Saturday, January 30, 2010

Holiday Cranberry Bread

Recipe time! This recipe is called Holiday Cranberry Bread.  I usually make it around Christmas, but I didn't have enough time in December, so I made it recently. I think I was too busy rolling balls to make this bread.

Ok, get your mind out of the gutter about the balls. Really.

This bread is not too difficult, the worst part is cutting up alllll those little cranberries. Also, this recipe includes some weird ingredients. Use them all. I know it looks weird, but it works.

Holiday Cranberry Bread
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspon salt
1 well beaten egg
1/3 cup orange juice (yes, orange juice)
3 teaspoons vinegar (yes, vinegar)
1/4 cup melted shortening
1 cup fresh cranberries, halved
1 cup chopped walnuts

I rinse the cranberries, then cut them in half. This takes a few minutes, but it's really better if they are halved.

I also use the Pampered Chef food chopper to chop the walnuts. You don't want to turn them into dust, but make them small-ish:

Place flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix the well-beaten egg and orange juice together.
Take the three teaspoons of vinegar and mix it with enough water to make 2/3 of a cup of liquid. (I know this is weird, just put 3 teaspoons of vinegar into a mixing cup, then sloooowly add water until it reaches the 2/3 cup mark).

Add the water and vinegar mixture to the egg and orange juice mixture. Add the melted shortening to the wet mixture as well. Mix wet ingredients into the dry mixture and stir only until dampened. Add halved cranberries, chopped walnuts, and mix lightly.
Bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees, in greased 9 x 5 loaf pan.
Ok, so it's not all purty, we had already dug into there! ;-)
Holiday Cranberry Bread
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspon salt
1 well beaten egg
1/3 cup orange juice (yes, orange juice)
3 teaspoons vinegar (yes, vinegar)
1/4 cup melted shortening
1 cup fresh cranberries, halved
1 cup chopped walnuts

Rinse the cranberries, then cut them in half. Chop the walnuts. Place flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix the well-beaten egg and orange juice together.

Take the three teaspoons of vinegar and mix it with enough water to make 2/3 of a cup of liquid. Add the water and vinegar mixture to the egg and orange juice mixture. Add the melted shortening to the wet mixture as well. Mix wet ingredients into the dry mixture and stir only until dampened. Add halved cranberries, chopped walnuts, and mix lightly.

Bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees, in greased 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Follow Handy Man, Crafty Woman on Twitter

I've set up a Twitter account. Our name is:

Come on over and follow us there, if you also Tweet. I'll be posting there when I update the blog, and I'll also do a few random Tweets from time to time.

Fun stuff, this technology...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kitchen Renovation: Part 2,387

Back to the kitchen renovation.  As a reminder, we did our initial renovation in December of 2008. We removed everything, and laid down new wood flooring. Handy Man installed a new soffit and put the cabinets back together in a slightly new configuration. He also moved the sink. And there everything stopped, until a warm day in Spring of 2009 when Handy Man put a window into the wall above the relocated sink.

Fast forward to July 2009...when Handy Man had started painting the kitchen cabinets. He painted them a glossy white. We had white cabinets in our last house, and loved them. It brightens up the kitchen, and the glossy paint is wipe-able. (Is that a word?)

Notice the two drawers that were missing at the moment. That is because those two drawers were "false" fronts, as they were under the original sink. Handy Man took the false fronts out and built new cabinet boxes for them, so we could have drawers there. Hey, he's not called "Handy Man" for nothing.

You'll probably also notice that the panels on the sides of the cabinets are still bare. This was because the wood there had a very smooth finish that we decided would be difficult to paint. Handy Man decided to put some beadboard paneling over the cabinet sides, which we also painted white. It solved a problem for us and helped the cabinets to look more "finished."

Another thing you'll notice is that the toe-kick under the cabinets wasn't yet painted. Hey, Rome wasn't built in a day!
By now, the kitchen was really coming together. Just a few more minor painting details to go, and it was 95% done.

What are we planning for the other 5%? You'll have to stay tuned for details...!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

365 Items Decluttered: The Rules

If you want to take this challenge, you can make up your own rules as to what counts as an "item". I'll tell you about our rules. You can use them, or not. Feel free to make this up as you go along.

