over to this mortgage calculator and figure out how soon you can pay off your house.  It is fun to play with the numbers.  After you figure it out, set a goal.  When you pay off your house what do you want to do?  Do you want to take an awesome family vacation? or get some new furniture?  how about updating the kitchen?  Obviously the ideas are endless.

Step 7.  Build Wealth and Give--at this point you can seriously start investing your money by maxing out retirement accounts and investing in growth stock mutual funds.  You can also give to those in need and be more generous with your money.  A few years ago we were at Cracker Barrel because our kids had some meal coupons to spend.  I can't remember how many kids we had at the time, but there were probably five of them.  It was a hot summer's day.  I was complaining to my husband about how expensive the food was.  I don't know if I could be overheard by anyone else or not.  It was not my intention.  Anyway, we got our food, ate and then asked for our check.  The waiter said it was already taken care of.  We were a little confused, and actually talked to the manager.  He said that our meal had been paid for by another couple.  I was kind of embarrassed at this point because 1. we had coupons for the kids' meals and 2. did they overhear my complaints about the prices?  But regardless of all that, it was really cool that somebody could pay for our meal, without us knowing about it, and someday, I want to be that kind person who does that for someone else.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Locker Bench

 Do you ever get a pile-up of stuff at the door?  Okay, maybe it's never this bad (thank goodness), but when school started I knew we needed a solution to our problem of backpacks, jackets and shoes being tossed onto the floor as soon as the kids walked in from the bus.  I looked at many entryway benches.  I love the ideas from  Her projects and plans are so inspiring!  In the end, we had to work with the space we have and created our own custom piece.  Which I totally love!

 We used reclaimed wood (aka picked up off the curb on trash day) to create our locker bench.  My handy-man built the main part of the bench and I added the trim and did the finishing work on it. 

 I originally wanted it to be just yellow, but it did not look good with our kitchen which has yellow on the upper part of the wall and yellow with brown glazing over the top on the bottom of the walls.  So I just matched our walls. 

We added lots of hooks so everyone can double up on the "locker" space.  The bench also doubles as the back of banquet seating that we created on the other side.  But that's another post for another week. 
Of course this bench gets cluttered and stuff does get left on the floor, but I just toss it up onto the bench, and our path to the door is free and clear.  Yea!  Part of our problem right now is too many coats, jackets, sweaters, etc. hanging on our hooks.  Our weather has been crazy with warm days, cool days, cold days, hot days.  When I'm about ready to pack away our coats, we get down into the low 40's.  Ah, Spring.  Or as my husband says, "if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes." 

Happy organizing!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I've shared this recipe before, but it's one of those recipes that is great to share again and again.  I got it from my sister who got it from her sister-in-law.  You know, the natural way recipes should be shared-passing it along from one friend to the next.  I wanted to make some cookies for a friend, so decided to make snickerdoodles.  I stashed some away in the freezer for my husband (which we think makes them taste even better), divided up some for the kids and set some aside to gift. 

The ingredients are very basic.  You should have them on hand in the pantry.  

Cream together shortening, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla.

 Add flour, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar.
 Mix together cinnamon and sugar for rolling cookies in.
Make balls of dough (I love my cookie scoop!) and drop in cinnamon sugar mixture

 Place balls of dough on baking sheet.
I like to flatten the balls with the palm of my hand.

All ready to bake!

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes until cookies are set and edges are just starting to turn brown.  My cookies cooked faster on the darker baking sheets than they did on the lighter ones.

1 cup shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Cream together butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and eggs.  Sift together and add flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda.  Form into balls and roll in sugar and cinnamon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

 Happy Baking!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Monday April 8th Project

So, the project for Monday was to get some baking done.  I spent the morning making as many things as possible at once, so I can spend my time more wisely.  I also put things in my mixer in order of least messy to most messy, so I can save time and not need to wash my mixer out or my measuring cups, as well as grind wheat once so it is fresh for multiple things.  This will be a pretty long post--sorry, but I wanted to include recipes as well.

The first thing I made was whole wheat bread.  I had enough dough to make some sandwich buns as well.

Deborah's BREAD
6 2/3 cups Warm Water
2/3 cup Sugar
4 Tablespoons Yeast
2/3 cup oil
2 Tablespoons Salt 
1/4 cup Vital Wheat Gluten
1 cup ground Flax Seed
16-20 cups Whole Wheat Flour

Mix water, yeast, salt, sugar, wheat gluten, ground flax seed and oil together in mixer. Wait a few minutes until bubbly.  Add 1/2 of flour and wait 5 minutes.  Then add rest of flour until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Let rise until double. Punch down. Put in pans. Let rise again until desired height in warm oven set to 200°, about 20 minutes. Bake at 335° until nice and brown. Makes 5-9 loaves.

