DIY Earring hanger

Oh Lawwwdy, have I ever been a crafty one lately!

Just check out this little gem I picked up at the thrift store last week…

Mmmmmmm Hmmmmmm…. you know you’re jealous, girls! Not only was this gingerbread wall hanging/picture frame/coat rack thingy missing a peg, but that little gingerbread guy…he was stencil-painted onto fabric and even had a little quilt batting stuffed behind him! Whooo-Wheee, that’s a rare thrift store find IN-DEED.

Seriously though…that sucker was $2.93! I mean COME ON! Three bucks for that? I doubt you could have paid anyone else three bucks to TAKE it out of the store. That baby was headed for the burn pile fo’sho’. But me? I had plans for this little guy…

See, I’ve been checking out these nifty little picture frame makeovers on Pinterest and such, and seems that all these brilliant folk are taking old picture frames and repurposing them into nifty little earring hangers. Now I love me some recyclin’, so I figured: I know how to use a can of spray paint, so  what’s keeping me from having a cute little place to hang my earrings? Not to mention these displays would come in handy when I sell my jewelry at events, because people can easily see all the merchandise. So…off to the thrift store I went to fetch a suitable picture frame, and little gingerbread dude is what I came back with. That worked out nicely because I figured I could hang bracelets and such on those little pegs, at least once I replaced the missing one. : )

SO, I started tearing the backing off of that bad boy….

And my truly rockin’ husband acquainted me with some manner of wire screen stuff. It wasn’t exactly the type of screen you’d have in your front door, it was a little heftier than that. He introduced me to that and a pair of tin snips, and off I went. I cut a piece suitable for the back side.

Then the adventure really began….

Now my friend Jamie, who I’ve known over 20 years (wow, that makes me sound so old!!) and is the most amazing do-it-yourself-er on the planet, can attest to the fact that I don’t do boy jobs. Yes, boy jobs…you know… like killing spiders, replacing light fixtures, and using tools. Especially power tools. Those things are testosterone territory for me. This is common knowledge.

But yesterday, I used an electric staple gun. It was a little above my paygrade…too much power for me! It was loud, jerky, and scary. That sucker knocked me back about a foot when I pulled the trigger. Seriously, people, my life flashed before my eyes for a sec! But anyhoo…a few of those crazy staples got the screen fixed to the back of the frame, I glued a brand-new Shaker peg into the missing hole ($3 for a dozen-bag at Hobby Lobby) and once that was dry it was time to give the thing a new look. I used a bottle of oiled-bronze colored spray-paint that I’d used on another project recently, and it is really pretty. It looks chocolatey brown-black when it’s dry, with a little glimmer of bronze underneath. I gave it a couple of coats and let it dry. Lovely.

Then it was time to make a pretty backing for the screen. Now this part is optional, but if you put some sort of backing behind the screen, then it looks a lot nicer if you decide to hang your earring hanger doo-dad on the wall. So I ironed a piece of pretty fabric and laid it out to affix it. The problem is, I really didn’t want to use that crazy staple gun again, (because I really don’t like going to the hospital, and I was sure that my clumsiness had already been given its portion of mercy that day.) But…hot glue covers a multitude of sins, people… so the glue gun was heated up and I went to town. This was a much less dangerous way for me to put two things together. When it was finished I hung my earrings on it and voila! Here’s the finished product:

Tah-daaahh! Super easy, very cheap, and a heck of a lot more aesthetically pleasing than a gingerbread-man-whatchamacallit hanging around to hurt people’s eyes.  Not to mention…extremely useful! I love taking something funky and turning it into something pretty and functional. Now I don’t have to go digging for my dangly earrings in a bowl when I want to wear a pair.

Could you put one of these to good use?

No-Longer-My-Enemy Juice!

Okay I will admit it. I HATE kale. It is my enemy! It is tough and bitter and quite frankly smells like farts to me. Yeah, farts! BUT I have been trying everything to figure out a way to sneak it into my life because every single thing I read shows that it is THE most nutrient-dense piece of vegetation on this planet! For example…..the ANDI food scoring method (the one you see in Whole Foods all the time) puts kale at the tippy-top of the list, with a perfect score of 1000 on their rating system (along with it’s evil cousin, collard greens! ewww!)