I wanted to count things that were somewhat substantial. Yes, we did get rid of some large items, like the dresser shown above. Several of the items we got rid of were on the small side. Even small things add up especially 365 of them, but I made the following rules for our challenge:

- We didn't count stuff we would have thrown out anyway. Like a paper plate. ;-) That's garbage. If you have an issue throwing away garbage, you need help that you aren't going to find here.

- We didn't count pieces of paper. Large catalogs or binders, yes, but not single pieces of paper. If you have a bad paper problem, you may want to try a "Toss 365 Pieces of Paper" challenge.

- I also didn't count tiny things as 1 item, like Handy Boy's McDonald's toys. I put them into a bag and counted the bag as 1 item. We found a big pile of packing peanuts in the basement. I put them into a bag and counted them as one item. Again, your mileage may vary.

- I counted a pair of items that go together, like shoes, as ONE item.

Those were pretty much the only rules we made. Another thing that I wanted to do was to dispose of all these items in a responsible way. Items that could be recycled were put into our recycling bin for curbside pickup. Some items were passed on to other adults or children who could use them.  We sold some items to people that Handy Man knew; other items were sold on Craigslist. 

Several things were donated to Goodwill. Yes, there were a few things that were put into the garbage, but we tried to recycle and donate when possible. Some things are just beyond repair!

If you are taking this challenge, what are your rules?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Small Giveaway: Coupons from All You Magazine!

I will be getting back to my "Declutter 365 items in 365 days" series soon; and I'll be wrapping up our "After" kitchen photos soon, too.

Today I want to try something a little different: a small coupon giveaway. I signed up online to get two years of "all you" magazine for wicked cheap. It's your typical woman's magazine; with articles about parenting, saving money, health tips, etc. But, this magazine is JAM PACKED with loads of coupons! I was so excited to try and find coupons in this magazine that I could use when I went grocery shopping.

Then I got the magazine...the magazine is great...but the coupons? There are loads of them (worth $47.13 this month!), but they are for items or brands I don't buy, and some are for items that I don't even think they carry in our area.

So, what am I going to do? I'm going to cut them out and mail them all away to one lucky person. You can see the list of coupons available in this month's February issue of All You here on their website.

Now, you may not be able to use all of the coupons, but maybe you can trade some, or share them with family or friends who might use them. Here's what to do to enter into this small giveaway:

- Enter a comment for this post. You must enter your email address; only I will see your email address, it won't show to "the world"

- Comments will be accepted until 10 pm eastern on Wednesday, January 27th.

- I will randomly choose one commenter, and will mail all of the coupons from the magazine to the winner by the end of the week. Entries from the United States only please!

Good luck!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Another New/Old Bookcase

I recently discovered that we are outgrowing our space for books, and decided to buy a smallish book case for our upstairs guest room. Right now, we have Handy Boy's old changing table up there. Yes, an old changing table! It's really a dresser with a top that you can use for a changing table. 

We bought a soft pad to put on top, and changed Handy Baby on it. We stored some diapers, pajamas, and other baby items in the drawers. It was a handy item for us back then, but it's not really serving a purpose now, since I have another dresser in that room. I thought a book case would go nicely in that spot.

We went to an antique store last weekend. Handy Man took measurements with us. Usually when we go on a hunting mission, it can take weeks, or even months of on-and-off hunting to find the right item. However, I found this book case right away in a local antique shop that had just opened. There were several small objects and books on it. I told Handy Man that it looked like the right size, but there was no price on it.

We asked the workers at the shop what the price was, and they weren't sure. They called the dealer to find out the price. Now, this is not a "priceless" antique...and it doesn't even have a real back on it; it only has a piece of plywood on the back...and it's painted a shade of green that we are not in love with. 

However, we knew that if we painted it white to go with our other guest room furniture, it would look much better! We'll just be placing books on the shelves, so the back piece won't even show (although Rob would paint it white also.)

I was trying to think of how much I would be willing to pay for it, when the shop worker told me the dealer would sell it for $35. :-O That was well under what I was willing to pay, so we bought it! Here it is, in all of it's dirty, green, glory.

I think that people can be afraid of the prices in antique stores, but they shouldn't be! Sure, there are some stores with items selling for a minimum of $500. And yes, some antiques are worth a lot and should be priced accordingly. But usually, antique stores have a good variety of both expensive and inexpensive pieces. This book case might not even be that old, or worth much, but it's perfect for us.

