Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Introducing The Domino Projects

Have you ever started a quick project only to have it domino into a much bigger line of projects than you had planned?  We are in the middle of such a line of projects.

We are blessed to have a house that is more than enough house for two adults and one (soon to be two) small children.  But the designer (and I use that term loosely) of our house made some floor plan decisions that I would not have made had I been around when the house was built.  But I wasn't here so we're modifying as we go and we seem to be constantly working to make the space work for us.

Rewind to Spring 2011. Our house was perfect for our little family of three.  We could all sit at the counter in the kitchen for meals in the cold seasons and usually ate out on the screened in porch as soon as it was warm enough.  We have plenty of room in bedrooms and all was good.  Then we started talking about expanding our family.  Family dinners are important to us and if our family grew, we would no longer fit around the counter.  So we started exploring our options for expanding an eat-in kitchen area.

We knew the job was more than we wanted to do ourselves so last spring we accessed some inheritance funds and hired a contractor to do the work while we were away (best choice we could have made!)  So this little project was the start of the Domino Projects.  We only had the contractors do the basic work and we did the finish work.  I painted and then we began preparing for flooring. While we saved up, HandyMan worked to put leveling strips out to prepare for flooring (using wood pieces he had around in the garage) and we started saving.  We thought putting the flooring would be the finish of the project.  Little did I realize it was the beginning of the Domino Projects.

The Domino Projects are a series of projects that are in my head to maximize the space we have in our home to create the best storage and inviting floor space.  I'm working to utilize what we have in the house already and spend as little as possible.  I am so excited to see how it all turns out so follow along, get ideas and make the most of your space.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: The Little Things

Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude through giving. 

I find that part of contentment is choosing to be thankful when I really would rather whine and complain.  But, I live with a three year old and I know how tiresome whining and complaining can be. So I am choosing to be thankful for the little things:

That we have a house to keep clean.  That I have dishes to wash because we had food to eat on them.  AND that I have clean, pure water running through the plumbing in my home to wash those dishes and to drink.  I'm glad that HandyMan and I both have work to not only keep us busy but to pay the bills.  That I have clothes and linens to wash, not to mention a working washer and dryer to help with the chore.

I'm also thankful that medications are available and have done their job over the last couple of weeks.  And for fudge in the freezer on a day riddled with particularly crazy sugar cravings - and for the healthy pregnancy that likely brought on those cravings. A group of other moms to gather with regularly and share commonalities of raising young children. A certain baby sitter's who's extra curricular activities were cancelled one day this week freeing her up to come and rescue me from the 3-year-old who I really am thankful for!  HandyMan who will talk through life's challenges and help me form a strategy on how to keep my sanity.

Life is challenging and I'm convinced it's how we handle those challenges that shows our true colors.  This week, my true colors weren't always pretty.  But that's where I can take a deep breath and try to do it better next time.  How do you handle the challenges that come your way?

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baked French Toast

A while back I posted a picture of a totally yummy Blueberry/Cream Cheese Baked French Toast and mentioned something about trying to post the recipe in the next week or so.  Life took off, illness crept in and time slipped away.  Now I'm making baked french toast again this week and figured it was high time I get a recipe up!

First off, any recipe that can revitalize stale bread is a winner in my book and this recipe is perfect for that.  I also have an egg dish recipe based off of this one that has become a favorite.  So, when the homemade bread starts to go stale, it gets cubed up, thrown in the freezer and saved for one of these recipes.

For the baked french toast:  the blueberry one I made was good, but a little on the egg-y side for my tastes.  So, I've taken the idea from that recipe and merged it with this recipe to come up with my ThrivingMama Baked French Toast.  Also, the fruit amounts are a starting point.  If you like a super fruity breakfast treat, then by all means, add more - I usually do!

ThrivingMama Baked French Toast
This recipe is intended for an 8x8 pan, doubled should work fine in a 9x13 with extended baking time.

4-5 cups cubed bread (1" cubes or smaller)
5 Eggs
1- 1/4 cups Milk
1/2 cup Half and Half
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 cups of your favorite Fruit/berries (frozen Cherries & Blueberries work well)
4 ounces Cream Cheese (small cubes)
1/2 cup Sugar

1.  Spray pan with non-stick spray.  Place half the bread cubes in the bottom of the pan.  It should be covered fully.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of fruit, remaining bread cubes and top with cream cheese cubes and 1/2 cup fruit.
2.  Thoroughly combine (I use the blender) eggs, milk, half and half, cinnamon, and vanilla and pour over bread & fruit.
3. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
4.  Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes or until completely set in the middle.**
5.  While dish is baking, combine remaining 1 cup of fruit and sugar in a small saucepan to create a syrup. Pour over dish once it's done and serve.