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But even knowing this, usually I end up twisting my face up in disgust because the kale tastes so awful to me or is so tough that I get a sore jaw from chewing it. BUT…that was before the Vitamix came into my life. Now I can pop some kale right on into that magic machine, add some fruits, and voila! It’s like the grassy icky-ness is not even in there! However…I have to have a certain mix of just the right think to kill the kale taste, and this morning, I found it! Blend this awesomeness up in your Vitamix and be amazed:

  • Two leaves of lacinato kale (also called dinosaur kale)
  • one orange
  • one frozen banana
  • half of a green pear
  • ice & water

This green goodness was so yummy I didn’t even get a picture because I was drinking it so fast (oops, sorry!) So kale is no longer my enemy, now that I’ve found a way to conquer it in the Vitamix! [insert Dr. Evil laugh here] Hope you can enjoy it too!

Vegan Blueberry-Walnut Zucchini Bread

One of my favorite things to make is zucchini bread. Not just because it is yummy, but because in the summer I have these green veggies popping up all over my back yard and I can’t use them up fast enough unless I bake with them! Another reason I love making it is because you can add whatever else you want to it and the bread will still turn out wonderfully. So a few years ago when I first starting baking, I found a recipe online for blueberry zucchini bread. Who doesn’t love blueberries!? (That would be communists and The Grinch–before his heart grew 3 sizes) Click here for the original recipe from allrecipes.com and check out my modifications below.

Since my husband and I have changed our eating habits to an almost entirely vegan diet, I’ve found ways to modify recipes to eliminate animal products. Now, don’t get me wrong, this treat is in no way automatically “healthy” just because it doesn’t have eggs. It still contains lots of sugar which is bad for your body if you eat 5 zillion tons of it like I happily used to do! But at least you avoid the cholesterol and animal products, and in this version you actually get some healthy omega-3 oils and fiber from the flax that you wouldn’t otherwise have. So, still eat this treat sparingly, as with all sugar, but enjoy it a little more knowing that it’s been modified in a good way. I followed the recipe at the link above except for these things:

  • As an egg replacer, I used flax goop. Yep, that’s what it’s called. Replace eggs by mixing flax meal (ground flax seed) with water. You will fake one egg by mixing  2 Tbsp of flax meal and 3 Tbsp of water, allowing it to soak together just for a minute or so and add to your ingredients wherever the eggs are called for. (In this recipe that’s 6 Tbsp flax meal/9Tbsp water =3 eggs)
  • I substituted half of the all-purpose flour for whole-wheat flour. (That gives it a nice balance between fluffy bread and whole grains) and I use organic, unbleached versions in all my baking.
  • I love a little crunch to my bread so I added about 1/2 cup of walnut pieces to the batter, then finely chopped a few more walnuts and sprinkled them on top of the loaves to give them a pretty, crunchy topping.
  • I didn’t have enough fresh blueberries for the recipe so I used some fresh, some frozen, but I did let the frozen berries thaw out before using them. They worked great and add a little extra moisture to the bread.
  • If baking mini-loaves, 45 minutes at 350 seems to be just right in my oven. If I use a regular loaf pan I usually have to bake it an extra 10 minutes to get it all the way done in the middle. The edges will be a little brown, and perfectly tasty.

Enjoy your vegan treat! Try zucchini bread with all kinds of delicious fruits such as banana or pineapple, too!

Green Goodness is For Real!

Many of you who know me personally have already heard me talk ad nauseum about our new household gadget, the Vitamix. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised because after finally deciding to purchase one after talking about it for over a year, my husband and I thought for sure we would die from having to wait the prescribed 7-10 days for shipping. However I placed the order and within 3 days, the enormous Vitamix box was on my front porch!

I was like a kid on Christmas morning, tearing open that big hoss of a box. Once you get through the box and the packing material to reveal the treasure inside, you can’t help but stand back for a minute and stare. The thing is a beast. It’s massive, heavy, and constructed like a tank. In fact, I’m not entirely sure it isn’t a tank. But anyhooo…

We’ve been happily juicing entire fruits all weekend and creating sugar-free sorbets and all that yumminess. But the big event for a Vitamix owner and for anyone who is into plant-based nutrition, is conquering The Green Smoothie.