Stay tuned for pictures of the cleaned up and painted book case...and don't be shy about wandering into local antique stores to look for bargains. You never know what you may find.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

365 items in 365 Days

I meant to post about "Getting Organized" for the year earlier in January, since that seems to be the time when people talk about getting organized. However, there's still enough time in 2010 to get things organized in your home.

Rob and I did several different things which I'll talk about, but one of the most helpful things we did was a challenge called "Declutter 365 items in 365 days." ( I think this is from another web site or magazine, but I can't find the source. If someone knows where this idea came from, can you email me to let me know? Thanks.)

For a year, from about mid-2008 until mid-2009, we decluttered the house a little bit at a time, and kept track of the amount of items we donated or tossed. Since we had made previous attempts to pare down, Handy Man didn't think we'd make it to 365. 

There were some days or weeks where we didn't get rid of much, but by the 365 day mark, we made it to 365. I even made a list of the items we decluttered, which is amusing to read.

So, why do I say this is how to get organized, "the easy way?" This is because I found this way to be pretty simple: there was no pressure, I had a whole year, and I didn't have to do something every day. When I found something we didn't use any more, I put it into a pile in the basement to take to Goodwill. 

Before long, it piled up. Of course, we made trips to the Goodwill through that 365 day period...but I didn't have to devote HOURS and HOURS to decluterring. It really only took a few minutes each day that I worked on the challenge.

Do you have "stuff" to get rid of? It's still only January; it's early enough in the year to make a difference. Go through one drawer, one pile, one shelf at a time. You don't have to list every item like I did, (I did that knowing I wanted to blog about it), but maybe put up a tally sheet near your giveaway pile, to see if you can make it to the 365 mark. 

In one year, without devoting a ton of time, you will notice a huge difference in your home. More details on our methods will come, but I'm looking for people to join in on this challenge.

You can do it...ready, set, go!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blog Under Construction

Hello All!

Over the next week, this blog will be under construction.  I'm going to be working on organizing the house "before and after" photos, and the recipes. Some of the recipes may disappear for a short period of time, but they will be back!

If you need a recipe that has temporarily disappeared, you can email me and I can send it to you.

I will continue to add posts, but a few things may look funky for a bit. I'll try to minimize the disruption.

Thanks for your patience.

New Kitchen Window

In April of 2009, Handy Man broke a hole into the kitchen wall, and put up a new window. We moved some cabinets around in December 2008, but had to wait for better weather to tear a hole in the wall. Here is a reminder about the "before":
Here is Handy Man, covered in dust. He had to take down several rows of siding, and break a huge hole in the wall for the new window. The small hole is just the beginning, he made the hole as big as the larger opening you can see here:
Thankfully, it was a nice warm day that day:
After a long day of construction work, here is the window, from the outside:
Here is the view from the inside, taken today, on a snowy day in January (since I apparently forgot to take a photo of the inside last spring!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Friend Moving? Just Replace Them

Here is another letter that Handy Boy, age 8, wrote in school. I had to post it here, it just cracked me up. I abbreviated the names for privacy.

Dear Mom and Dad,

At recess I played tag with my friends and then played football. I had a lot of fun doing that stuff. The friends I played with were B, T, M, R and ummmm....K and C.

T is moving on Tuesday and I will miss him alot!!! But...I could replace him with someone when he moves away. Luckily he will come to my birthday party!! Yay!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wicked Good Nachos, Handy Man Style

Handy Man and I have tried making nachos over the years, and I think he has perfected the recipe by now.

Notice that we put them onto a (VERY seasoned) Pampered Chef baking stone. I'm not sure if the stone does anything that fabulous or different for the nachos, but we've been making them this way for years.

Here are the ingredients that we use:

Green pepper; onion, tomato, jalepeno peppers (yowza!), black olives (sometimes), and lotsa, lotsa cheese. Handy Man will use whatever kind of cheese we have around. We like to use a Mexican blend, but almost any kind of shredded cheese will do.

Chop all ingredients. Put a single layer (this is key!) of nacho chips on the pizza stone. Then, add some of your veggie toppings, and some of the cheese. Put a second layer of nacho chips on top; then top with more veggies and more cheese. We bake it in a 350 degree oven for about 10-12ish minutes, until the cheese just starts to turn brown and bubble a bit.