The next thing I made was whole wheat baking mix.  This is great for pancakes.

9 c. Flour
1/3 c. Baking Powder
4 teaspoons Salt
1 ¾ c. Shortening
1 c. + 2 Tablespoons Milk Powder

In large bowl or pan stir, then sift flour, baking powder, milk powder and salt until well mixed. Cut fat into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. It may be stored at room temperature for up to six weeks.

Next I made wheat thins.  They are SO yummy when they are fresh like this.  In fact, after you have eaten the fresh ones, the boxed kind from the store taste like cardboard.  I got this recipe from an old booklet that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints used to publish, with the title of "Essentials of Home Production & Storage". 

 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/3 cup oil emulsifies in blender with 3/4 tsp. Salt and 1 cup water

Mix dry ingredients.  Add oil-salt-water mixture.  Knead as little as possible.  Makes a smooth dough.  Roll dough to about 1/16"-1/8" on slightly greased (with cooking spray) piece of tinfoil.  Sprinkle lightly with seasoned salt or other flavorings and roll top lightly with rolling pin to attach flavor firmly to dough.  Score dough with pizza cutter.  Place on Cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees until crisp and brown.  Let cool and break apart.

I followed it with biscuit dough.  

8 cups Flour
2 cups shortening
4 Tablespoons Baking Powder
4 teaspoons Salt
2 cups Cold Water

Preheat oven to 400°. Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in shortening, until pea sized pieces. Add water and mix together. Roll out ½ inch thick and cut. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, with sides of biscuits touching. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

From this I made biscuits . . .

. . .and Tuna Pinwheels, which I froze and served for dinner on Wednesday.  I used the biscuits for dinner on Monday and breakfast on Tuesday.

2 cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 Cans Tuna-drained
1 Tbsp. Minced Onion
1 tsp. Lemon JuiceBiscuit Dough

Combine 1 can of soup, onion and tuna fish. Roll dough out to 10x12 inch rectangle. Spread tuna mixture evenly over dough. Roll up starting from the long edge, jelly-roll fashion. Seal edge. Cut into slices. Place pinwheels on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 425° for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. While pinwheels bake, heat remaining can of soup to serve over pinwheels. Makes six servings.

Next I broke apart some hamburger patties that I had put in the freezer to flash freeze.  I like using the 85% hamburger for this since they have more flavor.  For everything else I use the 93% lean.

Next up on the list was cookie dough. My sister-in-law Carolyn gave me this recipe and it always turns out for me.
1 cup soft Butter
¼ cup Sugar   
¾ cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla     
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 ½ cups Flour           
1 pkg. Instant Vanilla Pudding
Chocolate Chips to taste

Cream butter, sugars together. Add vanilla, eggs, baking soda and pudding mix. Blend well. Add flour and chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls on greased cookie sheets at 375° until edges are golden brown.

I tripled the batch, and then froze 1/2 of it in an ice cream bucket...

. . .and made the rest into cookies, which we had for FHE, snack on Tuesday, and gave a couple of bags away to friends.

Finally, since my bread was done, I reused my bread pans and made banana bread.  I tripled this recipe as well.  This is my Grandma Lena's recipe for Applesauce cake, and I love how she wrote it down.  I don't do the frosting, and it is one of the best banana or any kind of bread recipes.  I also reduced the oil by 1/3.

From Grandma Lena 
2 c. flour         
1 c. brown sugar or honey
1 teaspoon soda         
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ c. oil
1 c. applesauce or any kind of fruit mashed or blended, bottled, or fresh, such as bananas

Put ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.  Pour into angel food cake pan or flat cake pan (do not grease pans). You may wish to spray with Pam. You may wish to add the following: Nuts, raisins, dates, gumdrops, or citron.
If frosting is desired, use the following:
½ sq. butter
2 Tablespoons milk    
2/3 c. brown sugar
Bring to a boil and then add ½ cup chopped nuts and ½ cup coconut. Cover cake with frosting, while frosting is still hot.

It was so nice to pop so many things into my freezer and get my kitchen all cleaned up.  Sorry I didn't post this earlier.  By the time I got everything finished I had to start running around with kids.  Good luck with your project today!