What is The Green Smoothie, you ask? Well it’s more of an umbrella term that is used for a wide variety of blended whole-food drinks that consist of a ridiculously large amount of fresh leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc…) combined with various combinations of fruit. Now, that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, except for the following:

-Green, leafy vegetables are among the most incredible things God ever put on this planet. Their high nutritional values and easily digestible structure make them naturally disease-fighting, nutrient-dense little leafy lovelies. Everyone should be eating them. LOTS of them. But that’s the thing…eating LOTS of these veggies can feel a little cumbersome sometimes, especially if you eat a mostly plant-based diet anyway…you start to feel a little bit bovine, chewing all that cud 24/7. So what if you could get the same nutrition (including more antioxidants!) by drinking your leafy greens? Sounds great but also a little gross, right? There is a solution…

Enter The Green Smoothie. It allows you to combine these super-veggies that would normally not make such a delicious drink, with whole, natural fruits that do make delicious drinks. And the leafy greens literally get hidden inside the smoothie. Well, their color certainly doesn’t, but their taste definitely does. Today I created my first green smoothie, and I got the idea from another site (sorry, I can’t recall which one and there are a lot of sites with this particular concoction, so my apologies for not being able to credit the author on this one) and the person referred to it as an “Orange Creamsicle Green Smoothie.” You’ll know why when you taste it.

First I added 2 quartered navel oranges (these smelled awesome!) I had peeled the skin off but left the pith (the white part) because it contains nutrients and fiber that you’d normally miss eating the orange. The pith has a bitter taste, but when you blend it up in a Vitamix, you get the good stuff and you never know its there!  Then I added 2 giant handfuls of fresh organic spinach leaves (about 4 cups), 2 whole bananas (peeled) and about 3 cups of ice.

The Vitamix shredded all this up in about 90 seconds like it was nothing! I was left with this emerald-green beauty…but would it taste like Popeye’s spinach or would I, as many before me have claimed, not even be able to taste the greens?

WOW. Turns out that the claims were true. I took a big sip, half expecting to want to spit it out, but found myself enjoying the creamy orange-banana flavor of this mysterious Green Smoothie. I cannot wait for Todd to get home so he can become a convert too. I’m even taking some of the smoothie to book club tonight so the gals can sample its wonderfulness. 

I just drank my salad and several servings of fresh fruit, people!  And I LOVED it!

Thinking Outside the Toilet

So yesterday I was plunging the toilet in one of my bathrooms (don’t judge me, it just needs done sometimes!) and I was thinking to myself:  plunging a toilet is the most disgusting thing in the world. I can’t believe I am even doing this. You would think by now that someone could invent a toilet that wouldn’t have this problem. What about that Dyson guy? He’s a genius. I mean, if he can invent a supersonic suction vacuum cleaner and a fan with no blades, surely the dude can make a toilet that won’t need me to do the sick deed of plunging it. I mean REALLY!!!

It was so dramatic in my head. The princess inside of me was screaming. But immediately after that thought, I heard “um, shut up…you have a toilet.” Now I am not claiming to have audibly heard this, but I think there are things you hear inside of yourself and things you can audibly hear outside of yourself and neither of them is any less real than the other.  Right away I was overwhelmed, as I finished the “all clear” brush & flush, by the fact that I don’t have to navigate a deeply dug hole with flies and the stench of human waste and Lord knows what else looming around as I do my business. And better yet, I don’t have a shallow “nose-powdering” ditch in my yard that is accessible to the whole community and creates a stream of sickness that neighborhood children have to try to step over when they walk through the streets. I don’t have to deal with any of those things. I just have to plunge a toilet once in a million years. SHUT UP.

So, that was what I called my cosmic bitch-slap for the day. It might sound crude, but don’t people need a big ol’ bitch-slap once in a while to calm them down and snap them back into reality? I apparently do. It’s those little moments in my life where I’m just feeling all sorry for myself until God breaks into my comfy little space and says REALLY, girl?!? (yes, that’s how He talks to me…if you don’t like it, get your own God-voice that sounds like Ned Flanders or something… but I hear a little ghetto in my God speak, okay?) He reminds me of just how good I have it and how instead of whining and complaining about my tiny, minute discomforts, I need to be thankful for the amazing level of comfort and convenience I enjoy on a daily basis.

So thank you, God, for incredible people who invent incredible things like the Dyson no-blade fan and cars and clean running water systems and of course, the flushable toilet. I have no idea how blessed I really am, even if I only count the things that I see as modern necessities (and if I’m honest, I count them as modern-day rights.) Show your love to those people everywhere who haven’t even heard of all of these conveniences, and are happy just to love you even without comfort and convenience. I pray you’ll send me a cosmic bitch-slap anytime I need one so I can become more like them.  I love you.