Making the double layer of chips/veggies/cheese helps to get more veggie and cheese taste into the nachos. YUM.

If you are in the mood for some Wicked Good Nachos, try making them Handy Man Style next time. And, try them on a baking stone, if you have one. Do you notice a difference? Come back and let me know if you do...

Nachos, Handy Man Style

Chop green peppers, onions, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and black olives. Preheat oven to 350. Place a single layer of nacho chips on the pizza stone. Top with veggie & cheese layer. 

Put down a second layer of chips, veggies and cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese starts to bubble and turn a bit brown. 

We serve it with salsa and sour cream. Wicked good for a pah-ty!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kitchen "After" Photos...Well, Sorta

After all the hard work tearing out, rebuilding, re-flooring and re-hooking-up (I made that one up), here is one of the "Almost After" Photos. However, the kitchen wasn't 100% complete at this point.
It looks a lot better, doesn't it? This is just one more phase of the work. Handy Man built a new soffit (the area above the cabinets.) He moved the sink, and rearranged a few cabinets. He also moved the dishwasher to be closer to the sink. However, there was still work to be done.

See the mirror above the sink? We wanted to add a small window to the wall there...but it had to wait until spring time and warmer weather. Also, we painted the soffit and the cabinets white; but that also waited until warmer weather.

I thought I would add the mirror above the sink to reflect some light, until we could put the window in.

The stove was moved over to the left, onto this wall. I know that above this area, it looks oddly blank! However, we put two decorative shelves up above the stove and put some knick-knacks on them. During the holidays, I put Christmas-y things on the shelves. Eventually, Handy Man will build upper cabinets for this area.
Pictures of the cabinets, painted white, and the new window above the sink will follow soon. I just wanted to show how we did the kitchen in stages. Part of the reason was so that we didn't need to have the kitchen torn apart for a very long period of time. Another reason was to spread out the expenses.

One more shot of our nice, new, non-yukky floor:

Ahhhh...!!! Shiny and clean!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Decluttering and Disposing

This is a pile o' "stuff" in the basement that we are donating to a thrift store. For the last several years, we make piles like this, then drop the items off to donation places.

What's all this stuff, you may wonder? Well, a little bit of it is Handy Boy's outgrown clothes...some of it is toys that Handy Boy doesn't play with any more...some of it is just STUFF that I've found and said "Why are we keeping this?"

I do try to pass things on (especially Handy Boy's stuff) to friends with children...or see if my family needs anything...but mostly, it goes to Goodwill or a place that takes donations. Today, Handy Man and I found a new thrift store to donate our items. I found a winter coat for Handy Boy for next year, in excellent shape for...

Wait for it...

ONE dollar!

Can you believe it? Its harder to find things for Handy Boy in thrift stores as he gets older, but I still look for things like winter jackets. I just hate the thought of plunking down $60 for a coat he might only wear for one winter!

Handy Man was happy about the coat, too. He's getting to be a real stingy-poo in his old age, ha ha.

So, back to decluttering. Even though we've had yard sales in the past, and about every 3-4 months we bring a load of stuff to Goodwill; we still manage to find things to declutter. I swear, we don't buy a whole lot of "stuff." Most of the stuff we buy is consumable, like milk and groceries. We hardly go to the mall and I don't even like to buy clothes for myself. I think it multiplies in the dark.

I will be revisiting the whole decluttering thing as the year goes on. It was long journey towards getting this house decluttered.  Between 2008 and 2009, I participated in a "Declutter 365 things in 365 days" challenge, and I actually kept track of how many items we tossed and donated. And we DID make it to 365.  Maybe I will also see if we can dig up another 365 items; who knows.

Do you have any organizing and decluttering goals for 2010? Share them here, we can all help each other.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Kitchen Floor

Back to some kitchen renovation is Handy Man, starting to put in the new wood floors. He decided to put the wood flooring right over the existing vinyl. The vinyl was glued down and attached to the subfloor in such a way that it would be almost impossible to peel it up

Handy Man used 3/8" engineered oak flooring from Lowe's. We bought the thinner wood so that it would match up with the floor levels in the living room and the hallway, which connect to the kitchen.