Alternate to fruit & cream cheese:  Make a syrup with 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter and 2 T. Corn syrup in a heavy saucepan and pour over dish before baking.  Also a yummy treat!

**Note: Do NOT put a cold glass pan in a hot oven, let it come to room temperature before putting in a heated oven.  I've also had good luck putting the whole pan in the oven cold and THEN turning the oven on and the pan warms up as the oven heats - but my oven heats slow.  This may not work safely for you!  Please use your discretion or a non-glass pan.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Sunshine

Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude through giving. 

This week's graces came in many forms.  Extra divine doses of patience when faced with particular challenges in parenting were a huge blessing.  Watching my daughter flourish into this little walking, talking personality has brought many moments of amusement to my days.

As I continue to regain my health after a particularly nasty cold, naps are a wonderful treat.  A date night out with Handy Man and the gracious friends who will baby-sit for us also highlighted this week.  Little chances to blog again are wonderful treats for me - I've missed it!  Work I enjoy and quiet moments as a family have rounded out this week nicely.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February Granola & Yogurt

I'm not sure what it is about the end of February that brings on the cravings for granola and yogurt.  Maybe it's the months on end of bleak, cold weather and the desire for something that fosters thoughts of warm spring and summer days.  And this year, I think part of it is the need for a fridge full of yogurt to fight the side effects of all the antibiotics that have been part of our (yes, all three of us) daily routines for the last couple of weeks.  

So, on this chilly, cloudy Saturday morning, Granola's now cooling on the stove and milk for Yogurt is cooling in the sink.   I LOVE that my daughter loves plain, unsweetened yogurt.  I also love that I can net 5 quarts of yogurt for about $4.50. ($1.99/quart of Dannon for starter, $2.15/gallon of whole milk)  Thanks for the kitchen lessons from a young age Mom!

And if your family isn't into *plain*, Life As Mom had a great post on how to doctor the plain yogurt and get  great knock offs of your family's favorites from the dairy aisle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day Donuts

Sometime in January, a "life: beautiful" magazine fell in my lap that had a fantastic looking recipe for homemade cake donuts.  I mentally flipped through the calendar to find the next "special" day that could qualify for the possibility of a new family tradition and landed on Valentine's Day.

On Monday night I mixed up the dough.  And because Itty Bitty craves lots of chocolate, I mixed up chocolate and vanilla cake doughnut dough.  Off to the fridge it went for the night and on Valentine's morning I got to work.  Rolling, cutting, frying and glazing.  Next year, I'll only make one batch and probably the vanilla batch - with some chocolate glaze of course!  The vanilla donuts were moister and I really enjoyed the flavor more than the chocolate.  Go figure.

We discovered this morning that a few seconds in the microwave will revive the "day-old" leftovers quite nicely!  And as usual, I didn't follow the recipe to the T, so here's what I ended up making:

Vanilla Cake Donuts

3 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Eggs
2/3 cups Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup melted Butter
1 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon vinegar + Milk to equal 3/4 cup

Oil for frying
Glaze or Ganache of choice

1.  Beat eggs, sugar, melted butter and vanilla on high until smooth and creamy.
2.  Put vinegar in a glass measure and top off with milk.  Add baking soda and stir.  (This is the combo I learned to use to take the place of buttermilk).
3.  Add 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and nutmeg to the egg mixture and start mixer.   Add remaining flour and milk mixture alternately and mix thoroughly.
4.  Refrigerate dough until firm, or overnight.
5.  Roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness and cut with favorite cutters or an actual donut cutter.  I used a heart cookie cutter since they were for Valentine's day.
6.  Heat fry oil to 375 degrees and fry donuts until golden brown on each side.  1-2 minutes per side.
7.  Drain and cool on paper towels or a brown paper bag.  Glaze or toss with powdered sugar.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Sunshine

Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude through giving.
As I write this, I am much more in a mood to whine and complain.  But I won't.  Instead, here are 10 things that I am thankful for this week:
1.  Tylenol (adult & childrens'). with and without Bennadryl to help with sleep.
2.  Friends who come to the rescue when I'm about to go over the edge.
3.  My energetic, healthy daughter who keeps me on my toes.
4.  My great husband who shares the joys, challenges and work of life with me.
5. French Onion Soup
6.  Full fridge and pantry
7.  Warm, spring-like days in January.
8.  Organization projects completed within budget.
9.  Lunch with friends.
10.  Finding creative ways to provide for our family and stick to the budget.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!