Mexican Lasagna Recipe

Apologies  to anyone who is actually Mexican: I made this dish up myself, and I just named it that because it uses some of the ingredients that I use in other “Mexican” dishes. So I am super non-ethnic, gimme a break. If you’ve ever been to my house for dinner more than once, or if you’ve been sick or had a baby and I brought you a meal, chances are you’ve had this. I get a lot of requests for the recipe, so here it is:

Ingredients:

3 whole wheat tortillas, each cut in half

1 lb ground beef or turkey

1 pkg taco seasoning

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can corn, rinsed and drained

1 jar Ortega taco sauce (I use the mild red kind)

Shredded cheddar cheese, however much you like

Optional topping: sliced black olives, jalapenos, & sour cream (yeah right, like sour cream is optional. What are you, a Communist?)

Directions:

-Spray a 9×13 glass dish, preheat oven to 350 degrees

-Brown the ground beef/turkey and prepare with taco seasoning just like if you were making tacos

-Pour a little bit of the taco sauce into the bottom of the pan to coat

-Lay 3 tortilla halves across the bottom of the pan (these will be your lasagna “noodles”)

-Layer half of the meat, half of the beans, and half of the corn on top of tortillas. Spread out evenly.

-Pour about 1/3 of the jar of taco sauce over these layers, spreading out. (use more or less as you like…I don’t like mine to come out too soggy, so I might use a bit less)

-Cover the entire thing with shredded cheddar, repeat layering again with remaining ingredients. Be sure to get some of the taco sauce down around the sides of the tortillas so they won’t be too dry and bland. (You probably will have some of the taco sauce left in the jar when you’re finished, you can just refrigerate and use it for other stuff later-it makes yummy sauce for a southwestern breakfast burrito later!)

-On top layer, you may want to garnish with sliced black olives or jalapenos. I always do!

-Bake about 25 minutes or until cheese is all bubbly and a bit crispy around the edges. Plop some sour cream on it and enjoy, using some Scoops or other crunchy corn tortilla chips to help you clean your plate. YUM!

*This can easily be made into a vegetarian meal by omitting the meat, adding more beans, and seasoning the beans with the taco seasoning or plain cumin.

THE Bread Recipe

A new hobby I picked up last year was baking homemade bread. Now it started out as one of those things I just wanted to learn how to do…  so, like everything, I researched it to death and figured out how to do it. After a few failed attempts, I perfected a delicious loaf and I have been obsessed ever since. I’ve now learned to bake several types of bread and I love them all, but here’s the recipe for the definitive crowd favorite: Honey Oat Soft Wheat

This recipe makes two standard loaves  with about 16 slices each. Enjoy!

3 cups organic whole wheat flour
3 cups organic unbleached flour
2 tsp salt
4 tsp active dry yeast
4 tsp vital wheat gluten
2 cups warm water (about 105 degrees-you gotta get this part right)
4 Tbsp canola oil
2 -3 Tbsp local raw honey

Mix dry ingredients above in a large bowl with a stiff spoon. Add above wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Use your hands to get all the ingredients mixed well together in the bowl. Dough will be warm and shaggy at first. Keep mixing until dough forms a loose ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Flour a large flat surface (I use my counter top after it has been cleaned and dried well) and turn dough out onto the floured surface. Knead well for about 8 minutes. Let dough rest while you clean out the bowl you used to mix it in. Dry thoroughly, then put a few drops of canola oil into the bowl and spread around. Put dough into this bowl and turn a few times so all sides are coated with a light bit of oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and lay a towel on top. Place in a warm area (on top of the oven or kitchen table will do) and let rise for about 2 hours.

When dough has risen (test it by poking lightly with 2 fingers…you should see imprints in the dough) punch it down to remove excess air, then turn in out onto the floured surface again and knead lightly for a minute or two. Cut dough in half and shape into two evenly sized loaves. [Optional: make shallow slashes on top of each loaf for decorative purposes, in a criss-cross pattern. Use a silicone brush to spread a bit more honey on the top of the loaf, then sprinkle with dry oats. This will make your bread beautiful when it is finished. Be careful not to use too much honey here, as it can scorch and leave a burnt topping on your lovely loaf!]

Place each loaf of dough in a greased loaf pan and cover again with plastic wrap and a towel. Allow dough to rise for another hour or so, then it will be ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 2 minutes at this temperature. When finished, turn loaves out onto a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before slicing. Use a serrated knife to slice carefully. Voila! You have delicious bread for dinner, sandwiches, etc.. Store in an air-tight container (I use a Lock & Lock rectangular container for mine.)

Remember, this bread has no artificial ingredients or preservatives (isn’t that awesome?!) so that means it does not have a long shelf life. But as delicious as it is, it probably wont stick around long anyway!

I hope you like it as much as my family does!