I laid out some pieces, staggering the joints, and he marked them, cut them, and installed them. It was a lot of bending and crouching over, but believe me, Handy Man is used to putting in wood flooring! The rest of the house has wood flooring now, except for the two bathrooms.

Ucky vinyl I couldn't clean, next to nice wood:
Now, this looks SO much better, doesn't it?
After the floor was installed, it was time to start putting the kitchen back together...stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Organizing Our Paperwork

Paperwork. UGH! Why is there so much paperwork involved in life? I swear, we are drowning in it!

Every year, right around New Year's Day, I go through our files and toss, recycle and shred. It's kind of a big job, but I do a little each day for a few days. I go through and make two piles: papers that can just be recycled, and a LARGE pile of papers with account numbers, etc, to be shredded.

Fortunately, Handy Boy has decided that he likes to shred papers, so that is now his job. We bought a nice cross-cut shredder at Staples, which is nice. After Handy Boy was done, the shreddings filled up a pretty large bag.

As for what to keep and what to toss, here is a good site with some general guidelines for that. I think that having a good shredder is important; you can find a good one at Staples.

Setting up our system wasn't very expensive. I just bought some hanging folders and tabs at Staples. Rob had his own filing system, and I had mine, but when we became a Handy Couple, I did a major overhaul of everything. 

I put all of our papers into the hanging folders, and decided to shred stuff that was old and outdated every January, so the files don't get too stuffed. I have sworn to myself that I will not let our paperwork overflow this one file drawer!

I've also been having some fun playing with this label maker that Handy Man's parents bought for us. Yes, I know, I'm a big nerd.

It's a brother P-touch and its very easy and fun to use. Handy Boy has been typing silly things into the window and laughing hysterically. sighhhhh

Anyway...what does your paperwork look like? Is it nice and organized? Is it a huge mess? You can tackle the pile(s) 15 minutes at a time, and shred, shred, shred. There's just a lot of stuff that you don't need to keep, that can be referenced elsewhere. Start shredding, you'll be glad that you did!

Monday, January 4, 2010

What To Do With All Those Christmas Cards?

Over New Year's and the weekend, we took down our Christmas decorations and I took down our Christmas cards. I always put the photo cards in my scrapbook...but I was also looking at the other cards and thinking "What can I do with these?"

A few years ago, I cut everyone's signatures out of their cards and put them into a scrapbook layout. I thought it was a fun way to capture people's writing, especially in the Internet Age, where almost NO ONE writes letters anymore!

This year, I decided that I was going to take some of my punches, and punch some shapes out of the cards. I looked through my punches, and decided to use my square maker to make some punch-outs:

I used these squares to decorate my scrapbook pages with the photo cards on them. Great, easy decorations for a scrapbook page! Sorry, I won't be posting the scrap layouts here, as I want to keep my family, friends and especially their children's faces "anonymous."

Another thing I did was to punch out some tags:

Just make sure that the section of card that you are punching out is blank on the back; so you can use the back side to write who the gifts are "to" and "from." The Creative Memories tag maker that I used also has the option to punch a hole on the top of the tag. You can then tie it to a package with ribbon. Save these tags for next Christmas!

Another option for Christmas cards is to send them to the St. Jude's Ranch for Children. This is an organization that helps neglected children. Children and volunteers cut off the fronts of cards, then attach them to new white or ivory cards, and sell the cards to raise funds for their organization. Very cool! They accept cards other than Christmas cards, as well. It says on the site that cards will be accepted this year until February 28, 2010.

What do you do with your Christmas cards? Toss 'em? Recycle them somehow? Share your ideas here!

Linking to: I Heart Naptime

Friday, January 1, 2010

Kitchen Renovation, During...

Here are some photos of our lovely kitchen in the middle of renovations. Handy Man tore everything out! He took off the counter tops, the sink, took down the kitchen cabinets, etc:
What a mess!!
Handy Man: What have I done?!?

Water had to be shut off, and the refrigerator and stove were moved into the living room. We didn't use the stove, but we were at least able to use the fridge.

We used paper plates and cups for about 10 days. We set up a makeshift kitchen on a table, where we used the microwave and toaster oven for simple cooking. That, and some takeout food helped to get us through:

Once everything was torn out, the rebuilding could begin. The cabinets were in decent shape, so we put them back up, but in a slightly new configuration. Handy Man also put in hardwood floors.

Stay tuned for more pictures!
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